What's been happening

    It’s been a long time since I last posted a blog update - lately I have been knee deep in work ,or sourcing work..I’ve been busy is the main point here…

As I revealed a few months back, I have rediscovered my graphic and illustrative work, and have added this offer to my list of services. With happy clients and good references, I have started to get regular and ongoing work, some of which have been for clients in other countires.


A family who live out in Spains Asturias, asked me to help them realise a logo design they had roughly skecthed out. They own and run a successful Eco Farm and wished to have a new logo for there revamped image - The brief was to go by the design provided and to add a few social media icons for any promotional use.

A rather simple one - The brief was to keep the “bubble style” lettering as child like as possible with the flower being of the same style.

A rather simple one - The brief was to keep the “bubble style” lettering as child like as possible with the flower being of the same style.

I’m usually a less free hand designer when asked for logo and graphical input, however I have not been hired for much freelance work yet so as long as they were happy so was I.
**A matter of starting up - not down to being rubbish ! ** ;)

I tried a few ideas based of the drawing, and the client chose the below design with a few requests towards completion.

Simply exported as transparent PNGs and presto !!

The end result - Deep involvement of freehand in the design of this Eco Farm logo.

The end result - Deep involvement of freehand in the design of this Eco Farm logo.


Another snippet of news is that my good friend has also opened his own print shop, which obviously makes it easier for our customers to have TWO photographers and TWO designers who can work together. He has provided me with a good percentage of my prints that have been sold other my time having my place - and now he’s right on my doorstep…hazzar

for those interested - Shutter and Click or located in our shop extension

Jims excellent job on printing this Cpt. America print that was sold a few weeks later

Jims excellent job on printing this Cpt. America print that was sold a few weeks later

Latest Work & Happenings

I have had to put a temporary halt to the clothing press, due to a current lack of space and since I’m currently both working and seeking outside work to gather more income. It might be the new year before I can finally get the project off the ground, but as the say “ Good things come to those who wait”.

I will however show off a few bits I’ve created which will be available on www.Displate.com and to purchase from my shop - Did I mention I have an in-house printer….

With the dreaded X-mas rapidly approaching - Work has started on producing newly designed cards and calenders that WON’T have the year on them * not making that mistake again*
and plan to have a bigger xmas stand at the local festive market. Plans to also produce regular VLOGS or video entries are also being considered, though I never considered recording and uploading episodes as I didn’t deem it strictly manditory - Though it can’t hurt surely

I’ll be trying to post more often and will be trying other sites for promtoing and marketing myself.

Stay classy

Adobe Illustrator CC - Digital Madness

  Lately I have been tasked with making artwork for customers and other graphical mock-ups. Normally I'm not equipped for this line of work, as of course I'm a photographer by trade and nor would I have the correct/appropriate software for the job.

Then I was reminded about a 7 day free trial of Adobe Illustrator courtesy of the Adobe Cloud service - which I would always recommend to anyone.

The main point of using illustrator compared to Photoshop, is that you work with "vectors" or "Ai" files. Which means that the work you create can be produced or scaled to any size as opposed to the "PDF" pixel based documents.

The work below was a request for a promotional piece for a local vape shop, through much storming ideas, the theme of "revolution" was the most desired by the client.

The final image of a revolutionary themed promotion for vaping.

The final image of a revolutionary themed promotion for vaping.

The first tool to get to grips with is the mighty pen tool, which I used for the clenched hand and vape, and it works practically the same as in Photoshop. The background was a repeated sequence of altered rectangles with a radial gradient of red to orange.

Also a big help with other objects can be found on websites such as www.graphicburger.com offer great source files like additional fonts and logos. 


Lewis Hamilton in his AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ - multiple graduations from black to white is the prominent colour, and make for great depth and lighting.

Lewis Hamilton in his AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ - multiple graduations from black to white is the prominent colour, and make for great depth and lighting.

Also for those who like me cannot draw to the best of quality, the paths made by the pen tool can be adjusted and rounded off. One method would be to use an image as a template, and with a fresh layer simply sample the colours and taking time in inking over the underlying layer.

Keep in mind that you can then grab a colour swatch and colour it how you please, shading with graduated colour tones for a good sense of shape is a good method and it's more pleasing to the eye. 

A line painting of player   Xherden Shaqiri   - using a more varied custom colour swatch 

A line painting of player Xherden Shaqiri - using a more varied custom colour swatch 

The work above is a starting point for a more commercial and popular form of digital art, also serves as a gateway to making more detail and creative pieces. 

I have subsequently found buying illustrator to have been a wise and great addition to my workspace life, and to be honest I was surprised at how much simpler it's become since the CS3 days. The layouts are more negotiable and features seem more easier to use than previous versions, the pen tool in particular is much more precise to manage.

A friends business card front face : The fox was entirely constructed with the pen tool - using  photoburger.com  for a font

A friends business card front face : The fox was entirely constructed with the pen tool - using photoburger.com for a font

 

I'm very much looking forward to continuing my use of Adobe Illustrator and any work that becomes of it.

