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Shy child As all of my blogs recently have been image centric I thought I’d take the time out to write a little more and update you on how things are going.

Firstly I can’t emphasise enough how right this adventure is to embark on. Already I’ve produced not only work I’m very proud of but work that has so much substance and meaning. My Photography has compelled my wife and I to push ourselves just that little bit further. Taking longer treks, more missions into the unknown and saying ‘yes’ to a lot more offers. It’s been well worth it as you’ve probably seen!

Sunset Palms Equipment wise I love my choice of camera and lenses all the more so and it’s been well worth dragging them everywhere with me. Trekking trough thick Thai jungle, teetering over rivers on bamboo bridges to hiking up into the hills of Vietnam with the temperature always above 30 degrees.

My Tamrac Adventure 9 bag was without doubt a fantastic purchase and I’ve been able to very comfortably carry all my gear where ever I’ve needed it.

The only casualty has been my speedlight flash. Knocked by a fellow trekker it broke off my camera leaving the hot shoe connector behind while rest fell to the rocky floor half way up a mountain. If vietnam taught me anything it’s that you can always get things fixed on the streets. Sure enough a guy Watch outthat rebuild mobile phones from the parts or dead phones had no problem fixing it with a steady hand and a healthy amount of super glue.

One steep learning curve has been handling the massive amount of work I’m producing on a near daily basis. With my trusty Macbook Pro with me I’ve been able to keep on top of it. Editing has been quick and dare I say fun while making sure my backup regime is strictly adhered to has been all important should the worst happen.

angkor wat Traveling for an extended period of time while simultaneously working has been both a challenge and something i can be very proud of. With over a month left before we settle in Sydney, Australia for a while there’s still a lot more to see and do. I’ll keep you all posted whenever i have Internet access.

As ever your thoughts and comments are very welcome. It would be great to hear from you while I’m ‘on the road’.

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Canon 5D MkIIMy Canon 5D Mark II is one impressive camera! The ability to record full 1080p HD video through SLR spec lenses really opens up the uses too but it’s automatic aperture controls meant it’s full potential wasn’t being realised.

Thankfully today it was announced that the 5D Mark II will be getting a firmware upgrade from June 2nd 2009. With full manual controls of aperture, shutter speed and ISO in video mode. This means you can now set the depth of field to your choice, not the camera’s, allowing much greater creative use.

There were a few dodgy workarounds before. Twisting the lens so it’s not locked to the camera was one rather dangerous idea that i did try on occasion. Another was using Nikon lenses with an adapter.

Many people have thanked Canon for “Listening to the people” on this one. I think that’s a bit short sighted personally. Canon have no doubt been working on the software for the 5D Mark II for some time. Adding new features to a pro camera is what keeps it fresh and stops the need for expensive development of new products. No doubt Canon were always going to add this feature once the software had been fully tested.

I’m looking forward to seeing a whole lot more video from the 5D Mark II now. I for one will be shooting a lot more that’s for sure!

Find out more on Matt Preston Photography

Photos from this camera are now featured on the Travel Blog Community.

We photographers like our gadgets. We’re surrounded by them. Whether you’re film or digital one of the great perks of the job is buying lovely new equipment!

Canon 5D MkIINow that I’m “full frame” I needed to upgrade my lenses. To get the most out of my 5D Mark II I wanted to put the best glass on it. if you’re a Canon user the best lenses you can buy are Canon’s L Series. They offer amazing quality, rock solid design and great reliabilty. Everyone agrees that L is the best series of lenses… but not everyone agrees which one you should have in your kit.

They are a serious purchase with a serious price tag so when I needed an L series wide zoom lens it wasn’t an easy choice.

The Contenders

Canon 24-105 F4 LCanon 24-70 F2.8 LThe two main contenders are the 24-70 F2.8 L and the 24-105 F4 L.

Both amazing lenses, the 24-70 offering a wider aperture while the 24-105 has image stabilization.

Hot topic

There’s heated debates on which is best. Which covers the most needs, even which is the best in low light. Flickr is a hot-bed of Canon users with strong opinions. The group discussions are often filled with “which lens should i buy?” topics. I myself have posted a few as they’re a great place to get a good cross section of responses.

There’s great arguments for both. The 24-70 covers a shorter range with less elements and a faster aperture. But it’s weight is dramatically increased to incorporate this. Surprisingly so. The 24-105 weighs less, covers a wider range but has a max aperture of F4. Choices choices!

In the end I chose the 24-105 F4. It came down to a number of factors.

