Pentax K-30 & Sigma 150-500mm Lens

I was at Conwy RSPB Reserve today carrying out some tests of my new Pentax K-30 with the big zoom lens. The weather wasn’t great with a threat of rain and I could see it was already raining over the mountains in Snowdonia. The RSPB reserve is a natural haven for  wild birds, so it’s perfect for testing the camera. For this little exercise I used Shutter Priority and set the shutter speed  to 1/1000 second. I left the ISO on Auto ISO letting the camera choose whatever was best for the sceneLittle Egret

Now I’m not that great at identifying birds but I find they are a good challenge to photograph. However, I’m almost certain this is a Little Egret

The Sigma 150-500mm lens is not a macro lens but it does allow me to take close-ups of insects.

Hovering Bee

Combined with the high shutter speed of the Pentax K-30 I’m able to freeze the motion, well almost, those little wings must be really going some. I read somewhere it’s about 180 beats a second.

Here’s another one. I wonder if I set the shutter speed to 1/6000 second could I freeze the action.

Hover

I’m really liking this camera, it’s so much better than my old one. I’d never have been able to capture the three photographs above so easily. Right, moving on.

Diving

I caught this young gull diving into the river for fish. I prefer to photograph the young gulls because their plumage is so much more interesting than the boring white and grey of the adult. The downside is the beak is dark and doesn’t stand out as much.

Staying on birds flying. That Little Egret that I started with didn’t hang around long and I managed to catch it as it flew off across the lake.

Little Egret Flight

In some ways I was a bit disappointed. There weren’t too many interesting birds around and it was beginning to rain quite heavy. The Pentax K-30 is weather proof but the Sigma lens is not and by now I was out on a really exposed part of the reserve with no shelter nearby. Fortunately I always go equipped for the vagaries of the British summer and was able to cover up the lens and camera.

Me! I got wet, it’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last. Just as quick as the rain came off the mountains the sun came out and pretty soon I was getting dried out. Time for another photograph.

Goldcrest

This little Goldfinch was standing on a branch fluffing the feathers out to dry off. Directly beneath it were another two making use of one of the bird feeders which are dotted around the reserve.

Gulls In Flight

I’ll finish with this photo of two young gulls taking off from the lake. You can see the splashes in the water just behind the lower gull as it lifts off.

I hope you enjoyed this short photo set with me. If you have any questions about the Pentax K-30 or any of the photographs, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me. I’ll do me best to answer you as soon as possible, but I’m off to the Olympic Games again, so there might be a slight delay in me replying.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth

 

Moon

For this weeks challenge I thought I’d show you a picture of the moon that I took a while back. Now you might be thinking “What has the moon got to do with growth?” Well, the moon grows every month from a tiny sliver of a crescent into a great big ball in the sky.

Alright! I know it’s a bit of a tenuous link to this weeks theme, but bear with me.

Did you know that Agricultural Astrology. sometimes referred to as “planting by the signs” makes use of astrological signs for planting, cultivating and harvesting. Guess what it’s based on? Phases of the moon and astrological signs. Maybe not so tenuous after all.

Agricultural Astrology is one of the oldest forms of astrology. Evidence of its practice dates back thousands of years to the ancient people of the Nile and Euphrates River valleys, where farmers of these civilizations planted by the Moon‘s phase and its sign in the zodiac.

Although I had never heard of it until today “The Old Farmer’s Almanac“, first published in 1792 regularly features a “planting by the signs” section.

Although Agricultural Astrology is primarily used as a guide for growing crops, it has also been applied to the practice of animal husbandry. For example, Agricultural Astrology encourages poultry farmers to set up their chicken’s eggs to hatch when it is a new moon and in a “fruitful” sign. It claims that chicks hatched during this time grow faster and produce more offspring.

Well do you believe it? Can the phases of the moon influence crop growth? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…

 

Olympic Photographs, Not On Here

 

This Way, Please!

The rules and conditions for using a camera at the Olympic games are pretty draconian, for instance;

Section 19.6.3 states that: “Images, video and sound recordings of the Games taken by a ticket holder cannot be used for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes and a ticket holder may not license, broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the internet more generally”.

For that reason I won’t be showing you any of the photographs I took inside the stadium. Instead you will have to settle for this one. It’s a photograph of a friendly volunteer guiding us to the stadium. The gentleman was happy for me to take his photograph and hopefully I will not fall foul of the above rule. To make sure I have blurred out all of the logos, not only on the clothes he is wearing, but also on the two bottles behind him. As an additional precaution I have also blurred the passes the gentleman is wearing.

