Monday, 26 July 2010

3rd Annual Scott Kelby World Wide Photo Walk

The 3rd annual Scott Kelby World Wide Photo Walk took place on Saturday (24th July) in over 1000 cities around the world and it looks like it's been another record breaking year.

I attended the Glasgow event of around 50 photographers and walked around a section of the River Clyde, which included The Science Centre and Imax Cinema, Squinty Bridge, Finnieston Crane, The BBC and The SECC and  The Clyde Auditorium (Armadillo).
The weather was cloudy, but dry and although the light was a bit flat at the start, it got better in the second half of the walk and gave us all a bit of variety. Being Glasgow, it was a miracle it didn't rain.
It's amazing when you look at the photos from all the photographers and see how different they look and how we all look at subjects in a different way. I'm sure everybody there made an effort to try to not take the same shots as the person standing next to them.
A big thank you to the walk leader, Alex Saunders, for his time and effort that he put in and to everyone that showed up on the day. You can see more of my photographs on my Flickr Set and the photographs for the full walk can be found on the walks Flickr Group . I didn't get to do much talking during the event, but enjoyed my conversation with Bill Lunney after the walk. Roll on World Wide Photo Walk 2011.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Lexar Dual Slot Card Reader

I have used the same 8 in 1 card reader for a couple of years and never gave any thought that readers varied much in download speed. But after hearing an interview with Lexar's Director of Marketing, Jeff Cable, I thought I'd give a UDMA reader a try.

If I'm shooting a wedding, I like to download and edit a selection of about 20 photos while the guests are having dinner. I then display them on my laptop as a Lightroom slideshow at the evening reception. The couple and the guests are happy and I leave a pile of cards on the table and generate more business.

There is limited time though for downloading, choosing the photos and editing them. It was taking around an hour with my old card reader, but the Lexar dual slot reader took under 15 minutes (including card swaps) to download almost 900 photos from both of my cameras 300x cards.

The unit is small and accepts both CF and SD memory cards. It folds into its own base when not in use, which makes it even smaller and also keeps dust from getting into the card slots. At £18.35/$33.63 from Amazon UK or Amazon US, this is the best money I've spent in years.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Reaction:: My First Film With The D300s and EX-FC100

Reaction is my first film using the Nikon D300s and Casio EX-FC100. The HD parts are with the D300s and all the slow-motion was filmed on the EX-FC100 at 210 frames per second. Click HERE to see the film at full size on Vimeo.

I've turned on the comments below, so please take the time to post your thoughts on Reaction. If you like the film, please share the link to this post with friends and family and if there's a good reaction, I'll do more.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Marketing Your Brand

It's that time again when the nice man delivers some shiny new transport. So it's as good a time as any for some new marketing. The signs I've had made for the car doors and rear window, match the 5000 A6 double sided postcards that have been printed, which will also coincide with a portrait session giveaway at a local children's nursery.

It's good to keep everything consistent when it comes to marketing. From your logo to the fonts you use and everything in-between. It takes an average of seven points of contact before people take notice of a brand. That could be a website, blog, e-mail, a letter, business card, signs on your vehicle, an exhibition or many other forms of marketing. Getting your name out there is important and if you're building a brand, it is essential.

Your marketing must be focused on the type of photography that you do. Take a look on the web and you will see lots of sites that say one thing, but show another. There are lots of websites out there that say 'Wedding and Portrait Photographer' but most of the photography is of landscapes or cats.... If you don't know what area of photography you want to specialize in, it's time to make up your mind! If you want to do more than one type of work, I would suggest having a different website for each (unless they can be grouped together, i.e. people photography).

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Black Rapid:: R-Strap 2 - In Use

I used the double Black Rapid R-Strap on a shoot at the weekend and just had to do an update post. If you haven't read my previous post on my choice of strap set-up, check out Black Rapid:: R-Strap .

Although my weekend shoot was not a long one, I was blown away by just how much of a difference the R-Strap(s) were in both comfort and ease of use. Due to the uncertainty of the weather on Sunday, I wore a waterproof jacket in case of rain. I was really pleased that I could wear the double R-Strap under my jacket and it was both comfortable and inconspicuous (although I was paid to do a job, so I could be as conspicuous as I liked). I wasn't sure if the larger phone pouch and storage compartments of the RS-5 would be too bulky to wear under a jacket, but it was fine. It will probably be a bit big for under a suit jacket, but I'll test that out later in the month.

