Tag Archive for: low light

Something a little different for you all this week.  We have some BIRTHDAY SNAPS for you!

With all the craziness of work, an invitiation to our wonderful friend Paula’s (ahem) 50th couldn’t be missed.  It was wonderful.

Hosted at the amazing Gunhill Signal Station, Sian and I had been there during the day, but we had never seen it at night.  It is beautiful.  I mean, crazy beautiful.  Setup nearly four hundred years ago, the station had been positioned deliberately to allow the soldiers stationed there to look out over the country and see any potential invaders to the island.  It could also see the four other signal stations around the island at any given time.  This meant, that if they spotted anything untoward, they could raise a specific flag, which Gunhill would spot, and then relay the message onto the other towers. Genius.

As such, the place affords some amazing views, and at night it is even more magical.


Normally, when I shoot an evening reception, I have scouted the location beforehand and know what to expect.  I also usually have my full kit bag, lenses, a tripod and my flash guns.  For Paula’s birthday, I just took a 50mm prime, because we wanted to enjoy ourselves and not be burdened with all the kit.

As such, the photos relied on ambient light to get us through, which, I am afraid to say, was rather lacking!  There were some fairy lights around the dance floor, so this is where I tried to take the majority of my shots.


Now, a little bit about Paula.

She is awesome.

In charge of the social networking and promotion of our hotel, I cannot think of a more perfect job for her.  She is fun and bubbly and warm and glamorous…and like us, she has a big family, that she loves dearly.


It’s at things like this – parties, birthdays and such, that I always miss home a tad more.  We are sociable people, and always enjoy a do with our families and friends.  But even though we miss them, it is always such a privilege to be invited to something so special, all the way out here in Barbados.




Happy 50th 35th Paula – it was wonderful to be able to share it with you!!!


See the pastry chefs got it wrong too 😉


Thanks for reading guys, and see you next week






As you all know, we are now back in Blighty on our annual leave, and as a super-secret surprise for Sian, I took her along to the new Harry Potter backstage tour.  They say it’s in London.

It’s not.

It’s in Watford, which is like 9947238473 miles away, but for someone like Sian it is definitely worth it.  She LOVED it.

A complete surprise for  her, I had this trip planned a good few weeks ago which is very rare indeed for me.  For our honeymoon we went to Orlando and enjoyed the mini Hogwarts there.  The theming was amazing and the ride was truly magical…if you’ll excuse the pun.

But this backstage tour is very different.  Rather than trying to recreate the world of Harry Potter here in the real world. this trip is all about expelling the myths; exposing the sets and props, and showing just ‘how they did it all’.  You’re treated to amazing sets with bare plaster board behind, huge mechanical structures complete with jacks and pumps and pullies hanging out of the back, and all the costumes and masks and animatronics that helped create the world of Harry Potter.

To be honest, I am not a huge fan of the films, for reasons I will not get into in this blog, but Sian loves them nearly as much as she does the books.  I am happy to say that I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed the trip too.  The amount of work that went into everything for those films truly is staggering.  It was a great day for an aging theatre buff like me…and even better for the now giddy-like-a-school-girl Sian.


But the best part came at the end – if you are going to go to Hogwarts any time soon, I would recommend skipping this blog and I will see you next time…if you’re not, then please read on 😉




Still with me?




Ok, so the best bit of the tour BY FAR is the amazing model of Hogwarts right at the end.  It is massive, and the detail and design that went into it, like everything else we saw on the day, truly is breathtaking.

This bad boy stood about 16 feet high, and it is this very model that you see during those sweeping shots throughout and over Hogwarts.  I (like I am sure you did too) thought this was all CG, and so to see a full blown model of this magnitude really was awe inspiring. It is a wonderful homage to a dying art, and I was both surprised and grateful that this model was how it was all done…Too many effects are now done with cheap CG, rather than models, and you only have to watch the new series of ‘Doctor Who’ to see what I mean.  Models cost a crap load – but the effect is oh so very worth it.

A thoroughly enjoyable day – and I recommend to anyone interested to take the journey to Watford…you won’t be disappointed…just expect to be forced to re-watch the films again once you get back…it seems to stir up some weird nostalgia in the Harry Potter-rites!

Thanks for reading guys – a million and six more advetures to come!


The other night, Sian and I were sat enjoying our dinner in our usual place.  We were in our usual restaurant, sitting at our usual table, drinking our usual wine, discussing the usual challenges and ideas work has been throwing up.  I looked at Sian, usually, and was about to say something utterly – well – usual.  But then we heard something.

We heard music.


This, in itself, is not unusual – we are treated to live music most nights.  But the music we could hear was very, very different to the usual Sokha and Calypso the Bajans bless us with.  This music consisted of trumpets and trombones and saxaphones and drums and singing and all manor of awesomeness that can only be made sense of in one, glorious form.  Big Band.

We gobbled down our dinner at double speed and ran into the main bar area, to be treated to this magnificent site:

The Sherborne School Swing Band were here, and they were playing the Almond Casuarina for their last night.   Apparently they had been here in Barbados for a week, having played in various hotels and concert halls throughout the island – culminating in a final show in the hotel they have called home for the last week.

They. Were. Fantastic.

Now, as readers of this blog will no doubt know, I have a strong affinity to music.  As I explained in my blog during our brief Easter break, we grew up being force fed this stuff.  My brothers and parents are prolific brass players, my sister is amazing at pretty much everything, and I was pretty handy with my saxaphone, before the lure of drum and bass lured me to the stage…but that’s another blog, for another time.

Hearing bands like the Sherborne School Swing Band, takes me back to my childhood…being 9 during summer holidays playing in a school hall with a bunch of kids I never would see again, and going to the never ending program of concerts that my amazingly talented siblings were playing in…not to say that any of us were in bands this good, but it is amazing how music has that ability to place you a million miles from where you are.

Sian and I were expecting another usual mid-week meal.  But the Sherborne School Swing Band were able to give us both so much more.  For the 45 minutes that we caught them, I was a whipper snapper back in good old Croydon, far from the stressed and homesick old fart that I am now.

And, I am pleased to say – I don’t think I was the only one!


Thanks for reading guys – and hope you have had a great week 🙂


Incidentally – for those of you still reading, I have been incredibly flattered to have been nominated for an award for my blog from the wonderful Becky Says Things.  I will be doing  a proper post about this momentous event over the coming days – but wanted to say a huge thank you to her, and urge you all to check her page out.

It is very, very funny 🙂




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 🙂