Monday, 30 January 2012

Megapixels Aren't the Only Factor

It seems that megapixels has become the byword for better in photography; the more megapixels your digital camera has the better it is, but is it?  I have been a Nikon user for 16 years now and a Nikon DSLR owner since 2006.  Then it was 6mp and everyone was happy. Then 12mp became the standard for Nikon with the D3S / D700 / D300S / D90 (the D3X has 24mp)  range of cameras, and this only changed with the 16mp D7000 in 2011, but Canon went one better with 18mp across the board, while the other manufacturers pushed the range even further.  

However Nikon stuck with the 12mp and worked on keeping digital noise in check.  Nikon have become the leader in high speed sensors that have pushed the boundaries of shooting in very low light.  Now Nikon have launched their latest flagship DSLR in the shape of the D4, which 'only' has 16mp, which is still smaller than the offerings from Canon and Sony (24mp), and the replacements for the D700 (D800?) and D300S (D400?) are almost certain to follow suit.  Is this a mistake? Personally I don't think so.  The D4 has so many more attributes other than less megapixels and Nikon professionals have all placed their orders for the new camera.

Yes, the more megapixels you have the bigger the prints you can produce.  But how many A3 or bigger images do you print every year?  Personally I only print a few (my last being a 75cm x 30cm panoramic) and my 12mp Nikon can produce quality enlargements to rival the larger sensor cameras, so I don't really feel the need to have more.  I'm not knocking Canon or any other offerings from the main stream manufacturers but I feel that people have got hung up about the size of their sensors without looking at the 'bigger picture' if you excuse the pun.  

The same thing happens when people look at cars. They see a big power figure and top speed but that is only half the story.  If the handling is rubbish and the car wont corner, then what is the point of all that power.  You only have to watch Top Gear to see exotic, high performance cars get slated because they just wont go round corners.  If we lived in Roman times with straight roads we wouldn't need cars that go round corners but we live in the real world and while on paper certain items stand out, it is when you use it everyday you find out what is really important.

It is the same with cameras and there is so much more to how it operates in the real world than the number of pixels a manufacture can pack into a sensor.  Nikon produce cameras that I like to use and produce the images of the quality I expect.  I look on with interest how the Nikon D4 shapes up when the pros get their hands on them and start using the camera in real life situations.  Me? I'm eagerly waiting for the D400 - please can we have some news on a launch date soon Nikon?


UPDATE: Since I wrote this article Nikon have launched the D800 with 36MP, which I don't think many people were expecting.  While this doesn't detract from the reasons for my article it will remain to see if this new camera can cope with that many pixels and still retain the Nikon trademark noise quality.  Personally I think Nikon will have tested this camera to death before its launch and I'm confident it will live up to the launch hype.  Will I buy one? Probably not because of all the extras that I'd have to buy to run this camera, not least a more powerful laptop to cope with the new file size.  However is this the shape of things to come in DSLR technology?  I wait for the launch of the D400 with baited breath.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Picture of the Week: After the Rain

This weeks pictures are from a visit to Calke Abbey, a National Trust property in the Midlands.  Calke Abbey is renowned for its gardens but when we went it had been raining heavily for most of the day.  Luckily is stopped for a while and I was able to grab some flower shots with a difference.



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Monday, 23 January 2012

Bokeh


Sometimes phrases or meaning come into general use almost by popular consent or by accident and photography is no different.  One word that has been used more and more in the past 10 years is 'Bokeh'.  So what is Bokeh?


The term comes from the Japanese word boke, which means "blur" or "haze" and in photography, bokeh is the blur,or the aesthetic quality of the blur,in out-of-focus areas of an image, or "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light."** 


Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye, while others produce blurring that is unpleasant or distracting—"good" and "bad" bokeh, respectively. Bokeh occurs for parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Photographers sometimes deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions.**


So is that clear now?  This technique focuses the viewers attention on the subject and I use a wide (f2.8 - f5.6) aperture on the long lenses (80-200mm / 50-500mm) or on the 60mm Macro lens   Here are a few of my images that demonstrate bokeh. 








** source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokeh



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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Picture of the Week: Antarctic 100 Memorial in Cardiff Bay

100 years ago this week Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team reached the South Pole only to find that  a Norwegian team had already beaten them to prize.  Scott's ship the Terra Nova set sail from Cardiff Bay in June 1910 and a memorial to their endeavour can be seen in Cardiff.  The Antarctic 100 memorial is situated next to the Norwegian Church on the harbour front on Cardiff.



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Monday, 16 January 2012

Keeping it simple

Sometimes less is more in photography.  On our recent trip the weather was typically Scottish and kept me on my toes to come up with a photograph despite the inclement weather that we were experiencing.  On one of the shoots I decided to keep it simple and photograph a single tree or rock in mono and see what I got.  The results were rather pleasing with a single tree on Loch Na Keal and a rock in Salen Bay providing the focal point. 