I would normally have a camera hung over each shoulder with the standard Nikon straps, which makes it slow when changing from one body/lens combination to the next. Hanging one camera over my right shoulder and getting the other from the left takes time and I've missed plenty of shots in the past, or even just not bothered changing. There's been a few times when I've almost dropped a camera too.

The double R-Strap was perfect and it felt so natural! As one camera was going down in my right hand, the other was coming up in my left hand. I had no problem swapping over for just one shot with the 70-200mm and then back to the 17-55mm. The cameras glide up the straps smoothly every time.

I used the RS-5 as a single strap yesterday when out walking, and it performed spot on too. The camera tends to spin round a bit with just a 50mm on it, but I expected that. With all my other lens's though, I can reach down without looking and know exactly where the grip will be.

The R-Strap is a first class product and I recommend it 100%. I have just ordered a FastenR-3 so that I can leave a fastenR on my 70-200mm tripod mount. As the FastenR-3 looks a bit more low-profile than the 2, I'll probably put it on the camera grip so that it fits in the bag while still attached to the camera.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Apple iPad Hits The UK Today

The Apple iPad arrives in the UK today, but I still can't decide if I want or need one. The starting price is £429 for the 16GB Wifi only model and the most expensive is £699 for the 64GB Wifi +3G version. The later needs a sim and the average cost of that is £15 per month for 3GB (3 Network are doing 10GB for £15).

On the plus side, it would be a fantastic tool to hand to clients to view their photographs for the first time and also to use as a portfolio to gain new clients. I also like the idea of picking it up and checking email or a website without having to boot-up an operating system.

On the minus side, it's expensive. I thought that Apple's website blurb "A magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price" was pretty funny! The iPad and iPhone (or iTouch) need to be able to sync all Apple and 3rd party apps with each other. I don't want to pick-up my iPhone at a meeting and then realize that the information that I'm looking for was input into my iPad. Syncing Calendars wirelessly between iPhone and iPad would be the minimum I could live with.

Apple products are well made and well thought out, and I know the iPad will be a great piece of kit and very useful. The thing that's putting me off the most, is that it might make things more complicated than they are. I get annoyed that I can't sync apps like Bento between my iPhone and PC, because it's Mac software. Adding another device might not be the answer...yet!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Black Rapid:: R-Strap

I just joined the R-Strap Brigade and bought an RS-4, RS-5 and CoupleR. The RS-4 has a pouch for memory cards and the RS-5 has two separate pouches for memory cards and business cards and a phone pouch that is big enough for an iPhone or Blackberry. I'm not sure if the RS-5 pouches are deep enough for UK size business cards (I haven't tried to fit mine in yet), but I'll check that out later. I also bought the CoupleR pack, which contains two studded straps that join the RS-4 & 5 together to make a holster style double strap.
I thought long and hard about getting this set-up or an RS DR-1 double strap, which can be split to use one side as a single R-Strap. There's not a lot of difference in the cost, so I ended up going for the set-up that I thought would be the most versatile.
The R-Straps are fantastic to use and very comfortable. I often have two Nikon D300(s) with a 17-55mm on one and a 70-200mm on the other plus battery grips. I can have these hanging on my shoulders for up to eight hours and it really gives me a sore back. I haven't tested the R-Straps over a long shoot yet, but I'm pretty sure they'll be a huge improvement on the standard Nikon straps. I highly recommend getting an R-Strap. If, like me, you often use a two camera set-up, I really couldn't say what the best choice is. I don't think it makes a big difference if you go for the double strap RS DR-1 or like me, the two R-Straps and the CoupleR to join them up. I don't think you would be disappointed either way.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The Rayflash Ringflash

The Rayflash Ringflash adapter needs no batteries and has no lights inside. It has a system of light channels and reflectors that distribute the light from your flash to a ring that surrounds the lens, giving an even light on the subject. The main use of a ringflash is for either portrait or macro photography. The unit is lightweight and slips on to the head of the speedlight and is locked on by a large thumbscrew that does not damage the flash in any way.

I've taken three photos of my daughter to show the difference in on camera flash and Rayflash. The first photo is using a Nikon SB-800 on the hotshoe with the defuser dome. The flash is set to iTTL and has no exposure compensation on either the flash or the camera. As you can see, there is a shadow on the right side, but it's not a bad photo for on camera flash.

