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Waddesdon Manor 2018 by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Always a safe bet for a good day out, Waddesdon Manor once again impressed us with its opulence and scale. Despite the heaving masses that clearly had the same bright idea as us, I managed to eke out a few shots absent of people. Possibly similar to ones I had taken before but this time all accomplished with one lens. Beautiful and ornate exteriors, well tended gardens and luxurious interiors are all characteristics of Waddeson Manor, built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to display his art and to entertain his guests (a rather exquisite weekend retreat).Excellent guides, gardeners and volunteers made this visit as enjoyable as previous ones. 

The Rally by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Serene silence in the desert is suddenly and brutally assaulted by the sound of speed, a relentless roar of powerful engines becoming louder with frightening intensity. Diesel chokes the air with plumes of thick pungent smoke. Dust and sand swirl upwards in a chaotic fog as burning rubber spits it everywhere. They are here. Red and blue chase each other like metallic warriors in a chariot race to the death, airborne over the ridges and slamming into the dirt below. Chassis reinforced with... 
steel roll cages defy the impact as they stubbornly race forward through a tornado of debris. There can be only one winner...Ok, I'm starting to get requests for these kinds of projects, this being one such example. The client wanted to have custom posters for his young son's bedroom, his son being a car and racing fanatic. I took a few more photos than he needed so that I could make a project out of it. Two rally models, both 1/36 scale, were hung over a bed of breadcrumbs and showered in it through a straw while smoke was blown over them with a vaping device. Some debris was added in post, as was some of the smoke, the sky and of course, the headlights. I think this particular project demonstrates the importance of finding the right angles and using the right kind of toning to make the cars look more convincing. The client and his son loved the images they selected so job done. Of course, he paid my fee but I guess you can't put a price on a child's happiness.Some people have also asked that I make images using scale model versions of their actual cars in scenarios that they wouldn't dare place their expensive or prized vehicles. Not a bad idea. Once again, another project that helped me revise and practice composition, lighting and framing, as well as demand some creativity and craft. All shot with mirrorless gear. The video of this project can be seen here.

Barrels - A Scale Model Project by Alpha Whiskey Photography

The idea, which wasn't mine but suggested to me by my frequent collaborator, was just a car bursting through a stack of barrels at night. So, clearly it wasn't just me that grew up on a diet of 1980s action TV and Fast and Furious movies. But once the idea was nascent it wouldn't let go until I nurtured it to fruition. For this project I used two scale model (1/36) cars, one to burst through the barrels and one to act as a parked obstacle. Everything was handmade, from the barrels to the... 
traffic cones, the making of the former, at least, can be seen below. I realise a stack of wooden barrels aren't likely to be seen on a highway but they offered the camera more texture and I had some brown paint left over from my previous project. The smoke was a practical effect from a vaping device, as was the small torch giving off the blue LED light. Photoshop was used to remove wires, blend layers and spin wheels. And add a little debris and some headlights. And add colour and contrast. I added a skyline backdrop to two of the images (from my Toronto archives) to fill in some dead space. I left the other shots (facing away from the skyline) blank as I didn't want it to be a distraction. The main image was the red car bursting through the barrels but as with previous projects I was encouraged to tell a story (before and after the stunt) so I arranged the other 'pick-up' shots. And like a stunt scene in a movie I wanted to show it from several angles. But whereas a movie will typically use multiple cameras to cover a single stunt I, alas, had only one camera and thus rearranged the scene in different positions in front of the camera. Anyway, I think the result is satisfying to me and it's on to the next project. The video of this project can be seen here.

Agua Blanca to Picnic Canyon 13/5/18 by PierreNel

On the South side of Los Picachos, a 45 minute drive from San Miguel ...

Hever Castle by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Enjoyed a great day in the sun with friends this weekend past at Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII's second wife. King Henry came into possession of the property after the death of Anne's father and then bestowed it upon Anne of Cleves, his fourth wife, upon the annulment of their marriage. In the early part of the last century, the castle was restored and used as a family residence by the American William Astor.The castle and grounds were grand and sumptuous,... 
beautifully neat gardens and walks decorated the vast landscape within the castle's view. Particular highlights were the Yeomanry Museum and the Miniature House exhibition. The castle rooms were typically ornate and well furnished, including a bedroom for King Henry himself.Had too much fun to take many photos so here are just a few. Mostly shot with the Panasonic 8-18mm F/2.8-4.

