Thoresby. The end of an era

By Chris Upton

personThe 10th July 2015 was a landmark date in the history of Nottinghamshire. When the last shift at Thoresby Colliery finished on that day not only did it mark the end of 90 years of mining in the village of Edwinstowe but it signals the end of mining in Nottinghamshire.

The pit opened in 1925 and over the years has employed tens of thousands of local people. It was one of 46 coalmines in Nottinghamshire, which supplied more than 14 million tonnes of coal per year at their peak in the early 1960s.

The first two shafts were sunk to 690m in 1925 and subsequently deepened in the 1950s to the current pit bottom at around 900m depth.

Thoresby Colliery was the first to have fully mechanised coal production and also the first to achieve an annual saleable output of more than a million tons, it became a star performer in the British coal mining industry.

In the late 1980s it raised output to exceed 2 million tons, regularly smashing it’s production records, and the colliery became known as the Jewel in the crown of Nottinghamshire mines. A crown sits proudly on the headstocks in recognition of this achievement.

When the coal industry was nationalised in 1947 it employed a million men at 1,503 pits; prior to the miners’ strike in 1984, there were 180,000 miners at 170 pits. Today there are just two deep mines left, employing about 5,000 men, at Thoresby and Kellingley in Yorkshire. Kellingley will suffer the same fate as Thoresby and closes in the autumn.

UK Coal say market pressures have led to the closure of Thoresby Colliery. Coal generates more than a third of Britain’s electricity, but it is cheaper to import coal from countries such as Russia, South Africa and Colombia than to mine it in the UK.

For the past few months I have been recording the colliery, it’s buildings, plant and people for posterity. It was my aim to create a comprehensive record of the pit at a specific point in time immediately prior to its closure.

It was a chance conversation after giving a camera club lecture that started the ball rolling. A chap in the audience worked at Thoresby and was unfortunately in the first wave of redundancies. He asked if I would be interested in visiting the colliery to take a few pictures. It was a fantastic opportunity and I jumped at the chance. He put me in touch with the Health and Safety manager, I explained what I would like to do and we were off and running. It was at this point, after I had gained their agreement to document the colliery, that the full extent of the task dawned on me.

Starting the project

I visited the colliery on seven occasions, at different times of day, in different lighting conditions, including dawn and dusk. I planned each shoot but found that an outline plan whilst retaining a degree of flexibility to react to opportunities worked best.

At the outset I just toured the site to give me an understanding of the buildings, the machinery, the operation and the people. I took snaps to create a digital scrapbook to help me plan my approach. Essentially I was imbibing the atmosphere much as I would do when visiting a foreign destination for the first time. I wanted to get a real feeling for the place before I started the photography in earnest.

Health & Safety manager Grant was so supportive of my visits giving me more time than I could have wished for.  Even coming in at 3.30am for a dawn shoot and returning to work late in the evening to get “the best of the light” didn’t diminish his enthusiasm. In fact he joked that, after watching me, he would now be able to take the best holiday snaps ever! I hope he does.

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Gear used

All of the images were shot on a Fujifilm X-T1 or X-E1 camera using a selection of Fujifilm XF lenses including the 10-24, 18-55 and 55-200 zoom lenses and 14, 23, 35 and 56mm primes. I also used a Nissin i40 flash for some shots, though preferred to use natural light wherever possible.

For my portraits, the unobtrusive Fuji equipment allowed me to concentrate on building a rapport with my subjects rather than intimidate them with a large DSLR and f2.8 lens combination. Miners might be tough guy’s and supermodels they certainly are not but they seemed to relax pretty quickly in front of my Fuji lenses.

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There were several challenges to overcome not least the light levels that were typically pretty low in all of the buildings. Because of the poor light I used a tripod fitted with a ball and socket head for as many shots as possible. My cameras are fitted with arca swiss type plates so that I can switch from landscape format to portrait very easily and without having to waste time readjusting the tripod.

The mix of different light sources from tungsten, to fluorescent and natural meant it was difficult to assess the ideal colour temperature. However the decision early on to convert all the images to black & white certainly helped counter that problem!

In a coal mine dust was another inevitable and unavoidable issue. As the miners told me it’s not only the dust you can see that is the problem and I was very careful when changing lenses and using two bodies certainly helped. Thankfully the in camera sensor cleaning worked well and I was pleasantly surprised at the minimum amount of dust spotting required.

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Working on a project

As my photography has progressed I have found that I prefer to look at a series of images that tell a story rather than seeing individual impactful pictures. Whilst I have adopted this storytelling approach in my travel and landscape photography this project was a whole different ballgame. This wasn’t going to be a six or ten image set but a large body of work that had to be planned and created in a certain style. I found this experience fascinating, though at first it was pretty daunting. However after a couple of visits I had captured some shots I was very pleased with and the plan started to fall into place. I think the discipline required in a project such as this has helped me to improve my photography and it felt good to be succeeding in this new genre of social documentary photography.

In an attempt to capture the “feel” of the colliery, and to bring completeness to the project, I also recorded various sounds around the pit and organised a series of interviews with miners past and present. I will be producing mini AV’s including these sounds and using the miner’s comments in my presentations.

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Stretch yourself

It is very easy to stick to what we know in photography and limit yourself to a particular genre. Whilst my experience as a travel photographer, where you are required to be adept at many different genres, undoubtedly helped me there were aspects of this project that were not so familiar. As a result I feel I have grown as a photographer and I would urge you to move out of your comfort zone and try something new. There will be similar opportunities in your area, seek and ye shall find!

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Capturing a piece of history

As I progressed through the project I realised that I was not only taking pictures for myself but that I was actually recording a piece of history, an enduring record of a place that, in just a few months time, would be gone forever. With that came a feeling of responsibility, not only to do myself justice but also to represent the life and work of the mining community. Apart from my family photographs, this project is the most important and worthwhile piece of work that I have ever created. Whilst there is clearly interest in the work now, what will its importance be in another 10 or 20 years?

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A personal perspective

This project has been a fantastic experience. It has improved my photography, taken me into a different genre and enlightened my knowledge of an otherwise mysterious industry.

It has been a pleasure to work with the team at Thoresby, without whom I would not have been able to produce this body of work. Whilst the colliery may not draw its workers from the immediate village area, as in years gone by, their camaraderie, team spirit, hard work and no nonsense attitude in this tough and uncompromising industry epitomise the best of British workers. The closure of Thoresby truly is the end of an era.

