Dont take pictures into the sun

We are frequently told not to take pictures into the sun, preferring to try to keep it behind us instead. In fact when the wife is out taking pictures on her phone I quite often remind her of this. To which the usual response is it will be fine. Much to my amazement they usually are as well.

Have a look at the photo below:

St Mary’s Loch
St Mary’s Loch, Scottish Borders

I wouldn’t normally take pictures like this, but on this occasion I think it might be OK.

That brings us onto how much we should think about photographic ‘rules’. I don’t normally pay much credence to things like the rule of thirds.  To me any ‘rules’ in photography should be considered more as guidelines. They may work in certain situations and they may not. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the photo though. If in doubt shoot. You could always adjust the composition later if you need too.

Isn’t that cheating?

Changing things in post isn’t really a new thing. Although regarded as something that is only done in digital, anyone could do so using an enlarger. In fact burning, dodging, toning, changing composition by cropping are probably all things anyone with a darkroom has done. I certainly use to.

So I would say no its not cheating. It could be regarded as part of the process.

The next time your out and about taking photos don’t rigidly stick to the rules. Take the shot and see if it works.

You might even begin to develop a style without realising it.

 

Seagulls

The other day I was out and about and happened to come across some seagulls at the local coastal town I frequent.

Nothing too unusual about that. You get seagulls almost everywhere these days, not just on the coast. Quite. But have a look at the image below.

seagull
This could be a black headed gull..which apparently for most of the year doesn’t have a black head

I thought there was something odd about this particular bird but couldn’t quite place it.

Seen it yet?

Yep…its standing on one leg, with the foot missing on the other. Now perhaps I lived a sheltered life but I’ve never really noticed this before.  I looked at the other birds perched around thinking this must be a one off  but to my amazement there was another bird with a foot missing.

I’d gone from not noticing this before to seeing two within minutes of each other. No they weren’t the same bird!

Getting a thing for gulls?

Possibly. I quite often watch seagulls and practice my BIF technique on them. And yes I do need the practice. Seagulls are plentiful and generally accommodating by flying quite low. They also seem to associate humans with food, so don’t tend to scare too easily around our presence. I recall getting mugged for my chips by a seagull in my childhood on Blackpool seafront. That was a very long time ago. Some 20 years ago a similar thing happened in Scarborough.

So for me the seagull has become a source of intrigue. I notice the differences between them, currently up to four different breeds.

My OCD will kick in soon and I will have to identify them so I can get a good nights sleep 🙂

 

Edit: I captioned the above photo. Told you my OCD would kick in.

Just for the sake of it

Have you ever done anything just for the sake of it?

At this time of year photography opportunities are limited. Either by weather or poor light. This tends to make me spend a bit more time at a keyboard and screen.

That leads onto me looking at the design of the TMMA website. Anybody that uses WordPress to publish a site will tell you its relatively easy to use and you have a lot of choice. The first part of that sentence is great. The second part can be a curse.

The choice comes in the form of all the different themes available to you and that you can easily swap between. Now themes can be very personal in terms of what you like and dislike. Fonts colours and styling all adding up to decisions you have to make.

As an example I prefer a dark on light easy readable font. I also don’t like huge dark areas in terms of website design. Hence the design of this website 🙂 Now I appreciate this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Light on dark could be more trendy, as could a more complicated style. A personal pet peeve is having to click on too many options to get to where you want. Hopefully I’ve avoided that here.

Not sure where the curse is?

I end up on these dark, rainy  evenings looking at the various themes available on WordPress and trying them out. From the wife’s point of view it keeps me quiet. But invariably after experimenting with three or four templates, I end up going back to more or less what I had.

The choice can be the curse. The same could be said for the range of equipment at our fingertips too. Will that new mega body give us a tangible improvement in our photography? For the most part no. Not unless it does something you need to do that your current body can’t.

So after having my annual look around at website themes, I’m back to where I started. There might be a tiny tweak here or there but for now it largely appears the same.

So have you ever done anything just for the sake of it?

Have Canon finally realised?

Have Canon finally realised what the rest us have known for a while?

There are several reports that Canon are predicting a slump in demand for cameras (that’s the short version).

