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The Old Canal Bridge at Sedgwick

Sedgwick canal lancaster kendal westmorland bridge snow lake district

When the M6 was built in the 1960s, the Lancaster to Kendal Canal was culverted in three places, effectively ending the canal at Tewitfield. Some “orphaned” stretches of the canal still remain navigable but from Stainton to Kendal the canal was filled in.

It’s easy to trace the route of the old canal because the hump back bridges that went over it still remain in place. In the village of Sedgwick, some four miles from the centre of Kendal, the old tow path remains in place, making this a popular route for walkers.

On a cold morning in early December 2010, we were walking our dog along the tow path when we saw the effect of light reflecting off the fallen snow on the side of the old canal bridge. Normally, the bridge looks very dark on this side but the reflected light illuminate the stonework, lichen and moss. In the distance, I could see sheep, trying to graze on grass that was covered with snow – all framed by the arch of the bridge.

To bring out the colours in the bridge, I processed the photo in Photoshop, giving the stonework a treatment similar to HDR (High Dynamic Range) but leaving the field and sky beyond alone.

Of all the photos that I’ve posted on Panoramio, this has had by far the most viewings. We’ve had snow in Sedgwick since I took this photo but have never seen light on the bridge that looks anything like this.

Photo taken 5th December 2010 with a Canon Eos 5D Mk II and a 17mm – 35mm lens set to 35mm. Exposure 1/800 second at f6.3, ISO 100.

 

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On the Route Napoleon

morgan route napoleon alps France drive lavender poppies Miscellany magazine

This is a photograph that I took in Provence, on our way down to the South of France. It would be used as the July 2004 front cover of the Morgan Sports Car Club’s magazine “Miscellany”, which I was writing an article for.

Most French roads are much quieter than British roads – until I started driving cars over there, I didn’t really appreciate just how big a country it is.

The Route Napoleon runs from Grenoble down through the Alps and ends in Grasse, just to the north of Cannes. It follows the route that Napoleon Bonaparte took when he returned from exile in Elba. It is one of the most exciting roads that I have ever driven on, demanding total concentration at all times.

Just before we started climbing into the “proper” Alps, we were travelling along a gently winding stretch of road, with lavender and poppies growing on either side and I spotted a view that I knew would make the perfect magazine cover. I stopped the car and rested my Canon Powershot G3 on the top of the windscreen and used the camera’s fold out screen to help me compose the shot. I wanted to get part of the Morgan’s louvred bonnet(s) in view and then draw the viewer’s eye  into the left-handed corner and on towards the small avenue of trees towards the edge of the photo. As soon as I took the shot and saw it in the camera’s screen, I knew I had a winner.

Traditional Morgans don’t have a boot and even the Aero models only have boots that will take a couple of holdalls, so space was at a premium on this trip. There was no way that I could carry a DSLR and lenses, so I took what I called my holiday camera – a Canon Powershot G3 along with us. Remember, this was ten years ago and the camera produced a mere 4 megapixel image, which is less than most modern smartphones. But it was still a good enough image to be used for an A4 size magazine cover. I used the camera throughout the trip down to the South of France and back up to illustrate my article.

If there is a moral to this story, it’s that you shouldn’t underestimate the potential quality of a photograph that compact cameras can achieve. These days, I use so much kit that I have to wheel it round in a roller bag but there are times when carrying very little kit makes it more likely that you are going to see the shot and grab it.

If you want to read more about the Route Napoleon, visit http://www.ultimatedrives.net/top-10-roads/details.php?route_ID=100009

Photograph taken 25th May 2004 with a Canon Powershot G3 and the equivalent of a 35mm – 140mm lens set to 35mm. Exposure 1/800 second at f 5.0. ISO 50.

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Southport Ladies Rugby team

Southport RFC Ladies rugby kit

Southport RFC Senior Ladies Squad

In a year that has seen the England Ladies rugby team win the World Cup and Team of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, we thought it would be appropriate to post our photo of Southport RFC Ladies team.

Ladies rugby is a fast-growing sport in the UK and Lauren, Captain of the Soutport Ladies Senior team asked me to take a photograph that would illustrate an article that she was writing for The Southport Visiter, in which she wanted to kill off some of the stereotype images that people have about Ladies rugby. She wanted to put the point across that lady rugby players are no different to any other ladies.

My suggestion was to set up a shoot with a few of the players, showing them in the normal clothes they would wear for work or at home and then an identical pose, showing them in their rugby kit. To get the poese as close as possible, we would need to use “tethered shooting” where the camera is mounted on a tripod and linked by cable into Adobe Lightroom on my MacBook. That way, we could get the ladies into exactly the same pose as they had been in a few minutes before.

