Wednesday, 28 April 2010

More from my Athens holiday

You've already seen a couple of shots of shutters in a previous post (New Shutters, Old Shutters), well here's another...

What lies behind?

I don't know what my fascination is with shutters. I think maybe it's partly to do with their geometry and symmetry, and partly because of their concealing nature. Curiosity has always featured heavily in my life and I think that plays its part in their appeal to me.

Add to that their state of dereliction and my boyhood attraction to adventure stories of lost treasure, spies and kidnap rescue from old, derelict buildings and that probably explains it!

Bursting Silence

As I often do with dereliction and decay, I used HDR/tone mapping to emphasise the local contrast. I also did some dodging and burning around the slats to emphasise it even more and I'm delighted with the final result.

I've still got one or two more shots to process that include shutters, let's see if they make it out of the digital darkroom as well.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Zazzle Volcano Blowout 10/50

I've just got an email from Zazzle announcing their Promo, valid in UK until May 1st (full Terms below)

10% of your order, 50% off delivery. Use promo code EYJAFJALLA10 at checkout. A great time to buy the Zazzle gear in my last post.

Zazzle Promotion Terms

10% of the product net sale price will be deducted when one or more qualifying products are purchased. 50% off standard shipping will apply when one or more Zazzle products are purchased and standard shipping is selected as the shipping option. Shoes and postage are excluded from the discounted shipping offer.

The coupon code EYJAFJALLA10 must be entered during checkout to receive the offer. Shipping offer is for standard shipping to UK addresses only. Shipping charges will apply to orders being shipped on an expedited basis or outside UK. Offer is valid from April 27, 2010 through May 1, 2010 at 3:00 pm PT. Your order must be placed during that time to qualify for this special offer.

This promotional offer may not be combined with any other Zazzle promotional or discount offers. The net sale price is the price of the product (excluding shipping and taxes). If a volume discount applies to your order, you will receive either the discount set forth in this offer or the standard volume discount, whichever is greater.

Offer valid on only.

So see my previous post and choose which you like the most!

Some cute horror gifts I've designed - available in-store now!

Here are some examples of the latest fun horror gifts available in my Zazzle store. There's far more than shown here, including birthday cards, stickers (to personalise your gear), badges, mugs, keyrings and more...

They're all customisable, so if you want different text or to include someone's name, it's easily done when you click the image.

Buccaneer Joke

Skull & Crossed Swords hat
Sorry about the dreadful joke! (the old ones are the best, hehe!!)

For your little devil!

Not always a Princess...

Doggy Jacket - Bite Me!

Fanged Cyborg Skull with Horns

Bite Me Skull - t-shirt shirt
Bite Me Skull - t-shirt
Many more shirt designs available on

Vampire Child

Beware a Princess on a shopping mission!

See anything here that you like? Maybe as a present for a son or daughter... or maybe for a friend? If you think they're cute enough, don't forget to hit the tweet and or buzz button below so you can share them with your contacts and give them a smile!


comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Distortion of the eye

Here's one from a photo shoot a couple of weeks ago that I've just got round to processing.

Be positive, distort for the best, not worst!

I think it was a railway sleeper, now very decayed, with the softer wood having collapsed and blown away and leaving behind the harder knot-wood.

Distortion of the Mind's Eye

It looks to me very much like an eye, with its own distorted reflection underneath. In working with it, it struck me that in our own mind's eye, we see everything in life not as it is, but coloured, flavoured and distorted with our own life's experiences.

That set me thinking about two good friends who can't let go of the past—their perspective on things that have happened is so distorted by other experiences that, given the slightest excuse, they can only see them as negative.

I've been present a couple of times as some of those things were going down and I can see just how wrong their take was. If it hadn't been for their past troubles, they too would have seen them for what they were, just happenstance and neutral, not directed specifically at them.

Sometimes I think we can be our own worst enemy and once we let a vicious circle develop, it can be hard to break out of it. But we can if we try!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Palm Tree Crowns hdr

Another from the park behind the Greek Parliament building...

Emphasising the height

This shot demonstrates one way of not making the obvious capture.

The thing that attracted me to the palm trees in the first place was their great height and the fact that they were nearly all trunk, capped by a small crown of leaves. Well, looking small because of the distance.

Palm Tree Crowns

Make a feature of it

I've heard from the field of interior decoration that, when you have something in the structure of the room which interferes with your plans, you make a feature out of it.

