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As you will no doubt see from the majority of the work I post on this blog, I am a sucker for rich, saturated colours.

My all time favourite accessory, which breathed life into the aging D80, is the polariser that my dear mum bought me for Chrismas last year.

It’s amazing.

A twenty quid piece of glass you screw onto the end of your lens, and through a series of ingeniousness and marvel, it helps give deep blue skies and vivid greens.  Essentially, it is like having a million little ‘venetian blinds’ on the end of your lens, so as you turn the filter around, it allows light through the gaps in one direction…this means that green leaves that normally reflect the sunlight back into your lens, can have the reflective light ‘removed’ and only the green of the leaves is captured.

It truly is a magic device, and anyone with a DSLR should buy one.  Quickly.

I took this photo when Sian and I were on Honeymoon in the states – I used my polariser with a cheeky Grad filter over the top to get that beautiful blue sky and the vivid colours of the buildings in the background…it really is an awesome bit of kit…

But black and white has its place; and that’s what this whole post is about – when, why, and where.

As far as I can tell, there are two types of photographers out there -‘the cerebral’ and ‘the feeler’.  Neither is necessarily better than the other, but they do approach photography in vastly different ways…my sister and I are wonderful examples of the two extremes.

Felicity, Felix, or Zincy to those that really matter, is my big sister and she is frighteningly artistic. I mean, seriously.

It’s terryfying…

But on the other hand, she is also terrifically academic.  She recently got her PHD at Oxford Brooks, of which we are so proud, and of which I am relieved that we finally have a real doctor in the family, and not just a couple of clown shoes GPs 😉 (Love you daddy and big bro Ed) But anyway – I digress…despite her awesome academic background, and love and want to read every and any article,book or manuscript that has even the faintest whiff of interest to her, she approaches photography in a much more ‘feely’ way than I do.

She is the first to admit that she is not an authority on f-stops and shutter speeds, yet with her donated Pentax, she wanders around with her eyes wide open, and takes astonishing pictures like this:

My sister, Zincy's shot of Linahall - a concert hall in Talin

I love this picture – the exposure, the colours the composition…everything just works.  Now, I am sure that if I had been there with her, I would have captured a similarly striking image, but I dread to think how long I would have toiled with myself before taking the frame.  I would have instantly thought:

  1. Want a lot in focus – shoot narrow – maybe f13-ish
  2. Want to bring in that industrial ‘blue tinge’ to hit the concrete, hit the tungsten White Balance
  3. Need a slowish shutter to blow out those windows and light up the inside – but not too slow to overexpose and lose the windows all together – all depends on my –
  4. – ISO? Want it high enough to allow for a handheld shot, but don’t want any unecessary grain…better keep it safe in the 1,000ish range
  5. Should I chuck it into RAW in case I get it wrong with the white balance and need to correct later?
  6. Oh hang on – maybe I want to highlight the contrast of that concrete next to those (bottles?) in left of frame – should I use a single flash off camera, close to the wall which I will shop out later to bring out that texture?

And by this point, Zincy has alrady seen her shot, snapped it (in P mode?) is happy that she recorded what she wanted, and has moved on through the hall…and is enjoying her visit to Linahall an awful lot more than me, who by this point is having an aneurism  from the possibilities that this scene throws up.

But that’s me – I am a bonified ‘cerebral’ photographer, and it drives me nuts.  Lots of people, like my sister, can see an image and just make it happen – their view of the world is what makes them awesome with a camera.  I see things well too – but training the eye is a lot harder than training the hands.  Within a month (if she wanted to) Flick could have a comprehensive knowledge of her camera’s functions and foibles, a good grasp of the theory that backs it all up, and a better understanding of how to go about taking ‘that shot’.

I, on the other hand, can read every blog, every manual, every book that there is on photography, but training my eye to see things like Flick does…I don’t know if you can learn that…But this is not about ‘woe is me’ as a photographer – far from it, I am very proud of my work, and I know I get great results – the point that I am trying to make (and it has been a long time coming, I know!) is that when I take a picture, I normally know how it is going to look, and when I open a file in photoshop I ALWAYS know how it is going to end up.

And this is vital for black and white photography.

—> Insert blog start here

When  you’re shooting for black and white, you have to know what you’re looking for, and what will work in the frame.  Seeing as you lose colour as your number one language, you rely solely on contrast to convey your image.  And contrast means texture in the game of black and white.

