Along the Thames

Whilst chasing the Olympic Torch back in July, I used the Thames path as a way of bypassing the closed and inevitably busy roads as the torch made its way around London. I made the three-mile trip on my bike from Richmond to Kew Bridge along the river in the hope of heading the torch off at the pass and having another go at shooting it. Not realising how much time I actually had to make the trip I didn’t stop for anything, but couldn’t help noticing shots to capture.

On the way back, I took a little more time, and stopped to photograph some of the great scenery along the banks of the Thames.

f/8, ISO 320, 18mm (HDR)

Actually, that isn’t entirely true. My first couple of shots were taken on my way to Kew. I caught sight of an interesting undergrowth in the floodplains of the Thames and just had to capture it.

1/30sec, f/4.5, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.33, 18mm

The lighting being as it was, I decided to try using HDR to bring out the details in the shady trees. I struggled a bit with lens flare in the brighter exposure, however, and it show a bit in the finished image.

f/4.5, ISO 100, 18mm (HDR)

I still love the hint of blue in the reflection.

After shooting the torch, I headed back towards Richmond along the river. I soon came to the overflow plain where I photographed a heron some years ago. It hasn’t changed much, there was even still a heron living there – but I’ll come to that shortly. The first thing that took my eye was a small footbridge. Because of the shadow, I decided to make use of HDR again.

f/4.5, ISO 125, 18mm (HDR)

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I’m partial to what I call ‘perspective shots’. I love seeing lines disappearing into the distance. So of course I stopped and took a shot across the bridge.

f/4.5, ISO 200, 18mm (HDR)

I continued along the river and came to a few larger bridges, and took the shot at the start of this post. Ever unsure of myself, I took a couple of bracketed exposures of the same scene, so I decided to process the second batch differently to give me some choices.

f/8, ISO 320, 18mm (HDR)

As ever, I welcome any comments you have on which you prefer, but on this occasion my own mind is made: I prefer the colour version. I love the way the colour brings out so many details in the image: the deep blue of the sky, the reds of the flowers in the foreground, and the turquoise of the small boat moored between the bridges.

1/160sec, f/8, ISO 320, 135mm

I moved further along the river, and took a shot of Richmond Railway Bridges, one of the bridges in the shots above, again using HDR to bring out details in the underside of the bridge.

f/8, ISO 320, 18mm (HDR)

You’ll notice no watermarks on these HDR images. I’ll be honest, it’s not because I’ve bought any HDR software, I just processed all of these photographs during the narrow 14-day trial window. One of the things I like about this type of HDR photography is the realism; I’ve noted elsewhere that HDR can be realist or surrealist, and this is the former: bringing the image closer to what the human eye actually sees, rather than creating a stylised image. This is best seen in an image like this next one of the pedestrian path under the Railway Bridge, which today’s cameras would never be able to capture in a single exposure, but is closer to what you’d see if you were standing in the same spot I was.

f/8, ISO 320, 21mm (HDR)

It was a pretty bright, warm sunny day. I recall having a few of those this summer. The problem with the summer in Britain is there seems to be an unwritten rule in this country: treat every sunny day as if it was the last one you’ll ever see. As soon as it gets even remotely warm enough, people are in shorts, having barbecues, and taking boats out on rivers. Like these four hapless girls, out enjoying the weather and attempting not to drown in the process.

1/400sec, f/8, ISO 320, 200mm
1/400sec, f/8, ISO 320, 300mm

For me, the unusual thing about these images is that I forgot to open out the aperture after shooting the landscape shots at f/8, making for a wider depth of field in the images than I would normally use. I tend to always shoot at the widest possible aperture for the shallowest depth of field, partly because that is a style I like, but also because it simply doesn’t often occur to me when shooting images like these what a slightly wider depth of field can do. As ever I don’t have comparative images, which would be good not just for descriptive purposes also for my own learning, but I do like the marginally different effect achieved by having more of the image in focus.

After the girls passed, I turned my attention back to Richmond Railway Bridge, this time focussing on the parts passing over the floodplains.

f/8, ISO 320, 19mm (HDR)

This particular image was a little challenging; I wanted to make it a more realistic image, but the exposure of the leaves in the foreground at bottom right just seem to jar a bit too much. Similarly, the processing has given a painted feel to the brickwork on the bridge. It’s not that I don’t like the end result – it’s just not what I was aiming for.

