2016 Episode 2 – A Year of Downs and Ups

To counterbalance my earlier blog of Ups and Downs which was very much an exercise in self indulgence and back-slapping (I’m a contortionist, didn’t you know?), I’ve also put together a list of images by other photographers that made me stop and take notice in 2016. Why Downs and Ups? These images both depress me for how good they are and inspire me in equal measure.

These are images that stick in my mind and are typically more than just a point and shoot exercise that I see so much of every day, you know, great light and not much else. Alternatively they may be ICM images that have really captured my imagination or even just the most beautiful of abstracts. Either way, they stand out, at least to me. For the most part, I wish I had taken them, or at least was capable of taking them.

So, in no particular order:


Roj Whitelock – ‘Force of Nature’

WexMondays is a curious beast. It’s a competition which I don’t really agree with. Some see it as a bit of fun, and it is, but it is also a promotion exercise for the retailer. I understand that, there is nothing wrong with it. Doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. As such I don’t go out of my way to promote it and that includes liking and re-tweeting entries week in week out. Of course, that also means I see plenty of images on my Twitter feed that I think are great, but my own (ethical or moral?) position means I can’t engage on them. When something really stands out to me, like this image by Roj or the next by Tony, then I’ll contact the photographer directly and privately to provide some feedback or simply gush at how great I think their image is. I was amazed Roj’s delicate but simple image of a shell and an incoming wave catching the golden light didn’t win the week it was entered. Outrageous.

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www.rojwhitelock.co.uk


 

Tony Sellen – ‘Equaliser’

Tony joined me on one of my workshops back in November, I guess just to experience a new type of shooting environment because he already clearly knew what he was doing with his camera. Known mostly for long exposure black and white photography, this image epitomises Tony’s style. It blew me away when he posted it late in December. Almost ruined my Christmas, I was that jealous.

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www.londonfineartphotography.co.uk


 

‘Overlooking Castle Crag’ – Joe White

Joe is very much ‘one to watch’ in 2017 in my very honest opinion. This image of a tree in the wind overlooking Castle Crag is not Joe’s usual style. It was his panorama’s that first caught my eye and are amongst the best out there. However, it was this image from the Lake District that really stopped me in my tracks. Beautiful light, fabulous composition of what is a very complex scene and some  good processing (though I do think the top is maybe a little bit overcooked), combine to deliver a breathtaking shot.

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Joe’s Flickr


 

‘Forgotten’ – Karl Mortimer

Ok, hands up, I’ve got to know Karl very well over the last year and we have met up several times for trips to North Yorkshire, the Lake District and Snowdonia, amongst others. It’s therefore no surprise that I’ve also become quite familiar with his work over that time. Karl isn’t your typical conventional landscape photographer, at least he is trying very hard not to be (he can turn out a conventional landscape as well as anyone if he needs to).  I think by his own admission, he continues to try to learn from the very best there is, having joined workshops with David Ward, Joe Cornish, Eddie Ephraums, Paul Wakefield and John Blakemore in the last 12 months alone. However, that learning process is helping him to develop into his own photographer, one that doesn’t follow the rules, so to speak. Which is all very interesting considering this image, taken on a ‘colour’ workshop, won Judge’s Choice (Jasmine Teer) in this years Landscape Photographer of the Year.

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www.karlmortimer.com


 

ICM over Loch Morlich – Doug Chinnery

Doug is full of surprises. If he’s not pushing out incredibly vivid still life, he’s writing articles about clouds, shooting abstracts with a smartphone, or in this case, creating beautifully evocative ICM images of my favourite subject. He may not readily shoot mountains from their peaks but here it doesn’t matter. ICM Mountain photography is something I’ve thought about dabbling with for a very long time, and if I do, I don’t think I’ll be sharing any unless it is of a similar standard to this. Sublime.

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www.dougchinnery.com


 

‘The Spokesman’ – Mark Littlejohn

Mark needs very little, if no introduction. Over the last 12 months he’s really become ‘tree man’ if he isn’t taking photos of his two lovable rogues, Barney and Red (Boxer puppies). After the sudden loss of his long term four legged pal, Harvey, earlier in the year and the arrival of the new pups, I think the change that this forced on Mark though very sad at it’s root (no pun intended) was a good one in terms of him being able to concentrate, albeit passively at times, on a single subject. I’m looking forward in 2017 to his pledge to head into the hills more, but for me, in a year when I took a bit of a ribbing about trees on Twitter, the fact that 5 out of these 10 images include trees, says something about how evocative a subject matter they can be. It is this image though, that really stands out in my mind in a conventional landscape sense (well, conventional as far as the subject matter anyway). The hoare frost is to die for.

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markljphotography.co.uk


 

Vestrahorn – David Ward

2016 included a critical turning point for me. For quite a while in 2014 and 2015 I was unhappy with the type of images I was making, essentially grand vistas. Don’t get me wrong, I love a grand vista like most folks do, however they tend to lack a vital element. For want of a better term, they lack ‘connection with the landscape’. This is something that I don’t think anyone, anywhere, has mastered as well as David Ward. I’ve been a great admirer of David’s work for several years and although I had already started the transition process to shooting almost exclusively in portrait, it was on seeing this image, from David back at the start of the year, that solidified that determination. Vestrahorn is fast becoming the most photographed mountain (if you can call it that) in Iceland, but by and large, all images tend to be very similar. This was the first time I’d seen an interpretation in this manner. I’ve not seen anything better since.

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www.into-the-light.com


 

Untitled Image – Claire Zaffin

Claire Zaffin (McConnell and/or Norman, depending on the day and which country she is currently ‘activated’ in…) is a relative newcomer to photography and although she prefers to shoot ‘street’, she can turn her hand to a fine landscape. As with any photographer who is learning the craft, myself included, she still has things to learn, but this image, that was shortlisted in Outdoor Photographer of the Year, really grabbed me like few others did during the year. I don’t know if it’s the subtle combination of Landscape and Wildlife genres that I love or something else, but what I do know is that it’s an image that instantly springs to mind whenever I see her name appear on my Facebook or Twitter feed.

P.S. She’s not really a spy, she got married on the last day of the year. Congratulations again 😉

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www.greeneyedlens.com


 

‘Where New Worlds Are Born’ (Ephemeral Pools) – Matt Botwood

Many photographers can shoot a cohesive project. Few photographers can shoot a cohesive project that consistently delivers the goods. Fewer photographers still, can shoot a cohesive project that consistently delivers the goods and constantly evolves at the same time. There is only one photographer I know that can do all of the above and still blow my mind (and my quite warped imagination) with images like this. Matt Botwood.

