Jack Bauer comes to Coulsdon with a drone’s-eye view

8dcphoto:

Hmm not sure about the Jack Bauer part.

Originally posted on Inside Croydon:

The things you find on t’interweb…

Not sure if this is from the CIA, keeping tabs on the violent militants of Coulsdon, or surveyors working on behalf the fracking companies with licences to explore the mineral resources under Farthing Down.

Whatever, it is worth a watch for curiosity value if nothing else, as it offers a fascinating overview of the wonderful public open land to the south of our borough:

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Review – The Spyder4Elite Display Calibration Tool

If you have been having trouble getting those display settings just right on your monitor, or are finding it hard to match the display output on multiple monitors,  pop over to Cafetography and read my guest review of the Spyder4Elite Display Calibration tool by DataColor.com.

It’s a great little device tallied with some fantastic software and so easy to use.

 

How time flies (as I do now)

I’ve had a really busy few months hence the complete dereliction of duty of updating my blog.  What have I been up to I hear you ask? …. nothing much just lots of work limiting my free time for Photography.

Things will hopefully start to change in the coming weeks, fingers crossed.  Since my last blog on the MUVI HD action camera, I’ve bitten the bullet and also now got a GoPro Hero 3+,  I’ll likely blog about the differences in future.  However the most exciting acquisition in recent weeks has been probably the most expensive accessory available for the GoPro…… a DJI Phantom 2 Quad!!! That’s right I’m starting to play with aerial photography/video.

This will be the subject of a number of future blogs as I get to grips with the Phantom and getting the best from it with the GoPro attached, but for now please see a little example of what is possible after only a couple of days flying…. admittedly I have flown Toy Quadcopters before but this is a different challenge entirely and a little more hairy given you have about £1000 worth of kit floating up to 1200ft up!!!!

Enjoy a snippet of the stunning Farthing Downs near Coulsdon, just 14 miles from the centre of London and stay tuned for further updates.

 

Product Review – Veho MUVI HD NPNG Action Camera

MUVI HD NPNG EditionHaving not particularly been in the market for an Action Camera, I seemed to have stumbled upon a bit of a bargain and now find myself the proud owner of a new Veho MUVI HD NPNG Edition cam.  So in this blog I hope to give those interested a quick run-down of the product.

I hadn’t particularly researched action cameras much, primarily because it seemed there was only one product dominating the market and this product was I felt a little bit expensive (when you added the accessories) for what it actually did.  I’m obviously talking about the GoPro Hero 3+ which admittedly produces stunning video for such a small device and lens but you are looking at spending the best part of £300 for a kit with a limited number of accessories although this does include the waterproof housing, £360 if you want a remote control for this.  The other problem or perception I had was that the competition up against the GoPro firstly didn’t match the video quality offered by th
the GoPro and secondly were priced quite highly also.

I then fortuitously stumbled upon what looked like a great offer for the Veho MUVI HD NPNG.  A full HD 1080p action camera and a tonne of accessories in their No Proof No Glory bundle edition.  Total cost, £109 from Amazon.co.uk (it is still on offer!!) saving £110 on the £219 retail price and probably well over £200 cheaper than the equivalent kit via GoPro

MUVI HD NPNGAs you can see from the picture, the NPNG Edition Bundle comes supplied with enough accessories to get you out there taking video footage of all your adventures.  You have pretty much everything you would need straight out of the box although my first observation would be that it takes a little time actually working out what all the various bits are for.  The only accessory missing for me was the Suction Cup mount which allows you to mount the camera on a window or other smooth surface e.g. windscreen, car bonnet but this as an accessory is again priced very competitively when compared to a GoPro equivalent.

So what about the camera itself.  An extensive list of specifications can be found on Veho’s website, however the stand-out specs are as follows:

  • Video Modes: 1080p 30fps, 720p 60fps & 30fps
  • Bit Rate: 16mbits @ 1080p 8mbits @ 720p
  • Fixed Aperture f2.5 with 170 degree field of view
  • x3 Digital zoom when recording in 720p mode
  • Built-in LCD for playback on the device
  • 4 hours battery life – Veho claim 3 hours but if turn off the LCD you can squeeze extra out
  • 8mp, 5mp, 3mp Photo Modes
  • x4 exposure modes
  • Continuous Photo shooting mode (a great way to setup multiple shots for time-lapse)

The things I would have liked to see included in the camera are a removable battery and the ability to accept lager microSD cards, the limit on the MUVI HD is 32Gb.

