Photographing for AirBnB Plus

So here’s something a bit different from my usual, an aspect of my photography that may not seem so glorious but which pays the bills – interiors photography.

Interiors photography of an apartment in Exeter, Devon, southwest England.

For the past couple of months I’ve been doing quite a lot of photography for AirBnB Plus, shooting some of their more upmarket holiday lets in southwest England. This is an ongoing project, and is likely to continue for some time.

Irises in a vase; a bedroom detail in a house in Devon, southwest England.

As you can see, I’ve included a few shots here, but you can see a much bigger gallery on the website by clicking on the link below:

See a gallery of photos I’ve taken for AirBnB Plus

I hope you like the photos, of course. If you have a building you’d like me to photograph then get in touch!

A modern minimalist bathroom.

Beautiful Cornwall: the next book

Yes, Beautiful Cornwall will be our next publication, set to hit the book shops from 29th March 2019. A lovely photographic book about this famous British county, we’ve almost finished designing the pages. What’s more, there is now a page on the website dedicated to the book, along with a gallery of sample images.

Beautiful Cornwall front cover

About Beautiful Cornwall

Beautiful Cornwall will be similar to our previous book Beautiful Devon, part of our new Portrait of a County series, and will be a largely photographically led book, showcasing some of the most beautiful landscapes in this famous county, as well as many of its well known harbours, moors and festivals. Essentially, although Chapter 1 will be text-driven, giving an overview of the county, most of the book will be a series of photoessays, each concentrating on a different part of Cornwall. I think you’re going to really like Beautiful Cornwall.

All writing and photography is by myself.

It’ll be a great souvenir book of Cornwall’s great beauty, for both visitors and residents alike.

Surfing at Newquay a photo from Beautiful Cornwall

Finding out more about Beautiful Cornwall

Sample pages will follow in a week or two, but in the meantime, I hope you’ll love the photos. A few are shown here, but to see a much larger gallery click on this link:

See a gallery of Beautiful Cornwall photos

It’ll soon be possible to pre-order the book, but in the meantime if you’d like to book yourself a copy just get in touch at nigel@nigelhicks.com

Botallack tin mine from Beautiful Cornwall


Using ND grad filters: what you need to know

Neutral density graduated filters (usually shortened to ND grads) are one of the most important little add-ons for landscape photography. Anyone shooting in this genre will need to have a couple in their kit bag. This article describes what they are, what they do and how you can use them.

So what are ND grad filters?

ND grad filters are a rectangular sheet of optical quality plastic, with one half darkened and the other half completely clear. There are essentially two types: hard and soft, terms that describe the type of transition from clear to dark in the filter’s central area. Not surprisingly, hard filters have a sharp transition between the two zones, whereas soft filters have a gradual transition. Recently, leading filter manufacturer, Lee Filters, have introduced medium and extra hard filter types.

In addition, the filters come in a range of darkening grades, usually termed 0.3, 0.6, 0.9 and 1.2. These equate, for the 0.3 filter, to a one-stop reduction (ie a halving) of the amount of light passing through the dark part of the filter. For the 0.6 it is a two-stop (four-fold) reduction; for the 0.9 it is a three-stop (eight-fold) reduction; and for the 1.2 it is a four-stop (16-fold) reduction.

Soft (left) and hard (right) Lee ND grad filters.

What are ND grad filters used for?

Everyone who has taken a landscape photograph has had the experience where in the final photos either the land is well exposed but the sky is burned-out, with all cloud details lost, or the sky looks great but the land is lost in a dark, almost featureless zone. This can happen even though the view looks just fine to the eye.

The explanation is that, although the eye can handle a huge contrast range between, say, a bright sky and a darker landscape just fine, the digital sensor is just not up to that. As a result, it can correctly expose either the land or the sky, but not both.

What ND grad filters do is, by putting the dark part of the filter over the bright part of the view, they greatly reduce that contrast range. This brings it down to something the digital sensor can cope with, enabling it to capture all the detail in both the bright sky and the darker landscape. The result will be a photo more closely resembling what you saw with your eyes. Essentially, ND grad filters are an important technical fix for a major failing in the digital sensor.

