A Taste of Europe

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 eerie-looking house in Verdun, France

An American war grave at St Mihiel American Cemetery, France

An American war grave at St Mihiel American Cemetery, France

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Lego Ecto-1

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

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

1/250sec, f/4, ISO 500, 50mm

This is the set up I was using – ultimately quite simple, but giving a decent result.

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Instagram #18

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.


Related: Instagram #1-17

August

1/1600sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 100mmDespite 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.

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Cornish Seal Sanctuary

I can’t really explain why most of the posts I’m currently putting out have a wildlife theme. It just seems to be one of those things. A lot of the images I’ve been working through in my archive lately have been animal related, and the small amount of new stuff I’ve actually shot recently has been animals (including my cats, which are the nearest things I have to photograph a lot of the time). When I decided to dip into my archive to edit a set of photos and selected the ones from my trip to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary during my Cornwall holiday last year, I didn’t make the wildlife connection until I sat down to write this post itself. I should probably point out that there’s at least one more big wildlife post in my archive I need to edit, but that contains a few thousand images from my 2012 summer holiday and so we won’t be seeing those that soon (I’ve still got plenty of images from Cornwall to get through as well, on that note).

On our holiday in Cornwall last summer, my wife and I decided to dedicate one of the days to a big Cornish road trip, getting up early from our base in Tintagel and heading out as far as we could (to Land’s End) and working our way back over the course of the day. On our way we visited the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, a rescue centre and wildlife attraction that’s home to seals, sea lions, otters, penguins, and some other less aquatic animals.

1/400sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 135mm

1/400sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 135mm

If you’ve read many of the posts on this blog you’ll know I’m not that great on identifying species, often even the ones that most would think easy to differentiate. Not for me, they aren’t. No idea at all. Even when I do get it right its without any confidence. So you’ll have to take it with a pinch of salt when I say that the animal in the image above is a seal. If it indeed it is a seal, it certainly seems a content one, drifting through the water with a very serene look on his face. This seemed to be something that many seals like doing.

1/200sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 135mm

1/200sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 135mm

The sanctuary had different tanks for different species. As most of the animals were also rescued from somewhere they would be put in individual tanks when they first arrived, which we saw on occasion, like this… sea lion, maybe?

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Lego Timelapses

I’ve been playing about a bit lately with Lego (it helps that my nephew is obsessed with the stuff). I recently decided to combine my love of Lego with my love of Ghostbusters and buy the Lego Ecto-1 set. Me being me, I couldn’t just build the Lego and leave it at that. I had to involve my camera somehow.

I wanted to try doing something a little more interesting than just photographing a completed model (not that I’ve actually done even that for this blog, but still). I’ve been in possession of a Triggertrap for a few months now. So far I’ve used it for long exposures using an ND filter, but this barely touching the surface of what it can do. For a start, it can also do time lapses. This gave me the idea of using it to document my building of the model.

Ecto-1_Logo

Before trying it out on the main build, I decided to give it a try on the smaller, free model that Lego sent me alongside the Ectomobile. It was far, far smaller and less complex, but gave me the opportunity to test the concept of capturing the building of a Lego model without spending a couple of hours building a larger model and hoping for the best. So I set up my camera on a tripod next to my desk, connected my iPhone, and set Triggertrap to take a shot every five seconds. As this was in the evening, I lit my desk using my desk light. I quite liked the result of this improvised lighting setup.

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 3200, 32mm

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 3200, 32mm

I set the time-lapse running and started building. When I’d completed the model I had 48 frames shot, so I stuck them through Final Cut Pro, and added some titles and music.

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Freddie in Closeup

I seem to be on a bit of a wildlife kick at the moment. Last month featured a menagerie of safari animals, some birds of prey, and a medley post containing a couple of shots of some of my cats.

This post continues on a very similar vein. At the weekend whilst playing about getting a macro photograph of a coin, I noticed Freddie sitting on the window sill beside me. Since he wasn’t moving around that much I assumed this was some sort of invitation to photograph him.

1/320sec, f/2.8, ISO 800, 100mm

1/320sec, f/2.8, ISO 800, 100mm

Obviously, he doesn’t exactly look happy here. I think one of his siblings was holding his attention behind me.

This was a nice little opportunity to play about getting some shots with my beloved macro lens, which I haven’t really used in a while (save for a stick insect recently). So I continued to try to get his attention whilst shooting away.

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July

1/1000sec, f/4.5, ISO 800, 70mm

It’s time for a sudden realisation that it’s somehow August already, summer is most of the way over and we’re already well on the way to shorter days, colder weather and, eventually, Christmas. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration – after all, I’ve still got a summer holiday to take, and it’s not like the the weather is cooling off any. But even so, somehow July seems to have been and gone in the blink of an eye and I almost didn’t notice it.

Despite this, I managed to get a few posts out in July, somehow managing to pay attention enough to the weeks slipping by to ensure I got some content written up and published, although I did manage to let two weeks of the month slip by before getting anything done.

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Canon Experience Day

Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to attend an experience day at Canon’s UK headquarters in Surrey. Put on by Canon, the day featured talks by Canon Ambassadors David Norton and Danny Green, as well as practical shooting opportunities giving us a chance to play about with techniques but also, more importantly, with kit – the sort of kit I had hitherto only dreamt of touching, let alone owning.

The morning consisted of the talks, one by a Canon rep detailing the various improvements in the latest firmware update for the EOS-1D X – something useful for the 1D X owners there, and envy-inducing for the rest of us – as well as the talks by David and Danny (and impressive talks they were – they are really truly two gifted shooters). But it was after lunch that the real fun was to be had, as we split into groups for the practical stuff.

My group’s first port of call was in the grounds of Canon UK, where a small falconry display had been set up for us to shoot, accompanied by Danny Green himself, and starring this little fella.

1/2500sec, f/4.5, ISO 800, 115mm

1/2500sec, f/4.5, ISO 800, 115mm

I can’t remember this little guy’s name, which is annoying because I heard his handler call it often enough. He can’t in all honestly be said to be the best behaved bird I’ve ever encountered; he did as he was told right enough but often took a bit of asking. and occasionally he’d fly off and hide in a tree. Still, there were plenty of opportunities to photograph him.

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More Random Gems

One of the reoccurring issues I have on this blog is what to do with the isolated images I take from time to time. These can be times when I’ve simply only taken one photograph and felt that was enough, or they can be times when in the middle of shooting I’ve spotted something else entirely and taken a shot or two of it, and realised that the images simply wouldn’t fit at all in the post containing the rest.

I used to have a solution for this: for almost two years I had a spinoff blog called The Daily Photo on which I’d post a single image every day. Usually this would be image from the Creative Splurges archive, but from time to time I’d post a unique image I’d not shared anywhere before. I quit that blog late last year after finding it too difficult to maintain, so I’ve been slowly building up a bunch of random images. The last time I did this I collected them up into a post called Random Gems and posted them as a set. You can probably guess from the title of this post that I’ve thrown together another batch. Whether they can be considered ‘gems’ or not is up to your discerning eyes.

The first shot without a home is this isolated photo of our cat Freddie, who has grown up a bit since the last time you saw him.

1/100sec, f/4, ISO 640, 95mm

1/100sec, f/4, ISO 640, 95mm

On the subject of Freddie, whilst I was out photographing him and his adopted siblings for the post just linked, I had occasion, whilst my macro lens was attached, to snap a quick close up of one of the daisies in the grass where they were playing.

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