Monday, 28 June 2010

Poppies and a fisheye

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, I set myself a target to get an unusual picture of  poppies using only my fisheye lens.

Yesterday was that day. I set out on my bike to a place that my wife told me about where she had seen some good examples.

Armed with only my EOS 5d and a Russian Zenitar 16mm fisheye lens, I set about trying to get something different.I decided to go for a "worm's eye" view of the flowers.

Setting  the aperture on the (manual) lens at f16 which I have found to be its "sweet spot" and manually setting the focus at 60 cm gave me a sharpness range from 26 cm to infinity. The ISO was set to 100. Exposure was also manually set at 1/400 sec.

I had bought some clingfilm along with me and after setting the self timer to ten seconds, I wrapped the camera in it. this was because there was lots of dust and pollen flying around and I didn't want any of it going into the camera.

The first thing you notice when using the fisheye is that because it's so wide (180 degrees coverage), everything is so small and everything is included in the frame. I laid the camera on its back and after pressing the shutter, retreated out of the field of view. I made several images and this is the one that I liked the best.

Eos 5d. Zenitar 16mm. 
100 ISO. 1/400 @f16

I would loved to have found a more dense concentration of the flowers but sadly, there were none in the area that I knew of. I can always start planning for next year though.

The flowers here were only about eight
inches from the front element of the lens

See you next time.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Seeking inspiration

We have been experiencing what is arguably one of the worst winters of recent years. Finally, we have a positive weather forecast which means that many of you will be dusting off your cameras and getting out into the sunshine to take some pictures.

For the more serious snappers amongst you, what will you be shooting?

I don’t mean family and friends etc. What do you do to keep your interest alive? It doesn’t have to be summer related. I am constantly thinking of ideas for images. I have a series of sketches that I’ve been making since the mid eighties upon which I record ideas for photos.

Sometimes I’ll be reading a magazine or watching the television when an idea will come to me. I’ll then draw a picture (my drawings are admittedly crap) and file it away until I get the chance to put it into practice.

Here’s one example. I wanted (back in the eighties) to photograph a girl with a veil so I made a sketch and filed it away.

Some weeks / months later I was doing a model shoot in Surrey, England when the model started drying her hair after the shoot. I looked at her and remembered my sketch. Explaining my idea, she posed as I wanted and voilà. Another idea realised.

Here’s the original sketch (the part on the left):

and here's the finished image:

I have loads of sketches and hopefully one day I’ll get the finish them all, but I seriously hope that won’t happen. Why? Because then I’ll have run out of inspiration.

See you next time.

Friday, 18 June 2010

These are a few of my favourite things...

No this entry isn't going to be  about that song from "the Sound of Music"

Rather, I'm going to list some of the items that always have a place in my camera bag.

Let's start with the bag itself. Mine is a Billingham Classic 550. I bought it in the mid eighties when I was doing freelance press photography in London. I noticed that just about every other photographer I came across was using one. I stumped up (I think) £107 and bought one from Jessops in Tottenham Court Road in London. It's a heavy beast, even when it's empty!

Billingham Classic 550. Pic courtesy of Billingham bags

Weighing in at 2.6 Kilograms. It's the bag that I put in my car and just take stuff out of it as I need it. At the moment it holds an EOS 5d, an EOS 7d plus grip, a 70 - 200 zoom, a 28 - 135 zoom, a 17 - 40 zoom, a 50mm f1.8, a 24mm f2.8, a 16mm fisheye, a Canon Speedlite 420 EX plus two external drives, cables, card readers, cleaning cloth, batteries, memory cards and miscellaneous other items. The total weight of all these items together with the bag is 11 kilograms.Wash it occasionally with warm soapy water and treat it afterwards with a weatherproofing spray and it'll last for years.

Sto Fen bounce flash adaptor

Next is my Sto Fen flash bounce adaptor. Again I bought this in the eighties after seeing other snappers using them on jobs whilst working in London. It fits in the pocket and softens the flash light output. It's also useful for when there are dark or coloured ceilings which may influence the colour balance (remember I got this in the days before I could dial in my white balance).