To prove this point – here are a few black and white pictures from the engine room of one of the cruise ships I worked on once upon a time:

As you can see – I have gone crazy with the contrast to bring out all of those wonderful, man made textures that are present in the Engine Room.  If I had left these images in colour, your eyes would be bleeding from the putrid colours that would be visible on the screen.  The green paint of the engine parts would clash horribly with the red checker plate floor, and I would be the first blogger to induce so much vomiting from a single post.

By making the images black and white, I am able to emphasise the different textures of the various metals.  The shiny, smooth metals of the exhaust pipes, for example, are very, very different to the beaten and tired piston heads. (Yes, they are pistons – from memory there were sixteen in total, and each one was bigger than me.)


Textures are rife in industrial settings, like this, but they are also very prevelant in the great outdoors.  Sian has very helpfully been going through the old harddrive with me to find good examples of black and whites, and she spotted this corker that she took in Nolos – one of the thousands of tiny islands in Greece:

This was a great example for Sian to pick out – it has all the classic features of a strong black and white – the cobbled street is brought out in the contrast, and I love the way that she has silhouetted the chairs against that washed out horizon.   The sign, made of metal, almost looks super-imposed as it stands out against the white background…this is a cracking shot – all credit of which goes to Sian 🙂

And next, we jump back to Gunhill – the very photographs that inspired this post:

I simply love that texture coming through from the wooden slats of the roof, and then you have the harsh stone of the chimney juxtaposed next to the velvet skyline…this is one of my favourite black and whites to date…

This was taken in a shipyard in Morrocco.  I knew it was to be a black and white the moment I shot it.  The sky was a horrible dull grey, and I wanted to emphasise the gnarled wood and the rusty iron on the floor.  The boats’ hulls also offer a nice slab of wooden texture, and as the contrast has been increased every plank and rivet becomes more obvious.

This was taken on the same day, with much the same in mind.  I like the rock in the foreground – it throws in an extra texture to this very busy scene.  Coincidentally, when in black and white, it is amazing how much more crowded the yard looks.  In colour, your mind automatically distinguishes one boat from the next, but here, where only contrast is available, it becomes very difficult to discern where one boat ends and another begins…I must confess, this was not at the forefront of the shot at all…but I love the effect it has.

And finally:

Don’t forget to look for textures in nature!  This bird’s feathers are screaming for a black and whitening, and once you take those colours back, you can really push the contrast to emphasise each and every one…

So, in conclusion – the moral of the story is THINK before you shoot.  Or, if you’re like my sister and have an annoying gift of being able to get incredible photographs from just ‘feeling them’ (bloody amateurs) then think before you process.  I cannot tell you how many times I have seen my guys, sat in front of a computer flicking from black and white to colour asking themselves ‘which looks better?’  The easy answer to that is should it be in black and white at all?  To justify black and white, you need texture – you need some reference for the contrast in order that your brain can work out what is going on with the image.  If there is no texture, there is no contrast…and as such, there is no black and white photo.

Keen eyed spotters may notice I had this very problem with a portrait of Sian in my last post…but just look at the left of the frame – see the palm leaves, see the TEXTURE, and see why it works so well in black and white…

I hope that this has been helpful – as always, if you have any questions, or you want to tear me apart – my deets are below 🙂

Thanks for reading guys – subscribe if you like – I will have a lovely special present for my subscribers once I hit 25…tell your friends!

Ferg xxx

As you all know, I have been away in the beautiful island of St Lucia for the last five days, and as such we haven’t been able to go on any adventures together this week.  I did take a few snaps out in SLU, which I will share with you all soon, but work has been crazy since getting back and I have not had the chance to even look at them yet…but I will. Promise.

So in the meantime, I thought I would share a couple of pictures we took on a past adventure.  A few months back, we headed up to the Gunhill Signal Station.  These were flag stations dotted around Barbados before the telephone was invented, and they represent a beautiful solution to a serious problem.  I believe there were seven on the island in total.  The idea was that if someone spotted an aggressive looking ship approaching the island, the flags would be raised, and each station would relay the message to the other, meaning that within a few moments, the entire island was aware of a possible threat.

Pretty genius stuff.

This also means, of course, that you get incredible views from the Signal Stations, and fortunately it was a truly beautiful day.

The station has, of course, undergone some serious renovation work to get it into the state that we see it today, and this is one of the things that Sian and I find increasingly frustrating in Barbados…there is very little recorded ‘history’ here.  The island that we live on has been inhabited for over 600 years and was a colony setup to produce tobacco and then sugar, but it is very, very hard to find out much about this.

The very hotel we live in used to be a sugar plantation, the only tell tale sign left for us now is the beautiful sugar mill that we now use as a wedding venue…but I cannot find any documents, articles or accounts of what the area used to be like before the Almond Beach Village.   For all of my super sleuthing, the most I have managed to gleam is that the mill was erected in 1859…which I ingeniously deduced from the plaque on the mill itself.

