Parisian fog and sunshine – Part 2

Our second full day in Paris was much sunnier, with none of the fog we’d had the day before. Although we tend to avoid the tourist traps, this visit we tried to embrace it a bit more, so headed up to Montmartre to see another view of Paris and visit the Sacre-Cœur.

I have to be honest, having visited the Arc the day before and the Eiffel tower on a previous visit, I was unprepared for just how touristy this place would be. There were people everywhere, the majority either taking selfies or trying to force something on the tourists. Going up the steps to the church at one point about 6  guys tried to funnel us into a literal tourist trap (not saying it was anything nefarious, they were likely just trying to flog us something). Luckily we managed to manoeuvre past them pretty sharpish and got to the top.

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Were the views worth it? Maybe. But I wouldn’t even consider going back at anything like peak-season.

After that, we idled our way back down through the artists’ square and independent shops of Montmartre. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon – we even found a gallery selling Shepard Fairey, Pure Evil and some other artists, which was a nice surprise.

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After the rather intense tourist hit, we decided to spend the last day in Neuilly-sur-Seine where things were reassuringly French and laid back. We sat in the sun drinking beer, wandered about the incredibly good looking streets, and ate good food.

That’s what Paris is really all about.

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Lewes with the Canon EFS 24mm

I work in Lewes, a very picturesque little town between Eastbourne and Brighton. At lunch I’ll often have a walk around (and up and down – it’s a hilly place), so when I got my new Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 prime lens a spate of amazing winter sun gave me the perfect opportunity to give it a test run.

I’m not going into detail about vignetting,  chromatic aberrations or technical stuff, this is just a chance for me to share my feelings on it.

My feelings are good. I like this lens a lot. It’s a pancake lens (very small) so is discreet and lightweight, making the Canon 500d I use feel more like a bridge camera than a DSLR. I should mention that as an EF-S lens, it is specifically designed for crop sensor Canons (eg 500d, 1000d, 70d) and won’t work on full-frame cameras (eg 5d).

f/2.8 is fairly fast for such a low-cost lens, so you can get some really nice bokeh when you want it, much more than a typical zoom lens in the same price bracket.

Like with the 50mm prime I got last year, I was immediately impressed by the clarity the lens offers, it’s a great piece of glass for the price (look to pay about £130). There’s something about prime lenses that I don’t think you get with a zoom, a sense that you’re seeing a unique perspective through your camera.

Here’s my perspective on Lewes…

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Lewes Flea Marketlewes-jan-3

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Friars Walk, Leweslewes-jan-6

Southover Road, Leweslewes-jan-5

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Harvey’s Brewerylewes-jan-11

Please note there are a couple of affiliate links in this post, but my thoughts on the lenses are genuine and this post has not been sponsored in any way.

Winter sun & ice cream…

Yesterday was how Sundays should be. 

We headed out into some incredible winter sunshine for a walk down Eastbourne seafront to the world-famous Fusciardi’s Ice Cream Parlour. I went for a single scoop of Ginger in a cone – a controversial choice, I realise, but I wasn’t disappointed. The rest of the squad went for Strawberry (x2), Honeycomb, and Rum & Raisin.

To those of you that suggest that January in England is the wrong time and place for ice cream, all I can do is shake my head slowly and pity your naivety.

I didn’t take my camera out, as we’d originally only been going for a fry-up, so was frustrated when we decided to go for a walk and I missed an opportunity. Instead I ended up taking snaps on my trusty old iPhone 5s and editing them with Enlight to give them a retro feel – perfect for an old fashioned day at the beach.

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New plants!

Oh how I love plants.

I used to be dreadful, killing most of them, but over time I’ve developed the useful ability of being able to keep them alive and even help them thrive. As such, I’ve gradually amassed quite a range of greenery.

This month I’ve got some new fellas, including a tiny little cactus in concrete pot by HiCacti which was a new-home present from friends, a rubber plant (Ficus Elastica Robust), and a lovely succulent (not sure what he is, exactly).

During the photo shoot for these fellas (using our new feature wall in the living room, which is Hicks Blue by Little Green and looks great for still-life photography) Ziggy (cat) decided she wanted some of the action but wouldn’t sit still long enough for a nice photo).

