In June's issue of CAR Magazine, a Cobalt Blue Aston Martin DB9 joined the fleet of long termers. I challenge anyone to think of a better way of welcoming a car than heading to the hills of North Wales:
Collecting the car from Aston Martin's factory in Gaydon, the production line filled was with a plethora of expensive metal. Not to mention this menacing Vanquish which sat in the final inspection bay:
Will the 2013 Audi S3 make it into the hot-hatch hall of fame? The 300bhp Quattro packs enough punch to keep up with a 911, how will it fare against the Fiesta ST or Renault Clio? Pick up Issue 611 to find out. Photographed on location in Munich:
Ben Oliver gives us seven reasons why we love the Caterham 7, as the iconic car turns 40. Great to photograph in this lurid colour:
Lastly, in between shooting for CAR Magazine i've been back in the studio, shooting various marques for Studio434. One car in particular stood out, the Ferrari 512BB (Berlinetta Boxer) and it's 12 cylinder engine:
Acclaimed as one of Europe's most valued attractions, the Keukenhof is unique in providing worldwide visitors with a vast display of 7 million flower bulbs each year. More than 44 million people have visited the park in the last 60 years and apparently holds claim to being the most photographed place in the world.
Keukenhof translates as Kitchen Garden, stemming from the 15th Century where the land was used for hunting and gathering herbs.
Having seen many idyllic images of the intricacy which makes the Keukenhof so unique, we jetted out in the early hours of Sunday from Heathrow. At this point, I might add that I was shooting a wedding in Dorset the night before, and as such arrived at the terminal running on adrenaline and caffeine after just three hours sleep.
Conditions were less than perfect, as grey overcast clouds and spits of rain seemed to be the theme for the two days we were staying in Holland. Not to be deterred, we spent two full days walking the Keukenhof and their 10 miles of footpath.
To our luck, a 'Bird of Prey' display was taking place on the days we were visiting. Fascinated by the nature of birds and their sheer beauty, we stood patiently in the rain whilst these magnificent creatures soared about the grounds. I lied, we actually knew about the show and as such I packed my 70-200 F2.8 IS L and 2x Extender to make the most of this opportunity. Love this next shot of the Bald Eagle as rain falls from its beak...
With the weather taking a turn for the worse, we turned our attention in trying to capture a different look on the flowers at Keukenhof. Hannah recently purchased a Canon 100mm F2.8 IS L Macro lens and it really came into it's own. Close focusing distance, incredible 4-stop image stabilising system and being tack sharp open wide, it shot this almost 'fine art' image of a rose bud at 1/10th and F2.8
Rainfall really brought out the scent in the flowers, and despite the wet weather we had a fantastic time. The precision in which these flowers are grown, and the colour combinations really make it a visual feast.
In summary, the Keukenhof is a great place to visit. Being a short flight from the UK (about an hour) it makes an ideal weekend break and I can certainly see ourselves returning in the future. One thing I can highly recommend is the waffles, you can't beat waffles. To finish up heres a few more images from the weekend away...
Who'd of thought that a salt marsh in Lincolnshire close to North Somercotes, regularly being used by the Royal Air Force as a bombing practice ground would be home to over 3,500 grey seals each year?
Between the months of November and December, the Donna Nook Nature Reserve becomes one of the largest breeding colonies of grey seals. Containing nearly 39% of the world's population of grey seals, over 1,000 pups are born annually. The seals are attracted to Donna Nook because of the food, space and safety it provides.
Unsurprisingly, this spectacle attracts visitors from all across the UK. Hannah and I embarked on the 7 hour return journey, covering nearly 300 miles in one day to enjoy this magnificent natural event.
Being in such close proximity to the seals, it's important to remember and respect that these are wild animals. It's enthralling to watch and capture the natural behaviour between Britain's biggest land mammal, as the bulls (males) fight for territory and cows (females) feed and protect their young.
Although a telephoto lens is desirable, it isn't necessary with the seals being very close by. A monopod comes in handy, and there are plenty of places to photograph from. A truly natural and wonderful sight to behold, Hannah and I are already looking forward to our next visit to these adorable creatures.
For more information on Donna Nook and the grey seals check out the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust website, or leave me a comment/question below :)
The above images are a brief selection of what Hannah and I took on the day, a full gallery will be available shortly.
