Monthly Archives: October 2011

Review: Formatt Hitech Pro Stop Neutral Density filter

Hi guys,

Finally!!!  I had the perfect opportunity to unwrap Hitech’s Pro Stop 10-stop ND filter and use it.  The weather has been awful since returning from the UK and i have handled the filter, looked through it, read the instructions and done pretty much everything else apart from using it!!

Anyway, last night we stayed away at a nearby lake and i woke this morning at 6am to the most glorious sunrise.  Unfortunately my head didn’t quite wake up at the same time as my body and it took a further fifteen minutes for my head and body to coordinate with themselves and realise it was perfect for the Pro Stop.  Despite my fogginess the first thing i noted was that the Pro Stop is just as easy to use as a normal filter and doesn’t take much longer to get set up.

I simply took a reading in Av exposure mode and then switched the dial to manual and corrected the shutter speed according to the chart provided by Hitech.  No big fuss.  For the image below the original exposure was 1/30th at f16 with the corresponding exposure through the filter 30secs at f16.

The first image was taken without the 10-stop (1/30th at f16) and the second image with the filter (30secs at f16).


Both images were taken in RAW (with Faithful picture style) so pretty much straight out the camera.  Notice the slight blue hue to the overall image but this lifted quickly by adjusting the colour temperature from the ‘As Shot’ value of 7000 to about 8400.  Problem solved!

Then with a little bit of processing i got the following two images.  I corrected the midtones in ‘Levels’ and added some linear contrast in ‘Curves’ before a slight touch up with Noise Ninja.  The first image is without the filter and the second is with the Pro Stop.

I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have to say getting the last image alone would have made the purchase of the 10-stop worth it.  I love the smooth water and the sharp reeds in the foreground.

I am really impressed by the ease of using the 10-stop.  Simple to use in the field and apart from a small change in colour temperature it is just as easy to process as a regular file.  But you get such a wonderful blur on the water.  Not knowing the amount of blur is a bit strange in the beginning but i guess with time i will get used to pre-visualising the images taken with the 10-stop.  In this image i just love the smoothness of the water and yet it is still able to retain some of the colour and detail in the reflections of the clouds and the volcanoes.

I really do love it!  It was lovely being able to move beyond just capturing the image and moving into creating something that stands out and adds even more drama to an already dramatic scene.  I can’t  thank the guys at Formatt Hitech enough and really would recommend a 10-stop ND filter to anyone taking a reasonable amount of landscape shots.  Especially if you have a lot of coastal scenes in your portfolio.  Even though at first it seems like a lot of money for a filter you might only use once in a while i have a strange feeling i will be using the 10-stop quite a lot!!

I also have to say that i have had a few problems with vignetting on my 24-105mm.  Even the smallest, most slimline, UV filter i get quite sizeable vignetting at the 24mm end so i was a little concerned that the 100mm holder would cause unwanted vignetting.   I was very happy to notice not even the slightest amount of vignetting.  I should say that i was using the MK4 wide-angle holder which has two bays and not the regular three bays and ring mount as well as the wide angle adapter .  If you are going to use around the 24mm range or wider i definitely recommend getting the wide angle set up rather than the standard set-up.

Stay well,

Chris

Review: Our first Safari Photography Workshop

Got a new camera? Fed up with your photographs not living up to the memory? The Safari Photography workshop held in Queen Elizabeth a few weeks ago certainly hoped to achieve that. Held in partnership with Jacana Safari Lodge and Christopher Kidd Photography this inaugural workshop aimed to bring together a group of Ugandan photographers and support them to take the next step in their photographic journey.

 

So on a very wet afternoon, Clare, Sherry and Lagrima joined me at Jacana Safari Lodge in the glorious Queen Elizabeth National Park.  Well maybe not quite so glorious!  Upon arrival and the official start of the workshop the heavens opened and didn’t close again until well after dark.  This called for a change to the programme and instead of the planned game drive the four of us spent the afternoon in the comfort of the lodge going through some of the workshop material.  This was a great opportunity for four very keen photographers of all levels to get together and discuss all the tricks, tips and knowledge they had garnered over the years.  From the basics of aperture and depth of field to the complications of lens micro-adjustment and back button focusing were all covered.  At the end of the day a huge amount of information had been covered and an equally huge appetite had grown to get out into the park to capture some images.

 

On the Saturday morning two of the group spent a stunning three hours in Kyambura Gorge hunting for the illusive chimpanzees whilst the other two guests honed their landscape skills by shooting the gorge from the edge of its cliffs.  After another sumptuous meal back at Jacana the group embarked on a private boat launch down the Kazinga Channel and even though we just missed the Leopard we were fortunate enough to see five lionesses.   With the perfect light for wildlife photographer we were all able to spend an hour and a half photographing lions, elephants, hippos and countless birds as we all tried to put in to practice the discussions of the afternoon before. On the way back luck favoured us again and we managed to photograph two more lionesses with a very playful cub.

 

The final morning featured a game drive around the Kob mating grounds in Kasenyi and with the satisfaction of the lions from the previous day we were able to focus on the other animals of Queen Elizabeth  Despite all good advice suggesting that safaris should end by 11am we continued and managed to get some great images of water buffalo wallowing in the mud, nile monitor lizards basking in the sun, and weaver birds toiling endlessly to build the perfect nests!

