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.

 

T.

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.

T.

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.

Ergonomics

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.

T.

Winspit and friends.

Hello, you.

Well on Sunday I went out with a camera as usual. Big surprise right? Except this time I had company, which is unusual for me. My twin brother was visiting along with his girlfriend, and they suggested we went for a nice wonder in the Sunday sunshine. Of course I wasn’t going to let myself be the awkward third wheel, so I decided to bring along my own girl, the ever-cute Danielle (sorry, I know I am sad).

Right, the next dilemma was where to go. We had decided on the purbeck region, where I had visited alone a couple of weeks back. We made the journey in a brand spanking Fiat 500. Excellent little car, even if the engine cutting off when in traffic scared the hell out of me. Anyway we reached our destination without much hassle, and yet again we ended up at Worth Matravers, with a final destination of Winspit in our minds.

I didn’t mind coming back, because it is truly an amazing place.

For this little day out I hadn’t intended on taking too many photos, but for me that means keeping it down to about 200. I was able to take the D300s with the 90mm macro lens, perfect for some portraits.

However, the very first photo I managed to get was of this little guy. He was hitchhiking a ride on my tshirt, and was nice enough to pose for a photo. If I ever see him again I’ll get him a copy.

Actually, that was a lie I just told. Sorry. This was actually the first photo I took. It is my brother and his girlfriend making the long walk down towards the coast.

Once we got to our destination we began to explore the pitch black darkness of the caves. They go very deep, and I had to keep firing the flash of the camera to see where we were going. Some very interesting photos came out of this, plenty of blackness and out of focus faces.

Just so you get an idea of the place, even though I have shown it before, this is the main section of Winspit. Behind me are the caves, and some old ruins, but this is the view out to sea.

After much exploration, especially around the ruins, Paris decided to jump in to a hole and frankly allow me to produce the best photo I ever have. Honestly.

We continued to act like children and generally have some fun, until I found a lovely little beetle. This little guy saw me coming, and immediately buried his head in the ground. He decided to do this for a long time, and after lying in front of him for 5 minutes I decided to try and get his attention. I did this by simply tickling his back with a blade of grass. I don’t know if he was happy with this, but he looked at me and allowed me to get the shot I wanted of him, so thanks!

Me and Danielle then proceeded to the edge of the cliff where we could sit and watch the swimmers below. I didn’t get any photos of them, because they were a bit uninteresting, instead I got this amazing shot. Second place to Paris’ portrait in the best photos I have ever taken.

I retreated a few feet to try and get some more photos of Danielle, looking very beautiful as she always does. This is my favourite shot of her to date, even though it is nothing technically special (just look at those eyes!). There is something about unplanned, unposed, candid portraits that make them a little more special.

After a wonder around the surroundings and visiting the home of the largest bat in the country (of which we couldn’t actually see!) we set off for the car. It was in the final field of the walk that we came across a herd of cows blocking our way. This wouldn’t be so bad, but there were some very young calves, and very big bulls. So in the interest of staying out of trouble we walked a long way round them. I did get this portrait of the youngest calf though, who proceeded to follow us for a little!

Well this ended the days journey, exciting I know. I shall be back with more nonsense and generally bad photos soon enough, you just wait and see.

T.