How I ended up shooting with Nikon and other life lessons

Oddly, my story, doesn’t back to when I first worked at a camera shop in 1989, where I first was lent an Olympus OM-10 and 50mm f/1.8 lens but to 12 years later, when I first bought a Nikon SLR.

There is a reason why I mention the camera shop though and it is important. When I started at the camera shop, I knew nothing about photography but the manager said that he would teach me. This wasn’t the case, what he did instead was to give me a big white book to read, an Olympus OM-10 and a couple of rolls of film. Now one of the issues was that I was dyslexic and the book was not particularly accessible. So I just took lots of bad photos.

After 3 months I was sacked and told to that I had not photographic talent and to something more applicable to my skill set, the managers exact words were ‘why don’t you go and stack shelves at Sainsburys’.

This was a bit of a body blow and I really took it to heart.

Around 1994, my mothers partner passed away. He was an avid and at one time professional photographer (He also was one of the designers of the DB5 used in Goldfinger and his company built the rail system used in the volcano scene for You only live twice). He used Nikon cameras and once he passed away, my mother inherited his old photographic equipment and asked if I wanted them. Fool’ishly, with the worlds of my former manager, I declined and my mum sold the camera and lenses for next to nothing.

Moving on a couple of years and a few things had changed. I had just quit another working for Mencap, was suffering from depression and I had an idea that I could become a film maker. So I went to college and then university, finally getting my degree in 2001.

During my time at university, I had ended up working as a cameraman on most of our student productions. So I had thought that becoming a professional cameraman, would be a good idea.

At the time, ideally I would have liked to have bought a video camera but a decent camera, without lenses, cost several thousand pounds, which I definitely didn’t have but as a reward for getting my degree, I did have enough money to buy a camera.

Of course this was before digital and at the time Curry’s was selling the Nikon F65 camera with a combination of Nikkor 28–80mm f/3.5–5.6 and 70–300mm f/4–5.6 lenses for a rather low price.

My thought process was that I could keep my technical eye in, whilst looking for a job as a cameraman. Which I did, unfortunately, it took me much longer to break into television than I could really imagine.

So we have move forward to around may 2005. I had steadily become a decent amateur photographer by this time but still hadn’t found a way into the film or TV industry, though I had photographed my first wedding the year before.

I was doing quite a lot of photography by then and it was getting rather expensive developing film each week. I had started to read about digital cameras and how they were making dramatic strides in quality and I worked out that it would be much cheaper to buy a DSLR and memory card, than just spending £10 a week on film and developing.

At the time, several companies were bringing out DSLR’s, with the two best non professional level cameras being the Nikon D70s and the Canon 300D (Nikon also had the D200 and this was before Canon released the D5).

The Canon 300D had more megapixels (megapixels were a thing back then) but the D70s was a better rounded camera (8mp vs 6mp). So, a combination of me already using a Nikon SLR, along with the better design of the D70s, meant that I ended up buying one and since then I have never looked back.

This has been a bit of a long winded story but I think there are valuable lessons to be learnt, particularly looking at this 20 or 30 years on.

The first is don’t be negative with people. Whilst the manager of the camera store may have given me an opportunity to try photography for the first time and for that I should be grateful, his comments were out of order and it shows the negative effect that someone can have on you.

He may have thought he was helping me but the effect but he wasn’t and he put me off of photography for a dozen years. As a professional photographer, nearing his 50’s, I now know what he should have said to me because I have been in that position mentoring someone.

Firstly, never ‘just’ give someone a book, advise them on a book but interacting with a person will make a massive difference and make the learning process so much faster. The manager was an award winning photographer but in the 3 months I worked for him, he never gave me any useful advise.

So now, I will always try and help anyone, I take on to mentor (and you don’t just have to be new to have a mentor). I give advise and honestly critique someones photos (whilst not being brutal if the image is bad). I try to be positive about the persons photography and fingers crossed I have been a positive influence on a number of photographers.

So for anyone reading this, whether it is to do with photography or anything else, when someone wants help, try and help in a positive manner.

Popping onto the garden

Today I have been writing a talk that I am doing tomorrow morning. I thought that I would take a break and pop into the garden with my macro lens (one of the magazines I have at the house featured Kutub Uddin, an amazing nature and macro photographer). Over the years I have done several macro shoots but much less so recently.

