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Photography

Leave only footprints; take only photographs

A good picture is better than a long speech.
Napoleon

With such a variety of scenery and outdoor activities compressed into such a small space, St Helena offers much to the keen photographer, of whatever level of experience.

 

Below: Opportunities For Photographers • What To Bring • Photo examples • Images from various photographers • John Isaac Lilley: our first photographer? • Read More

Photo Opportunity: The Carnival procession, in upper Jamestown
Photo Opportunity: The Carnival procession, in upper Jamestown

Opportunities For Photographers

The Peaks, from the road to Blue Hill
A visiting sailing ship
Scenic view across ‘Old Woman Valley’, featuring ‘High Hill’
Sunset
{a}
Flowers growing at Napoleon’s Tomb
James Bay and the RMS, from Shy Road
The Christmas-Eve Parade in Jamestown
Sunset, over James Bay

From the vibrant colours of a parade in Jamestown to the natural landscapes of the peaks, via seascapes, cliffs, fields, woodlands, flora and fauna of many kinds, there is plenty to attract the eye of the photographer, even without straying far from the road. And with a little walking some remarkable views can be found.

What To Bring

In addition to your camera, a lightweight tripod may be helpful - many colourful activities occur during the cool of the early evening and darkness falls by 7pm even in mid-summer.

If you are going hiking, make sure you have a sturdy and waterproof case for your camera and accessories which can be slung rucksack-style on your back, as some of the tracks require the use of both hands for comfortable walking.

Basic supplies and equipment for digital cameras can be obtained on St Helena, including spare memory cards of most common types.

If your camera takes standard batteries (disposable or rechargeable) you can buy these here, but if your camera uses non-standard rechargeable batteries don’t forget your battery charger! You will almost certainly not be able to buy a replacement on the island and the best you can hope for is that someone here has the same camera as you and can lend you a charger. If bringing a battery charger or other outlet-powered equipment please note that the electricity supply on St Helena is 240v 50Hz, though most accommodations will provide 110v via a shaver-socket.

Please be aware that chemical film processing is not available on the island. If you still use chemical film, bring lots of rolls and a secure container to transport them home for processing.

Various scenes

Taking photographs is one of our Top Twenty things to do during a visit to St Helena.

Photo examples

To see more photographs of St Helena go to one of our image pages:

Information Index
Start here… • This is the master index of all our island information pages

Pictures
A picture paints a thousand words • Saint Helena Island Info is pleased to provide a selection of pictures showing the beautiful and interesting island of St Helena.

Subject Index
These are the pages you are searching for • All good books contain an index…

Picture Gallery
Thumbnails that can be expanded to full size images • Enjoy a selection of pictures from St Helena.

Historic Picture Gallery
Thumbnails that can be expanded to full size images • Enjoy a selection of historic pictures from St Helena.

Slide Show
Automated picture show in random sequence • Enjoy a selection of pictures from St Helena.

Historic Images Slide Show
Automated historic image show in random sequence • Enjoy a selection of historic images from St Helena.

Today’s Images
Look at what we feature • Enjoy two of our images, featured today

Image Search
Find images on our site • This page provides a facility to find images on our site

Artists
Recording images of St Helena • Many artists have turned their talents to making a visual record of St Helena

Postcards of St Helena
Old…and older • St Helena has never had a large tourist industry, but it has always had plenty of postcards.

Flagstaff The Barn, from Dianas Peak, with Longwood in the middle-ground
Flagstaff & The Barn, from Diana’s Peak, with Longwood in the middle-ground

If you have a photo to share that we can use in our pages please email it to us{1}

Images from various photographers

Below: MJ Ltd • Andrew / Peter Neaum • Prize Winner, 2009

MJ Ltd

Merrill Joshua has kindly allowed us to use some of his photographs, as below{b}:

St Helena Woodcraft
St Helena Woodcraft

The Peaks
The Peaks

Cannon at the wharf
Cannon at the wharf

Welcome to Half Tree Hollow!
Welcome to Half Tree Hollow!

