Monday, 29 October 2007

Impulse buys & buyers remorse

I've never really suffered from buyers remorse to any great degree. I did a little recently when I bought my Canon 5D, the problem was the weather was awful and I just didn't get to use it as much as I would have liked. This led to the feeling that I'd wasted my money, when I started to use it I lost the remorse.

Now I impulse buy a lot so you would think it would hit me a lot too, until recently I've been lucky and this weekend was a nice save. I decided to pop into PC World to check out the 15.4" MacBook Pro I would be ordering from Apple on Monday, I'm glad I did! The thing is I just didn't like it, the screen size, the layout or all the dead space around the whole thing!

I decided against buying one there and then and this got me to thinking about the fact it wouldn't actually have been a good purchase for me anyway. The questions I got to asking myself are:

Would it help me take a better photograph?
Would it make me get out there more often?
Would it make me a better photographer generally?

And ultimately the answer to them was *no*. Whilst I was wandering round Slimbridge though getting the 5D wet in the rain it dawned on me that a weather sealed body might tick all the boxes for me [or at least most of them]. Whilst it wouldn't directly make me a better photog it would help me become one. It would let me get out there more often as I wouldn't have to worry about the elements.

So the search is on, I'm not about to blow £5k [Canon 1Ds Mk III] on something which is basically hobby kit so I'm looking at the older Canon 1Ds Mk II which is still a respectable standard. The 1D Mk III with it's 1.3x crop factor would affect my lense selection too badly so has been dropped off the radar.

I'm in the process of saving some cash to grab a 1D Mk II in the coming three months. In the meantime I've upgraded my 430 EX to a spanking new 580 EX II as I've been hankering after one of these for a while ;) Also grabbed an off-camera cord and a couple of sets of NiMh batteries to power the beast :)

Happy days!


Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The Long Drought

Well I seem to have been in a long dry spell with respect to photography for at least 3 months now. I just don't seem to be getting out there and taking any photos, those I do take rarely make it past the digital lightbox. Does this mean I've lost the passion for the hobby? No! It simply means I have lost the passion for this area of the world. I'm not excited by any of the local spots anymore, we seem to have 'done them to death' meaning there's nothing new.

Well now as we wander [slowly] into Autumn it seems that the world around us is changing, the same familiar old scenes which have dropped off my radar are slowly creeping back in. The change in these will be seen through the foliage on the tree's, the barren landscapes and beautiful colours.

I will be heading to Slimbridge this weekend to get some quick shots on my way past then the weekend after I will be dropping into Stourhead for some fantastic Autumnal shots. Hopefully this, and the slower onset of winter, will rekindle my lagging passion for the area.

I was really looking forward to last winter, some amazing frost, snow and morning mist shots and it simply never happened. The winter was so mild we didn't get anything exciting at all.

I for one am looking forward to Winter with all it's cold frosty mornings :)


Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Apple MacBook Pro - Part II

Well just when I was ready to hit the buy button I get an email from Apple about Leopard! Seems if I wait till next week the MacBook will ship with it, if I grab it before I had to 'upgrade' to it and thats hassle I could do without. Will be waiting until tuesday or wednesday next week to order, should get it next day ready for the weekend. Will be going to Stourhead next weekend to get some Autumn shots as the first ones to run through Aperture on the Mac.

Hopefully, all being well, the MacBook will turn up and the weather will be perfect on the weekend. We know though that these things have a habit of going sour though so I'll wait and see!


Monday, 22 October 2007

Run Rabbit Run!

So it's started to get cold in the evenings now and the missus is worried about her rabbits being outside in it. We decided a while ago to build them a new hutch, run and outdoor enclosure. The hutch was to be double skinned and insulated to combat cold. The problem is with the awful weather we have been having I just haven't had chance to even get the footings in.

So we made the decision to insulate the current affair this Saturday, off down to the local builders merchant to grab some 1" insulation and 4mm plywood to get started. The problems came when they only had 2" insulation so we decided to go with that, when I got home I realised the futility of my plan when I installed the first studwork using the planed 2x1 I had spare. It's planed meaning it's no longer 2" deep, hence the insulation is too damn thick!

Anyway we plodded on and after another trip to the builders merchants for ply we now have an upstairs area fully insulated with 2" polysytrene block and lined with 4mm plywood. They have been using the area alot more now so it muct be warmer. Was a long day but worth it in the end :)

They seem alot happier now and enjoyed the day spent in the garden keeping the grass down for me. I'm currently suffering though with a seriously painful back after working all day in such cramped conditions.


Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Apple MacBook Pro

Well after struggling along with my PC based Fuji LifeBook tablet as a photo editing machine I've decided it's time to retire that part of it's role to a new machine. The problem with the tablet is that the native resolution is 1024 x 600, this means that most of the basic applications complain about the resolution.

I've found that to use Photoshop CS3 and Camera Raw I need to up the resolution to 1024 x 768 and scroll up and down the screen. This is do-able but not easy, it also makes it difficult to render larger images or process basic RAW's.

I will be getting an Apple MacBook Pro to perform this function from here on in, coupled with Apple Aperture this will be an amazing set-up. I use a Mac Mini at home with Aperture and it is superb.

The dilema comes in when you look at the range of MacBooks available. I settled on the 'Pro' range for the additional power from the Intel Core Duo chipset and the newer graphics. I then needed to decide on the screen size, I used the following to decide:

15" Pro's;

Backlit LCD
Smaller form
Lighter package [by 0.5Kg]

15" Cons;

No 'gloss' screen
Lower resolution

17" Pros;

Higher resolution screen
Larger screen
Gloss screen option available

17" Cons;

Larger form [would need to replace all my bags]
£200 more expensive
No backlit LCD

So all in all I decided on the 15" model but then the decision on the version of the 15" raised it's ugly head! It's never easy is it but then I guess when you are spending £1300+ you need to be sure.

