Yearly Mileage

Today was the first day back at work for us.  As is usual, we commuted on the bike.  It was the first bike ride of the new year so as is traditional with me, I made a note of the mileage on the bikes.


The Honda has reached 58040, so last year we only did 351 miles, at least thats slightly better then the year before when we only rode 282.

Crossing the Ford

The BMW has reached 17660, so last year we did 7513, the year before was 6716.

When we had more time we used to regularly go on long bike rides and weekends away.  It got to the point I was doing 12000 miles a year.  Now we only manage a few weekends out a year plus one big bike holiday, plus the daily commute.

The typical sports bike only manages about 2500 miles a year, while a tourer about 4000, so we are still managing more milage then most bikers.

Today was a bit of a challenge, as we had to face snow covered roads, always fun.

Synchro Daylight or Fill in Flash

No work today, but I did want to do some experimentation with Synchro Daylight.  An old term but basically its when you mix flash and daylight together.  Most people have heard it described as fill in flash, it can also be used with great affect when the flash is the primary source and the sun as the fill-in.

Its something I have used in the past to great affect, and modern hot-shoe electronic flashguns to make it very easy.  But I wanted to have a play around with manual, and trying out the balance flash functionality in my light meter.

Sekonic L 758 Light Meter

I bought the L-758 for its spot meter feature when shooting medium and large format.  But it also has some advance flash features and can show the balance of daylight to flash.

So equipped with a Nikon D200, a Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 and a SB-800 flashgun I ventured outdoors with my flash meter and volunteer model for the day, my very patient wife Caroline.

First a simple portrait with daylight, manual mode.  Easy.  Then the flash set to manual at relatively low power.  The light-meter held by my wife under her chin with the de-fusion dome pointing at the flash gun.

After several attempts and varying the flash power, the meter was only reading the flash component.

I had to commit the ultimate male sin, find the manual and give it a quick read.  Unlike previous meter’s I had set it to the Flash-C, but this actually meant Flash with a cord, not Flash and Continuous light.  The mode that had just the Flash symbol turned out to measure both flash and continuous light.

With the light meter now in the correct mode we tried again, varying the exposure and flash output and reading the balance of daylight to flash from the meter and comparing that to the results seeing what we liked.

It certainly makes judging your exposure when mixing flash and daylight easier and I hope to put it into good practice with a summer beach photo shoot I intend planning.  I just need to find a location, a suitable model and a bit of good weather.

Heres looking forward to summer.

Daylight and Fill in Flash – Model in the summer house

Back to the Gym

Like most people, the new year means off to the gym.

We try to go twice a week.  We had a break and only went once over Christmas but today was back to the normal schedule, so a hard work out was the plan.

Christmas had not been kind, I had put on 6 pounds in weight!  I concentrated on a cardio workout, legs and core, and boy did I feel it.

Afterwards we had a chat to the staff, as a letter had come over Christmas advising us of an increase in our gym membership fee’s due to the increase in VAT.  We soon negotiated a discount and now pay less then we did five years ago.

Happy New Year – and the end of an era

Happy New Year Everyone

The end of an era.

As many Photographers already know the great film Kodachrome was discontinued in 2009.  While manufacture ended, there were still a few places left where you could get it developed.

The last has been Dwayne’s Photo in Kansas.  This has been the last lab in the world that was able to process the film.

Well today is the end of an era.

Dwayne Steinle the owner, will today have the last every roll processed.

With no more places left to process the film today is the end.

I shot a few rolls of Kodachrome 25 myself back in the 1980’s, but my allegiances switched to that young upstart Fuji Velva 50.  It is a sad day.  With so few film sales now, not many films can survive but I am glad to see film has seen a bit of a revival this year.

Even I have shot more film this year then in the past six.  Most of it being Medium format and some Large Format, but I only shot one roll of 35mm.

I think we may see the end of the 35mm film, but medium and large format still seems to be going strong and sales even increasing.  Lets hope it continues.  I still feel there is a place for film in this very digital world we live.

Flash – Studio Lighting


No not Adobe’s flash, I am not getting into that argument.  I have an Apple iPhone and I fully accept its a better phone for not having flash, but then I am also a flash user and on my professional website I use flash for my photographic galleries!

No this post is about Photographic lighting.

Most photographers are used to the typical hot shoe flash.  The hot shoe flash is quite the modern electronic marvel.  I have a pair of Nikon SB-800’s and they are great.  Full TTL control; if you are scared of flash then just set them and your camera to full auto, and with appropriate flash head positioning you can get great results.

