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.

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...

Read more...

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...

Read more...

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...

Read more...

Choosing the best insect repellent

Something that often spoils a photography session during the summer months are the midges and biting flies that often pester us photographers, and are especially troublesome around dawn and dusk – right when we need to be out with our cameras in order to capture the best light!

Having recently returned from the Scottish Highlands I thought it might be useful to mention a few of the solutions I have discovered for dealing with this particular problem! I have never really found bug repellents to be particularly effective. Even the highly regarded Skin So Soft "Bug Away" has had little effect when I’ve tried it. The only product that keeps the little blighters away from me is called Smidge. It was recommended to me in Scotland (home of the infamous “midge”) and it works very well indeed. I have now used Smidge in many locations all around the world and it continues to be by far the most effective insect repellent I have found. There is also the benefit that Smidge shouldn't cause any damage to plastics, unlike other repellents that contain DEET. Smidge is widely available in Scotland...

Read more...

Choosing a tripod for coastal photography

If you do a lot of photography on the coast you’ll be well aware of the damage that salt water can cause to your tripod. This is a problem I have been battling with since I first picked up a camera. The problem becomes even more serious if you’ve invested in an expensive carbon fiber tripod, as some models are particularly vulnerable. I have gone through countless Gitzo tripods because the build up of salt crystals has eventually caused splitting of the carbon fiber legs, weakening their rigidity. Meticulous cleaning after each coastal session will help to extend their life, but for me this is not practical as I rarely have time to spend an hour each night cleaning my tripod!

I managed to find a suitable tripod head in the form of a Really Right Stuff BH55, which is extremely study, well made and easy to clean and maintain. However, my search for suitable tripod legs continues. Recently I tried a wooden tripod by German manufacturer Berlebach. This worked well for a while but eventually the lacquer wore off and the wood began to swell, causing the leg sections to...

Read more...

Support your camera on a beanbag

A beanbag is a very useful camera support and can be one of the best ways of supporting a long telephoto lens in some situations. I regularly use a beanbag (or two) instead of a tripod for supporting my 600mm lens when shooting landscapes. It is my preferred support when shooting wildflowers and fungi and when photographing wildlife from a vehicle window or roof.

  I use double beanbags from Wildlife Watching Supplies. It’s vital to choose the correct filling for any beanbag. Never choose a filling because of its lightweight properties – stability is important and lightweight fillings such as polystyrene balls will not provide a stable support. Hard polypropylene granules create a stable support and are also waterproof.  However, I prefer to use a wild birdseed mix inside a plastic bag placed inside the beanbag. This provides a really stable support and can occasionally be useful in helping to attract wildlife a little closer! The only downside is that it needs to be changed regularly if you do intend to use the filling as a food source for wildlife.

  When travelling by air my beanbags are packed...

Read more...