I am really excited to post my new website. My previous website was really more of a “blogsite” with some galleries and pages bolted on. I am delighted to have a place now that allows my images to be featured, with galleries easily accessed and my blog/journal still central to my online photo presence. The problem with a blogsite, is that it may be full of lovely images, but users have to dig a fair bit to find them unless they are in the most recent posts. The new site will bring a lot more images to the forefront.

Additionally, modern websites are viewed more on phone screens than on laptops and fixed computer screens. A result of this is that photo websites have to serve different layouts and different image sizes to whichever screen a user is viewing on. The new Prophoto 6 site that this is built with, gives me the ability to do that.  Google apparently take this into account in giving your website a page ranking. So if you are reading this Larry and Sergey, (Google’s founders), I’m sorted.

I hope you enjoy visiting and looking at my portraits (and other images) as much as I enjoy making them. Please visit again.

old and new sites on a phone screen. Note the tiny menu items across the top; not ideal for finger touches:

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  • Jacqueline O'Donnell

    Hey Mathew, I love it…Your website really captures your passion!

Yesterday, I fulfilled a long standing desire to visit HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship from the battle of Trafalgar. As it happens, I am having a lovely holiday with some amazing people in Dorset. We decided to take the opportunity to drive the hour or so to Portsmouth to indulge my Napoleonic naval desires!

My first feeling on arriving at the dry-dock that has been Victory’s home for 90 years was disappointment that she has not yet been fully masted and rigged. But it turns out that there is a sound preservation based reason why not: apparently it may have new rigging within a decade, made from carbon-fibre of all things to keep the mass lower, as her timbers have settled and distorted in dry-dock and the extra weight would accelerate this. Good to know that her keepers are taking her long term future seriously. (You can see the truncated rear mast towards the stern in this image)

Photographically, I was simply not planning any photographs at all; I only wanted to see the ship. But when I arrived I took one stern-view with my phone to share my excitement, and put it from my mind. It was only when I saw the Captain’s (the famous Hardy) day-cabin that I realised it might be fun to try to catch some sense of this truly amazing piece of naval history. I have a basic wide-angle zoom, the Olympus 9-18 with me in my messenger bag with my ever present Olympus OMD 10 Mk2, and haven’t used it much yet, so the relatively tight interiors seemed like the ideal place to make some use of it. As a wide angle zoom it is tiny, barely takes up any space at all in my messenger bag, and is a useful width for interiors or landscapes. On the downside, you can’t fit a fast zoom in to a tiny package, so it is slow at f4-5.6 and the deeper you go into the bowels of Victory, the darker it gets. This meant shutter speeds at ISO 3200 (my preset hard limit for noise) of 1/8th of a second. The secret weapon of the Olympus is it’s sensor-shift image stabilisation and with careful hand-holding it will give sharp images. (Down to 1 second!)

This is the adjoining sleeping cabin with the 6 foot 4 inch Captain Hardy’s cot-hammock:

The other interesting challenge is waiting in spaces until most of the tourists have passed on. Sometimes they add scale to an image, but most of the time it helps to see the ship interior with fewer distractions.

One deck below, Admiral Nelson had these quarters, first the dining and entertaining cabin:

Then Nelson’s day cabin. (At least at the time of the battle of Trafalgar):

The same cabin from the table:

And this rather indelicate one of the Admiral’s heads (toilet). This was in very stark comparison to the holes in planking over the bow used by the ratings to take their relief:

 

But above all, this first rate ship of the line was a fighting ship and carried 104 cannon and carronades. To face broadsides from these Napoleonic behemoths must have been living hell. These pictures are of some of the gundecks – 3 in all – which in combat would have included the Captain and Admiral’s cabin floors in one long sweep:

 

This one is a reminder that this is a multi-decked flagship:

Of course, in-between the bouts of martial activity, 800 men and boys had to actually live. These pictures show the gun crew’s eating arrangements:

And of course everyone knows how the ratings slept:

(This picture below the decks blessed with natural light so the next image was high ISO and noisy.)

The ship had to be self-sufficient in terms of essential working crafts as well. Below decks in the incredibly cramped, no-standing-room-for -tall-adults, orlop deck there are some specialist areas. This is the Bos’n’s store:

Low down, below the orlop, these ropes are as thick as human waists. Look at the telegraph-pole sized pillars for a sense of scale. How the crews handled this stuff without automation is a miracle on its own:

The next two are carpenters’ areas:

I believe this is a portable forge up on a gun deck:

And lower still, we come to the holds and bilge areas. Water, being heaviest, was stored her in barrels on a bed of stones as ballast. No natural light reaches here at all:

This last image shows where Nelson slept in a portable field bed as, one armed, he couldn’t easily get into a hammock without assistance and he was too proud. Big cheese or not, in action the admiral’s sleeping arrangements were quickly cleared and the temporary doors gone too. This was just the posh-end of a truly terrible gun deck:

Nelson was shot on deck during the terrible battle of Trafalgar, and after some hours, he died below decks. The wooden wreath on the rib of the boat shows where he died:

The Victory, built around 1760, is simply one of the most amazing preserved displays of history I can imagine seeing. Whether you are fascinated by military history or not, you will have your breath taken away by the scale of this pre-Napoleonic engineering marvel. If you are in Portsmouth, you simply must!

