It's raining today...... grey and not particularly inviting to the landscape photographer .
The light is flat and although I could force myself out the door with Camera and tripod, I just don't have the inclination to.. So time to update the blog and where better to start than a picture.. The image above was taken last summer here in Cork... in the garden on a better day ! Mid summer the garden is alive with interesting subjects and flowers. If I remember it was in the middle of the day and the light was harsh , ( not ideal for landscape photography ). The hover fly in the image is tiny. They are smaller than wasps and very active, so photographing them takes patience and a bit of luck.... well maybe a lot of luck in my case..:-) Focus is the issue with such subjects, as there is little room for error. Using a macro lens, ( which is a specialist lens that allows the lens to get really close and with a 1:1 ratio , thats life size) is the only real way to get this type of shot. The actual image is very large and one can see the detail on the head of the fly. However in this version, it is scaled down for the web and proof marked. So, how was the shot obtained.. ? Camera was a Canon 5DsR, which is a 50mp, full frame sensor which produces ridiculously large image files.. too large in fact, but ideal for this type of work and favoured by the Stock Photo agencies. I used a diffusor panel to camera right and high to shield from the suns harsh rays.. the result is a softer light and well diffused . The next bit is the harder bit.. Basically lying down on the grass beside the flower bed and the plant in question.. The camera is in manual focus mode to prevent the lens from " hunting" around for focus. So, the focal point is locked and focus is achieved by very small movements back and forth in the area of where the hover fly is, or will be. Its a bit like the hobby of Fishing..basically waiting for the prey to come into your area..The camera's shutter is in burst' mode, which is firing several shots per second, depending on the camera's ability to do so. The 5Dsr only has a burst rate of about 5 images per second, which is not really that fast in today's technology.. To be fair the camera is not intended for sports or high speed shooting and is more a studio camera or Landscape camera with the ultra high resolution, allowing images to be blown up to billboard size if needs be. So, at that rate, the hit' rate can be low and it could take some time to get a really sharp, spot on image of the subject.. I believe that I was down in the prone position for about 15 minutes to get this shot, but it can take longer and frequently no success at all ...! But, it is so satisfying when it does work out.. you have an image that looks great in print and is saleable..but mostly the enjoyment of looking at the image first time on the screen in detail is the reward.. I can recommend Macro photography .. it's great fun and addictive so, be careful !!
I had the privilege to meet Kay Curtin when I was assigned by the Irish Independent recently, to photograph her for an upcoming article. .
Kay is an advocate for Melanoma awareness, being a stage 4 patient herself. I photographed her at her home in Burncourt, County Tipperary on a beautiful autumn day, ( one of those days that you feel good to be alive but, sometimes take for granted)
At the age of 32 Kay was to discover that she had a melanoma, a mole that had changed its appearance. The mole was excised and she was told that the melanoma had only a 35pc chance of re-occuring Kay agreed to take part in a clinical trial , also grasping the chance of helping and indeed improving her chances of the condition not re-appearing. Over the next two years Kay received numerous injections with various side effects which she describes as " unpleasant", causing swelling and temperatures. However the trial was stopped suddenly and she was told that the treatment had proved ineffective . Kay though was confident that her condition would not return and continued to have regular checks on her moles which were mapped at Cork University Hospital. She continued to get on with her life being a positive person until ten years later she was diagnosed again with stage four cancer, with no options for surgery . Subsequent findings on the drug trail revealed that if patients on the drug trial relapsed , in some cases their condition progressed faster. This explained the sudden halt to the trials. Kay has continued to be an advocate for patient trials and has been receiving regular treatment as her particular mutation allows some medical intervention. This treatment has, Kay says " kept me alive" and she has been travelling to various countries including the U.S. and Europe attending conferences and speaking about the condition. She is also part of of a programme of educating patients together with UCD and other organisations . She works with doctors, researchers and companies helping them to understand patient needs from treatment to living beyond cancer.
