Not the best place to park your bike!

Parked in the River Wharfe!
Bike in the river

I’m sure there’s a story behind this one. I’d love to know what it is.

Rule 7: The best camera is the one you have with you (Chase Jarvis)
very true.

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Ilkley Moor Sunrise

I said I’d go back, and I was true to my word.

This week, as I’ve been driving to work, I’ve witnessed some beautiful colourful sunrises. I thought it would be worth trying my luck by returning to Ilkley Moor to capture the sunrise over the rocks.

I take my hat off to landscape photographers. They really are dedicated to their art. Up at stupid o’clock, wait in the darkness not knowing if you’ll bag the shot (and most of the time they don’t!) Out in all weathers and in the remotest places on Earth. Though almost in my back yard, so to speak, I had a taste of that this morning.

By the time I got to the Cow and Calf Rocks, there was just enough light to see where I was walking. The only problem was I had to get around to the other side of the rocks to get the shot I had in my mind. As I walked around them I realised I wasn’t going to get it. The ground fell away and I couldn’t tell if it was a gentle slope down there or a shear drop. Besides which, it was windy; and I mean windy! (20mph winds with gusts of up to 60mph). I’d only just crested the peak when it hit and I didn’t think it was worth taking a tumble in the dim light, so I weighed up where I was and set up.

Rule number 6: The best tripod is the one you have with you
It’s at times like this that I’m glad I bought the tripod I did. I’ve always held by the truth that you should never scrimp on a tripod – go for the most you can afford. Yet you have to get a tripod with a bit of heft, but not too much heft that you feel like your back is going to break as you carry it. I’ve had numerous tripods in my time, but I’m becoming more and more impressed with the Sirui traveler tripod I currently have. Only once did a gust carry it off the ground slightly, the rest of the time it stayed well and truly put.

As I started shooting I began to realise that the camera was struggling with the light. Even with an exposure of 30 seconds the ground was a bit dim, plus the sky was brightening and I was loosing the impact. Out came the ND grads and the flash and I finally got what I came for, and despite the winds, I had so much fun fighting them.

Ilkley Moor sunrise

having packed up I started walking back to the car and suddenly saw a mitten someone had left on a bench for someone to find. The little lost item in pink and white reminded me of bagpuss. I’m not usually a fan of monochrome images with a single item of colour, but I thought it would work for this. I’ve also added the old photo filter in Gimp, in honour of the saggy old cloth cat from my childhood.

mitten on a bench

It started to rain just as I got back to the car. I may not have got the salmon pinks and golds I was looking for, but it was a great way to start the day and well worth it.

Neewer Wide and Telephoto Lens Review

Rule number 3: Photography is an expensive hobby
Rule number 4: but it doesn’t have to be.

Since digital SLR’s adopted the APS-C sized sensor, many film photographers converting to digital suddenly lost their wide angles. Like many, I liked my standard zoom to stretch to 24mm. Since manufacturers are a bit slow to catch up, the only other option is to buy an ultra wide angle zoom, but since they are rather expensive, (anyone else notice that lenses for a smaller sensor aren’t that smaller and are actually more expensive than they used to be for their 35mm equivalent?) I looked at a much cheaper option – Wide angle attachments.

Neewer 0.43x Wide Angle lens and 2.2x Telephoto Lens

The ones I went for were a package of wide angle and telephoto lens attachments in a 67mm thread. (Let’s face it. they’re really just filters that screw onto the front of a standard lens!) They’re available all over ebay and Amazon in a variety of filter sizes and prices.

First Impressions

The Neewer lenses are a pretty standard set and I imagine the same lenses will be offered under a number of different brands. They are boxed in a plain white box and each have a soft cloth case and front and rear caps, so not bad. They do weigh quite a bit and are fairly substantial.

Wide Angle Lens

Let’s start with the wide angle attachment. This is actually made up of two lenses, a wide angle one and a macro one. The macro lens can be used on its own, but the wide angle lens will only work in partnership with the macro lens.

This is where the old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ comes in to play.

Wide Angle attachment on Nikon 18-105 at 18mm

 As you can see, there’s some serious vignetting and a real lack of sharpness at the edges. By the time you crop these out, you have less than what you would have had at 18mm. If you zoom in to remove the vignetting, you get to about 50mm and you end up with a strange zoom style motion blur that I really don’t find that pleasant.

Wide angle attachment at 50mm

 I’ll be honest, If I wanted a blurry effect, I’d use a lensbaby.

Macro Lens

OK. So the wide angle lens is a bust. What about the macro lens?

I’ll admit that I’ve never really done macro well, and I’ve only one other macro lens to compare it too, but the other lens (a Sigma Macro filter) was sharper.

Using the Macro Lens

 That’s not a bad result, but look at the full size crops below and you’ll see some nasty colour fringing at the edges as well as loss of sharpness. it does pick out some remarkable detail in the centre though.

Centre crop, full size

 

corner crop full size

 I’d say the macro lens was an average one, and you’re likely to find much better close up filters for not much more.

Telephoto Lens

I didn’t really want the telephoto lens, but it came free for the same price other’s were selling the wide angle lens alone for. This really is a hefty attachment though and I wouldn’t be keen to have this on my lens on a regular basis.

telephoto attachment at 105mm

 Actually, the results weren’t too bad. A little edge softness compared to 105mm without the attachment, but not at all bad.

Conclusion

I guess I could have done this review in a couple of choice words, but that’s not exactly helpful. So, does rule number 4 come into play here? Can you buy these and save some money, or is it worth spending (much) more? In this case, I’d have to blunt and conclude that these lenses suck. Save up your money and buy an ultra-wide angle lens. There are Sigma and Tokina lenses available for a couple of hundred quid and if you’re real lucky, you’ll find a second hand bargain. Just don’t waste your money on these.

Rule 24: Mistakes Don’t have to be Mistakes

Mistakes don’t have to be mistakes, everything is subjective – a mistake to one person is actually a piece of art to someone elseRobert Rodriguez – 10 minute film school.

The River Wharfe
The River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey

Never really appreciated that quote until recently when I forgot to switch my lens to auto-focus. The in-focus image was rubbish, but I really like this.

Just wish I could say the same about all my mistakes 😉

Timing is Everything

Rule 23: Timing is everything

When I read that rule back to myself, my first thought is Cartier Bresson’s famous line about the decisive moment. Personally, I’ve never subscribed to that school of thought. There are, after all, many decisive moments. I do get what he’s trying to say though, and some moments are better than others.
My rule has a broader application. For example, take the photo below…Bolton Abbey

This is a shot of Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, taken earlier today – a gorgeous sunny day with crisp October air.

This is a shot I’ve tried to capture three times now. Each time is a little disappointing, but this is the view of the Abbey I like the best. Only trouble is, no matter what I tried, there was no getting away from that sun shining brightly in the sky. (This was actually one of the best of the bunch!)

This is where timing comes in. This was shot in the early afternoon, so the sun was high in the sky. If I’d have shot this earlier in the day, then it might not have been such a problem. Having said that, Bolton Abbey is close by so I have that luxury, but sometimes you don’t and you have to make the best of the hand you’re dealt, like today, but today was about more than just the Abbey. More of that later.

To Edinburgh on the Northern Belle

The Northern Belle is one of the Orient Express portfolio of trains that runs in the UK. It aims to take the traveller back to a time when rail travel was for the experience, not just to get from A to B. Passengers experience first class service in Pullman coaches and is a rare experience.

My Dad is Chief Exec of Dove House Hospice in Hull, and when they chartered the Northern Belle to Edinburgh as a charity fundraiser, it was an opportunity for us both to experience something we’re not likely to experience again, and an excuse to take the cameras and go on a shoot in a truly beautiful city.

The first goal was to capture the train arriving at Hull Station, but I hadn’t really thought the shot out and the images weren’t that impressive.

Northern Belle Orient Express
The Northern Belle pulls into Hull Station

In hindsight, I would have had more carriages trailing off into the background. But that’s hinsight for you.

After stepping onto the train I was gobsmacked by the table in front of me. It was obvious this was going to be a different kind of train journey than I was used to. I decided to take some shots of the table setting and it gave me an opportunity to try out the Nikon 35mm F1.8 AF-S lens.

Place Setting
Place Setting
Cup Setting
the rest of the place setting

I have to admit, I was really impressed with it and I like the results.

Both of these shots have been given a high contrast and saturation in ViewNX 2.

Rule 20: Sometimes it’s best to put the camera away and enjoy the scenery.

Following rule 20, I sat and enjoyed the journey rather than trying to shoot out of the window. Following the East coast line we travelled past some fantastic coastline and then came rolling into Edinburgh. This was my first time in Edinburgh, but with only a few hours there was no waywe could see all we wanted to, so the first priority was the Castle.

The Castle is an interesting collection of buildings and angles at various heights and there are some breathtaking views from the top. I took quite a few, but only this one of the dog graveyard with the National Gallery of Scotland in the background made the cut.

dog cemetery Edinburgh Castle
The Dog Cemetery

The highlight of the Castle though was a memorial were photography is not allowed. If you get the chance, it’s worth a wander through it. A truly inspiring place to visit.

The only other phot I’m posting from the trip is the war memorial in Princes Street gardens. This is a quiet gem hidden in the gardens. It plays second fiddle to the Scott monument, which reminded me of thunderbird 3, and which everyone wanted to see. The war memorial was fantastic and a great way to finish the day in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh War Memorial
The War Memorial in Princes Street Gardens

I couldn’t help myself, and converted this to black and white. A bit too heavy on the curves, but I like it.

It was a long day, but well worth it, and certainly worth another visit.

Camera Straps

Rule number 8: Camera Straps are a pain in the neck

I’m not a fan of camera straps. If I have one attached to my camera, I tend to wrap it around my wrist. I could live without them, but it’s nice to have the security of having something just in case I get clumsy, which I’ve been known to be from time to time. The biggest problem with them is that after wearing your camera around your neck for a bit, your neck feels like it’s spent a couple of hours at the gym.

My first stab at cracking the camera strap woes was under the guise of the Optech Pro strap. This is basically a shaped chunk of neoprene that sits around the base of the neck and distributes the weight. It also detaches from the camera attachments, which then clip together to form a short strap. As a piece of design work, it is genius. I gave it a full day’s testing at the Waddington Air show, and afterwards decided it was time to ditch the neck strap all together. The problem with the Optech strap was that it rode up my neck, making the camera heavier than if I’d just used a regular strap. Plus, on a hot day, all that neoprene makes for a sweaty strap.

So I got onto the net and looked at sling straps. There are a few to choose from, especially if you live on eBay, and over the next week or so I’ll post reviews of the Q strap, Carry Speed CS-1 and the Black Rapid RS-4. After reviewing each of them I’ll do a comparison between the three and make a few recommendations.