You Can Take Action Man Out Of The Army, But…

… you can’t take the army out of Action Man.

Richard has taken it easy today. He’s wanted to rest a bit. He doesn’t fancy running around like a tourist at the moment, but that’s no excuse to not have fun.


So I thought I’d check out the terrain, and create my own party atmosphere. Just coz it’s a sober Christmas doesn’t mean I can’t let my hair down. Not that these Forces hair cuts leave you with much hair.


If there’s been a wall to climb then I’ve climbed it, the opportunity to hang around, well, it goes without saying.


I just had to take the opportunity to get as much exercise in as I can. I didn’t realise I still had it in me to do this stuff. Not much of a travel Blog, but I can only present what the day brought to me. I’ve been hanging around by the front door just incase, maybe we’ll get out tomorrow.


Until then I’ll keep being my angelic self. Watch out Cork, here comes Action Man.


Blood Test, Justice, Who Ate All The Pies

When Richard told his eating disorder team about our holiday he had to promise that he would have his usual blood test whilst here.

I can’t stand blood at all, so I had to wait outside of the hospital.


Hospitals can take so long to see people so I went for a walk around Hampstead. It’s a lovely place and has a large parkland called Hampstead Heath, and there’s Hampstead village. I’m a bit to common for this boutique gentrified place. Found a nice sweet shop though.


We were meeting family at the hospital, Richards cousins L and K, and once they had finished their appointment we went into London and had a look at some churches where family members had been baptised and married, going back 200 years. L is a family historian and is a treasure trove of knowledge.


On the way to the churches (on the Strand and Fleet Street) we walked past the Aldwych Courts of Justice.


Now this is where I come into my own. The legal system in the UK is a tripartite system.

  • Those that make the law
  • Those that uphold the law
  • Those who try the law.

This translates as government, which creates legislation, the police who detect crime and bring charges against those suspected of breaking the law, and the court system tries the law, through hearings or trials.

The courts system has magistrates court, crown court, county court, high court, court of appeal and supreme court. It seems complicated but it’s just a hierarchical system. The courts of justice hold the high court and appeal court, both of which are used to either appeal a decision made by a lower court or to examine more complex aspects relating to the meaning and implementation of legislation.


What a mouth explaining the law is, but not as much as a mouthful as the pies.

Time for me to trapes behind Richard in the flower gardens, so love to you all and I’ll be back tomorrow.

Testing New Purchases – Prep For Farnborough – C-AF – Macro Learning

Recent Purchases

Mzuiko 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 ed ii

When I decided to go fully Olympus and trade in my Nikon D7100, I purchased this lens, primarily because it’s coming up to Farnborough airshow. This lens and the OMD’s Micro four thirds 2xcrop ratio, gives me a 150mm – 600mm lens. Which is pretty good for aircraft. Armed forces day was on 30th June so I took the lens over to Scarborough, knowing that they had three mini air displays. The lens is heavy, as to be expected, and on full zoom, 300mm, handshake isn’t always cancelled out by the OMD’s 5 axis image stabilizer. However, when panning the camera to follow the movement of the aircraft, the hand shake becomes irrelevant to a large degree. It’s much more noticeable on those shots when the lens is not panning. This is despite using shutter priority and keeping in between 1/800 and 1/4000. I also have a neuro-muscular condition and this makes hand shake worse sometimes.

There is a down size to this lens, and it’s the same one you get with most cameras at full zoom, and that’s vignetting. Although to give credit where it’s due, this is really apparent on an under exposed image, and decreases as you get closer to the correct exposure, at which point it’s sometimes apparent and others not. So the vignetting is really down to me under-exposing the photos and not keeping my eye on what I was doing.