And that's what I've done here. You can see that I've got right up close to the trunk and pointed the camera skywards to emphasise the height and the smallness of the crowns.


So what challenges does this sort of shot present?

Well, firstly you've got to be fairly flexible, what with all that crouching and twisting to get the shot—or to not care about lying on your back, head up against the trunk.

And then there's the camera settings...

You need a big depth of field so that you capture the texture of the bark while keeping the crown in focus.

I don't think you need worry too much about total bottom-to-top sharpness. As a matter of fact, having the bottom quite soft / out of focus provides an appealing lead-in to the image. This works well because there's nothing there to hold the eye's attention, so the eye has no real option but to move up and into the picture proper.

You also have to be careful with the exposure so that you keep detail in the clouds and don't get any blown highlights.

So how do you meet these challenges?

Depth of field

For control over dof you need to set your camera to AV-mode (AV=apeture value). In this mode, you set the aperture and the camera automatically chooses the right shutter speed for the lighting conditions.

For a really deep depth of field you need to use quite a small aperture, I used f14 in this shot. To take the shot, you need to choose the centre of the area that will be in focus, and a good rule of thumb for this is to focus-lock around two thirds of the way into the scene.

For most cameras, you achieve focus lock by pressing your camera's shutter release button halfway, holding it there and then recomposing the shot before pressing it all the way to take the shot.


By default, the exposure is set by the camera at the same time you set the focus lock, using the light values at the focus-lock point.

For this shot, which includes a bright sky, when I set the focus lock point I made sure I chose a really bright area of the bark and this resulted in a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second at my chosen aperture of f14.

(Actually, I couldn't get a fast enough shutter speed at f14 using my default setting of ISO100, so I had to up the ISO to 400. If I'd stuck with ISO100, the shutter speed would have been so slow that I'd be bound to get camera shake.)

Your friend here is the camera's histogram display—after taking the shot, I checked the histogram to make sure that it wasn't bunched up against the right hand side, which would have indicated bad overexposure and thus blown highlights. Some cameras will flash any areas on the lcd display that are overexposed, so if you don't have a histogram display, check this instead.

If you do end up with overexposure, use your camera's EV compensation (EV=exposure value) and drop it down by a stop or two. Then take the shot again, doing exaclty what you did before. In this shot I got lucky and the first one I took was nicely exposed.

So, what do you think—do you like the shot? Is my explanation clear and helpful? Don't be shy, I'd love to hear your comments...

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Monday, 19 April 2010

Now showing at Kaya Gallery, Totnes

As of last Tuesday, some of my work is now showing at Kaya Gallery, Totnes (map)


Totnes is located in a beautiful part of Devon, central to so many areas of interest, including Totnes Castle. Just down the road is Dartington, home to the Cider Press Centre. Heading west you'll find the reputedly haunted Berry Pomeroy Castle.

It's also close to the English Riviera which includes Torquay and Paignton (also home to the world-famous Paignton Zoo), so if you fancy a trip to the beach followed by some serious resort shopping, your day is made.

If sailing is more your style, then only a short hop away to the south and west of Totnes is Dartmouth, home to the famous Royal Regatta held in late August and accompanied by an air display by the Red Arrows.

Just a few of the reasons that Devon should be on your list of places to holiday in!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Hugging Tree Trunks in Athens

No, not that sort of tree hugging!

Multi-Trunk Tree?

I'm not sure if this was one tree with lots of trunks or many trees with their trunks intertwined. Anyway, it looked to me like they're all having a big communal hug, which is nice :)

Hugging Trees
Reworked and uploaded Fri 14 May]

I found this amazing tree in the park behind the Greek Parliament building, next to the animal prison. I call it a prison rather than a zoo/enclosure because animal welfare seemed not to be part of the design. The ducks didn't have any water to paddle in or grass to graze amongst and the animals there looked pretty miserable with only hard packed earth and concrete to walk on.

In another enclosure, a rooster seemed more than a little put-out by the two (domesticated but no doubt wild) cats having a snooze in his pen. There was no sign of any hens - I think they were probably hiding in the coop while the cock did his best to look after their safety.

