Category Archives: Pictures

New Lens

Let’s talk about lenses. Well one in particular – and how it’s going to help achieve a cool look for my upcoming horror short.

I got a new lens for my Sony NEX-5 digital camera last week, it’s a 50mm 1.8f prime lens. I’m going to explain what that means, and why it’s cool.

Firstly, I should say something about the camera. My Sony NEX-5D is looking a bit dated now against the newest model in the range, the NEX-5T, but they are very similar. Sony, in my opinion, are the leaders in this new digital camera space that’s opened up in the last few years – something smaller than a DSLR, but still with interchangeable lenses. They’re called Mirrorless interchangable-lens cameras, and every camera company worth their weight in salt has their own product line. Check out that link for the full definition, but the bottom line for me is a compact camera I can realistically and casually carry around that takes superb photos and video. According to filmmaker Benedict Campbell, who’s worked with the likes of Harley-Davidson, it’s the next big thing for Hollywood.

One of the major benefits of these cameras is the fact you can buy additional lenses for different purposes, but until now I’ve only had two – the stock 18-55mm lens and a flat 16mm which was good for when I wanted to turn the camera into something no bigger than a compact camera. These lenses are great for a wide range of everyday shots, but they are limiting in some conditions. The 18-55mm zooms from a wide-angle (18mm) to something at the start of telephoto (55mm). Sony offer a zoom-ier lens in the 18-200mm, that gets a proper zoom going, but it is about twice the size. The 16mm lens is very-wide, edging on fish-eye territory. But neither offer a wide aperture…

Why is a wide aperture desirable? This is where you need to read my blog post about aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Essentially, aperture lets you control the depth-of-field within your photo – a shallow depth-of-field can give you a blurred background. I recently found a really good video explaining this, maybe that would clear up any confusion. I want a shallow depth-of-field look for some of the shots in my short film to accentuate the isolated-ness of the character, to pull the audience into his mindset and really focus our attention on certain details within the scene. This new lens lets me do that.

Let me explain in pictures… The pictures are captioned with more information.

Now I have this lens the next step is to experiment using it for video in the shooting locations to see what can be achieved. I’ll let you know how I get on with that!

Summer Walk in Surrey Hills

My department went for a walk around the Surrey Hills on Wednesday. Starting off at the University of Surrey, our journey included the River Wey, The Chantries, St Martha’s Hill and Shalford, finishing up with a refreshing Pimms at The Boatman.

There is some great scenery along the route, which covers 10-miles and takes about 5 hours to walk. Even if you don’t do this exact route, I’d highly recommend taking a walk and explore this area while the summer is still here!

View CVSSP Walk 2013 in a larger map


A selection of pictures from last Sunday at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone. Video can be found here.

Surrey in the Sunshine

My bike was stolen on Friday night, so I was forced to buy a new bike this weekend. Not necessarily the worst thing in the world, as the last one had lasted me the best part of 8 years and was in a bit of a state. But, alas.

To put the new bike through it’s paces, and because I needed an excuse to enjoy the sunshine, I went for a cycle to the Silent Pool, about a 45-minute cycle East of Guildford, near the North Downs. It’s a very tranquil place, and the ride involved a lot of rolling hills and open fields…

BEDA: Climbing

This is why I haven’t posted for a few days…

I went rock climbing in the Wye Valley, on the border between England and Wales, at the weekend. Here are a few pictures.

I’d love to tell you about the trip and how awesome it was, but if I’m honest I’m really tired and have lots planned for tomorrow.

BEDA has been a bit of a fail, but I’ve still blogged more this month than I have in any month, ever – so that’s got to be something. I am still committed to writing 30 blogs, one for every day in April. Besides, I still haven’t covered all the things I wanted to.

BEDA: Photography 101 Part Deux

Yesterday I explained the basics I learnt about how to use a camera on manual mode while talking to Xav over dinner in Paris. After dinner, we took our cameras and went down to the river Seine to see if I’d learnt anything. Here are the results…

Note: in each photo’s description I’ve written the camera settings I used, as well as an explanation as to why that makes the picture look how it does.

I hope you found that interesting and it inspires you to try manual mode next time you’re on holiday or just on a day out. Until tomorrow x

BEDA: Photography 101

Sun is shining in the sky, there ain’t a cloud in sight. It’s stopped raining, and I’m blogging every day, don’t you know?