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Getting past awkward in portrait photos

I love portrait photography. I like engaging with people, and capturing who they are in a moment.

It is fair to say, though, that I haven’t got the whole ‘photographer patter’ down to a tee quite yet. Whenever I take a portrait, unless the person is unusually self-possessed, there is always that moment of awkwardness. They don’t know what to do (do they look at the camera? Cheesy smile? Awkward face it is, then). I don’t know what to say (do I make a joke? Should I be directing?).

What I’ve found, though, is that eventually there is a moment that breaks the tension, the awkwardness. Sometimes it happens quick, sometimes it takes ages, but it always happens and when it does there is that moment of relief of the subject’s face, that smile and relaxation that is so natural it is hard to capture at any other time.

Now that I’ve realised how good that moment can be, I’m going to chase it. We can be awkward, they can look uncomfortable. What I want to do is to find that thing that breaks the ice, and when it happens, to capture it.

Miss Nyss. #portraitphotography #portrait #skatergirl #s1helmets

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Black vs White – Roller Derby Shoot

I recently took the day off from coaching and playing Roller Derby to photograph instead. Eastbourne Roller Derby were hosting a mixed scrimmage for players from around the south-east, and turnout was good.

This was my first time shooting sport indoors, so this maybe isn’t the sharpest set ever, but I’m quite pleased with the result.

 

 

Sony HDR-PJ620 Full HD Handycam Camcorder Review

I’ve been using the Sony HDR-PJ620 a lot for 3 months now, and I’m really impressed by it. The build quality is excellent, as you’d expect from Sony, and it’s packed with features.

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Most of the video I’ve been filming is sports based, so good framerate and anti-shake are vital. This camcorder handles both well. There is certainly some motion blur, but compared to the Digital SLR I’ve also been using for filming, it has been minimal. Picture quality, especially in good to moderate light, has been excellent, offering Full HD (1080p) recording.

The anti-shake, called the Optical Steadyshot by Sony, is incredible. It smooths out even excessive movement, and avoids the problems that can be caused using post-production methods. What’s most impressive is that the Steadyshot works well when zoomed, though the 60x full zoom is not ideal for handheld recording.

One big talking point with this range of Sony camcorders is the projector. It could be a gimmick, but it’s surprisingly good quality and as such I’ve used it a lot, quickly reviewing footage and generally showing everything off.Sony HDR-PJ620 - Image 2

From turning on (by flicking out the screen) to recording is lightning quick, though there is some slowdown when the memory card gets a bit full. Battery is excellent. Sony suggests there is more than 2 hours recording time, and it does seem to hold up to the test.

Some areas aren’t quite as strong. The touch screen controls can be a little fiddly and sometimes you can get lost in the sub menus, but it’s made up for by easy and uncomplicated button controls for all the main functions. I was also surprised to find the camera has absolutely zero on board storage, but the device accepts micro SD cards and Sony memorysticks, so there’s plenty of options available at most electronics stores. A good quality card is recommended, if you want highquality images and fast performance. There’s also the nice addition of the inbuilt usb cable. It’s only short, but is useful for quickly connecting to your computer or a charging port, and tucks away really cleverly.Sony HDR-PJ620 - image 3

One feature that I didn’t really touch for a long time was the Wifi and ability to stream direct to UStream. As it turns out, this is a fantastic feature that works almost flawlessly.

On the 18th and 19th July my roller derby team hosted a 2 day tournament as part of Eastbourne Extreme Sports Festival. Using nothing more than 4G from an iPhone (as a wifi hotspot) and the Sony HDR-PJ620’s streaming feature we were able to stream the event live around the world. On the Saturday we had over 700 viewers. The quality was a little up and down, but I put this down to the 4G connection and not the camera.

I said almost flawless because it was a bit back and forth in the menus to set up the wifi connection and to stream, but once set up it worked great.

Overall I’m delighted with the PJ620. Although most mid level Digital SLRs offer good quality video recording these days, Sony’s additional features, ease of use and fantastic anti-shake performance make it a relevant and effective device.

Images copyright and courtesy of Sony.

I received the Sony HDR-PJ620 free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Order from Amazon.co.uk with free UK delivery.