The Blades Aerobatic Display Team ISO 100 Shutter 1/1000 aperture f6.7 300mm

The above is clearly an underexposed photo. The next image I have developed a little in Lightroom, but I wanted to show one of my favourite photos from the afternoon. There is still a slight halo around the aircraft, which shows that even good exposure doesn’t eliminate the vignette completely. However as you decrease the focal length to around 200mm the vignette isn’t there at all. This is no different than any other non prime telephoto lens.

The Blades Aerobatic Display Team ISO 100 shutter 1/800 aperture f6.7 300mm

C-AF – Continuous auto focus. In preparing myself for Farnborough I wanted to put the OMD and the Mzuiko through their paces, and test the continuous autofocus as I will be shooting fast-moving aircraft. Having completed some research online I ensured that I did not include focus tracking with the C-AF, which is an option with the OMD. The reviews were clear that the tracking works best when much closer to a slower moving subject. Before leaving home I changed the metering to centre weighted instead of the spot that I usually use, and increased the focus area slightly, again instead of the centre point that I often use. It was a mixed result to be honest. At times the C-AF worked wonders, and at others it kept refocusing and going completely out of focus, or focusing on the clouds or passing gulls (which incidently began to mob the aircraft as if they were birds of prey – common behaviour during the breeding season, but with aircraft? That’s a new one on me).

Maybe the inconsistent auto-focus is down to my lack of experience using it, or maybe that’s the way with C-AF for distant objects which are very fast-moving.. The OMD EM10 mk iii doesn’t have the added element of phase detection auto focus, it’s known to not be as quick as other Olympu’s, but when it worked it was exceptional and I have some very clear, crisp photos, and during some highly complex aerobatic maneuvers. The EM10 is probably performing better than its enthusiast+ level, I can’t expect it to be as good as the pro camera OMD EM1 mk ii, and the auto focus on the EM10 is reportedly better than the Pen F, which is aimed between the EM10 enthusiast+ and EM 1 mk ii Pro level in the market. Overall the results were good, and the defects were mostly mine. I need to be more aware of shutter speed and exposure, the camera did what it could to keep up with the fast speed that I was using, but I either needed to increase the ISO or decrease the shutter speed, and that’s completely down to me. Very good preparation for Farnborough, and I know what I need to do to improve my photography of aircraft, including pan more smoothly.

Meike Extenders 10mm and 16mm with electrical contacts

I purchased these so that I could get closer to the subjects in macro photography, and capture sharper details of the eyes and wings of bugs and bees, and closer to the inside of flowers. The Meike extenders for the 4/3 mount has electrical contacts that actually work, so autofocus and aperture changes can be controlled in camera. I have previously had extenders where the electrical connectors didn’t work (for the Nikon), not good.

Iam really impressed. I only used the 16mm (you can combine the two and create a 26mm extender, but you then need to shoot almost touching your subject and the depth of field is so narrow that its difficult to shoot anyway. It was a very windy day, so I had little opportunity to use the set up, but the results were impressive when I was able to. Depth of field is best controlled by using auto focus, half press on shutter release, and in one smooth action press right down and take the shot. If you pause you’re gonna lose the focus. The other way is to use auto focus, and then move your head very slowly backwards and forwards until you have the focus and the focal range that you are seeking for the image. Macro photography is a very gentle, slow, getting to fall in love with your subject before pressing the shutter release – if you want good photo’s. You can’t rush. here are some photos of the same subject – in the last one I hold a 20 pence piece so that you can see just how close the set up brings me and how small the subject is.

The third photo shows just how narrow the depth of field is. The stars are out of focus, but between them they have these little brown leaves – the tips of which are in focus. Only the first photo is good, but I wanted to highlight how narrow the depth of field is. I know that I can get that close now (and take better photo’s than these). The strengths of the extenders are that you have more control eliminating background distractions, you can get closer to your subject and capture the minutiae in fine details (can’t wait to get to shoot more Bee’s), you can create very large photo’s of tiny subjects, the electrical contacts work. The difficulties, you need to be incredibly aware of depth of field, double-check that you have got the focus how you want it where you want it. you lose a couple of stops of light, so it’s better to shoot in bright, sunny conditions, there’s no point shooting in the wind. Theres too much movement to control depth of field. Here’s one more just because I love, love, love macro photography.