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What next?

I feel it is important to showcase my images to as wide an audience as possible, especially in the local area. Therefore, after securing feature in the local and national press, I will be staging a major exhibition in Nottinghamshire and am planning to produce a book – more details to follow.

To see more Thoresby images and to keep updated on the project developments please visit my website  www.chrisuptonphotography.com

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Desert Road Trip – California and Nevada

by Ian Boys

I’m a people photographer normally – portraits, the odd wedding and so on. But on this trip I decided I’d give landscape photography my first serious attempt ever, after 25 years of shooting. Of course, I’d taken landscapes before when I happened to come across something that looked good but this was different: I’d make sure I got to the right place at the right time for the best light even if it meant sleeping (or failing to sleep!) in the car.

Before I went I researched my route using Flickr and Google maps. The latter was especially helpful not just for seeing if a mountain would be lit at dawn or dusk but also to see what other images had been taken nearby. This pointed me towards quite a few fascinating sights that I would never have come across otherwise. In the very bottom right hand corner of a Google maps screen is a double up arrow that reveals scenes you may not otherwise have considered.

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Dear reader – I even bought a tripod. Many of you will wonder what the big deal is but it went so against my usual style of shooting that it felt like a jet pilot shopping for a submarine. But as it turned out it proved invaluable.

One last act of preparation – I looked at the absolutely stellar landscape work shown on the fredmiranda.com landscape forum and learned about things like focus stacking and night photography, things I vaguely knew about only in theory. One night before I left I went out and practised the techniques, with terrible results. But that’s how I learn.

Why the Desert?

In 1993 I worked in Somalia during the war there and travelled and lived in the northern desert communities. I fell in love with the open spaces, the peace of the evenings and the huge skies. Since then I’ve visited other deserts, notably on the India-Pakistan border and Arizona. I like the open road, the small communities and the sense that in the desert everyone can just be themselves. It is the polar opposite to the metropolitan posing of modern cities. In England I live in a small village on the doorstep of the Peak District National Park. Manchester is very close but I rarely visit.

I wanted to shoot the road, the space, the ghost towns, the mountains and the night skies, with a detour to Yosemite. There are so many fantastic wilderness parks on the Nevada/California border that going to LA or San Francisco was never an option. One tip though – when they say don’t walk in parts of Death Valley after 10 am they mean it! I once walked out at night and got back to the car at 0845 and it was already so hot. Those pictures of graves aren’t put there for your amusement.

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Kit List

For the last several years I have travelled only with a Fujifilm x100 series camera – Hong Kong, New York, Volgograd, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The x100 series are superb, not only because of the results but also because of their size and weight. But this time I’d need a bit more choice in lenses.

I decided to take the X-T1 and the 14, 23 and 56mm lenses. These are widely recognised as the best primes available (although the new 16 may have usurped the 14, I don’t know for sure yet). The 23mm would be my standard landscape lens, the 56mm would give me the extra reach one sometimes needs to isolate part of the scene and the 14mm would be perfect for night sky photography as it allows a 25 second exposure under the “600 rule” that governs whether stars are rendered as points or streaks.

The 18-55mm was under consideration but although it’s good, these other lenses are fantastic. The difference does really show.

I also took my new Manfrotto 055 tripod, 4 batteries and a remote cable release as well as a charger that allowed the batteries to be recharged while driving. Definitely a bonus for this kind of trip. I also took a big LED video light that allowed me to get set up in the moonless desert night and sometimes to light paint foreground rocks. Backlit dials and controls would be nice but are probably impractical in a small camera.

Technical Notes

Although I shot everything in JPG+RAW, all the final images except the night shots were actually from the in camera JPG’s. I used the Astia setting for all of them – it helped keep the set coherent and provides great colours without the overblown look that Velvia brings. In particular Astia renders skies very well, better (to my taste at least) than any of the other settings.

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In general, I shot in Aperture Priority and used the Exposure Compensation Dial to give me the look I wanted. For some shots, especially those shot in the evening or at night I used manual exposure. One morning I rode the shutter dial all the way from 2 minutes to ¼ second as the sun rose over a freezing mountain lake. I was inside an aluminium shelter bag loving every minute of it as the light changed. The shots were terrible, as you’d expect from someone who has never done that kind of shot before. As I say, I’m not a landscape photographer but I’m so glad I saw it.

Some things did work better than expected though. Focus stacking involves sticking your camera on a tripod (weird!) and gradually changing focus so that over the course of a dozen shots or so you have focussed on all parts of the shot. You then combine them automatically (or manually, for the masochists) in Photoshop. The 14mm is absolutely perfect for this as the manual focus “pull clutch” allows you to gradually work the focus through the scene at an optimum aperture for sharpness of f5.6. In combination with the tilt screen and focus peaking (Red High for me) of the X-T1 it really couldn’t be easier, certainly much easier than with the optical viewfinder of a standard DSLR. Because it was a new technique for me, I also took a “safety shot” at f11 in case the intricacies of the procedure were beyond me but actually it is simple and the results were very much better than with the single high depth of field shot. It doesn’t matter how many times you read about it, doing it in the field is the best way to learn it. Here is a focus-stacked shot from Death Valley:

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Another technique that worked well was ultra high resolution patchwork shooting with the 56mm, where I’d take perhaps 20 shots of a scene in rows and columns and stitch them together afterwards. I’m not really sure what I’d need a 200 megapixel file for but it’s nice to know it works really well and that you can zoom in one the tiniest detail from miles away. One day I’m sure I’ll find a use for it and now that I’ve done it, it’s a technique in my arsenal. Sometimes though it was more practical to use the sweep panorama feature. In this particular shot I tried both techniques (a 4 shot manual blend and the in-camera panorama) and the in camera stitch was smoother, although lower resolution. At 6400 pixels across, it still has plenty enough for me.

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Night photography was fantastic in the desert: there are few lights to begin with and in Death Valley those that exist must be shielded from the sky. This was my first ever attempt at a Milky Way shot (thank you Youtube!) and as laughable as it might be to the more experienced night shooters, I’m rather pleased with it.

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Notes on individual shots

This shot was actually taken on Aperture Priority from the driver’s seat with -2 stops exposure compensation dialled in. I was using the 23mm at iso 1600. The extraordinary EVF of the X-T1 let me ensure that there was still some light visible on the ground while at the same time allowing me to make sure the highlights weren’t blowing out. The high dynamic range of the X-T1 kept it all together.