Every year Hitchin Lavender open up their field to visitors from all around the country. Hitchin, once known for being one of the major Lavender growing areas in the Country grows five varieties of Lavender; Hidcote, Blue Ice, Rosea, Sawyers and Edelweiss. The fragrant shrub provides a mass of vibrant colour in the landscape and is a dream to photograph for anyone. Although spontaneity and the ability to adapt to your surroundings is crucial in photography, I can often visualise a photograph before I've taken it. It's for this reason that I dragged my better half out of bed to accompany me on this 4:30am sunrise shoot. The thought of a low lying mist through the lavender lit by a golden sun had me excited (much to Hannah's dismay :))
I've mentioned in previous posts that planning is crucial, and numerous checks to the Met Office were carried out to ensure we wouldn't be met by torrential rain (can't leave anything to chance in England). Conditions were looking good with clear skies and 89% humidity forecasted. Mist should begin to form at 90% so I had my fingers crossed for the photograph I wanted to create. The Photographers Ephemeris iPhone app allowed us to pinpoint the exact direction of the sunrise leaving nothing to chance. Now, onto the result....
As you can see, that's alot of mist and not much of a sunrise. Overnight changes in the forecast meant it was now 97% humidity and at 5:19am when the sun should of bathed us in a golden glow we were left with a cold misty scene. Not to be deterred, we carried on photographing the gorgeous view that we were left with. Turns out, the mist produced a stunning landscape shot as the colour of the lavender was reflected in the sky.
Here's a picture of myself in the Lavender Field, picture courtesy of the wonderful Hannah Couzens. We have plans to return shortly and have another go at the sunrise, but for now i'll be catching up on my sleep! If your interested in visiting or reading more about Hitchin Lavender, please feel free to visit their website by clicking this link. We'd both like to say a huge thank you to Hitchin Lavender for their hospitality and giving us the chance to photograph the landscape.
The magnificent Sherborne Abbey dates back to 705 when it was originally a Saxon Cathedral. Having grown up in Dorset I really wanted to show Hannah what this beautiful Abbey had to offer. The weekend just gone found us visiting my parents, as James and I were photographing a gorgeous wedding in Somerset (more to come of that on our wedding blog later). Knowing that Han and I had a band shoot to conduct later that Monday evening, we decided we would visit the Abbey before journeying back to Hertfordshire.
Han has recently found her first Pentax K1000 35mm Film SLR, which is fantastic as she is going to put it to the test and relive where her passion all started (can't wait to see the outcome of this, and i'm sure if you keep an eye on her blog you'll see some results soon). With that said, the decor and architecture that Sherborne has to offer is a great subject for any camera, so off we headed.
On a somewhat overcast and windy day the intention was to focus (excuse the pun) on the interior of the Abbey. Over the years of living away I had forgotten just how stunning the inside of the Abbey was, and quite happily stood in awe of it's beauty.
It's all about being in the right place, at the right time and what happens next is testimony to that. The Head Verger of Sherborne Abbey approached us saying we both looked like keen photographers, and after a brief conversation of why we visiting he offered us a fantastic chance to head up the bell tower and onto the roof of Sherborne Abbey. That's an offer no one can refuse, and before he could finish his sentence me and Han had already agreed to do so.
Through the narrow door, up the windiest and tightest (I'm 6ft2 don't you know?!) of staircases we climbed out of the hatch (right picture) on top of Sherborne Abbey to witness the magnificent view across the town. So thrilled to be up there, we spent around 20 minutes being blown back and forth by gusts of winds as the Sherborne Abbey bells rang out.
The above photograph is a panoramic stitch of 7 images just showing you how overcast, but also how great the view was. Shame about the weather, but never the less an unforgettable experience and one that we cannot thank the Head Verger enough for letting us do so. On the way back down from the roof I paused to get a quick shot of the bells:
We never took these photographs with the intention of blogging them, but it was an experience we wanted to share. If your in Dorset or plan on visiting sometime soon, Sherborne Abbey is a must-see. From it's intricate details on the ceiling to the reddened stone under the Tower caused by a fire during a riot in the 15th century, it all adds up to make it breathtaking.
On a photographic note, these images just go to show the capabilities of handling high ISO on the 5D MarkII. All images used in this blog post (except the panoramic) are taken between ISO2000-6400 using shutter speeds as slow as 1/20th handheld!
The visit to Sherborne Abbey has inspired me to take on a personal project. Seeing as James and I grew up in and around Sherborne, we're going to embark on producing a photographic book of the area. Looking forward to working on this over the year.
You join us on part two of the holiday, making our way down from the Madikwe Game Reserve at Derdepoort to Johannesburg Airport in our shaken rattled and rolled (well, not actually rolled) hire car.
Jo'burg Airport was somewhat an interesting experience, with a few locals trying to con us at the check-in desk. Under the watchful eye of the airport security they let it happen only to tell us afterwards we should be more careful...An interesting take on things.
Catching a flight on South African Airways from Jo’burg down to Cape Town was swift and the aeroplane had something which I think every flight should...cameras on the tail of the aircraft!
