Birdlip sunset

Just a quick snap taken on the drive back after visiting Dad in hospital

Taken with the Fuji F-Pro 1 and 14mm lens, fairly simple processing, some recovery the highlights and shadows, brightened the foreground a little and worked the sky a bit, mainly just curves and levels, think that I may have pushed the saturation a little too far


I dropped my sandwich

This morning I dropped my sandwich, this was not the only thing that happened on my drive in to work with morning, indeed the dawn sky was stunning and with my re-found hunger for photography I stopped at Membury services to take a photo, this action itself is something quite notable as many times over the last 5 or 6 years of M4 endurance I’ve considered such an action but this morning was the first time that it actually took place. As I stood there for the short time and took those 3 or 4 snaps I smiled to myself and remembered the early days of my photography where getting on the wrong train or missing my bus stop lead to exciting new opportunities to take photos of other places. Yesterday also had it’s part to play in all this as yesterday I finally got round to saying ‘hello’ on the talkphotography forum that I joined over 3 years ago, actually 2 weeks ago deserves a mention as I bought a new camera and although justified the purchase to myself on the basis that this one will actually refuel my photographic fire, I was starting to doubt it as until that moment I had not took real shot with it. As notable as these other things may be, I was yet to drop my sandwich
I got back in the car and rejoined the M4, tried listening to the radio but this only served to exacerbate the boredom of an eastbound morning drive, putting on a ‘mixtape’ CD that I created recently was far more enjoyable and as the thoughts of music mixed with photography I found my pondering and looking forward to this year’s festivals, indeed I remembered seeing the line-up for Bearded Theory (which usually takes place a week before our regular Wychwood festival) and found myself considering applying for a photo pass
By now I was on the patch of motorway where I try not to hard to think about where I am, I like to not pay too much attention as I pass junction 13 and thus as I’m approaching junction 12 the landscape is similar enough for me to feel a little unsure and ask myself the question ‘am I approaching 13 or 12?’ then be very happy that it is indeed 12. Driving through the slowing Reading junctions is also the place where I have a bite to eat, this time last year I had lost 20kg and was looking forward to a less fat and more fit future, then got diagnosed with type II diabetes and diets and table made way for bad habits, one of which being an ongoing justification for having something to eat on my drive in so that I can take my tablets
Another thing that happened last night is that I bought myself some tea, it’s fair to say that I’m no great fan of tea but have managed to get on with the fruity stuff and lemon green tea in the past and as the coffee in the office is nothing short of foul and makes me feel awful I had decided that it was time for tea to have another innings
As I passed Reading services and slowed in the traffic at junction 11 I reached for my sandwich, a supermarket bought Prawn Mayonnaise, with my usual skill I neatly opened the packaging with my left hand and took out the first sandwich, first eating the lesser filled pointy ends of the triangle, then the right angle crusts, then one of side of the remain crust before turning over and taking out the other remaining crust and finally enjoying the soft crust-less well filled centre section. After this I took my tables, rinsed down with a little sugar free energy drink (i.e. carbonated, fruit flavoured caffine delivery system). Then came the second sandwich, same process as before but on the remain crust turn it left my fingers, paid me a little respect by not depositing any mayonnaise on my shirt, and landed in the footwell
I did swear, quite loudly. A swift scouting glance revealed it’s location as being about 6 inches behind my right foot, immediately my mind entered solution finding mode, clearly using my foot to manoeuvre the sandwich into a reachable position would not be feasible for such a delicate item, indeed the whole eating off the floor 3 second rule (before the germs get it) was already in question and so any form of sandwich movement had to be ruled out. Next option was a simple reach, I’m far too large and not at all nimble enough to get near it whilst in this position, so thoughts turned to opening the door putting my right leg out and then making the reach, even tried reaching into the passenger footwell as a ‘test’ to roughly gauge if such a stretch would be possible, it would be close and almost certainly result me over stretching and some discomfort, yes I know I was in the fast lane of the M4 but this was the morning commute and average speed was a crawl, coming to a stop being common. I waited for a good time to carry out my action but with every stop it was clear that just a few cars ahead were already moving again and even I couldn’t justify the shame of holding up traffic for such a pitiful prize
Yes, I had hit the point of grim realisation that here was I, a fat guy about to hurt himself for the remains of a dropped sandwich, I’ve heard it said when people have turned their lives around that it’s something simple such as catching themselves in the mirror to bring home the realisation and drive to make a change, I’ve never experienced that, indeed I’ve often looked in the mirror and with a sigh of sadness fully accepted what’s standing before me, even health issues, scares, inspiring success of others has done little to change the course of events and my habits over the years. I don’t think that I really believe in the ‘I caught myself in the mirror and was shocked into action’ scenario, I think it’s more complex, more needs to happen, things need to be in alignment in order for that point of realisation to be able to really pass through every barrier, gain momentum and really hit home in a way that can make the change
That sandwich would have been most satisfying and enjoyable but only a few moments before I was fantasising about shooting a festival where some of my favourite bands were playing, yes in my head the consideration felt real but in honesty I knew it wouldn’t happen, and the reason for this is the fact that it would be too much trouble, even if I went by myself and left Lisa at home (which I would hate to do) on a basis that’s out of my hands i.e. only able to get one photo pass. It would be too much trouble due to the drive, the fact that I don’t know the layout of the festival, etc etc. Reality is that if I was smaller and fitter the layout would be irrelevant and I could camp on the Friday night and return late on Saturday but as things currently stand camping is not an option, no I’m not considering a Travelodge or similar
If I were to define ‘most satisfying and enjoyable’ I would be describing some of my finer moments in photography and in the photo pit, I would talk about the passion, the timing, the feeling of that perfect moment when you get ‘the shot’, that point where you loose your breath and your heart misses a beat, the tingle up the spine, capturing the moment perfectly, seeing into a subject’s soul and feeling exposed. It most certainly would not be a prawn fucking sandwich, yet in a zombie-like plod through life, clear evidence shows that I’ve mostly chosen the latter
I think it’s time for me to wake up, don’t expect to hear my ‘success’ story in a year or two and certainly don’t wait for me to finish any marathons or similar but you can expect to find me a bit slimmer, a bit fitter and a whole lot more capable in the future, life is too short to lose sight of priorities and I’m rather fortunate in dropping a sandwich this morning to realise mine
I’m Darren, a photographer that lost a sandwich and regained a focus

Nikon D800E vs Canon 5D vs Fuji S5 Dynamic range (highlight recovery) test

I do love my D800E and I’ve been hearing a bit lately about it’s exceptional dynamic range, well it’s certainly an exceptional camera but I can’t say I’ve noticed anything anymore exceptional in regards to dynamic range when compared to other Nikon (D3, D3X). So, I thought the best thing to do was to put it to the test (specifically for highlight recovery) and see how it compares the the king of dynamic range (the Fuji S5) and also, for the fun of it, the Canon 5D

The tests were done by taking a purposely overexposed images of the same scene (nothing exciting, just the view from the front of the studio) and seeing what can be pulled back out of the white

Cameras and lenses used:

Canon 5D with Nikon 50mm f1.8 AI-S

Nikon D800e with Nikon 50mm f1.4 AF-D

Fuji S5 with Nikon 35mm F2 AF-D (to compensate for crop factor)

All shots were taken at the same time, on a tripod, with the cameras set to 1/30 sec, f8, ISO 100. Below are the (overexposed) results from each camera


Canon 5D as shot:



Nikon D800E as shot:



Fuji S5 as shot:



As you can see there’s not a lot of difference between all three images, they all look awful, to see how much could be recovered they were processed in Adobe Camera Raw, setting Exposure to -4.0 stops, Recovery to 100% and Fill Light to 100%, here’s the results:

Canon 5D (ACR e-4.0,r100,fl100):



Nikon D800E  (ACR e-4.0,r100,fl100):



Not much to choose between the Nikon and Canon, although the Fuji…

Fuji S5  (ACR e-4.0,r100,fl100):