And I don’t understand why.  Barbados’ first income is duty.  Everything that we buy here has a ridiculous mark up, clothes have an 80% odd duty applied to them, and fresh milk costs $20 for 4 pints.  The second biggest income is in the form of tourism.  There’s a crap load of us Brits and Yanks and Canadians that visit the island, yet we have no real historical sites or monuments to visit.  There’s the odd tourist attraction – the Mount Gay Rum factory, the Banks Brewery, Harrison’s cave…but there is nowhere, to my knowledge, that celebrates or indeed denounces the very foundation of this nation, the sugar trade.

Being tourists (and massive nerds) ourselves in this alien land, we are desperate to understand the roots of the island.  Not just in its population, but how the land was carved up and cultivated; how the sugar trade worked, how the enslaved Africans fought for their independence, and how we now have – despite the barbaric past, such a close and ammicable relationship between London and Bridgetown…

But I guess that the Barbados Tourism Authority knows its audience.  And most people who visit the island just want to go to the beach.

And every time we visit a tourist attraction like the Gunhill Signal Station together, I can’t help but think there is a bit of a pink elephant in the room.

On the flip side though…never go to ANY attractions in Scotland if you’re English…you’ll only end up wanting to hang yourself with guilt…Maybe the BTA has got it right all along?…

Thanks for reading guys 🙂

Ferg x

I am sure that when Sian and I tell people that we live and work in Barbados, they think that we just chill out on crazy beaches all day.

But, unfortunately, like most people – the job gets in the way of the dream.  We work ridiculous hours.  I am currently in St Lucia meeting with our team here, organinsing new systems and structures to help the company prosper, and poor Sian and James are stuck in the lab in Barbados printing, making books, fixing albums and generally keeping the Colorbox machine running…whilst I sit in the hotel lobby punching this out.

It is 8:30pm, and I doubt they will get out until 10.  I feel guilt like you would not believe..the lab is a very lonely place when you have been there for over 12 hours, and there is nothing I can do this end to help. 🙁

And this is the problem we have with stupid ‘work’ – it gets in the way of all our fun. So it is always a pleasure when we do get the fleeting opportunity to visit the beach.  We knew that this week was coming (I miss Sian terribly when I’m away-even if only for four days, which is ridiculous but that’s the way it is) so on Sunday we made a really concerted effort to get to a beach – and what a beach it was!

I was out filming a wedding down at the Almond Beach Club a few days back, and the couple had decided to opt for some off property photography.  Bill, my senior photographer and oracle on anything Barbados, suggested a little bay up the road.  So we jumped into the car and took the couple to Gibb’s beach…it is amazing.

Needless to say, after seeing the place, I thought it would be more than appropriate to take Sian and James there – amaze them with my local knowledge and astound them with the incredible sand scape I had stumbled upon on my travels.  The charade lasted but a few moments as we drove down and James asked “So we going to that place Bil took you to the other day then?”

My plan foiled, and being exposed as the charlatan that I am, I grumbled that yes, we were going to “where Bill showed me”, and we stopped in the gas station (sorry – I have got all American having been here so long) garage, got some beers, and headed down to paradise.

And what a lovely day it was…we swam in the crystal clear water, watched the world go by…and then I went back to hide under the umbrella from the sun whilst James and Sian giggled like school girls.  It was magic.

I am trying to keep the technical stuff to a minimum on the blogs now, as I have been literally inundated with two mails saying that my technical guff is wasted on them, but I would like you all to know that all of these shots have been done through two grad filters.

A grad filter is essentially a piece of plastic that you put in front of your lens, which graduates from very dark, to completely see through – allowing you to underexpose, or “make darker” an area of your frame.  Essentially, this means that you can get a lot more detail in areas that would otherwise be blown out – or overexposed, because you are physically making them darker with the filter in front of the lens.  If you look at the umbrella shot above, for example, you will notice that there is a big white splodge between the boat and the umbrella.  My grad filter was covering the left hand of the frame. The graduation clearly stops a few centimeters before the umbrella – and that’s why there is that huge white ‘hot spot’ there.  I will do a much more technical ‘how to’ on grad filters in the future, I am sure…but for now I think that should cover it.  As always…any questions, you know where to get me 🙂

So anyway, after a time of being eaten alive by sand flies – without doubt the most evil and horrific of the Almighty’s creations, I headed back into the water with the now delirious-with-mirth-Sian and James as the sun started to set.

