Sunday, 21 December 2008

On the passage of time

It hardly seems possible that it is a year since my Falklands trip. In fact, this time last year I was spending my last day exploring Gypsy Cove near Stanley - avoiding the minefields and having a chance encounter with a crested caracara.

The year has flown. Photographically it has not been a great year. Poor light has dogged most of my trips and poor health has limited their frequency. Nevertheless there were some truly memorable moments. Perhaps the wildlife highlight of the year was witnessing several families of tree creepers feeding their young on the banks of Loweswater last spring. What seemed to be just a fluffy bulge on a tree trunk was suddenly transformed by the appearance of several hungry beaks. I'd all but forgotten it until sorting through some unprocessed photos. I must have spent well over an hour watching them - mostly with binoculars because it was pretty dim. But I did get a few shots including this one.

Monday, 22 September 2008

On perception of reality

One person's mundane is another person's extraordinary. This weekend I visited the National Wetland Center, Wales (near Llanelli). It was a stunning day. Lots of interesting birds to see - including a number of little egrets. I've only ever seen one before - briefly, in Salisbury a year or so ago. Certainly I've never got a camera to one. From one of the hides I could see three of them - all too distant to make a reasonable photograph. As I commented on this fact to my companion someone overheard and asked what we'd seen. "Just the egret in the rushes," I said. "Oh. I thought you'd seen something interesting," they replied.

The next hide we visited was empty and right outside it was another little egret. Over the next half an hour or so we watched as it zigzagged ever closer. At the end of it's approach it afforded me some excellent close-ups even if the light was not in quite the right place to make every shot count. I don't care if they're as commons as sparrows on the west coast - for a city-dweller like me this was a real treat.

Monday, 8 September 2008

On technology versus art

A few days ago Canon released the EOS 50D - the latest successor to the camera that I use (EOS-20D). This is the third upgrade since I bought my camera, and the first one which has made me seriously consider upgrading - although I will probably wait until the price inevitably drops. Both the 30 and 40D were very good cameras - but for my requirements they were only minor upgrades. There were some new features that I wanted - but not enough to get me to part with any cash.

What I find very interesting is the number of people who are almost outraged with the 50D. Online forums are full of people complaining. Never mind that this is the most advanced camera that Canon have produced with that sensor size and at that price point. The biggest area of contention seems to be it's "poor" high ISO noise characteristics. The comparison is with Nikon (who until very recently lagged Canon in terms of image quality quite significantly).

For me this is simply not an issue. The high ISO performance of the 50D looks at first glance to be at least as good as the 20D, and probably significantly better. I came to Cannon from a Minolta A2 which had significantly worse noise performance than the Canon. With the Minolta I only ever shot at ISO64. ISO 100 was usable and anything beyond that was a waste of time. With the Canon I routinely shoot at ISO400 for equivalent quality and have had decent results at ISO800. Despite that, I still think that some of the best ever shots I have taken were with the Minolta. Actually two of my favourite shots were taken with a two mega-pixel point-and-shoot.

With a significant investment in Canon lenses a move to Nikon is simply not on the cards for me, but even if it was, I probably wouldn't move. Why? My current camera is already a far better picture taking machine than I have ever had. It is more than capable of getting excellent results under most circumstances. And Canon are not that far behind. Shooting real world pictures most people probably wouldn't even notice the difference.

Sometimes I think people get so bound down in the technology - they forget that photography is art.

Friday, 13 June 2008

On tranquility

One of the many highlights of my Falklands trip was sitting on the cliff-top near the Rookery on Saunders Island watching the albatross. Before I went to the Falklands I must admit I thought that albatross were 'just big gulls' - and I'm not a huge fan of gulls. But these birds I found absolutely captivating. They seem so gentle and serene compared to other sea-birds. My abiding memory is twenty or more albatross gliding over my head so quietly that the only sound I could hear was the gentle woosh of air flowing over their wings. It was so peaceful I could have stayed there forever.

A few days later, on West Point Island I saw my first albtross chick.

Apologies for taking so long getting these pictures up. A bout of ill health, followed by my computer failing have all served to delay my editting process. Hopefully more images will follow soon!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

On the cost of amateur photography

These days everyone owns a digital camera. Modern cameras are so good it is easy to take a decent photograph. And that's great - it means that everyone can capture family events. Get memorable shots which make good enlargements to grace the mantelpiece. Yet some photographers fear that it is killing the photography business. Micro-stock sites are now overloaded with shots taken by just about anyone, selling for a fraction of what they should be worth. Many people don't even realise they are underselling themselves. When you shoot as a hobby the cost of your time is free.

It also means that photography retailers are offering more and more gift products directly to the consumer. Anyone can now make a mug, a cushion or a calendar with their own photographs. For the professional or anyone trying to break into the business this makes life harder. With so many consumer products it has become difficult to find suppliers who will offer significant discounts for bulk production. As a result the retail margins for the professional get smaller and smaller.

Yet there there are still photographers making money. People are prepared to pay for quality. Few are prepared to take a risk with weddings. My guess is that things will settle down. Technology is always redefining markets, but in the end there is always a niche for the professional or serious amateur. And if anyone is tempted to despair then there is always the encouragement of seeing just how many dreadful photos are posted on Facebook!

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Where are all the penguins?

January is almost gone and, sadly, I have not updated my website after my Falklands trip. It's not that there aren't any pictures to go up! Actually there are so many I'm still working through them. Add in the fact that I have had a nasty virus and the result is no website update. At least my disappointment has faded. There are plenty of shots I am extremely happy with.

Since returning I have hardly even picked up my camera. The other day I spotted a pair of male teal on a local pond in beautiful lighting. It would have made a wonderful image. But lack of energy meant my camera had stayed at home and I had to content myself with just watching them through binoculars...