Simon Tregidgo: Blog https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog en-us (C) Simon Tregidgo simon.tregidgo@gmail.com (Simon Tregidgo) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:33:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:33:00 GMT https://www.simontregidgo.com/img/s/v-12/u914494260-o493988624-50.jpg Simon Tregidgo: Blog https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog 96 120 My top tips for photography on board a cruise ship https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2020/2/my-top-tips-for-photography-on-a-cruise A cruise is a lovely way to see a little bit of a lot of places, while enjoying fine food, drink and general relaxation on board in-between ports. But for a photographer, arriving after sunrise and leaving before sunset at these beautiful destinations can feel like torture. The best light is during the hour either side of both sunrise and sunset, and very rarely are you on land at all during these times. So cruises and photography must be incompatible? Absolutely not, but you do need to approach it differently.

I've been fortunate enough to have been taken cruising since I was 2 years old. Many years later and I now drop of my own children at the kids club that I myself was dropped off at when I was a little lad. Having cruised throughout my life, my interest in photography has developed in parallel so I have learned over time what works best. Beyond the normal travel photography opportunities on land, here are my top tips for photography on board...

 

Unique perspective landscapes

Effectively travelling on a 19 storey block of flats gives a very unique perspective on many cities and coastlines that few others get to enjoy. For things like the Norwegian fjords, the archipelago‎ entry to Stockholm, or the vista of Venice this viewpoint will be as stunning as it is unique. But in any ports - plus the approach and departure - you get a unique angle to capture. That could be compressing the distant landscape with a long lens, or a wide shot of the stern of the ship with coastline in the background, they will be views that very few others will get to experience, let alone capture.

Simon Tregidgo: Places &emdash;

Venice with Dolomites in the background shot from side of P&O's Aurora. 160mm on crop sensor Sony A700 (240mm full frame equivalent), 1/350 second, f4.5, ISO 100 at 6:46am local time.

 

Birds eye view details

As with the unique perspective landscapes, there are many benefits to being on a floating 19 storey block of flats, but it doesn't have to be the distant horizon. Closer to the ship, particularly when in port, you can find some great opportunities directly below you. Look at the patterns on the quay side and roads , the way the shadows are cast throughout the day, and the way people flow for interesting top down view points. Here you're best served with a long lens, my 100-400 being an essential on a cruise to get a nice tight framing of the thing you've found interesting, or wider shot if you're lucky enough to have an attractive dock - as with the example below of the old town of Stavanger where a 35mm lens was possible. You may even find some events taking place in port. I've shot down on the world tour beach volleyball taking place in one port we visited.

Simon Tregidgo: Olden & Flam, Norway &emdash; 2018-07-31 at 15-52-49

Old town area of Stavanger shot from side of P&O's Ventura. 35mm on full frame Sony A99, 1/80 second, f11, ISO 200 at 3:52pm local time.
 

Panoramic sweeps

Many cameras have built in panoramic features, or you can take several and stitch them together. This high up view point also means few obstacles in the way when trying a long panoramic. Just take time to consider the framing of the shot. Where do you want the pano to start and end? How can you keep interest throughout the entirety of the wide photo? Bridges, spires, boats and interesting buildings all make good elements to include if possible. Including elements of the ship in the foreground like railings or a nicely presented cocktail can add some context and extra interest.  

Simon Tregidgo: Cruise 2013 &emdash; 2013-09-20 at 18-54-52

Sunset panorama shot from the starboard side of Ventura somewhere in the Med. 111mm portrait sweep panorama (camera in portrait orientation) on crop sensor Sony A77 (165mm full frame equivalent), 1/200 second, f4, ISO 400 at 19:54pm local time.
 

Sealife

Depending on where your cruise is going, you may well encounter sea life sightings on board. Sometimes the bridge will announce these, but as their appearances are so fleeting, more often than not you need to keep an eye out for people excitedly looking over the side. So being prepared is key. After many cruises I think I've only seen a couple of whales and dolphins, so if you want any chance of photographing them you need to have your gear with you - by the time you've run to your cabin for your long lens they will more than likely be long gone. And given how high up you are on board, a long lens is essential. This is a tight crop (as you can tell by the loss of detail in the picture) of an image at 400mm on a crop sensor Sony A77 (so effectively 600mm), and this is the only time I've caught anything on camera well enough to be worth remembering it. You will need a fast shutter speed to capture them so if it's not a bright sunny day you may need to boost your ISO. Perhaps turn on auto ISO and set your camera to shutter priority mode and dial in 1/250 second exposure. Then fire off lots of shots tracking where you're expecting the dolphins to reappear after they submerge.

Simon Tregidgo: Cruise 2013 &emdash; 2013-09-25 at 09-33-21  

Pod of dolphins shot from the stern of Ventura somewhere in the Med. 400mm on crop sensor Sony A77 (600mm full frame equivalent), 1/250 second, f5.6, ISO 100 at 9:33am local time.
 

