Aug 122011
 

Ever wondered what you can photograph with a Digital SLR and 50mm standard lens in the Dark?

Ever wondered how much use the built in flash is on a Digital SLR?

Yes?

Take a look at this little fellow. We found him in the middle of the patio at 21:40 on summer night in South Yorkshire. Now he isn’t the type of creature you meet around here on a regular basis so I thought he was worth a photograph if only to document what he is. Caught on a wide open patio suddenly lit by a bright outside light with our dog and my partner staring at him from on high had me worried that the the little blighter would have legged it by the time I got back. No time for messing with flash guns and lens swaps I grabbed my digital SLR camera with 50mm f1.8 Nikon lens already fitted and got back outside at the double. He was still there so I grabbed a quick record shot from above looking directly down then decided to use the “get on the subjects level approach.

A small reptile found on the Patio and photographed on a DSLR with 50mm Standard lens and built in flash August 2011 Image © Paul David Drabble

Laying down I used Autofocus to focus on the head and edged forward until the lens reached the closest point of focus. The D700 was already set to 640 ISO and Aperture Priority so I popped up the built in flash checked the viewfinder info,1/60 at F4, and fired off a single frame. I expected the little guy scarper but he didn’t. Now worried the the flash and/or stress of the situation may cause him some permanent damage I decided two frames were enough and we left we left him alone in the dark to go about his business.

Shot original in Nikon Electronic Format(NEF)The first Image was interpolated and croped from this original framing August 2011 Images © Paul David Drabble

Photographers Technical Stuff

Camera Nikon D700 with 12.1 mega-pixel full frame CMOS Sensor

Lens Nikon F1.8 “Standard” Lens

Built in Flash

File Format NEF

ISO 640

Shutter 1/60th of a Second

Apperture F4.0

Aperture Priority

Single Autofocus

The resulting image was still a very small reptile in the centre of a rather large frame so I decided a little cropping and post production interpolation was need. The NEF file was opened on the PC and at this stage I made adjustments to highlights/shadows added a little sharpening and interpolated the image from The D700 best quality of 12.1 Mega-Pixel (4256 X 2832 pixels) to a 25.1 Mega-pixel ( 6144 X 4088 pixels).

Once open the image was cropped, without constrained proportions, resulting in an photograph of approximately 3 X 2 inches at 300 ppi. Wanting a larger end result I interpolated that up in size again. Using Bicubic Smoother setting I made the longest edge 10 inches. That left the final tightly cropped image as a 10 x 6.5 inches 300ppi photograph or 3000 X 1959 pixels.

I may have just over done the size increase but the image was never going to be a “National Geographic” pin sharp, full page, quality picture anyway. Considering the situation and equipment, a 50mm standard lens lit by the pop up camera flash in the dark I don t think is too bad.

If anyone can Identify just what this little guy is I would love to know.

Can any one tell me exactly what he is? please feel free to comment below August 2011 Images © Paul David Drabble

Please comment below

 

 

Jul 182011
 

They say Britain is a nation of dog lovers, they also say never work with children or animals. Have you ever tried photographing your pet pooch only to be disappointed by the results. Here (in no particular order) are a handful of photography tips to help you achieve better results when you’re photographing mans best friend.

  1. First rule of all portrait photography is focus on the eyes. Most dogs have long snouts, so if you focus on the nose the eyes can be out of focus.
  2. Most humans are tall compared to a dog, so get down and shoot from their eye level see the world as they do.
  3. Have a hyperactive dog who just cant stay still? Use a fast shutter speed to freeze the movement when they are running and jumping.
  4. For the older or more sedate natured dog, try a wider aperture setting. This will help reduce distractions by throwing the background out of focus. Don’t forget “most dogs have long snouts”  if the aperture setting is too wide  your best friend could end up with a burred nose.
  5. Some dogs are natural posers, you can get good shots just by getting them to sit while holding their attention with a treat or toy. For most distraction is the key give them something to do or play with  that you know they love then you work around them.
  6. Don’t always work alone and do a little planning. Get another member of the family to hold your hound while you move some distance away. On a preprepared signal get your helper to let your pet pooch go and you grab some great action shots as the dog comes charging towards you. If your auto focus is slow or you dont have follow focus try pre focusing the camera on a fixed spot you the dog will run through and fire the shutter as they cross the focus point.
  7. Sticking with the theme of helpers why photograph your dog in isolation? Get someone you love and who the dog is relaxed with to interact and capture that on camera.
  8. Make it fun! Photography may be fun for you but most dogs are not the type who will happily perform on command for the camera. Make things fun for your pet and it will show up in your photographs through the dogs body language.
  9. Watch,  not the one on your wrist! Watch with your eyes. Your dog is genetically 80% wolf, so while walking with your dog and camera take time to watch and learn its instinctive behaviour and try to capture a more subtle side of  your pets character in your photography.
  10. Know your dog. Good photography can often come from to knowing your subject and being able to predict what’s going to happen.
  11. Sometimes all you need to make a photograph really work for you is a caption!