So when I got into the garden, just flying around was this little lady, who just landed a few seconds later and posed for me, for quite some time.

Best viewed full size

Best viewed full size

Compression, portraits and lenses.

Lots of photographers buy lenses for shoot portraiture. In this post I will compare 4 different focal lengths and show how the compression the different lenses can effect the way a person looks in a photo.

The 4 lenses I used were the Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 Nokton, the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4, Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 and the Fujifilm 90mm f/2 (137mm 35mm equivalent). Bokah is not a factor and I tried to shoot at the same settings, though I had to change the settings on the Fujifilm because the X-H1 has a base ISO of 100.

Now it should be noted that this test is not scientific and I haven’t got the exact same size head in all the images. This will make a difference to the amount of compression that you get from a lens because it is the distance between the camera and subject that effects the amount of compression but I have tried to get the distances relatively accurate and hopefully you will be able to see the differences between lenses.

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The photos, top to bottom in order are the 58mm, 85mm, 105mm and finally the 90mm (137mm). As you can see the longer the focal length, the more please the look of the subject looks. With the nose and cheek bones, not being as exaggerate with the 90mm (137mm) lens compared to the 58mm . As I said above this is down to the distance between subject and camera. If I placed all 4 lenses at the same distance, whilst the longer lenses would show less of the subject, the compression would be the same.

With the Fujifilm X-H1 with its APS-C size sensor gives you a 1.5x crop factor, which is why the lens goes from a 90mm to a 137mm lens when you are comparing against a 35mm sensored camera, as you have to step further back to get the equivilent image.

So for headshots a longer focal length generally looks more flattering but when shooting longer portraits you are not just limited to long focal lengths because the distance between camera and subject is great, so the distortion is not so great. Which is why a lot of photographers like to shoot with a 35mm when shooting fashion 3/4 or full length portraits.









The business of photography

As a photographer I like to think of myself as an artist but the reality is being a professional photographer is more about being a business person. This year has been eye opening for me in so many ways and learning more about business, has been the most important thing (I have to give members of 4networking Kent huge credit for their help and support this year, as well as SWPP and The Master Photographers Association (The MPA) with the talks they have done.

About this post
I have just been doing my calculations as to what I need to be earning each year to survive as a photographic/video business and the calculations come out at around £30,000+ (and this is without a photographic studio).


Reality
So any aspiring photographer should be looking to earn at least £30k per year if not more. Not every day is going to be a shooting day. Most photographers I know spend 70% of their time working on other areas of their photography, from editing, to marketing to accounting. plus there are those other unforseen things that happen, which can fill a day up.

I was at a talk earlier this year given by a very good photographer and his suggested earnings for a shoot is around £1000 per day to be able to cover all the other stuff a photographer does when not shooting and any other stuff, with the amount of shooting days being between 70-100 (of course there will be days when you don't earn that £1000).

Currently my pricing

£175 3 Professional level headshots (2 setups)

£200* 1 hour shoot (small business shoot, not available on location shoots)

£375* 2 hour shoot (small business shoot)

£475* 3 hour shoot (small business shoot)

£550* Half days shoots (4 hours)

£1000* for a full day

Editing: I charge a flat rate of £50 and hour on all except the headshots
* Plus fuel costs and toll, London congestion charge (when need)

With a corporate shoot, I will always either charge half or full days price, plus editing time.

With a smaller businesses shoot, it isn’t practical to charge half or full day but a lot is dependant on the type of job. What should be noted is, whilst a client may want a 1 hours shoot, that really isn’t practical for most jobs and completely impractical for any shoot on location. So I generally don’t recommend a 1 hour shoot (the second reason I don’t recommend a 1 hour shoot, is because the client will want to rush to get the photos done, which will lead to a lower quality product.

The final part to note about charging by set hours or for shooting headshots is, unless you have several clients set up one after another (this is not practical on locations jobs) then you are losing either half or a full day (editing may take up some of that time) per job.

