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December 2010  Photographers Resource - Monthly  Edition 84

Winter Photography and Good Housekeeping

Frost, Mist and Ice in the Countryside

Image taken with Nikon D70, Sigma 28-300 lens @ 42mm, ISO 400, 1/200th, F20, EV-0.3
In This Issue:-
  • Editorial

  • Feature - What to Photograph Over the Winter Months

  • Photographic Feature - Good Housekeeping of Photo Stock

  • Photographers Diary

  • December Wildlife Diary

It is approaching the end of 2010, and hopefully it has been a good year for you despite the doom and gloom of the economy and cuts. Over the year I expect you have accumulated another enormous amount of photos and have probably just dumped them all on your computer in no sort of order or system, so it's a bit of a mess. Well over the coming months, if you don't feel like venturing out into the cold and snapping some winter wonderland shots, then you could spend your time carrying out some good housekeeping tasks to tidy up and back up what you have taken. Our feature below looks at this in more detail and points you in the direction of various articles on this site that can help you bring your photo collection back into some sort of order.

On the other hand if you like going out in the winter, and haven't managed to book that winter holiday abroad you wanted, you could take the opportunity to get some great photos of the UK, and if you are lucky enough to have snow, like some areas at the end of November, then magical photos can be obtained. Our photo feature below, What to Photograph over the Winter Months, will give you some idea of what you can photograph and visit.

Multimap is No More

On the subject of getting out and about, you may want to take a look at our location guides by using the county lists to see what you can visit near you. These guides contain links to mapping services such as Google, Get-a-Map and Multimap, to help you locate and find the location. Some of you may have already noticed that the Multimap links no longer go to the correct map, but link to the welcome page of Microsoft Bing. Sometime ago Microsoft took over Multimap, what we considered to be the best mapping service for the UK, as one of it's main and most useful features was that you could use Grid References to find the location, which is very useful when wanting to find a monument in the middle of a field that has no postcode. However they have now lost this great feature in transferring to Bing.

The majority, if not all, our locations guides use the Multimap links based on Grid References and unfortunately these no longer work. However because we include the Grid Reference of the location in all our guides, you can put this into Ordnance Survey Get-A-Map   which will present you with a small Ordnance Survey Map of the area. Streetmap will also take Grid References and zooming back to 1:25000 will give an Ordnance Survey map of the area. Alternatively you could take look at National Grid which looks at how to convert the Ordnance Survey grid references into other coordinates, and use them to access the same locations in other mapping and aerial photography sites like Google Maps. You can also convert it to a postcode. You may also find this useful if you want to use a Satnav, to get you near to the location, using the postcode or exactly there using the latitude and longitude. This page also has links to gazetteers, and some other information that may make finding places easier. It also explains a little about the mapping system and maps available.

In the New Year we intend to review all the mapping services now available online to see which is going to be the best we can use for our locations guides in the future, but in the meantime please do use the other mapping links, including Google Maps, we provide in our locations guides to help you find the location, or use one of those mentioned on our Maps page within our reference section.


What to Photograph over the Winter Months

As winter sets in many photographers put their cameras into hibernation only bringing them out again in the Spring. However this is a huge missed opportunity as winter photos can be as spectacular and if not more so than their spring, summer and autumn counterparts. Okay they may not have all the colour, brightness and busyness of the images you took over the summer, but with low sunlight levels, mists, frosts, snow and early evening skies they can be just as dramatic and stunning.

Fun in the Snow

Of course winter isn't colourless, but with much more black, white and greys it may be a good time to experiment with something different and have a go at Black and White photography. Many digital SLR's and compact cameras have within their menu settings 'black and white' settings, but to get really stunning photos you need to think more about composition and contrast to make the subject jump out.

There is more emotion, more of a message in a black and white photo than in a colour one, light shadow, contrast and mood being more apparent. Because it portrays more emotion it is often the black and white photograph that people remember the best. Black and White photography works with tones of grey and any colour items within your image could merge with the background. To overcome this we can use filters that in effect lighten colours similar to the filter and darken the opposite. For example to make clouds stand out in your landscape use a yellow or orange filter or if you want a storm like effect then us a red one. See Filters for digital photography for more on this and have a go, take your camera out in the snow, see what stunning photos you can produce. Our Filters Section has many more articles that may help you get more stunning images at this time of year.

The earlier darker nights, means it is also possible for you to get out at a reasonable time and experiment with night time photography. During December there are extra lights in towns and cities which have been put up to celebrate Christmas, and shops, hotels etc have lighted Christmas Trees in their windows or outside. Where to Photograph Christmas Lights lists some places to visit around the country, you may also find Photographing Street Scenes at Night  a useful source of information and the technical considerations you may want to take on board. Of course if you live near to a busy road or motorway you could experiment with slow shutter speeds and getting light patterns of the passing car lights to draw light lines in your images.