Sail away

On a nice day there's nothing more enjoyable than a cold beer watching the land slip away and the wake of the ship trailing behind. This is a great moment to capture in photography and since the stern of the boat plays an important role, the coastline doesn't even need to be particularly stunning either. Using a nice wide lens, or even a fisheye lens if you want something a bit more creative, get up as high as you can at the stern of the ship and try to get as much in the frame as possible. Important to keep the horizon nice and straight, although you can always correct this afterwards in software if you forget. Below is one of my favourite photos from sail away - the Croatian landscape in the top left, the wake of the ship, and two people (my dad and brother) enjoying a conversation with this perfect view. And it didn't need expensive kit - this was with my first DSLR the 10 megapixel crop sensor Sony A100 and it's18-70mm kit lens.

Simon Tregidgo: People &emdash;   

Sail away from Dubrovnik shot from the stern of P&O Oriana. 18mm on crop sensor Sony A100 (27mm full frame equivalent), 1/80 second, f10, ISO 100 at 6:44pm local time.

 

The milkyway

Light pollution is one of the main barriers to those wanting to get good photos of the stars at night, let alone the milkyway. You can find areas on land, but these are few and far between - and certainly not something you'll achieve anywhere near a large city. But by ship, on the open sea, the only light pollution in your way is from the ship itself. Passenger areas are generally well lit but have a wander around deck scouting out good locations. You can also ask the ships photographers who may also have some tips, or reception who could help you get access to a crew only 'dark spot'. If you're lucky enough to have a balcony cabin, you can even try shooting from there. Once you've found a good location though, you have a obstacle that photographers on land don't have - that your tripod may be stationery on the ship, but the ship itself is moving. So you can cancel plans for any star trails. The milkyway meanwhile is definitely possible.

On a large ship (P&O's Ventura in my case) I've found a shutter speed of 2 seconds was feasible when the boat was travelling at a slow speed in clam waters. With a wide lens, ISO set to 8000 and aperture as wide as possible (smallest f number), f1.8 in my case. My camera handles high ISO noise quite well, but even if you have an older camera you can always reduce the noise in software afterwards if needs be. Use the widest lens you have, again I used the sigma 14mm f1.8, but anything up to 20mm should be fine. The boat is at its *most* stationery when transitioning from rocking in one direction to rocking in the other direction (similar to how a pendulum is briefly stationary before changing direction). I'm sure you could carefully plan this based on the phasing of the rocking, but I set my camera to keep taking 2 second photos for several minutes and then deleted the ones where the stars appeared as dashes instead of sharp points of light. There are many apps to help you identify where the milkyway is (if you can't see it yourself after several minutes in the dark) and I used the sky safari app. This helped me compose my shot, as well as check what time the moon sets - you will want a sky free of the moons light as well. I'd also recommend trying to get something else in your composition, for example the sea or even better, some coastline. It adds some scale and makes the image more interesting. The best astro photographs will always be taken somewhere extremely remote on land, but if you live in a heavily light polluted area, the open sea could be your best bet.

Simon Tregidgo: Items for sale &emdash; IMG_7331

The milkyway over the bay of biscay with coastline of northern Spain and/or south western France on 27th August 2019 from my cabin balcony on P&Os Ventura. 14mm on full frame Sony A7iii, 2 seconds at f1.8 and ISO 8000 at 01:13am local time. 

 

Portraits

Cruising is also a great opportunity to dress up for dinner in the evening. With everyone you're travelling looking their best it can be a great opportunity to snap some nice portraits of people you came with or new friends you've made on board. Use a lens with a very wide aperture like f1.8. These are expensive but a 50mm f1.8 is the best budget lens here, or if you can stretch to an 85 f1.8, 35 f1.8 or even 135 f1.8 (or any of these with a smaller f number) then your subjects will not be disappointed. Set a wide aperture and try to focus on the persons eyes for a stunning portrait. You could even combine that portrait with iconic nautical items about the ship, like this portrait with a emergency life ring.

Simon Tregidgo: Everything else &emdash; 2015-07-17 at 16-15-54

Portrait of young boy on a nice bright sea day, taken on the promenade of P&O's Aurora. 85mm on full frame Sony A900, 1/8000 second at f1.4 and ISO 400 at 4:15pm local time. (FYI, I should have used ISO 100 as the image is a little too bright. I needed the wide aperture to blur the background, but this pushed my camera to it's fastest shutter speed of 1/8000). 


Food

Cruising is fantastic for culinary delights. With so many skilled chefs on board every day is a treat for your eyes as well as your taste buds. So as well as the food presented on your plate, look out for crafted chocolates, immaculate cakes and - a particular favourite on P&O cruises - ice sculptures. You could try a medium lens for a compact top down view, a macro lens to pull out specific details or a wide lens to get the food in context. If you go with the latter, I would recommend getting very close to the food and trying to blur out some of the background. It will help the food take centre stage and make your photo more interesting 

Simon Tregidgo: Everything else &emdash; 2019-08-27 at 20-45-21

Waitress preparing salmon on the outdoor terrace of Pierre White's 'White Room' restuarant on the stern of P&O's Ventura. 85mm on full frame Sony A7iii, 1/125 second at f2 and ISO 250 at 8:45pm local time. 
 

I hope you found this list and examples useful inspiration and please let me know your tips for photography on board that you think I've missed in the comments below. And don't hesitate to ask any questions you may have in the comments too, which I'll do my best to answer.

