long exposure

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.

How to photograph a black Porsche at night without lights by Neil Alexander

The other evening I headed up into Trafford Park to meet up with performance car enthusiast and all round good egg, Colin from BAD Power vehicle tuning and sales. They specialise in remapping, bespoke exhaust systems, sports preparation and generally anything loud, fast and stunningly good looking. We've done several shoots together and tonight's muse was no exception.

The idea was to shoot this delightful Porsche 997 before it underwent a major refurb and was transformed from a purring kitten into a roaring tiger. Midnight is a rather surreal time in Trafford Park. The frenetic daytime norm of the relentless onslaught of juggernauts on a deadline is replaced by wide open roads devoid of traffic and lay bys littered with the sleeping giants waiting for their tachographs to cycle. Large empty car parks, run down warehouses juxtaposed with shining chrome cooling towers and smoke enshrouded factories. It's a photographer's dream. 

Except that the roads aren't completely empty. There are some great photographs to be had in the middle of the carriageways, but in spite of 30mph speed limits, any traffic that time of night is absolutely flying. And that includes the artics. You really have to have eyes in the back of your head and your ears wide open. They ain't stopping for nothing. So for most of the locations we wanted to shoot, setting up lights was a no no. In fact it could have been downright dangerous. So without being able to use any of my own lights, I had to fall back to using anything there was, street lights, car park lights, tram lights, tail lights, whatever there was available. 

Shoot street lights at a really narrow aperture and they transform into little orange and white stars. It can be a bit of a faff getting the subject into the right position and obviously the lights are fixed, so I had to move the car backwards and forwards to where it would be lit just right. But we got there in the end.

All in all not bad for a night's work I reckon.

Ladybower Reservoir, Peak District by Neil Alexander

Ladybower Reservoir, Peak District

Before I made this trip in December, I had watched a short interview with Jonathan Chritchley (www.jonathanchritchley.net). Boy, that guy's work is good. And between his work and his workshops he manages to provide, and provide well, for his family all through pursuing his love and his craft of fine art photography. The guy really is an inspiration.

However, not all is quite what it seems. I can guarantee you that behind those lovely 6x6 black and whites is a team of marketing and sales people peddling his wares. What I would give to be able to transport my entire family to a part of the world that perpetually provides such awesome inspiration. 

So to Ladybower, I knew from previous trips that there images to be had here. Yet I also knew that the azimuth at which the sun was due to rise was to be far from ideal. 

I shot several different compositions before ending up here just as the sun was rising over my shoulder to the right. I used an ND grad to bring the sky into play and then my B&W 10 Stop ND filter to give me a 60 second exposure giving me that lovely calm silky feel to the water. Not a competition winner by any stretch of the imagination, but pretty nonetheless.

Tech specs: D300, ISO 200, F8, 61secs, Tripod (obviously), cable release. Nikkor 17-55mm F2.8 at 17mm.

This is an image straight from camera, shot at 1/30 sec with no filters - you can see the difference the neutral densitys make.