The Rain At Night

A handheld shot of rain falling, made possible with my new Nikon 50mm f/1.4D lens. Shot under a spotlight down at the Cardiff Bay Barrage.

Mrs H and I had gone down to the Barrage to practice some night photography, but unfortunately the weather was against us. We hung around for a bit, hoping for a break in the rain, but it wasn’t to be.

But as Mrs H was packing up her gear, I noticed how a spotlight was picking up and highlighting the falling rain. I managed to find an angle where I could shoot upwards towards the light without getting the lens wet, and fired off several frames. This one was the best.

I kinda like it. It’s definitely a different shot to what I normally do 🙂

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

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Roundabouts are normally somewhere between dull and dangerous … either seeking to break up a predominant flow of traffic or simply so overgrown that drivers just can’t see what might be hurtling around from behind the bushes and trees. So when you come across one that’s truly different, it deserves to be celebrated.

Thoughts On The Day

With Mrs H. away all morning at the local iaido class, I didn’t want to be left in the house by myself for several hours. Grabbing my camera gear, I decided to head out to try and track down a rather unusual roundabout Bernie at work had told me about a couple of weeks ago.

Created nearly 20 years ago now, the Magic Roundabout is an art sculpture (installation?) created by Pierre Vivant for the Arts and Regeneration Agency. Built from classic (and some downright unusual too) British road signs, it sits in Ocean Park not far from one of the old Cardiff Bay docks. Ever since I was told about it, I’ve been looking at it on Google Maps, and decided it would make for a short but enjoyable shoot this morning. Besides, I could drive right up to it, which my injured knee appreciated.

It’s a real roundabout intersecting two busy roads, making initial photography a bit of a challenge. Although I took some shots from the footpaths by the road, the best shots were definitely to be had by crossing onto the roundabout itself and getting up close and personal with the sculptures. I can’t say that I was disappointed; it gave me a great excuse to mess about with the depth of field offered by the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D. It’s a lens that I’m still learning how to use effectively.

The Photos

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

Post Production

I’m deliberately trying to re-invent my photography style this year. It’s partly a reaction to the kind of photography I found myself doing towards the middle of 2009 before the car crash, and it’s partly a need for a bit of a change.

I’m trying to achieve two specific things:

  1. Stronger photos that stand on their own, instead of simply accompanying the photo journalism I’ve been doing since starting the Merthyr Road project
  2. More natural photos … which means getting away from HDR once again

To do this, I’m experimenting with different lenses (the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D in this shoot, and soon a Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX), and different settings in camera. I’ve stopped shooting in RAW, and gone back to JPEG. Instead of bracketing 5 shots for HDR, I’m now bracketing just 3 shots. The processing I’m doing in Aperture is still about definition and colour management, but I’m spending more time on highlights and shadows instead of just resorting to HDR.

Most of all, I’m trying to follow some kindly advice given to me by a pro photographer after my shoot at the Illuminating Hadrian’s Wall event. During post-production, I’m trying to be ruthless with the photos, seeking out the least number of photos possible to upload, and only uploading those that add something different to the set they belong to. That’s going to be the hardest bit of all for me – on any one day, I tend to be very consistent in the quality of what I shoot.

But what the heck. I can’t get better unless I try 🙂

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Brewing The Beer At Brains

This is a view across the River Taff that I get to enjoy several mornings a week; steam rising from the Brains Brewery just outside Cardiff Central railway station.

A non-HDR shot for a change 🙂

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Cardiff Bay Railway Station

Back in June, I took part in the annual Photomarathon for the first time. It was definitely weird using a chemical camera for the first time in six years! Like many of the competitors, I also had my digital equipment with me, and I’m really glad I did, because as the sun was setting I was wandering past Cardiff Bay’s run-down railway station, and was able to snag this shot.

This station sits at the southern-most end of the oldest surviving railway line in South Wales – the Taff Vale Railway (TVR). Sadly I haven’t been able to find any photos online of what this station looked like when the docks were in full swing, but books such as the Glamorganshire and Aberdare Canal do have some photos on the printed page if you’d like to compare.

This is the very first HDR shot I’ve processed since being forced to upgrade from PhotoMatix Pro v2 to v3. I’ve used v2 for all of my HDR work to date, but sadly it doesn’t work under OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Still, first impressions of v3 are very encouraging!

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The Millennium Centre, Cardiff

This one has been up on Flickr for several months now, but somehow I forgot to actually write a blog post about it to match!

Cardiff Bay has been (almost) completely transformed from abandoned dockyards into the playground of the wealthy in South Wales. At the very centre of this new role proudly stands the Millennium Centre, a world-class arts venue for Europe’s youngest capital city. And, when the sun strikes it at the right angle, it positively radiates.

There are good reasons why just about all the best photos of the Millennium Centre tend to be from this angle.

Known locally as the Coal Scuttle because of its distinctive shape and colour, the Millennium Centre is a surprisingly difficult subject to photograph. If you think of its rivals around the world – most notably the Sidney Opera House – they are iconic buildings standing proud and prominent, an absolute delight to photograph and very difficult to photograph badly. Sadly, like Cardiff City Centre after it, Cardiff Bay hasn’t been so much designed as a whole as had individual efforts constructed next to each other. This has left the Coal Scuttle with mostly obscured lines, and as a photographer I’m left with the impression of a fat cartoon character trying to hide behind skinnier friends.

I think this is a real shame. This is truly a great venue, with a real will to put on a world-class programme of arts to match.

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Lane Control Beside The Canal

If you drive down the A470, over the Gabalfa fly-over and into Cardiff city centre, you’ll be familiar with one of the peculiarities of the roads in Cardiff. I’m not talking about the continuous experimentation with partially-closing St Mary’s Street; I’m referring to where four lanes of traffic goes down to just three as you reach Blackweir. On the right there’s the long, thin car park with the beauty of Bute Park beyond, and overhead the direction of traffic is controlled by these new digital signs. That car park has been built over the top of the old Glamorganshire Canal.

The new signs were installed either in 2007 or 2008 (I didn’t make a note of exactly when), and they replaced older mechanical signs that sat on top of the same gantry. (I have a similar shot of the old signs that I’ll dig out and post later). You’d have thought that they could have given the gantry a lick of fresh paint at the same time, wouldn’t you? 🙂

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Cardiff City Hall At Dawn

The most common advice given to new photographers is this: always have your camera with you. You never know when you’ll come across something worth taking a picture of. That was certainly the case in March 2007, when Kristi and I enjoyed this beautiful scene on the way to work.

This is Cardiff City Hall, opened in 1904. The tag-line for Cardiff is that it is Europe’s Youngest Capital City, but I wonder how many people realise just how modern its magnificent civic centre is?

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The Gatso Is Your Friend

Like most drivers, I hate speed cameras. Too many of them, especially over in England, seem to be sited in places where they are most likely to generate revenue. This camera in Cathays, Cardiff, is one of the more sensibly located cameras. It’s placed outside a private nursery / school, on a road that has a major cycleway down the opposite side.

The car park on the opposite side has been built where the Glamorganshire Canal once ran, and the lane disappearing off into the distance is approximately the route that the canal used to follow up towards Gabalfa.

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The Towers Of Brains Brewery

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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My photo of Cardiff Castle from the grounds of Bute Park has been chosen for use in Schmap Cardiff Guide. This Time Magazine article has more information about Schmap.

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