Castle Combe Race 1 2016

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So its race season again and I was up at 5.15am this morning to meet up with my mate Bill (of Badger 5 fame) to go racing…

Weather was rubbish as storm Katie was happening (apparently) but by the time we got there it was starting to clear up…

Castle Combe 2016 Race 1

However… despite the weather getting better the rain fall had taken its toll and had flooded areas of the track…

Despite the best efforts of the track staff all the standing water could not be cleared fully and was deemed bad enough to be a safety hazard so the meeting was called off…

This was disappointing… no racing after all the effort to get the car ready and no opportunities to get trackside for taking photos… so I just grabbed a few random shots just to keep my eye in…

Then I stumbled on an electricity pylon so got arty…

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Sunsets at last…

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Following on from this morning photographic antics the weather seems to have held out long enough for me to try for a sunset again…

My last attempts were thwarted by clouds (go figure) so I had high hopes for this evening… chose a different spot to the last time and set myself up…

I took a number of bracketed shots with the aim to HDR merge them in Lightroom and then tweak as required… everything went well apart from I misjudged the temperature dropping more quickly than I thought it would… I had left my coat in the car and while I had a few layers and a beanie hat on I was starting to really feel the cold by the end of the shoot and anyone that knows me well enough will realise how cold it needs to be before I feel the cold 🙁

Anyway… I managed to grab a few shots… happy with them too although due to the open scene its not quite got the impact of some but its a start and I learned a lot from the shoot (not least to remember my bloody coat next time!)

Coaley Peak sunset 01

Coaley Peak sunset 02

Coaley Peak sunset 03

The last one kinda looks like a missile strike with the chem trail leading into the sunset lol…

All in all a good days photography 😀

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The joys of full frame

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Thought it was about time to trade up to a full frame body… after a lot of research I settled on the Canon 6D…

The 6D has 95% of the features of the 5D range (plus a few other bits it doesn’t) and is substantially cheaper (especially secondhand)… main thing for me though is the 6D sensor compared to that of the 5D… the 6D has a higher pixel pitch and larger photosite area than the 5D which means its a little better at handling low light, high ISO’s and has better dynamic range…. this means it should perform a little better for starry night pics etc 🙂

It was a full moon Wednesday night so seemed a good idea to try for a pic… first problem… it wasn’t 100% clear… there were wispy clouds in front of the moon all evening so had to make do… took a few shots and the first obvious thing is how much smaller the moon was in frame… this of course is the ‘advantage’ of crop sensor cameras… with the 100-400 and 2x extender on a crop sensor gives an effective focal length of 1230mm… on full frame its back to ye olde 800mm… booo

Just to put that into perspective here are a couple of unedited full moon shots… first one is from my 50D crop sensor body taken on Feb 23rd 2016…

Raw moon shot from the 50D (crop sensor)

…and this one is one from the 6D taken on March 23th 2016

Raw moon shot from the 6D (full frame sensor)

Means a heavier crop on the final image so here is the result of that… first the final image from the 50D

Full moon - Canon 50d

..and the final image from the 6D…

Full moon - Canon 6D

Resolution wise the 50D comes in at 2,616 x 1,744 while the 6D cropped to 1,821 x 1,214…

Interestingly the 6D image appears more detailed than the 50D image despite the 50D image being taken on a perfectly clear night while the 6D image had a haze over it… in fact if you look at the unedited 6D image you will notice the ‘halo’ from the clouds being lit by the moon…

I have also taken a few other images with the 6D… loving how it handles tbh…

Ebby being naughty…
ebby being naughty

Couple of shots from near where I live

And thought I would revisit the bridge… unfortunately it was the wrong time of day and the sun was in the wrong place but I grabbed a couple of shots anyway…

If the sun still appears to be out later I will venture up to Coaley Peak and see if I can have another go at a sunset…

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Long lens stability….

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The problem with a large lens and heavy camera body is stability.. or the lack of…

When taking shots of the moon making fine adjustments on focus at full zoom (800mm with the 2x Extender) is problematic at best as the live view image shakes all over the place making it tricky to see if you have actually got the sweet spot and the image continues to shake briefly after you let go of the focus ring making matters worse.

