Scenic Cornwall (Youtube links)

Source: Scenic Cornwall (Youtube links)

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New Wildlife lens

Just the other week I took a trip to Cabilla woods in the Glynn valley to try and get some pics of  Silver Washed Fritillary butterflies, they are something that I have not had the chance to photograph before and I found out , much to my dismay just how ‘flighty’ these butterflies are!

I usually use my trusty NIKKOR 105 2.8 Micro lens for jobs such as these but the 105mm reach meant invading their privacy and subsequently sending them packing.

On the way back to my vehicle I decided to explore another area in the same vicinity with a lovely track up through the wood, after reaching a dead end I turned and headed back down the track only to meet a Fox coming up towards me! I immediately dove into the long grass at the edge of the track and poised my camera ready!

As mr Foxy approached I popped off a few shots which drew his attention towards my direction and he paused for a moment before he worked out that the clicky thing had a human attached at the back of it , of course he then turned tail and made off pretty sharpish.

I was totally beside myself with excitement for finally I had some pictures of a Fox something else I have always wanted to get images of. It was then I decided to check out the pics on the back screen of my camera , WOW this is going to be amazing! finally some seriously foxy images!!………………..I’ll just end this paragraph here, as it was at this point my heart sank with disappointment as in my head I felt like I could have reached out and touched the Fox from where I was, the reality however was that the Fox was too far for a good image with the 105mm.

My mind was set , I needed a good long telephoto lens for these kind of situations, I could not let this happen again.

Moving on a week and a bit of research and taking into account budgets , I decided on purchasing the Tamron SP 150 – 600 mm lens

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This lens is a monster, it weighs in at nearly 2kg and although made mostly of plastic, it feels solid and the build quality and finish are fantastic. It isn’t fully weather sealed but does have a gasket to seal between the lens mount and the camera body. The focus motor is silent and the minimum focus distance is 2.70 meters.

In the box you get the lens and the lens hood but no pouch or case! (come on Tamron!) why on earth they did not include one is beyond me.

It isn’t a particularly fast lens and may require a bump in ISO to get a fast shutter speed but it does include image stabilization or VC (Vibration Compensation as Tamron likes to call it) so hand holding is possible but I much prefer to use a tripod. It is not a fixed aperture lens and it ranges from f5 at 150 mm to f6.3 at 600 mm and I wouldn’t say the focusing is especially amazing or speedy but for the most part it works well, my copy needed quite an adjustment on my Nikon D7100 body as it was front focusing a fair bit but nothing overly drastic.

Let’s talk about the image quality

To be completely honest my first test shots in the garden (as they always are with me) left me with mixed feelings , obviously everyone wants to know how good it will be at 600 mm which is exactly what I wanted to know , well it was OK but it could be better, this was my initial thought. To be fair it wasn’t the best weather , quite gloomy actually and grey……..

Move on a couple of days plus a focus adjustment and a few local trips out in the sun later and I am feeling quite different now.

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Broad Bodied Chaser Dragonfly (male)

Dragonflies are now so much easier to approach and photograph without disturbing!

As are birds……..

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Stonechat (juvenile male)

I even managed this next shot of an Emperor Dragonfly which I was so happy with! (this was manually focused)

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Emperor Dragonfly in flight

How about an Owl in flight? In the daytime?……..Ok, it was a falconry display at Woodlands Theme Park in Dartmouth but hey!

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Siberian Turkmenian Eagle Owl

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Silver Washed Fritillary

This lens for the money is very capable and has opened up many more photographic opportunities to me, it is sharp enough when stopped down at f8 or f11 but obviously this then means bumping the ISO up to keep a fast shutter speed which introduces more grain to the image and requires a bit of time processing in your editor to get a cleaner image.

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The Moon shot at 600mm and has been cropped slightly

Tamron have recently released the new generation 2 version of this lens which has a few tweaks to the optics to improve quality further. You may like to look at that version if money is not an object, but for me , the earlier version was the choice and I am content with my purchase now I have seen what  can be achieved with this lens.

This lens retails at around £750 in the UK and when you consider the ‘reach’ this lens will give you, coupled with the fantastic build quality, it certainly is worthy of consideration if wildlife is your game.

Oh and when me and Mr Fox cross paths again I will be ready……………

 

A new addition

As many of my friends know I have spent a lot of time photographing our apprentice at work……….before you judge me he knows I am taking pictures of him…….I think I’d better start again!

About 18 months ago we had a young apprentice start at the place where I work, he’s a nice lad called Billy Reeves, I got chatting to him as you do to your colleagues and found out that his favourite activity outside of work was riding his BMX , so he showed me a few clips on YouTube and I was pretty taken back at how good he was and this is why I have ended up taking a lot of photos of him doing his thing on the ramps.

Moving along to the point, young Billy bought himself a GoPro camera to attach to his bike and his helmet to capture video footage of himself riding, after seeing some of the footage of what these tiny things can capture I was adamant that I had to get one!

As you know Photography is primarily my main love but I have also been strangely drawn to the idea of filming things too, especially timelapses of sunrises and things, well the Hero 4 Gopros can do that at the push of a button!

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The GoPro HERO 4 Black edition

Well here it is the HERO 4 Black edition , it comes with a fully shockproof and waterproof (rated waterproof down to 40m) case which has the bottom that attaches with a threaded bolt to various different mountings. The package contains two mounting pads one curved  (for helmets) one flat and various extension pieces to get you started.

There is a huge range of accessories available for the Gopro series of cameras making them extremely versatile little tools.

Great for outdoor action fans who want to record their activities, or equally as a handy pocket camera for family snaps on vacations holidays or days out!

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My beautiful wife and daughter on a recent weekend away

They can record up to 4k video at up to 30fps and 1080p at up to 120fps for smooth slo-mo playbacks .It also takes very good looking 12mp stills, there is no raw or .dng type file option so that would have to be a thumbs down from me but this isn’t the reason I wanted this. I wanted this for its versatility , I can use it for timelapses, for snorkeling, surfing and any other fun frolics that I often get up to.

Below is a link to a quick film made whilst testing out the surfboard mount kit and attempting to surf at Polzeath this week. The mount failed after 5 minutes but I believe it was my mount positioning that was the reason for the failure. The camera was saved by the safety tether that comes in the kit.

 

Polzeath surfing film

Another nice thing for me is that the camera sensor is identical to the camera sensor on my drone (that’s a Sony Exmor sensor) , so matching the video clips together is very easy and everything looks uniform.

Right I have started to ramble I like to get to the point about things and tell it like it is!.

I’ll try to keep this short………..

PROS.

Amazing versatility (On foot, bike, on or in water, in the air, in a vehicle these things will go everywhere)

Unrivalled video quality for price (smooth frame rates + crisp and sharp image)

Amazingly wide angled lens

Easy to use

Nice 12mp Still photos

Great build quality

CONS.

Shocking battery life

No built in screen (you can use the mobile or tablet app to view image)

Oh and did I tell you about the terrible battery life!

The battery life on this camera is absolutely atrocious it is very very disappointing but thankfully there are plenty of third party manufacturers of the batteries so they are readily available and cheap to purchase on ebay or amazon.

The screen would have been nice but if you must have a screen you can purchase a bacpac addon lcd touch screen that clips on to the go pro , or like I said it has built in wifi that will connect to your phone or tablet via the app and you can view the image or video on your device.

The Hero 4 Black edition is available for around £300 in the uk at present

The Hero 5 has been released recently and that’s another action camera worthy of a look.

This simply is the most fun camera I have ever owned and If I had the money I would buy lots and stick them everywhere! I haven’t even got close to using this thing to its full potential yet but that is something that I WILL definitely be doing soon.

Watch this space………..

Alarm bells!

When you are a Landscape photographer there is one ability that you must possess. That is the ability to set your alarm at some point in the wee hours to get up and travel to the location of choice to capture the land in the best light possible.

Sometimes you can check the forecast and it will look like the perfect conditions for the “Epic” image , only to find after travelling miles in the dark to chosen location that the weatherman was completely wrong, I’m hastened to add that this is usually the case. After doing this several times you can often find yourself starting to doubt whether its even worth it. It’s at these times that a Landscape photographer absolutely must not give in to these thoughts…..

I will use an example from this weekend on my jaunt to Portwrinkle next to Whitsand bay. As usual I checked the forecast and all looked good , so I set my alarm for 5.30 am to get there with plenty of time to spare (sometimes the best colours are seen up to an hour before the sunrise and an hour after sunset). So I close my eyes and next thing I know off goes the alarm , I stumble out of my lovely warm bed and always have a glance out of the window. Can I see anything? no it’s still dark. What I am trying to look out for is if I can see stars, If I can see some here and there then that’s brilliant….but this day I couldn’t, oh well let’s go out anyway, so I quickly dress and neck a mug of coffee, grab my gear and I’m out of the door.

I arrive at said location with plenty of time to kill, but look at the sky only to realise that it is perfectly clear above me and looking to the East there is a bank of thick solid grey clouds as far as the eye could see, this was NOT GOOD!

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The outlook wasn’t hopeful

But being ever hopeful I decided to set up and try to get some “moody” shots of the sea with some long exposure photography. I then looked at my watch and realised that the sun had actually risen now but was unfortunately, for my lens, still behind the thick bank of cloud.

Shall I just go home for a Bacon sandwich now?? Nah I’ll just hang on a few more minutes, I can browse on my phone check emails check the news………..Well , literally 2 minutes later I glanced up and wow! there was my photo!!

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Portwrinkle looking East towards the Ramehead peninsula

This just goes to prove that sometimes, well most of the time, patience and perseverance are what’s needed to get that photo!

Happy snapping!

Bring on the Drone!

Well, drones have been around a little while now and most people have heard about them, whether it be for good reason or bad. For those that don’t know a drone or UAV (unmanned air vehicle) is a device that is flown or piloted from a remote location. But unlike regular radio controlled models these are normally hi tec pieces of equipment that use a variety of sensors, GPS ,compass, barometer and the like to hover on the spot or navigate their way around with great precision.

There are many types of drone available but the most popular type at the moment are quadcopters. These are named as such because of their four rotors or propellers that give lift and manoeuvre the aircraft around. Many of these today have cameras fitted that can record video up to 4k and also capture still images. This is where my interest arose from!

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Dji Phantom 3 4k

 

After a lot of research it I made my choice and purchased the Dji Phantom 3 4k. The Phantom 3 4k comes with a fully stabilized 3 axis gimbal and 4k camera. It is relatively easy to setup and it only takes a short while to calibrate the compass on the aircraft and allow the time for the aircraft to get its gps fixes . The camera on the device is controlled through the Dji Go app that is available for download on the app store or on google play store. The controller has a smartphone / tablet holder built into it , which securely holds your device while using the controller. It has a power button on the front of the controller and a dedicated “Go home” button too incase of any panic moments!

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It is a very easy to fly quadcopter and it wont take anyone more than a few flights to get used to the controls. The batteries are VERY expensive, extremely over priced if you ask me and you will need spares as they don’t last long. Dji say the battery will last twenty five minutes, what they fail to tell you is that this twenty five minutes is in controlled conditions with zero wind and no camera rolling! , just something to bear in mind. I manage between fifteen and twenty minutes tops. The battery will recharge in about one and a quarter hours which is pretty good, but if you are filming or using the drone for photography, like I said you will definitely need more than one battery.

There are some cool safety features built into the Phantom 3 , if at anytime it loses contact or signal it will automatically return to its home location which is always updated each time it takes off, it will do the same should the battery reach a critical level that is set within the app. If the drone is allowed to get so low that it cannot make it home it will descend slowly wherever it is so be careful not to allow this to happen especially if near water. It will display its last location on google maps in the app though so finding and retrieving should not be too tricky.

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The camera has so many settings to play with and you can shoot in DNG raw file format to get greater control over the images captured, that’s a big thumbs up! The controller on the Phantom 3 4k has dedicated camera shutter, exposure dial, gimble pan up and down and video record buttons which really do help.

Now as for the video………It is simply stunning! I haven’t recorded in 4k as I do not possess the means to view 4k content as yet but the 1080p 60fps footage is simply amazing. The Phantom 3’s have many features that will be well received by photographers and aspiring videographers. One paticular favourite of mine is the Point of interest feature, where you target an area from above then set the circling distance , height and speed then just push a button on the screen and away the drone goes , trust me you will love it.

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I haven’t ventured far afield with my drone yet as I have been building my confidence at home first but watch this space!

Now onto safety

DRONES should always be kept in sight of the operator!

DRONES of any kind should never be flown above 400ft EVER!

DRONES should never be flown anywhere near airports , helipads or landing strips EVER!

There are varying rules depending on whether a camera is fitted to your drone or not.

A full list of Do’s and Dont’s are available on the Civil Aviation Authority website .

Please fly safely and DO NOT abuse the laws on drone operation! as this will only lead to tighter legislation and make it harder for us to use this new tool available to us photographers / videographers.

Please be aware that for any kind of commercial work a licence and permit must be obtained from the CAA

Below is a short film I created at Rame head in Cornwall on a beautiful clear september morning.

 

Conclusion

The Phantom 3 4k can be had for between £500 / £600 in the Uk and is a fantastic choice of drone if photography and videography is your passion, simple to fly and a joy to use this drone WILL put a huge smile on your face when you see the world around you from above.

