Fog and the three Cunard Queens

On 10 May three Cunard liners returned to Southampton from round-the-world voyages and set off again that afternoon on shorter cruises. I took my camera to Calshot Castle, at the far end of Southampton Water, to watch them sail past.

First up, however, was the Celebrity Eclipse:

Celebrity Eclipse steaming down Southampton Water past Calshot Castle.
Celebrity Eclipse steaming down Southampton Water past Calshot Castle.

Quite a crowd gathered, as you can see:

Celebrity Eclipse steaming down Southampton Water past Calshot Castle.
Celebrity Eclipse steaming down Southampton Water past Calshot Castle.

Then, to my consternation, a bank of fog rolled in just as the Queen Elizabeth approached:

Queen Elizabeth steaming down Southampton Water past Calshot Castle in fog.
Queen Elizabeth steaming down Southampton Water past Calshot Castle in fog.

In fact, the fog intensified the atmosphere. Next came Queen Victoria looming out of the mist:

Queen Elizabeth steaming down Southampton Water past Calshot Castle in fog.
Queen Elizabeth steaming down Southampton Water past Calshot Castle in fog.

In fact, the fog intensified the atmosphere:

Bystanders at Calshot Castle watching three Cunard Liners set saail
Bystanders at Calshot Castle watching three Cunard Liners set saail

Next came Queen Victoria looming out of the mist resembling the alien spaceship taking up position over New York in Independence Day:

Queen Elizabeth steaming down Southampton Water past Calshot Castle in fog.
Queen Elizabeth steaming down Southampton Water past Calshot Castle in fog.

There were some tantalising bursts of sunshine:

Bystanders at Calshot Castle watch as Queen Victoria disappears into sea fog on Southampton Water.
Bystanders at Calshot Castle watch as Queen Victoria disappears into sea fog on Southampton Water.

Finally, Queen Mary 2 emerged through the mist:

Queen Mary 2 emerges from fog on Southampton Water as she passes Calshot Castle.
Queen Mary 2 emerges from fog on Southampton Water as she passes Calshot Castle.

And this time, the fog parted:

Queen Mary 2 passes the Red Jet Isle of Wight fast ferry on Southampton Water, near Calshot Castle.
Queen Mary 2 passes the Red Jet Isle of Wight fast ferry on Southampton Water, near Calshot Castle.

As a parting shot, here’s she is with Queen Victoria in the distance, just about to disappear behind her bows:

Queen Mary 2 trails her sister ship Queen Victoria out of Southampton Water.
Queen Mary 2 trails her sister ship Queen Victoria out of Southampton Water.

It was quite a show. The Cunard cruise fleet might not be the largest , either in number or size of vessel, yet it remains the most aristocratic.

Ovation of the Seas

IMG_4274

Living near Southampton, I’m well-placed to capture shots of some of the largest cruise liners in the world. Yesterday afternoon, under rather stormy skies, I was able to watch the departure of Ovation of the Seas on sea trials before  sailing to her new home port, Tianjin, in China. The latest addition to the Royal Caribbean fleet, displacing nearly 170,000 tonnes and 1,142 metres long, this ship really is a leviathan.

The Photography Show 2016

The Photography Show 2016

My wife Rachel and I spent yesterday at The Photography Show. We had a great time and learned a lot from a range of speakers.

The big draw for me was a talk by Scott Kelby on the SuperStage about The stuff they don’t tell you:

Man on stage

Among the points he made with energy and humour are that only photographers get obsessed about camera settings, cropping and noise. He also made a plea for printing photos. Images on the web are completely ephemeral, buried online within a day by the never-ending avalanche of social updates from other sources. Printed images, however, last up to a century and offer a truly tactile experience. Selling out in advance his very first appearance at the Show shows that Scott has built quite a following here in the UK.

We introduced ourselves to him afterwards; he was very friendly and kindly posed for a photo with us (snapped on my Nexus 6 as a DNG and processed in Lightroom Mobile 🙂 ).

Scott Kelby with Rachel and Dominic Brenton

The show itself is bigger than ever. This is Rachel trying out an 800 mm lens on the roof of the Canon stand:

Rachel tries out a Caonon 800 mm lens

Being able to zoom in and focus clearly on people right down at the other end of the hall is incredible!

We attended a number of talks by other professionals. James Beddoes gave a useful overview of building your brand through social media. In Nice Day for a white wedding, Robert Pugh focused on the importance of consistency in brand experience and shooting wedding photos with the album in mind.

Talking about Fundamental Techniques of Post-Production, acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton showed how he developed his images in Lightroom: he uses the Curves panel in Lightroom to powerful effect.

In the final talk we attended, A Photographer’s Guide to Film-Making, Simeon Quarrie explained how he produced an advert for a luxury car dealership, which had a high-end look for a minimal budget:

Then he got real engagement by using an on-screen mind map to get suggestions from the audience for footage that could be used in a short film about a British hurdler – lacing running shoes, starting blocks, supportive family, close-up on the face – before showing how many of the elements were actually used in the film he shot. His key point was that photographers should just give it a try.