Weight

I will be on the road, possibly for months at a time. While I am willing to carry heavier lenses if the benefits are worth it. For me personally the 24-70 F2.8 doesn’t offer enough of an improvement to warrant the extra weight. I’ll be happier shooting with the 24-105. Happiness and harmony with your equipment should not be overlooked, especially on an expensive purchase!

Range

Another on-the-road factor here as the less I need to change lenses the better. The extra reach the 24-105 gives me is a great advantage. Possibly even helping me achieve more spur of the moment shots I would have otherwise missed while changing to my 70-200 F4 L.

Image Stabliaztion

Before trying this lens I thought IS was a bit of a gimick to help reduce camera shake. I had however overlooked one obvious advantage to this. If camera shake is reduced you can shoot at lower speeds. Lower speeds means more light. The lack of 2.8 aperture on the 24-105 is more than made up for by this feature. I also plan to shoot HD video with my 5D Mark II so the IS really comes in handy for smoothing out those hand held shots.

I’m very happy with my purchase. Frankly I would  have been happy with either lens but the true test comes when you’re out in the field with your camera bag and limited options on what you can take. A happy photographer is a creative photographer!

I’ll post a full review in a month or two.

If you have any questions about these lenses or an opinion the lens you purchase do comment.

Feel free to follow me on twitter

Canon 5D MkIII’ve had my Canon 5D mkII about 3 weeks now. It’s been a pretty manic 3 weeks too, getting to grips with my new best friend! I though I’d give a quick first impressions round-up before a full review in a month or so.

The Canon 5D MkII has been getting a lot of press lately. It’s definitely a pro camera of choice and a massive step up from my 300D rebel that kept me going for a good few years. From the lower end of the amateur market to the top end of the pro market you really do notice the difference!

It’s one solid brick of a camera. Nothing bends, creaks or feels like it could ever fall off. The grippy rubber finish on it feels industrial but I know it’ll last a lot longer than the thin metallic plastic finish on a lot of DSLR cameras.

Canon EOS 5D MkIIThe ISO quality really is as good as they say. You can happily shoot away at 1600 or even 3200 and while there is some noise as you’d expect there is much MUCH less noise than most cameras. It makes shooting at those ISOs an option rather than a compromise.

Being a full frame camera you make full use of your EOS lenses. No crop factor and a larger sensor really adds to your image. I was surprised how much more natural it feels shooting at full frame and I would highly recommend it to anybody. While the crop factor helps some cheaper DSLRs get the best from cheap kit lenses you really do see the difference with full frame. Although of course you feel the hole burning through your wallet too!

Canon EOS 5D MkII backThe biggest first impression for me is the quality of images especially viewing them on the 3 inch screen. Live view on a DSLR is a very handy feature and allows you to get pinpoint accuracy on your focusing too by pressing the magnifying glass button.

I’ll review the camera in full with all it’s features in a couple of months time but for now I’m very happy with my Canon 5D MkII. Most definitely impressed!

To become a good photographer you should BE a photographer as much as possible. It’s a pretty simple premise. The more photos you compose, process and analyse the greater you will understand photography and improve upon your skills.

So.. it’s simple.. TAKE YOUR CAMERA EVERYWHERE! You never know when a good photo opportunity might appear or a good excuse to just experience photographing a new subject matter.

So, living up to my own good advice I took my camera with me to a recent night out with friends, playing Pool (or Billiards depending on where you are in the world).

Pot luck
Pot Luck – Matt Preston

This kind of environment is a great challenge. Not only for you but for your camera! The relatively low light conditions means you’ll be shooting at high ISO ranges, with the aperture wide open to get in as much light as possible. This of course has the side effect of drastically reducing the depth of field.

Good Advice?
Good Advice? – Matt Preston

Personally i love the low light conditions and narrow depth of field. It really adds to the nostalgic, smokey (until they banned smoking) night time feel.

Wide open

Most of the photos were shot at around 5000 ISO with the aperture between f1.8 and f3.5. You’ll often find a lot of your images are focussing on the wrong area. Mainly due to it being dark when you’re looking through the view-finder. Autofocus either doesn’t work at all or will focus on the wrong area of your composition, drawing your eye away from the area you wanted your shot to be about! If the focus is in the wrong place you lose that emphasis and the photo (usually) doesn’t work. So keep it on manual focus, you can always take a few shots at different focus settings to ensure one of them works out ok.

Deep in concentration
Deep in Concentration – Matt Preston

Motion Blur

Pool is a great game for capturing some action with motion blur. You’re not likely to have a tripod with you (and you might upset the landlord!) so expect to also capture some of your own motion in the process! Sometimes that doesn’t seem to matter. I personally love this shot as the motion of the players hand and cue along with the movement of the pool balls and myself seem to make the photo work quite well.

