Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Grado Headphone Repairs in UK/London/GB

I'm not sure if I mentioned before, but my SR80s which I have been using for about 5 years recently died. Or more accurately, the cabling died. This is no surprise since I carry this headphones with me *everywhere*. Well at least on weekdays between home and work :D is the UK repair agent, and I would like to give props to them for the ease at fixing up my headphones. Takes about a month, and IIRC about £35 for the recabling. What's best, to my surprise, is the returned headphones came with new bowls :3 OMG!

I'm a happy wolf enjoying audio bliss with my Cowon D2 again :D


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eagle Heights: Husky Mania!

Went down to Eagle Heights to check out their Husky Mania! open day. This is to help get funding for more kennels for their rescued huskies. Oddly enough, you won't see too many Husky photos - I actually got a few cracking shots of the other critters. I also didn't bring my usual gear out, just the 16-85, 70-300VR, D300 + flash (not even the extender!).

My primary focus was photo ref and sketching - my heart seriously dropped when I heard they were going to run the Cheetah today!

Would have loved to have the 300/4 + TC14EII. The above is already a crop from full 300mm; ideally, I would like a 600mm on my D300. At a minimum. On a gimbal :D

The usual awesome bird shows had new birds introduced due to retirement of older birds, and they still haven't got to grips with each other yet ;-)

Indoor flash techniques from Neil Van DeKirk, as usual ;-)

And I end the day with huskies :D


Monday, June 21, 2010

Spinaker Tower and Historic Dockyards at Portsmouth

Busy weekend! Went on down to Portsmouth today with a photographer friend to visit the Spinaker Tower and the Historic Dockyards.

Lovely structure, $7.50 for entry, and there are 3 levels to explore.

After exploring the coastline to grab shots of the tower from a further distance, we headed over to the historic dockyards. It was a little expensive, almost 20 quid (!!!) but the ships there were simply amazing for photography.

We visited two ships; the HMS Warrior and the HMS Victory.

Didn't have enough time to do a boat trip around the harbour, have to come back another day.

Flyball Demonstration at the Wimbledon Village Fair

Flyball is one of many dog sports that involve the dog running down a lane and jumping over low walls, grabbing a ball and heading back to the handler. As part of my attempts to sketch a few specific dog breeds in real life (Huskies, Border Collies, Samoyed), I went down over to the Winbledon Village Fair as I was told about a fly ball demonstration, and border collies could be found there.

Used a twin lens package this day; 16-85 for general shots, and I did bother to bring down the 70-200 in case the shoot gets challenging. Indeed, it did get challenging, sort of. Whilst birds in flight the challenge is to lock AF onto a moving bird, with the dogs jumping, it's more about when to trip the shutter.

I tried just machine gunning some shots - held down the release just as the dogs were about to jump through the focus point - as well as just tripping the shutter once they are almost at the focus point. The 2nd option seems to work _slightly_ better. I did stop down from 5.6 to F8 in order to gain more DOF though - at such distances and focal lengths, the dof is almost non existant.

Side on shots weren't much of a trouble, more about getting a shot without something sticking in front of the frame. Could do with a better background but oh well ;-)

Wish I had the time and patience for a pet. I guess my wolf plush will do for now ;-)


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Farne Islands 2010 Puffin Season!

Whew. Just spent the last 4 days away from home, of which 2 days were spent on the Farne Islands (Inner Farne, specifically) and the other two for travel. Let's start with a few of my favourites from the 800 odd shoots I took.

Getting to the Farnes by public transport is quite an endevour. A train from King's Cross up to Berwick-Upon-Tweed, then me and a fellow photog took a bus from the train station ( direct to Seahouses. We'd rented a very very nice B&B place, Chapel Row Cottage (from The Old Ship Inn). We were very lucky to have gotten a 3 for 2 deal, which cut our costs in a third!

Of the two days we were there, Staples Island was off limits due to the weather :-/ Thankfully we were still able to spend 2 full afternoon on Inner Farnes.

The trip on the boat was generally uneventful, though there are many opportunities to capture puffins flying low over the water (no chance for me - bad place on the boat), the occasional seal and many other birds.

The island itself belongs to the national trust, and costs £6 for entry, in addition to the boat fare. Bring a hat of sorts, as the terns are also nesting, and they will dive bomb you in defense of their nests.

Their nests are laid out all over the island, sometimes in the middle of the path (the wardens will erect a barrier in the paths), so do expect to get bopped on the noggin a few times.

I brought my full wildlife kit out for this trip, D300, D200, 70-200VR, 300/4, 1.4x TC, Monopod, Flash, Flash Extender. It was also quite cool, and was thankful I brought my winter gear which not only provides protection against the cold breeze, but also the bird droppings.

There are several areas of Inner Farnes that provide excellent photo ops; the cliffs have a few puffins, and nesting Commorants, Razorbills, Kitiwakes, plus a whole bunch of Guillemots.

Nesting terns can be found throughout the whole island, from the side of the pathways to every nook and cranny.

One section of the island has a very dense puffin population, and it provides a great area to see how the puffins and gulls interact, and during the later hours of the day, provide a really good place to shoot birds in flight.

I used 3 focal lengths for BIF shots, the 70-200 at 200mm, and the 300/4 with and without the TC.

By far my favourites - generally luck really - were with the 200mm, though the 300/4 has a fair few good shots. The AF of the 300/4 has difficulty locking on when the cloud cover is heavy. The TC equipped on the 300/4 generally allows much easier tracking, but I am unsatisfied with the results using a 1/2500 shutter speed. I may need to push it to 1/4000 if need be to get the detail I want.

The return to London was uneventful. We had to cab it up to Berwick though, as there were no bus services.

Am hoping to photograph the seals at Donna Nook later this year. Fingers crossed!