It would be unfair for me to isolate a single image from Matt’s Ephemeral Pools project, or even a series of images from that project. However, life isn’t fair, so I will. Sometime around Autumn, Matt pushed out a small series of images from the project that for all intents and purposes could have been photos of celestial bodies on the other side of our Milky-Way. Mind. Instantly. Blown. Reminder, this is an image taken in Wales.

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www.mattbotwood.com


 

‘Westwick Woods’ – Matthew Dartford

You’ve seen Predator, right? Remember Blain, that “Sexual Tyrannosaur” played by Jesse Venturer…the dude with the big Gatling Gun that can flatten a forest in under a minute? Well, that isn’t Matt, sadly. However, place a camera in Matt’s hands and he uses it like Blain does his big gun. It’s incredible to witness, a real ‘duck and cover’ event. I imagine if you placed Matt on Jokulsarlon beach with the 100 or so other photographers who are bound to also be shooting there, it’d look like the D-Day landing scene in Saving Private Ryan, only Matt in his machine gun nest, sorry, standing behind his tripod, would win. Carnage.

However, there is method in his madness, together with more than an ounce of sheer photographic talent. Matt is yet to really settle into any type of ‘Photographer Mould’. He’s a bit of a jack of all trades in terms of style too. But, boy oh boy, he can produce some gorgeous imagery, including this one, which remains a firm favourite of mine almost 12 months after I first saw it.

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Matt’s Flickr


So, there you go. Ten very different photographs from ten very different photographers.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to post this without mentioning other photographers who didn’t quite make the list but whose work I have admired over the last year, any one of which is capable of making me stop and look on in astonishment and wonder. I’ve enjoyed images from the likes of Lee Acaster, Neil Burnell, Lizzie Shepherd, Richard Thomas, Russ Barnes, Darren Ciolli-Leach, Jon Gibbs, Carolyne Barber, Scott Robertson, Richard Fox, Andrew Yu, Colin Bell, Pete Hyde, Rachael Talibart, Nick Livesey, Alex Nail, Dylan Nardini, David Queenan, and Chaitanye Deshpande to name but a few.

I look forward to seeing what this year brings from everyone. Have a great 2017 folks!

 

2016 Episode 1 – A Year of Ups and Downs

Few could fail to have noticed that 2016 was a somewhat turbulent year. If for nothing else, then the year will be remembered as the year the UK voted for Brexit and the US voted for Donald, or Hillary, depending on whether you think the President should be the one who receives the most Public votes or not. It has also been a year when the Grim Reaper seems to have upped his game and taken many talented individuals, some expected and some not. Whether you find them notable or not depends on a number of factors, but for me, household names that I grew up listening to or watching, suddenly meeting their maker has reminded me of my own mortality, the shortness of life and a need to do something worthwhile in the time I have.

At home it’s become quite apparent that photography has taken over somewhat. If I’m not working (in my regular career), I have my nose pressed against the computer screen or the viewfinder. Our puppy Monty is very much my Wife’s companion more than me these days and it is becoming increasing difficult for me to find time to dedicate to anything other than photography. Indeed even that has suffered as I’ve found little time to write even this blog, something I promised myself I would do more.  As many fellow photographers are finding, having two careers/jobs is not easy! So, all I can really say is thanks to Mrs W for putting up with me in 2016 and also to those folks who have been unfortunate in being on the receiving end of the odd moan, you know who you are.

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Right, so this blog is kind of in two parts/episodes. Episode One today (in itself it is in three parts), and Episode Two in a few days. Here goes:

Episode One, Part One – A Quick Round Up of Photographic ‘Achievements’ and Places Visited

If I don’t write this down somewhere, I’ll forget in years to come, what I did and when. So, apologies for a little self indulgence. Things that happened this year:

  • January cover of Outdoor Photography magazine (Wild Mountain)
  • Winner: Live the Adventure category – Outdoor Photographer of the Year
  • Image (Torridon: Valley of the Lost) in Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year book
  • Received Civic Award in Solihull MBC Civic Awards in the Creative Arts category
  • Talks at Patchings Art Festival and OnLandscape Meeting of Minds conference
  • Commended Image (Vertical Limit) in the Landscape Photographer of the Year book

Places visited: Vietnam, French Alps, Crete, Iceland, Snowdonia (multiple times), Isle of Skye, Isle of Arran, North Yorkshire, Lake District, Isle of Lewis & Harris

Episode One, Part Two – My Best Images of the Year

Ok, so over the last few weeks folks have been posting similar blogs or tweeting their best 3 images of 2016. I took part in that and posted 3 images myself. I also posted 3 images that I considered my least favourite and promised to explain why. So, here is an expanded list of my best images including some backstory about them, and also, at the end in Part Three, those 3 least favourite images and why they are.

‘Winterfell’ (Llanberis – Snowdonia)

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This image seems to have been a crowd favourite and is also one of mine. I photographed this tree perhaps a dozen times in 2016, but only on this occasion did the snow fall and the light prove perfect for the type of ghostly image I wanted to create. This image was also auctioned in aid of Marc Elliott to help him recover from his awful motorcycle accident. Two photographers each donated £100 to the event, a total of £200, for a print each. I’m really pleased it helped raise some cash towards to the amazing total of over £6K.

Passaggio (Horgabost – Isle of Harris)

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The Isle of Harris is a seascape photographers dream. Most folks, however, seem to go nutty for Luskentyre and Seilebost beaches. Although they are lovely beaches, it was Horgabost that captured my imagination the most. I could so easily have spent the entire week on that one beach.

Snowdonia’s Autumn Splendour (Llanberis – Snowdonia)

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The result of many months of failed visits, finally I got the light I wanted over the Snowdon Massif together with some glorious colour in the quarry pit. Enough said.

‘The Tempest’ (Elgol – Isle of Skye)

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A scene familiar to those who know the Isle of Skye. This egg-like boulder was made famous by Joe Cornish but I have no doubt others before him had photographed it. There is no other boulder so distinctive on the shoreline at Elgol, though there are many that can be quite photogenic. I have a problem with many images taken of this boulder and that is the wall of rock just to its right that can so often dominate the image. For me the image should be all about the boulder and the brooding Black Cuillin in the background. It’s perhaps the first time I’ve worked a scene in advance of my arrival (pre-visualisation) with the intention of eliminating elements that annoy me. Even so, it took three visits over the course of a bank holiday weekend, to get it just right.

‘Surfacing’ (Tryfan – Snowdonia)

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This image was shot on my last workshop of the year and is quickly becoming my favourite image I’ve taken of what is also my favourite mountain. I probably spent half an hour with my client working on an image beyond the frozen lake and it was only upon returning to my bag on the other side of the lake that I noticed the potential for something quite minimal. One shot, simple but effective.

