It Is What It Is

How do you think up the title of your posts? At one time I used to use “Weekly Photo Challenge: and then whatever the them was for that week i.e. Weekly Photo Challenge: Silence. Real interesting and very eye-catching. So then I started to think of a catchy phrase that I could use each week like “Oops! I Forgot” or “The Donkey Said “What’s Behind Me””. But how do I come up with that phrase? Usually it’s based on one or more of the photographs I include in my post so this week I give you “It Is What It Is”.

A bustling kitchen and yet very quiet. Not because the nuns have sworn a vow of silence, they haven’t, because they are not real. Their just mannequins dressed up in a nuns habit for an exhibition in a museum

_.jpg

Now you might have noticed that the above picture is a bit heavy on the HDR side. That’s because it was adjusted to appeal to a specific audience on Instagram. Yep! I’m on there now, happily gathering followers and following others. Slowly but surely I’m weaning myself away from Facebook. It no longer has the hold it used to and to be hones I’m sick of all the bullcrap advertising that is appearing there. With their new Algorithms I’m seeing less and less of the people I follow and more and more of “stuff” I’m not really interested in. So I’m now an Instagrammer.

Despite being right next to a busy rail and road bridge crossing the Menai Straits from North Wales to Anglesey, this spot down by the shoreline was quite peaceful and calm. However, once the tide turns this becomes a noisy flowing dangerous torrent due to the fact that there are differential tides at the two ends of the strait. Differential tides = very strong currents to flow in both directions through the strait at different times. Due to the narrow width of the strait between North Wales and Anglesey and with hidden rocks, this makes for a difficult passage for sailors.

Britannia Bridge

Yesterday I was out in the Snowdonia National Park. One of those spur of the moment ideas. We’ve had terrible grey days for what seems like weeks now, not ideal for photography. Yesterday I got up, saw a patch of blue sky and thought, fresh air and a stop at Moel Siabod Cafe, what more could I ask for? Go to their website and you’ll see why it’s so popular amongst walkers and photographers. Anyway, weather wasn’t great in the mountains so after a stop at the cafe for lunch I headed to the coast and caught this female Goosander fishing at the mouth of the river at Llandullas.  So peaceful, just me and her. I’m sure she knew I was photographing her because she kept posing for me.

Goosander

Further afield now. To Berlin and the top of the dome in the Reichstag. We managed to get in one winters evening and there was no one there. Plenty of time to get the photographs I wanted.

The Dome

Well that’s it for this week and I hope you enjoyed the photographs – Mike

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A Mixed Bag, This Week

It’s been a week of contracts. New phone, car insurance, broadband, travel insurance, had to get that renewed as I’ve got some interesting trips coming up this year starting in March. Told the kids I’m going to take up SKI’ing, they thought I was mad. Anyway  bit of a mixed bag this week, photograph wise. So without further ado let’s get on with it…

First up is Valle Crucis Abbey, or to be more precise the ruins of the abbey. Although it is maintained nowadays. time has not been good to the structure and although it is safe to walk around the site, especially when the snow falls. One year when i visited that low wall was completely hidden, instant leg or ankle breaker.

Valle Crucis

A couple of years back I found this great little piece of artwork on the Wirral near Hoylake. It’s made from driftwood found on the beach and the structure is sound enough for kids to climb on it. It’s a great pirate ship, don’t you think?

Grace Darling

This bench sits at the side of a river in an area where the conditions are right for moss and lichens to grow. Not sure I’d sit on this bench because it looks as though it could be permanently wet.

Bench

Out on the Denbigh moors I found this building. Although it looks in disrepair and isn’t obviously habitable. There are official looking signs saying “No Entry”, and I have seen some plain unmarked vans parked right next to the door. Maybe it’s the entrance to a secret bunker. Or probably it’s just an old abandoned building out on the moors.

Abandoned

The only tree, honestly. You can see the ones down in the valley but this was the only one in view when I got to the top of the hill.

Lone Tree

My next photograph is a bit of a strange one. The structure in the background is the Point of Ayr gas terminal and I’m standing on the surface of the now defunct Mostyn Colliery. Lot’s of coal beneath me, but apparently it’s the “wrong type”. So they closed the colliery and flooded the mineshaft by opening a hole to one of the levels from the sea which is just behind me. At high tide, the sea rushed in and filled all the levels of the mine, which incidentally went out under the sea bed. Of course all this happened  a good fifty years or so and it’s unlikely they would ever be able to recover the coal now.

Tracks

A metal bar, left behind when the copper mine closed. I love that little patch of light as the sun broke through the clouds.

Steel Bar

I really am not sure what this was used for, but it’s at the side of the Menai Strait, so I assume it was used for winching something in from the water.

Winch

So that’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed the photographs.

