Black and Whites…

As you will no doubt see from the majority of the work I post on this blog, I am a sucker for rich, saturated colours.

My all time favourite accessory, which breathed life into the aging D80, is the polariser that my dear mum bought me for Chrismas last year.

It’s amazing.

A twenty quid piece of glass you screw onto the end of your lens, and through a series of ingeniousness and marvel, it helps give deep blue skies and vivid greens.  Essentially, it is like having a million little ‘venetian blinds’ on the end of your lens, so as you turn the filter around, it allows light through the gaps in one direction…this means that green leaves that normally reflect the sunlight back into your lens, can have the reflective light ‘removed’ and only the green of the leaves is captured.

It truly is a magic device, and anyone with a DSLR should buy one.  Quickly.

I took this photo when Sian and I were on Honeymoon in the states – I used my polariser with a cheeky Grad filter over the top to get that beautiful blue sky and the vivid colours of the buildings in the background…it really is an awesome bit of kit…

But black and white has its place; and that’s what this whole post is about – when, why, and where.

As far as I can tell, there are two types of photographers out there -‘the cerebral’ and ‘the feeler’.  Neither is necessarily better than the other, but they do approach photography in vastly different ways…my sister and I are wonderful examples of the two extremes.

Felicity, Felix, or Zincy to those that really matter, is my big sister and she is frighteningly artistic. I mean, seriously.

It’s terryfying…

But on the other hand, she is also terrifically academic.  She recently got her PHD at Oxford Brooks, of which we are so proud, and of which I am relieved that we finally have a real doctor in the family, and not just a couple of clown shoes GPs 😉 (Love you daddy and big bro Ed) But anyway – I digress…despite her awesome academic background, and love and want to read every and any article,book or manuscript that has even the faintest whiff of interest to her, she approaches photography in a much more ‘feely’ way than I do.

She is the first to admit that she is not an authority on f-stops and shutter speeds, yet with her donated Pentax, she wanders around with her eyes wide open, and takes astonishing pictures like this:

My sister, Zincy's shot of Linahall - a concert hall in Talin

I love this picture – the exposure, the colours the composition…everything just works.  Now, I am sure that if I had been there with her, I would have captured a similarly striking image, but I dread to think how long I would have toiled with myself before taking the frame.  I would have instantly thought:

  1. Want a lot in focus – shoot narrow – maybe f13-ish
  2. Want to bring in that industrial ‘blue tinge’ to hit the concrete, hit the tungsten White Balance
  3. Need a slowish shutter to blow out those windows and light up the inside – but not too slow to overexpose and lose the windows all together – all depends on my –
  4. – ISO? Want it high enough to allow for a handheld shot, but don’t want any unecessary grain…better keep it safe in the 1,000ish range
  5. Should I chuck it into RAW in case I get it wrong with the white balance and need to correct later?
  6. Oh hang on – maybe I want to highlight the contrast of that concrete next to those (bottles?) in left of frame – should I use a single flash off camera, close to the wall which I will shop out later to bring out that texture?

And by this point, Zincy has alrady seen her shot, snapped it (in P mode?) is happy that she recorded what she wanted, and has moved on through the hall…and is enjoying her visit to Linahall an awful lot more than me, who by this point is having an aneurism  from the possibilities that this scene throws up.

But that’s me – I am a bonified ‘cerebral’ photographer, and it drives me nuts.  Lots of people, like my sister, can see an image and just make it happen – their view of the world is what makes them awesome with a camera.  I see things well too – but training the eye is a lot harder than training the hands.  Within a month (if she wanted to) Flick could have a comprehensive knowledge of her camera’s functions and foibles, a good grasp of the theory that backs it all up, and a better understanding of how to go about taking ‘that shot’.

I, on the other hand, can read every blog, every manual, every book that there is on photography, but training my eye to see things like Flick does…I don’t know if you can learn that…But this is not about ‘woe is me’ as a photographer – far from it, I am very proud of my work, and I know I get great results – the point that I am trying to make (and it has been a long time coming, I know!) is that when I take a picture, I normally know how it is going to look, and when I open a file in photoshop I ALWAYS know how it is going to end up.

