Staff Writer on September 30th, 2009

Recently, I decided to dive into the attic, recover a couple of old cameras inherited from my family and have a go at some black and white photography. I decided to start with a Pentax ME 35mm as it has auto exposure and is light and easy to use. The film is remarkably easy to get both locally and on the internet.

If you haven’t done any black and white for a long time and have been using digital as I have, the first shock is not being able to preview what you have taken. The urge to seek out a button to press after taking a shot is irresistible but however long you search, you won’t find one. On the plus side though, the anticipation of wondering what will emerge when you do the processing is fantastic and usually worth waiting for.

It takes a while to adjust to looking at composition, light and shade rather than colour when shooting but again I think it brings us back to basics and hopefully makes us into better photographers eventually. It has certainly made me more aware of ISO settings, aperture and exposure time which should help when I get back to the digital camera. I am also trying a large range of ISO from 50 to 3200 as noise can be an attractive feature in black and white as opposed to digital where we try to avoid it like the plague normally.

I made lots of mistakes with my first film. I forgot to change the film speed on the camera, so the exposures were all wrong. Then after fiddling with the controls to put it right, I noticed that the camera back had come open slightly. I held it tight and rewound the film only to forget to press the film release button and probably destroy the sprockets on the film. So if I can get it into the developing tank, we will have to wait and see what I have got. But as I said above, that’s all part of the fun.

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Staff Writer on September 15th, 2009
When I was looking to buy a new tripod recently I wanted to get the best I could as it is an extremely important piece of kit for a serious photographer and I didn’t ever want to buy another one.
I had already decided to go for Carbon Fibre as it is so light and strong and having looked at all the main manufacturers products, I was leaning toward Gitzo.
At the time I was very into Macro shooting and expected this to be a big part of my tripod use. This is still the case, so I got that bit right. Reading what I could and looking at the different types available, it was very tempting to go for an offset construction with a support rod coming out horizontally so that I could get to those low down places where interesting Macro subject often seem to live.
As an engineer though, I really didn’t like the off-centre and overhung approach. However much I read about the stability of these models, I felt that they didn’t look or feel “right”.
Looking into the situation, I found that on the normal Gitzo Traveller tripods, the centre rod at the top of the tripod can very easily be removed. It is this rod that prevents the tripod from going flat on the ground when the legs are fully splayed and I figured that with this removed all my low down Macro problems would be solved.
Sure you have the three legs sticking out but as these don’t need to be extended, it really isn’t a problem and I have found it to be a perfect solution.
Not having the rod limit’s the total height that I can go to, but as I am not seven feet tall and I don’t carry a step ladder around with me when out shooting, I really haven’t found this to be a problem. This might not be the solution for everyone but I pass it on as it is one of those rare things in life that I feel I got “dead right”.
When I was looking to buy a new tripod recently I wanted to get the best I could as it is an extremely important piece of kit for a serious photographer and I didn’t ever want to buy another one.
I had already decided to go for Carbon Fibre as it is so light and strong and having looked at all the main manufacturers products, I was leaning toward Gitzo.
At the time I was very into Macro shooting and expected this to be a big part of my tripod use. This is still the case, so I got that bit right. Reading what I could and looking at the different types available, it was very tempting to go for an offset construction with a support rod coming out horizontally so that I could get to those low down places where interesting Macro subject often seem to live.
As an engineer though, I really didn’t like the off-centre and overhung approach. However much I read about the stability of these models, I felt that they didn’t look or feel “right”.
Looking into the situation, I found that on the normal Gitzo Traveller tripods, the centre rod at the top of the tripod can very easily be removed. It is this rod that prevents the tripod from going flat on the ground when the legs are fully splayed and I figured that with this removed all my low down Macro problems would be solved.
Sure you have the three legs sticking out but as these don’t need to be extended, it really isn’t a problem and I have found it to be a perfect solution.
Not having the rod limit’s the total height that I can go to, but as I am not seven feet tall and I don’t carry a step ladder around with me when out shooting, I really haven’t found this to be a problem. This might not be the solution for everyone but I pass it on as it is one of those rare things in life that I feel I got “dead right”.
Gitzo traveller tripod set low

Gitzo traveller tripod set low

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Staff Writer on September 11th, 2009

Any photographers who would like to enter digital images to the 19th Guernsey Salon of Photography, need to get their entries in by the 26th October.

Download the entry form and rules via the web site www.guernseysalon.co.uk

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Staff Writer on September 8th, 2009

Well not really but I am pretty excited about it.

