Archive for September 2006

Tech spec

I’ve never thought that going into the nitty-gritty of all the settings used when taking a photo is particularly interesting or helpful in most cases. There are some instances where you might wonder: “How did they do that?” On the whole, though, I don’t really see that it matters in the slightest whether the shutter speed was 1/250th or 1/500th. But I know that some people do find the detail interesting, so just for them, the facts and figures for Southend Shakedown are…

Camera: Canon EOS 350D.
A more than worthy replacement for the Canon A1, my camera of choice for the previous two decades. It remains to be seen whether the body is quite as robust as the A1 though.

Lens: Tamron 18-200mm XR Di_II LD.
Although a zoom with such a wide range is bound to compromise some image quality, the convenience of carrying one lens rather than two or more outweighs the disadvantages (at least until I can afford a Canon 17-40mm L and am convinced you can see the better quality with the naked eye).

ISO: 400.
I always used ISO 400 film in the A1, preferring to suffer a little grain than have to use a tripod if the light was marginal. The 350D is widely reckoned to be virtually noise free at ISO 400, so I see no need to break the habit of a lifetime.

Exposure mode: Aperture priority.
A fairly recent switch for me.
Way back when, the biggest single factor (apart from cost) for choosing Canon was that they offered shutter-priority automatic exposure and Nikon didn’t. Using the old guide that the slowest “safe” speed for hand-held shooting was the reciprocal of the focal length, I knew that if the shutter was set to 1/250th then I shouldn’t have to worry about camera shake when using my Vivitar 70-210mm Series 1 (which in those days was the lens that saw most action).
Because I’ve read a couple of reviews that suggest that the Tamron is a little soft when used wide open, then, providing it’s pretty bright, I tend to use aperture priority more now, to keep the lends stopped down to f11 (ideally) or f8 (at least).

Focal length: 200mm.

The finished image has only been cropped by a whisker, so is pretty much full frame.

Shutter speed: 1/160th sec.

A little slow for my liking with the zoom at full stretch. But I had to work quickly, so had better things to think about than opening the aperture to shorten the shutter speed.

Aperture: f11.

White balance: Auto.

The EXIF data says the colour temperature was 4850K.

Colour space: Adobe RGB.

Post-processing: The RAW file was converted to a 16-bit TIFF with DxO Optics Pro 3.5 and then edited in Photoshop.

Strike rate

Sometimes when you hit the shutter release you are pretty certain that you’ve got something good. Other times it’s not until you get home that the full picture emerges (the LCD screen on the back of the camera doesn’t let you see anywhere near enough to be certain). Southend Shakedown definitely falls into the latter category.

I very rarely go out with any pre-set ideas about what type of photos I am going to take. That’s why I’d probably struggle as a professional because I don’t like working to a brief. For me, it’s a much more intuitive reactive process; something catches my eye, often for reasons that I can’t put my finger on, either at the time or later.

Some days, the pictures just seem to flow, one after the other. It’s akin to the way some sportsmen will talk about “being in the groove” or “the zone” when they are performing well. On other occasions it seems to be more of a struggle; for whatever reason nothing really catches my eye. So I’m always interested in what I’d describe as my “strike rate”, the number of pictures I think are worth putting on display expressed as a percentage of the number I took. What was intended to be a fun day having a few drinks with friends yielded 35 from 93 for 35%. By my self-critical standards, I think this is on the high side so it’s probably a measure of a good (in the productive sense) day. And yes, we enjoyed ourselves too, but that’s another story.

Southend Shakedown

This is widely regarded as my “signature” photo, so is the obvious choice to launch this blog.

There will be occasional posts featuring the best of my work, the story behind the picture, what prompted me to take it, and any other discussion about the process (both creative and mechanical) of taking photos.