Days of looking to be there at the right moment …

“That’s pretty much the life of a National Geographic photographer. Days of looking to be there at the right moment.” Jim Richardson

Jim’s got it right: if you want to get a particular composition, or just the right light, then it can take days of looking and days of waiting. Then you’ve got to get yourself in just the right spot at the right time with the best equipment you have – camera set-up, lens, lens filter, and tripod.

You also need to know your landscape and how it’s lit. If you stand with your back to a Karoo sunset you often have golden light washing over distant mountains. That’s something I’ve wanted to get a good photograph of for a long time. Here’s one from my last shoot.

A golden sunset at Ganora farm

Golden Sunset at Ganora

There’s a second photograph that I’ve worked on many times over the past 10 or 15 years. If you are at Ganora Farm (just outside Nieu Bethesda) and stand looking north towards Compassberg mountain then the sunset is to your left and the light bathes the cliffs and skyline. You can also get lovely colours on the clouds beyond.

The dramatic cliffs of Compassberg at sunset

Compassberg’s cliffs catching the sunset light

Just last month I managed to be there at the right moment for both of these shots. We’d had a dull, hot, overcast afternoon but an hour before sunset a nice rift appeared in the clouds way off to the west. I figured that’s pretty much where the sun would be as it set so I assembled my camera gear and headed to a good vantage point up on the road out of the farm.

One of the reasons I got the pictures I wanted was the lenses I used. It’s the first time I had taken the M.Zuiko 40-150 mm PRO lens with me. I also had the MC-14 telephoto adaptor which enabled me to zoom really close up to the subjects.

I waited for about half an hour keeping an eye out for the sun to drop below the clouds. When it did I shot a picture of the road out from the farm with Compassberg mountain beyond. I used the 12-40 mm PRO lens for this and quickly switched it for the 40-150 mm as I knew the light would change rapidly. Swivelling round so the sun was now behind me I got a couple of really nice pictures of the golden glow on the distant hills and koppies off to the east.

The golden road to Ganora Farm

Golden road at Ganora

The golden light of a Karoo sunset

Golden light at Ganora

Then I walked back over the road for the long exposure shots of the mountain with clouds behind it. These were taken on the tripod using Live Composite base settings of half a second and a second. Each shot was five minutes long – so either 600 for 300 exposures superimposed in the camera.

Sunset colours over Compassberg mountain

Sunset colours over Compassberg

Late sunset colours over Compassberg mountain

Late sunset colours over Compassberg

It had been a pretty intense hour but I was feeling really pleased. It was a nice walk back through the gloaming with the prospect ahead of a cold beer at the braai.

A walk in the forests

These pictures go along paths and over bridges, through forests and beside rivers. This isn’t so much a walk as a hop, skip and jump. So we’ll start with the short hop beside the Faluån. It’s not exactly a forest but it’s well wooded with a lovely range of colours and the hint of a bridge in the background.

Autumn colours beside the Faluån

Autumn colours beside the Faluån

Then we skip along to Värmland and the beautiful pathways at Alsters herrgård. They swing along through the gardens, down to the river and then along to Lake Vänern.

Lastly let’s jump into the misty and mythological woodlands, pathways and forests of Bohuslän. All of these pictures are taken around Äsperöd in Uddevalla, within 15 minutes walk of our apartment, so I count myself as extremely fortunate to have such wonderful nature all around me.

 

There really was a lamp hanging in the forest in the last picture, I didn’t put it there …

Autumn Currents

It’s hard not to be drawn to the sublime autumn colours here in Sweden. Then there’s the rivers tumbling downstream full of waterfall foam and loaded with leaves. This set of pictures tries to capture the tranquillity of the waters as they twist and turn, curve and weave on their way through the forests and over the falls.

I used the Live Composite mode again so the foam and leaves make streaks, curves and circles that  show the currents in the rivers.

Riverscape Impressions, Live Composite Photography

Ever since I was a teenager I’ve admired the Impressionists and lately I’ve taken photographs of riverscapes that look very impressionistic. Here’s an example.

A curve in the Bäveån

A curve in the Bäveån

The rushes in the foreground are blurred in motion whilst the river, full of autumn leaves, flows smoothly around the curve behind. The sky overhead is reflected in it and the bank of trees behind completes the composition. I’ll describe at the end just how I used the Live Composite mode on my Olympus to do this. But first some more riverscape impressions.