And this is vital for black and white photography.

—> Insert blog start here

When  you’re shooting for black and white, you have to know what you’re looking for, and what will work in the frame.  Seeing as you lose colour as your number one language, you rely solely on contrast to convey your image.  And contrast means texture in the game of black and white.

To prove this point – here are a few black and white pictures from the engine room of one of the cruise ships I worked on once upon a time:

As you can see – I have gone crazy with the contrast to bring out all of those wonderful, man made textures that are present in the Engine Room.  If I had left these images in colour, your eyes would be bleeding from the putrid colours that would be visible on the screen.  The green paint of the engine parts would clash horribly with the red checker plate floor, and I would be the first blogger to induce so much vomiting from a single post.

By making the images black and white, I am able to emphasise the different textures of the various metals.  The shiny, smooth metals of the exhaust pipes, for example, are very, very different to the beaten and tired piston heads. (Yes, they are pistons – from memory there were sixteen in total, and each one was bigger than me.)

Textures are rife in industrial settings, like this, but they are also very prevelant in the great outdoors.  Sian has very helpfully been going through the old harddrive with me to find good examples of black and whites, and she spotted this corker that she took in Nolos – one of the thousands of tiny islands in Greece:

This was a great example for Sian to pick out – it has all the classic features of a strong black and white – the cobbled street is brought out in the contrast, and I love the way that she has silhouetted the chairs against that washed out horizon.   The sign, made of metal, almost looks super-imposed as it stands out against the white background…this is a cracking shot – all credit of which goes to Sian 🙂

And next, we jump back to Gunhill – the very photographs that inspired this post:

I simply love that texture coming through from the wooden slats of the roof, and then you have the harsh stone of the chimney juxtaposed next to the velvet skyline…this is one of my favourite black and whites to date…

This was taken in a shipyard in Morrocco.  I knew it was to be a black and white the moment I shot it.  The sky was a horrible dull grey, and I wanted to emphasise the gnarled wood and the rusty iron on the floor.  The boats’ hulls also offer a nice slab of wooden texture, and as the contrast has been increased every plank and rivet becomes more obvious.

This was taken on the same day, with much the same in mind.  I like the rock in the foreground – it throws in an extra texture to this very busy scene.  Coincidentally, when in black and white, it is amazing how much more crowded the yard looks.  In colour, your mind automatically distinguishes one boat from the next, but here, where only contrast is available, it becomes very difficult to discern where one boat ends and another begins…I must confess, this was not at the forefront of the shot at all…but I love the effect it has.

And finally:

Don’t forget to look for textures in nature!  This bird’s feathers are screaming for a black and whitening, and once you take those colours back, you can really push the contrast to emphasise each and every one…

So, in conclusion – the moral of the story is THINK before you shoot.  Or, if you’re like my sister and have an annoying gift of being able to get incredible photographs from just ‘feeling them’ (bloody amateurs) then think before you process.  I cannot tell you how many times I have seen my guys, sat in front of a computer flicking from black and white to colour asking themselves ‘which looks better?’  The easy answer to that is should it be in black and white at all?  To justify black and white, you need texture – you need some reference for the contrast in order that your brain can work out what is going on with the image.  If there is no texture, there is no contrast…and as such, there is no black and white photo.

Keen eyed spotters may notice I had this very problem with a portrait of Sian in my last post…but just look at the left of the frame – see the palm leaves, see the TEXTURE, and see why it works so well in black and white…

I hope that this has been helpful – as always, if you have any questions, or you want to tear me apart – my deets are below 🙂

Thanks for reading guys – subscribe if you like – I will have a lovely special present for my subscribers once I hit 25…tell your friends!

Ferg xxx


Gunhill Signal Station

As you all know, I have been away in the beautiful island of St Lucia for the last five days, and as such we haven’t been able to go on any adventures together this week.  I did take a few snaps out in SLU, which I will share with you all soon, but work has been crazy since getting back and I have not had the chance to even look at them yet…but I will. Promise.

