Staff Writer on January 14th, 2010

If you are anything like me, you will have an insatiable appetite for books on photography. There is no doubt in my mind that you can learn a lot from them and I like to think that I already have. But some are better than others, some photographers are better writers/teachers than others and I guess some styles appeal to us more than others.

My recent experience was strange, though, as I read two books from the same author and was very disappointed in the first and absolutely blown away by the second

I am sticking my neck out here, as the author I am referring to is none other than Joe McNally, one of the best photographers in the World.

I started to read “The Moment it Clicks” with great anticipation, as it promised a “triangle of learning” where “Joe distils the concept down to one brief sentence”, then “on the facing page is one of Joe’s brilliant images” – So far so good. Then “you get the inside story of how the shot was taken, including which type of equipment he used (lens, f/stop. lighting, accessories, etc)”.

That’s where I beg to differ, because in almost all cases, you don’t hear a word about the lens, f/stop and accessories, usually just the lighting.

I am not saying that I didn’t learn anything and I was certainly well impressed with the pictures, but overall I was disappointed.

So when someone bought me a copy of The Hot Shoe Diaries, I wasn’t expecting too much.

How wrong could I be. It is the most fantastic, inspirational treatise on flash lighting techniques that you could ever wish for. It helps if you use the Nikon system but as someone who has owned an SB-900 for a while and never really used it, I was inspired, delighted, excited and now can’t wait to get out there and make my own light. As before the photographs are simply superb.

Thanks for that Joe, but what went wrong the first time? The triangle of learning concept is a good one but guys like me need our hand holding quite a bit more that we got in “The Moment”. I think “The Diaries” was written after “The Moment” so the next book might be even better. If so, I can’t wait.

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Staff Writer on January 7th, 2010

Always on the lookout for novel ways to take interesting photographs, I recently became the proud owner of a Lensbaby Composer.

For those of you who are not familiar with it, it is a relatively cheap manually focusing lens that comes with a set of aperture rings that make the sweet spot smaller or larger. The front of the lens is mounted on bellows, so that you can point it at whichever part of the frame you wish. Different models fit most types of SLR cameras.

The results are amazing, normally interesting and cause you to think, “how did they do that?”

It’s incredible that we spend a fortune getting the best glass we can for our cameras and then something like this comes along and wins our hearts through an interesting effect rather than the ultimate in image quality.

Have a look at the General section of the Gallery on this site.  The Christmas Tree image was taken with a Lensbaby.

Lensbaby

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Staff Writer on December 29th, 2009
I have been using a Seculine Twin1 R3-TRN wireless remote for some time now and I wouldn’t be without it for close ups when I am using a tripod and live view to avoid camera shake.
In the last few days I have had a problem with the shutter not firing and am going to have it checked to see if the problem is with the unit or the 10-pin connector on the camera.
As a result of this, I was searching the web and came across something that I have been expecting the camera manufacturers to come up with for some time now, namely a remote screen that allows you to view the image on your camera from any direction. But this device is made, not by a camera manufacturer, but by the same people as the wireless release mentioned above, namely Seculine.
There are in fact two types of unit available, one that fits over the viewfinder and relays an image to the screen. It does this by working like a video camera and filming what it sees in the viewfinder. The second, for cameras that have a live view facility, is a unit that produces the image that would normally appear on the camera screen by using the TV output port on the camera.
The Seculine Zigview 2.5 inch screen can be mounted up to 50m away from the camera and the unit can also be used for a range of timer interval shots. See http://www.zigview.co.uk/
The amazing thing is that although the units have been available for 12-months, they don’t seem to have received too many reviews. I would have thought that people would be crying out for one of these things and I will try one myself as soon as I can. If anyone has direct experience, either good or bad, I would be very pleased to hear about it.
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Staff Writer on December 23rd, 2009
When I am not taking photographs, one of the other things I like to do is ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and I have said many times, “you’re never alone with a Harley”.
The reason I say this is that no matter where you are, the moment you park, someone will come up to you and want to admire the bike and talk about riding it, polishing it, how much it costs, whether they leak oil and break down and a host of other topics.
Now it might be because it’s the day before Christmas Eve and people are much more friendly than usual and more willing to talk, but the same thing seems to apply to photography.
I was in Leadenhall Market in the City of London looking for last minutes gifts, savouring the atmosphere, and taking a few pictures. I hadn’t even got the camera out of the bag before I was approached by a man and a woman and the man enquired if I was a professional. I have no idea what gave him that idea but it is nice to know I look the part.
I immediately said no, as I assumed that he was the market superintendent, about to tell me that it was private property and if I didn’t have a permit, I had better move on or the ghost of Christmas Past would come down to haunt me.
However, this was not the case. He was one of a massive and growing body of people who want to move on from taking snaps on a compact camera but don’t have a clue what it is all about. We talked about what costs the money in a camera, why some are better than others, zoom lenses and electronic zoom and a host of other things. It seems that he hasn’t had too good an experience talking to people in camera shops and was looking for advice wherever he could find it.
Good for him, asking questions is the best way of getting the answers in my experience. I told him to play it safe and go for Canon or Nikon, set a budget and go buy a digital SLR with and 18 to 200 zoom lens or thereabouts and try a few in the shop and see which he prefers in terms of weight etc. I could have gone on to tell him to go to Grays of Westminster, Jacobs in New Oxford Street, Morris Photographic or several others that I like but I was itching to take my shots.
The moral of this tale, if there is one is simply that it is good to talk and compare notes and I hope that when we are out taking photographs, even if it isn’t Christmas, we can bond as photographers, rather like bikers do in order to share and enhance our joint passion.
Have a very Merry Christmas.
Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market