I decided that the 2.4Ghz version would be better in that it offered more HDD, more Graphics RAM and a faster processer for the extra price [£300]. So the decision is made and the search starts, where to get one as cheap as possible for new. I spotted a couple of 'refurbs' but the £100 saving didn't offset the 'refurb' label for me.

So I decided to go with Apple direct, the fact we get 6% off with them swung it for me, a brand new unit for the price of a refurb! Add into that the 17% discount on Aperture and I'm a happy bunny with a new Mac being ordered early next week.

I'll update when I've used it in anger and do a mini review for you all.


Friday, 12 October 2007

Macro Studio - Part III

Well, the 500w halogen lights were actually perfect for the job, they do cast alot of light and coupled with the MT24 [for fill-in] they produce some nice even results.

I've been experimenting with the various back drop colours and noticed straight off they all need ironing to remove the obvious crinkles! I also need to grab a sheet of glass to throw up reflections and keep the back drop flat.

Here are a couple of the shots from each test subject with the varied lighting applied,. Please do ignore the crinkles though, I was short on time and didn't fancy dragging the ironing board etc out.

Some old minidiscs:

My Canon 17-40 f/4 L:


Thursday, 11 October 2007

Logitech G25 Racing Wheel

Decided [at long last] to treat myself to one of these, it's a newish model and has a seperate gearstick assembly meaning I can drive on the right side of the road ;)

Hooked it up to the PS3 and checked a couple of the games I have available, imagine my suprise when I found it only works on the free download GT:HD! To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Tried a couple of demo downloads and they don't support it either as the option is greyed out for controls.

Also tried on the 360 and that only supports Microsoft wheels! Way to go M$! Will be getting all the new racer sims on the PS3 then, very short sighted of M$ and market limiting. Picked up a copy of Formula One : Championship Edition and this should work a treat. Will try it out later and hope to be immersed into the F1 championship in all it's glory.

One issue is where do I mount the thing and how, really need a specific racing chair but thats a luxury I don't have the space for. I just don't use it enough to warrant such extravagence. At the moment it's mounted to a spare table so will see how that goes.


Macro Studio - Part II

Managed to get hold of some 500W halogen work lights, still think they will be too much and I've only recently disposed of my Vari-AC [variable AC voltage transformer] which would have allowed me to dim them. I will give them a try tonight and see if I can diffuse them.

Hopefully I'll have a few test shots to showcase tomorrow if all goes well.

The lights themselves were cheap [£11.99 each], managed to find them at Halfords, unfortunatelly they had a 1/3 off sale on a load of tools and toolboxes so I ended up spending £100 more than I intended too. Ah well, the spanners will give me something to Macro ;)


Monday, 8 October 2007

Freelander Service

Decided to change the oil on my Landrover Freelander TD4 this weekend. I had a couple of long[ish] trips in it the other day and it was the first real distance I'd covered in it since getting it. When I checked the oil level it was fine but the oil itself was like treacle!

So I grabbed some oil, filters and a new set of wipers. Couldn't get the air or fuel filters so they are on order and will be done at a later date. Read the manual and decided it was a 30 minute job. Wrong!

To get the oil drained you need to drop the sump guard, not a hard job but time consuming, it uses different fixings on the front and rear bolts! Once this was done it was a pretty straightforward affair.

Thought nothing until the following day when my shoulders, neck, throat and back were *really* sore. Had to potter about and do nothing all day in the end which was an annoying waste of a lovely day [one of the last few we will have].

Lessons learnt though, it may look easy but it isn't always!


Macro Studio

Bought myself a Macro / Light tent last week. It's an 80 x 80 x 80cm tent with 3 different backdrops. I've seen some amazing results from these style set-ups and wanted something to keep me busy during the wet winter months when I can't get out and take shots.

It's all easy to set-up and use, now all I need is suitable lighting. I ran a couple of test shots through it at the weekend and with just the MT24 to light the way the shots were drab and uninspiring. I purchased a couple of desk lamps and found them to be seriously lacking in power. They barely lit themselves never mind the tent, my Maglite had more power!

I've seen people using halogen work lights but thought they would be too much, looks like I need to re-visit these. I guess I can move them further from the tent when I require less light or even diffuse them for short periods.

Hopefully I will have time to hook something up this week, had to sort the house and have the garage begging for a tidy up so we'll see.


Monday, 1 October 2007

General Ramblings

Well I've tried to avoid this but I guess that's the purpose of this blog, my general ramblings!

Nothing really happening this week, the weather is awful, Halo3 was [in my opinion dire] and I'm already stuck on Sega Rally! I have though been considering getting a backdrop for my dining room to turn it into a Macro studio. I've been getting out less and less these days and I still haven't used my new Mac Mini to sort any photo's, truth is I haven't been out to take any :(

I think will a nice backdrop, my old studio lights broken out of storage and some of the less mundane household tat and i'll be looking at some good shots in the coming days. I have spent a great deal of money on my gear and I really need to feel like I'm using it. If I don't then 'buyers remorse' creeps up on me and makes me question my spending.

Now through the summer [2006 that is and 2007 was a bust!] I used my gear alot, after upgrading to the 5D and many new lenses I just haven't really used the gear in anger since. That depresses me both because I haven't been out and the cost of the gear.

It reminded last week when I paid my renewal for the Wildlife Wetlands Trust and National Trust membership. I used both on a single occasion this year! It would have been more cost effective to have paid for the single visit!

I'm hoping my little studio set-up, in a room I rarely use, will make me use the gear more, get more shots and give me a greater understanding of lighting. I won't be using natural lighting and flash / studio photography is always something I've struggled with.