Right at the start I mentioned they say “never work with children or animals” well here is another tip – many of those tips work with kids too.

Have your own top tips for dog photography?

Feel free to add them below.

Want to give your dog an outdoor portrait session give me call

Apr 162011
 

Some of you may have noticed that I have an interest in most all things military, I also have an interest in the 1940’s, more specifically the second world war. This has led me to invest in a “new” camera, well new to me. Its actually a 38 year old Kiev range finder, a postwar Russian copy of the famed German Contax range finders which were introduced around 1933 and were once the main competitor for Leica.

I intended to buy one of these Russian Contax or Leica clones as a display piece but attempts to find a good looking non working display camera for under a fiver soon evolved into a little bit of a quest to find a reasonable working camera and preferably a Keiv. I wasn’t actually worried about the age of the camera but I did want it to work on 1940’s technology. Then thanks to eBay a Kiev 4, a Contax IIIa copy, arrived along with a very odd desire to put a roll of film through it.

I think I actually imagined I was going to stick a roll of film in this 1940s vintage piece of technology and instantly be able to use it just like my Nikon equipment. However to give you an idea of the differences between this camera and any modern digital SLR or compact I thought about writing a short list of what you don’t get with a Kiev but forget the list. If your camera has the word “auto, automatic, program, mode or electronic before one of its features take it as read the Kiev doesn’t have it. It does have a built in light meter but its not very reliable and you have to read it, work out the exposure settings then manually enter those settings on the camera. Its design requires the camera to be held in a specific way, known as the Contax hold, so the fingers of your right hand don’t block the range finder window and make focusing impossible.

To swap from my Nikon D700 to the all mechanical and manual Keiv for a couple of days was to say the least a culture shock. I am used to knowing my Nikons so well that I pick them up and work them, almost without thought, leaving me free to concentrate on creating images. With the Keiv I was forced into a much slower pre planned, less instant, pace of photography. Not just less instant in the sense you don’t get to see the result straight away but you suddenly realise you have to move the camera away from your eye to set the shutter speed and aperture then again to wind the film on. You are forced to think much more about the image you are about to shoot or want to shoot and makes the grab shot so much more valuable. It has also left me wondering how famed war photographer and Magnum founder member Robert Capa managed the images he did from a pair of Contax II cameras. Despite the totally different way of working forced on me when using the Kiev I think I may just be looking for a Zorki or Fed Leica copy now to sit alongside my Keiv or maybe Ill look for a Kiev clone of Capa’s Contax II.

Mar 182011
 

How To Create A Good PR Photo people actually want to publish?

Recently I wrote a guest post “What Makes A Good PR Photo” for Leeds based Quest PR’s blog. Bloggers will tell you that posts work best at around 300 to 500 words and it was while trying to work within these constraints I realised what I do, what all good PR photographers do, is far too complex to impart as a “How To” in 500 words or less. I was barely scratching the surface of “What Makes A Good PR Photo” let alone how to produce one and that led to this post.

How does a professional PR Photographer Create A Good PR Photo people actually want to publish? He or she considers all the things below and more, though not necessarily in list order.

Is the image sharp?

Where should I focus for best effect?

Shall I use a wide aperture or narrow aperture?

Fast or slow shutter speed?

Natural light or Full flash, Fill-in flash?

Will anything fool the camera meter?

Do I choose Wide Angle Standard or Telephoto lens?

Which camera will be best for the job?

Is it best Mounted on a tripod, monopod or hand-held?

Use camera mounted flash or portable studio flash?

What elements best tell the story?

Which do I include, what gets left out?

Is the background relevant?

Can it be made relevant or is it just distracting?

What’s the best way to set this up for maximum visual impact?

Do I put movement into to an image?

If I do should movement be frozen or allowed to streak ?

Shall I isolate the subject with a blurred background?

Use front to back picture sharpness?

How many people do I use and why?

What’s the message my client is trying to get across?

How do I get the branding in?

Does it look natural or forced or just ruin the picture entirely?

What style do I need to shoot in?

Where will the images appear?

Have done Upright and landscape shape?

