Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dressing up H :)

The God's Pack, one of the webcomics I follow just released a bunch of wall papers to commemorate their 4th Anniversay :) Maybe running a wall paper behind H will give good times :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Udon Entertainments's Darkstalker Tribute

I feel hungry whenever I read their company name.

A little over a month ago I was randomly googling for Darkstalkers and came across them launching a tribute artbook for my all time favourite game. The book finally arrived today, and it's a really well made book chocked full of darkstalker eye candy.

I'll be going through the book over a few days - not going to rush it!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Battersea Park Children's Zoo

Emperor Tamarin

??? Some kinda lagomorph. I missed the sign.


Horrible light today, didn't take much pictures when I was there. It was seriously, blazing, causing the enclosures to appear as nice white bokeh'd to death blobs. Argh.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bushy Park Deer Rut

Morning light kicks ass, sadly, I missed it :( This good day I was out at Bushy park to see how the deer rut was coming along, as well as to scout out good positions when I return. Woke up rather late (6.30am) and after the usual snafus, reached the park about 8.30. The fog was still around and beautiful, but quickly burned out.

This is the first male deer (and his herem) that I encountered. Being quite wary, I stuck on the 300/4 to begin, and didn't dare go too close. The shot was done with the 300/4 and a 1.4x TC.

I followed this herd closely, mostly keeping an eye on the big bull. The sun was coming straight at me - shooting with the sun behind would have the main road in frame. So, sillhouette shots would mark the beginning of the day.

Lucky side lit shot. It was pretty cold in the morning, I was also huffing out breaths, slightly fogging the viewfinder. By this time I think I had spent too much time with this deer group, so I went on to the west side of the park where the light was horrid and the deer were only munching food, so I went east. A jogger had earlier stopped to chat, and told me he say a whole bunch (!!!) of photogs shooting near a lake further up. I decided to just walk in that general direction.

It was already about 10am, and I saw a few bucks just resting in the shade. I thought this big fellow above would be a nice shot, and the jackdaw came in to make a nice "conversation" piece.

Having had enough of deer at the moment, I went around the Heron pond where people were fishing. I took this chance to take some reference photos for work, as well as shoot a bunch of brackets for hdr generation. The 9 shot, 1-stop bracketing rocks.

Loads of waterfowl to entertain the masses. There is also an area where people were sailing sail-boats - neglected to take any shots of those.

Finally decided to make a move home, and found this fellow resting by the side of the road.

I spent a fair bit of time with him, shooting stills as well as a video on my compact.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Improving the Nikon D300's controls

I really like the D200 and D300 controls, I can, with my right hand:
  • Switch on/off the camera
  • Engage Auto focus
  • Engage the VR motors
  • Release the shutter
  • Switch between PASM modes
  • Adjust the exposure compensation
  • Select and reset my autofocus points
  • Perform a depth of field preview
  • Some other features that I don't regularly use e.g. flash ev lock, bracketing etc
Again, with only my right hand on the grip, and without removing my face from the viewfinder!

Now the other control I use very often, is the ISO setting. This button is located on the top left of the camera, and requires me to move my left hand up to press it down, while my right thumb moves the control dial.

While this seems not too bad, in practice when I'm handholding (i.e. no monopod) a heavy* zoom like my 70-200VR, it is slightly difficult to maintain my eye to the viewfinder as the camera tends to tip downwards, as my right and left hands are cradling the camera body. It is not too bad with a monopod, but still feels wrong.

A very obvious way to solve this problem would be to allow, for example, the depth of field preview button, or the lower function button to be dual purposed; by holding down the DOF preview button, it engages the dof preview. But if I hold it down and move my right thumbwheel, it will adjust the ISO setting.

Hence, I only need my right hand to perform all necessary immediate camera functions, and allows my left hand to permanently be assigned lens support duty. The D300 currently supports this for other features e.g. selecting between 3D/51/11 point af.

Another control I would like to see updated is the selection of autofocus points. Right now, you have the option of choosing 11 autofocus points, or the full spread of 51 points. I have been using the 11 points and it is most familiar to me coming from the D200. The 51 points definitely gives much higher focusing precision because you should not need to recompose, or recompose less, hence your field of focus will shift much lesser.