My first restoration of an image

  I've always fancied having a go at image restoration- After I watched a show featuring people who have painstakingly re-captured soldiers during the day of the Civil War, featuring images of General Putnam in colour. So when a friend who runs a printing company asked me to help fix up an old image, I jumped at the chance.

The photo I was tasked with, was taken in 1936 and the client requested I clean and remove some of the imperfections - such as the crease marks in the bottom left corner, and the elimination of any sun bleach colour contamination.

How the image looked before I started - very scratched and bleached by the sun 

How the image looked before I started - very scratched and bleached by the sun 

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The first thing to do was a simple conversion to Black & White to remove all sun bleached areas - Making it easier for adding colour after healing the image. It also can keep the colour process more easier, as having contamination is likely to create errors in colour later on.

Such uses of the healing brush or clone tool, and the filter "Remove dust & scratches" can be the most effective in image cleaning, whilst ensuring that as much quality is retained. 

The one thing that's worth noting for ensuring best accuracy was the flow and smoothing of the clone brush tool, which is useful with bleeding of edges, and simily with brushing for skin tones in later processing.

In this example: The colour process starts, keeping the layers separate for future corrections.

In this example: The colour process starts, keeping the layers separate for future corrections.

After the healing process is finished - Its time for the colour and Its best to use a new fill layer each time you use another colour. Not only does it make your layers more organised and functional but you can go back to that layer and completely change the layers colour or blend modes..

The "Soft light" blending mode looked good at around 80% for keeping the colour overlay realistic, not forgetting that you can alter the opacity later. I took my time with selecting the colour in this example as I had no reference to what colour to use, so I kept with fairly contemporary colours for accuracy.

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After the colours were added I made a "stamp new layer" ( CMD+Alt+E ) - That enables you to make any white balance adjustments and any dodge & burn to add depth. Adding extra tints or colours is not a bad idea as light and tones of colour are what adds either depth or any eye catching features you want to draw attention toward.

After the colour is completed I treated it with slight tone curve adjustments, so as to avoid overly destructive editing to the image.

All things considered it is a relatively easy process if not just a little tedious, but the client was very impressed and delighted as he'd never seen his great grandmother in colour before.

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How useful is Lightroom mobile ( Android and iOS )

  When I first came across Lightroom for my phone I first thought "..why would I want this on my phone" - After using it for around a year I have to say that I absolutely love it, and is the best app since the Angry Avians in catapults.

Lightroom mobile is not only free but offers a better built in camera app than your standard camera utility, and gives you much better control over your exposure and general image quality by shooting in DNG.

Now I have only recently really started to use the LR utility camera app - But I have noticed the difference, this could just MAINLY be the DNG file saves that obviously give you more detail.

What I have abused maliciously is the development module which is absolutely epic !

Before -

Before -

After - And since I snapped this on a gloomy morning I am suprised by the results

After - And since I snapped this on a gloomy morning I am suprised by the results

For me it serves mainly as a facilitator for experimenting with point of view or composition - Plus its develop function gives you pretty much all of the modules and parameters that you'd get in lightroom on your desktop. There are a few options like the sharpen module that are lacking - plus the radial and grad filters lack the luminosity OR colour adjustment slider.  

Here standing on a canal bridge I took a picture with the default camera app, and the LR app easily brings an already nice image to brighter more fuller tones - even if you ain't a photographer c'mon who wouldn't want this !

Samsung S6 std camera app

Samsung S6 std camera app

After LR app

After LR app

Many of us will recognise the icons and their purposes - It even has an optical correction tool for those who have attachable phone lenses...very nice

Many of us will recognise the icons and their purposes - It even has an optical correction tool for those who have attachable phone lenses...very nice


The Lightroom camera as mentioned has much more to offer yo than your default camera utility application, certainly better than my old S6 Samsung - But as you can see below it is indeed shooting DNG with the exposure info and AF mode on the bottom of the screen.

 

Samsungs own

Samsungs own

Lightrooms Own

Lightrooms Own

It also highly usable with its organisation of your files, with viewing them in order of dates or favorites AND you can key word them before uploading them to shutter stock as a contributor. The files are stored in their original state, so if you want to revert a step or start again you can do - all we need is content aware and a luminosity plug in and we're away.

With the current trend we see in modern smart phones - the cameras are far better than any digi cam I had when I was younger, and they'll only strive for better and ore sharper detail.
So with that in mind I can see Lightroom Mobile being increasingly viable and popular, I will certainly be advocating it with my photo friends.

 

Maybe not - a few images I left out

We all like the feeling when from the start to finish an image comes out spectacular and sharp, but we all know that nothing is always easy.
Many photographer has cried into his lens hood over dropped shots due to softness, or wept after being tricked by a Mac Book Pro with a poxy retina screen - You know the ones, they have a high contrast and high clarity count that makes soft photos look almost acceptable....right until your staring in horror on your main screen at home. *Did I just go personal then

I've compiled some of my own images that I feel don't quite cut the mustard - They comprise of a few things in my work that got my attention over the year that can improve

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Number 1.