Kay say's " I am doing this because I'd like the time that I have left to have purpose " She does though say that she is " on borrowed time ". Kay is now 46. She is very active on social media and blogs about her condition openly and honestly. She has inspired many others to face cancer with a positive attitude having been educated or informed by such activity understanding treatment options available. It was indeed a privilege to meet Kay .
So, why do we take pictures ? More so now than in any other time in history....?
It's a very wide question, one which been asked many, many times . I could go straight to the present and talk about mobile phones, app's and the like. But, I think we need to look back a long long way and to the beginnings of man's existence on the planet that we call home. Earth. It could be argued that the very first time that early man became aware of his self existence and looked down at his shadow or his footprints in the sand or mud, he was already creating an image... We know that the earliest cave paintings and decorations date back to around 40.000 years ago in the prehistoric ages . We cannot be sure if the early ones were merely decorations or efforts to make pictures ? Were they trying to communicate with others or attempting to tell a story..? It is clear that later on in man's development, but still early days, he would crawl to deep caverns in the hillsides , through narrow crevices to the areas were these paintings have been found. He would have had to illuminate the dark Caverns using fire and torches .. Scientists believe that man discovered fire around 2 Million years ago..! Im no expert on early man. But, it is clear that from the earliest day's in man's development , we had a need to express ourselves outwardly for the present and, for our ancestors to come.
So onwards through time, man has scratched, scrawled and drawn with tools that became more and more elaborate as time went on. Whether the early cave paintings or those of the modern era - the Middle ages through to the Renaissance painters or even street artists like Banksy... It is, a matter of perception and all have a part to play. So where does photography fit in ? I would suggest that it is absolutely the same and an extension of that desire to record and express ourselves as early man did all those years ago. The earliest known photograph was taken around 1826 and developed by a French photographer and pioneer Joseph Nicéphore Niépre. It was a process called Heliography, or sun drawing. The actual exposure time was unbelievably about 8 hours. 30 years later it had become a product for relative wider use and on and on it went. Today we take for granted having a high quality camera in most of our pockets. The mobile phone. It is truly a wonder of technology . We shoot selfies and landscapes, portraits and send them up to the Internet within seconds.. We truly are in another golden age of photography !!!!! Enjoy your camera ....v
The area around Cobh , County Cork is rich in opportunities for the photographer. You may have realised that this is a favourite haunt of mine, being about twenty minutes from my home and easily accessible . The upper picture was taken about 30 minutes before sunset at East Ferry, Cork. This is one of the places I revisit at varying times of day and the light is always different. I find the vicinity enchanting . In this image the light was fast going down to the left of the picture, with some higher ground just extinguishing the suns light, prematurely. The weeds and grass was for a moment lit by these fading rays of sunshine enhancing their colours, and I had to act quickly to grab this image. Taken with a Canon 5d Mk3 and a 24-105mm lens, exposure about 15/th of a second. Thus a tripod was need and a low angle for the shot to include the foreground vegetation. Minutes after this shot the light disappeared, the ground no longer magically lit by the evening sun....
Second image is of an old gatehouse, in the area of the townland of Waltertown . I do not know the history of this old Gatehouse, but of course relates to an entrance to land and an estate of long ago.. The spot is beautiful and if you look at the picture you can see flowers at the lower window. It is obviously a place treasured by those living nearby. The shot was taken late afternoon and again within minutes the light disappeared behind trees ,. This image is actually a blend of three images. It is as the eye percieves the scene, but the camera and its sensor is unable to record the full range of highlights and shadows in the image..So, taking three images - one just underexposed to retain the cloud detail in the sky, one correctly exposed to shoot the scene and one slightly over exposed to record the shadow details... It is a technique called High Dynamic Range photography , or HDR' as it is referred to by photographers. When the image is combined and special software in Photoshop, the image comes to life as the eye saw is at the time. The human eye is a wonderful thing and has a wide ability to perceive light and shadow.. Who ever made us, was a clever one..... !