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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13sec, f/22, ISO 100, 24mm

Every monthly review I’ve posted here this year has started with some sort of surprised exclamation that time is moving forwards at a never-ending pace. Indeed, it’s been so long I’m not sure how else to open a monthly review without commenting on the passage of time, as in the alternative I’d be unable to sit here writing this and you to sit there reading it; somehow I suspect that the end of all existence would be a bit more distracting. Still, for now, time continues, and by and large it probably will for a while yet, so let’s just concentrate on the tiny slither of existence that was November.

I’ve managed to keep up, by and large, with my Tuesday weekly posting schedule that I quietly implemented back in summer. The weekly schedule has shown itself to have both pros and cons; it’s nice to know when I have deadlines for posting and it keeps me on my toes, but it also has the problem that I sometimes feel pressured into rushing out a post that isn’t ready, or is a bit of a ‘filler’ post.

(not really) Abandoned Station

I opened November with Instagram #19, which one could argue is a case of the latter sort of post. When I originally decided to post it, I’d have probably agreed, but the day before I was due to post it I took a trip on the London Underground, which seems to be something I like to photograph, and as a result added five great shots to the mix for the post. Some of those were inspired by my friend Catherine’s trip to an abandoned tube station the month before, something I’d love to do. I’ve since taken a couple more tube trips and took a few photos so when Instagram #20 comes round there’ll almost certainly be more tube shots in it.

1/1000sec, f/4, ISO 100, 105mm

The following week I returned to posting images from my European road trip, and our visit to a war cemetery in the French countryside. I timed this post to be released on November 11th to coincide with Armistice Day, even going as far to schedule it for 11.02am, right after the two minute silence. Walking around the cemetery was a sombre experience and that I what I tried to capture in the photos I took. I used a lot of black and white and dark hues in the images, but I tried to keep colour in there as well as the white crosses (and stars) contrasted against the green. I’d have liked to do a better job capturing the rain that was there when we arrived, it doesn’t come across very well in the pictures I took.

f/4, ISO 100, 32mm (HDR)

I then broke out of my posting schedule a little to bring you a Friday post: Nancy. In order to keep my Europe tour posts from cluttering the lineup for months to come I might, from time to time, release them on Fridays. Nancy was the first because it contained less than a dozen images so could be a ‘light’ Friday post. Short as it was it contains some decent images, including some freehand HDR shots (I actually think I’ve still not taken a HDR bracket on a tripod, which how I’m supposed to do it). We didn’t spend a huge amount of time in Nancy – unless you count the time we were asleep – but it looked like a nice town we’d love to return to one day.

1/640sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

The tour photos continued in the next post as we hit Basel. I was a lot more in my stride taking pictures at that point so there was a lot more than there was in the Nancy post. It was a very pretty and interesting city but much like every other stop on our trip we only saw so much of it. It seems that my posts from the trip are pretty popular; tagging them as ‘travel photography’ has opened this blog up to a new audience, it seems, so welcome if you’re a new reader.

15sec, f/22, ISO 100, 32mm

The last post of the month also broke my posting schedule, but mainly because it was late. I had fully intended to get Return to Swanage published on Tuesday, but thanks to my birthday I didn’t start editing the images fully until Monday (I did edit a few whilst away, but not many) and it was late on Tuesday, when I was already very pushed for time for wiring and was thinking I’d just wrapped up the editing, that I found another 100 photos I’d forgotten to import, which threw getting the post out on time out of the window. In the past when I’ve missed my Tuesday deadline I’ve just written it off and posted it the next week but decided I’d rather put it out late this time, partly because I was happy with the shots. It was a nice way to spend my 30th birthday and the images are ones I’ll probably get printed at some point down the line.

So that was November. What for December? My tour photos from Europe will continue to crop up, and I usually post an annual review during December too. I might also do some shooting too, as we’re heading to that part of the year where I get some nice long annual leave.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Return to Swanage

It was my birthday last week (side note: all of your birthday cards, and the cheques they contained, appear to have gotten lost in the post). To celebrate, my wife and I decided to stay in Swanage, one of my favourite places in the world, and have a nice relaxing time away from everything for a while.

For me, it wouldn’t be an enjoyable break if I weren’t taking photos. Fortunately I was prepared for this, and brought all my gear, including my tripod and variable ND filter.

We arrived late on Wednesday evening, too late even to eat –  but we woke the next morning (my actual birthday) to a brilliant cooked breakfast (including black pudding, which all true cooked breakfasts contain) and went out for a walk into the town.

It wasn’t particularly cold, but it was windy, grey and overcast, so there wasn’t much light about and the sea was a bit choppy. Above all it was quiet, so I didn’t feel too self-conscious in setting up my tripod and taking some long exposures.

4sec, f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

4sec, f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

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Day three of our European road trip saw us leaving France and entering Switzerland. We crossed the border near Basel, which ended up being our first stop in the country. We hadn’t originally intended to stop there, but it was about lunchtime and we were getting hungry.