Tomorrow, I am going to Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. I won’t be taking a camera. Why not? Because in the list of prohibited items is this little statement;

Equipment which is capable of recording or transmitting any audio, visual or audio-visual material or any information or data. Mobile telephones are permitted provided they are used for personal and private use only provided that no audio, visual or audio-visual material captured by a mobile telephone may be published or otherwise made available to any third parties including via social networking site.

Old Trafford is a fantastic stadium. It would be nice to record my family standing outside it but I won’t be able to do that. My phone has a crappy camera. I bought it as a phone, not a camera. Besides I have perfectly good cameras more suited but I won’t take the chance on taking one and have it confiscated, never to be returned.

We want you to have an unforgettable time at the games

Just don’t bring a camera so you can record those memories and share with others.

 

All In A Row

 

All In A Row

A while back I had the good fortune to visit and tour around parts of Western Australia. One of the places I stayed at was right in the heart of the Yanchep National Park, beside Loch McNess, named after Sir Charles McNess, a wealthy Western Australian philanthropist.

Also known as Yanchep Lake and Wagardu Lark by the Nyoongar aboriginals, which along with the caves also in the National Park is of significant cultural importance.

Since European colonisation of the area it is possible to hire a dingy to row on the lake.

Technical Note. Bracket of 5 (-2 to +2) shot with a Samsung GX-10, tripod mounted, f8, ISO 100. HDR Processing with Machinery HDR Effects but I didn’t use the +2 bracket. Post in Adobe Photoshop Elements to remove some noise with Topaz De-Noise and finally cropped for upload to Flickr

 

HDR and the Pentax K30

My Set Up

I finally got around to trying out the HDR features of the Pentax K30. For this test I used JPEG as the file format, set the ISO to 100 and used f9 for the aperture. For the next test I will use RAW for the brackets

My subject was the lighthouse at Talacre Beach and just to add some interest it was raining, not heavy, but the beach is very exposed. Not only did I get wet, the K30 did as well, but it’s weather proof, as is the lens so it was a good test for that feature as well.

The Pentax K30 was mounted on a tripod and I used the shutter button to fire off the images. I’ve got a remote control from my previous Pentax Camera but just haven’t got round to checking if it will work with the K30.

HDR Settings

The Pentax K30 has 4 setting for HDR

  • HDR Auto
  • HDR 1
  • HDR 2
  • HDR 3

As well as using these settings I also fired off a set of 3 bracketed exposures from –2 to +2 which I processed in 3 different HDR programs, just for comparison with the in-camera HDR function

  • Machinery HDR Effects
  • PhotoMatix
  • SNS-HDR Pro

Processing

For the in-camera HDR images, the only post processing I did was to crop the image to 930 x 616 for posting to Flickr. No other processing was done. The HDR images which were software generated were also cropped to the same size, 930 x 616. I like my HDR to be pretty natural so I used the default preset for PhotoMatix and SNS-HDR Pro. Machinery HDR Effects has lots of presets, none of which you could call default, so I used the settings that I normally choose for my images.

Pentax K30 HDR Images

HDR Auto Image from the Pentax K30

K30 - HDR Auto

It’s a bit dark for me, but one thing that is impressing me is the DOF. With my old camera I struggled to get everything in focus from front to back. Let’s compare this to the 0 Ev from the bracketed set

Pentax K30 - Exposure Bracket  0 Ev

Personally I think the two images look almost identical, if anything the 0 Ev from the bracketed set looks a shade lighter. Next up is HDR 1

HDR 1 Image from the Pentax K30

Pentax K30 - HDR 1

Definitely better, still a bit dark though. The one thing I have not done here is to take any of the images into Adobe Photoshop Essentials and adjusted them. I wanted to show the output direct from the camera. HDR 2 and HDR 3 are unusable as far as I am concerned. Judge for yourself.

HDR 2 Image from the Pentax K30

Pentax K30 - HDR 2

HDR 3 Image from the Pentax K30

Pentax K30 - HDR 3

For comparison I will show you the output from the dedicated HDR programs. Each program has it’s own capabilities as I explained above

Dedicated HDR Software HDR Images

Each HDR program has it’s own unique capabilities and it’s really down to a matter of taste. I’ve processed them using the default settings for no other reason than I want to see which gives me the best output, with as little noise as possible from the supplied JPEG’s from the Pentax K30

Machinery HDR Effects

Pentax K30 - Exposure Bracket with Machinery HDR Effects

Of late Machinery HDR Effects has been my HDR program of choice. I find it has an intuitive interface and gives me consistent results.

HDRSoft PhotoMatix

Pentax K30 - Exposure Bracket with PhotoMatix

PhotoMatix is probably the choice of most people, but personally I’ve never really liked it. I never seem to get consistent results.

