My Neighbourhood

This is a photograph I took one morning at 6:00 am of the River Boyne and I love the light. I submitted this image to the #GuruShots challenge entitled ‘My Neighbourhood’. I’ve 2 days left to go – this is a speed challenge and have reached the Skilled level with 2 days to go.

On the Riverbank

As ever, an update when the challenge ends.

#Mornington #RiverBoyne #GuruShots #SpeedChallenge

[June 2018]
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Lazy Pets

My wonderful rescue hound, Trip, is the perfect subject for this #GuruShots Speed Challenge. This is a snap (rather than a great photograph) I took a year or so ago – I’ve had her since January 2016 when she was 2.5 years old. She’s originally from the Cayman Islands (like the rest of my pack – long story) and she made the epic flight from Owen Roberts International Airport to London Heathrow via the Bahamas. After a night in London, she made the short hop to Dublin where she was in a state of shock due to the grey, cold, damp weather which she actually loves. She’s a collie/malamute cross (I think) and I found her via the Cayman Islands Humane Society Facebook page.

I can thoroughly recommend the CIHS who are eager to find great homes anywhere for their four legged buddies. Please click to view more about their work. No better dogs or cats in the world than those you can rescue and my experience with the CIHS has been a joy.

Anyways, I don’t care how my photo gets on in the challenge although for reference it’s currently achieved a Premier level with 377 votes (2 days left). I’m just happy to show off my beautiful girl – gorgeous ain’t she. :-)

Trip Sleeping

As ever, update at the end of the challenge but for reference, the Tripster is and always will be a winner. Even when fast asleep.

#CaymanIslandsHumaneSociety #CIHS #BestBuddy #GoodGirl #LazyPets

Update: This photo gained 503 votes leading to an Elite ranking. Great achievement but Trip will always be an All Star ranking to me :-)

[June 2018]

Social Exposure

This #GuruShots Challenge has less than 24 hours to go. According to the blurb, “This Challenge is all about getting some recognition and exposure on GuruShots Instagram and Facebook page! The winners of this challenge will get a special shout out and will be prominantly featured on GuruShots’ socail (sic) accounts.”

I’d had some great feedback (as you do) from my Facebook friends about some recent photographs I took so decided to upload one of these to start with. This is a speed challenge and as such you can only upload one image for voting at a time. This is the image I uploaded:

Gormanston Reflections

It’s not the best ever seascape but I’m actually quite proud of it as I think it’s a fairly decent first (OK, second) attempt. It received 240 votes in total and seemed to stagnant so I decided to try something a little different. This is it:

BVI

The resolution on this image isn’t great – however, this is a screen shot NOT the original (which is better – honestly). It was taken when I was working overseas and needed to go to the Tortola office in BVI (it’s actually the view from the company apartment – sounds like it would be very luxurious but it was anything but). This second image was taken on my ancient Fuji FinePix F480 – a great little snapper and is currently standing at 308 votes.

I’ve achieved a Premier level which is where I suspect I’ll be when the challenge ends. Good stuff – I’m happy with my progress all round and very happy that I seem to be averaging a higher rank in these challenges – although I do know they are not judged in the same way as “proper” photographic competitions. At the end of the day, it’s great encouragement to get up, out and snap. As ever, an update to confirm the end result.

Currently there is a glorious image of flamingos (it’s all pinks and light – it’s really lovely) at the top of the challenge. I hope it remains there too – wonderful.

Oh, and one more thing – I’m updating my Instagram page with photos – please click on the About | Contact page to link and view.

#GuruShots #Ireland #Meath #Gormanston #BritishVirginIslands #BVI #Tortola #Reflections #Seascape

Update: Reached the Premier ranking with a grand total of 322 votes.

[June 2018]

Reflections – I’m a GuruShots Veteran

When the “Reflections” challenge ends later today, I’ll be a #GuruShots Veteran. Ha ha ha …. Anyways, this is the image I uploaded:

Gormanston Reflections

I’m chuffed to bits because I’m moving up the rankings but it’s also completely aware that this is in reality slightly meaningless as a measure of how I’m improving technically in my photography. That said, I’m going to take this as a pat on the back because I do think the quality of my images (in terms of clarity) have definitely improved – probably due to a better tripod so more stability – but also with a massive pinch of salt. I am certainly NOT a veteran so I think it’s the description more than anything that tickles me and makes me chuckle. Still, I think overall pleased with the move up the GuruShots rankings as I have been making an effort to get out and practice more so – as I’ve noted in previous posts – this is my primary incentive in taking part in challenges and on this basis, I’m winning!

