Monday, 26 May 2014

Canon News: Pair of wide-angle lenses announced

In what has been billed by Canon as the 'year of the lens' (we're still waiting, but perhaps another reason to look forward to the World Cup!), Canon have announced two new wide angle lenses into their extensive line-up of EF lenses for EOS DLSRs.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

  • High performance L-series ultra-wide zoom lens in a compact design and Optical Image Stabilizer for up to four stops of correction*.
  • Three aspheric lens elements, including a large-diameter aspheric lens, help correct aberration.
  • Two UD lens elements help reduce chromatic aberration from the center to the periphery throughout the entire zoom range for excellent image quality with high resolution and contrast.
  • Optimized lens coatings help provide excellent color balance while also helping to minimize ghosting.
  • Highly resistant to dust and water intrusion, enabling shooting even in harsh conditions**.
  • Inner focusing and ring USM for silent, fast and accurate autofocusing.
  • Circular aperture (9 blades) delivers beautiful, soft backgrounds.
  • Minimum focusing distance of 0.92 ft/0.28m across entire zoom range.
  • Full-time manual focus allows manual focus adjustment while in AF Mode.

    * Based on CIPS (Camera & Imaging Products Association) standards. Testing performed using EOS-1D X Digital SLR camera at focal length of 35mm (35mm equivalent).
    ** Requires a Canon PROTECT filter (sold separately) to be mounted.

I'm lucky enough to have the f/2.8 version of this lens (which doesn't have image stabilisation), and found it a really useful focal range - 35mm is useful as a walkaround lens, and 16mm really does give an impressively wide persepctive (on a full-frame body, at least).

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM

Designed only for cameras with the APS-C sensor (cropped), this lens creates an incredibly wide perspective.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM


  • EF-S ultra wide zoom lens with an impressive starting focal length (16mm in 35mm equivalence).
  • Compact design made possible by a new 4 group zoom optical system.
  • A stepping motor (STM) and newly-designed focus mechanism support the Canon EOS Movie Servo AF function to provide smooth and quiet continuous AF during video recording, as well as when shooting photos.
  • A large diameter element and an aspherical lens element help correct aberration to achieve higher image quality
  • One UD lens element helps reduce chromatic aberration throughout the zoom range for excellent image quality with high resolution and contrast.
  • Optical Image Stabilizer for up to four stops of correction*.
  • Enhanced lens coatings help ensure outstanding color balance while minimizing ghosting and flare.
  • Circular aperture (7 blades) creates beautiful, soft backgrounds.
  • Rear focusing system, high-speed CPU and improved AF algorithm allow high speed autofocus.
  • Full-time manual focus allows manual focus adjustment while in AF Mode.

    *Based on CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association) standards. Testing performed using the EOS 7D Digital SLR camera at a focal length of 18mm (29mm in 35mm equivalence).


Canon News: EOS-1D X Firmware v.2.0.3

In the battle of the flagship DSLRs between Canon and Nikon, in January 2014, Canon released updated firmware for their 1D-X, up to version 2.0.3.
Canon EOS 1D-X

The firmware contains a series of updates, with input from professional photographers, and includes:

  • Improves AF accuracy in low-light situations and enhances user control of AF shooting parameters
  • More control of exposure by incorporating wider ISO ranges in automated shooting modes
  • More precise user customization for faster, more intuitive and adaptable performance








Canon USA have created a dedicated series of pages which bring all the enhancements to life a little more.  Check it out here.

UK Cashback

Until the end of June 2014, Canon UK are offering £400 cashback on a  new 1D-X from selected dealers, if you trade-in selected Canon or Nikon bodies.  More information here.

Nikon News: Flagship D4S

In February 2014, Nikon announced a new flagship DSLR, the D4S.  Below, you'll find a little more information about this technological beast.  Their press release says it accommodates the needs of "...professional photographers who sometimes find themselves working under quite severe conditions".  Just to clarify, as an amateur photographer, we too also sometimes find ourselves working under quite severe conditions, e.g. in the last year I've been photographing Snow Leopards at altitude in the Himalayas, and the Northern Lights in the middle of a frozen lake at midnight.  Both were colder than -25 degrees Celsius at times!  Anyway, back to the camera!



