Sheepdrove gallery

30 11 2010

Find more pictures at:





Micro-exhibit: organic butchers

5 08 2010

A few of my pictures now decorate Sheepdrove Organic Farm Family Butchers:
5 Clifton Road, Maida Vale, London. W9 1SZ.
3 Lower Redland Road, Bristol. BS6 6TB.

Baby turkey

9 06 2010

One of the pictures I’ve taken for Sarah’s Organic Poultry.

Snow Gallery

27 04 2010

One of several shots which featured in a Snow Gallery for Sheepdrove Organic Farm‘s website. Available as a free desktop wallpaper for your computer screen! Just visit the SOF blog to get it…

Examples of Clients

5 03 2010

I have delivered a wide range of services, all to budget, on time, for satisfied clients. Please contact me for a quote – and let’s discuss your next project!

Jason Ball at Poppyfield Gallery

Video: camcorder, superzoom or SLR?

12 12 2009

Choosing a video camera is complicated. A vast range of cameras present a baffling array of features and ‘video cameras’ aren’t always what you expect them to be. Nowadays most cameras record video – even phones do it.

Camcorder or Superzoom or SLR?

Speficially designed video cameras are the right choice if you’re a proper TV professional or aspiring to cinema. But camcorders are catching up on resolution, faster than TV buying trends. And anyway, not everyone watches telly on telly. Web video is arguably becoming more important and, as yet, web broadcast quality doesn’t need to be high.

Camcorders have a lot to offer the customer who wants a bird in the hand. Camcorders used to have painfully small memories on hard drive, but now the solid state memory is more affordable, and they really have something going on

Hang on, though. What about chunky, semi-compact cameras which more than match the average camcorder for megapixels, and take video with excellent definition?

Superzoom cameras such as the Canon SX1is (and my S5is) offer excellent value for money when it comes to telephoto power. Even the Canon Powershot SX range looks promising with 12x zoom. But ‘ordinary’ digital cameras like these have their weaknesses.

For instance – fast movement isn’t captured well on CMOS sensor chips. Action scenes are tricky on these things. Look for cameras that can record at a fast rate of 60 frames per second (fps) if this concerns you.

The ability to film for a long time is cramped by the capacity of memory cards. You can forget the problem if you only record little clips to add to your photographic archive. Filming acres of footage is OK if you can afford the latest, fastest, biggest capacity cards.

Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras, such as the Canon EOS 500D and their new 5D markII are astounding machines but again… they have their weaknesses.


As with your stills photography on an SLR, you need a range of lenses to adapt to different situations. Superzoom cameras avoid that, but huge zoom power compromises lens quality to some extent. (Thank Grud for optical image stabilisers.)

You can get around this SLR handicap simply. How about buying one of those big but cheap zoom lenses? For a Canon EOS you could get a Canon EF 55-250mm f4-f5.6 image stabilised lens. The 58mm diameter is massive compared to a camcorder, therefore physically superior in its optical definition.

Now you’re wondering – can you afford to get one or two extra lenses? Why not get a superzoom for the price of a decent SLR lens? I agree.

There’s an extra smugness point for the SLR photographer, though, who upgrades to a new SLR which can do video, and has already invested in lenses. (Canon’s professional ‘L’ range also fits their pro video camera range.)

Recording media

Currently I think it’s still accepted that DV tapes are the profesisonal standard, and that memory cards aren’t as good. But who wants to deal with tape unless you’re a pro and you have the time to spin them?

Memory technology has leapt into a speedy evolution to keep up with the advancement of digital cameras. Most cameras use something like SD cards for their memory resource, and the cards are getting cheaper. (I expect that will change in a few years, but we’ll see.) The key factor is that cards are cheap and easy to use.

When it comes to quality, can a superzoom compact camera with an SD card beat a camcorder recording onto MiniDV tape? Not if it’s a decent new camcorder.

But a decent old one, yes! I remember being impressed by the Sony DCR-TRV11E digital handycam 8 years ago – with its fantastic features, night vision and 0.34 effective megapixels. But now you could blast away its quality level (despite DV tape and dual recording head) on a very affordable hard-drive camcorder. For example, the JVC Everio G GZ-MZ57-EK films with a far superior 1.23 megapixels, delivering 720p high definition resolution.

Mini DV tapes hold the quality of the image from the Sony handycam, but the tapes only hold what you put onto them. The camera and lens quality is more important than the recording media – as long as that media’s well matched to the camera.

Low light

What about handling low light levels? SLR cameras and compacts have a long way to come. This is partly because of the types of sensor in the modern cameras – and of course the manufacturers are adapting something which was originally designed for still image capture.

This video clip shows a colony of Soprano Pipistrelle bats. They are ‘swarming’ at dawn outside a nursery roost.

I shot this on a Canon S5is, which has a very handy 12x optical zoom. The quality as shot is not impressive, but it’s not too bad. Better than I expected without a special ‘night’ mode.

Actually, I can even convert the digital files to DVD standard, which is quite pleasing to watch, especially when I compare some of the dreadful footage from DVD camcorders out there!

As I said, the camera and lens are the key. Look at this example of my friend Pete’s pocket camcorder. He’s got a small Kodak Zi8 which films full 1080p High Definition footage.

Firstly, I must say that daytime footage on Pete’s Kodak Zi8 high-definition video camera is brilliant. OK it struggled a bit with indoor shooting in a sports hall, but maybe you could tweak the white balance to get a better result. Bear in mind this is a pocket-sized camera!

What do I get?

When Canon brings video capability into their whole SLR range it’ll become less pricey. But I have to wait, I can’t afford to upgrade to a decent new Canon and nor can I afford to upgrade my computer systems to suit a workflow of huge video files, storage, etc.

So for now I’m sticking to my Canon S5is for video, and SLRs for stills. But at some stage I will upgrade to 1080p HD video. Which camera should be my target? What do you think my next move should be?

ebay bargains

On ebay today I saw:

NB: all zooms I quoted are optical, of course!

Bright Sparks

7 09 2009

What are these bright sparks talking about?

Click the picture to find out.