Snow Post

The use of Rear flash will fire the flash at the end of the exposure and you will get the light patterns travelling from behind the cars, using normal flash will result in the flash going off at the beginning of the exposure and therefore the lights will run ahead of the cars. Remember with all night time photography a tripod is going to be a good companion to take a long with you, as the slow shutter speeds will not be successfully achieved handheld.

Not everything shuts down over the winter, many attractions are still open and especially many of the unmanned English Heritage ruins which are open all year round. These ruins during the winter can be more dramatic, and in some cases can appear haunting and mystical, a good source for black and white photography or capturing dramatic skies, or even some, which are on our coastlines, can be captured with dramatic seas.

Always open gives you some idea of what to look out for and we have also updated our lists of Major Heritage Sites Open All Year which gives you quick access to those places that are open and available for you to visit. There is a list in county order making it easier to identify those places nearest to you, but also if you know somewhere you would like to visit, then the alpha lists of properties by name can be a quick source of information. From these lists there are links to both those we have location guides for as well as links to the properties own website page.

Don't forget nature and wildlife as well as snow scenes when it happens. There will also be opportunities to take pictures of ice, icicles, frost, frost on cobwebs, waterfalls in full flow, and waves breaking over the sea front are some scenes that come to mind. As for wildlife there are opportunities of floodlit feeds of swans, like those that take place at the Slimbridge WWT in Gloucestershire, and a variety of other migratory birds found in the UK only in the winter months, see the wildlife section below for more ideas.

So from this you can see there is no need to put your camera away over the winter, as long as you can brave the colder temperatures you can continue to increase your photo collection, take the opportunity to try out new skills, and make use of the

Skating on Thin Ice Duck!

attractions left open for you to explore. However remember if venturing out to wrap up warm, take something hot to eat or drink, and enjoy the British countryside at this time of year.

Photographic Feature

Good Housekeeping of Photo Stock

If you don't like the prospect of venturing out over the winter months, or at least not every weekend then over the coming winter months perhaps it is time to take on some good housekeeping tasks. We all do it, we spend our time taking gorgeous images but spend very little, if any, in organising them, or even backing them up. So perhaps the winter months is the best time to make sure we have our photo house in order.

It is all too easy today to have thousands of images on your computer collected over many years. Of course eventually your computer's hard disk fills up and then you invest in external hard drives or other devices to store them on. But once you have all these images how do you go about finding them again. It's not easy very few of us are librarians and are any good at indexing or filing, filling up a bucket is the easiest, but finding anything again is a nightmare. Even less of us like backing up and very few do it, until one day a gremlin enters the computer and everything is lost, it's at this point we all say 'I wish I had taken the time to back up my images, they have all gone now'. So the best way of avoiding this nightmare is to take time out regularly, if you can, to organise, index and back up your images, and if you haven't done so then use the next few months sensibly and do it now, before you regret it.

So lets take a look at how we might go about it.

Organising and Indexing

The easiest way is to come up with a system that works for you. As an example our method is to treat each set of photos we take, on a trip out, as a separate film, we give the set a number and then number the photos sequentially from number 1 in each set. So for example the set will be numbered AG1001 and the individual image will be numbered AG1001_001, AG1001_002 and so on. Our system is a little more complicated because our set number also includes information that allows us to identify who took the image, and we also incorporate the date so that we have quick access to when it was taken, without having to open each photo and look at the individual Metadata information.

There is much software available to allow us to Organise and Index our Images including Adobe Photoshop where the facility is built into its browser capability and this includes the CS, and Elements versions as well as Adobe Lightroom. The Nikon Software of Capture NX, NX2 and ViewNX2 have similar functions. However there are many other software programs available and online from those that are FREE to download and use, such as Google Picasa, through to low cost systems, as well as the fully functioning photo editing software packages. Take a look at Free Organising Software for more on this.

Once we have our images organised on our disks then the next task is to look at ways that we might better index them, or add in facilities to allow us to access them much quicker or to sort them into some sort of order. Within the organising and indexing system it is possible to use items known as Flags and Filters, these allow you to highlight particular images within a set that you may want to do more with or that you have rated as of most use. When using flags and filters within these systems you can selectively display those photos for a particular flag or filter and therefore limit the number you look at, at any one time. Your other images are not lost and at any point you can remove the flag sorts and all the images will appear back within the browser again.

Another way of being able to identify particular images quickly, from the many thousands you have, is to use Keywords and Captions. These are what are used by software programs, websites and search facilities to select which images they are going to display to the searcher. There is no set rule for what should be used in these, all we can say is use as many variations as you can think of, that way your image is more likely to be selected. Take a look at our article Keywords and Captions on how might be the best way to go about this.

