Christmas Party

Well tonight was the works Christmas Party.  An evening of fine food, a couple of comedians, disco and live band.

A chance to let your hair down and relax.

Hope you all have a good Christmas and your Christmas parties go well.

Lunar Eclipse

This morning was a luna eclipse, this one being a little more special then most as it was the first in 400 years to occur on the winter solstice.

Heres the luna eclipse I photographed back in 2007.

This provides a good photographic challenge, all thats needed is a long lens, a typical consumer 70-300mm telephoto zoom will do the job.

Metering for exposure can be difficult, the moon is brighter then you might expect, that together with the black sky will trick you meter into the wrong exposure.  Use manual and your histogram to judge, shoot in RAW if you can not jpeg, and use a good tripod.

You will find you need to adjust the composition regularly as the moon moves quite quickly across the frame.

See bbc.co.uk for more details about the eclipse.

Update:

Chris Bennet managed to get some photos of this mornings elipse, you can see them here.

Hoar Frost

Another bitterly cold day, the ride to work was -8°C, I don’t even want to think what the wind chill factor was.

It was a foggy ride in, but as the fog cleared it revealed a beautiful view of hoar frost encrusted trees illuminated in golden sunlight from the low winter sun.

With days like this I wish I had more time for photography.  I always seem to book indoor studio shoots during great photography weather and if I am on location the weather is awful.  Thats fate I suppose!

Birthday Post

Another Birthday passes by, unfortunately I had to work and it was quite a busy and hellish day all told.

Tonight was a nice meal out, good food, good drink, finished off at home with a rather nice bottle of red wine I had for the occasion.

Thank you everyone for the presents and thanks to my dear wife for the wonderful weekend photography course last week.  It made a lovely birthday present.

The Cold Returns

The weather in Lincolnshire has improved massively in the last couple of days, allowing the normal motorcycle commute to recommence.  Yesterday still had icy roads leading to the village leading to an interesting and challenging start to the commute.  Caroline decide to walk down the first road while I slowly road along the ice covered road with my feet down on the ground sliding along.

Once into the village it was an easy commute into town.

This afternoon the cold snap returned and it started to snow, luckily it was not too bad and we got home safe on the motorcycle.

Its been good to get back on the bike, you really miss it, and this has been one of my longest breaks off the bike.

Final farewell of Harrier Jump Jets

Lincolnshire is very proud of its RAF heritage, its known as bomber county.  Since the end of the second world war bases have gradually closed but we still have many airfields and RAF bases.

Today was the final flight from RAF Cottesmore in Rutland for the Harrier jump jets based there, but to say good bye the squadron took a final flight over Lincoln and the Lincolnshire airbases and towns.

Unfortunately I missed the fly pass but did manage to catch there practice flight yesterday.  It was an impressive flight, and an impressive demonstration of formation flying.  As a part time pilot myself (wish I had more time to fly!), I certainly appreciated the fly past.

The Harrier jump jet was a truly great demonstration of British technical achievement, but was retired early due to the financial crisis and the need for defence cuts to save money.  The Navy is also losing its Harriers and its aircraft carriers.

Lets hope we have no war, or major humanitarian disaster that needs a British aircraft carrier.  I know we need to save money but sometimes the choices made, do seem potentially fraught with danger.

Good bye Harrier, you proved your worth, in the Falklands, Iraq and the Balkans to name just a few.  I salute you, the designers, engineers and aircrew that worked with you.  Its the end of an era.

Hands on with the Sony NEX-5

Well today I finally got my hands on the Sony NEX-5.  This is not going to be a review, I am sure you have read many already, just a few first impressions.

The big advantage of the Sony is the size of its sensor, as its APS-C, its the largest sensor yet fitted to an EVIL camera.  Yet its the smallest interchangeable large sensor compact yet released.

I have to admit, it does look odd with the oversized 18-55mm lens it comes with, but it does feel surprisingly good in the hand.  The ergonomics are surprisingly good, and I was certainly expecting worse.  While not as pocketable as a ‘normal’ small sensor compact, it would certainly fit in a large jacket pocket.

With the size of the sensor, I would hope a few nice wide angles soon appear.  This is an area where Sony potentially have an advantage over micro four thirds, but currently the lens selection is limited compared to the micro four thirds system.

The controls were reasonable and certainly much better then I expected from reading other reviews.

Sony NX-5
©Andrew Jordan

The biggest issue I find is the lack of a true viewfinder.  I want a camera with a proper viewfinder, so once again the camera that still leads the pack for me is the Panasonic GF-1, as at least it has an optional EVF.

Chris Bennett has recently purchased the two lens NEX-5 kit, and I am sure a a true review will be appearing soon on his photography blog.

As you can see the quality is easily as good as any of the current DSLR’s.

Large Format Course

Saturday was my introduction to large format photography.

