Canada 2015 – Niagara Falls

Over the last few weeks blogging has sadly taken second place to work.  A project I’m working on has taken me around the UK, giving me lots of opportunities to photograph some great places (photos coming soon!) but no time for anything else.  So for now a return to my series of photos from last years Canadian holiday with just ten photos from Niagara Falls.

I visited Niagara Falls on the last day of my holiday; hiring a car in Toronto and driving one-and-a-half hours around Lake Ontario to spend a couple of hours exploring this natural wonder, before driving back to Toronto’s Pearson Airport and flying back to England.

The falls themselves are simply amazing, the sheer size and the roar of the water is stunning.  I was hoping for clear blue skies but was confronted with a dull rainy day which doesn’t make for the best photos.

What I hadn’t realised before my visit is that the town of Niagara Falls is split in two by the Niagara River – one side in Canada and one in America.  I was on the Canadian side and didn’t have the time to get over to the American side – although checking the location (geotag) information on my photographs I can see that I did technically get into America without using my passport due to the country boarder running right down the middle of the river!

The Canadian side definitely gives better views of both the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls, but once you’re aboard a boat (Hornblower from the Canadian side, Maid of the Mist from the American side) you get the same experience.  

Before you board a boat from either side you get given a waterproof poncho to wear.  Obviously the falls produce a lot of mist, but I wasn’t prepared for just how close the boats go to the falling water!  Despite the poncho both me and my camera got soaked – luckily I could get changed after, and my Olympus EM-1 camera is weather proofed.

After my soaking I headed back into town and I went up the Skylon Tower to get photographs looking down on the falls.  The views from above didn’t disappoint, although they didn’t last for long as incoming rain obscured the view.  

I didn’t have time to explore much else of the town, although what I did see looked very touristy, almost resembling a tacky British seaside town with its endless gift shops and casinos.  But I’ll definitely return some time for a longer visit in the hope of getting better weather for daytime photographs and at some night-time ones too.

Oxford Instameet

Oxford has a very active Twitter community, and I’ve probably made more friends through Twitter than any other way since living in the area.  It won’t surprise you to learn that many of my Twitter friends are also photographers (I feel a Venn diagram coming on…), and naturally Instagram has a growing community in Oxford.

So when I heard fellow Instagramers Natasha (aka Candy Pop) and Rosie (aka Oxford Rosie) were organising an Instameet, meet up of Instagram folk, I just had to go along. 

I met up with Natash, Rosie, and lots of people I’d never met before at the Jam Factory.  After a coffee we set off and walked along the canal and into the Jericho part of town.  I saw lots of bits of Oxford I’d never seen before – doing this with a group of people makes you feel a lot safer when you’re walking around viewing the world through a lens.

Although Instagram is a mobile photography platform I decided to take my ‘proper’ camera to get the most out of the day.  So I packed my Olympus OMD E-M1 along with 12-40mm and 70-300mm lenses, knowing that I could use the wireless function on the camera to transfer photos to my phone for editing and uploading in the Instagram app.  

As Instagram photos are square (no, I don’t believe in the new-fangled non-square formats!) I set my camera to take photos in a 1×1 aspect ratio so that I was composing correctly.  For the photos of flowers, below, I used manual focussing with the focus peaking function to get the focus and depth of field correct.

My ten photos from the day are below, and if you’d like to follow me on Instagram you can here.  

If you’d like to see the photos others took, search for the hashtag #oxfordinstameet or look up @shotatanangle@candypop.uk@ibasicallytravel@jazza@charis.magick@annamundayox@independentoxford@kinshipofoxford@benm.photo@igersoxford@makingforliving@byvanessaleigh@bazmund@gemblina@lifesasneeze.

Bye-bye MX-5

After four years together it’s time for me and my 21 year old Mazda MX-5 to part company.  As I was preparing to advertise the car it occurred to me that I’d never got around to do a proper photo shoot… so in a brief break from the April showers I headed out, camera in hand.

This is my third MX-5.  Previously I had a 2005 mk2.5, and before that a 1999 mk2 version.  I love that MX-5’s are fun to drive, sporty, stylish, and have legendary reliability.  My next will be a rare green mk3.5 Sporting Black edition, hopefully.

Once I got into MX-5 ownership and the enthusiastic community of the MX-5 Owners Club I knew that one day I’d have to have a mk1 with pop up headlights.  The most popular colour for that age of MX-5 is red, but I wanted white as something a bit different.

This MX-5 may be old, but with a mere 64,000 miles on the clock and having grown up in Japan before being brought to the UK, she has no rust and is in great condition.  She also appears in a post about the new MX-5 and a post to celebrate her 60,000 mile ‘birthday’!

In photography terms it’s one of the few blogs filled with photos using just my Olympus 25mm f1.8 prime lens.  A couple of features of my Olympus OMD E-M1 camera came in really handy… The flip-out screen meant I could get the camera down load and use live view to frame the shot.  And by mounting the camera on a monopod and raising the camera five feet above my head I could use the wifi function with the mobile phone app to live view, frame, and shoot photos from high up.