They can also be used to exaggerate the real situation, for example increasing the apparent storminess of a cloudy sky, helping to increase the sense of drama and/or mood in the photos.

How do you use them?

You fit these rectangular filters to the front of your lens, using a special holder, which itself needs to be fixed to the lens using a threaded adaptor ring. When first kitting up, these will need to be bought in addition to the filter(s). Make sure to buy adaptor ring(s) of the right thread size(s) for your lenses.

A basic ND grad filter kit, consisting of two Lee filters (hard and soft 0.6 ND grads), a filter holder and adaptor ring.

When mounting the ring and holder onto the lens, you should first remove any circular filters you may already have on your lens (eg a UV filter). If such filters are left in place, there is the danger of vignetting – ie having dark corners – in your photos, especially if shooting with a wide-angle lens.

After sliding the ND grad filter into the holder, look through the camera’s eyepiece or at the live screen view, and slide the filter up and down until its light/dark transition zone matches up with the landscape’s horizon. Of course, this is much easier if the camera is rock steady on a tripod with the image view already composed, but you can also do it with the camera hand-held if done carefully.

A camera mounted with a Lee 0.6 soft ND grad filter.

Once everything is lined up, you can shoot normally. The in-camera exposure meter works perfectly well with the ND grad filter in front of the lens.

The choice of ND grad filter to use becomes easier with experience. Generally, a hard grad is the one to use when you have a distinct horizon (such as the sea against sky), whereas you would use a soft ND grad when it is not clear where the horizon is, such as in woodland or in misty/foggy weather. In terms of what grade to use, of course this depends on how big the view’s contrast range is. However, generally, the 0.6 grade is the most useful.

The types of cameras ND grads can be used with

ND grads have, in general, been developed with DSLRs in mind. For use with these, although filters can come in a number of different sizes, it is best to use filters that are 100mm wide and 150mm long. This size covers use with just about any lens available on the market, including those with very wide-angle views. Smaller filters (often called A and P sizes) can be useable with smaller lenses, but can be problematic with a very wide-angle lens, oftern causing vignetting (darkened corners) in the photos. Larger filters are also available for those using medium format cameras, such as Mamiya, Hasselblad or Phase One cameras.

Recently, Lee Filters has also started to produce smaller filters specifically tailored for use with the more compact mirrorless cameras, though these cameras can also take the standard 100mm filters just fine, provided the right thread size adaptor ring is used.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to use ND grads with compact cameras. For one thing there is no lens-front thread that can take an adaptor ring and holder, and secondly the lens can quite radically change length when zooming and/or focussing, making it almost impossible even to hold the filter in front of the lens.

Equipping yourself with ND grad filters

Several manufacturers produce ND grad filters, principally Lee Filters, Cokin and Hi-tech. The first of these produce what are generally considered to be the top-of-the-line, industry standard filters, whereas those by Cokin and Hi-tech are rather more budget products. That said, all ND grad filters can be quite expensive, so if your budget is limited there is no need to splash out on a full set right away. Just invest in the holder, adaptor rings and one, or maybe two filters initially – the 0.6 hard and 0.6 soft are probably the most useful filters in the range.

Caring for your ND grad filters

These filters are quite fragile and can be easily scratched. Handle them carefully, by the edges, and always keep them in the pouches provided. They also readily attract dirt, particularly if you’re shooting by the sea. Finger prints and salt spray can be remarkably difficult to remove. A good quality fibre-free lens cloth can help remove the former, but generally just smears the latter. To remove salt spray rinse the filter in warm soapy water and then dry with a very soft towel. Don’t use hot water as this can warp the filter. If this happens then put the filter under some heavy books for a couple of days. Don’t try to bend the filter back into shape by hand.

Learning more about ND grads with Nigel

To find out more about ND grads with me, you could sign up for any of my 2019 one-day photography workshops.

To find out about the workshops, click here…>

Hopefully, these notes will help get you up and working with ND grad filters. Don’t be shy to get in touch if you have any queries.

A future article will cover the related subject of neutral density filters (ie all-over ND, not graduated).

New photography courses listed

Well into October already, and my programme of autumn one-day photography courses is steaming along. In fact, there are just two left to go: 20th and 27th October, covering Exmoor and Dartmoor in Autumn, respectively. We still have spaces on both, so if you’d like to come along get in touch.

