Wednesday 30 April 2008

The nifty-fifty project - part 2.

I had to go into London on Friday - some site visits to be done, so as is my usual habit I tucked the camera into the bottom of my bag. Well, you never know what you might find, do you? I decided to attach the 50mm f1.8 to have a go at stage 2 of the project I've set myself - namely to spend some time with ONLY that lens to use, in order to make me think more about composition etc. Actually, that's a lie. There wasn't much space in the bottom of the bag and the nifty was the only lens that would comfortably fit whilst still allowing me to carry notebook, toe-capped boots etc.....
As lunchtime beckoned I found myself on the way back to Kings Cross to get back on the tube - it seemed like the ideal opportunity to spend an hour working on another little project I've been thinking about for a while - a wander around St Pancras (St Pancras International as I believe we are now supposed to call it). St Pancras is probably my favourite building in the capital. The outside is stunning - OTT architecture at its very best. The inside has been fairly sympathetically treated - heavy use of glass doesn't exactly suit the character of the building but does at least enable you to see through to the finer parts of the structure from almost wherever you are in the upper part of the station. The brickwork is now as clean as the day it was built and the roof-supporting ironwork has been restored to it's sky-blue painted glory. That is presumably what John Betjeman's statue is regarding - and well he might as it's quite a sight to behold. Betjeman has a special reason to look in awe though - he was in part responsible for saving the magnificent building from being demolished when the idea was mooted in the 1960's. Good on you Sir - I'm very glad you did!

Sunday 27 April 2008

Macro again...

Thought it was about time the 100mm f2.8 Macro lens saw some action again, and buying a couple of plants for the garden yesterday was all the inspiration I needed to get me going! I love doing macro stuff, but, as I have commented on before, often seem to lack the patience that it demands. Insect photography is beyond me for that reason, if no other - after the little bugger flying off for the fifth time just as I was ready to shoot I'd give up and go in for a cup of tea! These two were both shot using manual focus - AF with the macro lens doesn't really work so well. Settings for the first were f5.6, 1/60th second exposure , and the second - F11, 1/10th second exposure. ISO was 200 for both, as the light wasn't as good as I would have liked.

Anyway - the two pictures posted are both of Aquilegia - but quite different flowers as you can see. I also have a beautiful mauve and white one which I may try and do some shots with in due course. I did try a few this morning but got nothing that I felt was up to standard. Now all I have to do is to decide which of these two images I'm going to use as my pc desktop.....oh, and plant them in the garden, of course!

Sunday 20 April 2008

Bath time...

Just a very quick post today I think. The 300mm f4 got another trip out today - by the time we'd finished doing all our jobs around the flat and building the new Ikea bookcase we got yesterday (what a mad place Ikea is!) we didn't have a lot of time so headed down to Rye Meads again to have a wander along one of the trails we didn't cover last week. We ended up sat in the Otter hide - although there were no otters in sight! Plenty of birds though - as well as this beautiful Swan we were watching Pochards, Gadwalls, a Little Grebe, Tufted Ducks, and a very quick glimpse of a Kingfisher! No photos from that encounter, but fingers crossed we might managed to get some at some stage...

Thursday 17 April 2008

The nifty-fifty project.....part 1

Well, as I mentioned yesterday, we had a walk around the South bank area on Sunday while we were in London. I decided on leaving the pub to head down that way that I was going to put the "Nifty" (50mm f1.8 for the uninitiated) lens on the camera and take the rest of my days shots using only that lens. All in all an interesting experiment. Being restricted to a focal length is strange for someone used to a Zoom. You have to work in a different way - rather than seeing a shot, you have to really look for stuff that will work, and rather a lot of what you frame doesn't, initially, you have to move forwards, or backwards, or change angle...... 50mm did, however, prove to be a lovely length for capturing some urban action from the skateboarders. This shot has been treated to a bit of "funky urban processing" also thanks to an old magazine article I've been carefully hoarding for just this eventuality!
I'm expecting this project to be ongoing, in fact I MAY even try some speedway stuff with it. ("It'll be too short to get anything decent" said Steve on Monday when I debated this possibility with him.....hmmm, best get thinking how I can prove him wrong, then!). Keep your eyes peeled.

