A Taste of Spring

We had a beautiful couple weeks of sunshine and spring, but for all this week I’ve hardly seen the sky through the clouds and pouring rain. And now the weather people are threatening frost and even snow! In May?! So to bring a little sunshine back into our lives I decided to share a few images from this spring so far.

Sometimes I’m not certain whether spring has really arrived, or whether it’s just taunting me with hints of what’s to come. But once the magnolia starts throwing forth its abundant blossom there’s no more room for doubting.

(Photo taken at: 1/1600, f/1.8, ISO 100)

(Photo taken at: 1/1600, f/1.8, ISO 100)

(Photo taken at: 1/1250, f/1.8, ISO 100)

(Photo taken at: 1/1250, f/1.8, ISO 100)

Suddenly there’s colour and life in every direction…

More if you click here!…

Shooting in Manual – the easy way!

All those buttons and dials on an SLR can be a little daunting. Everyone knows that you’re “supposed” to shoot in Manual mode, but it’s all rather complicated; yet another thing to think about when you’d rather be concentrating what’s in front of your camera.

It’s so easy to slip into the habit of using one of the Priority modes, or even Auto. I used Aperture Priority mode for the first couple years I had my camera, I loved it, I could choose the depth of field by adjusting the aperture and let my camera do the rest.

Then one day a lightbulb went off and I realised that shooting in Manual is only one little adjustment – two if you’re currently shooting in Auto. I challenged myself to shoot only Manual for a week and simply forgot to switch back. In fact when I was on a shoot a little while later I decided to use my old-faithful Aperture Priority to make it easier while I was shooting, the lack of my new-found control frustrated me so much I switched back to Manual and haven’t used anything else since!

So here’s how.

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Where In The World Is Matt?

I discovered this video as I was finishing uni. Every now and then, when the stress of my dissertation and the weight of “the rest of my life…” looming over me got too much, I would watch it and challenge myself not to smile once. You know what? I never managed. Sometimes I could make it a full minute before relenting to the absurdity and overwhelming good-naturedness of the concept, but never more than that.

So imagine my excitement the other day when I stumbled across a newish sequel!

A little more co-ordinated; just as much fun.

I hope they brighten your day like they do mine!

What videos inspire you and make you laugh?

An Investigation Into Focal Length

This afternoon I dragged my brother out of the house on his day off to help me with an experiment. You may notice his collar turned up in the following pictures, that’s to keep out the rain that decided to suddenly descend on us when we got to the woods, and then the sleet that followed. He didn’t run away. Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have a brother who’s such a good sport? Very lucky!

Anyway. Today’s experiment was about properly understanding focal length. Not the science behind it, that’s for someone a little more technically minded (I bet my brother could explain it to me after a few minutes of research), but rather about the effect our focal length choices have on the images we take.

I’m aware that I love the look of certain lenses (my beloved 85mm 1.8 for example), while others just don’t inspire me so much, but I’ve never shot with each lens in turn to really understand what they do to the scene in front of me.

For this experiment I set up the camera on a tripod so it would remain at an even height throughout and I asked my brother to stand in one spot without moving an inch. As well as the angle of field, I wanted to demonstrate the effect that focal length has on depth of field, in other words the way the background softens with longer focal lengths, so I set the camera to stay at f/5.6 no matter which lens I was using. In this way the background would only be affected by the focal length and not the more usual method of changing the aperture. The only exposure setting I adjusted while shooting was the shutter speed to work with the light when it changed slightly due to the sun.

Before I show you the pictures it’s worth mentioning that I’m shooting on a Canon 550D with a multiplier of about 1.6, so technically all these focal lengths are the equivalent of slightly higher than I’ve labeled them (30mm becomes 48mm, 85mm becomes 136mm etc) and the same lenses on another body may look a little different, but the relative difference between each focal length remains exactly the same.

With each focal length change I had to take a step or two back to keep the composition as similar as possible. And this is what I got…

18-55mm kit lens:

(Photo taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photo taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

Sigma 30mm 1.4:

(Photo taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photo taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

Canon 50mm 1.8 (a.k.a. the “nifty fifty“):

(Photo taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photo taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

Sigma 70-300mm zoom lens:

(Photo taken at: 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photo taken at: 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 800)

Canon 85mm 1.8:

(Photo taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photo taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

And back to the Sigma 70-300mm zoom for the rest:

(Photo taken at: 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photo taken at: 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photo taken at: 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photo taken at: 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photo taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photo taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

And here is the widest photo next to the longest photo for a comparison:

(Photos taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800 and: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photos taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800 and: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

Looking at these it’s easy to see why telephoto lenses are often considered “portrait lenses”. There is less distortion on his face, and the soft background even at f/5.6 makes the subject become the main focus of the image.

But my favourite part of this experiment was finally really understanding what it means when you hear that telephoto lenses “compress” the foreground and background. I’ve understood it in theory but haven’t seen a before/after example in my own photos before.

Let’s look at the side by side again:

(Photos taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800 and: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

(Photos taken at: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800 and: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 800)

Look at the tree over his shoulder in the first photo, then look at it again in the second photo, it seems to have moved forward about a dozen or so metres, or in other words, it has been compressed! I had no idea quite how dramatic the effect can be, but now that I’m aware of it I will certainly be using this knowledge while planning future shoots.

I’m planning more forays into the world of focal length. In the meantime, what’s your favourite lens or focal length? Which do you not like so much? Email or comment below and let me know!

Brighton and the Cuckoo Trail

This February I stayed at Becky’s in East Sussex. One day we shot a roll of film with my Pentax K1000.

We walked by the sea in Brighton…

Brighton pier

(Taken with Pentax K1000 on expired Fujifilm Velvia)

…and found a pretty doorway. Most of that hair of mine is gone now, weird!

Vrinda in doorway in Brighton

(Taken with Pentax K1000 on expired Fujifilm Velvia)

Back at home, Becky made us some tea…
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Jiva and Dan on the Rooftops of London

The morning after the Spice of Life shoot with Jiva and Dan, I had a few hours to kill before moving on to my WildAid shoot, so we climbed out of a top story window and did a mini shoot on the Archway rooftops. It was a challenge with the bright sunshine casting harsh shadows (annoyingly I didn’t have my flash with me to help fill in the shadows) but it was a lot of fun and well worth the effort!

Jiva Housden and Dan Bovey, guitarists, on rooftop in London

(Photo taken at ISO 100, f/3.2, 1/1600)


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