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Bluebells in the woods: springtime comes to Hardcastle Crags

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.

After the short, grey days of winter, springtime percolates slowly through Calderdale, injecting life and colour into the valley once again. Muted monotones turn into verdant hues, flowers and buds appear, and the hills echo to the sounds of bleating lambs and birdsong.

This year it feels as if spring’s come later than ever: the wild garlic is still here, coexisting alongside bluebells and daffodils almost a month later than when I shot this panorama last year. It all feels a bit messed up, and I can hear hailstones hitting the windowpanes outside as I write this. So when there’s a window of good weather, it’s worth taking advantage… such as when I caught the setting sun light up this

Hardcastle Crags is an oasis of calm for me, an outpost of tranquillity and a place to escape the hectic nature of working life. It’s by no means an unspoilt landscape, but despite hundreds of years of man’s influence it’s a treasure trove of flora and fauna, and a great place to explore.

Technical info: shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III, shaved Sigma 10mm f2.8 fisheye lens, Nodal Ninja RS-1, Promote Remote Control. 10 exposures, 1.7EV apart; HDR tonemapped with Photomatix Pro & HDR Efex 2.

 

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.

I first shot the bluebells in the Crags during my first spring in the valley, back in 2007 as I was just starting to embrace panoramic photography. It was the first panorama I shot bracketed in RAW… 3x exposures of 39 views. I stitched three separate panoramas (one for each exposure) overnight using the long-departed Realviz Stitcher. Seems an eon ago.  Six years, and thousands of panoramas later, it was great to revisit the theme once more, applying more rigorous technical and artistic experience to the subject.

It’s prompted me to dig out the original RAWs from 2007 and restitch this scene, which you can view above. It’s by no means perfect, but it acts as a good comparison to this year’s version. And you can never have too many bluebells on on page…

Technical info: shot with Canon EOS 400D, Canon 18-55mm, Panosaurus head. 3 exposures, 2EV apart; HDR tonemapped with Photomatix Pro

Sylvia Plath’s grave at Heptonstall

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The American-born poet, Sylvia Plath, was buried at Heptonstall, near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, in 1963 after a short and troubled life. In the past she was perhaps better known for her marriage to the former Poet Laurate Ted Hughes (originally from Mytholmroyd, a short distance away) but in recent years her creative impact and ability has been positively reappraised, based on a wider body of her work being discovered.

Her grave lies in the new graveyard: the headstone carries a simple inscription from Hughes, and has been defaced several times (if you look closely the name ‘Hughes’ is typeset slightly differently as the text has been replaced: a certain strand of more radical feminists is alleged have attempted to remove his surname repeatedly, in response to the abusive relationship in life and revisionist way he managed her creative legacy after death).

Sylvia Plath's headstone

On previous visits (see photo above from August 2012) the grave has been marked with stones, pens and other trophies and tributes from fans and well-wishers. On this occasion, fifty years after her death, the grave had been tidied up, just displaying floral tributes. During the time I was photographing this pano there was a steady stream of visitors to the site…

I shot this panorama on the same afternoon as a short and impromptu photoshoot with the excellent and highly tipped Merseyside band Bird, in and around the old and new church of St Thomas at Heptonstall.

Adele and Sian from Bird

I shot the band shortly before the second date on their current UK tour, when they played at the Puzzle Hall Inn in Sowerby Bridge. We had a short window of opportunity to take a few shots on a cold February afternoon, in the sombre surroundings of this ancient Yorkshire hilltop village under leaden skies. The weather matched their enigmatic, emotional and intimate music… given extra resonance as we viewed Sylvia Plath’s grave.

Thanks to Adele, Sian, Lex, Emma and Jack for their patience and good spirits: sitting in front of an open fire in the pub after an hour’s shooting in the raw winter’s air has rarely felt as rewarding!

Bird’s fourth release, Ophelia, is out now on Jack to Phono Records.

 

Maurice Carlin at Castlefield Gallery

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Having previously documented several exhibitions at Salford’s Islington Mill, we were commissioned to capture Maurice Carlin’s excellent solo exhibition ‘First… Next… Then… Finally’, which ran at the acclaimed Castlefield Gallery in Manchester.

The variations in light, detail and texture was both a challenge and an opportunity to capture realistically: so we shot the exhibition with a range of high dynamic range techniques to capture the exhibition in as natural and balanced a manner as possible. Using 360° panoramic photography allows the viewer to enjoy the scale, relation and context of the pieces in situ.

A range of detailed still photographs of artworks featured in the exhibition can also be seen below. These have featured in a range of publications including Frieze Magazine.

[Edit: you can now also view an ultra high resolution gigapixel panorama of Maurice’s workshop here]

Here is some background about Maurice and the exhibition, reproduced from the Castlefield gallery press release.