For other kinds of photography I charge differently depending on what the shoot is and for. Currently my pricing veries for certain shoots (Dog photography, themed shoots) and I am looking to move more over to selling prints (with the individual jpeg supplied (there are good reasons for this but I will cover that in another post)). This gives the client various options for what they want. I am hoping to have pricings done by the end of November for this)

Service
So far I have covered mainly costs but there is a lot more to the photographic industry. The client doesn’t care about the reasons why you charge a certain amount, more what you can offer as a service.

The most important thing for most photographers is the quality of image but other areas are just as important, the quality of service, the interaction between the photographer and client, viewing and selection of images, timely delivery of the images, good quality packaging and prints. Standing out offering more and better will more likely lead to more satisfied customers who are more likely to return and also recommend you as a photographer to their friends and or clients.

Goals
The other area I have been considering recently is the future (that sounds rather grand). What are my goals and what do I want to be photographing in the future. Just saying I want to make a certain amount of money shouldn’t be enough.

For me my 2-3 year goal is to have my own studio. This is expensive, but will give me more options around the kinds of photography I want to offer and the service I want to give, it would also give me a certain amount of legitimacy to the public.

Finishing
I am sure there is a lot more that I could write but it is 5.35am and I still need to proof read this post and publish. I am going to be doing some more posts around this post soon and will be working on a vlog post which I hope to post soon.

Thank you
I also have some people who I really need to thank, who have really made a massive difference in the way I think about myself and the way I work and how I need to think about business

Mike Dyson
Mark Brown
Reg Goslin

Whilst. there have been numerous people who have been very supportive (Alexander Low, Karen Chambers stand out) MIke, Mark and Reg you have been exceptionally helpful in giving positive advise and support, which has made me think differently about myself and business.

I would also like to thank Jamie Morgan for introducing me to The MPA and the support you have given.

Camera phone (mobile photography)

I have been rather harsh in my views on mobile phones and their cameras and whilst I still think they have many limitations.  I do think they are great for certain kinds of photography.

So I thought I would just post a couple of images taken with my Samsung Galaxy Note 4.  The Note 4 has been around for a few years but was class leading when it came out and that included its camera.  Now camera phone technology has come along way in the last couple of years, with multiple lenses and various extra features but with the main lens, not much is different.  The Note 4 has a 16mp sensor, which is more than enough (it is 10mp more than my first DSLR).  The sensor doesn't have the low light ability or dynamic range of a DSLR or mirrorless camera but if you know what you are doing, that doesn't hugely matter.  

My local park

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Phone are great for landscape photos, their lenses are wide and because of their size, very easy to carry around.

This photo was taken whilst walking my dog on a crisp winters morning.  I shot down low to separate the trees on the left from the main tree.  The sun was behind me, which lit the tree nicely.  Now if am going to critique this photo properly, I would say the problems are on the right of the image.  The first problem is the trees on the right, which are very distinctive in the image because of the amount of sun light falling on them.  In theory I could change this in Photoshop, by either reducing the light or if my Photoshop skills were good enough removing the trees completely.  The second issue is the vapour trails left by planes flying from London City Airport.  Again this issue could easily be resolved buy editing way the trails. 

The second image is probably the favourite I have taken with my phone and again involves Reggie

Reggie's Holiday

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This second photo I have edited and I feel it is a very strong photo for a variety of reasons.

I recently went down to Margate with Reggie.  It has been over 6 months since my mother passed away and she always love living in Westbrooke and taking her dog Jamie to the beach.  Reggie, has only been to the beach once before and the tide was out, so he didn't go anywhere near the sea.

This time the tide was in and he was a little afraid to go near the water. Apart of the beach at Westbrook doesn't have the tide come fully in, so I took Reggie onto the beach.  Whilst walking, next to the incoming tide, Reggie did various things, the first being to taste the water (he didn't like that much), then run away from the waves, which at first scared him a little.

We then got to a point where the beach was slightly lower and the tide had reached the sea wall.  Now I am slightly devious and wondered if Reggie would go into the water (as you can see it isn't very deep), so I walked towards the water and Reggie took a few steps in (I of course stopped).  To my surprise Reggie, continued going further (at one point laying down (he soon realised this wasn't a good idea).  Reggie continued walking around and I took various photos.  This was the second last photo before he decided he had had enough.

So the first important part of this photo for me, is meaning and memory.  I will always have this image and will remember the day because of it.