The second photo is with the SB-800 bounced of the ceiling (the defuser still on). There's a dark shadow under her left cheek. On an adult there would be more shadows in the eyes, due to deeper features too.

The third photo is from the Rayflash. Note the trademark halo style shadow. The light is nice and even on Janel's face, although a bit flat. The shadows have totally gone too. The flash is set to +2 compensation to get a good exposure.
I found it strange that the flash needed +2 compensation when it was on the hotshoe, but when it was slipped of the hotshoe and set as the remote on iTTL, it needed no compensation to get the same exposure. I emailed the makers of Rayflash about this a few days ago, but I have not had a reply at the time of publishing this post.

I really like the Rayflash and I'm looking forward to trying it with the Lastolite HiLite background, where the lit background will burn out the halo shadow. The Rayflash is great for times when you need lights, but don't have time or space to set-up stands. As a portrait photographer, I think I'm going to get lots of use from the Rayflash ringflash.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

My Camera Bags & Gear

Camera bags are such subjective things! We all have different kit and even different set-ups for certain types of jobs. I have four bags at the moment, three Lowepro and one Tamrac. The Tamrac is a Pro8, which is a good bag, but the over the shoulder reporter style feels awkward to me, so it very rarely sees the light of day.

My three LowePro bags are all backpacks. For a simple one camera, a couple of lens's and a single Speedlight setup, I have a SlingShot 100AW, this is the lightest I travel (unless I take just my Canon G9). My 100AW strap got torn recently and LowePro replaced the the bag free of charge. With that kind of customer service, I doubt I'll buy anything but Lowpro from now on.
My medium sized bag is a Fastpack 250 which is a great bag for carrying a pro-sized DSLR (with battery grip), two to four lens's and one or two Speedlights. Only problem is that I'm taking two camera's most of the time these days!

That brings me to the bag I've been using for the past three months, the Lowepro CompuTrekker AW . As you can see from the photo above, I've moved some of the padded inserts around to suit my set-up. The CompuTrekker is a fantastically modular bag, as all of the inserts can be removed to leave one big space, or you can divide it up into tiny slots to take small items, like a 50mm or batteries. There's also a large front pouch (big enough for three Speedlights) plus another smaller pouch. There's also a tripod carrier too. Here is a list of the gear that I carry in the CompuTrekker:

  • Nikon D300s body (with battery grip)
  • Nikon D300 body
  • Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8 (on the D300s)
  • Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 (on the D300)
  • Nikkor 50mm f1.8
  • Sigma 10mm f2.8 Fisheye
  • Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6
  • Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4.5 Macro (Nikon Cap in the photo)
  • Nikon SB800 Speedlight
  • Nikon SB900 Speedlight (in front pouch)
  • Sony Vaio Laptop
  • Polarizer filters and coloured gels
  • Reflector and defuser (fold-away)
  • Bag with card readers, cables, lens blowers and cloths
The Computrekker is big and heavy with the gear listed above, but it saves me taking two or three bags. It's not for every occasion, but if you're on a job that you need two cameras (even if one is just a back-up), I reckon this is one of the best designed photography bags around.

    Friday, 12 February 2010

    New Design For The Website:: Derek Clark

    Just finished and uploaded my new re-designed main website at I used my usual web design software for the front end, but this time around I've decided to create all the galleries in Adobe Lightroom.

    I've also decided not to use any Flash this time for two reasons.
    1. The quality of the photographs were never very good before.
    2. Search engines like Google and Yahoo don't recognize Flash, which doesn't help with search engine ratings.
    I've also decided to narrow the focus of the new site on three areas - Portraits, Music and Weddings.
    Now that the website is up, I can get back to updating this blog three times a week (starting on Monday).

    Monday, 7 December 2009

    Making It Look Like It Was Shot In A Huge Studio

    If you are shooting against a white or black background, you can give the illusion of having shot something in a huge studio. It is really quick and simple using Photoshop. Just make sure your background is either pure white (use the dodge tool) or pure black (use the left hand slider in Levels or the burn tool).

    In Photoshop, press D on your keyboard to give you the default background colors (black and white). The X key will toggle which is the background and which is the foreground.

