My Camera Kit 2010

As the Farnborough Airshow 2010 nears, I’m really getting into the photography stuff to a new level compared to my previous interest. I’ve been reading online sites about getting the best exposure for aircraft photography, and I even blogged about photography challenges last week in my post Like Life Isn’t Hard Enough.

I’ve recently started using Flickr to upload some of my experiment shots and I will be using it more so to upload pictures, however I won’t be using it for pictures of the kids, but random shots and the airshow more specifically.

You can see my Flickr Photostream at I thought a good way to share my interest would be to share what kit I’ve got currently, so here we go.

Nikon D40

!!d6s,ugBmM~$(KGrHqIOKiwEuZwZsFhzBLs2Gdnw7!~~_32[1]My first DSLR, given to me as a Christmas present by my brother when he upgraded from the D40 to his current D300. I’d been wanting a DLSR for some time as the slow shutter speeds on the Cybershot point and shoot weren’t up to the job for shooting high speed scenes of moving kids or theme parks.

She’s about three years old now, but aside from a little build up of dirt on some of the screw heads you wouldn’t know, and she’s coping very well considering some of the rap plastic bodied cameras get.

I’m using it with the standard Nikon EL-9 battery and a mains rapid charger.

If I was to fault the D40 it would only be on two items and that is the lack of a bracketing feature and a firmware issue affecting my Eye-Fi card. I’m not going to complain about the bracketing, because I would only ever use the bracketing feature once or twice here and there so it’s value to me is limited.

The firmware issue affecting the Eye-Fi card was annoying at first, however I have grown to work around it. The issue is that the D40 will only provide power to the SD Card slot for long enough to allow Eye-Fi to perform it’s uploads on the Info screen. This means that the photos are not uploaded in real time with other models like the D90 for example.

Eye-Fi Home & Video 4GB

22820_1265025723[1]Probably the most innovative and brilliant piece of kit in my arsenal, the Eye-Fi allows me to take pictures at home and have then transferred via WiFi back to my PC automatically. This means that my camera is never connected to the the PC, nor is the card ever removed. This in my opinion is helping to reduce wear and tear on the camera USB port and the card slot and also gives me great functionality.

I can shoot pictures in the garden and have them transferred up to the PC automatically within a minute.

If I go out shooting for a whole day, I come home, turn on the camera and leave it powered on for 15-20 minutes while it does it’s thing and then hey presto, all my images are ready to be viewed on the PC.

Eye-Fi supports automatic Facebook and Flickr integration for automated uploads, however I’d like to stay in control of that. As a result of PC Sleep states, I actually have the Eye-Fi software running on our Windows Home Server, configured as a service constantly on and able to collect the images.

Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6GII AF-S DX Lens

3728381791[1]The entry level Nikkor kit lens with the D40, given to me by my brother with the camera. The lens produces really good images for me. I’m not put off by it’s plastic body or any of the lower end features because it does exactly what I need.

Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6 AF-S VR DX Lens

My latest addition to the family, this lens has been purchased with two things in mind: The Farnborough Airshow this weekend as the 55mm focal length on the kit lens would means every plane would be a spec in the distance, and secondly is swimming. At Aquatots, we are allowed to shoot photos, however the pool where Maddy swims is quite big, so some pictures leave her a bit small in the middle of the frame, but with the 200mm focal length, I’ll be able to get in close for every shot.

3178550492[1]Bought from a seller on eBay, the lens is brand new and came with all the accessories and correct paperwork. It comes with a lens hood which is about as long as the 18-55mm kit lens itself.

At the time I was debating between the 18-105mm and the 55-200mm lenses and this lens won after using our friend Gary’s 55-250mm Cannon lens for a little while. Seeing the amount of length you can achieve at 200mm impressed me enough to get this lens. The 55-200mm lens was also about £90 cheaper than the 18-105mm lens so it was pocket friendly.

The lens it internal focus which is nice because it means I can use a petal lens hood or a polarizing lens filter or anything fancy like that should I choose to. Although it didn’t come with one, I have bought a UV filter for the lens as a little extra to protect the glass end.

The VR technology does work, and using the VR Mode (Off / On) switch on the side of the lens allows you to see the difference it makes.

Black Rapid R-Strap RS-7

Since seeing a colleague at Vocera wearing an RS-4 strap while out in the USA earlier this year, I loved the idea. The default Nikon strap is short, meaning you can either wear it around your neck and look like a tourist, wear it over your shoulder or keep it in your hand.

blackrapid-rs-7-l[1]Around the neck is a problem because with three children who often need picking up or something doing with them, the camera is always in the way. On the shoulder, you risk leaning over to one rise and having the camera slip off, and in the hand means I’m down to one usable limb.

The R-Strap solves all the problems. It’s a sling, much like the strap on a messenger or tote bag. It’s designed to hang at hip height, and attaches to the camera using a mounting bracket which you secure to the tripod socket on the camera.

At first it is a little daunting, and I’m finding myself holding the camera at times just to be sure that it’s secure which it has been perfectly so far. The bracket on the camera attaches to a rock-climbing style karabiner clip which slides along the strap. The strap has a comfy padded shoulder strap making wearing the camera a comfortable affair.