The second part of this photo is, it is a good photo, with everything done well.  The lighting is nice, and the sky to sea ratio works well.  I took the photo from low, so Reggie is on the top right thirds, looking left.  The waves drive the viewers view to Reggie and the brightest part of the image is Reggie's face.  There are a contrast of colours and tones, with the blue sky and white cloud, contrasting well with the sea, seaweed and beige sand. 

Now in post production I have done a few things.  I have slightly cropped the image.  I have also removed the ships and wind turbines from the image.  I have also removed the fencing on from the island, which was a unnatural distraction.

For me this is almost the perfect photo to sum up the day and it means a huge amount to me.  It was only 1 moment in a day but that moment was for me perfect and I have it for the rest of my life.

Equipment 2018: Nikon f mount

As a professional photographer, I can get a good photo from pretty much any camera but to get the best shots a photographer need to have the right equipment for the photography they are doing.  Here is a list of the camera and lenses I use in 2018, focusing on Nikon F mount.

For anyone not in the know about what the Nikon F mount is, it is the mount that attaches lens to camera.

Camera: Nikon D800

The D800 was a revolutionary camera in 2012 and is still a very good camera in 2018.  What made the camera stand out so much was the 36mp sensor, which at the time was unheard of in a DSLR.  It wasn't just the 36mp but the whole sensor's performance, giving similar low light performance to the Nikon D700.  The D800 isn't the fastest camera, it doesn't have the best autofocus and the video is pretty basic but it is great photography camera.

Prime lenses
Tamron 35mm f/1.8
Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 Nokton
Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus
Nikon 105mm f/1.4E ED

Zoom lenses
Nikkor 16-35mm f/4
Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G
Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G

I have lots of lenses but these are the lenses that are in my camera bag.  I am not really a landscape photographer, so you will see a distinct lack of wider lenses, with the 16-35mm f/4 being the only ultra wide I have.  Most of the photos I take are portraits, so I have 2 very good portrait lenses and the older Voigtlander 58mm, which is a lovely lens.  The 35mm was just a lens I bought to experiment with but I found I used it quite often.

 

Video

At this moment, I should be editing but sometimes it is a little hard to get into the swing of things, so I thought I would write a blog post instead.

I graduated Univeristy in 2001 with a degree in video production. I loved watching films and still remember the first time I watched, Star Wars (in the cinema), Time Bandits (hired on video from the library on a Saturday afternoon) or Blade Runner (watched in my bedroom on a small tv screen).

 I think I shocked my mum when I said I was going to do my degree in film making and I am sure she didn't take me seriously.  My only qualification was in Caring, so going back to college and then to university was a bit of a stretch.  My year at college was great and I learnt a lot, going to university was a bit different, firstly that the course (particularly the practical side) wasn't that great and secondly the numbers of students taking the course was silly, compared to the amount of equipment available but despite several set backs for various reason (both mine and the universities fault) I ended up getting my degree.

So after leaving university, I had lots of dreams but no idea how to break into the film industry. As a reward for passing my degree, I bought myself an SLR (Nikon F65, which came with 2 kit lenses).  The main reason I got the camera was because I couldn't afford a video camera amd I thought that I could keep my visual eye in whilst I looked for a job in the video industry.

Cameraman at Passion TV (no, it wasn't a dodgy porn site)

Cameraman at Passion TV (no, it wasn't a dodgy porn site)

It took much longer than I had hoped to break into video production, I worked various jobs outside the industry and did small jobs in the industry to get experience.  Somehow I floated towards camera work, which fitted my skillset,  My big break was working for Passion TV, it was a very small company and everyone had to chip in.  I shot all sorts of different things from vox pop interviews to travel documentaries. Looking back now, I wasn't very good but I did learn a lot.  I then worked as a freelance cameraman on various jobs, filming live shows and fitness photography but I didn't feel that I was going in the direction I wanted as a cameraman.

 During this time, I found that I much more enjoyed the freedom and creativity of photography and disliked the rush to get everything done with video, which would often come at the expense of quality.  The work was also rather dull and a bit soul destroying, so in 2010 I decided to focus exclusively on my photography and haven't touched video since.