There was, of course, lots to see on the trade stands. Rachel is very taken with the Olympus Pen-F, but that’s probably for another day…

Whatever your level, the show is well worth a visit. Next year’s event will take place on 18 – 21 March 2017. And as they were this year, the crowds will be out in force waiting for it to open!

Crowds waiting for The Photography Show to open

Sussex scene, Sardinian sky

View of Bosham, West Sussex

I recently shared a photo on Instagram of Bosham in West Sussex which was well liked. It worked as a composition thanks to its composition and balance of warm and cool colour.

Yet it didn’t start like this. Straight out of camera as a DNG raw file, the colours were flat and the composition unpromising, with lots of scruffy weeds in the foreground and a largely empty sky:

Bosham – straight out of camera

My first task was to  recompose the shot on where the interest lay: the church and surrounding houses on the waterfront. A more cinematic 16:9 crop worked better, too. Then I warmed up the colours, added contrast and sharpening in Lightroom:

Bosham – warmer colours but an empty sky

Without clouds, however, the top of the frame needed filling. Thus I looked through my image library for an interesting sky to act as the backdrop. The lighting direction needed to match the scene: since the buildings were illuminated by the setting sun, an actual sunset would have looked wrong. An image of Sardinia fitted the bill; it just needed warming up to match the golden hour tones bathing the main subject:

sardinian-sky

In Photoshop I used  the transform tool to enlarge the sky because I needed to use the left side of my Sardinia image to match the low horizon of my Sussex scene.  Then I applied a luminosity mask, as popularised by Jimmy Macintyre, to blend the sky with my image. My finishing touch was to darken the water in the foreground using a gradient mask:

View of Bosham, West Sussex

Why iPhone is no longer the natural choice for photographers

dng-before-after

Last autumn I needed to replace my old smartphone , a Samsung Galaxy S, which had served me well for four years but was incredibly slow, couldn’t easily be upgraded from Android Gingerbread and was no longer supported by many popular apps.

My heart said iPhone. Sleek, well designed, impeccably marketed: who wouldn’t want  to own the market-leading device? And with AirDrop and iTunes, content and apps would sync seamlessly between the iPhone and my Mac at home.

Yet my head said Android, in the form of the Nexus 6: the biggest and most powerful smartphone on the market with a screen resolution larger than that on the iPhone 6S by quite some margin. And with a new Nexus due out, it was then half the price of its Apple rival.

As a photographer, one thing that caught my eye before the Nexus 6 was first announced back in 2014 was DNG support by the version of Android to be released at the same time. For a long time, talk has been of your smartphone being the only camera you need. Being able to capture raw files for editing on the desktop has brought that vision a step closer.

Now, with the release of the version 2 of Lightroom Mobile for Android, Adobe has added a DNG-enabled camera module to their beautifully-designed app, so you can shoot as well as edit raw files on the move. With Creative Cloud integration, photos sync automatically with Lightroom desktop, so you can make more complex edits if needed. On the landscape below, for example, I miss not being able to apply a gradient to enrich the colours of the sky (but decreasing luminance in the blue channel in the HSL panel did the job nearly as well).

The iPhone 7 is due out in six months but, despite talk of it offering ‘DSLR-like’ performance via two lenses and other innovations, there is still no sign on the various ‘rumours’ websites of iOS adding DNG support. If Google was able to add it to Android two years ago, why the reluctance at Apple? And if JPG is all you’ll ever be able to shoot on iPhone, is this still the best option for the serious photographer?

With that question left hanging in the air, here are a couple of sample images shot and post-processed only in Lightroom Mobile for Android. I enhanced the first by giving the colours more punch:

Ordnance Survey's war memorial

Here’s the ‘before’ image, created by syncing the DNG to Lightroom desktop and clicking ‘Reset’:

Ordnance Survey's war memorial

And here’s a blue-hour shot of Ordnance Survey’s head office:

Ordnance Survey's head office

It’s rather noisy, having been shot at 1198 ISO (don’t you love the spurious precision of this number!), but an improvement on the ‘out of camera’ image below:

Ordnance Survey's head office

Note how all the highlight detail in the white building façade was blown out. Wouldn’t you rather have the latitude offered by raw image data to recover at least part of it?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Five ways Instagram could improve

My Instagram profile, as of February 2016.

As I wrote in December, I am now on Instagram and, at the time of writing, I have posted 71 photos, gained numerous likes for my photos and won over 150 followers. For the serious photographer, it makes sense to be there because that’s where your potential customers are active. In many ways, it’s a great platform: fairly easy to learn; quick to load and addictive to use.  Yet like any other app, it could be improved. Here are my suggestions.

1. Let us upload from the desktop! In 2016 failing to be device-agnostic is ridiculous. There are several sites out there that let you do so: one uses a bank of servers that run mobile phone emulators to fool instagram’s servers;  another programme involves installing a mobile device emulator program on your computer.  So why not just provide a page on Instagram.com where you can log in, drag’n’drop your image and move onto a page where you can describe your image before clicking Publish. It really wouldn’t be difficult!