Wednesday 16 April 2008


We went up to London on Sunday to watch - and photograph - the marathon. Mindful of the fact that the best pictures tend to be got early on, before the streets get too clogged with the "fun" runners, we arrived at Westferry DLR and walked along the route to our spot of choice, which was delightfully free of crowds and remained so for the entire morning! (no, I'm not saying where, you think we want everyone turning up there next year?!). As always the wheelchair race provided some great shots - as did some of the "Backroom" staff - more of those shots in due course, perhaps.

Kit-wise it was a pretty simple decision to settle on my standard kit. I started off with the 70-200 f2.8 - with which the shot above was taken - before switching to the 24-70 f2.8 when the course got busier and we started walking around. Once the bulk of the runners had passed us, we headed off along to the South bank (via a pub for a pint and a sandwich whilst my rather damp 30D dried out a little and all its buttons started working again!) and the nifty-fifty got an outing shooting the grafitti and the skateboarders down there. I also got some new shots of the London Eye using that lens - the first time I've shot it using that one, and it certainly put a different perspective on the subject and made me work a bit harder for the shots!


Saturday 12 April 2008

Ducking and diving...

Today I finally got to play with my new lens! Having enjoyed a dabble with Bird photography while we were away, I found myself thinking more and more about my planned "future" purchase of a longer telephoto. I've had the idea in mind for a while, and at our speedway press day I had a quick play with my friend Brian's Canon 100-400mm lens - mainly so I could get straight in my head what my ideal focal length would be. That confirmed to me that 300mm would be an ideal length for me to go for. A quick browse on eBay on Tuesday turned up a Canon 300mm f4 L IS lens at a decent price, and 48 hours later it was in my hot little hands!

Anyway, today we finally got around to a visit to our extremely local RSPB reserve - Rye Meads - and what a lovely place it was. There are various different "trails" to walk, with hides along the way so you can get a closer look at some of the birds. We saw lots of different species, although sadly the Kingfisher was making himself scarce today. I did get a glimpse of a Great Spotted Woodpecker though - forst one of those I've ever seen. Also got another look at the little chap above - he's a Little Grebe, and we first saw one just a few weeks back on the Loch at Carinish.

All in all I'm delighted with the lens - even once I'd added the 1.4x Teleconverter the IQ seems to be superb, and the Autofocus is lightning fast. Definately money well spent!


Wednesday 9 April 2008

Time to experiment a little...

