"The Beast From The East" and the Social Media Game

So one of my new year’s resolutions was to take and post more personal work.

I think one of the dangers of trying to make money full time, part time, or even as a little spending money from your hobby is that you may start to see it as a job and lose track of why you enjoyed it in the first place.

Add to that, the cyclical social media game where artists have to try and beat the algorithms and advertisers just to get people to even see their work and you have a situation where people start to produce content that they think will look good on social media rather than something more meaningful. I have over a thousand 'followers' on Instagram. Now, this is nothing in the grand scheme of things (and also, who really cares), plus you can make a fairly safe assumption that probably 10-20% of these followers are bots and have never nor will ever look at my feed. Then, based on my 'business insights', only around 20% of the real followers that are left actually see my posts. 2018 is my year of not giving a wotsit about social media, and I feel much better for it!

Anyway, here are some images I took during the ‘Beast from the East’ snowstorm which snowed us into our village for a couple of days. I've never seen snow like it, the abandoned cards in drifts five feet high, snow ploughs eventually coming through every few hours. It's nice to be reminded us humans and our worries are pretty insignificant compared to Mother Nature.

I really like the images and I enjoyed taking them, I hope you do too.

The Mardle Duck Pond, Lound, Suffolk

It was really hard to illustrate the depth of the snow as a lot of the usual frames of reference were gone, but this bench was looking pretty buried!

And on the third day of being snowed into the village, our saviours arrived!

Weekend Journal #1 - 48 Hours In London

Recently I spent a couple of days in London and I decided to try and go to some places off the beaten track a little and of course take some images along the way!

God's Own Junkyard

One place I'd had on my list for ages to visit was God's Own Junkyard, a neon sign graveyard (it's a store but graveyard sounds way cooler) where the owner both sells and rents out the signs for set design for movies and TV. It's really hard to capture the feel of the place in images so I'd highly recommend checking it out in person if you can. They even sell beer - what more do you want?

Regent's Canal

I took the tube back to King's Cross and decided to walk along Regent's Canal to Camden. It was really cool to see the contrast between old and new all along the canal, the old canal boats and locks contrasted with the high speed rail infrastructure for Eurostar right along side it, and the new circular flats squeezed into the old ironwork for long since gone gas holders.

Barbican Conservatory

This place has also been on my list for ages and it's only open a few Sundays a year so I was lucky that my trip coincided with one of them. The Barbican isn't too far from from Liverpool Street Station by foot and the Conservatory itself is absolutely stunning. It's not massive but the plants are really packed in, some stretching three stories or more up to the glass ceiling almost trying to break out plus a large collection of succulents and cacti. It's well worth a trip on a Sunday afternoon!

Sky Garden

Final stop was SkyGarden, again somewhere I've been wanting to go ever since it opened, but I've been saving it until I was on my own as Charlotte is scared of heights! It's a public park so it's free, but you do have to book a spot online and go through airport style security in order to get to the top. In my case, this took a little while, so by the time I got to the top the weather had transformed from blue skies to a strange ethereal light, which I later found out was due to Saharan dust storms! Still - great views and a great place to enjoy a glass of wine looking out over the capital and a great way to round off the trip.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy the images! You can also see more of my work on Instagram @jameschastneyphoto.

US Road Trip - Diary and Images!

It's right in the middle of wedding season for me so this post has been in my draft section of the blog for weeks but I'm super excited to finally share some of my favourite images from our trip to the US west coast.

Seattle 

Our trip started off in Seattle, staying with some of my family and exploring the city and the surrounding area. We felt really at home in Seattle, which in a lot of ways felt very similar to European cities - certainly far more laid back and less built up than New York or LA. We were also blessed with some unseasonably warm and clear weather which gave us great views over the city and towards Mt. Rainier which is around 60 miles from the city and yet still dominates the skyline. Highlights for us were definitely Pike Place Market (don't bother with the first Starbucks, it's tiny, surrounded by tourists, and there's plenty of better places to find coffee) and the 500ft tall Space Needle, from which the views were incredible. We would definitely visit Seattle again, we both loved it. We also visited a few local lakes and parks within the wider Seattle area, and the beautiful Snoqualme Falls was a particular highlight due to the high rainfall and spring melt it was in full flow.

 Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

 The RV

On the first Thursday we went to grab some food at a supermarket before heading to a little town called Puyallup to pick up the RV, soon to be affectionately dubbed 'Winnie'. It was far larger than I imagined it would be, and so spacious inside, definitely more than comfortable to spend a couple of weeks in. As the guy was showing us round I couldn’t escape the impending feeling of doom knowing that the first drive was round the corner, and that to get out of the RV place it was a left turn onto a 6 lane road - terrifying! For the first few miles Charlotte was my wingwoman, yelling “LEFT” every so often when I was getting too close to the right hand kerb or other traffic (at 12 feet wide the RV was basically the width of the entire lane) and also a second pair of eyes for the different road signs and rules. We headed straight to the first campground where it rained all night, but thankfully this was the only rain we experienced for the whole rest of our trip.

 Winnie at our first campground, Harmony, Washington

Winnie at our first campground, Harmony, Washington

The Oregon Coast

I was already looking forward this part of the trip an awful lot but the sheer beauty of the coast and how few people there were around was simply amazing. There was everything from small seaside towns, to sweeping empty bays, giant sand dunes and steeps cliffs – all with that coasts characteristic driftwood from winter storms covering every beach.

 Looking south towards Nehalem, Highway 101, Oregon

Looking south towards Nehalem, Highway 101, Oregon

Over the next three days we travelled up and down the coast visiting Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach, Cape Kiwanda, Cape Mears, Lincoln City and Depoe Bay whilst we stayed at Nehalem Bay State Park. This was probably our favourite campsite. Secluded, no wifi and about 30 seconds from the Pacific Ocean so you could sit out with a campfire or go to sleep to the sounds of the ocean. Highly recommended!

 Pacific Coast Sunset, Nehalem, Oregon

Pacific Coast Sunset, Nehalem, Oregon

We finished up our Oregon journey by staying in a little town called Bandon, after driving through close to 100 miles of sand dunes it was a welcome stopover! We felt like we'd barely scratched the surface of Oregon and we'd love to come back some day to explore more.

 The view from the top of a 300ft sand dune, Cape Kiwanda, Oregon

The view from the top of a 300ft sand dune, Cape Kiwanda, Oregon

 Bandon, Oregon

Bandon, Oregon

Into California (Briefly)

We had initially planned to head to Crater Lake but due to heavy snowfall and a non-winterised RV, we decided to skip it and head towards Lake Tahoe instead. Whilst disappointed we missed Crater Lake, Tahoe National Forest and Lake Tahoe didn't disappoint. Being from a very flat part of the world and never too far from the sea it was so bizarre being thousands of feet up and yet surrounded by so much water. The water in Lake Tahoe is so clear that you can apparently see 70ft straight down! We probably visited at a funny time as it was just past ski season and not quite summer so some places were closed, but still a very beautiful part of the world to go and see.

 Tahoe City, North Lake Tahoe, California

Tahoe City, North Lake Tahoe, California

Nevada

Next up on our itinerary was Death Valley National Park,but to get there we had a 7 hour, 400 mile drive to complete. After stopping the night in Reno, we set of early and soon left the bright city lights behind us and embarked on a surreal, lonely desert drive through ghost towns and barren desert. With Nevada being the only place in the US brothels are legal and a healthy dose of alien and Area 51 conspiracy theorists, the road signs were a welcome distraction from the long, straight, hot roads!

