Dawn to dusk…

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Peatswood sunrise

Even though I’ve been retired for some time now, it’s not often I choose to go out taking photos all day – I’m not that keen on going out on a group trip, and other interests tend to take precedence, so its usually only a few hours at a time.

Yesterday was therefore a little unusual. I got up early, and could see some nice colours in the early morning sky, so popped out, literally through the front door and across into the field opposite, for a few pre-sunrise photos using the trusty Sony A7iii. Compositionally this spot is limited, but I do like the way the track recedes towards the trees.

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Vendor – Street Market

After a few jobs around the house we went out for a bike ride, and noticed that there was a mini food festival on in town, so nipped back afterwards to see what was worth photographing. I’m not a great one for street photography – I think it can be quite intrusive, and I’m so so bored with the ‘person looking at their phone’ shots which seem to make up most street photo shots I see on-line.  Nevertheless it was chance to try my new (to me) ‘travel camera’ – a Sony A6300. Although it’s much smaller than the A7 series, it works in much the same way, and usefully I can use my A7 lenses on it, so it will make a good backup should anything go awry with the beast. I quite like mono for street photos, so it was a chance to see how that worked out.

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Ramshaw Rocks

Back home after an hour or so, and chance to do some cooking and other bits and pieces (usual Saturday stuff…) but I could see the sunset promised to be decent, so late afternoon headed off to one of my favourite spots – The Roaches and Ramshaw Rocks, which are the closest part of the Peak District to us.
The sun was already low in the sky when I got there, so decided to go to Ramshaw Rocks as its only a couple of minutes walk from the nearest parking – the decent spots at The Roaches all involve a good 20 mins walk and I was afraid I would miss the best light if I attempted that.

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Ramshaw Rocks and The Roaches

Anyway, Ramshaw was fairly quiet – just one other serious photographer there, standing on one of the outcrops, and I got a couple of decent shots with him in the frame – a human adds a nice sense of scale to landscapes.  Then just a few minutes to take some shots of the rocks and the last of the heather as the light faded, before heading home.  It’s almost an hour each way to get there, but well worth it for the scenery at this relatively little known spot.

Home in time for a late dinner, and a well deserved glass of wine, before editing the photos from my 3 photo sessions of the day!

A walk in the woods…

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View from our balcony…

Our early autumn short break brings us back to one of my favourite places on Planet Earth – the Lake District. Specifically we are staying at the Brimstone Hotel, on the Langdale Estate, just outside Ambleside. Its a superb place – just 16 rooms, set aside from the main hotel here, but with full facilities and its own exclusive spa. Best of all is the ‘Reading Room’ – a kind of executive lounge with complimentary tea, coffee, snacks, beer, wine and soft drinks all day. Its a beautifully quiet spot, perfect for relaxing after a walk around the dales.

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Ready to shoot!

So yesterday I ventured out on my own for a couple of hours with my camera gear. The hotel is surrounded by woods, and there is a river (Langdale Beck) just behind. So it wasn’t exactly far to go, and my short stroll through the woods and along the river turned up several beautiful locations for photos. Although it was a fairly bright day, the shade meant using the tripod for most shots and there were opportunities for some nice long exposures of the water.  I didn’t need to use a ND filter at all – just a polariser to cut through some of the reflections.

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The weir at Chapel Stile

With my camera set up on the tripod and ISO set to 100, lens stopped down to f11 or f16, I was good to go. These photos are RAW files pretty much straight from camera, with the shadows lifted a little, and a little bit of ‘punch’ from adding clarity in Lightroom. I’ll probably tweak them a little more when I get them loaded onto my desktop as editing on a tiny 12″ laptop screen is never terribly satisfactory, but it gives me a good idea of how they should turn out.

All in all a very pleasant afternoon out and about, and a few photos I’m happy with. What’s not to like!

Gear used: Sony A7iii with 16-35mm or 24-70mm lens, Formatt-Hitec Firecrest polariser, Gitzo Mountaineer tripod.

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Not a Smooth operator…

Last weekend’s charity walk was a great opportunity to shoot some video on my iPhone, but editing it later, I couldn’t help but think it was a little shaky in places – my hands certainly aren’t as steady as they used to be.

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Zhiyun Smooth 4

I’d seen a number of reviews (mostly positive) about smartphone stabilisers or gimbals, so figured that £100 or so for one might be a good investment.  There were a huge number of rather superficial reviews for the DJI Osmo 2, but it did seem that Amazon customers in particular didn’t rate it too highly.  Further research brought up the Zhiyun Smooth 4 (same £129 price as the DJI Osmo 2) and that did get excellent reviews, other than for its apparent lack of compatibility with Android phones (not a problem for me of course). So one was duly ordered, and arrived yesterday. First impressions on opening the polystyrene carry case was ‘Wow! – this is big!” Although I’d seen photos of it, I kind of expected it would fold down to something that would fit in a modest man bag or sling type camera bag, but ‘noo!’ it doesn’t fold at all and is a good 40cm long.

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The Zhiyun ZY Play app

Undeterred, I downloaded the Zhiyun ZY Play app, which allows it to control focus and zoom on the iPhone as well as on/off and subject tracking.  Once paired, it maintained position very well indeed, and the zoom knob on the side of the handle controlled the phone beautifully. I was thinking that maybe I could overlook the jumbo proportions and just get a bag big enough to carry it around, when the first disconnect with the phone occurred; it took me several minutes to restart the app and then resync my phone with the device, and then it happened again, and again…  Seems that if the phone goes into sleep mode, it drops the connection, and then the app can’t reconnect.  On one occasion, not only did I have to close and restart the app, but had to restart my phone too. Fiddling around to get it started again (getting frustrated now…) I got a warning to say my phone was almost flat, even though I had only charged it a few hours before! So an hour or so of carrying the kit around, and literally just a few minutes of actual video shooting runs a phone down completely… Zhiyun helpfully provide a power out USB connection on the unit for charging phones from its own internal rechargeable battery, but a) I didn’t have the requisite lead, and b) the lightning charge port on the phone was blocked when the phone was put in the cradle.

61yEKlJ3E8L._SL1200_So a fail all round, and the stabiliser, while a nicely engineered item with some good features, will be going back. Regardless of the fact that it isn’t as portable as I’d hoped, something unreliable and that drains the battery in the phone is never going to work for me. I think I may try just a simple pistol grip and phone holder next – no active stabilisation or zoom control of course, but I’ve a feeling it will help keep the phone steady. Happy days…