Top 12 Photographs of 2013

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Thought I’d tell you why I picked the twelve photographs from 2013 that I thought they were the best. Hopefully you may understand the thinking behind my choices from taking the pic, angles, lighting, depth of field and processing. First I chose the twelve as they were each from a different category and I could have chosen a different twelve on any other day.

To see the pics visit my Facebook album

#12 : Landscape – Dovedale

This photograph was taken on the August Bank Holiday weekend when my mate and fellow photographer suggested we could meet up and take some pics in the Peak District. We were photographing late afternoon and not being in the golden hours at dawn and dusk we opted to take pics of flowing water so that harsh daylight did not overly effect the look of the pic. I found a spot in the river with a few rocks under the cover of trees, with small patches of light, put on my wellies and waded into the river. Using a small aperture, neutral density filters and low sensor sensitivity the exposure on several shots could have been as long as thirty seconds. Back at home, processing the photo in Lightroom I reduced the shadows and increased the highlights to produce the look I wanted which was the mossy rocks and greenery almost glowing in the cool darkness of the stream.

#11 : Pets : Harry

Harry, our Cockerpoo, is a difficult dog to photograph. People say he’s cute, he thinks he is, but that doesn’t help when trying to take a good photograph of him. He has a very black face, which means when photographing him if you expose for his face, the background is over exposed, or if you expose for the background Harry’s face is too dark. Fortunately shooting in Raw and exposing for the face, providing the background higlights are not too blown, you can pull them back. The second problem taking pics of Harry is that he’s very hairy and it is often difficult to see his eyes, or distinguish other parts of his body. The final challenge is that when in the valley, he’s rarely still for more than a few moments. This pic was taken hand held using my 400mm zoom when for a few seconds he was sitting nicely.

#10 : Garden Flower - Yellow Flower

This yellow flower opens each day as the sun shines. The exterior of the petals had almost a velvety texture, but inside the pollen on the stamen can be seen. I took a number of pics during this shoot and could have easily chosen any of them. I used my 70mm macro lens at a very small aperture of f2.8 and although the exposure was only 1/2000 sec I used my tripod so that the camera was rock steady. Also as the depth of field being only a fraction of a mm deep it ensured the point of focus stayed on the centre of the flower. I like extremely shallow depth of field so I emphasise only one point that I want people to focus on and so the background is as blurred as possible. I placed the flower at the bottom left third of the frame with the green leaves radiating from the flower.

#9 : Wedding – Charlie & Antoni

I chose this photograph of Charlotte & Anthoni’s wedding as it is a great photo of a lovely couple very much in love enjoying the best day of their lives as they posed for other peoples photographs. Unfortunately it rained through most of their wedding day, so we couldn’t go into the wonderful gardens at their venue. Instead this photo was taken under the gazebo on the patio area, as a result the light levels were quite low and the background, depending on the angle could have been quite busy. I used the white corner drapes of the gazebo to highlight Charlie & Anthoni ‘s heads as they were darker whilst the wedding dress and lighter suit stand out against the darker hedge. I used my 400mm lens at 200mm, with a small aperture and exposure of 1/250 sec. I like this pic as Charlie has a really nice smile and Antoni’s totally focused on his new wife.

#8 : Plant Portrait – Calla Lily

This photograph is of an almost black Calla Lily. Set against a black background, it barely stood out apart from a few highlights, which was what I wanted. I used natural light coming from a window to right hand side of the shot. I closed up the aperture to f22 to ensure all the flower was sharp from front to back. As the light level was low the exposure was 30 secs. For this pic I wanted emphasise the sleek lines and curves of the flower. I placed the top point of flower so that it pointed to the top right hand corner of the frame. What surprised me when lokking at the images afterwards was that although the flower looked black and red to the naked eye, when photographed the inner looked white and the outer appeared red. I guess this was due to a polarising effect of the light, just like light on a butterflies wings bends to create colour that isn’t really there.

#7 Seascape – Aberdareon

The light on the water as the sunset made this photograph one of my favourites. I only had a few minutes before the sun went down behind the headland to take this shot. The tide was in so there was no chance of taking a photograph from the beach, so I walked along the bottom edge of the sea wall. I reached a point where the rocks and the crenelated edge projected far enough to extend beyond the frame. I used a large rock in the foreground to hide the start of the man-made edge and another just near the edge of the photograph to break up the rhythm. The hard regular man-made concrete contrasts well with the random irregular scattering of the natural rocks, The diagonal edge from bottom left to top right adds a dynamic movement to the photo along with the movement of the waves that have been transformed to a milky white due to the 13 sec exposure which provided an almost blank canvas on which the apricot colour light could reflect.

