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.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a big fan of cars – new, old, fast, slow, big, or small.  I’ve a special fondness for the Mazda MX-5, and am now on my third one.  You can see it in the post Happy Birthday Little MX-5 and more MX-5’s photographed at last years in the post MX-5 Owners Club National Rally.

So when Mazda ran a competition for tickets for the Goodwood Festival of Speed I had to enter… and won!  This was made even better by Mazda being the main event sponsor and launching the new (mk4) MX-5 in the UK.

All of the major car manufacturers were there, as well as areas for racing and F1 cars, old classic cars, and of course the Goodwood hill climb.  On the day I went it was possible to get passenger rides in all sorts of cars up the hill climb.  But not for me.  It seems for most of them you needed to register beforehand.  A lesson for next time!  

It was an expensive day too.  As much as I was tempted, I didn’t buy a new car.  But trying to get photos correctly framed in between the crowds of people with a high quality prime lens made me realise I needed a better quality short range zoom lens.  So as a result of the day I ended up buying a new Olympus 12-40mm lens.  Future blogs will feature photos taken with that lens.

The Christening of Gregory

A couple of months ago I was invited to photograph the christening of a little chap called Gregory.

It was the first christening I’d been to, so wasn’t too sure what to expect.  Most of the photos were taken with the 25mm f1.8 prime lens to get as much out of the light as possible as the environment was quite dark.

For me, photographing events like this are not just about documenting the day but also capturing people’s emotions.  Sometimes this is best done from a distance with a long zoom lens so you’re not interrupting the goings on.