Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Monthly Archives: July 2014

How to Make Sure You are Using Image Stabilization Correctly

From Lightstalking

A good photo isn’t automatic. It doesn’t matter how new or expensive your camera is; good shots don’t just happen because you press the shutter. There are all sorts of things that can ruin a shot: overexposure, underexposure, poor composition, missed focus. Regardless of what camera you’re using, things like this are remedied almost entirely by way of good technique. It’s a must that your camera have a reliable metering system and an accurate focusing system, but you, the photographer, have to make sure you’re making proper use of it all in order to minimize the number of useless photographs you make.

Go Away, Camera Shake!
Perhaps chief among factors that can ruin a shot is (unintentional) camera shake; you’ve got a proper exposure, you’ve locked focus, you’ve got a good composition…and you’re rewarded with a blurry shot. Exasperated and disappointed, you’re thinking to yourself — probably aloud — “What gives?!”

The most common culprit is shutter speed. Trying to handhold a camera at too slow a shutter speed is going to be a problem. The rule of thumb concerning how to achieve sharp images when handholding your camera is to use a shutter speed faster than or equal to the focal length of your lens. This means that if you’re using a 50mm lens, then you’ll want to set your shutter speed to no slower than 1/50. It’s an easy rule to remember and it’s generally effective, but there are time when you simply need a more powerful solution.

Image Stabilization
Enter image stabilization technology. It goes by many different proprietary labels: Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR), Canon’s Image Stabilization (IS), Sigma’s Optical Stabilizer (OS), Tamron’s Vibration Compensation (VC), Sony’s Super SteadyShot, Pentax’s Shake Reduction (SR). Nicknames and particular implementation methods notwithstanding, the goal of all this is to allow photographers to capture sharp images using shutter speeds significantly slower (usually up to four times slower) than would otherwise be possible.

Going, going . . .

Alex Ramsay Photography, news and blog

It’s not every day you see the equivalent of a cathedral being flattened, so when I found myself an hour’s drive from Didcot last Saturday evening, I was immediately on my way. Three of the famous cooling towers were due to go the following morning. Like many people I’ve always considered them beautiful structures – that lovely sexy curve at their waists! – that enhance the landscapes in which they are set. They can quite legitimately be compared with cathedrals; their architect, Frederick Gibberd, was also responsible for Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (Paddy’s Wigwam to the irreverent).

I reached Didcot after sunset, and eventually found a position on a railway bridge with a fine view, about a quarter of a mile away. The towers could still be seen in the last of the light.


I later learned how appropriate this spot was. The bridge was where nervous spectators had gathered in…

View original post 328 more words

Dreaming With Open Eyes: Ernst Haas

From the ever wonderful Faded+Blurred we get this view of Ernst Haas

“You become things, you become an atmosphere, and if you become it, which means you incorporate it within you, you can also give it back. You can put this feeling into a picture. A painter can do it. And a musician can do it and I think a photographer can do that too and that I would call the dreaming with open eyes.” – Ernst Haas



In all of the Spotlights I have written, I have never come across a photographer so respected by his peers as was Ernst Haas. He was one of the most celebrated photographers of the 20th century as well as one of the pioneers of color photography. Artists such as Cartier-Bresson, Cornell Capa, and Elliott Erwitt counted Haas as one of the greats. Ansel Adams expressed his admiration of him in a letter, saying, “I am very happy you exist. Photography is a better art because you exist. Can I say more? No!” Jay Maisel has said, “It is rare that the man equals the artist: Ernst did… His work was awesome, not just to me, but to an entire generation of photographers. The depth and breadth of it will emerge for years to come. I think it will be a startling revelation because he was as prolific as he was sensitive. He had a different head. It wasn’t overly crammed with photography; it was full of music, art, philosophy, and history. In short, he was a rarity, a well-educated man without cynicism, in love with the work around him.” read more here


He bought his first camera in 1946 – actually, it wasn’t so much bought as it was traded for. He had received 10 kilos of margarine for his 25th birthday and he proceeded to go to the black market to trade it for a 35mm Rollieflex. “I never really wanted to be a photographer,” he said. “It slowly grew out of the compromise of a boy who desired to combine two goals – explorer or painter. I wanted to travel, see and experience. What better profession could there be than the one of a photographer, almost a painter in a hurry, overwhelmed by too many constantly changing impressions? But all my inspirational influences came much more from all the arts than from photo magazines.”


