Favourite shot of the day

Taken on the magical 5DMKII beta camera with a 35 f1.4L lens. RAW processed in Canon DPP 3.5.1 beta. Black and white conversion with additional grain courtesy of my actions.



One of the great things about doing this job, is the satisfaction that i get knowing that my clients are pleased with my work. With the busy schedules that my clients often have, it's usual to get just a quick phone call, a text message or a very quick email. Occasionally I'll get a really lovely email from a client, but I was so pleased to get not one, but two emails from a wedding I shot in September. The first is from the bride, and the second is from her mum who also happens to be a fantastic portrait photographer.


"You probably got the message I left on your answerphone, but I just wanted to put in writing how utterly thrilled Will and I are with the pictures. I can't stop thinking about them, they are quite the most beautiful wedding photos I have ever seen (trying not to be biased!). You have managed to capture every emotion of the day so exquisitely and most of the time, without us even knowing you were there. Everyone who has seen them is just amazed at how beautiful they are and that they make them feel they are re-living the day, and those who weren't able to go feel like they were there. Thank you so much, we'll treasure them always." Jessica Jonzen


"I want to thank you for the wonderful photographs you took at my daughter's wedding on 6th September.  Jessica and Will were thrilled and so were we.  You've really managed to capture the mood and emotion of the day beautifully.  The ones in particular that moved me to tears were the ones of Will with his mother outside the church.
As a portrait photographer and almost always preferring use of natural or available light, finding a photographer that excited me was really tricky.  When I saw your work last year, we were in no doubt that we wanted you on the day, so were
thrilled to have been able to book you.  I would love have been able to speak to you about photography, but I guess we were both rather busy!
Anyway, I'll be ordering my photographs, shortly and once again many many thanks.  Your work is very beautiful and inspirational."
Wendy Aldiss  www.wendyaldiss.co.uk


Back to normality - and another award!!

Wow. What a mad week it has been where my blog is concerned. The 5DMKII images have caused some serious traffic - nearly 50,000 page views in less than a week!! Thankfully the traffic levels are getting back to some sort of normality, so it is probably safe to post some proper images again without my website hanging :-))

The first two images are from the past week. Both were shot with the 5DMKII Beta camera with some post processing applied with my own actions. Before the pixel peepers and the conspiracy theorists on DPReview et al get their soap boxes out - I have added a lot of grain to these images in keeping with my style!!! Yes, I am allowed to do that :-))

I had some great news today.  One of my landscape images has been highly commended in the Landscape Photographer of the Year awards, in conjunction with The Sunday Times. This is the first time I've entered these awards, and I am thrilled to have had three images make the finals, and one image that has gone on to become highly commended. The images that are regularly entered into these awards quite literally take my breath away.

My image will now be exhibited in London, and will be published in the book that accompanies the exhibition. The interesting thing to me, is that with all the excitement over the 5DMKII and it's high iso, 21MP sensor etc...this image was taken with a mobile phone!!


The first image shows a boat keeper trying to get to grips with the notorious mud flats at Morecambe.



This second image is my interpretation of one of the 5DMKII test images that I showed earlier.



Finally, this is the image that has been highly commended in the Landscape Photographer of the Year awards. It was taken with a Sony Ericsson K800i phone, on the estuary near to where I live



Rough Seas at night - taken on a Canon 5DMKII beta camera. No unauthorised useage allowed.
Bargain Hunting - taken on a Canon 5DMKII beta camera. No unauthorised useage allowed
The Promenade - taken on a Canon 5DMKII beta camera. No unauthorised useage allowed
Street Seller - ltaken on a Canon 5DMKII beta camera. No unauthorised useage allowed
100% enlargement. The sharpness and detail that has been retained is fantastic. Taken on a Canon 5DMKII beta camera. No unauthorised useage allowed
Kids on a bus watching the Blackpool lights. Taken on a Canon 5DMKII beta camera. No unauthorised useage allowed

Blackpool seafront - 5DMKII 12800 iso

Extreme low light photography has not been something that I've done a great deal of. I love shooting at night, but I either needed to use flash or take a tripod with me. Until now!!