Beyond considering all of the above the professional PR photographer needs people skills in bucketfuls. Some people are lucky they just enjoy being photographed and/or are simply photogenic. Many are not, good results are required even when the subject hates being in front of a camera. Photographers need to work with people from all spheres of society all ages all outlooks all political persuasions and a good photographer can deal with just about anyone. Sometimes the image will require getting people to do things they wouldn’t normally dream of doing. Other occasions it will require the photographer do something they wouldn’t normally dream of doing.

In short How To Create A Good PR Photo…..

Understand your equipment, use it to best technical effect, understand the brief, interpret it creatively, work well with people and get the best from them in what can sometimes be quite difficult situations.

Mar 052011
 

Three days on from Matt Cardle and it’s back to Meadowhall Shopping Centre, celebrity spotting again. This time it’s Chris Moyles sidecick from Radio 1 “Comedy Dave” Vitty.  Now a Dancing On Ice Star “Comedy Dave” was signing autographs and meeting fans in the lower arcade close to Marks & Spencer as part of the  promotion for  Torvill & Dean’s Dancing on Ice 2011 Tour which has its opening night on the 9th of April 2011 at Sheffield Motorpoint Arena. As part of the promotion fans were also given the opportunity to win Torvill & Dean skating costumes as worn by the superstar skating couple, a signed skating boot and free tickets.

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Feb 242011
 

15 degrees C and sunny… Its beginning to look a bit like springtime in Ecclesfield

Nikon

D700

50mm f1.8 lens

400 ISO 1/800 at F8

Feb 232011
 

Have you ever wondered why professional freelance photographers keep their copyright and talk in terms of intellectual property and licensing? After all the whole idea of hiring a professional photographer is so that you can use the pictures you paid them to take for you right? Yes it is and during the snows of 2010 I received a call asking if I would be free to photograph Deana Sampson a past UK National lottery winner for use on the winter cover of the Lottery winners own Magazine and to accompany an article about her in a national newspaper. The trouble was snow and ice was causing traffic chaos, the sky’s were generally grey and cloudy resulting a flat uninteresting light and a to make matters worse the photography was to be out of Sheffield so the roads I would be travelling on were very likely to be untreated. This looked like it may well be a job destined for disaster, but I have always loved a challenge and hate letting any client down. With that in mind I said yes to the job and pointed out the potential pitfalls, checked the weather and between myself the client and Deana we put in place a plan ‘A’ and plan ‘B’ One of those two two plans was a good one and resulted in some really nice wintry Christmas images images that fulfilled the clients brief.

So what does this have to do with photographers keeping copyright?
Well when Woman magazine got in touch with Deana asking to do a story about her during that process she very kindly pointed out to them that I already held some nice images of her and gave them my contact details. The result was a call from their picture editor who looked through the images and chose two to accompany their double page spread. I could do this because I keep the copyright of the images I shoot.

Tear Sheet Deana Lottery Winner Woman Magazine.22 February 2011.Images © Paul David Drabble

This all probably seems very unfair to the original client who paid for the images to be shot but in actual fact its the opposite. The original client only paid to use the images as they needed to. The magazine did exactly the same they paid for the use they required.

Still not making sense? Try thinking of it this way. A small tin of baked beans might costs 35p and realistically it will feed one person one meal once. If you want to feed two people you have to buy two small tins or one large tin. Either way the manufacturer and retailer of the beans get paid every time you want baked beans. If you want all the beans you can eat for the rest of your life you have to pay even more money, either to buy enough tins in bulk or weekly or if it works out cheaper to buy a baked bean factory which produces cooks and cans your baked beans. Any which way its a lot more than 35p. So the original for the original client and the magazine it was really a little like them paying for the “beans” they required. OK this isn’t an exact analogy but it does go some way towards explaining the situation.

How does that help anyone thinking of hiring a PR photographer? It shows there is no need to be afraid of licensing embrace it, its good. You only pay for what you need. If you are commissioning a photographer think about why you want the photographs, how and where you want to use them. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, call a photographer and ask, all the photographers I know are flexible when it come to licensing agreements. You tell them what uses you do and don’t need and they can tailor a license fit your needs. Photographers are just like any other small business they trying to make a living in difficult times.

Jan 302011
 

I bought my partner Black Diamonds for Christmas. Not  the ‘Black Star of Africa’ or ‘Table of Islam’ type, she isn’t that lucky because I’m not that rich, it’s one of the downsides of being a professional photographer. What I did buy her was the book “Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty” by Catherine Bailey. It tells the epic and stranger than fiction story of the Fitzwilliams, who claim descent from William the Conqueror and once owned what was, in fact still is, the largest privately owned house in Britain, Wentworth Woodhouse.