The RS-7 over previous R-Straps has an ergonomically shaped pad to better fit the chest and shoulder, while it supports the Black Rapid MODs system, which consists of a series of pouches you can purchase to extend the features of the RS-7 such as a phone holder, big enough for a HTC Touch HD, an iPhone or the like, along with smaller pouches for storing memory cards etc.

The RS-7 features two bump stops on the strap to allow you to lock the camera into a single position if you are on the move and don’t want the camera moving around, and for more active people there is a MOD called BRAD (Black Rapid Arm Defence) which locks the R-Strap around your shoulder with a second mini-strap.

The key benefit is that the camera is at arms length for quick shooting access (think of the cowboys in the wild west and where were their guns kept?) along with keeping the camera out of the way and hands free.


I’m lucky enough these days to find time to breath let alone ritually Photoshop all my images to perfection so I just let them be.

After Eye-Fi does it’s thing and the images are transferred, they lie in wait in a folder on our Windows Home Server called New Pictures within the default Public share. The pictures are added to a sub-folder in the New Pictures directory to reflect the date of shooting. The reason for this and not having them imported straight into the Pictures directory with the correct date will become apparent.

I firstly move the images to my PC. I rename the folder from the default which is 2010-07-18 to the following example of 2010-07-18 – Farnborough Airshow. The reverse date means that Windows correctly orders the folders by date in the default view and the end portion gives me a quick idea of the contents of that folder.

Once the folder is renamed, I use Adobe Bridge to batch rename the images. I despise default image names of DSCxxxxxx.JPG. I like my pictures to be named according to their parent directory so that if I am browsing the pictures in an application doesn’t correctly display the file path I know where it’s coming from. In addition, I like the extension to be lowercase. This stems from the web where some Apache web servers are case sensitive and using an uppercase extension is one more thing to remember.

After the batch rename process (which takes about 5-10 seconds per directory) the files in this example are named 2010-07-18 – Farnborough Airshow – 001.jpg. I know it’s a bit long, but that’s the way I like it and it makes for a very organised picture library.

Next step is tagging. For this I use Windows Live Photo Gallery, which since the Beta release a few weeks ago got a whole lot better. As I’ have now tagged about 10,000 images with peoples faces, the automatic recognition is near perfect. New images are imported and after a few minutes, it will suggest the name of the people in the images to me, and I have to do is hit Accept if the name shown is correct which it is. After this, I add a Geotag for the location that the picture was taken.

At this stage, I now copy the folder from my PC over to the Pictures folder on the Windows Home Server. This is our household image library where only images which are tagged, renamed and suitably organised are permitted.

Like Life Isn’t Hard Enough?

In a couple of weeks time me and the family are heading out to the Farnborough Airshow 2010. I’m really looking forward to it like you can’t imagine. Since 2008 working for Xerox at QinetiQ right next to the runway, and getting my first ever taste of the Avro Vulcan I need more.

At the time I was using a point and shoot Sony Cybershot, and I played with things a little bit to try and get better results but it was never going to be that impressive really. This time round I have my Nikon D40 which I have been using with the 18-55mm kit lens since getting it from Dan for Christmas in December, however I finally paid up the cash yesterday to order my 55-200mm VR lens. I had been switching allegiance between the 18-105mm and the 55-200mm for some time, and having read countless reviews, I decided this based on the opinions of others that the 200mm had better quality optics and that the VR technology really was worth it’s weight.

I also went through a tonne of my previously taken images and saw a growing trend in my use of 55mm focal length which means I was maxed out on the lens. The lack of pictures below 55mm (the odd one at 18mm or 24mm here and there)  meant I’d probably find longer zoom more useful. If the 18-200mm hadn’t have been £500 I probably would have gone for that.

Since ordering the lens though, I’ve been thinking about getting the most from it on the day of the airshow, and I’ve been trying to concrete up my ideas of aperture and shutter speeds. For some time now, I’ve been blindly setting my camera to f/5.6 in Aperture priority mode thinking it was cool without ever really stopping to think that I could be chopping some focus in exchange.

I read an interesting phrase from a photojournalist who said “f/8 and be there”. Reading some other peoples take on his words, it seems that a lot of people rate f/8 as their aperture of choice because it gives a good mixture of shutter speed at low ISO rating while also giving you enough flexibility in the focus. Needless to say, after finishing my day in the office, I shall be at home toying with f/8.

To complicate matters, I found a good article about airshow photography specifics on this site:

On here, the author suggests which shutter speeds to use in order to make sure you catch the fluid movement of proper blades instead of making them appear static, and adjusting the exposure compensation to compensate for the brightness of the sky. Shutter speeds I can understand better than I can aperture – Fast or Slow is the crux of it!

All in all, I think I need some alone time with my camera, so I can work out what’s best for me – Aperture Priority to get that illustrious f/8, or Shutter Priority to get the 1/500th for propeller planes and 1/1000th for jet planes as suggested on the Richard Seaman site? God! At this rate, I might even end up using Manual and setting both. Wish me luck.