    1. Set your background color the match your photo.
    2. Select the crop tool and drag it across the full size of your photo.
    3. Grab the edges of your crop frame and drag them out to the size you want.
    4. Hit Enter on your keyboard and the background color will be filled in.
    The photo above was taken against a 6' x 7' Lastolite Hilight background with white vinyl on the floor in a small living room.

    Friday, 4 December 2009

    Lightroom Killer Tips

    If you're an Adobe Photoshop Lightroom user, you should check-out a great blog called Matt Kloskowski of Kelby Training posts a wealth of information, with a mixture of tips, videos and free presets. The blog has been running for a long time now, so there's loads of content to work through. You can also expect a lot of tips for Lightroom 3, now that it's on beta release.

    Wednesday, 2 December 2009

    Keeping A Shooting Sketch Book

    I use an artists A5 sketch book and pencil to plan for upcoming shoots. I sketch out individual frames of ideas to use as a guide on the day of the shoot. Some I end up using and some I don't. But I know that I have something that I can use if inspiration doesn't show up on cue!

    Sometimes a sketch will springboard from the original idea into a completely different direction, but it gives me a starting point. I have a portrait shoot this weekend and the request is "black and white and  unusual". I have a few sketches, I might use some none or all of them, but I know that I have ideas and somewhere to start. I'm also lucky enough to do whatever crazy ideas I come up with.

    Monday, 30 November 2009

    10 Tips For Shooting Fireworks

    1. Check that you have the right equipment for the job before leaving home (preferably the night before). A tripod and cable release are essential, but remember to take spare batteries and a hat and gloves if the weather is cold. A torch (or two) are another must have.

    2. Arrive early and find a good position that is not too close or your camera will be pointing upward (not the best look and uncomfortable when shooting). It helps if you are there before it gets dark.

    3. Make sure that the horizon is level. This is not as easy as it sounds and is another reason to arrive before the sun goes down.

    4. Set-up your camera before leaving home as it will save you fumbling in the dark and it's hard to see the top of your camera when it's on top of a fully extended tripod.

    5. Set your ISO to a low setting to get the least amount of noise. 100 or 200 is ideal.

    6. Set the focus to manual. As the fireworks are normally coming from a fixed location and your camera is on a tripod, you can zoom in, focus, then recompose and you're good to go. Check your focus every now and then just to make sure it hasn't moved.

    7. Aperture is best set to f8 or f16 which will get a wide depth of field and allow for a slow shutter speed.

    8. Shutter speed needs to be low to capture the full effect and movement of the fireworks as they explode and fan out. You will need to play around for the best results, but somewhere between 4 and 10 seconds should get good results. Remember to use your cable release to stop camera shake!

    9. A wide zoom lens is best. Around a 17-55mm on a crop sensor and a 24-70mm on a full frame sensor will give you a good range, but this will depend on your distance from the event.

    10. You shouldn't  need much post processing, probably Levels to add black, beef up the colors a bit and a bit of sharpening (Clarity in Lightroom). You will probably need to do a bit of cropping, because you need to shoot at a wider focal length to catch some unexpectedly high fireworks.

    Friday, 27 November 2009

    Drobo :: The Ultimate Storage System

    I have a 300GB and a 1TB drive inside my computer and a stand alone 1TB sitting on my desk. To most people this would be more hard drive space than they would ever need. But to a photographer it's just enough to get by for a while until we're forced to shell out for another drive. Then there's the hassle of deciding what to copy on to each drive...

    The perfect solution is the Drobo by Data Robbotics. Drobo is a single unit containing up to four hard drives, but the computer sees it as one single drive. The most amazing thing is that if a drive fails or even if you simply pull one out, the Drobo doesn't skip a beat, it just heals itself and use's it's own back-ups to rebuild a totally safe place for your digital files to live. You can mix and match the size and make of each drive and you don't have to use expensive drives either. Drobo sells for around £340 / $398 on Amazon for the four drive version (drives not included). There is also an eight drive version.

    Wednesday, 25 November 2009

    The Best Way To Improve Your Photography

    The best way to improve your photography is by looking at other peoples photos. It's that simple! We live in a great time (photographically). The internet has opened up the ability to learn just about anything you want to know about almost any subject. Photographers probably benefit the most from the net, because we can learn so much just from looking at a single image.