Moto-Cross in action
Moto-Cross in action

Eden
Eden

 

Andrew / Peter Neaum

Andrew & Peter Neaum served as priests here in the 1980s{c}:

St. Paul’s Cathedral, 1982
St. Paul’s Cathedral, 1982

Pre-1989 St. Mary’s, The Briars
Pre-1989 St. Mary’s, The Briars

Napoleon Street, 1982
Napoleon Street, 1982

Manati Bay and Speery Island
Manati Bay and Speery Island

 

Prize Winner, 2009

The photograph below, by Ed Thorpe, was judged the best photograph submitted from St Helena from the World Wide Photo Walk in July 2009. It was selected because it beautifully captured the essence of Jamestown. It is an eclectic mix of old and new: 19 rooftops huddled together in the constricts of the valley.{10}

19 Dusty Rooftops
‘19 Dusty Rooftops’{d}

John Isaac Lilley: our first photographer?

John Isaac Lilley may have been St Helena’s first proper photographer{9}, though he was only an amateur.

Lilley was Assistant Superintendent of the Military Store in Jamestown between 1861 and 1866, and immediately upon his arrival began photographing the island. In July 1863 he claimed to have invested some £300 and two years’ labour on his project, stating that his were the first photographs ever taken of St Helena on 11x9inch ‘high-resolution’ plates{4}.

Around 140 of Lilley’s gold-toned albumen prints are believed to have survived. Digital copies of some of his work appear below{2}:

The Castle and fortifications
The Castle and fortifications

Soldiers at Deadwood
Soldiers at Deadwood

Lemon Valley
Lemon Valley

Longwood House
Longwood House

Longwood New House
Longwood New House

Lower Jamestown
Lower Jamestown

Mundens Fort
Mundens Fort

Shipping, James Bay
Shipping, James Bay

St. James’ Church
St. James’ Church

St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral

Ladder Hill before Signal House
Ladder Hill before Signal House

The Briars Pavilion
The Briars Pavilion

 

According to Robin Castell:

The earliest known photograph taken in St Helena is that of Jane Matilda Stace in the year 1856. It was taken by G.W. Melliss (John Melliss’ father) at Oak Bank.

Read More

Below: Article: How to photograph all of St Helena in one go! • That line’s not straight

Article: How to photograph all of St Helena in one go!

Published on earthobservatory.nasa.gov 7th May 2009{2}

St Helena from space
St Helena from space{e}

Saint Helena Island, located in the South Atlantic Ocean approximately 1,860 kilometres west of Africa, was one of the many isolated islands that naturalist Charles Darwin visited during his scientific voyages in the nineteenth century. He visited the island in 1836 aboard the HMS Beagle, recording observations of the plants, animals, and geology that would shape his theory of evolution. This image was acquired by astronauts onboard the International Space Station as part of an ongoing effort (the HMS Beagle Project) to document current biodiversity in areas visited by Charles Darwin.

This astronaut photograph shows the island’s sharp peaks and deep ravines; the rugged topography results from erosion of the volcanic rocks that make up the island. The change in elevation from the coast to the interior creates a climate gradient. The higher, wetter centre is covered with green vegetation, whereas the lower coastal areas are drier and hotter, with little vegetation cover. Human presence on the island has also caused dramatic changes to the original plants and animals of the island. Only about 10 percent of the forest cover observed by the first explorers now remains in a semi-natural state, concentrated in the interior highlands.

Saint Helena Island is perhaps best known as the place where Napoleon Bonaparte I of France was exiled following his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815; he died and was buried on the island in 1821. Later, his remains were returned to France. Today, the island is a British Overseas Territory, with access provided thirty times a year by a single ship, the RMS St Helena.

Astronaut photograph ISS019-E-14918 was acquired on May 7, 2009, with a Nikon 2DXs digital camera fitted with a 400mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 19 crew. The image in this article has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artefacts have been removed. The International Space Station program supports the laboratory to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.

Instrument(s): ISS - Digital Camera

More images of St Helena from space on our Weather and climate page.

That line’s not straight

Example image

Have a look at the photo on the right. Does something look a little odd? Yes - the horizon isn’t flat. Read on to find out why (and how it could have been prevented…)

Have you ever taken a photo, looked at it afterwards, and realised there was something odd about it, though you perhaps can’t immediately see what? Not just a waste-bin or some other object that you don’t remember being in shot, but something just slightly not-right?