The one day Intensive Large Format Landscape Workshops are a great way to get a taste of what Large Format Photography is all about.  Dav and Tim are great tutors.

Taken with my iPhone.

The course gives you the chance to get your hands on a large format camera and have a go for real.  Tim and Dav do their best to explain the somewhat complex ideas around Tilts & Shifts, but its the demonstrations and being able to try it for yourself that brings the theory to life.

The downsides of large format photography are generally the sheer size of the camera’s and the amount of time and effort it takes to set up a shot.  This slow and deliberate nature of photography is something that I like, and have got used to when using my medium format Hasselblad camera. Others may also consider the fact that most large format photography is still done with film a major downside, but the cost of digital large format is out of the question for the majority of people, and large format film is hard to beat.

The big advantage of large format photography is the range of movements available.  If you are from a small format (35mm) background this is possibly a big mystery unless you have used a tilt and shift lens.

I certainly know, that for my landscape photography, large format is tempting.  For the price of a modern Nikor Tilt and Shift lens I can buy a complete large format outfit.

A full explanation of camera movements would fill a book, and some university photography courses take an entire term (semester) to explain them.

Basically the advantages of movements are as follows:

  • Apparently infinite depth of field without resorting to closing down the aperture.
  • Correct perspective when photographing buildings, ie no converging verticals.
  • Removing the camera from the image when photographing a mirror.

Tilt is one of the key effects that landscape photographers utilise to produce apparently huge amounts of depth of field.  The effect is known as the Scheimflug Effect.  It was discovered in 19th Century by Theodor Scheimflug.

While it can be hard to explain, once you have seen it demonstrated and have tried it for yourself  you start to understand it.

Tim and Dav first explained the basic workings of the camera, and then with the aid of sketches, how movements work.  It was then a practical demonstration, so you could see the effect yourself.  Then it was time to have a go.  At first just focusing the camera was a challenge, and the temptation was to use too much tilt, but after a while I got the hang of it, and it all began to come together.

With the basics understood, we then had a walk round Robin Hoods Bay taking a few shots, trying to use the movements available to our advantage.

The other part I found a struggle at first, was using the spot meter.  Taking readings round the scene to determine the dynamic range, from that selecting an appropriate film to try and match the dynamic range or using filters to control the scene and bring it back to the dynamic range of the film.

All in all, a very worthwhile day and I look forward to putting some of my new skills into practice with my small format and medium format photography.

Thanks Tim, Thanks Dav, a great day and i’ll try to put some of the things I have learnt into practice.

Model shoot Inspiration – Autumn, and missed ideas

For my model shoots, planning is a major problem I find.  Its my timing.

For the summer I had some idea’s for a shoot.  The fields full of golden wheat, a young model posing in a sun hat with the wheat all round her.  Before I managed to get it planned and scheduled the fields had been harvested.

This Autumn it was a long coated fashion shoot with a model walking/kicking her way through leaves in the low golden sunshine. As always I have left it too long and now the leaves have left the trees.

The problem is I need to have the idea first then arrange for everything to come together at the right time.

So these summer and autumn idea’s will get filed for next year, and i’ll start thinking back to last winter and see what ideas I had and see if I can put something together for this winter.

Update:
and I still have not planned my winter shoot and the snow is here already. I really must plan better!

Cold and Frozen – the water pipes that is

Another freezing cold day, we got up this morning only to find we had no water.  A quick check round found no damage (yet) so we suspected frozen pipes.  The main kitchen tap was also none functioning so it was most likely the main feed into the house.

We tried to turn off the stopcock only to find it frozen.  At this point we decided we better not go to work just yet, just in case we were looking at a flood should a frozen pipe burst, so we sent a quick email work to let them know.

The radiator in the kitchen had stopped working the previous day, and the kitchen had been very cold, that together with record low temperatures for the time of year, the most likely place for the frozen up pipe was where it comes into the house, in the cupboard next to the cold kitchen.

The kitchen radiator was an easy fix, take off the plastic valve cover and then a gentle tap with the hammer and we had heat again in the kitchen.

We then took turns gently heating the stopcock with a hair drier.  This did not produce any effect, so it was a trip outside to where the water meter was located.  Once again we directed a gentle heat onto the water meter using a hair driver.

After about 10 minutes we had running cold water again and we were able to turn off and back on the water stopcock.

With the central heating turned up, we kept an eye on the pipes for a further hour before finally grabbing a much needed shower, something to eat, and then we headed into work as the fog started to roll in.

We then heard that Alan my father in law had the same problem. After work we headed up there and once again directed some gentle heat onto the water meter. Once again we soon had the water flowing.

Finally we got back home, only to find our neighbour waiting for us. She had no cold water either. We gave her some instructions and she said she would try them out in the morning, and if she had any problems she would let us know.