Nikon D4S
Autofocus

Key for any wildlife or sports photographer is autofocus behaving quickly, and predictably, even if the subject isn't!  The D4S has enhancements compared to its D4 predecessor, with faster initiation, plus a new 'Group Area AF', using five autofocus points, one specified by the photographer.

Image processing

"The new EXPEED 4 image-processing engine, a new Nikon FX-format CMOS image sensor, and an effective pixel count of 16.2-million pixels...", accompanied by an ISO range from 100-25,600 (extendable to a massive range of 50-409,600) ensure that image you capture is processed quickly and accurately.

Movie recording

The D4S supports a "frame size of 1920 x 1080 with a frame rate of 50p or 60p", with various enhancements to improve the quality of the recording.


Additionally, there are improvements to LAN connectivity, a redesigned grip and a 12-bit RAW format.

You'll find a lot more information here.

Nikon News: 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR and TC-14E III Teleconverter annonuced

Nikon have recently announced a new fast telephoto lens, alongside an upgraded teleconverter.

AF-S NIKKOR 400mm F/2.8E FL ED VR

AF-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

 Key Features:
  • A super-telephoto fixed focal length (prime) lens with a focal length of 400mm*1 and a maximum aperture of f/2.8 compatible with Nikon FX-format digital SLR cameras
  • Superior optical performance from a new optical design with which fluorite lens elements (2), ED lens elements (2), and Nano Crystal Coat have been adopted
  • A lighter weight from the adoption of fluorite lens elements and components made of a magnesium alloy
  • Adoption of a tripod collar ring utilizing bearings
  • Equipped with an electro-magnetic aperture mechanism for more stable auto-exposure with high-speed continuous shooting
  • Equipped with a vibration reduction (VR) function for camera shake compensation equivalent to a 4.0-stop*2 increase in shutter speed
  • Adoption of SPORT VR mode
  • Adoption of meniscus protective glass with a fluorine coat, produced using a process exclusive to Nikon for greater durability and superior resistance to water and oils, for the extreme front lens element
*1When used with a Nikon DX-format digital SLR camera, the effective angle of view is equivalent to that of a lens with a 600mm focal length in 35mm [135] format. 
*2NORMAL mode; measured in accordance with CIPA standards.

AF-S TELECONVERTER TC-14E III

AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III
  • A 1.4x teleconverter capable of rendering performance close to that of the master lens with shooting at maximum aperture
  • Adoption of a fluorine coat, produced with a process exclusive to Nikon, for the extreme front and rear lens surfaces


 




Sunday, 13 April 2014

London Marathon 2014

Today, I went up to London to watch the Marathon, and cheer-on the incredible efforts from all the runners.  

I arrived in Bermondsey just in time to see the elite women pass:


Dibaba, just behind Kiplagat, the eventual winner
The women were interspersed with some visually impaired runners, who each had a guide - some of which were larger than others:


Wilson Kipsang eventually won the men's marathon, with a course record of 2:04.27:
Wilson Kipsang
... and he was followed by Mo Farah, who finished 8th, at 2:08:21.

#FlyMo Mo Farah
... and then all the rest of the runners went passed...
Weary legs...
Each runner, with their own personal victory

Thirsty work...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Snow Leopard Quest

In February 2014, I was lucky enough to join an expedition to try to photograph the elusive Snow Leopard (uncia uncia), in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas.  

Snow leopards spend a large part of the year at very high impenetrable altitudes, so the trip was timed when they would come down to lower altitudes - still pretty high though - we camped at around 3,700m.

The snow leopard has unfortunately become a symbol of conservation, with it being persecuted and poached by humans, whilst suffering habitat loss.  There are significantly less than 10,000 animals left in the wild, and they are on the IUCN's red list of threatened species.  They are often solitary, move around in near darkness, and have the most incredible camouflage.  So, all the ingredients for a disappointing and cold trip!

The trip started by flying to Leh, an isolated town in Northern India.

Leh, Ladakh region of Northern India

We then took 4x4 vehicles into the Hemis High Altitude National Park, until they could go no further, and we set-off by foot, with mules and horses carrying camping gear for us.

Local transport

Mules


The campsite was nestled in a stunning valley, next to a frozen river, with amazingly clear skies at night.  That meant it was pretty cold though - between -25 to -30 degrees Celsius at night, enough to freeze a tube of toothpaste, no less!


