Strobist work

Well as you may have seen, i’ve just got all of this lovely equipment which allows me to experiment with some strobist shooting. So taking photos with off camera flash.

I’ve not had many opportunities yet, but here are two photos that i have taken with the setup. Now getting this sort of shot right with a manual flash and manual exposure is more difficult than you’d think, but with a little time it can be very rewarding.

This first photo is actually of myself. I was out shooting with Danielle, and at her request i spent a few minutes on the other side of the lens. The camera was all set up and the light ready to go. All she had to do was press the button while pointing the camera at me. She did rather a good job if you ask me. The flash was to the left of the camera, about 10 feet from myself, shooting through my white umbrella.

Ignore my stupid posing, i was trying to not look like an idiot – and failing.

This second shot, believe it or not, was simply taken in my bedroom. I’d set the lights up, and just clicked away. So i’m fairly pleased with how this one turned out, as i wasn’t expecting anything great. The flash was at about an 80 degree angle to Danielle, shooting through the umbrella, getting just the right amount of catchlight in her eyes.

Off camera lighting really is an excellent thing, and should be tried by everyone. Hopefully these are just the first of many photos that i’ll be putting on here using this setup. Who knows, maybe i’ll even have a photo of someone different!



Motorcycle + Camera =

Good evening, you.

Well over the weekend i was mostly out and about on the bike, riding through the forest and generally enjoying the lovely weather we’ve been having.

Now i saw a photo recently that gave me this idea. So i thought i’d give it a go to see what i’d come out with.

This involved taking a photo while riding along, attempting to get the bike and scenery in the shot. I wanted to get the front of the bike in focus, nice and sharp, but with the scenery flying past. This may sound easy, but it really is not.

First problem, you can’t take a photo while riding a motorbike. Well, i’m sure you could, but i’m also sure it wouldn’t be safe. Therefore i needed some help. Enter a passenger.

Now what i decided to do was put the camera around my neck, set up the lens and settings that i thought i would need, and set off.

I set the lens nice and wide at 19mm. Placed the camera on manual and set the settings as follows – f3.5, 1/50sec, ISO800. This would allow a good depth of field, some movement from the surroundings, and enough sensitivity to allow for a bright shot.

The camera would hopefully be facing the right way, and all the passenger would need to do is reach around and press the shutter button. This was done a lot, as i told her to simply keep taking photos as we wouldn’t know what we got until we stopped.

This is something i want to try again, maybe at night with some lovely lights wizzing by. Could look nice, couldn’t it?

Anyway, here is the favourite of the bunch. It is mostly sharp and in focus, with some nice interest from the sun coming in from the side.

Now i’d advise you do not try this yourself. It was perfectly safe in the situation, but i cannot stress enough how dangerous just riding a bike is, so this sort of action should only be carried out by someone who knows what they are doing and if the conditions allow.

Enough of me, here is the shot. I shall look in to the others a bit more and maybe carry out some edits to see if i can find any other shots worth showing.


This week i will mostly be using…

Good evening, you.

I am lucky enough to be using some of my dream equipment at the moment, and shall be using it to take some photos in the near future. I shall also endeavour to let you know what i think of each bit of kit, just in case you care.

So for now i shall leave you with this quick shot. I shall be putting up real photos soon enough, some that i have taken with this stuff. But for now, you can just look at this…

This is the D300s with the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8.

Quite simply the best lens i have ever used, maybe. It’s currently a toss up between this and the 85mm f1.4G.

However i’ll be using the Canon equivalent soon too, so this could all change.



Long Exposures and stuff.

Good afternoon, you.

Well it’s been a while. You know this whole blogging thing would be a lot easier if I had good computer at home, or at least a working internet connection.

Anyway, excuses are for the weak, like me.

So this weekend just gone I was off out and about trying to get some water shots for work. I needed to head down to Hengistbury Head really, and get a couple seascape images. This was no problem at all – it is close to my house and I have transport (more on that later).

However, I also wanted to try my hand at some long exposures with the water. Something I have never really done, but something I’ve always loved. Now I didn’t necessarily have the ideal kit for this, but none the less I was going to give it a good go.

I was using a Nikon D300s – brilliant camera. I also had a Sigma 10-20mm lens – excellent lens, although the autofocus had decided not to work. This definitely becomes a problem when you’re looking through a dark filter in the late evening.

Anyway, excuses, for the weak.

Now it wasn’t a particularly nice evening. It wasn’t raining, but the sunset wasn’t brilliant. However the amount of photographers, with tripods an’ all, down there was crazy. Also annoying because one of them was stood exactly where I wanted to be, meaning I couldn’t get the shot I actually wanted.

Here is my little setup for taking the shots. Just a little behind the scenes, because i know you want to see it.

So, on to the actual photos. This one is simply a shot of the water and sunset, nothing special I know. It is also very similar to a shot I got before of this area, but I needed to be here for work.

I also took some general shots while I was waiting for the sun to go down a bit. This one is my particular favourite. A lone fisherman was casting his line out to sea, although it didn’t look like he was having much luck. He seemed very happy though, and was probably enjoying the peace and tranquillity more than anything.

