D800

The Joy of 'Real' Football

Over the last few months I have been trying to incorporate a new passion of mine alongside photography.

If anyone in the UK has just finished watching 'Class of 92: Out of their League' you will undoubtedly relate to this. It is the reason I felt the need to blog about it... If you didn't watch this programme, then get it on BBC iPlayer, it is a great 2 part documentary about the Class of 92 (Beckham, Neville, Neville, Scholes, Giggs, Butt) buying and running a football club (Salford City FC)

Watching Premiership football has become an expensive and difficult activity, lack of tickets and then £45-£50 ticket prices have forced the average football fan to seek more palatable options. I had a season ticket for Manchester United for approx 8 years, and loved every minute of it. I got to see some magnificent games and players (most notably Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, and the list goes on). Since having kids I have given up my ticket and missed those magical days/nights at Old Trafford.

My eldest boy is now old enough to play football at a reasonable level. He plays for a local team Hawarden Rangers FC. They are an outstanding local team that have nurtured and developed some great players over the years (Michael Owen, Ian Rush, Barry Horne to name a few) Through watching my son train and play every week, I have developed a real love for the club, the way that it is run, and everything that it stands for. This has lead me to volunteer wherever I can... This is where the link to photography comes in.

It started with taking shots of the kids training (to only be shared with a closed group on Facebook) and has now developed into taking photographs of the senior team.

Watching the senior team has been a revelation to me.

Lower level (I am sure that they won't mind me saying that) football has such a different feel to the big money game. You can almost feel every tackle from the close proximity to the pitch, you can hear every debate with the referee (not always the best thing if you have a younger kid with you!!), and most of all you feel a connection with the players, coaching staff and people that run the club. Add to all of this the fact that you can attempt to take a proper 'sports page' photograph and you can understand the magic combination - Photography + Football = :-))

The kit that I typically use is a Nikon D800, 70-200 f2.8 with a lightweight monopod.

Here are some snaps from a recent game that I attended, enjoyed, and photographed!! 

I would encourage everyone that has a love for football to get to their local club and watch a game, no matter what level it is. And if you can take your camera with you, then all the better!!

Liverpool Waterfront (Got to keep trying)

I am pretty sure that I have blogged about the Liverpool Waterfront before but even so, here is another…

I keep heading back to the same old place trying to get the illusive perfect shot of the Liverpool waterfront, as seen from the Wirral side.

After a recent bout of thunderstorms in the UK, I thought I would try my luck, hoping for some dramatic fork lightning over the city that would enable me to get a photo that would go viral and provide me with royalties for the rest of my life!! Nothing ventured nothing gained.

The weather had other ideas, and if anything as the day drew to a close the weather started to clear.

Wanting to keep up my creative streak of recent months I wasn't going to let this stop me from venturing out and making the most of whatever became of the evening.

Hamilton Square is quite a convenient place, with plenty of viewpoints and a close car park. Below is a link to the Google Maps location:

Hamilton Square, Birkenhead, England

Hamilton Square, offers unobstructed views of the city of Liverpool. Here are a couple of photographs taken with my phone that demonstrate the setup.

Hamilton Square, offers unobstructed views of the city of Liverpool. Here are a couple of photographs taken with my phone that demonstrate the setup.

Second pano shot of my camera set on a tripod overlooking the River Mersey.

Second pano shot of my camera set on a tripod overlooking the River Mersey.

The evening was calm, and offered a very small smattering of cloud. I therefore opted to work on the basis that the only decent cityscape shot that I would get would be a 3:1 crop. Below is one of the better shots that I managed to get. It is very similar to an image that I have taken before, but benefits now from the investment in a good camera body, and a set of great lenses.

Talking of great lenses, once I had done the skyline to death, I thought I would break out the big one, and see what the 70-200 2.8 was capable off. It was getting really late, and I was a little bit concerned with having such an expensive looking contraption with me so I made it a quick shot.

The results have truly astounded me. This lens surpassed all my expectations on reach and clarity.

This image below was taken from exactly the same location as the cityscape image above. Obviously choosing to focus in on the Liver Building, a famous landmark of the area. I was using a tripod and needed to go for a good 20+ seconds to use the low ISO rating and ensure correct exposure. All of this meant I was fully expecting a soft unusable image. I couldn't be further from the truth. It has actually come out as one of my favourites from this particular location.

