Return to Rihanna's Tree - ( Fine Art Tree Photography ) by admin


  Fine Art Tree Photography, in Northern Ireland Hi again.  If you've read my blog before or browsed my website, you might recognise these two black & white images.  In 2013, I had the privledge of winning 2 Gold Awards for images of this iconic tree not far from my home in County Down, Northern Ireland.

  (Psst! Don't forget, you need to click on the images to see them in more detail!)


Life in a Hopeless Place - Gold Award Winner March 2013 SWPP - Fine Art Tree Photography


This first shot was the first image that I entered and I was really pleased that it was given a Gold award as a landscape.  That fit the feel and atmosphere that I wanted to convey.  A lone tree stretching out it branches to the world, beckoning us in.


Fine Art Tree Photography by Geoff McGrath, Helens Bay, Co.Down, Northern Ireland


This second shot was taken around the same time as the first one, but for me, I wanted to do something far more intimate and personal with this shot.  I wanted the viewer to see the tree.  Its detail.  The textures in the bark and the branches.. in short, its character.  I have long identified with this tree, as I am sure many of you have.  This tree has been beaten by the weather, up on the top of this hill and has taken the worst that nature can throw at it and still its here.  Life can be like that and sometimes we feel like the tree.... or in the words of Elton John, "I'm Still Standing!"  That's why the tree forms part of my logo.  It reminds me every day, that I'm still standing. I really love creating images like this and fine art tree photography in general.


I've heard it said of Ansel Adams that he would return to an area again and again and at different times and seasons to see if there was something new he could see and learn.  I like that.  And, its something that I do.  This tree grabs my attention every time I drive past it and I always find myself considering doing something new with it.


So, a few weeks ago, on my way to Belfast, I had a little time to spare and since I generally carry my camera and tripod with me most of the time, I decided to stop and see what I could see new in this scene.  The field was full of what I think was barley and it was getting close to harvest time.  I loved the idea of being able to capture movement amongst the barley as well as the colours and new textures.  What difference was this going to make to my shooting my old friend, the Tree.


At this point I need to say that I as I entered the field I was very conscious of my need to be respectful of the farmer and his crop.  I'd previously phoned the owners and asked for permission and was told that it was fine to enter at any time.  They'd seemed quite shocked that I had called because they told me that most people just enter the field without any consideration or asking permission.  With this in mind, I trod really carefully through the crop, making sure to not make any fresh tracks, following existing ones as I didn't want to damage anything.    

Rihannas Tree - Colour Cast - Geoff McGrath Photography - Fine Art Tree Photography


Here I've added a colour cast as well as some neutral density using Nik software's Analog Efex and Colour Efex software.  I have been using Nik for the past few years and love the consistency that it gives me.  Also, with the new Analog Efex, it has really expanded my creative pallet.


In the Barley - Rihannas Tree - Fine Art Tree Photography


One of the things I wanted to explore was the tree itself and see what it looked like from different perspectives and sides.  Here I've used my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 II AT-X Pro .  I'd have liked to been able to get more of the tracks on the right into the shot, but it wasn't possible without losing the feel of the shot.


Rhiannas Tree - Fine Art - Wet Plate - Fine Art Tree Photography


Now, this is another one of the great creative options I was talking about earlier.  Analog Efex gives you the possibility to simulate other, more traditional treatments such as those one could produce in a darkroom using not only film, but in this instance, wet plate.  There is great freedom to control various elements such as water streaks etc.  You either love this or hate it.  Don't worry thought, I won't fall out with you over it.  I personally like it.  I'm very aware of the fact that photography and art in general is very subjective, so its ok to disagree. For example, not everyone is as into fine art tree photography as I am! :)


Personally I just love the feel of this.... As well as using Nik software I also have added 3 different textures working carefully to get just the right level of opacity for each of them.  For those who don't speak Photoshop-ese, I basically blended some different textures over the top of the image to give it some extra character and punch. Now, my trip to the Tree wouldn't be complete without some iPhoneography.


Rhiannas Tree - iPhoneography - Fine Art Tree Photography



I shot this on my iPhone 5 with the 645ProMkII app, one of my favourite camera apps.  There's a new version out 645ProMkIII which is excellent (I'm still experimenting with it so haven't too much to say about it at the moment.)  I added some texture to this shot using the DistressedFX app and then saved it and went back in again and added the birds using the same app.  Finally I bordered the image in Pixlr-o-matic.


All-in-all, it was a productive trip.  I always come away from this place feeling invigorated. Being at the foot of The Tree is always a good place to be.