This next shot is what I managed to get using the ND filter and a looooooong exposure. It was originally only one photo, however using the RAW file I turned it in to 5 with different exposures. I was then able to put it in the Photomatix Pro and make a HDR long exposure shot. Now I haven’t edited it brilliantly, so I will re-do this one when I get the chance.

That’s about it for the photos I took. Now the other thing I was occupied with this weekend – my new steed. Recently passed my big boy bike test, so I have been riding this. It is not mine, but is my friends old bike that he is very generously letting me borrow for the time being. It’s nothing special, but is faster than anyone actually needs off of the race track. Enjoy.

That’s it for now. Maybe I’ll even put some more photos up soon, rather than writing all this nonsense.


Nikon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 VR – First Review

Good afternoon, you.

Well I have been using the Nikon 80-400mm lens this week, and what sort of person would I be if I didn’t let you lovely people know what I thought about it?

Not a very good one, that’s what.


Well let’s get started then. This lens is very big, that much should be obvious before you actually get your hands on it. It completely dwarfs many cameras, and is not light at all. So be aware that you will probably want to build up those muscles before you spend a day with this thing. It actually weighs in at over 1.3kg.

To be honest, I didn’t find this a problem at all. You know what you are getting yourself in for with a lens like this, so if you complain of size and weight then you are the one to blame.

Because of this lens’s size and weight, it is incredibly well built. It feels like you could drop it many times and it would just soak it up. Even the inner barrel is made of metal.

While on the subject of the ergonomics, I have to talk about the manual focus setting. The actual focusing is absolutely fine, no problems with that at all. It is switching this damn thing on to manual focus which really gets to me. It is not a simple switch on the side, but a button to press down, while you rotate a small focus ring. This is not so difficult to do normally, but when you are composing a shot and want to switch focus modes, it is near impossible.

In Use

I have been using this lens with the Nikon D300s, which is an excellent camera. However, I have only had the chance to test it while out taking wildlife shots.

The main, well-known flaw of this lens is it’s AF speed, so this was probably not the best place to test this lens. I was hopeful for some animals that would like to stay still for more than a second, and I think I got some good shots. However, this is just not the lens for the job. It doesn’t grab focus quick enough, and it was almost impossible to track fast moving animals and get a decent shot. The focusing is actually very reminiscent of the cheap and cheerful 70-300mm zooms from Tamron and Sigma.

Never mind, I fully expected this.

I will hopefully be taking this lens out for a nice test later on this week, but it will be at an air festival. So instead of animals going 10mph, it will be jets flying at 1000mph. Good idea, right? Well hopefully I will be able to take some shots of more static attractions, and maybe some candid portraiture.

At the same air festival, I will also have the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 which I reviewing recently. I should therefore be able to return with a direct comparison of these two lenses, showing the benefits of each, and the downfalls.

The focusing issue really isn’t that much of a problem if you know the limits of this lens. The same can be said about any lens, but this one can produce some excellent photos when used in its comfort zone.

The 400mm reach came in very useful for getting close-up portraits of many of the animals, and when used with the crop sensor of the D300s, it is effectively 600mm. While on this little shoot, I was with another photographer, who was using a 300mm lens on his full frame body. So I had double the reach he had, which really showed in some of our comparative shots.

This lens has a maximum aperture of 4.5-5.6 as you go up the zoom range. This is not so bad, but it is far from great. Obviously to get a wider aperture, or a constant one, you’d probably have to double the cost of this lens. But for a lot of situations I found I wanted that extra stop, that extra speed, and some more light in to the camera. For a lot of the shots I was boosting the ISO right up to around 1600, which although is no real problem for a higher end Nikon, but it did mean I had to be careful when it came to processing shots.

Now on a side note, there is also a very slight chance that I will be able to test the D300s against the Canon 7D while at this air show. These are direct competitors, so using them both simultaneously could be interesting. Now it is obvious that I am a Nikon man, but I already think the 7D is better than the 5D mark II, so the bias is already dwindling, and I hope to give a fair test.

Both cameras have their strengths, and I fear the 7D’s 8FPS shooting may put it ahead for this little test, couple that with the fact it will have the Tamron 70-200mm lens, where as the D300s will have the 80-400mm.

I shall report back with more soon. But for the time being, here are some shots taken with the 80-400mm.

Test shots

Final Verdict

This lens definitely has the ability to be very sharp, and produces some great photos, especially when stopped down a little. Now I know I was testing this in the wrong setting, but I will continue to test it and will add to this review. However, it is already clear that speed and low-light are not this guy’s friend. However, I have no doubt that lighter conditions and still subjects will be a home away from home for this lens.


Tamron 90mm f2.8 Macro Review

Good morning, you.

I was going to try and avoid doing too many reviews on this blog. But it is probably a good idea that I do them on some bits of kit, especially third party lenses. These are often discarded as inferior in quality compared to the big guns from Canon and Nikon. So the odd review, good or bad, should be a welcome addition to the interwebs.

