Saturday, 31 October 2009

Photographing Bath at Dark

R0017604 (Medium)R0017603 (Medium) ^The view to River Avon from my room.  What a scenic view to greet one at dawn and dusk

Contrary to the belief of people knowing little about photography, night scenes are best reproduced in pictures without firing flash.  Well, have you been to the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Peak in Hong Kong seeing people photographing the beautiful night scenes with the flash on?  The best advice to them could be, "But you can't possible light up the whole city with your flash."

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^The Circuit consists of several groups of old buildings forming a circular place in the middle of which grows a tree enormous enough to require ten people to hold around its trunk.

Instead of a flash, you will need a tripod, a mini one if that suits you.  For me, I always bring along this one with me.  As we all know, the trick of photographing night scenes is to close down the aperture and drag the shutter speed.  Depending on the lighting conditions, I have found an exposure over 2 seconds will start to present false colours in the final image.  Of course, this is a general rule of thumb and personal preferences which cannot say the same in all situations.

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^The Royal Crescent being photographed at a low angle from the vehicular access instead of from the usual spots on the meadows fronting the building.

The right tools give you a head start to take good photos.  Most importantly, you need patience.  Take for example, I stayed on the meadows fronting the Royal Crescent for almost two hours to wait for the right moment when the dusk was almost done and the tourists were fewest.  I didn't just sit there doing nothing.  I scouted the location to find the right spot to take photos.  Actually, I had looked at some pictures of the Royal Crescent so that I could avoid doing similar shots and do some original shots.

R0017696 (Medium)^The Bath Abbey aglow at night

Take another example, the foreground of the Bath Abbey was actually marked by elements undesirable in the image.  In this case, any patient photographer would have done the same as I did: walked around the spot to locate the camera to give the final image a better foreground.  Here I painstakingly put the camera on a cafe table, had it mounted on the tripod and minded the edge of the awning along the frame top.

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It goes without saying that we all need a good eye for photos.  For example, a single light spot at a darkened area can make an interesting photo if you gives it the right exposure.  I can assure you that if you had walked along this road with me, you might not have noticed this spot.  It didn't look as dramatic in reality, which was made possible here by slightly dragging the shutter speed.

R0017659 (Medium)^I took this picture for the calm and cool colour which presented itself when I turned around the corner.

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« The corridor of the Pulteney Bridge

The Pulteney Bridge, the must-see in Bath which boosts the clever architecture of making the corridor of the bridge look like anything but a bridge, was amazingly aglow at night.   If you go to Bath, don't miss it at night.  And don't miss the exit leading you from the bridge corridor to the lower bank where you can take a photo of the scene with brilliant reflections in the water.  Bath is even more fantastic at night!

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Friday, 30 October 2009

Take a (Trip to) Bath

Pardon me for the cliché, but:

R0017982 (Medium)What a Bath!  In case your knowledge about the UK is scant, Bath is a small town famous for a Roman Bath relic.  It is next to another famous city to the lower west of England, Bristol which is regarded as the garden city of the big island.  I made a change at a Bristol train station which was quite atmospheric in an old fashion.

R0017581 (Medium) ^The shadows were of the other tourists dropping off the train which are included in the picture with an intention to give reference and interest to the scene.  Otherwise, the picture could be (much more?) boring.

The whole town area is within easy walking distance.   Apart from the Roman Bath, its big attraction is the Georgian architecture of the buildings.  The architectural style, decorated with the picturesque River Avon flanked by the leafy banks, bestows the city with a crispy and light pace of life.

R0011004 (Medium)^I took this photo on the deck of a boat.  The scene presented itself suddenly as the boat sailed around a bend.  The moral: don't turn off your camera just to save battery because the decisive moment is called decisive not for no reason.

There are a lot to be admired in the city.  The least preferred is the shopping stripe running almost the whole length of the touristy area starting from the railway station.  For accommodation, the Bath Hotel is the nearest to the station which charges quite dearly.  Some B&B houses have been spotted but the prices are not really much lower than where I am staying, the Hilton Hotel in the city.  No breakfast is included though.

R0011011 (Medium) ^This can make a postcard I think.  The photo was taken not by waiting under the stairs for the right moment.  Fact is, the place I stood was just enough for one man to pass at a time and people were following me.  I knew it to be a good shooting location the moment the stair heaved into view.  I was like pausing for a second to shot it.

Hilton is within 20 minutes walk from the railway station.  My room overlooks the River Avon too!  This is going to be a heritage and photographic tour.

R0011009 (Medium)^This photo was taken at a split of a second.  The two black stripes were the shaded parts of a bridge.  I would say that without a trained eye, most people won't have figured out the possibility of it making up a good composition.  No sooner had I clicked the shutter release than one of the birds flew away.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Charm of Oxford

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The university city has a special old and scholarly atmosphere to it.  Subconsciously, I was too charmed to run around the city with the camera.  Admiring the people and the landmarks at a leisurely pace were good enough it seemed.

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^Taken in the famous Blackwell Bookstore in Oxford

 R0017954 (Medium) ^The meadows by the Christ Church, which is now sought after for the chapel where Harry Potter was filmed, are situated next to the river where they rowing eight usually practises.
R0017945 (Medium) R0017943 (Medium) ^A fountain in the courtyard and the interior of the chapel
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^The intricate roof works of the chapels and cathedrals are always fascinating.

  R0017905 (Medium) ^The Radcliffe Camera which has noting to do with photography.  It was built around 1740 to house a science library.