The Astro Spiral Jump - A Scale Model Tribute by Alpha Whiskey Photography

My latest scale model project is a tribute to a classic vehicle stunt.The highlight in perhaps one of the weaker Bond movies, and the first stunt to be modelled by a computer, the Astro Spiral jump was a bona fide act of daring long before the modern era of CGI.Rather than copy the scene (or sequence) exactly, and it is possible to buy a model of the AMC Hornet used in the film, this was merely an homage, chosen because I love vehicular acrobatics (guilty of some myself!). And also because... 
it was entirely possible to construct the two bridge halves and create a simple diorama around them. I used what I felt would be a slightly more exotic car for the period, the Lamborghini Miura. The bridge was constructed from strips of cardboard and mounted on a frame made from food skewer sticks. Everything was painted from a small tester tub of brown paint from a DIY store. Luckily, because it was meant to look dilapidated and collapsed, nothing had to be perfect, neither the construction of the bridge nor the paint job.The ground was a doormat made of artificial grass, cut in two to make way for a river of foil. The embankments in the background were made of folded flowerpot liners (!). There shouldn't have been any river banks but the cut doormat edges had to be covered so I lined them with breadcrumbs. My friend and frequent collaborator Brubaker helped me hang the car in various positions. The only things added to the scene in post were the sky, headlights and debris trails. I possibly could have added more to the background as it's a little empty but I imagined this bridge to be abandoned in a remote place and I didn't want too much clutter around the car within the frame.I wasn't originally going for a continuous sequence (you can see the lack of continuity in the colouring), hoping each image would work as a standalone pic. Anyway, maybe I should stick to 80s TV shows. Had a ton of fun doing it, though :)The video for this project can be seen here.

Airwolf vs BMW - A Scale Model Project by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Spoiler alert: BMW loses.So another trip back to the 80s, this time with Airwolf, a mach one attack helicopter with the most advanced weapon systems in the air today.... Ah, you had to have seen it. Well, I wanted to make just a few random shots with the die cast helicopter model but my friend Brubaker suggested we make a series.Oh boy. It seemed like more work than I was intending to give this project but hey ho, more opportunities to eat and drink. So these were made with a £2 1/43... 
scale die cast BMW that I found in a supermarket and that happened to be a similar relative scale to the helicopter. I would have preferred a model of Street Hawk but nobody seems to have one.Once again, and on two separate occasions, we set up the shots on our makeshift studio table, arranging the car and helicopter at the positions we wanted. Airwolf was either hung from above with string on mounted on its accompanying stand (later edited out in post). As before, we tried to have as many practical effects and elements as possible to achieve as much as we could in camera. For instance we used smoke for mist in the lair and breadcrumbs for gravel/desert. For the black road we spray painted a sheet of cardboard and stuck two thin strips of yellow electrical tape down the centre. For water we used a pre-crumpled piece of aluminium foil with a blue sheet in the background so that it would catch the colour. We tried to create chain gun bullet impacts in the breadcrumb gravel but our attempts were unsuccessful so I had to try it with brushes in post. The explosion around the BMW was once again from a section of the exploding galaxy I had used previously. The die cast helicopter actually has a button-activated spinning rotor but I decided to create the rotor effects in post too.More often than not we photographed the background first as a master shot before placing the car and the helicopter in the scene. These were then cut, copied and pasted into the master shot along with any of the desired effects. As before, backgrounds were added from my archives (mainly from Colorado for this set) and headlights were added in post too. Everything was edited with layers. My friend Natalia provided valuable feedback on each edit. Despite the potential for ridicule I can honestly say that photographing scale models can teach you a tremendous amount about lighting, composition, framing and processing, all of which are essential to any genre of digital photography. It's certainly not as easy as you might think and does require a modicum of thought, imagination, invention and planning. In that respect it has been just as stimulating as taking images on my travels. Anyway, I'm reasonably happy with our results. There are a few people out there shooting scale models and dioramas (and being paid handsomely for it) but I have yet to find anyone else creating these kind of action scenes. Arguably no one else is that sad! Once again a fun time was had by all and we more or less got the results we set out to achieve. That in itself made completion of this project satisfying. 

