Merry Christmas

So today is Christmas day and here in the Frame It Photography household we are celebrating like so many others around the world.

Having children makes this time of year so magical and takes you back to your own childhood in a way that makes you relive that excitement of waking up on Christmas morning to see what Father Christmas had left under the tree.  Of course we have lavished gifts upon our children and they are so happy with their gifts. We have managed to avoid, for another year at least, the temptation to give them games consoles or the like and that is something we are proud of.

Whilst we all celebrate though with our gifts, and eat and drink to our hearts content I would like to space a thought, and I invite our readers to do the same, to those that have no-one this Christmas.  So many people spend Christmas alone and the thought of that being me sends a shiver deep down my spine.  From the elderly to the homeless this is not a time of year that lends itself to solitude and if all you do is simply consider that it could so easily be you then that is all we ask.

We spent Christmas with our family and, although it shouldn’t just be limited the season, it brings the branches of the family tree a little closer together.

So my last word today is to say – have a wonderful Christmas, enjoy the celebrations but spare a small thought for those less fortunate than you.

Merry Christmas

A Quiet Day at Chester Zoo

It has to be said that we love this place.  We are members and have visited so many times this year that I’ve lost count.  People often ask why we go so often as “surely things don’t change so often”. Well they do and seeing the zoo at different times of the year is one of the joys of being a member. It also meant that when we visit we don’t need to cram in everything in one day.  Take for example this visit; we went in to see the orangutans and saw beautiful creatures behaving wonderfully.  With the glass and the low light it’s not a great place for photography but that simply does not matter as it’s more important to us to just observe them.  This is a popular exhibit and during the busy summer months it gets very crowded so we avoid it, knowing that we will come back and see them on a day when the zoo is less busy.  This approach works well for us as family as it allows us time to stroll around and let the children have fun rather than briskly moving from one animal to the next.

No matter how many times we have seen the same animals there is alway something new to see; a new enclosure, an new behaviour, or new animal themselves like Franka the spectacled bear or Orla the new Rothschild giraffe.  And now that the winter months are closing in and the weather is colder and wetter we have the added bonus of eating in the zoo cafe areas.  I have to admit that it’s unsurprisingly expensive although that is eased with the 20% discount for members, but it is surprisingly good food.  Our children ate everything put in front of them and that is no mean feat at all. Of course, now that the zoo is quieter on the visitor front it is a much more pleasant experience eating in there as you can actually get a table to eat at.

One thing we always seem to do at the zoo is make 2 or 3 passes of the flamingo enclosure. Often they are still and at rest but many times you are treated to a flurry of activity.  This shot was taken as the flock was moving a towards us with a beautiful yet menacing noise.  It’s a very under appreciated attraction in my opinion as these are quite magnificent birds indeed.

If you follow us on Twitter you may have seen me mention that it’s great to find a photo your thought was not so good actually turned out really well.  Well here is the shot. We were stood watching this gibbon making the most amazing call out across the zoo from its high perch and it wasn’t until we started to head off that I though to take a shot, at pace I fire off a quick shot without thinking about it too much.  I am really pleased with how it turned out with the low winter sun casting a beautiful glow across this animal and the gorgeous tone of the unseasonal blue sky behind.

So I’ll wrap up this post with a couple more of my favourite shots from the day.  First, as ever, it the stunning lioness Asha. She is amazing but at the same time saddening as at the start of the yea she had her beautiful son running around with her before he was tragically taken from us all. The last shot is one of the Californian Sea Lions and after so many visits trying to capture a shot of them as they made their brief yet also dazzling appearances above the water line I found this big chap just relaxing in the shallows with his head glistening in the sun light.

I think we will be having one more visit to the zoo between Christmas and the New Year and after that we’ll be posting a “best of 2009” gallery from our many trips to this great place.

A Piece of Photographic History

Yesterday we ventured out early into a cold and gray Sunday morning. We were wrapped up nice and warm and so were the children, and so we headed down the road to the second-hand/car boot sale at Dewsbury market.

Whilst Helen was looking at clothes and other things that might be deemed bargain where the children are concerned, I drifted round the many stalls selling old trinkets and antiques. There were quite a few nestled neatly in between the plethora of stalls selling mobile phones, laptops, games consoles and who knows what other electrical items. I wasn’t too ure if I was looking for anything in particular or just hoping for a glimmer of something that I could deem to be a bargain.

My short walk led me to a stall selling everything from books about the Queens Golden Jubilee to the tiniest model soldiers. It was an eclectic stall and I got the impression I might find something I liked on it.

Then I saw it. It didn’t look anything much to the average person but I recognised it instantly for my Grandparents had owned one once before casting it aside as rubbish and subsequently discarding it. A tatty leather case with a broken strap. I asked the stall holder if I may have a look, he obviously didn’t mind and signalled me to take a peak. What was inside was, to me, photographic gold. I had found a box Brownie.

Okay, so I knew it wasn’t one of the very first Kodak Brownie cameras but I knew it was from the middle of the 20th century. I was a Kodak Brownie Six-20 Model E and despite the patches of rust it looked beautiful.

