Mmm … Malvern. Nice and hilly, tranquil, good places to stay, and close to friends – the perfect place to escape to for a short break.
Kristi and I went up to Malvern for a week’s holiday this Easter. We didn’t have the best of the weather, but that was fine – we were both too knackered and too stressed to do anything much other than laze around. But we did get lucky with the light on a couple of days 🙂
If you want to follow in our footsteps and holiday in Malvern, and you’re looking for a holiday cottage, I can’t recommend Rickyard Cottage enough. We’ve been there a couple of times now, and each time it’s been a fantastic base for us. We’ll be going back there again in the future.
Thoughts On The Photography
There are some places, such as the South Wales Valleys, where you can comfortably get away with taking photos in less than stunning light. Not so Malvern. If you’re going to take photos in and around Malvern, this Victorian spa town demands the very best light you have the patience to wait for.
I had the best luck taking photos in the town in the early morning, before 10am. Malvern doesn’t seem to wake up before then, making it easy to get shots without having to wait too long for traffic and pedestrians to transit out of frame.
As for the hills themselves … I know all the professional landscape photographers would never consider plying their trade under the midday sun, but I believe that there’s a lot more to landscape photography than purple dawns and dusks. The winter sun stays low throughout the day, ensuring plentiful shadows to break up the landscape and add both depth and interest. A circular polariser and careful choice of direction really helps bring the best out of the washed-out skies. And HDR adds depth and definition and ensures photos that bring an equal focus to both landscape and sky.
One of the highlights of the photography for me was visiting Little Malvern Priory. I’ve lost count over how many times I’ve driven past it over the years, and I always said I’d come back one day with a camera. I’ve finally notched that one up 🙂
Here are the best photos from the week. As always, click on each thumbnail to be taken to the larger version up on Flickr.
I think that the MacBook Pro has a great screen, but compared to the quality of my Dell 24″ monitor, it’s crap – and that’s especially true when trying to master photographs. I’m looking at the images now that I’m back at home, and I’m glad that I did. There’s a subtlety of colour and definition that needs to be brought out of these photos before they are uploaded.
Despite my by now almost routine use of HDR photography, I think that the best looking photo of this set is actually the non-HDR image of the fountain. I think the colours and detail are spot on. I’ve always found that the very best images, when they come out of the camera, just can’t be improved on in post (not with my limited skills, anyway!)
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If you live or work in South Wales, then the chances are you’ve enjoyed a pint of Brains at some point. And if you work in Cardiff, you’re very likely to have smelled the beer brewing from their new site on Crawshay Street.
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One of the reasons that things have been a bit quiet here is that I spent November – February on secondment to the Ordnance Survey down in Southampton. I’m not really one for working away like that, so to make things easier, one weekend Kristi came down to join me and we travelled on to Brighton and lunch at Moshi Moshi, one of our favourite Japanese restaurants.
We finished the day with a walk along the beach. This was our first time down at the west end of Brighton, and I certainly enjoyed seeing new sights such as the remains of the old Brighton West Pier.
Thoughts On The Day
It’s been a bit weird for me, to go from being out and about with the camera pretty much every weekend to not seeing the camera for weeks at a time. So it was a great feeling to be out and about with the GPS unit around my neck and my camera in my hand (I hate camera straps).
Whenever anyone says the word “beach” to me, I imagine (and expect) sand; lots and lots of preferably white or golden sand. Brighton Beach has no sand that I’ve ever seen, just lots and lots of stones worn smooth by the action of the English Channel. (This is a beach with no sand, and no sea either. Go figure). But I discovered that this pebbly beach provides a wonderful texture for the late afternoon winter sun, and was very pleased with the shots I snagged.
Of course, the highlight for me was the gutted remains of the world-famous Brighton West Pier. Destroyed by fire in 2003 after decades of neglect, all that remains today are some of the original supporting structures. They’re a fascinating subject to study with a camera, and I would have loved to have had a longer zoom lens with me.
Photos From The Shoot
Here are the photos I took on the day, shared on Flickr.
Look Ma – no HDR! Well, almost 🙂
The last two shots in the sequence are both HDR. My shot of the sorry remains of Brighton West Pier really benefited from the HDR treatment, although it would have also benefited from the use of a tripod too! It was Kristi who noticed all of the rescued (or is that stripped?) parts of the pier hidden underneath the beach front. With such a contrast of light and dark, HDR was the only way an SLR could hope to capture everything. I’m not as happy with this shot as I’d like; I’ll probably come back to it at some point and try again. It’s too dark – dark enough that a lot of the detail can’t be seen on my MacBook Pro 🙁
I’m not into street photography – I’m not comfortable pointing a lens at people, especially without their knowledge – but if street photography is your thing, then the seafront down at Brighton has plenty going on for you.
