Saturday, 27 August 2011

Land Rover Range Rover Spy Shots - What are the disguised test vehicles?

As you may have read in my previous blog post I spotted a disguised Range Rover being tested near Warwick, West Midlands a couple of days ago.

Having loaded the details to my blog I thought I would check the number plate details using the MyCarCheck app for my iPhone. There were 4 different number plates that have been seen on disguised spy shots of the Range Rover 2012 model and surprisingly they all generated information using this app.

All vehicles are registered as Land Rovers which confirms the Range Rover identification. The variants are both petrol and diesel and despite the zebra patterns are registered as both black and brown models. The engines are 3000cc diesel (heavy oil) and 5000cc petrol. The one piece of information that is missing is the model name - LandRover are clearly trying to keep this bit secret still.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Canon 5D Mark III Rumours - Announcement Sept 2011?

There seem to be some fairly strong rumours circulating that Canon will be announcing a new camera in Sept 2011 which could well be the long awaited Canon 5D Mark III. It is now 3 years since the Canon 5DII was launched and 6 years since the original Canon 5D so on the same 3 year cycle a new Canon 5D3 is due now.

I've no inside knowledge from Canon but based on the Canon 600D that I am currently testing I would fully expect the following features to all be part of the Canon 5D Mark 3 when it is announced.

  • Tilt/rotate LCD screen
  • Flash controller built in as per the Canon 600D
  • Video zoom up to 10x
  • Video modes to include 50fps/60fps at full HD
  • Additional JPG modes for smaller size files
  • Convert RAW to JPG in camera applying various settings
  • ISO up to 102400
Resolution of the Canon 5D III is likely to be an increase given that the Canon 600D is 18Mp and the current Canon 5D2 is 21Mp but I guess that the ISO performance is more important to most photographers than increasing the resolution above the current camera. Personally I still use my original Canon 5D in preference to the Canon 5D2 for some shoots as I just don't need the higher resolution and the subsequent slower response to opening the CR2 files on my PC.

As the Canon 5D was the first affordable full frame DSLR and the Canon 5D Mark II was the first DSLR to feature full 1080p HD video there is also likely to be an additional feature in the Canon 5D Mark III specification or spec sheet that is completely unexpected.

What Feature is Missing on the Canon 600D? How to convert a Canon 600D CR2 file into JPG on Netbooks

I've now had my Canon 600D for almost a month. In virtually every respect it has an unbeatable spec and pretty much every feature that you would want in a DSLR. Excellent resolution, HD 1080p video, wireless flash control, rotating LCD screen and so the list goes on. However I've found one missing feature that Canon have omitted from the Canon 600D that is a real pain but hopefully something that they could easily add with a firmware upgrade.

Firstly some background. Yesterday I was away from home on holiday when I spotted a new model disguised Land Rover Range Rover being tested. I managed to grab a few shots of it before the driver sped off after being spotted.

Having grabbed the shots I realised that they had been taken in CR2 raw format. I only had my netbook with me and although DPP was loaded it does not run on the native resolution of the netbook as I have used an external monitor in the past. Zoombrowser was loaded on the netbook so I thought I would give that a try. Wrong! Zoombrowser was not the latest version so did not support CR2 files from the Canon 600D. Easy - use my 3G connection to download the latest version for the 600D from the Canon website.

Wrong again! Canon in their wisdom have removed the facility to process CR2 raw files from within the latest versions of Zoombrowser so the only supported software from Canon for Canon 600D files is Digital Photo Professional (DPP) which will not run on the screen of a netbook.

At this point I was beginning to dispair - I needed to get these images onto my blog to make them public but until I could convert the Range Rover photos to JPG this was not possible.

One option was to use the Canon 600D itself. The camera is able to process CR2 files and allow you to add Creative Filters to them and then save the file again as a JPG. Perfect I thought. And it would have been if the photo was one that I wanted in grainy black and white, distorted as a fish eye or to look like a toy camera photo. Sadly none of these were suitable for a photo that needed to be in true colours and without any distortion.

The only option that Canon do not include on the Canon 600D is the ability to save a CR2 raw file as a plain, standard JPG with no effects applied, just the standard Picture Style. So the question to Canon is why? It would seem like an obvious option when you can have every weird and wonderful effect applied to the Canon 600D raw images but cannot create a standard JPG.

Please Canon, can you add this to the next firmware upgrade for the Canon 600D? If all the creative filters are possible adding a standard JPG must also be achievable.

In the end I managed to download the wonderful FastStone Image viewer. It is a very small download and an amazingly full featured piece of software that finally enabled me to convert the Canon 600D CR2 raw file into a JPG to allow me to crop it in the ancient Photoshop CS2 version that runs on my netbook. After a long and frustrating evening I had finally managed to get the photo loaded to my blog!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Range Rover 2012/2013 spy shots - Disguised Land Rover spotted out testing near Warwick

A disguised range rover believed to be a brand new 2012/2013 model has been spotted out testing near Warwick. The car was parked in a layby obscured from view of the road by trees when it was spotted. I managed to grab my new Canon 600d to get some shots. Unfortunately once the driver realized he was being photographed he drove off at high speed. I did get a number of spy shots of the 2012/2013 Range Rover with it's zebra disguise before he got too far away. It shows the massive resolution of the Canon 600d that even with the small zoom range of the 17-40 lens I had attached the photos could be successfully cropped to show the land rover range rover full screen on a monitor.
Spy shot of disguised Range Rover 2012 model being tested

Spy shot of Range Rover 2012 model being tested
It appears that there are at least 6 versions of the new 2013 Range Rover that are being road tested as the number plates on other ones spotted over the last few months are not the same as this vehicle.

