Aviation Photography

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Although I spend a lot of my time capturing those wonderful moments when our dogs do something memorable, my photographic interests frequently take me to other subjects.  Recently I was lucky to be invited to join many from the Airline Pilot Guy www.airlinepilotguy.com  community at the Wings over Pittsburgh airshow.

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A classic American airshow of old and new it proved to be a great place to watch such remarkable aircraft as the F22 and the previous generation of fighters, the P51 Mustang.

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Photographing aircraft can be a bit of a challenge and I am always in awe of those who do it well.  It needs a very steady hand to pan a big camera with the sort of long lens needed to bring an aircraft close enough to see properly.  A fast shutter speed is essential unless you want to get some prop blur, in which case you need to be unbelievably steady!

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I was using my fairly new Canon 5D Mk4 with a 100-400 L MkII but even that wasn’t enough so I had a 1.4 teleconverter attached, giving me a reasonable 560 mil of reach.  The camera settings were just as important as when shooting against the sky, even against a clouds, the camera will expose for the bright background and leave you will a flying silhouette! Around a stop of over exposure is needed to get the detail you will want from the aircraft.

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Of course, not all photo opportunities are in the sky, there were plenty of things to shoot at ground level, including a wonderful old machine that flew in the Berlin Airlift.

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And although we all loved the noise and excitement of the fast jets, one of the most beautiful displays made no noise at all!

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Is There an Alternative to Photoshop?

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I am always on the lookout for recent developments in software that might give me a new look, an improved effect or just an alternative way of doing things.  So when Chris Pearsall of CPPhoto told me about Affinity Photo I thought I’d give it a go.  At only £48.99 it isn’t an expensive option, certainly when compared with the Adobe products but is it any good?

This is a remarkably capable programme with comparable capabilities certainly to Lightroom (my usual weapon of choice) but also to Photoshop (somewhere I go when I need to do something special).  You will have to forgive my lack of practice with Affinity, I haven’t had it for long, but I ran my usual list of alterations that I regularly apply and produced the photograph below.

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I am quite happy with the results and it represents a fair job considering my clumsiness with the software.  I found it a little hard to reduce the depth of the shadows without causing a loss of contrast but overall, it gave very good results.  It should be borne in mind that this was a RAW conversion from  the latest Canon DNG files that the 5D Mk4 produces, which Affinity handled with ease.

Compare the results with the same photo which recieved my usual Lightroom alterations which is below.

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From my perspective I got exactly what I wanted from Lightroom including the reduction of those hard shadows as you can see from the detail visible on Blue’s chest.  However, I am confident that with enough time spent on the tutorials that Affinity have available for new users I would have been completely happy with the results.

One area I wasn’t able to explore was Affinity’s library functions and it’s ability to categorize photos.  I was treating it like Photoshop and working on a single photograph whereas my usual workflow requires me to rapidly process a few hundred images in rapid succession.

However, Affinity has a lot more to it than I have been able to discover so far and I have no doubt that it will become a great alternative to the Adobe products for those who are conscious of the price of committing to the Creative Cloud that is needed by Adobe nowadays!

Affinity Photo can be found here:  https://affinity.serif.com

Holiday Whizzes!

One of the great pleasures of being a gun dog owner and photographer is when I get a chance to meet and photograph other dogs and their devoted owners.  Even on holiday, Gilly and I take the opportunity to meet and enjoy the company of these wonderful people.

So it was when we rented a house in Mevagissey and took all three of our monsters down there.  We had stopped off at Weston Super Mare on the way to have a walk with the wonderful Maisie Barns, Jan and family.  A few days later we were at a more organised Whizz at Perranporth with Wendy, Debby, Bev, Karren and several others, and on a rather dreary final day we met up, quite by chance, with Griff (the wonderful sibling of Mutley owned by Janet, a past client) and a great little hairy monster, Alfie.

But of course, the real reason for a holiday is to get away with our three, Blue, Rusty and Rugger, to enjoy the beaches, pubs and relaxation that a break in such a picturesque place offers.  We visited a few favourite beaches like Vault beach, Gorran Haven and Caerhays Castle beach.  The dogs went mad and we enjoyed every day be it sunny, windswept or raining.

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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.

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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!