Tuesday, 7 January 2014

A little late, but a trip well worthy of making (Aurora Borealis 2013 & 2014)

To start with an apology for not posting live whilst we were in Tromsø. Basically the first 3 nights of our trip were completely wiped out by cloud and then on the evenings of New Years Eve and New Years Day the skies were alight with auroras. Especially New Years Day which saw clear skies and an aurora storm rated either KP5 or KP6 depending on which website you use ablaze in the night sky.

We have been to Tromsø 3 times now and despite my concerns before going this time, regarding the time of year as usually the end of February until the end of March is the best time to go, we weren't left disappointed. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see the best aurora displays we have witnessed to date. To see the whole sky full with the aurora and a corona as well meant we just stood in awe and wonder at what mother nature has to offer. I would dare anyone not to be amazed at the display. The colours and movement of the Northern Lights was truly a memory that will live with me forever. I've included a number off images I captured during our holiday on this blog post

As I am on twitter one of the funniest tweets I saw whilst in Tromsø came from Island Snapper who was sitting in an Indian restaurant in the town and had just been charged £7 for a Poppadom for his starters. I shudder to think the final cost of his meal. I met up with James (Island Snapper) one evening on the road to Tromvik and we had a really enjoyable chat during a quiet period as the aurora lessened before returning in full force some 30 minutes later

Having been to Tromsø 3 times now and having experienced the aurora in such strength last week there is still a real strong desire to return possibly in March 2015 before the solar activity really dips as part of the solar minimum fall off and so making 'chasing the light' a wasted journey. I know a large number of people read my blog having chalked up some 2400 views so far. So, if there is interest from others to take part in such a trip to Tromsø I am willing to organise something and can possibly arrange accommodation and a guide with a minibus to drive us around. I would just like to test the water first to see if there is any interest from others? If there isn't I may just go with my partner, on our own.

Some new readers of my blog my have come across it due to the BBC2 programme here in the UK called 'Stargazing live' which goes/went out on 7th January 2014 live from Tromsø. The programme covered chasing and photographing the aurora borealis. If so, Tromsø doesn't disappoint and has plenty to offer apart from the Northern Lights and so is an ideal location to take your family.

I know people enjoy reading books about the aurora and I can highly recommend this book written by a local stargazer in Tromsø called Fredrik Broms (the link is to the English version you can buy here in the UK). I actually purchased the last English copy in the Polaria (the Polar Aquarium in Tromsø). Almost every image, if not all, were taken in and around Tromsø and many places I know myself including Ersfjordbotn where we stay.

Please if you enjoy my images leave a comment of alternatively you can view more of my images either on my  my personal website Darrell Jordan Photography or alternatively go to my Facebook page Darrell Jordan Photography (Facebook) and please like the page.

If anyone is interested in going to Tromsø in late February/early March 2015 please can you email me via my website or Facebook and if there is enough interest I can get the ball rolling.

Happy New Year to you all and I hope you have a great and personally successful 2014

Friday, 20 December 2013

Nearly ready for the off plus a look back at some recent relevant photography related pieces

It is now just over a week before we return to Ersfjordbotn and the excitement is beginning to build. The next few days up until we depart will be spent obviously with the family at Christmas but also packing, checking and re-checking we have everything prepared and ready for our holiday and to ensure we (maybe that should be 'I') have covered all the eventualities that could possibly happen when we are there especially from a camera equipment perspective. I take a portable HDD with us and so I copy all my images across to this whilst we are away to ensure I have a backup copy of them all, just in case anything should happen to my laptop as you can never be certain. The closer we get to our departure the more closely I will be analysing the Norwegian weather forecast  looking for the possibility and clear skies in the evening even if it does mean a trip into Sweden and also the actual solar activity in at the moment and praying this is quite high. The biggest requirement is, without doubt, favourable weather conditions in the evenings.

I have always enjoyed watching some of the time lapse videos of the aurora borealis that you can easily find on the web and I may give this a go when we are in Norway. If I fail or the output isn't of an acceptable quality then unfortunately any video won't see the light of day though. It maybe that some 1000 images get destined for the trash, it will be enjoyable to give it a go. It time permits I may go and have a trial before we leave just to hone my skills and I know of the perfect place to try this out. I especially like watching the time lapse videos where the camera has been mounted on a mechanical dolly to very gradually move the camera on rails to add some movement to the video. On investigating these it quickly became apparent that they aren't ideal for being transported by air and are also not very cheap either due to the motors that are used to drive the belts that actually move the mount that the camera sits on.

