Explorations of Llanddwyn Island

I discovered Llanddwyn Island last November during our first trip to northern Wales; it instantly became easily my favorite photo spot in the United Kingdom. And while I got some photographs last year, I wasn't totally in love with the results, so I was eager to try to shoot it again. 

So at the beginning of July, we packed up and did the long drive back out to northern Wales and to see the island. The island didn't disappoint, and the constantly changing weather kept me busy! As you'll see in these photographs, we went from sunny blue skies to clouds of impending doom, all over the course of a few hours. And just to be clear, this is a small island - no roads or cars - and it can only be accessed during low tide. But turning 360* in place could give me a huge diversity in landscapes, and therefore moods I could convey in the images. 

In actuality, all this weather diversity made it hard to shoot! Did I want a moody image, or a cheery image? Better face the right direction, or wait 10 mins for the weather to change! 

All of these photographs were taken with the Leica SL and Leica 24-90mm Vario Elmarit lens.

The lighthouse on the edge of Llanddwyn Island, northern Wales

Remains from an old church on Llanddwyn Island

Dark storm clouds approach over Llanddwyn Island

A narrow path in the grass leading to the edge of the cliff on Llanddwyn Island

Small boat houses line parts of the coast as storm clouds bear down on the island

The beachside forrest that surrounds Llanddwyn Island

Quick Shot: Trees

Nothing too fancy, just a beautiful image of some pine trees lined up along the beach on Llanddwyn Island in Wales. I really liked the fence in the foreground and the fact that you could see parts of the beach through the trees. I actually took a few images with my digital Leica and my film camera before I settled on this being my favorite.

This is a film photograph taken with a Hasselblad 503CX on Ilford Delta 100 Pro film.

Quick Shot: Greek Boat

We ate at a restaurant on the water outside Corfu, Greece, when I looked up to see this boat tied to a nearby pier. I grabbed my Leica MP (Type 240) and shot it with a shallow depth of field to highlight the tip of the boat. Although the colors were wonderful, I liked the final image better in black and white.

Quick Shot: Greece Beach

I was trying to pick from a stack of photos for today's quick shot and figured this one would be perfect because it will be in great contrast to some of my next photography subjects..... a week from today I'm setting off for an expedition in the arctic circle to capture the aurora! With that said, what could be in greater contrast to snow and sub zero temperatures than a beach scene?!

I took this photograph in Mykonos, Greece. Little boats like this line the marina and beach, and their bright colors make them a natural subject to photograph. I decided to use an aperture that would give the boat mostly in focus, but lightly blur the background so that it wouldn't distract from the main subject, which was this beautiful and rustic vessel. With the bright colors and golden sand, it was a photograph that took itself - I just had to push click!

Quick Shot: Windmills

I don't really need to tell you where I took this photograph - there's only one place in the world that has such a unique look. 

A decade ago, I visited these windmills in Mykonos, Greece with my parents and I took a quick photograph with a little 1.5 megapixel camera that (at the time) was cutting edge. I love that photograph - it's actually not a great photo by any means - but the memory associated with that photograph is what makes it so special. 

When I returned to Mykonos this fall, I wanted to visit those windmills that I had such fond memories of photographing 10 years ago. To put a fun twist on a commonly photographed sight, I waited until sunset and snapped off a series of photos precisely as the sun touched the top of the hills on the horizon. It took mere seconds for the sun to disappear completely, but I was able to get a few where there was a nice burst to the sun.

Photographer tip: The camera by default will always want to expose for the sky, so when taking photos like this, you have to be smarter than the camera. In this case, I set exposure compensation of -1/2 stop to help preserve shadow details in the windmills and metered against the windmill before lining up the shot. That made the sky darker and windmill lighter without having to use special filters or post processing. The other way to get this sort of photograph is to shoot a burst and process them together afterwards (called HDR), but the image here is a single shot.

Quick Shot: Grazing

During my recent trip to Assateague Island, one of my goals had been to get a serene photo of a horse grazing in the marshes. I knew the horses tended to go inland to the marsh during the day, but in several days of shooting, I'd had limited success seeing any horses that I could get close enough to photograph. 

On our final day at Assateauge Island, we set out at 7am in hopes of catching a brief glimpse of morning activity. As we arrived in the marshes, we saw a herd of horses grazing in the marshes - exactly the shot I'd wanted but had been loosing hope of actually getting. 

The horses were moving slowly as they grazed on the swamp grass, giving me plenty of opportunities to move around and vary the lighting on my subject. 

At one point I was able to get in a position that isolated one of the horses by himself. The sun was just above the tree line, hitting the top of his neck with a soft glow of light. I immediately knew the image would look best in black and white and I adjusted my exposure slightly with the final image in mind.

I shot a wide depth of field to capture all the detail and texture of the grasses and intentionally underexposed the horses body to highlight the soft light on his neck and back. 

The final image was adjusted in Adobe Photoshop CS6 and converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. 

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Quick Shot: Ponies of Assateague

It's been a few days since my last quick shot, but that's because I've been busy! I spent the weekend on Assateague Island, which is a long and uninhabited coastal island running through Maryland and Virginia. The island is most famous for the herds of wild horses and ponies that roam along it's beaches.  Equally famous are the marshes on Assateague, which are home to an abundance of birds and other wildlife.

The primary goal of this trip was to photograph wild ponies and birds. Like I normally do, I'd pre-visualized several photos I wanted to capture of these subjects (I'd never been there and used Google to research the wildlife extensively).  

One shot on my to-do list was a photograph detailing a pony's face. Ideally, I wanted to get the shot at sunrise or sunset, when the soft golden glow would cast the pony in a warm light.  

I had read online that the ponies often migrated to the beaches around sunset and would be inland during the day. Apparently the ponies read the same article I did; within hours of arriving on the island I found a herd of horses by the beach at sunset. Cha-ching!

I chose this pony for the face shot for several reasons:

1. He was facing into the sun, giving a nice cast of light on his face
2. I liked the white mark on his face
3. He was being a cooperative wild subject, which isn't something we get often as wildlife photographers!  

The ponies can be dangerous to humans if we get too close and the National Park Service gives every visitor a rather graphic flyer detailing the dangers of getting too close. That being said, I was sure to stay approximately 20 feet away and was mindful to never "box a horse into a corner" so as to not frighten them. 

Given the distance, it was a no-brainer to use the Nikon 80-400mm. I shot at f/8 to get a nice depth of field on his face and dialed in a -0.5 exposure compensation to ensure the camera didn't overexpose the areas in the sunlight.  

I did minor edits in Photoshop CS6 and ran a high pass filter over the nose fur to accentuate those details.  

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Quick Shot: The Edge of the World

Some images look best in black and white to convey a sense of drama. 

Today's Quick Shot, titled "The Edge of the World" is one of those images.

Alaska was full of small rock outcroppings in the middle of the ocean. I was fascinated by these micro-islands, some of which had probably never been stood upon by mankind. These rocky islands usually have sparse vegetation and were formed by earthquakes moving the tectonic plates that sit off the Pacific coast.  

The cluster of islands that make up this print were spotted in Resurrection Bay, outside Seward, Alaska. By converting the image to black and white, more contrast and character was added to the islands, giving it the extra drama to make it feel like I was looking at the edge of the world.

Shot with Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm lens, edited in Photoshop CS6 with black and white conversion done in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. 

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