After completing an art foundation course in 2007, Carlin actively stepped out of the formal education system by co-founding Islington Mill Art Academy, a peer-led experiment into alternative forms of artist education, recently featured in Frieze, A N and Corridor 8 magazines. Respectively Carlin’s practice has developed from a unique context within the vibrant independent art and music scenes in Manchester.

“I often site the production of my work in the public domain, which becomes for me a form of ‘publishing’, drawing attention to the underneath and overlooked elements within the day to day world that largely go unnoticed. My practice explores spaces of transition, a stage where one thing has yet to become another. ‘Crisis’ as described by the writer Umberto Eco[1] is a productive “moment of transition in which something that held before doesn’t hold any longer and there is not yet something new”.

Major works in the exhibition will include Corrupted Images – analogue relief prints of surfaces referencing the first print/publishing techniques developed in ancient China – produced on a busy high street in Manchester which served as a temporary studio. Blue (Sleep Mode) a collaboration with renowned artist David Medalla, depicts Medalla wandering through the streets of Salford at night with a mobile projector, illuminating details of the walls and surfaces of the city. In Screenscans, glitch snippets of television programmes are collected on a handheld digital document scanner. These captured moments of day to day broadcasting are outputted as large, filmic, storyboard like prints, both suggesting and distorting narratives.

Carlin’s work has a beguiling simplicity and directness, often belying a complex web of ideas, explored through a variety of media and approaches. An openness to the possibilities within an arts practice is evident in his work, something almost certainly arising from the independence and freedom of a non University education.

A behind-the-scenes view of a vehicle VR photoshoot.

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Just finished a three day vehicle VR photoshoot in South Manchester, shooting both interior 360 panoramas and exterior object VRs.

All will be revealed later this year as the content is integrated into the client brand’s website, but in the meantime here’s a teaser panorama… spot the main camera almost hidden at the rear of the studio.

Straight to plate: large panoramic prints of the Bear Café’s kitchen

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I recently installed a permanent series of four large format prints in the Bear Café in Todmorden. It was a great commission; combining my passion for local food and photography, crafting a detailed and distinctive view behind the scenes in the kitchen.

Four panel panoramic print in the Bear Cafe, Todmorden

The initial brief was to deliver an artwork which would achieve two things: showcase some of their local suppliers and producers, and better inform customers that all the food is prepared on the premises.

Both are central to their business… the Bear is passionate about using local, sustainable produce wherever possible, and has long been affiliated with initiatives like Incredible Edible Todmorden. They’re also proud of how their dishes are produced on the premises, but as the kitchen is two floors away from the dining area, customers are often unaware of this. The client had previously seen my work so was onboard with the idea of using a high resolution 360° panoramic print, so we could capture the detail and experience of the kitchen fully.

Like any shoot, proper planning was key. I shot an initial test panorama during a recce a week beforehand: this allowed us to consider the positioning of products and people, and then we used a printout to mark up areas to address. As we always had a large, detailed print in mind, one of the key things to bear in mind was that we wanted an even distribution of points of interest throughout the scene. The client was keen to emphasise the importance of the teamwork and skills of the whole staff, so we planned their positioning.

Four panel panoramic print in the Bear Cafe, Todmorden

We were keen to use bright natural sunlight streaming through the kitchen window to beautifully illuminate the fresh produce on display, so worked out the optimum shoot time for direct light. The team at the Bear ensured the space was organised, and added a lick of paint to the walls, making sure even a working environment would look at its best, while still staying true to its purpose. I’ll always explain to clients that a quick wipe-down or tidy-up in real life can save hours in post production… and the real-world effects last for longer too!

Chef Scott and manager Rhian added lots of little touches and details to the scene to reflect the personalities in the business… from Scott’s homemade kimchi in jars and stickers of seminal Manchester club nights on storage containers, through to the signature wooden bear who normally sits on the bar upstairs. See if you can spot them all…

After the shoot I processed the panorama, working at higher resolution than normal, and then tested several different projections to portray the whole 360° of the kitchen with as little distortion as possible. In the end I chose four square prints, each covering 90°, and prepared the final images for print.

The detailed fine art printing and mounting was by CPS Digital in Manchester. They did a great job. The installation, before opening hours, was fun… and the final work closely resembled the mockups we’d envisaged. Looks great, can be seen from the street outside, and it’s been provoking discussion and interest since it went onto the walls.

Exterior view of the Bear Cafe Bar in Todmorden

Thanks to all at the Bear for their help, co-operation, patience and enthusiasm. Read below the jump for more technical photographic info…

Four panel panoramic print in the Bear Cafe, Todmorden Read more