After leaving Reims we had just a short hop through the French countryside to our next stop on our road trip, Verdun. We had taken the decision early on to avoid toll roads in the continent wherever practical; this was for two reasons: partly to stop the trip from becoming ruinously expensive, but mainly it was because we knew we would see much more of the rural country on our way.
This part of north-east France is battlefield territory. A lot of battles of the First World War took place around those parts. It was a memorial to some of these battles that drew us to Verdun.
1/1000sec, f/4, ISO 125, 24mm
This is the Voie Sacrée memorial, which probably isn’t the memorial we were looking for, but it caught our eye as we approached the town. The Voie Sacrée is a road that played a pivotal role in the Battle of Verdun, and this monument, which sits on that very road, is a memorial of those who kept road open in the toughest of conditions.
It’s a little bit more of an experimental post this week, something I’ve not done in a while.
This week I’ve been playing about trying to capture party poppers in the process of firing, using my Triggertrap. I bought a Triggertrap a while ago, but I’ve not had much of an occasion to use it. Its main outing for me so far has been timing some long exposures down by the river.
The idea came to me at a family birthday, which saw a bunch of party poppers being set off that I tried to capture manually with my own innate sense of timing, which is good but not that good. Realising I’d need some assistance, I grabbed a few of the party poppers to play about with later.
My first setup connected my iPhone to my camera and set the Triggertrap to sound trigger. This, it turned out, was folly. The act of firing a party popper happens way too quick even for the minimal delay in firing the shutter and all I captured was a bit of smoke. Back to the drawing board.
The answer lay in the Triggertrap flash adapter. The flash can fire pretty quickly compared to the shutter, so instead the way to do it was to connect my iPhone to the flash, still set for sound trigger, then pre-focus the camera and set it for a four second exposure. Make the room dark enough – much easier at this time of year when the sun devotes more of its time to keeping people in the southern hemisphere warm – and all you’ll see is what was illuminated for the split second the flash fired. This worked much better.
4sec, f/4, ISO 100, 28mm
As you can see, the focus isn’t quite right – I need to work on my prefocussing, evidently. I also decided the background was a bit cluttered and so moved the camera a bit for a slightly neater frame (only slightly neater, I admit).
We got off the ferry with six travelling days to get to our week-long holiday accommodation in the south of France. That gave us a decent amount of time to explore Europe a bit, and see some of the sights we probably wouldn’t get to see otherwise. We knew we wanted to get to Switzerland for at least a day, so it was this that dictated that we would travel south along eastern France. We had an idea of some of the places we wanted to stop at but ultimately we kept things relatively open: the main thing was getting to the Côte d’Azur by Thursday.
Having gotten up at 5am to catch our boat, we only had one planned stop on the first day of the trip: the town of Reims in north-east France. We got there in the early evening, checked into a hotel, and then headed into the city centre.
Our first challenge was dinner. The Place Drouet d’Erlon has many restaurants and eateries so despite the slightly chilly weather we sat outside for a properly delicious meal.
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 320, 24mm
In the centre of the image above is a statue of something or other. Perhaps you have an idea? I can no more identify statues than I can florae or faunae.
I seem to have quite a bit of luck when it comes to winning places on photography experiences. In the last eighteen months I’ve been to two fashion shows and a whole day of shooting experiences at Canon HQ. I feel like I’m disproportionately fortunate, especially since the weekend before last I once again found myself on the way to London for another visit to London Fashion Weekend.
This being my third trip, I was beginning to settle into things quite a bit. On my second visit to the fashion show, around this time last year, I was overly anxious to get a completely different set of shots compared to my first visit. It led to me using a wider angle lens for a lot of the show, and trying to avoid using my telephoto that I’d leaned on heavily the first time out. This time, having seen that the images from the first show were a lot better than the second, I had no preset plans for shooting anything different or new – I just wanted to shoot whatever felt right and best at the time.
That said, it was whilst editing the images from last year’s show that I came to the conclusion that the 18-135mm lens I had used up until that point was no longer good enough and in short order had replaced it with the 24-105mm I use now, so of course I felt I had to use it at least for a bit to see how it compared.
1/400sec, f/4, ISO 800, 32mm
I’ve already waxed about how much better the new lens is than the old, but the short of it is that it’s fantastically better. Obviously you’d hope as much with an ‘L’ and a red ring on it, but it focuses quicker and gives noticeably sharper results than the lens it replaced (feel free to take a look and compare for yourself).
I still wanted to play about with processing. The lighting in the venue was pretty nice as it allowed some spotlight-style effects, especially when I cranked the contrast up a bit.
How in the name of Greg and his calendar is it October already? We’re three quarters of the way through 2014 already and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. If I have any hopes for 2015 it’s that it takes a more leisurely pace compared to 2014. Especially on weekends.
September has been a pretty good month, with a nice long holiday being followed by being kept active at work, which has made a nice change after a relatively quiet summer. Something you might have picked up on is that I am now keeping to a posting schedule. For a long time I’ve resisted having a fixed posting schedule for this blog out of concerns that it would impact on the quality of the posts by causing me to fixate on deadlines over quality. Despite this, in July I started trying to stick to a routine for posts. I didn’t publicly announce it in case I completely failed in my objective, but just decided to myself that from that point onwards, I would aim to release a post every Tuesday. Why Tuesday? It just felt right, probably because it wasn’t a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The only exception would be my monthly reviews, which still get released on the first day of the following month. I started off reasonably well; the three posts in July were on three consecutive Tuesdays, and August’s first was right on time too. It was beginning to get to the point when I was feeling confident in announcing my schedule – and then I missed a week. I picked it up the next week and kept it going through August but it put me off mentioning the schedule for a while.
