Category: Photography (page 3 of 4)

Lightroom

Lightroom 4 has been out for a while but I didn’t really spend too much time tinkering with it until last weekend and a little this weekend too. While there doesn’t seem to be much new, the processing engine has seen quite a step up in performance so much so that a few of my older images really benefited from further tinkering.

Kilt

Kilt

The photo above was taken a couple of years ago at the Edinburgh festival. I always liked it but never really got the detail out of it I wanted without bringing in too much noise. The edited photo, while I’ve maybe taken it a bit far, I really like. More contrast and highlights areas like the kilt far more effectively. I don’t think I could have pushed it as far in Lightroom 3.

Squirrel

Squirrel

Similarly this shot from the Cobbler climb in 2010 was a favourite but now with some tweaking in Lightroom 4 I can get some better definition. Slightly confusing was the first time I opened an older image in Lightroom 4. The new develop settings were missing but on anything new brought into Lightroom I could see them – Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks instead of Recovery, Fill Light and Brightness sliders. After a bit of searching I found you had to change the Process Version to 2012 instead of 2010. Applying that to the whole library opens up the newer develop panels for all my photo’s.

Early Morning London Eye

Early Morning London Eye

Even this shot of London taken from inside now looks better. Previously I struggled to increase the clarity and it always looked a bit washed out but I found it easier to tweak in Lightroom 4. There are other new features like book support, proofing and printing improvements, video support and a great way of geotagging photo’s but it’s the improvements in the process engine that really stands out.

Shamefully I’ve hardly been out and about this year with my camera but that will change soon. Promise.

RIAT 2011

A few weeks ago I went to my first air show – RIAT 2011. I’d always wanted to attend an air show but never really had the opportunity. What was nice about RIAT was that there was a group of us going (Shak, Tam and Ro), we were all going with a load of photography gear and the tickets worked out a bit cheaper as BAE Systems was a sponsor. What this meant was £10 off the ticket price, free lunch (which was actually pretty good) and use of a BAE Systems marquee…oh, and a free program.

For the weekend I hired a lens to try and take better advantage of the air show. My current lens doesn’t have the reach and while the lens hire cots just under £100, then lens I hired would costs nearer £1300 to buy so it was a bit of ano brainer. What was most disappointing though was the weather. We arrived at RAF Fairford for 07:45 and 5 mins standing in a queue was enough to drench our jeans. We all had waterproof jackets but it was still a poor start. We headed straight for the BAE marquee…which became our home for the next 4 1/2 hours as the rain just wouldn’t stop. The show should have started at 10:00 but instead it was nearer 12:30 before an Apache took to the skies. Unfortunately this meant that some of the aircraft didn’t fly on the Saturday. More annoyingly, the presenter kept telling us over the tannoy about how good the aircraft that wasn’t flying was in practice the day before. Shut up!

However I loved the show. It was great seeing the Apache, The Red Arrows, Eurofighter and the Chinook. I loved the Mustang and Spitfire as well. What I didn’t love was how difficult it was to photograph some of the planes. This was due to a number of issues. Firstly, jets move quickly. Obvious I know but keeping a jet in frame as I snapped was tricky. It was also tricky to keep it in frame and in focus. So many photo’s I took just weren’t very sharp. My biggest issue (apart from lack of skill) was the weather. Initially dark and gloomy, it then changed to dark at one side of the airfield to brighter at the other end. It then changed again to dark at one end and bright blue sky at the other, before ending the day in lovely sunshine. Tricky.

That didn’t stop me trying and by the end of the day I had taken just over 1200 photo’s. After ditching many and cleaning up others in Lightroom I finally got round to publishing 200 photo’s from RIAt on Flickr, handily split into sets.

Helicopters
Probably the aircraft I most wanted to see – the Apache. I’ve loved this since I was a kid, having a large airfix dangling from the ceiling. I couldn’t believe how manoeuvrable it was at the show. It managed a barrell roll. In a helicopter. Awesome.

Apache

Also impressive was the Chinook. A massive beast but it was being thrown around the show as if it was a toy.

Chinook

Full helicopter set can be found on Flickr.

Jets
Some amazing displays but the one that stood out was the Rafale. A great 10 minute display with the pilot really pulling out a great show.

French Dassault Rafale B

Also impressive was the EuroFighter but it didn’t do too much at the show apart from look and sound good! Full set can be found on Flickr.

Display
Some great display teams at RIAT with the Red Arrows coming out on top.

The Red Arrows

However special mention goes to the Italian Frecce Tricolori display team. Great colour and variety during there display but lifted by the great commentator. You had to be there to understand why but it did make us all laugh.

Italian Frecce Tricolori

My favourite picture from the displays though was the Belgian display team – Les Diables Rouge.

Les Diables Rouge

It’s not the planes but the pilots. A mixture of concentration and one of them glancing over to the crowd. Love it. Click through to the full display set on Flickr.

Classics
A few great old planes on display and I was pretty stunned that when the Vulcan had landed around half of the crowd left – there was still around 2 hours of flying! I guess there’s a lot of love out there for the Vulcan that I didn’t appreciate. Favourite for me though was the Spitfire, seen here with a Mustang.