ISO 500 shutter 1/125 aperture f2.8 60mm

Dot.foto batteries for OMD EM 10

When I shoot aircraft I do so in burst mode. It’s the last part of the technical elements that I use to capture crisp images of aircraft in flight. With going away to Farnborough, and burst shooting, there is no chance that the one battery I had was going to last me 5 hours of flying and three hours of static and street photography. I took a risk and decided to but the Dot.Foto battery for the OMD rather than the brand version. I got two batteries this way for the same prices instead of one Olympus branded battery. Did the risk pay off? Most definitely. 1127 frames shot, plus an in-camera review and evaluation of half of those (to delete the crap). The frame count sounds high, but shooting in burst you are able to shoot more frames with less battery depletion than when you are constantly turning you camera on and off for individual photos, and this is most certainly the case for the Olympus brand battery as well. My belief is that these batteries are as good as each other, however, I am aware that the performance of the Dot.foto is likely to reduce with repeated charging, whereas the Olympus are more stable and will deplete more slowly. I will keep an eye on that.

One final photos, OK, so the aircraft are not sharp, but couldn’t resist adding this one.

The Blades Over Scarborough Castle

Kirby – Graphics Tablet Practice

having decided that I am going to create a photography sequence based upon the Hobbit, in which I will mix photos of landscape with characters that I draw, I figured it was good to get a graphics tab and practice.

I am not good at drawing, so this will be fun. Today I have had my first practice shot. I followed a YouTube video by Izzy from StevRay Bro, and here is my result which I created in Photoshop.


Far from perfect, but I am pleased with the result for a first attempt. I will have no excuse not to create my own characters now.


The Fun of Photography – The Right Equipment – DNG files – When Things Go Wrong

It has been a busy time for me recently. I have been away to Cork to stay with friends, and whilst I was there I wanted to make the photos to complete Image the Portrait. Visiting somewhere new is a wonderful opportunity to take lots of photos, and that’s just what I did. That was the fun, taking photos, taking more photos, and exploring with a camera (or three).

I  found Cork to be an interesting city. I miss being in a multi-cultural environment, and Cork most certainly is. It had a great energy and vibrancy, as multi-cultural environments tend to. Lots of busyness, lots of people (for a small city), and a fair bit of history as well.

Before leaving for Cork, I made a decision about which of my cameras to take, and I decided on the Olympus OMD EM10mk iii (which I wouldn’t have left behind) and also the Fuji S9900w bridge. I have an interest in nature and especially in birds, and that’s why I took the bridge camera with me. I have commented before that I don’t like the bridge for most forms of photography because it lacks quality and produces a lot of noise, however with 50x optical zoom its an excellent camera for birds, without the expense of a DSLR lens with the equivalent focal length.

The EM10, with the 25mm prime, is a good set up for portraits, street, architecture and landscape, and the images are excellent quality, and the in camera image stabiliser is so good. However, the electronic viewfinder doesn’t give full coverage, which is a bit tricky, but I am getting used to it.

I now consider my smart phone to be a second prime. The Huawei P10 has a dual 20mp f2.2 camera with Leica lens, and this adds versatility to my set up. The Pen F 25mm is effectively a 50mm lens due to the 2x crop sensor, and the Leica is 27mm. I found this particularly useful for architecture, especially churches, or buildings that are tall or built on hills.

Having these choices is amazing, and it meant I could photograph in a range of environments, and this has been a really enjoyable experience for me.