So in the meantime, I thought I would share a couple of pictures we took on a past adventure.  A few months back, we headed up to the Gunhill Signal Station.  These were flag stations dotted around Barbados before the telephone was invented, and they represent a beautiful solution to a serious problem.  I believe there were seven on the island in total.  The idea was that if someone spotted an aggressive looking ship approaching the island, the flags would be raised, and each station would relay the message to the other, meaning that within a few moments, the entire island was aware of a possible threat.

Pretty genius stuff.

This also means, of course, that you get incredible views from the Signal Stations, and fortunately it was a truly beautiful day.

The station has, of course, undergone some serious renovation work to get it into the state that we see it today, and this is one of the things that Sian and I find increasingly frustrating in Barbados…there is very little recorded ‘history’ here.  The island that we live on has been inhabited for over 600 years and was a colony setup to produce tobacco and then sugar, but it is very, very hard to find out much about this.

The very hotel we live in used to be a sugar plantation, the only tell tale sign left for us now is the beautiful sugar mill that we now use as a wedding venue…but I cannot find any documents, articles or accounts of what the area used to be like before the Almond Beach Village.   For all of my super sleuthing, the most I have managed to gleam is that the mill was erected in 1859…which I ingeniously deduced from the plaque on the mill itself.

And I don’t understand why.  Barbados’ first income is duty.  Everything that we buy here has a ridiculous mark up, clothes have an 80% odd duty applied to them, and fresh milk costs $20 for 4 pints.  The second biggest income is in the form of tourism.  There’s a crap load of us Brits and Yanks and Canadians that visit the island, yet we have no real historical sites or monuments to visit.  There’s the odd tourist attraction – the Mount Gay Rum factory, the Banks Brewery, Harrison’s cave…but there is nowhere, to my knowledge, that celebrates or indeed denounces the very foundation of this nation, the sugar trade.

Being tourists (and massive nerds) ourselves in this alien land, we are desperate to understand the roots of the island.  Not just in its population, but how the land was carved up and cultivated; how the sugar trade worked, how the enslaved Africans fought for their independence, and how we now have – despite the barbaric past, such a close and ammicable relationship between London and Bridgetown…

But I guess that the Barbados Tourism Authority knows its audience.  And most people who visit the island just want to go to the beach.

And every time we visit a tourist attraction like the Gunhill Signal Station together, I can’t help but think there is a bit of a pink elephant in the room.

On the flip side though…never go to ANY attractions in Scotland if you’re English…you’ll only end up wanting to hang yourself with guilt…Maybe the BTA has got it right all along?…

Thanks for reading guys 🙂

Ferg x

Just another day at the beach

I am sure that when Sian and I tell people that we live and work in Barbados, they think that we just chill out on crazy beaches all day.

But, unfortunately, like most people – the job gets in the way of the dream.  We work ridiculous hours.  I am currently in St Lucia meeting with our team here, organinsing new systems and structures to help the company prosper, and poor Sian and James are stuck in the lab in Barbados printing, making books, fixing albums and generally keeping the Colorbox machine running…whilst I sit in the hotel lobby punching this out.

It is 8:30pm, and I doubt they will get out until 10.  I feel guilt like you would not believe..the lab is a very lonely place when you have been there for over 12 hours, and there is nothing I can do this end to help. 😦

And this is the problem we have with stupid ‘work’ – it gets in the way of all our fun. So it is always a pleasure when we do get the fleeting opportunity to visit the beach.  We knew that this week was coming (I miss Sian terribly when I’m away-even if only for four days, which is ridiculous but that’s the way it is) so on Sunday we made a really concerted effort to get to a beach – and what a beach it was!

I was out filming a wedding down at the Almond Beach Club a few days back, and the couple had decided to opt for some off property photography.  Bill, my senior photographer and oracle on anything Barbados, suggested a little bay up the road.  So we jumped into the car and took the couple to Gibb’s beach…it is amazing.

Needless to say, after seeing the place, I thought it would be more than appropriate to take Sian and James there – amaze them with my local knowledge and astound them with the incredible sand scape I had stumbled upon on my travels.  The charade lasted but a few moments as we drove down and James asked “So we going to that place Bil took you to the other day then?”