RAF Spitfire and American P-51 Mustang

The sound it made was great – can’t imagine how hundreds of Spitfires taking off in WWII must have sounded. Full set of classics can be found here on Flickr.

Round Up
So a great day and weekend which wasn’t spoiled by me and Shak being sick – pair of lightweights. Thanks to Tam for putting us up (and putting up with us) and also Lynne for the great cooking. Pleased to have seen so many great planes but don’t think I’ve caught the airshow bug. One was enough…for now.

Clyde at Night

Supposed to be out getting some firework shots but missed the Glasgow Green show thanks to a late visit from the Virginmedia engineer. Instead, some shots of the Clyde at night.

Clyde at Night

Lessons Learned

Thursday night was the best to try and view the Perseids meteor shower. I’d not tried the Canon at night – in fact I’ve not done any night shooting before. I’ve always wanted to take pictures of the moon, stars etc but been let down by two things. Firstly, having a camera and lens that could take good clear pictures. Secondly, and most importantly, is the light pollution in Glasgow. The orange glow from streetlights is only managed by that of the fake tan parlours in Partick.

So with that myself and Shakeel set off off for…where could we go to escape the light pollution. We ended up heading to Whitelees where we knew it would be dark and also we could have easy access to an open space. This was the first mistake of the evening – missing a glorious sunset. If we’d got there a half hour earlier we would have had some great pics…instead we missed the sun but still saw the fiery sky left behind.

Sunset

We then waited for the sky to get dark which took another hour or so. I’ve picked up a remote trigger but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to work so I had to give up on that and use the normal shutter button. Frustrating as it introduced a bit of vibration and I wanted to use bulb mode on the camera, which keeps shooting as long as I hold the shutter button. For a couple of shots I wanted to have exposure lengths of 2 to 3 minutes but that just wasn’t practical without the remote. More frustrating – I realised the next day that I had the cable between the camera and receiver the wrong way round. Lack of preparation had let me down.

Night Sky, low Iso

So the pictures we were getting were good but didn’t seem to be picking everything up that we could see with our eyes. Asa test we then tried capturing one of the turbines by increasing the ISO while keeping the exposures long. That gave us some pretty dramatic shots.

Turbine, high ISO

We then used the higher ISO settings on the sky itself. This seemed to give better shots when reviewing them on the camera screen but with hindsight the lower ISO settings would have given a clearer shot of the sky so should have varied that a bit more. Looking at the shots I managed to get of Perseids meteors, they are pretty faint against the not so black night sky. A wee bit more patience would have paid dividends here. I should have reviewed the pictures on the iPad to see more clearly the shots I was taking.

Perseids

Compare that to these shots on Flickr – I’ve got a lot to learn. Another important lesson is location. We waited patiently for the last remnants of the sun to go but there was still a glow from Glasgow. Despite being well outside Glasgow the glow from the streetlights was getting in the way of some of the pictures. Wispy cloud that we couldn’t see appeared as orange streaks in our photo’s which was disappointing.

But let’s not be too negative. It was my first attempt, I did manage to get some shots of the meteors and it was a good learning experience. In fact I’m really pleased to have tried night shooting as we are planning to visit Galloway Park which is one of only a handful of dark parks around the world. We’ll visit during winter as it’s dark a lot earlier. I also plan to hire out a large lens to make the most of the visit. At least this time I’ll have a remote trigger that will work and also understand the impact of ISO settings a little better. Practise makes perfect.

Canon EOS 550D

As hinted in my previous post I’ve finally done it. I’ve bought a Canon EOS 550D. This is my first DSLR and quite a step up from Panasonic TZ5 point and shoot I currently use. Since the first reviews came out I’ve been pretty convinced about the camera. Great stills coupled with an excellent video mode made it a fairly straight forward choice.

One issue was that friends are all Nikon users so I could borrow lenses but this quote from DPReview sums up my feelings on the 550D.

With all this taken into account, it is hard not to recommend the EOS 550D. Quite simply, taken as a whole, it is the best camera of its class that we’ve ever seen, and one of those rare cameras that won’t look out of date in a couple of years’ time.

The Nikon vs Canon debate is like Mac vs PC. Timeless with no clear winner and no doubt banter for the next few years between me and Shakeel. For me the camera body was the easy bit. The real difficulty was in choosing a lens. So much choice, and prices ranging from around £100 to a few thousand. I’ve been trying to decide for a few weeks now. One choice I did make early on was to pick up a ‘nifty fifty‘, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. This is a cheap lens with low build quality but is optically very good. My first pic with the lens was Ollie the Twitterrific mascot.

Ollie

I was pretty chuffed with this as my first picture. I think the lens will turn out to be a great purchase. The real difficulty was sorting out a lens that would cover all other bases. So many choices, so many reviews, so many opinions. I started off looking at lenses around the £900 mark but I had no real idea if the lens would be good for me, suit the majority of my shots. So I dropped my budget and ended up with something a bit more affordable, but with some compromises – Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. Not too hot indoors but the nifty fifty will cover that, has some barrel issues but overall is a great lens for walk about purposes which is going to be the majority of my shots, at least in the next few months.

Got a few other things to sort now. A bag, tripod, maybe some filters if I get totally hooked (which probably means a yes) but most of all I’m looking forward to getting out and about and experimenting with the camera. Happy days.

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