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Ness Islands, Inverness

As with many towns and cities here in the UK, the River Ness flows right through the middle of the City of Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands in North-East Scotland.

A group of small natural islands within the main body of the river linked by footbridges together create a lovely winding woodland walk across from one side of the town to the other enjoyed by kids and adults alike, and I thought I’d share some of the views here… 🙂ness-islands-1 ness-islands-2 ness-islands-3 ness-islands-4 ness-islands-5 ness-islands-6

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S is for Seasonal Subjects – Spring

I’ve had a change of mind regarding my topic for S… I was planning to post a varied selection of images taken with my smartphone camera, but after yet another enjoyable walk in our local park with my Nikon and 35mm (50mm equivalent) prime (again!) to see if the spring bluebells were blooming in bulk (rather than just a few dotted around here and there) I realised that I really do love photographing seasonal subjects. I grew up in a farming community in rural Scotland where life revolved around accommodating for and adapting to the different seasons, and it seems that old habits die hard. Even here in London we still have clearly-defined seasons, you just have to look a bit harder to find them…

Spring is all fresh green shoots and new growth bringing a welcome burst of colour after the drab, dull greys of winter in the city; summer in London means a warm dry landscape of parched straw-coloured grass, shady full-leafed trees and deep azure skies; autumn is a blustery riot of russet and copper and gold foliage-fall regularly dampened with squally rain; and winter brings the promise of beautiful clear frosty mornings, the occasional snow flurry, bare skeletal branches and spectacular dark brooding skies to capture through my lens. And just when we’ve had enough of depressing darkness the days begin to lengthen again, the first signs of spring appear, and the cycle starts all over again…

We’re so lucky to have so many bluebells growing in the woods close to where we live, and however old I get I hope I never lose the magical feeling of walking through peaceful woodland carpeted with flowers (always sticking to the designated paths, of course). They’ve only really started blooming en masse within the last few days so aren’t quite at their absolute bluest and best yet, but I hope you enjoy seeing them nonetheless…

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Traffic Light Tree…

There’s something fun about this green-painted traffic light tree placed in the middle of a roundabout in London’s Docklands – the lights change at random, and are purely decorative, so are not in any way intended to be in the least bit functional when it comes to directing traffic.

I can’t decide if it would make a good ‘Which Way Challenge‘, or is more of an ‘Odd-Ball Challenge‘, but either way I had to share it 🙂

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P is for Prime…

I have a preference for prime lenses – lenses with a fixed focal length (no zoom). Trying to get my head around different crop factors for different sensor sizes was confusing to start with, but I think I’m getting there now.

I’ve got a kit zoom lens for my Nikon D3000 DSLR – an 18-55mm (27-83mm equivalent, with x1.5 crop factor on APS-C) – but I rarely use it. And if I do use it, it’s usually out of necessity rather than choice because I simply can’t create whatever particular image I’m hoping to achieve with the prime lenses I currently own. I really hate losing those extra stops of light through having a higher minimum aperture, though, especially at full zoom, so wherever possible I stick to keeping a single focal length, wide aperture lens on my camera.

So for now I’m happy with either a 35mm f1.8 (50mm equivalent) standard or a 50mm f1.8 (75mm equivalent) short telephoto lens on my Nikon, and have a 14mm f2.5 wide angle pancake lens (28mm equivalent with its micro-four-thirds x2 crop factor) on my dinky little gem of a Compact System Camera, a Panasonic Lumix GF3, keeping it super-light and ultra-portable. I find these three lenses across two cameras cover most of what I want to photograph at the moment, and I just work around any on-the-spot limitations by trying to be a bit more creative, and if necessary, cropping the shot later…

I took these images the other day while out for a walk in our local park here in East London with my 35mm (50mm equivalent) standard prime – it gives the most neutral viewing angle of all my lenses, being neither wide-angle nor telephoto, so pretty much captures a scene as the eye sees it which makes it a good practical all-round lens for everyday use. I’ve kept the pics exactly as they were taken, straight out of the camera with no cropping or horizon-straightening, so you can see just how comfortably subjects can be framed with a fixed lens at that focal length whether close up or further away.

One of the good things about a standard lens is not having the kind of lens distortions that can happen with either wide-angle or extreme telephoto lenses. When I first started taking pictures with my standard lens the images looked a bit odd to me, and it took me a while to realise it was partly because any vertical lines were… well… actually vertical rather than slightly bowed inwards, which I was far more used to seeing…  bluebell-tree bluebell-woodspondtreewhite-bossombright-flower

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J is for Judgement…

‘Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst’ – Henri Cartier-Bresson

There are so many questions running through my head when I think about taking a photograph. Why am I taking this particular shot of this particular subject? What do I want the image to say – what is the story? Where is the best position to shoot from – close in or further away? Which angle works best? Where is the main light source coming from? What about camera settings – shallow or full depth of field? What should I keep in and keep out of shot? How best should I frame it? What do I need to watch out for – annoying background distractions can so easily spoil an otherwise lovely shot – and it never ceases to amaze me how moving just a few feet this way or that before pressing the shutter can sometimes make all the difference to the final image…

Looking up into the Spanish moss hanging from an old oak tree in Southern Louisiana, I loved the way the light caught on the ragged fronds reaching down towards me – it seemed much more dynamic a shot than taking the whole tree front-on…spanish-moss

And for some reason I just loved the stark simplicity of these silhouetted drill bits sitting so proudly on the dusty window-sill – to me they speak of the quiet dignity of craftsmanship past…silhouetted-drill-bits