Since I  got a shiny new Sony NEX-5 camera a couple of years ago I’ve started trying to take photos on manual mode a lot more. Taking control of your own focus and exposure settings is a great way to experiment with depth of field, that look you see in professional photos when the background is all blurry. For night-time cityscape shots too, where failing to hold the camera still will make for a very blurry photo, tuning the shutter speed, ISO and aperture settings yourself will help greatly. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I have been investigating for a while, and I find it fascinating what a difference a couple of settings makes to the overall look and feel of a photo.

Step one is to understand the jargon and what all the different settings at your disposal do. I struggled with this for ages until Xav, one of my friends who runs his own photography business, used a water tap analogy to explain it all to me over dinner in Paris. And that’s how I’ve remembered it ever since.

Imagine all the water flowing through a tap is light coming into your camera. Now imagine the time the tap is open is the shutter speed, because the longer you have your tap open for, the more light your photo will have. Now think of the width of the pipe as your aperture or F-stop, A wider pipe will let more water in than a thinner pipe in the same amount of time. In other words, a wider aperture lets in more light to the camera than a small aperture given the same shutter speed.

Shutter speed is how long the sensor in your camera is exposed to light when you take a picture, so for dark shots you might want a slow shutter speed to give light longer to get into the camera. The interesting thing about shutter speed is how it blurs your image. Lots of sports modes on cameras set a very fast shutter speed because otherwise a fast-moving object will be blurred in the final photo due to it moving while the shutter is open. With a faster shutter speed, the subject won’t be blurred. And this goes for taking photos without a tripod or rest too. If you use a slow shutter speedi.e. the tap is open for a long time, then if you are shaking the whole frame will be moving. That’s where that blur comes from. So if you’re taking night-time shots without a tripod, try and keep your shutter speed down and opening your aperture instead to compensate, i.e. using a wider pipe instead of keeping the tap open for longer.

Aperture is the size of the gap at the front of the lens that the light can go through. So a higher aperture is a bigger gap. The thing to remember about F-stop is that it’s 1/aperture. In other words, an open/high aperture is represented with a low F-number. Confused, so was I. So here’s a diagram.

F-Stop vs. Aperture (from Wikipedia)

Aperture is also the key ingredient to getting a shallow depth of field, those photos with the sexy blurry backgrounds. An open aperture (think low F-number or a wide pipe) gives you a nice, sexy, shallow depth of field. As opposed to a closed aperture (thin pipe, high F-number) that gives a flatter look to pictures. Flat is very good for landscape shots, or when you want to give the illusion that the foreground and the background are very close to each other, called forced perspective. Here’s a great video about how they used forced perspective to portray Gandalf’s height in The Lord of the Rings.

There’s one more key piece to this puzzle and that’s something called ISO. ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor on your camera to light. So you can imagine that a high ISO means it’s very sensitive, and a low ISO means it’s not. In our tap analogy, ISO is like the water pressure in the pipe. A lot of pressure and no matter how wide the pipe, or how long the tap is open, you’re always going to get a lot of water. The caveat here is that high ISO‘s introduce a lot of noise into the photo because the camera is more sensitive to the inevitable inaccuracies in the sensor itself. When shooting, ideally you want to keep the ISO as low as possible to reduce the noise, but that’s not always possible.

This is why you always see so much light in photo shoots and film sets, because ultimately the more light you have to work with, the less you have to worry about ISO noise and shutter speed blur. The less you are restricted, the wider your creative window to play with depth of field, blur (if you want it or not) and other effects. This should also explain why a tripod is very valuable, because then shutter speed can be adjusted freely without having to worry about being able to hold your hand still to get that perfect shot.

In the next blog post I want to show you some examples I’ve found of when you can use shutter speed, aperture and ISO to great effect in different conditions from night time panoramas to fast action to sunsets.

Part two here.

until next time x

p.s. I am aware that I am a few days behind myself at the moment. I’ve realised I’d rather spend a bit longer writing a better post than trying to rush something out every day. I will still be trying to post every day, but if I manage to miss the odd one then I will still be posting 30 blogs, one for every day in April, they just might not all be written in April…