‘The Buoy’ (Horgabost – Isle of Harris)

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These sand patterns were incredible. Fascinating to photograph, even better to just watch. Every so often a wave would wash up the beach further than the others, cleansing the sands of these patterns, only for them to slowly reform as rivulets of water ran their way back to the sea. This buoy was in the firing line and although the patterns in the sand are strong enough to carry the photo alone, the buoy adds a sense of place for me.

‘Fragments of Time’ (Rhinogs – Snowdonia)

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Another image from my ‘Song for Snowdonia’ project and a first visit for many years to one of the quieter places within Snowdonia. In fact go anywhere in Snowdonia away from the three big ranges and you are almost guaranteed to only see a handful of people all day. Magic. This area is full of Erratics and is a small paradise for landscapers…just don’t tell anyone 😉

‘Fjallabak Flexion’ (Fjallabak Region – Iceland)

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This image was shot on my return to the Laugavegur trail, just under two years since my first visit, a trip that proved quite fruitful. This time however the light never really played ball. On the second day whilst still trekking high and with a blizzard only moments away (it was the beginning of July), I captured this image of the trail heading into the distance, crossing a snow bridge and providing a lovely curve to the composition. One of the few images from the trip that I really liked.

‘Guardian’ (Tryfan – Snowdonia)

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Another image of my favourite mountain and one of those that ends up being a keeper but that started out as nothing more than an opportunistic shot on the way down the mountain. This time a muddy, but partially frozen, puddle winds it’s way towards the edge of the plateau on the descent to the miner’s path. The light, although no longer golden, remains soft enough to avoid harsh contrast. I keep returning to this image.

‘Alien’ (Elgol – Isle of Skye)

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Finally, an image that was only ‘discovered’ in post-process. I wanted to come away from Elgol with a different version of the ‘standard’ view of this infamous boulder. Didn’t realise I’d also find myself worrying about a facehugger getting me…

Episode One, Part Three – My Worst Images of the Year

Technically these aren’t the worst images I’ve taken this year, clearly. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of failures in my Lightroom Catalogue that either have more glaring composition issues, are incorrectly exposed, are out of focus or whatever. However, each of these images could have been so much more or just proved difficult to capture such that they are just missing a certain something. They are untitled.

Image 1

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This image was taken on the morning of one of the coldest wild camps I’ve experienced, back in April. It wasn’t forecast to be so cold and it wasn’t forecast to snow either. Having pulled on my frozen solid boots and trousers at some godawful hour I set about making some photos. At some point, soon after, I changed lenses on the camera without turning the camera off (oops). This reset the aperture to wide open which was f/4 on the new lens. Now, I was shooting standard settings so didn’t bother to check, I just carried on shooting, not realising the aperture and thus the background focussing was way out. I’d spotted this particular scene lit up beautifully in the soft light and having got the best out of the composition, moved on. About 10 minutes later I noticed that the aperture had been reset…I had to go back and reshoot this scene. Unfortunately in those 10 minutes the light had changed and I was so annoyed with myself I didn’t quite get the composition right. This was the best image from that second attempt. At least it’s in focus.

Image 2

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Luskentyre – Isle of Harris. I had been so looking forward to visiting this beach and photographing it. We arrived late afternoon and the tide was coming in…not good. The beach was covered in footprints, right down to the waterline. I set about trying to find something without a million footprints in the scene. Just before I shot this image I’d been trying to take a longer exposure…only for our puppy, Monty (who was 5 months old), to come dashing into the scene from halfway along the beach, pick up the seaweed and ruin it. In the end I had to wait for the water to wash away his paw prints and leave the seaweed in a pleasing shape. However, I couldn’t risk a long exposure now as the tide was coming in closer. It’s an image that I think needs ‘smoothing out’, hence a missed opportunity.

Image 3

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I love this scene. I returned to photograph it at least a dozen times in 2016. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. This was the second visit, which at the time was quite unusual for me. Until 2016 I very rarely returned to the same scenes twice and this is an example of how I’ve changed and developed as a photographer this year. I like the bold colours in the trees and the moody weather but this photo is an example of posting an image prematurely. It wasn’t the image I wanted from here, it could be better (IMO, see above) and so should never have been posted. It’s plainly obvious I wasn’t 100% happy with it as I returned to the scene so frequently in the search of something better. Another thing learned in 2016, have patience with your photography, don’t post/release images until you are 100% happy with them.


So, there you go, the best and worst along with some highlights. In Episode Two of this blog which I’ll post in a few days, I’ll identify those images I seen from others that have really captured my imagination or have stolen my interested. Will your image make the list…?

One Week Two Honours

Ok some shameless self-promotion coming up, apologies in advance…

Last week was a bit of a crazy week in a few ways. The weekend workshops I run are pretty full-on for me and my clients and I’d just run two back-to-back, whilst also carrying a small injury, so by Monday having to get up early for a client meeting for my regular job was tough going. No rest for the wicked as they say. I didn’t go to the gym that day.

Solihull Civic Honours

Well, on Tuesday it was the award ceremony for the Solihull Civic Honours 2016. When I found out I was going to receive the Honour for Creative Arts I was honestly a bit dumbstruck. I still have no idea who nominated me and I would have thought that to receive such an honour would mean I would have to have been known for capturing the beauty of the landscape within and around Solihull. To be fair there are plenty of places within just a few miles of me that are perfect for frosty mornings and misty tree heaven. Even the urban spaces within Solihull itself are ripe for some nice photography, but my heart has always been in the hills. To say I was a bit nervous was an understatement. Although my expectation was that I’d be given my award whilst standing in a broom cupboard, the ceremony was actually in the main council chamber and was being attended by a host of local dignitaries, a rather swish affair, although still sympathetic to these austere times.

My award was presented to me by Guy Dunstan who is General Manager of The Genting Arena, a good man to know if you need box tickets to a major concert no doubt (sadly I didn’t get his number). He gave the audience a run down of my achievements and later it was explained to me that whilst I don’t necessarily promote Solihull directly through being the subject matter of my photography, I promote it indirectly by spreading it’s good name nationally. I received a trophy and certificate and I must say I’m deeply honoured to have been recognised. Thank you to all involved.

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The week didn’t end there though, no…

Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016

On Friday I learned that one of my images shortlisted in the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016 (LPOTY) had been Commended and would be in the Awards book. Whilst I don’t shoot images for competition success, I have to say it’s a huge achievement for anyone to get that far and it feels great to get some form of recognition in this well established competition. Anyone who does (and plenty have done so numerous times) has some rather big hurdles to get over. To my knowledge it goes something a little like this:

  • Over 18,000 entries are reviewed by a Pre-judging Panel
  • That is reduced to approximately 1000 images for an Interim Panel to Judge.
  • The Interim Panel reduce those to a Shortlist of only 350 images. So, folks who get shortlisted have already done massively well.
  • The final judging reduces the Shortlist to 153 images that are in the book, including the overall winner (who this year is Matthew Cattell ).

