Let’s talk Photography. In fact, ask the Hairy Photographer anything about cameras, Photoshop, lighting, etc.

Aurora Borealis Over Penmon, Anglesey

Although you normally only see the Northern Lights from within or close to the Arctic Circle, they are occasionally visible from parts of northern Scotland.  Yesterday, however, star gazers from all over the UK were given a real treat when conditions were just right for them to be seen from all over Britain.

The Northern Lights are caused by the interaction of a stream of charged particles escaping the Sun, known as the Solar Wind, with the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere.

The Earth’s magnetic field becomes distorted and allows some of these charged particles to enter the atmosphere at the magnetic north  and south poles. These charged particles interact with the gases in our atmosphere and make make them glow – just like gas in a fluorescent tube.

The solar wind causes the Earth’s magnetic field lines to momentarily disconnect and it is when these field lines “snap back” into position the charged particles in the atmosphere create the aurora. The more magnetic field lines that disconnect and snap back, the further south the Northern Lights can be seen.

The newspapers are full of wonderful images taken by people from all over the United Kingdom but the best I have seen so far is this time-lapse sequence taken by Beaumaris photographer Kris Williams of the Aurora Borealis Over Penmon, Anglesey.

By |February 28th, 2014|0 Comments

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An exceptionally high quality photograph from 1942

A vintage Leica advert

Every now and again you come across a photograph that makes you go “Wow!”. Most times it is the content, the subject matter or the artistic attributes that take your breath away.  Occasionally, it is the superb technical quality.

These days of Facebook, phone pics and Photoshop tomfoolery, photographic quality has definitely been relegated to the back seat.  The digital revolution has bombarded us with  imagery. Fun, instantaneous, exciting imagery.  Everyone is a photographer.

Actually, maybe photographer is the wrong word.  For although photography is a word to describe someone who takes photographs, over the years it had become the generic term reserved for professionals or keen amateurs.  The family man with an instamatic was more of a snap-shooter.  Snapshot is not a term you hear much these days, so let’s call the new breed “Phoneographers”

The majority of phoneographers wouldn’t know a good quality photograph if it slapped them in the face.

B-25 bombers at North American Aviation, Kansas City. Picture by Alfred Palmer

I digress.  Over my time as a professional photographer and before that as “serious” amateur, I watched photographic quality improve with the advent of newer equipment and materials.  Higher resolution lenses, coupled with finer-grained film and high acutance developers that increased edge definition resulted in sharper images, and smoother truer tonality.

The glassware and the chemistry are only part of the story, however.  Right from the early days of photography, the major factor influencing the quality of a photograph has been the man or woman behind the camera.  Having an understanding of light and composition, and most of all knowing the capabilities and limitations of your equipment, and then using them to their maximum potential.

Click here to explore the full resolution image

It was this photograph, taken in Kansas back in 1942, of B25 bombers being prepared for war, that brought the whole photographic quality thing into focus for me (pun entirely intentional!).

Alfred T. Palmer in 1942It was shot by Alfred T. Palmer, a prolific American professional photographer of the day whose work simply oozes quality as well as superb composition whilst documenting life at that time.  Head over to the website dedicated to his life’s work.

It is amazing to think a photograph of this quality was taken over seventy years ago.  No Photoshoppery. Apart maybe for a little recent tweaking of the contrast and colour saturation, I would say that this is as-shot.

It is an exceptionally well executed professional photograph exposed on transparency film. Probably Kodachrome, which was way ahead of it’s time, exhibiting exceptionally fine grain and superb quality right from when it was first introduced seven years before this photograph was taken.

It was never a “fast” film, so the exposure here would have been quite tricky. Notice the depth of focus from the step ladder in the foreground right through to the far end of the building. This would have required a small aperture and a mathematically calculated hyperfocal distance to ensure this depth of field.
The only unsharp part of the entire image was a little movement around the head during the long exposureAs a result, the relatively low light level would have required a longish exposure so the camera would have been mounted on a very sturdy tripod. The shot would have been completely stage managed with the personnel remaining perfectly still for what was quite likely to have been an exposure probably at least a couple of seconds or even more in duration.  You can see by the enlarged section of the full resolution file that everything is sharp, save for a little fuzziness around the heads of the two men caused by slight movement during the exposure.

All in all this is a fabulous photograph from over 70 years ago.  Any modern day photographer would do well to learn from this and master the basics of photography.  Strip away all those bells and whistle and get it right in the camera first.

By |February 27th, 2014|1 Comment

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Disney Dream Portraits by Annie Leibovitz

Jessica Chastain as Princess Merida in Latest Disney Dream Portrait by Annie Leibovitz for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

Annie Leibovitz is no stranger to celebrity. To simply state that she was the photographer who persuaded John Lennon to strip naked and curl up on the floor next to Yoko, that she shot the naked pregnant Demi Moore, or that she photographed a 15 year old Miley Sirus topless long before the Wrecking Ball era, would be grossly flippant.

By |January 12th, 2014|Comments Off on Disney Dream Portraits by Annie Leibovitz

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Bird’s Eye View

Wow! After seeing this, who wouldn’t want to be an eagle, just for one day…?
This video shot with a camera strapped to the back of an eagle flying over Chamonix, in the Mer De Glace area on the northern slopes of the Mont Blanc in the French Alps, has received almost two million views in the first three days on YouTube.

…And if you’re having difficulty actually becoming an eagle, you could just jump of the mountain yourself!

Click here for more of Srachi’s breathtaking videos.

By |September 19th, 2013|0 Comments

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StreetSeen Photo Exhibition

streetscene

Street Photography is a genre of photography that strives to document life “as it is”.  Back in the early days of the first hand-held 35mm cameras, exponents of the art soon learned that their split-second snapshots of people going about their business could tell far more than words could ever do.

Back then it was the likes of Henri Cartier Bresson and Robert Doisneau who first realised that their “blink of an eye” observations could be captured forever in the blink of their Leica’s shutters.  And it transpired that the public at large soon developed an insatiable appetite for what was to become better known as documentary photography.

Whilst the newspapers concentrated on reportage with photographs that reported and illustrated events or occurrences, often featuring newsworthy people of notoriety or celebrity,  magazines such as Life and Picture Post were launched to showcase these wonderful glimpses of real life.  Ordinary people, like you and me, going about our daily routine.

In recent years we have seen a resurgence in what has now become popularly known as Street Photography. And back at the start of this year, three North Wales photographers got together to collaborate on a Street Photography project.  They established StreetSeen – a website to present and share their observations.

Photographers Ann Muth, Roy Barry and Graham Kidd each have an individual and distinct approach to what is a challenging form of photography.  And now, after a nine month gestation, they are mounting their first exhibition in collaboration with the Oriel Gallery at Theatr Colwyn, on Abergele Road in Colwyn Bay.

Admission is free, and the exhibition runs from September 23rd until October 11th.  It is well worth a visit – and who knows, you might even find yourself featured in one of the pictures!

 

 

By |September 12th, 2013|0 Comments

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