Macro Chocolate

As you may remember my wife and I visited Swanage in November for my birthday. And no visit to Swanage is complete without a trip to Chococo, the Purbeck Chocolate Company. If you like to keep score of such things, Chococo basically make some of the best chocolates I’ve ever tasted. I’ve mentioned their work before, when I shared a number of images I’d taken of food; Chococo’s contribution was a box of chocolates itself made out of chocolate. Indescribably brilliant. This year we forwent the chocolate box to instead get a larger and above all evenly numbered selection of chocolates (the small box, and the chocolate box, contain nice chocolates, which don’t split so well between two people not known for sharing chocolate).

Fortunately for the photographer side of me these chocolates look as good as they taste. Before we delved in I set them up in the kitchen, and using a similar setup to the one I used when shooting some failed breakfast I set up my 100mm macro lens to get some closeups.

1/200, f/2.8, ISO 400, 100mm

1/200, f/2.8, ISO 400, 100mm

As you can see, even in extreme closeup they look great.

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Four Years

IMG_5689-Edit

1/80, f/1.4, ISO 640, 50mm

Four years ago today I started Creative Splurges with the theory that having somewhere to post the occasional creativity I had might encourage me to do more with it, rather than letting it languish unloved or uncompleted on a computer. I still don’t really understand quite what happened that January that I suddenly had a burst – a splurge, if you will – of energy to not only do more creative endeavours, but organise them, curate them, and blog them. I think a bunch of different factors all aligned at the right time and boom, I was a blogger all of a sudden. It didn’t work out entirely as I had envisioned, however. Originally I’d intended to cover a lot more facets of creativity, such as doodling and cartoons, videography and, believe it or not, app creation (I bought a book and started learning some basic programming). Photography quickly became my focus and my passion, rekindling a love I’d forgotten about for several years. Doodling and videos still turn up from time to time, of course, but they – the latter especially – are never as well received as the photography. And since I genuinely enjoy photography more I can’t really complain.

And the rest, as they say, is accessible from the ‘archive’ dropdown menu at the bottom of this page. Over these four years I’ve published 271 posts, containing countless words and thousands of images between them (and on the way spent two years curating a side blog posting a photo a day that managed to pump out 685 single-image posts over almost two years before it became more of a burden than it was worth). If you were to be patient enough to read all 271 posts from the beginning I think you’d see four years of progression into something more resembling a passable photographer. In the last year I’ve moved beyond getting my photos on walls to being actively invited – and paid – to take photographs. I’m getting there, but in the next year I need to be a lot more proactive.

This post is also a nice opportunity to thank you for taking the time to read this post and this blog, and also for liking, commenting, and sharing. Your contributions are always appreciated. Every comment makes this whole thing feel a little more worthwhile.


A note on the image at the start of this post: It’s now an annual tradition on January 14th for me to take a self-portrait in my bathroom mirror to accompany my anniversary post. I’ve been doing this for four years, before the word ‘selfie’ was even a thing, and nowadays the theory is that each year I’ll be able to improve on the concept a little based on what I’ve learnt over the last twelve months. This year I’ve focussed a bit more on composition, admittedly styling the shot on the clichéd portrait of a photographer. Still, I haven’t got any images of myself like this, so it’s nice to have one in my portfolio, even if it is a bit unoriginal. Unlike the previous mirror portraits, this time I’ve reversed the image so it’s the ‘correct way round’, and not a reflection. I’ve also ben assisted with technology this time, using the f/1.4 50mm lens I hired over Christmas to get the shot (I’ve since bought one for myself). Whilst trying to get this image I tried a few variations, and also a shot that’s pretty similar to years past, which you can check out in the gallery below. Of note is the second image, in which I chose to keep the camera in focus rather than myself, which is a bit different from the usual sorts of this image I’ve seen. You’ll also note that some images have been reversed and some haven’t; this is a completely stylistic decision based on the composition of the shot and, occasionally, how legible the logo is on my camera.

 

Turin

We’d only been back in France for a day, and we were already leaving it, heading from Lake Annecy into Italy for our final overnight halt in Turin. We’d spent a bit more time in Annecy in the morning that we had in most of our stops taking in the atmosphere and the lovely weather, before making the 150 mile route into Italy. We went a bit more direct this time, taking the hit of the toll roads to save time as the non-toll option was a bit too indirect.

We approached Turin from an industrial direction, driving though some slightly shady-looking residential areas to our hotel on the outskirts of town. We checked into our hotel – the first time anyone looked at our passports on the entire trip – and rested up for a bit, figuring out which direction to head to see some of the more interesting parts of the city. We discovered which way to go to head away from the scarier places into the city proper, and sat down for a late lunch in this little spot.

1/60sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

1/60sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

 

I half expected three Minis to go speeding past at any moment.

Once we were in the main part of town, things seemed a bit more pleasant, the roads more intact. I know it would have been more interesting to have wandered around the lesser beaten paths instead, but I’m not that brave yet, so instead we found ourselves in the Turin equivalent of Regent Street.

