Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Sad or angry?

I have a keen interest in trying to take photo's of birds in flight. I think it's the challenge of getting the shot that appeals to me. Sadly, I'm not very good at it. My Sony DSC-H9 does a pretty good job of zooming in with it's x15 optical zoom, but focusing is a major challenge. Birds invariably fly faster than the auto focus can lock on to them. I've tried setting the camera on manual focus but then you've got to be extremely lucky as to whether or not a bird passes at the predetermined distance. Small apertures to maximise the depth of field only serve to slow down the shutter speed and high ISO settings introduce image noise. As a result of all of the above I have scores of blurred, out of focus, under-exposed, noisey near-misses, and no worthwhile photo's to be proud of. That said, that is the challenge, and one day I shall catch a bird just right and the hard work will have been worthwhile.

This is one of the best I've taken so far. I don't know if this Black Headed Gull is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders or if he's just pee'd off with my camera in his face everytime he flies past. Whatever the reason for his misery, this photo is worth keep for his expression alone .... photographic merit seems irrelevant somehow.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Crooked Spire

I've been wanting to do this one for ages. I painted it in watercolours in October 2008, and have been keen to have a go at a Pen & Wash version.

This is the famous bent spire on the Church of St. Mary's and All Saints in Chesterfield. There are many legends and folklore tales about the devil and virgins that attempt to explain the reason for the spires unusual shape, but the most likely reason is that the joiners used unseasoned 'green' timbers and these warped after a few hundred years or so. It is suggested that the plague had wiped out the experienced craftsmen of the area and that untrained novices completed the construction unaware of the need to use seasoned timbers. The warping was probably helped by the massive weight of the lead tiles that were used for the entire spire.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Bolton Priory

Despite its name, this semi-ruined priory is nowhere near Bolton. It's at a small place called Bolton Abbey near Skipton in Yorkshire. The priory is in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales on the banks of the River Wharfe. It is a beautiful setting that is just screaming out to be painted. A rippling river with stepping stones and small sandy inlets, meadows with cows and a sky full of wild birds. I was also fortunate enough to be there on a warm sunny day. I've never felt comfortable painting plein aire, but ever a scene could have tempted me, this one could.

Though I had two attempts with watercolour I couldn't get the 'look' I was trying to achieve. I think the strong sunlight and bold shadows has teased me into over defining the shapes and structure. I have certainly been too bold with the greens, and they detract from the main subject I think. As a result I decided to have a go without colour, and produced this pencil drawing. Though I personnally feel a subject like this needs colour to show it off at its best, the pencil sketch does seem to convey more 'mood'.