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Staff Writer on November 25th, 2009
It’s not at all painful.
They say that all the best ideas are simple ones and this is certainly the case with the Plamps. Where on earth the name came from I am not sure but it is really easy to remember as there is nothing else that sounds remotely like it.
How often as a photographer do you wish that you had more than one pair of hands? Also, how often are you stuck for a way to hold something that you want to photograph on the floor or on a table. And how often do you wish that the flower you are trying to capture in close up in the garden would keep still. If you are like me – very often!
This is where the Plamps come in. They are flexible rod like things about 50cm long with a very strong clip on one end and a lighter one on the other. The idea is that you fix the strong clamp to something rigid or the leg of your tripod and the light clamp is used to hold the flower or other object that you want to photograph. You can also use a second or third one to hold other items such as reflectors.
So suddenly it is as if you had a couple of assistants with you. The conversation isn’t too great and they can’t make cups of tea but the are truly fantastic at holding things still for as long as you need them to. Wonderful.
It’s not at all painful.
They say that all the best ideas are simple ones and this is certainly the case with the Plamps. Where on earth the name came from I am not sure but it is really easy to remember as there is nothing else that sounds remotely like it.
How often as a photographer do you wish that you had more than one pair of hands? Also, how often are you stuck for a way to hold something that you want to photograph on the floor or on a table. And how often do you wish that the flower you are trying to capture in close up in the garden would keep still? If you are like me – very often!
This is where the Plamps come in. They are flexible rod like things about 50cm long with a very strong clip on one end and a lighter one on the other. The idea is that you fix the strong clamp to something rigid or the leg of your tripod and the light clamp is used to hold the flower or other object that you want to photograph. You can also use a second or third one to hold other items such as reflectors.
So suddenly it is as if you had a couple of assistants with you. The conversation isn’t too great and they can’t make cups of tea but they are truly fantastic at holding things still for as long as you need them to. Wonderful.
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Staff Writer on November 10th, 2009

I had heard about Mr CAD in Croydon, South London some time ago but never visited. However, I needed a close up lens and some filters for my Pentax ME that I am using for Black & White photography at the moment.

Now I have to confess that Croydon is not one of my favourite places. I find it too busy, too aggressive, confusing to drive around and impossible to park in.

When I arrived at Mr CAD, I thought that I had died and gone to Heaven. They have a car park with spaces available. When you go inside, the place is packed to the rafters with old and new photographic equipment of all shapes and sizes. I was greeted,(I think by Mr CAD himself), who is quite a character and as knowledgeable and helpful a person as you could possible wish to meet.

I picked up the close up lenses and filters I needed and a couple of other items that I didn’t know I needed, and all second hand at very affordable prices. I then had a browse around for an extremely enjoyable half an hour and listened in to the discussions going on at the counter with enormous interest. All the place needs is a coffee shop and they’d never get rid of us.

If you live anywhere near Croydon, I can’t recommend Mr CAD too strongly. If you don’t though, a good second choice might be to visit the web site. www.mrcad.co.uk

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Staff Writer on November 8th, 2009

Some time ago I decided to enter a couple of my macro pictures of flowers into a competition run by the Daily Telegraph. Imagine my surprise and delight therefore when a friend rang to say that she had seen one of them on the font page of the gardening section on Saturday 24 October. That was when the results were declared and although I didn’t win, I was in the top ten out of thousands submitted.

