Two Years and Still Going Strong

Mono Lake Rainstorm

Mono Lake Rainstorm – Rain teems down form the heavens over the mountains alongside Mono Lake, Mammouth Lakes, CA, USA – Copyright 2015 Martyn Phillips, M4Photo.

Two years ago, I was extremely fortunate to find myself in California for what was to be the photographic trip of my lifetime.  Under the guidance of professional landscape photographer Paul Reiffer, we visited a number of locations, with Mono Lake being one of my favorites.

Mono Lake Rainstorm has consistently been one of my most successful images.  Now two years old, I was amazed to see in my email that Gurushots have once again picked up one of my images.  This time Mono Lake Rainstorm has made number one in the list of 36 landscape images that will “knock your socks off”.

See the full list of 36 images here.



Getting from Point A to Point B

Fractured Highway

As we headed out of Furnace Creek in Death Valley on Route 190 Paul Reiffer (our workshop host and professional photographer) pulled the car over to the side of the road.  I been looking out of the side window thinking about the challenges to come and had not thought of looking behind us.  Paul had and when we jumped out of the car it quickly became evident why.

This is a classic view looking back down the road and it is one that I have seen a hundred times.  The difference this time was that it was my chance to try to go one step further.  So, with each of us watching the traffic whilst we each took our turn at capturing this iconic image, I set about getting my interpretation between cars, trucks and those rolling 18 wheel monsters that were coming over the rise a few hundred yards in the opposite direction to the image.

Well, it looks like I was not the only person to like my interpretation of the view.  Gurushots must have hundreds, if not thousands, of images similar to this on their database, but it is my image (just one of 38) that has been used to provide an example of getting from point a to point b.  There are some wonderful images that have been used in the article and I’m proud to have yet another of my images used in this manner.

You can see the full article here.


And another


It seems that I continue to get noticed.  Gurushots have published another of their articles and yet another of my images taken alongside Paul Reiffer features in the article.  That is now three of my images in as many weeks on the photography website.

Someone really is trying to tell me something, the question is “Is it my photography skills” or is it “Paul’s brilliant photography education”.  I’d like to think that it is a little of both.

It was also interesting to see a similar view of Durdle Door (without the sunrise) in a local framing shop in Rushden.  Maybe I’ll take a closer look and see what it is selling for :-).

This remains a location that I would like to revisit but with the small window of opportunity to catch the sun peeking through the arch, it’ll have to wait until later in 2017 before I can make the return trip.

Getting noticed


I’ll be honest, things were a little slow for M4Photo during 2016.  I’ve continued to work with Eclipse Gymnastics and Archers of Raunds and I had a great three days shooting with the Barbara Hooton School of Dancing.  Otherwise, it was pretty slow.


It’s not all been doom and glom though.  The brand new Archers of Raunds website features a lot of my images as key eye candy on each of the websites pages and the images really make the site pop.  I also managed to capture a good number of great photographs at the recent Eclipse Gymnastics Xmas show and the feedback this year has been wonderful.  The dance school shoot had me utilising some long forgotten knowledge to get some good posed shots and the whole shoot was a great success.

However, a website that I was working on for a brand new start up business has fallen flat for the moment owing to things beyond my control and I really did not find the time to get out and explore my landscape photography, let alone attempt to put together a couple of landscape related projects that I’ve been thinking about.

So, with three acknowledgements in as many weeks from photographic websites and people that know what they are talking about, I guess that someone is trying to tell me something for 2017.

Gurushots is a website where photographers can upload their images and submit them to challenges.  Other photographers are then able to vote for their favourites and I always seems to do pretty well.  I was therefore pleased to find one of my images of Bodie selected from thousands of black and white images for an article entitled 30 Stunning Black And White Photos Proving That Colour Is Not Always That ImportantTo be selected for one of the top 30 images was really nice.

Then today, Gurushots picked up another of my images for one of just 34 lakeside images for an article entitled SPALOOSH! 34 Photographers that were Willing to Get Wet for Our Viewing Pleasure.  Featuring my image called Mono Lake Rainfall (shown above and which is one of my favourites in my portfolio) it quickly became my most successful image of 2016 with two Guru Picks during the year.  Whilst the votes are nice and it’s great to break into the top ten, it is the recognition from the guy that set the challenge that I really value.

Viewbug is another portfolio based photograph website where photographers can post their images and enter them into paid and free competitions.  My image looking across the Bay View Bridge towards San Francisco was recently place pretty high in the rankings.

It is interesting to acknowledge that all three of these images were captured on one of my workshops with Paul Reiffer.  I was lucky to spend two full weeks with him in California and he took us to some amazing locations and taught us how to get the best from each location.  The accolades mentioned above and linked on my Facebook page, really do show the value in Paul’s knowledge of photography and his unique ability to educate his students in a relaxed and informative way, whilst also letting them explore their own style of photography.

Maybe during 2017, I’ll get out a little more, work on some of these projects that are bubbling away in my mind and maybe, just maybe, I’ll have another crack at the local clubs to help to make some new memories for people.

Watch this space!!


Getting back to the memory.

Durdle Door Path - Copyright 2016 M4Photo.jpg

It is interesting to see your images on the computer screen in RAW format.  The colours and tones are usually quite a bit different to what you remember and this is because of the way that a camera sees an image, compared to our eyes.  For example, very often the shadow detail is lost in an image and the colours (for me at least) are often muted somewhat.

Someone recently said to me that this is subjective and no two people will look at the same scene in the same light at the same time and see exactly what the other person sees.  Our eyes are different and our brain interpret things differently.  Often our mood can also affect our view of the scene.

Taking all of this on board, I am now trying to get my images back to what I remember seeing at the scene.  An iPhone shot if the scene can often help, but even our smartphone applications are designed to enhance the photographs taken to make them more pleasing to the eye.

Anyway, above is an image that I have subtly post processed using some new rules that I have put in place for myself.  Essentially, this involves not moving the sliders in Lightroom too much and keeping the enhancements to a minimum whilst bringing out detail, shadows and colours as I remember them and to make the image pleasing but not ‘fake’.

Hopefully I have achieved this in this latest image from Durdle Door.  The test will be on the rest of my images from my weekend workshop with Paul and the guys in Dorset recently.

A weekend in Dorset.


Where has this week gone? This time last week I was down in Dorset with Paul Reiffer, Vic and a number of other photographers standing on a cliff overlooking Durdle Door in Dorset.

I had driven down on the Thursday night in thick fog, which reduced me to 20mph in places, and doing battle with closed road – yes, no less than four road closures and diversions on the major roads from Northamptonshire to Dorset. It turned a leisurely 3 hour run into a little over six hours. Never mind, the planned snooze before dawn was forgotten about and I headed over to capture a shot of the famous Portland Bill lighthouse just before the sun rose above the horizon. I also headed over to Pulpit Rock, but the sky was not going to play ball and I gave up and headed over to the meeting point for the workshop.

We met Paul at the Sailing Academy and following the usual introductions Paul took us through the fundamentals of how a camera and lens work, the all-important triangle which would need to balance over the weekend and more. I knew a lot of this from previous workshops with Paul, but he still managed to have me talking notes with some handy new bits of information – the best being a new way of looking at the depth of field for landscapes and one that I would put to the test and come to use the whole weekend.

Following our first classroom session, we headed over to check into the hotel and then out to Durdle Door for a sunset shoot. The weather was not playing ball and we decided to ditch the beach and head over the cliffs to a nice vantage point that overlooks the beach towards the famous arch. It really does help to have a professional who knows the best shooting spots and Paul was spot on this evening. My chosen view was a look along the beach with the arch set off to the left of the frame and taking in what was becoming a fairly interesting sky. Although fairly featureless, I was hoping for a somewhat serene image from this location.

Back at the hotel, the group of photographers on the workshop settled down for dinner in the restaurant and we swapped successes and failures from the day and we all got to know each other a little more. Then, early to bed because the following morning was going to be another early start. I’d been on go for nearly 48 hours, so I alone was ready for some sleep.

3Saturday morning had us heading over to Durdle Door again and squinting through the patchy fog at times. The fog lifted when we got to the location and parking up the cars, we could see some stars in the sky. This was looking promising. On the cliff top we gathered around for a quick briefing from Paul and some recommendations. Three of us decided to capture the view overlooking Man O’War Cove looking towards Man O’War Beach. The rest of the group headed up onto the cliffs again with Paul and this was a lesson to follow the professional. I got one or two interesting shots from our vantage point, but the better location was higher where the group took advantage of the red sky which formed above my location and they had a better view of the sun popping up over the headland. This is a location that I hope to return to and to do it more justice with a better dawn.

We then headed back to the hotel for some much needed breakfast and a hour or two of extra sleep. Then into the classroom for the main reason why I was on this workshop. Today, we would be looking at Lightroom and Paul shared some very useful workflow tips with us.

