Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 - My photography highlights

2014 has been another year where photography has had to take a bit of a back seat for me, for various reasons.  However, there have still been some incredible highlights, including going on a trip of a lifetime, which is where this blog starts.

[Photographs and videos are best enjoyed full screen]

In February, I was lucky enough to go on a expedition to the Himalayas to try to photograph the elusive snow leopard.  It involved camping at altitude with a night-time temperature of -30 degrees Celsius, so not a trip to be taken lightly.

Camping in the Hemis High Altitude National Park

There's more details on my original blog post, and here's a short video with the highlights, including, if you look very closely, a mother snow leopard, with her two sub-adult cubs.

Lake District

In April, I went to the Lake District, and had some luck with some nocturnal wildlife, as it were.



London Marathon



In July, Istanbul beckoned for a long weekend.  I could not recommend it more highly as a city break, with so much to see within a compact area, and an easy-to-use tram service.

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Istanbul Old City, Sultanahmet


In October, a trip to Iceland was coupled with some extremely challenging weather conditions - 120mph winds meaning one day was a complete write-off.  I'd wanted (again!) to photograph the Northern Lights, but cloud cover/rain meant this was very difficult.  In one brief opportunity, we managed to get out into the darkness (and cold!) to get some shots, albeit they aren't great!

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Gullfoss, Iceland

Deer rut

The Red Deer rut is very popular with photographers, so I thought I'd check out some fallow deer instead.  This video shows some males preparing for the rut - well worth watching with sound!

Fallow Deer rutting

Birdlife in the UK

In January, the year started nicely with a sighting of a Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) in Surrey - an infrequent visitor to the UK.  They have incredible plumage in the right light.  Apparently.

Glossy Ibis

 The following week, I tried to get a photograph of birds landing on my feeders, but need to work a lot harder to get a decent shot:

An 'artistic' (i.e. technically poor!) shot of a Blue Tit

...and in February, I got a nice shot of a Nuthatch in the garden too:


More recently, Redwings have returned, so it was good to get a shot of one of them eating a berry whole:


Stock photography

Finally, my year of stock photography has yet again suffered from an almost complete lack of uploading new images.  Some of the old favourites still paid-out though, and continuing a trend of the last few years, Shutterstock is easily my most successful site:

My most popular images for sale at Shutterstock:

Finally, following my footage of flooding on Christmas Eve 2013 in Guildford which was shown on BBC London news, I was paid for the footage to be used in a Channel 4 documentary, "The Storm that Stole Christmas", which aired around April time.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Canon News: EOS 7D Mark II

One of the most anticipated new bodies from Canon is finally here - the EOS 7D Mark II.  It promises to be a popular purchase, especially for wildlife and sports photographers who will benefit from the extra reach of a cropped sensor, and a high frame rate.
Canon 7D Mark II
The original 7D took Canon's cropped APS-C framed sensor to new limits, and set a new bar for movie recording.  That was back in 2009, so with competition from Nikon and Canon's own fullframe 6D, it was time for the 7D Mark II to fight-back.

Here are the headline specifications:
  • Shoot continuous bursts of images at up to 10 frames per second.
  • Shoot at high frame rates and enjoy superb colour reproduction, with dual Digic 6 processors
  • Focus on subjects wherever they are, with 65 cross-type AF points spread across the frame.

65 cross-type AF points

  • Capture movies at up to 1080p resolution and 60fps frame rate. Mic and headphone sockets for full audio control.
  • Produce great quality photos that are packed with fine detail, with the 20.2Mp sensor
  • Enjoy smooth continuous focusing when shooting movies and photos in Live View mode.
  • Integrated GPS means you can Geotag each photo and movie you shoot with your current location – great for travel photographers.
  • 150,000-pixel metering sensor, with IR detection
Weather sealing of the Canon 7D Mark II

As the lucky owner of a Canon 5D Mark III, this would make a perfect second body.  in particular, if the continuous AF focusing when shooting movies works well, that would be incredibly useful when capturing wildlife footage.

It's currently retailed in the UK for around £1600 (that's overpriced for the early adopters, and should come down relatively quickly).

More information is available here.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Canon News: EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

One of Canon's most versatile L-series zoom lenses, covering the 100-400mm range, which was well overdue a replacement (it's 16 years old!), has at last been replaced with a new model:

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

It's a completely new design, and loses the instantly recognisable 'push/pull' zoom, to a more traditional rotating ring - much better!

The relatively slow maximum aperture range of f/4.5-5.6 has always put me off for use for wildlife photography, where low light is frequently a challenge.  This problem will be partly offset with a much improved image stabilisation (IS), which offers 4 stops, but off course the shallow depth of field will still be elusive.

Another neat new feature is a new lens hood, the ET-83D.  This has a 'side access window', which means you can adjust polarising filters, whilst leaving the hood on.

Much more technical information is available here.

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

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

 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
  • 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


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


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:


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!