My plan foiled, and being exposed as the charlatan that I am, I grumbled that yes, we were going to “where Bill showed me”, and we stopped in the gas station (sorry – I have got all American having been here so long) garage, got some beers, and headed down to paradise.

And what a lovely day it was…we swam in the crystal clear water, watched the world go by…and then I went back to hide under the umbrella from the sun whilst James and Sian giggled like school girls.  It was magic.

I am trying to keep the technical stuff to a minimum on the blogs now, as I have been literally inundated with two mails saying that my technical guff is wasted on them, but I would like you all to know that all of these shots have been done through two grad filters.

A grad filter is essentially a piece of plastic that you put in front of your lens, which graduates from very dark, to completely see through – allowing you to underexpose, or “make darker” an area of your frame.  Essentially, this means that you can get a lot more detail in areas that would otherwise be blown out – or overexposed, because you are physically making them darker with the filter in front of the lens.  If you look at the umbrella shot above, for example, you will notice that there is a big white splodge between the boat and the umbrella.  My grad filter was covering the left hand of the frame. The graduation clearly stops a few centimeters before the umbrella – and that’s why there is that huge white ‘hot spot’ there.  I will do a much more technical ‘how to’ on grad filters in the future, I am sure…but for now I think that should cover it.  As always…any questions, you know where to get me 🙂

So anyway, after a time of being eaten alive by sand flies – without doubt the most evil and horrific of the Almighty’s creations, I headed back into the water with the now delirious-with-mirth-Sian and James as the sun started to set.

We decided we should head back before the sand flies came out in force – very much like the zombies in any good B-Movie, sand flies tend to come out when the sun has disappeared, and they eat your ankles, arms, face and anything else they can get their tiny jaws on very efficiently indeed.  We were in magic hour – bathed in the beautiful golden glow that only the setting sun can produce, and I got this corking portrait of Sian:

I can’t tell you how hard it was to decide between colour and black and white on this one…but eventually I decided for the BnW, beause the glow was SO golden, that it looked as if I had photo shopped it to buggery…I think it is a beautiful shot of my wife.

And as we walked away from what is renowned to be no other than Michael Flatley’s beach house (renowned in as much that Bill told me it was…and he knows everything about Barbados, so that’s enough for me) we were treated to some wonderful colours as the sun began to dip behind the horizon:

And that was that…another day at the beach; far from the stresses of the lab, the team and the bloody iMacs.  It was simply wonderful…

Thanks for reading guys

Ferg x

What was wrong with wires Steve Jobs? You utter, utter arse.

Sian and I have just got back for a half hour break before we head back to the lab to finish our work for the week…hopefully.

But we needed a break because we had been there for 7 hours, and I was getting increasingly frustrated with my Mac.  Many of you who know me know that I am quite vocal when I get frustrated…

…and I was very frustrated.

The long and short is my boss Gary, the owner of Colorbox, has a penchant for Macs.  He loves the way they look, the way they ‘work’ out of the box (I’ll come to this later) and the fact that when you invest in a Mac, it will last for years.

Not mine, I pinched it, sorry 😦

Well, apparntly that’s only true if you’re not me.

I hate them.   So much.   I seem to be the only person in the world that has to reboot a Mac twice a day – the  only person in the world that finds Photoshop is sluggish and non-responsive when doing even the most basic of tasks, like cropping an image.  I am starting to think that it is simply a mutual deal – I hate Macs, and they go on and hate me right back.  Because it’s not just my machine that is a pain in the arse – any Mac I touch is rendered obsolete within a few button presses; I seem to be the carrier of the wheel of death.  If you don’t know what the wheel of death is, good on you.   You’re a hardcore Windows user – maybe even a Linux fan – and refuse to give into the fad of the overpriced, albeit very pretty, closed system that is Steve Jobs’ empire.  And I love you for it.

But this is the area where Macs differ sooo much from PCs…The OS is different, the machines look different and the price is oh-so-very-different…but where the biggest difference lies is with the user.   Even now, as they read this, I can guarantee the Mac fans will be cracking their knuckles in anticipation of the vitriolic response to this post – how dare someone speak ill of the magnificent Mac.