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simon.tregidgo@gmail.com (Simon Tregidgo) cruise cruise photography cruise ship cruising going on a cruise photography photography on a cruise tips travel photography https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2020/2/my-top-tips-for-photography-on-a-cruise Fri, 28 Feb 2020 20:05:00 GMT
HDR images (plus a little bit about Exposure) https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2013/3/hdr-images-plus-a-little-bit-about-exposure Many people have asked me what HDR photography is over the years so it seemed like a good topic for a blog post. HDR  probably got it's highest profile shortly after Apple added it as a feature to the iPhone camera. It's something I've occasionally had a dabble with but ultimately found it very difficult to do well (and exceptionally easy to do badly). To understand HDR photography, as with many photographic concepts, you first need to appreciate quite how amazing the human eye is.

Our eyes are incredibly adaptive to light. We can navigate a room in almost pitch black darkness or a bright sandy beach in extreme sunlight. And not only do we have this very impressive range of sight from very dark to very light, we can also process both in tandem in quick succession. In a church or cathedral we can pick out the intricacies of a brightly lit stained glass window and then, with but a flick of the eye, pick up the details in the dark brickwork that frames said window. Wherever we cast our gaze, our eye (and brain) quickly readjusts to the light levels and enable us to 'see' what we're looking at. The range of brightnesses our eyes can handle is rather breathtaking, and the speed at which it does it makes us forget quite how bright the stained glass window is and quite how dark the brickwork is.

The speed at which this adjustment happens is incredible. But it means we forget it does happen. You only notice it when the margin between the darkness and the brightness is particularly extreme. Take for example stepping from inside a dark cool hotel lobby, out into the bright midday sun. It takes a few seconds for our eyes to adjust to the extreme brightness and to properly 'see' the details. Likewise, when walking along a country lane at night your eyes can make out the lane, the trees, most of what is around you. Until of course a car comes towards you and dazzles you with it's headlights. Suddenly your 'night vision' has disappeared and it takes a little while to readjust to the situation.

You have now begun to appreciate exposure. That there is a process to adjust from one level of brightness to another level of brightness. That our eyes have 'settings' that are adjusted to 'see' different levels of brightness. As explained above, our eyes are constantly doing this to allow us to see the details in whatever it is that we are looking at, be it the stained glass window or the brickwork around it. Likewise, cameras have similar settings which replicate what the eye does so it can capture different levels of brightness. So it also can 'see' the detail in the brickwork or the detail in the stained glass window. But unlike our eyes which are 'seeing' what is around us but frantically changing settings depending on where we are looking, a photograph can only have one setting. We choose (or our camera chooses) which setting to use and that 'exposure' is set in stone for that image.

Suddenly our eyes don't get to choose anymore. As we navigate a photograph, we don't have any further control on how bright or dark different sections are. This 'exposure' for the whole image was chosen when we took the photograph. For example, if we had aimed our camera at the stained glass window discussed above, the details of the window may be clearly visible in the photograph but the brickwork will be almost black. Likewise, if we had aimed our camera at the brickwork the details of the brickwork will be clear but the stained glass window to the side will come out almost blank white.

High Dynamic Range images seek to resolve this. They serve to replicate the quick adjustments to exposure the eye does. By taking differently 'exposed' images for the lighter parts and the darker parts. Taking one photograph with the camera settings adjusted to show the details of the dark areas (such as the brickwork) and then another photograph with the camera settings adjusted to show the details of the light areas (such as the stained glass window). We can then merge these two photographs using software such as Photomatix Pro so every part of the photo is shown as our eye would see it as it moved around the scene. So that when we look at the brickwork in the photograph we can see the detail, and when we look at the stained glass window in the photograph we can see the detail there too.

That's the principle anyway. The problem is it is very easy to completely lose the fact that some things are lighter and somethings darker. As we compress this range to have detail in everything we can end up with an image that looks too flat. When HDR is done well it is breathtaking. But it should be done so that you don't notice it - just as you don't realise it when you're looking at that stained glass window and brickwork in that church.

 

Example: City sunset scene

Below are three photos of exactly the same scene. With the camera on a tripod, I could change the camera settings without changing what it was pointed at. Notice how different the brightnesses are. All three images are taken within only a few seconds of one another, yet by changing the camera settings to get a different 'exposure', we get different details in each.

1.This first image is exposed for the buildings. We can see the windows, the colours of the street, the parked cars, all of which I could clearly see when I looked at them at the time this was taken.

_DSC5974

2. This second image is kind of a middle ground, a compromise between the darker bits and the lighter bits. We can now see pink in the sky immediately above the roof tops on the right and can tell that it's either sunset or sunrise.. Ultimately though the dark bits are too dark and the light bits are too light.

_DSC5973

3. This third image is exposed for the sky. We can now see the amazing colours in the sky and make out the detail in the clouds and the crane - again all of which I could see when I looked at them at the time. _DSC5972

So by combining these three images in software, we take the details from the street in the first image (the darker bits at the time the photo was taken) and add the details from the sky in the third image (the brighter bits at the time photo was taken). We also add the details from the second image for any middle details - the bits that were inbetween the brightest bits and the lightest bits. In this example there aren't many, but the most obvious is the pink in the skyline on the right. In the first image it is almost white and in the third image it is a dark grey. In a different scene, there may be far more 'middle' detail to use.