One of the things that  my camera club does is belong to the DSLR User Magazine clubs section and it enters the inter-club competition. The way that we decide which images to submit for each monthly competition is by ballot of all the members and the top three go through.

Now I haven’t been a member for a year yet and the recent Macro competition was the first that I have entered. Imaging my surprise and delight when my image of Raspberries and peach was selected as one of our three to go forward.

There is no way that it is going to win, but I really am delighted to be recognised by my peers, especially as this was one of the first batch of pictures that I took with my 105mm Macro lens that I covered in an earlier post.

Raspberries and peach

Raspberries and peach

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Staff Writer on September 7th, 2009
We often go to extraordinary lengths to see what we are trying to photograph, either through the viewfinder or on the screen. This is a particular challenge if you are lying on the ground shooting something low down in Macro or struggling with something overhead.
It looks as if the manufacturers are looking to solve this problem with screens that tilt and I wouldn’t be surprised if before too long they take the screen off the camera and let us look at it wherever we want via a wireless connection.
However, until that day arrives, there is a great, inexpensive little device that you can order on the internet, directly from www.flipbac.com
It is a metal mirror that doubles up as protection for your cameras screen, so you no longer need that cloudy and scratched bit of plastic that you use at the moment. It opens in both landscape and portrait mode via a clever bit of engineering and shows a reflection of the screen that you can view from may different angles.
I was surprised not to be able to find the product in the UK but ordered directly and was amazed when it arrived in the post within a few days. It is easy to fit with a bit of care, extremely well made and certainly makes shooting in difficult places a bit easier. Personally, I think it even enhances the look of the camera.
We often go to extraordinary lengths to see what we are trying to photograph, either through the viewfinder or on the screen. This is a particular challenge if you are lying on the ground shooting something low down in Macro or struggling with something overhead.
It looks as if the manufacturers are looking to solve this problem with screens that tilt and I wouldn’t be surprised if before too long they take the screen off the camera and let us look at it wherever we want via a wireless connection.
However, until that day arrives, there is a great, inexpensive little device that you can order on the internet, directly from www.flipbac.com
It is a metal mirror that doubles up as protection for your cameras screen, so you no longer need that cloudy and scratched bit of plastic that you use at the moment. It opens in both landscape and portrait mode via a clever bit of engineering and shows a reflection of the screen that you can view from may different angles.
I was surprised not to be able to find the product in the UK but ordered directly and was amazed when it arrived in the post within a few days. It is easy to fit with a bit of care, extremely well made and certainly makes shooting in difficult places a bit easier. Personally, I think it even enhances the look of the camera.
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Staff Writer on September 4th, 2009

I don’t know about you but I am a great fan of Amazon and use them on a fairly regular basis, mainly for photography books but also for other things. The selection is enormous, the prices are really good and the service, including the time it takes for delivery is amazing. I have had the odd delay on an out of stock item but this is very rare.

I discovered something the other day that I hadn’t realised before and if you aren’t aware of it, it could save you some money.

It seems that the pricing is a bit like Easy Jet. By this, I mean it goes up and down – presumably with demand or some other market forces.

I can’t remember the exact figures but I was looking to buy Volume 3 of Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography book and possibly “The moment it clicks” by Joe McNally. On the day I looked Volumes 1 and 2 of the Scott Kelby books were shown at 45% discount to list price but Volume 3 and the Joe McNally book were at 30%.

Where I come from, we don’t throw our hard earned money around, so I decided to wait.

Imagine my surprise a few days later when I looked on the site to see that Volume 3 was at 50% discount but the McNally was now only 20%. So I went ahead and ordered the Scott Kelby Vol3. with free delivery, a real bargain. Today it is still at the same price but the McNally is now shown at 15% discount.

I don’t understand the Amazon pricing formula but will watch items I want with interest before I buy in future. I am also training myself not to use them just as a bookshop as they offer fantastic prices for a whole range of items for photographers even the software update for my Sat Nav.

If I ever sort out how to do it there will be a link to my Amazon wish list from this site in the near future.

