San Francisco with the Leica M-E

If you read my post from earlier in the year, you’ll see I made the decision to try out a Leica M6 in an effort to find a system camera that was more suitable for taking along with me when I travelled. After putting a bunch of films through the camera, I was quickly convinced […]

Gear Review: Nikon 200mm F/2G VR

I’ve owned this lens now for 5 years, and have been meaning to provide a write up for a long time. I guess I just haven’t used the lens enough, for reasons I will explain during my blog, to do it full justice, but enough is enough, it’s time to write up my experiences….. This […]

Back to Analogue – Leica M6

I began ‘serious’ photography back at university, when digital was only just getting going. At the time I didn’t have much money, so scrimped and saved to buy myself a semi decent analogue camera kit based around the Nikon F601. I was the picture editor/photographer for the college paper, so ended up spending a fair […]

Gear Review: Nikon 24mm f/1.4G

I’ve been using the Nikon professional zoom lenses for a while now, and have built up quite a nice kit. However, when combined with a full frame body such as the D3, it becomes a heavy outfit to use when traveling. So for my recent trip to Japan, I decided to travel lightweight (by my […]

Camera Stores in Tokyo

I am currently on vacation in Japan, and we started our trip by spending a couple of days in Tokyo. One thing that always impresses me when I am in Tokyo is the abundance of photography equipment that can be bought in the shops. There are a couple of large camera stores in Japan, and […]

Safari Photography: Supporting a big lens

I’ve been lucky enough to visit South Africa a couple of times now, and knowing what gear to take is always the big question before I leave. In discussing this with other photographers, through my blog, and on forums, one question that people often ask me is what sort of camera support system they should […]

Giromania reaches Amsterdam

Today the first stage of the 2010 Giro d’Italia started in Amsterdam with an 8.4km time trial. With just under 200 starters, the cyclists kept the streets of Amsterdam busy for over 3 hours. I went out with the D3 and my 200mm f/2G VR lens and took some photos along the Ceintuurbaan in Amsterdam […]

Nikonians Amsterdam Get Together

Some time ago we put a call out on the Dutch Cafe at Nikonians for a get together in Amsterdam. This is something we have organised a couple of times in the past, although the previous trips were more based around out of town vendors. This time we decided upon a city meet, so planned […]

Super Bikes Championship, Assen

in Shooting reports, Sport, Travel by on May 3rd, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I was given the opportunity to visit the Super Bikes Championship at the Assen TT Circuit in Holland, as part of a corporate sponsorship package we had purchased. Of course I was more than happy to go along, as long as I was able to take my gear with me πŸ™‚

Although I pleaded with the organisers to get me a place in the press pit, it appears our Gold Club sponsorship didn’t quite give us that many privileges, so I ended up shooting from one of the tribunes. I was lucky to be able to get a seat on the second row just near the final bend, so, although I was a bit higher than I would have liked, I was able to capture the action as the riders were leaning over to take the bend.

I decided to travel to the venue fairly ‘lightly’ so ended up just taking my D3 along with 300mm f/2.8G VR, TC-14e, a 24-70mm f/2.8G for general shots, and my Gitzo monopod. As it turned out, I needed to use the teleconverter with the 300mm, but then it was just the right focal length to get frame filling bikes, after a slight crop in post processing. (I find with this sort of photography it is always best to be slightly wider, and crop later, rather than fill the frame in camera and risk chopping the nose or the tail of the bike).

The weather was great on the day of the race, but unfortunately this meant I was left shooting at relatively high shutter speeds, since I wanted to keep my aperture fairly wide. This meant that I wasn’t able to blur the movement of the wheels to introduce the sensation of speed, and I had to avoid taking too many shots where the bike just looked stationary on the track. Luckily from my vantage point I was able to get shots of the riders leaning into (and out of) the curve, so at least the spokes of the wheels weren’t visible.

Panning the action was not so easy from the height I was sitting in the stand, so I was glad I could use the monopod for some support, and I finished the day with a number of shots I was happy with. Getting press credentials for these sort of events is next to impossible unless you are representing a media publication, but at least I now have some images that I may be able to use to blag my way in next time….