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This is a stitch of two horizontal shots taken at Mono Lake. There’s not a stack more to say about it except that a single 14mm shot would have looked quite different. Modern tools make this kind of stitching quite easy, even for a landscape novice and the methods are a simple search away.

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This was a ten second shot of my hire car. I had stopped for a sunset but frankly I’ve seen better. I did like the way the car looked though and with the interior light on and a long enough exposure to lighten the sky and ensure passing traffic left pleasing trails and illumination I think the shot works. It was also shot with my 56mm lens, perhaps an odd choice but something I’ll bear in mind to try again next time. I love that lens.

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Here’s a very different kind of car shot, a quick snapshot as I crossed the street. This old Mustang matched the sky and worked well with the yellow lines. It is (clearly) a quick grab shot – I was on my way to get a burger after several hours shooting one searingly hot morning – but it is a testament to how quickly the X-T1 will react if necessary. It starts up quickly, focuses quickly and fires without shutter lag. That’s what I want in a camera.

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OK, two last shots before I’m told to knock it off! Nevada’s an odd place. But I’d never have found either of these without doing some research before I went.

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So in summary – every camera is a compromise. But the X-T1 offers high quality, superb lenses, light weight and bulk, accurate focus, exposure and white balance, a tilting LCD that is way more useful than I thought and a very high chance of getting the right photo on the first shot thanks to the excellent EVF with its exposure preview, focus peaking, colour rendition and other features. I use it for all my more serious work, together with the x100T. But the X-Pro 1 still has a piece of my heart.

You can see more of Ian’s images on his Flickr page here.

Story behind the photo – The goat herders on Triund Hill

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By Danny Fernandez

As I took the final few steps and reached the peak of the hill, the Himalayas came into full view for the first time, and left me speechless.

But let’s begin the story several hours earlier.

I had been staying in Dharamkot, in the foothills of the Himalayas, for an incredibly relaxing 2 weeks. My days had been spent walking through beautiful forests, reading in a hammock and eating delicious organic food.

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A monk walking through the forest in Dharamkot

But before leaving Dharamkot, there was one thing left that I had to do; spend a night on Triund Hill (don’t let the name ‘Hill’ fool you, as for me it seemed more like a small mountain, casting a shadow on the village of Dharamkot and standing at 2,875m high).

On the morning of the trek I left my guesthouse and began the ascent up the hill. The beginning of my trip did not go smoothly. There are 3 things in life which I suck at: singing, playing football and following directions. Somehow, I managed to get exceptionally lost – before I had even found the path which takes you up the hill. The problem began when I came to an intersection along the track which I was following. I glanced in both directions as I tried to remember the directions that the lady at my guesthouse had given me, and then took the path leading to the right. I passed through the garden of a house, and asked a young girl if I was walking in the right direction. She said that I was, and gestured to me to continue walking up the side of the hill (which was essentially a pathless mountain covered in thick, and at times impenetrable vegetation). My instincts told me that this couldn’t be the right way, and I debated turning back and starting again, but as I had already been walking uphill for most of an hour I chose to continue up the side of the mountain.

The bush became thicker and thicker and started cutting at my legs, but stubbornly, I refused to turn back. After a long struggle, I eventually crossed a foot-wide, crumbling flint ridge, which then opened into an area of flat ground which I thought offered some hope in leading me to the top of Triund. I carefully paced back and forth through the labyrinth of plains, but I kept facing dead ends; thick wild bushes that required a machete to pass through. After about 20 minutes of trying to find a walkable route, I decided that this had been one big bad idea, and turned around, attempting to retrace the steps that had led me to this next level of lostness. I walked along the ground on which I thought I had trodden, but to my frustration, I was hit by another dead end. I walked back and tried again and faced another dead end. I began to panic as I remembered those basic tips you hear when doing things like walking up a mountain. Things like “tell someone where you’re going”, “make sure you have a phone” or “make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing”. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going (other than the lady at my guesthouse), I didn’t have a phone and was wearing a pair of old beat up Nikes with barely any tread left.

It was one of the first times when I’ve felt truly scared and alone in the wilderness. I thought about how this is how people probably end up dying on mountains, and became annoyed at myself for getting into this situation. I was frustrated, scared and felt defeated. I decided that as soon as I found my way out, I would check into another guesthouse (as I was too embarrassed to return to the guesthouse where I had been staying – as it was supposed to be an easy trek), spend the night in a bed, and then leave Dharamkot the next day without reaching the top of Triund Hill.

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On the left of the image is the path I took. Clearly not the right way.

I knew that I had to remain calm, and took a few moments to recompose myself and look over the way which I thought I had walked. I tried to logically plan a route back to my starting point and to my relief, I eventually came across the narrow flint path which had led me into the labyrinth. From this point, it was easy to return down the side of the mountain and past the house with the garden.

I finally relaxed and felt an extreme sense of relief. My negativity began to lift as I walked towards familiar territory and came across a path which actually looked walkable. I came to the crossing that had been the origin of my nightmare, and after a few meters saw a spray painted sign reading ‘Triund’, with an arrow next to it. After my brief ordeal of getting lost, I finally felt safe again, and made the decision that I would not return to Dharamkot today, but would trek to the top of Triund Hill.

I soon crossed paths with two American girls who were also walking to the top, and shared the journey with them. The trek to the top was a breeze in comparison to my first attempt. The walk took about 3 hours and took us though some incredible scenery. Hand built wooden Tea shacks were dotted along the route where trekkers could rest and stock up on supplies. Occasionally we would have to squeeze to the side of the path as a drove of donkeys passed, hauling supplies to the top of the mountain.

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Walking up the mountain. A tea shack in the top left of the frame.
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Donkeys hauling supplies to the top of the hill.
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Tea with a view; trekkers rest at a tea shack on their way to the top.

After a few sweaty but exciting hours, I approached and took the final few steps over the peak of the hill, and as I did, the Himalayas came into full view for the first time, and left me speechless.

I was extremely satisfied with reaching the top, and after walking along the ridge of the hill taking in the beautiful views, I needed to organise my night’s accommodation as well as get something to eat. I entered one of the few huts at the top that supply tents and food to tired and hungry trekkers. As I rested and ate a snack there was a middle aged man sitting opposite me. He was smoking a cigarette and had an incredibly interesting face. His looked different to most of the Indians I had seen until then, with light eyes and thick skin. My X100s was in my hand and after a few minutes, I began taking photos, firstly of the hut and the area, to allow him to get used to the camera. After a few frames, I gestured to him to ask if I could photograph him. He agreed and continued doing what he was doing, and looked lost in his thoughts. I shared my food with him and then left, as I didn’t want to be intrusive.

