I’m not a blogger as such but I can’t resist sharing this comic …

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Daniel

The man that whipped his pipe out …

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Stepping Up A Gear

Stepping Up A Gear by haggisandchips
Stepping Up A Gear, a photo by haggisandchips on Flickr.

A while back I finally scratched an itch that’s been bugging me for a long time.

There’s really only two reasons why I upgraded from the fabulous D300S to the D800 and that was for the jump from crop sensor to full frame and the extra capabilities for dealing with high ISO. After much research I learned about other capabilities of the D800 compared to the D300S but these were not in areas that concerned me and played very little part in my decision to go for it.

Firstly, what does the full frame sensor give me? Well I’ve done quite a bit of street photography in the past (see my 100 Strangers: Round 1 page) and I truly loved it and I’m slowly getting back into it again (see my Round 2 page) but there is one thing I have always struggled with … blurring a busy background to my liking. I’m not a fan of f/1.2 as the depth of field on the subject is too shallow for my taste so the answer is full frame and taking a few steps closer to the subject.

Secondly, the superior ISO capabilities … I have quite shaky hands so higher ISO = faster shutter. Simple!

So now I have the camera in my hands how does it perform? Well I’m pretty confident my backgrounds will be slightly more out of focus from now on but I’ve yet to test that properly. I can however confirm that for a given composition Christmas lights give bigger bokeh blobs on my new camera 😉

The ISO has put a real smile on my face though – when forced to I would sometimes let the ISO go to 1600 on my D300S but that would require quite a bit of post-processing and would always leave me a bit disappointed, with the noise only slightly less annoying than the softness that camera shake causes. On the D800 I’ve used it at ISO 2000 a few times and the noise is relatively easily dealt with in post-processing and even more than that I think it is a much more pleasing noise … it is more grain-like and less “digital“.

Before I bought the camera I had a fairly major concern about the resolution. You can find all sorts of rubbish on the internet but one thing I read that made sense to me was that the higher resolution meant smaller photocells and that demanded a good technique to achieve sharp pictures. Given my shaky hands this concerned me but my only local camera shop was not willing to let me try one out so I just had to bite the bullet. Thankfully this proved to be a non-issue and in fact the very first photograph that I took blew me away with the sharpness despite being handheld and even more so when I took the same shot with my D300S and compared. WOW … for the first time I started to realise that there was much more to this “upgrade” than DX v FX. With exactly the same settings the D800 had produced a sharper image with much more detail (obviously) but what knocked me was the colour – the image was much more vibrant and a faithful representation of the subject. The D300S image was flat and dull in comparison.

The colour is the main thing that has amazed me with this camera – my parents have a deep red sofa and when I photographed my son on it the rich colour was fantastic – I didn’t have a D300S shot to compare against this time but I didn’t need one – I’ve used it for long enough to know that it does not render colours as rich as the D800 does.

I am in no way knocking the D300S – it really is a superb camera and I have taken many, many photographs with it that I am more than pleased with but the simple fact is the D800 is just an nth degree better in lots of areas. I guess that’s no major revelation though!

It’s early days yet but so far I’m loving this camera.

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Rule of Thirds Chrome Extension

ImageAs well as being a keen photographer I’m also a bit of a geek. I work as a web developer but I’m lucky to actually enjoy my job and quite often use my skills to support my hobby.

A while back I was taking part in a photography course which was teaching the Rule of Thirds and the number of submissions from other students that failed to meet the brief was appalling … so I wrote a Chrome Extension to draw a simple 3×3 grid over the top of any images found on a web page.

This was well received by the group but much to my surprise it has gained a reasonable degree of popularity without any real promotion by myself. It varies a bit as people install and uninstall it but it is currently hovering around the 150 mark.

Oddly the circles at the intersections no longer render completely even though they used to (?) – I will get around to fixing this at some point.  I also intend to add an options page to configure the size of images targeted (it’s currently hard-coded to greater than 150px on the longest side) and also trying to work out how to hook into context menus to just work on a single image. Someday!!!

If you want to install the extension then head over to the Chrome Web Store.

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7 weeks …

Round 2 / #106 Richard by haggisandchips
Round 2 / #106 Richard, a photo by haggisandchips on Flickr.

… since my last stranger !!! I’m officially getting worse not better.

Click on the image to see the image on Flickr and read the story.

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Determination!

Round 2 / #105 Pauline by haggisandchips
Round 2 / #105 Pauline, a photo by haggisandchips on Flickr.

A few basic mistakes on my part, some dodgy focusing and a demanding subject (and quite right too of course) resulted in a rather large number of photos for my most recent 100 Strangers encounter.