Range Rover VX11HND as above, spotted near Warwick
Range Rover VU11DXP Spotted in Spain
Range Rover  VU11DXB Spotted near Birmingham
Range Rover VU11DVM Spotted in Birmingham
Range Rover VX11HSK Spotted in Nurburgring
Range Rover VX10JCO - first "mule" spotted in 2010

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Wanted - Glad You Came Live Performance at Leeds Castle July 2011

The Wanted performed Glad You Came at their live performance at Leeds Castle July 2011 celebrating its second week at the number 1 spot in the UK charts.

The Wanted - Glad You Came Live Performance

The Wanted performing Glad You Came live

Choose Your Wedding Photographer Carefully - Simple Checks to avoid wedding photography disasters

A couple of friends have recently had some bad experiences with their wedding photographers, unfortunately they only asked for advice after the event rather than before making their choice and parting with money.

There are a few simple checks you can perform before you book your wedding photographer to try to avoid the pitfalls of wedding photography disasters. Generally with wedding photography all money is paid up front before the day so it isnt possible to withold payment in the event of poor service.

One couple were very disappointed by the results from their wedding photographer. He had charged a premium price of £1500 for a basic service but even so the couple were disappointed by the results for someone supposed to be a professional and claiming membership of the SWPP and BPA professional photography bodies. When I was told the name I immediately popped it into Google to run some checks. What I found both shocked and amazed me.

Firstly the photographer's website was no longer operational, a single address on the page surrounded by Google adwords. More suprisingly the photographer had been convicted of a criminal offence a couple of years previously. Finally despite claiming professional membership it appears that this had lapsed and he was no longer a member of SWPP.

All of this information would have been available before the booking was placed. The conviction was at least 12 months before the booking was placed and was on the website of a national tabloid.

I would urge anyone thinking of booking someone for wedding photography or indeed any other service to use Google to perform some basic checks. Sometimes this isn't possible when a name is very common but often a search will throw up some very useful information that could confirm your decision one way or another and possibly save you the heartache of a wedding photographer disaster.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

How do I fix the black screen on Windows Movie maker?

I've recently found a problem with Windows Movie Maker having a black screen in the video that is rendered after publishing. The video appears fine in preview but after publishing the final video produced plays to start with but at a certain point during the video the picture goes black although the sound continues as normal.

One suggestion I found was that audio clips that were muted could cause this behaviour so I set those sound clips to not be muted and just set the volume to be 0. This improved the output slightly in that the black screen at a later point in the video but it still appeared and turned the screen black.

One suggestion was that the Windows Movie Maker project included too many clips and transitions and that to fix the black screen error you could split the project into two parts and once those videos were created then combine them again. Having tried this it works perfectly and although annoying to do, it does enable you to use all the transitions and audio that you included in the project.

I did also investigate whether Windows Movie Maker Live 2011 would fix the problem but it doesnt appear to allow multiple sound tracks to overlay as the Vista version does.

How to upload Video to YouTube from the Canon 600D

The Canon 600D produces files in the MOV format. If you have taken advantage of the new video clip features on the Canon 600D and produced a video in camera that is ready to load to YouTube then you may find that the MOV format is not suitable for loading or is too big to load.

Canon now supply a utility with the Canon 600D camera called the Canon Movie Uploaded to YouTube - snappy name eh! But it does what it says on the tin.

Choose your MOV file, enter your YouTube account and password and the file will get uploaded.

Simple and an example of another Canon tool that works perfectly on the Canon 600D to simplify and speed up the process of editing video and photos.

When should I start to charge for photos? How do I know if I'm ready to charge for shoots?

I've recently been asked by new photographers when they should start to charge for photos and how do I know if I'm ready to start charging for shoots?

It is a very difficult question to answer but there are a few guidelines to bear in mind.

1) As soon as you accept money for doing a shoot you are now working as a business. As such you need to make sure you have the right equipment and insurance. Being paid to do a shoot but your camera breaking half way through would be a disaster. Working on a professional basis means you need appropriate liability insurance cover. If someone trips over your gear or worse still you injure somebody (the example I've heard was a photographer knocking over an old lady when he stepped backwards) then you could be sued. Without suitable insurance you could be personally liable.

2) You need to know how your camera inside and out. It is no good getting to a shoot and finding a setting or error that you are unable to resolve. If a dial changes then you need to know how to immediately reset it back to normal. You need to know how to use light, when & how to use flash, how to creatively use depth of field and shutter speed.

The first rule to me would be item 2 - unless you know how to use your camera then you should not even consider charging money for a shoot whether that is a wedding or a family portrait. By all means sell prints after the event but accepting money to provide a service is setting a contract in place to deliver that service that you are then responsible for delivering!