Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Joe McNally in National Geographic Magazine

There is no doubt in my mind that Joe McNally is one of the most talented and widely published photographers alive today. This month (July) in National Geographic Magazine, Joe's images grace the pages of "The 21st Century Grid".

Because of copyright I cannot reproduce any on the images here, so here's the link to the NGM website:

Enjoy the real Joe McNally in action!



Lens Protection Filters - And Why You MUST Use Them!

What you see here is the result of my beloved 50 mm f1.4 lens taking a dive from an unsecured Lowepro pouch 4 feet onto a bare concrete floor! Needless to say I wasn't too pleased when I saw the result, but on closer inspection to lens appeared intact with no visible damage, which was confirmed with a quick test on camera.

Fortunately, the lens landed on the filter rim and attached lens cap which absorbed most of the force as you can see by the way the cracks have propagated through the glass. I was able to remove the filter glass retaining ring and pick out the damaged glass with forceps. I then blew away any remaining shards with a blower. Not a good idea to use a brush or cloth for fear of damaging the coating on the front element.

For the sake of 30 or 40 quid, do buy a good quality protection filter for each of your lenses - there's a reason that the sales person is recommending that you do, and it's not to put commission or profits in their pockets!

Have good day.



Saturday, 26 June 2010

Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photo Walk 2010 - Brighton, UK

Saturday 24th July 2010 - 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM.

Well, I've finally got around to finalising the route for the 2010 walk and have updated the Worldwide Photo Walk website accordingly:

Detailed route for Brighton 2010 - click on the image to view larger

Ben and I decided that for this year we would change the route but still include some of the popular sights for visitors to the town, and one or two places a little out of the ordinary! There will be ample photo opportunities so make sure that you've got a wide angle zoom or prime lens with you as some of the places we visit are quite tight and are well suited to wide angle treatment.

The walk will start by the fountain in Steine Gardens (old Steine) and finish at Brighton Pier. Then refreshments at Ohso Bar on the beach.

We have been in contact with some of 2009s walkers who said that they'd like to go to Brighton Pier for some shots - especially some panning and blur/movement shots of the attractions. If any of you have an ND (neutral density) filter or polariser, make sure to bring it along. A monopod will be a useful support, which if you're not too sure how to use, I'll show you some useful tricks.

As with any walk in the UK, prepare for extremes of weather- pouring sunshine and blazing rain. Last year we were blessed with a hot sunny day, but who knows what the day will bring? Certainly not the Met Office;-)

The Chimping competition - we have Helen at Snapperstuff to thank for this idea, which I'm shamelessly using on many of my photo walks and workshops as it gets participants thinking about the images they are creating throughout the day.

For those of you unfamiliar with Chimping, it is the act of previewing images on the rear screen of your camera. Listen to a group of photographers doing this and you'll soon understand how the term originated!

The rules are simple:
  1. The judges decision is final - once all factors have been taken into consideration, including bribes and incentives.
  2. Images will be judged according to wind direction, ambient temperature and humidity - seriously though we generally choose images that look appealing on a small screen.
  3. Your final image must be created on the day of the photo walk between the official start and finish times.
  4. It's to your advantage if you use any inbuilt looks or whatever in camera to enhance your images as out-of-camera post-production is prohibited. If we see anyone with a sneaky MacBook they'll be disqualified!
  5. There is no right to appeal, see number 1 above.
When I get a chance over the next week or so, I'll get some images from the route and post the both here and on the Worldwide Photo Walk page.

Have a great weekend.


Monday, 21 June 2010

Landscape Photography Workshop

On Saturday 19th June 2010 I led a group of photographers in dual classroom and outdoor landscape photography workshop for Park Cameras. And what a day! 12 excellent students with a desire to learn and have fun at the same time. I can't wait to see the results of their efforts on the UK Photo Walks Flickr group sometime soon - one guy has already emailed to say that he needs to wade through 400 images - ouch!

