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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Let Me In

Let Me In

Let Me In | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

The Welsh Pony and Cob are closely related horse breeds including both pony and cob types, which originated in Wales in the United Kingdom. Welsh ponies and cobs are known for their good temperament, hardiness, and free-moving gaits.

Evidence suggests that a native Welsh-type of pony existed before 1600 BC.  The original Welsh Mountain Pony is thought to have evolved from the prehistoric Celtic pony. Welsh ponies were primarily developed in Wales and their ancestors existed in the British Isles prior to the arrival of the Roman Empire. Bands of ponies roamed in a semi-feral state, climbing mountains, leaping ravines, and running over rough moorland terrain.

They developed into a hardy breed due to the harsh climate, limited shelter and sparse food sources of their native country. At some point in their development, the Welsh breeds had some Arabian blood added, although this did not take away the physical characteristics that make the breed unique.

On our way up to the Aber falls a herd of ponies were waiting by this gate which separates the moorland from the meadows. It just struck me as funny seeing the sign saying don’t let them in.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreaming

Falling Water | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

Dreaming! As a photographer, albeit an amateur one, I always dream of getting the perfect photo. The one where the lighting is exactly right, everything that I want to be in focus, is in focus, from front to back of the photograph….and the subject is exactly where I want it. Ansel Adams once said;

You don’t take a photograph, you make it.

With today’s modern cameras and software it is so much easier to correct many of the mistakes we make before we press that shutter. We can correct the exposure, adjust the sharpness, increase or decrease the saturation, in effect, making an image that we like. However, I’m not so sure that’s what Ansel Adams really meant?

With Fred Archer, Adams developed the “Zone System“as a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. The resulting clarity and depth characterized his photographs and the work of those to whom he taught the system. Adams primarily used large-format cameras despite their size, weight, setup time, and film cost, because their high-resolution helped ensure sharpness in his images.

Adams preferred to work in Black and White because he felt color could be distracting, and might therefore divert an artist’s attention away from achieving his full potential when taking a photograph. Adams actually claimed that he could get “a far greater sense of ‘color’ through a well-planned and executed black-and-white image than he had ever achieved with color photography”.

However, unknown to many, Adams did not work exclusively in black and white—he experimented with color, as well. A few examples of his color work are available in the online archive of the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona. His subjects that he shot in color ranged from portraits to landscape to architecture, a similar scope to that of his black and white work.

Another reason why Adams preferred Black and White was, he was a “master of control”. He wrote books about technique, developed the “Zone System”—something which helped determine the optimal exposure and development time for a given photograph—and introduced the idea of “previsualization”, which involved the photographer imagining what he wanted his final print to look like before he even took the shot. These concepts and methods allowed for nearly total control of all the potential variables that factor into a final print. Because of his love for control, Adams disliked color since it lacked this element that he had mastered with black and white.

….and this is what I think Adams meant when he said “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”.

We can’t all be like Ansel Adams or any of the great photographers but we can certainly strive to get the best photograph we can. How we achieve that is up to us but I know it doesn’t need a big expensive camera to do so.

 Buying a Nikon or Canon doesn’t make you a photographer.  It makes you a Nikon or Canon owner.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a DSLR, most of my photographs are taken with it. I’ve had the camera for about five years now and I know it inside out. I know it’s capabilities and I know it’s failings. I’m going to be upgrading it this year to one with newer technology which will iron out most of the failings of my current camera. But some of the best photographs I have taken have come from a simple Point and Shoot that my wife bought me for my birthday last year. Yet, despite this, I’m still dreaming about that new camera which is going to be released in exactly six days time. I won’t have it for the next Weekly Photo Challenge, but maybe the next.

Bridgewater Place

Bridgewater Place | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

Bridgewater Place, nicknamed The Dalek, is an office and residential skyscraper development in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It is the tallest building in Yorkshire, and has held this record since being topped out in September 2005. It is visible at up to 25 miles (40 km) from certain areas.

It was first announced in 2000 and, following several redesigns and delays with the construction process, construction of the building began in 2004 and was completed in 2007. It became the tallest building in Leeds, by a significant margin, and Yorkshire (although this does not take into account structures such as Emley Moor). Bridgewater Place has a height of 112 metres (367 ft) to roof level. Originally the tower was to have a spire which would have extended the height of the building to 137 metres (449 ft), however this was never built.

