Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Christmas Photography Gift Vouchers : Photo Shoot Gift Tokens

If you are looking for a special last minute gift for Christmas then one of our photo shoot gift vouchers could be the perfect answer. You can buy vouchers for family portrait shoots or makeover photo shoots or for a modelling portfolio photo shoot. You can also buy vouchers as part payment for any other shoot we offer.

You can find out more information here. Gift vouchers can be bought and paid for online using Google Checkout. Vouchers can be for any of the photo shoots that we offer and are valid for 12 months.

Low cost photo and digital media backups on your PC

With most people now having several years worth of digital photos stored on their PC it is becoming more and more important to ensure that your valuable digital media is properly backed up. PC hard drives do not last forever and it is all too easy to forget to copy your photos to a secure location until it is too late.

We use a large server to store and backup all our digital media files (photos and video) plus important documents but affordable solutions are available for little outlay.

If you purchase a 1Tb (terabyte = 1000 Gb gigabyte) external USB hard drive you can connect this to your PC to enable backups to be made. There are various free software packages that will manage this backup process for you. If you configure this software it can automatically copy any new or changed files from your PC to the external USB drive making sure that copies are available in the event of a hard drive crash.

Some of the software you can use is SyncToy (free from Microsoft) or DeltaCopy (open source). The configuration of DeltaCopy is more complex but it is a powerful piece of software that we use.

SyncToy is free but can easily be setup and be scheduled to run every time your PC starts or you can run it when you want.

Monday, 16 November 2009

New Car Spy Shots - 2010 Kia Sportage?

I was out recently and spotted a new car being tested under disguise. The last time this happened I didn't have a camera with me and sadly missed shots of the Mercedes A Class being tested before launch.

This one still isn't identified as yet but it looks like it could be spy shots of a Hyundai i35, Kia or Honda CR-V based on the side panel of the body and wing mirror and wheels. The most likely contender seems to be the Hyundai i35.
Update - it now turns out to be spy shots of the the 2010 Kia Sportage undergoing road tests in UK

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Five Years of Digital : Canon 300D

It was five years ago to the day that I got my first digital SLR camera. The Canon 300D had been launched in 2003 as the first sub £1000 digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera and by 2004 I'd been getting increasingly frustrated with the scanning of slides from the film cameras I was using at the time.

So in Oct 2004 I bought the Canon 300D DLSR and switched to digital and haven't looked back. Although the  website had been running for some time, the company was established later on that year and the rest as they say is history!

The quality of the images from the Canon 300D was excellent and some are still in use on this website today. The shots of Rebecca Sarah were mainly shot on the Canon 300D. My previous foray into digital had been with a small compact the Nikon 775. I could see the potential for the format but also the restrictions of a 2Mp compact camera sensor and the associated noisy images beyond base ISO.

I kept the Canon 300D for about 6 months before upgrading to the Canon 20D in early 2005. The image quality for studio images was very little different but the Canon 20D had better low light performance and improved build quality. The pair of Canon 20Ds provided sterling service until replaced by the stunning Canon 5D when it was released.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Royal Mail Postal Strike - Delivery of Orders

We would like to reassure customers that our suppliers have alternative plans in place to ensure delivery of prints and albums during the proposed strikes by postal workers. Our album supplier Loxley Colour are using both City Link and Parcel Force for deliveries which will be unaffected by the industrial action.

For local customers delivery of photo CDs for image selection will be done personally to ensure that the CD or DVD arrives safely.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

New Nikon D3s Camera with incredible low light capability

Nikon have today announced a new camera, the D3s which has an incredible low light capability. Using expansion settings the camera can be used at an ISO setting of 102,400 which would have been unheard of back in the days of film. The highest rated film that was generally available was ISO 3200 and even that gave quite grainy images.

The current crop of cameras from Canon and Nikon have the ability to use ISO settings up to 25600. The Nikon D3s is the first one to increase the low light capability by another 2 stops. The camera also has the ability shoot HD video but at 720p rather than the 1080p that the Canon 5D Mark2 can shoot.

It will be interesting to see the results from the camera but based on previous results it is likely the image quality will surpass the results from film at ISO 3200.

It appears that while Canon have been concentrating on increasing the pixel count of their cameras Nikon have instead been working on the light sensitivity and ensuring that their cameras can work in exceptionally low light conditions.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Canon 5D Mark 2 (mk II) Video Editing Workflow

I've been asked a few times about the workflow that I use for editing the video footage from the Canon 5D Mark2 DSLR camera. Since I discovered the Neoscene Cineform software a couple of months ago the workflow has been very simple! All my work is carried out on my PC running Windows Vista64, the workflow on a Mac may be simpler still.

Firstly all video is copied from the Compact Flash card onto a dedicated 1Tb video storage drive (internal SATA drive). The original video from the Canon 5D Mark2 (and also the Canon 7D and 500D) is stored as Quicktime MOV using H.264 codec but this is almost impossible to edit natively on a PC so needs to be converted to AVI format.