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During a visit to Skye two weekends ago, the amazing Air b’n’b place that we were staying at in Armadale, had a lovely hostess, who had a simply lovely natural garden on the bay next to the Armadale Ferry terminal. I had a ball the first morning with my micro four thirds camera taking lots of handheld flower pictures. I used to mainly do this with my Canon DSLR’s and Canon EF-s 60mm macro and a tripod. I am now shooting flowers with my Olympus macro of half the size and using the scarily effective IBIS sensor based stabilisation in lieu of a tripod. It is fun and organic as a way of shooting. After checking these flowers on return, I decided to roll them into a post of some of my very recent favourite flower photographs.

The first to catch my eye was this beautiful Calendula. I love the amazing composite flower detail:

This Alpine Columbine is beautiful and hideous in equal measure. There is something about the tail of a flower being so elaborate when it has so little obviously to do with the sexual parts of the flower that makes it seem ostentatiously wasteful. Everything has some purpose though, but what?

 

More detail of the creepy Columbine tails:

I thought this one was a poppy, but it seems to be a Rock-Rose. Its combination of crepe-paper with “basildon bond” texture and incredible flame-flower parts are just beautiful:

And again more directly from above:

An Iris from near the Coral Beach on Skye:

A week later, back home I received a house gift of these gorgeous flowers. I believe this are Lillies:

And again with some stalk showing to balance the pink:

Getting the bit between my teeth I tackled the striking Foxgloves (digitalis) in my own front garden. I love the hairy interiors and Mr Bee showing his busy posterior mid nectar scoffing:

My daughter and I love these unopened flowers higher up the stalk; we think these look like tiny monsters from something like the little shop of horrors:

A Dianthus from my own garden. (Planted of course by a green-fingered previous owner).

My Dianthus is growing beneath this lovely Spirea. I have also included a second image of the opened, super-busy flowers of a more mature-flowered part of the plant:

 

A Margarita, but I can’t remember from where:

I always find flowers so lovely to photograph. They are perfect subjects for intense, and often magical colour studies.

My Olympus OMD-10 again amazes me. Theoretically the larger sensor from my Canon DSLRs are better, but this, with a macro lens, is absolutely lovely, and so small and light.

Hope you liked them.

 

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What you are looking at here is the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye. (Actually, I know, of course you are looking at Vishu, but cut me some slack and let me set the scene). The Old Man is at about 500m elevation from sea level. The climb from the roadside is about 300 metres or so, 1000 feet in old units, high in other words! You will therefore imagine my surprise on meeting this striking gentleman attired more for the dance floor than a Scottish mountain. The Old Man is about 50 metres (160 ft) high in case you care. Vishu was just an absolutely lovely guy, with a great sense of humour and a huge personality. Naturally I asked if he would allow me to take his picture, and he kindly consented. It is surprisingly hard to fit in your subject and a 50m tower in the same frame, but here is my quick effort at it.

Vishu kindly raised his cool shades for the second picture so that we could see his face properly and to reduce flash-bounceback; as it happens that hasn’t been a problem anyway. The picture was with my Oly OMD-10 and a 17mm prime. On-board, pop up flash to fill in Vishu’s face was used.

Thanks Vishu. I would certainly recommend some hillwalking gear before you do the Matterhorn though. 🙂

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  • Vishal Rajput

    You are the most kindest person in my life i have ever met before thank you for your lovely effort to make me feel proud. 

The North Black Cuillin Ridge from Sligachan on Skye.

I have visited Skye many times when younger, but never been lucky enough to catch this classic “postcard view” from Old Sligachan Bridge with the right conditions. Well the photographic gods smiled upon me on Sunday on my first visit to Skye in about a decade. The picture is very far from original or creative, but I still loved setting up a tripod and taking it. This one was with my Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 zoom from the riverbed below the Sligachan Bridge and using my Manfrotto 055 tripod and a 2-second shutter delay to allow the camera and shutter to settle. I simply cannot tell you how pleased I am with this landscape as a portrait photographer.
In case anyone cares, I climbed these three mountains as a younger man and can attest that they represent one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

