Sunday, 20 May 2018

New tech. New ideas and building site progress photography

I currently have an ongoing project.

Since April 2017, I have traveled every two weeks to a building site, ten minutes from where I live, to document the progress of the construction. 

Using the architects own plans, I was able to see the best vantage points to show the progress in the best way. I was delighted when a couple who live in an apartment overlooking the site offered to let me use their balcony whenever I am there. 

On my very first visit, I took many general photos. Back home, I produced JPG's and superimposed my Canon 5d MKII's focusing points over the image. I transferred these images to my Samsung tablet so that when I am onsite, I can see exactly where my camera should be pointing.

My reason for taking as many images as possible on my first visit is because I have learned from past experience that eventually, there will be objects such as walls etc which will block your view or even pop up where you originally were standing!

My other "constant" is the lens and body combination. I use a 5d MKII fitted with an EF 16-35mm zoom. All the images I make are taken at the wide end. With this method, I can ensure uniformity in my results.

"So where are the new ideas mentioned in the headline"? I hear you ask. Last year I won a Samsung Gear 360 camera in an online competition. This is a golf ball sized device that has a lens on the front and on the back.

The two lenses' f.o.v* overlap with each other and some clever software stitches them together. This results in 360 degree images or videos that you can view and move around in, on your PC or smartphone.

The Samsung gear 360 camera

And here are some of the resulting images.

You can see more of my 360 images on the wonderful Kuula website.

The Samsung gear 360 is compatible with the Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy S7, Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy S6 smart devices. You can however use it without a smartphone.

Every six months, I put together a series of still images to make a "stop motion" type movie using the free and very capable Microsoft Movie Maker programme. Here is the latest version.

That's the beauty of photography. There's always something new and exciting to discover. Whether it's a new camera or lens or even just a reworking of an old technique. Our hobby / Passion is always well fed.

Thanks for reading.

*f.o.v field of view

Friday, 16 February 2018

Maps, books, cities and churches

I've been doing this photography lark since 1979. My first image was printed in a newspaper for US soldiers based in (then) West Germany around 1980. I was thrilled to see my image of tanks driving through a gate and bought several copies of the newspaper.

The feeling has never gone away. True, the internet allows us all to see our work published but nothing in my opinion beats having my images featured on paper.

Last year I was contacted by Jasper van Puten, a lecturer at  the Massachusetts School of Art and Design. He had seen an image of mine on Google Earth that would help to illustrate a part of a book he was in the process of writing "Networked Nation: Mapping German Cities in Sebastian Munster's 'Cosmographia' (Maps, Spaces, Cultures)".

Here's the blurb about the book. "Jasper van Putten examines the groundbreaking woodcut city views in the German humanist Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia. This description of the world, published in Basel from 1544 to 1628, glorified the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and engendered the city book genre. Van Putten argues that Münster’s network of city view makers and contributors—from German princes and artists to Swiss woodcutters, draftsmen, and printers—expressed their local and national cultural identities in the views. The Cosmographia, and the city books it inspired, offer insights into the development of German and Swiss identity from 1550 to Switzerland’s independence from the empire in 1648.* "

My image was to be used in the Swiss identity section of the book and was taken at the Sempacher "Schlachtkapelle" (Sempach Battlefield chapel). The chapel is built on the site of the battle of Sempach which took place in 1386 and was decisive in helping Switzerland win independence from the mighty Austrian Habsburg empire. Jasper was interested in using my image of the mural in that chapel which depicts the battle.

Aside from photography, I also enjoy studying and collecting old maps and engravings, so I was over the moon at having one of my images considered for inclusion in the book. We agreed a reproduction fee and several weeks later I received a mock up of how my image would appear in the book.

Here's the image in more detail:

Canon 5d MKII 16-35 zoom. ISO 640 1/40 at f4.5

The book is now in print and at the time of writing, only one copy is still available on Amazon.

