Birnbeck Pier


Birnbeck Island

Birnbeck Pier is a pier in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, England. It is situated on the Bristol Channel approximately 18 miles (29 km) south-west of Bristol. It links the mainland with Birnbeck Island, a 1.2 hectares (12,000 m2) rocky island just to the west of Worlebury Hill, and is the only pier in the country which links the mainland to an island.

The grade II listed pier was designed by Eugenius Birch and opened in 1867. The gothic toll house and pier-head buildings were designed by local architect Hans Price. The pier has been closed to the public since 1994.

Map picture

Technical Note: Bracket of 5 images from –2 to +2 taken with a Samsung GX10. ISO 100 f22. HDR processed with Machinery HDR effects, post in Adobe Photoshop Elements. Post processing mainly noise removal using Topaz De-Noise.


The Low Lighthouse

Burnham Lighthouse

The Low lighthouseis one of three lighthouses in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, England and the only one which is still active. It is a Grade II listed building.

Burnham-on-Sea is notable for its beach and mudflats, which are characteristic of Bridgwater Bay and the rest of the Bristol Channel where the tide can recede for over 1.5 miles (2.4 km). Burnham is close to the estuary of the River Parrett where it flows into the Bristol Channel, which has the second highest tidal range in the world of 15 metres (49 ft.), second only to Bay of Fundy in Eastern Canada. The constantly shifting sands have always been a significant risk to shipping in the area.

The low wooden pile lighthouse or Lighthouse on legsis 36 feet (11 m) high; the light being at 23 feet (7.0 m) was built by Joseph Nelson in 1832, in conjunction with the High Lighthouse to replace the original Round Tower Lighthouse, which itself had been built to replace the light kept burning in the tower of St Andrews Church to guide fishing boats into the harbour.

It stands on nine wooden piers, some with plate metal reinforcement. The structure is whitewashed with a vertical red stripe on the sea side.

The lights were inactive between 1969 and 1993 and were re-established when the High Lighthouse lights were permanently discontinued. They have a focal plane of 7 metres (23 ft.) and provide a white flash every 7.5s plus a directional light (white, red, or green depending on direction) at a focal plane of 4m. It is operated by Sedgemoor District Council.

I’m Back…

London Underground

New Theme

I’ve decided to restart HDR Images by Mike Hardisty for several reasons;

  • my renewed interest in HDR Photography
  • finding a great little plugin for Windows Live Writer, called Flickr4Writer
  • a new theme to display the photographs

Point and Shoot

Now this is not the best of HDR photographs but as it was taken with a little Point and Shoot camera it seems fitting to use it. I’ve just picked up a new camera, the Pentax K30. I was going to take it with me to the Olympics but as DSLR camera ended up on the list of banned items I didn’t want to take the chance. As it so happens, I could have taken the new camera. There were plenty of people attending with DSLR’s and large telephoto lenses.

On the way home I got on the wrong tube train out of London so had to jump out at St. Paul’s to catch the right one. The station was almost deserted so all I did was lay the camera down and press the shutter. The little Samsung P+S did the rest, taking a bracket of three which I processed with Machinery HDR Effects. It was a bit noisy, so I used Topaz De-Noise to clean the image up.

To Photoshop, Or Not

Nowadays I don’t use Photoshop CS, instead I prefer Photoshop Essentials to do any post-processing. Part of the reason was cost. CS in any of it’s variants is just getting too expensive to upgrade. I’d rather spend the money on gear. Besides I found Essentials has all the tools I need for post-processing. Combined with my favourite Topaz plug-ins and I’m quid’s in….literally.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Purple



Wikipedia defines Purple as a range of hues of colour occurring between red and blue. In additive light combinations it occurs by mixing the primary colours red and blue in varying proportions. In human colour psychology, purple is also associated with royalty and nobility (stemming from classical antiquity when Tyrian purple was only affordable to the elites).

Like orange and silver, purple has no common word that rhymes with it.

