Wednesday, 28 November 2012

My favorite lens . Nikon 70-200 2.8 vrg

For any keen photographer out there , there is always one or two lenses that we will hanker after . For me it was a 70-200 f2.8 . It didn't matter if it was a Nikon or a Canon . As i used to use canon , i always wanted one to go with my trusty old Canon T-90 . The Canon T90 was known as being miles ahead of it competitors when it was first launched . Even today there are dedicated lovers of this model . I still can't believe that i gave mine away !!! Yes , i gave it away . I met a student at my brother inlaws wedding . He was studying photography and was struggling to find himself a decent camera to complete the course . As i had by this time gone  digital , i hadn't used the Canon for a number of years , so it wasn't something i was going to miss . Or was i ?

Forward a few years and i am working for the Uk's largest food retail company . Part of your package is that you can buy shares as a saving scheme . So i used one years worth of shares to purchase my all time dream lens !! I had finally got my hands on a 70-200 2.8 .

Over the coming months i went out and about with my new pride and joy . Taking photos of almost anything i could . Trying it out on many subjects . From landscape , portraits to snaps of the dog running around  . I soon realised that this was one special lens . Amazingly sharp , superb quick focusing , great to handle and showed some wonderful Bokeh !!!

I have found that this lens and my 24-70 2.8 Nikon lens are my choice when it comes to most things . Including weddings . One of my wedding images using the 70-200 can be found here  . The slide show may show a variety of images . But the one that i really like is the black and white of the bride looking straight into camera , with her father in the background , out of focus .

So , if anyone is thinking of getting one of these lenses , please don't hesitate . Go out and get one !!! You will not regret it . Plus , if you ever decide to sell it . They really hold their value .

This was taken at the 2012 Appleby Horse fair . See my other blog on here for more images from this great fair .
Many thanks Mark .

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Grand Union Canal in Autumn.

I am very fortunate that the Grand Union Canal runs along the rear of my garden . Open the rear gate and i am on the footpath . However , i very rarely venture on there .Which i have realised recently is a shame , as there are some wonderful images to be captured, as well as a good dog walk to go with it . It's only taken me twenty two years of living here to decide to make more regular use of it !!!

Today i was driving the dogs to their normal walk along the River Ouse , when i decided that i would take them somewhere different .

We are very lucky in Milton Keynes that there are a great variety of walks , just a short drive or walk from the centre of town or if , like me , you live in the older parts of MK . We ended up going to a small car park near Stony Stratford . There is a private road that takes you towards the River Ouse . So we headed down the road and took a footpath which takes you along the river Ouse itself .
The dogs love this walk as there are a few big open fields that they can charge around in . Maya , the youngest , has recently realised that it's fun to chase the birds in the fields and then chase them all around the field !! She was running around for nearly half an hour trying to catch the gulls !!

Follow the footpath and you will soon see the famous Iron Bridge Aquaduct . This has been carrying boats along the Grand Union canal and over the river ouse for over two hundred years . It has recently been re-painted and looks wonderful . There are two tunnels that allow livestock and people to pass under the canal , to get to the other side . Nowadays you don't see livestock using the tunnel , but it is still used by walkers , cyclists and dogs . My two love to run back and forth through the tunnel .Once on the other side , there are steps that take you to the towpath and then onto the Aquaduct . It's quite eerie walking through the tunnel . However , my legs go more wobbly walking across the Aquaduct !! It's a long way down to the river and i always make sure i get across as quick as i can . I wouldn't want to be up there if it were to collapse ;-)

We then followed the towpath along the canal heading towards Cosgrove locks . I stopped along the way and took a few photos of the Narrow Boats that are moored up for winter . Some boats are moored up all year round . This makes for a wonderful view as you walk along the path . On a cold day you can smell the smoke from the stoves on the boats . Coal , coke and wood burning away keeping the boats nice and snug.

When i got closer to the locks i couldn't see my dogs . Then saw them running around on the other side of the canal ! They had crossed at the lock without me enticing them to walk along the narrow wooden locks . One of them came back to see me , while the other was still on the other side . As i got closer they both tried to cross at the same time , meeting head on !! Maya was pushing past Mabel and it was very close to one of them going in the canal !!! This would have been the third time in a week for Mabel !! But i was worried about one of them going into the lock itself !! That would have made for a difficult rescue . Unlike the two previous dips in the last week , where she simply fell in the first time and was pushed in by Maya . Both times it's just a case of grabbing her collar and she is out , shaking dirty canal water all over me !! Luckily none of them went in today though. So i crossed myself, taking a public footpath along the nearby farmers field . This takes you back towards the Mill next to the river . You go through two big fields , which were full of more gulls !!! Yes , Maya was in her element again and was running like a race horse , chasing birds in the sky .

As i was crossing the fields , the heavens opened and a downpour started . I didn't have a case to put my camera in . So i put an empty doggy poo bag to good use , covering up the camera body . I used another bag to cover the lens . Plus a cleaning cloth to keep the rain out .

Ten minutes later i was putting my camera back in the Land Rover . Then it was onto trying to get the dogs to get in the back of my vehicle . They were still having fun running through the dry crispy leaves on the floor , so i waited for five minutes until they realised i was waiting for them . Then it was a case of popping them in and then drying myself off before heading home for a warm coffee and a few biscuits ....

Here are a few photos of the walk.