Workstation - Ode to Hockney by admin

A number of months ago, I happened to see a really interesting program on the work of David Hockney and specifically his thoughts about the use of photography in his work.  But who is David Hockney? Biography.com describes Hockney as "one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century." For more information on Hockney, click here. For a period, he used Polariod as a medium and while he would never claim to be a photographer, got some interesting results. Check out some of his polaroid work here.

So, inspired by this rather strange format, I decided to give it a go.  I've shown it to Rosemary, my muse and got the impression that fluffy sheep photos would be more her liking!


Workstation 2 - Ode to Hockney


Anyway, its good to experiment and try new things.  One thing I did learn was that this is not something that's easy to do.  It takes time to plan out your grid properly as originally I ended up with stray images and no discernable border. Here's my first attempt...


Workstation - Ode to Hockney

Smartphoneography by admin

  Since the Smartphoneography Workshops at Holywood and Dungannon Libraries during the LibrariesNI Creative Month, I've probably spent more time photographing with my iPhone than my regular DSLR.  Mainly that's because I made a commitment to the folks who attended the training that I would follow up with workshops with some more practical help.  That resulted in the first issue of a newsletter that I hope to continue on a semi-regular basis.


Boarded Up Window - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography



I suppose that one of the things that was most noticeable was that doing a Smartphoneography workshop is not as easy as it sounds, given the fact that there are at least 3 different types of phone to consider and each has very specific differences, so the hardest part was making sure that there was material to cover all of these and the newsletter will continue that on.



Bus Stop - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography



Would you like to know more about Smartphoneography ?  If so, email me and I will add you to the mailing list for the newsletter and will also keep you up to date with any further workshops that are coming up.



Florality 3 - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography



All this of course pushed me to explore more and more apps and to find some ways of expression and again I'm immensely grateful to Skip (Paul Brown) at www.skipology.com for his excellent tutorials and his advice.



Dungannon Arts Centre - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography



Smartphone photography (or smartphoneography ) is teaching me never to just settle for something being just ok.  I really want to push to continue to develop in my understanding and so I do find myself returning to previous images with fresh ideas and different apps to see what I can improve upon.

I've recently updated my iPhoneography Page with some fresh images, so please take a look.




Donaghadee Commons - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography



This is one of my favourite images of recent work that I've done and its amazing to note that normally now, I find myself working between 5 to 8 apps for each image, sometimes returning to them again.  I've also been discovering that the use of layers and masks now is very popular in the iPhoneography / Smartphoneography Community.  The beautiful thing about this medium is the ability to post-process on-the-spot, which means that I can do a much better job of capture the feeling and the emotion of that single moment.



Photographer - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography



This is another image that I wanted to share with you.  I took it recently at W5, in the Odyssey Complex in Belfast.  My daughter and grandson were visiting and so we took a trip to see W5.  It was granda's first time there and so we shared the newness of the experience together.   At one point, I just happened to turn around and there he was, taking a photograph of his mum and I saw my chance to capture that moment forever.   The image was perfectly exposed for him, but sadly due to a bright spotlight, my daughter's face was over-exposed and so it gave me the idea to make this shot all about the new little photographer that had just blossomed in front of me.  With the help of more than a few apps, I was able to add some creative blur and effects to produce this colourful and unusual image.



Windmill & Tree - iphone photographer Geoff McGrath - Smartphoneography



This shot actually sat really nicely as a black & white image, but I sensed there was a better story to be told.  it was shot in the middle of day around lunchtime and the sun was high in the sky, but this didn't stop me from getting creative and introducing my own sun, just between the tree and the old windmill.  I also added fog to the image as i wanted more atmosphere in the shot.   I really liked the image that I ended up with.  However, I still wanted to explore it some more and so this next image is another version of the same shot.  Which one do you prefer?  :)



Windmill & Tree - Smartphoneography



Well, I will draw this blog to a close for now.  I hope you found it interesting.  I'm currently looking into some new and interesting ways to make my images available, so watch this space for more details.  Don't forget to check out my iPhoneography Page and I would really encourage you to share my images if you like this, as this helps tremendously.  :)


Take care,



A Stroll on the Beach by admin

  Yesterday as part of our relaxing Bank Holiday weekend, we went for a drive to the other side of Strangford Lough down towards the Mournes and ended up staring out at the beach in Newcastle.