See the full article here


The Real Road to Greatness in Photography

Rob, over on Lightstalking usually has good articles that I like to recommend and this is one. He talks about what it takes to become a photographer, good, bad or whatever, but the aim to make pictures that matter, to you and hopefully others. I agree with all the points he makes, these are the ideas I try to instil into the students who come to our courses, that owning a camera doesn’t make you a photographer, that buying better kit will not improve your pictures, that if you don’t like your pictures it isn’t your cameras fault. The simple basics of becoming a photographer are learn your craft, learn how to use your camera and software, then practise as often as you can. I suggest that you can take say 50 pictures in half an hour, they will not be earth shattering pictures but in that time you will have practised. If you do this is a sensible manner you will practise one thing at a time, just like learning how to hill starts when you are learning to drive. Stand in your back garden and take 50 pictures using the focus selection point, each picture select a different point, just spin on your axis, don’t go anywhere just get into the habit of using the equipment. The last thing I say is vital is look at the work of great photographers, learn from the masters. Research the areas of photography you enjoy, see what has been done by others. Any idea you have will not be unique, but the way you approach it might be.

Learn, Practise, Look

here is that article by Rob

There is a pervasive idea among artists and the public in general that great photographers have an innate ability to produce brilliant photography. That you can be naturally endowed with an inherent ability in this medium. That the truly great photographers simply possessed something that the rest of us didn’t and could never achieve.

The only problem with that hypothesis is that it is complete bunkum.

Great artists (or people of any talent) are made, not born. And increasingly, the science and the studies of great people, are proving it.

If you want to be a technically great photographer, then there is one thing and one thing only that will get you to that point.


Stories of Friendship – photography exhibition

There are no winners in war, but memories of misery as those that marked World War II, a period in which Apulia became centre stage to the events that led to the birth of the Italian Republic. Stories of Friendshipis Accademia Apulias latest photography exhibition. It aims to highlightthe important contribution Apulia made in securing the end of World War II – a fact largely unknown by the international community. However, the focus of this exhibition is not so much on weapons, uniforms, combat techniques, as on ordinary peoples stories who, revealing their humanity, show a perspective of a bygone era.

One hundred photographs, films and diaries from the archives of the Imperial War Museum, London, provide a new insight into some of the most significant encounters between British soldiers and the civilian population, peasants, artisans and intellectuals. The soldiers portrayed in the photographs established cordial relations with the local people in spite of their uniforms and rank. As a direct result of this interaction many British soldiers married local women, setting up households both in Italy and the UK.

Stories of Friendship testify that even in war there is room for positive values. Brotherhood and solidarity are at the heart of the human soul regardless of nationality and status. The exhibition, financed by the local government of Apulia, GAL Apulia and Accademia Apulia, curated byTatiana Chierici, will bea touring exhibition running between July 2014 and March 2015.

Further details here

Museum of the Order of St John from 21/07/2014 to 30/08/2014

Bexley Hall Place  from14/09/2014 to 11/03/2015




Architecture Photography: A Quick Guide to Shooting Building Exteriors

Following on from this post about The Taj Mahal this article is well presented with lots of ideas and techniques and considerations of what lenses you should use to achieve a special view.

Wildlife Photographer of The Year Exhibition In Oxford

The Natural History Museum in Oxford is hosting the Wildlife Photographer of The Year.

16 July – 22 September Free Admission Details here


Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 Grand title winner Winner 2013

Animal Portraits Greg du Toit, South Africa


Joint runner-up 2013 Animal Portraits

Hannes Lochner, South Africa


Commended 2013 Animal Portraits

Douglas Seifert, USA

Opening hours Open daily from 10am-5pm. Admission is free.

Summer Swifts Photo Competition

Wildlife Photographer of the Year comes to the

Museum of Natural History this summer, on display 16 July – 22 September.

To mark the occasion we’re launching a photo competition of our own…

Send us your best photograph of this summer’s swifts on the wing, either around the Museum’s tower or near you. Full details here

Here is an event at the NHM that we are involved with, you might be interested

Sat 20 Imaging Techniques in Modern Natural History – a Hands- On Guide

Day school, Adults 16+, 10am-5pm

A practical course in digital imaging using electron microscopy, 3D laser scanning, multiplane microscopy and macrophotography. This course coincides with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Museum. Fee: £60.