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Lee Filters introduce filter holder for Nikon 14-24mm lens

in Gear Review by on March 11th, 2010

A couple of years back Nikon introduced a landmark wide angle zoom lens. The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ultrawide was intended for the newer FX digital camera bodies, and was hoped to be a worthy successor to the already excellent 17-35mm f/2.8D zoom.

The lens is an excellent performer – limited barrel distortion, and capable of creating great, contrasty images, however it has received a lot of comments on internet forums due to the inability to use filters.

Most lens have a filter thread which enables photographers to screw the filters on to the front of the lens, or use a filter holder, such as the ones from Lee, Hi-Tech, or Cokin, together with square (or rectangular) glass or resin filters. Landscape photographers particularly favor the use of such filter holders as it is possible to use graduated filters and easily change the position of the grad in the image field.

The 14-24mm has a bulbous front end element, and a built in, non-removable, petal shaped lens hood. For these reasons, it is not possible to attach a filter, and landscape photographers have remained with the 17-35mm for the situations where filters were necessary, sacrificing the wider 14mm capabilities of the newer lens.

A couple of photographers have managed to find DIY solutions to the problem, adapting existing filter holders to attach to the lens, sometimes using pieces of pipe affixed around the end of the lens to support the holder, however these have typically only worked when the lens was fixed to DX format cameras.

However, this week Lee filters have announced an ingenious way of mounting filters on the lens, introducing new larger filters (150mm compared to the ‘standard’ 100mm filters) and a special 4 part holder. I have yet to see any examples taken with this new filter holder, but at a cost of around $250 it looks like a promising solution for this great lens. I’ve always said that the 17-35mm lens is the best solution for my needs, but have always been tempted to replace it with the 14-24mm. Maybe now is the right time to finally pick one up…….

More information regarding the filter holder can be seen in the attached YouTube video from Robert White in the UK.

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My Favorite Wildlife Shots from 2009

in General by on March 7th, 2010

Have been meaning to post this blog entry since around January 1st, but things kept getting in the way. Whilst i didn’t have as many opportunities to shoot wildlife as I would have liked in 2009, I still ended the year with a couple of shots I was happy with.  Here are my five favorite shots from the year….

The first shot, and probably my favorite of the year, was taken on field trip to Feldberger Seenlandschaft in May. Together with Patrick and Tom we had driven 8 hours into Eastern Germany to spend some time with Fred Bollmann from Ranger Tours. Although the photo opportunities hadn’t been as rich as we had hoped, we were able to come away with some nice images of a local sea eagle. More shots from the trip can be viewed in this blog post

Sea Eagle, Feldberger Seenlandschaft

My next favorite shot was a grab shot from the car whilst driving round the Biesbosch in the Netherlands in July. I had my D3 together with the 600mm lying next to me on the passenger car seat, and this young deer ran out in front of the car. I was able to stop the car and grab a few shots before he disappeared completely into the corn field.

Deer in the Biesbosch

Every year in March the black tailed godwit stops off in the Netherlands on the way to warmer climates. A local farmer uses the opportunity to flood one of his fields to give the godwit a chance to refuel energy during the trip. There are thousands of godwits present, and it makes for some good viewing opportunities. It is not easy to get individual godwits in the frame, as they are just a bit too far away – the shot below was shot on the D3 with the 600mm and a tc-17e – a focal length just over 1000mm….

Black tailed godwit at 'Landje van Geijsel' near Ouderkerk aan der Ijssel

I spent a number of Sunday mornings at the Oostervaardersplassen in the North of the Netherlands. There are a lot of birds of prey around this area, as well as kingfishers, deer, foxes, and wild horses. Although I typically like to be able to isolate birds from their surroundings, I liked the composition on this shot of a buzzard, taken in March, and the camouflage that she was able to get from the surrounding branches.

Buzzard in a tree, Oostvaardersplassen

The final shot was taken on a weekend trip to Texel, one of the islands just off the coast of the Netherlands. Texel has a wide variety of species, and is a good location for bird photographers. I took this shot of a common tern taking food back to the nest in April, one of the busiest times for migratory and nesting birds on the island. More shots from this trip can be seen in this blog entry.