…ends up looking a bit of a mess with that much ‘rescue’ as there is so much info that can be recovered from the highlights, a more modest set of adjustments (exposure -3.0 stops, no recovery, fill light at 50%) can provide something a bit more sensible

Fuji S5  (ACR e-3.0,r0,fl50):


There we have it, when it comes to ‘exceptional’ dynamic range then we should be referring to the Fujifilm S5 Pro (or the S3 – same sensor), still love the D800E though, just wont be putting my S5 on ebay for the foreseeable future

Best camera for Nikon glass? – how about a Canon?

Ok, I wanted to get a camera that works well for manual focus, it’ll mainly be used with some old Nikon glass and whatever oddities that I might construct (usually M42 mount).

First thought was to use either a Fuji S3 or S5, I already have an S5 with a KatzEye focusing screen that’s an absolute pleasure to use, not to mention of course the dynamic range that it delivers, but in this case the one lens that I really do want to make more use of is the rather wonderful Nikon 28mm f2.8 AI-s and I would really like to enjoy all of the 28mm that is can deliver so the crop sized sensor in the Fuji’s wasn’t going to satisfy. Obvious answer would be a Nikon D700 but used prices on these are in the region of £900 (so £1000 with the focusing screen), at this point I felt a little envy towards the Canon folk with their Ee-S focusing screen.

I was surprised to find how little a used 5D can be purchased for, this seems to be partly due to the fact that you need to send them into Canon to find out the shutter count, c’mon people, these things have a burst rate that’s hardly worth referring to it as a feature, they were never that big in the heavy use fields of photography so as long as the outer body is in generally good condition (look for rubbed off paint on the buttons as signs of wear) then you can be pretty sure that there’s a good amount of life left in it. I got mine for £350 (including 3 months warranty) from a local camera shop and paid another £30 for the Ee-S screen, a couple of cheap Nikon and M42 to Canon adapters from ebay and for less than £400 I’ve got a damn fine full frame camera that’s ideal for manual focus work

Yeah, I know I need to rely on stop-down metering but that’s hardly a deal breaker

Canon 5D Mk1, Nikon 28mm f2.8 Ai-S, B+W Polariser

The Contraption

Ok, there’s a bit of a story behind this, over the past few years I’ve been a bit of a wide angle addict but recently needed to produce some more ‘correct’ images i.e. buildings with straight vertical lines. So, using my trusty 14-24mm I found myself feeling rather uninspired by the results and thoughts quickly turned towards a desire for a 24mm tilt-shift. At roughly the same time there was also a food photo assignment which got me considering all the benefits in the studio of having an 85mm tilt-shift to hand but these two beauties are not cheap and so the mind wondered about other solutions.

I’ve known of the concept of bolting a dSLR on the back of a 4×5 system for a while but only really considered it in terms of replacing a polaroid, although, not being a large format guy I would just look on with envy at the movements but appreciate the convenience of a digital 35mm system (don’t get me wrong, I love film, just can’t justify losing a day at a time to develop-scan-refine to be at the same point as when I upload digital raw files). There is also a very nice Mamiya RB67 setup that I have that never gets used, so in the mixing pot of the mind the elements came together and ‘The Contraption’ idea was born

After more thought and a healthy amount of googling I found that there were are few out there that had done similar things (Alex Koloskov being a strong point of reference), with plans in my head, some knowledge of engineering and a large dose of ignorance, I was sure it would work 😉

Firstly I needed a monorail camera and managed to get a very nice Sinar P from the usual online auction site, this came with 4 lenses and some other goodies, oh how tempted I was to leave it untouched and just enjoy it as intended. Right, to work, task one was to mount the D800e on the rear assembly; this was done by removing the rear standard and disassembling the mount from the frame (also took the opportunity to replace the front standard with the better condition frame from the rear standard). Using some aluminium square section I drilled and tapped (M4) 4 holes as per the removed frame such that the section could fastened to the rear standard mount, also in the section I drilled an 6.5mm hole so I could pass through a 1/4″ BSW machine bolt (oh, and a 10mm hole on the other side of the section to allow for the head of the bolt), the bolt is then fastened into a Manfrotto 394 Plate Adapter (using a 3/8″ – 1/4″ thread adapter)

