HDR Photography

Ever so slightly technical post alert:

It stands for high dynamic range. It’s not something I have used very much in the past. But because I have been carrying a tripod around a lot more recently, I have been able to make more use of this function.

HDR photography can, from time to time, look a bit unnatural because of the balanced exposure that is achieved across the tonal range of the image. This is, of course, not a problem if that is the intention of the final photograph. However, if tonal depth is maintained in the image, the HDR tool can be brilliant for helping to capture what the eye actually sees.

The HDR function helps to ensure that image information is not lost when the difference in exposure settings needed for the lightest and darkest parts of the image is drastic. E.g. some dark objects in the foreground in shadow, and a bright sky behind – usually challenging conditions for a photographer who is not using flash or reflectors.

How does it do this? When you release the shutter the camera takes multiple shots of the scene, each at a different exposure, and overlays them creating one image that is exposed correctly for the lightest and darkest elements and everything in between. I mentioned that I had been carrying a tripod around more lately and this is why you need it, to ensure that each release of the shutter is capturing the precise same image.

Clever ain’t it?

The image at the top of this post is a photograph that I took last weekend in Taipei using the HDR function. Since a range of exposures has been used, detail in the foreground has been maintained, the sky is not blown out and most importantly, the lovely range of tones in the middle provide an essential depth and illustrate how far the buildings travel into the distance.


Block Colour

Insecurity and Manipulation


Okay, hands up, it’s not as serious as it sounds. It’s just a blog about security staff and manipulation of colour in photography.


A few months ago I wrote a blog post – Me, a security threat? – about the difficulty and frustration of photographing in the city of London. It’s so heavily guarded by security staff that you spend half your time being angrily moved on by men in uniform – this, of course, only happens if you have a large camera (for some reason mobile phones don’t count) and you’d better watch out when you try and extend the legs on your tripod.

The good news, for me anyway, is that here in Hong Kong it’s not like that. HK is a photographer friendly city – tripod or no tripod, big posh banking building or no big posh banking building – they just don’t mind.

I’ve only been approached once since being here. The security guard came over and said ‘what do you want?’ – I explained I was just photographing architecture in the area and I wasn’t representing anyone and he jolly well let me get on with it.

FREEDOM! That’s what it is. I feel like I’ve been released, released to release my camera’s shutter for whatever takes my fancy.


Sooo, I’ve been continuing in my quest to rediscover the colour spectrum. Which is quite fun in HK given the variety of coloured architecture and of course the, more often than not (so far), blue skies. However, I’m finding that I am compelled to manipulate the colour in post production. There is a necessity there to present a mix of fake, almost cartoony colour with realistic colour. I don’t know why – I like how it looks, I think it offers something, um, else.

When I was studying I used to bring branches into the studio, lay them on a white background, balance a piece of clear glass a couple of feet over them and paint on coloured leaves with nail varnish before photographing from directly above. So the resulting image is a real branch with bright, fake leaves. It’s the not immediately obvious mix of synthetic and natural colour that I liked. I wish I had the photos with me but they are on a hard drive in storage somewhere.

Maybe it’s a phase and I’ll get bored with it but that’s okay isn’t it?

The colour of the sky in the images below and the one at the beginning of this post has been pushed to a more unnatural tone of teal / turquoise. I usually use the selective colour function in Photoshop to do this but sometimes that also requires selecting and isolating the target area of the image.


Colour sky

Colour sky

You can find more tips on colour adjustments and manipulation in Photoshop here:

MGM Casino

Punching the colour

Day 3 in Hong Kong and a quick trip over to Macau for the necessary activation of work visas. Macau is known for its multiple casinos and the colourful, shiny buildings ‘reflect’ its image perfectly.

In recent years I have tended to favour producing black and white images but I think its time to give up resisting my urge to shove colour in people’s faces and branch out a little.

I think I know who to blame for this. Considering my inspirations when I first started studying photography, I recall that a lot of the time I was drawn more to non photographic, characteristically colourful artists than to photographers. E.g. Julian Opie and his depth free colourful visual art, Piet Mondrian – mainly his abstract, minimalist work using primary colours and straight black lines and Roy Lichtenstein’s comic book style screen prints.

As photographers go, I was attracted to Martin Parr’s saturated colour images of seaside towns in the UK and Nick Knight’s colourfully manipulated fashion photography.