Protecting Your Images

We are all guilty of not protecting our images enough. Yes we will have filled up our computers hard drive, or even the memory cards we take the images on in the first place. Some will have bought external hard drives to store even more on, but I expect few will have more than this one copy of each image.

Backing up your photo collections is important if you don't want to loose those special memories, or potential income you could generate from them. How you back up will depend on how good you are at general housekeeping or how paranoid you are about loosing them, or whether you can be bothered to spend the time, effort and money in carrying out this task. But I expect many will not have more than one copy of their images.

Backing up can be done in a number of ways, you could make extra copies on to multiple DVD's and at first sight most of you will think this is the cheapest way, as blank DVD discs are so cheap today. A better option would be to buy extra External Hard Drives and make a second copy of them, and of course you could use online storage facilities for some or all of them. For the really paranoid you could do all of these. What I would say is that you should have at least one copy, but preferably at least three copies of each image, and if you can afford to, use all these methods that way you should be protected if something should go wrong, or if technology moves on at least something will read and be useable in years to come.

Just recently I spent a day backing up images and text files that I had backed up on 3.5" floppy disks from over 10 years ago, onto an external hard drive, my computer still has a floppy drive. Computers today however do not come with a 3.5" floppy drive as standard and I was concerned that if my computer was to give up then these files would be lost forever. So don't take backing up for granted, it is a necessary evil and done well and regularly you will be delighted in the future when you can still access all your hard work and special memories. If you haven't backed up for a while, then take the opportunity over the coming winter months to get it done for prosperity.

The Photographers Diary

The January diary is now in the 'next month' slot with December moved into the 'this month'. Both months have a lot of opportunities for everyone.  Some highlights that are of particular interest are:-

December is by no means a quiet month and the hardy photographer can have a busy time trying to keep up with all the activity taking place. With lights, fire, wacky and themed events there is plenty of variation available such as the:-

Chesters Winter Watch Parade which takes place on the 2nd and 9th December where samba bands, re-enactments groups, giant skeletons, dragons and a fire breathing finale take place in the Centre of Chester in Cheshire. For something more magical and serene then the medieval village of Dunster in Somerset turns back the clock with its Dunster by Candlelight evenings and to add to the effect special steam trains run from Bishops Lydeard to get you there.

Of Christmas with its lights and in particular the lighted Christmas Trees in many a front room, trees get a focus at the beginning of the month with Tree Dressing Day, a weekend of tree celebration on the 4th and 5th December. Of course Christmas wouldn't be complete without Santa, and as well as his busy schedule of delivering presents to all the children throughout the world he also still finds time to take part in activities for charity including many a Santa Dash such as those at Brighton and Southampton on the 11th and 12th.


Santa Dash in Lincoln Brian

Many a town and city are awash with lights, some good and some not so, but there are few places that make it an annual event and some communities also make it a time to remember, such as the villagers of Mousehole in Cornwall. Each year they light up their harbour and town and remember those that have been lost at sea, and in memory of a particular tragedy that took place on the 19th December they switch off the lights for one hour between 7pm and 8pm in respect. See our location guide Mousehole Christmas Lights for more details on how you may contribute to this years fund. Of course we must also not forget those individuals who light up their houses, housing estates, villages, communities and towns and take the trouble to give us fantastic displays with decorating their homes, at their own expense, for our enjoyment and in order to raise money for charity. Take a look at our Christmas Lights list giving details of some of these as well as the many towns that light up this time of year.


Mousehole Harbour Lights at Christmas

One of the main equestrian events of the year takes place this month as well, the International Horse Show starts on the 14th December and runs to the 20th. This is an indoor area event with such events as show jumping, dressage, the Shetland Pony Grand National, stunt riding by Ukrainian Cossacks and a musical ride by The Household Calvary, an equestrian spectacle to finish off the year.

By the time with get to Christmas Day and Boxing Day now we are in to the whacky. How many of you would want to have an open air swim on Christmas morning instead of or before you found out what Santa has in store. Well the Serpentine Lake Swimming Club in Hyde Park London, do just that, they take part in the Peter Pan Christmas Morning Swim and swim across the lake, raising money for charity. There are also swims in the sea at various locations including Lowestoft in Suffolk, Hunstanton in Cambridgeshire, Weymouth in Dorset and Porthcawl in South Wales. For those who want to get rid of the Christmas dinner, then on Boxing Day they take part in Wheelbarrow Races in Devon, a raft race in Matlock Derbyshire, a Duck race in Kenilworth Warwickshire, or how about a bit of Barrel Rolling in Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, or pram racing. To find the whacky and unusual for this month and next take a look at the purple items in our diary pages.


