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Embracing the mundane

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Like millions of other commuters in London, I have to endure hot, cramped, noisy, sweaty and boring journeys across London to get to work. But here’s the thing, they needn’t be boring. I have to say that I do like to use the time to document this mundane journey. The throw away nature of apps like instagram seem to fit the bill perfectly, after all, these aren’t really photos you would hang on your wall. They are more snapshots, illustrations of the morning struggle. Have a look through…

Suddenly, commuting doesn’t seem so boring does it.

SHOOTINGDAVE

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Filling the frame

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As you may or may not know, I shoot with a Canon 50D. That’s right, a crop sensor camera. I’m not going to write about the drawbacks/benefits of shooting in this manor as that really is up to the individual photographer to decide. What I am going to talk to you about it my experience with a Canon 5D MkIII. A camera that  I rented a few weeks back.
lusting_for_full_frame_001Now I am no stranger to shooting on a full frame camera, my first camera was in fact a Canon AE-1 Program and last time I checked, that was full frame. However I don’t think I ever truly appreciated the difference between full frame and crop. I guess we can put that down to experience or lack of.

lusting_for_full_frame_002I am also no stranger to shooting on the 5D MkIII, I got hired to shoot at a gallery where I was given a 5D MkIII and a 24-105 f/4 L USM lens to shoot with. However, even then, the difference was hard to judge.

lusting_for_full_frame_003It wasn’t until I was left alone with the rental camera, it wasn’t until I started using my lenses on it that I really noticed the difference. My most used lens since I got into digital photography is the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM. It is a focal length that I know like the back of my hand. It is a focal length that I know what the picture is going to look like before I even take it. I did a Project50 with this lens which is where you take a photo a day for 50 days with a 50mm lens – 50 days – 50 photos – 50mm

lusting_for_full_frame_004However the focal length is a lie. on my camera (Canon 50D) it is not equivalent to 50mm. Due to the crop factor it is actually 80mm – which is pretty much a telephoto focal length – or a nice portrait length.

lusting_for_full_frame_005So you can imagine the difference I saw when used it on a full frame body.

lusting_for_full_frame_006Suddenly a 50mm became a wide angle lens! OK admittedly it isn’t but it makes the lens a lot more usable as a walk about lens which is really nice. Still not 100% sold on whether or no it is a good portrait lens on full frame or not.

lusting_for_full_frame_007But for walking around a grabbing a few coffees, it does seem to be ideal.

lusting_for_full_frame_008Speaking of which, we popped over to this little coffee place in Balham called Trinity Stores – a local cafe which serves up great coffee…

lusting_for_full_frame_009…and even nicer food! This hansom bastard above was a Chicken, Bacon and Avocado club sandwich! Poor sod didn’t stand a chance against my appetite!

lusting_for_full_frame_010I liked this place and I liked the fact that glass fronted building makes it feel like there is no barrier separating the inside with the outside. If you are ever South of the Thames, you should pay them a visit!

lusting_for_full_frame_011SO back to the camera…what else did I like about it?

lusting_for_full_frame_012Well at the wedding it I recently shot (blog post to follow) it proved to be a valuable asset. The low light performance is ridiculous! I mean it’s stupid! My camera is really only usable up to ISO640 but I had no problem shooting at ISO6400 at the wedding. Also when noise does become visible, it is completely different to noise on a crop sensor. It looks a lot more like film grain rather digital artifacting. This is one of the reasons why I don’t shoot at high ISO’s on my 50D is the noise just ruins the way the image looks. On 5DMkIII the noise (when present) was much more pleasing to look at. It almost added to the feel of the image.

lusting_for_full_frame_013So I should get saving a sell my 50D right? Wrong! When I get my 5D MkIII (and I will) I will definitely keep my 50D. There is no way I could get rid of it. Not because I am sentimental about it, far from it. It’s just that it is still an amazing camera. Sure it may only have 9 focus points but they are all cross type. It has a pretty decent frame rate…6.3fps last time I checked. It has no problem grabbing focus either. Also the 1.6 crop factor is actually quite a benefit for me when I am out on track. It gets me that little bit closer to the action.

lusting_for_full_frame_014If I am honest, I am utterly sold on the idea of getting one. I love this camera, I love the extra width and shallower DoF you get. The noise is just so nice when it does appear and the camera is so simple to use. I hated giving it back after my rental period was up…but I will be buying one in the future. (I am also taking donations).