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The goat herder in the tea tent.

I hired a tent, found a clear spot on the ridge and set it up. My view overlooked a part of the Himalayan mountain range. I was blown away by the beauty.

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A room with a view.

The mist that was present as I approached the peak subsided and the golden light of the setting sun began to illuminate the mountain. I became excited as I was basically in landscape heaven and everything I saw looked astonishingly beautiful.

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I decided to take advantage of the golden light and explore the length of the ridge. As I passed the other campers and approached the elevated side of the hill, I could hear the bleating of mountain goats in the distance.

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I continued walking up the hill and came across the goats. There were lots of them, grazing and playing on the rocks. I enjoyed quite some time taking pics of them. They were very fun and cute to watch and I found their noises very entertaining.

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After a few minutes I saw the man from the hut. I now realised that he was tending to the goats, and had taken them to the other side of the ridge to graze. He had made a fire and was drinking chai tea. He had seen me taking photos of the animals and after a while I approached him with a smile. He invited me to sit down and poured me a cup of tea. With few words being spoken we shared each other’s company, and again, he allowed me to take some photos of him. He seemed extremely peaceful.

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Sharing tea with a goat herder

The sun was going down behind the mountain and I was excited to carry on shooting. I shortly came across another animal herder, this time a man who was shearing some of the goats.

A herder shearing his animals
A herder shearing his animals

After maybe an hour with the goat herders, I walked back down the hill as dusk approached.

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On the horizon the reddest moon that I have ever seen began to rise. I watched in astonishment as it peaked over the mountains and into the sky. I chatted to fellow trekkers about the colour of the moon.

the blood red moon rises over the mountains
The blood red moon rises over the mountains

As night fell, small bonfires lit up the hill to keep the trekkers warm. I joined a group of Indian guys around the fire for food and tea, but decided to get an early night as I knew I wanted to be up before sunrise to take photos.

Trekkers keeping warm around a fire.
Trekkers keeping warm around a fire.

After a pretty bad night of rest (due to a lack of warm clothing) I crawled out of my sleeping bag, unzipped my tent and walked into the fresh mountain air. It was still quite dark as the sun had not yet began to reach over the mountain top. I decided to walk to the far end of the ridge that I hadn’t ventured to the day before. I had my mini tripod with me and began taking photos. In a distant tree I saw a huge eagle, which was another first for me. After about 40 minutes, I heard the familiar bleating sound that I had heard the day before coming from behind me. As I turned around, I saw lots of goats (perhaps more than 100) running and jumping towards me. This instantly made me smile and as they ran past me, I climbed onto a rock so they could pass without knocking me down. The goats raced past playfully.

It was around this time when the sun began to appear over the mountain, bathing Triund Hill with glorious golden light, which also brought a warmth to the brisk mountain air.

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I followed the herd of goats and whenever possible, climbed upon a rock to get a better view of the scene. There were different goat herders from the previous day, and I followed them along the length of the ridge, snapping away. As the other trekkers were sleeping, I was grateful to be witnessing this unique moment and felt invigorated to be there.

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The walk along the length of the ridge took about 30 minutes, and on my part, it was a process of running ahead, stopping, shooting, and then running ahead again. These leap-frog manoeuvres lasted until we reached the elevated end of the ridge.

I gestured to one of the herders with my camera, and he stopped for a moment to allow me to take his photo.

A portrait of a herder.
A portrait of a herder.

After reaching the high end of the hill, the herders stopped and allowed their animals to feed. I thanked the herders and returned to the camp feeling extremely grateful and happy with the events that I had just seen.

After some breakfast, I began my descent back down Triund Hill, with extremely high spirits (and an increasingly swollen ankle – which later turned into an infection). My experience on top of the hill was fantastic, and reminded me how nice it is to be surrounded by nature and simplicity. I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on the trek after my bad experience at the start, as Triund Hill proved to be one of the most memorable events of my trip.

About Danny

Danny Fernandez is a creative photographer living and working in Barcelona. He likes cycling, records and vegetarian food.
To see more of his work, please visit:

Danny Fernandez’s official website

follow him on Flickr

follow him on Instagram

Defying conventions with Pete Bridgwood – landscape photographer

Beautiful locations? Not essential. Golden hour? any time is good. prime lenses? zooms are fine.

Meet X-Photographer, Pete Bridgwood who will make you think again about how you take landscape photographs

For decades, the debate has raged as to whether photography is art. For most, the crux of the argument revolves around the camera itself, some considering that using a machine to capture images is ‘cheating’, while others argue the camera doesn’t create images on its own. Fine art landscape photographer Pete Bridgwood cuts through these years of discussion with incisive clarity: “I think the term ‘art’ is as relevant if a four-year old child produces a piece with crayons as any photograph or grand master painting – it’s still art,” he tells X Magazine. “Some people think it’s stuffy to define your work as art, that you put yourself on a pedestal if you define yourself as an artist, but I define it simply as ‘photographs that I take for me, not for anyone else’. I don’t shoot commercial images, I shoot to make prints that hopefully will sell if people like them.”

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Pete studied medicine at university and subsequently followed this career path, but photography has always been an important part of his life; and despite a passion for both disciplines, he defines himself as a photographer rather than a doctor. “I was into photography at school and we had this great art teacher who ran a course after school, so I signed up. We’d sit around in a big group and he’d talk about the compositional elements of famous photographs, so from a young age I was looking at photographs in a critical way. “We learned all the wet processes in a traditional darkroom, so I learned the hard way with film. I think that teaches you to be more careful with exposure because if you get it wrong there isn’t the latitude to get it back. I was very lucky to have that grounding.”

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Like many photographers, as the interest grows, the choice of subjects to shoot becomes more refined and when it came to choosing a specialism, Pete’s choice was simple. “Landscape is more controlled, you can take your time. With people photography it’s more reactive and interactional and maybe I’m not that good at interacting,” he jokes. “I tend to exclude people from my landscapes, because I think it’s nice for the viewer to be invited into the image and if it has people in there, the viewer has to share it with someone. There is a counterargument, of course, because featuring people invites others into the image, but I do tend to Photoshop a lot of people out as they always seem to walk into frame wearing bright dayglo clothing!”

