"The Lake District - Stunning scenery begging to captured on camera"
Because to the way things have turned out this year my wife and I have not yet had a proper holiday. During the year we bought a new motor home (an Elddis Accordo 120) and when we ordered it we were told we would take delivery by 1 July. The collection date kept being put back and back, and we finally took collection at the end of August, i.e. after the summer months. My wife also started a new job and couldn’t take holiday during her three month probation period. Because we had to wait for the motor home to be delivered, and as a consequence of my wife’s change in employment the summer passed us by and we never got to take a summer vacation.
We now have the Elddis 120 on the drive, and my wife’s probation period is now over and the holiday is booked – a trip to the Lake District. This is fine but it’s late September/early October so the weather is going to be “interesting” to say the least. With the holiday booked it is time to sort out the photography equipment I am going to take to help me capture some (hopefully) stunning landscape photos. The equipment I am going to take will comprise:-
My collection of cameras comprises a Canon 450D (my first dlsr that I can’t and won’t ever part with), a Canon 7D (bought primarily for motor sports/action/wildlife) and a Canon 6D (because I wanted a full frame and I don’t have the deep pockets for the 5D. I also have a small Canon G1X, which I use for foreign travel and those times when I don’t have the time to set up a shot and have to shoot quickly, like when I am out and about on the cycle or out with the wife.
I would like to take the 6D for landscape, the 7D for any potential birding opportunities and the G1X for the rides out in the hills and around the lakes.
There isn’t a great deal of room in the motor home and I am restricted on space, therefore I have got to scale back a bit. I am more interested in capturing stunning landscape photos of the Lake District than finding birds and wildlife therefore I will take the 6D. As well as being full frame the 6D is also smaller, lighter and takes up less space than the 7D, which is another reason to leave the 7D at home.
The Canon G1X doesn’t take up much room at all, and there is loads of room in the glove box for it. As there is plenty of room I am going to take the G1X as well, besides lugging the 6D and lenses around on a cycle will be a faff, and won’t impress he wife much.
Ideally I would like to take my entire collection of lenses, so I have all bases covered. Travelling in the motor home, where space is tight, means this simply isn’t feasible therefore I have to scale it back to what I consider the most useful lenses, and I have cut it down to two.
Since I am after landscape photos the first lens I am going to take is the Canon 16 – 35 F4L IS lens. This ultra-wide angle lens is perfect for landscapes, and as it is small, light and doesn’t take up much room it leaves me plenty of room for my second lens.
The second lens I am going to take is the Canon 28 – 300L IS lens. With a 28mm wide end and 300mm at the long end the range of focal lengths is huge, which makes it a versatile lens. Okay, this lens isn't very fast but this is one compromise I am going to have to make. If shutter speeds become an issue I will have to rely on increasing the ISO (which isn’t a huge deal with the Canon 6D) to try and get correct exposure.
I would like to take my fisheye lens and macro lens, however there simply isn’t room in the motor home for these lenses as well.
Since I will be looking to take several landscape shots a tripod is an essential bit of kit, but as I am sure you have already guessed space is tight. In a perfect word I would take my Gitzo tripod as it is large (i.e. high), strong, robust, fully adjustable and very stable. The Gitzo is my tripod of choice for all my landscape photography.
The tripod I am taking to the Lake District is my Manfrotto Befree, which I bought specifically for travelling, although not in a motor home. The Manfrotto Be free is a tripod that folds up to a little over 30cm and packs in to its own bag. Fully extended the Befree is high enough for all situations.
The Manfrotto Befree is light, which means that stability is compromised, but this is to be expected. That said, the Befree is still plenty strong enough to securely hold my Canon 6D, Canon 16 – 35 F4L IS lens, Hitech filter holder and filters without any creep. The thing that affects the performance of the Manfrotto Befree is the wind. Yep, when there is anything stronger than a gentle breeze the stability issues can occur. Using the Befree fully extended in windy conditions won’t result in a tack sharp photo, however if I lower it a little the stability dramatically improves, and I can improve it even more if I hang my kit bag off it.
Remote shutter release
Since I will be focusing on landscape photography I will make sure I have at least two remote shutter release cables, being one to use and a backup. I know some people will say just use the camera’s self-timer however I like to have total control over when the exposure starts, and the only way to do this is to use a remote shutter release.
There are times when I need to hold the camera for several seconds before firing the shutter, and a remote shutter release is the only way that I can do this. Trust me, I have tried using the camera’s self-timer but I had so many firing issues, and missed shots that I gave up and used the shutter release cable instead.