Oh and if you were wondering where I rented the camera from, it was they guys down at Lens Locker be sure to give them a shout if you want to hire a camera or a lens or both! Just be sure to let them know I sent you 😉

SHOOTINGDAVE

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Opinion: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L

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fof_30mm_01I am going to talk to you about my limited experience with the 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM. I hired this lens specifically for a wedding, it seems to be one of the “go to” lenses for wedding photography so I decided to see what the fuss was about. As soon as I got the lens, I decided to have a little play with it to see how it performed.

fof_70mm_01For those who know me will know that a zoom lens is not something that I am overly familiar with. I have shot with and used prime lenses since I first got into photography. I was always under the impression that you should zoom with your feet. I was also a firm believer that a primes lens does one thing very well but a zoom lens has to do a lot of things sort of well. This made me steer clear of zoom lenses for many years.

fof_24mm_01So enough of my previous hangups over zoom lenses, how does this thing perform? Well the first thing I realised was that this thing was sharp! Super quick focusing which had no problems in locking on to the target. I don’t think I have yet missed focus with this lens (I have only had it for four days).

fof_42mm_01I also found that this lens was particularly contrasty, not overly so but just the way I liked it. It also behaves as you would expect, producing nice smooth bokeh at the long end and providing adequate separation at the wide end. I should imagine shooting on a full frame camera this would open the animal in the lens a lot more. I did find shooting on a crop body a lot of fun providing me a good “normal” range of focal lengths.

fof_24mm_02I can see why so many people recommend this lens for use at weddings – it is incredibly useful! With the lens being so sharp and handling flares and CA so well during the wedding, I didn’t find myself nervously groping for my prime lenses. Actually whilst we are on CA and colour fringing I have to say that this does an exceptional job. My 50mm f/1.4 USM does suffer from some colour fringing in bright light. I had no issue with that at all on the 24-70L.

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Before I get too carried away with praising this lens, I did get reminded why I love shooting with prime lenses. I mounted the 135L and shot a few frames at the wedding, you cannot beat a fast prime! Nothing comes close to hitting the sweet spot on a fast prime. Those who shoot with them will know what I am on about.

I will say that with the lens, it was a lot more relaxing and dare I say it, fun. It allows you to just get on with the job without having to constantly think about framing before you even lifted the camera to your face. Even when I was taking the photos shown above, I was really enjoying being able to use different focal lengths without having to change lenses. It was nice to not have to backup an inch or two just to get the framing right.

This is starting to make me worry, I think I want this lens, primes will always have a place in my heart but I have to say I am quite taken back about this lens and would strongly consider getting one in the future. But if you are considering hiring this lens then you should definitely check out the guys at LensLocker they provide a great service and amazing value! I will be using them again. I tried to include a varied selection of focal lengths in this post. If you click on the photo and look at the title of it, it will tell you the focal length used.

Did I like it? Yes. Do I want it? Probably. Will I hire it again? Most definitely!

Thanks for watching,

SHOOTINGDAVE

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A Year of Photos: Project 52

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As of this second, right now I have literally just finished this Project. Except you are probably reading this on a different day so this post is technically out of date.

I waited all day praying that the rain would stay away, checking my gear and sketching out my lighting diagram. The shoot itself was challenging, I changed my light setup about 4 times, tried about 3 different angles and different depth of fields. Even when I got to editing, I changed my mind every step of the way. But I got there and here it is:

52/52 My Own Worst Enemy

How do I feel after finishing this Project 52? Well, tired/relived/happy are a few adjectives that could describe my current mood.

Would I do it again? I certainly doubt it but never say never ay?

I think in order to evaluate this Project properly I think I should go back to why I got involved in it in the first place…

I chose Project52 so I could map my progress/development and life across a year. The aim was to see how my skills and eye for photography would develop over the year. When I started, I didn’t particularly have a theme or a style that I was going to restrict myself too. I was literally going to shoot anything and everything throughout the year. It didn’t matter what time of the week I took the shot just as long as it came from that week. This meant that I had to make sure that every week I had time to get myself a photo. I didn’t want to just shoot anything so I put a fair amount of pressure on myself to hold up some level of quality.

Looking back through the photos of this project which can be found here! it is quite apparent that there is quite a lot of variance in quality. There are quite a few photos in there that I don’t like and a few that I really like. Straight away my the one photo that jumps out to me as being my favourite HAS to be this one, week 25:

25/52 Drift AllStars

Everything about this photo is on point for me. It is a sunny day in the middle of summer, I love summer. It has a car in it, I love cars. It is full of action and I love action. Seriously, this was the first time that I have ever been to an event like this and it was one of the best days of my life. I got a press pass which meant that I got to stand on the infield and get close to the cars as they came back. The noise was insane. The stench of tortured tires was thick and my adrenaline was surging! I have never taken a proper panning shot in my life and it was a rapid learning curve for me. But best of all, best of all was the people I met whilst taking part in this event. I met some of the nicest people who were all into photography and into cars too! I still shoot with them today and we have a lot on for the new year so stay tuned.

I would have to say the worst photo from the project is this one, week 37:

37/52 Slacking

This photo was pretty much the only one I took all week. I hate it. I really do. The week was mad at work and I had to head back up to Birmingham to my old flat and gut it. I had no time to do anything and I should have made time which meant that I had nothing to show for myself. I was gutted. But that’s the way a project has to run, you need the lows to get the highs.