Etymology and definitions

The word ‘purple’ comes from the Old English word purpul which derives from the Latin purpura, in turn from the Greek  (porphura), name of the Tyrian purple dye manufactured in classical antiquity from a mucus secreted by the spiny dye-murex snail.

The first recorded use of the word ‘purple’ in English was in the year AD 975.

This weeks photograph was taken with my Pentax K30

London 2012 Olympic Games

I’m going to be pretty quiet this week on my blog. It’s the start of the 2012 London Olympic Games tonight and tomorrow I’m travelling to London for an event taking place on Sunday. I’ll be returning to North Wales, only to go across to Manchester several times for some of the Olympic Football matches(soccer for my American readers). Despite some negative comments from our national newspapers, a few of whom seem to want to find fault with everything, I’m really looking forward to attending the games and soaking up the atmosphere.

Security is really strict and there is a limit on the size of camera you can take in. I’m not going to risk it with my DSLR and lenses so I’m just taking my little P+S camera with me. I won’t be looking for photographs of the athletes in action, probably won’t get close enough. So it’s going to be more about street photography for me over the next few weeks. Can’t wait as it’s a new genre of photography for me.


The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day Two

Before reading this I suggest you read both of the Day One posts. The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day One, Part One and The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day One, Part Two

Clear blue skies and a high cloud ceiling meant there was going to be another fantastic day of flying. My intention today was to capture some photographs of the USAF KC135 which was flying about mid-program. The flying display didn’t start until 14:00 so I had time to get the dogs down on the beach for a good brisk walk. By 10:00 the sea front was already getting crowded, I don’t know why, maybe people thought the displays started at 12:30 again. Anyway, armed with Factor 50 lotion, I got down the beach about 13:45. Boy was it crowded. I’ve never seen so many people on the beach and promenade area.

Right, onto the flying display. The Search and Rescue demonstration had to be cancelled due to an operational tasking for the helicopter so first up was the Hawk that had performed at yesterday’s display.


Next came The Blades.

The Blades

The Blades fly Extra EA-300‘s, which are low-wing, high performance aircraft designed specially for extreme aerobatic manoeuvres.


The Blades display lasts about 15 minutes and is really breath-taking with about 30 different manoeuvres performed.

The Blades

Some of the aerobatic manoeuvres performed involve all of the aircraft, two of them or just a single aircraft.

After The Blades there were displays from the Spitfire, King Air and the Red Hawks, but I was waiting for the big one…the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

KC 135

The KC-135 is an aerial refuelling military aircraft. It and the Boeing 707 airliner were developed from the Boeing 367-80 prototype. The KC-135 was the US Air Force’s first jet-powered refuelling tanker and replaced the KC-97 Stratotanker. The Stratotanker was initially tasked to refuel strategic bombers, but was used extensively in the Vietnam War and later conflicts such as Operation Desert Storm to extend the range and endurance of US tactical fighters and bombers.

Well, that’s it from me. Despite the Factor 50 lotion I could still feel my face burning and when the organisers announced that the main road had been closed, due to a serious accident, I felt it was a good time to make my exit.

I hope you enjoyed what has been for a great two days and I’ll leave you with this little snippet of information. During the two days I took 1182 photographs. I know I will not use all of them, but I’ve found the best way to capture the high speed action of an air show is to put my camera on continuous shutter firing. That way I can track the aircraft in the sky as it flies in front of me. I can then cherry-pick the photographs I want to display or sell.

The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day One, Part Two

Before reading this post I suggest you read “The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day One, Part One

OK! Back to the aircraft. Next to display were the RV8tors a two aircraft team who specialise in close formation aerobatics. Flying at combined speeds of up to 230 mph they give a really great air display.