As I mentioned previously I have managed to hire a Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM for our trip as I wanted to see how it performs especially compared to the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II that I used last time. It was really reassuring that the company I used Hire a camera were extremely proactive and helpful especially as the lens was delivered a little later than planned. But hey it was Christmas and I was in so it was no great inconvenience and it only came an hour or so later than expected. So I would just to say thanks for their helpfulness and it was refreshing for a change that they contacted me rather than waiting for me to call. I've heard recently that some of these lenses have had issues with the autofocus, that really isn't an issue for me though as I will be shooting in manual mode so this will be turned off. I have tested the lens though and don't have any initial concerns about the one I have and it really isn't a problem for me.

From a photography perspective it has been very interesting recently as I managed to capture some images of Brill windmill here in Buckinghamshire last weekend as the Geminid meteor shower was going through the earth's atmosphere. I posted some of these images to my Flickr page and was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from CNN in the US via the website asking me to submit what is called an iReport for them. After submitting this I then received a follow up email requesting some further details and I was really pleased to see that they had showcased my report along with a number different other ones on the iReport main page of their website on Tuesday. Unfortunately this page has been updated now so I can't attach a link to it. As part of the exchange of emails I've informed CNN about our trip and they are looking out for any iReports that I may submit in the near future which is always nice especially if multinational media organisations use your work.

I have follow a photographer on twitter called David Hall, David has a couple of twitter accounts including A tree a day and also Tree Porn please don't be put off by the 2nd twitter account name as it is nothing to do with the adult entertainment industry more to do with David's passion for trees. David is presently trying to fund a public art installation of his work for an extremely worthy cause and so is trying to raise £5,000 for this via Kickstarter. Please, if you can share some of your hard earned money at this time for an extremely worthy cause please can you donate via this link Public art installation 

This week I received an email and follow up phone call from a really nice guy from a company called OC&C asking me some questions about my views on photography. I just hope I have been some use to him. It is always refreshing to pass on your thoughts and I just hope my views were of some benefit

I possibly won't be blogging until late next week so just to wish you all a Merry Christmas to you all and your families and a very special shout out to the villagers of Brill in Buckinghamshire who this week saved me from a horrendous headache after a sleepless night on Tuesday.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Preparing for the off, the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM lens and my own thoughts on the impact of social media on photography

Looking at the temperature it was nice to see from the Norwegian weather forecast website that I use www.yr.no that Tromsø is presently around -4 degrees centigrade through the night. Although, as I was anticipating, the weather is quite cloudy on the Norwegian Coast with inland areas such as Abisko in Sweden a lot clearer at night. The pay off is definitely in the temperature with Abisko recording -21 degrees centigrade and this doesn't include the wind chill so I imagine it is incredibly cold there at the moment and I don't anticipate that will change greatly in the next few weeks. When we went in February we were out at times in temperatures of -16 degrees centigrade plus wind chill.

Sorry for any non UK readers of my blog as this next piece isn't really of much relevance to you. One major change to our trip is this time instead of flying British Airways from Heathrow to Oslo and having the expensive of an overnight stop in Oslo and then catching an internal Norwegian Air flight from Oslo to Tromsø the next day, we are flying on a new route operated by Norwegian Air that flies directly from Gatwick to Tromsø. This saves a considerable amount of money as Norwegian Air charge just £6 each way for each individual hold baggage weighing upto 20kg so making the total cost just £48 for all our luggage (4 hold bags). Compare this to BA where you get one hold luggage free each but they then charge £34 each way for each excess luggage bag upto 23kg and on top of this you have the cost of the baggage for the flight from Oslo to Tromsø with Norwegian Air which is £6 for each individual item of hold luggage each way. We have therefore saved somewhere in the region of £120 plus the additional cost of an overnight hotel room in Oslo so a total saving of around £200 and £300 depending on which hotel you stay in Oslo. Plus we have the benefit of flying directly to Tromsø.

One other amendment, and one I am really excited about gear wise, is that I have managed to source a lens hire company that have the new Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM available for our trip. I am really looking forward to using this lens as I believe this will have huge benefits compared to my own Canon F2.8L lenses. All the reviews and initial reports I have heard or read about this Sigma lens are extremely positive and from a photographers perspective it is perfect for capturing the aurora borealis as it will hopefully cut down on exposure times or alternatively enables you to reduce the ISO, something I am always trying to balance and play with as I shoot the Northern Lights. The photographers who read this won't need telling, but simply put higher ISO means more noise and nobody likes noise in their images so it will be extremely interesting to see the results, especially if the possible benefits of this lens are realised.