SNS-HDR Pro

Pentax K30 - Exposure Bracket with SNS-HDR

Before Machinery HDR Effects came along, SNS-HDR Pro was my usual HDR processing software. On  my computer it’s a bit slow to process but it does give consistent results every time and the images are very natural looking. One problem I found though was the output from my old Samsung GX-10 started to produce some weird results when processed with SNS-HDR Pro. However, I like this. It looks very natural and yet gives a more dramatic sky, exactly how I remember it today.

Conclusions

The Pentax K30 in-camera HDR is a nice idea, however I’m not sure that I will use it, and, if i did, it would probably only be HDR 1. Compared to the dedicated HDR programs it has some way to go. Saying that, I could probably use it at a pinch but I think the Jury is still out on this one.

I intend to repeat this test, only this time using RAW instead of JPEG. That’s if I can. I only picked the camera up on Wednesday last week. I spent the weekend at the London 2012 Olympic Games, so I’m still getting used to the camera and it’s settings. If I can use RAW with the HDR functions of the Pentax K30, I will then be able to decide if I could make use of the in-camera HDR function of the Pentax K30.

Update 01 August 2012.

According to the manual for the Pentax K30 in-camera HDR is not available when RAW is selected as the file format. That rather puts paid to my trialling RAW.

Further Update 01 August 2012

I did another test of the in-camera HDR Function, only this time I let the camera choose the ISO with Auto ISO. As I was in a Cathedral were photography using tripods, although not exactly frowned upon, is discouraged, I decided to try it hand-held, to see how the Pentax K30 managed. As I wasn’t using the tripod I didn’t exactly get my horizon straight. I really must turn on that feature as well. Anyway here are the results.

HDR Auto

Pentax K30 - HDR Automatic

A little over-blown in the highlights but definitely much more usable.

Birnbeck Pier

 

Birnbeck Island

Birnbeck Pier is a pier in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, England. It is situated on the Bristol Channel approximately 18 miles (29 km) south-west of Bristol. It links the mainland with Birnbeck Island, a 1.2 hectares (12,000 m2) rocky island just to the west of Worlebury Hill, and is the only pier in the country which links the mainland to an island.

The grade II listed pier was designed by Eugenius Birch and opened in 1867. The gothic toll house and pier-head buildings were designed by local architect Hans Price. The pier has been closed to the public since 1994.


Map picture

Technical Note: Bracket of 5 images from –2 to +2 taken with a Samsung GX10. ISO 100 f22. HDR processed with Machinery HDR effects, post in Adobe Photoshop Elements. Post processing mainly noise removal using Topaz De-Noise.

 

The Low Lighthouse

Burnham Lighthouse

The Low lighthouseis one of three lighthouses in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, England and the only one which is still active. It is a Grade II listed building.

Burnham-on-Sea is notable for its beach and mudflats, which are characteristic of Bridgwater Bay and the rest of the Bristol Channel where the tide can recede for over 1.5 miles (2.4 km). Burnham is close to the estuary of the River Parrett where it flows into the Bristol Channel, which has the second highest tidal range in the world of 15 metres (49 ft.), second only to Bay of Fundy in Eastern Canada. The constantly shifting sands have always been a significant risk to shipping in the area.

The low wooden pile lighthouse or Lighthouse on legsis 36 feet (11 m) high; the light being at 23 feet (7.0 m) was built by Joseph Nelson in 1832, in conjunction with the High Lighthouse to replace the original Round Tower Lighthouse, which itself had been built to replace the light kept burning in the tower of St Andrews Church to guide fishing boats into the harbour.

It stands on nine wooden piers, some with plate metal reinforcement. The structure is whitewashed with a vertical red stripe on the sea side.

The lights were inactive between 1969 and 1993 and were re-established when the High Lighthouse lights were permanently discontinued. They have a focal plane of 7 metres (23 ft.) and provide a white flash every 7.5s plus a directional light (white, red, or green depending on direction) at a focal plane of 4m. It is operated by Sedgemoor District Council.

I’m Back…

London Underground

New Theme

I’ve decided to restart HDR Images by Mike Hardisty for several reasons;

  • my renewed interest in HDR Photography
  • finding a great little plugin for Windows Live Writer, called Flickr4Writer
  • a new theme to display the photographs

Point and Shoot

Now this is not the best of HDR photographs but as it was taken with a little Point and Shoot camera it seems fitting to use it. I’ve just picked up a new camera, the Pentax K30. I was going to take it with me to the Olympics but as DSLR camera ended up on the list of banned items I didn’t want to take the chance. As it so happens, I could have taken the new camera. There were plenty of people attending with DSLR’s and large telephoto lenses.