18,000 down to 153 is quite some going.

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Today I finally received my copy of the book and I’m really pleased to see my image, Vertical Limit, spread over a double page. It is an image that is best seen fairly large due to the tremendous amount of detail, including 19 stick figures (there may be more, can you find them?)

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The Commended Image in full – Vertical Limit

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Prints

The version of this image that is in the book has been very slightly altered from versions available and shared online, but if anyone is interested in a print, the earlier version is available as a signed limited edition together with another signed limited edition print of the Langdale Pikes and a sign copy of my book, Mountainscape, as part of the Luxury Edition (available to purchase on the Triplekite website). That represents a bargain over a standard print through my website.

 

 

 

Solihull Honours

Crikey, how time flies! My self-imposed six month sabbatical from Social Media image posting is almost at an end, just over one week to go! Of course, come the day, I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about it. It has been hard actually, to not share images that I’m quite proud of, but then it’s also been easier than I thought. I’m not in this game to get feint praise, I’m in it because; 1. I enjoy it, and 2. I want to produce photographs that fill people with a sense of wonder. It’s a long hard process and I’m still on the road to achieving that second point, but every step counts. I’ve got one or two things up my sleeve, and come the end of the sabbatical, I hope to announce one thing in particular that will wrap the last six months, indeed the last year, up quite nicely.

All that being said, it came as quite a shock yesterday to open the post. A lovely surprise it was. I received this…

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Yeah, I know, you are as confused as I am. But, someone out there, don’t know who, nominated me. I’d like to thank them and thank Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council too. Goodness knows, I really don’t feel this is deserved, I’m sure there are others out there doing much vital work in the community, but clearly I must be doing something by sharing my love of photography.

Anyway, really looking forward to the awards next month, I’m sure it will be a fine evening.

Toodle-pip.

 

My Mistake

A well known landscape photographer once told me to “never admit your mistakes or pick fault with your photographs in public”, and to a point I can see his, err, point. Social Media is absolutely flooded with images daily and with so many photographers pushing out quality work it can seem at times, at least to anyone with even a hint of a confidence issue, that we are flogging a dead horse with regards to our own images, especially when our misses, rather than hits, run into several hundreds or thousands. I could name a number of photographers out there whose work I greatly admire and who can never seem to do any wrong. Virtually everything they publish online or in books is an astonishing artwork.

Seeing these images roll off a never ending high quality production line can both inspire and depress in equal measure. It’s easy to get disheartened when learning for we aspire to be able to create something equal or better and we generally fail or achieve only moderate success at each turn. But we improve. Slowly. Gradually. Along the way we fall over many times and with each fall comes experience and we move a little closer to our goal. I always like to think about a line from a film, Rocky Balboa…I know, I know, Sylvester Stallone was never the greatest actor. But, one pivotal scene is when he is arguing with his son in the street about giving up.

“…when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!

That is great scene, and although just a metaphor, it can be so easily applied to what we go through with photography.

It’s important to remember throughout all of this that these guys who can seemingly do no wrong, especially in this digital age, do get things wrong. We just don’t see them, because they’ve learned not to show us where they’ve gone wrong, and they’ve certainly heeded the advice above. Now, I certainly don’t place myself in the same league as them but considering this image sharing hiatus I am currently undergoing it has allowed me to think about this and what I may post and allow people to see in the future. I think I’ll take the frequency down and improve my game stats by resolving to only post my very best (I hope).

But, before all that, as a learning tool I thought I’d share some fully edited images with you from over the last 6 months that don’t make the grade, at least for me. I’d be interested to hear your feedback.

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Badbury Clump – I don’t ‘do’ Bluebells. So, why did I get up at 4am to drive 90 minutes to shoot some when there are at least 20 locations within 15 minutes of my house? It was a social event! I met up with Damien Davis (one of my past workshop clients) and Jake Turner to just catch up, have a chat and enjoy a lovely sunrise amongst the bluebells. This image was a 7 portrait pano, but I was a little out of my element (and tired) and it needs an extra shot or  two on the left hand side to create an avenue between the trees for the eye to wander up. There is also some distortion on the right and if you could see the full size image you’d easily see the biggest mistake of all…it’s out of focus. Damn.


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View from Elider Fawr – This could have been a really nice pano, I mean really nice at some 200mpx. Shame the wind was a bit frisky, not to say very cold, and I rushed the sequence. Needless to say two of the frames have image shake, and sadly they are the ones that make up the middle part rendering the image useless.


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Twistleton Scar – My first time to Twistleton Scar and in the company that morning of the supremely talented Darren Ciolli-Leach and Matthew Dartford (Karl Mortimer stayed in bed, lol) who both very quickly disappeared around the side of the hill. A lovely sunrise which turned very harsh very quickly, wandering the landscape aimlessly and a slightly foggy head does not make for good photography. If I go back (and I almost certainly will) I’ll know where to go but I struggled that morning. I’m not really in a ‘landscape’ orientation mood of late as I’ve stated before, so it felt strange placing the camera on the tripod this way round. Still, at the time I was more hoping than knowing I’d got a decent composition. If I could have been a few feet higher to get the top branches below the horizon line on the hill this might have turned out ok. I’d possibly move a little to the right and pan left too to get rid of that pile of stones on the right hand edge. Nevermind. Next time.


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Moel Siabod from above Capel-Curig – This image was shot on the Fuji on my last workshop. I was using it as a demonstration to a couple of my clients and is a classic case of ‘focussing’ on one issue while ignoring another. In this case I was demonstrating focus-stacking and completely lost sight of the composition. The main areas of interest are at the top of the frame and right at the bottom. There is a massive gap of ‘nothing’ in the middle, or at least nothing that is of interest. I should have recomposed this to be a little lower off the ground than it is, closing up that boring centre and allowing a little more breathing room at the top and bottom. Shame, but then I wasn’t there for me.


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Cnicht – This was the first time I had climbed Cnicht, which is a a cracker of a little mountain in the Moelwyn’s, Snowdonia. I really wanted this image to work having hiked up ‘the hard way’, but it just doesn’t. The foreground is messy (not helped by the footprints) and there is zero light to add contrast. The passing front wasn’t clear on it’s back edge and so the sun was completely blocked by cloud on the horizon behind. Having since been back in better conditions I have a number of images I’m happy with but a winter one is not one of them.


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Scar Close – Gah, this place was so frustrating. Same weekend as the Twistleton Scar image above. I Found this really interesting ‘Elephant’s Foot’ formation but couldn’t get it to work. It’s orientation meant that there was no hill for background interest, only this twig like tree. The environment around it was quite messy, especially off shot left and the sky was very bright with a blanket silvery sheen of high cloud. The dynamic range was huge and the A7rII couldn’t cope, even when bracketing at two stops. I thought I’d be able to balance it out in Lightroom, and perhaps you can, but the end composition isn’t anything to write home about so I’ve left it…Still, I do love that rock formation.  This is a shot for heavy mist in Autumn.


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Moel Siabod Winter Sunrise – This was taken on the same workshop as the one above. Handheld this time but again trying to look after my clients so not totally focussed on getting a great photo. Still, I thought this would be nice. However, I was shooting manual focus at f/5.6 (the Fujinon 55-200mm is incredibly sharp at f/5.6) and I missed the focus point. I was concentrating on the top of the peak and not taking any notice of the bottom which is considerably closer in reality. Thus, the bottom, especially on the left is completely out of focus.


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Trotternish, Skye – a very famous scene, shot over Easter weekend. I really worked this scene but having forgotten my umbrella, passing showers overhead were playing havoc which was messing with my ‘phojo’. Anyway, I have slightly better compositions but the conditions were perhaps best at this moment. I think the camera needs to be a little lower get that bottom branch above the hillside, I hate how the tree is bisected. You can also just see the road below as well (ignoring the more obvious road on the right). Loads of people have got a shot from here that they are probably happy with. I’m not one of them.


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The Roaches – Not really a mistake as such, but more of a ‘need to go back in the right conditions’. This image was shot just a couple of weeks ago on my Photowalk with clients in tow. I like the comp (it perhaps needs a little refinement) but the light is way too harsh and the lack of cloud puts this in ‘fair weather’ territory. Definitely not me.


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Muker – Another from Yorkshire. Some nice (ish) lighting but again another landscape ‘bisection’ issue. I needed/need a higher tripod!


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Marsco Pano – Gosh, what a bad day to choose to walk up Marsco on Skye. Only 15 minutes before I reached the top a couple of walkers coming down told me about the magnificent views they had just had across to the Black Cuillin…well, those views went before I got to the top. At one point I stood in a blizzard for about an hour. I was up there for over three hours and in that time never saw the Black Cuillin. This view appeared for all of about 30 seconds, just enough time to run off a quick pano of nothing great before I was plunged back into the cloud. My mistake here was trusting the forecast a bit too much.


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Moel Siabod East Ridge Sunrise – Finally, I shot this a few weeks ago while camping by the lake you see in the image. A very quick scramble up the east ridge in horrible wet weather didn’t inspire me. This image was taken about 10 minutes before sunrise and was very hastily put together. Again I was bracketing but I didn’t check my histogram and assumed that bracketing 3 shots at one stop each would be enough for the highlight. It clearly wasn’t. I came away with another shot I’m really pleased with, but I’d have liked to make this one work.


Right, so there you go, a fair amount of shots that don’t do anything for me. On most of these shoots I came away with at least one image I’m happy with, but for every one there are about five hundred more I’m not happy with. Back in the days of film this kind of wilful abandonment of restraint would have had severe financial consequences, but these days every image shot digitally is a cheap one. In each situation, if I had only had one sheet of film, I would have really taken my time to ensure the shot was absolutely right. Of course I didn’t and I doubt I will in the future either, but with each shoot I learn a little more, remember to check a little more and learn to perfect the image a little more. There are just a heck of a lot of failures to get over along the way. The skill comes with recognising what they are and only posting the good ones.

You know, it’s ok to shoot iconic locations

I recently had a little break from Facebook, I was getting bogged down in arguing against very opinionated people and I realised that I was at risk of becoming too opinionated too. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you can tolerate and empathise with those whose opinions differ. Anyway, I’m very guilty of having expressed certain opinions in the past around certain photographic subject matter (Misty Trees or Bluebells anyone?), certain much photographed locations (Ooh, another shot of [Insert Castle Name Here]) and certain processing techniques (Eye bleeding saturation anyone?). You know what, I’m guilty of doing all that too (well, hopefully not the eye bleeding saturation bit) and it’s cool, it’s all cool man.

Recently I visited the Isle of Skye, a trip I’ve already mentioned in my blog before, but to revisit the subject serves a purpose here. Most of the time I like to head off into the wild to seek out new viewpoints, or at least ‘hard to get at’ ones. On the whole I try to ignore getting bogged down in the ‘iconic’ locations trying to get the same view a million others have already succeeded in getting. Why? Because I can, it’s what I enjoy. Skye was a little different because the weather was so bad it simply wasn’t worth the effort to get anywhere other than the obvious roadside locations. This gave me the opportunity to revisit a perennial favourite, or should I say nemesis…Elgol. I have a vision of the image I want from here and in four or five previous visits I’ve never had conditions that come anywhere close.

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First visit to Elgol back in 2011, shot on a Canon 40D…woo, saturation!

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And again in 2013, this time with the 5DMkII

Well, over Easter I happened to visit that little fishing village no less than three times over one weekend in search of the perfect conditions. They didn’t quite happen. What was good about that though was it gave me time to hunt down a certain boulder that a certain exemplary landscape photographer made famous. For some reason I’d never noticed it before. Visiting three times over a weekend also meant I could gauge what tidal conditions were required to achieve what I wanted to do…and at which point during the tidal cycle the sea was at the right level.

Now, I’ll come out and say it right now, I have a problem with virtually every shot of that boulder. Whilst trying not to be too opinionated about it, everyone is different in their vision afterall, the problem I have with it is the domineering lump (for want of a better word) of sea carved rock to the right of it. Whilst not being in that particular shot, the headland to the right of Elgol also presents the same problem for wider views of the Cuillin. Whether shooting the boulder or a wider view of the Cuillin, that rock or the headland unbalance each and every composition that they are in as far as I’m concerned. My mission here was to even things out.

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iPhone pic of ‘That Boulder’ at Easter on the first day

On the third visit the tidal conditions were perfect. The sky was stormy but the sea was calmer than I had hoped, despite the tide. I set to work trying to get the (my) perfect composition, thinking I could always return, when conditions were really as I had envisioned…having already tried for five years. If it ever happened I’d then go straight to a pre-determined composition and ‘click’, that would be that. Done. What ensued was about an hour of micro-adjusting my position, focal length, angle, everything really, to achieve the composition I wanted. Persistence pays off. I kind of got the shot. In that time the stormy skies began to break over the distant mountains, dousing parts of them in dreamy storm light, there was even the hint of a rainbow amongst the peaks. The waves were crashing over the boulder and lapping at my feet. I captured what I wanted…almost. There is still room for improvement, a stronger shaft of light, a stronger rainbow, more violent seas, etc. I think the shot actually requires a tilt shift lens, but for now I have to work with what I already have. Overall though, I’m finally happy with a shot from Elgol.