We decided we should head back before the sand flies came out in force – very much like the zombies in any good B-Movie, sand flies tend to come out when the sun has disappeared, and they eat your ankles, arms, face and anything else they can get their tiny jaws on very efficiently indeed.  We were in magic hour – bathed in the beautiful golden glow that only the setting sun can produce, and I got this corking portrait of Sian:

I can’t tell you how hard it was to decide between colour and black and white on this one…but eventually I decided for the BnW, beause the glow was SO golden, that it looked as if I had photo shopped it to buggery…I think it is a beautiful shot of my wife.

And as we walked away from what is renowned to be no other than Michael Flatley’s beach house (renowned in as much that Bill told me it was…and he knows everything about Barbados, so that’s enough for me) we were treated to some wonderful colours as the sun began to dip behind the horizon:

And that was that…another day at the beach; far from the stresses of the lab, the team and the bloody iMacs.  It was simply wonderful…

Thanks for reading guys

Ferg x

So, I have looooads of piccies to share with you today, which is crazy exciting, but the first thing I need to share is the big news that my little sister (in law, technically) Caragh is out here staying with us and it is AWESOME to have her here 🙂

Already she is putting up with my terrible mood swings, the constant cursing about work, the team and all the other boring stuff everyone goes through on a daily basis with good stead and (I hope) is having a good time.  Today we headed down to the beach to watch the sunset…there wasn’t much to report unfortunately due to the bad weather again, but we whipped out the umbrella and off camera flash to produce this corker:

It’s amazing; I have known Caragh for over 11 years now and it seems like only yesterday  she was telling me about the Tweenies* when I had picked her up from her primary school…Now she is all set to go to Sheffield Uni (can I get a whoop whoop from all the coal mining crew?) and looking absolutely stunning as a young woman.  I am also very excited to FINALLY meet her long term boyfriend Johnathan who will be joining us shortly here in Barbados, I can’t wait to meet the guy that can hold his own with Caragh…I already have the utmost of respect for him 😉

So anyway, back to piccies.  These last few days I have had an epiphany…So used to the smaller sensor of my D80, I have been used to shooting at relatively slow shutter speeds, hand held.  60th/50th or around there.  With a wide lens this is fine…with a 35mm on the D80’s smaller sensor you can just about get away with it, but on the FX sensor at 50mm opening the shutter for that long a time has been giving me a serious case of camera shake…I have been looking at my pictures thinking “Why so soft? This should be tack sharp”  The penny dropping could be heard in Alaska….what a clown shoes.  To show you what the hell I mean, I would like to share with you a few piccies of some dogs we were lucky enough to meet the other day.  Sian and I headed to an amazing property called ‘Fustic House’ at the North of the island.  I would love to show you some snaps, but it was a work thing and therefore I have no copyright and the project is not yet finished.  When it is up online, I shall gladly point you all in the right direction.

Anyway, it is an old plantation house and absolutely incredible.  I won’t try and describe it, because my lexicon can’t and won’t do it justice, just take my word for it – it’s amazing.  And it is owned by a lovely family who own a plethora of dogs.

And I love dogs.

 

Big time.

 

Needles to say, as soon as we had a natural break in filming, i whipped the D700 out and got these portraits…but see if you can spot where I went wrong:

In this shot, I was way, way too wide. (my aperture was too big) and you can see that the photo is not sharp because I was shooting at the fabled 60th of a second…fine when shooting 35mm – even 50mm on the dump D80, but inexcusably so on the D700 at 50mm.  It’s amazing how I still fall into these bad habits of compromise – I forget how powerful the D700’s ISO is…what I should have done was ramp the ISO to say, 4000 and shot at 200th and f8 at least.   To add insult to injury, I missed the focal point on the dog’s eye anyway…so a pretty dire attempt in all.

Sorry.

I like this one a lot more…the focus is right this time (thank God) and I have shot here at  a faster shutter speed…but I am still not happy that I shot so wide – I wish that I had less depth of field and more of the dog’s droopy expression in focus…

But, never one to be deterred by utter rookiness, I looked forward to my next great pet adventure, eager to try my new theory of higher shutter speeds and narrower apertures.  So when we headed down to the beach to watch the sunset (see, there was a point of me telling you that all thsoe paragraphs ago) we were met by our resident cats.

And I hate cats.

 

Big time.

 

But Sian’s family have an amazing black and white cat called Lucy who has slowly won me over in the recent years that I have got to know her…she is evil and sadistic and loves the fact that I am allergic to her and falls out of trees…deep down, it pains for me to admit that she is really quite quality.