Modest iterations from manufacturers and a lack of filling out lens lines, together with a shift to higher price units have all helped to subdue sales.

Apparently the full frame mirrorless sales are coming at the expense of DSLRs. Did they think we would buy one of each?

Plus as I have mentioned before there is still a lack of consumer confidence in several global market areas.

Even Apple are feeling the pinch, although on a slightly different scale. Apple appear to be citing difficult trading in the Chinese market. The cynical amongst us might say they have pushed the pricing of their latest phones a bit too far.

Speaking of high pricing, Olympus have joined in with their latest offering the EM IX. That is pushing $3000 for a m43 camera. At first glance that’s a lot of money for a small sensor camera compared to the full frame offerings around.

Several camera companies have alluded to a repostioning to sell less cameras with a higher value. The way things are going that seems to be a tough call to accomplish.

The underlying trend though, would question the future viability of the APS sized cameras. With a shift to full frame mirrorless from both Canon and Nikon I can’t see the smaller sized siblings getting a lot of love.

The market is shrinking according to all the sales data and that puts the manufacturers in a dilemma. The current hopes pinned to full frame mirrorless and lenses in a new mount.

I’m still not convinced expensive mirrorless lenses and bodies are the solution…….

Is 2019 going to be your year of gear?

Happy New Year to you! To start off I have a question: Is 2019 going to your year of gear?

Now I’ve stated numerous times I’m not against acquiring new gear. For me it has to have a definite purpose, add something you don’t already have and for bonus points be good value.

So here are my thoughts, I fully appreciate yours may vary and that’s fine. We’re all different, if we all used the same lenses and produced similar work it would get tired very quickly 😀.

I find that at the moment my needs are met by less than a half a dozen lenses. I have a 18-55mm, a wide aperture 35mm, 70-300mm and a 105mm macro lens. Notice there are two ‘kit’ lenses in there. These are fine for what I currently shoot from a hobby point of view. They provide a good weight / value proposition for me. Also bear in mind I use crop sensor (Nikon DX) gear. All the shots on this website have been taken with what I call modest equipment.

Here’s the indecision.

The two lenses I struggle with are macro and an ultra wide. Taking the macro lens first, I tend to swing a bit like a pendulum on whether I should have one. It seems when I don’t have one I miss it. When I do have one I don’t necessarily make full use of it and may even leave it at home! It would appear my close up needs are met by a Raynox adapter which is a lot easier to carry around although admittedly not quite the same.

That brings me to the ultra wide angle lens. I tend to have an on off relationship with a very wide field of view. Over the years I’ve had various lenses in the 10-24mm range (35mm equivalent)  on my DX cameras. Having been brought up on film cameras I got use to 28mm (on 35mm film) being wide. I’ve never really been able to shake that. Perhaps I need to experiment with stitched panoramas rather than trying to get everything in a single shot.

So is 2019 going to be your year of gear?

Umm….No. In a few of my posts I promote experiences over gear. To put my money where my mouth is we already have three experiences lined up this year. Well, to be fair my lovely wife already has three lined up. Two for my birthday and a big one for a big anniversary, later in the year.

Between that and some other changes in the TMMA household I’m hoping to reverse my somewhat dry spell of photography.

Have you ever noticed that photography is a bit like exercise? The more you do the more you want to do. But when you start skipping a session here and there your motivation goes quicker than the Millenium Falcon on the Kessel Run (two points if you get the reference 😀) . It can be a struggle but somehow you have to force yourself back on track.

May you have good light for your endeavours in 2019.

Life gets in the way

Life gets in the way….. of all sorts of things. But just recently it’s got in the way of my ability to take photos. Now don’t get me wrong, I consider myself extremely fortunate and this is in a photographic context. Ive done a lot less photography in the last couple of months than I would of liked. There are two reasons for that. 1. The weather and more importantly 2. My disabled son.

Normally he’s not too much trouble and to be fair it hasn’t been his fault. He has a happy innocent outlook on life. He has also been blessed with a gift of making people smile wherever he goes.

We’ve been trying to arrange a supported living placement for him. Unfortunately it fell through at the last minute and we had to revise our plans. As did those who were trying to help us. As any carer or parent of someone with a disability will tell you, at times it can be incredibly frustrating. Not to be too negative, it is also very rewarding and you get to meet some amazing people along the way.