Following are some images from the remarkable Canon 5DMKII using it's H1 iso feature. This gives it a working iso of 12800 iso!!! Normally I would convert these images to black and white, but I was just floored by the colour retention and sharpness that comes from these files at such an extreme iso. All the images are from RAW files processed in Canon's DPP Beta software. The lens used was the 16-35 f2.8LII for all of the images.

Yes there is some noise, but it's not intrusive, and it certainly doesn't take away any sharpness. 

A word on the image sizes. Over the past few days I've had over 30,000 page views, as this camera has generated a lot of interest. Normally I would host the images on my own server, and link to them within the blog. Unfortunately, the amount of traffic that has been generated, and the amount of hits on the images, is more than my server can handle. Not only does it hang my blog, but also everything else that is on my server including my website!! So I'm afraid we have to embed the images in the blog which isn't ideal. You can click the images for a bigger size.


More 5DMKII thoughts

Looking back over the images today, after finally getting the issues sorted with the picture hosting, here are a few further thoughts on the camera.

Starting with the menu. It's pretty similar to the 1DsMKIII menu. Easy to navigate, and each section is laid out logically. The LCD screen is an absolute gem. It's stunning - perhaps Canon's best yet.

The camera's standard highest iso is 6400, but this can be expanded by two further stops. However, the camera also incorporates a 'Highlight Tone Priority' function which is accessible through a custom function. I haven't tested this yet, but will do over the next few days. If the HTP function is active then access to the higher iso's is restricted. I will be testing the two higher iso options as we go along.

Live View is terrific. It's so much easier to access than the 1DsMKIII. Simply press a button on the back of the camera and you are instantly in Live View. Use the AF-ON button to focus and then press the shutter and.......Silence (or as near as damn it). As a wedding photographer this is a fabulous feature. No more loud shutters in the middle of the ceremony!! I would buy this camera for this feature alone. Seriously. It's so cool.

Battery life is great. Massive amounts of chimping, and messing with the video and the battery is holding up really well.

I'm not sure if the old 5D had an AF-ON button - but I first encountered it with the 1DsMKIII. I have it set to standard mode, which means pressing it focuses the camera and holds focus as long as the button is pressed. This gives me the option of using back button focus or shutter release focus as and when I need it. On the 5DMKII the button is smoother and more positive than the 1DsMKIII. I'm guessing it's because the 1DsMKIII button has a weatherproof seal around it whereas the 5DMKII doesn't.

The lenses I used today were the 16-35 f2.8LMKII and the 50 f1.2L. Both were tack sharp on the camera and didn't need any micro-adjustment. Interesting the 50 needs micro-adjustment on each of my three 1DsMKIII's. I've no idea if this is relevent to anything, but it's an interesting observation.

So far so good - but features that I'd like to see on the 5D maybe with a firmware upgrade? I'd like the 'SET' button to be able to adjust ISO as it does on the 1DsMKIII. At the moment it's most useful function is to start and stop the video mode. I often switch ISO with my eye to the camera and this is quite tricky on this version of the 5DMKII, but so simple on the 1DsMKIII.

A word on video. Trying to hold the camera while videoing is going to take a great deal of practice on my part. I'm finding it really tricky to do at the moment, and the camera really needs to be on a tripod. I have small hands though and I'm sure the battery grip will help.

All in all I'm really happy with the camera, and can't wait to take it out on a wedding in ten days time. I have a 4pm ceremony with candlelight. This camera should be in it's element.

Happy days!!!


Canon 5DMKII 1600 iso 100% crop
Canon 5DMKII 1600 iso 100% crop
Canon 5DMKII 1600 iso
Canon 5DMKII 1600 iso
Canon 5DMKII 6400 iso 100% crop
Canon 5DMKII 6400 iso

Morecambe Bay and the Canon 5DMKII

Day 1 with the Canon EOS 5DMKII beta camera.