Sunset over coastal cliffs seen from the Valley of Rocks, Lynton, Exmoor National Park, Devon, Great Britain.

Photography courses for 2019

When it comes to next year, I’ve managed to pull together my programme of 2019 one-day photography courses, and it’s all now up on the website, along with details of this year’s two remaining courses.

Building on what I learned in the survey I ran during the summer, I’ve introduced a couple of new courses, one of which will be a low-light photography workshop. This will in fact be the first workshop of the spring, kicking off on 30th March with some late afternoon, dusk and night photography. Another new course will be on South Devon coastal landscapes, to be held on 4th May.

For the second time, I’ll be running the architectural course in Bath, and there will also be the usual Dartmoor, Exmoor and Jurassic Coast workshops. The year will round off in November with a wildlife photography workshop, somewhere in Devon, though I’ve yet to decide exactly where – details will follow in due course.

A rainbow above Scorhill Rocks, standing stones on Scorhill Down, nr Chagford, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, Great Britain.

Finding out more

Details of most of next year’s courses are on the website.

To find out more about all the courses, both those remaining this year and all those so far listed for next year, click on the link below:

Find out about one-day courses

I hope you like the attached photos, to whet your appetite! Needless to say, please get in touch if you want to join any of the courses.

Meanwhile, a programme of tours for 2019 and 2020 is slowly coming together. I’ll be publishing this soon.

A dusk view of Sutton Harbour, in the Barbican, Plymouth, Devon, Great Britain.

Wild Philippines photo gallery live!

I’m making progress! Yes, the material for the new Wild Philippines book is starting to come together, which is just as well because the deadline is starting to loom!

A Gorgonian sea fan on a coral reef off the coast of Moalboal, Cebu, in the Philippines.

So the latest development is that I’ve processed images far enough that I’m now able to publish a gallery of sample images. Yippee! That’s not an ironic yippee, I have to say – I’ve been struggling to reach this point for ages!

Anyway, you can see a few images here, but I’ve put together a much bigger gallery, of 40 photos, on the website. You can see all these photos by clicking on the link below: 

See a gallery of Wild Philippines photos

Naturally, I really hope you like the photos.

Dusk view of Bacuit Bay islands from the highest point of Pangalusian Island, El Nido, the Philippines.

Advance ordering a copy of Wild Philippines

There’s no formal system of putting in advance orders for Wild Philippines as yet – that will come later – but if you think you’re going to want a copy (or copies even) then get in touch and let me know!

A Philippine Tarsier, the world’s smallest primate at just a few centimetres long, in rainforest in Bohol, the Philippines.

Photos of Philippine hotels

I’ve just posted to the website a gallery of photos of Philippine hotels. These hotels all gave me a huge amount of help during my recent Wild Philippines photo shoots, providing not only great accommodation, but also transportation and scuba diving.

Roofdeck swimming pool, Hotel Tryp, Manila, Philippines.

They really pulled out the stops to help make my work so much easier, hugely contributing to the great success that the photo shoots were. So a big ‘Thankyou’ to all of them!

It also has to be said that many of them were so comfortable that there were times when I was rather reluctant to leave my cosy room for the sweaty heat of the rainforests! So, all in all, if any of you is thinking of making a visit to the Philippines, I can thoroughly recommend all these hotels.

Lagen Island Resort, Bacuit Bay, El Nido, Palawan, the Philippines.

I’ve posted just a few images here, but you can see many more on the website by going to:

See Philippines hotel photos

I hope you like them. Please share what you see!

Loboc River Resort, near Loboc, Bohol, the Philippines.

 

 

Spring photography workshops in full swing

May is almost over, which means that my spring photography workshops are in full swing, with three held this month, all of them in southwest England. All three have been both quite well attended and treated to some warm, sunny weather, making the photography a real joy.

Architectural and Travel Photography, Exeter

The first of the three courses was held in Exeter, in Devon, on 6th May, when the subject of our photography was architecture and travel. Much of the day was spent photographing both the historic and the modern architecture around the city centre, from the spectacular Medieval cathedral to a minimalist car park building. The evening, up until sunset, was spent at Topsham, a lovely riverside town just south of Exeter, where we used the golden evening light to photograph both some historic buildings and the town’s harbour and boats.

Architecture in Exeter, Devon, Great Britain.

Exmoor in Spring

A week later, on 12th May, I ran my Exmoor in Spring photography course, which concentrated on coastal, woodland and moorland landscape photography. The day kicked off at the pebbly beach and tiny harbour of Porlock Weir, in the eastern part of Exmoor National Park, before moving westwards to the stunning riverside woodlands at Watersmeet, just outside the village of Lynmouth. The day was rounded off by sunset photography at the lovely Valley of Rocks, just outside the village of Lynton. Despite being doused by a short, sharp shower while we were in Watersmeet woodlands, we were treated to a fabulous sunset, providing magnificent views along the Exmoor coast to the west of Lynton.

Sunset over coastal cliffs seen from the Valley of Rocks, Lynton, Exmoor National Park, Devon, Great Britain.

Dartmoor in Spring

The trio of workshops was rounded off on 19th May by the Dartmoor in Spring course. This day was spent photographing initially in beautiful ancient woodlands along the banks of the River Dart, and was rounded off in the evening by a session out on the open moors, specifically on Bench Tor, a remote site with stunning views across the Dart valley. Throughout the whole of this course we were treated to endless blue skies and sunshine, a real treat out in the Dartmoor countryside.

The River Dart near Dartmeet, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, Great Britain.

Seeing photos from the spring photography workshops

I hope you like the small sample of photos here. If you’d like to see more go to the Course Images section of the website, where you’ll find galleries of images that I have shot during my various workshops. Click on the link below:

See galleries of images from the May workshops

Joining future workshops

If you’d like to join a future photography workshop, just go to the workshops section of the website, choose your course and book up. Click on the link below:

Find out about and sign up for future photography workshops

I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

 

More work with Philippine crocodiles

Continuing with the second Wild Philippines photo shoot, here’s a second video about a couple of days I spent with the Mabuwaya Foundation, working with Philippine crocodiles, in the far north of the Philippines.

This video shows reptile expert Joey Brown fitting a captively reared juvenile crocodile with a radio transmitter that will enable it to be tracked once it is released back into the wild. The young croc was due to be released the next day, so the transmitter had to be fitted then.

I hope you like the video!

Wild Philippines: the second photo shoot

I’ve just finished the second photo shoot for the Wild Philippines project, so all the photography for that upcoming book is now complete. All I have to do is wade through thousands of photos and write 50,000 words to put the text together!

Working with crocodiles

A part of the second photo shoot was spent with people from an organisation called the Mabuwaya Foundation, who are working to save the Philippine Crocodile from extinction. This species is unique to the Philippines, and is highly endangered, with only about 200 left in the wild.

Here you can see the first of three videos that I took showing their work, including the release of three young crocodiles into the wild, one more step towards restoring the animals’ numbers.

Treating an injured crocodile

In this video you’ll see a sub-adult Philippine crocodile that was originally released into the wild some time ago, but which has come back to the Mabuwaya’s rearing centre due to injuries sustained when it was attacked by dogs.

The video shows the crocodile being brought out of one of the centre’s ponds and then receiving treatment to its damaged tail.

The two remaining crocodile videos will follow shortly, followed by more video diaries from the second photo shoot.

I hope you enjoy this video. I’ll look forward to your comments.

 

New book, Beautiful Devon, is published!

My latest book, Beautiful Devon, has just been published!

A fairly short book, Beautiful Devon is essentially a series of photoessays about the loveliest areas of Devon, a county in the southwest of England, and is intended largely as a photographic memento to this beautiful part of the UK.

Beautiful Devon is published by my own publishing company, Aquaterra Publishing, and is available through all bookshops, both online and high street, and in the UK at least it costs just £9.99.

You can see sample photos and pages by clicking on the link below:

See Beautiful Devon sample pages

  You can buy Beautiful Devon online directly from me through the Aquaterra Publishing website. Simply click on the link below to find out more:

Buy Beautiful Devon at Aquaterra Publishing

I hope you’ll like the book and will decide to buy a copy!