So – whilst I will continue to produce black and white imagery, I am re-opening my mind and ready to embrace the spectrum with more colour photography.

Screenprint by Julian Opie 1998 - 99. Source:

‘Imagine you are driving’. Screen print by Julian Opie 1998 – 99. Source:

Abstract painting by Piet Mondrian, 1935

‘Composition C (No III) with Red, Yellow and Blue’. Abstract painting by Piet Mondrian, 1935. Source:

Screen print by Roy Lichtenstein, 1992. Source:

‘Wallpaper with Blue Floor Interior’. Screen print by Roy Lichtenstein, 1992. Source:


Two photographs by me, from Macau:

MGM Casino

MGM Casino

Wynn Macau Hotel

Wynn Macau Hotel

Look Up!

I’ve just moved to Hong Kong. That still feels weird to say but that’s what I have done.

I’m jet lagged so this is a bit of a struggle but through the haze (in my mind and across Hong Kong) I am looking forward to getting out with my camera and seeing what happens. Having been in London for most of around 18 years, I am already hugely influenced by the urban and architectural environment but the urban areas of Hong Kong are quite different.

Surrounded. I think that’s a good one word expression to begin with. As a lover of urban, abstract, architectural photography this definitely feels like a great place to be but I’m going to leave it there for now and just say that my initial aim is to avoid being drawn only to the ‘look up’ shots – like this one (impressive as they are).

One of the many, many, incredibly tall residential tower blocks on Hong Kong Island

One of the many, many, incredibly tall residential tower blocks on Hong Kong Island



Me, a security threat?

I’m afraid this post is going to be a bit ranty.

Unfortunately for me, I enjoy spending time photographing architecture. Even more unfortunately for me, I am drawn towards modern architecture, buildings made of glass and steel and the like. So it often means that I am photographing commercial buildings that belong to swanky banks, investment companies and legal firms etc – which also means they have security guards who’s job descriptions include ‘approach, question and refuse to allow anyone to take photographs of the building – but only if they have like a biggish camera with a biggish lens and definitely if they have a tripod’.

So what are the rules? If you are standing in a public space, you are within your rights to photograph anything, including people.

The problem I find is that sometimes you can be unaware that the land you are standing on is privately owned e.g. a plaza could be a private space with public access or like the whole of Canary Wharf! I suppose I could take the time and look it up before I start shooting but really – won’t that destroy my creative flow? So okay, I get that the law is the law but who am I harming and do security guards really have to have such a poor and aggressive attitude about it (please note that doesn’t go for all security guards I have encountered)?

And he ruined my shot!

And he ruined my shot!

I generally just move on when instructed but a few months ago I asked the security guard why I couldn’t photograph the building and he said ‘because of terrorism’. I’m pretty sure on that occasion I was standing on publicly owned land and I have the feeling that guards sometimes get it wrong and think that the law lies with what you are photographing rather than where you are photographing from.

On another occasion I was informed that I was standing on privately owned land but as long as I stopped using my tripod I could continue to take photographs. Hmmm yes that’s logical.

I will continue to do as I’m told but is it okay that sometimes I just quickly take another ten shots before the guard gets close enough to tell me off?

Top Tip: always have earphones in so you can pretend not to hear them. 🙂








Pub Classification: A Work in Progress

Do you ever think of days of the week as colours?  For me Monday is red, Friday is royal blue, Saturday is light blue and Sunday is yellow.  I think Thursday is pink and Wednesday is orange but I can never really make my mind up about Tuesday.

Can’t explain why I make those associations – apart from maybe Sunday being a yellow day.  Don’t know where the others come from but that’s the way it is in my head.

Anyway – I do the same with pubs.  I like pubs.  A lot.  And I like to explore as many as I can, without doing overly serious damage to my insides (hopefully).  I will pretty much go into any pub and in doing so I have developed a sub-conscious colour association with various types of pubs.  Sub-conscious that is until I got fed up with trying to explain it to people and got it down in writing:

So before I begin it is necessary to let you know that the following framework is not a good to bad, bad to worse, scoring system.  It is merely a classification based on particular characteristics, of which some are more appealing at times than others.

Can I also just say that this is a first cut overview in need of expansion and the consideration of more colours categories.

And, since I am also a photographer, supporting images will follow soon!