Due to all the commotion I didn’t really feel in the right frame of mind to go out and take photos. The December weather didn’t help much either.

Anyway… things now look like there back on track, thankfully. Hopefully my son can start the next exciting chapter in his life. Meeting new people and having new experiences.

Yes life gets in the way sometimes. But if it didn’t would we feel the same when we have the ability to go out on adventures, hikes or drives and take some photos? Would we still appreciate the scenes before us, even if it is raining? Perhaps not.

Photography for me is not just a hobby. It’s a chance to see different places, maybe meet some new people. Forget about the world for a while when your in the zone. It’s a therapy.

Whatever you are doing and wherever you are may you have a happy Christmas and good light for 2019.

 

You never know what you’ll come across

You never know what you’ll come across as a visit to the local coastal town proves.

It was a gloomy overcast December day and I thought I’d take my son out for a drive and maybe find something interesting to photograph.

After having lunch out we had a walk down the seaside promenade. Apart from a large contingent of gulls there was a small fishing boat out in the estuary.

Then my son got excited:

Boat emerging from port

He saw this ship coming out of port. We watched as it cleared the harbour walls and then headed down the estuary. I’m not sure what it was about this particular ship but he stood there and watched until we lost sight of it. Although it wasn’t huge it did dwarf the little fishing boat that was busy a few hundred metres away.

Now when I see a ship or a plane I wonder where it’s come from and where its going. I’m a bit weird like that, as my wife will testify. Well, she will probably just say I’m weird full stop. 😀.

But my son just enjoyed the moment of watching. 

Sometimes as photographers I think that’s something we forget: to stop and look at the moment. Take a photograph by all means but also enjoy that sunset, landscape, night sky, whatever it maybe.

Because you never know what you’ll come across….

 

Whats the difference between a boat and a ship? Apparently a ship can carry a boat, but a boat can’t carry a ship. 

Why are submarines called boats? That’s a conversation that needs alcohol and snacks 😀

Black Friday 2018

It’s Black Friday 2018. Every year it seems to get more underwhelming. In fact if you squint you might even miss it this year.

Normally the bargains are thrust upon us. In 2018 it seems you almost have to go looking for them.

Im not saying that’s a bad thing though. Perhaps it’s finally dawning on people that the so called reductions may not, in fact, be that good after all. Shock. Horror.

In the UK we still have austerity. Despite the government trying to tell us different. I’ve not come across many people who would say their ‘feel good’ factor is any better than it was a year ago.

We are also on the verge of the great Brexit deal. How great that deal is  will be open to question and probably be debated on ad nauseoum for a lot longer than anyone wants. Either way the uncertainty isn’t helping consumer confidence.

My opinion on Brexit is the country voted for it. Get on with it. We live in a democracy the people had their say. Someone is always going to be upset it didn’t go their way. In that case do we do the best of two out of three? Three out of five? Where do you stop?

Ok, let’s keep it photographic 🙂

If your up for some new gear I hope you get lucky with Black Friday or maybe even Cyber Monday.

On a personal note the only thing I’m up for at the moment is some spare batteries. I don’t actually NEED anything else.

I don’t know if I should think myself fortunate or a bit sad…

I’m going with fortunate 😀

It’s a balancing act

It’s a balancing act these days. My new found interest in Astrophotography has resulted in a new found interest in the weather.

Keeping an eye out for clear nights is now something I do more often. The balancing bit comes in with fitting the odd clear night around family commitments.

According to the weather forecast we are looking at cloud and or rain for the next week or so. Oh well.

Talking of balancing acts, we photographers quite often have to manage compromise. How much we spend on a piece of gear versus  have much we will use it is a common one. For hobbyists it’s harder than professionals. Why? Because a pro will look at it as a tool. Does it add value to what I do? How quick will the payback be? For the rest of us it’s more a case of want than need.

How much have you got?

Another compromise amateurs make is what gear to actually take with them on a shoot. Too much gear can lead to analysis paralysis. You have some FOMO (fear of missing out) by leaving something behind. So you end up lugging a suitcase of stuff around – just in case. Chances are you will only use one or two lenses on that hike or day out. The rest is extra weight.

