Summer Shoots

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It’s been a little while so time to catch up.  With the summer comes the decent weather we hope for when doing a shoot.  I can successfully cope with most inclement conditions but if my clients have energetic dogs and want action photos then I need enough quality light to allow me to shoot with a high shutter speed.  Sometimes bright sunshine can be as difficult as very dull weather as it creates lots of contrast and a high dynamic range but for Jo’s shoot (above) it was perfect.

In addition to Jo’s dogs Twiglet and Roo, I had the opportunity to do a quick shoot in Detroit with Liz’s lovely little Schnauser, Hannah.  Liz drove all the way from Toronto to meet up for our short session!  All primped up for the big moment, the puddles proved a great attraction so fluffy went to curley… what’s a girl to do?

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Back in the UK I was lucky enough to get another lovely rescue dog to photograph.  This was Jon’s sweet Vizsla who showed both her cuddly and energetic side.  I’ve never met a dog so keen to pluck pine cones from the fir trees that frequented our walk!  Jon works for Berkshire Search and Rescue and Ilay was a fully qualified search dog.

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Ilay was also well trained in the mystical arts of self levitation!  I still am amazed at the athleticism of the Vizsla breed!  Finally, I’ll leave you back where we started, with a shot of the lovely Twiglet and Roo who are also Search and Rescue dogs.  A fine pair they made as they are obviously devoted to each other.

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The Christmas Auction.

Christmas Auction 2015

It’s time for the annual London and Surrey VizWhizz charity Christmas auction.  Organised by the wonderful Lucy, this annual auction attracts some great prizes and all the proceeds go to a collection of voluntary Vizsla rescue and charity organisations.  It’s a fun time when everyone has a chance to bid on all sorts of prizes and know that their money is going to the best of causes.

London and Surrey VizWhizz Christmas Auction

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The lovely Otty who recently died from polymyositis and who was owned by Lucy. Research into and treatment of this pernicious disease is just one of the many good causes that benefit from the auction.

I will be donating a Home Shoot worth £120 which consists of a studio shoot, combined with an outdoor session, to get a lovely set of images of your prized hound!  The shoot comes with a free set of watermarked images of approximately 0.5 mpix size which is ideal for use on social media.  However, once the shoot gallery is up on my website all sorts of wonderful choices are available for purchase that would allow you to enjoy your photographs.

Should you not be local to my location then some travelling costs might be incurred… please see my website for details.

The last charity prize shoot I did was of the handsome Csaba, below, and his gallery can be seen here:  http://www.nickandersonphoto.co.uk/Petra-and-Csaba/

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The handsome Csaba.

If you want to find out more about how a home shoot is conducted and what you can win then please visit my website and look here:

http://nickandersonphoto.smugmug.com/Your-Shoot/Your-shoot

They Shoot Horses Don’t They?

Kings Park 2nd Proofs-3744Not my usual fare but I really enjoyed the change of pace when recently shooting for Kings Park Equine Clinic.  A fabulously equipped establishment who were updating their website and needed a set of updated images to publish gave me a great opportunity to broaden my horizons.

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The vets were all equipped with travelling test equipment in their vehicles and most of their work is done at a client’s stables, but just in case a horse came from a distance away the clinic also had everything necessary on site.

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To offset the images of treatment and veterinary equipment the practice also wanted some shots of healthy animals in a less clinical environment so off to a local field to get some more picturesque images… all of which went very well.

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So quite a change from capturing Gun Dogs racing around at 40 mph but, nevertheless, a great fun shoot.

Kit

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I thought it time to mention some kit I have recently added to the bag and am starting with the Peak Design Capture Pro camera clip.  I came across these Californian guys by accident and thought that this clip might well come in handy!  They began with a Kickstarter but now its in full production and is getting well known and they are adding to their range of accessories.

What struck me was the robust construction and ease of use but I guess I better first explain what the hell it is!  Well, I often need to put my camera down to free up my hands… thats because I hate straps!  Straps can be super but often get in the way and unless you invest in a really good system like the Moneymaker Holdfast or the BlackRapid they can really restrict your ability to move fast and get that shot!  The Capture and CapturePro clips let you quickly attach your camera to a belt or strap to free up your hands and then you can easily unclip it for action.