Our resident cats on the resort are not the healthiest specimens..they are usually missing chunks of fur from fights, or carrying a litter and set to burst (seriously, how often can one cat be pregnant in a year?) but they are very friendly, and the ones who came over today were surprisingly photogenic.  Before the sun disappeared, I got one of this guy:

Which I was pretty proud of, and then we spotted this guy chilling out:


And then the sun disappeared…so Caragh got roped into holding flash for me whilst I got these three corkers:

…and to be honest, I am chuffed to bits with them.  So, a lesson well learned – if you take dump photos the first time round, don’t panic, just work out where you went wrong, and have yourself another go 🙂  It’s what I do almost ever day…

Thanks for reading guys.  Keep on snapping.

Ferg x

 

*The Tweenies was a terrible kids show that ran in the UK for a long time…they were dump.

Hello all,

So firstly, I do apologise for the long wait since my last blog. For those dedicated fans, of which I believe there are…one, (that’s you Jenny!) I have been kept very busy at work with various shenanigans, and Barbados has been treating us to some pretty pants weather the last few weeks.

This has meant a lot of long quiet nights in the new flat, pawing over the D700 manual and driving Sian up the wall with my incessant nerdery.  But it has paid off.

On page 203 of the D700’s manual, there is reference to interval timer shooting.

I wept.

For hours.

This is something that the beautiful old D80 never offered, and instantly a light bulb clicked in my head.  What better to do with a rainy day than setup a tripod, have the camera take a million pictures, and then stitch them together to make a film?

This is not ground breaking.  This is not original. But this was my first stab and I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  We were also really lucky, because as I dragged Sian out into the soggy night, we found this guy:

And every time I see him, I can’t help but chuckle.  There are MILLIONS of frogs (toads?!) on the resort, all in various forms and sizes:  from the TINIEST guys just from tadpole state, to the huge ones like this, they are awesome.  We are also treated to numerous ‘squashed’ frogs along the roads of the resort…I know I shouldn’t laugh…it is very sad…but they are so comedically sprawled out on the floor and I cant help but think of the days I used to play ‘Frogger’ in the church rooms as a choir boy…but that’s another story all together.

Anyway, here is the vid.  I made it at home as I have a strong “blog is for play” attitude, and don’t use the work resources for it.  I wish I had.  Windows Movie Maker sucks ass in comparison to the Mighty Mac’s Final Cut Pro.  Seriously, I hate Mac…but Windows let me down real bad on this one…

But, as always, it is all just a bit of fun and I hope that you guys enjoy it…

Ferg

x

Yesterday, Sian, James and myself poodled on down to the Spring Garden Highway, to see the end of the procession of the legendary ‘crop over’ festival.

Crop over celebrates, as you’ve probably guessed, the final harvesting of the year’s sugar cane crop.  Traditionally it was a celebration of the end of a gruelling and long season, and has now developed into the massive festival that it is today.  We went down for the grand finale – ‘Kadooment day’ but our plans were some what dampened by the weather.

It’s hurricane season out here at the moment, and so we are periodically treated to massive down pours and electrical storms. Yesterday was no exception.

We had hoped to get down to see the end of the five mile procession, that starts at the Gymnasium and finishes down on the Spring Garden Highway, but seeing as how I am not the biggest fan of swimming, and the fact that I didn’t really want to drown the camera, we waited a few hours in the hope the rain would stop.  It certainly died down towards mid afternoon, so we resigned ourselves to getting wet and headed down.

As with all festivals, especially ones of this size, (they reckon about 20,000 people come to Barbados for Kadooment) there is money to be made.  Lots and lots of money.

So what happens is various bands are formed.  These bands offer a racy costume, and access to a number of parties before the big Kadooment procession.  On the day, you wear your costume, which can cost anything between $300 and $2000, and join your other band members on the jump.  This basically means following a truck, loaded with an awesome PA, crap load of rum and beer and dancing for 5 miles.  It’s pretty awesome.

By the time we had got there though, we feared we had missed the procession. Waiting for the rain to die down had meant we got there later than planned, and as we walked down the highway we saw a lot of ‘jumpers’ walking back to their cars, soaked through and looking, quite rightly, exhausted.

We stood around and had a few beers, and just as we turned to leave, a procession picked up, and we were thrown into the frenzy of Crop Over.

The general rule of jumping, or ‘winding’ as it’s called, is very simple.  Ladies rub their behind provocatively in the crotch of a bloke, who stands behind pounding her mercilessly.  I thought that they played dominoes aggressively, but this is a whole new level.

And that’s the national dance.