Now I’m not a die hard fan of any lens manufacturer. I own Nikon lenses and a Tamron lens. I have used mostly big brand lenses, but my future lens purchases will more than likely steer away from these for a number of reasons.

This lens has a quality feel to it, much like a big brand lens. It doesn’t feel cheap, although is made of plastic. It is also fairly compact and lightweight. It is available for under £350, which is quite frankly ridiculous, especially because the Canon and Nikon equivalents are around twice that.

This lens is a dedicated macro lens, capable of producing 1:1 macro images. This is very important for taking true macro photos, allowing reproduction of subjects at life size. It has a fixed focal length of 90mm, which is a great length for macro. The 105mm from Nikon is possibly a little better, as that extra little reach really helps. But 90mm meant this lens was also brilliant for portraits, which I used it for a lot.

This lens has a constant 2.8 aperture; meaning when stopped down it was very sharp. The 2.8 was excellent for portrait shots, but not ideal for macros. Anyone who has used a macro lens and gotten really close to the action knows that such a wide aperture will create an unusable depth of field.

Much like most Tamron lenses, the focusing is switched using the large focus ring on the front. Using the manual focus is very necessary with macro images, and this was a delight to use. It is easy to focus precisely and without much creep.

One point to mention here about this lens is that the barrel extends. Most macro lenses do not have extending barrels, but simply internal focusing. This is not necessarily a problem when it comes to portraits, but for very close macro shots it can be irritating. I did have a number of occasions when I was focusing the lens, and managed to knock a leaf with the end of the lens. Just being aware of this before hand should stop this though, I’m just clearly not intelligent enough for such sophistication.

Optically, this lens is brilliant. It produces excellent photos, in all shooting situations. As with any lens, stopping it down to around f3.5 brings out its sharpest images, but 2.8 was still excellent for portraits.

Many others will agree to this testament of mine, and the 90mm Tamron is definitely a popular macro lens to choose.

Yay, a happy ending!

Anyway, here are a couple of macro shots I took with this lens. Check out my recent posts, Winspit and friends and Macro, macro man. All of the photos in these posts were taken using the 90mm.


Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 Review

Hello, you.

Well the weekend just gone I had the chance to test out a lens I have had my eye on for a while, the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8. Lets get this in early, it is a quality lens, with a constant aperture, and can be had for around £500.

Now I have developed quite an interest for portraits recently, and think I could see myself doing more of them in the future. Natural, location based photos, rather than forced studio nonsense.

Right, so I had this lens mounted on the 5D mark II. See the previous post for my opinion of this. I set out to take whatever photos I could, but knowing I’d want it for portraits.

The first thing you notice is the size of this lens. I have used a lot of lenses, from beginner to pro (see my camera gear page), and this is bar far the largest. It has a diameter of 8.9cm and a length of 19.4cm, with a weight of 1.3kg. Mounted on the camera it looked very large, and dwarfed even the 5D.

I’m not ashamed to say that I am attracted to the larger lens. I think it is my childishness, or the sheer impressive look of them, but a big lens always has my attention. And, it seems, the attention of the general public. Many a person decided to comment, and I had hundreds of old men perving on it (you know they do it).

The impressive size of this lens is replicated in its build quality. It definitely feels like a pro lens, and the weight is easily forgiven when you feel the sturdy construction. I’d have no problems using this lens in a number of weather conditions, and without having to worry I’d knock or damage it.

Now on to the insides of this lens. It is designed to go up against the big boys of Canon and Nikon with their own 70-200 f2.8 lenses, as well as compete with Sigma’s entry, which is more reasonably priced. I have not tested any of these lenses, however, I am sure the Nikon and Canon are superior. But that is not the point here. These two lenses are over twice the price of the Tamron, and I’m pretty certain they are not twice as good.

Check out DP Review’s basic comparison here.

The optical quality of the images definitely have the wow factor. I have used some great optical lenses (namely the 85mm f1.4 G), and this impressed me just as much. Viewing the photos on screen and on camera showed great contrast, and sharpness pretty much throughout the range. I found stopping the camera down a couple of stops brought out the best results, but f2.8 was still excellent.

Here is one of the shots i took of the day. Not the best, but i blame the camera for this.

This lens has the one main flaw, which is the auto-focus. Yes it is slow, and yes, it can be noisy. But in normal, every day conditions, I didn’t notice it at all. It is obviously not the fastest focusing lens I’ve used, but considering what this lens can do optically, and its price, I’m just happy it focuses at all!

I did have problems with the 5D I was using, so switched to the manual focus for most of the portraits I took. Changing to manual is very easy, and I found the manual focus to be very easy and precise.

May as well chuck this shot up of me. If nothing else, this kind of shows the lens is not too big or heavy for smaller hands.

So after a weekend with the lens, it is now on my to buy list. I was originally looking to get a replacement for the kit lens, but I think this lens will be much more useful, especially for portrait shots. I will be putting it through further tests soon enough, but for now I’d highly recommend this lens to absolutely anyone and everyone, even if you don’t have a camera.