One last piece and something that has been nagging me for a while is the rise of the impact of social media on an individuals perception of photography and more importantly the quality of the images produced and therefore displayed on such websites. I am not going to name anyone, I will though endeavour to point out my concerns. I often see young photographers on say, purely as an example, Facebook who've set up a page for their photography that have literally hundred of 'likes' and yet some of the images posted there are of an extremely poor quality, composition, lighting and even focus are out and in some cases all three basic requirements for a half decent image aren't being delivered. With so many followers via social media though from a commercial aspect does this give any weight to their work and if not can they still manipulate this to their own benefit? 

Anyone can easily steal images from the web and make up a portfolio of these stolen images and pass them off as their own work and then backed up by literally hundreds of followers via social media who would question such credentials, especially if they were selling their services as a wedding photographer etc? Compare this to a good wedding photographer who is in their 40's or 50's or even older who doesn't utilise social media to the extent the younger generation does, in future will their lively hood by jeopardised or suffer despite them actually buying technically a far better photographer just purely based on the number of 'followers' they have or don;t have as the case maybe? Also, the Instagram impact seems to be all the rage with a filter for almost anything and everything and they use of such filters seems to be creeping into both portrait and wedding photography and this, in my opinion, is a great way to mask what in essence could be a poor quality image or even a poor photographer. If such quality and output becomes acceptable and the norm in the majority will this mean literally anyone can set themselves up as photographer and we will end up seeing photographers at weddings with nothing more than a smartphone in future?

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and if If you do like my work please take a minute to view either my personal website Darrell Jordan Photography or alternatively go to my Facebook page Darrell Jordan Photography (Facebook) and please like the page.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

An unexpected return to photograph the aurora borealis in Tromsø later this month

Well I didn't think I would start up this blog again and certainly not in 2013. But, as luck would have it though we were recently contacted by the owners of the cabins we stay in Ersfjordbotn, Norway with the offer of a cabin that had become available due to a cancellation.  So we have taken up the opportunity to return to Tromsø for possibly the last time for 11 years. I will be in there between 28th December 2013 until 4th January 2014 and therefore we will get to see the New Year in with the aurora borealis and I, for one, can't think of any better way I would like to celebrate the occasion.

I intend to blog again whilst I am there, although I feel that chasing the light will be a real effort this time. At this time of year the weather isn't great with a significant amount of cloud cover most evenings on the coast and around the immediate Tromsø area. So this may require me to search out new locations further inland to find the clearer skies with locations such as Abisko in Sweden on our radar which is just about in driving distance of Tromsø. 

I am still not certain what not seeing the sun for 7 days will feel like but I am hoping that the colour of the skies will be something to remember due to the lack of sunlight and so offer some different photographic opportunities. Due to the time of year we are going this time it may offer the chance of possibly photographing orca's as they follow the winter herring run along Norway's coastline as well and this is something I have wanted to do and to get close up to these amazing dolphin's, Yes, orca's are part of the dolphin family although they are often referred to as 'killer whales' can be a little confusing.

As I blogged previously I was approached by Warehouse Express, AKA Wex, here in the UK to pen a blog entry for them about photographing the aurora borealis and I am pleased to see that so far that has been read over 2700 times. 

Whilst I do sell my images at local events generally I get the impression that my images of the aurora's only act to inspire people to go and see them for themselves as they are on so many people's bucket list. What never ceases to amaze me is the number of people I have spoken to who have been to places such as Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland in search of the aurora borealis and have comeback disappointed as they didn't get to see the Northern Lights. There are 2 recommendations I continually make to people if they are planning such a trip. The first point is to go for as long as you can go taking into account the cost of living in the Scandinavian countries compared to most of Europe and the second point is to try and be mobile and have the use of a hire car. Unfortunately the chances of seeing the lights are controlled by a number of factors including solar activity and weather conditions. It would be wrong of us to think we just turn up and Mother Nature just does her bit and flicks a light switch and puts on a display for you. Then again for those who know this is possibly what makes the anticipation and excitement the aurora even better especially if you have been chasing the light and finally find it.

I have some images aluminium mounted prints of the auroras that measure 100cm x 50cm and are a real focal point for any room and everytime I look at them they just seem to get better and better and I am my own biggest critic when it comes to my images.

During the autumn here in the UK I decided to take part in a competition called '24 hours in Bristol' to photograph the city during 24 hours on a specific day. The concept of the competition was very appealing as you are only allocated a certain hour time slot that you have to take an image in after you have paid an entry fee. This type of photography is well outside my comfort zone and the day in question wasn't great weather wise so it was a real challenge for me. I didn't make the final 3 images that won the major prizes which was no real surprise, but I did take an hourly award for the best image taken between 18:00 - 19:00 and I have to say I was chuffed to bits about this and gladly accepted a cheque for £50 for my efforts.