What is gratifying is that without exception, the students were prepared to try something new, especially getting down and dirty, quite literally. In one of the exercises I encouraged the students use the wide angle end of their zoom lenses to give maximum foreground with a focal point in the distance.

As you can see, attend one of my workshops and you'll need to be prepared to get mucky & wet!

We spent the morning in Park cameras training centre going through the basics of good landscape photography, then after lunch, drove to Hope Gap on the East Sussex coast to put the theory into practice. I like Hope Gap as a location because of the variety of landscape and seascape opportunities within a reality small area.

On Saturday we were blessed with typically English diverse weather conditions - fast moving cloud propelled by a stiff northerly wind, intermittent sunshine and rain showers. What more could you want?

Here's a quick shot from the few that I took on the day. There has been a reasonable amount of work on the colour version in Adobe Camera Raw and only resizing for this blog in Photoshop.

I particularly like the curve of the pebble beach leading the eye into the focal point created by the sunlit white cliffs in the distance. I have lifted the colours, contrast, clarity, vibrance, saturation, sharpness, lens vignetting and lens aberrations. I could have added a polarising filter to reduce the reflections from the water and give more clarity and even a ND graduated filter to the sky for more drama, but I needed to keep tabs on 12 photographers and guide them as necessary. I could have spent time creating some stunning images, but that would have been to the detriment of the workshop participants.

One of the guys even had a Lee 10 stop ND he was playing with - a bit like looking through a piece of glass used in welders eye shields!

I'm not too sure which version of this image I prefer, colour or monochrome? The black and white/monochrome conversion is pretty easy in Photoshop. Normally, all I do is add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, move the middle slider all the way left then add a Curves adjustment layer and create a gentle 'S' curve to control the contrast. In this case I needed to create a Black & White adjustment layer and tune each colour range to monochrome individually to maintain a good tonal range and maintain detail in the chalk cliffs.

Congratulations to Frank on winning the end of day Chimping Competition - an excellent shot that both myself and Andy F from Park Cameras agreed looked good on the camera preview screen. As soon as I have copy I'll post it here for all to see.

I've just checked the UK Photo Walks Flickr group and one of the students from the landscape workshop has uploaded some wonderful images already - excellent stuff, well done.

Must close now as I've got two Siamese cats demanding food and two daughters pretending that I never feed them. Oh well, a Dad's work is never done;-)



The Original Gel Clip Now on Youtube

Since appearing on Scott Kelby's D-Town TV sales of the Gel Clip have soared! Here's a short infomercial that can be seen on Youtube:

My thanks to Steve Paton for editing and Paul Noble for allowing us to use his mega Mac editing set up with Final Cut Pro.

For those of you that are interested, this video was shot on a Canon 5D Mk II with a variety of prime lenses. The shot of the ugly bloke at the beginning was lit with a 800w Redhead partially corrected with a half CTB Rosco gel, bounced into a gold zebra California Sunbounce Micro-Mini reflector.

You can buy your Original Gel Clips direct from Go Pro Photo or Flash Gels. Both ship worldwide.

Go Pro Photo are currently offering 3 for 2 on Original Gel Clips - click here for more information.



Canon Professional Service Registration

To quote Frankie Jim of Canon UK "As part of our ongoing commitment to professional photography, Canon has launched "THE NEW CPS". You have been a valued member of CPS and we would like you to renew your membership to take advantage of all the benefits "THE NEW CPS" has to offer".

What they don't tell you is in the reminder letter the URL is not the one you need for registration and when you finally get there and confirm that you still own an extensive list of kit, you can't reregister as there's a warning triangle next to each bit of kit with a serial number. When I mouse-over the warning triangle all that happens is the cursor changes state to a question mark!

If you talk to the very nice people at Robert Scott Associates on 01869 331741, they then tell you that you need to re-enter the  serial number for every bit of kit previously registered with CPS - what a bloody waste of time.