First thing you will notice about the MUVI HD is it is designed to be held upright like a Smartphone, the difference being that it is capturing the video in the correct landscape orientation.  This has some benefits as your grip actually feels sturdier in the hand, however it still feels a little unnatural.  The supplied remote is something I really like and of course is an optional extra on most GoPro kits.  Remote operation is simple, press the record button to record video, stop button to stop recording and the capture button to take a photo, the range of the remote is about 5m.  Note the remote is not waterproof.

The supplied Waterproof casing feels very well made and is rated to survive depths of up to 60m for 60 minutes, another great feature of the waterproof case is that it is compatible with the various mounting options either via use of a standard tripod-screw mount (another fantastic provision) or by a back plate adapter that allows you to attach belt mounts, clothing clips etc.  When the camera is the case it is very solidly housed and video record operation is via a single external button.  I would have liked to have seen the ability to capture a still photo when the camera was housed but sadly this is not possible manually, although you could set-up a delay timer but this would have significant limitations.

Watch in HD for best results

In terms of video quality the MUVI HD produces some great results.  In good lighting conditions the output is crisp and the colours look natural, video can show some noise when used in lower light conditions and I think this is one area where the GoPro really beats the competition, however output in low light situations generally is of a better quality than a high-end smartphone.

Still picture quality capture is also better than I expected there are elements of fringing in certain situations however being a DSLR user I wasn’t expecting DSLR levels of still quality.

Audio capture as expected isn’t the greatest but is passable.  To be honest nobody has managed to get sound capture right with this type of camera and why should they!! They are designed to be used is pretty “different” scenarios where audio is pretty extreme so for me at least audio capture wasn’t a high priority.

The built-in LCD screen makes operation and set-up of the camera very easy.  You can use the LCD to frame your shot or video and navigating set-up menus is much more intuitive.  Again this functionality is not possible using a GoPro without buying an optional extra or using another device such as your smartphone which means you need two hands to operate.  Once you have set your framing you can turn off the LCD screen to save on battery.

Watch in HD for best results

I mentioned the continuous still shoot mode above as being good for time-lapse, and it is a great feature.  Essentially the MUVI HD allows you to set-up the camera to take a still photo continuously at intervals of 2, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30 and 60 seconds.  It will happy sit there taking snaps of a scene until either you run out of capacity on the card (unlikely) or when the battery runs out.  My linked You tube video above shows the results of a 4 hours continuous shoot test which equated to one full battery charge.

Verdict

Overall and considering the current offer price you can not beat this little camera especially as it comes supplied with almost all of the accessories you’d ever need.  Whilst in terms of video quality it is not as good as the GoPro Hero 3, which can now support 4k video capture, it offers a very good level of video quality.  However the main selling point for me is it also offers some great additional features above the GoPro such as the built-in LCD screen, longer battery life and that continuous shooting mode which make the device more usable, accessible and fun.

So if you are in the market for an action cam and can’t justify the expense of investing in the GoPro camera plus the additional expensive GoPro accessories the MUVI HD is a great proposition.

 

Links:

Other Video Footage Examples:

 

 

 

 

 

Tour of the American Mid-West….ish (a Photographer’s Dream)

3 weeks, 2500+ miles, 6 (possibly 7 states) and loads of fantastic photographic opportunities.  Mrs 8DCPhoto has only gone and booked the holiday (vacation) of a lifetime for the 8DC Photo Family!!!

NB:  For those states we are visiting, you can be assured that despite being Northern Europeans we will not be adopting the traditional  18th Century “Grand Tour” practices.  So your culture, art and historic relics will not be pillaged, though I may fill a few SD cards taking pictures of them all.

We’re big fans of travelling around the USA and having made 4 trips from the UK in the last 10 years we’re about to increase our experience significantly from our previous visits to the West (California, Utah, Arizona, Nevada) and Florida.  We’re confident independent travellers and usually don’t waste our precious holidays by staying at one hotel taking root by the pool or on the beach… I’d go mad after a day.  We much prefer to hire a car and plan out various places to visit and get around a bit when on holiday.

Image courtesy of the Cavender Boys

This year’s trip is no exception, but we will be racking up the mileage and ticking off some of those bucket list places as never before. So look out Colorado, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho,  Utah  and quite possibly Nebraska , the 8DCPhoto family road trip is heading your way in the summer of 2014 and I promise we’re nothing like the Griswold’s…. the mother-in-law couldn’t make it and the hire company were short of Wagon Queen Family Trucksters (see right) with roof bars.

No doubt some of you will have guessed that given the list of States we’ll be travelling through we  might possibly be hitting a few of the US’s National Parks.  We love the US National Parks, they are such a wonderful public resource that are second to none in terms of the value for money (we have the annual NPS pass booked) and facilities provided.  Whilst we have fantastic National Parks in the UK and Europe too we could learn a thing or two from the NPS in the US.

So where are we heading I hear you ask?