2. Better still, expose your upload API to third-party developers. This would unlock the ability to upload from third-party sites – the likes of hootsuite and iconosquare come to mind – and software applications. As a Lightroom user, I’d love to be able to use an Instagram export plugin, just  as I can do already for Flickr and Facebook. I want to be able to add keywords and a caption in Lightroom and have them included on export to Instagram, saving myself the trouble of doing it all again on my mobile, where typing is more difficult.

3. Separate hashtags from user descriptions using a separate input box.  It might well already be too far down the line for this but keywords – which is what hashtags are – ought to be stored separately from the description of the image.

4. Introduce a Share function. I’d like to be able to share great photos from artists I admire with people who follow me. You can do this with third party apps like Repost but making this functionality native to the app would encourage many more people to use it.

5. Improve the geo-tagging functionality.  Instagram reads GPS coordinates embedded in photos and suggests place names. In most cases, this works better than trying to drop a pin on a map – no easy task on a smartphone – but sometimes none of Instagram’s suggestions really fit and it doesn’t appear to let you type in your own location. This ought to change.

So do you use Instagram? Does it work for you as an image-sharing platform? Are there other ways you’d improve it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Three Queens at dusk

On Sunday I was blessed with idea conditions for shooting long-exposure shots on Southampton Water: no wind, still water and clear skies. A little more cloud in the background would have been good, but you can’t have everything.

Better still, the tide was out as far as it would go. This was pure chance but meant I could walk out further than I ever thought possible, whilst keeping a careful eye on what the water was doing. I checked the tide times later and found that my visit had coincided exactly with low tide.

I was there to photograph Cunard liners . They were in Southampton for a day before the start of their 120-day 2016 world cruises. Queen Elizabeth is heading south and east to Australia and the Far East via St. Helena and South Africa, returning via India and the Suez Canal:

RMS Queen Elizabeth
RMS Queen Elizabeth

This shot isn’t quite as sharp as I hoped. It was a four-second exposure at F18 to turn lights into starbursts but, with hindsight, the sand on which I placed my tripod was a little on the soft side.

Next I set my sights on Queen Victoria. She is heading west around the world via New York, the Panama Canal and New Zealand, returning via Australia, Vietnam and South Africa. Moving back a few feet onto firmer ground, my images were tack-sharp. I was pleased to be able to include shingle in the foreground to give a sense of scale:

RMS Queen Victoria
RMS Queen Victoria

On the far left of the shot is the clock tower of Southamton’s Art Deco Civic Centre. Here’s a close up:

RMS Queen Victoria
RMS Queen Victoria

With their red, white and black livery, Cunard Liners always look the most aristocratic of the cruise lines.

Finally, Queen Mary 2 was shortly to set sail on her first global circumnavigation since 2009. She’s sailing via New York, Cape Horn, Easter Island, New Zealand and Australia to the Far East and India, returning to Southampton via the Suez Canal. The quayside partly hid her from view, but all the buildings and yachts give a good sense of scale:

RMS Queen Mary 2
RMS Queen Mary 2

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the traditional fireworks that mark their departure but, as a previous post of mine shows, they look spectacular!

I’m on Instagram

I’ve joined Instagram.  The key point about this social network is that it’s all about photos: that’s what you post, every time. So it’s the obvious place for a photographer to be. As Scott Kelby asks: ‘how can you not be there?’

For me, there were two reasons. The first was practical: my old phone was just too slow, outdated and underpowered for the Instagram app. Secondly, my impression was that it’s inhabited almost exclusively by vain, selfie-snapping celebrities and their wannabee followers. Having joined, I can see that many high-profile photographers are present and active, sharing great images with their legions of Instagram followers.

So if you’re an aspiring photographer like me, sign up today and start sharing your work there. You’ll find me there at instagram.com/3dbrenton. I’m also on Twitter, Google Plus, Flickr and 500px.

 

Sunset in the New Forest

Today was the last day in October and it was warm enough to have lunch out in the garden. Afterwards my wife and I drove down through the New Forest to Exbury. We hoped to reach a fort on the mouth of the Beaulieu River but it turned out to be on private land and we had to turn back. We did, however, get a couple of cute shots of ponies enjoying the afternoon sunshine:

Ponies by the Solent
Ponies by the Solent

On the way back, we stopped at Hatchet Pond, where I captured a beautiful sunset:

Sunset over Hatchet Pond
Sunset over Hatchet Pond

As it turned out, I wasn’t alone!

Fellow photographers at Hatchet Pond
Fellow photographers at Hatchet Pond

A final image for Hallowe’en:

Hallowe'en falls
Hallowe’en falls

Romsey Food Festival 2015

Romsey’s annual food festival took place yesterday. The first really sunny and warm day for what felt like several weeks drew the crowds and created a great atmosphere. Here are my favourite photos from the day.

Romsey Food Festival in full swing
Romsey Food Festival in full swing
Harrisons Catering Pizza Ovens (?)
Harrisons Catering Pizza Ovens (?)
Karuna Coffee
Karuna Coffee
Asian cuisine
Asian cuisine
La Patisserie Macaron
La Patisserie Macaron
Naz's Cuisine
Naz’s Cuisine
Peppercorn Natural Foods
Peppercorn Natural Foods
Concentration!
Concentration!

This album is also available on Flickr.