Kit Bag

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Four Days, four christmas dinners and after having driven several hundred miles to visit family it's finally time to settle down at home for the remaining festive period and wish all of those who visit my site a very merry christmas and happy new year. I've been really lucky to receive some fantastic gifts this year, a large amount of which will help me further my photographic career in 2012. Really looking forward to blogging some reviews of the various additions to my kitbag over the coming months, including that of a Lee DSLR Filter Kit (including the 0.6 ND Hard Grad and a 0.6ND ProGlass filter).

One gift I had to try out was a 1/4" grid for my speedlites, which allow me to channel light and avoid spill. Unfortunately, (for Cleo's sake) she was looking rather pretty on the wooden floor of the dining room and fell subject to my next photograph. Perhaps I should of put a Santa hat on her...

Hope everyone is enjoying the last few remaining days of 2011, here's to a very promising 2012.

Kit Bag - Canon 17-40 F4 L Wide Angle Lens

Thursday the 15th of September will see what is probably the biggest shoot of my career to date. I'm not wanting to give anything away just yet, but I wanted to take a step back and look at the wider picture ;-) I'm really surprised I haven't seriously looked at this lens sooner. Taking into account that the Canon 17-40mm F4 L Wide Angle Lens is one of the cheaper 'L' glasses around, it certainly packs value for money. Not only do I need this lens for a shoot on Thursday, but with the recent increase in my landscape photography it's going to be a handy addition to my kit bag. Being surprisingly light and quick to focus it's very versatile and easy to use meaning i'm very unlikely to leave the house without it.

Canon aren't best known for their wide angle lenses with many photographers critising them. It's not uncommon to see a Canon body fitted with the Nikon 14-24mm lens via an adaptor plate, but as the saying goes "It's not the equipment, it's how you use it". This lens provides me with the focal length that I require and unlike it's bigger brother (the 16-35 F2.8L) it still allows me to use my current accessories due to size of it's filter thread.

I recently had the pleasure of using a Sigma 17-35mm F2.8 out on holiday in Mallorca. As great as it was with it's monsterous filter thread size of 82mm (much like the 16-35 F2.8) I had no accessories that would fit it?! The Canon 17-40mm has a 77mm filter thread which means all of my exisiting filters slot in or screw on just fine. I'm really looking forward to putting the lens through it's paces and will report back as soon as I have!

What noise does a cow make?

Moo are an online award winning print business, one which print tantalising business cards! I've been in the market for new business cards since making the move to a full time freelancer, and as such when I heard they had launched their new 'Rounded Edge Business Cards' I had to take a look. Now this is no lie, but approximately 20 minutes after loading I had successfully placed my order of 200 rounded edge business cards with 12 varying print designs. As a photographer, this prospect is fantastic as not only do I get great quality business cards, I also get an array of my portfolio images to show clients. This allows me to tailor which business card I give to which client, i.e. the 'Tai Chi Swayze' band image can be given to any potential band shoots...Marvellous!

It should also be said that, not only do they sell great products, but their customer service is second to none. Unfortunately I had a slightly error with one of my cards, in the fact it came back too dark. A quick e-mail to Moo customer service and a response within a few short hours meant it was being reprinted and sent out to me as a priority! Highly recommended from me, and I shall definitely be using their service in the very near future.

If your interested in getting some of these gems for yourself, feel free to click this link to receive 10% off your first order.

B+W ND110 and Fistral Beach

The following blog post contains a photograph from our weekend break in Cornwall, but I kept it seperate as I wanted to share this fantastic new piece of kit with you and demonstrate it's use. It's a screw in neutral density filter that will reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor by 10 stops. In short, this means something that would usually be around a 1/15th second exposure is now a 1 minute exposure. This gives you the ability to create long exposure photographs in all sorts of conditions. A little fiddly to use at first, once the glass is screwed onto your lens the viewfinder is pitch black. Framing and focusing is done beforehand, then locked off. If your going to invest in one, I highly recommend the 'LongTime' iPhone app which is free and will help you calculate your new exposure times. The filter is constructed of brass and then annodised, which prevents binding to the lens.

A characteristic of long exposures using heavy neutral density glass is colour casts. I've used this a number of times now, and am very impressed with the minimal warm colour cast given to a photograph. Looking at a few samples in Adobe Camera Raw, sometimes I even prefer the look it can give.

I'll leave you with one of the first photographs i've taken using this filter, Fistral Beach in Newquay on an overcast afternoon. For more information, click the image below:

Fistral Beach, Newquay

Kit Bag - Pocketwizards

The Holy Grail of light control. PocketWizard systems are renowned world over, for their ability to trigger off-camera solutions efficiently and effortlessly. When I discovered the new features of the Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 system I had to upgrade from my (still great) ST-E2 Transmitter. They are by no means cheap in comparison to other triggering systems out there on the market, but at the end of the day you get what you pay for.

Built on the new ControlTL platform, the dedicated MiniTTI Transmitter has both E-TTL II and manual power control capability, creating the perfect solution for triggering strobes via radiowaves (meaning no need for line of sight).