The point of this is as the internet becomes saturated with millions more images each day, people are going to greater extremes to get something unique or set themselves apart from ‘the competition’, be that hunting down more and more remote vantage points/landscapes, employing more and more extreme processing, seeking to use more cutting edge genres of photography (Dronography, Timelapse, etc), which unfortunately, I think, in turn is sacrificing the quality in this art.

In the last few days a timelapse popped up on my timeline, many people retweeted or shared it, shot in 8K, about Patagonia. Folks proclaiming it ‘breathtaking’. I watched it, curious (as I’d love to visit Patagonia myself), and was distinctly underwhelmed. The music was great, the scenery was great, most of the editing was great. The image quality was great, and the photographer got some wonderful conditions. However, in his quest to produce a compelling short film of a fantastic place, all shot at 8K on a Medium Format camera, the photographer forgot one vital thing. Even with timelapse your images need to be well composed. I know that is not easy, and I wouldn’t expect every scene to be a masterpiece, but sequence after sequence after sequence kind of bored me. Sorry. I guess the same can be said for the majority of Dronography. Just because you can now shoot from 500ft above the cliff wall, through the rainbow and next to the exploding firework and between the wings of an Eagle, doesn’t make it a great shot. Likewise, just because you trekked for 50 miles with 30kg on your back and were nearly eaten by a dinosaur in a long lost valley, doesn’t mean your shot is great, albeit perhaps unique.

There seems to be a growing community of photographers out there who openly chastise those who don’t want to, or don’t have the confidence, or who are simply unable for one reason or another to explore beyond those iconic locations, whether new or old. It may be because of time, or health or a number of reasons. It smacks of a superiority complex, some kind of ‘worthiness hierarchy’, and it’s a bit much to take when they should really concentrate on making their own work better than it already is (yes you, you should). You don’t need to be shooting somewhere new to do that. Of course, do what you enjoy, but don’t have a go at others for taking the ‘easy’ shot, the easy shot isn’t always easy as I’ve found in Elgol.

And so, I come full circle to why it’s ok to shoot iconic locations. Why it’s ok to shoot repetitive subject matter.  Why it’s ok to walk no further than three steps from your car.  Why you need not explore if you don’t want to. As landscape photographers we have absolute control over what our camera sees and we have almost no control of what mother nature chooses to show it. For that reason alone, every shot will be different. But even what we can control can always be bettered. If we want to set up in somebody else’s tripod holes we can, the shot will still be different because the weather and the light is never exactly the same. Our processing differs too and if that is what you enjoy, then do it. Smash the hell out of it if you want to, ramp that bad boy slider to 100. Though if you do, remember that art is fickle and the herd are generally intolerant of those who stray too far. All up to you, but work to make your shot, however similar to another, better than what you have shot before, what others have shot before. For example I’d prefer to see a  dozen fantastic compositions of Corfe Castle in mist, than a single mediocre composition of a previously un-photographed Himalayan peak (if such a thing still exists).

Oh, the shot from Elgol? You’ll have to wait, I’m on a sharing hiatus. Didn’t you read the last blog? 😉

Release the Pressure

If you were a student in the 90s you will no doubt remember Leftfield’s seminal reggae fusion EDM track, “Release the Pressure”, the first verse of which goes:

I’ve got to stand and fight in this creation
Vanity I know can’t guide I alone
I’m searching to find a love that lasts all time
I’ve just got to find peace and unity

It’s no surprise then that this was playing in the car whilst I was sitting watching the pouring rain in near zero visibility at the Quiraing on Skye at Easter.

Those on social media may have seen my tweets that weekend, all a mix of humour but the main theme being the poor weather on Skye. Some folks may see that as unfortunate whilst others may joke or even marvel at the apparent lack of expert knowledge of the weather and the Island. All landscape photographers are amateur meteorologists and geographers you see, or at least we like to think we are. Thing is, it would all be true if I described myself as a ‘fair weather photographer’, but as I do not then I should cut myself some slack. Truth is I (and others like me I guess) choose to put myself in situations where the weather is frankly appalling because it’s at the edge of this (and sometimes right in the middle) that the most compelling images can be realised. Transitions all too often happen so quickly, it’s blink and you miss it. What was a great shot once, isn’t any longer by the time you set your camera up. So, I’m often to be found under a dark cloud, often not getting the shot I envisage. Although on occasion…

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Shooting under these conditions relies on a huge amount of luck, for that cloud to break at the right moment, and unfortunately that is what has been lacking for quite some time. Not only have the clouds not broken it seems, they’ve got heavier and heavier. On the whole it’s been a dismal winter.

Some good things have come out of that though, I started my little project, SlateForms…

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That has been a complete departure from the type of landscape photography I most indulge in. I’ve also had to think less about the wider view and concentrate more on the details. I’ve almost abandoned photographing in landscape orientation, preferring portrait to really add power to the composition. I’m finding that orientation compelling. In fact I went back through my catalogue and I’d say that of all the images I have taken over the last 2 years, I could have improved about 25% of them by cropping tighter and shooting in portrait. I’ve also come to love a 4×5 ratio too. Virtually everything I’m shooting now is in this ratio or 1×1, unless I’m doing big panoramas. In fact that combo will do very nicely for the future I think.

So, here I was on Skye, sitting in the rain, in my car, really not fancying getting out. This lasted for two whole days. It wasn’t until the third day that I got my camera out. You don’t need great light to make a compelling photograph, great composition does that. Light helps of course, but for those first two days there wasn’t any. I ‘saw’ lots of potential, but even with what might have been excellent composition, many of the things I was seeing really needed that little extra, that light, at least I thought. This was it, all of this was the pressure.

Iceland: End of Time

Ever since winning OPOTY last year I’ve felt a need to justify it. Although I had to work physically for that winning image (above) and in the end I was the one that composed it, pressed the shutter and processed the image to realise a vision, I wasn’t there off my own back. That was down to Alex Nail who put in the hard work of researching places that ‘might’ under the right circumstances, lend themselves to something epic. We all got a little lucky on that day and it paid off, not least of all for me. Gradually over time I’ve been piling pressure on myself to improve my vision. First of all it was to try to equal, if not beat, the epic nature of the OPOTY image. In some way I think I’ve managed to produce a few images in that time that hold their own from an ‘epic’ feeling standpoint, be they Vertical Limit, The Reckoning, Vertigo, Falling Skies, or one or two others;

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and second of all I started to think about taking shots like that to the next level, to make them mean something more or at least add more context by nailing decent fore and mid-ground composition rather than relying on the vista to do the work, considering the whole of the landscape before me and how each component interacts with the others.