September started off pretty well, because I wasn’t in the country. Both August’s monthly review and the first post of the month – Instagram #18 – were written the previous week before I left the UK. One of the advantages of a posting schedule is you can just sit down and write and know exactly when things will be published. Instagram #18 itself is largely in line with most of my previous 17 Instagram posts but the one at the left is one of my favourite Instagram shots I’ve taken in a while, shot in a great antiques shop in a town near me. I really should get down there with my DSLR at some point.
I’m afraid it’s another slightly cheating post this week. For the second week running I have struggled to complete a post, and for the same reason – being just a few days off of shooting a lot of images that all need editing. This time it’s been a couple of days since I attended London Fashion Weekend and have barely even started editing the 1,800 images I took in one short afternoon (and, of course, the 1,000 or so I took during two weeks in Europe are also on my list). For once, I have no shortage of images to edit – and that’s part of the problem, and I didn’t want two ‘preview’ posts, where I post the handful of images I’ve processed from a larger set, two weeks running.
So for this week, here are some decent shots I found on my hard drive whilst looking around for inspiration. Ironically, three of them were taken on the same days as my trips to London Fashion Weekend. This first one is the sunset that accompanied me on my journey home at the weekend.
1/1000sec, f/7.1, ISO 800, 92mm
Meanwhile, this is what greeted me when I made it home.
I’m going to do things a little differently with this week’s post. I’ve not long come back from a 2,400 mile road trip through bits of Europe, and as you’d expect I took a bunch of photographs along the way – although possibly not as many as you might think, as I was a lot more selective over the shots I took, often choosing to not take a shot if I couldn’t get a clean frame; in the end I took just over a thousand images). Having only been back in the country for a few days I’ve obviously not edited them all yet, but I decided it would be nice to give a little sample of the images I got from the places I visited, to whet your preverbal whistle, as it were.
Our journey was mostly centred on France, but we slipped into a couple of other countries along the way. We started by crossing the channel by ferry, arriving in Calais and then making straight for our first halt of the trip, a city called Reims, before moving on to Verdun, then Nancy, then into Switzerland to see Basel, Lake Lucerne, drive over the Alps and back into France to see Lake Annecy, then into Italy to see Turin and then on to our week-long halt on the Côte d’Azur. Our return to Calais saw whistle-stops in Lyon and a return to Reims for another relaxing look before catching our ferry. I’ll go more in-depth on our journey in due course once I have all the pictures to accompany the stories, but for now, here’s an assortment of some of the images which immediately stood out for me, posted pretty much in chronological order.
An eerie-looking house in Verdun, France
An American war grave at St Mihiel American Cemetery, France
A couple of weeks ago I posted a couple of time lapses of me building some Lego models. At the end of that post I promised some better shots of the properly brilliant Ecto-1 model I assembled. The self-explanatory title of this post should suggest that it does in fact contain those promised pictures.
It was, I should think, entirely obvious that once I’d spent the time building such a good-looking model, that I’d spent some time appreciating it in the only way I really understand.
The first shot I took was on the largely neutral canvas of my desk, which currently has a cutting mat sitting atop it. This adds an interesting grid pattern which to me is reminiscent of computer game blank free-roaming environments.
1/60sec, f/4, ISO 500, 32mm
Whilst I quite like the grid pattern as a base for photographing something like this, I found it a bit lacking. I needed to add something extra to make the images more interesting.
Improvising based on something I’d seen done elsewhere, I loaded up an image onto my computer screen as a backdrop, then grabbed a small stool to raise the model up to its level. This wasn’t quite enough, so I draped a grey t-shirt over the top to create a suitable floor. The end result is a bit different if nothing else.
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 500, 50mm
This is the set up I was using – ultimately quite simple, but giving a decent result.
It’s time once again for a little foray into the contents of my Instagram account. I’ve not really been using Instagram a whole lot lately, mainly because my iPhone’s camera is mostly ruined by purple splotches and dark patches and a general yellowish tint on everything. It kind of takes the joy out of shooting when what you can see and are trying to capture is not reflected at all in the resulting image.
Despite this, I still have a bit of an archive of images I’ve posted there that are worth sharing here, excluding the occasional DSLR image uploaded to the service for attention (everything I’ve included in any of the 18 Instagram sets I’ve posted on Creative Splurges has been shot and edited on an iPhone. Uploading DSLR shots to Instagram feels like cheating to me, so if I’ve uploaded any they’re always clearly marked as such).
Unlike my last set, which was built on the theme of public transport, this is back to my more traditional assortment of images, so here we have everything from London landmarks through antique theatre seats and cats to interesting lighting, before going back through landmarks and returning to cats. Which I guess shouldn’t be that surprising.
Despite being the same length, August doesn’t seem to have slipped by quite as quickly as July did. I managed to get the same amount of posts out in August as I did in July, which I’m pretty pleased with due to a bunch more social engagements in the former. I joked at the start of last month’s review that summer was over and we were well on the way to autumn and Christmas. I was only joking at the time, but it may have been a touch prophetic; the weather hasn’t been anywhere near so nice in August, and as I type this we’ve had a day of heavy rain.
But anyway, this isn’t a weather review, it’s a look back at August on Creative Splurges. I published three posts in August, not quite as many as I’d like but a perfectly respectable score regardless. I largely continued my wildlife theme I seem to be sticking to, with two out of the three posts being animals related, albeit one just my cats.