I just taught a series of photography workshops at the Kenmore Camera Show just outside of Seattle. The show is the largest photography show on the West Coast of the USA and it was great to teach so many enthusiastic people on how to improve both their landscape and macro photography. Many thanks to Manfrotto for sponsoering my workshops!
Pigeon Point is the largest lighthouse on the West Coast of the US. The lighthouse gets its name after the ship Carrier Pigeon which wrecked here in 1853 on its journey from Boston to San Francisco and is still fully operational. It has been guiding ships up and down the rugged California coastline since 1871 and emits a distinguishable bright white light every ten seconds.
I have been waiting for the right time to photograph the lighthouse and with clear skies and a full moon this weekend I took the drive out there along Highway 1. With perfect conditions and very little wind, I spent a couple of hours watching the sun going down, the stars come out and whilst standing and chatting to some stargazers captured some of my favorite photos in a while.
My thoughts have been with all of those affected by Irma and Harvey and I feel very lucky to currently be blessed with almost constant great weather and Californian blue skies (especially being a London native!)
However, last night we had our own dose of weird and wonderful weather as an electrical storm passed through San Francisco. I quickly got to the best vantage point I knew for blue hour, making sure I had as much of the city skyline and the new Salesforce tower (soon to be the tallest skyscrape in the city) in frame and managed to catch this bolt of lightning flash across the sky.
I really like how this photo evokes the energy and vibrancy of such a fast moving and innovative city.
I partnered with Manfrotto and BID (one of the UKs biggest charities to help the deaf community) to create the Picture of Life programme which was designed to help young deaf people who had experienced difficult situations and social exclusions. We wanted to use the power of photography to help participants learn a new skill set, improve their confidence and help get them into the workplace. I have taught many workshops but creating ones for the deaf community I thought would create some challenges. Notably, how I would be able to communicate concepts and theories and get the participants to really engage and enjoy photography. However, with the help of two fantastic signers (It's amazing how quickly these guys can interpret what you say), communication barriers were quickly broken.
Indeed, the project has far exceeded our expectations and an exhibition of photography work created by the deaf talented participants has just launched in central Birmingham showing the exceptional work that they managed to produced. The exhibition will also show behind the scenes images to give some insight into the project, and the participants will be available to discuss their experience and answer any questions on the night. The project is one of the most rewarding I have done in my career and it was amazing to see how photography has the power to quite literally change lives.
Below is a short video about the project that also shows some of the phenomenal photo results taken by participants as a result of he workshops. You have to bear in mind that when they started the course with very little confidence and marginilized from workplaces (ridiculous given that they are normal, people just like you and I), no one in the group knew how to hold a camera, put a battery in or insert a memory card. However, by the conclusion of the course, they were all taking professional quality results as well as blossoming as people and personalities in terms of their confidence; incredibly rewarding for myself as an educator and teacher.
Below are also some of the press releases from the exhibition along with some behind the scenes images from in studio and on location around Birmingham:
Whilst teaching a photography workshop along the Thames in London last weekend at sunset, I was emphasising the need to always be prepared as a photographer as you never want to miss a moment. As I was explaining this we stumbled across a guy using a slingshot type machine to blow huge bubbles right by Millenium bridge. This was a great opportunity to create something fun, colourful and artistic using the iconic St Pauls Cathedral as a backdrop. After firing off quite a few frames below was my favourite...
We also had time to turn around and capture people scurrying across the bridge as the sun set behind the bridge silhouetting them against a gorgeous sky. The beauty of photography is wherever you are, It's amazing what opportunities can present themselves...you just have to be ready to take advantage of them. Happy Snapping!!
I'm always scoping out good spots for shooting when visiting new cities and have been doing a lot of reading on the best spot in San Francisco to get a great cityscape photograph. I'd shot from Baker Beach, the Marin headlands and this shot from the Oakland Hills in the East Bay but wanted something that showed more of the downtown area and the bay in its entirety.
I had gone backwards and forwards over the Bay Bridge a number of times passing Treasure Island but, had never thought to stop there as had always been in a rush to get to the East Bay or back to the City. The artificial island was originally a military base and only has a tiny exit off the I80 freeway when crossing the bridge - it's very easy to miss!! Here's a screeenshot so you you locate it - the grey pin is where I eventually ended up standing to shoot a panorama:
However, I cannot recommend visiting the Island highly enough. It offers spectacular views back onto the city spanning all the way from the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Downtown and the Bay Bridge - you can literally see everything! Unlike many scenic spots similar in other cities I've visited, at Treasure Island it's easy to park right at the sea front and seemed relatively safe. I was able to wander up and down the shoreline with my tripod, unobstructed and not bothered by any pesky security guards.
I arrived about half an hour before sunset and captured a few frames as the sun spectacularly went down behind the Golden Gate Bridge. However, what I really wanted to capture was 'blue hour' - that magical time about twenty minutes after the sun sets; by far and away my favourite time to shoot a city - as the lights begin to come on, illuminating the city and creating a great contrast. Below is a 12 stitch photo panoramic I created which shows a view stretching from the Bay Bridge, across the Financial District and includes The Ferry Building and Coit Tower.
With San Francisco's constantly changing weather conditions, I would encourage multiple trips as everytime you visit, you will get a different set of shots. This really is a hidden treasure!
I have been blown away by the quality of light in California on my trip here. Yesterday, I took a short trip out of San Francisco to Ocean Beach and spent a hours just observing people wandering along the beach as beautiful light refracted, reflected and bounced off the ocean casting all kinds of shadows and interesting shapes and lines.
These three images were some of the favorite that I shot with the figures showing the scale of the beach and the ocean; this is especially noticeable in the photograph of a sole man wading in the Pacific (the middle one) which is perhaps favorites . Black and white conversion helped accentuate the strong highlights and shadows and really bring out the dynamic range in these images; I just can't get enough of those rich, velvety blacks.
I've had a lot of fun the last few months experimenting with Manfrotto's new lens filter suite which works with the Xume system. Essentially, the system means that you can attach filters to your lenses much faster and more efficiently using magnets rather than having to waste time screwing them on, risking breakages or damaging equipment as with conventional systems. Take a look at this video I made below:
Here's an article I also wrote explaining a little bit more in depth on the system and how it can be used practically in the field to help you take better photos and not miss that perfect shot...just click on the photo below!
What better a way to start a trip to California than by photographing this iconic landmark at twilight from the Marin headlands...