Posts by tag: review

Project 365/2013 – A Year In Review

Posted by Caz on Wednesday, 1st January 2014

So another year has drawn to a conclusion. Here’s my review of my 2013 Year In Pictures.

A Few Statistics

For those of you that like numbers, here are some stats:

Pictures made at home: 74/365 = 20.4%
Pictures made within 5 miles of home: 95/365 = 26.0%
Pictures made further away: 196/365 = 53.6%

Pictures made with Canon G12 Compact: 79/365 = 21.6% (to end of August)
Pictures made with Panasonic GF1 Compact: 19/365 = 5.2% (to end of August)
Pictures made with DSLR (Canon EOS 7D): 148/365 = 40.4% (to end of November)
Pictures made with Panasonic GF5 Compact: 37/365 = 10.1% (from start of September)
Pictures made with Canon EOS 5D Mk III: 65/365 = 17.8% (from of September)
Pictures made with Canon EOS 100D: 17/365 = 4.6% (from of December)

Compared to last year, I made 14 pictures further from home in 2013. As far as cameras are concerned, there was a bit of change with me using six different models throughout the year – but I only owned a maximum of three at any one time! I’ll probably sell on the GF5 next year and rationalise things down to just the two Canon DSLRs – 5D for specific photo outings and the 100D for everyday.

Here are my favourite and least favourite shots from each month:

Month Fave Least Fave
January Day #1848 – Suspended Animation Day #1834 – On The Boil
February Day #1873 – Seaside Colours Day #1864 – I’m A Mug **
March Day #1903 – Double Bubble Day #1887 – How Long Is Your Shadow?
April Day #1927 – Long Way Down Day #1929 – April Showers On Lambeth Bridge
May Day #1948 – Helios Brings The Sun * Day #1958 – New Threads
June Day #1986 – The Exchange Day #1990 – Refreshing Bubbles
July Day #2015 – Folds & Shadows Day #2018 – On The Carpet
August Day #2062 – Open The Window Day #2042 – Fizzy Pop
September Day #2097 – Mansion Detail Day #2089 – Team Work
October Day #2117 – Aim High Day #2102 – Comfort Food
November Day #2150 – Autumn Trunks Day #2157 – Shattered Perceptions
December Day #2184 – A Bowful Of Bokeh Day #2177 – The Barn
Day #1948 - Helios Brings The Sun

Pic of the Year: Day #1948 – Helios Brings The Sun

Day #1864 - I'm A Mug

Dud of the Year: Day #1864 – I’m A Mug

Final Thoughts

I’m very pleased with 2013’s images. Once again I feel I’ve had a very good year.

I passed the huge milestone that was Day #2000 in June and submitted a portfolio for the RPS Fellowship based on the first 2000 Days of the project in September. Sadly, it wasn’t successful but I still have 20 montage images which will be great to exhibit and get people talking about the Photo A Day discipline.

Although I didn’t have a big foreign holiday this year, I’ve visited some fantastic places which have given me great photographic opportunities, none more so than to be able to indulge in some Urbex during the last days of BBC Television Centre.

Of course, I’m not stopping during 2014. It’s just as addictive as always ;-)

I’ve also decided to challenge myself into making a Self-Portrait every day in 2014 – now I really MUST BE MAD!

May ’13 – Review

Posted by Caz on Saturday, 1st June 2013

I’ve had another busy month for photography. It started off with me still working at the BBC’s semi-deserted Television Centre for a few days covering the Local Elections, and I’m still trying to catch up with the backlog of urbex images I made there. I promise to publish more soon! But I have been able to show you some of the Face Down Tuesdays I made there, namely the Dangerous Dentures EditionPaint Shop Pro Edition, and Silent Escalators Edition.

May meant Mono MayHem was back! A month of mono image making, as well as my usual Photo A Day shots. Here’s one which was nearly selected for 30th May, a view of Dunston Staiths, taken on a murky bike ride along the Tyne:

Dunston Staiths

Dunston Staiths

I found some more great subjects for my 50 @ 50 project too. I made #18, #19, #20 at various locations close to home, and #21 in Newcastle, where I spent the last week of May visiting Alistair.

During my stay, we embarked on various northern outings, including a  Tynemouth Cycle ride:

Blue Buoys & Shadows

Blue Buoys & Shadows

A visit to the North East Aircraft Museum for Planes, Trains & Automobiles with the NPWalk folks:

X Paint Job

X Paint Job

And a Rural Ramble Around Urpeth geocaching with Alistair – here’s another butterfly we saw:

Resting Peacock Butterfly

Resting Peacock Butterfly

So, as you can see, plenty of varied subjects during the merry month of May. Here’s hoping Flaming June will live up to its name in weather and photographic potential.

