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.

Lens calibration

You might think that your expensive lenses should perform perfectly straight out of the box. Unfortunately this often isn’t the case and you may find that each of your camera/lens combinations require independent adjustment to its focusing in order to perform optimally. I recommend investing in a very useful piece of equipment called Lens Align Pro. This simple device designed by Michael Tapes enables you to accurately calibrate the autofocus of all your prime lenses to various camera bodies using the AF micro adjustment facility in your camera (if it has one).

It is important to test all possible camera/lens/extender combinations for consistent results. One thing that I would stress is that it’s important to have the lens align target set up in even direct sunlight for best results, otherwise the necessary contrast for consistently accurate autofocus may not be achieved. Once the settings have been made in the camera AF micro-adjustment menu the camera remembers the serial number combinations and settings applied for each, so you never have to go back into the menu to reset lens calibration when changing lenses.

  It’s...

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Head torches

In order to capture the best light around sunrise and sunset, landscape photographers often have to walk to and from locations in the dark. Trudging through wild and rugged landscape in the pitch black can be very hazardous, especially in coastal and mountainous areas. For this reason we all need to carry head torches. Over the years I have used many head torches. Most of these were adequate at best, and only then when new batteries were installed! Thankfully I was recently introduced to the LED Lenser H14.

This head torch is extremely bright and can help you to find a safe route by illuminating the landscape over 100m away. It has a zoom lens that provides either a wide flood of light or a sharp spot beam. It has a great feature that allows you to set the power management to either reduce the brightness of the beam as the battery drains (as most torches do) or maintain maximum brightness until the battery is drained (at which point the light goes out), which is the option I choose. The torch isn't particularly compact, but it's comfortable to wear. Thanks to the top...

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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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