Sunday Mornings are for Fashion Shoots

Sunday saw a quick fashion shoot in the very beautiful spa town of Leamington, When your model suggests an early start you dont expect it to be 7am…..unfortunately the frost was not present but it was cold, so all credit to our very brave model.

For this shoot we were using the Sony A7rii and the Canon 70-200 and the Sigma MC-11 adaptor to enable everything to talk to each other.

Focus was pretty fast and face recognition worked really well, it didn’t focus as fast as the lens would on a canon body – but we never expected that it would.

Assistance on this shoot was provided by Ken Witherow – master of lighting

Locations around Leamington Spa included Jephson Gardens amongst others – the beauty of Leamington being that all parks seems to inter connect. Model is the lovely Kelly ‘Tinks’.

Playing with the Sony A7rii

I was lucky enough to be invited along to a Sony Experience Day at Phlash Works studio by London Camera Exchange.

It has not been a great secret that for the past few months I have been toying with changing allegiance from Canon to Sony. The key factor being the small form factor of mirror less cameras as well as the much lighter weight of the kit.

Sony has been extremely open about its focussing technology and this has allowed a number of third parties to make adaptors so you can use different lenses on their bodies rather than forcing you to buy 100% into the system,

I took advantage of the change to use a Sony a7rii matched to a Sigma MC11 to see how it would work with my current crop of Canon L lenses. One huge advantage of the Sony system is that the image stabilisation is built into the body rather than adding extra weight and cost to the lens.

The Images below were all shot using the Canon 70-200 L IS (version 2) and in some images there is a tiny amount of vignetting in the corner . I am not sure whether this is caused by the adaptor, the lens hood or a mixture of both or something totally different but it is only a very tiny amount visible in the corners and can easily be cropped out. Especially considering you have 42 megapixels to start with.

Canon has promised to bring out a mirror less camera sometime in 2018 but that is almost 3 years after Sony , at the moment the Sony A9 which is less than the 1Dx to purchase and offers a number of focusing advantages and resolution advantages over the 1Dx.

I dont imagine that the Canon will come in at around the same price point as the Sony and when it is released the A7 will be due for a upgrade and you can only imagine what the version 3 will offer? perhaps a bigger buffer and better battery life? Again though third party batteries for the Sony are around £10 each!


Medium Format

When I was younger and playing with different types of camera’s there was a huge range of formats to play with for the general user. We had the tiny pocket sized 110mm cameras, we had the 127 film sized which were almost camera sized and we had a huge range of 35mm cameras, from simple point and shoot to ones that were either fully automatic or fully manual.

I think the first camera that I ever owned was purchased on a family holiday to Butlins. It was a black plastic camera and the shutter was fired by a little metal lever at the front. There was no focus, no metering and it was all mechanical. It was back in the days when you would put them film cartridge into one of those envelopes they had in every magazine for Bonus Print or Supa Snaps and a week later they would return the prints and another film cartridge for you to use.

If you were extremely impatient then you could pop to the local chemists and if you were lucky they would develop and print for you either over night or while you waited, Either way it was quite expensive.

The first real camera that I ever purchased for myself was a Canon EOS 35mm camera, it was quite a basic model but served me for a good few years. You could set the shutter speed and it would automatically meter and set the aperture for you. Although the fastest lens I had at the time was a f4.5 to 5.6 zoom! However that aside it did  what a camera should do and took pretty decent images. Not sure why I chose Canon as my dad shot using a variety of 30mm camera’s, a number of Russian made range-finders Zenit and the like, and latterly a Minolta which he only finally sold a few years ago. He has now developed a love of 3D imaging and is looking to return to film as he has found the limits of the Fuji FinePix 3D digital camera.

For a number of years I neglected picture taking and then bought myself a point and shoot digital camera and rekindled the love of taking pictures. At the time digital was very new and exciting and I saved up and purchased the Canon 300D digital camera…perhaps the worlds first affordable SLR camera. Although at just short of a grand I am not sure how accurate that saying was!!

From there I leapt to the Canon 1D2N which is an incredible camera (even today), each year at Focus on Imaging I would wander along to the Hasselblad stand and look at the camera’s there and drool over the medium format bodies there. Medium Format had always lived in the realm of the working professional rather than dedicated hobbyist and with digital backs starting at around £15k even then. It was never going to happen. Although the recent price drop by Hasselblad will allow you to enter into the range at less than £10k.

Recently I got access to an old Yashica Medium Format TLR camera to use as a prop in some images and there was something magical about the feel and weight of such a robust camera. The shutter was broken on this one but was a relatively easy fix but the cost outweighed the value and so as a prop it remained – but who knows one day?

