Friday, 29 August 2008

Family portraits

The start of a busy three weeks for me. Next week I'm off to Fort William, in the vain hope of repeating my previous success getting published. The week after that I've a brief holiday in Prague, combining a reunion with my cuz from California with a 70th birthday treat for my Dad. But this weekend it's another tryout for me, as I turn my hand to family portraiture.

When friend and workmate Tracy recently returned from maternity leave, I thought she and her young 'un might make for a good subject. Formal or semi-formal portraiture is something I've not really tried until now, but figured I'd better give it a go now I've splashed out so much on a decent portrait lens. She was dead keen when I put the idea to her, so I trotted out to her place where she and her family obligingly posed. We started off with a few indoor shots before her elder son returned home from school, and then the lot of us headed to a local park for some outdoors family snaps.

The results left me with... mixed... feelings. I took an unprecedented number of shots, filling one and a half 4GB CF cards over the four hours I was there, but my keeper rate was pretty miserable: roughly 20 out of over 500. Hopefully that'll be enough, and three or four of the best ones should find their way to Flickr.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

FIRST POST: Switching to Blogspot

Switching to this blog from Yahoo! 360°, which was just a dire service. Routinely, I'd click on a link to start a new blog entry, and be taken to the settings page instead. Also, there was no way of linking to the blog itself, only to the parent 360 page. And no matter what I did, I couldn't eliminate my country identifier from my URL (

All I wanted was a blog to complement my Flickr account. I wanted it on Yahoo because they own Flickr, and therefore I could tie everything into the one login/account. Was that too much to ask? Apparently so.

EDIT: Oooh, fantastic, I can even post-date these blogs retrospectively.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Another new lens

I bought my 400D in April 2007, and although I enjoyed it a lot, I realised that the 18-55 kit lens wasn't long enough; I had to invest in extra glass.

I considered, then dismissed, the 28-135, on the grounds that it would turn the camera into a glorified superzoom. So, 75-300 f/3.5-5.6 IS, or 70-200 f/4L? Every comparative review and every Canon user I spoke to recommended the L-series, despite the apparent limitations of a lack of IS and a shorter focal range, and at the end of June, two months into DSLR ownership, I put my money down for one. No regrets; it's been an outstanding bargain, orders of magnitude better than the "thrifty fifty" 50mm f/1.8 I purchased at the same time, or the supplied kit lens.

Still, for wide-angle shots I could still rely on the 18-55. Look at the detail I was able to capture after only a week with the camera. And at the end of June, my front page scoop photo was taken with the kit lens too. That's why I haven't bought any new glass since last year.

More recently though, I've been trying my hand at a few different types of shots, and one of the ones I want to try is portraiture. I felt the time had come to upgrade, but what to choose? The two standout candidates were the 24-70 f/2.8L, and the 24-105 f/4L IS. The 24-70 was by all accounts the better lens, but it was only on full-frame bodies that you could really tell the difference. Also, while it was faster, it didn't have three stops worth of IS to offer, and if I needed speed that badly, I had the 50 f/1.8 to fall back on. The 24-105 was lighter, cheaper, more discreet, and offered a better range for a walkabout lens. So...

...I bought a 24-70. Huh?!?

I thought I was committed to the cheaper lens, but a bargain appeared on eBay, and I got a bit trigger-happy. I'm still not convinced I did the "right" thing, especially given the weight of the beast, but hopefully I can put it to work earning its keep. It's by some margin the most expensive photographic kit I've ever bought (and that includes the body of the 400D itself), so I'm determined to make the most of it.