It has two main feature upgrades over the original PocketWizard Plus II's, the first of which allows us to use TTL (through the lens metering) with your strobes off camera. The second is "Hypersync", which, by offsetting the hypersync value in the firmware (this value depends on your camera and the strobes you are firing so it will require some testing) you are able to achieve much faster flash sync speeds (without the use of high speed sync). As photographers this means we can now cut ambient light and use wide open apertures in bright sunlight, achieve faster shutter speeds to freeze action and all without draining power or experiencing long recycle times, Hurrah!

Another great little function on these, is the pre-flash boost. Which means the pre-flash is fired upto two stops brighter, allowing the camera to make more sense of the information it receives for TTL. The updateable and customisable firmware also means we can set parameters such as when you automatically want the rear curtain sync to enable, and oppositely when you want high speed sync to enable (if at all). They are backwards compatible, and even fitting a Flex TT5 to your camera body will enable you to remotely fire your camera. All in all, I love these little things and wish i'd bought them sooner. The ST-E2 will still remain in my kitbag, as you can use this in conjunction with the PocketWizards for ratio and AF Assist.

Purchased from Lovegrove Consulting where you can grab a great deal, saving £105 when buying a kit of 2x TT5 transceivers and 1x TT1 transmitter. Did I mention you can also trigger them upto 1200ft away?!

Kit Bag - Clamps

The ability to light any frame, in any location and at any time of day is a big part of the way I work. Which is why i'm often found lumbering around locations with bulky lightstands in order to rig my speedlites. This can be a pain when it comes to post processing, because if you can't hide the lighting stands out of frame, and still in line of sight (because of the ST-E2 Transmitter) it means additional work cloning them out.

Incomes my new little addition to the kit bag. A Manfrotto Superclamp and WexPro Clamp with Spigot. These brilliant little pieces of kit allow me to rig a speedlight in unseen and new places. Both have great build quality, and the superclamp states it can support up to 15kg, which is amazing considering the size of it. If your interested in ordering a Manfrotto Superclamp, be sure to remember that they come without a stud (unless stated) as I found out.... :o

Kit Bag - Orbis Ring Flash

Orbis is a quarterly American journal on international relations and U.S. foreign policy... Wikipedia is wrong, it's an awesome light modifier :) Damien Lovegrove has recently written a few blog posts about the so called 'Orbis Ring Flash', and given the results he has produced with the 'one size fits all' ring flash, curiousity got the better of me. I purchased one through his site and within 24 hours its sat on my desk infront of me as I write this post.

The idea of the ring flash is to create even, simple shadowless light and as such is commonly used in high-end fashion/portrait magazine photography. Designed to fit to your existing speedlites the Orbis is affordable and well built using mirrored prism reflectors to produce even light. The unique way a ring flash renders light produces a distinctive shadowy halo around the subject.

Typical ring flashes are attached to the end of the lens, but with this being off-camera (and fully compatible with ETTL systems) it has greater versatility, for example acting as a small off camera beauty dish/softbox or fill light. Can't wait to try this out!

Kit Bag - Shooting On Location

Product shots are generally shot in an abyss of white space, but like many other aspects of photography I like to work differently. With the help from my brother (a Nikon shooter, ironic huh?) we set up this quick shot to give you an insight to some of the gear I carry about with me on location shoots. It's always important to plan the kit you need for a shoot, as you'll never want to be without that vital piece of equipment which you clumsily forgot to pack.

The lenses cover a focal range of 24-200mm and the 2 speedlites always give me the option to light most scenes should I need, with the ST-E2 transmitter coming in handy by not only controlling the speedlites off-camera but doubling up as an AF Assist.  The above picture shows what I carry most of the time on a day-to-day basis.

Preperation is key, and each shoot is planned carefully. Having  the correct gears means your able to maximise the available time shooting. If your interested in a complete kit list feel free to click here.

Kit Bag - Canon 70-200 F2.8 IS L

The lens that seems to grace every professionals kit bag, but why? Just like the other Canon's L series lenses the 70-200 F2.8 'IS' feels great with its incredible build quality (not mentioning weight?!) and features a very useable focal range. A fast aperture gives excellent image quality meaning it's hailed as one of the great portrait lenses. With its 3-stop image stabilizing, super sharp detail and quick autofocusing I couldn't agree more.

Even a lens this heavy, with a sturdy stance and 'IS' enabled, it can be held for 1/4 of a second and still produce sharp results! The low aperture gives me the chance to shoot in lower light, which will be ideal when shooting weddings. This is fast becoming my favourite lens, and if you haven't had a chance to experience one for yourself I encourage you to do so, especially with Canon's new launch of the MK2 version replacing the MK1 costing around a whopping £2,2k! It's incredible how fast this lens focuses!

Kit Bag - Honlphoto

It's always a pain finding a way to securely attach filter gels to your speedlite whilst avoiding any spill light. It may seem a little expensive at first, but once you use Honlphoto accessories it makes fiddly speedlite attachments a thing of the past. I've just bought two 'Speedstraps' and a set of colour correction gels, and as such now couldn't live without them. It's now possible to set up a quick gelled lighting rig in a matters of minutes with no hassle. Of course now owning the Speedstraps it opens me up to a whole range of Honlphoto accessories I can't wait to try out (Such as the snoots/grids).