Being a PC user, I am preconditioned to the misery and frustration of a machine not working – I am also British, so this trait is amplified by 50…I am accustomed to coming to my machine one day and discovering that, reasons unbeknown to me, it won’t turn on.   But it’s fine, because I can boot in safe mode, I can run registry scans, I CAN TAKE IT APART or simply Google the problem on a working terminal to get to the bottom of my problem and fix it…truth be told; I quite enjoy the blue screen of death and always love the triumphant feeling sparked when hearing the ridiculous melody Windows plays when it boots.  And then you look forward to the nerdy talk you can have with your PC pals about how you went about fixing the problem, and you all have a good laugh at how unstable the code is, and how to avoid such problems in the future.

But have a problem with a Mac and complain…you become as unpopular and as uncool as Sophie Ellis Baxter.

Unlike the PC world – prepped and ready for the inevitable software failures, the Mac enthusiasts instantly get defensive of their beloved products.   ‘Well, mine works fine’, or, ‘I never have any problems’ are the usual responses you get to any negative comments you may dare to utter in their presence.  Is it a sin to speak out against them?  Has Apple got so advanced that they now not only monitor our whereabouts but our conversations as well?!  If you speak ill of their mighty brand do they hinder your machine’s power by an enormous percentile until you beg for forgiveness?  If so, that would explain a lot…I am glad there is no swear jar in the office, because I would be bankrupt now thanks to my piece of crap 21″ i5 Imac, and the amount of cursing the poor thing has endured I’m amazed the Apple people haven’t turned up and confiscated it.

So what, I hear you cry, could my mac be doing so ineptly that has prompted my tirade in this rather random post?  The simple answer is everything.  I can’t email without it freezing, I cant crop a photo without it lagging, it can’t run Firefox without complaining endlessly, the print interface is dreadful and iTunes is without a doubt the worst media player I have ever used.  I want to make a playlist on the fly please – like I can on Media player, just right click – add to now playing. Done.  No naming the playlist – no saving it for future reference…just thinking about it now is making me angry.

AND WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH WIRES?  In the olden days – or indeed, TODAY, you bought a PC with a mouse and a keyboard that you plug in.  Apple, in all their wisdom thought that was far, far too 21st century, and so they gave us the piece of shit Magic Mouse.

Not mine - I pinched it - sorry :(

Not mine - I pinched it - sorry 😦

The Magic Mouse needs to die.  A slow and painful death.

Because you know how it’s really useful when you come to your machine to find that it has gone to sleep.  You wiggle your mouse to wake it up, right? Well what if the Mighty Mouse batteries have died FOR THE THIRD TIME TODAY?  You can’t wiggle your mouse to wake the thing up, and a fresh set of batteries won’t do anything because the fecking machine is in sleep mode and won’t pair with the device, because it is sent here from hell to test you.  So you hit the keyboard…and guess what? NO WIRES.  So that doesn’t wake the thing up either – you’ve got a $2k paper weight sat there eating up your electricity bills, and absolutely NOTHING will turn it on….So you press the power button on the back – if it doesn’t turn it on, at least it will restart the machine and you can get back to crashing every email that you send…

…you’re kidding…

Clearly the power button TURNING A MACHINE OFF was far, far too backwards thinking for Apple.  As far as I can tell, all this button is designed to do is make you feel inadequate as a human being.  Your first 5 cognitive years on this planet are dedicated to learning the cause and effect relationship of the world – what happens if I put this in my mouth? What happens when I push this square thing through a round hole – WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I PUSH THIS BUTTON? Well, clearly, at Apple, pushing that button does nothing but give you an RSI.  So you blow your lid, pull the power out of the wall in a fit of rage, and then get that gut wrenching feeling in the pit of your stomache that you may have broken something….so you plug it back in…press the button and…

That’s right. Nothing.  NOTHING for the first 5 or 6 times you press it.  And then it makes the most annoying noise in the planet – it does this.

And I just want to throw it out of the window.

