Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

Well, another year is nearly over. I've met loads of wonderful people and made new friends. The photography business is ever changing and we've all got to acknowledge this and adapt and improvise if we're to survive!

I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who's attended a workshop or photo walk during 2009 and look forward to meeting you again in 2010. We'll shortly be introducing a whole set of new workshops, some of which will be run at weekends.

Also, I'd like to give special thanks to Park Cameras, Snapperstuff, Bogen Imaging, Think Tank Photo, Hoodman & iCap Photo for their support during the last 12 months.

If any of you have any ideas for workshops or photo walks, do let me know via the contacts page at Your comments, input and feedback are invaluable to us. Without it we can't produce the workshops you the photographers need.

We didn't quite have a white Christmas, but what snow we did have the week prior to Christmas gave me an unexpected break from work an excuse (as if I ever need one) to pick up a camera and go for a walk. Here's just one of the frames I created.

Canon EOS 5D Mk II, 24 - 105 mm f4 IS L Series, tripod

This just goes to show that you need not go far to find striking images. This one was created within 1km of my home in a woodland frequented by the local dog walkers! Remember - think with your eyes, that's where the great images start. The camera is just a tool to record your vision.

Wishing you all a prosperous, happy and healthy 2010.


Monday, 21 December 2009

If You Pay Peanuts...

If you pay peanuts, you get a monkey. Not as far as Nonja the 33 year old orangutan at the Vienna Tiergarten Zoo is concerned. Last week the Daily Mail revealed that this orangutan uses a modified Samsung ST 1000 digital camera to post automatically post images on Facebook. Everytime she takes a snap, she is automatically rewarded with a juicy raisin.

The Daily Mail writes:

"The Vienna Tiergarten zoo set up the project to help keep Nonja and her three hairy ape friends entertained in their enclosure.

‘Of course the apes don’t care about the pictures, they are just an accidental side product,’ zoo spokesman Gerhard Kasbauer said.

‘They just know that when they press the button, a raisin pops out.’ "

It's taking a quick look at the Facebook page - this morning there are over 75,ooo fans. What does this say about social networking?


National Wildlife Photozone

National Wildlife is an American magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation that inspires people to protect wildlife for the benefit of our children's future and contains some of the best examples of wildlife photography you're likely to see.

In the December 2009/January 2010 printed edition there are reproductions of the the winning images from the 39th annual National Wildlife Photo Contest. You can see these winners by visiting

Enjoy! It's well worth a few minutes viewing these images.


Thursday, 17 December 2009

Landscape Photographer of the Year 2009

Take it from me, even if landscape photography isn't your thing, this show is well worth a visit. Together with Ben Potter & Helen Atkinson, we took a party of photographers to this show as part of our London Photo Walk on 11th December - there are some stunning images and it is a fine source of inspiration.

© Andy Aitchison

Here's the official press release:

The official opening of the ‘Landscape Photographer of the Year 2009’ exhibition
took place last night (10 December) at the National Theatre after an Awards ceremony and private view. Organised by Take a view, this year’s competition was co-sponsored by Natural England and the English National Park Authorities.

On this crisp, winter evening, a selection of incredible photographs from the exhibition was projected on to a massive exterior wall above the National Theatre, lighting up the South Bank in a perfect marriage of rural and urban landscapes.

Evan Davis, from Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, presented the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2009 award and a £10,000 prize to Parisian-born, Emmanuel Coupe, for his stunning view over the Isle of Skye.

The Young Landscape Photographer of the Year award was won by Jon McGovern for his photo of a wheat field in Derby. His twin brother, James, was also highly commended for his nostalgic black & white image of children playing by the pond in his local park.

Natural England’s special prize, for the best Landscape on your Doorstep, was won by Nigel Hiller for his evocative photograph of Hebden Bridge. Presenting the award to Mr Hillier, Poul Christensen, Chair of Natural England, said: “This fantastic new exhibition shows the huge pleasure that people take from the natural world. Natural England would like to heartily congratulate the winners, all the entrants and the organisers for bringing together this vibrant visual record of our natural riches. Let’s look after our landscapes so others can enjoy taking
photographs of them in years to come.” Nigel Hillier expressed his delight at receiving the award: “I am thrilled to win the Landscape on Your Doorstep prize. I took the shot as a diversion from my day job as a commercial/editorial photographer, so it is great to get recognition for my personal work. I’m delighted that an image of my hometown, Hebden Bridge, won. The town is extremely popular with photographers, so to capture an image that stands out from the rest can be quite a challenge! The photo has since been made into a greetings card and is proving very popular with the local community.”

The English National Parks Award was won by Chris McIlreavy for his dramatic image, taken on Christmas Day, from the summit of Blencathra in the Lake District National Park. Narendra Bajaria, Chair of the English National Park Authorities Association, presented him with an award and commented on the extremely high calibre of all the entries. Narendra said: “The photographs and exhibition are truly inspirational and a real call for people to get out and enjoy National Parks - Britain’s Breathing Spaces. It is fitting that the exhibition should
open in the very month that we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Act that brought us National Parks.” Narendra continued: “These landscapes don’t come about by chance. They are the result of millions of people, over centuries, shaping the land. Today they sustain our mental and physical health and help create jobs and support rural communities. And of course, the UK’s fifteen national parks provide a bounty of very different photographic possibilities.” Charlie Waite, one of Britain’s best-loved landscape photographers and founder of Take a View, said of the evening: “For me, the opening night celebrations embodied the crucial importance of our living British landscape. The images, their meaning and everyone’s huge appreciation of them, resonated out from the National Theatre, across the city of London and far beyond.”