After a surreal experience at the Slieve Donard, where there was an Antiques Fair, we went back into the town, parked up and went for a walk down the Promenade.  I'd wanted to walk down the sea-front to get some shots on my iPhone of the beach and the sea.


Taken using Camera+ (a much better option that the built-in camera on the iPhone 5) I was able to set my exposure and focal points separately.  I found a mid-range area to expose the image with and focussed on the beach itself.


The result was a fairly pleasing little shot, but I knew that this was not the end as I planned to sit down when I went home and work on it some more on my iPad.


So, how did I get from this.....


newcastle beach




to this....?  

On the Beach - taken at Newcastle, Co.Down







Well for starters, why did I take it?  What was it that really stood out to me?  I love the tonal quality of the sky, the depth of contrast within the clouds and then also the sea had a very definite look to it and I wanted to exploit that.


At this point I would like to say another word of thanks to Skip (Paul Brown) of Skipology as I've found his tutorials extremely helpful in exploring various apps and of course, I've bought a few apps in the process, as I am always looking for new information and possibilities for my own iPhoneography / Smartphoneography Workshops. (See here for more details)


One thing I keep repeating is that it is YOUR vision that makes the image.  That and being able to translate that into a form that others can see and appreciate.  All the apps in the world are worthless if you don't know what you want to do or even what you like!  Skip's tutorial based on a seascape he did some time ago, basically opened my eyes to some different ways to look at things. I did some things as he did but since my image was different in some ways, I came up with some other ways to interpret the shot that suited me better.


I opened the image in Snapseed to straighten it but found that it was pretty darned near perfect as it was.  That was easy eh?  Since I was working with a colour image (Skip's image started off shot in black & white in Hipstamatic) I already had the colour I wanted and so went to Phototoaster and applied the Clarify filter, which just lifted the detail a little on the beach.  I normally would use "Detail" on Snapseed for this followed by "Drama" but I liked the subtle treatment that Toaster gave the image.  After each stage, I saved the shot.


Then it was into Distressed FX (a new app to me!) and it was a really cool app to work with.  I loved the textures and effects options that it gave me.  I added some birds and used the Charm filter in it.  I saved the image then went to Trey Ratcliff's 100CamerasIn1 and as per Skip's suggestion, I added the "It seemed like a good plan" filter, but instead of setting to minimum, I chose to crank it to about 30% as I didn't like the loss of colour.


That was pretty much it.  The big revelation for me was Distressed FX and the beautiful texturing.  You know, one thing that being given the opportunity to teach workshops does for you is it makes you very aware of how much you have to learn and it makes you hungry to learn more.  I can't pass on what I don't know and so this whole process for me has been a real pleasure.


If you haven't already taken a look at my iPhoneography page, click here and have a look.  Also feel free to share the beach image in today's blog post.  Don't forget, if you'd free on the afternoon of 19th March at 3.30pm,   I'll be running the 2nd workshop at Dungannon Library on Smartphone Photography in conjunction withLibrariesNI,.  To book your place, contact the Library directly on 028 8772 2952.  Look forward to seeing you there!



iPhoneography & Smartphone Photography Workshops by admin

Well, the workshop at Holywood was a great success with lots of really helpful feedback and as I look towards the next one at Dungannon Library, I'm excited about what's in store for us there. Whether you call it iPhoneography, Smartphoneography, Smartphone Photography or even Mobiography, one things for sure, it's growing in influence every day...

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Creativity Month - Libraries NI & Smartphone Photography Workshops by admin

Libraries NI - Creativity Month 2014 - Smartphone Photography with Geoff McGrath Some time ago I was asked if I would be interested in the possibility of doing some workshops for Libraries NI.  March is their Creativity Month and Libraries NI wanted to look at Smartphone Photography, since it is a rapidly growing medium now gaining a measure of acceptance and in some cases even respect in the photography community.  LibrariesNI found my iPhoneography page on my website and so this is how things started.



Image property of PCPro.  With thanks.



A short time ago I found out that I had been chosen to run the workshops.  I've not been involved in training for a number of years and the possibility of getting back to it really excited me!





I've been playing with  smartphones since my first Blackberry 9000 which only had a 3.2mp camera.  There were no apps or ways to really do anything with the shots in-camera.  It was the same when I moved to my first Windows Phone, but when I made the move to iPhone suddenly a whole new world opened up to me... the Apps Store!  Since then I have been working with numerous apps, some with more success than others.


Holywood Library, the location of our very first Smartphone Photography Workshop on Wednesday, 5th March, 2014

The first workshop was in Holywood Library on the 5th March with the second to follow on the 19th in Dungannon Library.


