Articles

This page hosts photography related articles covering subjects such as photographic technique, in-depth trip reports, equipment reviews and other items of interest to photographers.

Costa Rica trip report

My aim in Costa Rica was to capture as wide a variety of wildlife as possible and at the same time learn a bit more about the use of flash in low light environments.

The first thing I should point out is that if you don't like spiders don't go to Costa Rica! At night there were spiders everywhere. One particular species (which looked similar to our raft spider only larger) was common everywhere. Each night we went out into the forest in darkness searching for frogs and these spiders were all around us on leaves, rocks and tree trunks. To make matters worse they all had two particularly large eyes that really caught the torchlight. Wherever we shone our torches there were a myriad of eyes shining back towards us from the darkness. We could only see the spiders that were closer to the ground, but we knew there were an awful lot more in the canopy above!    Our trip was arranged by Greg Basco, a very talented nature photographer based in Costa Rica, through his company Foto Verde Tours. Greg and his colleague Jose were our guides during the trip. We...

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A brief look at in-camera HDR

I have recently been experimenting with the in-camera HDR function on my Canon 5D MkIII, where the camera takes three frames 1, 2 or 3 stops apart and combines them into a single jpeg image with increased dynamic range (thankfully the three RAW files are also saved). My testing has shown that it's possible to achieve reasonably good results, but only with certain subjects. I didn't find that it worked particularly well with high contrast scenes (the sort where you might intend to use it!), as three shots just weren't enough to produce a natural result without visible halos. In such situations I found it best to stick to shooting images only 1 stop apart. Whilst this might not be enough to capture the full dynamic range of the scene it did tend to produce a reasonably good result without visible halos, and captured a little more detail than a single RAW file would have been able to. The resulting image also displayed less noise in the shadow areas, compared to a similar result achieved by pulling shadow detail from a single RAW file. It has to be said though, that a far better result can be achieved by combining...

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Camera bags for landscape and wildlife photographers

I have yet to find one camera bag that works in all situations! I have just had a quick count up and discovered that I currently own fifteen different camera bags and cases! Perhaps more surprising is that all of these see regular use (obviously some more regular than others). Some were obtained for specific trips or assignments, some to hold specific items of equipment and others as general everyday camera bags. Here is a rundown of the five bags I use the most:   Thinktank Airport International V2.0 This is a roller bag that cannot be used as a rucksack. I use this bag mainly for safari type trips where I will only be working within or close to a vehicle and where I need a long telephoto lens. It excels for this purpose. It carries loads of equipment and makes travelling through airports so much more comfortable. The bag itself is not lightweight but it does provide my equipment with a good level of protection.

Thinktank Urban Disguise 60 V2.0 This is a large laptop bag that can also carry a ton of camera equipment. I use it for air travel whenever such a...

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Data storage

The part of my job that I dislike the most is working at the computer. I'd much rather be outside taking photos! For me this is the major downside of digital photography. However, there's no way around it so I just have to accept it! In order to spend as little time as possible in the office, I like to make sure I have a quick and responsive computer, especially when it comes to downloading and backing up thousands of images.

I recently had to replace all the hard drives that store my images in my main Mac Pro office computer, as the current ones were almost full. Filling a hard drive to capacity is never a good idea, as it slows the computer down considerably when reading and writing data. I now have all my images stored on a pair of internal 4TB Hitachi hard drives configured as a striped volume (the computer sees them as a single 8TB volume that runs at twice the speed of a single drive, also know as RAID 0). I stuck with Hitachi drives through recommendation and due to the fact that none of my eight current...

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Aquatech lens hoods and lens caps

My EF600mm f4L IS II lens is much lighter in weight than the previous model. It is, however, physically just as big as the old one! This means that’s it’s just as hard to find a camera bag large enough to carry it – especially when traveling by air! Part of the problem is the width of the lens hood. Thankfully I found a solution to this problem in the shape of a soft lens hood made by an American company called AquaTech.

This hood can be stored flat (or rolled tightly) and carried in hold baggage without the risk of damage (carbon fiber lens hoods are easily cracked if carried in hold baggage, and they cost hundreds of pounds to replace). When in use it attaches to the lens very firmly indeed with the aid of compression straps. I was surprised how well the attachment system worked. It would be very difficult to pull the hood off the lens. It’s stable enough to stand the lens on and weighs about the same as the standard hood. I would highly recommend it to anyone who...

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Waterproof camera covers

When working on the coast I always try to protect my camera from saltwater spray. Over the years I have tried numerous camera covers, some of which were quite expensive. However, the one that I always come back to is the Op-Tech Rainsleeve. This is a very simple way of protecting your camera, whilst allowing reasonable access to buttons, focusing rings etc. It is little more than a clear plastic tube with a drawstring at one end. That’s all that is needed really! The material is tough enough not to tear easily but thin enough to allow easy operation of camera buttons through the plastic. You can also see all the buttons, dials and LCD screens easily. The drawstring can be tightened behind the lens hood and also pulled over and tightened in front of the lens to protect the front element when you’re not actually taking pictures. There is a small aperture cut into the plastic that is intended to be placed over the camera’s viewfinder. I don’t bother with this, as I prefer to leave the back of the Rainsleeve open for easy access to both the viewfinder and...

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