Morning rant over, here's the URL I was given by Robert Scott Associates:

Good luck, you've got until the end of June to reregister.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Gel Clip Features on Scott Kelby's D-Town TV

It's been a very busy week with a variety of assignments from a corporate gig for an international aerospace company to a local dental practice upgrading the the images for their website. But the highlight has to be my recently released Gel Clip being featured on D-Town TV by none other than the man himself, Scott Kelby!

The Original Gel Clip Design © Ian Pack 2010

I thought of the Gel Clip as I'm bored with trying to attach gels to my hot shoe flash units with bits of gaffer tape or hook & loop fastening aka Velcro and having to clean away adhesive residue. The Gel Clip is a simple solution to an old problem and compatible with most makes of hot shoe flash unit. It has been designed to hold just about any size of gel in front of your flash units strobe tube, including Rosco's Strobist Gel Collection, which are a size which is particularly fiddly to work with. That being said, I have a Gel Clip and a set of Rosco Strobist Gels with each of my hot shoe flash units.

Gel Clips are available direct from Go Pro Photo in the UK or from selected UK resellers. If you click here you can benefit from a special 3 for 2 offer on Gel Clips.

Once you master working with small lights, your whole approach to lighting will change. One thing I know for sure, now I can get big light from small kit when working with off camera hot shoe flash units - and all from a small(ish) wheeled carry on suitcase and a Lowepro Pro Runner 300 AW back pack! My light now travels light;-)

And lastly, Scott, many thanks for featuring Gel Clip. Very much appreciated.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Off Camera Flash - Tutorial Quickie

Not too long ago I posted a review of the Think Tank Photo Hydrophobia 300 - 600 all weather rain & elements cover for DSLR cameras with a long telephoto lens attached.

I couldn't resist creating my own rain for the shot and persuaded my long suffering wife hold the water source! And before you ask, there is a real camera & lens inside the cover, that is how much faith I have in the product being tested.

How to do it
This shot is very simple and took little time to execute. I used two remotely triggered Canon 550 EX Speedlites fitted with Gel Clips and Rosco Strobist Collection CTO (Colour Temperature Orange) correction gels. The shot was set up in my outside in my back garden with the camera white balance set to tungsten or incandescent which gave the blue element to the image. The rear light was corrected with one layer of CTO to create a neutral light, whilst the front right light was corrected with CTO to correct the daylight flash to tungsten/incandescent with an extra 1/2 CTO to add more orange to the light.

Both lights were snooted with Rosco matte black Photofoil to control spill. The flash units were triggered with inexpensive radio triggers bought on Ebay - OK, so they're not Pocket Wizards, but they only cost about a tenth of the price! The flash units were set to manual rather than e-TTL. This gives you more control over the scene and can conserve battery life.

As you can see, this is a very simple set up with the ambient daylight under exposed by 1 stop to give me what is effectively my third light source. The light at left provides separation from the background whilst the light to front right give shape to the product. Remember that light illuminates whilst shadows define.

I don't recall the flash power settings. I guess they were around 1/8th or 1/16th power for both lights. I could have made the background darker by using a faster shutter speed, but that would mean less blue light creeping in. The flash were each about 6 feet from the subject. Using a low(ish) power setting on the flash gave a short flash duration which froze the water droplets. The blue blur is a result of dragging the shutter at 1/160th second. A slower or longer shutter speed, say 1/30th second would result in more blur but over expose the image for the flash working aperture of f5.6. Had I stopped the lens down further, the background would have appeared too sharp or in focus.

The eagle eyed among you will have noticed that the blur is below the frozen water droplets, this is because the flash fired at the end of the shutter exposure. Had I set the flash to fire on First Curtain Sync, the blur would be behind the water droplets and appear more natural. First curtain sync triggers the flash at the beginning of the exposure. Most cameras by default fire the flash at the end of the exposure, well at least my Canons do.



Friday, 4 June 2010

Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photo Walk 2010

I'm please to announce that Ben Potter & I will lead the Brighton walk on Saturday 24th July 2010. We've yet to get our act together and plan the route so watch this space or go to the Worldwide Photo Walk website for updates.

