15 December 2008

Nikon Expo - London

Last week, Nikon held their 2008 Expo at Olympia in London. This was the third one I had attended and it was another good day. There was a good selection of things going on and whilst I felt that there weren't quite the number of exhibitors there as last year, what was on show, was interesting.

There were several 'Action areas' as in the past with events such as fashion photography, wedding portraiture, Chinese circus acts and ballet all throughout the day with the opportunity to try out Nikon's new cameras or even shoot with your own. I picked up some useful tips during the day so it was certainly worthwhile attending.

The range of talks this year wasn't quite as good as last years - given that I think I spent around 3 or 4 hours in sessions last year, I only went and saw just the one at this event. I guess it was down to the topics covered.

I did get to have a go on the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens which is likely to be my next purchase so that was good. It certainly is a fantastic bit of kit - pin sharp, solid and dependable. the only downside is the weight (and the cost!!). I think it's one of those things where when you've decided to take the plunge, you'll never look back - well I hope so!

I'm sure I'll go again next year - assuming the event is run again. I think the funniest sight this year was a guy wandering round with a Canon camera hung round his neck. Wonder if it was a dare?!?


Originally uploaded by John Wood Photography
After the maternity shoot with Sarah a few weeks ago, it was back to more regular portraits and this shot is one from a session with a couple of my wife's university friends.

I caught this when Selena wasn't expecting me to take a shot and I like the way it leaves you thinking about what was going through her mind at the time.

I post processed the shot in Photshop CS3 and ran it through the Nik Silver Efex Pro plugin which I'm using more and more for my black and white work these days.

13 November 2008

First maternity shoot

I had my first maternity shoot at the weekend - courtesy of Sarah. It was really good experience, no doubt aided by the fact that Sarah is a very good friend of ours and was happy to try out lots of poses.

We set up in a small area and made the most of natural window light with a small bit of fill in flash through a Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe to light up any shadows. I mainly used my Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens at it's widest aperture so sharp focussing was key.

Here is an example of one of the shots from the session:

I'm really pleased with the results and I hope Sarah will be too when she sees them all. Thanks for letting me capture you at your finest at this special time. Am looking forward to our main session in late January.

27 October 2008

Exhibition news

We have another exhibition running this month - this time it is at Watford Museum in their new gallery space.

The private viewing evening went very well with a good attendance and we've had a good write up in the Watford Observer as well. The link to the story can be seen here and there is also a full page article in the paper that came out on the 24th October.

Here is a scan of the article from the paper itself:

1 October 2008

First competition of the season

Had a good result tonight at the first competition of the year at XRR. I came 4th overall which was a good start to things and one of my shots - Spirit Island, scored a maximum 20 out of 20. It is a shot that I worked on a fair bit after processing a single RAW image through my Photomatix Pro software and tonemapping it.

The shot was taken in Jasper National Park in Canada during my visit in June this year. It is an iconic view of the park and can only be reached by taking a boat trip along Maligne Lake.

Hopefully tonight's result is the start of another good season in the competitons.

30 September 2008


Over the weekend I was lucky enough to spend a few hours photographing a very good friend of mine - Joanne. I had done a portrait shoot earlier in the year with Jo and her family but this time the photos were just of her.

We had discussed the various ideas we were thinking of trying out and found ideas for poses from lots of different sources.

It was my second opportunity in the space of just a week to put my new backdrop support system through it's paces and thanks to a bit of furniture shifting (cheers Jo and Simon!) we had an impromptu studio in her living room! There was just enough room for getting full length portraits and floor shots but I think it was at the limit of what was ideal. It was also a great opportunity to try out the extra studio lights I've acquired during the year.

After 4 hours of shooting, 5 outfit changes and just over 300 shots we called it a day! I've been really pleased with the results and have made initial ratings to narrow the selection of photos to work on down. I've already posted a selection on my flickr site and one is shown here in this post - you can view the others by clicking the link.

I'm really pleased to say that the feedback I've had from Jo is that she likes what she's already seen. There's plenty more to come whilst I finish working on the other photos.

I'd personally like to thank Jo for being patient whilst I moved lights around, tweaked settings and generally tried to get things right. You were a real star, looked stunning and no-one I've spoken to thinks that this was the first time that you'd ever really done anything like that before! Thanks a million!!

UPDATE: I've now added a slideshow of some of the photos I took on the day. See here:

Camera club news

Well, the new season at XRR has got underway and tomorrow night (Weds 1st Oct) is the first digital competition of the year with the set subject of 'Structure'. My entries are in so all I've got to do now is see how they do!

The other great surprise I had as the season started was that I found out that I'd won the Glover Progress Cup for showing the most improvement over the last year. I was really pleased to be selected by the committee to receive this award at our prize giving and open evening and it has certainly encouraged me even more to improve further in the future.

Hopefully it will be the start of things to come!

The book has arrived!

