My Nikon Is A Space Telescope*

So I found a way to image galaxies billions of lightyears away with my D7000.

Gas clouds in the Pyrex Nebula

Space is deep, man. About 10cm deep.

I didn’t have to build a rocket or spend years calculating exactly where to fire it into space.

Who needs that in a world that’s ‘had enough of experts’? Only those who can’t and won’t back up their claims can be trusted. Like me. These are interesting times.

Here’s the Superflange Nebula XS2, a giant cloud of hydrogen, carbon dioxide and gravel 19.6 billion light years away. It’s older than the universe. Dinosaurs live in it.

Behold, The Lumps Of Creation

Imagine how many planets orbit all those stars! A dozen or maybe even more.

All it took to unearth this startling new truth was a large pyrex dish, a torch, and the soaking remains of last night’s dinner. Kind of gross, to be honest, but oh my GOD it was cheaper and easier than actually going.

Even so, anyone who tells you it’s not real is a paid shill for the conspiracy. They’re going to suffer for their heresy when the dinosaurs get here. Seriously.

*No, really.


So I Finally Took One My Wife Likes!

I take loads of pictures of Alex, and she’s impressively consistent – she hates every single one of them. But this one got a 10 out of 10! That’s how I interpret her shrug and mumbled concession of ‘I suppose it’s not awful.’

Portrait of Alex

‘Not a catastrophic attempt’ – Alex, Wales, 2016

This shot came from a quick experiment with flash – something I should do more of, especially with all these cloudy days.

And especially as I have such a beautiful subject.

red dragon eye

Wales Is All Castles And Dragons

In Caerphilly at the weekend I couldn’t resist all this crimson, and the lovely afternoon sun highlighting this figure.

figure in garage

Wales is also petrol stations and Hand Car Washes.

Later I couldn’t resist this small child petting a dragon. It had landed near Caerphilly Castle… not the child. The dragon. The child probably landed at Heathrow like everyone else.

child looks into the eye of a dragon

“Will you be my friend?”

All these people were having a lovely time in the sleet above the castle moat. You can tell which one isn’t a local – he’s the wuss with the umbrella.

families silhouetted above a lake

Midday in Wales.

And then there was this bridge, which runs up to the castle walls. It’s old and faded and perhaps past its best.

shadows of a bridge

It’s a shadow of its former self.

After a while the sky brightened, and people stopped to watch the rainbow as it set fire to the trees on the horizon. Rainbows don’t normally do that, but when you’re this near the Valleys everything burns.

crowds watch a rainbow

“Oh god Jim I think it just torched our house.”

And then as quickly as it came, the rainbow broke into somebody’s car and sped away. In its place came clouds, and a child so epic you’d think there’s no way he wasn’t prophesied somewhere. He wasn’t, though. He was just kind of staring.

Child silhouetted against blue cloudy sky

Still epic, mind.


There Ain’t No Light Nowhere

Jimmy Hendrix was right. There ain’t.  But in the absence of light, I realised I still had one thing to work with – motion.

abstract face

I was going for spooky, but this one’s almost abstract.

Hendrix may actually have been singing about ‘life’ rather than ‘light’ on I Don’t Live Today, but damn it’s been dark and drab for what maybe a million years now.

Figure speeds past hill

My wife is a fast walker.

With these images I slowed the shutter right down and experimented with movement – by panning with the subject, tracking alongside and even with twisting the camera around the lens-centre axis.

slow walk-112

Maybe she’s trying to run away? Hmmm.

I also desaturated most of the results either partially or totally, to get rid of the horrible muddy colours dull days bring to the hills and hedges. The one above, I spent some time brightening.

woman and stop sign

In the end I took the hint.

She stared at this sign for hours. What could it all mean? She loves it when I bring the camera…

pointing cat silhouette

International Cat Of Mystery

Here’s my cat plotting to fatally devalue the Yen and crash the world economy.

black cat profile

“I will drink your tears like milk. Cream is nice too.”

Here’s my cat pondering the fate of millions displaced by economic disaster.

black cat stare


Here’s my cat trying really hard not to press the button that launches the nukes at Moscow, Berlin and the Battersea Dogs’ Home.

black cat silhouette


Here’s my cat posing for the ‘heads’ side of his New World Currency, which will be known as the Irradiated Deathpenny.

cat silhouette

“Am I not majestic?”