OK. What do you do?

Im fortunate in that I don’t have a huge amount of gear. I balance my photography needs with the needs of the family. (Plus the wife keeps an eye on the spending😀).

I’ve got less than half a dozen lenses for my Nikon DX body. I can usually leave a couple of lenses at home without too much anxiety. If I’m really unsure I might leave them hidden away in the car.

My CX kit is a different kettle of fish. I can cover (the FF equivalent of ) 28 – 300mm in three pocketable lenses with not much weight. Whenever I’m out I always carry a spare battery for whatever body I have. In reality I very rarely use it though. Theres that FOMO again.

More often than not my balancing act is do I take the DX or CX kit. If I’m going out for potential wildlife shots I.e. birds, dragonfly’s etc, I’ll take the DX kit with a CX body and FT-1 adapter. More urban adventures and I’ll take the CX gear.  Hiking it could be either. Or a combination. In some ways I’m glad I don’t have more.

In choosing the right gear your balancing what you think you’ll shoot against what you’ll actually shoot. A planned day out for photography can make that choice easier, but  how many times have you grabbed a camera bag to go out ‘somewhere’ because the sun is shining? Or your just going out anyway. I have to admit I do that all the time.

Sometimes I get some reasonable shots, others the gear just stays in the bag and I enjoy a day in the sunshine.

Whatever your up to may you achieve a suitable balance.

New genre or new gear?

Heres a question: new genre or new gear?

As one who has little interest in the new Nikon mirrorless offerings (or any full frame for that matter) it occurred to me that some people maybe spending too much effort thinking about gear.

Instead how about a new genre. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy new gear. What I’m suggesting is whether a new genre could be more stimulating to your photography than a new camera.

Fancy macro?

How about exploring macro? There’s a fascinating world to look at when you get close. You could start off with a raynox adapter which will yield very respectable results for little outlay. See told you I wasn’t against buying gear 😀.

If you decide to pursue the macro bug you may want to consider a specialist macro lens. I’ve achieved some great results with a 60mm Nikon micro lens. Yes Nikon confusingly call their macro lenses micro. Most other manufacturers call them macro. Anyhow… I would suggest a lens no shorter than 90mm if your going to photograph insects and the like. They will spook  if you get too close to them.

How about Astrophotography?

With the nights drawing in now I thought that’s it even less hours for photography. But…. why not take advantage of that. Explore the Astro scene. Of course that is weather dependent, but we do get clear skies in the winter. Now and again.

My first attempt – may not win any prizes but it’s certainly got me interested.

Are there better ways than spending a dark cloudy evening curled up in front of a wood burner with a hot chocolate and an iPad searching for astrophotography on safari?😀

Go on then what do you fancy – new genre or new gear?

I decided to go the Astro route this winter and see what would happen. I already have some suitable lenses and a decent tripod that I can use. There we are – minimal or no outlay for a whole new interest.

It also renews a long dormant interest in astronomy that I had since looking through a telescope as a kid. Boy that was a long time.

Anything else?

Well now you mention it…. when people ask me what sort of photography I do, my immediate response is landscape. Fair enough loads of photographers enjoy shooting landscapes.

Crummock Water
Clouds and shade – Crummock Water

When I go through my images on the computer, which I do quite often, I could say that actually I do a lot of macro as well. The amount of macro photos I take compared to landscapes is a lot closer than I thought.

Close up of a wasp
Example of one of my macro shots – Close up of a wasp

Should you specialise in a particular genre? Some people do and some don’t. You might find something  that takes you in a completely new direction.

I’m currently considering what I should do. I live in a beautiful part of England that naturally lends itself to landscapes. To get the best of that your really looking to be up early (I’m not a morning person) or catch the golden and blue hours at the other end of the day.

I quite like macro work and it’s not always about bugs.

I’m going to try to do some Astro ( or maybe some night landscapes) at least until next Spring and see if I end up with stars in my eyes.

So new genre or new gear?

 

Edit: it appears this scheduled post has unintentionally overlapped with the release of The Astronomy Photographer of the Year results. You can find the overall winners of the competition at rmg.co.uk.