Well the photobook from Blurb arrived a couple of weeks ago now and I'm really impressed with the finished product. It is very well constructed with it's stitched hardcover and printed dust jacket. The photos have turned out very well and the quality of the paper is very good inside.

All in all, as it was the first book I've produced, I'm very happy. There are no doubt things I could do differently next time and will bear these in mind when I produce another. I might consider a different cover like a softback, if I was producing one with any fewer pages in the future.

Would certainly like to try the larger formats on offer to see how they look and feel. Hopefully I'll put together a portfolio book of my portraits soon so I should be able to put some more ideas into practice.

11 September 2008

Getting published

Well, it has been a while since the last update and I've certainly been busy over the summer (what there has been of it!). Time just seems to have flown by and I can't believe we're heading into Autumn.

The D300 has been getting some serious use over the last few months and I'm really pleased with it - though with the battery grip in place, it certainly does weigh you down! The image quality has been outstanding and I've got to use it in quite a variety of situations. The large file sizes that it outputs though are going to require some careful thought on future storage and backup facilities.

Anyway, back to the subject of the post. After the trip to Canada way back in June, we decided that it would be great to get a photo book made up to illustrate our journey. So, 268 photos and 78 pages later, our book is now winging it's way to us from Switzerland. I really can't wait to see how it turns out and it should arrive early next week with any luck. I decided to use Blurb to create the book and have settled on a 10x8inch hardcover with wraparound dust jacket. If it looks anything like it did on screen then I think I'm going to be really pleased with the result. There's certainly something nice about having a hard copy record of your own photos that you can show around and I think a proper bound portfolio will be soon on the cards!

Assuming all goes well with this trial run, then I can certainly see photo books becoming part of my list of services.

It was quite a time consuming process getting it all ready and laid out - choosing from over 900 photos was a task in itself and then there were the different layouts to choose from for each page. All in all, it probably took about a week's worth of evenings sat down laying it all out until we were happy.

I'll update things when it arrives!

5 July 2008

Getting used to the new toy!

Well, I finally did it. I've got myself a new Nikon D300 and MB-D10 battery grip!

We were going to Canada in early June and the opportunity arose that was too good to miss out on. It had a great two and a half weeks shooting in western Canada and I'm really pleased with the results so far.

It feels absolutely solid in the hand and the controls are pretty easy to get used to. Having used the D70s for a few years now the controls and settings are in similar places but there are just so many more of them!

The camera was put through it's paces over the trip to Canada and was used in a complete range of locations for photography ranging from the Pacific Rim National Park on the west coast of Vancouver Island, through to the downtown streets of Calgary and just about most places in between!

The 3 inch lcd screen is a real bonus at checking detail of shots and the 51 point AF system is pretty mad too!

I've only had a quick scan through the images I took and processed a couple which are already up on my Flickr pages. I think it's going to take me some time to go through them all and do final edits.

All I want to do is get out there and use it now - all the time!!

11 April 2008

Competition news

Had a great result this week at my camera club, XRR Photographic Society, when I scored my first 20 out of 20 in our print league competition and got chosen as best print in the set subject of 'Still life'.

My winning shot was of the Gerbera flower below:

Later in the evening I had even more success with my black and white version of my Millennium Bridge photo also scoring a 20. I've been waiting ages for a score of 20 for my photos entered into competition and lo and behold, I get 2 on one night! I've had more and more 19 scores recently but that elusive 20 has been missing. Not so any more.

The result gave me first place overall in the competition on points. Shame it was the last print competition in the league for this year. Still, it gives me added impetus to get out there and get more shots and to get working on next year's set subjects.

26 February 2008

Focus - the aftermath

I visited Focus at the NEC on Sunday and still have mixed feelings about it I guess. It was very useful visiting the show in some ways but in others I didn't feel that it was much different to previous years.

On the plus side I did attend some very interesting talks on Photoshop, ProShow Gold and portrait photography and also got to get my hands on some interesting bits of kit to try out. I also made a few useful contacts which I perhaps wouldn't have made elsewhere.

The lighting for portraits talk given by Mark Cleghorn on the ePhotozine.com stand was very interesting and showed some great examples of working in challenging conditions and details of the set ups used. Jim Mark's talk on celebrity portraiture on The Flash Centre's stand was more of a showcase of his work but again, it was well presented in a fast paced style with good info on how the shots were created.

The downsides for me were that it was really busy after about 11.30 in the morning and for the rest of the day. There also didn't seem to be that much in the way of bargains available but as I wasn't really after anything in particular, that didn't matter too much.

Would I go next year? Not sure to be honest; having now been to the Nikon Expo and SWPP Trade Show, I felt that there was a lot of repetition going on. Still, it was worthwhile for the hints and tips I picked up during the day.

22 February 2008

Focus on Imaging at the NEC

Well, the weekend has finally come round and one of the largest camera events in the UK is about to open at the NEC in Birmingham.