    From composition to lighting to technique and everything in between, you can really learn a lot from just looking. Try to dissect the photo and discover what makes it interesting to you. Is it the subject matter? Is it the colors? Is it the amount of contrast in a black and white? Is the subject cropped in tight or small in the frame to give a sense of space.

    There's an endless amount of great photos on the web. Try to set aside some time each day to just look at lots of photos. Remember to do the other great thing to improve your photography too...take lots of photos!

    Monday, 23 November 2009

    Review:: The Spyder3 Express

    The Spyder3 Express arrived sooner than expected and I got two of my monitors calibrated yesterday. The box contained the software CD, a quick-start guide, warranty card, cleaning cloth, Colorimeter and suction cup.

    I was expecting a complicated list of menu's, questions and the need to search inside my computers Control Panel to adjust lots of setting, but I was delighted and amazed just how simple and straightforward it was. You basically install the software, plug the Colorimeter into a spare USB port, start the software program and confirm which type of monitor you are using (CRT or LCD). As long as your monitor has been switched on for 30 minutes or more, you can hang the Colorimeter over the front of your monitor, adjust the position of the weight on the USB cable so that it hangs over the back of your monitor. The software runs through a collection of colored and grey boxes and the Colorimeter checks and makes adjustments on them.

    At the end of the process you are instructed to remove the Colorimeter from the monitor and are then shown a collection of photo's that you can zoom in and out of and switch back and forth between your old profile and the the new Spyder3 profile. My monitors were calibrated using Adobe Gamma, but the difference between the two color profiles was quite substantial. Although I only found the suction cup in the box after I had calibrated my monitor, I personally would only use it on a CTR screen. I recommend just keeping your finger pressed very lightly on the Colorimeter of use a large rubber band to keep it against the screen.

    I was pleasantly surprised how easy the process was to calibrate my monitor using the Spyder3 Express. It's a basic calibration, but if you need something a bit more in-depth, you could shell out the extra and get the Spyder3 Elite, Pro or Studio. The Spyder3 Express cost £77 or $88 from amazon.

    Friday, 20 November 2009

    Lens Review:: Sigma 10mm F2.8 EX DC Fisheye

    I've had the Sigma 10mm F2.8 EX DC Fisheye lens in my kit for a while now and although you can't use it all the time, it's a great little lens in a lot of situations. From architecture to portraits (see my Rules Are Made To Be Broken blog post) and everything in-between. With a fast wide aperture of F2.8, it's a great lens for low light situations.

    The 10mm Fisheye is designed for APS-C size sensor cameras. The Nikon version produces a diagonal angle of view of 180o (154o on Sigma and 167o on Canon) and a minimum focus distance of 13.5cm/5.3 inches. The lens is predictably soft at the edges between 2.8 and 3.5, but at F4 and beyond it performs much better than expected. The centre of the lens is pin sharp and the bokeh when shooting wide open is fantastic.
    You can pick one of these lens's up on Ebay secondhand for around £300, and it really is worth it.

    Wednesday, 18 November 2009

    Before You Discard That Photo

    Before you dismiss or even delete a photo that just doesn't cut it, try playing around with a few things in Lightroom, Aperture or Photoshop. There are a few things that transform a photo from mundane to Magnificent, but the quickest and most reliable two ways are cropping and converting to black & white.

    The photo bellow was taken on an overcast day with a sky that was too bright to be dramatic and light that was just flat and uninteresting. It did nothing for me when I first processed the bunch of raw files that it was part of. But a few weeks later, I was flicking through my Lightroom catalogue looking for something to play around with and this one looked as though it had a lot of scope to be transformed. A quick crop, convert to black and white,  push up the blacks and hey presto! Black & White is without doubt the best way to transform a color photo that looks bland.

    Monday, 16 November 2009

    The Spyder3 Express

    Monitor calibration is a very important task, but it's one that a lot of people either don't get round to or don't think they need. If you have ever printed a photograph and had the colors look different from the screen to the print, then your calibration is off.

    The Spyder3 Express is available from Amazon (pre-order in the UK) and retails for £77/$85. There's no excuse to not calibrate when the Spyder3 Express is so inexpensive. If you have more than one monitor, you need to have one of these even more. If like me, you sometimes have to start your edits on a laptop and finish them on your desktop computer, calibration will stop all those annoying readjustments that you need to make after you transfer your images. I'll have a full review on the Spyder3 Express in a week or two when I have a test model.