Unfortunately, it simply takes much longer to move say, from the center af point to the right most af point, when in 51 point mode.

Again, we can use the push system to solve this issue. First, with no button presses, the multi-selector can be used to choose one of the 11 main af points. That basically brings us to the general af area wanted, quickly. Next, by pressing say, the depth of field button, it causes the multi selector to go into hi-fi mode, allowing the selection of the full 51 points.

Hence, what I want is to use the 11 points mainly to quickly navigate to the general area, then hold down another button and use the same multi selector to choose a closer af point.

This would allow full control of iso as well as af points, without needing to remove one's eye from the viewfinder, allow the left hand to support the lens while doing it, and the right hand to perform all the necessary controls.

*Yes, it is obviously not as heavy as a 200-400/4 :P

Sunday, September 20, 2009

ZSL part two

My original plan this weekend was to head down over the Goodwood Revival to check out the old 1950s cars - however due to certain circumstances, that didn't happen. Decided to pop over to the London Zoo instead to check out what's happening. The Griffin Vulture above was my first keeper of the day, the whole bunch was out sunning their wings, this one happened to turn around.

One of the denizens I missed last time round, Raja the Komodo Dragon. You gotta admit it's posing really nice on it's pseudo meal.

Checked out the Emus and Wallabies, I think I've got sufficient from Oz, so I head out to visit Africa. The Okapi was grazing pretty far in the distance, this time it was up close, so I decided to go for an abstract of its fur pattern.

Rounding the other side of Africa, we get to the Otter and Lemur enclosures. Otters were snoozing, and the Lemurs were being fed by a tour group (lucky people!). The lemur enclosure is covered by a really fine wire mesh, it's still fine to shoot through, just watch your exposure.

Just beside the lemurs would be the Clore Rainforest Lookout experience. This is probably my favourite exhibit to shoot at as there is nothing blocking your view. However, with every plus comes a minus - the lighting here is very diffused, which while very good will force you to pull out longish exposures or upping your iso. Most of the time here, I would be ranging between 800 to 1600.

We get the playful Golden Headed Lion Tamarins and Titi Monkies filling out most of the adventure, with two sloths, a pair of Sunbiterns providing more entertainment. The bottom of the place is the playground of some Trumpeteers, and some sort of mice.

Don't think I got good shots of the sloth, but today I managed a few and got a good closeup of its "toes".

This picture above is higher res, so do click on it. One denizen I did not manage to get a photo off was the Southern Tamandua - a kind of Anteater. I was observing the sloths being fed when I noticed a muzzle appear from one of the nest boxes. The first though that ran through my mind was - was that a Coati?! A while later I quizzed the extremely friendly staff there, and it seems they only appear once a day - at lunchtime which is 2.30pm - and nap the rest of the time! No pic as I was behind a whole group of tourists, and by the time I got a space, Mr Anteater is probably having dreams of termite decimation.

The lions have recently have cubs, however I had no luck getting a natural shot of them, so the best I could do was just observe. Finally, I got around to the Gorilla enclosure.

I'm not a fan of shooting primates. They are just so human like, it's like doing street photography.

Shooting the gorillas also pose some difficulty for me in terms of exposure. AE modes seemed to be underexposing the gorillas, and putting them into the shadow region, hence noise and thus loss of detail.

The quick solution I came up was to spot meter the gorilla and expose for the blacks as mid tones, and hope that the surrounding mid tones could be brought back down in post, and also that the highlights won't be burnt out. AE locking would be annoying, so I switched over to manual exposure.

In any case, the few gorillas shots above were probably mostly the D300 + 300/4 + TC14EII, giving me roughly the same field of view as a 630mm lens. The overcast conditions, while nice for lowing the dynamic range was forcing me to use between 800 to 1600 iso. Gah. I'll probably ask on forums how people meter gorillas, and other darker critters, as I'm also having issues with badgers.

Sun was also starting to go down about 4.50pm, very evident when observing the light meter in manual mode :) Past 5 I wasn't too keen to shoot anymore as the light levels were getting a tad low. Oh winter, how I love and hate thee.