This year I changed hosting provider for my personal website and so moved across from Clikpic to Zenfolio. I find Zenfolio far easier to administer and to keep updated and a lot friendlier to use. Whilst investigating suitable hosting solutions I did some research and during this time I found a blog from someone who was already using Zenfolio and they mentioned they had had 311 visitors in a year. I set myself a target of achieving more hits than that, just as a bit of fun and as a personal challenge. I am glad to say that I overtook this number of hits after just over 4 months.   

It was also during this time that I used Google image search just to look where my images were being used. I was slightly annoyed after just searching a random 10 images from my portfolio that 1 had been used without my consent on a commercial blog. It is well worth completing such a search for yourselves, especially if your own images are being used without your consent.

I honestly do appreciate those who take the time to read this blog and would just like to say thank you to you as individuals and I am really looking forward to blogging live from Tromsø later this month.

If you do like my work please take a minute to view either my personal website Darrell Jordan Photography or alternatively go to my Facebook page Darrell Jordan Photography (Facebook) and please like the page.

The blog entry I wrote for Warehouse Express concerning photographing the aurora borealis can be found here My Wex blog entry

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Chamonix adventure sports festival

Thanks to the courtesy of both What Digital Camera and also G-technology I am going to spend a few days in Chamonix, France this week attending an adventure sports photography workshop led by Tristan Shu

I am hoping to find the time whilst there to add a couple of blog entries whilst I am there....

Thursday, 14 March 2013

My Warehouse Express blog entry

Just a quick post it. On returning from Norway I was approached by Wex (Warehouse Express) the UK's leading specialist photographic store to write a blog for them.

You can find it here, I hope you enjoy the piece as I much as I do.


Sunday, 24 February 2013

The end of the chase

Well that's nearly it for 2013 for the aurora chase for us. We certainly struck lucky at the start of the week.

The end of our holiday which coincided with the end of this week has come and gone with little more than a whimper and so we are no getting ready for our journey home tomorrow back to the UK, and by all accounts that is a snowy UK so we should be more than able to handle anything thrown at us when we touch down at Heathrow tomorrow early evening.

The weather, which we are aware of our previous trip and something I have mentioned before regarding the climate in Norway has taken a turn for the worse. We haven't been out for the last 3 nights as there has been a weather front hanging all over northern Norway which has produced rain, rain and more rain along with some sleet which is now turning into snow. When we arrived at Ersfjordbotn we were welcomed with snow covered mountains adorning the sides of the fjords. These same mountains have now taken on a very different look with the majority of the snow being washed off and probably now only covering between 30%-40% of them rather than the 90% coverage when we arrived. We have had so much rain that the small waterfall next to the cabin sprang  back into life and has been almost been in a state of spate for the last 3 days solid as the water literally pours off the mountainside.

We are leaving with flood warnings and also high alerts of avalanches advised for the locality due to the sheer amount of rainfall that has been nothing short of relentless.

It goes without saying seeing the auroras at the start of holiday, which was always our goal, was the highlight. The lowlights include the Polar Zoo, which for the distance travelled and cost was a waste of both time and money. We found it very disappointing, certainly when visiting in winter time as we did. The drive there was the only high point of the trip through the fjords and mountains in nearly cloudless blue skies which afford great views to Bardu where the Polar Zoo is.

The zoo has elk, wolves, wolverines, deer, arctic foxes, lynx and whilst these are very appealing animals to photograph there is only one very small viewing platform over one of the wolf camps which was inaccessible due to snow when we went. All the other time you have to shoot through wire fencing so you are picking a single focus point so you can obscure the wire out of your images.

One of the highlights apart from the auroras was undoubtedly Grotfjord and standing on the beach surrounded by snow covered mountains and seeing the afternoon move into dusk just before sunset that afforded us a great opportunity to capture some great long exposure images like the one below.

The last opportunity we had to capture the auroras entailed a 60 mile drive to Nordkjosbotn in search of clear skies on Thursday. Although, slightly obscured at times by cloud we still had the chance to capture the aurora in temperatures that dropped down to -10.

So that ends our trip for the this year, it is hard not to fall in love with Ersfjordbotn Kystferie due to it's location and the beauty of the aurora borealis on a cloudless evening in winter time over the fjord. Having visited twice now in literally just over 12 months we need to consider all our options for next year. Time for somewhere new or time for a new project maybe, I don't think I or my suffering family know that answer just yet. I seriously doubt though we will find anywhere that feels as much as home as this place does though. A lot will depend on the solar maximum and if it has peaked already? Then I think pastures new will be calling............ In my heart though I hope it hasn't.

I have some projects I would like to devote more time to at home that I have been planning for a while. Anyone though he has taken interest in my blog and fancies a trip next year to this place please let me know................... I am always happy to give you a quote for my personal guiding services ;-)