Just at the bottom of that frame you can see an old friend – perhaps. This is still the same stretch of water I took my all-time favourite heron shot a little over two years prior. I don’t know how long the live for (I tried looking it up on Wikipedia, but I was distracted by the revelation that herons are also know as ‘shitepokes’) so it could – conceivably – be the same heron.

1/125sec, f/5.6, ISO 500, exposure bias -0.67, 135mm

I tracked this guy for a little while, as he stalked around the undergrowth on the lookout for lunch. I assume he didn’t find anything, because he never went for anything in the water in that photogenic way. Still, it provided for plenty of photographic opportunities.

1/800sec, f/5.6, ISO 500, exposure bias -0.33, 135mm

I love the reflection in this shot. I tried a few HDR shots to get him and his background exposed equally, but none really came out as well as this single exposure. It’s just a same his head is in shadow (I had to make a near-identical comment on another post recently – it’s a conspiracy!).

Soon he was all in shadow as he continued to search for food. Or a mate. Or whatever it is a heron searches for these days – talking elephants or something, I don’t know.

1/1250sec, f/5.6, ISO 500, exposure bias -0.33, 135mm

I love his silhouetted reflection in that shot as well as the colours in the rest of the reflection. I suffered a bit trying to shoot landscapes this summer, but I suspect I will always persevere because I simply love the way green and blue play together in an image.

With the heron slinking off, I returned to shooting the bridge. A wider, portrait shot of the arch seemed to work out better this time; the exposures seem to blend together a bit better (and you can just about make out the heron in the distance).

f/8, ISO 500, 18mm (HDR)

After that, I turned my attention back to Richmond Railway Bridge. I tried a different angle on it to get more of Twickenham Bridge behind (okay, that might not be true. I can’t actually remember my intentions at this point other than ‘I like photographing that bridge’, but the end result shows more of Twickenham Bridge, so let’s pretend that I knew what I was doing).

f/8, ISO 500, 18mm (HDR)

Much like earlier, I took several batches of bracketed exposures, and so processed them differently to see what I came up with. Once again, I turned to monochrome.

f/8, ISO 500, 18mm (HDR)

This time out, I prefer the black and white shot. I think it’s better framed, so you can see the bridge strut to the right of the frame, giving a sense of balance. I also really like the way it has brought out the detail in the ironwork. Put your own vote on a postcard or, if you prefer, in the comments section.

My very final shot was of a different angle of the bridge; I found I liked the metalwork on the bridge, as well as the colour.

1/2500sec, f/5.6, ISO 500, exposure bias -0.67 (-0.11), 47mm

I’m pretty pleased with this set of shots. I’m happy with how the HDR photos have come out, and I like the variety of images in the set.

I seem to have quite inadvertently slipped into a regular posting schedule lately. A post every Monday so far in November. I know why: work is kicking my arse a bit this month, so the only time I have to really sit down and write a post is either Saturday or Sunday, depending on social or familial obligations. I’m not really complaining, in some ways I quite like the idea of having a very set schedule to post to, because I think it is more convenient for you as a reader to know when to expect something from me. However, I am very aware of the fact that I prefer my posts to be right before I publish them, and being forced to a timetable could see rushed posts I’m not really happy with. It is, I suppose, something to consider.

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12 Comments

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  1. Happy memories of this summers games

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  2. what a great honest set – I love the remark re HDR and how it can be realistic versus the ridiculous extremes which IMHO undermine the subject and composition. Lots of lovely shots using the light and several lovely abstracts great blog post Tweeted

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    • Thanks Scott. HDR is one of those techniques that can be really divisive, but like most photographic techniques it really does depend on the application. I tend to prefer the more realistic processing, but there are plenty I’m sure who prefer the surreal results from what I would consider ‘over-processing’.

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  3. petit4chocolatier November 20, 2012 — 2:33 am

    Gorgeous photos!

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  4. Great shots and great blog! 🙂

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  5. Nice stories and nice shots,hehehe 🙂

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