White or grey?

This week, I have some images to share taken during the winter.

The scenes photographed are all close to my home –  the leaf was actually taken in my garden.

There is always a problem in photographing hard frost, snow or bright skies in that the camera will underexpose. It sets the light areas to 18% grey or middle grey and in doing so darkens them. They no longer appear as white. A full explanation of why 18% is used can be seen here. To offset that, exposure will need to be increased to compensate and to ensure whites are white in the image.

The leaf image did not need any EV addition for the frost.  Using the electronic WYSIWYG viewfinder in the Fujifilm X-E2 I could see exactly the type of exposure I wanted.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon 35mm F/2 R WR



I used the Nikon D800 in this next photograph.  This has an optical viewfinder and so you can’t see through the lens what the exposure will look like unless you use Live View or look at the photograph after you’ve taken it.

In this instance, I estimated that the sky and the snow would make the metering of the Nikon under-expose, so I increased the EV by 2/3 of a stop.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm F/1.8 G


In this last image, the sky was the brightest part of the photograph, and so if I had let the camera expose to 18% the sky and the snow would have been grey. So I increased the EV by one complete stop, which meant that the tone of the sky was correct and the snow was depicted as white.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm F/1.8 G



Why black and white?

“Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive.” – Elliott Erwitt

As is obvious if you look through my blog, most of my photographs are monochrome. I’m often asked why this is so. The quote above by Irwin is exactly why I process the vast majority of my images as black and white.

A person looking at a colour photograph is responding to the colours at first. Colour and our response to it plays a huge part in our lives. The advertising industry use colours and their different hues try to get us to buy the product.

This immediate reaction is not the case with black and white photography. Why then is monochrome photography considered so powerful and emotive? When colour film became available it was believed that monochrome photography would die. It did not. In fact with the introduction of digital cameras, there has been a resurgence in the genre.

Part of the reason is the word ‘interpretive’ in Irwin’s quote. In black and white photographs, there are no colours to tell us immediately how we should feel about the subject. Angry, happy or sad etc. Or there are no colours to delineate different subjects in the image. We have to take more time to look at what the photographer was trying to tell us. We are being asked to look beyond what colours would tell us about the subject. Colours are represented by tones and shades which the photographer, should they so wish, could emphasise in a different way to how they would appear naturally. Textures can be enhanced, colours darkened or lightened. The photographer is asking the viewer to search the image and to see his/her interpretation of the scene.

My first image was taken at the Black Country Living Museum and shows a forge. There is no colour in the bricks, but it is obvious they are old. The old door on the right is chipped and worn and the cloth covering the left doorway is frayed and dirty. We do not need colours to show these attributes. They would have detracted from the industrial scene of crumbling walls and dirty windows. We may have also missed the incredible texture of the walls and the different tonality of the individual bricks.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8



The second photograph is of pots on a shelf in a kitchen in one of the houses at the BCLM. The shape and form of the containers and their cast shadows are what I thought was important, not the colours. The lack of colour enables your eye to move through the image looking for detail, perhaps spotting the old ‘OXO’ box, and taking in the subtle gradations of the shadows.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8



The third image is of some vegetables on a shelf. We know that the warty pumpkin is an orange colour, but in this image that is not important. We are concentrating on its texture and making it stand out against the other vegetables. The others also need to be part of the composition and so received subtle toning. If this was a colour photograph, the focus would not have been so strong on the large, ugly pumpkin. It is easier for us take in a colour photograph with a sweep of the eyes, but a monochrome image needs more of an investment of time and interest.

Fuji X-E2, XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4



Bricks and iron

These three images were, like the last post, all taken at the Black Country Living Museum near Dudley in the West Midlands.

The first is a found still life of a watering can and two water butts. I did not arrange these and came upon them behind one of the turn of the century cottages that are in the museum. The title I gave the image immediately came into my head before I even took the photograph. Sometimes you’re lucky and find a nice arrangement like this.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm, F1.8G



This photograph is obviously of some metal plates on a boiler around one of the furnaces. I liked the aged patina on the plates and the arrangement of the rivets holding the individual plates together. I was using a 50mm lens and got in as close as I could, which meant that some parts of the image where the curve of the boiler changed the distance between lens and object are a little soft. One possible remedy to that was if I used focus stacking. Perhaps next time.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm, F1.8G



The last image is a pile of chains that were outside the chain-makers forge. I noticed the fragile, slightly desiccated leaf in the middle of the pile and really liked the juxtaposition of the scene. After processing, I put a slight vignette around the edge of the frame and then lightened the centre a little, to focus attention on the leaf.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm, F1.8G


Countryside Studies

Last post I showed three colour images that I took whilst out on a walk near my home. This week, I have another three photographs from the location but processed in black and white.

The first is a landscape which shows tractor tracks disappearing into the mist across the field. I got down low with the camera and ensured that one of the tracks is coming from a bottom corner of the frame. Once again there was such a magical light through the mist that the photograph almost took itself.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8


The second is a close-up that is firmly based in the minimalist camp. The fence wire was placed on the top horizontal third and the drop of water is placed left of centre in the frame. I used f/5.0 to throw the background out of focus and selective sharpening was carried out only on the wire and water droplet.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8


The third photograph is in my favoured square format and is of some woodland plants that are obviously suffering from the offset of winter. I took the image with a Fujifilm X-E2 and 18-55mm zoom lens which I was trying out at the time.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0



One Misty Morning

We British are notorious for moaning and whingeing about our weather. This is because we never know what it is going to be like from day to day. Our weather prediction services seem to be totally incapable of getting their forecasts right and you may as well hang a piece of seaweed outside your front door and use that to tell you whether you are going to need an umbrella, coat or rowing boat that day.