Then came the thought – just how much was this guy going to ask for it? So I asked and when the answer of £3came back at me I could extract the coins from my pocket quick enough. It was mine.

I know now that even in mint condition this camera would not be worth more than around £30 but it is not monetary worth that I’m interested in.  It the history that capture me from the moment I saw it.  Questions filling my head. Who had owned it? How many sentimental family photos came from this camera? Where had it been?  I know I’ll never find the answers but it’s fun imagining.

So now this cameras purpose in life has changed.  It is no longer used to take immeasurably valuable family snap shots but sits proudly on our desk – a constant reminder of how far technology has brought us, not only in photography but in all aspects of life. It also represents the fact that technology can only do so much and without us to harness its power it is nothing.

Personalising Your Christmas Cards

This post might well be a little late in the day for some, but us – well we are always a bit last minute when it comes to Christmas cards.

Having always wanted to make our own cards we decided that this year would be the one.  At first we were going to use an on-line printing server but because we are so last minute this just wasn’t going to work.

I was inspoire by a handmade set of nativity models that are a little cartoon like in style and I thought these would make excellent subject for our Christmas cards.  I wanted a nice and simple card and envisioned a few photos of each model on a plain background, and this was the first mini challenge.

I was not about to setup the full studio to take photos of 3 inch models so I created a make-shift micro studio on the kitchen work top using some plain white card. For the lighting I used a couple of speed lights and mouted the camera on the tripod with a 75-300mm lense.  I used the lense at 300mm to give the photos a really close up feeling.

It took a few test shots to get the lighting and exposure just right but once that was done I rattled through 5 key shots very quickely.  This is not a project limited to people with professional cameras and fancing lighting kit.  Anyone can create great images to make brilliant Christmas cards, or birthday cards or cards for any occasion.  A simple point and shoot camera, one or two desk lamps, some white card and of course something to photograph is all you need to make this work.

Post processing was done first in Adobe Lightroom and then Photoshop CS4, nothing much other than colour and white balance adjustments and a bit of heal brush.  We used PhotoBox to get 10 of each photo printed at 5 x 3.75 inches (just about right for a A6 card) and awaited delivery.

The cards were delivered the next day and we then set about the task of creating the cards.  Nothing fancy here at all.  First I used a guilotine to cut our white A4 card in half, then folded each A5 piece to form the A6 sized card.  Then it was just a case of gluing the photo on to the front of each card.

So here are the very simple yet effective Christmas cards. One thing is for usre, whoever received them will know we have taken a little bit of time in making a gesture of good will at this joyous time of year.

Does Expensive Mean Better

This is a slight change in direction to our normal blog posts but we wanted to share with you our thoughts on a subject that can, at times, be rather contentious.

As a photographer we use tools; cameras, lights, backgrounds, triggers and all sorts of other of other equioment.  Some photographers use more than others, some less, but I think it’s safe to say that we all need a camera.  This isn’t going to turn into a discussion of which camera brand is better and quite frankly that is a subject that bores me greatly.  At the end of the day would anyone say that the Mona Lisa was any less a priceless piece of art should it be discovered that Leonardo da Vinci had used 16th century toilet brush to paint it?

What I want to talk about is the descision between buying expensive gear or cheap gear.  We are photographers on a budget and as such the best, and frankly the expebsive, gear is often out of reach so compromises have to be found.  Take the explample of the full size tripod with quick release plate that I recently bought on eBay for £14.99 (inc. delivery).  My personal love is landscape and nature photography and quite often I’ve needed a tripod for some of the shots I want but not being able to afford the best I decided to make a compromise.  For the small sum of fifteen quid I have a very capable tripod that is pretty light and very stirdy and will do the job I want it to do – what more can I ask for? Oh yes the fact that it will double as a great stand for the cheap speedlight I also just bought off eBay!

Yes, shock horror, I bought a Yongnuo YN460 speedlight off eBay!!!! Have you calmed down yet? I jest.  The fact is that I could not justify forking out hundreds on a Canon speedlight just yet and for the job I wanted this light for I frankly didn’t need a Canon light.  This thing does a great job and at under £40 delivered it was a BARGAIN. When you want to experiment with flash lighting these cheap units are brilliant.  It has a built in slave so it’s great for multi-flash setups and creative lighting.  So what’s te trade off? Well okay it’s a stop less powerful than say a Nikon SB600 – not a problem for me at all.  It’s build quality is not as good as the big boys (apparantly) – well mine is build pretty well.

So what’s the moral of this little blog tale? The tools you have are the best tools you have.  Use them to their full potential and stop chasing the next new toys. At the end of the day none of this gear (cameras, lights, tripods) actually makes a photo – the photographer does.

Teenage Cancer Trust Charity Evening

It was our honour to be asked to donate a raffle prize to a charity evening in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. In the end we ended up taking photos at the event too and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening.  We shared a table with the band for the evening who were the fabulour Zoe and Garry from 2z Company and there are plenty of photos of them in our collection.

We must say a huge well done to Sarah-Jo Watson and Helen Hardwick who organised the whole thing and raised just over £4000!!