Dewsbury Spirit 2013

Mrs WinterbottomThere are often weird and wonderful events that happen in Yorkshire. From races where competitors have to run with sacks of coal on their back to rubber duck races, Light Night in Leeds to the Scarecrow festival out in the Yorkshire Dales. But one I look forward to is Dewsbury Spirit.

Held for only one night, once each year, the Yorkshire town of Dewsbury invites a street theatre troop to perform through the town centre. Previous events have included people hurling balls of fire down the street, huge Dragons being fought by Knights, and last year an underwater spectacle with fish being chased by sharks. This year the German group Theatre Titanick performed a version of their Firebirds production.

It was probably the wackiest performance to date, and wacky was the right word as if you’ve ever seen the kids cartoon “The Wacky Races” you’ll know what it was like. Teams from Russia, France, England and America paraded their steam-punk-esque flying machines around the town in a race to the town hall. Along the way there were wrong turns, breakdowns, and speed-trials as they tried to garner the most support from the audience. Once in-front of the town hall they attempted to take off and fly to London. The Russian and England machines blew up in flames and sparks, whilst the American machine ran out of puff. Only the French managed to get airborne.

The really nice things about the event is they don’t put up barrier along the route the performers follow. This allows for a much more fluid event and more interaction between the performers and those watching. Its a great event, and despite the wet weather this year, Theatre Titanick was probably one of my favourites.

The photo here is Mrs Winterbottom (England) as she drove around the course. You can see the full set of photos over on Flickr.

Inspiration

I’ve been a bit uninspired of late hence the lack of photos (and posts). But in thinking about what to write for this site, I started thinking about what inspires us.

For me the one thing that is guaranteed to get the creative juices flowing is travel. As soon as I settle on a destination I begin researching it, looking at what photos others have taken there – both as a means of seeing what sort of lenses/equipment I might need, and to think about how to avoid the clichéd shots if it’s a popular location. I check maps for my route and plan the journey. I’ve got two trips planned for this year – one around the edge of Eastern Turkey along its borders with Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria (should be interesting!), and another to Burma later in the year. So I’m already thinking about these.

But even when I’m not travelling there are things that inspire me. Ever since 500px launched I’ve been amazed at the quality of the photography on the site. I’d strongly recommend following the 500px blog as they post a “week in review” every Monday highlighting a selection of superb images uploaded to the site. Other inspirational blogs I follow include Petapixel, Pixelated Image (David duChemin), and the New York Times photography blog – Lens.

Other times I think you just have to accept you’re uninspired and head out with your camera, not really expecting to shoot much at all, and seeing what you find. Sometimes they turn out to be the best days.

What inspires you and your photography? Let me know in the comments.

Finding Dark Skies

bluemarble

If you like to do astro-photography – shooting images of the sky at night – one of the key things you need to do is avoid light pollution from nearby cities, factories, etc. There are several sites that help you to identify those areas that have been designated as dark-sky reserves but often these are specific places that may be too far away to be of much use to you.

However a new website featuring a mash-up of Google Maps and the recent NASA “Blue Marble” Earth at Night photos means it is now much easier to spot potential dark skies nearer to home.

The Blue Marble Night Lights 2012 Navigator allows you to move around and zoom in and out just as you would with Google Maps, but shows the night-time illumination instead of the traditional map or day-time satellite images. This means you can spot areas near you where there is little light at night and hopefully therefore little in the way of light pollution. Of course for the perfect star shots it still might be worthwhile planning a trip further afield (I know from visiting some pretty remote areas on my travels that the sky can be stunning with no light pollution) but the Blue Marble Navigator is a good option if you want to give astro-photography a try.

The Complete NatGeo Archive for $25

Just a quick note to let you know that National Geographic, long the favourite of photographers and praised for its imagery, is currently offering their complete back-copy on 7 DVDs for jsut $25.

From their site:

Browse 123 years of National Geographic magazine—more than 1,400 issues, 8,000 articles, 200,000 photographs, and hundreds of maps exactly as they appeared in print. Our definitive collection of every issue of National Geographic magazine through 2011 is digitally reproduced in high resolution. Use the visual interface to explore a topic, find photographs, browse the globe, or wander on your own expedition.

I’m not sure how long the offer will last or if there are any other restrictions (i.e. US only) so if you’re interested, follow the link below to check it out!

The Complete National Geographic on 7 DVD-ROMs

Photograph Quarterly #2

In November last year, David duChemin and the team at Craft & Vision launched a quarterly digital publication showcasing great image portfolios alongside informative and useful articles on technique and vision. Three months have passed and true to its name, the second edition of “Photograph Quarterly” has now been released.

Subsequent issues of a periodical like this are always a challenge. Was the initial release a one off, or can the quality of both the images and articles remain as high as the first issue?

This issue includes another three great photo portfolios followed by photographer Q&As – nature and landscapes by Martin Bailey, African animals and safari shots by Andy Biggs and a series of portraits by Chris Orwig – along with eleven articles covering everything from Creative Composition and using Natural Light through to The Art of the Print and an introduction to food photography in  Simple Sushi Session.

PQ2-portfolios

Being the Lightroom geek that I am I especially like the article Before + After by Piet van Den Eynde. In this he takes a photo from a recent trip and shot on a compact camera (he wanted to travel light as was on his bike!) and talks about how the vastly improved RAW converters in software such as Lightroom 4 (and as Piet says, if you’ve not upgraded to v4 yet then do) mean you can extract far more from your image which previously would have required extended sessions in Photoshop or even HDR techniques.

So does this second instalment live up to the promise of the first? I think it does. The breadth of the content means that it’s unlikely everyone will like everything, but as with issue 1 there are individual articles and portfolios that most people will like and find interesting and as such I would again recommend it. I know traditionally Craft & Vision (as their name implies) focus mainly on your personal creative approach to photography, but “Photograph Quarterly” is a great mix of inspiration, creative advice and technical pointers.

You can buy a single stand-alone issue for $8 or alternatively you can purchase a full year subscription – four issues from the date you purchase – for just $24 (a 25% saving on the individual price).

Click here to visit Craft & Vision.