So we put all of this together and then choose which bits we want from which images and tweak various settings to blend the three:

 

Brussels Balcony sunset
 
Camera
SONY DSLR-A900
Focal Length
24mm
Aperture
f/8
Exposure
1/10s
ISO
400
Camera
SONY DSLR-A900
Focal Length
24mm
Aperture
f/8
Exposure
1/10s
ISO
400

It's not a particularly pretty example, but it is certainly closer to the true scene I saw than either of the three images. Hopefully it demonstrates how HDR images are made and why they can be useful.

I'm keen to know if this is a good explanation or if it needs improving, or any other input you have so please add a comment by clicking here and choosing the 'Add Comment' button

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simon.tregidgo@gmail.com (Simon Tregidgo) editing Exposure HDR High Dynamic Range optimising Photography Post processing https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2013/3/hdr-images-plus-a-little-bit-about-exposure Wed, 27 Mar 2013 18:56:50 GMT
Artistry through editing https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2013/1/artistry-through-editing Image courtesy of David at pasztordavid.com

Image courtesy of David at www.pastztordavid.com - check out his site or visit him at facebook or over on Flickr

The above image is not one of mine but of a fellow member of a photography forum I frequent and thoroughly recommend (www.dyxum.com). It is a stunning image. Simple, well balanced with a strong background of perfectly vertical and horizontal lines overlaid with the soft brush strokes of vehicle head lights and tail lights painting the scene. The inclusion of the 'BUSZ' road signs help give context to the scene. It is an outstanding image and one that compelled me to write to the photographer (David) to congratulate him on such an image, to me a standout shot in an impressive gallery of dyxum 2012 'best ofs'.
 

In reply David thanked me and explained that the original image had been manipulated to deliver the vertical lines. Straight from the camera it had converging diagonal lines due to the angle from which it was shot, and in hindsight this is apparent due to the lack of shadow from any bridge that David would have needed to be positioned for such a shot.

Initially I felt the artistry of the shot had been slightly depleted by this revelation and knowing this affected my enjoyment of the image, albeit only marginally. But after thinking about it for some time, it is nothing more than an optimisation of the image. I followed up with David and asked if he would give me permission to use his shot above, and also to have the original photo. David very kindly gave me permission for both and so here is the original shot that David took:

Image courtesy of David at www.pastztordavid.com - check out his site or visit him at facebook or over on Flickr

There can be no doubt that this is a great shot, but David's vision that a 'better' image lay within - and ability to adjust it so - did indeed deliver a far more effective and visually appealing image.

 

Similar to David, a shot of mine of which I'm particularly fond of - and have received favourable comments from fellow photographers - is my shot below, 'implied windmill'. Most of the comments refer to the 'bravery' to have such a minimalist shot with so much negative space.

But as with Dave's stunning photo, this is not the image I took on that cool September morning in Brighton. I had decided to make one windmill blade my focus and to leave imbalance in the shot with an empty space to the right, but I was not as brave as the initial shot suggests. Instead, the original image was far broader;

DSC05696 - Version 4

As shot, it's quite 'heavy' with too much emphasis on the building and too little emphasis on the blades. The serenity of the landscape is dominated by the base of the windmill and the whole scene leans uncomfortably down to the right and, in the case of the windmill, away and into the distance. So similar to David, I reviewed the photo and opted for several ways to optimise the image. Firstly, I straightened the horizon to remove the left-right tilt that occurred in the original. Secondly I looked to crop the image to increase the sense of contrast between mill and landscape that I wanted to capture.

But do you feel cheated that the image I finally published was not the one I had originally seen? Personally, I believe photography is a three part process;
1) a concept or an idea
2) a camera actuation
3) processing of the 'digital negative'

It's important to recognise this is not a new concept and an applied process to film photography as much as digital. The difference today is that the final step is both easier in digital photography and provides more options.

 

Please let me know you're reactions to the above as there are many degrees of editing (as partly covered in my previous post) and I find this whole debate fascinating. Personally the above two fall well within what I consider acceptable; in each case it is one image, optimised to deliver a stunning published image.

 

And finally, thanks again to David for allowing me to use his images in this post and sharing the original image which he previously hadn't published. Do head over to his site as he's a truly gifted photographer: http://www.pasztordavid.com. Also over on  facebook and flickr

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simon.tregidgo@gmail.com (Simon Tregidgo) Post processing darkroom editing optimising https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2013/1/artistry-through-editing Fri, 11 Jan 2013 18:00:00 GMT
Photography; editing photos https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/9/photography-editing-photos This is a topic which my view of has changed throughout the last few years of taking photography seriously. At its most simple form, photography is thought of by many as an evidence based tool; a means of capturing something seen and sharing it with others who were not present at the time it was taken. If you edit a photo you are not sharing what you saw.

This view is taken by the majority of non-photographers I speak to and in my experience by every 'new' hobbyist photographer. There is a strong disapproval of photo 'editing'. That the skill should lay in finding the scene, choosing the camera settings, composing the scene and then pressing the big button on the top. Anything beyond this is said to be cheating; deceiving the viewer. This "cheating" is typically attributed to "new" post production (pp) software packages like photoshop.