Stepping off the air-conditioned jet in glorious 30°C+ heat felt good, the second leg of our holiday had officially begun. It felt a bit surreal being driven from the airport into the city, passing settlements constructed purely of mud walls and tin roofs, only to be shadowed by luxurious houses a few hundred metres down the road. Extremely contrasting!
Arriving at our waterfront apartment, Cape Town is truly a breath-taking place. Behind us we have the famous Table Mountain, somewhere that we had decided we would have to visit before even leaving England. Across the port there's a plethora of cocktail bars (which, Hannah and I both found ourselves in 5 minutes after arriving), markets, restaurants, live entertainment and shops.
We had four days to spend here, and honestly...we managed to fit an immense amount in! Day 1 was spent in and around Cape Town, visiting the Victoria and Albert waterfront to see what’s what. It was Hannah’s mum’s birthday during this holiday, so meals out and alcohol wasn't in short supply. Thanks to this we got to sample the fantastic South African cuisine.
If your visiting Cape Town, one place you have to visit is Robben Island. We found ourselves there on the second day, travelling across misty waters to dock in a bay inundated with cormorants. Incase it wasn't eery enough travelling through cold mist to visit a prison, arriving to the mass of birds circling the ferry certainly added that to the trip.
It seems a little odd writing that the prison is a must visit, one where Mandella and Robert Sobuku wrongly spent so much time there but the island is now turned into a living piece of history where former in-mates donate their time to personally take you around, sharing intimate stories of their experience there. Truly special to hear such stories, all of which are truly eye opening. The below picture is two of the actual prison itself and it doesn't take much to imagine how awful life must of been for the habitants of Robben Island.
Day 3 saw us hopping on the Red Route bus tour, sampling the delights of Table Mountain and Camps bay. We both highly recommend the bus tour, as it's a fantastic way to get around the area, seeing all the sights it has to offer.
The initial idea was to ascend Table Mountain in the evening, capturing Cape Town at dusk in golden light. Unfortunately, unbeknown to us the cable cars stop running during the evening, and we didn’t fancy missing the last and having to face the 20kilometre trek down! That in mind, we went up in the afternoon despite seeing the clouds rolling over the edge and risking what could be a somewhat hindered view. We are both SO glad that we made the choice to go up whilst it was still relatively cloudy, as being able to experience walking through clouds, still having a fantastic view over all of Cape Town and Camps Bay (other side of the Mountain) was truly unforgettable. We have some 5D2 HD movie footage which we are still to look through, but I can assure you that walking through the clouds is unreal. As you walk through the clouds you're damp and cold, yet when they pass you're warm and dry in the South African sun all at a dizzying 1 kilometre above sea level:
On our way back round from Table Mountain we hopped off at Camp’s Bay. Apparently it's a haven for Celebrities, and it’s easy to see why as it's the most gorgeous beach and backdrop I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Straight out of camera, this image clearly shows why:
Hours past here just lying on the rocks, eating ice cream and stopping for refreshments in the local bar. Someday we’ll have to return to this spectacular place! Credit goes to Hannah for this picture, as she heroically took the picture whilst balancing on top of the moving tour bus (oh her head and that lamp post was so close... ;-))
Day 4 and we’re off to hire another car and visit Simon’s Town/Boulders Beach, famous for it’s African penguins. Now your probably thinking what I was thinking…South Africa…Penguins?! These little flipper birds love the sun, and in between sunbathing on the sand they enjoy walking and surfing! I’m a lover of penguins, so could of happily spent hours here.
On the way back from Simon’s Town we ventured down to South Africa’s southern tip, the Cape Peninsula. At Cape Point, avoiding the mischievous Baboons we got to see the point where two oceans meet. I’m not sure any picture or video will be able to explain how extreme the winds were here. With Hannah’s sunglasses swept from her head, she also managed to break a sandal which made things interesting on the walk back. It was then onto the Cape of Good Hope:
It was time to head back up to our apartment, but not before we stopped off at what was arguably my favourite part of Cape Town….The Vineyards! Groots Constantia Vineyard is a fantastic place, and the best 300 Rand (£2.80) I have ever spent. For this, you get to sample 5 wines of your choice. The heat, and generous samples soon go to your head as Hannah’s parents will testify but once you are finished you get to keep the glass, bargain! Again, if we ever head back to South Africa this is one place I’m visiting again (to explore more of the vineyards of course!). The below photograph is an HDR image, 3 exposures merged together to capture a greater dynamic/tonal range:
Day 5 was one of packing, visting the local markets and picking up some gifts to take home. We arrived in South Africa with 4 suitcases between Hannah and myself, packed to the brim with camera gear and clothing. Not sure how, but with careful repacking we managed to bring back some great items which now stand proudly in our home.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the photographs posted so far, you can find plenty more by clicking this link.
For now, Totsiens (African for Goodbye).