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The End of Xmas

It has been a Christmas tradition for me for almost every year since I got my first DSLR to take a photograph on the theme of The End of Xmas. I can’t say I’ve been particularly experimental on the theme in the past; just about every one has been little more than a discarded tree ornament lying on the floor, often amongst a bed of pine needles.

To be honest, this year’s End of Xmas photo was going to be very much along the same lines, After we had dismantled the tree and thrown it out of the window (honestly the best way of getting it out of our flat without getting pine needles everywhere) I picked the ornament I wanted to use and laid it on the floor and took a few shots, before taking the tree out to the bin. And that was when it occurred to me to try something a bit different to represent the idea of Christmas ending. Still using the 50mm f/1.4 I rented over the break, I took a shot of the tree at its undignified end.

1/200sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm

1/200sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm

I’m not completely disappointed with the original (yet unoriginal) image I took for the theme this year, it’s just the same as every image I’ve previously done.

1/80sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600, 50mm

1/80sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600, 50mm

If you want a bit of a more creative take on the concept of Christmas ending, check out the Neophyte Photographer who did some wonderful images, or check out the compilation of End of Xmas images I posted last year.

Back to work everybody.

2014 in Pictures

2014_picturesOne of my favourite annual posts I do for this blog is my Year in Pictures collection, where I share some of my favourite images that I’ve posted in the last twelve months and put them together in a single post, arranged in no particular order (indeed, it should be such a random order it’ll be different every time you load the page). As ever, my opinion on such things only means so much, so if there’s a shot you remember from 2014 that you loved that isn’t in this set, let me know in the comments!

For a bit of perspective, check out 2013 in Pictures and 2012 in Pictures.

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2014

2014

Can you believe it, it’s already been a year? As has become traditional I like to end the year with a review of the year, in a manner similar to almost every other website, blog, TV show or anyone else with an interest in reflecting on the previous twelve months.

2014 has been a pretty good year in terms of my development as a photographer so it should be an interesting look back.

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Festive Bokeh

For the Christmas break this year I’ve hired some photography kit to play about with whilst I’m off work. Amongst the few bits and bobs (and you’ll find out about the others in due course) is the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM, which is a bit of an upgrade for my Nifty Fifty that I’ve been keen on trying out.

I’ve taken a handful of shots with it already, but the ones it seems most fitting to share here on Christmas Eve are these deliberately out-of-focus shots of our Christmas tree. The 50mm f/1.4 has full-time manual focussing so I simply set the aperture as big as it would go, pointed and metered the camera at a place where there seemed to be a nice assortment of colours, then threw the lens as out-of-focus as I could before taking the picture. The results are a nice assortment that’s managed to capture most of the gamut of festive colours including reds, greens, whites and oranges. Since we only have white lights on our trees the rest of the colour comes from light reflecting off baubles and tinsel. I hope you enjoy!

On behalf of my family, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. I’m off to participate in our traditional Christmas Eve viewing of The Muppet Christmas Carol which, if you’re keeping score at home, is the best Christmas film of them all.

Take care,
Rob

Lake Annecy

We left Lake Lucerne, headed over the alps and after a twisty-turny mountain drive into France we made our way to another lake: Lake Annecy. The difference was stark: earlier in the day I’d thrown a snowball at Holly in temperatures around freezing up a mountain pass, but when we arrived at Annecy it was sunny and seasonably warm. Like most of our overnight stops, we parked up at the hotel, unloaded some stuff and then went out for a walk to explore the town we’d found ourselves in and to get some dinner. And what a beautiful place we’d found ourselves in.

f/11, ISO 100, 24mm (HDR)

f/11, ISO 100, 24mm (HDR)

The water of Lake Annecy was crystal clear. Standing at the water’s edge I could see my shadow on the lakebed.

1/50sec, f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

1/50sec, f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

And photographing the water at a more traditional angle, I got a shot that might work pretty well as a desktop background.

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Over the Alps

Our plan for Tuesday could be summed up in its simplest terms as driving from one lake to another. The drive, however, was the thing – we’d driving the Furka Pass, over the Alps themselves, and heading back into France. This would be one of our long driving days, totalling about 245 miles and five hours without stops. But of course, we would stop. We were driving over the Alps.

We made it quite a way before we stopped, and when we did it was for a bit of a quintessential Swiss scene: classic Alpine cows.

1/1250sec, f/4, ISO 250, 35mm

1/1250sec, f/4, ISO 250, 35mm

They had the big bells and everything. And then there was this cow, who I photographed whilst she was shaking her head, giving me a great ‘what the heck are you talking about?’ look.

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Lake Lucerne

We continued on from Basel heading for Monday’s overnight halt on the shores of Lake Lucerne. Our original plan had been to head over the Alps and possibly even stay up in the mountains on Monday, but there was bad weather up there and we decided to postpone our trip over the Alps until Tuesday and stay at Lucerne. This turned out to be a pretty good decision, because this is the sight we had as we went for a walk before dinner.

f/4, ISO 100, 24mm (HDR)

f/4, ISO 100, 24mm (HDR)

The scene was so peaceful. The hotel we had checked into was out of the town so there were few people, few cars, nothing between the hotel and the lakeside apart from the road that didn’t have many cars on it, and there wasn’t much on the lake either. Apart from this boat.

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