Now I personally am divided on the PP issue. When starting out in photography I felt *any* edits to the original image was cheating. If there was a spec of dust on the sensor I should've cleaned it first, if the colour wasn't right I should have used different settings. I hated the way "photography" magazines told me how to correct these failings afterwards with software in pp.

But it's important to remember that post processing isn't a new art. Film always had to be post processed. You took a roll of film to Boots to be 'processed' and they used chemicals to process your film and create an image. When photographers processed their own images in a darkroom they could selectively process sections of an image. Make it lighter or darker, cut out specs of dust, or even make a composite of multiple images - the landscape from one, the sky from another. The majority of what photoshop can do is not new, it's just a hell of a lot easier, and I think this is the problem. By having a whole suite of edits that are all so accessible, many photographers edit images because they can, not because they should.

Now personally, I think photography editing is critical to the quality of an image, just as it was in the past with a darkroom. It could be a simple case of straightening a horizon, taking a closer crop, or converting to black and white. It could be more indepth like pulling out details from the highlights and shadows or editing the white balance. But - and this is an important but - I don't agree with removing or adding elements to an image. It's a personal choice, but I'm a photographer, not a graphic artist.

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simon.tregidgo@gmail.com (Simon Tregidgo) Post processing darkroom editing photoshop https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/9/photography-editing-photos Sun, 30 Sep 2012 16:47:48 GMT
Travel tripod comparison and recommendation https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/7/travel-tripod-comparison-and-recommendation I often get asked why I chose the tripod I have and there are regularly questions on forums based around this too. So a few years ago I wrote the post below summarising my experience when choosing tripods. Hope you find this useful and if you were wondering, venice was lovely...


Originally posted 2nd July 2010

So I'm off to Venice in the summer and so wanted a tripod that I could easily carry around without it being a burden. That meant:
:: low weight
:: short when folded
:: tall enough to use standing, or minimum stooping (I'm 5'9)

 I've trawled the many forums (fora?) and seen some great reviews by other people in the same situation. Argument between established and "knock off" brands seems rife and it's difficult to find decent comparisons; at the end of the day, everyone is reviewing their new tripod and bestowing it's virtues (partly because they're justifying their decision and partly because they feel justified in their decision). The only real comparison you then get are between the statistics of each brand, and again stats only say so much, and when it comes to load weights, some firms are overly confident.


So.... being the analyst that I am, I had to make a spreadsheet! I reviewed all the forums and official reviews and whittled the list down to Gtizo, Feisol, Benro. I appreciate there are other brands out there, but Gitzo and Benro seemed to be the most frequently mentioned and the Feisol was a bit of a wild card based on the low weight.

These are ordered by weight (according to manufacturers website)...

So from this I narrowed the list down to three models:
- Benro C-168 M8 (£239)
- Feisol CT-3442 Rapid (£299)
- Gitzo GT1541T (£369)

So I studied the reviews and decided on a Feisol CT-3442 Rapid. I initially decided that centre columns were an unnecessary weight and the Feisol's height without centre column was a selling point. This review also helped:

http://www.dentonimages.com/page.php?id=Feisol_CT-3442_Rapid_Tripod_with_RAL_Anti-Rotation_Legs_Review

So it arrived, and it was a very light tripod but did seem far chunkier than I was expecting. The mount of the head is large and the triangular shape when folded seemed unnecessary (images further down). The 48cm length when closed was also longer in the flesh than I expected. If I was looking for a one tripod fits all (e.g. travel and studio - aka home!) this would be good but my travel needs were specific.

So I then revisited the fora and reviews and was taken by the Benro TRCB068 reviewed here:

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/797199

The height figures didn't seem quite right so I ordered the next size up (weight was more of an issue than tiny tiny compact). I got the Benro C168 M8, which at 37cm was noticeably shorter than the feisol. Now this was a compact tripod and equally delightfully light. But there were a few niggling issues I had. It didn't seem quite "perfect". The quality of the parts and build seemed sub-perfect. Some of the legs loosened easily whilst others were different. Some legs would rotate very slightly (say 30 degrees). If the tripod had been £150 I probably would've stuck, but at £239 that's a huge investment in my eyes for something that isn't "perfect". I don't have money burning holes in my pockets but the comments on this blog post kept coming back to me:

http://www.bythom.com/support.htm

Summary: buy quality now or upgrade every year and cost yourself more in the long run.

So after some more forum reading I decided to go crazy and splash out the £359 for a Gitzo GT1541T. Now every forum you read sings the praises of this tripod; that you get what you pay for, but that's a HELL of a lot of money. The thing that swayed me to try it was this review:

http://www.cameralabs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5526

It arrived today and all i can say is OH. MY. GOD. Honestly, this tripod is stunning. it's everything the benro is but without those niggles. Yes I paid about £120 to get rid of niggles, yes I need to spend another £40 for a bag that's free with each of the other two and yes it's still a HELL of a lot of money. But it's an investment. It has the standard warranty of the country you buy in (1 year in UK), and if you register on Gitzo that extends to an additional five years. I like the peace of mind and I'm so impressed with the tripod.

So comparison time...

Firstly, lets look at all three, folded and alongside the bags they come packaged with.

