A Comparison of Lenses
Visiting Brunel’s awe-inspiring SS Great Britain in Bristol gave me the chance to try out two of my least used lenses for comparison against my wide angle 17-40mm zoom. Under the bow of the ship was a challenging place to shoot - each lens provided a distinct positive viewpoint, each very different from the others.
The Canon tilt and shift TS-E24mm, whilst not being the shortest focal length, does offer straight and parallel verticals, which are present in this situation.
The wide angle gives a lovely short focal length, allowing the full scene to be captured, at the expense of the verticals falling in towards each other.
The 15mm Fisheye is even wider, providing a distinctly curved look, the curves extending to the vertical components of the scene. A truly distorted image but one which lets the viewer see the subject at close range whilst also having almost complete peripheral vision.
But which is best? I have no idea! In this case, I’m tempted to lean towards the tilt and shift lens, but I still really like the images from the fisheye and wide angle.
PHOTO TOUR OF AMSTERDAM AND PARIS
My Amsterdam and Paris photo trip was planned to be a round trip of seven days giving me the chance to explore Amsterdam for the first time, to capture some iconic shots and to revisit Paris with the intention of photographing some famous locations without doing the usual tourist things.
My one-way flight took me from Southampton to Amsterdam Schipol, then a train and tram to the south-western side of the city where I stayed at the Hotel Espresso, which was my base for the few days I was in Amsterdam. I didn’t have a particular agenda, other than to simply walk around and find some locations to photograph. A lot of scouting for locations was done during the day with the purpose of revisiting at sunset or sunrise for better photography conditions. Unfortunately, the weather limited my chances and choices - as it turned out, for the whole trip. The best location I found turned out to be quite a famous viewpoint (as I later found out) - a canal intersection with a multi-arched bridge on Leidsegracht crossing over Keizersgracht, which I shot at sunset and again at dawn. Several other canal views were shot, along with the iconic Skinny Bridge over the Amstel one evening, with the city's orange lights set against the darkening blue sky of sunset.
The journey onwards from Amsterdam was a relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable three-hour Thales fast train to Paris’ Gare-du-Nord. My hotel in Paris, the Hotel Magenta, was a short walk from the station and a convenient location for arriving at and departing from the city. Getting around for shooting the city involved a lot of walking.
I had done a little more homework for Paris - I knew about a number of places and locations which I wanted to photograph, although wet and overcast conditions for my stay were less than ideal. One dry dawn shoot, perhaps a highlight of my trip, was spent photographing the iconic Pont-des-Arts footbridge. The iconic Louvre Pyramids were also shot, as was, of course, the Eiffel Tower. I knew that a shot of the Parisien skyline should include the tower, rather than be shot from the top of the tower itself, so some pre-shoot planning revealed that a viewing platform was available on the very top of the Tour Montparnasse, another tall building to the south of the Eiffel Tower - an amazing hidden gem which gives the best views of the skyline which include the most iconic landmark of them all. I also visited and shot the Sacre-Coeur and the beautiful area of Montmarte during the daytime before heading back to the 1st arrondissement for my final evening with improved weather conditions - sunset was spent photographing the Notre-Dame alongside the Seine - again providing some of my most pleasing shots and long-exposures of the entire trip.
Returning home via the Paris-London Eurostar service and a train from London back home rounded off a thoroughly enjoyable trip. I was unlucky with the weather in Amsterdam and would have preferred to return home with a greater selection of shots. Equally, the poor weather in Paris looked just as miserable but the resulting shots of Notre-Dame at sunset, I am particularly happy with. Amsterdam and Paris are big photogenic cities so it would be unwise to think that I’ve ticked those boxes and my job is done. I simply need to return to both in the future - perhaps during the spring, rather than November, next time!
PHOTO TOUR OF FRANCE
My most ambitious photo adventure to date, my tour of France would take in several locations and several miles of autoroutes.
Setting off from Portsmouth on the overnight ferry, across the Bay of Biscay to Santander, my journey began. On arrival in Spain the following morning, my day-long motorway journey took me through Bilbao and Biaritz to Pau where I would stay the first night - no photography yet, my initial goal was to reach the gite I had booked as my base in the Languedoc region. On the second day, a slightly more leisurely drive took me alongside the foothills of the Pyrenees to La Force, a small village between Castelnaudary and Carcassonne, which would be my base for five days.
Beautiful French countryside in the vicinity gave some fantastic shooting opportunities, but also within easy reach was the Canal-du-Midi which probably gave me the most memorable sunrise shoot of the entire trip. The walled city of Carcassonne, the small village of Saint-Felix-Lauragais and the Poterie-Not and the images I gained from visiting them were superb highlights.
After a number of days in the region, I moved on to the Dordogne and Bergerac for a brief stay, capturing some images here and along the way via Sarlat-le-Canada. The Chateau-Monbazillac was the highlight of Bergerac.
Hitting the road again, my next stop was Fouras, a small town along the coast which gave me a base for the Charente-Maritime region, which includes the beautiful towns of La Rochelle, Rochefort and the ocean defence of Fort Boyard, all locations which had plenty of photo opportunities, resulting in some lovely images.
My final stop took me up to the Brittany coast to stay not far from St. Malo. An afternoon and evening in Mont-Saint-Michel and the following morning’s sunrise at the Mont Dol and Dol-de-Bretagne brought to an end a fantastic photographic adventure before returning home via the St. Malo to Portsmouth fast-cat ferry.
This was my first proper landscape photography adventure covering areas which I would love to revisit, especially the Languedoc region of France.