Media City and Salford Quays

Salford Quays Architecture

If anyone wants to learn about shooting architecture “up north”, I can think of not better place than Media City at Salford Quays.

This trip was a 1-2-1 with a fellow professional photographer who shoots gigs for a living – he wanted to spend an evening learning about architecture and tilt-shift lenses. So we met around 4:30 and worked through till well after sunset, taking in all kinds of views and angles.

Kit Used on this trip

Click on any of these pictures to learn more or purchase

Canon 5D Mark 4

Canon 70-200 F2.8 IS

 

Canon 17mm TSe

Canon 90mm TS

Manfrotto 055 Tripod

 

 

Waiting for the sunset

So to start we captured these flats – I’ve shot them many times before, but never with the Canon 17mm TSe lens. To get them in I had to take 2 portrait photos – one shifted low, the other high – and stitch them together to get this final shot.

It’s a far more architectural look than the stretched versions I did with the 17-40 back in 2006!

Not quite a sunset

 

As it got darker, we didn’t really get the dreamy orange sky, but a nice pattern in the clouds formed over the BBC buildings.

 

 

Looking the other way, east towards Old Trafford, was a bit more ominous. Here we used the railings to give a dramatic lead into the shot.

 

 

As the sun was going down, the red light in the imperial war museum came on, so grabbed this shot with the 70-200.

 

The Lift Bridge

Back in the 2000’s this was the main feature and still a great thing to shoot. It’s a lift bridge, the deck’s pretty long, 100 yards maybe, and lit beautifully all the way across.

We got a few shots of it – this one is a pano of 2 shifted shots, taken later on when the sky had darkened.

 

 

This is a HDR pano – so 6 photos in total, blended to 2 HDR photos – then the 2 HDR photos blended to a panoramic. It meant the bright sky could be retained along with detail in the deck and structure.

 

 

This is right at the side of the bridge, a shift panoramic of 3 vertical photos. It’s REALLY wide!

 

Imperial War Museum

This is a really boiring building in dull light, but after dark, it takes on a totally different feel. The lighting is cool, almost blue, with the red “eye” peering out at you.

This is 2 shots blended to a panoramic – taking in the little lights on the steps. A nice touch.

 

 

You get a great reflected view of it from across the water, outside the Blue Peter studio.

 

 

This is a 90mm Tilt Shift lens photo – with this I was using tilt to increase depth of field, so tilted towards the building. It is a bit fiddly to do, but the lot does seem quite sharp!

 

 

This is the opposite effect – with the tilt away from the building to make the near parts more blurry than you’d get from most lenses.

 

Classic Reflections

The main draw of this location has to be the reflections after dark – colours and shapes in the architecture double up when you have water, and there are acres of the stuff here.

This first shot is from the BBC looking over to the Lowry

 

This is from below the new cafe looking down media city to the swing bridge

 

 

This is from the water’s edge near to the tram stop, the golden thing is the restaurant, the blue the Lowry

 

 

 

Media City from near the Lowry Tower – this is HDR of 3 photos s0 I could keep all the light detail AND get some sky glow

 

 

6 shot HDR of a little sculpture by the water’s edge

 

Experiments…

This is a photo using the Lensbaby – a cool little lens from a few years back which you can bend and squeeze to make really strange shots… works well with lights

This is a replication of a shot Dave described of Canary Wharf – the 90mm was tilted on a vertical plane, so the BBC tower was sharp, and things left and right of it were blurry. Hard to get right, you had to use focus, tilt and aperture to control the width of the sharp area!

The Lowry to finish

And finally… the original reason I went to Salford Quays back in the early 2000’s – the lowry itself.

This is a 6 shot HDR pano using the black line of brick on the pavement as a lead into the photo

Castlefield Manchester – Canals and Viaducts

Water and Rail Meet at Castlefield Manchester

Castlefield is incredibly central in Manchester, a stone’s throw away from the massive Beetham Tower and Deansgate Station. It’s a stunning place for every photographer to enjoy, be that shooting the architecture reflected in still waters, taking a model down there and using the industrial backdrops or shooting a car down there – with girders and bricks reflected in its shiny bodywork.