Eleven hours and six thousand miles later on one of Richard Branson's finest we find ourself in Johannesburg, South Africa for the holiday of a life time.
This is where our epic journey begins, and I can't begin to tell you how amazing it was. Lucky enough to travel with my better half, Hannah Couzens and her family we headed north from Jo'burg in a hire car to Madikwe Hills Game Reserve. Unphased by the jet lag, Hannah's father drove us 5 hours north combating hundreds of kilometres of un-tarmaced rubble road whilst the Volkswagen Caddy van shook us to pieces.
First things first let me just say that the Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge is a breath-taking place with the most friendliest of staff, but our stay here was made truly unforgettable by our remarkable tracker Sam (Left) and our extremely devoted/knowledgable guide Barend (Right).
Each day our alarm clocked chimed at 5am, and we had the pleasure of spending 5 magical hours out in the bush as the sun rose. Returning for lunch and a quick nap, we would then venture out again in the afternoon at 4pm for another 5 hours. You'd think that over 4 days, the 10 hour drives would become a little tedious and repetitive, but each time you head out there is totally different magnificent sighting to behold.
Barend and Sam's approach to what they could find was brilliant, as not only did they want to find each and every animal themselves by tracking (as opposed to calls over the radio), they also took time to teach us fascinating facts about everything from termites in the soil to plants which give the African bush sustainable growth. On the whole, we got a real feel for the African bush rather than just rushing to see the "big 5".
The above photograph is of a Zebra and it's baby who wouldn't leave its side (hardly surprising seeing as other nearby Zebra had various battle scars from close encounters!). This baby was the most adorable fuzzy creature around and Zebra's quickly became one of my favourite things to watch. The night time drives were a whole different story, literally not being able to see your hand in front of your face due to no light pollution. This did however make for amazing views of the stars, with the Milky Way easily viewable with the naked eye.
This picture is especially thanks to Barend, who at midnight got special clearance for myself and Hannah to accompany him to the nearby Dam, where we could sit and gaze at the stars whilst taking a few photographs...breathtaking isn't the word!
Not sure i've mentioned that these open top jeeps come face to face with all sorts of animals?! A handful of times we were less than 2-3 feet from a wild lion or bull elephant (sometimes in complete darkness). I think we must of been running off adrenaline as we shot this video.
The above trio show an aged male lion resting on the plains, a pack of wild dogs hunting in the golden sun and finally a kingfisher hovering and picking its moment to dive.
On the last night of our stay at Madikwe, we were invited upto the "Boma" for a traditional African feast. Before we had even walked up to where the Boma was, we could tell we were in for a great night because of the music echoing through the trees. A buffet of food cooked on an open fire, drinks a plenty and traditional African music played on instruments made from the local trees meant the evening was the perfect way to end part 1 of our life changing trip.
If your interested in viewing some more photographs from our trip, please feel free to click this link. I hope you have enjoyed reading part one of our trip to South Africa, part two and our trip to Cape Town will follow shortly! Hannah also has her own blog located here, be sure to check out what she's posted!
Or, "Hello" in English. We've been back in the UK a few days now, and am already suffering from the dreaded holiday blues as I write this blog post. Our South Africa trip was truely eye opening, and the best experience of my life. The day after we landed we had a wedding to shoot, so for now the 3,500 South Africa images we shot haven't even been looked through. This is the first photograph i've edited, and is of our first elephant sighting in the bush. We we're busy shooting 3 rhinos up the road ahead, when this magnificent elephant ran up behind our open top jeep. Quickly changing to my 24-105 lens we shot the mighty bull elephant as he shook the mud off his head asserting his dominance (It sure worked?!).
I have so much to share and say, am looking forward to writing a full blog post. This is just a teaser of whats to come, hopefully within the next couple of weeks we'll have a complete gallery of edited images available for everyone to look at. For now, keep an eye out on my FlickR for updates.
5:30am...Hannah Couzens, James Pardon and I find ourselves trecking up a deceptively steep hill using our tripods as some sort of 'ice axe'. All in the name of photography and getting a great picture. Using 'The 'The Photographs Ephemeris' iPhone app, we chose our vantage point on a neighbouring hill on which to capture a sunrise shot of Corfe Castle.
It's been a busy old week, preparing for our South Africa trip on Tuesday. Because of this i've only managed to take a look at one shot from today. Unfortunately the day started out rather overcast, with a bleak sunrise. 25 minutes into the sunrise and the clouds briefly broke letting this glorious light pour over the castle in a hazey manner.
Should have a few more uploads to come, along with some from the neighbouring town of Swanage and a great shot of a broken down pier. Keep an eye out on FlickR for an update shortly. For now, i'm off to pack for South Africa! Yeeehaww!