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Posts from the ‘photography’ Category

Poplar and mistletoe

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poplar and mistletoe in Normandy, France
poplar and mistletoe in Normandy, France

poplar and mistletoe in Normandy, France. Lumix GX7, 7mm, f5.6, 1/200sec, ISO125.

I escaped to France last week during the hiatus of the launch of The New Sylva – appropriately enough losing myself among the bocage and marais in Normandy.

There, Spring was well advanced yet the mornings full of misty promise. I stayed with my family in the very beautiful Parc naturel régional des Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin (read more). I was amazed by the amount of mistletoe present on the trees among the hedgerows and marshes, which grew on nearly all tree species. Its favourite host appeared to be poplar.

I waited in the cold with my camera early one morning until the mist just accentuated the amazing growths of mistletoe on this poplar tree, while the top of the tree itself was lost in the low mist. There, down on the lowest part of the marais (marsh), skylark and moorhen accompanied me to the waking of a new dawn.

See more of my black & white photography

Gabriel Hemery

Trees at night

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Startrail over tree clump

I’ve been enjoying some experimentation with night photography, focussing on my usual subjects of trees. The techniques are new to me and I’ve got lots to learn but nevertheless, I’m pleased enough with progress to share a few recent shots with readers.

Essential equipment for night photography is a camera that allows some creative control over images. Many compact cameras include night sky settings and these can work well. For more creativity however, a camera that allows you set shutter speed, aperture and film sensitivity is preferred. This usually means a DSLR or a micro four thirds (MFT) camera, such as the one I use. A tripod is essential to hold the camera still for long exposures. A shutter release cable or remote control will allow you avoid camera shake when you take the pictures. Most importantly a fully-charged battery and empty memory card are essential pre-trip checks. Make sure you wrap up warm and take a couple of torches: one for seeing where you’re walking, and a tiny penlight to help you see the camera settings.

Part of the fun of night photography is the technical uncertainty in terms of what works and doesn’t. Generally an ISO of 200-800 works best. Any greater then there will be too much noise or pixelation visible in the image, and it will also be smaller in pixel dimensions (meaning you can’t enlarge it quite so much on your wall!). A large aperture will allow as much light to enter the camera as possible, and this is where ‘fast’ lenses come into their own. Any lens with f2.0 or less is a great boon to night photography. It is the subject of shutter speeds where things get more complicated, as the results vary with focal length. If you want to capture stars as single points of light rather than dashes, usually an exposure of about ten seconds or less is necessary. The greater the focal length of a lens the more the star will move during the exposure – e.g. the star will move more with a 400mm than a 200mm lens. Before any reader feels tempted to correct me, note that the star doesn’t move but the Earth does, but it’s easier to envisage the former! A last note on shutter speeds: stars nearest the North Star (Polaris) in the northern hemisphere will ‘move’ less across the frame less than those further away. Finally, turn off autofocus – if the moon is present or a distant lit object, focus manually on it before turning your attention to the nightsky.

Allow your imagination to run free and you are likely to come up with some unusual and stunning images. Even travelling to your chosen destination for the shoot offers possibilities.

Driving to a night photography shoot - self portrait. Tree avenue and moon shadows.

Driving to a night photography shoot – self portrait. I especially like the moon shadows of the trees in the avenue whispering across the country lane. Lumix DMC-X7, 20mm, 30sec, f1.7, ISO200. Three separate images stacked in Photoshop: one exposed for the nightsky, one for the car tail lights, one for some subtle foreground light.

For photographing stars a moon-free night is best as the stars will be clearer. Clouds can also spoil plans although sometimes light wispy clouds scudding across a long-exposed image can add dramatic effects. The best locations are those well away from light pollution. Luckily for the tree photographer, many forests offer some of the best locations. Even close to towns and cities, shooting nightskies within a woodland can reduce some light pollution from low on the horizon. In December last year, 1500 km2 of Northumberland, including Kielder Forest, was designed a Dark Sky Park (see below), offering ideal conditions for night photography in the natural environment.

Beech trees and nightsky

Beech trees and nightsky. Lumix DMC-GX7, 20mm, 25sec, f1.7, ISO125. Cropped from 4:3 to 1:1 in post-processing.

I explained above that exposures longer than about 10-15 seconds result in dashes for stars, rather than single points of light. You can see this effect in the 25sec exposure in the image of the Beech trees and nightsky (click to enlarge). If you wish to exploit this for dramatic effect you can leave the shutter open for long periods, even several hours, to create star trails. An alternative is to take many separate images and stack these together to form a single image. If each image is taken quickly enough following the previous image, then it has the same effect as a long exposure but without some of its disadvantages. For instance, a long exposure could be ruined by a low-flying aircraft, car headlights from a nearby road, or worse still, if your battery dies before the shot is complete the image will not be shared. This is an artform in its own right and one that I’m only just beginning to enjoy. I will save a fuller explanation for another time, perhaps when I have more experience.

Beech tree clump and startrail

Beech tree clump and startrail. Made from 400 stacked images, each one: Lumix DMC-GX7, 20mm, 10 secs, f1.7, ISO200. Stacked using StarStax (see below). Notice the trails from a few high altitude planes heading for Heathrow.

There are many inspiring example of night photography available with a simple Google search, and I’ve lots to learn still. I’d love to hear from you if you’re an avid night photographer, and feel free to critique my images.

More of my tree photography and images can be found at www.theTreePhotographer.com


Further reading

International Dark-sky Association

Northumberland Dark Sky Park

StarStax – free software to stack images to create star trails

A new dawn – a new year

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A new dawn - a new year
A new dawn - a new year

A new dawn – a new year. Lumix GX7, 300mm, f8, 1/8000sec, ISO125.

Wishing all my readers a happy and fruitful 2014.

New Year’s day was pretty grey and miserable in rural Oxfordshire. The forecast for this morning however was good, so I woke at dawn and visited a nearby landmark. Having planned beforehand using the Photographer’s Ephemeris, I headed straight to a predetermined location where I knew that the sun would rise directly above a prominent stand of beech trees. This image is one of a number taken in landscape and portrait as the sun rose.

You can see more of my photography at www.thetreephotographer.com

Trees in the Pyrenees

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Pine trees on the slopes of M. Canigou, Pyrénées-Orientales

Regular readers will know that I’ve been distracted by deadlines for completing the writing of The New Sylva. The book is almost ready to go to the printers and for the first time in over a year I’ve had some time to do something else with my time over the weekend. I’ve started to look through some of the images that I’ve taken recently. These are some shots I took while on holiday in France earlier this year.

One of the benefits of the micro four thirds format is that you can carry a camera and several lenses during a 23 hour hike, climbing and descending over 2000m in altitude! The area around M. Canigou in the Pyrénées-Orientales is truly beautiful at any time of year; a haven for wildlife, wonderful walking and breathtaking views.

Gabriel Hemery

Christmas message

December 23, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

Caledonian pine and winter sun

Caledonian pine and winter sun

Wishing all my readers a peaceful Christmas and a fruitful New Year

Gabriel Hemery


See more from this photo series on The Tree Photographer

Winter solstice treescape

December 22, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

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