Monday, 31 May 2010

24 hours to go

Just 24h until SofoBoMo 2010 officially starts. Expect an official announcement on the SoFoBoMo website when it happens.

Of course you can start any time in the 2 month window, as long as you're finished and submit your entry by the end of 31st July. If you want to get full advantage of the 31 day window, don't start any later than 1st July.

For my part, I'll be starting next Sunday 6th June, I expect. That gets me in early and gives me chance to get in a second book if the opportunity arises (although I'm not expecting it to do so).

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The rocket moon

Moon shot 3, Manila, May 2010
98% waning

A bit of fun with the camera this evening, shooting for the moon. As it's nearly full and I knew it would be rising such that I would have a good shot from the upstairs balcony between the treee branches, I decided to have a go.

I didn't realise how quickly the moon moves until I tried photographing it. 500mm + 1.4 TC gives a narrow field of view, but even so, a series in rapid succession gives noticeable shift across the frame.

I can see this becoming a print for the wall.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Choosing a lens kit

I've been enjoying Mike Johnston's posts on lens kits (part 1 and part 2). It's thinking I've been through many times. I thought I'd share my kit development.

It all started with the basic kit zoom as he describes. My first SLR was purchased in 1996 just after graduation. I bought the basic Canon kit -a lot of camera for relatively little money at the time (now you can get 10x the camera for the same actual money as then). Multi-purpose zoom (35-80, I think). Got the job done, until i got into wildlife photography. So I went long - a 70-300mm being the cheapest way into long reach. With limited means, that proved a nice combination. I did get a wide angle converter for the shorter lens but it's seen precious little action. I just don't see the world in wide angle and these days it's easy enough to stitch panoramas if I want that sort of thing.

However, much like Mike, I think 2 lenses generally suffices but that'll be two different for each scenario. I have many two lens kits:
The walk-around kit (actually a choice between 2 - I carry only the one)
The indoor kit
The rangefinder kit
the LF kit
The sports kit
The travel kit
The landscape kit
The cycling kit
The wildlife kit

You get the picture. I have a trunk full of cameras and lenses. But I mainly carry 2 lenses at a time, sometimes 3, although mostly one of those three is neglected. The selection I have also include a number of primes, some good, some frustrating (e.g. my 50mm f/1.8 is frustrating: all electronic, all plastic, difficult to focus but it was cheap).

So a pair for any given situation and enough choice the cover the lot.

If I was forced into just 2? Tricky. Excluding the wildlife (where the 500mm is invaluable), I reckon my 17-55 and maybe an 85 or 135 would do the job (although I own neither of those primes). Or my 70-200 of the current stock. Force me to go prime? then I'd stick with the rangefinder and the 40mm and 75mm. As nice combo for a wide range of situations.

I o see the attraction of micro four-thirds, however. Small cameras and small lenses for the longer reach I like. If a decent camera comes along, I'd snap it up with a couple of lenses to cover most of my going about, travelling applications.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Picking a project

Normally I've got a bunch of project ideas and I already have several long-term projects on the go but this year I've been struggling for ideas for SoFoBoMo. Finally I've hit on a good idea that will be easy to photograph so that I can focus on the book making bit. It also should mean I can avoid too much time outside as right now the weather is far too hot to be wandering around for hours.

I'm not going to reveal the project details just yet - I'll save that for when I get started. Looks like just the one submission this year, too (compared to the 2 in 2008 and 4 last year, that makes it seem like I'm slacking).

Sunday, 16 May 2010


Recently on TOP was one of the "Random Excellence" posts, highlighting a series of Vietnam war shots published by the Boston Globe. looking through them I realised that this shot

From Boston Globe's "The Big Picture"
South Vietnamese marines line beaches and swim out to ships, fleeing from the northern port city of Da Nang on March 29, 1975 before its fall to the Viet Cong and north Vietnamese. This picture was taken as some marines successfully fled, abandoning scores of weapons, vehicles and even a helicopter. In the foreground, men on LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank) prepare to throw rope to marines coming up on inner tubes. Only a fraction of the city's 100,000 defenders were evacuated before its fall. (AP Photo)

was taken on the same day as this one:

The latter being me, taken a few hours later and half way around the world.

Rather sobering.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Sounding off topic

Nothing to do with photography, I've a new blog as a place for me to air stuff that I've been thinking about. Rantings and ramblings, stuff I might debate down the pub etc. saves it getting all pent up in my brain. But it would also be good if some conversation/debate/argument came of it. You won't agree with most stuff I write - I think in a different way to other people. And if you want to stick to photography, no need to go anywhere.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The challenge of ambition

Recently I was thinking back to one of my favourite authors from around the time I left college, Piers Anthony (this will become relevant, promise). nothing to do with his writing (which I find a bit basic these days) or the stories (not for those of strong moral principles) but more of the pieces he used to write for the back of the books. Kind of like blog posts, or extended letters to his fans: stuff on story development, creative process, correspondence etc.

One of the things that stuck (and I would look it up if the books weren't buried in a box) was a piece he wrote about the marks of a successful author. He set them thus: moving from selling what one writes to writing what one sells (the idea of the advance on synopsis) and moving from title dominating the cover to author's name doing so (where one's name is enough to sell the book).

This came from thinking of motivations for continuing SoFoBoMo and producing many photobooks. It answered my question to self: where can a create a challenge? Two years in and I've done 6 books for SoFoBoMo (yep, I went a bit mad last year). But I can challenge myself in the following ways:

  • Improving the photographic content
  • Improving the layout and design
  • More cohesive projects
  • Creating physical books (although I've done one)
  • Creating something others will buy
  • Getting properly published (we've already had a SoFoBoMoer jump that hurdle)
  • Creating a book as a synopsis for a bigger project
  • etc etc
I'm not saying the goal is to become commercially successful (but if I sold one or two, that would be a nice boon) but it shows a line of progression, challenge that is ever present. And over time I'm sure electronic delivery will develop in ways tht will create new challenges.

There is enough scope there to keep me going for many years to come. so if you've done it before and are wondering where the challenge lies, think a little more - it's there if you look for it.