Launch Neoscene and convert all 5D video clips from MOV to AVI. For simple projects the only editing tool I use is ..... Microsoft Movie Maker!! Its very straightforward and quick for small projects but the limitations show for more complex editing tasks.

Once the video is edited I normally save using the 720p HD template for uploading to the web or the normal 1080p for keeping on the PC. If the 720p option isn't used then the aspect ratio of the video tends to be wrong which compresses the image to 4:3 rather than 16:9

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Canon 5D Firmware

As you will see from this blog I have the Canon 5D and 5DII cameras. In order to make best use of the 5D2 video capability I use 16Gb compact flash cards for video shoots. I came to copy the files onto my PC today and noticed that the card was only reading 8Gb despite being full.

On further investigation it appeared that this was due to using the card in my Canon 5D mark1 camera which does not support large CF cards beyond 8Gb. Despite the card being shown as 16Gb in the camera it was only formatted to 8Gb. There is a firmware fix for the problem released some time ago - but as I'd never encountered the problem I hadn't installed it before.

Now installed and cards beyond 8Gb can be read in the original Canon 5D without any problems. There was never an issue with the Canon 5DII as it supported large cards from day 1.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Large Format Prints

All our printing is handled by external labs and we place routine orders with labs for prints 12"x8" and 18"x12" size. We had a recent request from a client for prints at 50"x30" size which is way beyond the maximum of 30"x20" that most labs can produce.

With a little searching online I found a company in Wales called The Dot Foundry who were able to help. The images were uploaded online to their website and they were extremely helpful in arranging the printing and delivery to meet the clients very tight deadlines.

The prints were exceptional quality and their service was second to none so we would highly recommend them for large format printing and their specialist area of fine art prints. Production and delivery were achieved to schedule and the client was extremely happy with the results.

You can view their website at www.thedotfoundry.co.uk/

Monday, 21 September 2009

More video from Canon 5D2 : Aynsley Lister Band at Beaverwood Chislehurst Kent

I am now getting very enthusiastic about the possibilities of the video from the Canon 5DII camera. Having found the process for editing video using Cineform I am now able to edit footage that I shot earlier in the year. This is a clip on YouTube of Aynsley Lister and his band playing at Beaverwood club in Chislehurst Kent.

This was some of the first video I had shot with the camera and now have a much better idea of what it is capable of. This was also shot with the original firmware and the updated firmware released in June 2009 allows much more control over the filming.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Video of Model Photo Shoot

I've been experimenting with the video capability of the Canon 5D2 camera. Thanks to David Lee for shooting some video of me doing an outdoor fashion shoot with model Selina. This was edited in Sony Vegas Pro and you can see the results of the photo shoot on YouTube here

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Military Odyssey 2009

Military Odyssey 2009 takes place at Detling Showground, Maidstone, Kent from 29-31 August 2009.

It is a great show to take the family to as the re-enactors cover all aspects of history from Stone Age through to Second World War. You can see photos from the Military Odyssey 2009 event here but there are a few below.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Canon 5D Mark 2 (mk II) Error 20 Shutter Mechanism

I had error 20 last night on a shoot. This is the first time it has happened. Tried removing battery but made no difference to error.
Camera appeared fine until I took a photo and it then locked up. Strangely Live view was working fine and could shoot video and stills ok. Battery was showing as being over 50% full.
When I got home I put the battery on charge. It started at flashing 1 light for a long time, seeming to indicate that the charge was very low and then slowly went through the sequence of flashes until it was fully charged.
Put battery back in camera and all seems to be ok now so I'm hoping that it is an error reporting charge on battery and not a camera fault as it is just over 6 months old.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Editing and Playing HD Video from Canon 5D Mark2

If you have read previous blog posts you will have seen the problems that I have encountered viewing and editing the HD video from the Canon 5D Mark II on a PC. Due to the files being Apple Quicktime MOV format there appears to be no issue using them on an Apple Mac but due to the need to decode on a PC they do not play smoothly.

I have now discovered some software called Cineform NeoScene which enables the MOV files to be converted to native AVI files that both play and can be edited without problems on a PC. The conversion process is very fast and allows both single file and batch conversions.

Although not cheap at $130 this appears to be the perfect solution for being able to edit video from the 5D2 on a PC.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Prince Charles Visits Pembroke House, Gillingham

Prince Charles recently visited Pembroke House in Gillingham. His visit was covered by John James, one of our photographers. You can view the gallery here. All images are available to purchase with a donation to Pembroke House for all photos sold.

Prince Charles at Pembroke House

Friday, 22 May 2009

M2 Car Transporter Fire - Cars Exploding in lorry fire on motorway - 5D Mark2 HD Video

I was driving on the M2 this week when a car transporter caught fire. This was the first real test of the video capability of the new Canon 5D Mark 2 camera which performed excellently. You can see the video taken with the 5D Mark2 here

You can see some of the photos I took here


The BBC used the image for their Kent website

and Kentonline also used the video footage - but due to the problems editing the 5DII movie format they videoed the screen of their computer!!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Filming of BBC Drama Emma by Jane Austen

The filming of BBC drama "Emma" by Jane Austen took place in Chilham Kent during April 2009. The drama stars Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller, Michael Gambon, Tamsin Greig, Robert Bathurst and Jodhi May.

