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Runaway Down, Wiltshire…

This image is an old scan made from 35mm film shot around 1980 when I was living in the area. I penned short write-ups of many ‘touristy’ sites in Wiltshire and the Cotswolds for a couple of country magazines on a monthly basis, and some of the scenes have continued to sell to this day, including this image which was recently licensed through Alamy (not for the first time) for an English publication.

Roundway Down - as it is correctly known - is where one of the most decisive battles of the English Civil Wars took place. These wars were a result of the political errors and in-fighting of the 1620s and 1630s, especially the mistakes and incompetence of King Charles I, who stirred up opposition by his tactless handling of parliaments, by ruling throughout the 1630s without even calling a parliament, by taking an authoritarian line and exploiting to the full the fiscal and other powers of the crown, and by seeking to impose upon the Church of England a more elaborate and ceremonial form of religion.

All came to a head in 1642, as both King and Parliament gathered bodies of armed supporters, the unresolved political crisis deteriorating into an armed confrontation and civil war… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Cromwell#English_Civil_War_begins

The Battle of Roundway Down, on a plateau just a mile from the strategic town of Devizes (where I once lived), took place on July 13th 1643. The Parliamentary Roundhead army was double the size of the King’s Royalist forces, consisting of around 2,500 foot and a similar number of horse and dragoons, supported by eight field guns.

After repeated cavalry charges, one ended with many of the Parliamentarian forces plunging down the steep escarpment to their deaths in what has since been known as Bloody Ditch, seen at the lower left in the above image. In all about 600 Parliamentarian troops were killed during the battle, and about 1,000 captured, the remainder fleeing. Incidentally, the clump of trees on the raised section mark the remains of a Neolithic hill-fort - more recently known as Oliver’s Castle - so well defended was the site even some 10,000 years ago.

I should add that I do tend to take images when there’s a lot of blue sky and fluffy white clouds in evidence. I sometimes flip through other photographer’s output at the Alamy stock photo library and am often surprised at how dull looking many of the scenes are… because they have been taken on ‘grey days’. Quite frankly I wouldn’t bother… having been a magazine publisher I know what readers appreciate visually.

#history #Roundway #Wiltshire #battle #CivilWar #landscape #Nikon #wide-angle #24mm

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Crazy self-portrait…*

For several years I used this image as my 'avatar' but, being small, many people couldn’t work out what it was, so here’s an explanation. It’s a self-portrait I shot way back in 1974 using a Nikon F fitted with an 8mm f:2.8 Fisheye-Nikkor lens. The location was a large pneumatic air-tent used as a temporary scenery storage area at the Granada TV studios in Manchester UK, where I worked at the time as a senior designer on various TV productions (including the long-running soap-opera “Coronation Street”).

This Fisheye-Nikkor lens ‘sees’ 180° - from horizon to horizon - and projects a circular image on the film plane. Introduced in 1970, this was the first Fisheye-Nikkor lens to have an automatic aperture diaphragm coupled to the exposure meter. The lens speed of f/2.8 was the fastest of any Fisheye-Nikkor lens. The most significant design feature, when compared with older versions, was the unnecessary chore of having to lock-up the mirror and use of special accessory finders as with many older fisheye Nikkor lenses. Therefore viewing and focusing could be done on the focusing screen. Another significant difference was the ability to manually focus with the new lens down to 1 ft. Older versions of Auto Fisheye-Nikkor lenses had a fixed focus design. For technical details of Nikon’s Fisheye lenses the excellent mir.com site has photos and specifications… http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/companies/nikon/nikkoresources/fisheyes/8mmf28.htm

To create this image I placed the camera and lens combo flat on the ground, set the self-timer to ten seconds, and repeatedly stepped and/or jumped over the camera whilst holding an umbrella (can’t remember why I was holding that as it was more than 40 years ago!). What is clear in my memory are the terracotta coloured flared dungarees I used to wear regularly to the office - I thought I was a trendy dresser at the time - although due to the perspective and movement only one leg here appears ‘flared’.