The Tour RouteIn short we are Flying in and out of Denver, Colorado and taking a broadly counter clockwise circular route north taking in Fort Laramie, Mt Rushmore, The Badlands, Devils Tower (I’m a great fan of Close Encounters, “Dar Dee Dar Dor Daaaaah”), Little Bighorn Battlefield, The Bear tooth pass highway, Yellowstone, the Tetons, Salt Lake City, Canyonlands and Arches, before heading back to Denver via Vail.

So as you can see we’re heading out on one hell of a road trip and I hope it will be an experience never to be forgotten especially for the younger members of the 8DC Photo Family.  I certainly intend to blog about the trip, probably on our return as I think Wi-Fi and or the mobile signal might be a little sparse in various places along the route plus I want to make the most of the break.

So why am I telling you this? I’m not boasting, though I do feel generally smug about this holiday, but what would be really great and in the interests of a photographer being prepared and planning ahead, would be for you readers whether you’re a photog or not out to make some suggestions, pass on tips let me know your own experiences. For example:

  • What are some of those off-the-track places to visit along the route?
  • What are the best sites away from the crowds in the National Parks esp in Yellowstone? whilst we have youngish kids coming along they’re not afraid of a 3-5 mile hike, I have them in training.
  • What tips can you share when visiting the towns along the way, where to eat quirky places to see? To help you out we will be staying in Denver CO, Custer SD, Rapid City SD, Sheridan WY, Red Lodge MT, In the Park at Yellowstone, Jackson Hole WY, Salt Lake City UT, Moab UT and Vail CO.
  • Is there anything we should consider visiting in North West Nebraska around Alliance, Scottsbluff or Chadron? We’re currently skirting past Nebraska and I feel compelled to grab another state while we’re there.
  • What kit should I take with me? As a minimum I’m thinking my Canon EF 24-105 L (general walkabout Lens), Canon EF 100-400 L (Wildlife in the Parks) and my Sigma 10-20 (for Landscapes).  Obviously my Tripod will be packed but is it worth taking a fast prime e.g. my Sigma 30mm F1.4?

So please feel free to pass on your tips by commenting on this post, any will be greatly appreciated especially if you’re local along the route, locals always know best.

Thanks for reading and if you’re a resident of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah or South Dakota keep an eye out for a family of 4 Brits in an SUV hitting your streets around August and September this year.

Links:

Cristine Eastin’s American Road Trip

Three Girls Move West, Spring Break Road Trip to South Dakota

Bucking the Trend, 2013 Epic Summer Road Trip

Views of Farthing Downs, Coulsdon

Farthing Downs Sunset

I recently submitted one of my images to the local newspaper, the Croydon Advertiser as part of their #visionsofcroydon theme.  The image as you can see was of a beautiful summer sunset looking across Farthing Downs towards what was Cane Hill Hospital just south of Coulsdon town centre, it is a really stunning area.  I feel lucky to live here being able to enjoy the countryside and be within a stone’s throw of London – the best of both worlds.

Yesterday I found said image taking a prime double page spread.  Fantastic, but it was a favourable comment from a local conservative council candidate that got me thinking.

“Looks Amazing” he said, “it is I thought”.  However the very same conservative council that run Croydon are, it would seem hell bent on taking away such views for future generations.  You see the Cane Hill hospital site is due to be redeveloped for housing after many years of laying derelict and unloved.  Now I am the first person to recognise the acute housing shortages that have been building up in London over the last 30 years and agree there is need to build more homes and quickly, but what is being proposed for Coulsdon’s Cane Hill site represents over development and these views are very likely to be consigned to history.

So please enjoy a few of my favourite images of Cane Hill and Farthing Downs, lets hope the views aren’t damaged too much.

The Wedding Photographer

Just over 12 months ago I broke one of the cardinal sins for a photographer.  On a trip to my homeland (the great North West of England) and in a slightly drunken yet elated state I offered to take the photographs for two very good friends of mine who had recently announced the date of their forth-coming wedding.

The next morning, slightly hung-over, I recalled my “generous” offer and hoped that the couple to be might have suffered a greater alcohol induced memory haze than myself.  I’d returned back to London and nothing had been mentioned for at least a week, “phew that was a close shave” I thought and then, that fateful email pinged into my Inbox.

“were you serious about taking the pics for the wedding Andy?”

“yes no problem, call it my wedding present to you both…..”, hmmmmm mistake number 2.

Registry Office So I was now well and truly committed.  I’ve taken snaps before at many weddings but never as the “official photographer” so the pressure was on to deliver the goods, plus I was also a guest at the wedding which would include a large group of some of my very best friends… we don’t often get the chance to all get together so I didn’t want miss a great opportunity for a catch-up.  I had 5 months to prep myself (plenty of time) the only other additional complication was the wedding was to be held in Spain!!! To be more accurate the ceremony in Gibraltar and the reception later in the day at a Villa on the Costa Del Sol.