 

Fuji film won’t go full frame

Several websites have reported that Fujifilm won’t go full frame. Apparently the news has come about after Photokina. I hope they stick to that philosophy.

I tried Fujifilm for a while with an XE-1 and the 18-55 lens. It wasn’t too bad but for various reasons I ended up selling it and the 50-230 XC lens I used for the telephoto end of things. It was a bit unfortunate as at the time I was contemplating a photo kit comprising  XE series and XT series bodies. Alas it was not to be.

I don’t have any problem with the APSC format at all. In fact for what I  do I think it is somewhat of a sweet spot. For most amateurs the APSC size sensor is enough. My current DSLR is Nikon DX (Nikon’s version of APSC). Thinking about it all my DSLRs have been DX and I haven’t had the urge to go any bigger in sensor size.

Portmeirion, North Wales
Portmeirion, North Wales – Fuji XE-1 with 18-55mm F2.8-4 lens.

I don’t trust Nikon

After the Nikon series 1 debacle I’m not sure we can trust them to continue with their DX line. Nikon have alluded to the premise of less units and more value. In other words fewer cameras at higher prices. This seems at odds with the mass market consumer end DX is aimed at.

The fact that Nikon never really filled out the DX lens line properly doesn’t earn them any points. They iterated consumer zooms unnecessarily. At the same time the DX bodies received what can only be described as ‘meh’ upgrades. You also get the feeling they were forced to release the DX body they didn’t want to do. The D500.

Lets keep APSC going

So long term I hope Fujifilm keep to their promise statement that they won’t go full frame and instead keep the APSC format going together with their version of medium format.

Why?

Because the m43 market will be squeezed by smartphones. This would also imply any smaller format will be equally squeezed.

The full frame mirrorless wars are just starting. At a time when camera sales are falling there appears to be a Dodo like rush to get more fish into a shrinking pond. When the splashing stops there could well be some casualties.

If you’ve spent your R&D and tooling budgets gambling on full frame mirrorless and the sales don’t come to recoup those costs…well there may not be enough left in the piggy bank to change direction again.

But you’ve said Fujifilm are expensive.

Yes I have. I consider the lenses overpriced. You could argue they hold their value well though 😀.

The XT-3 is currently £1349 here in the UK (as of date of post) body only. For me that’s a lot of money for an APSC body.The XE-3 body only is £699. Compared to other APSC body offerings Fujifilm do seem to command a premium.

It’s a long game though.

If by charging these prices Fujifilm stay in for the long game that can only be a good thing. A camera is part of a system. If the system gets neglected by one manufacturer while another produces what people want that could well be worth paying a bit extra for.

Should Nikon (or any other manufacturer) continue to neglect part of their range the consequences are obvious. Others will step in to fill the void. It’s no good producing cheaper bodies with a mediocre lens line up hoping you can encourage people to move up a model or three. It might have worked years ago but I’m not so sure it works now.

If Fujifilm can keep their system offerings compelling I think their future in the APSC market could be a good one.

The caveat is whether they have the will to control their pricing strategy to remain competitive.

 

 

Return to Albert Docks

An anniversary visit provided an opportunity to return to Albert Docks, Liverpool. This wasn’t a photography visit Per Se, so I just used my phone and added to the 12 Pics series here.

Albert Docks, Liverpool

 

You can see that in some of the images the phones camera was starting to struggle a bit. Perhaps a flagship model would have coped better?

On the one hand the images are OK as record shots. On the other, the photographer in me thinks I should have used one of my cameras rather than my smartphone.

Nobody pays any attention to people using smartphones to take pictures, but in some places using a ‘big’ camera would have security guards twitching. You cant help thinking if you were doing anything untoward you would blend in better with a phone.

Normally I would have brought my Nikon V1 as my travel camera, but for this weekend I left it at home. There could still be an argument for something more capable than a phone but not the size of a DSLR.

I hope the race towards full frame mirrorless doesn’t leave a gap in the smaller more portable camera category. The trend at the moment seems to be mirrorless full frame with big expensive lenses.

Just when people need a smaller alternative it looks like that option could have less choice in the future.

 

Will DX become the new CX?

It took Nikon three years to kill off the 1 series, so will DX become the new CX?