Hotshoe spirit level

This is a little spirit level that I use to ensure that my shots are correctly aligned when shooting architecture. The little bubbles show if the camera is tilted up or down and whether it's correctly positioned with regards to a left or right tilt. My new EOS 7d has an electronic level built in which was actually one of the plus points that I considered when purchasing it.

 Panamatic panorama adaptor

The Panamatic camera adaptor has a built in spirit level and enables me to shoot a seies of photos one after another which can be later "stitched" together to make a panorama.

I bought both the panorama head and the spirit level from 7dayshop but they don't appear to list them anymore. They do however have an electronic level.

My Benbo tripod has been with me since June 1988. I've taken it everywhere with me. It can adapt to any uneven terrain and the legs are waterproof up to the first section. It looks unusual (even after all these years but I wouldn't be without mine.)

Vapor 1640 by Ken Onion

I always carry a knife with me and use it almost daily. There's always packing to cut open, an apple to peel or wires to cut and my 1640 VAPOR from Ken Onion does all of these and more. Looks nice too!

The ubiquitous iPhone

Last but not least is my iPhone. There are lots of photography Apps available for this. I use the Swiss tourist board programme to find out if anything photogenic is happening near me. I use another programme to calculate depth of field when shooting close-ups. A sunset / sunrise programme helps me know the best times to photograph according to where the sun is at any particular time of the day. The sunset part of the programme also lets me know when it's best to take pictures "at night" (Dusk is the best time as there is roughly a half an hour of magical light when details are visible in the sky which isn't too dark)

One cool thing about the iPhone is that when I open a picture in Irfanview, it shows me the GPS co-ordinates. This is useful when I'm out and about for the day and take pictures in different locations. I simply take one snap with the iPhone at each location. When I get back home, I simply open the image in Irfanview and can see where it was taken. I use this a lot when doing stuff for Google Earth.

Well that's it for now. It's the weekend and I'm off to take some pics.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

I know that face...

I often get asked to supply photos of fellow workers for various reasons. For example, it might be for a funny greetings card or a brochure.What then follows is that I have to look through my external hard drive for the relevant picture. Maybe I'll get lucky on the first attempt and find a nice portrait. Sometimes this doesn't happen and I have to search for a funny / amusing picture from a works party or similar and that's when it gets cumbersome as I photograph LOTS of these events.

I have now found the solution and it's free!! (free is my favourite).

I'm using the latest version of Google's Picasa with face recognition. After installation, the programme searches your hard drive for any images with faces on them and arranges them by similarity. You just select a picture and write the person's name and Voilà, Picasa looks for al the others of that person. This works whether the person is alone or part of a group. It also manages to find that person even when he or she is standing far away and in the shade! It also scans pictures on objects on the original photo. For example, I have a photo of someone holding a CD cover. The pictures on that cover were also scanned and picked up by Picasa. Posters hanging on a wall are also picked up.

You can tell Picasa which folders to look in and which one's it shouldn't. For example, I have omitted anything showing crowds such as sports events where every spectator is picked out for naming. Each folder is scanned and you can add descriptions to aid with any future searches.

Going deeper into the settings you can tell Picasa to scan a folder once or always. This is useful if you sometimes add new images to that folder. You can also tell it not to scan for faces (as I mentioned earlier) or just to scan one time only.

When you have named all the people that it has found, you can then navigate your way to a folder and open a pictures with (say) a group of people in it. Select "view / people" and it will tell you all the people in that group. If you double click on the group pic to enlarge it, you will see that running the mouse over the images puts an identification box on each person. This is a bit like the Facebook feature when a photo has been tagged.

Other cool features include the ability to make collages of your photos in several designs. You can also make movies with music and special effects from your still images.

Of note also, is the ability to Geotag your images. Just select and image and click on the "places" button at the bottom of the page. You can then add the location where the images were made. Later you can search for all images taken at that location. There's probably loads more features that I haven't discovered yet but what I've written above is what I'm the most interested in at the moment.

Bye for now.

Monday, 14 June 2010

The times they are a changing

The image capturing tools that I use in my job include a Sinar view camera, a pair of medium format Rollei SL66’s and my own digital Canon EOS bodies.