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Staff Writer on August 28th, 2009
The Nikon D300 is the camera that I use most of the time and I really love it. It is strong and robust, so you don’t have to worry too much. It responds very quickly – certainly fast enough for my needs. The controls are very easy to master and there are lots of books, web sites and forums to help you share information with others and ask a question if you need to.
The battery life is fine but I did have a problem in the early days when I arrived at something special and found the battery flat and I had no spare. So I bought the  Nikon MB-D10 battery pack and haven’t looked back. I set it to use the pack first and it is really easy to remove the battery for charging. If you leave it too late, you know you have the one in the camera as back-up.
Perhaps the major benefit though is that it has a shutter release and joy stick control for shooting in portrait mode and it also give the camera a much more satisfying profile that sits in the hand better. The only draw backs for me are that it makes it quite heavy and also more difficult to get into a compact bag for the times when you don’t want to take the whole kit and caboodle with you. However, if you really want to travel light, it is simplicity itself to remove – just make sure the battery in the camera is fully charged!
The Nikon D300 is the camera that I use most of the time and I really love it. It is strong and robust, so you don’t have to worry too much. It responds very quickly – certainly fast enough for my needs. The controls are very easy to master and there are lots of books, web sites and forums to help you share information with others and ask a question if you need to.
The battery life is fine but I did have a problem in the early days when I arrived at something special and found the battery flat and I had no spare. So I bought the  Nikon MB-D10 battery pack and haven’t looked back. I set it to use the pack first and it is really easy to remove the battery for charging. If you leave it too late, you know you have the one in the camera as back-up.
Perhaps the major benefit though is that it has a shutter release and joy stick control for shooting in portrait mode and it also give the camera a much more satisfying profile that sits in the hand better. The only draw backs for me are that it makes it quite heavy and also more difficult to get into a compact bag for the times when you don’t want to take the whole kit and caboodle with you. However, if you really want to travel light, it is simplicity itself to remove – just make sure the battery in the camera is fully charged!
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Staff Writer on August 26th, 2009

The other day the secretary of our camera club asked for volunteers to help set up a small exhibition of the members work in our local park, Reigate Priory.  I had only been there rarely when there was a music festival on and that tended to be in the evening.

Imagine my surprise therefore when I entered the park to see the splendour of the Priory building, which is occupied by a school but would do credit to the National Trust. The lawns and gardens of the park are magnificent and the Pavilion where the exhibition was to take place, built with Lottery funding, is a magnificent chrome and glass structure that houses an excellent coffee shop.

As I was lugging screens and panels around, I hadn’t taken my camera with me but I vowed to return as soon as there is some interesting light to take a few shots.

The other day I told you about our club treasure hunt that introduced me to small villages, very old churches and other interesting sights that just beg to be photographed, and now this. I suggest that this is probably true where you live as well, so it makes sense to get out, talk to people and dig out these local gems. You might be surprised.

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Staff Writer on August 24th, 2009

If anyone reading this lives in Surrey and happens to have noticed lots of people with cameras in the villages of Outwood, Lingfield, Godstone, Tandridge, Horne and Crowhurst, it is quite likely that they were from the Reigate Photogaphic Society and taking part in the annual club treasure hunt.

Our task is to photograph memorials, Royal commemorations, Ancient yews and architecture pre-1800 and anything else that takes our fancy in the areas mentioned. My first problem is recognising pre-1800 architecture unless it is REALLY old and recognising a yew from all the other trees 🙂

Rather like the world wide photo walk and other group photography event, however, this is a great idea as it gives us all something to talk about and compare notes. It also gives us a theme or two to work to, which I always feel is better than just wandering about snapping everything that we like the look of.

The new season begins in earnest in September and I can’t wait to see what new gems come to light when we all get together again. And here’s my first picture of an ancient ewe – sorry.

I can see ewe

I can see ewe

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Staff Writer on August 19th, 2009

Many times in my life I have been disappointed by so called customer service and often it is particularly bad when a large company says that “it prides itself in excellent customer service” or claims to be “recognised for excellent customer service”.

How good it is to be able to report a company that claims to offer good service but actually delivers as much if not more than it promises and provides technical advice that is sound and reliable as well.

I have no connection at all with this company except as a very satisfied customer.  The company in question is Grays of Westminster www.graysofwestminster.co.uk, a Nikon specialist.

I bought a second hand macro lens from them recently as you may have read in an earlier posting, but I also joined their Nikon Owners Club for an extra £59 per year.  I was wondering if this was going to represent good value.

I need not have worried!  I went on the forum for some advice and within 12 hours a full and exceptionally detailed reply from their expert Simon Stafford had been posted and an email sent to me advising it was there.

This man clearly knows what he is talking about and to have access to him for 12-months for £59 has to be worth it, even without the extended guarantees and discounts that also come as part of the package.

Thank you Grays for being there to feed my passion and please keep up the good work.

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