However, for us photographer’s, the British weather is just so good at getting atmospheric pictures. Rainstorms, frost and snow all occur (probably more frequently than we would want) but they offer fantastic opportunities for landscape images or close-ups of rain-soaked plants, morning dew, frost on windows and mist over hills.

This selection of three photographs was taken in fields not far from my home in early November. It was one of those damp chilly mornings that was very still and quiet. Every sound and every colour were muted. Even the birds were quiet and walking through woods to the fields the only sound was the drip, drip of moisture from the trees on to the undergrowth.


Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8



Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8



Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8


A Light on the Past

I have three photographs this week that were taken at the very atmospheric Magpie Mine in Derbyshire. This former lead mine is one of the most famous lead mines in the area as it is the only one that has a significant part of its buildings still standing.

The mine was first recorded in 1795 although the workings are almost certainly a lot older. It finally ceased operations in 1958.

It’s an excellent location to get atmospheric photographs and on the day that these photographs were taken 18 months ago in September, it was freezing cold with icy drizzle and a wind that cut like a razor.

I have just been up there again and this time the shoot was ended after a couple of hours because of driving snow and that same vicious wind. The snow storm could be seen coming through the hills until it rolled up over the mine and there is nowhere to shelter at the mine at all. Ensure that you look at the weather before you visit.

All these images were taken with a Nikon D800 and a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Atmospheric photographs can be obtained using monochrome at the mine. If the right sky and clouds can be obtained then the remains of the chimneys and buildings give a really dramatic style to the images. Burning in the clouds during processing to emphasise their swirling around the hills of Derbyshire and the mine adds to the feeling of desolation and isolation.

The colour photograph was one of the first I processed using the Dehaze filter in Lightroom CC on the sky. For a few minutes, the sun leaked through the clouds and shone its light on the mine. I processed the image to emphasise this and I liked the way the filter had picked out colours in the clouds. Not one to use for every image, but I think it worked on this one.





A Light on the Past


Photographs #12

The three images in today’s post appeal to me for different reasons. One for texture and detail, one for the questions it asks and the other both for its suggestion of mysterious overtones.

The first picture is in my favourite format of 1:1 or square and monochrome. The plant, is a thistle, with its seeds ready to be blown by the wind to propagate other areas of the countryside. I love the detail that the camera captured and the swirls of tone in the down-like mass of seeds around the thistle heads. It was taken with a Nikon D7100 and a Nikkor 24 – 85mm f/3.5 – 4.5 lens.


Thistle Down


The second image is a set of steps that have started to be overgrown. The steps and the wall through which they run is obviously old. The steps are worn and uneven and made of odd sized and shaped stone, except the second step from the bottom, which has been repaired by what looks like modern bricks. So at one point in the near past, the steps must have been used enough to require repair, and yet now they are becoming overgrown and are evidently not now used as much if, at all. The movement of the eye through the image is from top to bottom.  The convergence of the steps and the light at the top ensures that the viewer climbs the steps to exit the picture. This image was also taken with a Nikon D7100 and a Nikkor 24 – 85mm f/3.5 – 4.5 lens.


To The Light

To the Light


The last image was taken at Stowe gardens. Viewing the portico and door of the temple from below gives the picture both an imposing, dominating and mysterious aspect. The darkness of the set of doors looks threatening and its position between the columns ensures that the eye is pulled and drawn to it. What will emerge from behind them? The title is a reference to one of my favourite heavy metal albums from 1977, which the image reminds me of. The photograph was taken with a Nikon D800 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens.


Sin After Sin

Sin after Sin


Out and About: Multiple Exposures


After attending the talk by Nicki Gwynn-Jones I decided to have a bash myself at multiple images at Baddesley Clinton.  The last time I did multiple exposures in-camera was when I was using film with Olympus OM-1 and OM-2 cameras many years ago.

I wasn’t expecting any great shakes at the first attempt of multiple exposures, and I was right not to, but I did enjoy doing them.

I used my Nikon D800 and a 50mm f/1.8 lens.  I was in manual exposure mode, the multiple exposure was set to 3 frames and I experimented with average gain set and none.  It’s obvious that this type of photography requires the right scene to work properly, but half the fun is experimenting so why not give it a go.

The image below was taken using two frames for the house and bridge on the left of the frame and then I turned and took one image of the countryside.  No average gain per frame was used and I like the quality that the over-exposure does.  In terms of processing, it was all done in Lightroom CC.  I cropped to a square and left the highlights blown but pulled back the shadows and blacks.  I used a D800 Lightroom profile for the colour, enhancing it slightly with Vibrance.  I then sharpened and applied a little Luminance Smoothing before adding a slight vignette.

I like the ethereal quality of this image and the implied rather than fully stated shape of the house.  There is a feeling of impermanence and intransience about the picture.





Out and About: Berkswell

I trudged across the fields of Berkswell today in an effort to get some foggy, autumn pictures.

The fog was quite dense and the only noises piercing its sound dampening properties were the cries of the crows in the trees, the seagulls on the lake and the drip, drip of the water on the leaves of the trees as I waked under them. The air was cold and damp and the footpaths muddy, slippy and well-trodden.

Out of the gloom of the fog the trees continually emerged as I walked on.  In the distance the trees faded into an indistinct line on the horizon, all detail and contrast flattened by the fog.

The particular oak tree in the image below stood on the top of a rise in the field.  The orange and yellow leaves barely hanging on to the branches.  I was captivated by the flatness and quietness of the scene, all tones muted to browns and golds.

I took the photograph with my D800 and a 50mm f/1.8 standard lens.  I used the dehaze tool in Photoshop to increase the contrast in the tree and to make it more prominent.