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CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 1.2secs at F11, ISO 200

While some may question Pete’s use of software in the context of his fine art image making, he’s very clear that post-production work is a very important part of creating his images. “It’s changed from film, when all the effort was put in in-camera. Now, I think half the effort comes in the field and half in post-production. Documentary landscape photographers would disagree, but I think you can do a lot in post-processing to create a more emotive result. It depends on the scene,” he explains. “Every photograph is a combination of three things: the photographer, the scene and the viewer. The percentages of those three elements vary from scene to scene and I love to actively play with those ratios. You could completely remove yourself and just take a picture and it will look gorgeous, or you can get a scene that you apply a lot of changes to and alter the feel. The trick is to not make it look that apparent.”

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CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 1/300sec at F5.6, ISO 200
6930-XPRO1 XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS 21.4 mm 1-450 sec at f - 6.4 ISO 200
CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 1/450sec at F6.4, ISO 200

Emotional connection is one element that Pete considers crucial in his images. He works hard to convey a sense of place and communicate the essence of the location. This can be done in a variety of ways, but Pete feels much of it is down to exposure choice. “Every image has its own shutter speed that will make the image look quite different. I think it’s important not to just think of that as a panacea,” he explains, “what I’m more about is finding the right exposure, an exposure that matches the emotion of the scene. How much do you want the grass to sway? How much do you want the sky or the water to move? It’s really about controlling the texture rather than simply taking a blasé attitude, which is what I like to get across.” Pete’s pursuit of this emotional connection doesn’t always necessitate him travelling from his home in Nottinghamshire to ‘honeypot’ locations in the UK and abroad, he feels that great landscape images can be captured virtually anywhere. “In some places it’s more difficult than others, but all you have to do is look around. The barn you don’t subconsciously see on the way into work, the single tree on the top of a hill, you should pencil those locations in for revisiting,” he advises.

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CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 3secs at F16, ISO 200

“I feel the same way about light. I love the golden hour and there’s no doubt it’s quite magical, but there’s no reason why you can’t get evocative landscapes in the middle of the day. Or in the pouring rain.” Whatever time of day he’s out, Pete always carries his X-series cameras: “I used to use Canon DSLRs, but I haven’t touched them in months,” he says. “I started with the X100, but the X-Pro1 was a game changer for me and I use both primes and zooms on it. I’ve also recently got an X-T1, which is wonderful. I shoot the vast majority of my images on an XF18-55mm lens. The attraction is obvious: all my Fujifilm gear fits into a small waist pack – camera, lenses, full filter kit – and that’s very liberating.” This latter point is crucial to Pete, X-series cameras help him to communicate an essential part of his creative process.

“The whole essence of fine art photography is freedom,” he tells us. “Freedom to express. Freedom to interpret. Freedom, freedom, freedom.”

CLICK HERE TO VISIT PETE’S WEBSITE

2969-XPro1 XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS 18 mm 27.0 sec at f - 11 ISO 200
CAMERA: X-Pro1 EXPOSURE: 27secs at F11, ISO 200

 

X-Photographer’s Spotlight – V.Opoku

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography? How did you develop your style in photography?

Hey hey, I shoot weddings and travel – I am a creative, contemporary wedding story teller and London is home for the time being.

I became a photographer by accident; I went to university to study economics, it was during this time that I decided to buy a camera instead of a PS3 to kill time. I would hop on my bike for a ride and have the camera along with me to capture the things I saw in my new surroundings.

Even though I have achieve a level of consistency within my body of work, I like to think that I am still training my eyes. It is an ongoing process and I find that I switch things up every two years – not everything, but I have noted that every two years I make a change in one area or another. I guess you can say that how I feel often translates into the approach I take to the work I create, and as someone who is still young and curious about the world, I don’t think that I will ever stop developing my style.

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

Out of curiosity really, and after 2 years and some change, I am happy that I took the risk. They offer a unique and refreshing way of doing things – having to compensate for parallax when using the OVF due to the rangefinder design of the X-Pro 1 & X100s, or the traditional shutter speed dials & aperture values on the lenses, this is a fun way to create images. For some strange reason, the image quality that I get out of these little cameras still amazes me, and the lenses that I have used have all been stunning.

A very important element of the Fujifilm X-Series that maybe doesn’t get enough attention is the community that these cameras have created, I have exchanged emails with people from all over the world about these cameras. I have discovered the work of other amazing photographers who use these cameras and even became friends with a few, like Bradley Hanson (USA), Patrice Michellon (France), Robin Weil (France) and Fred Frognier (Belgium) for example. All these guys were complete strangers at one point.

I would love to network with other official X-Photographers too! I have exchanged words with a few but thats not enough, I am thinking along the lines of a collaboration on project or something.

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

There Is Always More! I think photography is a lifelong journey without a destination so we have to keep going, keep striving to improve and never settle – There Is Always More!

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Key Inspiration- What & Who inspires you?

The What – Life, all aspects of it – the good and the bad. Music, football, culture and the people I meet and exchange stories with on my travels.

The Who – Those who strive to master their craft and set new rules, e.g. Lionel Messi and Nas. In terms of photography, there are so many good photographers out there that it is difficult for me to pick one. I like to draw inspiration even from those that don’t shoot the type of stuff that I shoot.

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Do you have any tips or tricks you could share?

Create limitations in a world where is there none, mine was deciding to shoot with just two focal lengths for the majority of my work these last two years and I couldn’t be happier! In fact, deciding to shoot with just prime lenses 5 years ago was probably the best thing I could have done for my portfolio and development as a photographer.

Remain curious about the world, be willing to learn and don’t be afraid to try new things.

Shoot through the tough and uninspiring periods.

V. Opoku-7What’s next for you?

Um, the X-Pro 2 😉 – haha. I really want to live in various countries & cities around the world in the next couple of years. To explore and experience different cultures etc and even shoot some epic weddings whilst I am out there too – the thought of shooting a Japanese wedding in Tokyo one day really excites me. I will be starting this chapter of my life with a move to Barcelona at some point this year, things haven’t gone as I had hoped but I am determined to make it happen. Then from there, maybe NYC + LA for a year, Cuba too at some point, Japan – who knows. I want to explore as many places as possible and meet as many interesting people as I can.

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Contact Info

Web : vopoku.com

Twitter: @vopoku

Instagram: @vopoku

Member of X100C – The Collective : http://x100c.com

Continue reading X-Photographer’s Spotlight – V.Opoku

X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Kerry Hendry

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography? How did you develop your style in photography?

