Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Bronach and I went to the Cairngorms this weekend. We stayed at Boat of Garten, which is famed for it's collection of wild osprey. Needless to say, we didn't see any osprey, but chanced upon a herd of rabid horses:

Apparently this shifty looking equine is a highland pony, and if you aren't careful he'll have your wallet and belt without you realising it. They're canny beasts, or as a passing Highlander said "Och aye, thirr cannae wee beesties, arr".

The Cairngorms are Scotland's snowy playground, and Aviemore - just south of Boat of Garten - is a motley collection of ski resorts, alpine-themed Indian restaurants and dejected looking Japanese tourists. On the train to and from Aviemore we passed through a winter wonderland, snow as far as the eye could see, and great herds of deer and bison roaming the prairie. Unfortunately something seems to have gone wrong with this year's snow distribution, because there was hardly any at Aviemore, making a mockery of it's status as the nation's ski and snowboarding capital. It was still nut-achingly cold, though, and the local lochs (that's Scottish for 'lakes', language fans!) were frozen over.

A frozen lake, with trees.

I tried out the Pan-O-Rama software that came with the 1000D, and this is what it turned out. You can still see the joins, and I could spend hours tinkering with each individual frame to match the colour balance etc, but it's a pretty dull shot, so I won't. It's just to give you an idea of what the Cairngorms are all about. To maximise your viewing experience, I suggest you sit inside a freezer while looking at it:

Bronach took a load of pictures of me that turned out far better than the ones I took of her. Either this is testament to the Canon 1000D in 'P' mode, or she's a better photographer than me. Anyway, I'm not going to stick them up here for you to ridicule.

So, although lacking in Roman antiquities, and face-slicingly cold, the Cairngorms are heartily recommended.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Head to head: Canon 1000D vs Canon Eos 5

Here's a picture of a tulip or something. I could say that it represents the futility of life, that all things must come to an end, it is the yin and the yang, the alpha and the omega. Or I could just tell you that it's a flower that I photographed, and charge you £90 for a print.

Anyway, this is another shot from the legendary 1000D, and the image below demonstrates why it's a damn sight handier than a film camera. I spent an evening pissing about to get the picture above, and would have cranked through an entire roll of film to get one keeper:

Having said that, the film cameras do have a few advantages. Firstly, because they're full frame, my zoom lens actually goes wideangle. The 24mm prime doesn't even work on the digital camera, a fault of Sigma, not Canon. Second, the film bodies are Canon Eos 5's, which were designed as a weapon first and a camera body second. Each body was carved by hand from a block of magnesium alloy, before being individually field tested by the Marines under actual combat conditions. With a lens and external flash unit attached, the camera weighs about 30lb's, or at least it seems to after you've hiked more than 100 yards with it. Add to this the VG10 grip, which essentially converts testosterone into power, and you have a camera which defines manliness. More than one Reuters correspondent deflected a Scud missile with an Eos 5 during the first Gulf War.

The Eos 1000D is a somewhat different beast. As discussed, I no longer have to pay to get film scanned and developed. On a good day, a single 35mm frame would be scanned at 1232x1840 pixels, compared to the 1000D, which routinely produces images of 3888x2592, like 5 times the size. Which means bigger prints, which means that when you buggers start buying my prints you get more wall covered for your cash. It's also got more focus points than the Eos 5 (7 vs 5), on the other hand the Eos 5's AF points are eye controlled. This means you can focus on something just by looking at it through the viewfinder. This technology was subsequently used on the F117A Nighthawk. Mind you, I generally use the central focus point, then recompose, which explains why my wide aperture shots tend to be faintly out of focus.

Other things that are probably important: The Eos 5 has spot metering, while the 1000D doesn't. However, the Eos 1000D has 16 years of extra technological development behind it's metering system. Besides, if you shoot Raw you can pretty much not bother with exposure and fix it in post production.

So in summary:

Canon Eos 5

  • manly
  • stealth technology
  • cost of processing, developing and scanning
  • waiting weeks or months to finish a roll because you have to value every shot
Canon Eos 1000D

  • instant digital feedback
  • Raw processing
  • limited applicability as a tool of war
  • no stealth technology (but still 16 years more R&D than the Eos 5 had)
Clearly, the only solution is to carry both cameras, all the time. I believe this is what real photographers, like Rankin, do.

Friday, January 09, 2009


Bronach went and got me what is possibly the coolest present ever. No, not a swan, though that would be pretty handy, especially in a fight. I'd get it to break my opponent's arms and peck his eyes out.

Instead, she got me a Canon 1000D, which photography fans will recognise is a digital SLR, meaning that I can take more pictures while spending less money! A typical roll of film costs £4 a roll (Kodak 160VC, my standard colour film of choice) for 36 shots. Processing and scanning to cd is around £7 a roll, so you're looking at £11 a roll at least. Considering that 95% of shots are duds (on a good day), it makes for an expensive pastime (unless you're Alex, where every shot's a keeper).

Being able to see your picture straight away is awesome, because it means you can keep your subject standing there for ages, while you shout "Just one more, and smile more this time!" etc. I reckon when news of this gets out, Annie Leibowitz'll probably retire.

All in all it adds up to being the Best Present Ever, and I present to you a picture of a swan I cracked off this morning. It's an Art photo, hence it's blurry. I'll flog you a one-off limited edition print of this for £775, which should be about enough for me to pick up a Canon L series 24-70 2.8 lens.