For more information email


Crop Factor Explained: How Sensor Size Affects the Field of View

From Lightstalking

These days, we often hear about the benefits of full frame cameras over APS-C, we are told about four thirds sensors and micro four thirds sensors but what does all this mean to us in relation to the way we take pictures? For this article, we are going to leave aside the differences in image quality such as noise and dynamic range because for most enthusiast photographers the difference is very minimal whatever the sensor.

The biggest difference is in what we call the crop factor of the sensor and to begin to understand that we are going to go back in time a little to the days of film.

For many of us that own or have owned a 35mm SLR film camera, the focal length of a lens seems pretty obvious. Focal lengths less than 35mm are wide angled, from 35-70 is considered a standard lens, as it is roughly similar to our own field of view and from 70mm upwards we are into the the telephoto ranges. The thing to keep in mind is that these are what we perceived to the fields of view on a 35mm camera.

The biggest myth to dispel when we come to digital sensors of less than full frame is that the crop factor magnifies the image. This is not true and perhaps the best way to explain it with the use of an image taken on a full frame camera.

Full Frame and APS-C Sensors: A Comparison

Let’s assume we have taken our shot on a 24mm lens on our full frame camera. We are now going to take exactly the same shot, with the same 24mm lens on an APS-C sensor camera. Most APS-C sensors have what is known as a 1.5X crop factor, and indeed when you take that same picture, it would appear that the image is indeed magnified, i.e. captured at a focal length of 24 x 1.5 =  36mm. However what we are going to do now is take our full frame image and crop into so that we get the same size as the output of an APS-C sensor. Now if you compare the cropped image to that of the the photo from the APS-C sensor, you will see that they are identical. The magnification is exactly the same but the image has a narrower field of view, in other words, compared to full frame, it is cropped.

APS-C is just Full Frame cropped by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr


So with this in mind, how does this relate to us in real life photography. Well let’s take a look at the most common forms of cameras that we enthusiasts use.  Go here for the rest of this excellent article

The Taj Mahal: 26 Images from Traditional to Unique

If you have ever had the opportunity to visit The Taj Mahal you will know that everywhere you point a camera there are pictures you want to take, and at the same time every picture you see has already been photographed by someone else. This can be frustrating, trying to find something new from one of the most photographed buildings in the world. But then you shoot anyway because whatever you capture is yours. Interestingly the towers on the corners are built leaning but look straight from a distance, at least that was what I was told by a guide, then again he could have been having a laugh at my ignorance. These pictures are not groundbreaking but are a good selection of what can be achieved from the obvious to the inventive. From those nice people at Light Stalking What these pictures prove is that a photographer requires patience and planning. Planning to be at the location when the light is just perfect and patience to wait.

Travel photography always acts as a great push for me, that saying “a photographer needs to see as a child or as a tourist….for the first time” is always easier in another country. Last year I went to Syria and here are some of my pictures, you may be interested, this year I am off to Libya to see Leptis Magna. If you doubt my reasons for Libya have a look at the pictures

Land of the giants: the world’s largest lenses

Just how deep is your pocket? These lenses cost more than some people’s houses.

Sigma 200-500mm f2.8 APO EX DG Telephoto Zoom

Weighing in at a hefty 34.6lbs and 726mm in length, this is not the easiest lens to carry around with you on holiday.  As well as being meaty, the Sigma 200-500mm also wins some world firsts; it is the first large-aperture ultra telephoto lens to have an f/2.8 aperture at 500mm, and is the largest high-speed zoom lens available.

If you’re impressed by this and are looking for a lens that is excellent at tracking fast moving objects and you don’t mind parting with $32,000, this could be the lens for you!


Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L USM Lens

At just a little heavier than the Sigma 200-500, the Canon EF 1200mm weighs in at 36.4lbs and also holds some records that are not to be sniffed at. This is the longest full auto focus lens in the world and is the world’s most powerful super telephoto zoom according to Canon. The lens is fully compatible with any EOS SLR and boasts silent auto focus thanks to its Ultrasonic Motor.

According to The Digital Picture, when the lens first came out it had an annual production volume of just two lenses due to the fact that it takes nearly a year to grow the fluorite crystals needed for the lens.

Unfortunately the Canon EF 1200mm is no longer in production. It is rumoured that there are anything from 20 to 100 of these lenses around today. Do you think you might want one? B&H have their hands on one. Just make sure you’re prepared to fork out around $120,000 for it!


see the rest here