Camping in the Hemis High Altitude National Park

My tent, home to my coldest ever nights!

A snow leopard's diet includes Blue Sheep (which seem neither blue, nor sheep-like), but it was encouraging to see several on our trips out from camp:


A Blue Sheep, striking a pose for the camera

A Blue Sheep, pretty confident with itself

A Blue Sheep with a high vantage point

Birdlife was also represented, with Snow Cock, Golden Eagle and Cough:


Snow Cock

Golden Eagle

Cough

Snow Leopards

On our trip, we were accompanied by local guides, who were very experienced in searching for snow leopards, using powerful telescopes to scan the hillsides, often well over a mile away.  The great news was that we not only had a sighting, but it was of a mother, with her two sub-adult cubs!  Here are some photos - underneath in the caption are the number of leopards, as it's not always obvious!

Two snow leopards
Two snow leopards, in very low light (and about a mile away!)

Three Snow Leopards!



At the end of the trip, we had a few hours in Leh:


Leh


Finally, here's a video which shows some of my favourite photos of the trip, alongside a video of the three snow leopards... if you can spot them!




Saturday, 4 January 2014

2013 - My Photography Highlights

Well, another year is over, and suffice to say, this year, I haven't had anywhere near as much time as I'd have liked to devote to photography (or this blog with no updates all year!).  Despite this though, I'm still pleased to give a quick summary of some of the photography I have been able to do.  If you would like to see the images in more detail, you should be able to click one to open up a 'gallery view' to see them larger.

Sri Lanka

Photographing wildlife is still my main interest, so was thrilled to be lucky enough to travel to Sri Lanka, famed for its leopards in Yala National Park.  Unfortunately, they were elusive during our visits, but I was able to photograph a lot of other species.

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Blue Whale

Blue Whale

Indian Fruit Bat

Little Bee-Eater

Mongoose

Monkey with family

Peacock

Sloth Bear

Opening a coconut to drink

Tuk-tuks

The mysterious shadow mountain at Adam's Peak


New England

My other trip this year was to New England in the US, a massively under-rated destination.  Not only is Boston a great City (helped by the Red Sox winning the World Series whilst we were there!), but heading North takes you to both the White Mountains and Acadia National Park.


Moody skies over Boston

Boston Skyline

Cormorants over Boston Skyline

A Gannet taking-off...

Humpback Whale

Autumn / Fall Leaves

Autumn / Fall Colours

Acadia National Park

A Monet Painting

Squirrel

UK Wildlife


Badger

This year, I set(t) myself a target to photograph a badger, an animal that's been in the news due to the 'policy' of culling.  Having found an active sett, it became pretty clear that photographing them in very low light was going to be difficult (which gave me some hope the badger cull would fail!).  Anyway, for now, I have some initial footage which came out OK (video seems to be easier in low light than photography, for reasons I don't really understand!)




Red Squirrel

Another iconic mammal in the UK is the Red Squirrel, persecuted by the invasive Grey.  I was lucky enough to track one down in the wild (not one of these staged snow-scenes for photographers!) and as well as some nice stills, took a video of some break-dancing!




Peregrine Falcon

Finally, I've also found a Peregrine Falcon nest, albeit it is difficult to get close to.  Via a 'Heath Robinson' approach, I managed to get some footage through a telescope.



 
I also got an intruiging shot over my house of two Falcons, with six wings!


A pair of Peregrines, with six wings between them!


Guildford Floods

On Christmas Eve, Guildford (alongside a lot of the local area), suffered some flooding.  I put some footage on YouTube, and it ended-up in a report braoadcast on the BBC London News.  It was also linked to from weatherforecast.co.uk.


Earlier in the year, Huffington Post included one of my sunset images of Guildford in one of their online galleries.

International Space Station (ISS)

Managed a photograph of the International Space Station (ISS), taken from my back garden.  it's the vertical line towards the left of the photo (the other lines are aeroplanes)








Microstock

I didn't upload any images in the last 12 months, so was expecting to see a dramatic fall-off of revenue, as 'freshness' is important in the industry.  However, with a few steady-earners in the back catalogue, and courtesy mainly of Shutterstock, it was enough to make a tiny, tiny dent in the cost of my camera and lenses - £261 in total.



My most popular images for sale at Shutterstock: