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As I mentioned a few blogs back, I spent a very relaxing weekend with James over in St Lucia last week.  I had gone out to help with a few technical things, talk over a few ideas, meet with the team, and generally touch base with the St Lucia arm of Colorbox.

I am happy to say, that James is doing a great job, so once we had got all of the niggly odds and sods done we were able to go on a little adventure.

In the worst car in history.

James has a terrible little Chevrolet Vomit Buster as a hire car out there, and it is awful.  Smaller than my 70-200 lens, with less power than the focus motor, this thing is utterly, utterly dump.  To make things worse, St Lucia has those wonderful topographical beauties that we here in Barbados can only dream of….Hills.  Loads of them.  As far as the eye can see.

And the little car struggled with every one of them.  But despite the inadequate engine, leg room and complete lack of sound proofing, it really was the most beautiful drive.   We snaked our way down from Castries down to Soufriere over the course of 90 minutes, climbing hills and bombing down the other side, with views to die for and sites to behold…it was a lovely day.

I had not actually taken my camera over to St Lucia and James wanted to visit some waterfalls (you can read his excellent blog on that here) so I offered to take some shots of him and his lovely girlfriend, Michelle, with his Canon 7D.  Now, for those of you not in the know in camera world, Canon and Nikon are the two big boys in the camera market.  It’s like BMW and Mercedes; both companies are amazing but whichever one you own, (in my case Nikon) you look over at the other side and secretly covet little things they have.   Publicly, however, you make brash, sweeping statements that put the other brand down and champion your choice of camera over any one else’s.

Truth be told, both manufacturers are amazing, and at the end of the day, when you look at the pictures, you would never know what was shot on what anyway…but I digress.

James bought his 7D a year ago now, and I have always liked it.  It’s quick to focus, comfortable to hold, and the colours are exquisite.  So I really was quite excited to get to shoot with it for the day.

It was also nice, because this is my comfort zone – this is what I do.  Take a beautiful couple in love, find some nice scenery, plonk them in front of it and get some great shots.

Using the Canon, however, I quickly fell from my comfort zone.

Oh. My. God.

I’m not sure whether it was the rickety journey in the God awful Chevrolet, or the 20oz coffee I had drunk that morning, but within a few minutes of our adventure I felt my heart rate increase and I got really, really nervous.   This in itself is ridiculous –  James is one of my best mates and we were just out having fun, but I found it very hard to relax with this alien thing in my hand.  Everything is backwards.  Aperture and shutter are the wrong way round, focus and zoom are inverted – and even the exposure meter is backwards.  What the flash were they thinking?

Surely this is more than an accident?  Surely this is just the two camera giants being obtuse?  “They go left, we’ll go right.”  “They go down, we’ll go up.”  It truly was disconcerting, and I could not fathom it.  I was also amazed at how much I just ‘do’ when I’m shooting.  Fire a frame: slightly over exposed in the background, stop it down a third on the shutter.  Flash too powerful: close down aperture by a stop, slow shutter by a stop – ambient and flash now correctly balanced, get on with the shoot…but try doing that on a camera where everything is backwards, and you end up looking like my dad trying to send a text message.

It is a painful sight that I hope none of you will have to see.

And that set the tone for the day.  James and Michelle were very patient with me as I blundered around the bizarre control system, and despite my inept ability with the camera, I still got some cool shots for the two…but as the day war on, I fell more and more out of love with the Canon, and pined more and more for my beauteous Nikon.

The camera is light, and very, very comfortable…but I missed the metal ruggedness of my beastie Nikon.  It was very quick to focus and the sigma lens James has is beautifully sharp, but I missed the chunky, 100% viewfinder and focus system I understand.  I took some wonderful pictures with the Canon, but all the while I held it I just felt like I was cheating…

I did love the jog wheel on the back, and I did love that the hot shoe is a lot further away from the eye piece.  When I put my pocket wizards (radio triggers for my flash) on my Nikon, the base pokes out and stabs me in the eye.  Every time.  And for that I was truly envious…but everything else?…Sorry Jimbly, I love you buddy, but you can keep the Canon…I am sticking with the Mercedes of the camera world.

But the one thing I could not fault the Canon for:  despite it’s inept operator we still got a shot of the god awful Chevrolet that even the BBC boys at Top Gear would have been proud of…True, I had to cut 99% of the hateful thing from shot, but between Jimbly sat looking cool, the Piton mountains in the background, a big flash bouncing off bonnet and a queezy feeling photographer behind the lens, the Canon did a marvelous job of making even the Chevrolet look acceptable.