Whilst I can't say my time in the TV/video industry, was a big success, I did learn a huge mount.   Probably the 2 biggest things I took away  had nothing to do with filming, it was much more to do with organising equipment for shoots and keeping equipment in good order.  

Taking a break whilst filming a travel documentary in Israel (shot at Masada)

Taking a break whilst filming a travel documentary in Israel (shot at Masada)

Come forward to 2018 and I have just bought the Fujifilm X-H1.  Their first camera aimed at video. I am not going to say that the X-H1 is the best video camera on the market, it still has certain limitations. in many ways the Panasonic GH5 and Sony 7 series are superior to the Fuji but the Fuji X-H1 is a great photography camera, with good build, lovely lenses and decent/good video.  Fujifilm also has great customer service and whilst the X-H1 does have a few issue I am sure these will be addressed in firmware updates (they are very good at that kind of thing).

Now, this is not a review of the Fujifilm X-H1, I have only had it a week and am still learning the basics of the camera but it does mean I have a toe back in video again and I am confident that I will be much better the second time around.

My lighting knowledge and experience with lenses is much greater. I am now much more confident with my framing and whilst photography and video are different, the simularities are enough that I know I can translate one from the other.

Now, when I say I have my toe in, I really mean that. I am not suddenly going to switch all my photography gear over to Fujifilm and I really don't have the lighting or sound equipment to do professional video production or the experience with non-linier editing systems.

What I hope to get back over the next few weeks and months is a basic ability with video. Certainly, you will see more video on my site, hopefully some vlog posts and some reviews of some of my photography gear but I love my photography too much to every want to replace it with video.

At this moment, I should be editing but sometimes it is a little hard to get into the swing of things, so I thought I would write a blog post instead.

I graduated Univeristy in 2001 with a degree in video production. I loved watching films and will always remember the first time I watched, Star Wars (in the cinema), Time Bandits (hired on video from the library) or Blade Runner (watched in my bedroom at 10:30pm on a small tv screen in my bedroom). I think I shocked my mum when I said I was going to do my degree in film making and I am sure she didn't take me seriously.

So several years later I have a piece of paper, no job and no idea how to break into the film industry. As a reward for passing my degree, I buy myself an SLR (Nikon D65, which came with 2 kit lenses). I bought the photography camera because I couldn't afford to video camera and my thought prosess was that I could keep my visual eye in whilst I looked for a job in the video industry.

It took much longer than I had hoped to break into video production and I ended up working as a cameraman. This fitted my skillset quite well and I shot all sorts of different things from fitness videos to travel documentaries. Looking back now, I wasn't very good but I did learn a lot, which I later took into my photography career.

The 2 biggest things I learnt had nothing to do with filming, it was much more to do with organising equipment for shoots and keeping equipment in good order, something that has been very useful over the years.

Whilst I was breaking into the TV industry, my experience and knowledge of photography grew. I found that I much more enjoyed the freedom and creativity of photography and I really disliked the rush to get everything done with video, which would often come at the expense of quality and I really wasn't a fun of video editing.

So around 2010 I decided that I would be a professional photographer instead of a cameraman and for several years I never touched video. Digital video had been around for a while and the Canon 5Dmk2 had been out for a while but I can't say I was particularly a fan of the camera, it had the full frame sensor, used lenses and had ok video quality but I was never a bit fan and felt the limitations substantial. I could see the potential in video but I thought it would take several years before video came up to the standard that I would be happy with.

Come forward to 2018 and I have just bought the Fujifilm X-H1, Fujifilms first camera aimed at video. I am not going to say that the X-H1 is the best video camera on the market, it still has certain limitations, in many ways the Panasonic GH5 and Sony 7 series are superior to the Fuji but the Fuji has advantages in other areas and I know that Fuji will address a lot of these issue in firmware updates (they are very good at that kind of thing).

Now, this is not a review of the Fujifilm X-H1, I have only had it a week and am still learning the basics of the camera but it does mean I have a toe back in video again and I am confident that I will be much better the second time around.

My lighting knowledge and experience with lenses is much greater. I am now much more confident with my framing and whilst photography and video are different, the simularities are enough that I know I can translate one from the other.

Now, when I say I have my toe in, I really mean that. I am not suddenly going to switch all my photography gear over to Fujifilm and I really don't have the lighting or sound equipment to do professional video production or the experience with non-linier editing systems.

