Blog Archives

HDR Photos (Greenfield, MOSI, Media City)

I’ve been experimenting recently with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, which is taking 3 (or more) photos at different exposures and combining them to get the best exposure range across the picture.  I’ve been using some software called Photomatix which came free with a magazine and has a few “painting” type settings which with various tweaking seem to give a surreal effect.  I really like the output, but i’m going to struggle to take a “normal” photo again!  So….. here they are…..

First up (and probably my favourite of the bunch) a couple taken around media city in Manchester, home to the BBC and ITV:

Media City Bridge

BBC Building

These ones were taken at Greenfield just a short train journey from Manchester on the edge of the Peak District (bottom one edited by Mat to get a better composition):

Greenfield view2

Greenfield view5

2016-04-10-22-45-56

Finally, on a wander round the city, I visited the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and popped into the Cathereral:

MOSI1

CHURCH

I really like how most of these turned out and the almost strange effect that can be achieved.  I think it maybe works better on more “human built” things than the natural world, but lots of future experimenting to do!

Ancoats

Ancoats

Since my Lumix GX1 suffered a heat stroke in Gran Canaria and I replaced with a GX7 back in Sept/Oct I barely seem to have used it.  When I’m out running I see so many things I’d love to photograph, but the two hobbies are very incompatible! I finally took a local stroll without my shorts and trainers instead armed with a camera and thought I’d focus on one particular area – the southern part of Ancoats close to Manchester City Centre.

Before I even knew I was destined to become a Manchester resident I visited here back in 2013 with work so spent some eerie time in the deserted/derelict Morning Star hostel and school which I mentioned in THIS POST.  Its a strange area on the fringe of the city, clearly industrial, but lots of deserted/derelict buildings with pockets of nice flats, kind of like the Northern Quarter has burst its seams and some hipsters have spilled over Great Ancoats Street clutching their Macbooks and little dogs.  I’ve not gone for beautiful photos here (ability problems) so just tried to capture the vibe of the area.  So, without further ado, here are a few snaps!.

Anita street

Anita Street, very clean and well presented considering the surrounding area!

Coffee

Nestled inside an old Mill, a coffee shop serving Ancoats Coffee.  A true hispter hangout.

barbed wire

I wouldn’t try getting in here….

 

Car

The hawk-eyed amongst you will be screaming “That’s not Ancoats!!!” and you’d be right.  I wanted to try out keeping some colour in a B&W photo so here is my first effort.  This car is in the NQ right by Cord bar and hasn’t moved since I began living here.

George Leigh Street

George Leigh Street

wall

I too, wish I knew the way.

Smiths

Swift half down Smith’s?

So there you go.  It was good to get out with the camera again and also try out a few different editing techniques on the pics above.  Until next time…..

 

Ectopic Beats

WALL

I’ve had an idea in my head for years about doing some kind of big doom metal track with crunching guitars and blast beats. I’ve finally got round to extracting the idea from brain to airwaves. Not content with keeping it straight “doom”, I’ve snuck in some 80s synth pop/rock, dark metal screaming, middle eastern twangs and some other synth warblings.

Not for the faint hearted or anyone with sensitive eardrums, here is ……. Ectopic Beats.

Techy stuff: All drums manually programmed on EZDrummer using the Drumkit from Hell kits, but I also managed to include a short section using the classic TR8 drum machine. For the first time I’ve also programmed all of the guitar lines (played through a Korg Kross) and most of the lead lines as well, using the in-built Cubase synth Halion Sonic. Its a totally different way of working and its been great to try something different and be able to change sounds after you’ve laid a part down, but then I don’t think you quite get the same vibe as “normal” recording.  Great to give it a try though, and that’s what the music is about on the site, trying out different stuff! The Arturia Microbrute also features here, leaving programming at the door, that’s just big dirty analogue sounds and live tweaking.