The four-part adaptation by Sandy Welch's of Austen's comic masterpiece Emma was produced for BBC One. Jonny Lee Miller (Byron, Eli Stone, Trainspotting) plays Mr Knightley, Emma's shrewd and attractive neighbour, whose strength of character is in sharp contrast to her father, providing a welcome counterpart to the headstrong protagonist.

You can see our photos of the cast of Emma taken during the filming here

Monday, 4 May 2009

Page 3 Idol Glamour Modelling Competition

The Sun Page 3 run the annual Page 3 Idol competition to find the next Page 3 girl. One of our local models Kelly is in the competition this year, along with 4 other models I have shot in the last 12 months (Laura Jayne, Sophie, Carley, Nicky and Kelly)

Kelly's Page 3 Idol photos on website

Unfortunately there are some appalling photos in the competition this year and means that a potential model may miss out purely because no-one can see what they look like. So it is well worth investing some money in some clear professional shots to boost your chances in the competition.

There is still time to apply to please get in touch if you would like to book a shoot.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Latest Canon SLR Camera

Canon have just announced their latest camera which again follows the trend for including HD video on their SLR models. Compared to the first Canon camera to allow HD video recording the Canon 500D provides several very useful enhancements. In particular it has different HD modes which allow you to shoot at either 720p OR 1080p.

As 720p is still far in excess of the resolution required for current DVD technology this is a very helpful addition that will make shooting for DVD easier. The option on the Canon 5DII is only 1080p or 640x480 which is not sufficient to get DVD quality yet 1080p is overkill for DVD.

The market for HD video on SLR is continuing to develop apace and as I suggested in my first post on this subject last year it is becoming the standard feature for new SLR releases.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

GMTV Next Top Model

Congratulations to Charlotte who is into the finals of GMTV's Next Top Model. She has been at London Fashion Week and is appearing on the Lorraine Kelly show this week.

We first shot Charlotte back in November 2008 and could see then that she had the potential to succeed.

Charlotte Kent Fashion-Britains Next Top Model series 5

Monday, 19 January 2009

Editing HD Video from the Canon 5D Mark II

I've bitten the bullet and bought a new PC to allow me to properly edit the High Definition (HD 1080p) video from the Canon 5D mark 2 camera. My current setup is more than adequate for photo editing work as I have dual core processor and 4Gb of RAM but this just isn't enough for HD video. The recommended minimum spec is Quad Core with 3Gb of RAM so my new PC will be substantially better spec than that.

As a separate issue it appears that there is a known problem with playing the HD video from the Canon 5DII using Apple QuickTime on a PC running Windows XP. The frame rate is very jerky with dropped frames which doesn't happen with Canon ZoomBrowser EX software.

The specification of the new PC is

Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 8Mb cache (2.4GHz) Processor
Asus Motherboard
ATI Radeon Sapphire HD3650 512Mb RAM Graphics card
16Gb RAM
3 x SATA hard drives
12 (!!) USB ports

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Canon 5D Mark II High ISO Test

Having had the Canon 5D mark 2 for over a week I decided it was time to put it through its paces and test the high ISO performance and noise levels showing. I was fortunate to be having a shoot with new model Bekki and took a number of shots in sequence ramping up the ISO between them.

The results show that noise is very controlled up to ISO 6400 but beyond that the images would only be suitable for emergency use. As a sign of both the quality of the full frame sensor in the 5D mark II and the improvement in camera design I looked at the images from my first digital camera, the Nikon Coolpix 775 back in 2002. The noise levels at ISO 100 are higher than those at ISO 6400 from the Canon 5D II.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Canon 5D Mark2 Camera Shooting HD 1080p Video

I've now purchased a Canon 5D Mark2 camera and am currently testing the HD (high Definitiion) video capability at 1080p. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to show some example movies shot with the camera that demonstrate its stunning high ISO performance.

The initial impressions of the video from the camera are that it is stunning quality but very unforgiving of anything but the fastest computer and graphics cards. In many configurations the video can show dropped frames but considering that 1080p HD video is 1920 x 1080 pixels at 30 frames per second the volume of data being processed is massive.

The movies are stored as MOV files that can be opened by Apple Quicktime software but this appears to drop more frames than the Canon ZoomBrowser software that is bundled with the camera. I have tested this with a variety of graphics cards and it certainly appears that the Canon Zoombrowser software is far more reliable and plays the movies much more smoothly than Apple QuickTime software.

I've retested using an upgraded graphics card in the PC I use for editing but it still appears that QuickTime drops frames but Canon ZoomBrowser does not.
(Note : The PC used is dual core 64 bit processor with 4Gb RAM, SATA drives running Windows XP Service Pack3 with nVidia Quadro NVS290 graphics card, with lower spec nVidia GeForce 6200 card the number of dropped frames is noticably higher)