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Showing posts from November, 2010

Fun, fun, fun in the

It must be time for sledging! And an opportunity for some "action photography" for daddy, of course! We went to Longley Park just because it's round the corner. The hills were mostly still covered, although some areas were starting to melt already. Mind you, with the way it's been coming down we'll probably be able to go again this weekend. As the kids readied themselves for their first descent, I readied myself by setting up the camera. I used the EF 28-135mm for this one so I could zoom in for close-ups without risking getting whacked with the sledge. At f5.6 it was wide enough for a bit of DOF fiddling so it's all good. I also opted for AI Servo focus, which is Canon speak for continuous autofocus. The autofocus point can be set manually, so while tracking you could, for instance, choose to keep the top left corner in focus which is handy for tracking a sledge while keeping the other side open for good composition. Another thing I to


Photography is all about lighting. When all is said and done, it's about getting the light to bounce off things in a nice way and land in the right place on a photosensitive surface. Dictionary definition, right there. But what if the light you have available is rubbish? You have to supplement. Up to now I've been limited to built-in flash and a non-adjustable slave for backlighting. Not great for getting light in just the right place because you're basically limited to pointing the light straight at the subject. Harsh shadows abound. However, I recently took delivery of a Yongnuo YN-460 flash. It's entirely manual, so no TTL or auto-metering. It has no zoom. But it does boast an impressive range of features considering that it costs £30. It has adjustable flash power, from full to 1/64th. It has slave mode so you can use it off camera. It has a fully adjustable head, with 90 degrees of movement vertically and 270 degrees horizontally. Pointing it where you need it


It's snowed. This is problematic. However, it's also pretty. I've recently upgraded my post-processing kit. I was using The Gimp on an ancient MacBook with a dim, yellowing screen. This did not produce good pictures. I was also still shooting in JPEG rather than RAW, simply because I didn't have the tools to do RAW justice. The camera's internal software did a better job than The Gimp because, while the camera handles 14 bit channels, The Gimp can only handle 8 bit channels. So here I have Aperture 3 on a MacBook Pro. LED backlit screen, 4GB of RAM and a 2.4GHz processor. Perfect. One immediate advantage of switching to RAW is the amount of control over the sharpness of the image. JPEG has a tendency to soften the image due to compression artefacts, and processing a JPEG into another JPEG just makes it worse. Aperture lets me apply adjustments without ever touching the original pixels, so nothing gets ruined. It's only when I export the final image d

Crime Scene Investigation

This actually should have been posted last Tuesday (23rd Nov) but due to me being slow and a bit daft, I completely forgot. We had a CSI night. This involved playing the CSI board game, then laughing at CSI:Miami. Rather amazingly, we discovered that if you shine the little UV torches that come with the game into the dice, it glows in an eery manner.

James Montgomery

I decided to take some random pics around Sheffield cathedral just because. I got this nice shot of the statue of James Montgomery. What's particularly impressive about this one is the amount of detail. Have a look at this 100% crop of the same image: Impressive, no? Now I just have to play around and figure out the sweet spot on each lens to get the absolute best detail out of them. About f/5.6 should do it. And I must practice getting landscape orientation pictures ... I'm definitely still a naturally vertically oriented person.


Today I've been playing with skittles. This took 156 exposures to get right, 5 at a time in burst mode. This one was actually exposure number 48, but I didn't realise until quite a while later that it was the best. I used a relatively slow shutter and flash on rear curtain to freeze the ball and skittle while maintaining motion blur. For the  dailyshoot  assignment, I shot another without flash. Instead, I used a tungsten lamp for a warm feel and a slow shutter. This led to the falling skittles and the swinging ball becoming abstract blurs around the central skittle, which I managed to miss completely. Finally I have one taken from a different angle. I prefer the feeling of motion in the first, but the composition of this one.   

The Fog Descends

Today I went to Manchester, and it was very foggy. Fortunately I had my camera with me (I'm getting better at this "always have a camera" business) so I stopped in Derwent to take a few snaps. Obviously they are all low contrast and, well, covered in fog. 38mm, f11, 1/25th sec, ISO 100 This was my first opportunity to try out my new EF 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 in anger. It's a heavy beast, weighing down the front of the camera so it hangs vertically round my neck. I'd say it weighs twice as much as the body. But that's ok. It's comfortable to hold, easy to operate, and the autofocus is silent. Add to that the fact that it has optical image stabilisation via an in-built gyro and it's a lovely thing to use. I switched to my EF 18-55mm on the way back. It's the kit lens that came with the body, but it's the most wide angle I have. I used it to try and take in the height of the trees. At a minimum focal length of 44mm (thanks to the 1.6x crop fac


A plant for your viewing pleasure.