On other subjects, running is becoming all time-consuming now with the next few weeks dedicated to building up my fitness to achieve a 50km run at the end of March. Followed by the Manchester Marathon two weeks later. It may be my legs that end up in a bucket rather than the tentacles after that. I’m doing the run for sponsorship, so if any kind souls out there want to sponsor me, please visit my JustGiving page HERE

 

Private Show (and some piano)

Private Show

I spotted this whilst out and about and had to get a picture.  The homeless man perhaps trying to enjoy a rare nice moment of life with a good read accompanied by some violin.  At least it gave me the title to this post: Private Show.

On to the point of the post, its been ages since I’ve recorded any piano, so here are a few pieces I’ve been playing in my lessons.  First up, is the start of Sarabande in D minor by Handel.  I played it a few times on piano and then switched to the strings setting and thought  it sounded better, so I recorded it like that.

Sarabande in D minor (Handel)

Here is the piano version too.

Next up is a piece I started learning over two years ago, but then gave up on it.  I picked it up again recently so thought I’d record it.  It is Bach, Prelude in C.  This has been difficult, firsty to keep up the consistency of the continuous rhythm, but then also inject some feeling into it because of its continuous rhythm, but here it is as a record of my progress.  The piece is fantastic, with some amazing chord progressions throughout.

Prelude in C (Bach)

Finally, a piece from Jazz Piano Pieces – Grade 2.  I bought the book because I wanted to try and do a few pieces that I can learn relatively quickly.  I’ve still found them tough though!

Contemplation (Tyner arr. Iles)

Just to finish off with a random picture, here is the outside of Victoria Station in Manchester City Centre.  Its an air-filled ETFE roof and looks great in the right light.  These couple of pics were from my new Lumix GX7, now at bargain price due to the release of the GX8.  I’ve not had much chance to try it out yet other than one quick wander round the city and I didn’t manage to capture much….

DStinton Victoria Station

Streetwork

DJ-Dog

The title inspired by Morbid Angel’s Hatework, here is a very non metal track including samples of street performers around Manchester.

The geek details: I used a recording of the drunkards in The Unicorn in my last track, so I decided to do some more ‘field’ recording in the City.  I used my phone to record clips of various street performers, so not great quality. The core of the track uses a couple of short loops from a live drummer in Piccadilly Gardens and then some “phat” dubstep style beat boxing recorded on Market St for the breakdown.  The “radio” intro also features me, Hare Krishna chanting and buskers playing the piano and singing.

In the interests of throwing it all in, I’ve used sounds of bassoon, analogue synth (bass and lead), piano, koto, charang, organ, gang chanting plus some extra programmed drums.  The whole thing was a bit of an experiment and might be a bit erratic, but hey, that’s the way I like it!

Hopefully I’ll record a couple of classical piano pieces I’ve been learning soon!

A Glowing City

I took a late Sunday afternoon stroll on Sunday, camera in hand to see what was happening around the City Centre.  I wanted to get some “people” shots, but sometimes its just not happening so I ended up looking out for nice architecture and buildings.  Of which there is loads!  It was a nice evening and once the light dropped a bit there was a nice orange glow everywhere.  A few of my favourites below.  The first one in particular worked really well, and it all got rather exciting as I got kicked off by security so had to rush the shots!

Arndale

Above Shudehill at sunset

Tunnel

Part of the Town Hall extension (I think)

Seat

Such extravagance! A light up seat

Rubbish2

Its not all good.  Scummy back alley.

NQ

The NQ.  My adopted home.  As much as I miss the Black Country, I wouldn’t have it any other way right now 🙂

Bar room piano!

P1040963

Music feeds the imagination right? I’ve learnt this piece in my piano lessons and every time I play it I get the vision of some smokey raucous jazz/blues bar, with an old beat up piano that everyone is free to have a go on.  Its from the ABRSM Jazz Piano book, a version of Dizzy Gillespies “Birks Works” arranged by Pete Churchill.

