This is a tribute to my old Nikon D40, now 5 year old technology, which in digital terms might as well be 25 years! But I didn't want to use my more expensive gear at the Notting Hill Carnival the other day, so I took the humble D40 instead and I was most impressed by the images it produced. But then I thought ‘why wouldn’t I be impressed?’ Most consumers are conditioned into thinking that only the newest and latest gear can deliver the best shots, and anything old is obsolete. But just because something is old doesn’t meant it’s not useful. And while newer cameras may have more bells and whistles, or even better ergonomics, the little Nikon D40 proved that it can still hold it’s own in that all important image quality department. Its 6MP CCD (today cameras are packing 16-24MP on the same sensor size) delivered excellent RAW files which (coupled to a sharp prime lens) had plenty of detail, even at high ISOs. With ‘only’ 6MP, those pixels are obviously going to be larger and physically take in more light, so the camera performs pretty well at higher ISOs, even for an old sensor. Other factors come into it, of course, especially with today’s higher megapixel sensors and thus smaller pixels, such as image processing algorithms. Modern DSLRs, even APS-C sized sensors, can now reach very high ISO levels with excellent results. One thing that clearly helps is shooting RAW. Any noise is finer and thus easier to remove more evenly. Colour is also better retained than in a JPEG. Anyway, below are some examples and crops from photos I took in a restaurant after the carnival, so you can judge for yourself. Not a scientific study, of course (I have a life to enjoy – can’t be stuck indoors shooting test charts!) but they illustrate my point. All the images were shot hand-held with the Nikkor 50mm F/1.8G AF-S, at F/1.8, and the RAW files were converted using Adobe RAW converter in Adobe CS5.
One of those thing you have to do once and never again. I braved the heaving masses of wild herds and managed to eke out a few shots from this year's carnival, an absolute zoo. Wading through the swamp of beer cans, deafening music and burning jerk chicken took my friend Zuzana and myself hours. The carnival itself was replete with the usual kaleidoscope of colours and music, and most people seemed to be having a good time, gyrating themselves practically into the Earth's core.Mindful of being mugged, stabbed or shot, or all of the aforementioned, I took just my humble old Nikon D40 DSLR and Nikkors 18-200mm and 50mm F/1.8.All images were shot RAW and converted to JPEGs. I must say, despite the D40's age (2006) and limitations (burst speed, no aperture dial, awkward menus), it's a decent little machine and the 6MP CCD sensor gave me some rich RAW files to play with.
My friend Jena kindly suggested a night shoot around the Canary Wharf Estate yesterday evening, so myself and my colleague Kevin, also a photographer, joined her. We soldiered through our shots in spite of the intermittent rain, although the the wet concrete did allow for possibilities of reflections, and water droplets are always an interesting detail.Dusk blue happens irrespective of clear or overcast skies, and we were fortunate to have some partially cleared skies for a short time at least.Canary Wharf does present some interesting composition due to the towering architecture and lights. Despite the odd security guard asking us what we were doing, all three of us had an enjoyable night and captured some interesting shots. The marina especially, presented many great reflections, and Jena managed to find some great spots to shoot from.Most of these were captured with the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8, and a few with the Nikkors 35mm F/2 AF-D and 50mm F/1.8 AF-S.
Sadly no X-Fighters in London this year as there were in previous years. So I have uploaded some of the shots I took at last year's event at Battersea Park.All images were shot with the Nikkor 70-200mm VRII, , ISO 800-1600, with the VR switched off. The image of the power station is an HDR composite shot with the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8.Enjoy!
After attending a small photography exhibition at the Tate Modern yesterday, my friend Jena and I decided to go shooting around St Paul's Cathedral and The Millennium Bridge. These areas have been photographed many times so it really challenged me to come up with something creative and yet still in my postcard style. It was a bright sunny day, so the blue skies were nice to polarise, but the lighting could also be harsh.These are all my shots. I will add Jena's in due course.I used 3 lenses: The Nikkor 35mm F/2 AF-D, the Nikkor 50mm F/1.8G AF-S, and the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8.