I feel very privledged and thankful to LibrariesNI and particularly to Paula Gibson and Jane Moore (of Cultural Services) for all the help in getting organised.



The folks at Holywood have been great as well.  The branch manager, Jo Quinn was really engaged from the very start and she had her staff were so helpful in getting everything sorted for the day.


Tolstoy Letter from the Beloved  by Bob Weil

The workshops was 4 hours long and at first I thought, "How on earth can we fill 4 hours!?"   But the time flew in!


We looked at how Smartphone Photography has grown from its small beginnings to where it is today.   To illustrate this, we looked at the fantastic images at iPhoneArt.com to illustrate just how much one could do with an iPhone / Smartphone, like this one by Bob Weil.





The Art of iPhone Photography by BobWeil & Nicki Fitz-Gerald



Speaking of Bob Weil, I found his and Nicki Fitz-Gerald's book on the Art of iPhone Photography a fastastic resource!


If youare interested in this fantastic new photographic medium you need a copy of this book in your life!



It's available either in paperback or for Kindle.  The imagery is beautiful to say the least and I am loving working through the tutorials in it.  Already I've picked up so much about even basic things regarding Hipstamatic and that was just the first tutorial.  But, I digress!


Attendee listen as I explain Hipstmatic at the recent Smartphone Photography Workshop at Holywood Library


Back at the workshop, not only did we discuss what's possible, but I thought it was important to help folks understand how exactly to take good photographs.  After all, there's little point in having all the tools if you don't know how to see a great image and capture it!


We talked about all the great things that make up a strong image from composition, to exposure to camera height and perspective.  I think folks found that really helpful as we headed out into a practical session, both indoor and outdoor!



Smartphone Photography Workshop at Holywood Library with Geoff McGrath


From there we had a practical session where attendees photographed some fine art subjects as well as braving the rain to explore the Holywood Library building itself.






This shot was taken using the basic camera on my #iPhone 5 then was processed using #Snapseed, #BigLens, #Mystic, #Pixlromatic. After that, we have a look at how to process our images using the likes of #Instagram #Snapseed #Pixlromatic #Hipstamatic #MarbleCam #Leonardo and #Glaze.       Here are a few of my captures from the day...



We then finished with looking some more at how some of the apps worked as well as how to post them online in various social networks like Facebook, Pinterest, 500px, Instagram and Google+.


If you're interested in attending my next Smartphone Photography Workshop in Dungannon Library, places are limited to 15,  so contact the library directly to secure a place.


Maybe you'd like more information about iPhone or Smartphone photography, just send me a message via the site or connect with me on Facebook, Google+ or one of my other profiles.  Just look to the left at the bottom of the site menu and click on the buttons.


Following the Holywood Workshop, I was also asked about One to One sessions by some of the attendees.  If you have any questions or would like to book a session with me, contact me on 07703347943 or email me at training@geoffmcgrathphotography.com  for more information.






iPhoneography / Smartphoneography by admin


Great Victoria Street Station, Belfast  

Most of us these days carry our phones every where don't we?  Smartphones are an everyday part of life.  Gone are the days that we missed the opportunity to capture an image because we didn't have our SLR's with us.  Now everyone can be a photographer.

iPhoneography - Downhill


Not only that....within the past 5 years we have seen amazing advances in technology.    Wireless and Bluetooth technology as well as 3G and 4G give us the ability to quickly transfer, upload and even print out photographs.  I'm sure many of you subscribe to daily deal websites such as Groupon, Wowcher, TreatTicket & LivingSocial to name a few.


Great Victoria Street Station


Recently I decided to try one of these offers and was able to upload a photograph from my Instagram account to a site and buy a 16x24 canvas and it only cost me £14.99.  The quality was not what you'd expect from a professional lab, like Loxley or One Vision, but it was good enough considering the price and the fact that the images were not high resolution.


Now we have something to print and share with others.  We can download the likes of Snapseed, VSCOCam, Exposer GL, Instagram & Camera Awesome.  I have to say the quality is pretty darned impressive.


Over the next while, I'm going to be looking at more detail into exactly whats involved in creating great images with your iPhone or Smartphone, so make sure you subscribe to my blog.


We'll be looking at various apps and well as covering the basics of creating great images.   If you have a bad photograph, all the apps in the world won't make it great.  But, they can make all the difference in turning a good into a fabulous one.


iPhoneography - On the Edge of Town


If you'd like to take a look at more of my iPhone images, click here.


Until next time...