Both Feisol and Benro have quality bags with arm strap, zipped compartment and pockets for tools etc. All three tripods can fold their legs back on their selves with the idea that a small head will fit between the folded legs. NOTE: there aren't many heads that small! The Feisol bag is exactly the same length as the folded tripod so limited space for a larger tripod head that won't fit between the legs. The benro has a good couple of inches spare so plenty of room to leave head on inverted or not. The Gitzo bag meanwhile is only any good for storage and preventing dust. You wouldn't carry the tripod in this! I'm still awaiting the neoprene bag that cost £40 extra - will update when it arrives.

So next up, the folded lengths...



The benro is marginally shorter than the gitzo but not noticeably so. The Feisol though is noticable and doesn't feel like a travel tripod.

The diameter of Benro and Gitzo is again almost identical and I couldn't say which is smaller although Gitzo feels more compact somehow. Feisol though is considerably larger (Gitzo on left, Benro on right)...



In terms of proportion, here's the Benro, and slightly longer Gitzo alongside a DVD case...



So finally, the tripod lengths side by side....

Please review the spreadsheet image for the different sizes and heights, but what I would say is that you mustn't forget the addition of tripod head and camera (plus vertical grip if you have one) atop the height of tripod. I'm getting this for sturdy photo taking during the "golden hours" so a slight stoop is no disaster. The Feisol would mean no stooping while benro and Gitzo would mean a slight stoop for composing with centre column down (recommended).


Final thoughts...

Feisol: ideal for tall people. It's light and as compact as you'll get for something sturdy at that height. The leg locks are very well made and the "rapid" system is comparable to Gitzo's ARL; one quarter turn of all locks on a leg releases all at once. one quarter lock secures again. The legs are thick and sturdy. (£299)

Benro: A "cheap" alternative to the gitzo, but at £239 it's not cheap. The leg locks are not consistent, and there are "niggles". it's as light as the Feisol, but the one or two inches shorter in folded length do equate to shorter height when extended. You do get a good bag, but I in my opinion you'll buy this and keep pinning for the Gitzo. Eventually you'll buy the gitzo and wonder why you wasted £239 getting there.

Gitzo: Perfection. all the forums I read went on about Gitzo quality or conversely falling for the reputation and ludicrous price. When I got the Benro I was initially impressed but there really is no comparison. If you need a travel tripod, get a very cheap £100 one for a couple of trips OR get the gitzo. Don't go inbetween; you're either spending too much on a hobby your not commited to or your spending too little on a hobby you'll keep up for years.

Final FINAL thought:

I'm indecisive, but having bought all three and compared I know I've made the right decision for me. In the UK you can return anything bought online for a full refund within 7 days. You do need to pay for return postage but I'm pleased i did. If I'd flown in and bought the gitzo I'd be worrying I'd spent over the top, so order the Gitzo and one alternative and decide for yourself.

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simon.tregidgo@gmail.com (Simon Tregidgo) Benro C-168 M8 CT-3442 Rapid Fiesol GT1541T Gitzo buyers guide comparison review travel tripod https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/7/travel-tripod-comparison-and-recommendation Thu, 26 Jul 2012 22:37:52 GMT
A day in the life...of the world https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/5/a-day-in-the-life-of-the-world I'm not entirely sure where I picked this up but on Tuesday 15th May people are being asked to photograph their day and upload the images to a single website. The aim being to create a time capsule style photo archive allowing future generations to visually review what life was like throughout the world on one day in 2012. This appeals to me both as a photographer and a researcher.

'A day in the life' approaches are something I've always been keen to capture. I like that facebook is like my own public diary of what I've been up to and I try to photograph the mundane on my mobile as a record. Those that don't reach my social media friends still get kept. In fact my photo archives have a whole section dedicated to these images; labelled 'snapshot'.

I've always taken far too many photos, from family events as a small boy through to nights out at uni, I'm the annoying one snapping away. As a child it was generally being in awe of something (I took reel after reel at Puy-du-Fou: http://www.puydufou.com/en) and at uni it was often to help me remember who I was with, where we went and when we went there (I have a terrible memory after a few beers).

The mundane is rarely photographed and it's important to have these elements caught as they won't be with us forever. Usually the styles, fashions, furnishings and technology around us take a back seat to the various birthday, wedding and holiday snaps but for a spot of future nostalgia they can't be bettered.

So Tuesday 15th May is the day to share your day with the world. The project is run by Expressions of Humankind:

Aday.org is initiated by the Swedish non-profit foundation Expressions of Humankind. The foundation supports scientific research and education centered around the photographic image and the written word. Our aim is to inspire creative reflections on humanity, by experiencing global perspectives. (from http://www.aday.org/about/foundation)

My Tuesday 15th May will actually start in the foundation's home country of Sweden returning from a business trip in Stockholm. It will then take in a day at work in central London and finishing off at home, possibly packing ready for a house move at the weekend. So not my typical Tuesday (and given the time zone, only actually 23 hours in the life of) but that's why it's important the project has as many contributers as possible to ensure it's representative of the whole world on the day.

From a research perspective it's a great project because typically photos are taken for a reason and only a minority (typically those with an interest in photography) capture 'a day in the life of' style photo blogs. This should be a huge bank of information and I'm really keen to see the results.