When I visited Vietnam a couple of months ago we visited the War Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, it was an interesting experience in many ways, but one of the things that struck me was the exhibition detailing the stories of the various war photographers, on both the US and the North Vietnamese sides. One North Vietnamese photographer, Tram Am, was given one roll of film, just 70 frames, for use during the entire war. Just think about that for a moment. In our throwaway society, where memory costs less and less with each passing day, and even for those who might still shoot on film, how many images are just ‘throwaway’? Imagine only being able to take one photo a month? That is effectively what this guy had to play with. You see something incredible unfolding, it’s war after all, and before you press the shutter, you have to stop and think “is this it, is this THE moment?”. Ignoring the obvious horrors for just a second, I simply can’t imagine what that was like from a photographic standpoint.

So, this pressure I talk of has been there for some time and now that I am no longer OPOTY I feel it’s time for a change of pace. Enough is enough. What I was feeling was preventing me from just being creative in Skye, even in the face of the bad weather. I need to release the pressure. Some people in this situation simply put their camera down for a while and walk away. Others choose to refocus on other genres or simply absorb themselves in their main line of work. These days some take a break from social media, it has after-all invaded almost every facet of our daily lives. Given that social media has played such an important part in my photographic development, I can’t simply just walk away. What I can do however, is stop sharing my work to it. That means all online channels; Twitter, this Blog, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and even Behance, anything online essentially. So, that is what I’ve decided to try to do for the next six months. There is an abundance of over-sharing on these sites, I’m equally guilty of this of course, but it does seem that many people, amateur and professional alike, share their images for sharing sake at times. There is an un-talked about competition to get your images out there and get them out there before everyone else. I think this dilutes the quality on occasion and even those whose work I deeply respect and admire hit the odd bum note. Of course, there is actually nothing wrong with it, you guys go ahead. For me however, it’s all part of the pressure I referred to above.

Anyway, I’ll still interact on these sites, talk about photography, write the odd blog. I may even post some old photos again if the conversation goes that way. However, any new work will have to wait, I’m off to find my peace and unity and in the process hopefully start improving the imagery I produce, without feeling the need to post an image (other than iphone holiday snap type things of course), to Twitter, or Facebook or wherever. I want to really study the scenes before me and question them before I’ve even pressed the shutter, really ensure I can’t improve upon the image before I finalise the process, in a similar way Tram Am may have had to do. In fact I’ve already started…

Oh…But before I do have this little break, one last image, this one from Skye (well I guess I need to show I didn’t spend 4 days up there for nothing!), and not my usual fayre either. It may be complete rubbish, but I like it. Simply entitled…

“Alien”

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Snowdonia Winter Workshop

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I expect most who read this will know I’ve been visiting Snowdonia a lot over the last few months. The reason for that is both deliberate and accidental. I had a plan this Winter to start a new project after Mountainscape, a kind of Mountainscape 2.0. This Winter was supposed to be spent capturing images for that in both Snowdonia and the Lake District, moving on to Scotland in the Spring and over the next Winter. Of course I was also running a couple of workshops too, but the essence of this Winter was on development, as a photographer.

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When Autumn finally arrived it brought some weeks of very fine weather to Snowdonia, indeed the rest of the country too. I then ran my first workshop, which you can read about here. Needless to say once the bad weather arrived it never really left. I believe that by mid-January, Capel-Curig had had 60 continuous days of wet weather. Incredible. The storms of course badly affected the Lake District, and although not closed for business, one trip there was cancelled as a direct result and another was re-located to Snowdonia because of the threat of a storm. Any really cold and calm snaps seemed to happen during the week, followed by  a milder and wetter interlude arriving on Thursday/Friday providing yet another wet weekend. Some folks have managed to be flexible and have been lucky with the breaks, not me it seems, not really. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Tiresome.

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It was a great relief therefore a few weeks ago when my Snowdonian Winter Workshop finally landed some good fortune, even if it wasn’t particularly wintery. Both the Saturday and the Sunday remained largely dry. On Saturday the weather was mainly cloudy, but it was dry. We started the day at Llyn Y Dywarchen where there is a boathouse, some fine trees and some ruins, in addition to a small hill from which the views can be incredible. A thin layer of high cloud ensured that Golden Hour never got golden but there were one or two moments of good light. After some breakfast at the Moel Siabod Cafe, we explored a small section of the hillside down Pen Y Pass before making our way to Dinorwic Quarry to explore the mid and upper sections. I’ve gradually fallen in love with the place and it’s becoming my ‘go to’ place on cloudy and miserable days. The weather wasn’t going to improve and there was little point ascending anything for sunset, so we decided to call it a day, stopping briefly at the waterfalls at Llyn Ogwen which were flowing quite nicely thanks to meltwater from the snow high up.

Some images from various quarries in the area from previous visits…

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The following day was forecast to be much better. Sunrise wasn’t really going to happen, but we still made the effort just in case, spending a couple of hours at Llyn Llydaw in the shadow of Snowdon, my clients exploring the lake edge and some of the landscape higher up. After another hearty breakfast, we went to explore Cwm Idwal, ascending through Tin Can Gully into the huge amphitheatre. The cloud was really moving now with patches of bright blue sky. We walked anti-clockwise around Llyn Idwal having left our tripods in the car. This session was about shooting handheld and shooting quickly as we moved rapidly around the lake.

After finishing at Cwm Idwal and grabbing a quick pastry from the onsite cafe, we made a beeline for our sunset target. Our late afternoon ascent of Cnicht was glorious in many ways, and we were treated to an uninterrupted view of sunset. However, as so often happens it ended up being a ‘dirty’ sunset, i.e. no strong light, just a steady drop off into the haze…and then a reasonably long torchlit descent in the dark. All in all we covered something like 17.5 miles on the Sunday, culminating in a dash for the pub for dinner after saying goodbye to some very satisfied clients.

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This was the first of my three Snowdonia workshops this year. The second is now sold out and takes place in just over a week. The next is in October, is being run jointly with Lee Acaster and includes some excellent accommodation. In October I am also running a workshop in The Lake District. Both of these October workshops still have spaces. I’m also running four more one-day photowalks in the Peak District throughout the year, the next is in May. If you are interested then please take a look under ‘Workshops’ on my Website and get in touch.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

Vallerret Photography Gloves

I’m not big at reviewing things, in fact this is the first blog review I’ve done, so I apologise for the photos, they were done in a bit of a rush on the iPhone.

As a landscape photographer, especially a Mountain photographer, one of the biggest challenges is handling expensive photographic equipment in freezing temperatures and being able to fiddle with small and often recessed buttons. Often it’s a case of taking the gloves fully off which means within a minute or two you’ve lost all circulation due to the cold.

As somebody who started off hillwalking way before I started photography, I’ve had numerous types of gloves over the years and I’ve certainly learned that one type does not suit all conditions. Below are my current selection:

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They are made up a mitts that I generally carry as a back up pair in winter, gauntlets for proper winter conditions (for use with Ice Axe), Sealskinz for wet but generally mild conditions, Winter “I’m not going up a mountain but might throw a snowball” gloves, convertible fleece mitts (my current immediate choice for photography), thin softshell gloves (for photography at higher altitude), Full leather Hestra gloves for full winter but no Ice Axe required…the list goes on.