# 6 Garden – Sun House Garden

I visited Sun House Garden when it was open during their Nation Garden Society weekend. The garden had many surprises but I chose this picture as it shows one small aspect to the garden off at its best. The wooden gazebo is the main focus of the photo, but is does not dominate the image. I set it against the wall of green at the rear so that no sky was shown. In the middle ground is the pond with a small patch of reflected sky. The foreground is dominated with the red flowers and the blue glass water feeders. The water feeders are placed bottom right with the gazebo being top left and thereby giving a inferred dynamic diagonal which follows the open view out of the gazebo.

#5 Portrait – Ben

Ben, the person, is full of character and so I wanted to show that character off in the photograph. This was taken at the wedding of his brother, Antoni, where he was Best Man. Enjoying a cigar and posing for the camera I had him turn away from me and relax and not pose too much. I then had Ben look to me and just hold the cigar to his mouth. The result is that a top left / bottom right dynamic from the pose and cigar crossed with a look directly onto the lens. What I like is the continuous white stripe in middle where the collar, cuff and shirt form a curve set against the black of the jacket. Ben was stood against the white fabric of the gazebo which gave a very simple background, To make the image simpler and concentrate on patterns and character I processed the image in Black & White.

#4 Wildlife – Cabbage White

If I stick to the photography rules I shouldn’t have taken this photograph. It was taken hand held during the middle of one of the hottest and brightest days of the year at the RHS Tatton Flower Show. I noticed all the butterflies one of the gardens so I crouched down and framed on one Cabbage White. Placing it in the top left third intersection made it a strong focal point. Also within the frame it was at the top of the only flower with a head on it within the frame which bent in the opposite direction to the rest of the flower stalks. I chose a vertical frame so that the tall stalks behind stretched from top to bottom with a slight dynamic lean from top left to bottom right. Using a wide open f4 aperture the stunning background of mixed flowers and colours blurred and present a beautiful backdrop. If a good photograph presents itself ignore the rules and take it.

#3 Travlogue – Cambridge University

Just like the Cabbage White photograph this photograph was taken hand held during the middle of the day, but that is acceptable form travel photos. Unlike the Cabbage White photograph, this one was on a very cold cloudy Easter Sunday. Despite being taken from just off one of the main busy university streets this picture it captures a quiet almost deserted scene. What caught my eye was the chimneys on the college and the rhythm of the pattern. The family add a sense of scale and persective and are position exactly at the bend in the road as it starts to move out of the picture and with the a lead in line from the edge of the pavement. By processing the image in Black & White and increasing the clarity I placed emphasis on the texture of the stone. Also by adding a graduated filter and working on the shadows and highlights I brought some interest back to the sky. Also by darkening the sides of the photograph helps pull you into the centre of the photograph.

#2 Night Photography – Milkyway over Bardsey Island.

This photograph came out failing at another type of photography, star trails. We were in the campervan at the very tip of the Llyn Peninsular in Wales. It was a stunningly clear night, with no moon and zero light pollution; ideal conditions. After everyone had gone to bed I headed up the hill to take a shot to the north and Anglesey. Unfortunately after half an hour cold and dark I checked the image and found I did not have the right settings. Being very cold I headed downhill and saw the Milkyway heading out over the Irish Sea. I found a another viewpoint so that Bardsey Island was in the foreground and exposed the image for 20 secs at a f4 at a whopping 25600 ISO. By photographing in almost total darkness it had to be a balance between noise and not having too long an exposure that stars became blurred. It was an amazing scene. There were millions of stars and if there were less noise the image could be processed to reveal even more stars. What makes this my second best photograph of the year? Seeing the Milkway for only the second time in my life and being able to capture it as an image. The lesson of this pic? If what you try doesn’t work, try something else.

# 1 Garden Flowers – Bluebell Backs

I always like Bluebell and love taking photographs of them. But sometimes its difficult to take a clean image as there are often distracting elements in the background. Through exploring the subject and wanting to take something different I eventually saw this image of the backs of the Bluebells. Using my 70mm macro lens mounted on the tripod at f2.8 so that it had a minute depth of field focused on where the stalk meets the back of the flower head. Taking the image at an angle the stalk has a dynamic lead-in line from the bottom and the petals of the flower at the top also creates dynamic lead-in line. The colours in this image keep it nice and simple, with just pink and purple from the petals and a blurred green background. This photo works for me as its an unusual view of a common flower and shows that sometimes what you don’t usually see at the back of a flowers can be just as beautiful as the flower you do often see. Explore your subject you may just find something different.

Hope these explanations give you some insight as how these images came to be and may inspire you with your photography.
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