The key is not to use the flash in the camera’s hot shoe but use them off camera.  For fill in flash and the odd party I use hot shoe flash with great success.

For studio work, I always use professional mono-block mains powered studio lights.  That, with a good soft box produces results that are hard to beat any other way.

I usually hire a local studio with Elinchrom RX lights, and find I get good results far easier then with small hot shoe flashes.

Many photographers are intimidated by studio lighting.  It seems hard work.  The camera has to be set to manual.  You have to use a flash meter to calculate your exposure.  Then there are all the complicated accessories, softboxes, brollies, snoots, barn doors and honeycomb grids, to name just a few, to modify the light.

I have now started to think about getting some studio flash myself.  The very high end stuff is out of the question, far too expensive for the few times each month I would use it.  But it needs to be of good quality, robust for travel, have stable colour temperature and high speed flash duration to freeze action.

In the UK that leaves you with just Bowen’s and Elinchrom.  If your in the USA then Elinchrom and brands such as Alien Bee’s are popular.

I have spent quite some time now researching the brands and am still no nearer choosing what I want.

Bowen’s lower end models work with battery packs, so are easy to use away from mains power, there are a large array of accessories available, and you get good reports about customer service.  They are also a UK brand, and even the lower end models are very well built.

Elinchrom are what I am used to.  The Rotolux softboxes are the best, and the skyport remote system is excellent.  Most Pro’s I know use Elinchrom.

Once the brand is picked, where do you enter the system, go for the bottom of the range, cheap but will they take the abuse of travel.

I have to admit, after a lot of research, all I have managed to do is confuse myself more, and I am still none the wiser.

Checking out the forums has not helped, its nearly as bad as the Nikon and Canon arguments.

Any advice gratefully received.

Planning my January Model Shoots

A quite day at home for us today.  We had decided to have the day off to extend our Christmas holiday.

The morning was spent contacting a few local models.  I am currently planning a location shoot to test a few new ideas for the new year.  The location is now all set so I just had to book a model.  I was wanting to try someone new so I contacted a few local models using some of the popular modeling forums.  I was soon sorted so now everything is booked.

Over the next couple of weeks I will finalise my ideas and make copious notes.  You really want a good plan for when your doing a shoot.  The location, sets, clothes, make-up and poses all ready and written down.

This does not mean you cannot use spontaneity during a shoot, but have a good plan before you start.  There are to many things that could go wrong, or you could get side tracked, forgetting what your trying to achieve and end up coming away with nothing.

For this particular shoot, the customer is just me.  The intention is to test out a few ideas and to test out a new location.  If it all goes wrong theres only myself that will get upset.

When its a paying customer you must plan everything out, have a full shot list and backup plans.

Even though the shoot is just for me and only a test, I will still treat it as if it was a normal paid shoot and plan accordingly.

Milestone Legal Case: Rudolph v. North Pole Reindeer Team (1964)

Rudolph “the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Jenkins, who became famous for being discriminated against because of the color of his nose, and was not allowed to join the North Pole Reindeer Team, was in court following the Christmas of 1963. After a slew of witnesses ranging from Dasher and Dancer to Donner and Blitzen, the prosecution’s star witness, SANTA, took the stand. We pick up now at that point in this milestone trial.

PROSECUTOR: State your full name for the court, please.

SANTA: Santalacious Frederico Claus.

PROSECUTOR: Mr. Claus, when did you meet my client

SANTA: When he came to try out for the reindeer team.

PROSECUTOR: He didn’t make that reindeer team, did he?

SANTA: No, he didn’t.

PROSECUTOR: And why is that, Mr. Claus?

SANTA: Because he had a red nose.

AUDIENCE: (collectively) Gasp!

PROSECUTOR: Because he had a red nose. Did you know, Mr. Claus, that it is illegal to discriminate against any candidate for a job based of the color of his or her nose?

SANTA: Yes, I did.

PROSECUTOR: And you chose to ignore the law anyway because you’re SANTA and you’re above the law.

DEFENCE: Objection, your honor! The prosecution is badgering the witness and using his celebrity status against him.

JUDGE: Overruled.

PROSECUTOR: No further questions, your honor.
JUDGE: You may step down, Mr. Claus.

SANTA walks down sheepishly amongst a flurry of hushed murmurs from the audience. Rudolph looks pleased with the way it has gone. Next, COMET, the coach of the reindeer team, is called to the stand.

