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The Epic Westminster

Red Clouds Parliament by Pete HalewoodYou might have guessed that I’m running out of titles for Houses of Parliament pictures, but the name for this one came to me whilst looking at the clouds. This is probably the last photo I will process from the Trey Ratcliff London Photo Walk. I always thought there was 1 photo left from that day, and I also knew it was probably a Parliament one. Of course, not every picture I’ve processed has appeared on this blog yet (they have all been posted on Twitter) but they will be appearing soon.

I took so many pictures across from Westminster while the evening was drawing in, and there was one set of bracketed images that I always kept looking at, which contained the red clouds to the left of the picture. I thought at first that I could perhaps create the picture out of a single exposure, but I was much more satisfied with this the merged HDR version. I blended in the river from a single exposure but the rest is merged from 4 exposures.

As always, please click on the image to see a larger version in Lightbox.

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London2015NationalGallery

I know it’s not cool to rattle on about your individual achievements as a photographer, and I have no reason to boast about any either, but I was very chuffed that the picture above was a winner in Trey Ratcliff’s photo walk competition in London. As mentioned on a previous post, Trey’s theme for the day was to capture interesting images of other photographer’s taking pictures. The 1st prize was a £1500+ Quadcopter and 5 other winners would receive a ‘shopping spree’ around Trey’s online store. Trey would pick the winners based on his favourite photos from the event.

Having heard the theme, I immediately eradicated any chance of winning, as people photography is just not my thing. I was there to capture the landscapes of London, whilst learning from one of my biggest inspirations in the photography world. It’s funny how things turn out though, because as you can see, one of the photographers decided to take a picture of me, whilst I was trying to capture the National Gallery reflections in the rain-soaked Trafalgar Square. I guess it captured what Trey was after though, which was basically the photo walk event that took place in London.

Now I must state, I was not the overall winner. And in many a sense I’m glad I wasn’t. Of course it would have been nice to say I won, but the truth is beyond the initial fascination and excitement, I would have no idea what to do with the Quadcopter (yes it is a small helicopter that takes pictures). I’m sure I would end up killing someone or myself with it, and therefore, to avoid the prison sentence, it’s best not in my hands. As 1 of the 5 runners up, I have a licence to download a ridiculous amount of Trey’s tutorials from his website, of which I don’t even think I am halfway through yet. It was a great day in London and I’m looking forward to the good man coming back soon. Thanks Trey!

Trey&Me

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Back on WordPress – Welcome to PeteHalewood.com

It’s been a long while since I last blogged in December 2014, and while the reasons for that could be multiple, I think it essentially boils down to the fact that the blog (petehalewood.blogspot.com) had had its day. I was not as prolific blogging last year as previously, which was also down to a lack of inspiration (until my rejuvenation), but the blog itself wasn’t really fun to work with anymore. As a blogging site (like WordPress), Google’s ‘Blogger’ makes it far easier for non computer-literate person like me to create a blog, on the flip side though, perhaps making it rather standard and lacklustre.

Previous problems with WordPress

So for those who don’t know, WordPress is a platform where you can build websites (such as this one) and is most commonly used as a blogging tool for individuals and businesses large and small. Back in 2011, I launched my first blogging site using WordPress called TheNightBoat.com. Whilst helping me gain some exposure to my photography, it largely caused me nothing but grief. I used cheap hosting plans and templates, and was constantly ‘spammed’ by internet robots or whatever they are, leading to my ridiculously cheap hosting company to treat me like a criminal, taking my website down several times. After 6-7 months of this, I literally had had enough and told my hosting company I was closing my website and would not be coming back (they have sent me emails trying to get me back ever since). Having a website with WordPress, seemed to be a chore of constant maintenance and issues, which I was just not prepared to take. All I wanted to do was post pictures and write about them.

The move to blogger

The shame of that whole episode was that at the time I had been blogging nearly everyday for over 6 months. I am not that sentimental about my previous blogging history though, and knew if I was to have any decent, consistent output, I would have to start all over again. After looking at several options, Blogger seemed to be the best, largely because I could run the site directly through Google, without having to have any company host it. This meant I could never have my own domain name, but as I was building my HalewoodPhotographic.com website at the same time, I largely saw the blog as an extension to this site.

