Monday 11 September 2023

Sony A6700 and Sony 75-350mm f4.5-6.3 G OSS Lens

 I've been a Sony camera user ever since the company bought Minolta and the A mount system about 15 years ago. In fact my first camera was the Sony F717 some 2 years earlier and the decision to upgrade to the Minolta 5D (my first DSLR) was due to their camera's in body stabilisation. It seemed innovative at the time and it made sense. Instead of purchasing lenses with in body stabilisation at a premium price, every lens that you mounted onto the Minolta was stabilised and Sony were very clever when they bought the A mount and that technology.

Since buying the Minolta 5D it's been Sony all of the way for me because they are innovators and I've gone through a number of camera upgrades over the years from the Sony A700 A mount camera to the Sony A7mk2 E mount camera to the Sony A6400 E mount camera which I've owned since 2018. 

The Sony A6400 has been a very capable camera but there have been a few features from my previous cameras that I've missed such as the in body stabilisation and a fully articulated screen which is needed for low level shooting as I get older. I currently own three very good lenses which aren't stabilised and low light shooting can mean either boosting the ISO with the resulting additional noise or using a tripod. 

In recent years I've passed on the opportunity to purchase the A6500 and A6600 cameras, both of which had in camera stabilisation, because I wanted a leap forward in technology to make upgrading from the A6400 worth the money and such a camera was launched in August 2023 with the Sony A6700.

I bought the Sony A6700 online from Park Cameras and there was a 33% discount offered on a selection of Sony lenses when bought with the camera. I've tried a number of long lenses during the Covid years and found them either too big and heavy for the compact APSC E mount cameras or the image quality wasn't quite good enough and I sent them back. 

On offer was the Sony 75-350mm f4.5-6.3 G OSS. It was released several years ago but all of the Youtube reviews give it high praise for its sharpness, fast and quiet autofocus, compact size and low weight so I bought it with the camera for a little over £500. 

What a great combination this camera and lens are. Without going through the camera's specs which are excellent my main decision to buy came down to the 5 axis in camera stabilisation, a fully articulated screen, and the dedicated AI chip for help with the autofocus. Artificial intelligence is working it's way into all aspects of our lives and it's now in the A6700. The AI chip allows the user to choose a subject for the autofocus to prioritise such as a Human, Animal / Bird, Bird, Insect and it immediately focuses on and tracks the eye, plus Car / Train and Airplane. Focus is immediate and accurate and the tracking of moving subjects is impressive. It's a huge help. No more focus hunting when the subject is surrounded by a busy background.

The Sony 75-300mm also focuses at the 350mm length as close as 4' 9" distance from the subject and combined with the A6700 I'm now able to focus on and track moving insects on flowers without scaring them away. Very handy for my flower photography. 

The test images below were all taken with the Sony A6700 and Sony 75-350 lens at the 350mm focal length at f6.3 with the subject chosen on the AI chip. They are straight out of camera with a small crop for compositional purposes. All were shot in JPEG as my software won't yet recognise the cameras RAW images and the insects were shot at around 5 feet distance from the camera. I expect even better results from the RAW files when DXO Photolab is updated.

To say I'm delighted with this camera and lens combination is an understatement. I've only had them for two weeks but I've now got a camera that will keep me shooting for many years ahead. In fact due to my age it's likely to be my last camera. Happy shooting everyone.

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Wirral Open Studio Tour 2023

 I've been a supporter of the Wirral Open Studio Tour (WOST) for several years as it's an important showcase for artistic talent on the Wirral Peninsula. I took part in my first two tours by opening my studio at home in Saughall Massie and did the next five WOST from the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Oxton. 

Following a brief pause due to Covid I'm back on the tour again and I'll be opening up my beautiful garden in Girtrell Road, Saughall Massie to the public where you will have the opportunity to view and purchase my prints or to just talk photography with me.

Fibre Optic Light Painting

Accompanying me this year will be internationally renowned artist Daniel Meakin who is taking part in his first open tour having recently moved to the Wirral from Spain. In 1999 Daniel was awarded an MA in European Fine Art in Barcelona. Check out his profile and those of the other 80 artists taking part from this link to the WOST 2023

Our Studio in Girtrell Road will be open from 6pm - 9pm on Friday 9th June, 10am - 5pm on Saturday and Sunday 10 - 11th June. Thousands of tour brochures will be available to pick up throughout the Wirral or you can download your own brochure from the WOST website and start planning your tour of artists. 

Monday 10 April 2023

Milk, Oil and Paint

During the Winter months I've been experimenting with photography at home. When the nights get shorter I do light painting in the dark evenings in my spare bedroom and shoot macro during the day time. I'm a great fan of Youtube for inspiration and there are quite a few tutorials on macro photography using milk, oil and paint. 

The technique is quite simple and the abstract results are unpredictable and fascinating. A macro lens on a tripod is needed with a remote cable or trigger for the best results. Place a centimeter of full fat milk in a small glass dish. Add a small amount of olive oil or sunflower oil to a cup and mix up some colours of acrylic paint individually with some water to make a solution. Pour two or three colours of paint into the oil, give the cup a little swirl, then gently pour over the milk and watch the results form.

The mixture of milk, oil and watery paint forms a universe of coloured swirls and macro planets. Using a tooth pick you can move the bubbles of paint around to create different abstract patterns and swirls.     

For a different result get in closer to capture the picture within the picture using extension tubes if necessary. There are micro worlds to discover within the macro world.

Change your colour combinations to achieve different results. Experiment with different oil and paint solutions. Olive oil is heavier and thicker than sunflower oil and adding more water to the acrylic paint offers a different result. To stir things up a little add a dab of watery washing up liquid using a cotton bud and watch the coloured world explode and shoot the resulting chaos. 

As a project for a wet Winters day shooting milk, oil, and paint in a petri dish is fun and the results would test the painting skills of the very best artist. Now that Spring has finally arrived my focus is back to the outdoors again. 

Friday 27 January 2023

Photographing Flowers in Milk

Youtube, what a great source of knowledge. Whenever I'm stuck for inspiration for photography at home during the Winter months I turn to Youtube. I put in some search words and up pops videos containing wonderful ideas that I've never seen before. 

One such tutorial was on photographing flowers in milk. Not to be confused with photographing pregnant women or babies bathing in milk with flower floating on top, this sole video that sprung up from a totally irrelevant search term concentrated on photographing the flowers and not the models. 

The technique was to mix together a 2cm solution of water and milk so that its slightly translucent in a shallow glass dish. Placing flowers in the milky solution gives the impression that the flowers are emerging from the solution. 

I initially tried placing the dish over a light pad but the bottom light produced an ugly yellow cast in the solution so I used a white sheet of paper below instead. With the camera on a tripod directly above, a simple flashlight was used off center in the natural light of my bedroom as a fill light so as not to produce a reflection in the cameras lens. I took a series of shots changing the exposure with each shot and later chose the best image to process. The small square dish dictated the square format of the finished shot. 

I like the simplicity of the first image above but given the plain background I experimented with adding a texture and a border using Topaz Texture Effects 2. The right choice of texture gives the impression that the flowers are frozen in an ice block. 

Another example of flowers in milk without and with the same texture treatment are below. 

I later played around with adding food colouring but it just resulted in a mess. A watery acrylic paint just sank to the bottom. There must be some way of adding a splash of colour to the surface of the milky solution.

The dilemma now is which image is the best for printing to hang on a wall? It's 50/50 for me but as an experiment I think both images work. I'm now looking for some flowers with a good structure and a larger dish to shoot in portrait and landscape mode to take the technique further.