Tag Archives: Health & Safety

A quick look at ruins and countryside

• Lonely Bodmin Chimney •

• Lonely Bodmin Chimney •
Click image to view large
• Lonely Bodmin Chimney • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

The influence of man on the countryside is worth photographing.

For centuries we’ve created substantial buildings in open country. Today, these have become an intimate part of the rural scene. For photographers they provide an interesting focus for landscapes. Sometimes quaint, sometimes aesthetically pleasing, these old relics can provide great interest for the eye. They draw the viewer into the scene and provide a starting point for the appreciation of the rest of the image.

Finding ruins and old buildings

In the UK the Ordinance Survey  External link - opens new tab/page sell maps that carry a key which marks out old, derelict and protected buildings. Other countries have similar mapping systems. Surprisingly some online mapping systems are not so good at highlighting these features of our history. Unless, that is, they are part of some sort of commercial or historic leisure opportunity on the site.

I was crossing Bodmin Moor in the West Country, UK, one day and came across the chimney above in a tiny country lane. Well off the beaten track. Bodmin Moor, with many other places in Cornwall and Devon, was once a thriving mining area. The locals extracted tin. Sadly the workings bring little prosperity to either county now. But many of the old mine buildings, and especially the distinctive chimneys, bring many tourists. In the parks and moors these mines are preserved and they provide brilliant photographic opportunities. The ones that are away from the crowds are best. A lonely feature in a landscape is always more attractive than a solitary chimney surrounded by heavily trodden ground, tourists and coaches.

So how do you find these hidden gems? Here are some things you can do…

  • At walkers/backpackers shops ask the staff. They often know local interest spots.
  • Get to know some local people in places you stay.
  • Tourist information offices are found world wide and often know of hidden places.
  • Study maps and aerial views of places you are going to visit.
  • Ask in local camera shops.
  • Contact the local camera club to your destination before your trip.
  • Search out ‘interest’ booklets written by local people for local people – often found in walkers/backpackers shops
  • Contact historical and walkers societies in advance of your trip
How should you photograph ruins?

There are some basics you should think about…

Use perspective to exaggerate depth: Find a long wall or fence, even ancient pathways/hedges to shoot along and use these to create perspectives and lines to draw the eye into the picture and create depth.

Rule of thirds: In the picture above the chimney is on a third. The rule of thirds always helps with a more dynamic placement of solid objects in the landscape.

Foreground, mid-ground, distance: These help create layers in the picture. Picture something close to you as detailed and tail off the detail on the other side of some breakpoint in the image. My little steam in the foreground (above) not only provides detail, but acts to break up the picture into fore and mid-ground too. Nearer the horizon the chimney provides interest drawing in the eye and creating depth.

• Rock backdrop •

• Rock backdrop •
The textures on the sites of ruins are often great for portraits

Detail and texture: Some great things can be found around ruins, derelict buildings, mines and old industrial sites. Think of old spillways, waterways, old machinery, the wonderful textures, rocks, farm animals, heaps of mine spoils, rust, old beams of wood… the list is endless. They all provide great photographic opportunities.

People! ruins and derelict sites make great places for portraits. The textures and variations of the scene both make great backdrops. Look for surfaces that have high contrast. Lots of mid-tone highlights and darks mixed so that the texture stands out. If the light is no good then you can side light with an off-camera flash to exaggerate the texture in the rocks.

Light painting: There are some brilliant opportunities for lighting up these sorts of places fat night with all sorts of exotic lights, colours and fun light painting shots. You can find out more about light painting in this post: Night photography – let the sparks fly!. Be mindful of your safety – some of these places are dangerous and make sure you get any permissions you need before invading a site with bizarre night lights. Someone may object, especially on private ground.


Ruins and the like provide great opportunities for landscapes, portraits, studies in texture and fun shots. Be on the look out for local situations for you to get to know and plan ahead for when you are away.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Some quick tips for still life inspiration and shots

You can find some surprisingly artistic displays in shop windows.

You can find some surprisingly artistic displays in shop windows. It is easy to get some great ideas for still life work later. Or, you can just photograph them in the shop.
Click to view this image in full size.

Get some easy but creative still life shots

I love shop windows. I especially like those boutique type shops where the owner has a sense of art. Shop window displays are by nature well designed, artistic and attractive. Well, they are if the owners want to entice people into the shop. Here is an idea to help you out with your still life shots.

Still life inspiration

Window displays are usually simple and attractive. The shop owner doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on the display. They do want it to draw customers into the shop. Take advantage of this artful situation. Look at the the picture above. It’s a simple box constructed from rough wood, lined at the back with a scrap of net curtain. Wow. Effective. You could display all sorts of things in this. There are also dozens of ways to light it. Here is a simple and effective way to really emphasize your product, your still life, your collection… you name it. Great inspiration. So, take a walk up the high street and see what still life shots you can think of from peering into shops. (More after the jump…)

Display photography

The shot above, ‘Shoes in a box’, was actually taken in a shop window. I do quite a lot of these. The shots are easy to do. They give you great ideas too. More to the point, if you take them after dark they are usually under pretty good lighting too. One walk up the high street after dark about every month and you will come back with a crop of great still life photographs. Everyone will think you have great creative skills. In fact you are getting ideas from shops and getting some great practice.