WOW!! That's pretty much all I can say about this camera. I've been out for most of the morning shooting with the 5DMKII beta.

As I mentioned earlier, the camera itself is a robust, well made, and very solid feeling camera. It doesn't feel at all 'plasticky' like many other semi-pro cameras out there. However, it isn’t a 1 series. Let me make that point immediately. It lacks the dual cards, the weatherproofing, the construction, and also the focusing options.

However, as a picture making machine - this camera is stunning. It handles superbly. All the controls fall to hand easily and being a 1DsMKIII user, everything felt really familiar. The focusing options are more limited than I am used to, and I missed the lack of peripheral focusing points that the 1 series has. However, after about an hour of shooting, I was able to use the limited focusing points fairly easily, although the camera will lock on faster with the centre point in low contrast situations. I didn’t notice any shutter lag or unresponsiveness in the camera itself (even though this is a beta camera). The camera focused easily and accurately, and out of 120 images, I have none that are out of focus.

The weather was really great today, which wasn't ideal for testing the camera's high iso capability, but from what I've seen so far this camera is the business. I've been unable to use the RAW options due to the lack of any software to convert the files, so everything was shot in Large JPEG, which I am used to shooting. I pretty much shot everything at 1600 iso, and some images at 6400 iso. The jpegs are fantastic right out of camera. The dynamic range is great and it was really easy to hold the highlights and shadow detail, even in quite strong and lighting. Most images needed a minus 2/3rd exposure adjustment to hold the highlights in strong light. This camera would definitely make me think about going back to jpeg again....they are that good!!

Onto the images. Because of the hosting issues and my site crashing, I've linked the images above. They are smaller than I would like to have posted - but at least people can see them.

I’ve posted the out of camera images first with a relevant 100% crop. The images are straight out of camera with absolutely no adjustment for colour, contrast etc. I switched off the in-camera noise reduction, and used the ‘Neutral’ picture style. No sharpening or contrast was applied in the camera. Everything was shot in AWB.

The images have simply been resized for the web, with a tiny bit of Photokit supersharpener, at 10% just to help with the web display.

Click on them for the larger versions. Any softness is to do with BF's picture software and the web, these are razor sharp images. I can't get over how fantastic these images look on my monitor.


Canon 5DMKII Update

I've had to pull my post about my first impressions with the 5DMKII, as the amount of traffic it generated was causing my site to hang. 

My concern is that my clients and new enquiries can't access my site, and they come first.

I'm working on a way to be able to upload the images without the site crashing. So please bear with me.

I have a Canon 5DMKII

I've just received a pre-production Canon 5DMKII which I will be putting through its paces this week. Be sure to book mark this blog for picture samples and general comments throughout the week.

First impressions out of the box are very favourable. It's very solid, the AF is nice and quick, and it feels like a professional camera. Hopefully I'll get chance to use it this evening in low light as this is what is really getting me excited about the camera.

Photoshop CS4 - Mini Review

Adobe Photoshop and digital photography pretty much go hand in hand. For me, Photoshop is the most important piece of digital imaging software that I have. Apple's Aperture and Adobe's sister product Lightroom, are slowly changing the way photographers use software, they still have a long way to go before they match the power of Photoshop.

Such is the importance of Photoshop in my business, I always upgrade to the latest version as soon as it becomes available. Early this morning I downloaded the latest incarnation of Photoshop and have been putting it through it's paces for several hours now.

To say I'm stoked about the quality of this upgrade is an understatement. It is phenomenal. I'm not really the best person to listen to when it comes to all the ins and outs of the upgrade, but I can take you through some of the highlights in relation to my job as a wedding photographer.

