Monday, 25 April 2011

Duck Watching


114/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Sitting by the pond, eating an ice cream and enjoying doing nothing for 2 minutes.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Black & White Wedding


113/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

My cousin Andy shortly after marrying Ali in Manchester town hall.

Light Fountain


112/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

High speed shot of an illuminated fountain, capturing the motion and blocking out the background. Makes for a nice artsy shot.

Trees in the Valley


111/365, originally uploaded by craigand.
Sun shining between the trees in the Derwent valley on a warm bank holiday Friday.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Golden Hour


110/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

That lovely time of the evening when the sun is low in the sky, this evening mist is just starting to rise, and the world takes on a golden glow.

Loxley

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Loxley, a set on Flickr.
I decided that to relax I should go for a walk. Where better than the very same valleys in which I spent my childhood? I arrived at Rowell Lane just in time to capture a beautiful early sunset, and headed off down the river toward Malin Bridge before returning to Rowell Bridge.

Stop Lights


109/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Face Off


108/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Bicycle vs Taxi on West Bar roundabout. Who will be victorious?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Blossom Drops


107/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Climbing Trees


106/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

None of this namby-pamby, over-protective nanny state we're living in. If my kids want to climb a tree, they climb a tree.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Dead Like Harry


105/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Dead Like Harry played an intimate gig (50 tickets) at the Yellow Arch Studios in Sheffield last night. It was amazing.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Birthday Chocolate


104/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Dad's birthday chocolate. Mmmm

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Creme Egg


103/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Easter is coming, so I have Creme Eggs. I see nothing wrong with this. This is a bit of an experiment. The egg is sat on a piece of plain A4 paper leaning against a wall. A single strobe flashes to the right, bouncing off a white wardrobe door about 12" away from me, and back onto the egg. Seems to have worked pretty well, considering.

Self-Portrait


102/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

A picture of me with my camera and a funky flash effect. Well, if you can consider a dirty mirror a "funky" effect.

I didn't realise until seeing this picture how tiny my camera is. Or how massive my hands are. Whichever. Could explain why I have so much trouble using teeny weeny compacts.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Undoing History, or How I learned to stop worrying and love manual focus

I'm having a crisis of sorts. Finally after some significant time and heartache I have the camera gear that I have been aiming for for some time. I've practised and somewhat mastered, or at least got the hang of, various aspects of photography, from portraits to close ups, from shallow depth of field to live music. But there was something ... missing. And I finally figured out what it is; I like manual focussing.

Way back in the mists of time, or last October to be more precise, I finally got round to digging out my lovely old Zenit E and took some lovely Autumnal pictures. The Helios 58mm f/2 prime lens made me realise how good a decent prime can be, after years of struggling with slow kit lenses or crappy compacts. It has ended up being very much my standard "out and about" configuration, albeit with some slight modifications.

Moving on a little, I got my hands on the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 prime and took some more Autumn pictures. I raved about it, that moment of realisation of what I was missing out on by sticking to a relatively slow and clunky kit zoom.

Since then, and after a rather harrowing week of losing the lot to a break in, I have moved on with my kit to try and cover all bases. And the more I have got, the less I have tended to use the kit zoom. In fact, saving a few occasions when I've really needed an 18mm lens, it's not been on my camera at all. Even the shiny shiny EF 28-135mm IS USM is underused. It's just not fast enough, and it weighs almost half a kilo.

I've still got the two of those lenses, because they do come in handy at times. They have their uses. But for a good while now my "go to" lens has been the (in)famous Nifty Fifty; the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. A clunky plastic little number with not even so much as a distance scale. But it takes some amazing pictures.

So what on earth could I ask for to make it better? Well, the one thing the Helios has they my current crop of lenses don't; decent manual focus. The 50mm feels light and imprecise. The 28-135mm has the best of the lot, due to the USM autofocus and full time manual, but it still doesn't have the satisfying heft of a full manual lens, nor does it take much of a turn to go from one end of the focal range to the other. Focussing precisely is not an easy task because even a small rotation can throw the focus off completely.

The reasons for this are plain and perfectly acceptable. In order to get good autofocus performance, the focus ring needs to be light and free-turning. It needs to have a short range of travel and it needs to have the ability to disengage from the motor. But all this means that, while autofocus works brilliantly, focussing manually does not.

"So what?" I hear you exclaim. "Surely getting the camera to focus for you is easier?" Well, yes and no. It's very convenient, that's for certain. But it also brings a raft of other issues. Do you let the camera decide what to focus on, or do you manually tell it using the multi-point autofocus system? Do you faff about setting it to always use the exact focus point, or go for the focus-lock-and-recompose method?

Honestly, playing with the Zenit with its lovely, hefty Helios manual focus lens made me realise how much a manual focus can bring you closer to your subject. Setting the focus exactly where it needs to be and having that control be as easy and comfortable as possible makes a vast difference to the feel of taking the photograph. That feeling can translate directly into the final image.

Now, my dad recently got himself a Pentax Kx. It's a cool camera and, thanks to Pentax's insistance of evolution over revolution, works with all the newest Pentax lenses as well as any of the older lenses from years gone by. As a Canon EOS user, I don't have that luxury. I can use EF (or EF-S) lenses ... and that's it. Which puts the price of a 28mm f/2.8 at around £150. Ouch.