Friday, September 18, 2009

British Wildlife Center: Part 3

This fine Friday finds me on leave, and at the British Wildlife Center (yet again) this time on an organized photo shoot. One of the perks is to be able to enter the enclosures under the supervision of the keepers. There were two groups of 10 people, I think one other grouop may be under the tutorlage of a pro, *I think*. Anyways the ten of us in the n00b group went for the Scottish Wild Cats first, whilst the other groups went to have fun with foxes.

Not much to say except perhaps I shot the most here as usually I had to shoot right the netting, which isn't too bad but the cats are usually far away. This time round, even the 70-200 was a tad too long when the cats came up close for food.

The busy background can be easily put into a nice blur due to how close we are.

After the cats, we took our turn with the foxes.

You can get reasonable shots through the fences on normal days, but getting up close and personal gives a slightly different perspective as well as not really needing to pull out some stupid, long and difficult to use lens.

Depending on where you were in the enclosure, you can get really tight shots with even a short telephoto, so long as you are just by the keeper as he feeds them. I wasn't. :)

Next up we went to the hedgehog area and a snowy owl (that's Hedwig above. No, same species, not the same one in the movie.) and an Eagle Owl. No keepers from the eagle owl :(

The next critter was the hedgehogs. Two of the spiny furballs were brought out, but only the smaller one pictured above bothered to uncurl and provide us with photo opportunities.

Now I know I'm with more serious photogs when we all go down to eye level :) I was one of the earlier ones to shoot the hedgehogs, and I knew I got a keeper earlier on so I stopped.

After the spikey shoot, we broke for lunch, wandered around for a bit attempting to get the otter pups - then met at the deer park to get some shots.
Next was the otters, then we broke up and headed for home. But before that, I went over to the water vole's territory to catch this nice froggie :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thames Festival Parade 2009

Not sure how to shoot a festival really. Just brought the flash and the brightest lens I got out.
Still, almost all the shots had to have the shutter dragged. I think a wide angle lens like a 17-55 may work better.
I had no choice but to shoot at iso 3200 all the way. Can't see the detail loss at web sizes.
Wierd, really, really wierd....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A little late, but here's a rescue operation of sorts to shift a number of lions from a Romanian zoo over to the UK.

Help Portrait

Help Portrait aims to get photographers around the world to help create memories for those who do not have access to photographic equipment.

12th December's crunch time for my show, we'll see how it goes...


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Mismash!

Ok so today was epic. Left the house at 9, went down to Columbia Road Flower Market, shot there for a bit, walked almost all the way back to Trafalgar Square (took the tube one station away as I was late). Met a friend to inflict upon him the deadly disease of a digital slr, had lunch, then I spent the the rest of the day upon the south bank exploring the Thames Festival and shooting a parkour and break dancing demonstration.

12gbs, apparently was not enough for trigger happy me.

The Thames Festival was on this weekend, so I travelled the entire stretch of the south bank dedicated to it.

Paw sore, I went home, dumped the cards to storage, went BACK to the festival to shoot the parade. Got back at 10pm. There were supposed to be fireworks at 9.45, but I was simply too worn out to care! I wanted to test out my new monopod + ball bungee combo as a make-shift tripod equivalent. Maybe another time.

So here's the wildlife available at the flower market: exhibit one: cat. The furball is a pet of one of the neighbouring stores, as I was told by one of the more friendly photographers there. There were *loads* of photographers, and I whilst I was shooting the cat above, someone shot *me* :P Wish I could see that, I was told I put up quite a fair few poses when shooting :P

Here's a more environmental shot of the furball. Usually it rests on another car that is not available. I'm going to have to visit some other weekend to shoot it again.

Trying out some street. Not my strong suit. But I thought this scene was interesting.

How's this?

On the way back to Trafalgar Square, I visited Bunhill Fields Burial Grounds. I was actually semi-lost - it was overcast without a sun, so I was navigating using luck. If I'd a compass I'm sure I'd get to Trafalgar Square on  time....

Some sand art at the beach along the Thames.

I'll end this post for today with one of the panoramas I took along Old Street. Loads of beautiful grafiti that needs to be part of my collection of time slices. Click on it - it's a 1600 res upload!

PS: Jaggies from the jpg export.