However the seed was planted and I then acquired a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. This according to some is the ultimate studio camera (or was in the days of film). It is built like a small battleship and weighs about the same. The lens are pretty much all prime for this camera and with no metering and manual focus the studio or perhaps landscape are it’s playgrounds. You are not going to be shooting action with this. However get caught in a riot with this and you are going to have a very effective club!

There is something very retro about peering down into a huge bright waist level viewfinder and hearing the resounding clunk as you fire the trigger. However with only 10 images per roll it is not the cheapest and developing costs in this country are somewhat prohibitive if you want the images scanned. However after watching Framed Network I contacted Richard Photo Lab in America who will develop and scan for a very reasonable price.

I am looking forward to seeing the results of scanned images as thus far have only used some polaroid through it which was not the sharpest image (not that it was ever supposed to be) and one roll that I had developed by Jessops. I wasn’t happy with the way they developed nor the results and so wont be trusting them again!

a lens, a lens, my camera for a lens….

Once many years ago I had a lens and it’s name was 50. It was a very groovy guy and cost me £50 for a 50mm lens. It was made of plastic but had an aperture of f1.8. It was known as the nifty fifty.
Then one day as it sat on its shelf it looked longingly at the world beyond and stepped hesitantly into the abyss betwixt shelf and floor….fleetingly it caressed my hand before landing with a sickening thud onto the carpet. Its front and rear elements went in separate directions and alas it was a lens no more…
Recently I decided that perhaps it was time to replace that little workhorse and had a look at the various offerings. Canon were now selling the 1.8 for around £90 which for such a sharp lens is pretty affordable.
Sigma also sold a contender but a little voice in the back of my head whispered f1.4….
Canon sold this for around £350 and researching it told me that it was a very good lens for the money, however Sigma also offered the same lens but around £370 or so…decisions decisions…
I was able to sweet talk Sigma into lending me the lens for a few days and so spent this lunch time wandering the arctic temperatures of Birmingham.
This was to be a scientific test so I ensured that I didn’t have a tripod with me and had made no forward plans.
I wasnt interested in how good it was in a controlled enviroment, I wanted to know how good it would be in the real world.
floozy in the jacuzzi
I also tried shooting buildings with lots of hidden detail, for example on this picture I saw the vapour trail from the plane but only when editing did I see the bird flying high over the roofline.

So far the little Sigma lens is performing remarkably well. It also comes with a little petal hood, not sure how much use this would be in reality as it is quite small – but it is not offered with the Canon version…

As a totally unscientific test I wanted to catch some lens flare, I was interested in the way it presented itself across the lens. I think you will agree that it is quite pleasant?
So after a couple of hours play what did I think?
Beautifully sharp lens, cute lens hood AND has a 77mm front element – which matches the filters I already own…
Its about £30 more than the Canon equivalent but I would probably spend that on a new filter for it….it also has the lens hood…
Dear Sigma I appear to have misplaced your lens……I think I may be raiding the piggy bank!!!

Location and Lighting

Recently I have ventured out of the studio and the plain white background that usually features in every studio shoot. There is a whole world out there that needs exploring and using. However lighting it is a whole different game. In a studio you have pretty much total control over every aspect of lighting, where it comes from, how much, what shape everything is within your control. Then you get on location… it’s windy, the sun moves, it changes colour, you get clouds when you don’t want them and none when you do!
One option is to invest in a set of pocketwizard flex’s these are expensive but such a joy to use. Unlike cheaper radio triggers in that they work in full ttl mode. This means that you can let the camera set the power outputs for you – each flash thinks it is sitting on your camera. Now you may think this limits your creativity but there you are wrong, for a few pounds more they sell the AC-3 which is a zone controller. This clever little device gives you total control over the power of the zones you have set up. Want that flash a bit brighter, a bit less or even off? all easily controlled on top of your camera – none of this trekking to each light, adjusting it, checking it, re-adjusting it. Worth every penny for its ease of use

things that make you go hmmm…

Semi-professional photographer based in Coventry. Use local studios for my studio based work – mainly B72 Imagings (great little studio owned by an awesome photographer). Have shot a number of bands over the years (some famous, some not so famous) each and everyone has been different and good fun. Great love of fashion shows, have shot for Clothes Show Live on a number of occasions (a good few consecutive years now), Style in the City Birmingham, Style Birmingham etc as well as Catwalk shows for a number of designers. Have worked with a number of models, the vast majority of which I would recommend (think there is only one that I wouldn’t give a reference for and she is not present on this site!). Try to ensure that all my shoots are fun – what’s the point if you don’t enjoy it?

Equipment wise, I shoot with Canon (5Dii and IDiiN) and have the usual L series lens to ensure best image quality.

Registered with the British Press Photographers Association and happily abide by the code of conduct they require. The BPPA are a professional body and membership is not automatic upon payment of a fee unlike certain other Associations.

Insurance is provided by Morgan Richardson ensuring that I am fully covering for third parties, professional and personal indemnity.