Despite all of these gloves, I’ve never been content with any of them for photography, they just didn’t work well enough high in the mountains from December to March, always being a compromise. So, I’ve been on the lookout for the ‘ultimate’ glove.

Enter stage right, the Vallerret Photography Gloves. I came across these in the later half of 2015, they were a kickstart project and I immediately saw their potential. Sadly the design and manufacturing schedule meant they wouldn’t drop on our doormats until winter was almost over, but they’ll be ready to go when the snows hit next winter!

With a price of about £45 on Kickstarter, they were a little on the pricey side, but if they keep my hands warm and allow me to keep shooting, then they are worth every penny. Designed by the Swedish pair Stine Lyng Jørgensen and Carl van den Boom who know a bit about shooting in cold climates, the gloves main features are:

  • Flip finger caps for your forefinger and thumb on both gloves.
  • 100% Merino Wool liner, keeping your hands warm and comfortable
  • Non-slip grip (in white or black)
  • Microfibre wipe (so you can wipe your lens if you can’t find your usual microfibre cloth)
  • Memory Card pocket (with zip closure)
  • Wind and Water resistant

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They come in 4 sizes, S, M, L and XL. I chose M (using their sizing chart) and I have to say the size is very good. They are snug but very easy to slide on. The only thing (which you can probably tell from the photos) is the thumb is a little long. I don’t think I have a stubby thumb by any stretch, but in any case, I think this is a minor issue and it doesn’t affect use.

I’m not sure I’d use the pocket for an SD Card, if I was to use it for something like that then a spare battery would be better…and hey, guess what, I can fit either a spare Sony NP-FW50 in there or a Fuji NP-W126. Awesome, keep that spare nice and warm ready for use. It does look and feel a bit weird though if you do that. I doubt you’d get a large Canon or Nikon DSLR battery in there though.

In use they seem very good. I’ve not used them on a mountain yet, but they feel warm and I have enough dexterity to confidently handle my camera. The flip finger caps work well allowing me to operate the more fiddly features on the camera and quickly return my finger-tip into the cosy warmth of the glove. A possible small downside is the opening for the flip top leaves a little gap when in full glove mode, possibly allowing a little cool air in. I’m not sure this will be a problem, but I’ll only know through extended use. I’ve also tried these with my Gauntlets and/or my Down-mitts and being relatively thin, they slip into those without issue, I can use these as liners for those gloves when the going gets tough, and still be able to operate my camera in relative warmth by removing the Gauntlet/Mitt to use the Vallerret glove with the camera.

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Possibly they may get refined over time, but initial impression is that these are a quality glove that most certainly “Extend Your Session” as the tagline goes.

Great job Vallerret!

13/04/2016 UPDATE:

Ok, so I got to test these gloves out properly over last weekend. On the Saturday morning I went to my favourite quarry in Snowdonia to add some more images to my SlateForms project. When I arrived it started to rain which then turned into heavy wet snow. The Gloves didn’t perform so well. The palm, albeit very grippy is not at all water resistant. Any hint of moisture soaks straight through. This isn’t too much of a problem because of the merino wool lining, so my hands didn’t get cold, just uncomfortably wet. In use the gloves are very flexible and you’ll have noted in my earlier review above, that the thumb was a little long. Well, in use the forefinger kind of rides up too. What this means is that the finger caps end up parting, exposing your finger tips if you aren’t careful. A better design would have been to make an overlap between the finger cap and the main glove. It wasn’t too cold so I removed the gloves and continued the shoot without them. Additionally, the microfibre wipe is next to useless in wet conditions, it wetted out within seconds of the gloves being used.

In the afternoon I hiked up onto the Glyderau for an overnight wildcamp. The hike up was boggy and I slipped and fell over several times. The skies were clear but the ground was wet and again the gloves soaked through instantly. That palm really does need some waterproof reinforcement. However, as dusk approached the conditions changed. The temperature dropped dramatically. Overnight I put the damp gloves in my sleeping bag to dry out. Come the morning it was incredibly cold. The tripod (which I’d left out) was covered in frost and ice, it had snowed a little and my boots were frozen solid. However, the Gloves, performed flawlessly. They remained warm and crucially dry in the much colder drier conditions. I was able to work without hindrance from the gloves, holding the frozen tripod and operating it without issue. Handling of the camera was very good. I didn’t bother trying to use the microfiber wipe though. The finger caps stayed were they should and I flipped them on and off as needed.

In conclusion then, these really are winter gloves in the sense that they are great in cold and dry conditions. As soon as they get moist from external factors their usefulness deteriorates rapidly. Of course, they’ll still remain warm, but in those conditions I’d prefer to use something more resistant to the wet.

I’d still recommend them, but think carefully about what conditions you are likely to use these in before you choose to buy.

To Ski To Photograph

Any photographer who has ever had a passing interest in the mountains and who has also had the fortune to go skiing must have marvelled at the stark beauty around them so high up. They probably also noticed just how cluttered and busy the mountains are in winter around a ski resort. Seriously, there is stuff everywhere that just loves to ruin your photo’s, including, but not limited to; Ski lifts, Cable Cars, People, Mountain Restaurants, Piste Signs, Piste Markers, Pistes(!), Piste Bashers, Snow Cannon, Ski/Snowboard Tracks, everywhere you look there is something in the way, it’s a mess….but it’s a wonderful mess. I love to Ski.

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In March 2016 I took my third skiing holiday since I’ve been taking Photography seriously. The first to Austria was ruined photographically when I slipped on some ice on the way to the cable car and I fell on my rucksack smashing my 70-200 lens. The second to Andorra last year was a mixed bag. A few poor days with near zero visibility, and a few very warm  blue sky days that melted the snow quickly. Photographically I just couldn’t get it to work. This year we went to Les Menuires which forms part of the 3 Valleys network of resorts in France. With over 600km of piste to pick from it’s a winter sports enthusiasts delight.

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France has had some good snow over the winter and so when we arrived the slopes were in perfect condition.

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The second day there it snowed for about 24 hours and then the remaining time it was very cold (-18C at night) but with blue sky days. The perfect combination for great skiing and surprisingly great conditions for photography.

Greg_Whitton_Photography_Travel_Web_2016-38Even with 600km of pistes and the odd queue for lifts lasting up to half an hour, I managed to ski further than I have done previously, and it was relatively easy to find interesting subject matter for photos that wasn’t compromised too much by distracting elements.

Greg_Whitton_Photography_Travel_Web_2016-53All in all a great trip and a resort I would highly recommend to anyone.

For more pics take a look at my Behance collection at Ski Alpine

Thank you.