Great on a Dull Day

Castlefield Manchester is one of those places where you don’t really need bright sun to enjoy it – when you’re below a bridge, the sky can be flat and boring and will create a fantastic shot. It may be worth bracketing your photos to create an HDR later – a with this first photo.

Practice your HDR

The dynamic range between the sky and the arch to the right was pretty huge, so I did need 2 shots – each 2 stops apart.

Other stuff, like bikes on walls, are all over the place.

The canal leaves the basin and heads into the City

A perfectly placed Peroni!

A bright red boat outside the basin… and a friendly mallard

Just about managed to frame the background with the arches using a 16mm lens!

The industrial museum is a gem of a buildings

Below the foot bridge over one of the docks

 

Massive girders! 

Footbridge and 2 railway lines

There is a road way through the area too – you can see the size of these grey columns with the cars to the right

Old beer barrels behind an abandoned pub

Fantastic place for reflections

HDR detail of the cobbles

Mix of new architecture around the dock area

Manchester Can Be Sunny – Occasionally

Manchester Looking Fantastic

Manchester, the UK’s second city, is famous for its rain, grey skies and grim climate!

I should know, I lived there for 4 years in 1990’s and rarely saw the sun. You just needed some waterproof clothes and boots – it wasn’t a problem, but the buildings never really looked great.

Roll on 25 years and I was back to photograph my old University for a job – after which I popped into the centre for a stroll. Here is a set of images from that walk:-

  • they’re all HDR,
  • hand held with the Canon 5D mark 3
  • 16-35mm lens
  • prepped in LIGHTROOM
  • blended in PHOTOMATIX
  • Finished off in LIGHTROOM

See how many Manchester locations you recognise!

Summer Nights Workshop – 2016 Review

McFade Summer Nights Workshops 2016

A look back over 12 fantastic evenings – but first some background

Where did the idea of Summer Nights Workshops come from?

Ever since I took Photography seriously I’ve regularly gone out for smaller outings – usually with 1 or 2 friends. We’d find places to go, new things to try out and gradually get loads of ideas and locations to return to.

I found that it broke the weekend up and gave us something to look forward to. Gets you out of the “office mindset” too.

But also, if you just do “a bit” at a time, then built on it regularly – your skills just blossomed and grew.

What are McFade Summer Nights Then?

When I started McFade Training I did lots of weekend trips, bigger outings which cost more and were less frequent. This is probably what most trainers do – more people are free on weekends and you do make more money!

But I’d find that if you saw people every few months, they’d probably not have had reason to go out and practice what they’d learned at the last workshop. In fact, you’d be going over the same ground again to refresh their memories.

So it gave me the idea of re-creating what I’d done with John and Dave in the “noughties” :-

  • a regular evening to look forward to
  • a different location for each session
  • a load of different skills – from towns to landscapes, people to porches.
  • a gradual build up of skills and confidence in the regulars who came

How do you get the most from these nights?

Both financially and in learning, the people who booked the whole series got the most. The evenings were over 33% less – meaning that even if you missed a few, you were still “quids in”.

Also I get to know where people’s skills lie if I see them regularly – I can introduce new things each session which build on the last session.

It also gets people out regularly – people may not go out on their own, but if they’ve got a group session each fortnight, it’s in the diary and they turn.

Obviously, those who just “dip in” to the odd workshop that appeals have a great time too – it’s just they don’t get all the benefits of regular training.

It’s a bit like a personal training session for your creative side! 

In 2017, we’re seriously considering offering this just as a “12 workshop series” – with no individual bookings. We’d love your feedback on that.

What do we do on these nights?

It’s relaxed and fun – that’s the main thing.

There are no egos or know it alls – no competitions or kit envy. It is usually people with basic DSLR cameras who just want to get better at taking photos. We’ve had a 15 year old and a few in their 70’s – there’s no age restrictions.

