All A Matter Of Application

Someone very dear to me said this to me when I a child, and I have since said it regularly to my own children.


A recent shoot didn’t pan out the way I had hoped. Not to say it wasn’t successful, but I was disappointed in a few areas, and it made me question my skill as a photographer.


With time to reflect, I can actually see the positives in my disappointment, and I know now which areas to apply myself to in practise.


Its easy to obsess about gear, easy to see, and dream, great ideas, but putting them into practise is often much harder, and time consuming that imagined.


Like this simple shot – I had a request from a client to adapt my lighting; make it more dynamic – for a competition. Easy as pie, haha, it took me an hour using one strobe to get it to where I was half happy!


The other thing I have happened upon recently is an appreciation for how good my ‘professional’ gear is. Yes it is heavy, cumbersome at times, and thee is no live view or useful video. But, it does it’s job, and does so very, very well.


If I were a better photographer it would do it’s job brilliantly 😀


Since that shoot, I have mostly used my little Olympus  OMD EM10 and little m43 lenses. I wanted to pare it back, just enjoy the family photography that got me to here in the first place. WYSIWYG, Jpeg, minimal processing.


This particular application  requires little in the way of application, and puts the phun back in photography. 




In Contention


Exactly which lenses/camera bodies comprise the ‘perfect’ kit?


In an effort to keep costs down, and to reduce the number of items to only those that matter, I’m trying to work out what exactly I need.


So, I have the two D800 bodies, and the two Tamron zooms. All good.


But what, if anything else, might I need?


I reckon I can safely say that a Macro is not necesary, as I’ve teased various lenses for their  near macro abilities, and in terms of ring shots etc, the 70-200mm does a good job at the long end, with the 36mpx of the D800 giving room to crop.


But, what about primes? Zooms have a max aperture of F2.8, which isn’t bad, but might make all the difference in dimly lit spaces. And I swear that anything indoors, outside of british summertime (all three weeks of it), is low light!


I question how much use apertures between F1.4 and F2.8 get during weddings etc. For portrait yes, but for the majority of the day, no.


So whether I may need a 50mm F1.4 or an 85mm F1.8 (or both) is something that will occur to me as the year goes on. I mentioned to a friend just today that the difference in quality between a Fuji 35mm F1.4 on an XE2 and a Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART on a D800 would be vast, and her interesting reply was along the lines of….’noticeable to who, and by how much at ordinary viewing sizes?


Very good point.



I Think I’ve Said It Before

I love Tamron. Well, for zooms at least. 


I really tried to NOT buy a 70-200mm F2.8 zoom, but I kept reading how versatile they are, and how brilliant the IQ from current models is.


I haven’t been happy with my tele prime. The IQ is stunning, but it lacks VR, which basically means that given the FL, indoors it needs quite fast shutter speeds (easily more than 1/FL for me personally)  and high ISO, which degrades said image quality. 


So I jumped in (of course I did) and I’m disappointingly impressed. 


 I kinda wanted the lenses I own to be as good, or better? But they pale in comparison. So, off to The Bay they go, whilst the the Tamron will stay alongside it’s sibling, the 24-70mm F2.8. Also annoyingly brilliant.


Maybe next the Tammy 90mm Macro….Or the Nikon 85mm F1.8G, or maybe even the Sigma 50mm ART! Choices, choices Lol. 



Simply Does It


Lately, considering a small MILC body for personal use I’ve been drawn back toward Fuji. Well, it was only ever between Fuji & Sony really. One of the things that Fuji does/did really well is monochrome.


Its a hard to emulate in post what I see Fuji do in camera with jpeg rendering. That old film thing that makes images appealing in a wistful, lonely kinda way.

beach huts-1

I often thing a bad image can be made half decent with processing, in colour. But black and white will show you up. It either works or it doesn’t.


Yet, those new to photography quite often favour monochrome. Not because they are brilliant, but because they are initially more powerful.


Over time that changes. I process in black and white much less often than I used to, but looking back at old Fuji files made me hanker for that simplicity.


When I find it I’ll let you know 😉 

Keeping An Eye On The Needle


Having jumped from Sony Alpha to Nikon in the last few months has seen a bit of a learning curve. Probably one I would’ve been better off making earlier.


Sony offer a fantastic set of features on the A99 that I owned, one of them being the EVF. Most all MILC options sport this, and if its where you start it can lead to good images, but with basic ignorance regarding the exposure triangle.


See, every change you make shown in the EVF or on the LCD BEFORE you take the shot. So you can twiddle a knob here, press a button there and when you like what you see, press the button. Job done.


Until you switch.


In honesty, i have a pretty good grasp of what I’m doing, but i’ve been reading a lot about exposure compensation recently, and having always been a manual shooter I thought it was time to have a go.


Er….maybe I should try again ( and read a bit more) as I made a pretty stupid mistake today when at the seaside. I had the camera in manual mode, ISO auto, forgetting that exp comp would change the ISO and not the shutter speed, which I had left at 1/2000.



DSC_1407-Edit Chris's effort

I know I need a high shutter speed to freeze action, but 1/2000 is probably overkill for anything less than a full on sporting match. (Ruggers next week).


So, the outcome. A few nice shots. Lots of noisy shots. Bummer.



Into The Light

_DSC7403 lights

So, I’ve adopted the black foamie thing as my on camera flash modifier of choice, all good stuff. Works great.


But, with more calls for portrait sessions I kinda had to open my eyes to off camera flash.

_DSC7412 lights-3

There is a huge difference between taking photos of your own kids whilst they get about the business of growing up, but when folk starting paying for pictures of their kids it’s time to up the ante.


I figured I would start at the beginning, although I love the idea of Bowens/Elinchrom moonlights and modifiers, I can’t yet justify the cost. So I bought a basic light stand, wireless triggers and a black/white umbrella to go with my el cheap Yongnuo flash.

_DSC7392 lights

It is, at this stage, really trial and error. Despite reading loads on Neil Van Niekerk’s site and watching almost all of Mark Wallace’s Webinar’s, it still ain”t easy.


Practise, practise practise.Luckily I have enough kids that I can usually rope one of them in for 5 minutes at a time. DSC_0205


Variations On A Theme


Flash photography. I know the basics. I have an external flash unit and NEVER use on camera or direct flash. 


I like flash images to look naturally exposed, but even with ‘bounced’ flash it can lead to hard light hitting the subject, as shown in the first three images from this series (highlighted by the applied vignette).


Ive been reading quite a bit on Neil Van Niekerk’s site recently as he is a Flash Jedi Master, and although he states that he has transitioned to ambient light photography recently, given the amazing low light capabilities of current cameras, he was once a profound advocate of flash photography. 


So far I’ve taken the simple advice of bouncing flash upwards, off of the ceiling, which are most often white. But I read recently that angling the flash slightly behind gives for a softer look. I think he is right, as shown in the final three images here. The image above, of my nephew, was quite evenly exposed given the angle of the flash and ambient light coming from the window. 


Ive ordered the necessary components of the ‘black foamie thing’ and will report back when I’ve trialled it myself. _DSC6507

I’m sure it will work a treat.