This meant I was forever chasing focus to get the images sharp and by the time I had it where I wanted it the moon was about to exit the frame so I would have to reposition the camera and start all over again…

I also find myself taking quite a few shots before getting a keeper…

So did a little research which led me to large lens brackets some of which were veeeeery expensive… so I started looking at putting one together from the cheaper eBay based Arca Swiss accessories…

This is what I settled on…

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Arca Swiss rail and support

Both came from eBay and cost less than £40… considering some of the brackets I had seen were knocking on the door of £200 it seemed a bargain

I used a cheap quick release plate for the lens foot mount (£4.50) as I had this on a spare tripod doing nothing

Using the Arca Swiss rail allows me to shift the centre of balance to make the rig easier to handle and track the moon

Obviously the proof is in the pudding so they say so seeing as the moon was up and the skies were clear it was rude not to try…

Twilight pic of todays moon…

The bracket has made a world of difference… not only is it infinitely less shaky whilst fine tuning the focus manually but the amount of shots I need to take to dial in a keeper is now substantially less… I took just 5 shots and didn’t even have to re-adjust camera position to grab this shot…

Pleased with the results I then waited until it was dark and had another go…

7 shots this time to get exposure right but all were pretty cock on focus wise…

Well happy with those results… and as a small celebration here is another ‘moon’ related pic… Luna my cat 😀

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Finally bagged a crescent…

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For some random reason there was a power cut in our cul-de-sac last night… but instead of the whole street being affected it was one or two random houses mine included so I dug out my head torch and went round lighting candles (as you do) and then noticed that we had a clear night…

…so I went and took this 🙂

Waxing Crescent

Waxing phases seem to give better detail due to the direction they are lit by the sun… happy that I have started my crescent collection now though with this one

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Night photography… take two….

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The weather has been very changable of late… a couple of days ago it looked good for a night shoot tonight with the moon out of the picture as it approaches its new moon phase and clear night skies for at least a couple of hours..

I was quite excited as I had found an Android app that is much like the PhotoPills app for Apple IOS… The app is called Planit! for Photographers… its pretty feature rich and far more than I care to go into right now but I was essentially after the milkyway behind my favourite tree as practice from a technical standpoint… taking star shots is quite tricky especially in an area rife with light pollution…

So using the app I planned the shoot for Saturday night… however as is the way it rained instead 🙁

I set out anyway in case it was just a shower and I could see stars… I essentially just followed the stars until I found somewhere I could pull over at that had a clear view of the night and something to use for foreground interest…

Using the app I did a ‘plan’ to see where the milkyway would be so I could position the camera for the shot…

Checked where the milkyway should be in context of the shot…

….and checked composure… 24mm focal length is in green which makes it a little tricky to see

Clouds were still a problem as was light pollution despite the location being off the beaten track and pretty damn dark… the clouds reflect light up 🙁

Spent a little time taking a few shots… was hoping that it was enough…

The result…
ISO3200, 24mm, f2.8, 30 secs

Actually pleased with the result… not quite the milkyway shot I was after but its a step forward from a technical view… learned a lot from the shoot… it was awkward as it was just a layby/gateway to a field I was parked in and taking the shot from so not ideal but I guess you have to deal with it… the clouds were annoying although they do add to the final pic I think so can’t really complain…

I suspect I won’t really get the shot I want until I get to a dark place… Brecon Beacons beckons… 🙂

Links:
Planit! app for Android (on Google Play)

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Shooting Stars eBook….

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After reading an article in one of my photography mags about astrophotography by a guy named Phil Hart I decided to buy his e-book ‘Shooting Stars’… 129 pages for $14.95 (at the time of this post) seemed ok for what I received…

shooting_stars_3d_ebook_378

It covers topics such as:

  • Twilight landscapes
  • Night sky scenes (short exposures)
  • Star trails (long exposures)
  • The Moon
  • Night sky timelapse videos

Table of contents:
Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 18.46.35

I have had a cursory look through this eBook and there is so much info there its going to take a little while to absorb but looking forward to reading more about it…

If you fancy a copy for yourself then you can get it by clicking the banner below… there is also a 30 day money back guarantee so there is no real reason not to try it… payment can be credit card or PayPal

Buy the e-book now

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