Click on the photo for more …

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6 Weeks …

Round 2 / #104 Chris by haggisandchips
Round 2 / #104 Chris, a photo by haggisandchips on Flickr.

… since my last stranger !!!

I don’t know why I’m struggling so much – I think it is because I still haven’t really decided what I want to get out of my second round.

First time round it was always about the encounter and getting to know the person but I resolved up front this time that I wanted to focus more on the photo and put in the effort to take a really good portrait. But I have found a real reluctance as I walk past “yet another pretty girl” wondering what we would talk about or a multitude of other prejudices.

Chris was outwardly exactly the sort of person that I would have approached without hesitation in my first round but now I’m hesitating for no reason at all.

I might simply revert to type for a bit until I settle into the project again then worry about pushing the boundaries technically.

The fact of the matter is I enjoyed today’s encounter and that’s 99% the point of the project isn’t it?

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Lacuna Coil – Karmacode

A definite departure for me. This is less photography and more digital art … and quite a lot of plagiarism ;).

Click on the image for more details.

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It’s Not All About The Pout

Emily by haggisandchips
Emily, a photo by haggisandchips on Flickr.

I managed to get along to the Creative Talent Circle for a second time and it was great fun again. All three models this time were relaxed and really easy to work with – last time I found two out of the three of them a little bit too serious.

Emily may not thank me for posting this photograph but I do so because it sums up the vibe of the evening really well. There IS plenty of pouting and serious poses but there’s also a lot of fun, it’s about engaging with the model as much as it is photographing them. Stating the bleeding obvious I know ;).

NOTE: Just noticed the strap hanging down from the dress … that’s the second time out of two of these studio sessions that’s happened … I really must pay more attention to the details.


Cate

The other important part of what these evenings are all about is experimentation. Last time it was getting Chloe to flick her hair and this time I tried sticking a plant in front of the studio light when photographing Cate. I saw a wonderful photograph where someone else had used that technique and it worked brilliantly … my results were less spectacular but I tried … and I may try again.

Last but definitely not least was Polly – bold looks, a confident air and she seemed just a little bit more experienced than the other two and changed pose every time the shutter clicked, mixing it up a lot and going for the stronger poses that don’t work when you see them “live” but do work through the viewfinder. I particularly like the photo below because I think the lighting is just right in it – something I still fail to get right even though the basic lighting has been setup by a professional.

Polly

Polly was my pick of the evening because I simply loved her tattoo 😉 …

Polly

All my photos from these sessions are available in my Creative Talent Circle set on Flickr.

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The Spark that (Re)Ignited My Running

In 1993 I ran the Great North Run and damaged my knee to the extent that to all intents and purposes I did not run again for almost 20 years.

I tried a few gentle jogs every now and again but within a mile the pain was unbearable and I eventually decided to not push it in case I extended the problem to other sports that I was currently still able to do … squash, cycling, football, skiing to name a few.

And then Thunder Thursday happened. 28 June 2012.

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I’d love to say it was the lightning bolt that provided the spark but the truth is it was the rain that did it … someone put their all into that rain dance!

The metro was off, the city in chaos and the traffic was literally grid-locked everywhere. I was stuck on a bus, I’d moved about 20m in an hour and I was a long way from home.

More importantly though I was a long way from my son’s nursery. He was safe of course and the normal 6pm pick-up rule was long since abandoned I’m sure but my wife was also stuck on the Coast Road so she couldn’t get to him either.

So I took the decision to get off the bus and run the 5 miles to nursery. I’d been playing squash that day so changed into my squash shoes, slung my bag awkwardly over my shoulder and set off running. It was more of a walk/jog … I was semi-fit but not “run fit”.

The rest of that day is largely irrelevant. Ultimately a friend got to the nursery before I did and my wife got to me before I got home but in the meantime I’d jogged 4 miles.

The next day was when it got interesting as it suddenly occurred to me that my knee was not sore, and nor had it been the previous day either.

So I went for a tentative run, and then another one, and another .. and there it was … I was a runner again.

My theory is that because I had been playing a lot of squash at the time that will have strengthened the muscles and ligaments around my knee and that was all it needed. A course of strengthening exercises before any one of my test runs and perhaps everything would have been different … but that’s hindsight for you … or common sense, one or the other.

A few weeks later I pulled a calf muscle 🤣 …

… but I recovered, trained hard and on 15 September 2013 I ran the Great North Run again. A year and a half ago I would never have believed this possible. Not a PB but a pretty decent stab at it. I’ll be back!

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