 

Watch this space for updates. For more info and to sign up: http://www.aday.org/about/foundation

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simon.tregidgo@gmail.com (Simon Tregidgo) Expressions of Humankind a day in the life of aday.org https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/5/a-day-in-the-life-of-the-world Sun, 13 May 2012 11:09:21 GMT
Photography communities and why you should get involved https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/4/photography-communities-and-why-you-should-get-involved I have always been interested in photography but this grew quite massively when I blew my first bonus on a refurbished DSLR on ebay. I used it a lot but it was just me, my camera and friends and family for feedback. Imagine cooking a steak for Ronald McDonald; his point of reference for meat - as with your friends and family with photography - isn't really going to compare so your food/photography is impressive. Only since joining various photography communities in the past 3 or 4 years has my photography really taken off. I've found that seeing other people's images and the comments and critiques of these images really helps you grow as a photographer.

 

Commenting. Initially you're an observer; watching, listening, reading and learning. Impressed by the quality of images and the knowledge of others you fear that your work isn't up to scratch and your comments of little help to anyone. But everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone has a valid opinion - even if it is simply 'I like this one better than that one'.

We all like or dislike images without really appreciating why; 'hey, it just looks nice'. But the more you critique the more you start appreciating what it is that you like about an image and why it is that you like it. Seeing why other people like or dislike an image also helps you appreciate the nuances of a picture and notice things you yourself hadn't noticed.

 

Posting. Once you've started commenting on other people's images you soon build up the courage to post a few of your own shots and this is when things get really great. Getting feedback on your own work is a great way of learning. Appreciating why other people like or dislike the image in itself is nice but hearing what you could do next time certainly helps you improve. It's very easy to get distracted by the background of an image when looking at your own photos; where you took it, why you took it and what you felt at the time. You can 'see' an image with these factors included - for better or worse - and often family and friends were involved so also have this supporting material. But a photo must stand on it's own two feet without the back story so having feedback from fellow photographers helps you realise this.


Practising. So after a while in one of these communities you start to enter the odd monthly competition or take part in a community 'challenge'. These competitions and challenges are designed to help your own creativity and encourage you to shoot more. You can read every book there is, watch every video but the only way to learn how to take great photos is to get out there and practice. And it's surprising how often you walk out of the house without the camera when actually there's no good reason not to have it with you. in addition to the taking of images, commenting and critiquing on the work of others taking part in the challenge is also a vital element of the challenge (and the only way you can expect to receive feedback on your stuff too of course!).

I did my first challenge in October 2011; a challenge to go the whole month using only one lens at a fixed focal length (think your first film camera with no zoom) and take - and share - a photo every day. Along with 30 or so others, every day I did this lugging my camera into work and shooting at lunch or on my commute home. I's take an hour or so every day to review everyone else's uploads and try to give useful feedback. It was a great experience and so now 6 months on I'm starting the next one...

April Challenge. So my challenge; for the whole of April I will be taking a photo every day with a 16mm fisheye lens and sharing it with you here. I will also be sharing these with the photography community running this challenge and attempting to enjoy and comment on every other participant's work too. With 70+ people involved though the commenting alone is going to be a challenge in itself!

Wish me luck...

 

 

Notes: Photography communities I can recommend are:

www.dyxum.com - A community dedicated to those who use Minolta and Sony SLRs, DSLRs, SLTs and mirrorless cameras. By far the most friendly community I've been a member of that is moderated considerately treating everyone as human beings - a rarity in the age of online trolling. With a mixture of equipment talk and photograph sharing and critiquing, in my opinion the opportunity to be a member here is a reason in itself to get a Sony camera. Plus it's a great resource for lens reviews from users.

www.talkphotography.co.uk - UK based but with a very active community, there's always lots going on. They key to TP - like dyxum - is the polite and welcoming people on there. The moderators can be a little bit bossy but given it's size I think this is probably a necessity to keep any kind of order. Just don't take it to heart if you're on the receiving end.

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simon.tregidgo@gmail.com (Simon Tregidgo) April Challenge Critique Dyxum Forum Learning Posting Practicing https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/4/photography-communities-and-why-you-should-get-involved Mon, 02 Apr 2012 00:27:51 GMT
Underwater photography in the Maldives https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/3/underwater-photography-in-the-maldives Almost as soon as the honeymoon in the Maldives was booked, I started working out what I wanted to shoot and what kit I'd need to achieve it. I didn't want a simple underwater point and shoot and instead wanted the same control I had above the waves so I began investigating how I could safely take my Sony A900's underwater with me. Short of finding a spare £5,000 for a dedicated underwater housing, I was going to struggle.

So I did some research and found Canon do some compact cameras with similar controls to DLSRs; you can control shutter speed, aperture and exposure via dials and importantly shoot images in RAW format. I also looked into what equipment I would need aside from camera and case and an underwater flash was by far the most raved about piece of equipment.

Even in the apparently clear seas of the Maldives, small particles float in the water that will reflect any external light back to the source of any light you take to the party. Therefore while the inbuilt flash of the camera would light up the marine life as planned, it would also add lots of unwanted spots of light from the water too. Getting an external flash light that could be positioned away from the lens would help as the particles would reflect in a different direction.