Lone tree at Loch Na Keal

Rocks in Salen Bay
On New Years Day I tried this technique again when we visited the windswept beach at Calgary Bay.  The sun was breaking through the clouds and part of the beach was lit by the weak sunshine.  Focusing on a piece of seaweed on the edge of the surf I capture this very moody image of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  A far cry from the blue skies and white sand images I usually take here. 

Calgary Bay on New Years Day


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Thursday, 12 January 2012

Picture of the Week: Neist Point, Isle of Skye

click to enlarge
Another shot from the archive, this one of Neist Point on the Isle of Skye in August 2009.  The lighthouse at Neist Point is one of the most photographed part of this Scottish island and so I tried to find a different view from the 'picture postcard' snapper.  As I walked down the hill I saw the sun coming through the clouds over Benbecula on the horizon and stopped to take the image with my 80-200mm f2.8 with the lighthouse silhouetted against the sun dappled sea. 

The shot was always envisaged as a black and white, even though it was originally taken in colour.


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Monday, 9 January 2012

Otter Sighting on Mull

While we were on Mull for New Year we were lucky enough to spot plenty of wildlife, including deer, sea eagles and buzzards but the highlight of the week was an encounter with a wild otter on Loch Spelve while we were on the way down to Loch Buie.  We saw the famous 'Elvis', who was a resident wild otter in Tobermory harbour in 2009, but he was a performer and was easy to spot and photograph.  Unfortunately Elvis died in 2010 and we'd never seen an otter anywhere else on the island as they are a very elusive creature.


The otter in Loch Spelve
Travelling down to Loch Buie by car, a shout from my wife in the passenger seat, who had spotted something in the water, had me pulling over to see what it was. Suddenly a head popped up and this brown shape started to swim across the water. It was an otter.


The otter brings up a crab for lunch from the bottom of the loch
The otter enjoys its meal on the shore
Using the car as a portable hide, I started to snap away with my 500mm lens but it was very long distance and with a lot of cloud cover and showers, the light wasn't very good.  I decided to move the car back up the road hoping that the otter was used to cars travelling along this route and wouldn't be bothered by our presence. Luckily I was right and the otter completely ignored us.
Heading back out to find more food
We spent 30-minutes watching this graceful animal swim out, pick a meal from the bottom of the loch and head to shore to eat.  One thing we noticed is it is very well camouflaged amongst  the seaweed that lines the sea loch and to spot an otter is very difficult.
back to shore with more food
We hope to go back to the same point in the summer to see if we can spot the otter again.  Mull is renowned for its wildlife and it was good to know that there are still plenty of opportunities during the winter months as well as the summer.



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Thursday, 5 January 2012

Picture of the Week: Snow Covered Mull

click to view large image
This is probably my favourite picture of the week we spent on Mull over the New Year period and it is also the final shot I took as we were on the ferry heading back to Oban.  

The picture shows the snow covered mountains of Mull as the clouds broke to produce a wonderful light that lit the scene.  On the right you can see Duart Castle, the ancient seat of the Clan MacLean, that guards the approaches to Mull from the mainland.  

The image is actually four pictures put together in Photoshop to produce a panoramic.

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Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Long Exposure

First of all Happy New Year and I hope 2012 is kind to each and everyone of you.  I'm sorry I haven't posted over the Christmas period but this was mainly due to a lack of internet access where we were staying on the Isle of Mull for the past week.  Despite some very stormy and wet weather I managed to squeeze in some time for photography during our break and I will post some of the images I took from Mull over the coming weeks.

Calve Island, at the entrance to Tobermory Harbour
With the light being so poor most of the time, the choice was either to crank up the ISO or get the tripod out and go for a long exposure.  Luckily most of the subjects I choose to focus on suit the long exposure method. 

After a stormy ferry crossing from Oban to Mull on Boxing Day (26th December), the weather on the morning of the 27th was very kind and I walked down to Tobermory harbour in almost perfect conditions.

Tobermory - this image is available to buy as a limited edition print HERE

The first shot of the harbour front was taken with a 30 second exposure at f11 and the effect of the long exposure was to smooth out the sea in the foreground with some movement recorded in the clouds.


Swinging my lens around I recorded the sunrise over the boats in the harbour. The scene was also captured with a 30 second exposure, using an ND8 neutral density filter (+3 stops) to allow such long shutter speeds.  The danger with using a long exposure with objects such as boats is they can move due to wind or tides during the exposure.  If you look closely some of the masts are blurred, but the overall effect of the image is pleasing.


The waterfall image was taken down at Loch Na Keal and is an 8 second exposure at f14.  Again long exposures are perfect to capture the movement of the water over the rocks.


The final shot was taken at midnight on Hogmanay and shows the firework celebrations in Tobermory to mark the start of 2012.  A 5-second exposure captured the explosions and the lights in the harbour.  Stupidly I had left my tripod at the cottage and had to resort to holding the camera on top of a fence.  Not the ideal solution but when needs must!

Tobermory Harbour

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