Hopefully you wiill see more video on my site, hopefully some vlog posts and some reviews of some of my photography gear but I love my photography too much to every want to replace it with video.

If that goes well then maybe you will see me do some more advanced projects.  We will see!

The Photography Show, customer service and the lack of a nights sleep

It is 3:30am and I am laying in what feels like the worlds most uncomfortable bed in Birmingham.  Yesterday I was at The Photography Show at the NEC.  The Photography Show is the biggest show of its type in the UK, with over 30'000 attendees each year, as the name suggests it is all about photography.  I have gone to the event for for quite a few years, since before it was actually known as The Photography Show and was called Focus on Imaging (if I remember correctly).  

The show is a hybrid of talks and classes by professional photographers and most of the photography equipment companies and shops trying to sell you their wares.  For me the stand out part of the conference is the Pro Conference, where several speakers, talk to a bunch of professional photographers about various topics related to the industry.

For me the most interesting talk was done by a photographer called Paul Wilkinson who did a talk on 'Perfect Pitch: Setting the right price for the service that you offer'.  It was an exceptional talk, it really wasn't about charging the right price for photography (though it was).  It was more about the service that he gives as a photographer to the customer and how it relates to how he charges.  

So how does this relate to me being up at 3:30am (now nearly 4am)?  I was up yesterday at 4:45am, drove to Birmingham, attended the show to 7pm and then went to the hotel (I won't say which, as this is not what the post is about). When I got into the room, the first thing I noticed was 2 out of the 4 lights in the bedroom are not working, later upon connecting to the internet, I found the internet was painfully slow, both those were a nuisance but neither of these things will keep me awake at night.  What will though is a rock hard uncomfortable bed, which has pretty much kept me awake for the majority of the evening.

This is a rather extreme example of a hotel not providing the service, that it offered but it feels like an interesting (and maybe floored) metaphor for what Paul Wilkinson was talking about.  It isn't just about providing a service, it is about providing a quality service, which makes people come back to you and also recommend you to another customer.  So in this case, I wouldn't come back to the same hotel and I definitely wouldn't recommend this company to another individual (unless I really didn't like them).

A more interesting example.  Will be Fujifilm and Wex Photo/Video.  I have owned an Fuji X-E1 for a number of years, it has been an excellent camera.  So impressed by the system, I have bought a Fuji X-H1, instead of the Nikon D850 (Nikon who I have been with for 18 years).  I bought the camera from Wex Photo/Video, which used to be two separate companies, Wex and Calumet.  Since the 2 companies have merged I have been very impressed by the company.  The staff have been excellent, with the customer service being far superior to when it was Calumet, the prices have been good and I have been impressed by the new store in London.

So having bought the camera, I take it back to the hotel and do an unboxing video for the camera (which won't be seen by the world, it was just a test of my presenting skills).  As I opened up the very well packaged Fuji box, I started to notice something.  The plugs were not UK standard, which is a bit of a fumble on Fuji's part.  So now I have a camera and no way of charging the batteries which power the camera.

So where do I stand now?  Because of my previous experience with Fujifilm I am willing to give the company some leeway and between Fujifilm and Wex I am confident that the issue will be sorted satisfactory.  Fujifilm's and Wex's customer service, as bought them some customer loyalty.  

People and companies are not perfect, everyone makes mistakes but a strong positive initial and then follow up service, installs loyalty and high expectations.  A mistake was made and hopefully it will be rectified.  In the morning (sensible morning, not the 4:52am it is now), I will ring up Wex and enquire what to do, whether I should take the camera back to the show to be exchanged or whether I should speak to Fujifilm about the issue and have them send me out the correct plugs.

Of course that will be in a few hours time and of course I will update this blog (and maybe add some photos) as to what happens with the camera, maybe do a review of the camera and update everyone on day 2 (actually day 4) of The Photography Show.

UPDATE

When I went back to The Photography Show this morning, I popped up to the Fujifilm stand with the boxed camera.  After checking the contents, they apologised and gave me one of their plugs and will mail me another in the next few days.  So problem solved. 

