A perfect weekend in Rhosneigr by Neil Alexander

"Le Onde" - Rhosneigr beach, Anglesey

As I sat writing this in the front garden of our temporary holiday retreat in Rhosenigr, mere feet from the beach with the sun blazing down in mid October, the kids were trying to shoot Nerf gun pellets up through the first floor window at my sister-in-law and had exhausted boundless reserves of energy exploring rock pools and hurtling themselves down sand dunes. A gorgeous sunrise had long since departed and the day was set to be wonderful.


It was the most delightful weekend and we had been fortunate enough to have had the most fantastic weather. We make a big deal of these family weekends away, planning the menus weeks in advance and they inevitably turn into culinary extravaganzas. Food plays a huge part in our lives but I rarely photograph it. I end up too involved in the preparation, delivery and consumption. I've tried making photographs of food and quite frankly there are many many photographers far better than I at making photographs of food. Likewise weddings. And pet portraits. 

But put me in front of a rocky beach with the sun setting and some lovely fluffy cloud in the background ready to soak up the setting sun's gorge of oranges and reds, and I'm a very happy and content little bunny.

"Le rocce scure" -  Rhosneigr beach, Anglesey.

5 simple steps to get your photos on your walls by Neil Alexander

The glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón, South East Iceland. Framed and ready to hang.


Today’s topic is something that I regularly get asked about which means it’s about time I wrote a short piece on the subject, specifically making prints from photographs on your smartphone. 

So how many pictures do you have on your phone? I’ll answer that for you. I bet there are hundreds, if not thousands. And how often do you look at them? If you don’t mind, I’ll take the liberty of answering that one too - I bet rarely, if at all. But I’d also wager that there are some moments on there that bring back great memories. Maybe even some really good photographs too. 

So what to do with them? Just keeping them as digital bytes in your phone's memory is a total waste in my opinion. Photographs need to be printed. It’s their reason for being. 

So here’s some simple ways to bring your megapixels to life.

Using AirPrint to print a photograph on an iPhone or iPad

Using AirPrint to print a photograph on an iPhone or iPad

 1. One of the simplest methods is to use an AirPrint printer.   There are hundreds, if not thousands of printers that are AirPrint compatible. If you bought yours in the last couple of years then it's highly likely that it'll be compatible. See here for a list. Don’t worry if your printer isn’t on that list. There are several workarounds, some easier than others on this PC Advisor article. Bear in mind when printing yourself that the ink cartridges for some printers can be really expensive. My mother-in-law a few years back had a budget Dell printer for which it transpired the inks were so expensive, it would have been cheaper to buy a replacement model of the same printer every time (it came full of ink) rather than buy replacement cartridges. Bonkers I know. Also beware of unofficial inks. The price may seem attractive as they are often a fraction of the cost of the legit ones, but you know that old adage about something looking too good to be true?

  2. An alternative is to use an app for a print lab like Snapfish (iOS), (Android) Photobox (iOS) (Android), Tesco (iOS) (Android) amongst many others. The downside is that you might have to wait a day or two for your prints. On the flip side if you’re not printing too often then it might make financial sense. In fact the one that my wife uses is Polagram (iOS) (Android). They do 4”x5” prints from 29p and the app is so easy to use that we’ve been inundated with prints dropping through the letterbox lately.

  3. The method I use, mainly because I’m a little bit anal about my prints is to download them to my computer and then print them. 90% of my workflow is spent in an Adobe application titled Lightroom. It’s on it’s fifth iteration of the product now and it blows all other image cataloging and editing applications out of the water. It’s not expensive either. You can get it as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription service for under £9 a month.  One of the recent major advancements is that it now syncs with my iPhone and my iPad, so not only can I easily have my print galleries stored on my devices to show off (sorry, off topic) but it now also syncs up my iPhone pics to my Lightroom catalog on my iMac. From there printing is easy peasy. You can even send them off to a printer and have them printed pretty big. Here's a guide to how big you can really go. Two of my favourite labs for this are DS Colour Labs in Didsbury and Loxley Colour in Glasgow.

  4. The final option (I think), if you don’t want to print them yourself and want them instantly (well almost) is to use one of those Kodak Picture Kiosks that you find in large supermarkets and shopping malls and the like (I’m sure there are other brands available).  I would say that they’re largely fool proof though I was in Jessops a few years back watching some poor shop assistant almost tearing his hair out trying to show a rather vacant customer how to use the machine. In the end he gave up and did it all for her. Best part of 30 minutes he spent with her and I think she only printed 5 in the end. Poor lad.

  5. But wait. You’ve not finished. Getting prints made and then keeping them in a shoe box on the top shelf of the linen cupboard is just as criminal as never peeping at those little digital pixels again. They need to go in a frame on the wall, on a shelf, above the telly, stuck to the fridge with magnets, on a pin board next to the hob, on a mug for Grandma’s birthday. The options these days are only limited by your imagination. For inexpensive framing options, I'd highly recommend eFrame. Their site even allows you to upload a picture of the artwork to be framed and then overlays your mounts and frame so you can see how they all work together before purchasing. If you're really feeling adventurous, you could have a go at this clever technique to print straight onto wood.

So there you go. I hope that helps someone out there to make some prints from their smartphone.

Remember: Those pixels were made to be printed! 

Until next time.

Neil

 

Did I mention that I'd been to Iceland? by Neil Alexander

Voices Inside My Head. Jökulsárlón, Iceland.

You may have read that I was planning on going to Iceland. I may have mentioned it once or twice. I was very excited just prior to the trip to say the least, and I'm glad I can report that it far exceeded my expectations.