Llanrwst And I Got Wet

Now you might have noticed that I’ve changed the blog theme and there’s a reason behind that. I had a conversation the other day with a new reader to Say It With A Camera and after a while it became evident to me that somehow the aim for my blog had sort of gone by the wayside. Say It With A Camera was always intended to be about the photographs and yet there was I using a theme that spent more time advertising how I’d been Discovered, Freshly Pressed and in the Top 100 Blogs. You know I can’t even remember if that was photography or not. Worst of all, the photographs were small.

So I’ve gone back to a simple theme called Plane, taken out all the Widgets to give me a single column that hopefully will show the photographs so much better. Talking of photographs. All of these are 3 shot HDR using the Olympus combination of the OM-D E-M1 Mk2 and the 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens which is hardly ever off of the E-M1.

Anyway it’s that time of the year when the “little house” by the river in Llanrwst becomes probably one of the most photographed buildings in North Wales.

Tu Hwnt I'r Bont
1/180s, f11, ISO 200

The building does have a chequered history but it’s a tea room now and a very popular one at that. Oh! and the getting wet. First of all the river is in full flow, higher than normal. I came along the river side and had to wade across a large puddle were the river had burst it’s banks. Then to cap it all. I’d just got the tripod set up, the camera was on the tripod and suddenly the heavens opened. Driving rain and where I was standing there is just no shelter.

Not really that productive down by the river, so whilst I was in the area I decided to pay a quick visit to the church, more to dry out a little before going back to the car, than actually taking any photographs.

But seen as I was there, why not? The light wasn’t too bad, late afternoon sun, breaking through the clouds, giving some nice patches of light and shade, ideal for a bit of HDR. Just as a matter of interest the church was built in the late 15th century, although there have been more modern renovations to the church which were carried out in the 1840’s.

Church of St Grwst
2.0s, f11, ISO 200

Next door to the church is a small chapel which was built in the 17th century by Richard Wynn of Gwydir. Inside the chapel you can find 17th century stalls, a lectern and a communion table. Several stone monuments, dedicated to members of the Wynn family, as well as a 13th century stone coffin, supposedly that of Llywelyn the Great can be found.

Gwydir Chapel
1/40s, f8, ISO 200

So that’s it. All in all I got wet and to add insult to injury, walking back to the car the heaven opened again. Then to add even more insult. As soon as I left Llanrwst, the sun came out, the skies turned blue, with those beautiful white wispy clouds. It would have been perfect down by the river, especially with the sun starting to dip. But that’s the weather in Wales for you.

Upstairs, Downstairs Part 1

The year is 1812, Thomas Noel Hill, 2nd Lord Berwick of Attingham, aged 42, has brought his new wife Sophia Dubochet, a courtesan, aged 18, to his stately home Attingham Park in Shropshire.

Attingham Hall

Like many large houses of the time there was a fashionable distinct split of the state rooms into male and female sides. In part 1 of Upstairs Downstairs I’ll show you how Thomas and his wife Sophia lived, followed by part 2 later this week, looking at life below stairs in the servants quarters and kitchens.

So lets begin with the lady of the house and her boudoir.

Attingham Hall - Boudior

The room is circular in shape, even the doors are cut and shaped so that they fit the round walls. Look at the bottom of the door on the left hand side, you can see the curve. The lady you see, dressed in period costume, is one of the many volunteer guides who help out at Attingham Hall.

Next to the Boudoir lies the Sultana Room. The room takes it name from the sofa or “sultane” which you can see in the alcove.

Attingham Hall - Sultana Room

The final room from the lady’s side of the house is the Drawing-Room which is situated between the Sultana Room and the Dining Room. Interestingly there are no State Bedrooms to view on the upper floor, at Attingham. The ground floor does have a huge collection of Regency furniture, paintings, textiles, porcelain and silver as you can see from the photographs in this post. Unfortunately, Thomas and his wife Sophia spent nearly all of the family fortune and ended up being bankrupt in 1827. The bankruptcy sale lasted 16 days and two years later there was a further sale.

In later years the 3rd Lord Berwick, who became Britain’s Ambassador to Italy, managed to re-furnish the house with French and Italian pieces which he acquired during his time as Ambassador. Much later the 8th Lord and his wife, who had no heirs, added to the collection before securing Attingham’s future with the National Trust.

Attingham Hall - Drawing Room

The Dining Room was more of a male preserve. After dinner the men would stay here drinking port and talking, whilst the ladies retired to the Drawing Room or the Sultana Room. As an aside. this room was so dark, illuminated only by those artificial candles, it was hard to photograph because I wasn’t allowed to use a tripod. But the Olympus Image Stabilisation performed well, allowing me to hand hold the camera at very slow shutter speeds.