R0017899 (Medium)^An entrance to the courtyard of one of the Oxford colleges 

R0017893 (Medium)^The Bridge of Sighs is on the right connecting to the building under repair.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Vague Icons of Oxford

R0011016 (Medium)^Similar head portraits are commonly found near the doorways in the Oxford colleagues.

Oxford is famous for a lot of renowned architecture and scholars, mostly recently also for pottering Harry's footsteps. It is one of the British cities to be enjoyed by simply walking around. There are lots of iconic scenes in the street by a glimpse of which you would say, "Ah, Oxford the university town." With a bit of creativity, I however photographed some iconic scenes more vaguely suggesting the place.

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The above are two street scenes displaying the main shopping stripe (St Aldate's; High Street/ Queen Street) in the city, which people having visited Oxford should be able to tell. The 4-storey houses (or at least 4 levels as known by counting the windows) are typical of Oxford's. The Carfax Tower in the second picture, first built in 1820 to attach to the ancient city church of St. Martin, can be climbed at a cost. I did and recommended it. The old photos in the CX1 was taken inside the tower.

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Cobblestone roads are noticed in the back alleys in Oxford, giving the streetscape a taste of the medieval European towns. Again, the buildings are typical in Oxford.

R0017923 (Medium)Walking around the city, I saw plenty of gates with such a spear-shaped pattern and a variety of emblems representing the colleagues. For sure, Oxford students flying around on their bikes were common sight.

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R0017903 (Medium)I spent quite some time on the rooftop of the the St. Martin City Church tower which commanded a view to the city skyline. The famous Christ Church is in the first picture below while the other two shows the skyline of the city. The old England had a truly grandeur history. But the present-day UK is seemingly fought with grand problems instead. Several hundred years from now what will become of the country?

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Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Photographic Ideas in Stratfort-upon-Avon

R0011088 (Medium)^A ring actually worn by William Shakespeare

The charm of heritage buildings is that the spots you touched and stayed could have been done the same by the people in history.  Stratford-upon-Avon, the little medieval town where William Shakespeare lived, is a second most visited destination after London for its heritage relics.

It is an atmospheric town with many half-timbered houses ideal for a photographic trip too.  But the place has been so extensively filmed and photographed that it is a challenge to give your photos a unique look, which is absolutely not helped by the grey grumpy British weather.

 R0011130 (Medium)^If you go to Stratford-upon-Avon, I would recommend buying the ticket to visit the three houses related to William.  The Nosh's House next to this site called New Place has the best guided tour among them.  make sure you join the English gentleman briefing you on the history of the house.

As always, the best way to make the photos stand out is to think up a theme.  You may not end up with spectacular keepers but the photos would not be commonplace.  To come up with a theme usually requires the photographer to get some knowledge of the subject beforehand.

Here, Stratford-upon-Avon (By the way, Avon refers to River Avon running through Bath, Stratford to Warwick.  And Avon is a Brythonic word meaning river) is a place reflecting the history of Shakespeare's time.  It was where the playwright was born, brought up and buried.  So before setting off, I had a rough idea about giving the photos a theme of reflection or echoing.

The theme threads through the photos taken at the place:

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The above building is the Shakespeare Hostel, having been running since the Shakespeare's time as I was told.  I scouted the site and tried to get a less humdrum shot of a building.  Having walked across the street, I noticed the awning with stripes and rippled edges which interestingly echoed the timbered lines and zigzag roofline of the hostel.   The awning also served to cover the boring grey sky apart from giving a modern-time reference to the old building in the photo.

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The above old building is the famous Shakespeare's birthplace.  The shots of it taken from various angles invariably appeared boring.  The theme in mind inspired me to make use of the puddle to end up with this photo.  Not spectacular but surely the best I could probably get.  The puddle was used also for the next shot of the streetscape along the same street.
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The following shot was done with the theme in mind too.  The scene was echoed by the old photo in the book I bought from the museum about the history of the heritage houses, hopefully adding a point of interest to the otherwise general shot.

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Monday, 26 October 2009


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A trip to Birmingham which was my first reminded me of Hong Kong. I hopped off the train running in a rather "unBritish" fashion (=punctually) at the Birmingham New Street Station and landed at the shopping district resembling the busiest ones in Hong Kong.

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R0018202 (Medium)It was bustling with shoppers and activities but without the hectic thrust among the throng as in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the big chain stores were just too familiar to me.

Window-shopping was fun though.

So I made it neither much a shopping trip nor a photographic one. The skyline there was way better than in Coventry. But the sky was grey, which was great for doing portraits.

R0018206 (Medium)^A tip on freezing people walking if you don't know is people walking past horizontally can be frozen at 1/30s and towards at half that speed. Any shutter speed lower than recommended will blur the movement.

With a bit wandering I ended up in Temple Row where a Louis Vuitton shop occupied a corner store. I went in to witness the rising economic power of the Chinese comrades who were the only patrons in the shop. They must have made up such an important portion of the LV profits that there was a specific Mandarin-spoken salesperson to serve them.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Love Bonds and Obliges

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They sat across from me, chatting in an affectionate way.  They young lady carried a very photogenic facial features.   I call it full of life and love.

There I was with a camera.  I felt obliged to take photos of 'em.

R0018173 (Large) (Medium)So, I went up and asked for permission.  I just felt obliged and the feeling of a day completed was in me after having taken the photos of them.

Enjoy the Sunday.  Kiss someone you love.