I have written this blog as an homage to my Nikkor 50mm F/1.4 AF-D. It has served me well on a number of occasions, but I just don't use it enough and thus I have decided that I will sell it and hope that it finds a more worthy home.On the occasions that I have used it, it has obtained some really pleasing images for me, and is beautifully sharp. I sometimes take it with me on my travels and whenever I chose to use it has not let me down. I use it on a DX sensor, making the actual field of view more like 75mm, but it has still been an easy lens to compose and shoot with. I have shot everything from action to landscapes, portraits and wildlife with it, and it has returned excellent images in each subject. The fast aperture allows a fast shutter speed at a lower ISO in low light, and this flexibility is sometimes invaluable, especially at night or indoors.But I simply do not use it enough now to warrant keeping it. So I will hope to find a better home for it :)
Spent a very hot and humid afternoon with my friend Jena shooting in Richmond Park. I have shot there many times before, but Jena hadn't really had an opportunity to get close to the wildlife there before. She managed to get some very good shots of the deer, nicely isolated against their backgrounds, or even framed by antlers! She also brought her macro lens, which she put to good effect capturing butterflies and spiders. The deer in Richmond Park are wild, and people are not really supposed to get too close to them. It is a sort of unwritten etiquette as I understand it. But alas there are always tourists or people who simply do not understand or respect nature enough to set aside their own gratification and leave well alone. Having said that, one could argue that I was complicit in taking the photos of them!Because of the raging heat and humidity, we (or at least I!) became very tired very quickly and we thus went to find something to eat! But I am pleased that Jena managed to get such excellent shots. Well done! Her photos are clearly labelled with her watermark.I used just my Nikkor 70-200mm F/2.8 VRII with/without a 1.7x teleconverter.
Another great day spent with Sal, who I rather naughtily wrenched away from her pressing dissertation in order to attend medieval shenanigans at Berkeley Castle. But we both had a terrific time at the Berkeley Skirmish, enjoying everything from cannon and handgun demonstrations to sword-fighting to jousting to a bird-of-prey display. The event was very busy and many people turned up wearing medieval garb!The events were not only enjoyable themselves, but the organisers and participants ensured that people were informed and educated about the various activities, and how they related to the history of the land. The falconry display provided a fascinating insight too into the origin of many English phrases.A thoroughly enjoyable day out and well worth the trip from London!I shot mainly with the Nikkor 70-200mm VRII, but also with the Nikkor 50mm F/1.4. I must thank Sal for taking the photos of me!Afterwards, we retired to Sal's house where I lazed in her fantastic hammock. :)
In all of my 5 trips to Bulgaria, I have not yet experienced its capital city Sofia. But I have had the privilege of seeing much of its second city and cultural capital, Plovdiv, also where my friends Genka and Petar happen to live.A city of great energy and contrasts, Plovidiv is both a modern city with all the amenities one can expect, and at the same time one of Europe's oldest continuously inhabited cities. Its history dates back some 6000 years, and since becoming a Roman city has retained many of its old Roman structures and buildings, including its famous amphitheatre. To this day many events and festivals are held within the amphitheatre. And just outside the city is a 2 mile long Olympic rowing canal that is a beautifully serene place.Overlooking the city on one of the seven hills surrounding it, at a place called Alosha, is a statue of a Russian soldier, from where the views of the city are spectacular.I have posted photos from several of my visits, and yet they only scratch the surface of what is an fascinating and wondrous city.