And here’s my cat noticing you, specifically, and feeling displeased.

black cat face

“Knew it. Should have pressed the button.”


abstract swirls

Abstract In Red

It could be a close-up of a storm in the atmosphere of Jupiter. Or shampoo on a redhead. Or an abstract painting.

abstract swirls

SPOILER: I didn’t actually go to Jupiter.

Obviously it’s not any of those things. It’s floodwater pouring under a bridge in Brecon, mid-Wales. It’s red from the clay of the hills.

abstract swirls

Bloody rain.

I dropped the shutter speed to 1/10sec and braced the camera against the railing. Strong winds and driving rain made steady hand-holding tough, to say the least…

abstract swirls

The turbulence changed shape constantly. I waited until it looked interesting…

This one, to me, looks like a mountain on Mars, with white clouds swirling in the red sky above.

But then, that’s probably just me.

As The Crow Froze

With snow on the hills and much more in the skies, the light here becomes very cold and blue. It’s pretty stark. This lone crow caught my eye in his frosty tree.

crow sits in frozen tree

And then my fingers froze solid.

It beats the warm, wet, windy and damp greyness we’ve been having far too much of lately, anyway…

Smiling girl on winter walk

Screw You, Colour Vision

It’s been horribly overcast lately, and I’m finding black & white is a good way to overcome – even embrace – the limitations of flat, boring light.

Chloe's parents attempt to keep her clean


I really don’t like what heavy overcast does to landscapes in particular, and everything else in general – the excessively high contrast, the oversaturated yet flat and muddy colours. Even as background it can be distractingly ugly.

I’ve spent ages wrestling with images like that. Images like the one above, in fact, where I could never get the various tones even passably attractive.

The best way is to remove the colour entirely.

figure on a misty wooded road

Bye bye muddy browns and claggy greens.

It’s a good way to emphasise the lines and shapes of an image – there are no dabs of colour anywhere to distract the eye.

It also helps, for black & whites, to embrace the high-contrast look from the start. I’m going to have to remind myself to shoot simpler, more graphic images on these types of days.

Some otherwise busy shots can end up looking pretty moody, however. Indistinct, faceless figures, like above, can look quite mysterious. As can out-of-context objects…

Landing spot for aliens or something

This is actually a runway for Andromedan tentacle beasts, for instance.

OK, there was actually a bit of light available for this one, so it’s cheating a bit.

But then, I’m always going on about how utterly vital good light is, then ignoring my own advice in my enthusiasm, so… is this excuse working? Oh. It’s just cheating, then.

Alex in the snow

So’s this.

It was so overcast in the shot above it was actually snowing heavily, so all this light is unnatural. I have a colour version that works OK, but the different colour temperature of all the lights can be – again – slightly distracting.

On very dull days it can actually help to go somewhere even darker, so long as there’s a window or door or ruined hole (I live in Wales) to let the light in. Then at least you get a good contrast between what little light there is and shadow.

It’s better to bump the ISO up and get a decent shutter speed in situations like this, and never mind any grain – grain can actually work with such images anyway.

Figure disappears into stony darkness

A few highlights make all the difference.

Getting any highlights at all on a dull day is, of course, incredibly difficult. This is where the Luminance and Saturation sliders of individual colours come in handy in Lightroom.

The Tone Curve is also a fantastic tool for creating a bit of third-dimension-adding pop.

Smiling girl on winter walk

Subtly different shades boosted in Lightroom.

And of course, my wife loves the results when it makes her hair look like this. Oh wait, there she is in the distance now!

Is that…? Careful with that dear, it looks sharp. Yes, that. Oh, it’s a knife. Thanks for showing me by waving it like that. Why are you screaming?

You really shouldn’t run with a knife…

I, For One, Welcome Our New Cat Overlord

This is George. Just look at that face. George is in charge now.

cat overloard

“Into the Dreamie mines, human.”

There’s no hope for me – I disappointed him.

I did not play properly with the string.

But no, there’s always hope! Maybe he’ll like you, and make your death quick and easy.