Not too many people can say that their pictures have been seen in a National newspaper and I feel quite proud and inspired to try and repeat the success.

The image in question is shown below and in my gallery but you can see the other images in the link below.

Poppy

Poppy

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardeningpicturegalleries/6068164/Your-favourite-plant-competition.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardeningpicturegalleries/6068164/Your-favourite-plant-competition.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardeningpicturegalleries/6068164/Your-favourite-plant-competition.html
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Staff Writer on October 30th, 2009
I knew the name and always thought of him as one of those legendary photographers that we should look at and learn from, but as I continue with my black & white project I discovered the zone system.
The is something that all respectable black & white photographers know about and is also one of the fundamentals that all photographers should look into. And the whole concept was invented by Ansel Adams.
This lead me to buy a copy of his book “The Negative” and although it gets “a bit heavy” in parts, it is well worth the effort. As I got half way though it, I suddenly felt as if I was really beginning to understand what photography is all about. I picked my copy up for 95p plus postage on Amazon and it came from the Oxfam shop so I think everyone won on that deal.
I will now use a separate light meter as well as auto exposure on the camera and try to use the lessons of the zone system even when I am shooting colour with the digital camera. I will use filters more both on the camera and in Photoshop afterwards and I will be much more adventurous with exposure and contrast adjustments, just as I am with timing and filters in the darkroom.
I knew the name and always thought of him as one of those legendary photographers that we should look at and learn from, but as I continue with my black & white project I discovered the zone system.
This is something that all respectable black & white photographers know about and is also one of the fundamentals that all photographers should look into. And the whole concept was invented by Ansel Adams.
This lead me to buy a copy of his book “The Negative” and although it gets “a bit heavy” in parts, it is well worth the effort. As I got half way though it, I suddenly felt as if I was really beginning to understand what photography is all about. I picked my copy up for 95p plus postage on Amazon and it came from the Oxfam shop so I think everyone won on that deal.
I will now use a separate light meter as well as auto exposure on the camera and try to use the lessons of the zone system even when I am shooting colour with the digital camera. I will use filters more both on the camera and in Photoshop afterwards and I will be much more adventurous with exposure and contrast adjustments, just as I am with timing and filters in the darkroom.
The Negative by Ansel Adams

The Negative by Ansel Adams

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Staff Writer on October 15th, 2009

I have picked up a lot of good tips from Scott Kelby over the years, which is why you will find a link to his Blog and web site from this site. One that I got the other day from his latest book Digital Photography Vol 3 has to be one of the best though.

It is tucked away towards the end of the book, as most of the good stuff in Volume 3 seems to be, if you ask me, but it really is a life saver.

Apparently the manufacturers allow their cameras to take a shot even if there is no memory card in place. They ship their products set up like this so that potential customers can try the cameras in the shop – quite a reasonable idea.

The problem is that if you then buy the camera, it will go on allowing you to take shots without a memory card in place. Imagine how sad you would be if you found out at the end of your holiday, that none of your pictures had been saved.

The answer is to go into the shooting menu of your camera and set it up so that it can’t take a shot without the memory card being there. Then, you won’t ever have the problem.

I know that some camera dealers follow this site, so I hope that some of them might tell their staff to change the setting for a customer as part of the sales process. It would be a really nice thing to do.

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Staff Writer on October 3rd, 2009
If you always shoot in RAW as I do, you might be interested in a wonderful free bit of software that works with your chosen image manipulation software and when you go into a folder, invites you to convert all the images to JPEGs that it then puts in a separate folder.
As most of the time I send JPEGs to other people, once I have finished with the RAW part, this is perfect for me. It comes from www.rawworkflow.com  who are the same people who make the famous and very easy to use white balance tool.
Just go to the web site and download the program but don’t then spend ages as I did looking for a link from your desktop. As I said already, you will find it when you go into your chosen image manipulation program.
This is another of those wonderful little tips that I got from my shooting buddy and photography teacher to the world, Scott Kelby.
If you always shoot in RAW as I do, you might be interested in a wonderful free bit of software that works with your chosen image manipulation software and when you go into a folder, invites you to convert all the images to JPEGs that it then puts in a separate folder.
As most of the time I send JPEGs to other people, once I have finished with the RAW part, this is perfect for me. It comes from www.rawworkflow.com who are the same people who make the famous and very easy to use white balance tool.
Just go to the web site and download the program but don’t then spend ages as I did looking for a link from your desktop. As I said already, you will find it when you go into your chosen image manipulation program.
This is another of those wonderful little tips that I got from my shooting buddy and photography teacher to the world, Scott Kelby.
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