I was really into photography as a teenager – I remember saving up to buy my first SLR camera and two kit lenses from Dixons!  I won’t mention brands but I soon moved onwards and upwards to a beautiful Nikon SLR, shooting grainy black & white film and then developed an addiction to Fuji Velvia.   I spent many an evening cycling and driving round chasing sunsets and beautiful light.

Style-wise has taken a lot longer – I had a big gap in photography when horses and work took over – until I revisited my then hobby, about 12 years ago.

Since then photography has become a significant part of my life and now business. I’ve shot portraits, boudoir, bumps, babies, business portraits and even an odd wedding or two, but that didn’t do it for me.  I found myself shooting images to keep others happy – not fulfilling my own creative destiny.

These days, subject wise, I’m entirely focused on my other passion in life: horses. I have ridden all my life, and I truly believe if you totally love and connect with your subject, it makes your work stronger.

X-T1 – ISO 200 – f/4.5 – 1/1250 – XF50-140mm

Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

I’d been carrying around heavy Nikon kit for years and frankly was quite tired!

I started shooting mirrorless fairly early – and given my love of Fuji way back, it seemed the logical place to start.  Plus, there is no denying the cameras are beautiful.  I love beautiful things…  I love the images which the Fuji kit produces, I love the handling – and I love the lightness and flexibility the system affords me.

I’ve tested, tested and tested a bit more – some days I think my X-T1 might actually go into meltdown shooting high speed horses day in day out, but it continues to deliver.

Alongside my workhorse 50-140mm, I’ve also become a complete convert to the fast Fuji prime lenses. The quality and sharpness is amazing. Favourites include the 14mm, 23mm and 35mm lenses.

X-T1 – ISO 200 – f/5.6 – 1/1000 – XF50-140mm

Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

I guess my philosophy is a recent and personal one:  Follow your dreams and shoot what you love.

As a photographer you have to develop a thick skin – and that’s something I wasn’t good at!  I’ve spent most of my life trying to keep everyone happy all of the time.  Obviously a fruitless task, but I still do my best!

Especially when you shoot one very niche subject, some people will love what you do, others just won’t get it.  So long as I stay true to my core and get to the end of each year with images I am proud of, I’m happy.  I shoot horse pictures for horse lovers – they get it, they see it, they feel it.

The fact that people then buy those images for their own walls is a huge compliment.  It was a real buzz when prints were first sold to overseas clients in the USA and New Zealand – the hard work is paying off.

X-E2 – ISO 200 – f/9 – 1/1000 – XF18-55mm

Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

Wow, how long have you got?! I was the kid who saved up her pocket money to go into Waterstones (still love Waterstones!) to buy the Ansel Adams calendar each year.  When the year was done I framed the pictures.  My world was black and white, surrounded by snow-laden trees and lived under inky skies.

I’m a book person – and the bookshelf is crammed with a variety of beautiful publications which I revisit regularly:  Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, Colin Prior, Paul Kenny, Tim Flach, Amanda Lockhart, Jonathan Chritchley and most recently Michael Levin. Michael’s work is a quest for modern perfection – I admire him tremendously.

Mother nature also inspires me – light, breeze, weather, the ocean and of course, horses.

X-T1 – ISO 200 – f/5.6 – 1/1000 – XF50-140mm

Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?

My tip is to stay true. There’s another good quote I live & work by: ‘A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it.  It just blooms.’

Another photographer recently said to me that ‘I make my life more difficult trying to shoot horses with a mirrorless camera’ – why didn’t I shoot an easier subject?  What would be the joy or fulfilment in that?!

Do your own thing – if it’s difficult, try harder.  If you have an idea – work out how to achieve it.  If you are not sure – seek & learn!

X-T1 – ISO 200 – f/4.5 – 1/1250 – XF50-140mm

What’s next for you?

I’m off to Wyoming to a remote ranch to shoot…you guessed it, horses!

It’s a completely new location for me.  If I don’t shoot different horses soon, I’ll be ‘the woman who was obsessed with grey horses’.

The Polo season has just started too, so I’m working on a creative idea to produce beautiful art prints from this adrenaline fuelled sport.

I’ve also just taken on a beautiful but slightly broken racehorse. She’s likely to feature in future work – and she’s NOT GREY!

In fact this is her, in her previous life…my amazing girl.

X-T1 – ISO 800 – f/18 – 1/1000 – XF18-135mm

Contact info

Website
Facebook
Twitter

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X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Bert Stephani

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography? How did you develop your style in photography?

I’m from Belgium and recently when I turned forty, I realised I’ve been a professional photographer for ten years now. I shoot quite a wide range of subjects but it’s almost always about people. Although I’m a one man band, I feel my company has three divisions: The biggest division is my commercial photography in which I usually employ documentary techniques to capture real images for companies and agencies. Teaching is my second division. I really enjoy teaching and encouraging other photographers during workshops and video lectures. The smallest division is the one that caters to individuals, capturing weddings, family portraits, … It’s what I started my career with and it still gives me a lot of satisfaction.

As a kid, I was intrigued by the buttons and dials on my great-aunt’s camera but I didn’t give it much thought then. When I was seventeen I discovered some Time/Life books in the library. I got so intrigued by documentary and particularly war photography that I asked for an SLR for my 18th birthday. I played around with photography and developing my own film but soon photography had to make place for filmschool and writing. I rediscovered photography ten years later while I was following a Photoshop course in order to learn how to make nice DVD menus for my video work. I can still remember the moment I held my neighbour’s first DSLR and decided I wanted one too. Only a couple of months later, I decided that I wanted to become a professional photographer.

I spent all my free time (and some of the company’s time I was working for back then) to understand the world of f-stops, shutterspeeds and focal lengths to learn the craft. When bad weather and short days in the winter, forced me to learn about lighting, I discovered a whole new dimension and developed an ongoing passion for light. But after a couple of years I had become a photographer’s photographer. My work had become about the techniques, the gear and the fashion of the moment, while the pictures I really cared about where the simple, timeless, often imperfect shots of my friends and family. That was the moment that I went back to what I’ve been doing all my life: simply telling stories.