It really isn’t very pleasant – and what’s worse; there are young kids of 5 and 6 standing on the street side doing it themselves…I’m afraid to say that I  felt very British as I tried to find other, more savory things to photograph – during which time Sian got ‘wound’ herself:

The costumes were pretty awesome though, and fair play to the band members – they had been jumping since 6am that morning – were all soaked through and had danced for well over 5 miles – yet when they came back through us, the energy was simply amazing.

As you can probably tell, the light was really, really dull – we had massive storm clouds above stopping any available sunlight dead in its tracks.  This meant that there was no definition in the photos – they looked lack luster and drab…so I popped the old flash remotes on, held the flash as far away form the camera as I could (you know by now how much I hate using on camera flash) and got these bad boys:

After the frenzy of the parade, a few usable shots and couple of beers later, the heavens opened and we ran for the car – desperate to get ourselves and our kit dry.

Despite getting there late, and seeing only the very end of the festival, Sian and I have promised each other that we will jump ourselves next year…I need to start working out though – I’ll do my back in with all that thrusting in my current physical state, and judging by the amount of shoes that didn’t make it…I’m not too sure how well my flabby carcus will fare…

Back to work tomorrow – be back soon 🙂

Ferg x

Reading through my posts, it dawned on me that pretty much all of the photos I have posted have been from the evening.  This is mainly down to the fact that, despite having an awesome job, Sian and I work bloody hard. All the time. But last week we had our good friend Ozzy stay with us (very soon after Jen and Tom left, so we are now pretty knackered!!) and were able to get out over the weekend to do some good old fashioned exploring. As is now customary in Barbados, we knew where  we wanted to take Ozzy – to North Point.  This is…err…the most northern point of Barbados, and offers some great views.  So I just checked on Google maps where we were heading and we set off. As is now customary, Google maps was wrong. And as is now customary, I threw a tantrum. Cursing the Google gurus, we bounced down the pothole ridden track…how can they be so dump?  Sure I can find 2 nearly billion pages of Russian porn in two seconds, source 500,000 pages of lunar moon conspiracy, or watch over 650,000 hours of cats sneezing with the mighty web engine – but can they pinpoint the most northerly point in Barbados and take me up the correct road of the three that are here?  Can they balls.

Anyway, we eventually found it – no thanks to the internet, and all my frustration quickly disappeared. It is a magical place. I took loads of landscapes but, I’m afraid to admit, I was using the D80 (please see here!) and had forgotten that I had cranked the ISO for an example of how pants the sensor is in that blog.  I NEVER change the ISO on the D80 because it is so dire in the top levels, and, like a true rookie, did not change it back.  Lesson 101 Ferg – check your settings! I should have noticed when I was shooting at f16 and a shutter speed of 1000th…it was a bright day, but come on Ferg. Unfortunately, I couldn’t blame Google for that. So we then had a seat and a beer, and watched the world go by.  I stepped back with my 70 – 200 and got some nice candids (I think) of Oz and Sian.

And while we sat drinking our beers, with the sea battering the cliffs below, we were treated to a cacophony of birds singing in the trees above.  Oz and Sian went exploring, and I sat and watched them, Bill Oddie style. I quickly learned that I am a terrible wildlife photographer.  After firing off a few frames, it was apparent that I really had no clue what I was doing.  Trying to shoot wide (2.8) was a waste of time, as the birds moved too quickly for my focus to cope, and I ended up with a horrible blurry mess with twigs and branches in focus. After about twenty minutes of hopeless flailing, I stood and watched, instead of trying to shoot.  It was amazing.  Above us were a good dozen nests, and the birds were all flying out to get their chicks food.  Until now I had been completely oblivious  to the drama going on above.  The birds were busy building their nests and bringing food home for the chicks.  One of the parent birds would fly off in search of food, whilst the other stayed guard over the nest.  The small ones lay silent until they saw mum or dad return, and the nest would erupt in a fury of high pitched chirps – desperate to remind their parents they were there, hungry and ready to eat.

It was wonderful.  Because of my camera (and my sheer stubbornness to get a good photo) I watched this whole story unfold.  Normally Sian and I just enjoy the bird song, but today I watched the full drama in all its glory.  It was amazing.  One bird flew over to another nest and pinched some twigs.  This is clearly why the birds guard their nests – not to protect their little ones from predators, but from their thieving own kind!