I’ve had the DSLR (Nikon D3400 – a decent entry level camera) since around Sept/Oct 2017 and have been using a tripod since the workshop I attended in Jan 2018. Given the freezing cold weather, I didn’t really start practicing in earnest until the weather warmed up slightly towards the end of March (by which time I had to watch a lot of YouTube training as I’d forgotten a lot of the “finer details” of the workshop such as white balance).  The first tripod I bought was a CaseFlex – exactly like this one (https://www.caseflexaccessories.com/caseflex-premium-alloy-camera-tripod-pro-blue). It was and still is mostly a great little tripod but I took it to the beach one day and managed to get some sand or grit stuck in one of the twist locks and now cannot lock the lower part of one of the legs. I can still use it if I don’t need a lot of height but you do get what you pay for and this is a fairly lightweight tripod. I’d certainly recommend it for absolute beginners who only want to use it online and not in the sea or in rivers and when there is no wind. The legs are quite flimsy but if only the higher (thicker) parts of the legs are extended, and provided you’re happy to bend / sit down behind the camera, it’s fine.

The second tripod I bought is a Manfrotto Pixi Evo 2 which I bought for trip to Edinburgh when I didn’t want to take the CaseFlex. This tripod would be best described as a table topper – it’s fine for using with my Nikon D3400 and kit lens and fine with the Sigma zoom but I do notice that it slips a little with the latter. I have used it in the evenings, propping it onto of my camera bag, and it’s excellent for quick filter shots – I’ve enjoyed using it and it’s light enough not to even realise you’re carrying it but unless you’re happy to lie on the floor to take images, it’s no substitute for a regular tripod.

I’ve invested in a new tripod – it’s a Vanguard AltaPro 263 AB 100. This is a blindingly good beginner / amateur level tripod which is super stable and amazing good value for money. Unless the CaseFlex, which has twist lock legs in four sections, the Vanguard has flip locks and three sections which makes is a fair bit taller when collapsed than the CaseFlex – I’m not bothering measuring to get an accurate difference (it’s not that interesting a topic). The Vanguard is also quite a bit heavier: I think I could carry the CaseFlex attached to my camera bag (a LowePro Tahoe HP 150 in “Galaxy Blue” no less – https://store.lowepro.com/tahoe-bp-150) but pretty certain if I tried to attach the Vanguard, the mesh pocket would be destroyed. So, if I go on a hike (unlikely but who knows), I think I probably would take the CaseFlex – and/or possibly the Manfrotto as I imagine I’d be lying down anyways a fair bit.

Anyways, if anyone is interested in a sub-£150 tripod recommendation from a (GuruShots) veteran photographer (LOL), I don’t think you’d need to look much further than the Vanguard … hopefully it’ll be my tripod for a few years to come.

#GormanstonBeach # CountyLouth #Ireland #CaseFlex #Manfrotto #PixiEvo2 #Vanguard #AltaPro #Tripod #LoweProTahoe #GuruShotsVeteran #SpeedChallenge #Veteran

[June 2018]

GuruShots Photo of the Month | May 2018

Each month you can enter your best performing image in recent challenges into the Photo of the Month competition. The image got that the most votes in one challenge this month was that of the Dark Hedges. I’m not going to repost the image – click on the right-hand panel to find the relevant link.

From here on, I’m going to make a note of my Photo of the Month entries. I’ve added a side bar entry so that all applicable posts can be quickly accessed.

Only four days are left so I don’t expect I’ll reach the dizzy heights of the higher rankings but I’ll continue to gain #GuruShots points which can’t help either.

Update: Well, I did much better than I had anticipated, finishing up with an Elite level finish. I’ve three Elite finishes to go before I move up into the Veteran ranking which is cool. :-)

[May 2018]

Trees | Dark Hedges

For the ‘Trees’ GuruShots Speed Challenge, I uploaded a photo I took over Easter 2018 of the Dark Hedges. With 801, this photograph has achieved the most votes for a single challenge to date so I’m delighted with the result. I ended up in the Elite category – ranked # 99 – which is fab because I “only” need another 6 elite finished to move into the achieve Veteran status. Hilarious but also cool – here’s the image.

Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges, Ballymoney, Co Antrim

#GuruShots #SpeedChallenge #DarkHedges #GameOfThrones

Update: Elite ranking :-)

[May 2018]

 

Amazing Skies

Another challenge and another one I’ve joined a little late! As you’d imagine, a challenge called ‘Amazing Skies’ will include some incredible images and the top photographs in this category are as ever outstanding.

I’ve contributed the following:

Amazing Skies

From left to right:

  • Sunrise – as seen on my commute
  • Evening in Mornington – I was walking the dogs and saw the sun breaking through the clouds
  • Sunset from Baltray
  • Sunset from Baltray 2 – a slightly closer view of the same area overlooking the River Boyne – also slightly different lights in the clouds.

The key difference between my photos and the top photos (aside from obvious things like quality and composition!) is colour.  There is a lot more purple in my images than the top photos which have a base of pastel blue and then are saturated with warm shades of gold and orange.

That said, my images have done very well – within an hour of uploading, I’d achieved a Premier ranking. I doubt very much I’ll move any higher up the rankings than that but I’ll take that for sure.

I’ve got about 2 days left for this challenge so I’ll vote for more images myself to push up my exposure and maybe this will push up my ranking. This is after all – as I’ve noted before – a game so tactics are required.

Actually, that’s one thing that does make me question that quality of the voting system on this platform. In order to gain views, you have to vote for other images. I suspect that many voters simply vote for the top x number of photos in the listing they are presented with in order to improve the visibility of their own work.

Also, the fact that I’m now at the Advanced ranking and not far off pushing through to Veteran doesn’t actually mean my photography is actually improving. It simply means that I’ve achieved more votes for my photographs which I thought possible and potentially because of the exposure I’ve created for myself through voting. Although some of my images aren’t terrible, some a quite average and I’ve been surprised how many votes they have achieved. I get more of a buzz when someone takes the time to like my photos than I do from the voting number. This is especially true if I visit the profile page of the person who has liked my photo and find that their photos are quality images.

I know that outside the GuruShots world, the rankings and grades achieved are essentially meaningless but I do find it interesting to see how each image submitted fares. Some of my favourites photographs don’t perform particularly well while some of the images I was in two minds to submit, perform very well indeed – I don’t know if that says more about me or the people who vote for the images! J

For me, the available GuruShots tips are useful, the articles are of interest and what I really get out of the app is the immediate access to so many exceptional, great, good and even not so good images. This helps me to identify what works and doesn’t in terms of composition etc. I know I could get similar data from the likes of Flickr and Instagram but rather than snapshots, GuruShots in the main at least has photographs where people have really worked to capture and image rather than just shoot a picture. I also appreciate the image data and camera settings that is usually uploaded with the images – as someone who still has a lot to learn about ISO, shutter speeds and focal length, I find this kind of information very useful.

I’ve no intention of buying “swaps”, “boosts” and “autofills” so at the moment, GuruShots is costing me nothing – if this changes the longer I’m on the site, then that’s something I’ll have to think about when the time comes.

However, I’m currently enjoying contributing and participating in the challenges and the app is doing exactly what I wanted it to – making me get out and practice my photography.

As ever, an update will be posted.

#GuruShots #AmazingSkies #GuruShotsReview #Mornington #Meath #Baltray #Louth #RiverBoyne #Ireland #Sunset #Dusk

Update: the challenge ended a few days back but my laptop wasn’t feeling up to cooperating. My final ranking was Premier – not complaining about that at all.

[May 2018]

Color in Nature

A speed challenge! :-) #GuruShots #SpeedChallenge

Voting hasn’t started yet but I’ve submitted a photograph I took in early January 2018 at Laytown Beach, Co Meath, Ireland.

Laytown 1

It’s one of my first attempts at long (ish) exposure and has resulted (through luck rather than skill) in some beautiful pastel shades. It’s not a particularly clear image as my half decent tripod which although very willing, couldn’t really hold it’s own against the wind and it was sooooooooooo cold. Tip: buy decent gloves and a shutter release control you can use with hands in pockets!