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The red plate attaches to the bottom of your camera where the tripod screw hole resides.  The CapturePro also doubles as a commonly found tripod plate so there is no reason to take it off if I want to use my tripod.

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The body of the clip unscrews and opens to allow you to attach it to your belt or a strap.  It clamps firmly onto your chosen belt so you might not want to put it onto your favourite Gucci trouser holder!

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With it firmly attached to you and the plate attached to your camera, you can slide the camera easily into the plate and it locks in place.  Its released by using the little red button.  Your camera has the benefit of being held in place by both the clip and gravity!  It locks with a nice safe sounding click and with the safety lock on the red release button turned, it seemed as safe as houses.

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I have been on a couple of walks with a single camera and it easily holds nearly 3 kilo (6 lbs) of camera kit whenever I need my hands free.  Its fine with a light camera and whilst I was comfortable enough for a while, I wouldn’t recommend it with my kind of heavy gear for long periods.  What is great is that the camera stayed nicely on my hip and didn’t swing around as it tends to do on a strap.  You can see it in action in this promotional clip… https://www.peakdesign.com/landing/capturepro/

The other bit of kit I wanted to chat about are the protective covers that I have found for my long lenses.  LensCoat make them, they have a design for most common lenses and are adding to their range all the time.  Well made, they fit nicely although its a little fiddly getting at all the controls while they are all covered up.  The pack of neoprene hoops looked pretty unimpressive when I unpacked them but its just a matter of sliding them over the various sections of the lens.

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Obviously there has to be a different hoop over each moving part and on my 100-400 which has four rotating rings and four switches it all gets a bit piecemeal!  However, once on it does ok.  The main rotating control I need is the zoom ring and I rarely have to move the focus and tripod rings so thats fine.  The zoom friction ring gets twisted at the start and finish of a shoot so thats no problem either.  For access to the buttons there is a flexible transparent window and its possible to move them through the plastic but I tend to just lift it out of the way.

When I zoom this lens it extends which reveals a section of uncovered barrel but they do provide an extra piece to cover this.  With it on I would be stuck at max zoom which is nuts but I guess if you were settled down in a hide and going to stick to one focal length that would work ok.  For a little extra they do provide a flexible mesh hoop which allows movement but camouflage isn’t the reason I use it!

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My 70-200 is more successful as this lens zooms internally so no need for to cover an extending barrel.  The company provide a range of camo patterns to suit different environments as well as some plain options.

So why the LensCoat… well I get to shoot in some mucky places whilst being splashed and bashed by packs of very energetic dogs so any protection to these expensive lenses must be good.  I baulked a bit at the price but just the impact protection of a layer of neoprene seemed a good idea.

A little hard to find LensCoats outside of the USA but they are light so shipping should be cheap.  http://www.lenscoat.com/

Up next time… the MeFOTO RoadTrip tripod.

By the way… the kit I talk about I have purchased myself and I have no connection with the providers.  Do your own research before making any purchases and if any kit I write about doesn’t match your expectations please contact them, not me!

Lisa’s Home Shoot of Cookie.

I have completed Lisa and Robert’s home shoot of their lovely Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla and its up on the website.  This shoot was a real pleasure to do as Cookie was very photogenic and athletic, giving me plenty of great photo opportunities.  Cookie did a wonderful job leaping logs and swimming for us and was very relaxed in the studio environment as well.

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http://www.nickandersonphoto.co.uk/Lisa-Hearsum/

Lisa took advantage of our current offer of a complete set of watermarked images which is included with the price of the shot, set at only £125.  She is also at liberty to purchase larger downloads as well as prints from my website.

Lisa’s free set of photographs come at around 0.5mpix, the same size as the image below (click to expand) so perfect for sharing on social media.

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Should you take advantage of this current offer you are reminded that the watermark on the free images must remain visible, that the images cannot be used for commercial purposes and that all rights remain with the photographer.

