Monday, 21 April 2014

Tilt and shift

About a year and a half ago, I purchased a Canon TS-E 24mm f3.5 lens. A so called tilt and shift lens.

I bought it (second hand and in excellent condition) because I'd been shooting previously with a Sinar and a Rollei SL66 in the studio, which both have T&S capabilities and I wanted to be able to replicate the effect with my DSLR without resorting to computer trickery  .

  Sinar in the studio with the movements showing

Unfortunately my use of the lens was confined to testing it quickly in a car park when I met the guy who was selling it. We both lived far away from each other and agreed on a point midway where I could quickly test the lens before handing over the money.   

My method for testing a lens is this. 

  • I give the lens a visual inspection. I look for dust, dirt scratches etc on the lens. There were none.
  • Then I attached it to my camera and made a series of shots of the same subject in unchanging light using aperture priority. I shot at every aperture from f3.5 (wide open) to f22 (fully stopped down). I then scroll through the previews pictures on the screen. They should all be uniformly exposed. If one isn't then there is the chance that the aperture blades are not functioning properly. 
  • Next test is the shoot at different distances and check (with the help of the screen again) if the pics are sharp.
  • The last test is only done if the lens is an autofocus type (this particular lens is manual focus). I shoot a series of images of the seller walking towards me to try out the servo focussing. It also gives me a pic of the seller, should there be any "difficulties" later  :)
The lens passed all the tests and I gladly handed the money over. When i got home I put the lens in my equipment drawer and promised to use it on my next job . . 

Fast forward eighteen months later and I was wondering what to take pictures of on my free Sunday. I remembered the lens which was still sitting unused in my drawer. 

There's a beautiful mustard rape field about six minutes away from my house which is backed by part of the Jura mountain range. I decided to take a pic of this using the lens to get only the trees in focus.

I set the camera up on my trusty Benbo tripod and made sure that everything was level

This is NOT level

 The lens can also be rotated to use in vertical format 
 whilst still able to make use of all the movements.

After making a few test shots, I tilted the camera upwards and the lens downwards to give me the minimum amount of depth of field and I focussed using the live view mode to ensure that the trees were sharp. I ten took the picture (using self timer) at the minimum aperture.

Mustard rape. 1/3200sec @ f3.5 ISO 200
This pic is best viewed at full screen

I processed the RAW file in DPP and can honestly say that I'm pleased with the result. Unfortunately, there were no profiles for this particular lens so I used on instead for the 24mm f1.8 model.

I love playing with this particular piece of kit as it makes me stop and think about what I'm tying to achieve. Focus is manual and very precise. The live screen mode is recommended to be able to see what is happening. A good tripod is a must.

One person approached me whilst I was taking these images and informed me that the latest version of the lens is much better. I answered that just because Canon had replaced it didn't mean that it had suddenly gotten worse overnight!

There's a wonderful article by Keith Cooper over on the Northlight Images website about what exactly you can achieve with a T&S lens 

I'll be using it next month for an interior shoot that I have planned.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


Last week a client asked me to do some product shots that he needed in a hurry for a promotional campaign. He has ten pairs of sunglasses to photograph with the country flags on the lenses for each land competing in the forthcoming football world cup. Time was of the essence so I decided to shoot them in my front room.

 The products

Another friend recently asked for advice on using a Somikon "Studio Box"  which she'd recently purchased so I used the sunglasses as a test so that I could show here the results that can be obtained from this piece of equipment.

I set up the studio box on a table in my sitting room and placed the glasses on the bottom. Using my Canon 5d MKII with a 50mm lens and my Benbo tripod.

To prevent my constantly bending over to look through the viewfinder, I attached my camera to my Samsung Galaxy tablet using the free DSLRdashboard software which is available from the Google Play store. This software shows me the captured image and I can zoom in and out to check focus etc. The software also has the option to save the images onto the device itself or just on the memory card.

I started at nine o'clock and with the help of the software and a big display, I was able to move various reflectors and light blockers around until I had an image that the client wanted.

 1st set-up. Too many reflections

The set-up I ended up using.

Another piece of equipment that I put to use were my Phottix Odin wireless flash triggers. These are quite simply fantastic flash triggering devices. As they are wireless, they can fre the flash around corners and out of line of sight. With more than 2500 exposures i have not had one single misfire. You can also control the individual flash compensation by thirds of a stop. 

Glamour photographer Michael Zelbel also uses these triggers and have uploaded an interesting video about them. 

With the help of all these time saving devices I was able to get a good setup which I mailed to the client. He gave me the OK and I then photographed the next nine pairs.

After converting the CR2 RAW files into high resolution JPG's, I uploaded them to a website where I can apply clipping to make the background pure white.

Total time for the job was four and a half hours.

Here's one of the finished images.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Photography tutorials, classes and walks

The interest in photography classes has been great. Lots of folks it seems now have great quality cameras but are dissatisfied with the results they are getting.


I've now given two portrait classes and a three part series on beginners photography. There has been good feedback for the course members as well who liked my laid back approach to teaching (i.e less on the theory and more showing and explaining).

 I mixed classroom basic theory with practical "in the field" shooting.


On the last day, we spent two hours out and about before coming back to the classroom and discussing the results

There will hopefully be more classes, walks and groups in the near future but if you would like to learn more about a specific area of photography then please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Photographer and now educator!

Sorry if the title sounds a bit pretentious but this last weekend, I gave my first ever portrait photography workshop entirely in German!

I stressed a little about it in the week before because I wasn't sure if my standard of German was good enough. I explained to the participants that German wasn't my mother tongue (as if they didn't already know within fifteen seconds of my starting), and that if they had any difficulties understanding me, then they should simply ask.

There were four pupils which for me was ideal because that meant that I could take a more personalised approach.

We started with a brief introduction of ourselves and I told them a little about me and my experience as a photographer.

There were four areas that we covered. These were:
  • Equipment
  • Camera settings. Optical and technical considerations.
  • Posing
  • Software, black and white, lighting, image analysis, and developing a style.
 Away from the purely photographic accessories that I bring to a portrait shoot, I told them that one piece of equipment that is always near to hand is a simple stool or step to stand on and give myself some height when my subject is a little (or a lot) taller than me.

 add height . . .

We spent some of the afternoon putting the theory into practice in one of the fitness rooms in the learning centre. this was ideal as it was bright and airy, had mirrors and more importantly stands for when the ladies came to photograph the gentlemen!

Here are some snaps from the day.

All in all I think that we all learnt something but above all, we had fun whilst doing so.

Thanks for reading.