As for the chapel itself, it is a place I love to visit with my camera. One of its features is that it has an ossuary (beinhaus in German). A repository of bones to commemorate the dead. Ossuaries are a pet project of mine and I have some of my ossuary images here for you to see on Google Plus.

For a more immersive experience, you can see the chapel interior in full 360 degrees courtesy of my 360 degree image of the chapel interior.

Here are a few more images of the fascinating place.

  Canon 5d MKII 16-35 zoom. ISO 200 1/200 at f13

  Canon 5d MKII 16-35 zoom. ISO 200 HDR Tonemapped image

 Canon 5d MKII 16-35 zoom. ISO 200 HDR Tonemapped image

Canon 5d MKII 16-35 zoom. ISO 200 HDR Tonemapped image

Wikipedia article about the battle and the chapel

* Book description from this website.

The book is also available from Amazon 

As ever. Thanks for taking the time to visit and if you have any questions then please doon't hesitate to get in touch.


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Always use protection. . .

In my courses, I always stress the importance of using a filter on the front of your lens.

I am not talking about polarisers, grads or ND filters here. A simple skylight, UV, haze or protection filter is good enough.

Every couple of weeks a post pops up in my Facebook thread about whether or not to use one. The opponents argue that lens manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure that their products are optically perfect and putting another piece of glass at the front will degrade the quality. The proponents argue that with a good quality filter, you will not notice the difference and will be afforded another level of protection.

I am (and always have been) an advocate of using a filter to protect the lens for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I never use lens caps and the filter protects the front element when in my bag and when carrying it around. Secondly, I would rather wipe any dirt or water from the filter than risk smearing or scratching the front element. Thirdly, if the camera slips off your shoulder or is knocked against a hard surface, the filter will take the brunt of the damage as mine did last Tuesday. 
3m x 3m Enlargements with UV filter

Fujifilm x100 and filter damage

Fujifilm x100 and filter damage

I returned from a photography class and had my Fujifilm x100 on my shoulder. The camera simply slid off my shoulder and fell lens first onto a marble floor. The only damage was to the filter. This was soon replaced and nothing major happened to prevent me continuing to shoot, nor did my camera have to be sent away to be fixed*.

I have always had a skylight, UV, haze or protection filter on the front of my glass. I do make sure though, that it is of good quality. How do I do this? I simply buy a well known brand (Tiffen, BW, Hoya etc)  if I don't know the brand, I will simply take a couple of pictures at varying apertures with and without the filter. They will then be enlarged to 100% to check if there are any glaring differences between them.

The picture on the wall behind me on the picture above was taken with a Canon EF 50mm f1.4 lens fitted with a Hoya skylight filter. I defy anyone to tell me that the quality would be better without a filter. the enlargements are three meters by three meters!

So my conclusion is to use protection in the form of a clear filter on the front of your lenses.

Thanks for reading.

* To add insult to injury, the lens hood which would also have protected my lens, fell off, unknown to me, on the way to the photo class!

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Revisiting the Zenit-E

Early on in this blog, I wrote about how I got started in photography. This was the camera that started it all for me. The venerable Zenit E.

I recently got one to add to my home collection. Looking at it after 37 years, I am surprised that it didn't turn me off for life!

There are five shutter speeds. 1/30th to 1/500 sec and the exposure is measured with a match needle metering system on the top plate. The image had to be viewed through an f3.5 lens with a very dim viewfinder. Then you had to stop the lens down to the appropriate aperture before pressing the shutter button.

 Here's the top plate. ISO 16 - 500. A frame counter that had to be reset after each roll of film. MF or X flash synchronisation and an accessory shoe (not a hotshoe).

The whole experience somehow fired my imagination and set me on this photograph journey.


I guess that the moral of this post (if there to be one) is that no matter how daunting your first camera seems to you, it could be a whole lot more difficult.

What was your first camera experience like?

Thanks for reading.