Friday, 19 February 2010

Painting with light

So here I am in reading week! It's nearly over, but I've got some stuff done! I went to the fire station again on Monday even though I really didn't want to. Not because I don't enjoy myself though. I wasn't too sure why. I think it had something to do with being in the cold for a couple of hours and being a little tired. It was nice and warm indoors so I didn't feel like venturing outside to get frostbite! But I went anyway, and had a great time yet again. The firemen really embarrassed me at the end of it all though, words were twisted, holes were dug (by me) and hats were put over faces (again by me). As they put it, you could light a fag on my face, it sure felt like it was on fire!

Anyhoo, a few things have happened since my last post. I got my provisional license in the post yesterday! I wasn't expecting it for a couple of weeks at least, but sure enough 6 days later it arrived in the post along with my supporting identity documents! So now I can learn to drive and buy drinks without having to worry about ID! Seriously, it's great on one level that people think I look younger than I am, but it's not so great because it usually means I have to get a friend to buy me something with my money =/ Not anymore! Mind you, I don't really drink that much anyway so it's not that big a deal, I'm just happy that I have more doors open now.

What else has happened? Erm, I started playing my guitar again. Not that big a deal I guess but it's something I've not done for a while :) Oh, and I bought a market handbook for photographers that I've been meaning to get for a while. Should arrive either today or tomorrow. I still haven't bought certain bits of kit though...I really should sort that out. I just get stumped at what to buy. I fret so much over getting the right thing for the right price that I end up getting nothing. To be fair though, I'm having to spend lots on expensive equipment. I have every right to be thrifty :P

I also went out and about with a friend recently to do some painting with light. Partly because it's part of a brief we have in college and partly because it's one heck of a lot of fun. Before we got to the painting with light however we went somewhere else. I think it was Mumbles or Burry Port, I can't remember. Some harbour. I'll include those photos in a HDR post I'm going to make, since I used a tripod and bracketing. I'd like to try it out and see how it goes :)

For the painting with light, we messed around in Trostre car park first of all and then found a bridge to do some long exposures of cars going past. On the way home I decided I'd try and get something funky just by holding the camera loosely, let it focus on whatever and press the shutter down and see what happens. I got some pretty neat photos! Here's some of the results:

This one is one of my favourites, it's currently my desktop background :)

Please click for a larger image, I seem to have fixed the problem I was having with some being enormous. They should fit comfortably in the screen now :) I'll also be starting to use Flickr some more soon. I need to sort some things out first though.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

My new lens! And life in general to date :)

This post is later than planned due to me forgetting I was helping out at youth yesterday. I was in college all day and then youth shortly after that and I got back pretty late, so I didn't really have the energy for writing it out. I was really tired from having a late night the night before and then waking up during it repeatedly. My sleeping patterns haven't been the best lately. Last night I had a nightmare too, so hopefully tonight will be more restful.

Anyway, I'm not going to write loads about the lens, there's loads of really good reviews on the net already so I'd just end up copying them.

So, the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 is in a word, brilliant. I've been messing around with it and I've found it's quite fun to focus it manually and watch the really narrow line of focus move on the live view. It gives me pictures that are similar to the kind you get with a tilt shift lens and it's pretty impressive. It's very easy to use and has gives a high image quality which is nothing less of expected since it's a prime lens. No moving parts usually means better optics due to not having to compromise for other focal lengths. That's why the bigger macro lenses cost an arm and a leg. Here's a couple of pictures I've taken with the lens so far at f1.8. I've not done any shoots with it yet so they're just things (and dogs) around the house:

The lens is really light, compact and sturdy. Some people complain that it's made of plastic and is pretty tight fitting on the camera body compared to other lenses, but I don't see what the fuss is all about. Lenses are delicate bits of equipment at the best of times even if they're encased in steel, so anybody in their right mind isn't going to throw it around and will be careful to not drop it. It's very tough plastic, when I'm not really thinking about it I sometimes mistake it for metal. I quite like how tight it is on the body, and after taking it on and off a few times it doesn't seem to be as bad. I see it as a sign of good workmanship and I rest assured in the knowledge that it isn't going anywhere once it's on. It's not going to damage anything so I don't worry about it since it's made by Nikon for Nikon cameras. I'm fairly sure they know what they're doing ;)

