Thursday, 27 March 2014

Photo Editing Fun

Photography is all about capturing the moment by pressing the shutter at exactly the right time and in perfect lighting conditions. Or is it?

Well to a large extent, yes it is.  However, post processing has been an intergral part of photography from long before the digital age.  I remember the days of a real darkroom and manually dodging and burning areas of a print during developing.

But the digital darkroom has opened so many possibilities besides the usual correcting exposure problems, color casts etc.   And one of the most enjoyable is creating a new image that would be impossible to get straight out of the camera. 

So I browsed through some of my archived images and after a little thought decided to cretate a few humorous animal pics.  Here are the results.  I hope they bring a smile to your face!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Glendore Sand Quarry

I was approached by Glendore Sand Quarry to do a commissioned shoot of their quarries in the Port Elizabeth area.
See for more about them.

I readily agreed to the still images requirements but balked a bit at their request for video as well.  I have never done video before on a professional level.  Anyway, why not start now?  so I accepted the commission on the basis that the video part of the shoot would be a matter of trial and error.

And trial it was.... only because it was a massive learning curve to shoot video.  (rolling shutter. 180 degrees shutter, ideal shutter speeds for video, video editing software, PAL or NTSC, frames per second etc.  are some of the technical aspects that I have managed to learn about)

But in the end I am very happy because video adds huge potential to the services I can offer.

But the downside is that I now need to purchase some video equipment in order to create quality videos.  A fluid head for panning, a Steadicam for mobile shots and a follow focus/zoom system will all be very useful....

Also on the menu was low level aerial photos as seen in the first image below:-
Crusher Plant at Glendore Quarry - Low Level Aerial View

Ground view of how the top image was taken.  (5DMkIII mounted on a 17m telescopic mast attached to the back of my vehicle.  Image taken with Cell Phone camera)

Here are two images taken at ground level:-

Front End Loader picking up large stones to be crushed and graded

Front end loader tipping stone into the trailer of a huge delivery truck.

Their company name is Glendore Sand and Stone but after spending time in their quarry I think the word 'Dust' should be considered as well!  I had dust in my ears, hair, vehicle, laptop, camera bag and even in places that I can't mention here.

Anyway, it was a memorable shoot and I hope that the client will be able to make good use of the images.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Review

I dumped my trusty Canon 100-400L lens for the new Tamron 150-600mm.  Talk about taking chances!  Anyway, after much deliberating I jumped in the deep end and placed my order.  My Tamron arrived two days later and I nervously opened the box and unpacked it.

First Impressions

The lens is very well built - no play in the zoom.  And I like the matte black finish. The lens is noticeably longer and heavier than the Canon 100-400L.
Also immediately noticeable is how large the front element is compared to the Canon 100-400mm.  Filters are going to be VERY expensive for this lens...  but then, I NEVER use a filter on my long zoom except once in a blue moon I way want to attach a polarizer.  And my personal experience is that UV or Skylight filters usually degrades image quality.

A negative is that Tamron have not supplied any sort of carry case or protective bag.  Pity.

Initial Testing

Tamron have VC (vibration control) for image stabilization.  I was keen to try it out.  So on my first night with Tamron I took a few shots of the globe on the other side of the room which is lit by a single fluorescent light.
The VC works well but maybe not as good as the Canon, or so I thought.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  It works slightly better than the Canon and I was able to hand hold at shutter speeds as low as 1/250th when zoomed to maximum!

(Note: All images are unedited except for down sampling and re-sizing.  They were shot as in Camera jpeg and with Standard Picture Style. Canon 5D MkIII)

Click on images to enlarge

  Canon 100-400mm - at 400mm F5.6  1/60th - Handheld

Tamron 150-600mm - at 400mm F5.6  1/60th - Handheld
Not much of a difference between these two. The Canon may have a little more contrast but I am not sure.

Here are 100% crops for comparison:


I feel that the Canon wins here due to better contrast, but with a little editing I think the Tamron will match the Canon.  Anyway, pretty good for hand held shots at 1/60th and 400mm!

The advantage that Tamron had was the extra 200mm.  Here is the same globe shot from the same position at 600mm.  The shutter speed was an incredible 1/30th and I still managed to get a reasonable shot.
Compare to the first two images and you quickly get an idea of what the extra 200mm can do!

The next morning I did a more controlled test.  The camera was set to manual for accurate comparison.  The camera was tripod mounted and the timer was used to release the shutter.  No artificial light was used.

I feel the Tamron slightly out performed the Canon in image quality.  Both lenses focused equally fast.  Bokeh was excellent on both lens.

Canon 100-400 at f8, 1/200th sec, ISO100, Tripod Mounted 400mm zoom

Tamron 150-600 at f8, 1/200th sec, ISO100, Tripod Mounted  400mm zoom

And here are crops of the above images:-


To me the Tamron has picked up slightly more detail but image quality for both is superb.

