More Snow – a commute by car

More snow greeted us this morning, so we first spent a while clearing the car and driveway.    This would be the second day in a row we would be commuting by car.  Warm clothing, a flask of hot drink and a shovel in the boot and of course a camera and off we set.

It was not far before we got stuck in the deep snow, a bit of shovelling and we got going again.  Eventually we made it to the main road, and from there, quickly made it into work.

With the weather so bad (well for the UK anyway), it was decided that anyone who had made it in by car should leave at 13:00 to guarantee they got home safe, so we headed home in the afternoon, only stopping for a few photographs in Lincoln.

Once home I dug out the laptop and proceeded to finish up some paperwork.  Lets hope tomorrow is less interesting.

Snowy Bike Commute

With winter well and truly arrived, this morning saw us pulling on our winter thermals & fleeces to go under our biking outfits.

I took pity on Caroline, and allowed her to wear my BMW heated waistcoat. The full winter gloves and boots also came out for today.

One we had negotiated the first half mile of ice and snow covered back roads to the village centre, it was an easy ride in on clear roads.

That first stretch was the hard part. Not the weather but other road users. One car driver pulled out on us in a situation they could clearly see was not conductive to using the brakes. I was not travelling very fast, less then 10 mph so was able to roll to a halt without risking the brakes on the ice. Less then a minute later they decided to just stop in the middle of the road with no warning, I gently overtook them. The worse the weather the worse some people drive!

Unlike yesterday today was relatively warm, the temperature reached -0.5C. We felt warm and it was an enjoyable commute into work.

Photo taken and blog posted from my iPhone.

Sony NEX-5 Winter Test Drive

In the lookout for a small camera, my friend Andrew, bass player of Plagues Fire took the plunge and purchased the new Sony NEX-5.  A camera similar in design to the Olympus Pen and new Panasonic GF-2.

If your after small then the Sony NEX-5 is the camera for you, with a great APS-C sized sensor the same size as Nikon DX SLR’s it has the potential for great image quality.

The cold wintery weather was the ideal time to take a wonder along the Lincolnshire Viking Way long distance footpath, getting some great shots along the way.  Heres a selection of Andrew’s latest work with his new camera.

Sunday Morning House sitting

For a 40th Birthday present, Declan had whisked Alison away for a long weekend in Venice. That left myself, Caroline and Angela with house sitting duties and looking after Ethan and Sofia. Angela took the bulk of the duties on the weekend, with Caroline taking the Friday off work to help until Angela arrived for the weekend duties.

Sunday morning was French Horn practice for Ethan, a quick practice at home then Caroline drove him to his Sunday morning lesson.

The First Snow of the Year

Today in Lincolnshire (UK) we had the first snowfall of the year.   Just the opportunity I was waiting for to try some more macro work.

There were two shots I was particularly after.

First the old favourite, the red berry half covered in snow.
Second some winter flowering Jasmine.

After that whatever caught my fancy.

The equipment needed was fairly straight forward.   A Digital SLR, a macro lens and my macro flash kit. Once setup I was ready to go.

I set the camera to manual and a relatively slow shutter speed 1/80, this together with an aperture of f/22 to give at least some depth of field, always an issue with macro photography. This would also dramatically underexpose the background, giving me nice black none distracting backgrounds. The two flash heads attached to the lens to give illumination to my subject matter and I was ready to get some snowy, wintery images.

Hope you enjoy and please try yourself.  If you do not have a macro lens try an old 50mm standard lens, most will focus pretty closely, use your tripod and a slow shutter speed to get your exposure, use a piece of card to shelter what your shooting from the wind to stop movement.

If your a Canon or Nikon shooter, their respective macro lens are excelent but if the budget cannot stretch that far try the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di, a great lens and much cheaper.

Personally if your a Nikon shooter then the combination of the Nikor 105mm f/2.8 and the Nikon R1 Close-Up Speedlight Remote Kit is hard to beat if you have the funds.

A Motorcyclists Camera – a plea to Camera Makers

As a keen motorcyclist and a keen photographer, I often find the two coming together.

Motorcycle trips have taken us all round Great Britain (Scotland, Wales and England), to France, and even as far as Spain. These great trips often present great photographic moments that have to be captured.

Sometimes a basic compact camera or mobile phone camera is not enough. But lugging a digital SLR and a selection of lens is too much. What I want is a small camera with a big high quality sensor, if possible, interchange lens (also small), it also needs to have direct controls for setting shutter speed and aperture, and lastly a high quality view finder, not just a screen on the back which makes composing in bright sunlight near impossible.

Each year camera companies get closer but we are not there yet.
The sigma DP1 was the first that grabbed my attention, it had the big sensor a first for a compact camera.
Then the Olympus PEN, which had interchange lens, and the option for an optical view finder.
Since then the closest has been the Panasonic GF1, with its electronic viewfinder option, I am also waiting for the new Fuji X100, which seems to have the viewfinder right, but does not have interchangeable lens.

I suppose like a lot of photographers, what I want in a small camera was actually solved over 50 years ago. The Leica M range. Unfortunately the M9 is far too expensive to justify as a spare portable camera system, and as a camera system is far too limited for me to give up my Nikon SLR’s and Hasselblad.

Pilates or Yoga

Thursday night is Pilates night for us.

I have to admit, I do prefer Yoga but unfortunately our gym did not offer that any more.

With running I find that even stretching well after each run, the legs do get very stiff. Doing Pilates or Yoga for an hour a week really helps you to keep supple.

But the gym telephoned us and cancelled, saying that Pilates would no longer be offered, after asking what it would be replaced with they said nothing, but they would be offering Yoga on Wednesday night.  Yes!  Result!

So tonight a quick tea and off to the gym for our first Yoga session in about three years.

Oh boy, do I ache now.  Never let anyone tell you Yoga is the easy option.  Three years of occasional Pilates has not really kept us as supple as I would have liked.  While the odd course taken with our old Yoga teacher has been fun its not been enough.  Looks like its going to be fun but hard work for the next few Wednesdays until we get back into it.

Tripods – buy once not several times

I was asked today for some advice about tripods.  This is an area where many amateur photographers go wrong.

Many photographers buy a basic tripod then get frustrated with its limitations and either stop using it or buy a better one.

Its best to just bite the bullet right at the start and spend a reasonable amount on a tripod, budget some more on a good quality head, and then also do not forget brackets for your camera.

For the price of a good quality head, or brackets you can buy a complete tripod system but I would advise against it.  Your just throwing money away.

Thom Hogan wrote one of the best article about tripods you can read it here:

In case you wondered I purchased a Manfrotto 055 Tripod with a Manfrotto Ball Head about twenty years ago.  My head is getting on a bit now and is not as easy to use any more, so I am looking for a replacement that uses the Arca Swiss release system, but the tripod is still going strong.