 Ropes laying on the roof of a rather large wide beam barge .
 A smokey chimney would make a nice snug warm interior .
 Chimney with great Autumn colours and a life ring .
 Looking into the canal . With Autumn colours .
 More Autumn colours along the Grand Union canal.
 Holy Trinity Church from the river Ouse .
 The Old Mill between Wolverton and Stony Stratford.
 Part of the Iron Trunk Aquaduct . With a plump Duck taking a rest on the top .
 One of the tunnels that allow you to get to the other side of the canal .
 Autumn leaves floating in a bunch on Grand Union Canal .

 View back from the locks at Cosgrove .
 Cottages at Cosgrove locks .
 Simple name for a Home !!
Watching the world go by from inside his Narrow Boat .
Hope you have enjoyed my blog and the images that i have uploaded. Once again comments are always welcome.

For more of my work visit my website -
Many thanks Mark.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A day out photographing Working Dogs .

I was lucky to be invited to a day out with a local shoot on Saturday just past . I went along with a good friend of mine . He had his Springer Spaniel , Daisy, with him . He was there to retrieve with Daisy and a couple of other friends that were with him were there as beaters .

I wasn't sure what to expect when i arrived as this would be my first time at a shoot . I know the people who shoot pay a lot of money to go along and i was looking forward to seeing a few Land Rovers or Range Rovers . As these are a passion of mine . I wasn't to be disappointed , with one Range Rover and two Defenders . One being the same age as mine and one being much newer . The newer one was in my favourite dark silver colour and the other was far better looking than mine !!! I need to get the polish out and get the paint work looking like it can . Rather than looking like it has been driven through a swamp for the last month lol.

Anyway , onto the dogs . There were a few there when we arrived . Three Springer Spaniels, a couple of Black Retrievers and a lovely looking Terrier . More arrived over the next thirty minutes . Which included a gorgeous Cocker Spaniel and a gorgeous Puppy Springer Spaniel .

There was a brief given to all the beaters and dog owners about the safety aspects of the day . Plus telling them what areas they were going to be working that day .
As i took my cameras out of my bag and attached the lenses i was going to use for the day . I could see a few people looking at me , realising i wasn't there to beat or retrieve . I know that some shoots get spies from the Anti brigade . But everyone on the day was really cool with me taking photos and were indeed a very friendly bunch of people . I knew i was in for a good days photography . Plus a good laugh as well . As a lot were like me with my sense of humour . Winding up my good friend about his lack of hair being one of the days topics !!

I wandered around where we were all gathered and started capturing images of the dogs as they were waiting to start a days work . I got some lovely images of dogs having a snooze in the back of cars and others in the back of pick up trucks getting cuddles from their owners . All these dogs were pets and family members . As well as a tool for working the land .

I was introduced to the organiser of the day . Then it was off to the first area of the farm for the first shoot .

I was very aware of being in the way of both the guns and the owners with dogs . So i kept a good distance to get an idea of where would be best for me to position myself to capture the best images . I wanted to capture the whole atmosphere of the day . I didn't want to just take photos of the dogs . I wanted to capture the landscape and the guys with their shotguns as well . I wasn't to be disappointed as i could see some great images opening up in front of me . A couple of ladies standing in the distance with their two Black Retrievers sitting perfectly still . This made for a great image with them all being a small part of the image . The landscape around making up the rest of the image .

It was then time to capture some of the dogs retrieving some of the birds . And the first  of my favourite images from the day was next to be captured . It was a Black Retriever giving the lady owner the Pheasant it had just collected . As they were both on a ridge with strong back light . The image made a fantastic silhouette !!!

We went to a few different areas of the farm . Including a field of maze . Which was interesting to watch from a short distance . As you could see the tall plants moving but you couldn't see the beaters that were in there .  A short walk from here to the last of the morning drives . Then it was time for a lunch break .

Lunch was a nice time to have a chat with the dog owners and beaters . We all sat around our vehicles and in the hay storage barn . The weather was being kind to us . Nice cool breeze and gorgeous sunshine . A good amount of the dog owners came over to me asking to see some of the images i had captured of their dogs . Having seen the expressions on their faces . I could see i was capturing some good images . The type of image that dog owners would purchase . Images of their dogs working !! This gave me a real lift . As it's so nice to get positive feedback about your work .

Lunch over and it was time to start the afternoon shoots . This time it was on more flat land . The morning had seen us all walking across wet muddy fields and up onto some very steep hills . I had realised that this day out wasn't a walk in the park !!! So the flatter land was a god send :-)

More great images of dogs retrieving , people having a great day walking the countryside and some more great silhouettes . One of the last images of the day was a lovely image of the sun setting on what had been a great day out with my cameras , a great day out meeting new people , a great day walking a good few miles . To which i was to suffer later that night , as my legs stiffened up and i realised that i hadn't done any walking on hills for some time . I normally get onto The Lake District Fells at least 6 times a year . But with me getting my own business up and running . The Lakes has taken a back seat this year . Although i am itching to get back up there for a few days , maybe a week before Christmas . I also plan to attatch my roof tent to my Lnad Rover and head for the hills to get to some fantastic locations , so that i can be there bright and early and ready for sunrise.

So keep popping back for when i do manage to get away and , blog about what i hope will be a great time away .
Now some photos from Saturdays day out .
I am aware that some people don't agree with some countryside persuits . If this is the case , you may not want to look at the images . As they contain dogs with freshly killed birds .
Your comments are always welcome . But please don't give me any grief about your views on anti shooting etc . As i firmly believe that we live in a free world and everyone should be entitled to follow what ever way of life they choose . So any anti comments will simply be deleted !!

Thanks for having a read . Hope you enjoy the images .
Take a look at a good range of my images on my website .
Regards Mark