Saturday evening was given over to Portland Bill and Pulpit Rock initially and then the lighthouse after the sun had dropped from view. The sky did not really play ball and the sun was well round to the right. It was therefore an opportunity to put into practice the theory and to play with different settings without worrying about spoiling a perfect sky. The result is a number of images from the location with a myriad of settings which I can analyse and work through at a later date. Note to self, I really do need to work on the lighthouse to get the best of the location and the low light, especially for larger prints. This is something that I will work on at home and be more ready for my next trip to Dorset.

With the weather looking less and less favourable, Paul spent much of dinner studying the various useful location planning applications that we had learned about on day one and the location for the morning changed a number of times. The lesson learned here, was that advanced planning is key and can help to lessen the chance of a grotty location. The plan was to head out to Old Harry Rocks.

This was a brilliant call on Paul’s part and again it demonstrated the value in attending one of him workshops with his in depth knowledge and advance planning. The sky was fairly featureless throughout the shoot, but it did take an interesting turn mid-way through the session. The location also allowed for a number of different viewpoints and everyone made good use of those. Lesson learned here is to always keep an eye on what is going on behind you, I learned this lesson whilst with Paul in California and this was another location where the advice paid off.

The afternoon class session was given over to Photoshop and this is where I really got the most value from this workshop. We learned about removing items from images the easiest and best way, about subtly pulling details out and the reason why the histogram is so important when photographing landscapes. It was also useful to see how the tools can be used to straighten light houses and to add negative space to images and warp out unsightly edges. Something hat I will need for one or two of my images.

Rob had to leave us to travel home, but I decided to stay the course and we headed back down to Portland Bill and another shot at the lighthouse. We were presented with our best sky of the weekend and this session quickly became a lesson in how the light can change. Note to self (well a reminder of Pauls tip) the light drops quickly and roughly one stop every ten minutes during sunset. It really is a case of watching the settings, watching the histogram and being quick with the filters.

With the course done, it was time to hit the road and the long drive home.

2In conclusion, I found this workshop hugely useful and informative. I liked the pace that Paul has set for his workshops and the delivery of the classroom elements was perfect and not too burdensome and overbearing. It was easy to take in the information that was given and to apply that in the field. As always, Paul was constantly on hand to answer questions and he constantly keeps an eye on what everyone is doing and offers advice that takes your images to the next step.

These are great workshops and with options coming up that include Dorset, Iceland, New Zealand and the USA, there really is something for everyone.

Photobox – Unboxing my new photo books.

Photobox1A year ago I was extremely fortunate to find myself in Las Vegas, California and waiting to meet three new friends, one of which had quickly become my idol in the photographic world. Paul Reiffer had helped me to make the ‘right’ choice when buying a new camera system and during this road trip and with his guidance, I was going to take some of my best landscape images yet.

Paul’s partner, Victoria looked after us (and our gear whilst on location) throughout the workshop, which enabled us to concentrate on the job in hand. Also on the workshop was Mark who I would be sharing a room with and thankfully we got on really well, challenged each other and worked together throughout the two week gig.

Jump forward nearly twelve months and I finally took the plunge to have those images brought together in a private book. Taking advantage of an offer by Photobox, I arranged to have, not one, but two A3 boxed books created and this video shows the quality of the books and the packaging that they came in.

I was very dubious about how the images would look in the book and whether the colours would be close to what I have on screen and they have got very, very close. There are plenty of options for book styles and then plenty of page layouts with the ability to resize and move things around to get exactly what you want. This video looks at some of the numerous layouts that I opted for.

Would I use them again, definitely and I do intend to have a 2016 book created. I just need to get out and take some more images and another gig with Paul and Victoria should result in some more stunning images.

My only criticism was the deadline for the offer that I wanted to take advantage of. It put me under more time pressure than I would normally have liked for a task such as this and yes I did miss one of my favourite images from the 2015 Photo Book. If it had been from the US trip I would have been gutted, but the missing image will make it into my 2016 book. What really annoyed me though was, after sitting up late and hitting their offer deadline with just 50 minutes to spare, they ‘EXTENDED’ the deadline by another two days. No need for me to have rushed and not a sales tactic that I appreciate.

Anyway, they made up for it in the quality of the finished product, so I’m only slightly miffed and I’ll know for next time.

You can see my un-boxing video here and I have also been asked for a more close-up video of the books and that will follow very soon.