No action this week at Ipswich, but I thought I'd post up a speedway pic anyway, with some background explaining how a "regular" night at Ipswich goes for me. I leave work as early as I can get away with, but realistically about 5.15 - 5.20pm. Hot-foot it up the A12 to get to the track as early as possible, and generally arrive at Foxhall Heath, home of the Witches, at around 6.45pm. First stop is off to get myself a quick bite to eat, checking in with my contact on the supporters club committee on the way to find out a little bit of info about the nights meeting mascot - are they nervous, is it a special occasion like a birthday, that sort of thing. Then it's down to the pits to get my kit sorted out and get a feel for the way things are going to go that evening. At about 7.15pm Nicola joins me along with the mascot for the night (they are usually between about 5 and 14 years old) and we spend a few minutes getting the kiddie at their ease if nervous, or calmed down if overexcited, before one of us goes off to round up their favourite rider for the first photos. The lads are all very good about it - and there's always time for a few quick words with the child whose big night it is before they have to get back to business. The tension then starts to rise - final adjustments are made to both bikes and cameras, before the riders hit the track for the pre-meeting parade, and we head off to the centre green. The riders line up for introduction to the crowd but prior to that it's the all-important coin toss to decide starting positions for the meeting - the two team Captains link up with the mascot for another photo and it's time for me to get it right - not something that can be re-done this one, no pressure or anything! A bit of banter with our Captain - Chris Louis - when I let the opposing skipper know that there will be two photos taken "Yeah, the first one never comes out does it!" jeers Chris with a grin, always making the mascot laugh which makes for a nice shot! Then the Mascot tosses the coin before it's helmets on for the warm up. Nicola and mascot head away out through the pits and I grab my bag and leg it down the centre green to change lenses and settings and get ready for the start of racing. I have "starting point" settings for speedway which I default to although these tend to get "tweaked" as the night wears on. Heats 1 - 4 are the most important for me - to make sure I get at least one clear action shot of each of the witches riders as early in proceedings as possible takes concentration but is essential before they get dirty with shale. Once I know I've got those in the bag then it's time to relax a bit - up to the interval (usually heat ten or thereabouts) it's a case of watching for any "handbags" with elbows flying as the riders jostle for positions, hopefully no crashes but got to be ready just in case, and generally reinforcing the action stuff with different angles, shooting positions etc. The crowd on the terraces know when the interval is even before it's announced as those of us on the centre immediately start heading for the pits as the riders cross the line. Time to go and see Pat in the tea-room for a much welcomed cuppa and, if we're lucky, a ginger nut or two! I usually spend the heat after the interval in the pits - saves me having to gulp down my tea and it's nice to get a feel for how things are with the lads. If I'm lucky there is space at the pit gate - the Poles usually shuffle along to make room for me and I watch the race from there - Robert says something unrepeatable in Polish as one of our reserves takes a tumble on the third bend, as the red lights come on the team all pour out of the pits to see if he's OK.....
Back out on the centre for the final few heats and for me this is time to play about a bit - hence the posted picture. I like to try to get something a bit "different" - the shot above was with the flash turned off, and shot at 1/80th, f2.8. Heat 15, and either jubilation all round as the witches rack up some vital points, or crestfallen faces and a downbeat atmosphere if things haven't turned out so well. For me it's time to get packed up before heading up to the bar for a bit of a gossip and the "post mortem" on the meeting. Then it's home (about an hour and a quarter for me!) and time for bed - none too soon!


Tuesday 8 April 2008


"Postcard" when translated from Gaelic! In the bookcase in the cottage is a great selection of books - from novels to guide books. The night before this picture was taken I had been browsing through a book of old postcards of the Western isles, so when at the end of road we'd just driven along, we found this little cottage with the sheep taking shelter from the wind in front of it, I knew exactly what I wanted from the shot! Processing was fairly straightforward - convert to Sepia, levels, and then a touch of grain added to give that "film" feel. Finally a quite search for just the right font for the wording.

Apparently I have a reader in the USA - Hello to Phyllis!


Monday 7 April 2008


Warning all Bloggers - if you receive a comment from user "Salar" DO NOT click on the link as it appears to contain malware!

Saturday 5 April 2008

Spring has sprung!

Went for a wander along the lane today armed with 30D and 70-200mm f2.8. To put you in the picture, it's a little lane that used to be a "proper" road but is now closed off at each end. It has a long narrow wooded area along one side, which is fairly quiet and as a result is a haven for all sorts of birds, and our local squirrel population. In the high winds a couple of years ago we had quite a few trees and large branches come down in there, and sensibly (for a change!) the local council has done nothing more than cut them up to remove obstructions to the path, and then leave the bits in situ to rot down naturally. As a result it's turning into quite a nice habitat down there.

It was the first time we'd really noticed the change in the season - buds are breaking all over the place and this back-lit leaf burst caught my attention. Meanwhile, the squidgers attention was being caught by the bag of Monkey nuts being carried by Ben......this little chap decided we merited a closer look!
No speedway this week so I will hopefully get the holiday shots finished and uploaded....... watch this space for the new Webshots address for those.
Finally, a mention for a blog I'm a regular visitor to now. Silversprite - the Librarian at the end of the World is written by a chap living on the island of Berneray but covers far more than just the subject of island life - go on, have a browse!