God Damn you Steve Jobs…you may have made the world a slightly prettier place, and many offices that were once drab are ‘cool’ and ‘chic’ with their fancy new iMacs, but at what cost?  Now that you’re retired, I can only tremble at what the ‘future’ holds for us…I just don’t know if my rapidly raising heart rate will survive to see the next breakthrough..who knows, maybe the new Macs won’t even ‘need’ a mouse, maybe they will simply respond to curse words…or maybe, just maybe, they will do what you expect a computer to do.

Anyways, I’ll be getting back to my 5 year old laptop now – sorry about the rant.

And let the vitriol commence.

Ferg x


It has been a veeeerrryyyy loong time since my last post, and for that I truly apologise – thanks for waiting and for coming back to see our latest adventures 🙂

It has been crazy busy at work after two of my team resigned, and the wedding calendar is slowly filling up, so Sian and I are working very late into the night most of the time trying to get things sorted…the blog has naturally suffered – as has my photography….I havent been out shooting anything *Shock horror* !

But I am in the process of trying to get my head around a ‘how to page’, which I hope to post more technical stuff about the whats and whys of my photography, and free up the blog for more ramblings and updates from us here in (sometimes) sunny Barbados.

But it is late, and I am tired, and I will have to work that out later…so in the mean time, here is my first ‘ how to blog’.  I hope it is not too boring for all you lovely, non-photography types!

How to take photos of lightning

The weather here in Bim is truly awful at the moment.  We keep getting torrential downpours, followed by searing heat, which makes it utterly unbearable on the muginess side of things, and then perilous on the roads as we aqua plane to where we need to be.  And the very worst part of it is that we get electrical storms, but the clouds and haze are so thick, we rarely actually see any bolts of lightning…which makes for crap photos as I have discovered.

So, in light of a lack of er…lightning, I rooted around the old hard drive and sniffed these bad boys out:

For some reason WordPress has sharpened the buggery out of this on the thumbnail…but, like I say, it’s late and I can’t figure it out – please enlarge the photo by clicking on it to get rid of the early 90s digital-noise-look.

This was taken off the back of the Thomson Celebration when we were sailing to Port Sokhna out in the Red Sea.   I was accompanied by my good friend Josh who taught me this technique – so all credit must go to him.  He is a savagely talented photographer and is living the dream back in Manchester as a freelancer.  If you’re getting married any time soon in the UK, book him before he gets (deservedly) expensive!

Anyways, back to the lesson.  All you really need to get dramatic shots like this one is a little patience and a tripod.  If you don’t have either of these, then I’m afraid you will just have to remember the storm as you see it with the two eyes God gave you.  If you do, it’s time to have some fun.

The first problem you are likely to encounter when shooting lightning is that your camera won’t be able to focus properly.  It is usually very dark when a storm’s a brewing, and so there is little if nothing for your camera to focus on.  You’re best off switching to manual focus for this.  You are going to be shooting quite narrow as well (About F11ish) to make sure that all of your lightning stays sharp, regardless of how close or far away it is from the point of focus.

So, once you have set your focus up, as stated, I would shoot narrow, with quite a high ISO.  These were shot at 640 with the fabled D80 – which is as high as I dared go with old faithful.

Then, all you do is switch your shutter onto bulb mode.

It’s so easy even a photographer can do it.

Bulb mode means that your camera shutter will stay open for as long as you hold the button down, so all you do is hold it down, watch a few flashes…and presto:

This shot was taken over several minutes – each flash of lightning is frozen in the frame, giving the illusion that all of these bolts came at the same time – but they were actually very far apart.

And there you have it.  Once you are happy that you have recorded enough flashes, let go of the shutter button and wait for your camera to process the exposure (this took FOREVER on the D80!). But obviously, if you do not have a bulb mode, you can try your luck with a nice slow shutter speed – the longer you can leave your mirror up the better chance you have of catching that massive flash!

Hope that this has been helpful, and looking forward to sharing some more stories from the Caribbean soon.

Thanks for reading

Ferg x

A day at the races

Yesterday was made up of a lot of firsts for us.  It was the first time Sian and I were going to the races down at the Garisson, it was the first time I would be shooting solely in RAW, and it was the first time that I had decided I was going to process my shots in Adobe Lightroom.

Here we all are at the races, Sian, Caragh and Jonathan.