Had an absolutely amazing time riding horses in the Bulgarian mountains and forests. Five of us went - myself, Genka, Petar, Donka and Genka's brother Encho.We had two excellent guides at Wild City Asenovgrad, Emo and Todor, and as I was the only member of our group with any horse-riding experience, they gave me the largest horse, a four year old stallion called Mark! Now I have to tell you, as beautiful as Mark was, he was very excitable, especially around the other horses, so controlling him was a real challenge. But somehow I managed it, even if he did decided to go off galloping in a completely different direction to everyone else!We started our trek overlooking some stunning views of the countryside, especially of the Sushitsa Reervoir. We continued along a stream where we stopped to allow the horses to drink. Unfortunately, my stallion, Mark, decided to lie down and take a quick bath while apparently forgetting that I was sitting on top of him! Needless to say I got a little wet! But in the 40C heat, drying off took just minutes.We trekked up into the forests until the horses could go no further, and then we continued hiking on foot. A surprise awaited us - a beautiful lagoon with a lush waterfall! I spared no time to rip of my clothes and dive in! I even stood under the waterfall and drank the crystal clear water. Heaven!!We hiked back to our horses and continued back to the stables, all agreeing that it was one of the best adventures any of us had had. On the way back, Petar kindly stopped the car to let me take some photos of the Sushitsa Reservoir.I must thank Genka for the idea and opportunity to do the horse-riding trek, and for organising it for everyone. Another winning excursion!It was too hot to carry my camera backpack while riding, and I didn't want to risk damaging anything, so all the photos you see here (except for the last two) were taken with my phone, the Nokia N8.
During my stay in Bulgaria last week, I was lucky enough to be taken by Genka and her brother Encho to a place called Kalofer, where there was a beautiful forest and river. The four of us (including Genka's friend Kamelia) went hiking up through the forest, coming to rest at a stunning lagoon where both Encho and myself dived in to experience the lush cool water, a welcome relief from the 40C heat. The forest had many precarious bridges and walkways, which only added to the sense of adventure. We encountered many massive butterflies and lizard, but alas none of the bears or snakes that the forest signs warned us about.When we had finished our trek, we came to the small town, which hosted a statue of national hero Hristo Botev, as well as a war memorial.
No trip to Bulgaria, such as my fifth and most recent last week, would be complete without watching my good friends Genka Zlatanska and Petar Atanassov dancing salsa!! They have both danced on national television and at salsa festivals, and watching them both is a mesmerising experience. They both help many enthusiastic students at the Poco Loco Salsa club, from where most of these images come from, and then typically dance the night away at Casa De Cuba in Plovdiv! Capturing the thrill of the dance is difficult with a photograph, so I would urge as many people as possible to at least go along and watch, if not participate in the dancing! You will be amazed!
Spent a lovely Sunday with my good friend Sally in Gloucestershire, in spite of the overcast weather. One of the places we visited was the beautiful Painswick Rococo Gardens, which had a stunning array of foliage and flowers, as well as a maze and small ponds. The first few images show views of the gorgeous Gloucestershire countryside, taken by the side of the road, and the last three images are from Sal's own garden. Everything else is from the Rococo Garden.I would definitely recommend a visit!I used primarily just two lenses, the Nikkors 35mm F/2 AF-D, and 50mm F/1.4 AF-D.
Happy Independence Day to my American friends!This morning I attended the unveiling of a statue of the late great President Ronald Reagan outside the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square.I arrived early and got a good position from which to photograph. I managed to capture Secretary Condoleeza Rice, our Foreign Secretary, William Hague, California Senator Kevin McCarthy, our Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, and Peggy Noonan - former speechwriter to President Reagan (I have a couple of her books).Also present was Robert Tuttle, former Ambassador to the UK, our Defence Secretary Liam Fox, and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith.President Reagan was and is a hero of mine, having changed the world for the better during my lifetime, and thanks to his efforts, more people are free today than once were. He continues to inspire leaders in both America and around the world, and this statue was a most fitting way to celebrate not only the centennial year of his birth but also Independence Day.
Not my green thumb, and I certainly couldn't name all these flowers. But they are photogenic!Why post them here? Well, I wanted to show that even with a non-macro prime lens, specifically the Nikkor 50mm F/1.4 AF-D, it is possible to take half-decent photos of flowers fairly close up. I have sold my Sigma 18-50mm F/2.8 Macro lens, not a true macro lens but it had very good close-up focusing, and a 1:3 reproduction ratio.This 50mm prime only has a close focusing distance of 0.45 metres! And yet it is still able to defocus the background with its fast aperture and produce some very aesthetic and very sharp images. It will never replace a true macro for close-up work, but for these types of images, it performs very well.