Nicholas Crane, presenter of Coast, who was the special guest at the first year of the Awards, was also in attendance, together with mountaineer, Alan Hinkes, the first British man to climb all 14 mountains in the world exceeding 8000m.

Exhibition details:

Take a view – Landscape Photographer of the Year 2009 Exhibition

In association with Natural England & the English National Park Authorities

With over 100 beautiful landscape images printed on the Epson Stylus Pro 9900, using the latest Epson inkjet technology

Admission free

Dates: 5th December 2009 - 24th January 2010

Times: Open Monday to Saturday, 9.30am to 11pm, all year round (except for Bank Holidays) and on a number of Sundays from noon to 6pm (check NT website

for dates).

Venue: Lyttelton Foyer, National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 9PX

020 7452 3000

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

London Photo Walk

Last Friday (11th December) along with Ben Potter and Helen Atkinson I led a group of 30 photographers on a photo walk taking in the Norman Parkinson exhibition at Somerset House and then on to the Landscape Photographer of the Year show at the National Theatre. We finished the day with a mini master class on low light and night photography on Thames opposite the Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament.

A good day was had by all and the participants turned in some stunning images which can be seen by visiting the dedicated Flickr pool which is growing daily.

One of the key aims of the day was to get the walkers enthused and seeing "outside of the box"! The expression I like to use is "think with your eyes". From the images in the Flickr pool we certainly achieved this. The exhibitions also gave the walkers an opportunity to view some stunning images and compare notes with the other photographers in the warm!

We finished the day cold and happy with a Chimping Competition - a very simple and fun concept (thanks Helen for the idea). Basically, each photographer chose their favourite image of the day and displayed it in cameras rear screen. We then took a quite look at 30 or so images and decided which we thought we the best. Here are three of the six winners, who each won a Think Tank Photo Pixel Pocket Rocket memory card wallet.

Andras Szabo

As you can see, some splendid images. Well done and thank you to everyone.

An last but not least, a BIG thank you to our supporters Park Cameras & Snapperstuff. Don't forget to visit their websites and support them. - Helen is now the sole importer in the UK and Ireland for the Orbis Ring Flash. There's a report on my blog for more information:

And where you'll find all sorts of deals and bargains for the festive season.

UK Photo Walks will be publishing workshop and walk dates for early 2010 shortly. See either my blog or for more information. I'll also be running workshops for Park Cameras, more information at

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Orbis Ring Flash Review

Ring flash in various forms have been around for some time now and were especially popular in the 1990's with fashion and style magazines. Until recently the cost of ring flash has been prohibitive as they were only available for studio flash systems costing thousands of pounds or a low power units for macro photography.

Early in 2008 the Ray Flash was introduced to convert a normal Speedlite into a ring flash. The down side of the Ray Flash is it's really designed for hot shoe mounting and blocks the sensor on the Speedlite, so if you want to use the Speedlite's beam assist, it ain't gonna work!

Then in November 2009 Orbis introduced the Ring Flash. The Orbis Ring Flash is designed to be used with an off-camera lead attached to the Speedlite meaning all your TTL features will still function. Until now, the down side of the Orbis Ring Flash was you had to hand-hold it, which isn't always possible - Orbis have just introduced the Orbis Arm for attaching your Speedlite and Orbis Ring Flash to your camera or a lighting stand.

Even though the Speedlite is held below the lens it makes for quite comfortable shooting, but there can be quite a bit of movement between the Speedlite and bracket. I've solved this by placing a block of timber between the head of the Speedlite and the Orbis Arm, then wrapped a generous quantity of gaffer tape around the Arm and Speedlite. When I get a chance I'm going to make up a Velcro/hook and loop strap which will be easier in use and look somewhat more elegant! With the Orbis Arm in place you can also shoot vertical/portrait format images.

Compared to the Ray Flash, the Orbis Ring Flash has a larger frontal surface area giving a broader light with softer edges to the shadows.

Here are a few frames of my daughter Abi showing the wonderful light from the Orbis Ring Flash.

The illumination from the unit is totally even, as shown by this uncorrected shot of a white wall from about 2 metres.

There's no doubt that the the Orbis Ring Flash should be an essential accessory for every serious wedding and portrait shooter. Here are a couple of frames of my friend Rob who's growing a moustache for Movember. Movember is an annual, month-long celebration of the moustache, highlighting men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer.

These images were shot outside at dusk with no reflective surfaces nearby, so the only illumination is from the Orbis Ring Flash in the first frame and the addition of a back 3/4 Speedlite in the second, snooted with some Rosco Black Wrap. I did experience some problems with this set-up because the Speedlite's beam was obscured from the back light by Rob! Had the Speedlite been on top of the camera, this wouldn't have been a problem.

Pack's Rating: * * * * * 5 stars.

My suggestion - put the Orbis Ring Flash and Arm at the top of your Christmas list. Apparently, Santa has good connections with the new exclusive UK & Ireland distributor - Snapperstuff. Click here for more information.

I haven't had a chance to try the Orbis Ring Flash with any macro or close-up shots yet, but as soon as I do, they'll be posted here.

Recommended retail price for the Orbis Ring Flash is £185.00 inc. VAT and £49.00 inc. VAT for the Orbis Arm.

If you're thinking of venturing into the realms of macro flash, then this could be a less costly option if you already own a Speedlite. Rather than buying a compact ring flash from your camera manufacturer or even Sigma, just buy the Orbis and save yourself some money and space in your bag!

My thanks to Helen at Snapperstuff for the loan of the Orbis Ring Flash & Arm.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Adobe Mobile for iPhone

This is just what I've been waiting for, and it compliments the Best Camera app for the iPhone.

Adobe Mobile for iPhone (English language only at present) can now be downloaded worldwide from the iPhone app store. For more information, visit the Mobile website.