Hotel San Ranieri, Pisa – a good base for exploring Tuscany

In early September, my wife and I spent a week exploring Tuscany and used the Hotel San Ranieri on the outskirts of Pisa, as our base. We chose Pisa because it is served by a weekly direct Ryanair flight from our local airport, Bournemouth (at the time of publishing, this route doesn’t appear on its Summer 2015 schedule). It is, moreover, an interesting city in its own right and offers good road connections, both to the heart of Tuscany and northwards to the Cinque Terre in Liguria.

The San Ranieri was our chosen hotel because Continue reading »

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5 tips to make your photos rank high in search results

In August, I published 15 tips to get your photos Popular on As I mentioned, each photo you upload gets 24 hours to rise towards the front page, propelled in that direction by likes, favourites and comments from other community members, after which a 10 point penalty is applied so that ‘fresher’ photos get their turn. Thereafter, to some extent, photos descend into oblivion as their pulse score decays.

Nevertheless, there are a number of ways you can  tailor what is effectively a photo blog post – you create textual content around it – to help people using the site as a stock library. With the advent of 500px Prime licensing, this is becoming increasingly important. Here are my top five tips to get your photos found by potential buyers. Continue reading »

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Ukip steals Tory and Labour core vote

And so, with Douglas Carswell’s landslide victory in Clacton, Ukip has won its first ever MP. It also came close to causing an even greater upset in Greater Manchester, coming within 617 votes of winning the formerly safe Labour seat of Heywood and Middleton.

The former result was predicted from the outset; Mr Carswell had cultivated a large personal following and Ukip performed well in Essex in the European elections in May. The latter, caused by the death of the incumbent MP, was contested by candidates previously  unknown to the electorate.

In their different ways, however,  both contests show that Continue reading »

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15 tips for getting your photo Popular on

I’ve been a member of for about 18 months and have seen many – but by no means all – of my photos ranked as Popular. One of them, Sunlit uploads, made it into the top 15 a couple of weeks ago. In that time, I have looked at the work of many other members and have gained a good idea of what gets to the top of its Popular and why.

Before I share my tips to help you rank higher, here’s a quick summary of Continue reading »

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Sunlit uplands on the Blackdown Hills

Nearly a month ago, I went out on a dawn shoot on the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. My main intention was to capture the sun rising over the Isle valley beneath its eastern escarpment.

The shots I took there were nothing special but on the way, I noticed that the Otter valley on the other side of the ridge was filled with early morning mist. Rather than driving home again, therefore, I took a small detour and found a lane from which I was able to capture several stunning views of the sun rising over the mists. This was the stand-out shot that I uploaded to

Sunlit uplands
Sunlit uplands

In terms of post-processing, I made global adjustments in Lightroom, cloned out some distracting lens flare in Photoshop, applied lens corrections in Dfine 2 from the Google Nik Collection, then finished it off with a soft glow effect in Perfect Effects 8.5 from OnOne. Before doing any of this, though, I added keyword tags and a geo-tag in Lightroom, for the reasons I set out in my recent post for Ordnance Survey.

Very gratifyingly, thanks to hundreds of Likes and Favourites  – with lots of reciprocal appreciation of other photos on my part – it made it into the top 20 on, with my highest ever final ranking of 99.4.

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Guest blog today for Ordnance Survey

I guest blogged today for my employer, Ordnance Survey. My topic is using maps in photography and I explain how I use maps to decide where to shoot, how to find good vantage points and, on my return home, why and how I use Lightroom to geo-tag them.

I hope you enjoy it; do share your thoughts with me either here or on the OS blog.



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Dawn shoot in the Cotswolds

Whilst on a family weekend away a few weeks ago, I crept out of our hotel at something like 4.30 am to take advantage of the soft dawn light. Driving away, mist was rising from the fields, which would have made a great shot in itself, had I been able to stop – unfortunately, I was on a main road and couldn’t. Either way, it was great to be out at that time of day.

My first stop was Tetbury, a lovely little market town boasting some fine Georgian architecture:

Long Street, Tetbury
Long Street, Tetbury

Other highlights include its church with a tall spire and a very unusual Market Hall on stilts:

Tetbury Market Hall
Tetbury Market Hall

Not a soul was stirring, so I had no problem with stray people in my shots. In fact, you could argue that it was too empty: people going about their business do bring towns to life.

Just nearby is Highgrove House, country seat of HRH the Prince of Wales. High walls and security meant that I couldn’t get a view of the house from the road, so I continued on my way. A few minutes later, I drove past a herd of cows in a field and, with the sun just having risen, spotted a lovely pastoral scene:

Cows ranged behind a gate at dawn.
Who are you looking at?

I didn’t hang around too much for fear that their mooing would bring out an angry farmer out with a shotgun!

On to my intended destination, Frocester Hill Nature Reserve which offered a commanding view of the upper Severn Estuary from the escarpment. Mist was rising from the river in the distance as I captured a panorama of the scene:

The Severn Valley
The Severn Valley

A sharp bend in the road lower down the hill lent visual interest to another view towards distant Gloucester:

View of the Severn Valley from Frocester Hill.
Spring green

My actual final stop was the long barrow on Selsey Common, overlooking the Stroud valley:

Stroud from Selsley Common
Stroud from Selsley Common

By this time, the sun was well and truly up and starting to lift temperatures on would prove to be the hottest day of the year to date.

Getting up early at this time of year isn’t too difficult; I certainly recommend it as a time to take memorable landscape photos.


Have you taken photos at dawn? If so, where did you take them. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Serge Ramelli – inspirational Lightroom post-processing

If you’re looking for inspiration in terms of new ways to post-process your raw photo images, I commend to you Serge Ramelli, ‘a French photographer living in the beautiful city of Paris’, as he always introduces himself in his bi-weekly YouTube broadcasts. He has certainly shown me how to get the maximum detail and conjure impressive effects from my image data. This is the episode that got me hooked:

I was seriously impressed by how he used Lightroom to transform a rather dull-looking evening scene into a one that positively glows. With over 120 photography, Lightroom and Photoshop tutorials to his credit, on topics ranging from landscapes to architecture, portraits to printing and much more, he has covered a lot of ground.

To complement his broadcasts, Serge makes the raw files he processes on screen available for download to those who sign up to his email list, enabling them to practice on it at home. He also regularly releases more in-depth paid tutorials. I bought one a while back about Lightroom 4 and found it very useful.

The best value option, if you can run to it, is the Photoserge complete package, which gives you download access to everything he sells – tutorials, Lightroom presets and sample files – for $340 (about £200) in one of his periodic 40%-off sales. Although some of Serge’s zipped archives are very large, the physical video files they contain are yours to keep once you have downloaded them; you don’t subscribe for a fixed period to watch online, as with some other tutorial providers.

Incidentally, I can vouch for his refund policy, since I took the plunge with the complete package a day after buying his long-exposure course and then asked for a refund on the latter, briefly explaining why. This he duly gave without quibble.

So, head over to Serge’s YouTube channel, enjoy his free videos, subscribe, practise on the raw files and take your photos to the next level, to coin a well-used cliché. My major challenge is finding the time to get to grips with the varied techniques he illustrates!

Here’s one of my photos, inspired by his techniques:

Sunset over the New Forest
Sunset over the New Forest

‘School of Serge’, you might say…

Over to you. If you’re a photographer, who do you learn from online or from books and magazines? How do you balance learning with taking photos and managing your ever-expanding image library?

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