On the way home I got on the wrong tube train out of London so had to jump out at St. Paul’s to catch the right one. The station was almost deserted so all I did was lay the camera down and press the shutter. The little Samsung P+S did the rest, taking a bracket of three which I processed with Machinery HDR Effects. It was a bit noisy, so I used Topaz De-Noise to clean the image up.

To Photoshop, Or Not

Nowadays I don’t use Photoshop CS, instead I prefer Photoshop Essentials to do any post-processing. Part of the reason was cost. CS in any of it’s variants is just getting too expensive to upgrade. I’d rather spend the money on gear. Besides I found Essentials has all the tools I need for post-processing. Combined with my favourite Topaz plug-ins and I’m quid’s in….literally.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Purple

 

Purple

Wikipedia defines Purple as a range of hues of colour occurring between red and blue. In additive light combinations it occurs by mixing the primary colours red and blue in varying proportions. In human colour psychology, purple is also associated with royalty and nobility (stemming from classical antiquity when Tyrian purple was only affordable to the elites).

Like orange and silver, purple has no common word that rhymes with it.

Etymology and definitions

The word ‘purple’ comes from the Old English word purpul which derives from the Latin purpura, in turn from the Greek  (porphura), name of the Tyrian purple dye manufactured in classical antiquity from a mucus secreted by the spiny dye-murex snail.

The first recorded use of the word ‘purple’ in English was in the year AD 975.

This weeks photograph was taken with my Pentax K30

London 2012 Olympic Games

I’m going to be pretty quiet this week on my blog. It’s the start of the 2012 London Olympic Games tonight and tomorrow I’m travelling to London for an event taking place on Sunday. I’ll be returning to North Wales, only to go across to Manchester several times for some of the Olympic Football matches(soccer for my American readers). Despite some negative comments from our national newspapers, a few of whom seem to want to find fault with everything, I’m really looking forward to attending the games and soaking up the atmosphere.

Security is really strict and there is a limit on the size of camera you can take in. I’m not going to risk it with my DSLR and lenses so I’m just taking my little P+S camera with me. I won’t be looking for photographs of the athletes in action, probably won’t get close enough. So it’s going to be more about street photography for me over the next few weeks. Can’t wait as it’s a new genre of photography for me.

 

The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day Two

Before reading this I suggest you read both of the Day One posts. The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day One, Part One and The 2012 Rhyl Air Show – Day One, Part Two

Clear blue skies and a high cloud ceiling meant there was going to be another fantastic day of flying. My intention today was to capture some photographs of the USAF KC135 which was flying about mid-program. The flying display didn’t start until 14:00 so I had time to get the dogs down on the beach for a good brisk walk. By 10:00 the sea front was already getting crowded, I don’t know why, maybe people thought the displays started at 12:30 again. Anyway, armed with Factor 50 lotion, I got down the beach about 13:45. Boy was it crowded. I’ve never seen so many people on the beach and promenade area.

Right, onto the flying display. The Search and Rescue demonstration had to be cancelled due to an operational tasking for the helicopter so first up was the Hawk that had performed at yesterday’s display.

Hawk

Next came The Blades.

The Blades

The Blades fly Extra EA-300‘s, which are low-wing, high performance aircraft designed specially for extreme aerobatic manoeuvres.

Blades

The Blades display lasts about 15 minutes and is really breath-taking with about 30 different manoeuvres performed.

The Blades

Some of the aerobatic manoeuvres performed involve all of the aircraft, two of them or just a single aircraft.

After The Blades there were displays from the Spitfire, King Air and the Red Hawks, but I was waiting for the big one…the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

KC 135

The KC-135 is an aerial refuelling military aircraft. It and the Boeing 707 airliner were developed from the Boeing 367-80 prototype. The KC-135 was the US Air Force’s first jet-powered refuelling tanker and replaced the KC-97 Stratotanker. The Stratotanker was initially tasked to refuel strategic bombers, but was used extensively in the Vietnam War and later conflicts such as Operation Desert Storm to extend the range and endurance of US tactical fighters and bombers.

Well, that’s it from me. Despite the Factor 50 lotion I could still feel my face burning and when the organisers announced that the main road had been closed, due to a serious accident, I felt it was a good time to make my exit.

I hope you enjoyed what has been for a great two days and I’ll leave you with this little snippet of information. During the two days I took 1182 photographs. I know I will not use all of them, but I’ve found the best way to capture the high speed action of an air show is to put my camera on continuous shutter firing. That way I can track the aircraft in the sky as it flies in front of me. I can then cherry-pick the photographs I want to display or sell.