#Nikon #fisheye #selfportrait #circle #silhouette

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Le Blanc Viaduct

This elegant stone-built viaduct is located at the outskirts of the town of Le Blanc in the Indre (department 36) in central France. Construction of the viaduct began in 1885 and was completed the following year. The purpose of the work was to allow the crossing of the river Creuse by a single-track railway to the west of the town.

The line used to carry passengers and freight between Poitiers in the Vienne (86) and Argenton-sur-Creuse in the Indre. The railway closed for traffic in 1994, but in 2005 a part of the route was opened as a footpath and cycle trail. Geographically the town of Le Blanc is in the Parc Naturel Régional de la Brenne so I'm not including it in my sud-Touraine collection even though it's fairly local to where I live.

My photo of part of the viaduct was taken from close to the river’s edge… the structure has a height of 38 meters (125 ft) and is 4.5 meters (15 ft) wide with a total length of 528 meters (1,742 ft). Being supported on 21 arches in a wooded valley it's not easy to see in its entirety from ground level and therefore quite difficult to photograph even through a 14-24mm Nikkor wide-angle zoom I used here!

#France #Indre #viaduct #Nikon #14-24 #wideangle #zoom
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Scoot and shoot… when the light is right!

This image, taken with my 24mm Nikkor (basically my 'standard' lens), was from a visit last Summer to a part of France I've never visited before… the département of the Yonne (89), roughly between the wine growing regions of Chablis and Burgundy. I'll certainly return there on other occasions and during different seasons because the scenery, people, architecture and art is noticeably different to the sud-Touraine region of central France where I've lived for the past decade and a half.

On this particular May morning I was up, caffeinated and on foot just after 5:30am to walk the 2kms or so to the village of Chassaignes, near Ancy-le-Franc, to photograph this 12th century church, specifically in dawn light… which I managed because the EXIF data on the file reads 5:57am. I paused en route to snap a couple of other subjects for my stock image collection including an "Arbre Remarkable de France" - a White Mulberry (Morus alba) tree about 270-years old, and protected by law, which I found by chance at the roadside… but that will be a subject for another post.

I'd photographed this church and field of Canola the day before, but in mid-afternoon when this face of the tower was in shadow and the grain was a featureless grey-brown colour with no texture. My early start ‘lifted’ the subject - and saved me from the blazing sun (“Mad Dogs and Englishmen” come to mind!) - and I was able to stroll into the nearby town of Ancy by 6:30am, just as the boulangerie and café opened, to buy a warm croissant and a strong espresso!

#France #church #landscape #Nikon #24mm #wideangle

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Fisheye… fantasy or folly?

In a number of previous articles on the web I’ve mentioned that back in the 1970s I used to carry two Nikon Fisheye lenses in my gadget bag - an 8mm ‘circular’ fisheye and a 16mm ‘full-frame’ fisheye which I actually got more use from because the images produced filled the page when published, whereas the 'circular' type left four large curved black segments in the corners which were very difficult to overlay with titles or copy!

The 16mm lens I frequently used is described in full, with all its variations, on Leo Foo’s extraordinary website describing most things Nikon and Nikkor… http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/companies/nikon/nikkoresources/fisheyes/16mmf28.htm

The silhouette image here is of the old Coventry Cathedral ruin which was kept like this after being bombed during the Second World War. I framed the remaining standing window-wall with the sun just entering the composition to create a bright spot, and dialled-in the lens’ built-in R60 deep red filter to create a dramatic 'burning' silhouette. The effect I was trying to achieve, in 1977, was an impression of the fire which gutted the old cathedral in 1940. However, this view is now impossible to replicate because of building works at the cathedral site in the intervening years.

This image has been published several times, and the above example is a ’tear-sheet’ from my portfolio of a usage in the January 1991 edition of “Practical Photography” magazine published in the UK.

#Nikon #fisheye #16mm #lens #silhouette #red #wideangle #Coventry

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My mouth was watering… so I applied the “Wet Plate” filter!