Saturday’s, display program was an especially long one. Starting at 12:30 and finishing around 16:30 with some short breaks between flying displays. It was a really sunny day, some clouds and a cooling breeze off of the sea. Ideal for getting sunburnt and guess who forgot to pack his lotion. Of course with the breeze I wasn’t noticing that I was getting burnt, at least not until that evening. One side of my face was bright red and really hot, the other was red, not so hot. but I was like a man of two halves.

Still one of my favourite aircraft the Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was next to display


To give it its correct name the Supermarine Spitfire was a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s. It was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft and was the only British fighter in production throughout the war.

PS915 performed various reconnaissance duties at Wunsdorf in Germany. She returned to the UK in 1954, and was retired to gate guarding duties. In 1987 she was modified with a Griffon 58 engine and refurbished to flying condition by British Aerospace. She currently carries the markings of PS888 of 81 Squadron based at Seletar, Singapore, during the Malayan Emergency. This aircraft conducted the last operational RAF sortie on 1 April 1954, photographing communist guerrilla hideouts over an area of jungle in Johore. The ground crew painted the inscription “The Last!” on the left engine cowling.

Just after the Spitfire came the Beech King Air B200. It is used by the Royal Air Force to train pilots in preparation for flying multi-engined aircraft.

King Air

Now for a more gentler flying display. Flying the Fournier RF-4 the Red Hawks display is so quiet, in contrast to the fast jets and stunt aircraft, that they can choreograph their display to music.

Red Hawks

It was a really peaceful display and as the Red Hawks left the scene, in came Steve Carver. I’ve seen and photographed Steve’s display before and it’s an all action, high-flying stunt display.

Steve Carver

Now for the finale of day one. Flying low and fast onto the display area were two Tornado GR4‘s. The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft, which was jointly developed and manufactured by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy.

Tornado GR4

The Tornado was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF), Italian Air Force and Royal Saudi Air Force during the 1991 Gulf War, in which the Tornado conducted many low-altitude penetrating strike missions. The Tornados of various operators were also used in conflicts in the former Yugoslavia during the Bosnian War and Kosovo War, the Iraq War, Libya during the Libyan civil war, as well as smaller roles in Afghanistan and Yemen. For todays display they simulated a combat strike mission. Lots of noise..brlliant.

Continue to The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day Two

The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day One, Part One

This year’s Air Show was held over the weekend of 21/22 July and with the weather promising to be good on both days thousands of visitors were expected to line the sea front to watch the flying displays, me included. For the air show I would be using a Sigma 150 – 500mm lens attached to my trusty, old and battered Samsung GX10. It’s been with me about 4 years now and has never let me down, yet. I used Continuing Auto Focus, letting the camera choose the focus point, Aperture Priority, switching between F8 and F11, ISO was always 100. No tripod. I prefer shoot hand-held for events where there are going to be fast-moving objects, like jet planes. Right enough of the talking. It’s photographs you want to see. First up, the Rhyl Lifeboat.

Lifeboat Launch

Wait a minute! What’s a lifeboat got to do with an Air Show? There’s a couple of reasons;

  1. The Air Show is performed over the sea, should any aircraft get in trouble…
  2. The lifeboat will be taking part in an Air Sea Rescue demonstration later in the day.

Now Rhyl lifeboat doesn’t have direct access to the sea like other lifeboat stations. It has to be towed out to the sea by tractor and launched once it’s in deep enough water. Here’s a photograph showing it been recovered.


Right, let’s get some aircraft onto the scene. Opening the air show on Saturday were the Red Arrows. They are currently flying with seven aircraft rather than their usual nine due to the two tragic accidents they have recently suffered. Never the less they still give a remarkable display.

The Red Arrows

I can’t show you all of the manoeuvres, but here are some of my favourites..

Red Arrows 3

Lots of smoke in different colours. Did you know the smoke is made by burning diesel fuel mixed with coloured dyes in the jet’s exhaust?

The Red Arrows

There’s enough fuel and dye to give five minutes of white smoke, one minute of red and one minute of blue

The Red Arrows

Although the trails look good to us, the pilots are using them to check things like wind speed and direction whilst they are making the complicated manoeuvres.