One of the biggest headaches we have as wedding photographers is the amount of time it takes to process our images. We often deal with hundreds of pictures and all of these have to be processed, tweaked and then output. After processing lots of images, the first thing that is apparent is the speed and smoothness of CS4 compared to previous versions. It is faster - and by quite a large margin - than CS3. The main reason behind this is CS4's ability to harness the power of GPU video cards. My MacPro is fine, but if you don't have a video card with GPU, it might be time to upgrade your card!! Not only are the images redrawn faster on the screen, but you no longer have to view the images at 25%, 50% etc in order to get a clean looking image. The image looks great at whatever magnification you choose. 

But it gets even better!!! Mac users have always had a problem with floating windows. When editing an image, I always press the 'F' key to give the image a solid grey background so that I'm not distracted by my desktop. CS4 goes one better and allows you to use an 'application window' option. Say you open up four images at once - with CS3 the images would all open up on top of each other with the desktop underneath. Navigating the images was awkward especially with using the 'F' key. Now with CS4 all the open images sit under tabbed windows which you can navigate really easily. Think of something like tabbed browsing in Firefox, and you will get the idea.

The other big thing for me, are the new palettes - and especially the fabulous new 'Adjustments' palette. This is a one stop shop for all your curves, levels, hue+sat, channel mixer etc adjustments. Adobe has preset a lot of options already in the palette, and it's really easy to add your own (although I must say that the black and white presets are pretty awful). This is so quick to use, and really speeds up editing especially if, like me, you are fan of things like curves and levels. However, it doesn't end there as Adobe have added the option of being able to click and drag tones in an image with the cursor a la Lightroom, when using Curves or Hue/Sat. Hallelujah!!

I haven't used Bridge yet, at least not for any length of time, but it does feel quicker than Bridge CS3. Hopefully it won't be as problematic as Bridge CS3 which was pretty awful.

So overall this is a significant upgrade to CS3. Adobe have really raised the bar again, and I have to say I am really impressed. Definitely worth the upgrade price!!


Sanaz and Robert

Images from my October 4th wedding. Sanaz is Iranian, and this was the first time I'd photographed a Persian ceremony. The weather was awful, so everything was pretty much shot indoors in a combination of window light and tungsten. 

For the photographers - My Canon 1DsMKIII cameras were permanently set to 1600 iso, and occasionally 3200 iso. I used a combination of 50, 35 and 85mm lenses.


iPhone Images

The Apple 3G iPhone is a fantastic piece of technology, and it has really made a big difference to my mobile life. 

One thing that has baffled me though is the quality of the camera. At 2MP it's not particularly great, and I have to say it's the only disappointment that I have with the phone. Shadow detail blocks up really easily and it's as noisy as hell when the light starts to go. The weirdest thing is when you take a picture and move the camera slightly, you get a really odd distortion almost like looking through a goldfish bowl.

Anyway, I've just downloaded a bunch of stuff from the past couple of months and there are a couple of half decent images on there which I thought I'd share. Post processing was done using my Actions.


Damned Mosquitos....

What is it with these things?? We've been having some really lovely warm weather for the past couple of days, and we seem to have mosquitos everywhere. Living near water we kind of expected to see more mosquitos than we were used to in a city, but not as many :))

Currently my wife is on a 'mozzie' hunt in our home. None of them are safe, especially as she got bitten by one this afternoon!! Throughout the house I can hear the 'smack' of a shoe against a wall - it looks like another blood sucker has just met it's maker....


Harriet and Anto

Finishing off September's favourites with a selection from my Sept 20th wedding.

For the photographers who follow the blog - these were all shot on the Canon 1DsMK3 with either the 16-35 f2.8LII or 70-200 f2.8L lenses.



I have a (camera) bag fetish

Looking in my loft today, I was reminded of an article on the Digital Journalist website where Bill Pierce writes about his constant quest for the perfect camera bag.

I seem to have dozens of the things. I'm not sure how many, but I'm pretty convinced I have more camera bags than my wife has handbags. Sitting in boxes, stuffed into corners, or simply piled on top of each other there are Tenbas, Tamracs, Billinghams, loads of Lowepros, Pelican Cases, a couple of Bodas and other various odds and sods that have appeared over the years. To this day I still don't know why I've still got them!! There are rolling cases, shoulder bags, rucksacks, rolling rucksacks, belt packs, lens cases and just about any other type of bag you can think of.