Focus on Imaging has been around for a good few years and has gradually built in size and following. Having already been to the SWPP Trade Show earlier this February in Hammersmith, it will be interesting to see how this year's Focus lives up to expectations.

There are a few stands I'm looking forward to visiting to see how they can take me forward with my photography - particularly on the event side of the business. Dye-sub printers are featuring now quite high up my desired kit list. The offerings from Mitsubishi and FujiFilm are definitely the front runners at the moment.

No doubt some other stands will grab my attention too! Just wondering if anyone will be offering the Nikon D300 at the sub £1,000 mark yet!! I can wish I suppose!

Shoot London and HDR photography

A few weekends ago I went into London with a fellow photography friend. We spent the day travelling around looking for suitable subjects to cover.

First stop was Speaker's Corner by Hyde Park. I've not been there before and it was quite an experience! Seeing the different speakers up on their soap boxes with the crowds gathered around was a great photo opportunity and kept us busy for an hour. Next stop was SoHo and Chinatown where the Chinese New Year decorations were up in preparation for the big event later that week. We moved on down to the Embankment before heading down towards the GLA building and Tower Bridge.

Luckily we were at the GLA Building for one of their weekend openings so we got to head up to the viewing platform to take in the sights. The best opportunity for shots though seemed to be inside the building on the way down the long spiralling staircase. As the light was fading, everything was lit up and gave us some great shots. Below is an example looking back up from where we'd come down:

We then headed across Tower Bridge to get some shots from the north embankment. My friend got me interested in taking some HDR (High Dynamic Range) shots which I gave a go. Not having tried the technique before I was keen to see what I could achieve. So, setting the camera in bracketing mode and firing off 3 shots on the tripod at 2 f-stops either side of the regular meter reading, I ended up with my photos ready for the post processing.

Back at home and using Photomatix pro software, I ran the HDR generate feature and ended up with the shot below. Not bad for a first attempt I think!

The technique allowed me to capture pretty much all the detail that would have otherwise been blown out in the highlights or under exposed.

Elinchrom's in use

Well I've done a couple of shoots using the new Elinchrom Dlite 2's now and I've been very impressed.

My first go at using them properly was for a family portrait shoot just a few days after getting the lights. Everything was really easy to set up and I was up and running pretty much straight away.

As the shoot was in a regular sized living room of someone's house, the lights were barely set above half power for the settings I needed to use. I can see that these are going to get more and more use over the coming years.

Below is one of the photos that I took on the day and has had a bit of post production applied.

The clients are really happy with the images I captured on the day so hopefully this investment in new kit will pay off soon.

24 January 2008

Elinchrom D-lite 2 studio flashes

Well I finally took the plunge following the SWPP trade show and bought myself an Elinchrom D-lite 2 kit from GW Digital and Photo who seem to be offering the best price for these lights that I could find anywhere.

The kit comprises of 2 x 200w D-lite studio flash heads, 2 x softboxes (one 65x65cm and the other 53x53cm), 2 x lighting stands, 2x sync and power leads, a DVD lighting guide and all fitted into 2 soft shoulder bags.

The lights were smaller versions of those I used on my studio portraiture course but should give plenty of power for the situations I'm planning on using them in.

I got them set up in the living room last night and gave them a quick testing. They were very easy to set up and in under 10mins I was ready to start shooting. I triggered them via my existing SB600 flash set on minimum power as the units have a slave sensor on them.

Once the settings on the flashes had been tweaked after a few test shots, I was very happy with the results in the short time I tried them. The immediate benefit of the digital controls is that the power of the units can be varied in 1/1oths of an f-stop to enable immediate and accurate settings to be made. I'll be having another go over the next couple of days so I'm fully prepared for another portrait session I'm doing on Saturday morning. Watch out for some shots taken with these over the next few weeks.

Got to get round to doing this more often!

Can't believe that it's been a couple of months since this was updated but it has been a busy couple of months for sure!

The latter part of last year was busy with quite few things photographic going on. In early November I went to the Nikon Expo in London and got to have a go on the new D300 at one fo the fashion shoots. The camera blew me away with it's capabilities and the way it handles noise at high ISO ratings. I was able to shoot without flash and just using ambient light at 3,200 ISO with very little noise appearing in the shots. You can see some of the results on my Flickr pages. One of the shots is shown below:

In December I did a portrait session with a good friend who had a 2 month old baby boy and wanted to get some photos for the family album. It was a good shoot, though attempts to keep a baby still in one place were certainly interesting!

Christmas has been and gone and the new year has been in full swing for the last few weeks.

I went to the SWPP trade show in Hammersmith last weekend where I picked up on lots of ideas for the future and got to see some hands on examples of dye sublimation printers which will certainly come in handy if I get into the event photography side of things. This is what I'm also considering following some very interesting talks at the Nikon Expo that I went to.