A composition in terms of the rule of thirds can be broken or just plain thrown out the window, and the scene can be protrayed in many ways from angles to camera level. However despite all this, it is ESSENTIAL to always make sure your happy with the image you see either through the view finder or on the preview screen.

I seemed to have taken leave of my senses here - Down on Jokulsarlon black sandy beach, forgetting the 'bergs on the horizon AND leaving the ice boulder slap dab in the middle. I still love the image very much, it would just have been the extra special with more care and not rushing around like a mad man.

I seemed to have taken leave of my senses here - Down on Jokulsarlon black sandy beach, forgetting the 'bergs on the horizon AND leaving the ice boulder slap dab in the middle. I still love the image very much, it would just have been the extra special with more care and not rushing around like a mad man.


Number 2

I feel like the depth of field in this image is fine but the focus on the foreground just isn't there.

The haze and vapour eminating from the fumeroles didnt help ensuring total reassurance - but this is landscape photography we're dealing with after all not everything will go to plan ALL of the time. Overall I do like the image very much as it captures the place's atmosphere well, I just wouldnt enter it into a contest without serious forethought.

In a 16:9 crop the image looks impressive and deep - I did have the camera at a slight downward angle and should have compensated for the shift in PoF more and took a few more test shots before hand

In a 16:9 crop the image looks impressive and deep - I did have the camera at a slight downward angle and should have compensated for the shift in PoF more and took a few more test shots before hand


Number 3

Argh ! - Watch you dont cut off peoples feet at any point.
Again this was due to a small crowd behind me with the bride walking up the pathway, feet cutting is a BIG NO NO to me and should always leave room at the bottom of the frame.

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Number 4

A repositioning of the camera may have helped get a more interesting comp here at Hverir in Iceland, or should have taken the image in portrait fromat. All in all though I love the atmosphere so I have included this image in my book.

Once again a poor positioning of the "subject" or main focus point of th eimage is dead centre in the frame, its not breaking any rules as such but placed either side would be an improvement.

Once again a poor positioning of the "subject" or main focus point of th eimage is dead centre in the frame, its not breaking any rules as such but placed either side would be an improvement.


It is all down to experience and having a good examine of the scene in front - I take test shots on my phones camera more often now to make sure I don't get any potential unwanted space that makes the image appear of balance or unpleasing to the eye.

The main thing is to not get discouraged if you find the picture not to be 100% perfect as things rarely pan out perfect in these situations, you have to make the mistakes before you learn from them and I've made more than a few.

Howden & Derwent Water


Howden is a Y shaped reservoir with the county borders of Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, running through the middle of the reservoir following the original line of the river Derwent. It is the top of three lakes in Derwent Valley, blocked at the southern end by the Howden Dam; the water then flows immediately into Derwent Reservoir and then into Ladybower. 

Construction of the dams commenced on July 16th 1901; the dam walls are of solid masonry design, and wasn't fully completed until 1916. On the western side was Birchinlee, a temporary Hamlet location for "Tin Town" which was built by the D.V.W.B ( Derwent Valley Water Board ) for the families of workers on the Dams. Its infrastructure included hospitals and a school - a public hall public, bath houses, railway station, rubbish dump with incinerator plus shops and more including a police station & holding cells. A few remains like the rail tracks can be seen on the west bank footpath, and a tin hut was fully restored and is currently a hair salon in Bamford.

An insight into the "Tin Town" plans which were drawn up by the D.V.W.B

An insight into the "Tin Town" plans which were drawn up by the D.V.W.B

Ladybower viaduct in the distance - The vast volume of water now where the villages of Derwent and Ashopton once stood

Ladybower viaduct in the distance - The vast volume of water now where the villages of Derwent and Ashopton once stood

Whilst we sat weather watching over Ashopton, I was reading about the history of the place. The Ladybower viaduct was built in 1935 and its smaller partner the Ashopton viaduct was in a state of hiatus, until the second world war and it became strategically essential for continuation of important supplies. 

The villages of Derwent and Ashopton were mostly demolished but much of the structure of Derwent village church was visible during a hot summer 14 years later during a partial depletion: As a result of any further future risk, it was demolished using explosives on 15th December 1947. 

Derwent Dam - Dams in areas as this were great practice for the Sq.617

Derwent Dam - Dams in areas as this were great practice for the Sq.617

The well respected RAF squadron 617 Memorial - A tribute to the brave souls risking life and limb for our freedom

The well respected RAF squadron 617 Memorial - A tribute to the brave souls risking life and limb for our freedom

Derwent was also used by the 617 squadrons rehearsing for "Operation Chastise", due to the dams similarity to the "Mohne" and the "Edersee" set in the "Ruhr Valley" in Germany. Operation Chastise was an bombing raid on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by RAF 617 Squadron, respectfully referred to as the "Dam Busters".Using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" developed by Barnes Wallis that would avoid torpedo nets, and sink before casuing maximum damage to the base of the structure. The aim was release the bomb just 18m from the water surface, or it would simply splinter from the impact of the water if relased anyhigher or would simply not reach the target if trajectory was to steep.

Whilst I have NO idea what piloting a Lancaster bomber would be like, the flight path they had rehearse must have been an extreme challange.

Looking from Howdon and out towards the peak district : Also the start of the bombing run rehersals and memorial flights.

Looking from Howdon and out towards the peak district : Also the start of the bombing run rehersals and memorial flights.

It is unfortunate that whilst we had a interesting afternoon here, we didnt get much done in terms of proper photography. The storm Ophilia was making for nice light all morning and early afternoon, then at around 2 o'clock the light just turned back to normal strangely before our eyes.

Be rest asured another entry will be logged as soon as I have visited this location again - Hopefully within the next few weeks.

Images are all from my mobile *using Adobe Lightroom Mobile Cc*

Howden Dam - This Gothic dams celebrations upon completion, were halted due to the First World War.

Howden Dam - This Gothic dams celebrations upon completion, were halted due to the First World War.

Shack life

  It has certainly been an interesting few weeks now we have settle'd down on our little stall, a turn around and a re-face makes wonders, for customers who are starting to pick up on our presence.

It may not come as a shock to you to hear I'm opening a gallery opposite the stall in a few weeks, to show more of my work and to give me more space for other ideas.
A recent favourite has been the lovable Owls from a morning out in Cannock - These little critters are popular with kids especially much to my surprise , particularly the immensely cute "Peek'a'boo" Tawny, peering and hiding behind a tree. 
 

The ever popular "Peek'a'boo" Tawny - using a Nikon 200-400 F4

The ever popular "Peek'a'boo" Tawny - using a Nikon 200-400 F4

I have recently added one of the latest images from a trip to Snowdonia a few weeks ago during a drive out with my dad to do a few tests, the scene was dotted with rays of light streaming down a mountain side with a farmhouse to the bottom right. When the sun pierced through the dense dark cloud we had to stop and attempt to capture the light dappled and dropped over a beautiful part of the park. In a few weeks time I shall be heading back for more landscape photography, and if the weather treats us nicely perhaps some star studded skies in the evening - But we all know what the weather can do.

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In preparation for the Xmas season we will be making our own festive cards, calendars for the Knutsford and Sandbach Xmas markets. Alison will be also be soon producing a new line of special woolen winter scarves, new tops and fabric shopping bags. Whilst I shall provide some one off winter themed prints including a few panoramas of the glaciers of Vatnajökull at Jokulsarlon with the Northern Lights.

Kvernufoss   is the overlooked neighbor to the popular   Skogafoss and is rather secretive.

Kvernufoss is the overlooked neighbor to the popular Skogafoss and is rather secretive.

Kvernufoss can be located just round the corner from Skogafoss, here it is pinned on Google Maps.

Kvernufoss can be located just round the corner from Skogafoss, here it is pinned on Google Maps.

Also we have a few orders from clients including a print of Ogwen bridge which was originally wanted as an A2 - But the detail of the image is not that great as the camera used was a Nikon D2XS  and is over 11 years old, After a brief discussion we decided to look for alternate images, and settled on a waterfall from Iceland back in our January trip. Also since they are going with a nautical theme, they have also chosen an A3 of Pembroke lighthouse, my first attempt with a BIG STOP 10 stop for the smokey and smooth surface of the water.

Pembroke Lighthouse  - A great location for many landscape photographers who like rocky and craggy beach heads

Pembroke Lighthouse - A great location for many landscape photographers who like rocky and craggy beach heads

The setup of our gallery starts this weekend *after the Grand Prix*, so be sure to stop by to check out the new addition to The Craft Shack.

Shack Life

A brief update on all things Craft Shack : We have been approached for commission work for both photography and clothing fabrication amongst our first month in the Town Mill also, progress is being made upon the presentation of our stall, and the use of social media on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Being evermore the ambitious one, I've finally grabbed a copy of Adobe Premier Pro for the future Podcasting and productions done away and here in the store.


I'm being more aware now that the expression "Never enough hours in a day" is definitely true as I feel like I'm being pulled apart by time limits, and I hate our stall being unmanned with no face to recognise. Other items I should address sooner rather than later will be the one piece calendars and cards for our Christmas market - and time is vastly running shorter for that !! 

Good news though is most of my "to do list" is ready for printing which just leaves room for the xmas/greetings cards and the photo books...but more on them shortly when more progress is made. 

 

RAW - What is it good for ?

Most cameras now days have many bells and whistles on them - and after you've dropped around £800-£1200 for your first DSLR, you'd expect the massive booklet of instructions to help you decipher your camera controls which they often don't.
Most cameras of this price range will have RAW & JPEG capabilities that most of us have come to know, but how many of us do know exactly what a RAW file is - or the benefits of the superior quality.  

Well I'd like to think I know - So here is my  style short summation of the two types in question and please note that there are more points on each, but I'm sticking to what I feel might be the most important to know.
 

RAW files
                 - Not a image file of any type as such ( It is data which requires unique or special software to view )
                 - There is no loss of detail through compression **Unless your camera only allows compressed RAW
                 - Much higher dynamic range ( able to show shadow and highlight detail )
                 - Less contrast
                 - Requires software to process the image
                 - NOT suitable for immediate printing without post processing
                           
 

JPEG files
                  - Readable on any device and any system ( excallent for jounalists )
                  - Strip away any information or compress the image akin to MP3 conversions
                  - Relatively smaller file size than its RAW counterpart
                  - Instatnly web page or internet friendly and can be printed straight away
                  - Data in the image will be lost EVERY time the JPEG is edited in any software.

 

I was once a nightlife photographer and I always shot RAW, in fact the matter never came to my mind until one night a older gentleman started to try and talk me by the main door. He was waffling at me for around thirty minutes before asking to see what I'd taken "..why've you shot them in RAW ?!..Jpeg quality would be better for you I think young'n "  

This has been debated to the point where I've been blue in the face - How anyone can categorically say that they get the same quality with JPEG, and keep a straight face. The SOLE benefit being quicker to get to the printers for journalists during big sports events ? yes maybe - But just shoot RAW+Jpeg in that case. You'd get a perfect image for immediate publishing and a RAW file to process to your hearts content afterwards...win win surely

"I know what the issue could be - Memory Cards."

Don't get a good camera then buy a cheap and nasty SD/CF/XQD equivalent, get the proper job - and don't just get a 16GB either.  Compact flash cards can be a weak link in your camera set-up, like cheap hard drives they are prone to failure at times and some cheaper brands can't actually cope being at near capacity.

With Compact Flash or CF cards - Two of the most important things to look at are its size and write speed, the bigger the size the more you can store, the higher the write speed the quicker it'll...write. The write speed will be slower in most cases than the read speed but the likes of Sandisk or Lexar are closing that gap, but be sure to research the cards you fancy. Just because one may have a write speed of 95mb/s doesn't mean they can keep up with rapid shooting, this will be especially critical to wildlife and sports photographers who don't want to waste time worrying about having a card that can't keep up and then has to wait until its good to go again.

This image would be useless longterm if shot in Jpeg - Shooting RAW allows for processing whilst not destroying the original file or losing quality after every edit.

This image would be useless longterm if shot in Jpeg - Shooting RAW allows for processing whilst not destroying the original file or losing quality after every edit.

I just chalk it up to what you want to do with the resultant photo, for edits its RAW every time for me but for anything else like a quick happy snap or a scout of a location I do tend to use my phone camera...disgusting of me I know, but if I'm scouting I don't want my gear on my back.

I still support the notion the this is not a debate at all, and as I have said its purely circumstance to your needs and wants.

PLEASE NOTE : Merely my thoughts and clearly I don't speak for everyone...

The Mid Atlantic Ridge - Myvatn

If you like the really "Big stuff" and you're around Myvatn or South West Iceland - then you have to check out one of the only places you can see the Mid Atlantic Ridge.
 

North American plate and Eurasian plate are separating at a distance of around 2.5cm per year and is one of the only places where you can see it on land. 

North American plate and Eurasian plate are separating at a distance of around 2.5cm per year and is one of the only places where you can see it on land. 


"What is this ?"

The Mid Atlantic Ridge runs along the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, that wraps around the globe for more than 65,000 km - like the seams on a cricket ball or a baseball.
It is where both the North America and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, since this geological feature is rarely located on land - Iceland is a scientists paradise and a Landscape photographers dream. Numerous volcanic eruptions/activity at the boundary creates new ocean floor, whilst at the same time push the two tectonic plates apart at rates of 1 cm to 20 cm per year causing sea floor spread.

A few moments after stopping here the weather started to close in and turned the scene into a complete white out over the ridge - Both my dad and Malcolm sat on the tail gate of the car having an over coffee'd coffee...and I didn't. I grabbed the 27-70 mm and the D4 and made my way a few hundred yards to compose a view - Thankfully the black basalt rock provided a stark contrast and provided and excellent focus point.

It was a surprise how many drive past this tectonic boundary without so much as a glance, it makes me often wonder how much I myself have missed by simply not stopping to look..but not this time. I got up to my waist in a deep snow drift and whilst taking the image, I started to wonder if the exposure would be too great and I'd run the risk of getting a "Blinky storm" - due to the reflecting and refracting of sun light from the snow, but the overcast sky nullified any highlights to give me a near perfect histogram.

Iceland owes much of its green credentials to being on a geological hot zone, that supplies it with all kinds of volcanic activity, which is put to good use. Nearly 90% of Iceland's electricity is produced from green sources, much of it geothermal. Long before geothermal power plants were built, people in Iceland were simply employing the heat and hot water offered from hot springs for things like washing and baking – notably, baking the "hot spring bread" known as hverabrauð. 

Places such as this are truly unique and continues to make Iceland a fantastic tourist attraction and a Landscape photographers paradise - 
For those interested in where we stayed, we stopped at the Hotel Sel' Myvatn - Its a great hotel with friendly staff on call 24 hours for whatever you need.

Plus you can have a fantastic view of the Northern Lights on a clear night which cant fail to be a bonus !!

Námafjall and Hverir geothermal area

Many will tell you that this place was the only reason I actually bothered to go to Iceland in the first place. Personally I blame the Guru for showing it to me on google earth - as he knew it'd get my attention. Coming in from Myvatn the place can't be seen as you make your way down the road - you can't at first see the kind of place you'd expect "Smaug" to live or a martian landscape like Mars. The ground is cracked through from either fissures or subsidence and can be perilously thin - there is NO vegetation either making the landscape very baron.

At depths of 100meters the temperature in the Hverir mud pools is at around 200 degrees - It should be also noted that flying your Phantom drone or Parrot drone or whatever you have, Is a very stupid idea around here,  don't you know electronics and sulphuric acid don't go hand in hand at the best of times.

At depths of 100meters the temperature in the Hverir mud pools is at around 200 degrees - It should be also noted that flying your Phantom drone or Parrot drone or whatever you have, Is a very stupid idea around here, 
don't you know electronics and sulphuric acid don't go hand in hand at the best of times.

The mountain Námafjall is close to the volcano Krafla, and is located in the middle of a geothermal area which can prove difficult for photos from the fumaroles spewing out clouds of sulphurous gasses and the temperature condensing the vapour down. Due to the fragile nature of the ground near the fumaroles and mud pools, there is a real risk of falling through which would ruin your day and this results in perimeters being set up for safety......paah !
 
If you have been blessed with never having smelled rotten eggs then you are in for a treat here, You do get used to the smell after a few moments of "Oh Heck...Oh thats nasty!" - they do say its good for the immune system though so grab a lung full. Be sure to take a long walk around and take in this awesome place with its boiling mud pools to its boisterous and hot Fumaroles, the colours around the borders of the pools are outstandingly beautiful.

Looking up towards Namafjall and seeing it being clearer, common sense told me that in conditions such as this, that if the visibility is greater than the smell must be less potent. So I decided to go off up towards the mountain and could feel the vast heat radiating from the ground beneath me, as I got down low and crossed this fissure.

Through the years multiple fissures and various volcanic upthrust events have scarred the earth..looking up to Namafjall

Through the years multiple fissures and various volcanic upthrust events have scarred the earth..looking up to Namafjall

The history of this site is as amazing as it is striking to imagine - Between 1975 and 1984 there was a volcanic episode within the Krafla volcano including multiple volcanic eruptions and uplift and subsidence events. During these events a large magma chamber emerged and has been confirmed in 2006 during the inaugural IDDP ( Iceland Deep Drilling Project ) -  when sniffing around 2.1km the workers stumbled across a chamber of magma...best call it a day lads. 

It was the fumaroles that captivated me the most - These holes vent superheated sulphurous gasses from within the earths crust, so refrain from warming your hands on them at all times -
Watching them hypnotised me whilst I seemed to be attaching my lenses and filter system using the "force" in the midst of a sulphuric pea soup.

I was very disheartened by the amount of overall lack of visibility and hard challenge on compositions until I heard from a geology team that increase of activity is due, to the rise of the magma around 880 yards beneath me. Yes its true the Sulphur smell may bother some senses of smell but the midge flies can be more bothersome depending on your time of visit in the year, we went in late February early March and as memory serves I had little bother with any bugs - surprising consider the former factor wouldn't you agree ?


The area is relatively small and can be seen in around an hour, but with a camera you could spend a whole day easily. Even then throughout the weeks and months I guarantee you'd get a different image every time.

As this is a natural attraction, it’s not monitored and it’s open 24 hours a day but I'd suggest going around dinner time when the buses of people have long gone for tea and medals.....
Additionally I'd recommend going in the late summer to early Autumn time, as the ground was still covered in snow from a record flurry prior and during our stay.

It is a truly amazing place to visit and I highly recommend you stop off to experience the power of geothermal activity.

Iceland highlights part 1 - Dimmuborgir


Dimmuborgir is considered one of the most impressive sights of Northern Iceland. Located by Lake Mývatn, it is a lava field displaying unusual rock formations and caves. It is dramatic, to say the least. Icelandic folklore maintains Dimmuborgir is where earth connects with Hell, it is also said to be the place where Satan plummeted when he was thrown out from Heaven, and later created the Catacombs of Hell. The Basalt rock capped with snow in the winter months make the place look like a haunt for dark monks or other shadowy forces. 