One of our favourite photographers is the American veteran, Annie Liebovitz. Her group shots of people are some of the best you will ever see and we both remembered a very striking shot that she had taken in 2001 for Vanity Fair of the Griffindor quidditch team about to go out and play in the first Harry Potter film. In that photograph, the team all looked very serious and, after Liz had got the Ladies into a similar pose, we tried some shots with the Ladies looking very serious. It just wasn’t them! So we went for a pose where they looked much happier and we knew we were in business.

Until the evening of the shoot, I hadn’t known that Faye was bringing her twin daughters along and that they too would be changing from normal clothes into rugby kit, but it was pure genius on her part.

The story was run by The Southport Visiter, along with the two photos.

Southport RFC now has a Senior Ladies team, an U18 Ladies team and an U15 Ladies team. Between the three teams, 7 of the players also play at county level for Lancashire and who knows when one of them will be the first Southport Lady to play for England?

Photograph taken 21st May 2014 with a Canon Eos 1Dx and a 24mm – 70mm lens set to 24mm. Exposure 1/250 second at f 11 using two Canon 600 ex rt Speedlites in Lastolite soft boxes and a wireless trigger. ISO 200.

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In The Zone

motor racing formula 3 three wayne boyd oulton park

Wayne Boyd at Oulton Park

It is a few seconds before 3.00 pm in the pit lane at Oulton Park in Cheshire on the 13th of April 2009 and Wayne Boyd, the former UK Formula Ford Champion from Northern Ireland is about to go racing in his Formula 3 single seater racing car.

I had been taking photographs of racing cars for many years and whilst we’ve loved going to the Monaco Grand Prix, Oulton Park remains my favourite circuit as it is the first circuit I was ever taken to by my schoolfriend, Peter Hall’s father when we were 9 years old. It is probably the most picturesque circuit in the UK, set in the undulating parkland of the former Oulton Hall, in Delamere Forest. Just one visit to a circuit and I was hooked for life!

Racing drivers are different to “normal” people. Not only do they have to be super fit, with the sharpest of reflexes but they also have a degree of self-belief that very few humans have. When they see a gap between two other cars, they have to believe that they can drive into it, without colliding with the other cars and so gain a place. And then keep seeing those opportunities throughout the race. Crashing is an occupational hazard and any crash that you can walk away from wasn’t that bad.

I had started to get passes to go behind the scenes in the pits at a number of circuits and, for me, this was a turning point in my photography. I was able to observe at close quarters the mechanics and engineers at work and the drivers, as they prepared to go out and race. Many of the drivers use iPods to listen to their favourite music and close off the outside world. Few of them want to speak to anyone, other than their race engineer and they become totally oblivious to what is going on around them. If good sports photography is all about story telling, this is the story – it’s about the drivers and the people behind them, the skill, determination, sacrifice and courage.

In the pit lane at Oulton Park, Wayne Boyd sat, ready to go out onto the track. He was completely still and was staring at the tiny steering wheel of his car. Nothing could distract him – it was as if he had become part of the car. He really had gone into “The Zone.”

The area where cars sit in the pit lane is covered in concrete, so that fuel and oil spills don’t go into the ground beneath. When I saw this photograph on my computer, I wanted to do something different with it to all the motor racing photos I’d taken in the past. I wanted to tell a story about the isolation that a racing driver feels before he or she goes out on the track. That is why I over exposed the background, so the grey concrete turned black and Wayne was sitting there, all alone.

I was in touch with Wayne a couple of weeks ago, after he had won the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone. I told him that I wanted to use this photo on our website and to write a blog about it. He told me that his family have a print of it, hanging in their kitchen – which makes me feel very proud.

It’s this photograph that changed my approach to sports photography. Whilst you can see very little of Wayne’s face, the pose tells the story. From that day forward I have always looked for the facial expressions on players and their body language. I want my viewers to feel like they were there with me, witnessing the full gamut of emotion and the effort that’s required to participate in sport at its highest levels.

http://www.wayneboydracing.com/race-news/boyd-wins-the-walter-hayes-trophy/

Photograph taken 13th April  2009 with a Canon Eos 5D Mk II and a 17mm – 35mm lens set to 31mm. Exposure 1/640 second at f 4.5. ISO 200.

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“The Yabba Dabba Doo” Charity Party

fireworks party charity spectators night bonfire yabba dabba doo

Firework display at the Yabba Dabba Doo charity party

I really enjoy event photography!

Whether it’s a few friends gathering at home or a black tie ball, there is something rather special about recording the occasion and preserving the memories forever.

This is the second year that I’ve photographed an event in Lancashire called “The Yabba Dabba Doo” charity party. This year, all the proceeds will be going to help the people of the Philippines who were affected by Typhoon Haiyan a year ago to the day.