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

Very early on in my career, I already realised that a big camera can get in the way of photography and a friend recently reminded me that I once told him: “I wish someone would find a way to put a big sensor in a small camera with a compact fast prime lens”. So I guess I pre-invented the X100 back then ;-). But it would take a couple more years before mirrorless cameras became a reality and a usable option for professional photographers. I used a number of Panasonic and Olympus mirrorless cameras for family pictures and started thinking about using a small camera for part of my professional work. Although the prospect of reducing the weight and size of my kit, got my back and neck excited, it wasn’t the main reason to consider mirrorless cameras. Much more important to me is the fact that I can shoot without attracting attention and that a smaller camera removes the barrier between me and my subjects.

My X-story started out with the X-Pro1 and just a 35mm lens, but I have to admit that we got off to a pretty stormy start the first few months. Coming from a well established high-end DSLR, it took a while to get used to the X-Pro1 in it’s first firmware version days. Although I had my share of frustrating experiences, I had to conclude that the X-Pro1 made me a better photographer and I just fell in love with the files it produced when I worked hard for my shots. I kept my DSLR within range for a while until I realised I hardly ever used it anymore. That’s when I sold all my DSLR gear and went all Fuji. As an early adopter I have seen the X-system going through it’s growing pains but I’ve been very impressed with the way Fuji has responded by spectacular firmware updates, listening to its customers and developing a complete system in such a short time. There are a lot of technical reasons why I choose to work with Fujifilm cameras but the main reason, is that I just love to shoot with them.

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

Most of the time, I would say: “keep it real”. But every now and then, I want to create something larger than life, surreal or whatever. So ultimately … no

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Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

My inspirations comes from everywhere and sometimes I can’t find anything at all. I follow young emerging Instagram photographers but I’m also hugely inspired my masters like Sally Mann, Jeanloup Sieff, Elliott Erwitt, … There are also photographers who’s pictures may not blow me away, but who inspire me by how they approach their work. In the last few years, I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in reading about the history of photography. And then that’s just photography. Music is also a great source of ideas. When I listen to good music and close my eyes, I see images. I’m often jealous about how musicians can convey emotions. When I’m stuck I sometimes ask myself the question: “How would Pearl Jam or Sinead O’Connor tell this story?”.

Life in general is my biggest inspiration, just take the time to really look around and you’ll see so many inspiring things.

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Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?

Like with a good meal, a good picture starts with quality ingredients. For me, a photo always has to tell a story or convey an emotion. So let the story/emotion be the starting point of the photographic process. That’s not an excuse not to worry about technique, equipment, experience and skill. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to translate that story into a picture.

I see myself as a fat athlete that wants to become a top player in the sports of photography. In order to get there, just playing streetball with my buddies every Saturday, won’t cut it. It’s about recognising your weak points and target a lot of practice towards them. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone and working hard to become comfortable in new zones.

Instagram in combination with a small camera like the X30 or X100T has been an important training tool for me lately. I try to post a nice picture every day with mixed success. But the journey is more important than the goal. I’m training my eye, get my shots right in-camera, try out new things (like long exposures or landscapes), I learn how to get the most out of my small camera, … I can see the things that I learned that way slowly enriching my paid work and I love the interaction resulting from my Instagram activity.

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What’s next for you?

I’m not entirely sure what’s next but I should. The last couple of years have been a crazy rollercoaster that gave me amazing moments but also left me with a bit too much chaos. Life threw me some curveballs that I didn’t see coming and I was forced into a kind of short-term survival mode. I didn’t have much time and energy to spare to look at the big picture and think ahead. It’s time to change that, make some big decisions and move forwards.

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Contact info

Commercial website and blog: www.bertstephani.com

I’m a proud member of the KAGE Collective: www.kagecollective.com

Private commissions and weddings: www.lifelovebybert.com

Facebook page for workshops: https://www.facebook.com/bertstephaniworkshops

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bertstephani

Instagram: https://instagram.com/bertstephani/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bertstephani/videos

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Shooting amazing nightlife with New York-based social photographer Jay “Electroblum”

pic30333by Jay Blum

Photographic style and foundation

pic19895My style of photography is social and intimately in your face. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t feel close enough with my 18mm f2 lens. My goal is to capture your alter ego raging or to strip you of it to show a contrast between you and the environment. Depending on the parties, I aim to capture shots that one may never want to show their parents. I have heard a comment that my work is a cross between the board game candy land and blade runner. I love neo-noir and post apocalyptic films and I am a drop out toy designer so maybe that explains? Other inspiration draws from the 90’s X-Men cards by Fleer company, the color on those illustrations just popped.

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My weapons of mass (“Oh god, can you please take down that pic! I don’t want my boss seeing that”} destruction!

I use Fujifilm X series cameras for all my EDM adventures. I shoot manual and control my flashes manually as well. I started out with a Fuji X10 because I loved the manual look and feel of the camera.
I soon followed with an X-E1 and recently to an X-T1. The X-E1 really gave me the results I was looking for and though the focusing was not as quick as it’s successor it still gave me satisfying results.

I currently use a X-T1 and the results are just art. This camera really gave me the courage to shoot on an ISO higher than 400. There are photos I do not have to adjust color or clarity. This camera is so on point that it locks on to the subject quickly and the results of the shots are crisp and clear.

On average my settings on the X-T1 are currently ISO 640, F5.6 at 1/4 on Velvia film simulation mode. My two flashes are set to 1/4 @ 23mm as my main light and my fill light set to 1/8 at 23mm (I set my second flash to 1/8 so the light fills the bottom of the portrait but not as bright as the main light on the subject). I always direct the main light on the upper body as one might usually do when shooting a portrait with an external flash. If the subject has an amazing outfit I set both my main light and fill light to f1/4. Mind you, these settings work for me in a dark venue that has disco lights and it also depends on how great the venue’s light is.

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I use an assortment of light diffusers and pieces from old video rigs I have acquired over the years. However, nothing beats having an assistant to help you out with positioning lights.

I use X-T1’s new WIFI connection and use it with the Fuji apps along with an app called shutter snitch. I use these apps to beam a photo to my iPhone in which I can upload to instagram immediately. An event photographer is like a journalist and a club promoter. You can upload a photo to social media with a hashtag and convince people to say “This looks wild and crazy, we’re going there for the night.”

As mentioned earlier I shoot with an 18mm f2 lens and it’s really made me a better photographer than any 50mm on a crop sensor. The lens has made me get up close and personal with my subjects because there is not much room to move around with in a packed club or concert.I had a 35mm f1.4 but that was stolen off my belt one night during a DJ set. I used it only a few times for those moments where I had space to focus on a portrait. I am currently taking in donations for a 56mm 1.2 lens so I can achieve some “bokehlicious” photos and take my work to new places!