Graffiti on my garage door. Really should get that repainted one of these days ...

Isolated Subject, High Contrast

Today's assignment: Isolated subject, high contrast. These are, obviously, coat hooks. The two lights almost equidistant from the subject make the interesting shadows beneath. Taken with Hipstamatic for iPhone because it's the only camera I had with me at the time.

Busy doing nothing

Today's theme is "calendars". I chose to take a picture of the inside of my diary to demonstrate how little I have to do at the moment. Of course, it's a complete lie. I'm insanely busy this week, running up and down the country for work until I finish this job on Friday and start a new, more local one on Monday. I just haven't written any of it in the diary yet because it wasn't decided until very recently. I thought it'd be a nice subject, anyway. I was also testing the low light capabilities of my new camera. This picture was shot at ISO 3200, if you can believe it! And just to clarify, I've focussed on tomorrow's date because I thought it best from an artistic viewpoint. And not at all because I forgot what day it is. No. That would just be silly. *ahem* Now to the subject of why I even have a new camera. As some of you may know, a bunch of cretins broke in and stole a load of stuff, including a laptop, a Wii, and all my camera gear.

Fairy Lights

Street lights at night can be very pretty. For someone who lives close to the centre of a large city, skirting round the edge of the town centre can provide a host of beautiful views at night. One advantage to using a wide open lens when taking these pictures is the capture of bokeh, or creative blur. An extreme example is shown to your right; a mass of coloured circles that roughly represent the city they are part of. A more subtle example, of course, is in the picture of the day at the top of this post. The lights cluster around the top of the leaves like fireflies, obviously part of a cityscape but at the same time abstract. The extreme out of focus image is a blurred version of the picture on the left. A view over Sheffield from Pitsmoor, looking up Netherthorpe Road and up to the university. Even when the buildings are focussed (roughly; I'm still practicing) the lights take on the shape of the lens's aperture. I try to incorporate some foreground focus wh

I'd rather be here

In other news, yay for low light performance!

More Autumn

This time with a twist; the new toy. Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens on the S1 Pro. Mmm. It's often said that a good, fast prime lens will improve  your photography far more than sticking with the slow kit zoom that comes bundled with most dSLRs these days. I couldn't agree more, after getting bitten by the prime bug using the Zenit recently. There are a multitude of benefits to a fast prime: Lovely shallow DOF Great low or dim light performance Sharper image due to higher quality glass Gets you used to moving your feet The last one is a point of confusion. Surely it's better to have a zoom instead of clambering about all over the place? Well, no, apparently not. It makes you lazy. Something a little bit too far away? Just zoom a bit. Something too close? Zoom out. But changing focal length affects every other aspect of the picture, from the available f stops to the depth of field to the telephoto compression. Shooting with a prime forces you to think about your

Of Gimps and Curves

Of all the photos in my recent Manually Autumn post, the picture of my garden gate garnered most praise. In part it was for the subject matter and composition, and in part for the beautiful colours and dynamic range of the film. Shooting digital means you lose some things that film gives you. First and foremost, you lose the large upfront costs and processing costs. So that's a plus. But you lose out in other areas. Film has a wider dynamic range than almost any digital camera, so where a dSLR would have blown out highlights, film will fill it in with subtle detail. Film also has properties unique to each formulation. I used Fuji Superia film, which has a slightly green, almost ethereal feel to it in the right conditions. It got me to wondering if I could replicate the feel of the film using a curves preset in my image editor of choice, The Gimp. Of course, if I ever got round to acquiring photoshop, it would probably work there too. I went out and took a picture of my garden g

My work day, addendum

My work day, of course, does revolve around one thing. Delicious, life-giving tea. In a Top Gear mug.

My work day ...

... mostly involves this: Photo taken at ISO 1600, 1/10th sec, f4. I have shed loads of stuff to write about. Photos from Ireland, further adventures with the Zenit, messing with curves in The Gimp, and a new and exciting toy to play with. And no, I don't mean the Zone40. Just got to get my head clear of snot and a little bit motivated.