Blogger was great for adding content easily, and the pictures looked great on the site too. I spent 4 years blogging on that site, but eventually the downsides became too apparent to ignore. First of all, the comments system is not good. It makes it very difficult to add comments to blog posts, often meaning people have to set up a profile account with Google to be able to leave comments. I’m not obsessed with the idea of getting lots comments to my blog posts, but I certainly don’t want to make it difficult for people who to do want to leave comments. Secondly, the platform is very inflexible. Perhaps a computer whizz can do a lot with a Blogger site, but essentially there is not much you can do to get a unique look. There are a few boxes and plugins you can add, but often these do not work, and the ones that do, don’t exactly set your website alight. I could go on for a while but I do not want this to seem like a rant. It was good, but as the end of last year came to a close, I knew a new direction was needed.

Coming back to WordPress

I’ve always had other websites, other than my blogging site, and I felt it was now the time to unite them, and have a clear link between all my websites. I have 3 websites now: this blogging website, my interior design photography site (for my business) and a portfolio site. These can all be reached through each other. Though my previous experience with WordPress was not good, I knew that this is the platform that everyone continues to use for blogging. What I have done differently this time, is invest a bit more money into the site. I’m not saying you have to do this but the hosting platform I use (wpengine) are geared towards making it very difficult to spam on your website (I hope), and have full support whenever I need it. I pay a higher premium for this, but it is worth it if it makes the experience of using WordPress hassle-free. I also invested a bit of money into a template theme for the site, which does not make it much easier to build a website, but it does make it much easier to get a great looking site. It’s still a work in progress, and I will be making changes along the way, but I’m happy with how it looks now, which means I can focus on the content.

The future

One of the things I like about life is the mystery. Though I am confident I am moving in the right direction with my photography, I don’t really know what the result will be of this new blogging site, and the updates I have done to my other websites, but I’m not worried either. I feel like I have some organisation and structure now, and just want to share the passion and energy I have for photography. That is one of the reasons I have a tutorials page now. It’s not my plan to become primarily a photographic trainer, I would always be rather taking more pictures, but I do want to share any helpful knowledge I pick up on this journey. Yes it is a little bare, but more tutorials will come.

So there’s the story of where I am and how I came to create PeteHalewood.com. It doesn’t feel right to me writing a blog post without a picture, so to break from my London pictures below, here is a picture which you may have seen before, from the Polish town of Swidnica. This church is so old I can’t even remember how old it is, but as modest as I get, this picture has grown in my affections for months. This is of course entirely due to the building itself, it just has so much character and history.

Finally, click on any picture on this site, starting with one below, to make it bigger! It looks better that way.

SwidnicaChurch

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The London Eye at Night

To complete my London trilogy of early posts, I bring you this picture, which was the last photo I took from the London Photo Walk. I had no idea that the London Eye lit up purple at night, and because of this, it was not too hard to get the long exposure shot, once the wheel was in motion. I did add several processing steps before the final image though, as I felt it just didn’t ‘pop’ enough. This is actually quite bright and contrasty against my usual style, but nevertheless I always want to be experimental. It would be boring for every picture to come out in a very similar style.

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London Merry-Go-Round

LondonMerrygoround

Another photo I took during the Trey Ratcliff London Photo Walk. Trey’s big theme for the day was taking pictures of other photographers, which led to me being one of the winners Trey selected in his competition for the event. More on that soon! This was not the winning picture, but what I do like about photo walks is that you treat nearly everything you encounter as a potential photographic subject, even things would normally walk past unconcerned.

Fair rides are of course a very popular subject to shoot in the evening, but as we were still a couple of hours away from the evening at this point, I had to shoot the bracketed images at f.22, to let in as little light as possible. I had to frame this shot very carefully, so that it all also featured the London landmarks of Big Ben and the London Eye.

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