 Coaldale Ghost Town, Highway 95, Nevada

Coaldale Ghost Town, Highway 95, Nevada

Death Valley National Park

After filling up Winnie and buying as many large bottles of water we could in a town called Beatty on the Nevada/California border, we turned south west and headed into Death Valley with a few nerves but plenty of excitement. We descended rapidly from around 3500 feet in Beatty to below sea level, so when we arrived at the visitor centre, we opened the RV doors to oppressive 40+ degree heat. With such heat, we were drinking up to a litre of water per hour just to stay hydrated, and we only ventured out in the early hours of the morning, making it back to camp by mid morning. We stayed at Furnace Creek ranch which had a swimming pool, which was an absolute godsend. Swimming in a pool in 42 degrees whilst being 300ft below sea level is definitely an experience I'll keep with me for years.

As the valley itself is surrounded on all sides by mountains, the overnight temperature only dropped to around 30 degrees so whilst we're glad we went - two nights was enough!

 Zabriskie Point sunset, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point sunset, Death Valley National Park, California

Yosemite National Park

The drive between Death Valley and Yosemite was always going to be a long day but little did we realise when we set out just quite how long! On paper, the drive was 400 miles which we expected to complete in about 6 hours. In reality, due to road closures due to a combination of snow, mudslides and forest fires, it actually took almost ten hours via what could conservatively be called a 'circuitous route'! Still, we arrived at our camp ground at Mariposa to the west of Yosemite Valley and got an early night for our two day stay at the park. After some issues parking the first day we got in early the second day and beat the traffic (it's at least an hour drive to the main parking areas in the park so get up at like 5am to be on the road for 6). As expected the scenery was amazing and I also got to check out the Ansel Adams gallery, one of mine and no doubt many other Photographer's heroes.

 Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

On the second day we climbed Vernal Falls getting absolutely soaked in the process, but hey, how often do you get the chance to be showered by glacial meltwater?! Talking to some of the other hikers it turned out the park was so busy because the waterfalls were not only at their spring peak, but they were being boosted further by the recent rains California had had which had finally taken them out of the drought they've been having for the past six or seven years. We felt really lucky to be able to see the waterfalls in peak flow.

 Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

Napa

Who could visit California without visiting wine country? Well not these guys, that's for sure! I'm not going to lie, we did a lot more drinking than we did driving (obviously) and taking photos so photos are sparse - mostly because we were walking everywhere and I couldn't be bothered to carry my camera! Safe to say the highlight was definitely Castello di Amoroso, a mock Italian castle in the Napa Valley hills. Napa definitely felt very familiar and European to us, even if it was a bit pricey!

 Dillon Beach, California

Dillon Beach, California

San Francisco

Then, as quick as it came, it was over. After driving 3000 miles in two weeks we finally dropped off Winnie in San Leandro, and caught the train across the bay into San Francisco. We spent the next two days soaking in the city sights and were both really pleasantly surprised with the city. We walked from the city to the Golden Gate Bridge which was much further out than we thought it would be (We'd sort of assumed as it was so iconic it was right in the centre of town, but it really isn't!). We had initially planned to hire bikes but it was so busy and full of tourists we decided against it and walked and used public transport instead. Luckily, like any major city, you can easily walk pretty much anywhere and the public transport is great.

 Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

 Leaving San Francisco :(

Leaving San Francisco :(

If you made it this far, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the images!

Jen & Matt - A Spring Suffolk Wedding

I had worked with Jen's family before, taking some images for her Grandad's 80th birthday party celebrations which coincided nicely with the birth of her niece. They're a lovely family who are full of fun (as you'll see in the dancefloor images below!) so I was delighted when she asked me to be their wedding photographer.

Jen and Matt got married in Rome a week before their reception in what sounded like a beautiful intimate ceremony, and it was my job to capture their reception once they were back in the UK. They held their reception at the Parkhill Hotel just outside Lowestoft in Suffolk which has great gardens and a wonderful old barn. They were also lucky with the weather which is always a bonus!

The reception itself was a family hand made affair, with most of the decorations hand made and the stunning cake made by Jen's mum and sister. The decor really added a great personal touch to the day.

So without further ado, here's a selection of images from the day!