I watched for a good half an hour or so, and upon Ozzy and Sian’s return, we finished our beers and headed home for a swim – a little wiser on the wildlife habits of the Bajan Birds, a little more experienced on how to shoot them, and a little more in love with the new camera, for making me see all these things 🙂

Ferg x

Every Wednesday here at the resort, we have a barbecue evening set out on the beach when the weather permits, otherwise we are all bundled into the slightly dryer Horizons restaurant, and this lady comes out to play:

Sian and I have probably seen Cheryl perform about 40 times.  She is amazing.   She has the most incredible control I have ever seen.  Reminiscent of Bruce Lee in ‘Enter the Dragon’ (?!) she is able to move each individual muscle – muscles that I am sure do not even exist on my abused, overweight carcass – with the utmost of ease.  It really is fascinating to watch.

Despite her amazing skill, however, we find it very painful each and every time we walk through the barbecue.  The show is more about ‘the guest experience’, rather than a showcase of the art of Limbo.  There is the inevitable ‘get the kids up and have a go’, followed by the painful parents – more specifically dads, dancing with the pretty Bajan lady who wiggles her hips oh-so provocatively.  Then the fire is whipped out and we are treated to some pyrotechnic antics.

And she is better than that.  Much better.

But please – I don’t begrudge Cheryl.  The show is what it has to be, forty minutes of pure holiday gold for the beered up Brits, but when you see the finale – I sometimes wish we could focus more on the art than the audience participation.

Because it truly is breathtaking.

Cheryl has been the Limbo Queen in Barbados for a good few years now, but the sport is dying.  No one is as interested in the calypso-fuelled past time, and Cheryl has no one to pass the torch onto.  This may sound ridiculous, but when you see her do her thing, it does make me wonder – will my kids returning to Barbados as Beered up Brits be able to enjoy this amazing performance?…Because, believe it or not, the amazing Cheryl is over 40 years old.

Have a great weekend 🙂

Ferg

x


Quick post – I am trawling through the harddrive and trying to work out which photos I should share with all you good people, or at least the eight that will come and read this.

I am also trying to find some snaps that I have not already shared on Facebook or Flickr, because I am under no illusions that the people who are reading this are my friends and family, and will have seen the pictures all before anyway…

So, here, for the first time ever, are some piccies from my and Sian’s affectionatley named ‘mini moon’. The day after our wedding, waaaay back in October, our good friend Ozzy who is the deputy GM at the amazing Ardoe House and spa up in Aberdeen very kindly sorted us out with a three night stay in what can only be described as a palace.

The place was awesome, the food amazing, and Ozzy was, as always, the host of champions.  It’s tricky when you take pictures of your holidays when you’re a photographer, as there is a lot of pressure (at least I put it upon myself) to take amazing photos everywhere we go…thankfully, with a wife like Sian, the job is made a little easier from the get go, and the Aberdeenshire backdrop helped out a lot too…

Hope you like them 🙂

Ardoe House.   And Oz was worried we wouldn’t like the place!

We had a jaunt out to Dunnotar Castle too…which was pretty epic.

Some pretty pictures for you to mull over anyways – thanks for looking guys 🙂

Ferg

x

As you may have gathered from my previous posts, Sian very kindly agreed for me to buy ‘us’ a new camera  (despite her best efforts she is yet to have a proper go with it…I’m afraid I’m not the best at sharing).  Anyway, the camera we opted for after much deliberation and discussions, was this beast:

This is not my photo - it's pinched - sorry! It's 11 pm and I need to go to bed 😉

It’s a Nikon D700.   And I love it.

It’s not, by any means, a new camera – it came out waaaay back in 2008, when Sian and I bought our tried and true Nikon D80s.  We still use the D80s every now and then, and they are lovely, lovely little cameras – but the 700 is just a new world.

So what makes it so good?  Well, the first thing I am sure a lot of you will assume, is that it has a million mega pixels, full HD video, touch screen interface and the ability to create beautiful panoramic photos by simply waving it vaguely towards the horizon.  Wrong.  It has none of these perks.  Image size is relatively small with a mere 12.1 megapixel sensor, and video was but a weird experiment (introduced by Nikon, but far surpassed by Canon now) that they toyed with their D90 around the same time the D700 was released. There is certainly no touch screen and the panoramic gimic of some of the new Sony point and shoots – although an excellent application for the holiday snapper, is definitely not there.

“So why spend nearly 2 grand on a camera that’s so dump Ferg?!” I hear you cry. And the answer is very simple.  Noise.  And no, I don’t mean the wonderful mechanic clank of the mirror locking up with each exposure – I mean image noise.

This bad boy is amazing.  The 700 has what’s called an ‘FX’ sensor – so it is physically 33% bigger than the weedy chip in our D80s.  Even though it is delivering a very similar megapixel count to the D80, the bigger surface area and quality of the chip makes it much more sensitive to light, and therefore, your ISO range can be increased significantly.

If you know what ISO is – please skip down to the pretty pictures below, but if not, please allow for a quick explanation in as un-patronising way as I possibly can.  ISO was introduced to film makers back in the day, to help photographers know how to expose their photos.  The ISO (which simply represents the International Standards of Organisation) rating of a film refers to how quickly it reacts to light.  The higher the ISO, the faster it reacts, but at the cost of clarity (remember all those grainy photos in the rain from back in the day? High ISO film).  The ISO rating was put in place to ensure that whichever brand film you bought,  the film sensitivity would be the same throughout, thus making your metering and exposure correct.  If, for example, you bought an Agfa 800 – it would be exactly the same exposure (nothing to do with colour, vibrancy etc) as if you got a roll of ISO 800 for free when you developed your negs.  You would tell your camera which ISO film you had loaded, and it would expose accordingly for you.

The easiest way I can think of explaining it is if you imagine you have a blank canvas and a paint brush.  A lower ISO allows you to paint the canvas methodically from left to right, allowing for an even and polished finish – but it takes time.  A higher ISO means you have to achieve the same goal – painting the entire canvas, but you do so in a fraction of the time – so you just chuck the tin of paint at the canvas and hope for the best.  When chucking the paint, you may well get a similar result, you have, after all, painted the canvas – but it is very likely to be blotchy and spotty, when opposed to the methodical and slow approach of a lower ISO.

So what’s the point?

Well, with our spangly new camera,  I can ramp the ISO to about 5000 and still get beautiful, crisp images that I can use.  With the D80, if I crept the ISO up to even 1600 – I would invariably get what is known as noise in the image.  To demonstrate, I setup a (dump) still life with a few of my favourite things…beer in the form of dominos – a wonderful gift from Jenny and Tom, my nephew Ryan, a bed complete with comedy colonial throw and a camera. I tried my best to take the same photo, one with the old D80, one with the D700, and layer them on top of each other to to give you an idea of the better quality in low light.  Both images were shot at 3200 ISO (The equivelant on the D80 anyway) at f6.3, shutter of 6oth second.

As you can see, I hope, the D700 has the same exposure as the D80 – but the image is much, much clearer.  This means I can effectively turn up the ISO on my camera, and still use fast shutter speeds in low light conditions – great for when I go to a grotty, dimly lit boxing match like this:

“But what about flash? Everyone has a flash on their camera these days – get with the program Ferg, you don’t need ‘High ISO’, just a beefy few kilojoules burst into your subject’s eyes to light them up real nice.”

Anyone that has worked with me will know that I have a pathological dislike of flash.  And truth be told, this is because I have little if no idea how to use it properly…and I just love ambient light. There’s nothing better than magic hour, where the sun is low and your subject is bathed in that soft golden glow… Having said that, I love my studio strobes, and I love using my flash gun with a ramped shutter for awesome forced sunset shots – like this:

A shot I took up on the Studio Facebook page - come and like us - you know you want to! Colorbox Studio on Facebook 🙂

But I have not spent nearly enough time with my flash to call myself proficient with it.  There is a wonderful movement gathering momentum called strobism, which I had my first proper stab at a few days back -I shall blog my findings and results soon, but in the mean time, I’ll stick to my high ISO and ambient light…because I love it when I take pictures like the ones I took at the Mount Gay rum factory we visited the other day.

So, in all honesty, is the camera worth it?

“Well of course it is, yes” says the professional in me – the new camera is simply amazing, and when it’s dark and dingy, we can get amazing, usable/sellable shots without blinding people with dazzling flashes or having to setup tripods for long exposures – and there are a million other things that I have not even touched on in this blog that make the camera so much better than our previous models – the depth of field, the weight and feel, the 51 point AF system (essential, believe me) and all round awesomeness of our new camera is just mind boggling…

But as I tell all of my guys – the best camera you have is the one one you have with you. The D700 is massive, heavy, and boy oh boy not cheap.  I can safely say that I carry it proudly to weddings, studio shoots and everything in between, but despite its amazingness – I would never have got a shot like this with it:

because it would not cross my mind to bring it along for the trip.

And so let that be the lesson of the day, despite all of it’s electronic gimmickery – all of the control and poise expected of a pro body,  the ridiculously good low light performance, the sheer comfort of the thing, the high frame rate, true 35mm depth of field, obscene battery performance, live view and assignable buttons to mention just a few of the inexplicably good features of our spangly new camera,  our 80 quid waterproof Fuji Finepix was much better the day we went on a catamaran, because that was the one we took with us.

Keep on snapping 🙂

Ferg

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