I must also say, that when I drove towards Sligachan and realised that the photograph was “on” if I was quick, I realised that I had two cameras with me, and wanted to hedge my bets a little, so I parked the car, and took my beloved Olympus OMD-10 mk2 and my trusty Canon 7D with me; what transpired is an interesting if brief photographic episode. When I walked from my car to the bridge, there was a woman taking photographs with what looked like a Canon 1D and possibly an L-lens. (This for Canon shooters is like meeting a woman driving a Ferrari when you are in a Ford, which I was as it happens); I was impressed! She told me that she, like me had never been fortunate enough to catch this view in the near perfect state that it was in, but that she had not got her tripod with her. I of course offered her the use of my tripod after I had taken my shots, which in truth would have taken no more than 5 minutes or so, but she politely declined saying that she had the wrong lens anyway. I thought she had gone and then she reappeared, so I again offered her the use of my tripod as I was more-or-less done, but she again declined. Before she left, she kindly offered me the advice that I should really stop down and use a long exposure to stop the motion in the water. It isn’t that I didn’t know that was worth trying, but I wasn’t planning to; as a result of her kind advice I tried two more exposures with f-twenty-something and ISO 100 locked in resulting in 3.5 seconds of exposure, in a bit of a wind. I’m not sure it was better, but I love that she made me try something that this portraitist wouldn’t have tried.

The first picture was using the long exposure to still the water, the second was pre-girl-on-bridge-prompting and was a smidgeon sharper overall, and showed sparkling shimmery water. I have included both.

Interestingly, before I descended to the riverbed with my 7D, I took 2 shots with my beloved Olympus micro-four-thirds camera and its 35mm equivalent f1.8 prime from the bridge itself. This camera, (which I regularly rave about in this journal) has the in-body-image-stabilisation-of-god. I didn’t bother switching to my kit zoom and clip-on wider-lens, as I knew that my Canon 7D and Sigma 10-20 was the likely best-bet. Two handheld Olympus micro-four thirds shots, with my widest, but not wide enough prime lens, are included below. I then used the Canon 7D with the comfort that I had something “in the can” from the most amazing camera I have ever owned. I wonder what others think? THESE PICTURES WERE HANDHELD! SERIOUSLY!

I had such fun on Sunday. Thanks to all who helped me.

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This handsome young acquaintance of mine, and namesake too, gave me one of my most challenging portrait sessions recently. Paradoxically, I am delighted with the the results; challenges and constraints often get us our most interesting results I suppose.

Due to our meeting arrangements slipping, we actually met to do the photographs after darkness had fallen, and I don’t mean it was dusk, it was fully dark other than the streetlights. As we had scheduled the evening, and we were finally in one place with my camera in hand, we decided to try to do something anyway.

I have to confess that my love affair with my Olympus OMD-10 is continuing unabated, and since I have a remote off-board flash to go with it, I was keen to see how it could penetrate the darkness to provide even illumination over some whole-body portraits. Typically at this point I realised that my exciting new flashgun was actually still at home; so no Olympus. Thankfully I had my Canon 5D (Full frame sensor) camera and a 580 EX flash with Pocket-Wizard remote triggering. In principle this should be a far better low-light combination anyway, although my chance to experiment was gone! I had a kind helper holding the remote flash through a diffusing umbrella, so it was easy to quickly reposition the flash. TTL metering doesn’t get perfect results all the time, and manual flash power adjustment isn’t quick enough for a relaxed and responsive session. Having an assistant quickly increase or decrease the distance to the subject, is a quick and dirty way of changing your subject brightness. The Canon was working at a respectable ISO 2500, really well within its noise capabilities.

This next one was partly an attempt to reduce the number of distracting background streetlights. The tree concealed most of them as well as giving Matt a prop to relax against. (Am I the only person who thinks Matt should be wearing Keanu Reeves’ long black coat from the Matrix)!

In this one, I was trying to use the doorway behind as a framing-device. The unusual angle of shooting from below has really accentuated Matt’s jawline and given a strength and dominance to this image that I love. I think it is like a movie-still.

This final one is another attempt to frame Matt using a doorway. Fitting in this doorway’s columns threw up a regular constraint when using architectural or other tall background features; the need to fit in the whole height of the columns dictates the position of your subject. The effect here is to draw the eye to Matt, but for subjects less brightly lit compared to the whole frame, it might not always work.

The final challenge of a session like this, is in the post processing. The colour of the flash is something like a daylight-white, the colour of the streetlight is, well, not daylight and considerably warmer in white balance terms. No matter what you do, either the background or your subject has a colour cast; at that point your refuge is so often the only one available, reduce or remove the colour content. Black and white is the answer. In this case I think it has worked really well, and lent a sculpted, elemental quality to Matt’s portraits.

Thanks for a fun session Matt; can’t wait for the next one, with natural light though…

Apology: This session was only posted today, however the photos were taken on the 27th of March; I have been a little bit wrapped up in updating my site.

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