Cactus LV5 Laser Trigger – First Look

Posted by Caz on Sunday, 7th April 2013

I was recently contacted by the folks at Gadget Infinity, asking if I would like to try a Cactus LV5 Laser Trigger for evaluation. Of course, I said yes! It arrived the other day:

Cactus LV5 - Boxed

Cactus LV5 – Boxed

Cactus LV5 - Open Box

Cactus LV5 – Open Box

Here’s what comes in the box:

Cactus LV5 - What's In The Box

Cactus LV5 – What’s In The Box

Initially I was surprised that there were only 4AAA batteries in the box, but reading the manual, it turns out that each half of the trigger will work happily on just 2AAA’s – but will take 4 each – the usable life of the batteries is just halved when using two. The box contents comprise 1 LV5 laser emitter, 1 LV5 laser detector/RF transmitter, 1 LV5 hood (for the detector), 1 PC sync lead, 1 3.5mm plug cable and settings stickers to remind you what the thumbwheel control does on the detector.

The LV5 has Duo Mode Triggering (DMT) which means it can be triggered by either blocking the transmission between the laser Emitter and Sensor, or removing the object between the laser Emitter and Sensor. It sends a control pulse either via the 3.5mm jack socket on the emitter or via wireless to a Cactus V5 transceiver (optional extra).

Since I don’t have any Cactus transceivers, I decided to use the LV5 to trigger my camera’s shutter directly. This requires an optional extra lead, which is dedicated for your camera. It wasn’t included in the box, but fortunately I had a suitable cable for my Canon EOS 7D from my CameraAxe system – although you can of course buy one from Cactus.

A while ago my Lego Diver had fun making this picture with me on Day #1258. He had to make the jump many times because we were timing the camera shutter by hand. But today I tried it again with my lady diver and the Cactus LV5 laser trigger. Here’s the setup:

View From Above

View From Above

Side On

Side On

Looking Behind The Camera

Looking Behind The Camera

The transmitter and receiver were placed just above and either side of the tank of water and carefully lined up. Initially I had some trouble with the camera continuously triggering but once I aligned the sensors properly, it was fine.

I used the camera in mirror lock-up mode to minimize the shutter lag, using my existing Yongnuo TX and RX units to fire the flashes. Of course, you can use the built-in Cactus trigger signal to fire Cactus receivers under each flash if you have them.

It was much easier than timing by hand! I made sure I dropped the diver at a point which would break the laser and adjusted the delay until I got the shot I was after. I still took a quite a few shots, but there were many more keepers and it didn’t take very long to get one where she was looking in the right direction, and in the right point in the tank.

I can certainly see the potential for using this for other high speed shots with objects dropping into liquids. I doubt I would use it for any collision or crown shots, as I have two systems already which also control the valves – essential for such work. Here are some fun shots from my session:

Splash Facing Away

Splash Facing Away

Twist To The Right

Twist To The Right

Cleaning The Tank Of Bubbles

Cleaning The Tank Of Bubbles

Perfect Timing - Deep Dive Revisited

Perfect Timing – Deep Dive Revisited

The triggers seem well built, although I did find it rather easy to accidentally switch them on with the flush-mount on/off switch on top of each cylinder. So probably best to store them without batteries, just in case they get switched on while putting them away. You can take the hood off and stow the two front-to-front via their handy little twist locking mechanism. The transmitter also has a slide-across cover for the laser beam too – a great idea, although you can still see a very dim red spot through the cover when closed.

Each half of the trigger has an adjustable-angle foot – a nice mechanism with click-position location and a big thumb-tightened locking screw. Underneath, it has a standard 1/4″ tripod screw thread and plastic hot shoe attachment. I used the latter to slot into some plastic feet which came with my flash guns, which made the trigger very easy to position.

The LV5 has the potential for many uses where movement detection is required. I look forward to exploring more of these, including perhaps some wildlife shots in the future, as the units will work in sunshine and up to 150m apart.

Now We Are Six *

Posted by Caz on Friday, 22nd June 2012
Gaudí′s Soldiers III

Gaudí′s Soldiers III

Gaudí′s Soldiers I

Gaudí′s Soldiers I

Well, it hardly seems possible but my photo blog is Six years old today!

Happy Birthday Blog!

My very first post was quite a short affair, talking about my a trip to Barcelona I had just taken. I tend to write a bit more now, it’s interesting to see how the style has changed over the last six years.

Originally the photographic posts were in amongst my main geek blog, but I soon realised I had two distinct audiences and so started the photo blog seperately. It’s lived at several different addresses too, but finally settled at cazphoto.co.uk sometime in 2008, when I moved the archive permanently here.

Here’s to a dozen!

* with apologies to A A Milne…

Canon 70-200mm EF f/4 L USM Long-Term Review

Posted by Caz on Friday, 20th April 2012
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

When I first got my Canon 70-200mm EF f/4 L USM lens secondhand from a friend in February last year, it was to have a smaller, lighter alternative to the monster 100-400mm EF f/4.5-5.6L IS USM which I also own. And I hoped it would make a good companion to the Canon 24-105mm EF f/4 L IS USM which is my regular standard zoom for days out.

My thinking was that I would use this one more frequently as it’s much less strain on the arms if you are using it without a tripod (which I tend to do – I’m too lazy to drag a tripod everywhere and it slows down my spontaneity).

