St Martha’s on the Hill

(Click on the photo for added detail.)
(Click on the photo for added detail.)

Now this really feels like a throwback to me, even though I only took this photo about this time two years ago. I must have a ton of photos of St Martha’s, as this was one of my go-to places when I wanted to walk, be outside, or just generally be by myself for a bit. It was also a semi-automatic destination whenever I wanted to just try something new with my photography.

Over the years, I have been there in all kinds of weather. When it was rather windy and I made the most of that with a long exposure. Or that time when I headed up in the fog before a winter sunrise, with a film camera in tow. Or when Andy and I went to take some evening shots and star trails. Or when everywhere was covered in snow (no photos, sorry! I might have some that still need processing). Or so many other times when I didn’t even take a camera with me.

I’m of the school that believes it’s important to know a place, and know it well, in order to take meaningful photos. Not necessarily implying knowledge of a specific geographic location, but in the sense of knowing the general area and more importantly the temperament of the place. Which is why perhaps the best photos one takes are often in one’s own backyard. I certainly find that my photography changes (and arguably improves) the more often I visit somewhere.

Għajn Tuffieħa Tower

(Click on the photo for added detail.)
(Click on the photo for added detail.)

Over the last couple of weeks I have been frantically trying to catch up with processing my recent photos of Malta. This weekend, which was a relatively quiet one, it finally felt like I’m making progress. Earlier this month, when a friend of ours from the UK was visiting Malta, we went to see the sunset at one of my favourite places: just by the coastal tower at Għajn Tuffieħa. Built in 1637 during the time of Grand Master Lascaris, this sits on top of a sea cliff between two sand beaches popular with swimmers.

We chose to go there because it’s a good year-round place to watch the sunset, and because access is really easy. We also had some photography in mind, and this particular location gives a number of options. If we were not particularly excited by what we saw, we could always head further north to Il-Majjistral, but that would involve a short trek (on uneven ground) for the best viewpoints.

Anyway, here I set up with a particular view I had in mind, and patiently waited. There was a photographer taking some pre-wedding photos (or so it seemed) of a couple, and they were in frame for a long time. Shortly before sunset they left, which suited us fine. I was initially hoping for some direct light, but the sun was obscured by low-lying clouds at the horizon: not a rare occurrence. I set up for some longer exposures to still the water and make the most of the soft directional light. Lately I’ve been finding it easier and more fulfilling to shoot under these conditions. Sure, the photo won’t look great straight out of camera, but then that’s the whole point of post-processing. And the less contrasty the original shot, the easier it is to work with.

Campanula Medium Pink

(Click on the photo for added detail.)
(Click on the photo for added detail.)

As a quiet weekend comes to an end, I’m taking some time to share a photo from Chartwell taken almost a year ago. On that visit we spent most of our time with the flowers, and the macro lens really came into its own here. I have already shared other photos from this visit, and there are still more to come.

For once I know exactly what the name of this particular flower is, for I had the presence of mind to take a photo of the label that the gardeners wrote to identify it. I really liked both the shape and the colour of this little flower. The petals looked all so delicate and the soft colour somehow enhanced that perception.

Flowers are such a pleasure to photograph. I never thought I’d be much of macro photographer – actually I bought this lens expecting R would be using it most, but she seems to have stuck with the 50mm (on a crop sensor) as her favourite field of view. I must say I quite like the 100mm on my full frame, and really need to use it more. Sadly, I haven’t been carrying it much with me lately, favouring my zoom lenses for sheer convenience. Perhaps it’s time to constrain myself a little.

Puttenham Common

(Click on the photo for added detail.)
(Click on the photo for added detail.)

I figured the easiest way to sort through the older photos to share was to start with the oldest, so here we go. Today I’m sharing a little throwback from slightly more than two years ago. I took this on a walk around Puttenham common, rather close to where we lived. Still, because access was through a rather narrow track it felt like a world away, and was always less frequented than better known ‘beauty spots’. Personally, I found that to be one of its attractions.

I remember that as I walked on a track overlooking this copse I thought they looked rather particular, all green and yet with no grass below them. I know I had recently bought my ND grads, and was experimenting with them on this walk. So I guess I used them on this photo. This was still with my trusty old 30D – shortly after this I upgraded to my current full-frame camera. I’m glad I did that when I did, as it was just at the time when I could make use of the difference.

There are many things I’d do differently if I had to shoot this now (or even if I were to reprocess it, for that matter). I’m sure it’s easy to see the difference in style between this photo and my more recent ones. And I don’t say this with any regret – I am where I am now because I have walked the paths I have walked (figuratively and literally), and I feel peace in reminiscing.

Wied il-Għasel

(Click on the photo for added detail.)
(Click on the photo for added detail.)

It took me a while to decide what recent photo to share for my Malta series this week. In the end I decided to go with the one most recently shot, though not the one most recently processed. I took this photo last Sunday evening – it had been a windy day with the promise of rain, so I was hoping for some interesting light or good long-exposure opportunities with the clouds. Knowing that at this time of year I’d get direct light on the south-easterly walls, I headed to nearby Wied il-Għasel (literally the ‘Valley of Honey’ and listed as a nature reserve in the World Database on Protected Areas).

Actually I half-dragged my dad along as I thought he’d like the short trek to the point of view I had in mind, and because it was a good excuse to be in his company. I don’t think he had ever been with me taking photos. After a brief exploration of the rugged terrain at the top of the valley wall I located the steep route I wanted to follow a short way down. Last time I had done this route was after a climbing session, and I only did it on the way up in the dark. I’m sure you know how different a path looks in the opposite direction and in different light.

Anyway, we got down to where I had in mind and I started setting up. The last time I was here I remember looking back on my way up and saying to myself (and most likely to my climbing partners) that I should return to take some photos. This time I really wanted to get the scope of the valley looking downstream, so I used my widest angle lens. As the point of view was looking somewhat down I knew this would cause some geometric distortion but I decided I had to live with it. This is where a view camera would be nice, and quite frankly I’m rather tempted.

To the left you can see a building in a cave – that’s the chapel of St Paul the Hermit. On the wall to its right there was a group of climbers going up the hard way. From what I recall all those walls are trad. In the valley floor you can see three small arches – the remnants of a stone bridge. Further, beyond the mouth of the valley is a series of quarries. At this scale I don’t think they show much, but at full size it’s all rather clear. Nothing in Malta is perfectly natural any more. On the right you can see the last few minutes of sunshine on the south-east walls, where there’s a lot of really nice climbing to be done.

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