Barrel Rolling on Boxing Day in Granchester, Cambridgeshire Adam

The fun and activity doesn't stop there as we approach the end of December we have the Maldon Mud Race on the 28th and then on New Years Eve, as well as fireworks and celebrations to celebrate the end of the old year and beginning of the new, there are some communities that have their own way of celebrating including the Stonehaven Fireball Festival Spectacular in Aberdeenshire, where over 60 people march up and down the High Street swinging giant blazing fireballs. See Fire Festivals and Fire Events for details on others. Or you could join the residents of Mountain Ash in South Wales who take part in the Nos Galan evening Road Race.


Stonehaven Fireball Festival, Aberdeenshire   

And of course it doesn't stop there, because as we go into the New Year and 2011 more revelry and tomfoolery takes place for charity, but you'll have to wait until the next issue to find out our highlights, or if you can't wait that long take a look at the January diary page.

Wildlife Photography In December

Probably the most revered and well known bird which adorns every Christmas card this time of year is the beautiful Robin. Of course in the UK they are present all year round, and many of us will find them in our gardens, in fact so much so that during this month, although we all see them on Christmas cards and wrapping we probably don't take as much notice as we should of the real thing outside. They are a glorious little bird, and if you are lucky to see them bobbing about in the winter snow, they are just as you see them on the Christmas card. Over the coming months, why not look out for the Robin, and see if you can photograph it. If you have bird feeders in your garden and you should be keeping them well stocked this time of year, to help all the little birds, you should have a Robin or two visit and if you're quiet and don't move too quickly it should stay around long enough for you to capture it's little red breast. They are also very vocal this time of year with both males and females calling to maintain their territories for feeding. If you are out walking or visiting then you may find they are relatively easy to photograph if you have a little food you can put down, they are not normally a shy bird and as long as they don't feel threatened by your presence they will sit and feed right in front of you. A couple of winters ago I walked the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail in Yorkshire, and at Thornton Force  I sat on a bench to take in the view, and a Robin came and perched first on the wall behind me, then venturing onto the seat beside me and finally bobbing around my feet on the ground, seeing a Robin this time of year really does cheer you up.


The Robin at Thronton Force, Yorkshire

Other birds to look out for at this time of year include the Mistle Thrush with it's very spotty under belly, who can be found feeding on the plentiful supply of mistletoe. Mistletoe of course is semi-parasitic and lives on other trees, and therefore can be found in a distinctive bunch in fruit trees and in the bare branches of tress such as lime, beech and oak. Waxwings can be found feeding on the berries of holly bushes, whilst colourful Goldfinches may be seen on the roadside feeding off the Teasel Seeds. One bird which will visit garden feeders during the winter months is the long-tailed tit, but have your camera ready as they don't stick around for long. Our estuaries will be teeming with winter migrants, including large numbers of Geese and large numbers of the Bewick's Swan will now be at wetland centres such as Slimbridge WWT in Gloucestershire.  They have come here to winter in our warmer climate! Yeah right - so far we've fooled them this year I think.


Mountain Hare Photo by David Shand

Many of Scotland's mountains will be very cold and even now they are covered in snow. However during this period they are not totally barren and some birds and mammals specialise in this environment. The Ptarmigan takes on it's white winter coat, so that it can blend in with the snow covered ground, as does the Mountain Hare and stoats. Camouflage on these creatures though is a lot more attractive than that of the photographer when he is trying to hide from the wildlife. If you are a hardy winter photographer and have the opportunity to visit Scotland or the mountains of Wales whilst snow is on the ground then you may find our Camouflage and Hides article helpful. It does concentrate mainly on the green and brown type needed for summer wildlife photography, so remember in the snow you will need something white so that you too can blend in. Don't forget to also stay downwind as they can smell you before you see them.


 Ptarmigan in it's winter plumage See Details

If you find it too cold to go out in the snow, don't forget 'Jack Frost' can provide some interesting winter shots also. Landscape scenes are enhanced by the white mist and eerie feel of a frosty morning. Crystals of frost on plants, such as Ivy, and stones can add a 3D effect and with the right filter can add sparkle to an image. As the day warms up the crystals form into water droplets where, if you are well prepared and the sun is right, you can pick up reflections in them. Just because it's cold, dark and wet doesn't mean your camera has to take a vacation, the wildlife is about so why not you.

Take a look at Wildlife Photography in December for more on what wildlife and nature has to offer in the UK this time of year.

Summary of Articles Included In This Issue

National Grid

Bewick's Swan

Wildlife Photography in December

Camouflage and Hides

Filters for digital photography

Photographing Street scenes at night 

Always open

Organising and Indexing Your Images

Free Organising Software

Keywords and Captions


Flags and Filters

Backing up your photo collections

External Hard Drives

Lists Updated and Used In This Issue

Fire Festivals and Fire Events

Where to Photograph Christmas Lights

Major Heritage Sites Open All Year

Locations Guides Used In This Issue

Ingleton Waterfalls Trail, Yorkshire

Mousehole Christmas Lights

Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire 

Thornton Force, Yorkshire 


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