PROSECUTOR: Would you state your name for the jury, please.

COMET: Comet Edwin Mekkelstein.

PROSECUTOR: And Mr. Mekkelstein, you are the Head Coach of the North Pole Reindeer Team. Is that correct?


PROSECUTOR: The official team SANTA uses to fly around the world on Christmas Eve?

COMET: Yes, that’s correct.

PROSECUTOR: Did you know, Mr. Mekkelstein, that Rudolph’s parents went to the extreme of covering his nose with mud to make it look black? Were you aware of that, Mr. Mekkelsteien?

COMET: No, I was not.

PROSECUTOR: His parents put dirt on his face, Mr. Mekkelstein. Dirt! So he would look the way he is supposed to look. I don’t know about you but I think that is pretty sick.

COMET: It is unfortunate.

PROSECUTOR: But when the dirt rubbed off, his father made him wear a prosthetic nose. A prosthetic black nose, Mr. Mekkelstein, so that maybe he would have a chance with the reindeer team. But that prosthetic nose didn’t stay on, and everyone saw that his nose was in fact red.

COMET: Yes, they did. You have to understand that we had a lot of concerns at the time. We felt his nose could cause an unraveling of the unity of our team. As a team of flying reindeer unity is paramount. You also have to understand that we have to fly around the entire world in one night and deliver presents to all the good children. We have to land safely on the roof and work collectively to shove SANTA down the chimney, and God love him but that man has a weight problem.


The judge pounds on the gavel to silence SANTA.

JUDGE: Order in this court!

COMET: Also, you have to understand, we had never seen a deformity like that before. For all we knew it was some kind of epidemic that could infect everyone.

PROSECUTOR: SO, ignorance is your DEFENSE! Mr. Mekkelstein, looking at the records it seems that, and I quote, “one foggy Christmas Eve” Mr. Claus and the reindeer team were in a dilemma. Do you remember that “foggy Christmas Eve,” Mr. Mekkelstein?

COMET: Yes, I do.

PROSECUTOR: And what was the problem, Mr. Mekkelstein?

COMET: We couldn’t see because it was foggy.

PROSECUTOR: So foggy in fact, that, and I’m quoting from witness Frosty the Snowman’s official statement again: “Then one foggy Christmas Eve, SANTA came to say, ‘Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide our sleigh tonight.'”

He pauses for a moment, letting it all sink in.

PROSECUTOR: Sounds like a desperate man, doesn’t it. Sounds like a man who is begging for the help of a small reindeer who he once shunned. A reindeer whose onetime handicap has now become a literal light in the storm! Isn’t that right, Mr. Mekkelstein!


JUDGE: Order in this court!

COMET: Yes, yes! Okay! Yes! We discriminated against Rudolph and then we unfairly put him on the spot when we needed a really bright light to get through the storm.

PROSECUTOR: Mr. Mekkelstein, you have hit the nail on the head. My client feels he was abused by the reindeer team every which way and he is seeking restitution. Do you think that’s too much to ask?

COMET: No, I guess not.

PROSECUTOR: Thank you, Mr. Mekkelstein. No further questions. You may step down.


COMET walks through the court trying not to look SANTA in the eye. Consequently he fell onto Lady Snowina’s lap and is slapped.

The trial continued and both the DEFENCE and prosecution called several more witnesses.

Finally, Rudolph was called to the stand. He gave a heartfelt testimony full of tears and hope and a little bit of peppermint oatmeal.

The prosecution quoted Frosty the Snowman’s testimony, reminding the court that after SANTA asked him to guide them through the storm, “then how the reindeer loved [SANTA],” pointing out that Rudolph seemed at that time not to hold contempt for SANTA.

In the end, the jury found the North Pole Reindeer Team guilty on 12 counts of discrimination, laughing at, calling names, not allowing to participate in reindeer games (such as Monopoly, for example), and putting on the spot after doing said things. Their statement was as follows:

“We the jury find COMET Mekkelstein, SANTA Claus, and the entire North Pole Reindeer Team guilty of conspiring to discriminate against a fellow reindeer based only on the rosy hue of his nose.

Although we have found that Rudolph Donner did indeed have a very shiny nose that if you ever saw you might think glowed, we do not believe this was cause enough for the laughing, reindeer game segregation, and otherwise unreindeer-like behavior. We believe that Rudolph is an inspiration to weirdos everywhere, and we would like to shout out with glee, but we have to use quiet voices since we’re in court, but still we think, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will go down in history…in a good way, we mean.