Thanks for the adventure James – it was a blast.

x

Last night was our friend Kate’s birthday.  She manages an uber-chic, turbo cool club here in Barbados…so Sian and I stick out like sore thumbs.  Whenever we go there, we have a fabulous time, but it is one of those places people go to party and be seen to do so, which is not really our thing.  However it was her birthday and as we don’t go that often it was all very exciting 🙂

We got a call from the lovely Rob and Penny who were organising a few cheeky pre-party-put aways, and so we headed to their beautiful new house beforehand.

Now, obviously, going to a party, we had to bring our camera.  But being that our wonderful Nikon D700 weighs approximately 950 tonnes alone, we couldn’t take the full bag with our vast array of lenses.  So I packed the normal party kit.  Our super sharp, uber wide angle 14mm-24mm, a flash gun and some cheap radio triggers.   We take the wide angle for several reasons.  First up – it looks cool.  The edges of the photos bend and distort with the barrel of the lens.  Secondly – you get a lot more things in focus (more on this later).  And thirdly, you are able to take much longer shots handheld and not get that horrid blur that every point and shoot camera in ‘night mode’ gives you.  There is a lot less camera shake at 14mm, because the lens is physically closer to the sensor. Please post a comment below if you want any more on this – but that’s it for now on camera stuff – promise!

So anyway, we headed out of the door with our patented ‘party kit’.   We got to Rob and Penny’s house and my heart leapt when we met the new members of their family.  It then quickly sank again when I remembered what kit we had with us, and all of the wonderful lenses and gels and other sexy paraphernalia we’d left safely tucked away at home.

Rob and Penny have recently had a litter of seven of these critters to mum, ‘Bo’.

And they are utterly, utterly adorable.   Being a responsible couple, they have been meticulous in finding homes for the new pups – making sure the people are right, taking them all to dog training classes, and securing each little bundle of fluff the best home possible.  But until next week they have all of them, mum and all, in their new house.

And I am going to do a proper shoot with them before they go.

But last night I had to make do with what we had.  Ideally, I would use a much longer portrait lens for these guys, but as we had the crazy-ass wide angle lens I had to just to make it work.

I love this shot – with little pooch looking out at me, nibbling on Sian’s ‘Caribbean Blue’ necklace, and Rob and Penny chuckling in the background.   But here you see one of the problems with the wide angle lens.  With a long portrait lens you get what is called ‘bokeh’.  This is the blurring effect of the background that in turn helps make your subject pop out and appear more striking.  With a wider lens you lose this effect – more of the scene remains in focus – which is why we take it out as our party lens in the first place (see first paragraph!).   In this photo you can clearly make out Rob and Penny in the background.  But if I were shooting at 200mm with a wide aperture, Rob and Penny would be turned into a beautiful swirl of buttery-bokeh, all colours and indistinguishable shapes.

So what to do with these beautiful pups? How to make them stand out against their backgrounds without that lovely portraited blur?

That’s right – you guessed it.  Flash.

Nice narrow aperture, powerful flash, 200th of a second.

Bosh

Now, these pictures aren’t perfect – the light is hard, the shadows very pronounced, and the ambient light is non existent…but I am really pleased with them none the less.  It was a down and dirty 5 minute shoot,  and I love this part of photography.  You know what you want to achieve but your kit is not ‘the right stuff’ at the time.  Despite this, with some quick thinking and light trickery I was still able to get the shots I wanted.

After the puppies, some more friends, a trip to another house and some (yummy) jelly shots, we headed out to the nightclub – which was what this blog was initially meant to be about!

It was a great night – everyone was in top form, there was a HUGE turnout and Kate seemed to be utterly happy with it all.

Hopefully you can see and agree why I think the 14-24 is the best lens for a night out like this.  When in a cramped club with little room to breathe, it captures the whole goings on.  Unlike the puppy shots, which were shot deliberately fast to kill the ambient light, these were shot at a much slower shutter speed – a 5th of a second.  This lets the sensor soak up all those lurid reds and greens and other luminescent colours the d.i.s.c.o lights throw up.  I love it.

