All Posts Filed in ‘gear

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Upgrades

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Who doesn’t love an upgrade?

For whatever reason you may face, at some point you are likely to upgrade your photography gear. Be it because you obsess about having the latest and greatest gear or because you simply need a tool to do a specific job. The feeling of actually purchasing new equipment is a good one. I am not one to do these things on an impulse. I agonise over the decision to part with hard earned cash for inanimate objects, not matter how fancy they might be. I am going to walk you through some of my latest purchases from earlier this year and the reasons for me acquiring them.

MacBook Pro 13″

For years now I have been wanting to be able to edit photos whilst away from home. In fact ever since I started travelling for photography I have loathed the idea of waiting to get back home and edit. I would sit quietly sipping beer in the hotel whilst my friends sat and edited photos shot that day. I would grow envious and started wishing the rest of the trip away so that I could post a picture. This established enough of a need for me to want to get a laptop. Coupled with the fact that my PC at home really was on it’s last legs.

At the time, I wasn’t bothered what camp I would fall into, PC or Mac, I don’t buy into brand loyalty or fan-boyism. I use PC’s for work, always have. I genuinely couldn’t make up my mind as to which one I wanted so I treated each day as if I was buying a Windows laptop and then next day as if I was buying a MacBook. Flipping a coin if you will.

It was through this small mind game that I eventually made my decision to get a 13″ MacBook Pro though. I just felt excited about owning a MacBook.

I was never really satisfied with the build quality of Windows laptops. They were generally speaking cheaper and I felt that reflected in the build quality. Not much to criticise but considering I will be owning this for a few years, I couldn’t have a squeaking, flexing chassis to work on. As an ex-engineer, this was a big no no for me.

3 years it took me to make up my mind and genuinely couldn’t be happier. I opted to go for the non touch bar and specced up the RAM and CPU to 16Gb and an i7.

Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM

Until recently, my longest lens was the Canon 135mm f/2 L. Although a stunning lens, it really wasn’t too short for Motorsport photography. I was lucky enough to have some long term reviews of Canon’s 300mm lenses. I did a review for Cafetography on youtube. I simply did not have the budget for the big 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM for realistically I was looking at the 300mm f/4 L IS USM.

Not only did this save a great deal of money but it also saved my back from carrying it around all weekend. This is the lens that I use 90% of the time when at the track. Sure a zoom lens would be more versatile but I have always preferred to shoot with primes. It’s just down to personal preference.

When a good friend mentioned that he was selling his 300mm f/4 L I pretty much snapped off his arm in buying it off of him. 300mm fits nicely into my lens collection (35mm – 50mm – 135mm) giving me enough focal ranges to cover 90% of what I need. The only gap was something wider which brings us on to my next acquisition.

Canon 24mm f/2.8 IS USM

If your memory lasts more than a sentence then there was a weak spot in my current arsenal. I needed a wide angle. I found when shooting a lot of car interiors both for Fueltopia and work that the 35mm wasn’t quite wide enough to get all that I wanted in. I also wanted something that could capture more of the environment and could be used for landscape photography. When I shot the cover image for this article I borrowed my friends Canon 16 – 35 mm f/2.8L III USM lens. A stunning lens, huge versatility and insanely wide at 16mm.

It was just a bit much of a stretch for me. I prefer longer focal lengths and didn’t really fancy dropping a huge amount of money on a lens that I knew I wouldn’t use all that much. The Canon17-40 mm f/4.0 L USM was also considered. Offering much the same in terms of focal range albeit with a slower aperture. I have used the 17-40L many times before but I never really loved it. I didn’t really fancy having a lens that had a maximum aperture of f/4 either as I would often be shooting handheld in low light. Image stabilisation was something that I convinced myself that I needed for some arbitrary reason.

Thoughts moved towards the Canon 24mm f/2.8 IS USM. I began watching second hand sites like a hawk. Pricing was pretty competitive and when one came up for a price that I was happy with, I jumped at it. Oh and it also came with the £50 lens hood which is a bonus.

 

For now, that is all the gear I need. Well, until I convince myself otherwise.

SHOOTINGDAVE

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Hard Drive Failure

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What’s the worst that can happen to a photographer?

Top of that list has to be hard drive failure. This happened to me, losing around 60% of everything I have shot over the years.

There was no warning, no hints, just one day when I turned on my PC it would not recognise the drive. It was one of those stomach chilling, nausea inducing moments. Rather than panic, I asked a few friends for advice and they took me through some steps to see if the drive could be read. I am not that competent when it comes computers so when I ran out of talent, I took the hard drive to work.

Fortunately they had some pretty decent software that would scan the drive. It took 6 days to find data on the 1TB drive and then a further 2 weeks to recover it. I went through a raft of emotions during this time trying to come to terms with the fact that I might well lose everything. I started to hunt around for a replacement drive and then a back service of some sort. I opted to go for a Western Digital My Cloud service and a Western Digital Passport. This way I can work on the Passport at home or at work and then back up to My Cloud when I am done. The “My Cloud” allows me to access the storage over the internet or through an app which makes life easier when sending last minute things to a client.

Naturally I felt awful at the fact that I had lost so many images. Frustration soon boiled over into anger which then melted away into despair and regret. I had heard this story numerous times before, it even happened to many of friends. I had no idea when I decided to ignore the warning signs. Ultimately my old external drive gave up the ghost. I guess it had been written to and read from too many times over the year.

For now this is the setup I will use, I will however change my Western Digital Passport each year once they have been fully backed up. This way I will have one physical copy and one virtual/physical copy. I would ideally like a third backup just to be safe. I am looking at Amazon Prime Photo, it just has terrible upload speeds at the moment. What backup storage systems do you use?

SHOOTINGDAVE

 

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Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM – Review

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Yes that’s correct. It has been a while since I last did a review. There is a very good reason for this too, instead of doing them on my site, I have been offered the opportunity to reach a bigger audience and do them for Cafetography. An online photography magazine that features lens reviews and tutorials as well as showcasing any photographic news. They work with my preferred place to rent camera gear, Lens Locker. So when Lens Locker asked if I would do a review for them, I jumped at the chance.

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Now, I used to own a 70-200mm f/4 L USM which I used on my now sold Canon 50D for motorsport, it seemed to be a match made for someone just starting out. However when I went full frame, the 70-200 became a little too short for me. And because I am not made of money, I started renting lenses from the guys at Lens Locker and the 300mm f/4 L IS USM became my new weapon of choice. Anyway, enough of that here’s the video. Let me know what you think, it is my first one so no doubt I won’t sound a smooth as butter.

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SHOOTINGDAVE

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Postcards from New York

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It has been four days since I got back from New York, my sleep pattern is just about getting back on track. I am left with a lot of fond memories and quite a few memory cards full of photos. I will be doing a few blog posts about my trip with Amy in the up coming weeks but for now, here is my favourite pictures. Now if you follow me on instagram you might have seen me post a few of the pictures up whilst out there. That’s because I bought myself an eyefi mobi pro card which allowed me to take pictures on my 5D and then send them via wifi to my phone. I edited the pictures in VSCOcam and the put them through Afterlight to put a boarder on them as I hate using square crops. I must say the eyefi card is ideal for holiday trips and instant sharing, the app allows you to selectively transfer the images to your phone (ipad/laptop/computer). Anyway enjoy some pictures.

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SHOOTINGDAVE

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New Year, New Coffee

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And so we step into a New Year full of ambition and hope, each of us armed with a list as long as our arm of things we are going to do, stop doing and change. It really is an exciting prospect having a clean slate on which we can all start again and pardon the mistakes of the past year. I am not going to sit here and list of a self indulgent list of things I want to change about myself. Instead I am going to offer you one more thing to add to your list. If you’re struggling with your list then you can have this one on me, it’s free! It is simply drink coffee, or rather drink decent coffee! (Unless you hate coffee in which case, there are some pretty pictures below which I will tell you how I created).

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But seriously nothing boils my blood faster than people saying “I love a good cup of coffee!” yet they make it with instant coffee! Often consumed by the gallon purely for the caffeine kick it offers. I won’t go into the effects of drinking too much caffeine as this is not a health blog but I feel you should drink less coffee and savour it! Make time to make to make good coffee. Drink more water and drink better coffee. Trust me, you will feel more alert.

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I have an Aeropress at work and now, thanks to my sister, I have one at home too! An Aeropress is probably the easiest step to take to making better coffee. Essentially it is a big plunger that uses air to push hot water and ground coffee through a filter into your cup. Literally takes about 3 minutes to make. 3 minutes! So for those of you concerned that you might need some sort of degree or need to be a fully qualified barista to make good coffee at home, well you are wrong. Now about the coffee, I like Workshop Coffee but you can go into any coffee shop, speak to a Barista about what type of coffee you like and they should be able to recommend some for you. They will even grind it for you! It is really that simple! Then you can impress all your friends about how you know about coffee and how you can make coffee yourself – all the while remaining smug as it really is quite simple with an Aeropress.

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Enough about the coffee, some of you might have been interested in how I went about taking this shot. No? Well it is a strobist shot. Which essentially means I used a flash gun to light the shot, or part of it. Above is a shot with no flash gun, it is just ambient light. I was taking shot like this to test composition and find the ambient light. Once I was happy with what would be in shot I put it in on a tripod. (I use a Manfrotto tripod, the 055XPROB one to be precise with a 498RC2 head).

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I liked the warm glow coming from the lamp on the right so I used a custom white balance of 5000K to accentuate it. I then used a 1/2 stop CTB colour correction gel on the flash to bring the out the natural colours on the mug and the packet. If I didn’t do this, the flash would appear too warm and make the colours of the subjects look false.

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It got quite cramped in my tiny little London kitchen but here is a setup shot. To diffuse the flash, so we don’t get harsh shadows, I put it inside my Westcott Apollo 28″ Softbox. This is probably my favourite light modifier I use as it allows me control the light and stop it spilling about all over the place. It also creates an amazing quality of light and produces really nice shadows and light falloff. If I was to use a shoot-through umbrella, some of the light would come out of the front and some of it would come out of the back bouncing around my compact kitchen causing it tint the colour in undesired areas.

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Here is another look at the setup. The flash inside my softbox is a Canon 430EX II at 1/32 Power. It was triggered by my Hahnel Combi TF triggers. I used a Canon TC-80N3 remote to fire the camera so I didn’t disturb it whilst taking the shots. The Camera settings were: 1/15 Sec – f/2.0 – ISO 250 – on a Canon 5D MkIII with a 50mm f/1.4 lens.

Hope you found this of some interest.

SHOOTINGDAVE