Attingham Hall - Dining Room

Next door to the Dining Room is the Library. Just look at the furnishings and compare them to the Drawing Room.

Attingham Park - Inner Library

From the Library we pass through another small room, also was being used a library, and from there we reach the Octagonal Room, used as a study by the 2nd Lord Berwick.

The Octagonal Room

The last room I would like to show you from the Upstairs Tour is the Picture Gallery, or at least, one end of it.

Attingham Hall - Picture Gallery

Now you might be thinking “what has this got to do with this weeks challenge”. Think of it from the servants point of view. Wouldn’t you wish to live in opulence like this?

Each week I like to visit other bloggers and see what they are saying about this weeks challenge. If I find the subject interesting or I like the photographs then I’ll always leave at least a like. Here’s some that might be of interest to you.

Precious wish – Lipstick & Miracles
Weekly Photo Challenge- Wish – Novice Photographer
This is Another Story The Wishing Tree
J9 Pictures Life WPC – Wish
The Difference Between Wishing and Making It Happen – Nes Felicio Photography
Half a photograph Wishes and Wells
Getting the Picture Weekly Photo Challenge – Wish
WPC-WISH – Clicks ‘ n’ Arts
Do What You Wish Twinkle, twinkle
Alba10 I wish – Weekly Photograph Challenge

Something’s New

Last week I mentioned that I was changing the software I would be using for processing my photographs. This week I’ve changed the theme I use for Say It With A Camera. This will probably be the last post where I embed the photographs from Flickr. For some time now I have been worrying about the forthcoming deal between Verizon and Yahoo, who own Flickr. Verizon are a telecoms company. Are they likely to want a photo sharing site? I’m not so sure but I’ve got to start hedging my bets because if they were to drop Flickr I would have an awful lot of broken links on my blog. Just about every previous post would be without photographs.

So I’ve got to start forward planning just in case.Right then, Ambience. It’s been a while since I’ve featured any of the historic churches that we have here in North Wales. I like photographing them, especially using HDR and then in final processing softening the focus just a little. So here’s a few just for fun.

Many of these old churches are quite ornate, look at that organ in the photograph below. The design of the pipes, Victorian workmanship at it’s best.

Saint Mary - The Organ

A simple church in some ways, but the wooden rail is exquisitely carved. Look at the floor tiles as well.

Pulpit

This is a side area of another church. It’s a dedicated family area, not for families, I mean paid for by a single family, the local landowner and this is where they would worship.

Stained Glass

Yet compare those churches above with the simplicity of this one. I know what I prefer.

Llangelynnin Church

That’s it for this week, here’s what other bloggers are saying about this weeks challenge

An Adventure A Day Friday Foto- Ambience
Ambience – Captivate Me
A Taswegian in Finland Weekly Photo Challenge- Ambience
This is Another Story Weekend Retreat
Ana Linden Winter Moments – Ambience
Weekly Photo Challenge – Ambience – Ingrid Dendievel Photography
DAVID OAKES -IMAGES. Daily Post Photo Challenge – Ambience
Weekly Photo Challenge- Ambience – Marco’s Photoblog
Mindfulness through a lens WPC- Ambience
The Snow Melts Somewhere Fading Light in Venezia

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shine, Or In My Case, Reflection

Looks like I got this one wrong. I’m going away for a couple of days and for some reason I had in my mind that this weeks challenge was reflections. So I prepared a load of photographs that obviously had reflections in them and how wrong that was.  I don’t have time to go back as we are going away first thing tomorrow, so here we go. Reflections, NOT Shine. Shine, NO, Reflections.

First up, Valle Crucis Abbey. Or at least the ruins of the Abbey. Built in 1201 by Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor, Prince of Powys Fadog, the abbey was one of the richest Cistercian Abbey’s second only to Tintern Abbey. However in 1537 the abbey was dissolved on the orders of Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The building is now a ruin, but you can visit it as it’s under the care of CADW, the historic environment service of the Welsh Government.

Valle Crucis Abbey

Talacre Lighthouse, always good for a photograph, features next. The beach at  Talacre often ends up with pools of water left behind when the tide goes out. Of course when that happens chances are you will be able to catch reflections of the lighthouse or the sky in the water

Talacre Lighthouse

Couple of weeks back I was at the RSPB reserve at Burton Mere on the Wirral. Although the reserve is mainly on the Dee Estuary, the opposite side from me in Wales. If you look to the horizon, that’s Wales and that’s where I am, well not when this photograph was taken, obviously. I’m in England then. Anyway I digress. There are several large ponds that the migrating birds use although not at the moment or I wouldn’t have this lovely mirror photograph.