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Shooting night life and what I’ve learned “so far”.

Night life is so fast paced, the emotions and energy people bring out with them are intense. What is not intense is their attention span.

Situations escalate and fade out quickly so pay attention because you may miss out on interesting photos.

You have at most 15 seconds to compliment your subject, tell them what you like about them, and be their friend. The faster you can relate with your subject and construct a relationship the better your love life might be (Just kidding, I mean your photos).

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Also, get lost on tumblr, pinterest, soundcloud and see what is inspiring people to express themselves. This will also inspire you and your work.

Use a prime lens. You aren’t shooting wild life. Night life is a social activity, get in there and meet people.

Want to take a photo of a hot girl with a boyfriend who doesn’t seem too excited to be out? No problem! Respectfully make your intent clear that you would like a portrait of the lady followed by a photo with her boyfriend. This will almost work 99% of the time and smooth out any uncertain feelings.

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Have a side pouch to store extra batteries, gum, mints, and SD cards.

Smile and look relaxed. If you’re nervous and timid this will reflect on your subjects and onto your photos like a mirror. Keep positive and remember that your goal is to get great shots of the night.

If you don’t want to take someone’s photo just tell them you’re out of film and walk away like you really got to reload film.

That’s all for now!
happy shooting and partying X-Toggies! <3

ElectroBlum

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The joy of creating star trails

I have longed to try my hand at star trails for many years, and for one reason or another there would always be an excuse as to why I didn’t try it. Finally, all the factors came together to allow me to give it a proper go. With star trail photography you 100% have to know what you’re doing, I say this because if you’re ‘experimenting’ and don’t fully understand the factors involved then more than likely you will waste many hours getting cold in the dark and come back with nothing!

There are numerous tutorials out there which are comprehensive and will help you understand the fundamentals. One article I would definitely recommend is by Floris Van Breugel.

This blog is going to breeze over the general set up and workflow of putting together star trails. Just to make it clear I am not an expert astrophotographer but if you want to create an image similar to the one above then this might be helpful. So lets get started!

Preparation

As I mentioned before, preparation is key to getting really rewarding results. I really recommend you read the article above and also do some things which can really make your life easier – such as the brilliant Star Chart app for your smart phone or tablet. This app gives you a map of the starts, which is particularly helpful if you know nothing about the stars (like me) and want to find polaris, the north star (if you’re in the northern hemisphere). The reason why you want to find polaris is that it is the centre point for the stars rotation, so effectively the stars are rotating around it.

Kit

Camera (obviously), preferably one that is compatible with a remote which has an intervalometer built in, or use a camera like the X-T1 which has one built in. An intervalometer is a device that can control your camera to take pictures at set intervals for a set number of photos and sometimes for a set duration. This is VERY helpful as it means that you can set up your shot and leave your camera to take all the photos for the duration of the shoot without any further input from yourself. From there you’ll usually want to use a wide-angle lens to capture as much of the sky as possible. Finally you need a sturdy platform to leave your camera, more often than not a good tripod (however I have managed to produce some shots using a gorilla pod too!).

Star-trail-landscape
The composition I chose. Note that taking long exposures after sunset using Velvia can produce some incredible colours!

Shooting

Hopefully you have found a suitable location, ideally with little light pollution, on a relatively clear night (with a good forecast). Foreground is what makes a star trail photo different from all the other star trails, so really think about you composition and how you want the star rotation to affect your photo, whether you want to have polaris in the picture to have a centre point for the stars to move around, or whether you want to shoot away from polaris to exaggerate the star movements.

This wants to be done all before sunset happens. Choose your location, frame your image and then don’t change it, leave it on the tripod! Over the next hour or so take a selection of sunset photos, preferably with F8/11 to give you a large depth of field, which you won’t be able to shoot later. If you really want to cover all the bases then you can do some bracketing to make sure you have every part of your composition correctly exposed.

Star test
This is a 5 minute exposure I did to make sure I was happy with my composition. You can start to see the movement of the stars, particularly those furthest from polaris (just above the horizon a third of the way in from the left).

As the stars start to come out you can then set up your camera for star photography. I used an X-T1 and a XF10-24mm F4 OIS for the top photo. I set it up to shoot a series of 30 second exposures at F4, ISO1600. 30 seconds is the longest that you can run with the built in intervalometer, ideally you would shoot longer exposures so you didn’t have so many photos to merge later, but this is often the easiest way.

A screen grab showing the first star-focused image. the sky still has colour but the stars are clear.
A screen grab showing the first star-focused image. the sky still has colour but the stars are clear.

A few hours later and I stopped the camera and downloaded the shots.

Post production

This is where it gets quite interesting and fun, now that you have the shots you can experiment to see what works best for you. I downloaded all the images into Lightroom and selected all of the star-focused images and ran a preset on them which boosted the highlights to make the stars brighter. This helps to make the star trails that much brighter. Don’t worry about the rest of the content in the star images as this will be replaced by the earlier landscape image. Once the images were all ready to be blended together, I exported them as high resolution jpegs.

I then opened Photoshop and used a script made by Floris Van Breugel which you can find here. Go to File -> Scripts -> browse -> select the script (I used the flat version instead of the layered version as my computer couldn’t cope with the layered version!), then select the folder where you’ve exported the star images. These must be named in a sequence e.g. star image 1.. The script effectively blends the images together taking the brightest part of all of the images and bringing it forward. What you will end up with is something like this.

The complete star trail before editing to remove the ambient lights.
The complete star trail before editing to remove the ambient lights.
The mask layer button is the third on the bottom.
The mask layer button is the third on the bottom.

Notice that there is some ambient light, the lights on the water are from fishing boats and the green glow is from a few houses on the other side of the headland. To remove these lights I opened up the original landscape photo shown earlier on. I copied the original file (background) and placed it above the inserted landscape photo. Using a mask layer I then removed the lights using the brush tool which acts like a non-destructive eraser making the landscape photo come out above the background copy (I really hope this makes sense!). You can adjust how effective this is by adjusting the opacity of the brush, this is helpful when removing light pollution in the sky.

Opening up the files in Photoshop.
Opening up the files in Photoshop. With a bit of work you can produce a pretty rewarding image.

I hope that made sense and that you’ll go out and try your hand at star trail photography. If you manage any star trails then share them with us.

You can keep up to date with my latest work via the following links: Facebook, Instagram, twitter, Website.