Happy flying.

 

Sigma 50-100 f1.8 DC Art lens review

 

When it comes to weddings and portrait photography there is one lens you can guarantee every photographer will have in his bag and that’s a 70-200 f2.8 of some sort or another, the Canon and Nikon versions of this lens are simply stunning when it comes to image and build quality. But, what if you don’t shoot with a full frame sensor and want the equivalent focal length for your crop camera? what do you do then? none of the big camera manufacturers really cater for us crop sensor users……that is until now!

Introducing the Sigma 50-100mm f1.8 DC Art lens

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The Sigma 50-100mm f1.8 DC Art lens

 

I was in just that situation recently, I currently own the Nikon D600 and D7100, the D600 being full frame (FX) and the D7100 being crop frame (DX). I needed something in the 70-200 range but didn’t want to be swapping out lenses on the full frame all the time, especially when shooting a wedding! so after seeing that Sigma have produced this 50-100mm f1.8 for APS-C (crop) sensored cameras, I thought I must try it, as this would give the equivalent focal length with the crop factor as a 75-150mm which is close enough to the 70-200mm range I was looking for. If you were shooting two crop sensor bodies this would pair up lovely with the Nikkor 17-55 f2.8 lens, giving the near perfect combination of wide to telephoto focal length for a wedding or portrait shoot, just something for you double DX shooters to think about…..

 

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100mm f1.8

 

I am so pleased I did go for it with this lens and to be completely honest I have been blown away by the performance of this lens for the money. The sharpness at the maximum aperture of f1.8 is unbelievable for a zoom lens, you can really blow the background to a creamy blur. At f2.8  make sure you are wearing gloves because it’s incredibly sharp , It peaks at f4 , anything beyond that and you really wont be able to discern much difference. It has an 83mm filter thread at the front element, which will unfortunately mean purchasing new filters for some people , it really is a big piece of glass but the design is beautiful. Well done Sigma!

 

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100mm f1.8

 

The build quality of this lens is SOLID!! It is of a full metal construction and weighs in at a whopping 1.5kg, so it is a very heavy lens. To the left of the barrel is the manual / auto focusing switch, that is the only switch as there is no image stabilization on this lens.

It comes with a tripod collar which some reviewers have said “gets in the way”,   I can say from my experience I didn’t find this to be a problem but I would have maybe liked it to be a little larger if anything, to use it as a hand grip but like I said before it’s no biggy. This lens is without a shadow of a doubt built to last, with one major flaw, there is NO weather sealing or proofing on this lens, which I myself find surprising as they have put so much effort into all other aspects of it.

The autofocus works well , maybe not quite the fastest but it is practically silent and accurate which is always a welcome bonus. The manual focus ring is large and to the front of the lens and is smooth and firm with absolutely zero play in it! which again is just how I like it. One other big thing with this lens is that it is a parfocal lens which means it will hold the focus point while you zoom in and out, this will be an added bonus for any videographers thinking about buying this lens.

 

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50mm f1.8

 

The lens can be purchased in the U.K for around £800/900 which isn’t cheap by any means but in comparison to the Nikon and Canon 70-200’s this is quite some price difference. There simply isn’t another DX lens, offering this focal length and quality, anywhere.

This certainly is a lens worth looking at if you are in a situation like I was, It has proved itself worthy with me already for shooting weddings and portraits and general work. I am certainly not going to be letting this one go for a long long time…..All in all this is a first class lens that will fail to disappoint and one worthy of being in any DX shooters bag!

Pros:-    Sharp wide open           Cons:-    No weather sealing

               Extremely sharp at f4                   Autofocus not blazingly fast

               Extremely well built                     No image stabilization

               Great Dx focal length

               Good price

Poole Wedding, July 16th 2016

Last year an ex colleague of my wife mentioned how one of her daughter’s three wishes for her wedding was to have me as the photographer. Obviously I was very flattered but having tried weddings before I wasn’t overly keen.

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Lots of badgering later however, I caved and accepted……and I am so glad I did as the location was beautiful as were the couple. It’s not often nowadays that you hear someone say that two people were made for each other, and are able to back it up with evidence.

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Well I can now safely say that THESE two people were made for each other, and I have the photos to prove it!

The whole day was one full of smiles and laughter…….oh and tons of sunshine.

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I shot this wedding with A Nikon D600 with the Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 lens and the Nikon D7100 with the new Sigma 50-100mm f1.8 DC Art lens.