The most useful non photographic items in my photography bag (Part 1)

Leatherman (PST II or Charge TTi)

I bought my first leatherman as a birthday present to myself in 1999 and it has been one of the best buys I can remember. The PST II (Pocket survival tool) is a non locking multi-tool, with 15 different tools. I have used it for 101 things in my time and it is still as practical now as it was 18+ years ago.

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Tools
1. 2.9” 420HC* Combo blade (non locking)
2. Needle nose pliers
3. Regular Pliers
4. Hard wire cutters
5. Wire cutters
6. Spring-action scissors

7. Tin opener
8. Bottle opener
9. Phillips Screwdriver
10. Flat head screwdriver (small)
11. Flat head screwdriver (medium)
12. Flat head screwdriver (large)
13. Diamond file
14. Wood/Metal file
15. Ruler (8”)

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Whilst the PST II is a great multi-tool it isn't perfect, the grip to use the pliers isn't particularly comfortable and whilst having a non locking blade, is practical from a everyday carrying perspective (not that I do), the fact that it can't lock can be a pain, when using various tools. Particularly the screw drive function.

Due to the design issues. I decided to upgrade my leatherman and went for the top of the line Charge TTi*** (again it was a birthday present). The Charge is a much newer design, it has more tools, is much more comfortable in the hand and has the option of changing tools.

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1. 2.9” S30V** Knife (locking)
2. Needlenose pliers
3. Regular pliers
4. (replaceable) Hard wire cutters
5. (replaceable) Wire cutters
6. Electrical crimper
7. Wire stripper
8. Spring-action scissors (locking)
9. Tin opener (locking)
10. Bottle opener (locking)
11. 420HC* Serrated knife (locking)
12. Cutting Hook (part of serrated knife)
13. Saw (locking)
14. Diamond coated file (locking)
15. Wood/Metal file (locking)
16. Large bit driver (locking)
17. Small bit driver (locking)

18. Medium screwdriver (locking)
19. Ruler (8”/19cm)

leatherman (4 of 4).jpg


One important thing to note about the Leatherman Charge TTi, as with most modern Leatherman tools, it that the tool, including the knives lock. In the UK, locking knives are illegal to carry around if you do not have a good reason for carrying. So as a photographer, on a photo shoot, it would be legal for me to carry the Charge multi-tool. If during the shoot I had to go to a shop, I wouldn't be allowed to carry the Charge and could be arrested. This makes carrying a the Charge, or any similar multi-tool a big responsibility and the only time the multi-tool would be on my belt would be whilst setting up, doing the shoot and packing away.

Of course having the locking tool makes the Charge TTi much more practical and safer to use and with the big and small bit driver, I also get the option to add different tools (flat head, pozi, Philips, torx, hex bits).

Whilst the Charge is better than the PST II, in a couple of areas the older multi-tool does still have an advantage, it is lighter, the scissors are better and the leather case is far superior.

So as a general tool I would always advise a photographer to have a multi-tool of some sort.  I doesn't have to be Leatherman, there are various other companies, who make very good multi-tools but for me, Leatherman are maybe the best but be aware of the law if you do decide to buy a locking knife.

* 420 HC is the kind of stainless steel used
** S30 V is a powder made stainless steel, which will keep an edge far longer than the 420HC stainless steel.
***Whilst the Leatherman Charge TTi is the top of the line multi-tool, for most people I would probably recommend the Leatherman Wave+ which is very similar but without the S30V knife (a normal 420HC) and it doesn't have titanium (it is worth noting that Joe McNally uses a Leatherman Wave).

Nikon 105mm f/1.4E ED vs Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus f/1.4 and f/2 (messing around)

Before anything else this is not a scientific test but I thought it might be interesting for people to see the difference between the Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E ED and the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus.  

Well today is my birthday and it is raining so what does a person do?  Well in my case I test out my new Nikkor f/1.4E ED against my old favourite, the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus.  This is not a scientific shoot, the setting for the first shot are slightly different but it should show the simularities and differences between the 2 lenses at f/1.4 and f/2


Lighting Bowens XMT500 with diffuser.  As these are self portraits, the images are not exactly the same (I did bring the 85mm forward a bit but didn't get 100% accurate). Editing with Capture One Pro 9 (I have reduced the first image by 0.13 exposure to try and keeps the images similar) Otherwise I have only converted them in to Jpeg.
 

Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E ED: Shutter speed 1/320, Aperture, f/1,4, ISO 100

Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E ED: Shutter speed 1/320, Aperture, f/1,4, ISO 100

Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 E ED Shutter speed 1/500, Aperture f/2, ISO 100

Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 E ED Shutter speed 1/500, Aperture f/2, ISO 100

Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus:  Shutter speed 1/500, Aperture f/1.4 ISO 100

Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus:  Shutter speed 1/500, Aperture f/1.4 ISO 100

Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus:  Shutter speed 1/500, Aperture f/2 ISO 100

Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus:  Shutter speed 1/500, Aperture f/2 ISO 100

Larger versions of the images can be seen on Flickr

Great modern female photographer

 Traditionally, photography has been a male dominated industry but there have been many great female photographers, such as Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange and more recently Annie Leibovitz, who is one of the most famous and successful photographers in the world.

There are many other great current female photographers, who's work I love. So I thought I would place some links to their websites for you to see.

One thing you will see with all the photographers listed are their ability to create a fully formed image, where it isn't just the photography that is good. The styling, hair and make up and hint or sense of story are just as important to the image.

Kirsty Mitchell is one of my favourite photographers, though she herself does not describe herself as a photographer. She has a fashion background and this can be seen in her images, which are stunning: https://kirstymitchellphotography.com/
 

Zhang Jingna is another photographer who's work I have loved for several years. Her style of photography has developed over the years and is generally very clean. It is very fashion based but done extremely well: http://www.zhangjingna.com

Very much a rising talent in the photography work Dixie Dixon, is a great photographer. She is very knowledgeable about her photography but also studied business at university and this is extremely important for most photographers: http://www.dixiedixon.com/

Sue Bryce is another wonderful photographer who's work stands out against the crowd, her work has amazing atmosphere and she is able to bring the best out of her subjects: http://www.inbedwithsue.com/

Most of the photographers you see her are very much fashion based. Lottie Davies has the same clean feel many of the fashion photographers but her work has an added artistic quality but listening to her talk at The Photography Show she sees herself very much as a working photographer who does award winning photography and not as an artistic photographer: http://www.lottiedavies.com/

Amani Alshaali creates some wonderful atmospheric imagery: http://www.amanialshaali.com/
 

Natalie Dybisz is one half of Miss Aniela, a fine-art/fashion/commercial photography team. As with most of the photographers you will see, the work feels very clean but has a lot of imagination and creates an image that lets you into a small world of the photographers creation: http://www.missaniela.com/

Lara Jade is another exciting young talent who has been making waves over the last few years. I see her work as similar in style to Zhang Jingna but that is to take nothing way from her ability: http://larajade.co.uk/

Last but definitely not least is Linsday Adler. One of the most creative photographers of this generation she does wonderful photographer, using colour and atmosphere. Her works are a joy to view: http://www.lindsayadlerphotography.com

I am sure I have only just touched the surface when it comes to female talent and you will notice that many of the photographers I have highlighted shoot a fashion style of photography. They are all slightly different from each other though but they bring equal amounts of quality to their work.

Local woods, A story of life, death and renewal

Photo's often tell a story, one which is the photographers creation.  Below are 4 images,  two taken in March and two in May.   Both show the same wood but the way the images have been photographed, the time of day they were shot and then finally, the way they have been edited is all a way to enhance the story.

May woods

The top photo, was shot in the early evening, the sun shines through the trees, the image below, was shot on a misty morning, with the sun trying to break through.  I have enhanced the colours and clarity in the top image, whilst desaturating the image below.  Finally, the top image is shot close up, showing all the plant life, whilst with the image below,  has been kept wide, most of the trees are bare and the mist gives the image a spooky feeling. 

March wood

It is amazing just what a difference a few months make.  

March trees

The next two images, show the same contrast as the first two but whilst the bottom image shows all the colour, it also shows the stump of a long dead tree, it is a contrast of new life and death.  Of course, the bluebells will only last a short time before they wither away.  Of course their job will have done and we will see more bluebells again next year.  The above image, shows the trees almost lifeless but each year, the leaves come back, this has been happening for hundreds of years, but eventually they will die, maybe cut down, like the tree below.  It is the story of life.

life and death

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