We try to cover a lot of ground between May and September, a comprehensive series giving people exposure to many topics, each building on the basics of photography – we usually start in towns in May, this year it was York.

Towns

We usually start in towns in May, this year it was York. Towns offer a bit of cover if it’s raining, some cool places for sunsets and they’re easy to get to and park. Also I think people rarely photograph towns – it’s a bit scary on your own – so going in group really helps people relax.

It’s dark by 10PM in May too – so you get your first taste of low light photography, which usually is a paradigm shift for most.

We also went to Saltaire – terrible weather meant we stood under a bridge for a while, but a series of creative challenges kept everyone motivated till we could shoot the weirs.

People

In June we did portraits. All in Leeds, all on location and with a mix of flash and natural light.

Portrait is tricky to get right when you’re new – you have someone rather than an inanimate object to photograph. Do you talk to them or what?

Well the main emphasis on the first one was using long lenses and wide apertures to avoid really busy backgrounds. That’s often the main issue with portrait – the person has all kinds of stuff going on behind them. So stand back, zoom in and blur the background was a great start.

Next was The Blues Brothers – Brian, Chris and Gareth were fantastic but the weather was appalling. We retreated to the Dark Arches and got flashes out – which wasn’t at all planned, but was “real”. Stuff like that really happens – a lot.

The group had a fantastic few hours whilst I changed batteries in the flashes as they faded!

Landscapes

We are in Yorkshire so Landscape is all around us – it made sense to do lots of Landscape workshops. We went to :-

  • Harewood and Almcliffe
  • Burley and Ilkley Moor
  • Pontefract, Ferrybridge and the A1 Bridge
  • Beal and Eggborough

It’s fair to say the weather was mixed for these – and Landscape really does depend on good light.

The Ferrybridge and A1 Workshop

These are all locations the people can return to on better days – but even on a grey night we got 3 great locations and proved that even a fading blue hour sky can look amazing when you know how. The pond shot below was taken on a virtually pitch black lake side!

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Beal and Eggborough

Another location roadtrip which I first did in about 2005 – this was about fields, crops and their interaction with the canals and power station.

Again, not the greatest light for it – we learned about foreground interest, balance in composition, reflections and a cool trick at sunset where you make anything you can find into a silhouette with the sky colours blurred behind it – see the thistle below.

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Harewood and Almscliffe

At last a sunny night – though it was cold on the boulders later on.

A 2 stop workshop where we showed everyone a bridge and weir we found by accident in 2008, then up to some iconic boulders near Harrogate.

Here we looked at the 10 Stop Filter, using boulders foreground interest, finding names and pools rocks and exposing for bright sun

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Burley and Ilkley Moor

This was a very unusual evening – where the sun actually created lots of problems by the weir. The sky was cloudless and therefore boring, and the sun was going stright into people’s lenses creating all kinds of flare.

A nice problem in a way I guess – a little patience and it became less of an issue. Everyone got to try the 10-stop filter for themselves, getting a very smooth water flow over 30 seconds.

The cow and calf was pretty windy and cold – we showed the team how to create great sunset silhouettes again – this time with huge boulders rather than thistles. On top of the rocks are lots of names carved into the rock so we showed how to capture those with ultra wide lenses.

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Cars

We met at a lovely golf club to take photos of the TVR club’s wonderful cars – but it poured down, a washout.

Tricky suggested we rescue the night by going to the IKEA car park – so over we went, only 10 minutes away. Unfortunately it was pretty busy in there – so I had to get everyone a safe distance away with long lenses.

Gradually the customers disappeared and we got more and more space – the cars spread out and we had a final hour of sci-fi magic. The curvy cars and ultra austere concrete of the car park made for some of the best shots we’ve made over the years.

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Bonus at Brimham Rocks

A final landscape workshop up at Brimham rocks followed. We went armed with all the night painting equipment as it’d be dark by 8:30PM.

It was a good job as the sunset never happened and the rocks were not hugely inspiring as the sky went grey. But as soon as it went dark we found our stride and introduced everone to light painting, sparks and light graffiti.