Thankfully, eBay came to the rescue. For a fairly reasonable sum of £26 I picked up an EOS-to-FD convertor to allow me to use any old FD mount lens I laid my grubby mits on. It's quite a nice thing, actually; solidly built, with metal lens mounts at either side, and a locking ring for the FD lens itself. It even has a tiny glass corrective lens in it to ensure the distance from the sensor doesn't cause issue, as can often happen when an adapter ring is put between the body and the lens. A few mm here and there can make all the difference, and render a good lens useless. In the case of FD lenses mounted on EOS bodies, without the corrective optics the lens loses the ability to focus beyond about 3 metres.

Now I had a way to put an old manual focus lens on my camera, what lens to get? Well, eBay came to the rescue once again and provided me with a Makinon 28mm f/2.8 for a mere £10. Makinon used to make lenses for all sorts of cameras, usually with the option of automatic aperture control, but always with manual focus. They are not well regarded, by all accounts, but for a tenner it seemed worthwhile. After all, with the adapter ring on the body already, I could always upgrade to proper Canon FD lenses should I happen across any in second hand stores or on eBay.

So does it work? Well, yes. Yes it does. It's full manual, meaning that I have to use the aperture ring to set the aperture and use stop-down metering. This means I have to open up to focus then close the aperture to take the picture, or hope that I can see well enough through the closed lens to focus properly. There is no quick preview switch to open the aperture for focussing, sadly. Update: I'm talking rubbish. The adapter ring actually has a little pin that manipulates the preview. Rotate one way, it opens the aperture; rotate the other and it stops down to whatever the lens is set to. I still have to use stop-down metering but at least I can see to focus. It does seems to overexpose by about 1 stop when closed down below wide open. The highest aperture is a pretty feeble f/16. By any modern standard, it's a pretty rubbish lens. But it cost a tenner.

But then I try the focus ring. Like a breath of fresh air, it turns so smoothly, yet doesn't ever feel loose or imprecise. When I stop turning it, it stops turning. Knocking it gently with my thumb won't throw it off. It takes a full 180 degrees of turning to go from one extreme (about 6 inches) to the other at infinity. It is, in short, just what the doctor ordered. It's not particularly slow either. In fact, in low light I can focus faster with this than when trying to convince the nifty fifty that it really does want to focus ... honest ...

But the question is, I suppose, how does it perform? Am I just talking rubbish and am actually really terrible at getting pictures in focus? Here is a small selection of pictures that I think demonstrate what I can do with it. They're not all amazing, but they give an idea.

 




Monday, 11 April 2011

Milestones

I've hit two milestones this week. The first, as some may have noticed, is that I've hit triple digits in my project 365 attempt. In fact, today is day 101. The second is that I shot my 6000th exposure on the Canon EOS500D, which is not bad going considering I've only had it 5 months.

For my 100th and 101st pictures in 365/2011 I wanted something artistic, and something stark (to go with the theme of room 101). For picture 100 I actually revisited a subject I already photographed once before; blossoms on the trees. This time I wanted to make something high key, close up and fully making use of background blur and washed out colours. I think I succeeded.


100/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

For 101 I took a picture of some metal stairs running up the side of a hospital building. By making it black and white, and aligning it so the sharp diagonals zig-zagged down the image, I think I got what I was after. I toyed with the idea of boosting the contrast to make it look more film noir, but in the end I decided it just looked cheesy.


101/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

As for my other milestone this week, my 6000th exposure, I'm not sure I could possibly call the subject artistic. See what you think.


IMG_6000, originally uploaded by craigand.

Yup, it's the condiments tray at Tokyou. Stunning, no? But what have I done with the last few months? Have I improved? I think so. Have a look at the funky widget thing I found at roytanck.com over in the sidebar, and see what you think. And if that doesn't float your boat, just click through to the actual 365/2011 set on Flickr.

Steps


101/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Lots of lovely diagonals in this one.

Blossom, take 2


100/365, originally uploaded by craigand.
I know that technically I've already taken a photo of blossom this spring, but frankly compared to this one it was poop. Flickrblog had a few samples of other people's images like this and I figured I could do as well as that, so here it is. I love the painted effect caused by the washed out bokeh, almost like a wash of water colour. This was assisted greatly by the previously mentioned FD mount Makinon 28mm f/2.8 I got the other day. This picture alone makes it worth the £10 asking price.

This picture is dedicated to Emma.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Fire


099/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Closeup of some FIRE. In spite of the apparent heat in this pic, I could get pretty close without burning myself or my camera. Sexy FD mount 28mm.

Courts


098/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

I saw this striking shadow outside the crown court here in Sheffield. It's a large runged thing outside the main entrance, and I thought the way the shadow interacted with the rounded elements was pretty cool. Also, used my all new, all manual second-hand FD mount 28mm f/2.8 just for kicks.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Swirl


097/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

A sculpture near the office, handily taking the form of an (almost) golden ratio.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

View from Shirecliffe


096/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Complete with interesting clouds.

Gutter


095/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Barefoot in the Grass


094/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Knock Knock


093/365, originally uploaded by craigand.

Who's there?