Nikon released their last 1 series camera in 2015. This year after all the speculation Nikon 1 owners were finally put out of their misery with the officially discontinued announcement. The lack of love for CX lenses was there all along, We were in denial.

Nikon 1 V1 with 10mm CX lens
Nikon 1 V1 with 10mm CX lens

Unfortunately there could be some parallels with DX here. Why on God’s green earth did Nikon put so much effort into 18-something zooms.

Surely some of those resources could have been put to better use. Like a couple of wide angle primes that people were begging for. But no…let’s do another zoom… just in case we don’t have enough.

Then the piece d’resistance – the AF-P series. Let’s release more of the same but this time we’ll nobble the backwards compatibility. Score.

Nikon couldn’t produce or didn’t have the will (your choice) to proactively run three lens lines. But they have backed themselves into the same corner again.

I am a CX shooter. I am a DX shooter. For me DX (or Aps-c) is a sweet spot of value, size and quality. I don’t need a £2k (or £3k)  mirrorless or DSLR or even full frame camera, my photography is more of a hobby.

I fear that Nikon will eventually ‘pull a 1 series’* on their DX range and ignore them out of existence. Maybe not straight away but in the next three to five years.

The problem then becomes a familiar experience. At which point do you say enough is enough and refrain from buying new bodies and lenses.

A bit doom  and gloom? Yes, but that is what Nikon 1 owners went through.

Learning from the past do we really want to [have to] go through it again with DX?

 

* ‘pull a 1 series’ – adj- to totally ignore telling people then discontinue. Pertaining to cameras, lenses etc  🙂

It’s bananas I tell ya!

It’s bananas…. Here in the UK, Tesco managed to get them themselves some free publicity on the BBC news website over bananas.

Apparently their inner city stores (due to increased rents) are now charging by the banana rather than weight. Effectively this means the price of said bananas has increased from between 10 and 15p to 25p each according to the article.

bananas
Are we more worried about bananas?

Now let’s put that in some photographic context:

A Nikon D850 body only was less than £3000 in May of this year. It is currently between £3249 and £3499. There is a similar price range for the Canon 5Dmkiv. A Nikon D7200 is now £150 more than in May. (Source camerapricebuster.co.uk, today’s date).

I’ve written before that camera prices have been nudging up slowly without anyone really noticing.

The new mirrorless offerings from Canon and Nikon are starting around the £2k bracket. With what appears to be at first sight an accompanying bump upwards in lens prices.

I’m not sure I could bring myself to spend the larger sums of money now being asked for the current mirrorless cameras AND the lenses. No matter how good they are, you are going to need deep pockets.

Hopefully prices of used gear will remain sensible.

It’s interesting how the price of bananas gets people riled up, but the £2k+ prices of new cameras just seems to be accepted.

The mirrorless offerings still seem evolutionary rather than revolutionary. They only took the mirror box out and that took Nikon 19 years.

I’m still thinking this won’t be enough to encourage ‘new’ people to jump onto the band wagon and give a much needed increase to sales.

From what I’ve seen so far, camera manufacturers are still largely ignoring the kind of workflow improvements needed to attract the smartphone buyers.

Eventually the big camera companies may cotton on and stop the ‘ we need to release a new product that’s good but won’t cannibalise our current models’ syndrome.

Until then will photographers quietly put up with increasing prices for not a lot more?

Cos if we do ….it’s bananas I tell ya 😀

 

 

 

 

Nikon Y series

Nikon Y series to be released early next year (from an unconfirmed source).

It would appear Nikon are on a roll at the moment. Hot on the heels of the Z series cameras and lenses, a new source hints at the early 2019 release of the next new Nikon mirrorless – the Y series.

Rumored to fill the current gap at the consumer end of the Nikon line up prices and specs are understandably scarce.

Here what we know so far:

Nikon Y series of cameras:

Y only one slot

Y no eye af

Y use another different battery

Y have they used this mount

Y didn’t they build in gps

Y isn’t there a battery grip

Y will this replace dslrs

Y doesn’t it use the ml-l3 remote

Y did they leave the lcd off

Y are the lenses so expensive

Y did it take so long to release the consumer models

Y is everyone going to expect it to be perfect

Y will people get so upset – it’s only a camera

😀

Enjoy what you have.