I hope you enjoy the image, I spent a good few hours crafting it for your (and my!) viewing pleasure. Btw, if you like trees, you might enjoy this book: The Life & Love of Trees.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

PS If you know what type of tree it is, drop off a comment and let me know and satisfy my curiosity. Thanks in advance!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Greek Parliament Portico

Another from my Athens long weekend break (lucky I got back on Tuesday, before the eruption of the volcano in Iceland!!)

Long lens for composition

To get the angle and elevation that made this composition work, I had to switch to my telephoto lens and shoot from the other side of the street, just above the entrance to the metro. Closer up, the darker wall at the front obscured the steps and bottoms of the columns.

As a note on composition, see how there are five columns? Using an odd number of "things" allows one naturally to sit in the centre and pretty much always seems easier on the eyes. If you use an even number, the centre becomes a "hole"—a lack of whatever you are shooting—and that can introduce tension at a subliminal level, probably not what you want!

(As with all rules of thumb, there are times when you might want the effect that breaking it introduces, so know the rule and break it consciously when the situation seems right.)

 Greek Parliament Portico

Again, I'm looking for feedback as to whether the black-and-white or colour version works better for you, so drop off a quick comment if you've time and don't mind.

If neither appeal, then let me know that, too. Don't try and butter me up if you really don't like them—I prefer honesty in feedback on my photos :)

So over to you...

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Shell Suit Frill Life - another colour shot

Ok, it's really called Shell Fruit Still Life but you know I like word play :)

Still dabbling with colour

These fruits and the shells were dotted around at the place where I was staying in Athens, so I arranged them on a table, trying to get the dappled sunlight to fall in interesting ways across them.

Shell Fruit Still Life

I really meant to eat those nicely fresh oranges before I left but somehow never got round to it. Maybe next time.

Anyway, what do you think, did I succeed with the composition and lighting? Maybe I should get this book from Amazon!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Friday, 16 April 2010

New Shutters, Old Shutters

The next two out of the digital darkroom from my Athens trip

The new and the old

...and playing with words
Newly Shutterred

Last decade shutters

I love the richness of the English language that allows a little playfulness in choosing titles for my images. No prizes but see if you can spot the puns.

The top shot is pretty much as it came out of the camera with a bit of perspective straightening and a little touch-up to the paint. With the bottom one I used HDR techniques to emphasise the decayed nature of the shot. I also did a little perspective straightening but not completely, to stay faithful to the positioning of the slightly ajar shutters

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 15 April 2010

My first shot from the Acropolis

I have just spent a long weekend in Athens and paid a visit to the Acropolis while I was there.

Burning heat beating down

It amused me that the first shot that grabbed my attention was nothing to do with the famous archaeology but, instead, something more my style. In one sense, the shot does capture something of the ancients, shows something that would have been an everyday sight to the people of the time. - the texture of the wonderful wild grasses growing there.

Wild Grass

Not a black and white shot this time, but a rather more abstract colour one. Even though it was early spring, the sun was beating down and my poor bald pate was burning up in the heat. As a nod in that direction, I have emphasised the reds and yellows, turning up the heat of the shot to reflect what I was feeling at the time.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

A colour alternative to my previous shot

Delving into colour once again...

Which do you prefer?

Here's the image from my previous post, given a colour treatment.

 Personification of Persephone - colour version

I've been thinking about the write-up to accompany the image ready for gallery display and the nub of it will go something like this: Persephone entered Hades for the last time, travelling across the incarnate River Styx and using seven pomegranate seeds as payment for the ferryman.

I'm keen to know which you prefer, the b&w version or the colour so don't hesitate to let me know - I appreciate your honesty, so don't hold back!

I'm thinking that it's got to be the b&w version... unless you and enough others tell me different!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Find out more about the famous Greek myth of Persephone, Hades and the seven pomegranate seeds:
Persephone and the Pomegranate: A Myth from Greece

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Back to black (and white)

After my recent bravery with colour, I'm back on more familiar territory

Last of the winter - at last!

With some bouts of warmer weather in recent days marking the beginning of Spring, I went out with a view to seeing if I could capture anything that marked its beginning. Instead, I came back with a shot more suitable to the end of winter.

I spotted this old root, long since separated from the tree that it used to support, and saw that it had captured some wind-blown leaf-fall. I loved its curving grain and the way it was reunited in decay with the leaves it once helped sustain; partners for the last journey together across the River Styx.

Dead Root and Leaf Fall

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)


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