Reflections In A Pond

Llyn Nantle Uchaf is a funny lake. It’s certainly not one of my favourites, even although it has distant views of Snowdon. I don’t know, there’s just nothing there. Sometimes you will see some small rowing boats tied to those poles but……I just can’t explain it. Anyway Llyn Nantle Uchaf.

Llyn Nantle Uchaf

If you walk the Miners Path from the top of the Llanberis Pass you can eventually end up on the top of Snowdon. The Miners Path itself is quite level, ok there’s a little bit of up hill and down dale, but nothing too strenuous. That is until you need to start ascending to meet the Pyg Track and the eventual climb up to Snowdon, which can be seen in the distance.

Snowdonia

I love Cornwall, land of myth, small fishing villages and so much more. In the summertime you can’t move, the roads are busy, it’s full of tourists, I know, I know, what am I but a tourist, but if you are willing to explore you can find little villages which are off the beaten track.

Harbour

For my final photograph I’d like to leave you with this beautiful sunset taken on the coast near Harlech in Wales. The sun sets over the Llyn Peninsula and those rocks in the foreground just add that little bit of extra interest.

Sunset Reflection

Here’s what other bloggers, who got it right, are saying about this week challenge.

Jaspa’s Journal South Stack Lighthouse, Anglesey, Wales
Weekly Photo Challenge- Shine – Svetlana’s Photography
4otomo Shine
Ron Mayhew’s Blog Photoessay- Prague after Dark
Photography Shining Pools – Mike Baker
Diary of a Married Woman Macro Shine
Anvica’s gallery Shine
Weekly Challenge- Shine… – Through Jersey Eyes
The Royal Palace of Sweden – From Hiding to Blogging
Lulu’s Musings WPC- Shine

Goodbye Luminosity Masking, Welcome Back HDR

Over the last few weeks I have wasted so much time trying to master Luminosity Masking. Sometimes I thought I had got it and then I would have a total failure, or several of them. Now you might be asking “what is Luminosity Masking?”

Luminosity masks are the cornerstone of tone-based image adjustments. These masks provide a convenient way to select specific tones in an image which can then be altered as the user sees fit. They have the ability to overcome shortcomings in the tonal values that were captured by the camera or film and to correct tones that shifted during image manipulation. Beyond simplifying these standard adjustments, however, luminosity masks also encourage a very individual approach to interpreting light. Luminosity masks make the captured light incredibly flexible and thereby provide the artist photographer unique opportunities to use Photoshop to explore their personal vision through photography. – Tony Kuyper

I have watched numerous tutorials, experimented on multitudes of photographs, spent hours at the PC, sometimes late into the night, trying to master this technique. All for very mixed results. Why? Because I want to display my photographs in the best possible way……and the experts will all tell you that “Luminosity Masking is much better than HDR. Oh! By the way I’ve got a course I can sell you to help you master the technique”. Look at this photograph. It’s not a great sunset, by any means but the photograph will serve to show what I mean.

Luminosity Masking

After messing around with Luminosity Masks for about 15 minutes I managed to get the image above. Look closely at it. It looks flat, lacks contrast, everything seems muddy, excuse the pun. I had to go an extra step to bring some contrast back into the scene by using ON1 Perfect Effects Dynamic Contrast filter.

Luminosity Masking with Contrast
Previously I had always used HDR to blend my photographs together. HDR is great for high contrast scenes such as sunsets or inside buildings and I like the results I get.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. For those who aren’t so acquainted with this high-tech shutterbug lingo, dynamic range is basically just the difference between the lightest light and darkest dark you can capture in a photo. Once your subject exceeds the camera’s dynamic range, the highlights tend to wash out to white, or the darks simply become big black blobs. It’s notoriously difficult to snap a photo that captures both ends of this spectrum, but with modern shooting techniques and advanced post-processing software, photographers have devised ways to make it happen. This is basically what HDR is: a specific style of photo with an unusually high dynamic range that couldn’t otherwise be achieved in a single photograph
Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/how-to/what-is-hdr-beginners-guide-to-high-dynamic-range-photography/#ixzz43eS4zF3E

However, HDR gets a bad press due to the surreal images that are often seen on the internet. Have a look at the image below this is the type of photograph that gets HDR a bad press.

Awful Awful HDR

The thing is HDR is a technique but it’s also a “look” which can produce results from the realistic through to the surreal. I don’t like this surreal type of HDR but I would never criticise anyone if they produced something like this. After all I have always said “My Photograph, My Vision”.

For me HDR can be used to create a natural looking photograph where the highlights and shadows are balanced to produce a photograph more like I saw at the time of pressing the shutter on my camera.

Lightroom HDR

So that’s it for me. No more Luminosity Masks. It’s back to HDR, takes me approximately five minutes to get the result I want using Lightroom’s HDR module, leaving me more time to get out and take photographs.