The 2009 Crew

The 2009 walk was a great success and Park Cameras have once again agreed to give every walker a complimentary £10.00 voucher to spend at the Burgess Hill store. Together with the usual submission of your best images for selection as best of walk photo, plus submission to the worldwide judging, there will also be a local competition for the best image created during the walk with an iPhone and a chimping competition. The chimping competition is simple - you select what you consider to be your best image from the day and display it on your camera display screen, Ben & I will then choose what we consider to be the best image - do remember that the the judges decision is final and may be swayed by bribes yet to be decided;-)

Watching You Watching Who?

Do remember that the chimping competition is an opportunity use some of the picture styles built into your camera. If you remember to set your camera to record both RAW & jpeg you'll still be able to use the RAW file to create further images after the competition. And one last rule for the chimping competition. You may not submit the image shown for the "official" best of walk photo competition.

For anyone that didn't get to see our promo video for the 2009 Brighton walk, here's the Youtube link: Leave a comment, let us know what you think.

Have a great weekend. I'm off to marshal on PhotoPLOD until Saturday.


Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Think Tank Photo Hydrophobia 300 - 600 Review

As the summer approaches here in England so does the probability of more seasonal wet weather. For those photographers who need to be outside some sort of weather protection for their kit as is as important as a decent weatherproof jacket & trousers.

Shootin' in the rain - Think Tank Photo Style

Think Tank Photo have released the Hydrophobia 300 - 600 designed to protect big fast glass such as 300 mm f2.8, 400 mm f2.8, 500 mm f4 and 600 mm f4 lenses.

As with everything that Think Tank Photo design and sell, the product has been well thought through and designed by photographers for photographers. For this test I've used a Canon 50D with a 100 - 400 mm L IS zoom lens, which quite frankly is a bit like a young kid dressing up in Dad's suit, but it shows the principle behind the Hydrophobia 300 - 600.

The cover is designed to remain attached to your lens even when it's not raining and deploys quickly and easily in the event of rain or other wet elements. During normal use the cover is cinched around the lens hood with the bulk of the cover contained around the lens barrel. This does not in any way impede performance or handling due to the light weight of the cover.

Eye cup pocket

On the side of the cover at the front is a pocket to take the eye piece adaptor suited to your specific camera make & model. These eye pieces enable a tight seal and maintain use of the optical viewfinder without having to resort to Live View mode and reduced battery life.

Cushioned make and model specific eye cup

To deploy the cover all you need to do is loosen the red cord and pull the cover over your camera and lens. The cover is supplied with very detailed instructions on how to pack it for use and fitting to your lens.

Hydrophobia 300 - 600 deployed

Once deployed the Hydrophobia 300 - 600 provides a roomy weatherproof cover with access from both right and left. The build construction is excellent and in line with high-end outdoor foul weather gear. The seams are sealed with tape to prevent ingress of water and the zip is of a type to minimise wet penetration. There are clear panels on the top and back allowing you to see both you top panel and rear preview screen and controls. The entry cuffs are generous enough for the user to wear heavy protective gear. There is sufficient room to focus and zoom the lens and allow rotation of the lens and camera body.

Rear view showing the eye cup with cover deployed

There is a panel at the rear of the cover which fits snugly around the eye cup. This makes use very straightforward and should it be necessary you can very quickly unzip the cover and remove form the eye cup for adding a tele-convertor. Memory cards can be changed without removing the cover.

In conclusion a cracking bit of kit and one that every outdoor photographer should have ready for use. A small investment to protect an expensive investment. There's no excuse for not carrying a Hydrophobia 300 - 600 in your bag, they are light in weight and pack down to about the size of the average paperback book.

Pack's Rating * * * * *

For more information visit:

In the UK you can buy your Hydrophobia 300 - 600 direct from Snapperstuff:
Hydrophobia 300 - 600

My first review of a similar product was posted last year - the Kata Rain and Elements covers. I'll leave it for you to be the judge of which product is best suited to your particular needs.

For those of you in the UK, here's the link to the Met Office, who may or may not predict when it will rain: