Sunday, October 25, 2009

Regent's Park quick day out

Went over to Regent's Park to get some pics before work.

The autumn colors are amazing.

First time out wih the softbox for "macro" work. This is lit almost mostly by the flash + lastolite softbox, with a little contribution of the ambient. The exposure was F5.6/250 @ ISO 200. Softbox was placed directly below the leaf, shooting upwards.

London MCM Expo 24th Oct 09

Been shooting wildlife a leeetle too intensely of late, and my right hand has got a mild ache after last weel's romp through bushy park and the RSCC (hand feels almost back to 100% as I type this). Thought I'd take a few weekends of not trotting 6kgs of glass and metal around the uk and skim it down to er... 4.5kgs. 

Light levels were expectantly low, thankfully the d300 does awesome at these crappy iso 1600-3200 levels. Would be even better if I had a medium range 2.8 zoom, but the 16-85VR would do for most of the time.

I'm also field testing my latest piece of kit - a Lastolite Micro Apollo 45, the smallest of the flash adaptive softbox in the series. I was going to pick up a Lumiquest softbox, but couldn't find them in stock at the two shops nearby, but one had the Lastolite. It seems bigger in size, so why not? The above image was shot with the SB600 gelled with 1/4 CTO held up camera left. The shadows aren't as harsh as from the flash directly, however it is very fiddly to hold up the flash in one hand, and a almost 2kg body+lens in another, and use one hand to control exposure and af etc (did I mention I love the Nikon controls? :P) however, it is a pain, so after a few shots, I just left the softbox on camera.

Here's it straight on mounted on-camera. I think the softbox does introduce soft shadows, probably not as nice as a raytraced area light, but hey it's only a few inches across.

Here's an example I shot holding it up to the left. Camera was set to (in a stupid way) to make the ambient exposure underexposed by at least a 0.7 to 1 stop - on purpose - and the flash be the main key to the left. It works, but I'm not too much of a fan of my pictures being too contrasty so I went back to A priority metering.

The lighting indoors was interesting. I brought along Plus Green and CTO gels to balance the flash. Once inside, the lights were actually roughly daylight balanced, perhaps slightly warmer. I just popped on a 1/4 CTO to slightly compensate, and that actually helped for the outdoor shots later. To be honest I know little about shooting in mixed lighting conditions and was just driving by my pants :)

There was this ULTRA COOL steampunk section that I neglected to take pictures off.

Outside, there were tons of Bleach and Naruto cosplayers.

I assure you, when I mean tons, it was not rhetorical.

My namesake was there to promote their latest.... squeakquel...

Two beautiful ladies dressed as the pricesses Daisy and Peach :)

Gunblades so rule....

Snipe! One of the rare chances my 70-200 actually could be used. I think a short zoom like the 17-55/2.8 would be optimum at outings like these.

I only saw this batman + gang there at the day.

The well known FF fire summon :)


The super kawaii lady cosplaying a GG character :)

Team Zelda will rule all!

How many bad guys can you think off that kills of a main player character?! Aerith oh aerith, why must you die!? Oh yeah this is one killer Sepiroth cosplayer :)

One of the oddest things I've seen yesterday, is it one of those treasure boxes from Ultima that are actually monsters? ala Mimics?!

This dude truly looks like jack sparrow!!!

So much awesomeness!!!!

Let's finish this post up - first some BSG goodness :)

Perhaps my favourite suit of the day! An anthro Nanaki!!!


(going to shoot flowers)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rare Species Conservation Centre

Lemme get out of the way first. Two way, 6 hours of train travel in a day is horribly mind numbing! Granted I had more than that on my way up to Scotland, however that little journey I had distractions with me. This time round, I *thought* I had the newspaper with me. Sadly, it'd been left behind the last night when I packed. If not, the journey was straightforward, from London Bridge railway directly to Sandwich in Kent. The return journey was in reverse, but the engineering works sign at the station had me mightily worried about how to get back home in time to do the laundry!!!

I had grandiose plans for visiting the RSCC - being so far away I thought it would be nice to do it as a two day weekend get away, and the train rides won't be too bad. Not going to happen with work getting busy. However, I read news about the New Guinea Singing Dogs having puppies... *had* to get some shots in.

The observation platform was similar to cleland, just on a smaller scale - so it's quite familiar territory, shooting downwards. I spent *alot* of my time there, just observing the dogs, and also saw one puppy peak out of their kennel just ONCE, before I had a chance to bring the camera up, it was back in. Darn. The above shot has the male mouthing the female in the muzzle.

Seconds later they were up being the friendly dogs they are.

The sunlight was *harsh* for the most of the day. The first few pictures are evident of that. Now being on a platform above, I blocked the furball with my own shadow to take the picture above. Helps with the contrast levels, though the picture could be better.

Can I haz noms? (slightly cropped)

Ok enough with the dogs. I have too many shots of them. Other critters there were several species of Lemurs. I arrived just before 11am and saw all of them out and about. I thought hey, I'd go around the entire center once to get a grip of the place, then come back again. BAD idea. Only this particular species above was out and about, the other two species were either in their pen, or conditions were tough to take the shot. The fencing here was silver, my worse nightmare in hard sunlit conditions.