Bridgewater Place has 32 storeys, of which two are used for car parking, ten for offices and twenty for residential purposes. There is 40,000 square metres / 430,560 square feet of floor space in the building with 200 flats and 400 underground car parking spaces serving both the residential and commercial areas of the building.

The atrium of Bridgewater Place hosts the 17.5 metre column sculpture called ‘Hello Friends’ by artists Bryan Davies and Laura Davies, which is possibly the tallest sculpture in Yorkshire. Created as a reinterpretation of Constantin Brâncuşi’s Endless Column from Târgu Jiu, Romania 50 years after the artist’s death, it houses illuminated photographs showing a science fiction narrative.

The building’s shape appears to be accelerating winds in its immediate vicinity to the extent that pedestrians have experienced severe difficulties walking past. These winds have led to some of the entrances to the building being closed for safety reasons.  To rectify these issues in the design may require the addition of ‘vertical fins’ to the facade of the building.

In 2008, Building Design, the architectural journal, shortlisted Bridgewater Place for its annual Carbuncle Cup, which is awarded to ‘buildings so ugly they freeze the heart’. The building has often been criticised for creating a dangerous wind tunnel and as of 10 March 2011 is involved in the investigation of a death caused by a falling lorry.

On 10 February 2012 the West Yorkshire Coroner Melanie Williamson halted her inquest into the 10 March 2011 incident saying: “I’m concerned having heard all the evidence there may be an offence of Corporate Manslaughter by one or more of the organisations.”

Looking At You

Looking At You | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

It’s Sunday again so time for another Sliders Sunday. For this weeks image I used a photograph of one of the many stone faces carved on the outside of  the Marble Church (St.Margaret’s Church), Bodelwyddan, which is a prominent landmark in the lower Vale of Clwyd in Denbighshire, Wales.  It lies just off the A55 trunk road and is visible for many miles.

The church was erected by Lady Willoughby de Broke in memory of her husband, Henry Peyto-Verney, 16th Baron Willoughby de Broke. She laid the foundation stone on 24 July 1856 and the new church designed by John Gibson was consecrated by the Bishop of St. Asaph on 23 August 1860 after construction at a cost of £60,000. The new parish of Bodelwyddan was created on 3 August 1860, from the communities of Bodelwyddan, Faenol and Pengwern, which until that date had been part of the parish of St. Asaph.

The church contains pillars made of Belgian Red marble, and the nave entrance is made from “Anglesey marble”. It also contains elaborate woodwork, and in the tower can be found windows of stained glass on the North and South sides, featuring Saint Margaret and Saint Kentigern, and is a popular tourist destination.

Immediately to the west of the church is Kinmel Camp, which was a military camp located in the grounds of Kinmel Hall. The camp was used by Canadian troops during the First World War. The churchyard contains the graves of numerous victims of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19 in the camp. On 4-5 March 1919 a riot occurred in the camp when the ship allocated to return the troops to Canada was diverted to carry food supplies to Russia, and five Canadian soldiers were killed in the disturbances and four buried in St Margaret’s Churchyard, the firth buried, Gunner John Frederick Hickman, is located in Dorchester, New Brunswick. A common story is that they were executed for mutiny, but this has been denied by the Canadian Department of National Defence.

For those of you who might be interested in Sliders Sunday…..

Sliders Sunday is a Flickr Group devoted to having fun pushing those sliders in your digital photography program. Group rules are quite simple

  1. You are not allowed to post SOOC pictures
  2. You should have had fun experimenting with processing the picture you post
  3. You can only post on Sunday
  4. You must describe or tag your shot as intended for this group by either describing your processing or by tagging it HSS or “sliders sunday.”
  5. Please take a moment and comment on other group members
  6. One Shot per Week

First and Last House

First and Last House | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

Depending on your viewpoint this is either the first or last house in mainland Great Britain. Well according to the sign it is. The cottage was built in the 19th century for Gracie Thomas and it’s located on the cliff tops of Land’s End. Gracie Thomas ran it as a souvenir shop selling small pieces of granite with Land’s End stamped on them and even today it still functions as a souvenir shop.

Now call me cynical. Why can’t a house at the northerly end of Great Britain be classed as the First and Last house? Well there is! At John O’ Groats, considered to be the most northerly point of mainland Great Britain, although in fact it’s actually Dunnet Head, there’s a First and Last Souvenir shop. Guess who owns it?