Many photographers argue that photography filters have no place in digital photography and that you can create all filter effects in the digital dark room in front of a computer screen. This may or may not be true, I can’t actually confirm because whilst my editing skills are adequate they are not up to the standard required to replicate the filter effects using photo editing software. I could spend the time (and money) and take a photo shop course to learn the skills, but I simply don’t have the time available Besides, I prefer to spend the precious little time I have actually taking photos rather than sat I front of the computer editing them.
Because of the above I still use photography filters and I will always continue to do so. There is a certain “something” about getting the shot right in camera, and this is another reason I won’t give up my photography filters any time soon.
I would, of course, like to take all my photography filters to the Lake District but because of the space constraints I have to make sure I only take what I really need. I am going to take two graduated ND filters and one standard ND filter.
The graduated ND filters I am going to take includes a one and two stop soft edge filters. The Lake District is mountainous so it will be a waste of time (and space) taking the hard edged graduated ND filters. Since it is autumn I am not expecting there not to be too much difference between the land and the sky, therefore the three stop graduated filter is going to stay at home and I am taking the one and two stop filters instead.
The Lake District is, as stated in the name, full of lakes, rivers and streams therefore there is a lot of scope for long exposure photography, and this is what I am going to focus on. It would be good to take a variety of ND filters however I am going to jump straight in with the 10 stop ND filter and that’s it. I know there are times when the 10 stop ND filter is too strong so I know I am going to have to be a little careful. I am going to focus on lakes, rather than fast flowing rivers so the 10 stop should be ideal for most of the photos I plan to take.
If I do get an opportunity to take photos of fast flowing rivers I’ll leave the 10 stop filter alone and try to introduce a bit of movement by stopping down the lens as much as I can, and decreasing the ISO as low as it will go. If I can’t get the amount of artistic blur I am after doing this, so be it, but I am sure I won’t be too far adrift.
Whenever I go travelling I usually take the plastic 10 stop ND filter (made by Hitech) however I plan on taking my favorite 10 stop ND filter to the Lake District, which is my Zomei 10 stop filter, which is made from glass. Zomei’s 10 stop ND filter is an excellent filter, and even though it is way cheaper than the rivals (I refer to Lee and Singh Ray 10 stop filters) the image quality you get with the Zomei is no different. If you want the best bang for your buck the Zomei 10 stop ND filter is the one to buy. Don’t believe me? Take a look at “Review of the Zomei 10 stop ND filter”.
"Long exposure shots are something I intend to do although the effect of this one is a bit too strong for my liking"
In addition to the above I am going to take the usual spare memory cards (lots of small capacity ones instead of one large capacity ones), lens cleaning cloths, lens pen and battery charger.
I have to admit that I am not a fan of travelling light because I always come across a situation where I wish I had taken “this or that” with me, which is very frustrating because not having the right bit of kit is very annoying. I guess that’s the joy of photography, and also having to do the best with what we have.
As I am sure most of you are aware the new iPhone 7 is now available and the camera seems to be one of the biggest selling points of the iPhone 7, which I guess is no surprise. The headline camera specs of the iPhone 7 are as follows:-
12 megapixels is impressive for a smartphone, however the 2x optical and 10x digital zoom isn’t anything special. The optical stabilisation technology is awesome and will help to consistently capture tack sharp photos.
Even though the 12 mega pixels and optical stabilization is impressive, the standout feature for me has to be the f1.8 lens. When you combine this maximum wide aperture and the six elements I think capturing photos with a tack sharp subject against a nicely blurred out background is going to be pretty simple. I also think the lens is going to be great for low light situations, and the optical stabilization is also going to help out here.
Compared to other smartphone cameras the iPhone 7 does appear exceptionally good, however I am struggling to see where the iPhone 7 fits in the world of photography. If the iPhone 7’s image quality is as good as Apple claim, and what the advertising/marketing blurb shows it is a bit of a half-way house.
If the image quality is what it looks then it isn’t good enough to take saleable prints but it is too good for snapping and posting the images to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and all the other social networking sites. Smartphones are particularly useful for capturing snaps and sharing them on social media and other situations where images don’t have to be in sharp focus, they don’t have to be well lit, the white balance can be off and have technical flaws. With the iPhone 7 you will be capturing photos that are way too good for social media and networking but nowhere near good enough to print out.
I am not going to jump on the iPhone 7 bandwagon because I simply don’t see the point. Besides, the iPhone 7 is too expensive, I have only had my iPhone 6 a few short months and I always wait for the new models to be released and have all the bugs, issues and problems sorted out before I end up buying one.