The second picture’s got similar elements in it. It was taken in windy conditions again so there was the opportunity to capture the grasses and reeds waving in front of the brown flood water. The composition’s different as I was much closer to the grasses and lower down which meant I could get the feel of the river, highlighted by the streaks of the autumn leaves, flowing quickly towards you.

Alstersälven, impression of grasses

Alstersälven, impression of grasses

The third picture is more abstract. The yellow leaves in the river loop and swirl towards you but the top of the picture blurs upwards and away. I moved the camera whilst taking the image to distort the leaf covered river banks and skyline. I think it highlights the rushing flow the river – which was in flood – and gives the impression of the rain and light snow that was falling when I took the picture.

Faluån Impressions

Faluån Impressions

In the next one a strong wind was blowing from right to left. A small promontory of reeds and grasses was bending with the gusts and that separates the picture. The foreground leaves were more or less stationary in the water but the ones in the current proper were going past at speed.

A windy day on the Bäveån

A windy day on the Bäveån

The last picture is the most abstract. It’s taken looking down into the water and it would be difficult to work out what you were looking at if you hadn’t seen the other pictures already. I think it looks like it’s been painted with oils and then the grasses added in with a palette knife.

Bäveån abstract impressions

Bäveån abstract impressions

The pictures were taken with my Olympus camera’s Live Composite mode. It’s usually used to take long exposure shots of astrophotography subjects like star trails or street pictures of car headlights sweeping past you. It works by setting a base exposure (half a second in the case of the pictures here) which is then repeated as often as you wish. The camera adds the changes in each subsequent exposure on to the original image and you can see it happening on the screen. After around two minutes I stopped each picture as it began to spoil the composition.

I’ll be showing more of these in another post. They have really stretched my creativity and it would be great to hear what you think of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The finale at UCI 2019: U23 hors d’oeuvres followed by the elite women and men

As we headed into the final weekend a single day of sunshine was sandwiched between two days of heavy rain. First came the rain and the men’s U23 race. We headed out to Cattal and got some action (it was only a short walk from the railway station) before the cyclists reached Harrogate.  Then we headed back into Harrogate on the train to see them take the last circuits of the town.

There was enough time to for me to walk to the start-finish straight on West Park and then get round to watch them come up Parliament Street for the last time.

The races all entered the Harrogate circuit on Ripon Road and that’s where we went on Saturday for the women’s elite event. We were blessed with some lovely sunshine. This dapper gentleman was enjoying the circuit on his vintage bicycle before the riders arrived. It was Annemieke van Vleuten who came in well ahead of the chasing peloton. They never caught her.

The last day had torrential rain that forced the route through the Yorkshire Dales to be shortened. We stood in the downpours on the Ripon Road hill where they came on to the circuit. You can imagine from the pictures what the conditions were like – I’m glad my camera and lenses are weather-sealed!

We dried out in a pub with a craft beer and some warm food whilst watching the race unfold on the big screen. It was a fitting end to a great week.

In the rain with the Juniors at the UCI Road World Championships 2019

It was wet at the World Championships, and sometimes very wet, pretty much what you would expect in late September. This caused some of the routes in the Yorkshire Dales to be adjusted and made the racing conditions much harder. We watched the juniors on the Harrogate circuit because all of the races ended there. It’s 14 kms long, twisty and hilly with plenty of exciting places to watch the cyclists go past you.

The Harrogate Circuit for UCI 2019

The Harrogate Circuit for UCI 2019

Profile of the Harrogate Circuit for UCI 2019

Profile of the Harrogate Circuit for UCI 2019

With the junior races it was easy to find a spot with a good clear view – at the weekend it was much harder as there were large crowds for the elite races.

Bystanders at the Road World Championships

Bystanders on Valley Drive

The junior ladies raced through rain showers. I found a good spot at the bottom corner of Parliament Street, about half a kilometre from the finish line, where they swung round the corner before heading up the hill to complete each circuit.

Just outside the Pump Room is also great place to watch. You get to see the racers cornering at speed either on Valley Drive or Crescent Road. That’s where I was for the junior men.