US Road Trip - Route and Gear!

Almost a year in planning and the time is nearly here.

As I write this blog it’s only 5 days until we fly out for our epic 3000 mile US West Coast Road Trip extravaganza! We’ve finalised our route, Charlotte began packing about 5 weeks ago (I have yet to open my suitcase) and we feel about as ready as we’ll ever be.

Our route contains two big cities, the Pacific coast, wine country, snow and ice, a desert, and everything else in-between. Spread over 3 weeks we’re going to tackle Seattle, the Oregon coast, Crater Lake, Reno, Death Valley, Yosemite National Park, Napa Valley, and San Francisco – the full route is below if you want to check it out. To say we’re stoked is the understatement of the year!

Planning

We've been using the RoadTrippers app and website to plan our route as we wanted a space to be able to collaborate as well as guide us once we're out and on the road. If you're planning a trip I highly recommend using a routeplanner like this as we've discovered loads of cool looking places along the suggested route that we may have otherwise skipped had we just stuck to the main highways.

 

GEAR

With so many amazing opportunities for images on the table choosing which camera gear to take was of course a big decision. When travelling in Europe last year I got by really well with the Fuji X100S so was tempted to stick with this as it’s such a light, compact camera with great image quality, however in the end I decided to go the whole hog and pack the full frame Canon 6D. There were several reasons for this. First off, the X100S is fixed at 23mm, fine for cityscapes and some landscapes but you lose a lot of options when you can’t zoom at all – the 24-70mm reach will give me much more options in the field. Secondly, the battery life for the Fuji series is still iffy at best, given that we’ll be away for 3 weeks and at times a long way from civilisation, I wanted the certainty that the larger Canon batteries provide. Finally, with Death Valley being one of the largest (relatively) easily accessible dark sky parks in the world, the low light performance of the Canon for some potential starscapes was very important too!

I’m definitely compromising a little on weight. The camera, lenses, chargers and associated gear will likely top out at over 6kg, but I think it will be worth it in the end. The final kit list is likely to be:

  • Canon 6D
  • Tamron 24-70mm 2.8
  • Canon 50mm 1.8
  • GoPro Hero 3
  • Joby SLR GorillaPod
  • Beeway Waterproof Memory Card Case
  • 2x 64GB SD, 2x 32GB SD and 2x 32GB MicroSD Cards
  • FantaSeal GoPro 360 Timelapse Mount
  • GoPro Suction Cup Mount

Lindsey - Norfolk Maternity Photography

Last weekend, a couple of days after Storm Doris wrought havoc across the country, I met up with the lovely Lindsey to shoot some maternity portraits for her at the UEA in Norwich.

There were a few trees down, lots of leaves and twigs blowing about, and we were reliably informed by a duck enthusiast (not joking) that a platform on the lake had sunk leaving some rather confused ducks in the wake of the destruction.

Despite all that, I think we got some great images with the earthy tones of Lindsey's clothing really working well with the location and the weather.

Some of the images are below - I'd love to hear what you think of them. If you're pregnant or have a family and are interested in booking a shoot - get in touch for a chat! 

Liv - A Fashion Blogger Shoot in Norwich

I recently linked up with Liv via Instagram and we decided to get together for a test shoot on a crisp winter afternoon, here are the results...

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I'm now booking in shoots for 2017 - get in touch for quotes for model, acting or dance portfolios, or family photography in Norfolk and north Suffolk!

How to take great Autumn images

For me, no other season comes close to my love of Autumn (or 'Fall' for those of an American persuasion). The colour, light and weather all combine to produce stunning opportunities for photographs, as well as some great natural spectacles which in Norfolk include stargazing, migrating birds and, if you're lucky, Aurora Borealis, a.k.a. the Northern Lights.

This year we've been even more lucky than usual, higher than average temperatures meaning no frosts, and no high winds have meant we've kept glorious autumn colours on trees for far longer than normal, and even though it feels like it's rained almost constantly for the last fortnight it hasn't dampened my spirit to get out, explore, and take some photographs.

