Sunday, 21 April 2013

Pimp Your [lens] Back Cap

Sometimes it's hard to see what lens you are about to grab from your kit bag so I thought I'd do something to the back caps to help differentiate a 24-70mm lens from a 24-105mm lens, etc, etc. Also, sharing lenses with a travelling companion can also lead to misunderstandings (or worse!).
So, one wet Sunday afternoon  I thought I'd try my hand at pimping
(i.e. pimp my ride...) the rear lens caps using simple kids party glitter and self-adhesive bling bought from the local party shop, a circular inkjet print with the number printed onto a black background and nine coats of Estapol varnish.

How to pimp your rear lens caps:
1: Buy rear lens caps (eBay for approx $1 ea.)
2: Use a small craft grinding stone to remove the embossed [Canon] logo
3: Clean all excess dust and material off the caps
4: I designed the labels using Photoshop - simple numbers with multiple drop shadows in white on a black base. Cut the inkjet print out carefully and stick onto the back cap using glue. Leave to dry 24 hours.
5: Stick self-adhesive jewels onto cap. Position carefully!

6: Apply one coat of Estapol varnish - leave to dry in a well ventilated room for at least 24 hours
7: Apply another coat of varnish and sprinkle glitter into surface while varnish is still wet. Leave 24 hours to dry. 
8: Repeat varnish coat up to five or six more times - or till the back cap surface appears smooth. Leave 24 hours between each coat.
9: If, after multiple coats, the surface still feels rough to the touch, lightly sand the roughness off and re-varnish a couple of times to seal the surface.

Once the varnishing is finished, I'd suggest sanding any dried varnish drips off the underside of the cap (i.e. the surface that comes into contact with the lens mounting ring), wipe any dust off with a damp cloth and be very careful to remove any glitter that has not already been sealed in by the six coats of varnish.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

New Take on an Old Theme: Developing a Photographic Style

Chinese Gardens. Sydney. Pic by Natalie Hitchens.

As photographers we are often on the lookout for a new way to present an old theme. Shooting HDR (high dynamic range) images is one way to expand your image style.  However, the very nature of HDR image processing opens yet another can of proverbial worms - there are dozens and dozens of "looks" that you can create using HDR, all from the same set of bracketed images.

Pic by Natalie Hitchens.

To create an HDR picture, you need to shoot multiple exposures of the same scene. Typically this is done by setting the camera to Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) in-camera.  Press and hold the shutter and the camera makes three different exposures,, one underexposed, one over, and one 'normal' exposure. These three exposures are then 'assembled' using a specific HDR software, such as Photomatix Pro (available from

HDR software can be used to create a big range of colours, contrasts, textures and visual effects (Pic by Natalie Hitchens).

Here's a screen grab of the HDR software, Photomatix Pro. To start, choose one of the examples in the thumbnails at right, then adjust further using the (complex looking) sliders along the left-hand side. This can be used to create something that looks realistic or, as is the case with Natalie's images, somewhat surreal.
Besides using HDR for the visual style, HDR is brilliant for capturing a wider dynamic range (of tones) than is possible with a single snap. A single shot of this scene would produce deep shadows in the interior of the pagoda. By greatly overexposing the interior and combining it with an underexposed image you get the best of both worlds. Pic by Natalie Hitchens.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Dubbo Photo Trip

Rhino, by Kerrie Murphy
In June I am leading a photographic trip to South Africa and Botswana for the first time. 15 of us are headed into the wilds so we decided to test our skill first by spending a day and a half at Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo.

Local wildlife at Dubbo zoo, by Alan Taylor
Lunchtime, by Don Barnes
Meerkat using the keeper as a lookout. Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Awesome otter action by Jim Stace
These otters were moving fast so getting a shot as sharp as this is excellent. By Mary Barnes
Another impressive otter shot (I gave up as they were moving so fast!). This one by Phil Young
One of the best Cheetah shots from the weekend by Caralyn Taylor.
Fabulous close-up of a giraffe - pic by Kerrie Dixon
Big lens lineup

Friday, 5 April 2013

Royal Easter Show, Sydney, 2013

Supercoat flyball contestants ready with their humans (EF300mm f2.8 + 1.4 Extender)

Hungarian Puli being woman-handled into the arena (EF300mm f2.8 + 1.4 Extender)

Runaway staffie apprehended in heat one - for leaving the course prematurely. (EF300mm f2.8 + 1.4 Extender)

It's been 20-plus years since I last visited the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It's a great opportunity to see the massive range of products that Australia produces, from flowers to beef cattle, sheep to cake making, racehorses to big hats and plenty more...

Twin shots of a small terrier (Jack Russel mix?) showing the rest of the team how to do it!
Weimaraner championship - final judging, pics by Natalie (proud weimaraner owner)

The winner gets a kiss - pic by Natalie (EF70-200 + 1.4 Extender)
The only problem I have with the show is with all the other people. There are massive queues to get in, to get food, to use the toilets, even to get out. It's a popular event by any stretch of the imagination.
Refreshments for the heat winners. (EF300mm f2.8 + 1.4 Extender)

For me the best event was the canine flyball - because it involves regular dogs belting up and down a set course all day long. Heats are held on most days with only a few minutes between each two team competition. Each team is made up of a range of different pooches, from large to very small - despite the size differences, each has to race over four small hurdles and return with a tennis ball without being distracted by the other dogs, or the mayhem in the ring.
Who, Moi? Shi-tzu by Natalie (EF24-105mm f4)
At the final judging, pic by Natalie (EF 70-200mm + 1.4 Extender)
At the judging finals. Pic by natalie (EF300mm f2.8 + 1.4 Extender)
Maltese to the rescue! The finalists line up. (EF300mm f2.8 + 1.4 Extender)
Maltese to the rescue! The winner. (EF300mm f2.8 + 1.4 Extender)
Testing each axe to see that it complies with the regulation width and weight
Axe man in action - he won the heat. EF300mm f2.8

Same heat, different contestant. Impressive but not fast enough. EF300mm f2.8
Chook lady and real chook at the Royal Easter Show
A pug and its owner. EF 24-105mm
Champion Great Dane and owner dancing in the ring. EF300 f2.8.
Champion Great Dane and owner. Pic by Natalie. (EF 70-200 f2.8, 1.4 Extender)
Alpaca at the Royal Easter Show. EF 300mm f2.8.
All the fun of the race. Supercoat flyball contestant enjoying a high speed heat. Pic by Natalie, EF100-400mm f2.8 + 1.4 Extender