Sharing Gallery photos on Social Media

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Is there a picture in a gallery you would like to share with your friends?

I have now been able to incorporate a sharing option into the website galleries so that you can do this.  Just open the gallery and enlarge the photo you want to share by clicking on it.

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Now, amongst the icons in the bottom right corner you will see a Sharing Icon.  This icon opens up a menu for you to choose from.

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Click on the social media platform that you want to share with and on selection you get a dialog box to choose your preferences from.

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Setup your sharing options, click the Share button and a link to your photo will appear in your chosen media.  Your friends can now link directly to your photo in the gallery.

Easy!

Enjoy.

Primping Photos.

I was recently asked how much work I do on my photos after taking them before I post them… ie post production work.

This isn’t a particularly easy question to answer.  If I shot my photos as Jpeg files, ie .jpg after the file name, then a lot of work would have already gone into making the photos look nice.  In my case a nice chap at Canon would have decided what sharpness, contrast, colour saturation, white balance, clarity, etc makes a nice photo and he has programmed my camera to use all his neat algorithms on every photo.  All I might need to do is crop and tweak a bit!  If you are a photographer and shoot Jpeg photos then your camera will do the same except Mr Fuji, Sony, Nikon, Panasonic or whoever, will have done it instead!

However, I don’t shoot Jpegs.  This is because Jpegs compress the photo into a nice small, neat file and a lot of the information that might otherwise be available to me is lost.  Also, Mr Canon isn’t looking over my shoulder or in my brain when I press the shutter button so he doesn’t know exactly what result I am looking for.  He makes a guess and, to be fair, he usually guesses pretty well even though Japan is miles and miles away from where I am taking my picture!  I shoot in RAW which gives me an unprocessed image to play with and I decide what settings I want to apply to it.  I individually tweak and massage each shot I publish to get the best from it and to try to replicate what was in my mind when I hit the shutter button.

There are lots of programmes out there which will allow a photographer to make their own RAW conversions and a lot of cameras come with some software that allows you to do just that.  I, however, use Adobe Lightroom which acts as both a library and a photo conversion programme.  When I download an image it appears in a basic form and I then set to work.

Here are a few examples of before and after.

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The before shot needed a bit of cropping to get rid of some distractions left and right so I changed the format to a 4×5 and cropped in a bit.  My subject looked a bit dark under his brolly so I lightened that area whilst toning down the areas around.  I tweaked the saturation, clarity and tones of the image, give it a little vignetting and voila!

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Another image that needed a little tweaking was this one.

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Just about everything was there… the dark foreground with Elizabeth’s Tower nicely lit up behind.  However, I had too much roof to the right and wanted to bring things in a bit tighter.  In my eye the image suited a square crop which emphasised the framing effect that the roof ornamentations gave.  Then I wanted to emphasise the brightness and colour of the clock tower compared with the dull, plain roof in front.  Finally, I wanted to give the sky just a little detail so it wasn’t completely bland.

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Since a lot of my work is done photographing dogs then I should perhaps include an example of one from my latest shoot at Savill Gardens.

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This is a nice action shot of a Vizzy playing with its owner.  I liked the hand to eye line as the dog concentrates on the chance of a pat or a treat perhaps.  The shot needed tightening up, the white tent was a little distracting as was the bright blue of the jeans.  I had no room to move upwards but there was plenty I could loose from the bottom and right sides.  The day was dull so the contrast needed raising as did the colours (specifically the orange shades of the ginger ninja)!

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Cropping to a 4×5 had the benefit of putting the subject closer to the ideal position in the frame.  The toning down of the white tent helped, as did moving the jeans to the edge of the frame.  Vignetting darkened the edges of the frame, highlighting the subject and now this was a good image to put into the gallery.

To apply this kind of detail to every image I put into my galleries takes time and effort.  A lot of photographers might just post proofs and only work on images that their customers want to buy.  For me it is a matter of pride that I don’t want an image to be seen if it isn’t my best work.