I suppose, a bit like Bill Pierce, I've always been on the lookout for the 'Holy Grail' of camera bags and never really found it.

Having said all this, for this past wedding season, I've actually settled on two bags (or rather one bag and one case) and between them they do fit 95% of my requirements. What is rather worrying is that my case is several years old and was often overlooked when I saw a new shiny bag on the market. I could have saved hundreds of pounds if I'd just given it a chance!! 

I came to the conclusion last year, that there isn't one bag on the market that can offer the basic functions of transportation and ease of access for shooting in one package. As a wedding photographer I need to be able to transport my equipment easily and safely, and often discreetly. Anyone that has tried to take a huge camera bag through a city centre will know that you are often looking over your shoulder. There is nothing like a big expensive bag to attract a certain amount of attention from passers by. My current case of choice is the Lowepro Pro Roller 1. It easily fits all of my equipment into it, looks like a standard piece of luggage, and is really smooth to roll about. 

Typically the Pro Roller will hold; 3 x Canon 1DsMK3 camera bodies, 70-200 f4L IS, 16-35 f2.8LII, 85 f1.2LII, 50 f1.2L, 24 f1.4L, 35 f1.4L, 2 x 580EX flashes, CP-E3 battery pack, card holders, batteries, business cards and loads of other bits and pieces.

Once I'm at the wedding, all I need is a small lens bag to transport my main lenses about, and other bits and pieces such as water bottles, batteries and so on. Easily the best bag on the market for this is the Shootsac. It's the perfect bag for the way I shoot. I often put just two or three lenses into it, a bottle of water, some batteries, a couple of energy bars, and a cleaning cloth. It's light, discreet, and expands with the amount of items that are put into it. If I'm shooting for more than 8 hours, I'll use a Planet Waves guitar strap shoulder pad slipped over the Shootsac strap to improve the comfort of the bag over a long day. 

So now, after nearly twenty years of professional photography, I think I may have found something that I can be happy with and I think a trip to eBay might be necessary to reclaim some of our loft space!! But then I think to myself "Is there a case like the Pro Roller that opens with catches instead of zips...." and off I go again :))



More adventures with the 70-200

Lately, I've been experimenting with longer focal length lenses than I'm used to using. My Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS has had more work this past month than in it's entire life :-)).

Yesterday I received it's baby brother - the 70-200 f4L IS. It's tiny in comparison to the f2.8 version. It's really slim, light, and (without the hood) quite compact. I decided to take it out this morning for 20 minutes to put it through it's paces, and I have to say I'm really impressed. It's as sharp (if not sharper) than the f2.8 version, and is really resistant to flare. Today we have low sun and dark clouds which is horrible for lenses to cope with, and it performed admirably.

For me, one of the issues that I have with the 70-200 f2.8L on a wedding is the sheer size of the lens - it's quite intimidating!! It's also very heavy, and not exactly unobtrusive. So hopefully this baby 70-200 will be the perfect solution. The f4 aperture may be an issue - but we'll see, as the Image Stabilization works remarkably well. I would say three to four stops of camera shake is wiped out with this unit.

Here are a couple of images from this morning - both featuring birds which is quite unusual :))

The second shot has some serious post processing with textures and the like (courtesy of my good friend Parker Pfister's actions), but the first one is pretty much clean.


Canon 1DsMK2 For Sale

Up for sale is my beloved Canon 1DsMK2. It's in great condition with only a few minor signs of wear and tear. It was serviced earlier this year and has been used as a back up camera since May. It has 30056 shutter actuations, so it's barely worn in.

Comes with a spare battery, a box, and as many of the bits and pieces that came with it as I can find. Also included are a Microprism and split screen focusing screen.

£1850 - a total bargain!!

If you are interested email me jeffascough@mac.com