Windows 10 doesn’t have a codec for viewing DNG files (The EM10  raw files are DNG, as are those from the Huawei), so I tried to find a DNG viewer. Thank god for google. I have previously avoided Bridge as I felt I had enough to do with learning Lightroom and Photoshop, however google pointed me towards Bridge for viewing DNG files. I didn’t want to open files in Lightroom for my initial evaluation, particularly because I file my uploads to a “To Sort” folder, before assigning them to their appropraite folder after the first cut.

I have only used Bridge very briefly this morning, but I can see the benefits of it, something new to learn.

Sometimes the best laid plans go wrong, and that’s an opportunity to try something different. I had put some plans together for assignment 2 -Painting With Light, and had made assumptions about the amount of space that I would have to use at my friends. Without the space required I had to come up with a completely new idea on the hoof, as I needed to make the photos whilst I was around people. The other difficulty was in relation to light. The assignment brief suggests that we take the photos in a dark environment so that we do not get light leak ruining the image. My home is up quite high, there are no street lights shining through my window, so when the curtains are closed its dark. My friends house is in a city, with street lights outside, and even with the curtains closed there is quite a lot of background light. It took a while to get the best ISO, aperture and shutter speed, to cut out as much light as I could, whilst allowing in the light that I wanted to capture. All good experience, in fact, it was a great learning experience. I will evaluate and develop the photos over the next few days, and update my coursework as I go along.

If you’ve managed to read this far – Happy new year. Have a great photographic 2018.

25mm Prime Lens – Layers and Depth – Bird-Watching

I went out to do some bird watching today, a bit of an adventure to look for fieldfare and redwing. Alas, I dint find any, but I enjoyed watching redshank and oyster catcher, a few goldfinch, and a cheeky starling that took a ride on the back of a sheep.

Of course I had a camera with me, and as my OMD EM 10 iii is new, I feel that I need to get used to its menus, the way it handles, and using a prime 25mm (50mm equivalent).

I havent used a prime lens before, and have always relied upon telephoto. There are two things that are immediately apparent to me. The 25mm places the subject further back than I see them with my eye, not a lot, but it’s there. To make use of the prime I am going to need to slow down, move around, and take more notice of composition, distance and perspective. I have a feeling that this is going to be good for my photography. To really consider the shots that I am taking, and allowing myself to move closer, to get into the scene.

Having the prime on me was a good enough reason to explore layers, and how the use of them can add depth in a photo. It’s a step further than the foreground, midground, background exercise, and it can create either a feeling of spaciousness, or movement through a photo, depending upon how it’s used. The photos that I took today are not special,  (I will add them to my sketch book menu above), but the practice is always good.

Thought I would also create a panorama as well. I made three overlapping shots, knowing that I could run them through the Lightroom panorama option. Thanks for the tip Agrandaiz.

Exercise 2.5: An Identikit Portrait

Brief: In this project you’ll explore two different ways of engaging with the portrait genre.You’ll need at least two people for this exercise, but four would be ideal. Prepare a plain background to photograph them against, preferably near a window for the light. Frame the portraits equally close and with a shallow enough DoF to throw the background out of focus. Aim at a ‘deadpan’ expressionless face filling the frame like a large oval shape. Upload the portraits and process them in exactly the same way so that they fit together well. You don’t want one high contrast and the other low contrast, for example. Print out the best portraits about A5 size. If you’ve made only two portraits, make two prints of each face. Fold each portrait into a squarish ‘tube’ and stick it together, so that you have the forehead on one side, the eyes on another, then the nose and mouth on the other sides. Like the one on the right: Now combine them together to make an ‘identikit’ face. Re-photograph in different combinations. How could you develop this? Make a family photo-fit? Make boxes or a photographic Rubik’s Cube? Photography isn’t just about a flat image; it’s an artefact you can move around, cut up, paint on, re-assemble and integrate with other artefacts.

This has been lots of fun and it really hasn’t felt like study. I have completed this task in Photoshop by opening multiple portraits and using:- Layer from background, copy, paste, eraser, and resizing and rotating by selecting a layer and pressing Ctrl T.




Street Photography