New York City

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30 sec, 14mm, iso200, f9

The Reason For This Trip

July 2020 will be our 10 year wedding anniversary and as a treat to ourselves, we thought we would book a few days away in New York City, just the two of us. The Big Apple is a place that was on both of our bucket lists and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint.

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I Am Not Rambo

Now, obviously I was always going to take my camera with me on this trip as I couldn’t possibly travel all that way and leave it behind. That said, I must remember this is not a photography trip and under no circumstances am I to get carried away clicking that shutter button and acting like the photography equivalent of Rambo, firing off shot after shot capturing everything that catches my eye as this could become annoying for my wife. However, there was an agreement in place that I could go and take this one photograph without consequence, the shot of the Lower Manhattan Skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Its an image I’ve seen many times before and is probably one of the classics, but no matter how many times I see it, my reaction is always the same…..WOW! So for this reason If I only had one shot left in my camera, this would be the one!

My Vision

I wanted to capture this scene at sunset by using a long exposure just as the city lights started to illuminate. This would allow me to add extra interest to the buildings in the form of lit office windows whilst still capturing the hopefully colourful sunset sky, also smoothing out the water and adding movement to the clouds.

The groines in the foreground are, I’m led to believe, the remains of the old Pier One which once stood proudly on the river bank and are a perfect addition to this image.

Dumbo, Brooklyn

Having taken a very easy tube ride from Times Square in Manhattan to Brooklyn. We arrived around 3 hours before sunset and immediately headed for the local beverage establishment. Not for an alcoholic drink but for a warm coffee as it was starting to get cold. This was expensive! and too posh for us but no matter, we were determined to get this image…….when i say we, what I actually meant was me.

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1/500sec, 12mm, iso 800, f8

Our route would take us past the very popular Dumbo instagram shot of the cobble stone street with the Manhattan Bridge in the background framing the Empire State Building. This location is even listed on Google Maps as ‘Insta gold’ believe it or not.

Take a look…….Manhattan Bridge Instagold, 15 Washington St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States https://maps.app.goo.gl/7aeci1FZ4ybKMaXY6

It was packed! Trying to get a clean shot was difficult but with patience, I managed to get one or two that I was happy with.

1/250sec, 40mm, iso 800, f8

Location

The location I wanted to shoot from was in the Brooklyn Bridge Park, or more specifically, Pier one. It’s right on the banks of the East River offering excellent views of Lower Manhattan and the Manhattan Bridge. You can also see the Statue of liberty from here too.

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60sec, 13mm, iso 640, f10

Although I knew what image I wanted to go home with, this didn’t stop me trying to capture something different from what I had seen before and I think I achieved it with this next image. The huge boulders made a great base for the image whilst the long piece of driftwood made a fantastic leading line towards the groines, then onto the buildings in the background. The only thing lacking was a decent sky. It was very dull and overcast with the threat of rain but no matter, I was still enjoying myself and I was just very grateful for having the opportunity just to stand there.

60sec, 13mm, iso 640, f10

How I Captured This Image

So, I as I illuded to earlier, a long exposure was the way I wanted to go with this image. Firstly, I attached my camera to the tripod and framed up my shot being careful not to cut the tops of the buildingsout of the image. I then switched to manual focus and focused on the buildings in the background as these would be the main subject of my image. I use manual focus to make sure that the camera doesn’t change focus points between shots. I then screwed my trusty 10 Stop Hoya Pro ND Filter on the front of my Olympus 12-40mm lens therefore extending my shutter speed to 30-60 seconds which would give me the smooth water I desired. Then It would just be a case of setting the shutter on a 2 second timer to eliminate any camera shake when pressing the shutter button, which could blur the image, and take shots as the light changes.

Printing My Image

I’m very pleased with the images I came away with that night, yes, I would have liked a better sky but sometimes you just have to take what your given and at least it didn’t rain.

Weirdly, it was the earlier image taken an hour or so before sunset which was my favourite and this is the one I decided to hang on my wall. I’m not sure why I preferred this one when I had my heart set on the sunset image but photography can be a funny thing sometimes.