Scale Model Action by Alpha Whiskey Photography

And now for something a little different.This will either invite complete ridicule or slightly less than complete ridicule but it sure was fun to do. Inspired by the work of Felix Hernandez, who is known for creating realistic scenes using miniature models, my friends and I decided to have a go, albeit with more meagre and makeshift  resources. And arguably this is as much about processing as photography but there don't seem to be many people doing this kind of work with scale or die cast... 
models. And while our results were nowhere near the vicinity of being anywhere near Mr Hernandez's works of art I was sufficiently intrigued to try.Thus one evening recently we set up a makeshift studio with some lamps, blue canvas background and tin foil wrapped around cardboard for reflectors. To soften the light and dampen shadows the lamps were covered in material from that sheath your laptop comes wrapped in (told you it was makeshift). We used flour for snow or breadcrumbs for gravel.We started off with fairly easy shots, cars in the snow or in the blizzard. completely unoriginal but I figure I have to walk before I fly. Sieved flour in front of a small fan created the blizzard effect. Icelandic scenes in the background were taken from my own archives and added in post, as were headlights. Then we decided to get little sillier.Alas, we can't go back to the 1980s, the greatest decade in the history of world, so we tried to bring the 80s to us. We decided to ask the Knight Industries Two Thousand to turbo boost over the A-Team van, both scale models. We hung KITT over the van and used several practical effects: an e-cigarette provided smoke, exhaust trails and dust, a birthday cake sparkler gave us bullet impacts on KITT's body while oats. We shot the scene from two different angles. Each effect was shot separately and then blended together as desired using layers in Photoshop. A sky background was added from my archives. For solitary shots of KITT the e-cigarette wasn't giving us the right smoky texture so I inhaled an entire Cuban cigar and placed an LED light near the driver's cabin to create some beams.Then we decided to be little more ambitious, using smaller models to create Hollywood style action scenes. I initially used a firestorm action in Photoshop that I found online but it was buggy so I pillaged sections of an exploding galaxy and used that instead. Finally, we decided to blow up the world's most indestructible car. We hung KITT upside down with the detached sunroof sections hanging with thin black wires that could be easily removed in post. We used the birthday cake sparkler again on the body, and to get flames coming out of the bonnet and the boot we used lighter fluid and an aerosol spray (don't try that at home kids). We placed thin skewer sticks to mark the positions of the bonnet, cabin and boot and then removed the car so we could spray the flames at those locations. Alas, the results just weren't what we were looking for when merged with the car so the exploding galaxy was rehired. I'lll be the first to admit my post-processing skills aren't that great and I don't enjoy spending a long time in front of a computer screen (my sympathies for those with desk jobs). But life is short and rather than be tethered to just one genre I'm willing to try new things and gave this one a shot, so to speak. Feel free to point the finger of ridicule but you'll have to take a. number and get in line. Worst case scenario a bunch of friends had a fun nostalgia trip playing with toys; best case we created something a little different. Perhaps we'll try again sometime. I'm sure Airwolf is hovering over Street Hawk around here somewhere... 

Devon by Alpha Whiskey Photography

Last weekend I drove down to Devon to spend a few days around Dartmoor National Park. At the invitation of and in the company of others there wasn't much time to stop and set up shots, and the inclement weather seems to be following me around lately. But I managed to eke out a few shots.Once again, and increasingly so nowadays, it was more about enjoying the experience than taking photos, and to that end we all had a great time, particularly so hiking around Lydford Gorge, a few hours of... 
which culminated in the impressive White Lady waterfall. We stayed at the same hotel that Charles Dickens had been snowed under at in the 19th Century, a nearly thousand year old building where he passed the time writing the first half of The Pickwick Papers. Dartmoor is know for the views from its many tors and we ascended perhaps the most famous, Brent Tor, where the small church at the summit was still open. Despite the cloudy end to the day there really were some stunning views. En route we had stopped in at Buckfast Abbey, a small but no less ornate example of medieval architecture. We popped down to Plymouth to visit the National Marine Aquarium. The charity does exemplary work in conservation and education, but I was somewhat disappointed with the aquarium itself, having only tow large tanks and scattered smaller exhibits. I realise its focus is on education, especially important given Mankind's impact on the oceans, but having visited the aquarium in Toronto last year that became a point of reference for me.Finally, we spent a sunny day in Torquay, a slightly more upmarket seaside town and marina, of which I took some unoriginal shots at sunset and dusk. Good views were had overlooking Thatcher's Rock.A good break with plenty to enjoy. 

Back To Iceland by Alpha Whiskey Photography

By some miracle Alpha Whiskey is still alive. When they told me to get lost I decided to go for another drive in Iceland. Life is short and it's important to do the things you enjoy before it expires and I happen to enjoy driving around Iceland. It was definitely more about the experience than the photos as the incessantly inclement weather on the planet's third windiest environment literally dampened the scenery. One particularly memorable experience was getting my 4x4 stuck in the snow in... 
the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain for hours; a ridiculous problem to have given that I had just driven through a lake to get there. Adding to my predicament my phone decided to stop working too. But Lady Luck must have been watching over me. A couple from Germany turned up an hour later hoping the see the same waterfall, only to find me in their way. But they stayed with me for nearly five hours, trying every possible solution to free my vehicle. Eventually we got traction, jacking the wheels up and shoving under them planks of wood that we had 'borrowed' from a nearby empty barn. Everyone said their good byes and left and then came the scary part. The lake had become deeper after several hours of melting ice and driving through it completely alone with no point of reference and no feeling of any surface under the vehicle was an exercise in terror. I was basically steering a boat along what I hoped was the road below. If I became stuck here I was done. But the road finally crept up to meet me through the water as it joined the main highway and my vehicle clambered out. I made it. On this trip I stayed mainly in the south of the island, taking in sights I had seen before but capturing images that I hadn't managed to on my previous trip such as the mountain at Vestrahorn and tide trails around the ice on Diamond Beach. I had started at Geysir and finished at Kirkjufell in the north-west. A particular highlight was a glacier hike and the ice caves, with shimmering light undulating along their glassy walls. Anyway, here is a small sample. The overcast skies, rain fog and wind meant that I have processed these to have a deliberately moody look. 

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