The vast majority of product photography done by me is shot on medium format tungsten balanced film. I go through anywhere up to 600 rolls per year.

I phoned my photolab three weeks ago to order one hundred rolls. I was then informed that they only had twenty rolls in stock and would order the rest. Five minutes later, they rang back and told me that it had been discontinued and that there were only twenty rolls available. Period.

 My favourite artificial light film. No more available

A quick visit to Kodak’s website said:

Due to significantly decreased sales volumes, Kodak is ceasing production of KODAK EKTACHROME 64T Professional Film (EPY). Based on current usage demand, product is expected to be available in the market through early 2010.
Kodak actively evaluates its professional film portfolio to ensure it's consistent with customer demands; decisions regarding product discontinuations are largely based on customer demand and sales

A feeling of unease begins to set in so I ask if there is any Fuji equivalent available. Half an hour later my call is returned and I am reliably informed that there are only ninety rolls left in EUROPE!! Naurally I ordered them and they arrived last week.

 The last ninety rolls of Fuji 64T

I can’t however (at the time of writing this), find any mention of its discontinuance on the Fuji website.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. „ Just switch to digital“. That will definitely happen but I find it somewhat disappointing to see such a great film being discontinued.

I’ve been using it since the early eighties. Perhaps I’ll keep one box back to give to a photomuseum!

 Feeding the beast

Oh well. 'til next time.

This is all about to change. . .

Sunday, 13 June 2010


I took this last year in the next village to where I live. I really enjoy photographing poppies. I've set myself a small task. I'm going to try and get something a bit different this year and am going to limit myself to only using my fisheye lens.

Friday, 11 June 2010

A foot in the door.

It's been an interesting week. Monday found me in the beautiful town of Murten. It's a one and a half hour drive from where I live. I was there to photograph a shop interior.

After living fifteen years in Switzerland I'm surprised that I'd never been there before. It is a gorgeously preserved old town complete with castle and paved streets.My shoot in the shop went well and I used the Canon 5d coupled with my 17-40 zoom lens to give an impression of space in the somewhat narrow room.

I discovered that there was also a cellar underneath the shop and ventured down there to see what other photo opportunities there were (and to escape the somewhat oppressive heat

There was a very good lighting system down there and I photographed it showing the various effects available. I took one wide shot with the lens at 17mm and discovered that the door (which had to be open to show what was inside) would automatically close. This meant that I had to use the self timer, press the shutter, run to the door, open it and hold it open from behind! (Picture 1)

I am standing behind the door holding it open

The next shot was a close-up but I wanted to remain behind the camera so I looked for something with which to wedge the door open. I could have gone back upstairs and asked in the shop but I could hear lots of voices and didn't want to disturb anyone.

A brief search around the cellar showed that there was nothing that I could use even to rest against the door to prevent it closing. The solution came as my feet were aching. I'd just bought a new pair of Summertime shoes the week previously and they still feel a little bit too tight. I removed one of them and wedged it under the door (see picture 2). This kept the door open (see picture 3). I removed the other one (it's a weird feeling to walk around with only one shoe on) and completed the rest of the job walking on the smooth cool concrete floor.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, Murten is beautiful. Very photogenic. I'll definitely be going back to take some pictures at a later date.

Here's a picture (Picture 4) I took on the drive home, with my Canon Powershot G9, after getting a little lost (and yes, I DO have a GPS installed  :o) )

The first post

Welcome to my little part of the blogging world.

I've often read other people's blogs and thought to myself, "I should do that", but then thought "what would I write about?"

Well. After a few months deliberating on the subject, I decided that after turning fifty, I should have enough ammunition to regale the masses with my thoughts and ideas. So here it is. Welcome to "random musings from a reluctant fifty something".

I will try and update this thing at least once a week and give my thoughts and opinions on a variety of subjects but first, a little about me.

I am a British guy living in Switzerland. I am married with three children and work as a photographer.

Photography is my passion. When I'm not taking pictures from Monday to Friday for work, I can probably be found taking pictures for myself, privately, or reading about photography. I've been passionate about this medium (art, craft, call it what you will), since I was given a camera by my folks for Christmas way back in 1979. But more about that in a later post...