So with a few weeks to go I thought it might be prudent to read-up on the subject and take-in the do’s and don’ts.  I’d also need to confirm the finer details with the bride and groom e.g. timings locations and logistics.  Logistics, I found with research, would be important especially given we would drive down in the morning to Gibraltar for the ceremony at 11am.  This would mean having to deal with the border crossing from the Spanish town of La-Linea into Gibraltar and the notorious traffic queues caused by the overzealous Spanish border officials.

With Flights and Car hire booked, my camera kit packed and a memorised (backed up with paper) list of MUST HAVE shots I set off for Gatwick Airport bound for Malaga on a late night flight that would get me to the Villa a couple of days before the wedding.  Those 2 days prior to the wedding were great, I had to chance to have a few beers with the lads and tease more details out about the ceremony and reception which helped me plan in my mind how I’d tackle the task at hand.

The LadiesDay of the wedding, and a early start.  I was responsible for making sure the groom was up and ready in time for the best man to collect us from the Villa where we would drive south to Gibraltar.  This meant I’d have to be up even earlier to get myself suited and booted and make sure all my kit was ready to go.

First logistics success was the decision we’d taken NOT to attempt to drive over the border into Gibraltar.  On arrival in La-Linea the expected traffic queues materialised so we decamped on the Spanish side of the and hot-footed it over the border, which for those that have not experienced this before means about a mile walk through the border, across the runway of Gibraltar’s International airport before you can grab a short bus ride into town.  This wouldn’t have been too bad if it wasn’t for the heat combined with the weight of my kit and the full suit I was wearing.  After a quick hydration stop we arrived in good time outside Gibraltar’s tiny registry office.  This gave me a chance to get the groom and his family shots in before the bride and her bridesmaids arrived as well as the much welcomed opportunity to cool down in the shade.

The bride arrived a little late, as is permitted (and expected) which gave a great opportunity to grab shots of her and the bridesmaids walking up, reservoir dogs style through, the narrow cobbled street that approached the registry office.

To describe Gibraltar’s registry office as small would be an understatement.  There is about enough room for the Bride, the Groom and registrar plus about 7 guests – it is literally an office!!! So not too good for shots other than then obligatory signing of the register and the happy couple together.

Post the ceremony we took a stroll towards the Marina to celebrate with a quick mid morning glass of champers and the route there gave me ample opportunity to grab some shots amongst the old town walls of Gibraltar, coincidentally right next to Gibraltar’s own Photography Club.

The early afternoon would see us all drive back north towards Malaga where a humanist reception amongst the remaining guests and friends would await us.  This is where it would get difficult as many of my friends would be gathered there and in no time the drinks would be flowing whilst I had to keep on my game for the remainder of the day.  I’d previously promised myself that I’d only partake in a couple of drinks on arrival and through the meal, setting myself a cut-off time post the bride and groom’s first dance, then I could put the kit away and play catch-up.

The BrideAll went smoothly, corralling the guests for pictures was easier than expected primarily because my friends were assisting in ushering people together and as I think everybody knew I was also a guest I got more opportunities to blend in and get some great documentary shots which really helped to tell the story of the day, and true to my promise I put the kit (well most of it) away after the end of the first dance.

The day was a great success – I was running on adrenalin (more like beer) at the end of the evening and was really happy with the results.  To top it all I was showered with compliments from the Groom’s father, a man when growing up, I had greatly revered and knew that such compliments were never given easily.

So what lessons did I learn?  Planning is key.  Knowing in your mind the types of shots you are aiming to get before the day, helps massively.  Chat with the bride and groom about the sort of shots they are after and write a list of the “banker shots” that every wedding should have.  Pre-scout the venues and locations to get an idea of nearby places that could offer good photographic opportunities, use Google Earth and Flickr to help you out with this.  Build rapport with the bride and groom to put them ease… in this instance this was easy for me as they had been lifelong friends.  Don’t be afraid of getting into the best position for a shot especially post reception and ceremonies when you’ll have competition for good pictures from the guests.  HAVE FUN and most of all don’t worry too much about breaking that rule e.g. don’t be the photographer for a friend’s wedding.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.  After the event I compiled the pictures together and sent off the shots to be published as a photo book.  Having been a guest at many weddings I can honestly say that being a guest and the photographer was an honour.  Witnessing and sharing in such a big event in peoples’ lives is one thing, but knowing you have helped to document this event and that for years to come my friends will be able to look back at the photo’s I’ve taken and remember their special day fills me with pride.