Field Test

In the late afternoon I spent two hours in the nearby Kragga Kamma Game Reserve to really put the lens through it's paces.  I often shoot wildlife and this would be an ideal opportunity to see how the Tamron lens handled as well as get a good idea of the image quality when I got back home.

Strangely I found it difficult to get used to the twist zoom action.  I suppose I have got so acquainted with the push pull action of the Canon that it has became second nature. Anyway, I am sure that this wont be a problem in the future. It is just a matter of getting used to it.
The manual focus ring is on the body side of the lens.  This worried me at first because I thought I may easily bump it on my bean bag but in practice it is not a problem at all.

My setup for wildlife always includes a Speedlight set at -1.  I wondered if the bigger lens hood would interfere with the flash and cause shadows but there was absolutely no problem there.

Well I have to say that in general the lens was a pleasure to use.  It is a bit heavier than the Canon and I would imagine that a small person would notice it more than me.  You certainly can't hang the camera round your neck with this lens attached for too long.  After 10 mins it begins to feel very heavy. I found orientating the tripod collar upwards and using it as a carry handle worked very well.  However, most of my shots for this review were shot from the car with the lens resting on a bean bag.

Focus was quick and accurate.  Every bit as good as the Canon.  I shot some back-lit images as well to see how the lens would handle flare.
Backlit waterbuck - focus is on the right hand side waterbuck's forehead.  f11, 1/160th sec
The image is a bit soft but this I think is due to the slow shutter speed.

100% Crop

Heading back home I felt anxious but confident at the same time.  I was not disappointed!!  The lens performed very well and produced sharp images.  I had no problem in deciding that the Tamron had officially replaced the Canon for me.  The real bonus?  The extra reach!   That extra 200mm makes a big difference.  Of course all the shots I took were on Single Shot and I am yet to try the Servo mode with this lens.  But I could hand hold at 1/250th second and get sharp images so I am sure the Servo mode will work very well.

Overall I am very pleased with this lens so far.  I think Tamron have a real winner!

 Warthog, 1/640th sec, f10, 600mm
 100% crop

Zebra, 1/5000th. f5.6, 300mm
100% crop

These following images have been slightly edited,  mainly a bit of cropping and a small contrast boost. 




Focal Range and Length
Image Quality
Excellent VC (Vibration Control)
Accurate Focusing and Speed
Smooth Bokeh

No carry case
95mm Filters will be expensive
Max aperture at 600mm is f6.3

Don't forget you can see my complete portfolio at Shutterstock or Dreamstime.  I hope to have lots of images taken with my new Tamron uploaded there very soon!

Disclaimer:    I have not been compensated for this review and my conclusions were not influenced in any way.  The opinions stated here are my own.  I have tried to be as balanced and objective as possible in reviewing this lens.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

15 January 2014 - Factory Fire

Just after 8am I looked out of our bedroom window to see a huge plume of black smoke rising high into the sky.  This was no bush fire...  something big was burning.

I grabbed my photo gear and raced off following the very visible smoke plume.

A textile factory in the North End area of Port Elizabeth was ablaze!  I managed to get onto the premises and get some shots before the police asked me to leave.

Thankfully there were no serious injuries. And although the roof of the factory collapsed and the walls caved in in places, no surrounding buildings caught alight.  Scary stuff....

Saturday, 11 January 2014

7 January 2014 - Birds of Eden, Monkeyland, Jukani

The weather prediction was for rain but I decided to take a drive to the Craggs (near Pletternberg Bay) anyway.  I wanted to see how my new Canon 5D MkIII would perform in the low light conditions at Birds of Eden.  And, of course, to get as many photos as possible to upload to the Microstock sites.  Monkey Land and Jukani were also part of the plan.

Well it rained on and off as predicted but that wasn't the problem....  the heavy overcast conditions meant that while the light was soft and even, it was also very low.  I was shooting at ISO2000 up to ISO4000 and still having to use a slow shutter speed and wide open aperture. Lots of soft pics due to camera shake. The very shallow depth of field didn't help either.

Jukani was very interesting and is beautifully laid out.  We had the excitement of watching two big male lions roaring and charging at each other. Only the fences of their enclosures kept them apart (and from attacking us as well!) Powerful stuff.   However, from a photographers point of view, the photo opportunities were very limited due to the (very necessary) double fences.

It was an overall disappointment as far as the shoot went, but I am very impressed with the 5DMkIII's high ISO capabilities.  

Anyway, here are a few of the better images from the day.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

30 December 2013 - Fire Eater

The circus was in town so I used the opportunity to arrange a private demonstration by the Fire Eater.

This was tricky....  outdoors the wind was blowing the flame away and indoors the light was so low it was difficult to see what was going on. Anyway "Paul" kindly gave me a few minutes and we managed to capture a few interesting shots.

Oh, and I learnt a few tricks of the trade! Not that I will ever try it.