Update: Challenge over and I got 227 votes which is pretty incredible. I achieved the Skilled level so happy with that.

[May 2018]

Pathways & Roads

I guess Sunday must be GuruShots day for most voters as I’ve just uploaded an image to this latest speed challenge (where only one image can be displayed per photographer at one time) and have achieved over 350 votes (Premier level no less) within about 10 minutes. Remarkable – this is certainly the image of mine that has generated the most interest in a short amount of time.

That said, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure I trust the GuruShots voting process as I was notified a few days ago that I had reached the Skilled level in the ‘B&W Architecture’ challenge. Later the same day, I was notified I’d reached the Popular level – did I loose votes or were they calculated incorrectly? Regardless, I’m taking my current position in the ‘Pathways & Roads’ challenge with a very large pinch of salt.

Anyways, I was in two minds which photo to upload eventually opted for a photo of a jetty at Rum Point in Grand Cayman. This image was taken on my first digital camera, a FujiFilm FinePix F480 – long discontinued model.

Smart Card 5 1358

Generally packed with holiday makers, I had to drive over to Rum Point first thing in the morning (in Caribbean terms, in my experience that’s before 10:00 am) to capture this shot  without including any tourists.

It’s the colours – not the photographer – that make this image. The water is as inviting as it looks – it’s clear and warm and further into the North Sound, it’s packed with beautiful tiny fish, stingrays, turtles and the occasional shark.

There are a little over 23 and a half hours left for this challenge – let’s see how this ends. I think this photograph will go down very well with users sitting at a computer on a Sunday afternoon wishing they were on vacation. Since I started typing up this post, I’ve now got over 765 votes … absolutely bonkers. Let’s see what the end result is though – I may be back to 250 if GuruShots have had a few more issues with their calculator!

For more information and images on Rum Point, click here.

#GuruShots #CaymanIslands #GrandCayman #RumPoint

Update: As ever, there were some incredible photographs ranked in the Top 50 (I was #558!) and a good proportion of those were of Monument Valley in Utah (but to be fair, that is the classic epic view of a road. The photograph I submitted had a dizzy 900 votes which I’m amazed at and I managed an ‘All Star’ ranking. :-0 + :-)

[April 2018]

Solitude

I’ve submitted a late entry to the latest #GuruShots speed challenge – this one is entitled Solitude.

There are only around 77 hours to go before the challenge closes and only one photo (swaps allowed) can be submitted / displayed at one time. I’ve opted to submitted a photo I took a few weeks ago of a single tree in the Baltray dunes in Co Louth. This image achieved 1 like and of the 408 views had 246 votes so I’m hoping this speed challenge goes well. As ever, an update will be posted at the end of the challenge.

The image was taken on my Nikon D3400 and I focused up at the bottom third – the lens was the kit Nikkor 18-55 mm.

Lone Tree in Baltray_Vibrant

Update: It’s really interesting to see how other people express solitude in their images.  I think (at least I hope) I’ve conveyed this as simply  being alone. Many people have uploaded images that seems to focus on loneliness and a great deal of these images convey sadness. As I had a spare free swap,  I thought I’d switch the image of the above image of a tree for another one! :-)

Machu Picchu Tree

Taken in Machu Picchu, Peru, the mist rolling across the Andes moves quickly. It is thick, cold and very very damp and can completely blanket this small tree and even the large peak behind the citadel that seems to feature in approximately 90% of all images I’ve seen seen of this incredible UNESCO site. I didn’t walk along the Inca Trail – sheer madness – but took a bus up the side of the mountain after taking a long bus trip from the fantastic city of Cusco.

The image was taken on an ancient but loved FujuFilm FinePix F480.

The ‘Solitude’ Challenge ends in about 50 hours – I think this swap has already been successful but I’ll wait until the challenge comes to a close before posting more.

#GuruShots #MachuPicchu

Update: Delighted that I achieved 600 votes in total which resulted in an Elite ranking. Hurrah!

As ever some amazing Top 50 photographs on display but all those in the Top 40 (bar one which featured an image of a moose and another one of a yacht) had a very similar there. Generally there was a single figure standing in silhouette with their backs to the camera facing a sunrise or sunset. Interesting.

[April 2018]