Monday, 29 November 2010

Frost patterns on glass.

I’ve got to be honest, winter isn’t my favourite season. Give me spring and summer all year round and I’d very happy. Scraping the ice off the car windows is a daily chore and one which I usually do as fast as possible… but not today.

No, today I decided to embrace winter rather then hide from it. So out comes the camera and the macro lens. On goes the gloves and in to the car we go for some close up macro frost photography.

The set up is pretty straight forward. As well as my Canon 40D and Canon 60mm EF-S macro lens I used my Manfrotto tripod to get rock steady shots. The aperture was stopped down to f/16 for good depth of field. Car windows are often slightly bowed so shooting at the smaller aperture ensured good focus was maintained across the whole image.
To really keep the images tack sharp the shutter was tripped using the cameras two second self timer, but that's not all. I also used the mirror lock up function to ensure super sharp results. All images were shot in RAW, but what else would you expect!

For the record this is my car window... Remember great shots are all around you.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Finally, the new DVD's are here.

Typical! You wait six months for a new training DVD to arrive and then two arrive in the same month.

Available right now in the Gavtrain Store is…

15 Minute Photo Challenge (Vol. 1)
If you’ve watched any of my 15 minute photo challenges then you’ve probably asked yourself this question. Great photos, but how did Gavin process them in Photoshop.

Well now you can find out exactly what happened after the shutter went click. I’ve taken five of my original photo challenges and added lots of the Photoshop and Camera RAW tips. The end results is two hours of my top Photography and Photoshop techniques.
Click here for more details...

Take & Make Great Photo
Five brand new photography tutorials and challenges. Fifteen Photoshop tips and techniques. Every single video is totally new and unseen so you’ll be in for a real treat. There’s even a brand new 15 minute photo challenge we filmed in the stunning city of Florence.

But that’s not all. As an extra bonus I’ve added some of my favourite Photoshop actions on the DVD. The Actions are all made by me so are totally unique.
Click here for more details...

Christmas Posting
If you’re think of buying anything from the Gavtrain Store the last day for Christmas posting on international orders is 9th December (3rd December for New Zealand, Australia, South & Central America, Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Far East, Asia, )

Friday, 19 November 2010

Gorillapod SLR Zoom, Test & Review

We all know that using a tripod can improve our photos. A Tripod reduces blur from camera shake, no matter what shutter speed you’re using. But there’s another way in which a tripod can improve your photos and that’s by slowing you down. Now that might seem a strange thing to say but by taking a little bit of time to compose the shot you’ll often end up with better photos.

OK so everyone agrees that a tripod is a good thing in principle, but like many people I rarely use one. The simple reason for that is tripods are heavy and awkward to carry around especially when you’re travelling.

On my recent trip to Florence I knew I’d want to take some low light photos, so a tripod was going to be essential. I also knew I wanted to travel light so I opted for the Gorillapod SLR Zoom.

The Gorillapod has been around for many years now and comes in a variety of sizes. The SLR Zoom is the middle sized offering from Joby. They claim it can hold up to 3kg in weight so I packed a Canon 400D and fitted it with a Canon 24-105mm lens. Weighing in at around 1.5kg it seemed like a good match for the Gorillapod.

The Goillapod is an odd looking thing. Made up of lots of rubbery ball joints it’s about 12” in length and very light in weight. So from a travel point of view it was the ideal choice and was no trouble to carry around. The legs don’t extend so you might class it as a table top tripod, but they do bend.

Joby makes a big thing about these bendy legs. The idea is you can wrap the legs around any handy object like a pole, tree or fence and your camera will stay there. The reality is surprisingly close to the marketing hype. It takes a bit of time and practice to get right, but you can indeed attach the Gorillapod to fences.

Sadly there are some weaknesses. The Gorillapod SLR Zoom doesn’t come with a built in ball head so you’re limited to portrait format shooting only. A ball head and quick release plate are available, but that adds extra cost and weight. I also found the Gorillapod to be very bouncy, picking up vibrations and blurring some of the images on long exposure shots or when the lens was zoomed in.

You can watch my video review below.

The Gorillapod SLR Zoom is a great gadget. Well made, light weight and does what it claims. The bendy legs are an endless source of fun, but care is needed to get the best photos when using it for challenging long exposure images.

So did the gorilla pod click my tick? Nearly. It gets a respectable three out of five from me.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Testing the BlackRapid strap by climbing 463 steps

If you've been watching some of my recent photography tutorials then you might have noticed that I'm not using a standard strap that came with my camera. A lot of people have asked me two questions, is that strap any good and and why switch from the camera makers strap? So I though I’d make a little video to show you.

Lets start with why I’m not using a Canon camera strap. Well because the stap that comes with my camera I find to be very uncomfortable when worn round the neck so I end up putting it over my shoulder. 30 seconds later it slips off. So I take it off my shoulder and it ends up dangling in front of the lens. Then there’s the whole “advertising a camera brand” thing to consider. Do I really want to be a walking advert for Canon or any other camera brand for that matter?

However everything changed earlier this year, when I got my hands on the RS-7 from Black Rapid.

From lots of real world use I already know it's safe and comfortable on a standard days photography, but what if I treated it to a little more energetic use? How good would it feel after a 20 minute climb to the top of the Cathedral in Florence? That's what you'll see in this video.

So how did the RS-7 strap perform? Pretty well is the answer. As I expected it bounced around a bit on the climb, but resting my hand on the camera solved that. Because of the design of the strap both the camera and lens are pointing down so you’re not rubbing the LCD against your clothes.

In term of comfort it was a joy to use. Despite the energetic climb I really didn't have any problems with the strap rubbing or slipping off my shoulder. Bothe the camera and lens reached the top (and back down) with out a scratch.

So would I recommend one? On the whole yes. If you're spending the day walking around then the RS-7 is unbeatable for comfort and security. If you're into action sports where you're running, jumping bouncing etc, then look out for the sports version of this strap (coming soon I understand)

Rating 4.5/5

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Memories of Florence

Recently I had one of those big number birthdays, the kind of number when life begins or as they say. Faced with the impossible choice of what present to buy Sam (my wife) wisely avoided anything materialistic and instead spent months planning an experience I’d never forget.

So last week I found myself on a plane with my family jetting off to the historic city of Florence, Italy.

It’s one of those iconic places what just oozes history and where ever you point your camera there’s a photographic opportunity.

Some images like this one are classic “must have” tourist shots and shouldn’t be overlooked simply because this is one of 100 identical images that were taken by me and 99 other people during the 15 minutes I stood in this spot.

Florence is packed full of art of all types. Sculptures are everywhere, paintings adorn walls and photographers fill the streets. I had a bit of fun counting DLSR brands as we walked around one of the tourist hot spots. For the record Canon & Nikon were seen in equal numbers, but I also spotted a couple of Olympus cameras and one Pentax.

Graffiti was everywhere and whilst it might be argued that it’s a form of art, I disagree when it’s applied to historic buildings and even statues.

I’m a bit of a low light fan and Florence is one of those cities that looks as good at night as it did in the day. Their electricity bill must be huge! It’s not easy to take great low light shots, but that doesn’t stop everyone trying. It never ceases to make me smile when I see people use the cameras built in flash to photograph a building and then look surprised when it didn’t come out well. At least with digital cameras they only waste batteries.

I recorded several videos during my visit to Florence which I’ll post on the internet. Keep checking the blog or Facebook or Twitter.