The workshop was a great way for photographers to meet up and discuss their own styles and experiences whilst all the time taking images in one of the world’s best national parks.  A huge thank you to Guide2Uganda, GeoSafaris, GeoLodges and of course the people who made the whole weekend worthwhile, Clare, Sherry and Lagrima.

 

Keep your eyes peeled for future photographic workshops around the national parks of Uganda.  If you want to improve your photography and learn from a diverse group of people, then the photographic workshops might just for you.  For more information please get in touch with me at chris@christopherkiddphotography.com.


Stay well,

Chris

Review: 500px

Hi guys,

Another short review here before i get back to the regular image shares.

I found out about 500px after reading a review by Scott Kelby and thought i would try it out.  And like everything else i have reviewed in the last couple of weeks i have been incredibly impressed.

500px bills itself as a photographic community that lets you share your images and discover a huge range of stunning photographers and their work.  So, much like other platforms like Flikr you might say.  Yet 500px is so vastly different.

Unlike Flikr where there seems to be almost limitless number of images with no control over the quality, 500px is much more refined with only the best of each photographers work appearing.  This makes it much more critical and responsive as the feedback is much more focused on your best work and not a limitless portfolio of every shot you have taken with your DSLR (which tends to make people not comment rather than over comment).  The feedback system itself is much more responsive as the number of likes and dislike are calculated to give each image a rating.  This helps you instantly see how each of your own images are resounding with the other members of 500px. Instant gratification!

500px is clearly aimed at a more professional/skilled level of photographer which in my mind is something which makes it work so well.  I have always said that one of the best ways to improve your photography is to follow the work of others, to let them inspire you, and to open your mind to new ways of frmaing the world.  The continual urge to be as good as the best photographers out there has always helped me to constantly rework my technique and become better.  And this is where 500px excels!  I have not come across another photographic community that has such a high standard of work and in the last month i have found some breathtaking images from until now unknown artists (at least unknown to me).

I really love 500px.  It feels more like a community.  Needless to say this probably spells the death of Flikr for me.  I just can’t see its value any longer now that i have 500px and it seems to be madness trying to keep up with both.

Despite this i have noticed a few issues with 500px that would make it even better in the future. The key problem is quality (or more so maintaining it) because quality is the very reason i think 500px works so well.  But how do you maintain that level of quality without upsetting a lot of people and how do you determine what is quality and what is not when it is such a subjective process.

I am also struggling a bit with the categories offered to list your images in.  For my wildlife images i often have four options; animals, landscapes, nature and b&w.  Nature would seem the best to me but actually most members place their ‘safari’ shots under animals.  At the same time there are a lot of birds in the animals category and a huge amount of captive animals. It is a shame to see an image of a wild animal rate lower than a more impressive captive animal image simply because the captive animal is a head shot and the wild image was not taken from two feet away (from behind a fence).  Keeping captive and wild shots together doesn’t allow users to commend the sheer expertise and skill of wildlife photographers to get close to their subjects.

It would be great if Nature included any shots which are shot out there in nature and the animals category be reserved for captive animals and pets.  And if there was a way to include two categories for each image as well that might help my indecision of putting an image under landscape or b&w for example.

Anyway small quibbles i know.  I just struggle when i see what i know to be remarkable shots of a wild animal get out rated by a captive image which may be technically better but which took much less skill to achieve.

All that said, i unashamedly recommend that you go to 500px and browse the collections.  Start with the popular and editors choice images and then move through upcoming and fresh.  Click the image below to go straight to 500px. You might just loose the best part of the day and develop a whole new craving to rush out and take better images!

Stay well,

Chris

Book Review: The Safari Companion

Hi guys,

I really wanted to share this book with you in case anyone is planning a safari in the future.

Last month I picked up a copy of the second edition of The Safari Companion by Richard D. Estes after hearing good things about it. And it probably is one of the best safari companions you can have with you on a game drive.

One of the key skills of a wildlife photographer has to be their ability to understand the behaviour, activities and ecology of the subject they hope to photograph.  In this respect you can look no further than Estes book which includes a huge amount of information about all the African mammals you would expect to see and all the other ones you haven’t even heard of!

Each species has their own chapter with sections including, What they are, Where they are, Good places to see them, Ecology, Activity, Social/Mating system, Reproduction, Offspring and parental care and Predators.  Using the book helps you to understand the often subtle body movements of your subjects as well as the fascinating facts that make a safari and its mammals so memorable (elephants grow to 3500kgs and consume 150kgs of food per day).

On the down side it doesn’t have any colour images which makes the book not ideal for a beginners book where people need to be able to identify their subjects easily.  That said partnering The Safari Companion with another pocket book like Mammals of East Africa by Chris & Tilda Stuart makes for a great partnership.

If you take more than a fleeting interest in the animals that you photograph then i thoroughly recommend picking up a copy of The Safari Companion.  A great read and also a huge help in making the most of your photographic safari.

Stay well,

Chris