We parked up somewhere in the city that seemed appropriate, and went for a wander.

It immediately became apparent we hadn’t really researched Switzerland much. We knew that the currency was Swiss Francs, not the Euro like the rest of our trip, but hadn’t looked into what language we’d be facing in the parts of the country we were visiting. A quick bit of Googling later (paying for mobile roaming data was a necessity whilst travelling – we used it to book hotels, find out info, translate things) told us that Basel is predominantly German speaking. Fortunately, as the only word I confidently know in German is ‘achtung’ which wouldn’t get us very far, we found a cafe where enough English was spoken to order some food.

Suitably sated, we headed out into the city to see what was about. Much like virtually every where else we’d visited on our tour, the city had trams.

1/800sec, f/4, ISO 100, 28mm

1/800sec, f/4, ISO 100, 28mm

This part of the town seemed to be a central hub of the tram system; there were several lines criss-crossing a crossroad, and pedestrian crossings in all directions as well leading to the stations in the middle. I’m glad we had no plans on using the trams or else we would have gotten very lost, I’m sure.

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After leaving St Mihiel we continued on to our next overnight stop, Nancy. Admittedly by this point we were tired and hungry, having covered over 120 miles on country roads since the morning. Although we wanted to take a look around the city our main priority was getting food. Despite this we still took a bit of a good wander around the main part of the city, Place Stanislas, somewhere made of the sort of buildings you’d probably associate with the French aristocracy.

1/3200sec, f/4, ISO 400, 24mm

1/3200sec, f/4, ISO 400, 24mm

Clearly I was distracted by tiredness or hunger because I didn’t actually take any wide angle shots of the square to show what it was like. With the bits of sun we’d had that afternoon – amongst the first we’d seen on the holiday – I was keen to capture the sky which was looking lovely. Queue a few bracketed exposures and some HDR processing software.

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St Mihiel American Cemetery

The area of north eastern France we journeyed through on the few few days of our European road trip is battlefield country. A lot of fighting took place during various wars in that part of Europe, none more so (I believe) than in the First World War. As we drove through the countryside (avoiding the toll motorways to see more of rural France) we kept on passing war cemeteries featuring countless graves of the fallen. Most of these were French cemeteries, each grave marked with what appeared to be a simple wooden cross. After we’d passed several, I decided that the next one we saw I’d pull over at to take a look around.

As it happened, the next war cemetery we came across was American. America is not a country known for doing things by halves, so every grave was marble, the gardens immaculate. Fittingly, as we arrived it began to rain.

1/500sec, f/4, ISO 125, 75mm

1/500sec, f/4, ISO 125, 75mm

You can just about see the white drops of rain in the image.

At the centre of the cemetery was a large eagle-based sundial. Behind it – at the back of the cemetery –  is a chapel overlooking the countryside, proudly flying the American flag.

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Instagram #19

Despite having a new phone so the images I take for Instagram (which, for me, are almost without exception shot with my iPhone camera) aren’t sullied by purple spots and dark splotches I’m still not using the service a huge amount lately. Not in comparison to times past. That said, I am using it more after a bit of a lapse earlier this year.

I was already planing to post an Instagram medley today when yesterday I got a bit snap happy whilst tube hopping, and now the results of those shots make up the majority of this collection. These underground shots were largely inspired by my friend Catherine who visited the abandoned Aldwych Tube Station a couple of weeks ago and came back with some inspiring pictures (if you look at those and compare them to some of the ones below I think the inspiration is pretty obvious). It turns out, Kennington station on a Monday afternoon is pretty quiet, and on the day I passed through lacking entirely in advertising giving a great abandoned and people-free feeling.

So amongst this set (a traditional nine images as ever), you’ll find a rainy Port of Dover, a self portrait in a bin lid, late afternoon sun at Twickenham Stadium, a stunning sunrise, and the five shots from the London Underground.

Related: Instagram #1-18


1/320sec, f/9, ISO 200, 11mm

2014 continues to scream by at breakneck speed and is showing no signs of stopping which, I guess, is pretty good actually considering the alternative. Still, there’s only two months left of the year before we’re suddenly and unexpectedly in 2015 (and on a more personal note, less than three weeks left of my twenties, with the inevitable loss of marbles that entails – not that I had many to spare).

All considered, October has been a pretty good month. I managed to stick to the posting schedule I announced last month, not missing a week at all.

1/400sec, f/4, ISO 800, 102mm

The first post of the month was even one I’d promised at the end of last month’s reviewLondon Fashion Weekend III. I’d shot them only a couple of weeks before but with about 1,800 images to edit it took longer than I’d hoped to turn them around. I’m pretty pleased with a bunch of the photographs I took there, but ultimately I still prefer the shots I got eighteen months previously on my first attempt. That, I think, is partly because of the content – I think the fashion on show the first time, especially the umbrellas, looked a lot better than what we were shooting this time round. Of course, should the opportunity arrive, I’ll be first in line to go shooting there again.

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