Common Tern, Texel

So, not a totally unsuccessful year, but nevertheless I would like to have more images to choose from at the end of 2010. Here’s hoping….

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Romany in the Studio

in Shooting reports, Studio by on February 28th, 2010

For a while I had been wanting to do a shoot in the studio using mirrors. Rather than using them as a way of getting light into the photo, I wanted to use them as a prop in the photo itself, so I invited Romany from Model Mayhem to come along one afternoon, so we could try some things out. Romany wanted to update her portfolio as well, and brought along Natasja to do her make up.

My intention had been to position the model in front of a mirror, and then stand behind her so that I would be able to shoot both the front and the back of the model in the same shot. However we soon worked out that since mirrors are very good at reflecting whatever is in front of them <g> it was going to be hard to get the pure white background both in front and behind the mirror.

So for the first shots I positioned Romany at right angles to the infinity background in the studio, and asked her to hold the mirror so that the infinity background reflected in the mirror, giving the effect that I wanted.

Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to get any full length shots, due to the reflections around the studio that got into the mirror….

Take a look in the mirror

The second thing I wanted to try was to have the model leaning on the mirror. Since we have a white linen ceiling in the studio, it was fairly easy to get the effect I wanted, so with a bit of Photoshop to clean the images up, I was happy with the shots.

All in all, it was a successful afternoon. Thanks to Romany for the modeling, and Natasja for the excellent hair and makeup!

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Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal

in Shooting reports by on February 2nd, 2010
Recently I helped out my studio partner, Ralph Lemarechal of Photoshoot.me, with a project to create some high fashion images of some of Marlies Dekkers’ latest lingerie, together with an exclusive (and very expensive) Francois Noel black lace wedding dress. Ralph had managed to get permission to do the shoot at the Harley Davidson dealership in Amsterdam, Harley World, and had lined up a custom Harley for his model Maike to sit on.
Ralph’s original plan had been to shoot the bike on location outside, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side, so we ended up spending the day inside. The team at Harley World were very receptive to our needs though, and let us set up a full mobile studio in the space upstairs.
I was just assisting Ralph so wasn’t actively shooting, but did manage to snap a couple of backstage photos from the day. I’m sure Ralph will post some of his finished photos on his blog once he has worked on them.
Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal
Since Harley World stores most of their bikes downstairs, and usually uses the upstairs as a cafe or meeting place, the first thing we had to do was get the bike upstairs. Luckily the guys from HW were on hand to help us, and within a few minutes the bike was lifted up with a fork lift and in position.
The bike itself was pretty impressive, as you can see from the image below – I used HDR to bring out some of the details in the bike. Unfortunately the background was not so great, but hopefully it would be possible to improve upon that with careful lighting and careful post processing.

Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal
Our stylist for the day, Monica from Styling Amsterdam, was the first to try out the bike for size πŸ™‚

Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal
We brought the Elinchrom heads with us from the studio, and set the light up with the large Octabox on one side, and the Deep Octa on the other. We also had a wind machine to give some movement to the model’s hair.

Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal
The first shoot of the day was with our model wearing the black wedding dress, and as Monica made sure the dress was fitted correctly, Pieter from Mushota hair and make-up did some final alterations to the hair.

Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal

Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal
The dress itself had a long lace train, and flowed over the back of the bike, giving an opportunity for some nice shots. We set the lights up crossing over so that the large octa would be lighting up the bike, with the deep octa providing the light for the model’s face

Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal
Pieter did a great job with the make-up, and was always on hand to make any necessary adjustments.
Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal

Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal

Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal
Once Ralph had finished shooting the dress, Maike changed into the Marlies Dekkers lingerie, and the shoot continued

Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal

Backstage at Harley Davidson/Marlies Dekkers photoshoot with Ralph Lemarechal
Ralph had assembled a great team for the day, and the shoot was a lot of fun. Although we weren’t able to achieve all we wanted, it was definitely a good project to be involved with. Maybe again in the summer? πŸ™‚
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