After the Red Arrows came the much slower display from Nigel Wilson and the YAK 52

Yak 52

Nigel is based in Suffolk and unlike many display pilots he is available for weddings, small local events and private functions. You can read more about Nigel on his website

Yak 52

Next we were treated to a display with a Calidus Gyrocopter. The gyrocopter, or rotaplane, is a type of rotorcraft which uses an unpowered rotor in autorotation to develop lift, and an engine-powered propeller, similar to that of a fixed-wing aircraft, to provide thrust. While similar to a helicopter rotor in appearance, the autogyro’s rotor must have air flowing through the rotor disc in order to generate rotation. Bit technical for me so I’ll just show you the photograph of it in action

Gyro Copter

Now to that Air Sea Rescue demonstration. As a photographer I like this flying display. The Sea King Helicopter from 22 Squadron Royal Air Force moves nice and slow across the sky, well slower than the fast jets which are going to appear later. So it’s far easier to track and photograph.


The next demonstration was by a single Hawk, the same aircraft that the Red Arrows use. However, by now the sky was getting a bit grey and to be honest I had better photographs of the Hawk from the second days flying. I’ll show you it later.

The next flying display showed real agility, maneuverability and a willingness to fly really close to the ground, despite the danger of collision. It’s my old friend the gull..

Gull in Flight

It just seemed to good an opportunity to miss. There were lots of gulls flying about and in a few of my photographs I can see them flying in front of the display aircraft. They’re inveterate thieves and can steal an ice-cream right out of an unsuspecting tourists hand.

OK! Back to the aircraft. Next to display were the RV8tors a two aircraft team who specialise in close formation aerobatics. Flying at combined speeds of up to 230 mph they give a really great air display.


Saturday’s, display program was an especially long one. Starting at 12:30 and finishing around 16:30 with some short breaks between flying displays. It was a really sunny day, some clouds and a cooling breeze off of the sea. Ideal for getting sunburnt and guess who forgot to pack his lotion. Of course with the breeze I wasn’t noticing that I was getting burnt, at least not until that evening. One side of my face was bright red and really hot, the other was red, not so hot. but I was like a man of two halves.

On to Part Two of this post

The Blue Hour


The blue hour comes from the French expression l'heure bleue, which refers to the period of twilight each morning and evening where there is neither full

The blue hour comes from the French expression l’heure bleue, which refers to the period of twilight each morning and evening where there is neither full daylight nor complete darkness. The time is considered special because of the quality of the light at this time of day. For photographers, the light at this time of the day can produce some very stunning photographs. Yes, you can stick a blue filter on the front of your camera lens and take photographs at any time of the day hoping to create this lighting effect, but it is almost impossible to capture the quality of light which happens at the Blue Hour.

To capture this photograph I used a tripod because I had to have longer exposures than I would normally have during daylight hours. My camera does have image stabilisation but it won’t work for exposures that run into seconds. To get a well exposed photograph I took 5 exposures bracketed from 3 seconds through to 30 seconds. The 5 photographs were then combined together by software called Machinery HDR Effects to give me the photograph you see above.

If you are interested in taking Blue Hour photographs have a look at the Blue Hour Site which has Tips & Tricks, a handy Blue Hour Calculator and a tutorial on how to take Blue Hour photographs



Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside


It’s Saturday the 21st August and I find it quite ironic that this weeks Weekly Photo Challenge should be Inside. Especially as I’m going to be spending the next three days outside in the fresh air. Today and tomorrow is the Rhyl Air Show, which as you can probably guess is going to bring together a huge variety of Military and Commercial Aircraft in flying displays. As well as the action in the air there will be fun fair rides, static displays, food stalls and much more. I’ll be there with my camera, a very large telephoto lens and a plentiful supply of memory cards. Last year, on the first day of the Air Show I shot 835 photographs and the second day 815. I won’t use all of those photographs, I’ll cherry pick the some for display and in a new venture for me I will be starting to sell the very best ones. Initially I’m going to be using Red Bubble as my sales point but depending on what happens I may switch to creating my own website and selling from there.