After yesterday’s free download of Google’s “Nik Software” package of tricks and treats I’ve been having a few hours of fun with some of the different filters. Many of them produce subtle changes, but a neat feature is that you can select, say, a camera setting such as “Classic” or “Wet Plate” and then dive-down into the menu and tweak various sliders - so using their pre-set positions as starting points for your own interpretations of the effects.

Here I used a file of some mini petits croissants and pains chocolats - which I’d spotted just before they were pushed into the wood-fired bread oven at the recently-opened organic boulangerie in the local town - and altered the slightly harsh feel of the flash-exposed grab-shot to a monochrome one with a more old-fashioned appearance to reflect the traditional baking process.

I actually like both images… the straight colour shot will probably be uploaded to Alamy, the stock photo agency which has handled my world-wide image sales for several years; and the “Wet Plate 2” manipulated version may be printed-out on art paper and offered for sale as a framed wall hanging in my ETSY boutique.

BTW: I have no idea what the cast-iron Japanese style tea-pot was being used for… it looks as if it contains flour, perhaps for sprinkling on the hot baking surfaces to act as a non-stick element?

#France #food #baking #boulangerie #NikSoftware #Nikon #wideangle

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3/26/16
2 Photos - View album

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Ugly, but interesting...

It’a a natural thing, generally, as one wanders around with a camera, smartphone or sketchbook, to look for attractive subjects… attractive, as in ‘pleasing to the eye’. I do it myself in this part of France I chose to settle in… settled in because it was attractive to my eye.

But whatever impression one settles comfortably with in one’s heart and mind, there is always ugliness and untidiness around. It's everywhere… under one’s feet, to one’s sides and above one’s head… except most of the time we don’t notice it.

When I was wandering around the interesting town of Ancy-le-Franc last summer I was concentrating on suitable images for 'stock'… those which I could visualise being used in magazines and books. I was doubly-concentrating on good images because I’d been caught short on a trip which was scheduled to last two weeks and I only had four 2GB CF cards in my pocket… good enough for only 300 RAW files at 75 images per card (I only shoot RAW) from my ancient Nikon D300 workhorse... and with no computer access for unloading the output.

This restriction in fact changed my attitude to stock photography… usually I fire away rapidly at a subject, but because I had potentially only two dozen shots per day to pan-out over the fortnight I became extra careful with subject selection, composition and framing before I pressed the camera release… every time. I had hoped to buy another bigger-capacity CF card in a large supermarket in a big town; but when I enquired of the sales assistants they looked at me as if I was asking for a roll of film. Zut, alors… Une carte CF? Qu’est-ce que c'est? Everyone uses micro-somethings nowadays apparently… putt!

Nevertheless, at one street corner I looked up and saw this mass of wiring attached to a lamp-post, and couldn’t resist just one, but thought and composed carefully to take two shots of the same graphic tangle from two different angles. Visually ugly it certainly is… attractive it certainly isn’t… but I found it visually interesting! I’ll wager that probably nobody living in that street ever notices the mass of mess above them, but they depend on these woven tangles of insulated filaments to read and communicate with others not only around the corner but around the world. Pity it can’t be done wirelessly… although, wait a minute… isn’t there new technology?

#telephone #electricity #wires #overhead #ugly #abstract #Nikon #wideangle
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3/26/16
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Google “Nik Collection” photo editing application suite now free!

This is the before-and-after effect created in a couple of seconds by selecting the “Wet Plate 2” pre-set in the “Analog Efex Pro” application. In the past when using ‘plain-vanilla’ Lightroom, this manipulation would have taken me several minutes or longer to achieve.

Overnight (as of 24 March) Google's Nik Collection of desktop image editing plug-ins is being offered free of charge. Nik's Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro and Dfine applications are all available as a free download from Google, a substantial saving over the previous $150 price and which originally cost up to $500 for the entire suite a few years ago.

The original early-Spring shot was taken of a couple of neighbour's houses in the small hamlet where I live in central France.

#photo #photography #Nik #software #Nikon 
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25/03/2016
2 Photos - View album
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