Here's a couple of pictures I took of the lens:

Overall, it's a very good lens, probably worth twice as much as I paid for it due to its usefulness and quality. I paid just over £100 for mine on Amazon, and I've seen it go down in price since. Kinda gutting to see something you've just bought suddenly become cheaper, but oh well :) To echo what others have said, it's probably difficult to find such a good lens at such a low price. I was tempted to get the f1.4 but deep down I just couldn't justify spending around £300 on a lens that opened 2/3 of a stop wider, was built out of metal and had weird distortion going on that the f1.8 doesn't have. It was only fractionally sharper at f2.8 than mine at f2.8 and just didn't seem worth it. I find f1.8 soft enough for most photos where I want a shallow depth of focus, f1.4 would probably be exceptionally difficult to tackle.

So, that's my new lens. I got teased about it in college by the tutors - I think they think I'm in love with it or something. Well, I am pretty pleased about it :D

In other news, the photos I ordered on Asda arrived this morning in a big brown parcel. Wasn't expecting that, I thought it'd be much smaller! I also got a letter from college telling me I'd been awarded a bursary/scholarship fee of just over £300 to help with the costs of everything on my course. I applied for it back in September/October and forgot all about it so it was a nice surprise to wake up to. I'll get it at the start of March.

I've also done something I've been threatening to do for a while - posted my provisional license application! I can't wait to start having driving lessons. That's something else I've been saving money for. I hope I pass my test this year! Something else I'm finding exciting is thinking up locations for photoshoots I can do in the very near future. Like in the next month. I've got a pretty big list so far of places to use in the local area thanks to a brainstorming session with my mum :) I was feeling pretty uninspired by the surrounding area so she helped to open my mind and my imagination to new ideas and other ways of looking at things. She's great! ^^

One of the things I could well be doing is a fireman calendar for charity. It'd sell like hot cakes :P

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Colours and printing and mounts, oh my!

So, in my last post I mentioned that the day had been a bit of a disaster. And this is why. In this post, I'm going to give some insight to the world of colour calibration, printing and repeating the procedure. Again and again.

Now, it probably has something to do with my lack of experience, but I have come to rather dislike trying to get prints to match the screen colours. I can adjust the levels to look right on a colour calibrated monitor no problem - I actually enjoy that to an extent. But getting the printer to play ball? Not a chance. It's so time consuming, I've found it's probably much easier to send it away and get it professionally printed. The jury is out on this one however until I actually try that. Based on what I have heard from tutors and other professional photographers though, it seems it's worth a shot.

So, that Monday afternoon. After messing around with the levels and other various settings, I had to make 4 or 5 prints in order to get the colours right coming through the printer. Absolute nightmare, even on the colour calibrated screen (which for some reason likes to make everything look orange). So, if you're a photographer reading this and have considered printing your own work - by all means, if you have the time, the patience, the money and the resources, go for it. If you haven't got a lot of money to waste on paper, ink and printers, consider getting them printed professionally instead. You'll save yourself a lot of hair loss. I'm not frustrated easily, not by any means, but it does try your patience. I got it right in the end, but only after hours of tinkering with the help of a tutor.

On to the mounts. The mounts were far easier to do. I got shown how to do them, so next time I need some I'll be able to do it myself. I got my head bitten off by one of the women in the office however. I got sent to get the mount cutter. One problem though - it was in the room where interviews were taking place. Course it would be. So I asked in the office if I could use it, I even asked after the lady in charge, but she's kinda intimidating to me at the best of times so I didn't go looking for her. This didn't help things.

So I camped outside the room with my laptop waiting for that small window of opportunity to grab the thing. Eventually, Iain came out and I rushed in after asking if I could to get the cutter. The lady in charge of it came in as well and asked quite bluntly what on earth I thought I was doing, and if I minded not throwing it around because I'd knock it out of alignment. It clipped the wall ever so slightly, which is what prompted this. If she hadn't have startled me though I do wonder if that'd have actually happened. Anyway, after a bit of "stop doing xyz you need permission" and retorts of "I'm not doing xyz, I asked, I'm not using it, the tutor is" I managed to get it to where it was needed. The mounts were cut, and I was a happy bunny.