Having read somewhere on the internet (so I know it must be true) that large format lenses are really not that great and the large format folk more than make up for this shortcoming with huge details filled negatives, something about the fact that medium format and 35mm are hard fixed boxes so tolerances and calibration are tight but the move-around nature of large format make such things less critical – dunno but I want to use my Mamiya glass anyway 🙂

A Mamiya extension donated it’s mount to the project, the only lens boards that came with the Sinar has holes in them that were too large for the Mamiya mount (apart from a recessed board that might well be used in the future), to resolve this a spare barn door was sacrificed, this was cut down, marked, drilled and tapped (M2.5) to suit the mount and the lens board (which was also drilled to allow it to be bolted to the ex-barn door). As this was all done by hand I didn’t have the means to cleanly machine the large hole, please excuse the rather messy hand file finish

This only leaves the bellows, here I need to be honest and admit that I’ve not done them as yet, the intention is to use some neoprene that I have along with a couple of bits from an old extension tube. What we have here is the current temporary solution that consists of nothing more that a T2 – Nikon adapter and a quantity of gaffer tape

That’s about it, just need to get on with taking some pictures with it!

Colour or Black and White?

Following an attempted murder of my good self whereby I was dragged out of my cozy studio and once loaded up with approx. 30kg of gear made to walk up the hill of doom, ok, in reality we were checking out potential locations for upcoming courses and my good friend John, being the outdoor type, has a better understanding of these things.

Anyway, we ended up at our second location and put the cameras to further use and here’s an image that I got, usually the choice of to process in colour or black and white is clear (and certainly in this case I was using an ND filter that I was aware suffers from colour issues so monochrome was in my mind) but here the image works both ways, so I guess the preference for Colour or Black and White is purely subjective

Click on the images for larger versions:

Nikon D3X vs Fujifilm S5 Pro Dynamic Range (well, highlight recovery test)

As some of you fine folk out there may well be aware, I’ve always been a great fan of my Fuji S5, so much so that I bought a second one (and an S3 just because I’ve always thought they look damn fine). Anyway, after recently adding the most awesome Nikon D3X to my arsenal, a reorganisation of my camera bag was in order, along with facing the prospect of living without the S5 being in there as the D700 takes it’s place as the back-up body.

Having taken the D3X out on Sunday for a bit of a test run, one of the main things that I was interested in was how well it handled highlight recovery, first impressions is that it’s pretty much in the same ballpark as the D700 (and other regular CMOS sensor based cameras). This means only one thing, a (less than) scientific test is required!

The S5 has a 35mm f2 and the D3X has a 50mm f1.4, the sun was setting (not the greatest sunset but there was some clouds and colour in the sky). Both cameras were set to ISO 100, f5.6 at 1/10 second to create a overexposed image

D3X image as shot:

S5 image as shot:

So, not a lot of difference, yes the images were taken at the same time, no the guy doesn’t appear in the S5 shot – in reality there was 5 seconds difference as only when I was taking the shots that I realised I had reset the self-timer on the S5 to just 5 seconds, ok maybe they were not taken at exactly the same time but are we really going to quibble over 5 seconds?

Now to the recovery, I’m not doing anything interesting and not bothered too much about making the image too pretty at this time, I just want to see what’s there in that big lump of white that was the sky.

Using Adobe Camera Raw with exposure set to -4.00, recovery at 100% and fill light at 100% the expedition into the highlights commenced, and the results? – see for yourselves:

D3X (ACR e:-4.00/r:100%/f:100%)

S5 (ACR e:-4.00/r:100%/f:100%)

Interesting but not really unexpected findings, the Fuji S5 (and S3) remains to be the ruler of the kingdom of dynamic range, my only problem now is how to carry three bodies in my bag.