The fishing cats portrayed here (I had them confused with the ocelots and pallas cats. I'm horrible at critter id.) were shot using the 300/4 + TC14EII combo, in order to fully crop in. I'm not sure why but the current area they have was mostly covered by a tarp of some sorts. There was also enclosure working going on besides them, perhaps they are waiting for a new place?

They're not too photo-shy though :) There is a pair there, one dozing away and another that was fine with me shooting it :)

Must nom photog!

Herr sleepyhead portrayed above was in pretty harsh light, had to wait for the sun to go behind a cloud, and even then, still pretty contrasty!

Went back to grab more NGSD shots.

FOOOOSA! I'm not sure if there were one or two foosa there, there seem to be two enclosures, connected perhaps? Anyways. The sun in the current season is always behind the enclosure, so the furball is permanently backlit. Also, it is a glass enclosure. Double whammy. Still, the 16-85 does pretty admirably in this condition.

Check out the rim lighting.

A little bit of flare, but so long as it's shot straight on, no issues. I would like to mention that I was also wearing a black jacket, and with me close to the glass, it helped block out alot of the reflections. I had tried using the 70-200 and standing a little further, but that proved to be futile with reflections of the background all over.

Here's a hundred percent crop of the shot. No noise reduction or sharpening tricks. Pretty alright for a shot through glass imo.

Here's mom in the kennel. No puppies so went around again.

My first time seeing an Aardwolf. These were placed in an enclosure directly besides the NGSDs. 3 little critters, all female. Tough to shoot the way I want, but I did get a few keepers.

Sand cats! These are the epitome of cute. Seriously. Ok, perhaps the puppies would be evenly matched. Or not. In anycase, the cats and many other critters were housed in an indoor enclosure. Can't really get close to them, but the 70-200 or 300/4 were sufficient to get rid of the background plus go through the wires.

F4/100, ISO1600, SB600 + Flash Extender

This little furball had sort of a pattern to its movement, and seemed to enjoying hanging out one one of the branches in its enclosure. Luckily, there was a fence, and I was able to lock down all the monopod controls, and brance it against the fence, so I had sort of a tripod.

I'm telling ya. Lady luck shines on those who set out to get photos of NGSD puppies :) The above is a 100% crop. This time, as it's iso1600 I dumped in the default noise ninja. It actually doesn't look too bad without NR.

Crowned Pigeons

The crowned pigeons were a sight to behold. They are BIG. As in. Bigger than some chickens. Beautiful critters truly. These guys were shot with flash in use, but as I was indoors, I bounced the flash at a slight angle upwards. The light was reflected among the many trees and I thought it worked well.

Here's a 100% crop showing iso 1600 without noise reduction. The exposure was ISO 1600, F3.2/80 - with the 70-200VR. Truly, VR works wonders. I'd also slightly mis-focused a few mms to the front. Sadly. Also, the lens was at 3.2 and is still quite soft.

Outdoors, there is a whole bunch of flamingoes. The sun was pretty crap for the most day, but just as I was leaving, it was quite soft, and thought to get one of the curled up furballs as a sort of abstract. This shot may actually be a total failure, as while the eye area is quite sharp, there is not enough depth of field to get all the foreground plumage in focus. Live and learn...

Dad and pup

Last shot :) I stayed around till late, and the keepers came to weigh the puppies and I managed a few shots.

There are also tons of other critters, such as Gibbons, Snow Leopards (urgh, the glass window there is killer), Sun bears, Ocelots, a horn bill (beautiful big bird! Unable to get a decent shot though), cougars, bats, civets, binturongs, tapir, and so many more.

It's amazing the amount of critters to be had there, wish I had a faster medium zoom though - the 17-55/2.8 would be awesome indoors. It's not a lens I will use often either so....

Well in closing, I'd like to say that the cafe also makes a very good ham and cheese panini, and if I ever needed to buy chairs for people to sit on, the kind of chairs in the cafe would be my first choice.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bushy Park yet again!

It's almost clockwork now. 5am wake up, snooze the alarm a few times, really wake up, wash and out the house by 5.30. Rush down to the Waterloo, and then a half hour ride to Teddington brings me to the gates of Bushy Park just as the sun pokes through.

It was still quite overcast, but the sun bled a little reddish tint into the sky, so it wasn't as dreary as the last time I was shooting here. The deer seemed to be a bit more mellow today though - the first few stags I encountered were grazing, and I was wondering if the season was over.

That was not the case, as once I reached the heron pond, I was told by the friendly people fishing there that there was a huge stag just around the corner, and I should be a little wary of him, as last week, he chased a photographer up a tree! Ulp. Much more caution this week.

Probably my favourite shot of the day. I had nearly walked into these two furballs - they were resting in the bracken. Ops.... minutes later though, the stag I was mentioning about earlier just bulldozed his way through, scattering this two. It was a great if slightly worrying experience, and I did not manage to get a shot - kinda more worried if I would be gored to death or not. I hope that other photog with the 300/2.8 got some nice shots :)

Speaking of gear, there were a fair number of white lenses around today. Feel so lonely, being black and gold.

The clouds were there, with a few nice openings.

For the most part, I think the public has a healthy sense of respect for the deer. I still observed a fair number of dogs running unleashed though.

Till next time :)