It was great fun getting everyone involved – we had red boulders, stick men and all kinds of ideas flowing.

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2 Towns to Finish Off

Knaresborough

It’s most famous for Mother Shipton’s Cave and the railway viaduct – we photographed the latter, the cave was shut!

The Nidd was perfectly stil that night, so giving fantastic reflections for everyone. The start was at a road bridge where we had lots of boats for foreground – so the challenge was to use the boats in the composition.

After that we captured street scenes and the viaduct before climbing up to the castle – a very steep stairway which was pretty tiring, but we all got great photos of the bridge and its mirror reflection.

To end the night we had an hour of Pixel Stick fun – some Pac Man ghosts on the bridge then lots of other interactive stuff, with silhouettes and rainbows!

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Salford Quays and Media City

To finish off is a place went to photograph first in 2004 – The Lowry as it was then, but it’s graduated into Media City now.

A pastel sunset gave a lovely salmon sky as the sun set, then we were into night photography of all the amazing structures and rainbows of colour.

We actually finished at 11:20, an hour and 20 later than usual, as there was so much to shoot – a few left earlier – no one’s obliged to stay till the end!

So That’s All Folks

Summer is now over – we’ll be running weekend workshops over the winter in 2016-2017 and rebooting the Summer Nights again next year – so keep your eye out for them.

Salford Quays Workshop

Salford Quays Workshop

Media City is right on the canal network  –  so where better to teach night photography skills, a location where you get amazing architecture as well as stunning reflections in each shot.

The workshop started at sunset and went on well past the 10PM finish time… when you’re in the zone, may as well keep going!

The Technical Bit

The main skills we showed people were the basics of night shooting – which on my workshops, uses the camera’s histogram extensively. This feature baffles many – it is quite simple in reality, it’s just never been properly explained to them!

What you’re looking for is a histogram where the brightest bit (the right most end of the chart) is just touching the end. If you’re shooting RAW (and you should be!) then a little peaking is ok, this can be recovered.

With many brands, you can do this all in LIVE VIEW using a LIVE HISTOGRAM – on canon, you just press the “info” button over and over again till it appears. On Nikon, it varies a lot from model to model – we were entertained with this again on the night – yet again, it was in a new place in the menu. There were 2 Sony cameras – older ones – and we never did find a live histogram, so reviewed a shot after it was taken.

Exposure times were generally 30 seconds, especially when the water was rippling – long exposures flatten out the reflections.

The Photos

Well here are a small selection of the shots I created

 

Castlefield – Manchester

Castlefield – Central Manchester

A more imposing set for a northern city shoot is hard to find.

Castlefield has a mix of huge bridges, canals, brick, steel, pagodas, bars, locks, tow paths and bars….

Add to that the imposing Beetham Tower looming over you constantly, you’ve got an incredible array of backgrounds to play with.

This shoot was just for stock, creating some new images to fuel the portfolio, whilst gathering inspiration for future shoots with business folk and models – it is of course the location of my 2011 shoot with Kelloggs.

So here it is – a few shots of the mighty bridges and surroundings

Come create with me!

hi Folks,

Salford Quays, Media City and the Lowry are an amazing place to spend time with the camera, if you’ve never been it’s well worth a trip down. I was there last Friday, meeting with Lee, Eif and Paul from the Welshot team, and we managed to get some great shots to promote the next mcfade/welshot workshop. We’re taking this workshop to a new level, where we not only have a session of photography and coaching from me and the team, but also after lunch the delegates will be learning some new skills with their HDR processing.

It’s a pretty exciting workshop to run, a location that’s fantastic, a subject I love and hopefully showing people how to avoid making cartoon images from their HDR’s!

I thought the best way to approach it would be to challenge the delegates to “recreate” 10 mcfade shots, giving them a handout with the photos on and a few notes – then on the shoot, they have some goals to aim for. It’ll also give us come common shots to work on in the processing session.

So here are the shots I’ll be showing people, well challenging people, to photograph – then show them how I did it.

It’s all a bit like that “Masked Magician” show where they give away all the secrets!

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