I have lived in South Yorkshire all my life, I have heard of the Fiztwilliams, Wentworth House and that there was something special about the place but as is often the case with things you grow up around I hadn’t really given it that much thought. Even when one of my first assignments as full-time professional press photographer was to cover the wedding of  Wensley Haydon-Baillie, one time owner of Wentworth Woodhouse who married at Wentworth’s “new” Victorian Church with Prince Michael of Kent reportedly as his best man, I didn’t really think beyond that immediate story.

Above left: Former owner Wensley Haydon-Baillie and his new bride are congratulated by a local as they walk the footpath back to Wentworth Woodhouse from the Fitzwilliam family Church. Above right: Prince Michael of Kent attends Haydon-Baillie’s wedding in Wnentworth.

Below: Commissioned by the 6th Earl of Fitzwilliam in 1872  at a cost of around £25,000 in memory of his parents, with a spire of almost 200 feet tall Wentorth Church is visible for miles around. Dedicated to the Holy Trinity it was designed in Gothic revival style by leading Victorian church architect James Loughborough Pearson who later designed Truro Cathedral.

Wentworth Woodhouse, the size of the building is breathtaking.  Built by Thomas Watson-Wentworth, 1st Marquess of Rockingham, added to by his heir, in the nineteenth century it was  inherited  and became the family seat of the Earls Fitzwilliam. It took a Scots Lass Born in Glasgow, who strangely enough can trace her ancestral linage back to one of  William the Conqueror’s Noblemen to pique my interest in the place enough to try and capture the grandeur of its East façade. This is really the only shot that can be taken of the house as it is a privately owned house and not open to the public.

You really do have to stand in front of this Grade I listed country house in Wentworth, South Yorkshire to fully appreciate its size. The East Front, 606 feet (185 meters) long, it is the longest country house façade in Europe. With 365 rooms the house covers an area of over 2.5 acres (10,000 square Meters).  Currently it is owned by a retired architect in his 80s called Clifford James Newbold who, if what I have read is to be believed….

  • Paid in excess of £1.5 Million pounds for Wentworth Woodhouse.
  • Paid £1.5 Million pounds for Wentorth Woodhouse
  • Moved from a “family sized home” in Highgate to Wentworth Woodhouse.
  • Lives there alone.
  • Is a recluse
  • planned to convert it into three homes for his family.
  • Is is progressing with a defined programme of renovation/restoration.

I’m only guessing here but I think its probably fair to say some of the things written about Mr Newbold may not be quite accurate.

  • What seems fairly certain is in 1998 he was Master of the Guild of Freemen of the City of London.
  • In May of 2010 the guild held three events
  • Thursday 13 May 2010 – Weekend Visit to Wentworth Woodhouse
  • Thursday 13 May 2010 – Reception & Gala Dinner – Wentworth Woodhouse
  • Friday 14  May 2010 – Day Visit to Wentworth Woodhouse

If Britannia Historical Attractions are to be believed when the house went up for sale for £1.5 Million pounds it would “require ten times that to restore”  and  “In Early May 1999, Wentworth Woodhouse was purchased for a figure substantially in excess of the guide of £1.5m”

While I haven’t seen them apparently Country Life Magazine published evidence of the restoration and renovations in issues dated 17 February and 24 February 2010.

Its seems as though some people are always willing to believe the worst, something borne by the graffiti on the sign at the entrance to Wentworth House. Surrounded by a 150 acre (0.6 km²) park the numerous “Private”  and  “Keep off the Grass” signs gave me the feeling that my presence was being  suffered because it is a public right of way rather than welcomed. If like me the mysteriousness of Mr Clifford James Newbold has raised your curiosity levels a photograph of the present owner can be found here under the heading “Presentation to the Guild 27 February 2008”

Dec 012010
 

I could use this post go into how this is the earliest, coldest, most widespread, worst snow to hit Britain since 1985, 1993, in 20 years or more than 20 years, living memory, the exact details seem to depend upon  where your source your news. I could also continue by listing, warning of areas not to drive, rail disruption, airport closures, school closures, accidents, at least 3 deaths, record low temperatures and how the odds have been slashed by bookies on a “White Christmas” but I wont. I will let these few photographs taken around the Ecclesfield and Chapeltown area of Sheffield, South Yorkshire over a period of 2 hours on the evening of 30th of November and a further 2 hours from around 10:00am on the 1st of December 2010 speak for themselves.