Do you want to know what I really think of this project? Do you want to know how it made me feel? Well I shall tell you. At first it was great, after stringing a few nice photos it was nice but then the pressure started to mount up. I felt like I had to equal or better my last photo. I guess this started to make me resent the last photo and made me feel like I “had to” take the next one rather than wanting to. It’s a silly way of thinking as I loved Project50 which one paper should be much much more relentless.

So that’s how I started to feel, it felt like I was having to take photos every week rather than merely taking part in a little photo project. This started to demotivate me and stopped me from taking photos for fun which I feel is the whole point of photography. I started to feel like a bit of a prat carrying my DSLR around with me constantly hunting out the next photo. I started to feel like I was becoming my own worst enemy, which in case you haven’t noticed, was one the theme of my last shot. I actually came up with the idea for that shot on the 29th of May according to the notes on my phone. That gives you some idea of how quickly I started feeling the pressure on this project.

But maybe I am view this project the wrong way, maybe it isn’t about how it made me feel. Because ultimately I feel brilliant now that I have finished it. 

Maybe I should view this project on what I gained from it. In that case I have managed to secure and shoot two weddings, get some product photography which led to further CGI work. I got to do a few photoshoots with some lovely models and I got a press pass for a few Drifting Events. I also got to shoot a supercar as well as taping up my sister’s face.

I think it is safe to say I got to do a lot of great things during this project, something’s that I am lucky enough to be doing next year.

I learnt a lot about myself, I learnt that I put too much pressure on myself for the smallest of things. I learnt that I have the persistence to carry out and follow through a project like this. I like the fact that I have in some way documented my life for a year and it is quite rewarding to look back and enjoy the memories. I have also received some lovely comments and some nice awards and acknowledgements along the way which makes up for how nasty I was to myself during this journey.

I have learnt that I really am “my own worst enemy.”

Thanks for watching.

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Why your street photography sucks!

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I’m going to talk to you about street photography. Do bare in mind that most of what I say is meant to be taken as tongue in cheek so please try not to cry if you don’t like what I’m saying.

The term “street photography” to me is a very broad one. Essentially what it boils down to in my opinion is anything taken on the street. Generally there are two camps on the street photography debate, and they are;

Wide Angle and Telephoto.

Wide Angle– people in this camp tend to believe that shooting wide angle gives you the great atmosphere of being on the street. They believe that because you are occupying the same space as the person you are photographing, that the image is that much more raw.

Telephoto– people in this camp feel that it is the isolation of a subject that allows you to capture the raw emotion of your subject. This also means that you are much further away and are therefore much more capable of getting “the shot”.

But which one is better?

Well that is really up to you to decide. I feel that street photography is as much about you as it is about your subject. I personally prefer to shoot with a longer focal length lens. I use the Canon EF 135mm f/2 L USM lens which is sublime! This allows me to be at a “safe” distance and isolate the subject nicely with lots of pleasing sexy Bokeh! Because we all love BOKEH!!!

However, I have been known to take a lot of street or candid photos with my iPhone which has a wide angle lens. This is because there is no shutter noise which makes it very discreet. Lovely stuff.

But why does my street photography suck?

Well I am going to assume you didn’t fuck screw up your exposure and focus so that’s not it.

Story telling.
To me an image that doesn’t work is usually down to it not engaging with the viewer. For instance photographing people from behind on the street. It doesn’t look good. All you are seeing is someone from behind. No engagement, no emotion, no eye contact. More than likely it sucks.

Interest.
If there is nothing going on in an image then it will struggle to stand up as interesting photo. Try to tell a story. A lot happens on the street, try and capture some that action. Be patient and observe. Don’t just spray and pray. Wait for something to happen. Watch people and see if you can tell part of their story. Obviously don’t go stalking people, that will more than likely get you some unwanted attention.

You are shooting in a big group.
Shooting in a big group may be good for your confidence and you might start taking shots you wouldn’t normally take but think how this looks to people on the street. You can’t exactly be discreet when walking around with a load of people carrying cameras. Grab some headphones and walk around on your own and get amongst it!

Location.
It helps to be in the right place. For instance, you ain’t gonna get many good shots on the street whilst sitting in your bedroom reading this! Being where the crowd is usually works best as well as being around at the right time. And what quantifies as being the right time is dependant on what you want to capture. Which of course is up to you. Just don’t trespass.

Shooting Dave’s final thought:
Figure out what you want to see then go looking for it. Don’t rush it, don’t force. Don’t get frustrated by it. The whole reason you are out “doing” street photography is because you are done with the contrived, controlled and planned shoots. Street photography is supposed to relaxing so don’t get stressed about missing that moment. There will be plenty of others. Just be patient.

tl;dr
To answer the question “why your street photography sucks” it is simply because you take photos that suck 😉