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I had recently bought a Canon IP8750 printer and this would be the first image that I would print at home. My paper of choice was a sheet of A4 lustre, a middle of the road conventional size and finish and because I didn’t want anything to fancy or expensive for my first round of prints incase I made any mistakes.

It now hangs proudly on my wall and brings back great memories of a fantastic trip.

Sunrise Photography From Cwm Idwal In The Snowdonia National Park

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Location

This would be the dramatic mountains and lake of Cwm Idwal.
‘Cwm’ which is Welsh for ‘valley‘ and ‘Idwal’ Which stands for ‘Lord of the wall‘ is located in the northern area of the Snowdonia National Park in Wales.
Conveniently, there is a National Trust public car park on the A5 near Llyn Ogwen, which is also the start of the Cwm Idwal walking trail.
For me however, I would only be going as far as the lake its self which is about a 15min walk from the car park and being a person who likes to be economical with my energy, this would provide outstanding scenery for not a lot of effort.

Sticky Out Tree and A Waterfall

    29mm, f9, iso 640, 1/100 sec



Immediately at the foot of the trail, I was greated by a fast flowing, tall waterfall. I was able to cross the falls easily thanks to a small bridge but, amazingly, what grabbed my attention in this caotic scene was a small tree, sticking out from the rocky bank above the water with the amazing, slightly snowy mountains in the background. With images of single trees like this, I prefer to have seperation between the tree and the background so they don’t overlap and blend into one another. I had my camera as low as possible, nearly touching the ground to achieve this shot.
It is also very important not to overexpose the highlights as there is nothing worse than getting back to your computer and finding that the sky has no detail and your left with just a white empty space where the sky once was. Exposure bracketing would be a great way to ensure you capture all the detail you need, but it will require software blending later on.

24mm, f9, iso640, 1/100 sec

*exposure bracketing is when you take a shot that your camera thinks is the correct exposure for the scene, but then also taking extra shots under and over exposing. I take 5 exposures which consists of -2 stops, -1 stops, correct exposure, +1 stops, +2 stops.


Llyn Idwal

The weather was predicted to be dry all over Wales this morning but this wasn’t the case. The rain and wind had seemingly followed me from Merseyside.
The path is made up mainly of rocks and the ground was very saturated so a decent pair of waterproof footwear was essential, I must get some for next time!
As I reach the lake edge, with wet hiking shoes, I struggled to catch my breath, not from the walk up, but from the shere beauty of view that greated me. A vast lake surrounded by spectacular tall mountains shrouded in cloud and it was just one of them moments where you can’t help but stand and stare.

 

 

A Compromise

I was instantly drawn to a group of large boulders at the water’s edge and thought these would be a great foreground for a long exposure. However, due to the strong wind and patchy rain, all my images either came out blurred or were ruined by rain drops on the lens. So instead I would have to make do with handheld, high shutter speed images which would freeze the movement in the water, but ensure a sharp image.
With the day being dull, I needed to bump my iso up quite high in order to maintain the depth of field I wanted and to obtain my target shutter speed of 1/100sec. Iso 1000 infact.
Never be afraid of uping your iso to get a faster shutter speed as it’s better to have grainy pictures than blurry ones in my opinion.
There were many others shots to be had at the lake but due to the time wasted waiting for the weather to pass, I would have to save them for next time.

 

A few handheld shots from the path on the way back down.

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Andrew’s At It Again

As I look at my images in Photoshop, I can’t help but create another reflection image, to see what it might have looked like if the water was flat calm. Have I mentioned that I love reflections. I’m clearly addicted to them.

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Conclusion

This trip turned out to be little more than a breathtaking scouting mission where I say Wow! And Awesome! a lot.
I certainly didn’t get any award winning images that’s for surebut it was a fantastic experience none the less.
I did attempt to explore a bit in the opposite direction to the lake where I spotted a couple of smaller waterfalls, but quickly abandoned it as there was no clear path and the ground was very boggy.
I’ve also now made a mental note of many compositions I’ve seen which will definitely make it easier next time. This also gives me a great excuse to come back again one day.