A blue pub is usually, actually, blue.

Cheap drink and cheaper clientele, mostly genuine locals.  The landlord / lady will be pretty unapproachable, until you (think you) know them.

There is probably a juke box with the latest hits of the 90s and karaoke twice a week.  Racing on the TV will takes precedence over other sport.

You will always be welcome until you insult a regular.  Blue pubs have their place and can be great fun but choose your timing wisely to avoid depression.  Only take your parents if they’re drunk.


Green pubs are well balanced environments, best for guilt free drinking, even for those with a tendency to get hammered.  They are lively and most of the clientele are in regular employment and happy to chat to randoms.

Warmth and comfort are common factors in green pubs.  The décor is dark, attractive and possibly quirky.  They are not always overly clean but never lower themselves to absolute filth.

Good at any time of the day, and for any length of time.  Probably don’t take your parents.


Brown pubs are similar to green but can feel a little forced.  They are comfortable and clean, and usually lively, but the clientele can be a tad aloof.

The décor is well done and stylish if a little predictable.

You can’t really go wrong with a brown pub if you’re out to enjoy a few drinks.

Definitely take your parents.


White pubs are usually white.  Traditional Sunday lunch pubs that you have to drive to.  Cosy, warm and friendly but only because they’re told to be.

You probably don’t visit more than twice a year but you will always enjoy it, as long as you don’t want to get drunk.

Definitely take your parents if they are paying.


Are you still with me?

A Theme Park of Brutalism

I am one of those people with a weird fascination for brutalist architecture.  So I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I’ve lived in London for 17 years and have only just visited the Barbican Complex.

It’s been on my list for like ever but I’m happy to say that I finally took myself and my little camera over there yesterday.  And I wasn’t disappointed!  It’s like a brutalist paradise – well paradise for my camera anyhow.  I actually made little noises of excitement as I walked deeper into the estate – yes, I know – a bit embarrassed about that too.

It was late in the day and the sun was strong and low – even better.  Brutalist shadows are the best kind of shadows, aren’t they? Especially these ones.  This is my favourite shot of the day.  I think.

Part of the Barbican Centre which is within the complex.

Brutal Shadows on The Barbican Centre

I also got this one.  I like the little splash of green grass in amongst the repetitious concrete blocks – a classic brutalist characteristic (the concrete, not the splash of green :-)).

Growing on Brutalism

Growing on Brutalism

Don’t know what I like about brutalism really.  I mean it’s dull, it’s always too big, it’s always in your face – it’s brutal.  I think I kind of feel sorry for it.  But I love to photograph it – it’s photogenic at least.  That’s one positive.

So Barbican – it was nice to meet you after all these years.  I look forward to spending many a happy hour with you in the near future. (This is also embarrassing isn’t it? Yes.)  Brutalism photography is definitely becoming a favourite.

Another favourite from the world of London brutalism – Balfron Tower in Tower Hamlets.  I used to live on the 24th floor of this 25 storey block so there’s an emotional connection here too.  This is it.


The Very Brutal Balfron Tower


Brutal Windows

Impressive isn’t it?

So… (it’s about photography)

So this is my first blog.  Well, it isn’t my first.  I’ve written a blog before, but it was a travel blog, not a photography one so it was easy.  I mean when you’re travelling, you’re doing stuff aren’t you?  Every day.  I’m not doing anything today, except this.

I should be out, with my camera, doing what I love and finding new things to photograph but I had a few drinks last night so I’m feeling lazy, unmotivated and uninspired.  Plus there’s just been a downpour which pleased me somewhat as it gave me a good reason to not be outside.  But that’s stopped now. So I’m doing this.

Writing about how sometimes it can be hard to just get out and take photos for no real reason, no matter how much you enjoy doing it at the time.  Because there’s always that question nagging at the back of your mind – what am I doing it for?  Nobody’s paying me, nobody’s asking me for anything.  So what’s the point?

The point is, Kelly, that photographs don’t take themselves and it doesn’t matter if nobody wants to see what you’ve produced, you’re going to splash it all over social media anyway because you want to share your view of the world with other people.  Just because.  Photos can be really nice things to look at, can’t they?

So I’m keeping this short – because I need to get out with my camera, so that next time I write, I can stick a nice image or two next to the words. Looking at the pictures is easier than reading.

Are you still with me?