Today I decided to visit Waveney Forest which is an area of woodland near Fritton on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. It's an out of the way place at the busiest of times, but on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon, I had the place to myself. I know these woods fairly well but I was stunned at the sheer variety of colours still on display. I've also always failed to take a shot I'm happy with of the Woodsman's cottage but today I think I got it so it was worth it just for that!

Woodsman's cottage, Waveney Forest (a.k.a. my dream house)

Something I've been trying to do a lot more of is capture smaller parts of the scene, the main problems I had today getting close enough to the subject without getting soaked and, due to the amount of rain we've had over the last few weeks, excessive reflections off seemingly every surface.

Pro Tip #1: Always carry plastic bags to kneel/lay on in your camera bag. You can also fashion covers for your gear from plastic bags to keep shooting through bad weather in a pinch.

Pro Tip #2: Reflections from tree bark, leaves or the ground itself can both fool your camera's sensor/light meter or create blown out bright spots in your image which I personally don't like in my images. Ideally use a polarising filter, or, block the light using anything you can; your hand, your bag, or another person. Failing that, learn to love Lightroom's Luminosity slider.

Don't be afraid to get down in the mud for your shot

Pro Tip #3: Larger apertures (smaller f numbers) both let more light into your camera's sensor (vital for dark, dull or overcast autumn conditions) and give you a narrower depth of field - allowing you to create depth or isolate the interesting areas of your image to draw the viewer's eyes in.

Use large apertures to create depth or to draw the eye to certain areas of your images

One of my favourite parts of this particular walk was in the contrasts, in particular leaves which were still green or bright yellow which hadn't yet turned orange or brown shown against a rusty coloured background. I actually spent a good 10-15 minutes walking round this particular tree taking shots from various angles before settling on this one, and decided to go for a square crop in the edit to really focus on the main event of the photograph.

Pro Tip #4: Don't be afraid to experiment with different crops. It didn't stop Ansel Adams, so it shouldn't stop you!

Don't be afraid to experiment with different crops

Finally, as the light truly began to leave for the day, the evening was topped off by thousands of migrating geese passing overhead - a stunning sight and sound and a great end to the day.

Let me know what you think of the shots in the comments below. Remember, even if you don't get a single image from a day out with your camera - at least you had a nice walk and got out and experienced nature - and that's never a bad thing!

Nadia - A Model Portfolio Shoot in Norwich

I linked up with Nadia back in July, she's a writer, director, model, and actress, as well as fluent enough in Spanish to work as a translator! It was great to work with someone else who knows how hard it is to balance a day job with a new business in the creative field, and we got on like a house on fire. We shot in Eaton Park in Norwich on a glorious summer's evening, and here are some images from the day - you can see more images on my website here.

Charlotte - A Model Portfolio Shoot in Southwold

I met up with Charlotte in Southwold to shoot some portfolio images one Tuesday evening in July. Being a school day it was really quiet so we had the pick of locations along the beach which was great, as I wanted to use the iconic beach huts in some of the shots. One of the things that attracted me to the beach huts in the first place was their bold use of colour, and how that would fit in with the summery chilled out feel that I wanted to go for in the images. Ironically some of my favourite shots from the day actually turned out to be images that I converted to black and white in post. Funny how things work out sometimes!

 Some of my favourite shots were black and white images shot with the 50mm 1.8

Some of my favourite shots were black and white images shot with the 50mm 1.8

Anyway, we started off with some portraits in the foyer (porch?) of one of the beach huts on the promenade, the pastel and white paint working really well with Charlotte's outfit.

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Next we moved onto swimwear and shot both on the beach with the dunes and a variety of boldly coloured beach huts to really amp up the summer vibe.

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All in all I had a great time shooting with Charlotte, lots of laughs were had and I think it really shows in the images. To see more images from the shoot, hop over to the gallery here!