At about 3am, the uber – cool – retro – house – funk that we had been strutting to was quickly replaced with what can only be described as “Bondage Rap”.   Clearly “Ganster Rap” is oh-so-passe nowadays…

I love hip hop, but cannot fathom why anyone wants to listen to tripe like “face down, eyes up, that’s the way we like to f” – you get the idea.  I adore my music, and like to think I am ‘down’ with the kids…but seriously, who benefits from this horrificness?   Who enjoys listening to a guy rapping (to a FAT beat, I admit) about having violent intercourse with a girl half his age ‘cos that’s how we do it in my hood’?  Does anyone even care about the lyrics of  music anymore?…I don’t know – that’s a blog for another time.  Point is, we had an awesome night, and called it quits before I stopped the music and lectured everyone on the finer points of hip hop and sent them all home with no supper.

The only thing I regret is not getting a shot of the birthday girl herself, but Priva have their own photographer (who is very good). Being in the game I know how annoying it is when someone starts getting in the way and shooting stuff you are being paid to capture.   It usually ends up being a “my camera’s bigger than yours’ scenario and no one likes it.

And that brings us up to this morning.

Bleary eyed and fuzzy headed, (becoming a bit of a theme of late since work has quietened down so much) Sian – somehow – woke up full of beans and convinced me to go to Hunter’s market.  I was promised coffee, and pastries and all manner of things, not to mention a chance to see our good friends Ally and Billy there too…but when we got there, the weather was not on our side.

I felt a bit like the girl in the song from last night:

But a hearty lunch with our friends later and a lazy Sunday has left us in great stead for the week ahead.

Hope you all have an awesome one too.

Thanks for reading guys

x

The other night, Sian and I went down to dinner and we did something we rarely do nowadays.  We took a few photos.  For the fun of it.

We weren’t shooting for a wedding, or a corporate event, or a client wanting to show off their fancy property…we took the camera to do some good old fashioned light-on-sensor-gimmickry.  And it was great.

In the last few weeks of writing, I have been telling you all how we have had to move and we are living in a new place – but I am yet to show you our new abode:  The Almond Casuarina.

This is the biggest of the two pools on resort.  Just under the bridge is a swim up bar, and it is a lovely place to chill out on a Sunday when you have the time.  The beach is off to the right, and the main restaraunts and bars are within that warm, fuzzy glow on the left.  It is a lovely hotel, albeit MUCH smaller than the Village, where we used to live.

Sian is great at times like this.  Everyone was sat down enjoying their meals, whilst I tinkered with my camera, setting up tripods and light stands, and she watched on with patience and anticipation.  I then asked if she would mind standing on the bridge like a lemon and holding a flash up in front of her face.

She of course had no objections.

After playing about at this pool for five minutes or so, we wandered around to the next one for the shot I was after.

This pool is on the other side of the building, and I wanted to play here for two reasons.  One – it is always very quiet in the evening, so long exposures are doable without upsetting anyone, and two, it is not very well lit. Despite what this 6 second exposure tells you, around the pool is actually quite dark, and that’s what I wanted.

Because the shot I was after was a little different to the one you see above.  What I wanted to do was shift my colour space dramatically, so that the water glowed a golden orange rather than that misty blue.  This would mean shifting my white balance to a much warmer temperature – but I needed my subject, in this case Sian, to remain ‘true’ in colour.  I also wanted to get the effect of a calm, oily surface on the water and catch some splashes in the pool that she kicked up.

Solution to all of these requests?  Flash.

A few months back,  James very kindly bought me a set of coloured gels that I can stick over my flash gun.  If you haven’t heard of or know James, go and check out his blog.   He is awesome.  Anyway, the point of these coloured gels is that I can shoot my flash at Sian and not only illuminate her in the darkness, but by using a different coloured gel, the colour of the light hitting her will change too.

Bare with me on this…

When I ramp my white balance to a very warm 9000k, the scene becomes very, very red.  So, to bring Sian back into the correct colour, and not leaving her looking like a sunburnt beetroot, I hit her with a powerful blast of flash, shooting a deep blue colour.  The blue negates the red of the scene, Sian looks normal, and I get that burnt orange on the water’s surface I was after.

I also asked Sian to kick up some water just before I blasted the flash to catch those little splashes in the air…It is not perfect, but in the twenty minutes of playing, we got to use a little bit of new kit, I got to tell you all some photography nerd-ary, and I got another dazzling picture of my hot wife.

Not a bad day in the office really…

 

 

Thanks for reading guys

x