I don’t use my iPhone 6 for photography, and I have never used any of my previous iPhones or other smartphones for photography either. I use my smartphone for calling, texting, emailing and web browsing and leave the camera function well alone. If I want to take photos I use a camera (either my dslrs or Canon G1X) and I always have a proper camera with me. If I want to take photos to share on social networking sites and social media I use a proper camera and reduce the file size using some photo editing software before uploading. I am not the sort of person to snap and instantly upload, and I never will be.
I want all of the photos I take to be the best I can and when it comes to sharing my images I am very picky and make sure they are the best they can be, and the only way to do this is to use a proper camera.
It seems more and more people are sacking off their digital cameras and using iPhones or smartphones instead, which I think is a risky strategy. If you want to print your images as photos, posters or postcards, or want to print your images to mugs, pillows, serving trays, teapots, hats, t-shirts, key rings etc. an iPhone won’t cut it. If you want to use your images no smartphone will cut it. If you are happy taking okay snapshots purely to share on social networks or social media then knock yourself out and use an iPhone or smartphone, and you won’t get better than the iPhone 7. You just need deep pockets to buy one in the first instance.
It is a common school of thought (that seems to be growing by the day) that photography filters are redundant and have no place in the world of digital photography. I appreciate times have changed and I totally get that it is possible to re-create some photography filter effects with photo editing software but I don’t think it is advisable to get rid of all filters just yet.
In my experience there are some photography filters that are as useful today as they were twenty years ago, and just because photography has moved to digital it doesn’t mean these filters no longer have a place. I still carry and use photography filters, and whilst I may have managed to reduce my collection of filters over the last few years (because of advancements in digital photography) there are some filters I always have in my kit bag.
The photography filters I still use - Graduated ND filters
Many photographers argue that modern day photo editing software has replaces the need for graduated ND filters because it is possible to achieve the graduated ND effect in front of the computer in the digital darkroom. I have seen (claimed) examples of photos with an obvious graduated ND effect edited using Photoshop, and I have to say that they look exceptionally good. I have read many how to articles and viewed loads of video tutorials about how to achieve the effect and I have given it a go several times myself. I obviously get what I am trying to achieve and I can see in my mind’s eye the look I want, it’s just that I can never achieve it on screen and my end results never look polished.
Whenever I try to achieve the look the edges look terrible, I miss bits, some bits are too dark, some are too light, it’s never straight……. The list goes on. Perhaps I am being a bit of a perfectionist, but I know what the end result would look like if I used the filters on the camera at the time of capture, and my photo shop examples never match up. I appreciate it is down to user error and me not being competent to use Photo shop but I don’t have the time available to attend a course and learn. Besides, I can’t be bothered and would rather be taking photos than editing them.
I have reached the conclusion creating the graduated ND filter effect in front of the computer isn’t for me, therefore I stick to using graduated ND filters on my camera as and when the need arises.
There are loads of graduated ND filters available of all different strengths however I find the most useful comprises the 2 stop hard edged and the 2 stop soft edged graduated ND filters. In my experience the difference between the sky and the foreground seldom needs more, or less, than this and I like the look this strength filter gives. I know there are photographers out there who go for the really moody look and like to make the skies much darker, hence requiring a stronger ND filter. I like to add a bit of mood but I don’t like making the skies look artificially angry therefore I stop at the 2 stop ND filter.
At the end of the day the decision to use a graduated ND filter or use photo editing software is down to personal preference. Purists would argue you have to use graduated ND filters whereas others would argue to use picture editing software, after all this is digital photography and if the technology is there were may as well use it.
If you do decide to use graduated ND filters whether to use a 2 stop graduated ND filter to create a little mood or whether to use a 3 stop (or more) photographic filter for angry skies is down to personal preference and the type of photo you want to capture. Alternatively, you may want to keep the skies really light and only opt for a one stop graduated ND filter – the choice is yours.
The graduated ND filters I use for my photography are Hitech branded ones, and these are perfect for me. When I was looking to buy my first set of graduated ND filters I did some internet research and discovered that there were, in fact, very few companies that made them. It seems that everyone has their own opinion on which is best, and whilst the Lee filters seemed to be top of the pile, all users commented on how expensive they were.
Whilst on a landscape photography trip with the local photography club I got speaking to some members, one of which had recently bought some Hitech graduated ND filters. The filters seemed good quality (no better or worse) than the Lee filters another member owned, and the image quality seemed pretty good too (again no better or worse than the Lee – although I didn’t get the chance to go pixel peeping). What won it for me was the cost of the Hitech graduated ND filters, which were considerably less than the Lee equivalents. What’s the point in spending more money on the premium branded filters when you can get lesser branded filters of the same build quality and image quality? The decision was made to invest in Hitech graduated filters, and I haven’t looked back