If you have a mount cutter, or are thinking of getting one, I'd say it's worth the investment. Once I have all the other stuff I need to buy, I'll get one. Only because I have access to one in college. Really easy to use, really easy to learn how to use, and saves the stress of trying to get somebody you've never met online to cut them how you want them (been there, done that, got the t-shirt…). Of course, if they have the size you want in stock already, go for it, you can possibly save some money! Ebay seems to be the best place for this :)

Tomorrow, I'll post about my new 50mm lens!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Hoses and Ladders

Sorry it's late, but I've been quite busy this week (which you'll find out about soon, but that's something for another post). However, Monday is fast becoming my favourite day of the week. I never thought it would, but there's so many things that make me enjoy it. My average Monday now goes like this:

  • Get up 7.30 (groan...)
  • Ready to catch bus by 8.30
  • Get to college by 9.15
  • Robbie's lectures all day: Seminar-like in the morning, practical lesson in the afternoon
  • Get bus home
  • Have dinner, relax
  • Wrap up warm and head up to the Firestation at 6.30
  • Leave at 8.30
  • Review pictures
  • Sort pictures
  • Chill
  • Bed

Not bad, huh? I really like Robbie's lectures, they're a lot more fun IMO. I like taking photos for Paul's lectures but I'm not fond of the idea that I have to get them printed EVERY WEEK for around £20 a pop. It's gonna cost something like £200 to print photos. I could put the money towards a new lens. I'm a student, I'm not made of money by definition!

Anyway, enough of my rambling. You're probably wondering how this Monday went.

This Monday was different. It started out ok, but it gradually got worse after about 12. Things got really bad at around 3.30, but that's a different post for a different day. The lecture in the morning was fine. Quite enjoyable really. We had a break (also known as Pimms o'clock) and lunch, then we started the painting with light class. It was fun, but I had this constant niggle in the back of my mind that I needed to get the prints done for my client. I stayed there for as long as I could stand since the anxiety was building more and more. Technically I'd already had this class anyway since I'd done it the week before. So I asked if I could leave and got to work.

Long story short, I ended up missing my bus. He's meant to wait till 4.07 (pedantic I know, but I don't set the times) but he'd already gone by the time I got out there, which was only 2 or 3 minutes past 4. So I was left lugging everything into town, missed the 4.40 service bus and so forced to look around Waterstones for about an hour. Could have been worse. When I eventually got home at around 6.20 I had my dinner and then rushed up to the fire station.

When I got there they'd already started doing things, though it wasn't much. Three of them were outside talking, and started looking at their watches and trying to wind me up by asking me "What time do you call this?". I just laughed. They pointed out that somebody had written something in the snow, something about somebody loving Hardy, one of the firemen there. I wandered over, laughed, took a picture and went back to the group. I then realised what was going on - they'd written it to set me up so I'd get the blame. So I blamed it on Chris since he wandered over there too!

After the ice was cleared from below the tower they got a health and safety briefing which I didn't pay much attention to since I was inside the fire engine by this point quite happily and peacefully taking photos, thinking they'd be great and that Paul was going to love them. The next thing I know all of the doors open and I'm surrounded by the guys all piling in to the engine and sounding off to Nigel. Thankfully it was only two in the back and two in the front, but we all found it funny.

More jokes were thrown around, I got asked if I was married (I can't remember why) and one of them tried to get me with one of the hoses again - I think this will be a weekly occurrence. Though I may have put him off of doing it again by asking him if he was willing to buy me a new camera if this one got damaged ;)

We all had a cup of tea/coffee, they asked me if I wanted beer since they were sharing bottles and cans out between themselves (I'm not too sure why and I didn't ask).

All in all, it was another fun day at the fire station. I got the photos printed today. I'm going to get it done online in future though, much cheaper. I only went to town to get it done today since I need them for tomorrow and home delivery wouldn't have been on time. They turned out pretty well.