Natural portraits using a zoom lens…

Being the Daddy of small children, taking portraits of them is quite tedious. Mainly because they run around and get excited, but mostly because they tend to refuse my instructions point blank. So getting a photo of their faces must be about the biggest challenge in photography.

So when I had my first “proper” digital camera with a good optical zoom, I could start experimenting. This first camera was an Olympus SP57 OUZ “bridge” with a zoom of approximately 520mm… although it seemed smaller than that to me.

During a holiday to Brittany, when my son was just 2 years old, one evening walking on the beach the lighting was excellent… lovely and golden despite being in the middle of March. So by chance, using the zoom, I shot a natural portrait of him. He didn’t even know I’d taken a photo and that was the best thing!

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Distancing yourself from the kids can only a be a good thing. You get such a natural photo, a normal expression… none of the usual face pulling and with some luck they’ve not closed their eyes as you take that cructial moment.

Even if they know you have a camera in your hands, you can still get away with it. But it can take maybe 10 shots, to get a good one. In the old days before digital that would just be called a total waste of film. Today of course, it doesn’t matter…

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A change of camera moved me from the bridge to using a digital SLR, after my Olympus developed a fault. Having used a bridge, I’m now starting to prefer my Sony A200 DSLR and recent purchase of a Tamron 300mm zoom lens. Unlike a bridge you can buy lots of add-on accessories to give more flexibilty, although the drop from 520 to 300mm zoom capability hasn’t affected taking portraits so much and is more than adequate.

Of course, the Tamron lens is a whole lot longer than the retractable zoom on the bridge camera – so it does stick out a lot when taking photos. It is also a lot heavier and so holding the camera steady presents a lot of challenges.

Still, I continue to take far off portraits of my children and the snowy Winter this year provided some great oppotunities.

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But so far, I’ve taken all my portraits outdoors… which seems logical as having a lot more light does help. However, with my DSLR you can uprate the ISO to as much as 3200 and depending on the lens drop down the f stop to quite a low figure. It is usually better to lower the latter as upping the ISO can not only produce a grainy photo, but can limit you if the subject moves slightly even, with blurring. So taking photos of children presents yet more challenges.

However, being in the same room with a 300mm lens means that you have to be some distance from the subject and sometimes you can just take a snap at that right moment. I’ve not really tried doing that with my children in a confined indoor space, as they just move around too much still. However people sitting at a dinner table can provide some interesting portraits and even though they know you have a camera, they probably do not even realise quite how close to them you are as you look through the viewfinder!

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So why not give some natural portraits a try with your zoom and post your findings and observations in the comments section?

Would love to hear how you got on!

My very FIRST camera… an Agiflash…

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Yes… this is it, an Agiflash 44. As a 10 year old I had one of these… second hand of course, as it belonged to my Dad and was probably his first camera too! Googling the camera name tells me it was made from 1959-64 in Croydon of all places.

By 1980, when I first used the camera, it was taking fast obsolete 127 film which had quite large 4cm x 4cm negatives. Much of the time I only had 12 exposure colour film, mainly because it was quite expensive. Although the camera had a little lever on the front so both black & white or colour film could be used.

A friend of my Dad’s who was a bus enthusiast, offered to take me on a “bus trip” around depots in north Nottinghamshire. Having just been given the camera I was really keen to try it out. Some of resulting photos were not too bad from the Agiflash on that trip, although the rubber camera case around it posed a bit of a problem. The triangular shaped flap on the cover got into shot on about half of the photos I took… and one shot was ruined by someone walking in front of me. Still, it was a big adventure at the time and it was like Christmas when the prints came back from the processors.

Here’s a selection of the photos I still have from that trip… don’t forget that I was only 10 years old when I took them!

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This last photo, was one of those affected by the phantom camera flap problem… A few years ago I photoshopped out the resulting black triangle, with mixed results. Still, I feel I have to rescue a photo when I can!

Later on the wind on mechanism gave up the ghost, so my Dad drilled a hole in the top of the alloy casing and fitted a small aluminum tube with a groove in the end which lined up with the film spool. So the exposures were wound on by turning this tube and looking at the little red window on the back to line up the film number in it.

My second digital camera: Sony Cybershot DSC L1

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-L1 hands-on images: Digital Photography Review.

Some of my photos taken with the Sony Cybershot.

This was, a great camera, which my other half brought back from Japan in 2005. It would have lasted a lot longer than 7 years, but my 18 month old daughter (at the time) bounced it off the floor with the handstrap. Since then the lens door has stayed locked shut. Shame…

I’d give it 5 stars all the same…

Wonky chimneys & Tamron zoom lens demo.

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Yesterday I received my Tamron zoom lens (70-300mm f4-5.6), so today I’ve done a simple demo to blip on here.

The wonky chimneys are those on flats across the street, taken from the drive just in front of our house. Image was taken using the “macro” (180-300mm) on full. The small image taken on minimum 70mm setting.

Tweaked the photo just slightly in Photoshop (not much even), so for a “cheap” lens I’m quite pleased with the results.

What do you think?

DSLR-A200:f/5.6:1/500″:300.0mm:ISO 100


Ever wanted to turn your blog into a PDF?



This evening I just happened to stumble on site Blogbooker while surfing for something else. It is an online conversion tool which can convert blogs provided by several services into PDF’s.

Of course, you can print each page from your browser into PDF, but that would be very laborious. Besides, this tool turns your blog into a REAL book! In fact it came as a bit of a shock to realise that the PDF of my other site, Superpositoire came to 231 pages!!!

Anyway, don’t just take my word for it – give it a try!

Sample from my other blog: Superpositoire

Sample from my other blog: Superpositoire

Chantecoles 3

Chantecoles 3

Chantecoles 3

Over the last couple of months, I have been colaborating with Michel Briant to produce the first of 6 new releases of his song albums for children.

In the Essonne region, close to Paris, Michel has been very successful sharing his songs with children in local schools, performing with them and for them. Having been a primary school head teacher from the early 1960’s his songs have crossed through several generations of local children. Even todays pupils are learning and enjoying listening and singing along to them.

The latest release is Chantecoles 3: “La Sorcière” – it will be available as an audio CD, including 10 songs with 10 playback tracks so children can sing along, with an additional extra CD containing karaoké-style Powerpoint presentations. A song book and colouring book both in PDF format are also included on the second CD. Price is expected to be 5€ (enquire for postage details) for the two CD’s – a bargain!

[Listen to an extract of "Monsieur le Vent" - one of the 10 tracks featured on this release by Michel]

If you speak French in your household, you might be interested in visiting Michels main site.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of Chantecoles 3 – La Sorcière, feel free to leave a comment here on this post and we’ll get back to you with further details.


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