The host, Jan, had promised an even bigger firework display than we saw last year. He wasn’t joking – I doubt if anyone who was there on the night has ever seen anything like it.

If you have the right kit anyone can take photos of fireworks – an iPhone isn’t an option unless you’re videoing the fireworks.

A tripod is essential, ideally with a cable release to stop any vibration caused by pressing on the shutter button. With modern digital cameras you can experiment with the settings, depending upon what the ambient light is like. I find that an aperture of f8.0 works best with an exposure time of between 4 and 8 seconds. You will also need a camera that you can focus manually, as even the best autofocus systems tend to “hunt” in the darkness. I’ve found that focusing just a little short of infinity works best.

And then just keep shooting. I always think that firework photography looks best when you can see people in the foreground – it gives a sense of scale and it’s great to hear the oohs and aahs as each new firework is launched into the sky.

I’m looking forward to photographing next year’s Yabba Dabba Doo already!

Photograph taken 8th November 2014 with a Canon Eos 1Dx and a 16mm – 35mm lens set to 16mm. Exposure 3 seconds at f 8.0. ISO 400.

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Sammy and Heiki

Stallion black red coat rearing horseA few weeks ago, we were on a location shoot for new clients who run an equine clothing and accessory company in Southport, called Equiemporium.

https://www.facebook.com/Equiemporium

The shoot took place in the grounds of Scarisbrick Hall School near to Southport, a Grade 1 listed building that was designed by Augustus Pugin.  Three top riders – who had never modelled before – were showing off the latest riding clothing while handling two black stallions.

In this photograph, Sammy Borthwick is riding Heiki, a Dutch horse that has been trained to rear on command. Sammy is wearing a beautiful tweed coat from Liberty Freedom, one of Equiemporium’s suppliers.

This was one of the most enjoyable location shoots we’ve ever done and there will be more photos to follow.

Photograph taken 13th September 2014 with a Canon Eos 1Dx and a 24mm – 70mm lens set to 30mm. Exposure 1/125 second at f 7.1. ISO 320.

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Puddles

puddles mother daughter running portrait

I’m self-taught in most areas of photography and photo processing but I’ve learned my portrait photography at what is considered to be the best school in the country, Aspire Photography Training in Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria.

Here, I’ve been trained by some of the top photographers in the UK, who have also been trained here and who also continue to undergo training. There is never a point where “you know it all.”

In September 2013, my training group had been photographing a mother and daughter in the grounds of Dalton Hall, with European Portrait Photographer of the Year, Tamara Peel. It had been raining earlier in the day and was wet underfoot.

We had finished our shoot and were all walking back up to Aspire’s premises in the stable block at Dalton Hall. I was talking to another member of the group when I heard a giggle. I looked up and spotted the mother and daugher, running together through the puddles on the lane up to the stable block. My background is sports photography and I’ve learned to never switch my cameras off until I’m ready to pack them away for the day. I swung a camera up and fired off three shots of the two of them in quick succession. And then the moment had gone.

Of the three photos, this was the best as the mother and daughter were mirroring each other and you can just see the reflection of their boots on the damp lane. I had thought about turning this photo into a black and white image, but realised that the limited colour palette worked well.

In many ways, it’s the most unusual portrait shot that I’ve ever taken but also one of the happiest. You can’t see the mother and daughter’s faces but the body language tells you everything.

Photograph taken 17th September 2013 with a Canon Eos 1Dx and a 70mm – 200mm lens set to 123mm. Exposure 1/160 second at f 5.6. ISO 800.

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The Six

six bat ball cricket hit

Disbelief

For so many years I’ve been used to photographing racing drivers in their cars, where you never see the face of the driver behind the visor of a full-face helmet.

It was only when I started to photograph cricket, rugby, hockey, tennis and squash that I realised the best sports photography is really just a branch of portrait photography where you can see the determination and emotion of the player in the photograph. All those years of training and hardship coming together in a single moment.

Meet Carlos.

In the lovely rich golden light that Southport gets on summer evenings, Southport & Birkdale Under 15s are playing Hightown, who are 3 ahead. With the final ball of the match about to be bowled, S&B needed a three to draw or a four to win. At this age level, fours are rare and sixes are almost never seen.

Carlos hit the ball and was about to start running when he realised what he had achieved. He had hit the ball so hard, it went clean over the boundary and very nearly went through the clubhouse window, had a spectator not caught it. If I wanted to give this portrait a title, it would be “Disbelief.”

If it was a storyline from Boys Own, you would have called it far fetched. But in this case, it was real.

This photograph was used as the cover for Southport & Birkdale’s Fixture Book for 2014.

Photograph taken 9th July 2013 with a Canon Eos 1Dx and a 70mm – 200mm lens on a 1.4 converter, set to 280 mm. Exposure 1/1000 second at f 4.0. ISO 800.

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