You may have noticed that I have changed the them of my blog. This change was to take advantage of some of the new widgets that WordPress have released just this week. In keeping with the theme change I will also be removing the frame around the photographs I publish, opting for a small watermark instead. The watermark is not to provide protection or anything like that. It’s far too easy to clone or crop it out. It’s really about advertising me and I’ve no doubt it will change over the next few days. I might even go back to the frame. Who knows? Please let me know your thoughts?

Anyway to this weeks challenge. Inside. No lateral thinking from me. Inside means inside a building and so I’ve chosen to show part of the crap from Wells Cathedral in Somerset, UK. Wells Cathedral is a Church of England cathedral and is the seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, who lives at the adjacent Bishop’s Palace. Built between 1175 and 1490, Wells Cathedral has been described as “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals”.

The first church was established on the site in 705. Construction of the present building began in the 10th century and was largely complete at the time of its dedication in 1239. It has undergone several expansions and renovations since then and has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building, and Scheduled Ancient Monument. You can read more about Wells Cathedral by following this link to Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, I’m off to make sure my batteries are fully charged, my lens is clean and all of the memory cards are in my camera bag.

I almost forgot, the third day I’m spending with my son, home from Hong Kong for a few weeks. I haven’t seen him in two years so we’re going to be spending the day, doing, you guessed it, photography.


The JPG versus RAW debate….again….and again

About 18 months ago I posted an article about using multiple JPEG instead of RAW. At the time I was mainly shooting multiple RAW images for my HDR photographs, but after reading the article in the manual I was willing to try using JPEG’s instead. At the time I wasn’t a 100% convinced, especially as it flew in the face of all the advice that the “experts” were extolling at the time. RAW was the only way to shoot and if you weren’t shooting RAW then you were……

Here’s the original article in which it was explained that there was little to be gained from shooting RAW.

Just recently I read in one of the HDR Software User Manuals that it was better to use JPEG rather than RAW for HDR processing. Especially if you are not intending to do any pre-processing i.e adjustments in ACR. Take a look at the image below, if you click on it you will be re-directed to the Flickr HDR Group where this is being discussed rather heatedly.

In explaining their statement the developers state (I added the italics to make the English flow a little better)

There is only a little gain in the usable dynamic range if you use multiple RAW files against multiple JPG files. This is because the different exposures overlap in a wider range than is the usable gain in RAW vs. JPG. Modern large sensor cameras will produce images with nearly 9 EV range dynamics. If we use three images from -2EV to +2EV we will get covered an area of 12-13 EV dynamic range which is a significant improvement over the single image. If we use RAW files we may push it to 14-15EV in absolute terms. But for a little extra dynamic gain we are trading in much higher noise which we have to deal with some other way. A de-noising on each step will effectively reduce the dynamic range similar to what we would get from JPG files, except it took much longer.

I have always used RAW but I don’t always do pre-processing before hand. If there is little to be gained from shooting RAW then it would make sense for me to switch to JPG. But somehow I can’t force myself to select that option in the cameras menu.

So here we are 18 months on. I now almost exclusively use JPEG for any static bracketed HDR images that I create. The only time I shoot RAW is when I am including something really moving in an HDR image (not strictly classed as HDR) or if I am shooting wildlife that does not require the HDR process. Has it made a difference? Yes it has. For a start I get more images on a memory card. I can process my HDR’s far faster, no extra steps for RAW processing. I am using less storage space on my hard drives.

Now I know that many of you are committed to using RAW and I’m certainly not saying you should convert to JPEG, far from it. For me, JPEG works fine, I get the results I want and in the end, that’s what matters. But hey! Don’t knock it until you try it…..

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