When it came to record it, rather than keeping it clean I thought I’d try and get it sounding a bit like my vision! After a quick recording session I wandered into The Unicorn, a “traditional” pub filled with energetic boozehounds firmly rooted in the NQ. Bearing in mind it was Saturday afternoon it was quite lively as you may hear from the Tarzan noises! The footsteps and doors are added purely for dramatic effect.

Next up is the same song again! This time recorded on my 1980s Casiotone mere minutes before some guy came to collect it. I loved the sound of it but you can’t keep everything! I just thought I’d record a ‘final’ piece on it and here it is (a bit scrappy but not much choice as it was leaving the house!)

Finally, almost due to hit 3000 hits…. its only taken 2.5 years! Thanks to all the “lookers” 🙂

Uppermill (Saddleworth)

I finally had an opportunity to try a few long exposure shots with water after a short train journey to Uppermill, a nice little village in Saddleworth.  It seems all the rage at the moment and I really like the “other worldly” effect you can achieve.  I’ll be searching for some more locations for better composition, but here are first few attempts….

water3 Water1 water4

Urban Grime

During my short walk to work, as I edge round the corner into Thomas Street, I’m quite often greeted by a sunrise that almost deserves an applause.  Its always on my “to do” list to force myself out of bed on a weekend and be out early with my camera to capture the Northern Quarter in such a great early morning light.  This weekend….. I got up, emerged from my flat to a sky that resembled a dishcloth.  Then it started to snow on me.  Undeterred I wandered the streets anyway and took a few pics as the mist gradually descended, some things aren’t just meant to happen eh?  Typically I walked to work the next day and was greeted by a sunrise that could win awards…….

Enough of the moaning, the grim morning and deserted Northern Quarter streets were thoroughly enjoyable so I snapped away merrily trying to capture what I’ve titled here as the Urban Grime.  This area is scattered with bars filled with patrons sporting poetic beards and colourful tattoos, oozing a “vintage” vibe which clearly justifies adding £1 to the price of a beer, but alongside that are many abandoned buildings and dubious looking structures, each giving a hint of a time gone by.   Here is a bit of “Urban Grime” without a trendy bar in sight.  As I uploaded I soon realised I seem to have become obsessed with pictures of doors, no doubt behind each lies a wealth of stories and history.

To accompany the pics here is an quick improvised piece using an arpeggio and drum beat from my keyboard, but connected to my new analogue “Microbrute”.  This had the cool effect of the arpeggio triggering the minbrute which meant I could concentrate on warping the sounds throughout.  Press record, one hand on keys and the other twiddling dials and it was recorded.  A couple of edits to pan parts of the synth track and that was that.  Maybe a bit repetitive, but it all turned out rather dark and nasty.  Great.

EDIT Doorway2

An intriguing doorway on Thomas Street

EDIT Short Street

Suspiciously lurking in Short Street.

EDIT Doorway

Go on. Phone them.

EDIT Brixton

This shop is clearly mistaken as to where exactly they have set up their business

EDIT Back Turner

“We’ve been building something”.  Have you? Where?

EDIT Street Fog

Bleak

EDIT Thomas

Grime at its finest.

EDIT Tentacles

Mighty tentacles.

 

 

 

Lost (S.I.D.)

TRAM2

自傷行為荒廃

The tale of being……  well……. messed up.

The boring stuff: A track mere days after the last one? That’s right, in stark contrast to my last effort, yesterday this was turn on the gear and GO, write/play/record and mix in a few hours.  I’ve just added another track and re-mixed today, and in anti-perfectionist mode, that is how its staying.  Mainly using my new Arturia Microbrute (drums on a Roland TR-8) this is lots of dirty analogue noise, and a bit of frantic energy.  I have no idea why but I kept thinking of the classic 80s Sega game Space Harrier.  Megadrive on ebay anyone?

Welcome to 2015.