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technique

It's All About The Light

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It's All About The Light

Light is such an important factor in our photography. In this blog post we look at how changing light, even in a short period of time, can change the feeling in an image. 

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When 35mm is Wide Enough

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When 35mm is Wide Enough

Quite often, when I'm out on a dedicated wildlife shoot I will also carry my FujiFilm XE2 along for the ride, normally with the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens attached. 

Cambridgeshire, and especially the Fenlands, is famous for its flatness which, for a landscape photographer, can present challenges when it comes to framing. While I love nothing more than a challenge I sometimes find the vast openness of a landscape, such as this, becoming lost in the frame of a sub 20mm shot. 

Step up the 35mm which actually, given the crop factor, works out at 56mm; not normally a focal length associated with strong landscape photography perhaps? This is where I feel the flatness of the Fenlands can work to my advantage, as even with an equivalent 56mm focal length you can end up with a seemingly wider frame in front of you. Take the example below, a grab shot for me as I made my way across to my intended spot to photograph Great Crested Grebes. I couldn't resist the colours being painted over the landscape with the purple hues reflected of the calm waters. 

35mm (or around 56mm equiv.) can seem much wider along the flat openness of the Cambridgeshire Fens. 

Another example of my exploration of landscape photography with this camera and lens combination can be found here

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High ISO Performance of the Canon 1DX

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High ISO Performance of the Canon 1DX

While visiting the Woodland hide at an organised Northshots weekend in Scotland I decided to have a bit of fun with the Canon 1DX high ISO capabilities. Now, I was already very familiar with the 1DX's ability on high ISO as I regularly shoot at ISO4000 at football matches. Still it's always fun to push the limits and I have to admit that I was very impressed with an ISO 20,000 shot (yes that is twenty thousand ISO) ... 1DX - ISO 20,000 (unedited)

Yes, there is noise Mr Pixel Peeker, but in situations when you want to shoot a record shot and the light is very bad, then this will be very useful indeed.

And of course with a program such as Lightroom you can clean this up a bit to make it more presentable. Arguably even more than a standard record shot.

1DX - ISO 20,000 (processed)

Below a 100% zoom/crop of the unedited 20k ISO image.

ISO 20,0000 (100% crop)

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Standing in Front of More Interesting Stuff

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Standing in Front of More Interesting Stuff

There are two phrases which I'm struggling to get out of my head recently. #NeverStopExploring

"To be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff"

The second of of these statements comes from National Geographic photographer, Jim Richardson.

It is at the end of each year that we naturally look back at the previous 12 months, as well as looking forward to what the following year may bring. As I look back at my body of work from 2014 I ask myself have I improved as a photographer? I try and pick out, what I feel, is my best work. Have I managed to get 12 images in the past 12 months which I would be happy to add to my portfolio - that body of work which represents, what I feel, are my highest quality images?

Good Drying Weather

Sadly, this year, I have to say no. I don't think I've added anywhere near the 12 images which I can, hand on heart, say would make it into that collection. Sure there have been a few moments which have been very pleasing over the past year including Water Voles, Barn Owls and of course a wonderful trip to South Africa. I still however feel that my most recent images, when I come to review them, leave me feeling flat, especially when compared to others out there who inspire me.

Another worrying fact that perhaps backs up my feeling is that from out of my five most popular images on 500px (normally a reasonably good marker to how they may stand the test of time) only one has been taken in the past 12 months, with 3 of them coming from before 2010.

A Day at the Beach

And what about that first statement, #NeverStopExploring. Well as much as I love to shoot both landscape and wildlife on my doorstep (#MyLocalPatch) I know that I need to get outside of my comfort zone a little more - to explore more, much much more.

I already know that the year ahead will bring quite a few new challenges (more on that in time), but I'm determined to use these two statements to drive me forward. They are going to become my mantra as I head into 2015. To ensure that I don't stop exploring and in doing so making sure that I put myself in front of many more interesting things to shoot.

Walkies

Of course it would be nice, come the end of 2015 when I'm doing a similar look back / look forward, that I can add a few additional images to my portfolio, but this won't be what will have pleased me most. No. It will instead be when I repeat those above two statements to myself can I, hand on heart, say that YES, I didn't stop exploring and in doing so put myself in front of much more interesting things.

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The Black and White Photography Challenge

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The Black and White Photography Challenge

A few weeks ago I was invited to take part in the Black and White Photography challenge by Martin Bailey. I have to admit that initially I wasn't planning on taking part, mostly as I would not be able to keep up with the requirements of posting a photo a day for 5 consecutive days. I Shall Walk Alone

After a few days of contemplation (i.e. looking back through my archives) I decided that the process would serve as a good excuse to look back through my older photos and see if I could come up with 5 shots that I would still be happy to publish. This in itself has proved to be a very good learning exercise for a few main reasons.

Family Time

  • Firstly, while I'm nowhere near where I'd like to be on my photographic journey, I've come a heck of a long way. Some of those early shots (aka the baby years) are cringeworthy. Not necessarily in their own right (although some are), but how, when I think back I believed they were really something special.
  • Secondly, I've not taken nearly enough photos over the years that I would have liked and this does not sit well with me. I call myself a photographer and yet looking back though my archives there are plenty of gaps where I simply wasn't getting out with the camera. Going forward, this really needs to change.
  • Thirdly, I really like black and white photography, but can clearly see in my archives when I've simply converted a colour shot to black and white vs. going for a shot which I knew would work in that medium. It's very important that when looking to create a strong black and white photo you need to remember what works best for that medium (i.e. strong contrast, light etc) while shooting, rather than simply converting a colour shot back at the computer.
  • Lastly, and this one I didn't expect, is the fact that one of my photos (the man walking with the briefcase) has been used without permission on a Cambridge businesses website. I've already contacted them and asked them to remove the photo (which they have said they will). Raises the topic of water marking and posting images in full resolution yet again.

Follow You To The End Of Time

To date I've posted 3, with the remaining two due in before Christmas. In the process I've also invited two other photographers to have a go, Marcus Beard and Peter Moorey. Have you taken part? Would love to see your own 5 photos.  Need some inspiration?

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