The way cameras work can cause minor distortions in the photos we take. One common one is Perspective Distortion. If you are researching for a science paper on perspective distortion, stop reading now and go instead to the Wikipedia page ‘Perspective distortion (photography)’ for a detailed technical explanation. If you just want a lay-person’s explanation, and some tips for preventing it, see below.

Why is the horizon bent?

What’s wrong with the picture above is that the horizon isn’t straight. This photo appeared on Facebook™{5} and there was some debate going on in the ‘comments’ about why that would be. Someone had pointed out that, if you go up high enough, the horizon does appear curved. The earth is, after all, a ball, not a disc{6}. But this photo was taken from the cliffs on St Helena - that’s the RMS St Helena in the bay - and they are only about 450m high. That’s nowhere near high enough for the curvature to be as pronounced as it is in this photo. The answer lies in the camera lens.

Every lens has a parameter called it’s ‘focal length’. Look on the front of your camera and, near or on the lens, you will probably see a number that looks like a measurement in millimetres, e.g. 35mm. Exactly what the focal length is needn’t bother us here {7}. What matters is that it affects the width of the image you can capture with your camera. And it also can cause your photos to be distorted.

Early simple cameras tended to have a lens with a focal length of 50mm. Nowadays it is usually 35mm or lower. The smaller the focal length, the wider the image taken, and the change was made so that camera users could easily get more into their pictures. With a wider-angle lens you don’t have to step back to get Auntie Ethel into the picture, or move further away to get the whole Diana’s Peak range in. But, as always, there’s a price.

At f=50mm the image is pretty much undistorted, but as you decrease the focal length the level of distortion increases and straight lines become more and more curved. Take this to extremes and, at focal lengths below 16mm you get an effect known as a ‘fish-eye’ view. Have a look on the Wikipedia for some examples of quite extreme fish-eye view photographs and there's also one on our Jacob’s Ladder page - a view of Jamestown taken from the top of the ladder. Fish-eye lenses are great for special effects but not so good for taking snapshots of your family & friends. Camera makers aim for something in the middle, giving a wide angle of view with an ‘acceptable’ amount of distortion.

What can I do about it?

Professional and serious hobby photographers use cameras that take interchangeable lenses, with different focal lengths. They have the option to choose a lens that will minimise (or maximise, if that’s the effect they want) the perspective distortion. But the ordinary point-and-shoot cameras that most people use don’t have interchangeable lenses. If your camera has an optical zoom (i.e. the lens actually moves in and out as you change the zoom{8}) you could try using longer focal lengths. Just zoom in, though you may then have to step backwards to get everything in. But there is also a simpler trick that will usually work.

The prominence of the distortion tends to increase towards the edges of the photograph. The horizon in the example above is in the top quarter of the image, and so is quite distorted. Had the photo been composed with the horizon running through the middle of the photograph, the distortion wouldn’t have shown up. Of course the picture would have also had a lot more sky in it, but that could have been cropped out afterwards. Modern digital cameras take quite high-resolution images so a degree of cropping is possible while still keeping good image quality. So if it had really mattered that the horizon appear straight, that would probably have worked without having to change positions.

Laugh at funny Photography humour - LOL

Credits:
{a} Geoff Benjamin{b} MJ Ltd.{c} Andrew/Peter Neaum{d} Ed Thorpe{e} Earth Observatory, taken from the ISS

Footnotes:
{1} We cannot pay for photos but we do credit the photographer.{2} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.{3} Father of John Melliss.{4} He did admit that a few small views had previously been taken by other amateurs.{5} Thank you to Fay Howe for letting us use her photo.{6} Though fans of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett may wish it was otherwise.{7} The answer’s on the Wikipedia of course.{8} As opposed to electronic zoom, which manipulates the image that is captured but doesn’t change the focal length.{9} It is said that the illustrations in Views of St Helena, by G.W. Melliss{3}, published in 1857 were drawn from original photographs, but if this is true the photographs no longer survive so G.W. Melliss{3} loses out to Lilley, in our opinion.{10} Taken from the St Helena Herald, 21st August 2009. {2}.

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