First of all, I did not go alone. While I’m happy to drive from Manchester to the Lakes, Skye or even Ibiza on my own, renting a 4x4 and getting lost on my lonesome half way up a glacier was not top of my list to do. So when I saw that Ken Kaminesky was leading a photo tour round the joint, I jumped at the chance. There was Ken, Patrick di Fruscia and Elia & Naomi Locardi leading the tour, all of whom are awesome photographers, along with myself and nine other photographers from all over the globe hungry for some Icelandic action. Poor Rochelle had even flown for 48 hours from Australia! 


So I viewed this trip in two ways: first and foremost it was a fantastic opportunity to mix with some like-minded folk, see some amazing shit and make some photographs worth selling on my return. And secondly, in case the weather was not on our side, also as a scouting mission should I ever decide that I would like to go back again. That decision was made within minutes of checking into my hotel in Reykjavik and spending a few minutes wandering round the city. Never have I felt less apprehensive walking round a strange land. In fact I felt more comfortable meandering around downtown Reykjavik than I do vast swathes of Manchester. Lovely place. Bet it’s great for a city break weekend. The flight from Manchester is only 2 ½ hours you know.

Driven To Tears.

Hrauneyjafoss, Iceland.

Anyway, I digress. The trip. I really ought to have taken more notes, or even some notes but I relied primarily on GPS to allow me to search place names and background information on my return but in spite of this, there’s some I really can’t caption. The mapping software places the coordinates on the middle of a nameless hill. We had an extremely knowledgeable local guide, Sig from Iceland Is Hot with us the whole time so it was stupid not to have made notes of some kind. That’s me told off.

The scenery around the island is absolutely spectacular and there are more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at. As a famous photographer once said (I forget who. It might’ve been Jim Richardson) “If you want to take better pictures, stand in front of better stuff”. So here I was in front of some jaw-droppingly beautiful stuff and snapping away to my heart’s content. Happy as a pig in shit.

And then I think it must have been the fifth night, the first time I really took a minute to look at the images I'd shot so far. The days had been so action packed that the end of each day had been a case of arrive at hotel after dark, quickly put batteries on to charge, start memory cards downloading and dash off to dinner. On returning from dinner were all so knackered and had such early starts ahead of us that we just crashed. Now bearing in mind that for the previous five days we hadn’t really seen anything other than grey and overcast skies. When I went through my photographs in Lightroom that night I was somewhat disappointed with what I’d amassed. I’ve been at this photography malarkey long enough to know that in spite of the poor light, it is possible to make great images. But I hadn’t. Not even close. To make matters worse I had the opportunity to see what some of the other guys had managed to capture. Several of them had managed to make really great photographs at exactly the same locations I had been,  under the same crap light. I felt low. I had a real “Crap man, I suck!” moment. I felt lower than low. 

Giant Steps Are What You Take....

On the road to Landmannalaugar, Western Iceland.

So I took the plunge. I decided to seek help. I felt like I was drowning under my own negativity, and rather fortunately the very amiable Patrick di Fruscia threw me a life jacket and hauled me back on board. Myself, Jim and Patrick then talked shop until far too late and I crashed into my pit feeling rather more positive, though that may partly have been a result of a few extra Icelandic pale ales (They’re very nice but at £5 a pop, not cheap).

"The afternoon has gently passed me by
The evening spreads its sail against the sky
Waiting for tomorrow
Just another day
God bid yesterday goodbye."

Jökulsárlón, Iceland

Highlights:
The highlights for me were definitely the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón and the waterfalls at Hrauneyjafoss. That’s primarily because they’re where I feel I made the best photographs. But to be honest there were so many highlights. We had such a blast. I made friends with people from all over the place and whilst they say that relationships that are formed under extreme circumstances are doomed to failure, I do hope I manage to stay in touch with them all. 

Lowlights:

The bloody rain and wind. I don’t mind rain. Nor do I mind wind either. Together, they don’t make it easy to produce good photographs. The first problem is keeping the tripod with camera on top from blowing over. Then there’s the rain. The first time out for my newly acquired (specifically for this trip )  AquaTech SS-200 Sport Shield performed admirably though the clear plastic that’s supposed to sit over the LCD has separated from the cover already. I hoped it would be better made than that but with some carefully applied duct tape, the gap was temporarily repaired. Which was just as well because at Seljalandsfoss  & Skógafoss in particular, I got absolutely soaked to the skin. You just try keeping the front element of your lens dry and make a photograph without splodges of water all over it. It was nigh on impossible.  
And then there was the endless fogging. I found out very quickly that the hotel rooms were so hot that the transition between hot indoors and cold outdoors was a major problem. On early mornings, I often found that my wide-angle lens and the displays on one of my bodies would be completely fogged up no matter what I did. The only solution was to remove the memory cards and batteries on arrival at a hotel and leave the camera bag on the bus where it would stay relatively cool overnight. 

"The young man agreed
He would satisfy their need
So they danced for his pleasure
With a joy you could not measure.
They would wait for him here
The same place every year.
Beneath the sheltering sky
Across the desert he would fly."

Brunnhorn & Vesturhorn, Iceland.

To conclude, Iceland is quite simply a spectacular country and it’s inhabitants a very friendly bunch indeed. I will most certainly be returning in the not too distant future to make those photographs I missed now that I’m a little more knowledgeable as to what I should expect and where I can go. And I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the guys over at Blame The Monkey if you were thinking of joining them for a photo tour. There wasn’t a dull moment! They have trips planned for next year to visit Italy in May, Bolivia & Chile in August, and possibly a return to Iceland too I heard on the QT.

Note: Some of these images and possibly a few more from the trip will be appearing in my print store pretty soon. Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to know.