The vast lava fields and unusual rock formations, earn its name "Dimmu - Dark ,and Borgir - Castle or fort". The area consists massive of ancient lava tubes from the large lava lake during the eruption of  Þrengslaborgir and Lúdentsborgir crater row to the East, about 2300 years ago. 

The collapsed crust from previous flows left towers or stacks, you can see a lava tube in the bottom left

The collapsed crust from previous flows left towers or stacks, you can see a lava tube in the bottom left

The formations from the lakes of lava, with a mighty Tefra crater lurking in the distance.

The formations from the lakes of lava, with a mighty Tefra crater lurking in the distance.

The view in the images above demonstrates the unusual lava formations caused by the lava flowing towards lower ground over many years, some of the old crust would break away leaving the strange looking stacks and towers. The geology of the place is incredible and the only other formation to my knowledge that carries resemblance is off the coast of Mexico and under the sea  

Pressure and viscosity changes can be seen in these rock formations - Even for a dunce like me this was really cool

Pressure and viscosity changes can be seen in these rock formations - Even for a dunce like me this was really cool

It is without a doubt a major attraction for tourists and photographers alike and it can be massively busy - There a three hiking paths to my memory also, which can take up to 3 hours to navigate around. There are around 3 different routes in this area have been marked with different colours, The “Little Circle” is the route closest to the parking area and takes some 10-15 minutes to walk. The “Big Circle” extends further into the area and takes about half an hour to complete. The “Church Circle” takes about one hour and all routes can be found in the leaflets at the tourist office or cafe there.

The harsh contrast can make the view disorientating and chaotic

The harsh contrast can make the view disorientating and chaotic

La Boutique - Whats the plan ?

  Around the start of the year I had the idea of opening a stand on the local market. Then went one step better and discussed setting up a more permanent stand inside our local emporium "La Boutique" for its atmosphere and unique stalls and products make it ideal. 

My friend Alison of Blueberry Designs and make up Is also a talented artist herself with added fabric/textile skills also, so we thought the best thing to do would be to open a store or stall out in town. After having a few words with a few stall holders in La Boutique we decided to make it a reality...signed the dotted line ;)

It is very early days and so the list of offers etc is not complete, such as Print buying and Print framing and requests, to Alison and her clothing range with her festival and handmade shirts etc.

We are choosing to keep our budget and offers relatively in check as the first six months can be crucial for market trending or financial upset  
**two words I hate - but bills gotta be paid right >?<

Minus the items on the table obviously...

Minus the items on the table obviously...

The above image is where our table will be - well lets be clear its a U table set up ;)...

It is on the ground floor and one of the first stalls any customer will see upon entering the room, so I am very happy with the location and not being at the back.

We have also created a YouTube channel for future videos and other antics with our work that I'd love to succeed and grow as we have both put a lot of time and effort, more importantly money into our stall project.

We are both very excited and cannot wait to get started

Iceland Trip 2017 : Northern Lights and Winter Landscapes

Highlights from our Iceland tour with Myself  - Andy Astbury & Mr Malcolm Stott

Our first night on our weeks voyage around Iceland was at the Northern Light Inn, a short drive from the airport in Keflavik where our friend Mr Malcolm collected us. We managed to check in and briefly unpack before setting off to hunt down some lights, we struck lucky around 20 minutes drive from our stay over. 

We found most tourists have no spacial awareness, they'll be driving down a road - see you and with full beams on, drive straight up to you whilst your trying to do a timed exposure. Its really not a crime what they do, but it can be really aggravating and tiring after multiple interruptions. As it can ruin a sequence that needs to be timed to the second, or the whole process goes to "pot", and for a guy who makes a living from it is agonising.

A few hours after we landed at Keflavik airport..

A few hours after we landed at Keflavik airport..

After a midnight return back from our time out, we met up early the next morning to begin our long trip up to Myvatn. Where every mile was paved with cinder cones and signs of biblical volcanic activity in the past, a geologists play ground to be sure.

At around 4 o'clock we arrived at Godafoss, our first location on the check list. Though not the biggest of the waterfalls by any means at only 12 metres roughly in height, it can be considered one of the most majestic. The place of much eventful light as the sun breaks through the spray and paints everything gold, whilst soaking your good self in freezing spray - You really get a taste of Iceland

Godafoss - "Waterfall of the Gods"

Godafoss - "Waterfall of the Gods"

We checked in to the Hotel Sel once we arrived in Myvatn and was once again treated to another fantastic light show. We spent what felt like hours happily sat in below freezing temperatures making the best of the situation, - Get the stars sharp...and bloody leave the focus alone.