Here are some points to help you and some things to consider…

  • Remember to be properly prepared for night photography.
  • Turn off auto-focus – focus manually. Auto-focus will focus on the window glass if reflections get in the way.
  • If you use a flash make sure that you know how to turn it’s power down. Shop window shots are quite close-up and flash is pretty intense. It is possible to overpower the shops’ display lights. This will seriously change the character of your shot.
  • Use a diffuser on a flash to make sure you don’t get hard light flashes off the shop window.
  • Reflections from street lamps on the glass? Hang your coat on a tripod to block the light beams or get your friend to hold the coat up.
  • Use off-camera flash. It is best when shooting through glass. You can angle the flash away from the axis-of-light to your camera. Camera mounted flash tends to give a strong flash-reflection right in front of you.
  • Shoot from the side (at an angle), not straight at the glass. You will be less likely to see your own reflections in your shot.
  • If you do this at night make sure you have a friend for safety and help.
  • Don’t look suspicious. If you work openly and tell people what you are doing if asked everyone will laugh and be on their way. I have done this for a number of years and never had an ‘incident’.
  • If you are accosted or you appear to have upset someone then stop what you are doing, apologise and move on.
  • No-one, including the police can make you delete a photograph. See: The Right to Take Photographs (UK relevant).

I have had some great fun and some great ideas with window-shooting over the years and you will too.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Preparing for a Night Shoot

Night photography in a village centre

Night photography in a village centre.
Click to view large.

Equipment and Preparation

You will mainly need your normal kit. The standard DSLR is a capable night camera. However, you will need a tripod. Most night shots use long exposures. Some exposures may be up to thirty seconds or more. You cannot hold a camera steady for that time. If you don’t have a tripod consider bean bags, Joby Gorillapod for Canon 450D, 1000D,500D, Nikon D3000, D5000,D90, Sony Alpha DLSR Range, and Panasonic G1 Series – SLR Zoom, walls, the ground, chairs, the car roof… be inventive!

Aside from your photographic kit some other equipment is advisable. Two flash-lights (torches) are useful. Put one in your pocket and one in your camera kit. It is easy to lose stuff in the dark (including your light) – a torch helps find things. Wear sensible, appropriate clothing. Often night photography is a Winter pass-time because of short days. Warm clothes, a hat and proper warm shoes help make a night shoot pleasurable. cold, and especially wet, conditions can be miserable and even dangerous. Don’t forget something to eat and drink. Hot soup, or in Summer, a cold drink, can be a lifesaver and make your trip a pleasure. If you are with others sharing a short break with drinks and a nibble are fun and a great time to exchange ideas. Poor preparation can spoil a shoot. We do night shoots because they are fun! So look after yourself, wear the proper protection, enjoy!

Before You Go…

I have seen many photographers miss great shots through lack of preparation. Make sure you have done the following before you go:

  • Location research – scout days ahead of time, do light and dark visits to several alternatives. Pick the site you are going to use, especially for parking and danger spots. Be ahead of the game for the dark-time shoot. Ask local photographers, contact local photography clubs. They know the local sites and will have invaluable knowledge to save you time. Photographers love to share!
  • Shot planning – ensure you have a clear idea of what you are shooting and plan for it. Check out tripod spots, angle of the ground, trip hazards, dangerous gullies and so on. It is not just safety, it helps make sure you get the shot you want.
  • Pack in a way that helps you find things in the dark (bright tags on small things help). Pack logically so you can find just what you need without rooting around.
  • Time research – checkout the time it gets dark (or light). Plan to get there with plenty of time to set up before the optimum shoot conditions. Shooting lights? Know when they go on (or off), know if they change. You don’t get reflections if the lights go off! Many buildings are not lit all night, just early evening.
  • Sun light: if the rising or setting sun is important to your shoot (eg. the direction of light) make sure you know in advance what direction to see the sun, and exactly where it will set for the date you are there. Use a sun calcluator… Suncalc.net External link - opens new tab/page
  • Route planning helps you get there on time. Map-work is often useful for planning your shot directions too.
  • Practice using the appropriate settings before you do it in the dark. Doing settings in the dark is twice as difficult if you have not done it before.
  • Have a list of emergency services contact details (coastguard, mountain rescue, police etc) for your shoot location. A home contact person and telephone connections are essential too. Emergencies get far worse if you are out at night. If you are unconscious in a field and no-one knows where you are or when you should be home you could die. Always tell someone where you are, your plan, when you will be home and how to contact you. Remember to have their contact details to tell them when you are home safe.
  • Don’t plan to go places where you are not trained to go. Mountains, boats, caves, rough country and some urban environments can be very dangerous. Within minutes you can be in trouble. Planning helps you to be aware of the dangers. However, consider getting specialist training before you take on an adventure. A large proportion of wilderness accidents happen at night – without training your survival chances are reduced.
  • Consider going to outdoor locations with other people. “Less than three there should never be!” One injury leaves one support person and one person to go for help.

Looking forward to the night you do your shoot is fun. Thinking and planning your shoot gives you endless opportunities to try out things, play with your kit and get ideas from people. If you are prepared your shoot will go better, you will learn a lot and get better shots.

Have fun getting ready for your shoot!

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.