Coastal Photography in Llandudno, North Wales.

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12mm, iso200, 20sec, f5 (focus stacked)

Llandudno is a place I’ve visited on many occasions, mainly on days out or holidays with my family.

It has a certain nostalgic feeling and as far as seaside resorts go, it’s definitely one of the nicer ones.

There are so many things to see and do here from the Great Orme down to arcades and funfair rides, there is even a taboggon ride at the ski centre which is a lot of fun if a bit hair raising the first time. But Llandudno pier is what I have come to photograph which just happens to also be the place where we chose the name for our daughter, by looking at all the named souvenirs on offer.

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27mm, iso200, 0.5sec, f16

 

Location

Situated on the North Wales Coastline between Conwy and Colwyn Bay, it’s only a short drive from the A55 which makes access pretty easy and It would definitely be a good base if you wanted to explore North Wales.

 

My Dilemma

I arrived on the morning of 6th October, which was a Sunday, about 30 minutes before sunrise expecting the place to be derelict, I find that it is anything but, Wales Rally GB is in town and the promonade is rammed. Given that I am a keen Motorsport fan I was torn between photographing the rally cars in the service area or heading for the pier to capture sunrise, which is what I came for afterall. I stood for a few moments negotiating with myself what to do but in the end I decided not to allow these fancy pieces of attractive metal to distract me from my mission. Pier sunrise it is!

Sunrise

12mm, iso100, 1sec, f5

 

Heading past the Llandudno Grand Hotel, I find steps leading down to the beach. This side of the beach mainly rocks, stones and pebbles, not much in the way of sand but at least I had some foreground for my image.
The tide was receding (a bit like me), and it was far enough out not to cause me any problems, but close enough to still surround most of the pier.
On the horizon, there is a thin opening of cloud filled with a bright pink colour giving an incling of what lay beyond. 
“It’s going to be a good one!” I was thinking but …no. The sunrise gods had other ideas and quickly pulled their roller blind of cloud down, blocking my sunrise. Ah well, let’s see if we can still make the most of it, after all it’s still a fantastic place to be anyway. The first few shots I captured where in the blue hour and my focus was firmly on the beautiful old pier which stretched out into the sea (as piers usually do Andrew), and later as the sun came up I made use of my Nd filters to extend my shutter speed, there for smoothing out the water and blurring the clouds. I also went for a high key look with some of my shots, making them brighter than usual which suited the conditions quite well I thought.  

40mm, iso200, 5sec, f8

 

I also had a little wander down the beach to see if I could capture anything original or creative and this is what I came up with.

34mm, iso64, 0.6sec, f22 (focus Stacked)

 

The Great Orme

About 1 hour after sunrise I head up from the beach to the ski centre and follow the short but steep path up to my final location, The Great Orme. Llandudnos mini mountain gives superb views across the whole of Llandudno bay and can be accessed with just 5 mins of walking from the ski centre car park. It’s also home to goats and sheep and although there was no other people about, I was far from alone up here. Apparently the goats are pretty special too, a breed of wild goats that permenatly live on the Great Orme but not of them would come close enough for a picture. The sheep however were anything but camera shy and I’m pretty sure one winked at me when I was taking their picture. 

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40mm, iso200, 1/400sec, f2.8

 

Conclusion

So all in all a great morning of photography and I came away with many images I was really pleased with. I’ve also been to a part of llandudno I hadn’t been upto before and got to see a few rally cars too. I love being out and about in the landscape with my camera, it gives me the perfect excuse to go to all these beautiful places and indulge in my passion. Although all the sunrise shoots I’ve done lately have been really cloudy and overcast, I’m sure that one day I will get my burning orange sunrise.

Oh yeah, if anybody finds a 62mm Hoya Pro Circular Polarising Filter on the beach, that would be mine……Doh!