On the move
On the Move – Matt Preston

Helpful friends

One of the great things about taking your camera with you on a night out is that your friends know you. They feel relaxed around you and are more likely to smile when you point a camera at them rather than feel awkward and shy away. This really helps, without my friends it may have been a lot tougher to get such natural looking shots and some of them worked out really well like this one.

The best medicine
The Best Medicine – Matt Preston

Your photos don’t always have to be in colour either. Sometimes they work so much better in black and white, or in this case black and white with a slight purple tint. If you’re shooting in low light conditions with high ISOs you’re likely to end up with noise in your image, something that may annoy you in a colour photo but can really add to a black and white shot. Give it a try. You may just fall in love with a shot you would have otherwise deleted.

More is more!

Shoot lots and shoot often. Take your camera everywhere, try and capture “photos” rather than “snapshots”. Oh and be sure to give a copy to your friends! After all they just gave you another reason to shoot!

There are more photos from my pool night here.

As ever your thoughts and comments are welcome. Share your experiences, your advice, or let me know if you think there are ways to improve upon some of the shots I’ve taken.

I look forward to seeing some of your photos.

Canon 50mm f1.8 and 5D cameraWhen you start to get serious about photography you start looking at lenses to extend your photographic abilities. The internet is a great place to view lenses of all different types and qualities. You’ll soon find they range from the cheap and down right dodgy to the  amazingly fantastic and shockingly expensive.

But there’s one lens that breaks the mould. Where image quality is sublime yet the cost makes you think they must have it priced it incorrectly.

The trusty little 50mm lens is affectionately known as the “Nifty Fifty“. A prime lens (meaning a fixed focal length rather than zoom) that offers an image scale comparable to the human eye.

The Mighty Robin!
The Mighty Robin – Matt Preston

Less is more

Prime lenses always offer superior image quality to that of their zoomable cousins. Less elements within the lens means less distortion as light passes through each one. It also means the lens is much smaller. Both of these factors mean lower manufacturing costs and much less development so the price to the consumer is much lower.

Depth of Field

One great thing about a prime lens is it’s aperture. It’s much easier to produce “fast” prime lenses where the aperture can be as high as F1.4. Canon do a couple of great 50mm prime lenses at f1.8 and f1.4. This creates fantastic depth of field that you really notice. This coupled with the high quality of the image really is noticable. Here’s a great example of a very narrow depth of field in a wide shot.

My beach
My Beach – Matt Preston

Sounds great but…?

So it’s small, high aperture range, light and has amazing image quality? Surely it can’t be THAT cheap? Well think again. In the UK the Canon 50mm 1.8 is a bargain at just £80 from some retailers. I bought my 50m f1.8 from Amazon here. The latest version (Mark II) is slightly better build quality and has autofocus. Just remember you’re not paying much so expect a plastic feel that won’t stand up to too much abuse compared to £1000 lenses. Still it’s so cheap you can always buy a new one!

Hanging in there
Hanging in there – Matt Preston

If you’re a Nikon user it’s a little bit more expensive but still a decent price at around £105. Amazon link.

Best uses for a 50mm

The nifty fifty really lends itself to Portrait photography. Narrow depth of fields close up coupled with a nice Bokeh effect (the circular blurs in the background). It also works well for landscape shots as the perspective distance between objects closely resembles the human eye.

My nifty experience

I’ve really enjoyed using this lens. You instantly realise that you don’t have to zoom to get the right composition. You can actually move yourself! The quality of my photographs with this lens have blown me away at times. Having such a narrow depth of field at f1.8 creates a whole new effect that my other lenses can’t come close to. The build quality isn’t particularly great, it’s not waterproof and i don’t expect it to last a lifetime but I think everyone should have a 50mm in their camera bag.

If you’ve got a 50mm why not post your photos here and any comments you can add for people thinking of purchasing.

And if you’ve got any questions about the 50mm feel free to ask.

Welcome to my new blog all about Photography. I’d better explain why really.

I’ve had a passion for photography for many years now. In recent years I’ve taken it to new levels with my trusty Canon DSLR. In recent months my quality of work and devotion to photography has increased, so much so I have decided to go full time professional.

With my wife by my side we plan to travel extensively. Live cheaply, document what we see, get off the beaten track, experience new cultures and hopefully begin a whole new career doing something I’ve always loved.

I’ll post my thoughts, findings, great links I’ve found, reviews of equipment, progress reports, tips on photographic techniques and anything else that I think you might find interesting. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. I promise to respond to as many as I can.

Why not start by checking out some of my work at www.flickr.com/photos/mattprestonphotography.

So here I am. This is me. This is my journey. I hope you enjoy it.

Matt