Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Toy

I was in Bristol recently, visting family, but while I was there I took advantage of the weak Sterling and treated myself to a lens I've been coveting for a long time: the Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6. I've led myself to believe that an ultra-wide angle lens is an indispensible tool for my main interest, landscape photography, but also one that will be great for other stuff like architecture and 'enviromental' portraits. My first impressions of the lens are good - the wide angle is very dramatic and different, just as I had hoped. Of course, paying such a reasonable price for a lens with such an extreme focal length means there will be certain compromises, and it does not seem to have anywhere near the contrast or sharpness of my personal 'gold standard': the Sigma 105mm f2.8 Macro, which puts everything else I own into the shade. I knew all this, however, so I'm extremely happy with my purchase.

I haven't had much of a chance to try it out yet, but while I was in Bristol I took a few snaps - unfortunately I wasn't in the city long enough to get too involved photographically. I love big cities, and the best ones have a certain character that makes them inexplicablly yet undeniably unique. Even with the advent of identikit high-street shops, and architecture that could be almost anywhere on the globe, places like Bristol somehow seem to exude a one-of-a-kind identity that can be picked up even on a passing visit.

I'd love to tell you that I chanelled some of this through the photographs I took there, but that is unfortunately not the case. It's partially due to the time constraints, but mainly because I have never been much of an urban photographer. I have never progressed past taking snaps of buildings which interest me aesthetically, or that I think would make an interesting photograph. A couple of these are below. The first is a random building and the second is part of Bristol University:

Bristol Building

Bristol University

Monday, January 26, 2009

Star Trails During the Day??

Just in case you were wondering, this is what happens if you take a long exposure at night, when there's an extremely bright moon in the sky, and set your ISO to 1600. Of course, I did this just to show the readers of this blog what would happen if they did it, to save them some embarrasment. I never would be so stupid to do this accidentally myself, oh no...

Star Trails During the Day?

Incidentally, somebody very kind out there nominated this incompetent old thicko's blog for the Irish Blog Awards 2009, heaven knows why - out of some misguided notion of pity, perhaps ;) But seriously, thanks a million to whoever nominated me, it's much appreciated. As I've said elsewhere, the knowledge that one person likes my blog at least enough to bother sending in my name for nomination is extremely satisfying. It's an honour to share the same page on an internet with what is an excellent list of photoblogs.

P.S: Expect lots of high-brow, well-thought out posts over the next few weeks, as I try to pander to the judging committee. It's like Oscar season for blogs.

P.P.S: Actually scratch that, I've had a better idea. I'm going to rename the blog to reflect the new content emphasis.

What do you think of "Photos of Scantily-Clad Ladies and Ponderings"?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inch Rocks

This is the final image from the huge glut taken over one sunny weekend in Kerry. This is a particular favourite. It often transpires with my work that the harder a photo was to take the better the final image. This was definitely more difficult than most. I was balancing on some slippy rocks, as the tide came in around me. I took this photo and then had to grap the tripod and camera, and stick it in the air as I was worried it would get soaked! After one particularly big wave, the water came right in and I got spooked and decided to run for shore. Unfortunately the water was now at least up to my knees, and by the time I realised it was too late so I kept on wading back to the beach.

While wading through water as it slowly entered my boots isn't exactly what you would call fun, the experience symbolises everything I love about landscape photography; however cheesy or cliched the final image may be. To me landscape photography is about going the extra mile: going to the place no-one else could be bothered with, at the time everyone else with more sanity is tucked up in bed. It's about the sense of adventure and a unique sense of place, which I have only experienced through the viewfinder of my camera. Photography forces you to slow down, stop and really look, when the rest of your group has long given up braving the winds and retreated for a coffee or to the safety of the car.

It might, to an outsider, seem like perhaps one of the dullest hobbies on earth: standing around in the cold at ungodly hours of the morning doing nothing but adjusting settings on a camera and pressing a button now and again must appear to be akin to trainspotting or some equally inexplicable pursuit. For me, however, this type of photography at its best, on an astonishingly beautiful sunrise in unimaginable solitude, or a unique landscape discovered after a hike of a couple of hours, can give me butterflies in my stomach or make my knees weak with excitement. Landscape photography isn't trainspotting: it's extreme sports.

Inch Rocks

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Inch Again

"Hey, hey you - yeah you. The dude in charge of painting the day in the morning."


"Well, um, I mean, you did a really nice job on the near stuff like the trees and cars and houses, but, um, did you forget to paint in the background? Just sayin..."

Now that we're back to our regular service, impossibly grey skies streching into infinity, I begin to really appreciate days with actual sunlight. Here's another one from one of those rare days, last weekend in Kerry:

The Sea & The Rhythm

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I rearely post pictures of Limerick, so here are some:


Car Park


Christmas Tree Again


Bend the Light

The World's Ugliest Christmas Tree

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Just one today. I'm going to milk this Kerry trip for all it's worth, oh yes...

Footsteps to the Sun

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Kerry Sunrise..

...Two words I love to see beside each other. Actually, it was quite overcast, but I still took a couple of shots. Just like when trying to give up cigarettes for the New Year, sometimes I think it's best to have one last blowout before actually quitting. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. There's quite a lot more to come - this weekend was quite the landscape binge.

Kerry Sunrise


Misty Morning

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year

If there's anyone reading this, I'd like to wish you a Happy New Year. I trust that the hangover (in the literal sense at least) of 2008 has worn off by this stage. 2008 was, overall, a good year for me photographically. I didn't get any more gear, but I tried a lot of stuff and came away with some photos which I love. As my stuff is quite weather dependant, particularly the landscapes, the last few months have not been as productive as I would have liked. I think that the summer made up for that though.

I don't see myself as having any major breakthroughs or epiphanies in my photography this year - I think it was more a year of honing skills rather than learning new ones. The main skill which I have honed has been the ability to see 'photographically' - I've developed some kind of internal viewfinder which can be switched on in my brain. I have a fair idea without even bringing a camera to my eye the effect that various compositions and focal lengths will effect a picture. I can tell what will work in 2D and what won't, and how to give illusion of depth where none exists. Of course, I still have a huge, probably infinite amount more to learn, but this is an example of how I think I've improved.

What about 2009? Well I have a number of resolutions which I will try to follow. I'm going to try and be as consistent as possible with my photography, and take pictures very regularly rather than in big lumps as I often do now. I'll also try and blog more often. As for specific photographic subjects, I think it's time to slowly ween myself off landscapes, at least to a certain extent. I would like to get more photos of people, and maybe try and do some street photography, if I can get over the terror. Limerick is not beautiful, but it's real and vibrant and interesting, and the streets of the town could be a wonderful photographic subject. I'd also like to try and do some formal studio stuff, even if its just using my little flashes and some other cheap lighting equipment. As I said, last year didn't bring many new skills, so portaits and studio lighting would be one I'd like to pick up in 2009.

Ok, that's enough of that. I took some photos on the first day of the year, although I was a bit wobbly due to being still slightly drunk from the night before... The light was suprisingly bad, and it was very difficult to get a properly exposed shot without a very long shutter speed. This brings me to my last New Year's Photographic Resolution: Stop complaining about the light!