So I came across a diver who was looking to upgrade his kit and agreed to buy all of it for a lump sum. Along with the items I needed above I also recieved some bouyancy weights, a detachable wide angle 'wet' lens and a bracket to hold this dettachable lens. In all I had:

  • Canon G10 15mp camera
  • Canon WP-DC28 underwater housing, good to 40m
  • Fuji Remora light strobe with arm bracket and fibre optic cable
  • Fantasea 'BigEye' G series lens
  • Fantasea 'BigEye Gripper' lens holder
  • Canon WW-DC1 Waterproof Case Weights

DSC09816

 

So when we got to the Maldives I could hardly wait to get out and play with it. It's harder than you'd think to get decent images underwater and it was also taking me some time to get used to the limitations of the camera itself. Being used to 24mp DSLRs with full frame sensors I had to get used to the smaller sensor and the comparative limitations of noise in high ISO settings. After several days I began to get the settings right and learn how to shoot properly. Aside from some missed shots of 5ft reef sharks (my biggest regret as they looked stunning) and not as many shots of stingrays in motion as I'd like, I was pretty pleased with the outcomes;

        

For all the images take a look at the 'Underwater' section of the website here: http://www.simontregidgo.com/p81790446#h229a788a

 

 

Underwater photography tips

If anyone is interested I can recommend two things:

1. Shoot RAW
The light changes so dramatically by angle to the surface, angle to the sun, depth of camera, depth of subject and distance to subject that to get all the settings right 'in camera' is verging on impossible. Set the lowest ISO you can, the largest file size you can, and shoot!

2. External flash
After RAW post processing, the next most important thing has to be external flash. Even in the great lighting of the Maldives at midday, you need to have additional lighting - and as explained above, this needs to be from a different angle to that of the subject to sensor. On board flash catches all the particles in the water which looks awful while boosting ISO is not an option on compacts after being treated by DSLR sensors for so long! The flash is triggered by the inbuilt flash on the camera, and while it works pretty well, adding an optical cable between the two really helps.
 

 

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simon.tregidgo@gmail.com (Simon Tregidgo) Fish Maldives Marine Meeru Stongray Turtles Underwater advice equipment life https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/3/underwater-photography-in-the-maldives Mon, 19 Mar 2012 13:51:26 GMT
Rita Vitkute & Vilius Kucinas' Maldivian wedding https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/3/rita-vitkute-vilius-kucinas-maldivian-wedding Having got married in February my new wife and I jetted off to enjoy a relaxing 10 days honeymoon at the Meeru resort in the Maldives. Obviously the camera bag made the trip too and I took every opportunity I could to capture this gorgeous part of the world. Armed with one of my Sony A900's and a bag full of Carl Zeiss lenses I took a few hours each day to wonder the island.

The one thing that strikes you about the Maldives is the colours; the sand, the sea and the sky. I was keen to avoid the standard 'postcard' shots and so on this particular day I left the room with a 10 stop ND filter and the tripod to try some long exposures in the day light. After an hour or so on the beach I was getting too hot so headed back to the room to change and cool off in the sea. But as I made my way I became aware of someone running after me. At first I assumed it to be a member of staff annoyed that I was taking photos (as often can be the case) but it was a fellow guest at the resort and he wanted to know about my knowledge and experience of photography; something I'm always happy to share.

As we talked, Vilius explained that he was here with his fiancee and due to wed on the island in a few days. Their perfect wedding was beginning to cause some stress and the hotel's promise of a 'resident' photographer was failing to meet the expectations of the bride-to-be. As a keen amateur photographer, Rita wasn't impressed with the example images of other weddings they had seen on arrival and without any friends or family to be in attendance the images were of even more importance than usual.

Having spoken to them about what they wanted (and agreed with my new wife that it was ok) I agreed to be their photographer for the hour around their ceremony on the beach.

A little concerned about the unfamiliar lighting (being British I rarely need contend with strong afternoon sunlight or bright golden beaches) we agreed to spend 30 minutes in advance of the wedding getting some practice shots. I like to do pre-wedding shoots with the bride and groom if I can anyway because it gets them comfortable and at ease in front of me and my cameras. It also adds a nice pre-text to the collection of photos and can often catch more intimate shots.

So we met on the beach at midday (the worst possible time for lighting) and I asked them to relax and enojy themselves. It has to be said they took to this like ducks to water and splashed about while I clicked away.

     

They were clearly very happy together and after reviewing the images I was pleased with how they had come out.

So on the wedding day itself I met Vilius at the spa on the resort where Rita was getting ready and took some candids of him before joining Rita for some shots of her prep too.

 

The couple were then taken in precession across the island to the beach where other guests had gathered and the ceremony took place.

 

Too see the photos from this lovely occasion, plus some shots afterwards, please go to the 'wedding' menu and select 'Vitkute Kucinas'. It was a fantastic day and I wish the happy couple all the best for the future.

Simon

 

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simon.tregidgo@gmail.com (Simon Tregidgo) Maldives Meeru Rita Vitkute Vilius Kucinas Wedding https://www.simontregidgo.com/blog/2012/3/rita-vitkute-vilius-kucinas-maldivian-wedding Mon, 12 Mar 2012 13:37:31 GMT