Looking back over the last fifteen months or so, I realise I’ve actually used it more than I thought – but only on relatively few photographic outings.

The first real run out was a day in Brighton in April 2011, meeting photographic friends for a shoot. The light was mediocre but I was reasonably pleased with the results. Here’s one of the West Pier:

West Pier Silhouette

West Pier Silhouette

Yellow Poppy

Yellow Poppy

A group from GNPC went to RHS Hyde Hall in May to photograph the magnificent floral displays. It was a beautiful sunny if windy day and the images from that shoot produced some vibrant colours with great bokeh in the background. This yellow poppy illustrates it perfectly.

With plenty of light around, the 70-200mm focal length is a cracking option for this sort of picture, especially if the flowers you want to photograph are in the middle of a well-manicured bed and you can’t get any closer to your subject!

It’s not really suitable for macro or close up work, as the closest focus distance is 1.2m. The 705g weight isn’t too onerous on the shoulders – either in the kit bag or on the front of the camera – and only 35g heavier than my 24-105.

Thames Barges

Thames Barges

The next trip it went out on was the Shoot Maldon Live event with Upminster Camera Club, where I was judging the images made on the day, straight out of camera. I thought it only fair that I had a go myself!

This classic view of the Thames Barges at the Hythe shows the weather was occasionally sunny, but mainly overcast. It’s not a bad lens for landscape work, but the 700mm widest focal length can be a bit limiting for this type of photography, depending on your location circumstances.

Later on in May I was out again with the Chelmsford Flickr folk for their 30th Photowalk. We attended the Essex Young Farmers’ Country Show.

Orange With Blue Nuts

Orange With Blue Nuts

Slow shutter, poor light

Slow shutter, poor light

The lens was great for isolating interesting details from the shiny old tractors and farm equipment, but proved a little bit short on zoom length for the aerial motorbike displays – many of which had to be cropped in post production to fill the frame a bit more compared to straight out of the camera. The light had also gone very dim by that stage, so I was struggling for a decent shutter speed, even with the lens wide open at f/4. And the lack of Image Stabilisation meant I was a bit disappointed with many of the resulting shots. The one on the right shows one of the bikers taken at 200mm, with a 100% pixel comparison of part of the rear wheel – it’s not terribly crisp.

Charing Cross Dusk

Charing Cross Dusk

I had another go in low light at the beginning of June, when I found myself on the South Bank to witness a rather impressive dusk after sunset.

I made this image of Charing Cross by steadying the lens on the railings by the side of the river. Otherwise the lack of IS would have given me quite blurry images – and I didn’t dare push the ISO too much beyond 800 for fear of losing some of the details in the shadows and vibrancy of colours in the highlights.

I would have liked a slightly wider view of the scene but at 70mm, this is as wide as it got. Once again, I felt I was hitting a few of the lens’ limitations on this particular shoot.

Thoughtful Soldier

Thoughtful Soldier

In July I went with some friends from GNPC to the War & Peace show in Paddock Wood. I was hoping for some good candid portraits of the re-enacters so packed the lens in my bag.

It did prove to be a great portrait lens during the day. I loved this picture of a young “German” airman – which nearly made it to image of the day for Day #1299. But I did feel a bit conspicuous wandering around with the “white” lens and got asked several times if I was from the press!

Flowing Locks

Flowing Locks

In September a friend and I attended the London Tattoo Convention for the first time. We weren’t quite sure what to expect but knew there would be plenty of opportunity for people-watching – so again, the 70-200 was packed in the kit bag.

The folks there were very friendly and approachable, many of them more than happy to pose for photos.

The halls where the event was held were quite dingy, so I was once more hampered by the lack of IS with the lens. The best shots I got all day were in the central courtyard which has huge skylights in the roof. This red head was being pursued by many paparazzi so I was lucky the 200mm focal length got me a shot between other people’s heads!

There was quite a hiatus before I took the lens out again – a few days ago I attended the GB Olympic Canoeing Trials at the White Water Centre in Waltham Cross.

Aiming For The Gate

Aiming For The Gate

The primary lens I took along to capture the action was the 100-400 as I wanted to fill the frame as much as possible. But I packed the 70-200 as a backup and I’m glad I did – a few shots into the event and my 100-400 lens started playing up!

So the 70-200 proved to be a useful alternative, especially when the sun was out. The image above was made from a few feet away from the edge of the course. I didn’t have a press pass so wasn’t allowed “inside the ropes” but I still got some reasonable pictures.

Ultimately, I’m still undecided if I want to keep the lens. It didn’t cost me a lot as it was second hand. But I think 70-200 is just the wrong focal range for my current kit lineup. It overlaps the 24-105 by quite a lot, yet doesn’t really get much further at the long end to justify carrying it around. I prefer the 100-400 for sports and action shots, mainly for the versatility of zoom range and Image Stabilisation, which I do really miss on the shorter 70-200.

It’s certainly a great lens for some subjects such as flowers and portraiture, given enough light. Sadly the UK’s record for sunny conditions aren’t that great though! I’ll probably have a think about alternatives to this lens and write more when I’ve come to a decision.