Saturday, 14 November 2015

Making an event of it

One way to expand the boundaries of your photography is to photograph events. The challenges of taking photographs in public takes you out of your comfort zone, and tests how you work under pressure. Specifically getting the best shot with minimum of setup and access. Recently I have gone to 3 events and these are my experiences

The  Dukeries Rally

It's may seem weird that since I live close to a international motor racing circuit that I don't take more photos there. Even weirder that I actually like motor racing and cars.

However there is a simple reason that I don't go more and that is it is a pretty awful place to get decent photos.

You may think that you can go to a circuit like this and get the kind of shots you see at F1 racing, but you quickly realise that those sort of shots can only be obtained by those with the accreditation to stand on the other side of the safety barrier. More mortals like me have to put up with whatever scraps are left.

I don't know what other circuits are like, but Donington Park suffers more than most from being surrounded by high wire safety fences most the way around the circuit. This means the areas of uninterrupted view are few and far between. My previous outings have had various levels of success, but generally it is a frustrating experience.

However I decided to give another go at the Dukeries rally. I have fond memories of rallying when I used to watch the RAC rally in Sutton Park when I was a youth. I well remember the unfettered access and I had high hopes of the same here.

It was not to be. Most of the rally was on the race track, with only a small part off road. while I got a few shots, generally it was a disappointing day.

The Local Fair

Every year the local fun fair comes to town. The wakes fair, as it is called, is part of the much larger and more famous Nottingham goose fair, which breaks up and spreads itself around rural Leicester and Nottinghamshire.

Obviously this is a much smaller fair, but I have always wanted to take long exposure shots of some of the bigger rides.

Two problem however. Firstly generally we go as a family, which means I have the usual problems of balancing mu desire to take photos and my family desire to enjoy the fair. As such in the past I have not taken many images.

This year I decided to be a little more assertive and take my tripod with me. AAt the end I stayed around to try and take more images.

My results were mixed.There were actually only a few rides that would provide the shots I wanted. Finding a location in which I could get a good view without prople getting in the way was difficult. I did manage to get a few images, but in hindsight I realise my angles were all wring. The side view is  not that interesting, and what I needed were shots fom 30 to 45 degrees.

Still this is something I can work on next year...

This one would of been better if the shot had moved further to the left or right


The last event was fireworks display. In the UK we celebrate every year Guy Fawkes night or as I call it "we burnt a catholic" night. Again I had wanted to take photos for years of fireworks, but the kind of event we usually end up going to made this difficult.

This year we went to a much smaller event, which allowed greater access. So I took my tripod along in the hope i might get some shots.

As it was I had far less time to setup than I would of liked due to me being sent to get drinks for my daughter and the slow bar lines and as such I was less prepared than I wanted to be by the time the fireworks started.

I was also unsure how long an exposure to use. As it was I used a varity of exposure with various success.

Unfortunately my 1st images turned out poorly focussed because I had manually set the focus, but were too close. It got better when I latter moved the camera back.

What also worked well was putting teh camera on 'B' setting and using a piece of black card to put in front of the camera to generate multiple exposures. This way I could capture more explosions on one photo.

However next year I will go with my wide angle instead. Not only will it allow me to capture better the fireworks due to the larger area, it has a far greater hyperfocal distance so focussing should be easier

This is a bit of a cheat. It is several images layered on top of each other with the layer set to screen. Due to the darkness of the sky this is pretty effective

Friday, 6 November 2015

The Sony A-68. A kick in the proverbials

When you were a kid, can you remember a time when you wanted some toy or item so badly that you pestered your parents night and day to get it? And when Christmas day arrived, you were first down the stairs to find under the tree a parcel of the right size and shape. But when you opened it, rather than finding the item you wanted, you found it was a cheap knock off which despite your parents assurances you knew it would make you the laughing stock of the school and neighborhood.

If so, you will understand how I feel today after the announcement of the new Sony DSLR, the  A-68.

If you are a Canikon user, you may not appreciate that being a Sony DSLR owner has not been an easy time over the last 18 months.

When you buy a SLR camera, you are not just buying the camera, but committing to an eco-system. As you become more experienced, you commit more to it by buying myriad accessories and lenses. At the same time, you are looking to upgrade your system  as you get better and you reach limits with your present camera.

Canon and Nikon users never have an issue here. The respective companies are fully committed to the SLR line and users can be assured of a continual replacement/upgrade path.

It is not so easy with Sony.

Since the last DSLR Alpha camera release (the A-77 Mk ii), their have been mixed messages by Sony's on its long term commitment to the A-series DSLR line. These have swung between ambiguous to totally negative. At the same time Sony has embarked on an almost continual release cycle of its A7 mirrorless cameras.

To say as a Sony DSLR owner that we have felt unloved is to put it mildly. Many (including  me) felt that Sony wanted to having nothing more to do with the DSLR market and were happy to leave us in the lurch.

So you would think that we would all be letting out a huge sigh of relief  now that Sony have just announced the release of a new A-Series camera, the A-68.

Unfortunately, nothing in Sony world is ever that simple.

Maybe it is because we have been used to Sony pushing the camera technology boundaries recently with their mirrorless cameras range, but I had high hopes for this camera. This would be a chance for Sony to do in the DSLR market, what they have been doing in the mirrorless world and producing a world beating  quantum leap in DSLR camera design.

It was not to be.

What we got instead was a mis-mash of old technologies flung into a oversized camera. At the same time Sony left out key features to differentiate it from the A77 Mkii.

Basically this is what we got
  • The EVF from a A6000
  • The (poor) rear screen from the A-58
  • The plastic lens mount from the A-58
  • The sensor and (and by all accounts rather good )the AF system from the A77 mkII
This was all flung together into a plastic body, not much different in size to the rather large and hefty A77 mkII

To add to that, the camera does not support wi-fi (so no remote tethering) and its frame rate has been severely diminished from the A-58

Of these decisions, the two that really hurt is the rear screen and the wi-fi. As I have stated before, I really hate the rear screen on my present camera, and with the cost of good LCD screens continually dropping, it seemed a no brainer to get a half decent screen on it.  However someone in Sony felt we could manage with a screen that would of looked tardy on a 10 year old smart phone.

As for the wi-fi, the ability to remotely access and control a camera via wi-fi is a fantastic capability. It seems incredible that any camera produced today would not have it. But Sony in their wisdom thought otherwise.

I really had high hopes for this camera, both as a potential upgrade path to my present kit and as a sign of  commitment by Sony to the A-series DSLR family. 

This does neither. 

It produces a camera without enough advantages to upgrade to, or to attract new users to the system. At the same time, it again raises questions on whether Sony is really committed to DSLR's or would like to quietly move us to their more profitable professional mirrorless line.  If this camera had been brought out a couple of years ago, it would of been acceptable, but now it looks poor compared to competitor cameras at the same price point.

In many ways I wish Sony had never produced this camera. I would of been happier if they had just said they were killing off any more development and then we could move on to some other camera system. By producing this camera, they again shown that the company thinks more about it's bottom line than it's customers and for me again raises the question whether I want to commit my long term photographic future to such a company.

Not a good day to be a Sony user