We decided to go to the races because Caragh is here, and Caragh loooooves horses.  She worked as a stable girl in Bexley a few years back, and by the end of her time there she was taking classes and teaching little’uns (including our amazing nephew Ryan) how to ride.  Caragh is more into point to point racing back in the UK, and Mick, my father in law, just loves anything with four legs.  I know that he reads the blog, so Mick – I hope you enjoy this and that the shots do the sport justice. 😉

Both Caragh and Mick are incredibly fastidious when it comes to the form and which horse to back. I, on the other hand am utterly pants.  I’m quite handy at the dogs, being that we have been many many more times, and that I have had best part of half a dozen as pets.  But the horses are completely beyond me.  I had no idea what to look for when they came out, no idea how the jockeys (who are heroes, by the way) affected a horse, and absolutely no idea how important ALL that information is about each runner.

Sian and I quickly agreed that we would bet $10bds on each race (about 3 pounds) and would take turns…in the mean time, I would take photos.

At least I know something about that.

As I mentioned before, I planned to shoot everything in Raw on this shoot.  RAW basically means that your camera records the information that it sees pixel for pixel.  There is no compression as there is in JPEG format, and no in-camera correction such as sharpness, hue or saturation is recorded in the file.

What this ultimately means is that the files are much, MUCH larger, and I have always avoided RAW because I have found that using Adobe Bridge and Photoshop to process these files is a painstakingly laborious and long-winded process.  But James has been getting into Lightroom lately which is much better for RAW files, and kindly took the time to show me a few things.  He is already annoyingly good with his camera and is getting better everyday, so the thought of falling behind on software as well is not something that my stubborn nature would allow.

Essentially, RAW gives you a lot more control over the files when it comes to processing, because the files are nothing but pixel information and have had no editing whatsoever when you drag them into your computer.  When shooting JPEG, the camera has a host of inbuilt processes and algorithms to help ‘improve’ your photos in camera.  This is great for speed; as a lot of the files out of my D700 don’t need any alteration.  But you are giving up a considerable amount of creative control, because your colours and everything else are essentially being decided by an engineer in Japan 5 years ago, rather than by me, at that moment.

Despite shooting in RAW, however, I still approached the day as I always do – I knew what I wanted: to get a good mixture of frozen action and motion blur, and  I knew that I was going to achieve this by varying my shutter speed.  My first snap was at the finish line of race number one.  I focused on the jockeys as they approached the finishing line, and tracked them running from right to left.  Shot at a 50th of a second, I got that wonderful movement on the horses’ legs and background blurring, but the jockey is still tack sharp:

I really like this shot.

I then ramped my shutter to about 1250th, to get these frozen action shots:

I love the frozen action too – particularly the last one where you can see the turf flying up under the horses’ hooves.  It really is an amazing experience as the pack thunders by, and I like to think the last shoot gives an inkling of the power that these amazing animals have.

After a few races, we headed off to get some lunch, where we were treated to a winning horse getting showered down.

It is (obviously!) very hot in Barbados, and the poor horses were running at half one – the hottest time of day!  This guy was very thirsty as well as very hot, and he kept poking his tongue out to get a cheeky drink during his shower:

It was wonderful to see the horse and handlers playing with each other – and when the shower was over, I was lucky enough to capture this moment between them:

After lunch, we headed back into the stands to win a few more bucks (Sian had backed a winner, and I had somehow, picked a horse that placed) and watch the last few races.  Race 6 was made up of a lot of inexperienced horses – none of them had run more than four races, and were yet to place in any of their track days.  Needless to say, this made betting almost impossible, and the end result was very surprising – the winner was a country mile ahead of the pack.

I just love the Jockey’s smile in this shot – just before he looked back to see where everyone else was…he is clearly already celebrating here.

We watched the last few races as the sun came down, and got ready to head home.

So, as always, another great day out on a glorious weekend in Barbados.  I really enjoyed the races, both shooting and watching.  The betting was fun and the day (amazingly) ran pretty much on time.  We headed back home to the hotel to have some BBQ and beer, and are now looking forward to a day out on the beach before we have to go back to work tomorrow…

Thanks for reading guys, and keep on snapping

Ferg x