After four years together it’s time for me and my 21 year old Mazda MX-5 to part company.  As I was preparing to advertise the car it occurred to me that I’d never got around to do a proper photo shoot… so in a brief break from the April showers I headed out, camera in hand.

This is my third MX-5.  Previously I had a 2005 mk2.5, and before that a 1999 mk2 version.  I love that MX-5’s are fun to drive, sporty, stylish, and have legendary reliability.  My next will be a rare green mk3.5 Sporting Black edition, hopefully.

Once I got into MX-5 ownership and the enthusiastic community of the MX-5 Owners Club I knew that one day I’d have to have a mk1 with pop up headlights.  The most popular colour for that age of MX-5 is red, but I wanted white as something a bit different.

This MX-5 may be old, but with a mere 64,000 miles on the clock and having grown up in Japan before being brought to the UK, she has no rust and is in great condition.  She also appears in a post about the new MX-5 and a post to celebrate her 60,000 mile ‘birthday’!

In photography terms it’s one of the few blogs filled with photos using just my Olympus 25mm f1.8 prime lens.  A couple of features of my Olympus OMD E-M1 camera came in really handy… The flip-out screen meant I could get the camera down load and use live view to frame the shot.  And by mounting the camera on a monopod and raising the camera five feet above my head I could use the wifi function with the mobile phone app to live view, frame, and shoot photos from high up.

A Chilly Day at Cotswold Wildlife Park

The day after visiting Westonbirt Arboretum (see blog post and photos here) I popped along to Cotswold Wildlife Park.  The weather was much chillier than the previous day and it was interesting to see how the animals outside were coping with the weather.  Some seemed to try hibernation and just slept, and others seemed to be active to keep warm.

The red pandas were particularly active.  So much so that they’ll get their very own blog post as I had so many photos of them.  Keep an eye out for that post coming soon!

For animals who were behind glass my Lens Skirt came into its own.  It really helped to cut out the reflections from the glass and get clear shots.  In the monkey enclosure the monkeys seemed intrigued by the Lens Skirt and came right up to the glass to take a look.  Unfortunately they were too close for the lens I was using at the time.

For this visit I was using my backup camera body, an Olympus E-PL3, with my normal lenses.  I’m very pleased with the photos I got from this body, and it goes to show much of the quality comes from the lens you use rather than the body.  The two drawbacks for me were the lack of viewfinder (using just the camera screen was quite awkward at times) and the body was too small to get a good grip of.  

The reason I had to use a backup body was that my Olympus OMD E-M1 and shiny new 25mm f1.8 lens were off for repair – the body was suffering from intermittent shutter lockups since fitting the new lens.  This was really annoying as it happened on a weekend away and left me with very few photos.  Luckily the E-M1 came with a Service Plus warranty and when I called about the issues I was having, Olympus picked up the camera and lens, zoomed it to Portugal for repair, and a few days later it was back in working order.  Great service!

Didcot Power Station Blow Down

In the early hours of 27th July 2014 the cooling towers of Didcot A Power Station were ‘blown down’.

The coal fired power station was built between 1965 and 1974 in Didcot, Oxfordshire.  Due to legislation around coal fired power stations, Didcot A was closed on 22 March 2013 and decommissioning began.  Although some hated the ‘blot on the landscape’ many grew to love the iconic shapes and even more used it as a homing beacon, a familiar sight that meant they were almost home.

Part of the decommissioning process was to demolish, or blow down, the cooling towers.  The site owners set this for 0300-0500 to ensure nearby railway lines and major roads weren’t put in danger.  This timing angered many locals who wanted to be part of this event, but when the time came thousands of people turned out to watch anyway.  The hashtag #DidcotDemolition become the number two Twitter trend in the UK, and the demolition made front page news.

I headed to a viewpoint to photograph the blow down with friends.  Standing in a dark field at 0300 with a hundred or more others was an odd experience, and soon came the news on the local radio that the blow down would be at around 0500.  Although this meant a lot of waiting around it meant there was some daylight when the explosives went off at 0501.

The photos below were taken with my Olympus OMD E-M1 camera.  Considering the low light conditions and misty morning conditions, they’re not too bad.  The camera was set to a special time lapse mode, where the camera took a series of photos (one a second).  These photos can be processed individually, as below, or in a time lapse movie.  

In a first for Just 10 Photos you can see time lapse movies made from photographs… the photos below are in a time lapse at:

http://youtu.be/CDaTNTNatuU (don’t forget to play the HD version!)

And another time lapse movie (made using the Time Lapse Pro app on a Samsung Galaxy Camera) which condenses two hours into a minute-and-a-half.  The movie is at:

http://youtu.be/MIRsEhZDhwg (don’t forget to play the HD version!)