FullLiverpoolTest-9539.jpg

So I guess that the moral of this story is, even when you think that a place has been done to death, there is still the chance of it throwing up a few surprises. Keep plugging away, the illusive photograph is exactly that….Illusive but great fun in the making.

Three months with the D800

Wow, I can not believe that it has been five months since I last entered anything onto my blog. I knew life had been busy but there are no excuses.

During the five months since I last blogged, I have not been suffering from 'Photography Block'. In fact the opposite. I have been using my camera more than ever. In part due to an upgrade:-)

In March I finally decided to cough up and move to a full frame DSLR. I had been looking for a long, long time but various life events delayed this.

Whilst I would have loved to have purchase the D810 it was just well above the price I was prepared to go to. I settled therefore for a used D800 from www.wexphotographic.com. I really couldn't be happier. The price was reasonable, the service was excellent, and I can not fault the camera that I have ended up with.

The previous year I had bought a Nikon 24-70 2.8 (part of the holy trinity) and this lens was just crying out for a Full frame body to attach it to. The two coupled together has revolutionised the way I take photographs and I just wish that I had done it earlier.

Here are just a few things that I LOVE about this camera.

Using the AF-ON button at the rear of the camera along with AF-C focus mode, capturing eyes perfectly becomes far less about chance. Something that is critical when photographing energetic kids.

Using the AF-ON button at the rear of the camera along with AF-C focus mode, capturing eyes perfectly becomes far less about chance. Something that is critical when photographing energetic kids.

FEEL

The D90 that I was using felt extremely unbalanced with the 24-70 lens attached. All of the weight was at the front, and after a full days use I could really feel my wrist taking the strain. A larger body on the D800 now balances things nicely, I guess this is no coincidence since this is the type of body the lens was intended for.

SPEED OF FOCUS

Having a small child (almost 2) and a hyper 6 year old, trying to get sharp photographs on the D90 took a lot more time and patience. The D800 focus is lightning fast and enables me to capture the moments that would have otherwise been missed.

ISO Performance

Using the D90 I never really strayed above ISO600, and I knew that if I did it would be noticeable. Low ISO performance on the D800 is something that I don't even have to think about anymore. If the situation demands an Auto-ISO setting to keep the shutter/aperture desired I know that, within reason, the photographs are still going to come out lovely and clean

Being able to capture a sunset and recover the details within the underexposed foreground is something that lesser sensors wouldn't have been capable of.

Being able to capture a sunset and recover the details within the underexposed foreground is something that lesser sensors wouldn't have been capable of.

DYNAMIC RANGE

After watching/listening/reading so many things about full frame sensors, it was hard to avoid the mention of tonal range. I never really knew how much this would mean to me until I got my hands on a few files and experienced the flexibility that this gives you. Shadow areas can be recovered easily and made to resemble exactly what the eye would see. Underexposed photographs can now be rescued within minutes using any photo editing software.

DETAIL

File sizes are huge, and pack a massive 36MP. Nailing the focus results in such rewarding, and detailed images.

Due to the sheer pixel count this also enables images to be cropped whilst still maintaining their original sharpness. For someone that is a fan of the 1:1 format this is big benefit.

No concerns whatsoever when cropping an image to 1:1. Details are retained and sharpness is still superb.

No concerns whatsoever when cropping an image to 1:1. Details are retained and sharpness is still superb.

So with all of these positives, what are the downsides. To date I only have a couple….

WEIGHT

Handing the D800 over to people to take a family photograph is a risk manoeuvre. Many flinch at the weight of the body, and the lens. And I am already thinking hard about what I will take with me on a forthcoming holiday abroad.

FILE SIZE

There is no getting away from the fact that the file sizes produces by this camera are huge. Approx 75Mb each my 2011 iMac is really beginning to creak at the sides whilst processing the RAW files that come out of this camera. So much so that something drastic needs to happen (significant uplift of RAM and HDD, or a new computer!!)

CONCLUSION

All in all I think you can probably tell that I am 'over the moon' with my recent purchase. It excels in all of the areas that I hoped it would.

For anyone teetering and wondering if they should take the plunge into Full Frame. Do it, do it now and don't waste those valuable shots. I have so many photographs now that I wish I could take all over again with a Full Frame camera. 

Each Nikon camera I have had has lasted me for someone between 3-5 years before trading up. This one is certainly going to take some beating.