The following morning after a breakfast with a great view we headed out to my fave which was Namafjell and Hverir. A thriving geothermal hot spring with a caldera around 800 yards beneath your feet. Due to its volcanic nature and the spectacle of seeing a glimpse of the huge pressures deep in our Earth, it is a popular tourist attraction - ...tourists....grrrrrr

- You could easily compare Hverir to one of seven circles of hell  - 

One thing you should be warned about is the air is filled with the smell of sulphur so expect a smelly visit should you be inclined. The fumaroles are fascinating as are violent billowing out superheated steam laced with sulphur, which produces sulphuric acid once it hits the surface. 

There are reports that the chamber of lava beneath Hverir is rising, which can explain the white out we had with activity there intensifying. Both myself and my dad were struggling to find clarity in this poisonous pea soap. 

Still watching americans fly their drones to their certain doom was fun, who thought piloting your drone into an acid bath would be a good idea eh ?!

Heading out of Myvatn we had to make a stop at the Mid Atlantic Ridge which where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates can be seen - Just.

The previous evenings vast snow fall had put yet another blanket of snow down where the horizon was almost seamless, it practically begged for me to grab a camera. So whilst my dad and our new friend and guide sat on the tail gate of the motor with a coffee, I got deep into the snow and rattled off around 130 frames or so as the light would change in seconds. 

The N-1 out of Myvatn early Friday morning&nbsp;

The N-1 out of Myvatn early Friday morning 

Our eleven hour drive south was not at all dull either - The light was amazing and alien like on the snow covered flat land and illuminating the early morning mist over the water of lake Myvatn. We also had lovely cross curved light caressing the snowdrifts whilst I took turns leaning out the car window with a D500 and a excellent 500mm PF, and despite the bumps and savage winds managed to capture some beautiful scenery.

The snowdrifts along the N-1 road out of Myvatn

The snowdrifts along the N-1 road out of Myvatn

One of the places I'd heard of but wasn't sure if it was a real place or a fairy tale was Dimmu Borgir - Haunting and beautiful with the Tefra crater in the distance. The crater was made by a rock the size of a small car, that was thrown out by a very angry mountain and impacted on wet soft sand and silt.

The black and pillow like "Basalt" rock is a frozen glimpse of the vast lava fields that would have made this place a very interesting sight.

We had stopped a few times along the coastal road to either let my dad snap away at a few panoramas whilst I broke out the No-Pro cameras, or to let Malcolm take a well earned breather. "We had to be there before sunset ok, thats just how it has to be for you two" He insisted as he hustled us back into the Toyota and took off like a legal bullet - Should be noted that the speed limit isn't autobahn fast... and for good reason, so should you get pulled or fined for speeding or of the like the fines will hurt.

The destination of the day that we all wanted was Skogafoss falls, and immense curtain of melt water straight from the Ice caps - We had some great ideas for angles and compositions.
We were disheartened when we saw three coach loads of tourists show up - Walking on sheet ice at least 4 inches think with no grips on their feet and babies strapped to their front.

They have the right rich i hear you say...NO, no they don't if they have no respect for the place.

Skogafoss has been used in the film "Prometheus"

Skogafoss has been used in the film "Prometheus"


The sky at the end of the day though was justice for Malcolm and his steely determination to get here in time, I'd never seen a marine sunset with such a vivid colour in the sky let alone go from salmon pink to scorching orange and yellows. We stayed out on the side of the road as more people rightly scrambled by the road sides to stop and get out to admire the views out towards the Westman Islands and Surtsey's.

Now I'm certainly no professional....but c'mon how can you NOT like that pano sunset !!  - Hand held at 1/25th of a second as a severe NO NO but given the circumstances I recall not having much choice.

We decided to skip the lights that night, as since tomorrow was our last day we wanted to focus on getting what needing packing and setting our bags for tomorrows final venture.

Just stand there Rick there's a good lad...

Just stand there Rick there's a good lad...

We made a quick stop off at Gunnuhver and was made to pose in a stinging acid bath for an atmospheric "man and nature" shot..things I do for the art and for my dad.

A drive to the sea stacks at Vic was one of our first planned stops along the way back towards the airport. With hours to fill our plan was to have a drive to the Sea Stacks at Reykjanesta -
where the impressive black sands are battered by the beastly winds and cliffs that bare the scars of a losing battle with the sea. 

The Sea Stacks not the black beaches of Reykjanesta on our final day.

The Sea Stacks not the black beaches of Reykjanesta on our final day.

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The last spot on out list was the opposite side of the cliffs a the sea stacks, a quick drive round and a jaunt over huge boulders and slippery Basalt that could cut you with ease - and we were at the very edge of our comfort zone. On the cliffs looking down it looked rather choppy and down where we were its was more so, the water stopping just inches from us. I filmed the location whilst passing lens wipes and fishing dropped adapter rings in the gaps of the boulders, the wind really punished the lenses with grit and water but amazingly nothing got too damaged to need repair.

 

All credit to my dad..

All credit to my dad..

I enjoyed the time spent in Iceland and would encourage anyone who like me is a fan of BIG stuff and landscapes to give it visit for at least a week.

Just by rounding things off I included this wee montage video from our time out