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Last December, Kristi and I headed down the M5 to Cornwall, and the modern wonder of the world that is the Eden Project.
Created out of a reclaimed clay quarry by sheer bloody mindedness and a vision that just would not die, the Eden Project is many things to many people. A remarkable botanical garden to some, dominated by the two huge biodomes (with a third in the planning stage). To others, a fantastic educational centre. And to music lovers, a superb outdoor venue that’s home to the Eden Sessions.
What makes all of this possible, and what makes the Eden Project stand head and shoulders above other botantical gardens in England and Wales, is that the Eden Project is a fusion of art, science and technology. It’s impossible to come away from the Eden Project having not been touched by its unique approach.
Thoughts On The Day
This was our first visit to the Eden Project, but it will not be our last. The Eden Project is run by the Eden Trust charity. When you pay your entrance fee, if you sign up for gift aid, you get a membership card that entitles you to return to visit again for up to twelve months.
The first sight that greeted us as we stepped through the doors and out into the gardens was the massive rainforest biodome. There’s a very popular observation platform right outside the shop’s doors, and there’s no shortage of shots on Flickr taken from here. Yours truly duly had a go too, and I got very lucky with the way that the low winter sun reflected off the biodome.
From there, we worked our way down to the Core, which is the education building. Walking in, you can’t help but be drawn to The Nutcracker, a fantastic moving sculpture exploring the idea of just how overcomplicated can you get when trying to crack a nut. It had my complete attention, so much so that I couldn’t tell you what else was in the room with it that day.
At the heart of the Core stands the Seed, a huge granite sculpture in a very small room, lit from above through a curious skylight. It’s almost as if they created this space just to challenge every would-be photographer who comes through. Next time, I want a Nikon D300 (or a D3!) and a Sigma 10-20mm lens to try my hand at this.
From there, we made our way into the biodomes. There are two indoor biodomes – the Mediterranian Biodome and the Rainforest Biodome – plus one more in planning (the Edge). On top of that, don’t overlook the Outdoor Biodome – everywhere outside under the sky! That sort of viewpoint is typical of the Eden Project, and a great example of how different thinking makes the place unique.
Unfortunately, my camera succumbed to the humidity in the Rainforest Biodome. Either the Nikon D200’s weather seals aren’t up to that particular challenge, or my Nikon 18-135mm lens is the weak point there. I did snag a shot of the back of a leaf not far inside the Rainforest Biodome, but unfortunately that was it for a few hours.
Dusk brings with it another phase in the Eden Project experience. The place lights up in a wonderful display. My personal favourite is the play area outside where the colours are never constant. There’s a bench nearby that also changes colour in sync. I found it very calming indeed.
It’s a long journey (4 hours+) each way to visit the Eden Project from here in South Wales, but it was well worth it. We barely scratched the surface of what there is to see, and we’re looking forward to seeing how Eden looks at the height of the summer.
Photos From The Shoot
Here are my best photos from the day.
I had intended to HDR all of the night-time shots, but they really didn’t work out at all well. Whatever the technique is for HDR at night, I definitely don’t have it yet!
But I am really pleased with the HDR results for the photos taken during the day. Unusually for me, I remembered my tripod, which is a big help when shooting individual frames over a distance. Photomatix Pro does a great job of aligning individual frames – even the ones I take hand-held – but I don’t have the technique to keep the camera steady in my hands to shoot five frames and have them align perfectly back at the computer. Heck, even with the tripod, the shake from the camera shutter makes a difference.
When I go back again, I’m going to need more than just a solitary 2GB memory card, that’s for sure!
Found On Flickr
The Eden Project is an incredibly popular place for photographers; there are over 30,000 photos on Flickr alone taken there. I’ve only scratched the surface in compiling this list of personal favourites.
I would have liked to show thumbnails of all of these photos, but unfortunately many of them do not have thumbnails available; I don’t know why.
Shots of the biodomes:
Shots inside the biodomes:
Shots of the sculptures and other art:
What are your favourite photos of the Eden Project that are up on Flickr? Share yours in the comments below.
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