Monday, 30 March 2009

Weather Sealing is your friend

For the kind of photography I do, I need my cameras to be reasonably robust. I‘m often shooting in the snow, in the desert, or even in the water, all of which do not play nicely with precision electronic equipment.

And it’s at times like those that you want to have complete faith in your equipment. If you’re worrying about looking after your gear then you’re not focused on making the best photograph.

Because of this, I was slightly concerned that my switch from 1-series bodies to the new 5D mark II might come back to haunt me. While Canon suggest in the manual that the 5DII is as well sealed as the EOS 1n top-of-the-line film camera from the 1990s, reports on the interweb have suggested that the weather sealing on the 5DII is not very good at all. In particular, during Michael Riechmann’s photo tour of Antarctica, fully one quarter of the 5DIIs on the trip died after being exposed to “light rain”.

So after the first couple of months of putting the 5DIIs through their paces, I’m happy to report that mine seem to stand up reasonably well to abuse.

Firstly while shooting in the falling snow in London in February, the cameras got very wet with melting snow, but coped very well.

And more recently while shooting in Jamaica I spent a couple of hours was standing in the sea shooting models on the beach and riding horses through the surf.

On both occasions the waves were higher than I was expecting and when I got soaked, so did the camera - including the WFT wireless transmitter – on 3 separate occasions.

Although I feared for the worst, I’m delighted to report they both came through with flying colours, not missing a single shot.

So it would seem that once again, I have a set of cameras that, within reason, will withstand adverse conditions without any special treatment, which is a great relief.

Unfortunately my iPhone was not quite as tough, and failed to recover from a brief submergence!

Gulf Photo Plus

Gulf Photo Plus, an annual photographic photography festival held in Dubai, is quietly turning itself into one of the premier training events in the world.

For one week each April you can attend courses given by some of the biggest names in the photosphere right now, including Joe McNally, Chase Jarvis, Vincent Laforet, David Hobby (aka The Strobist), our very own Drew Gardener and many more.

Ranging from 5 days spent learning the ins-and-outs of staging a commercial lifestyle shoot through to 3 days on advanced shooting and photo-compositing techniques for high-end fashion.

What makes GPP unusual is the range of courses given by working photographers aimed at pro and aspiring-pro shooters (although there are additional courses suitable for people of every level of experience). And the fact that it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

I’ve just arrived in Dubai, and this year will be attending Chase’s “Prep, Shoot, Wrap” course for the second time. I got so much out of it last time, and met such a fun and passionate crowd, that it didn’t take much convincing for me to go back for a second helping.

Look for a full report when I get back.

Friday, 20 March 2009

The ridiculous story of the Canon 5DII Battery

As anyone else who has bought a Canon 5DII will no doubt have found, the availability of extra batteries is non-existant. I have had 3 spares on order from Warehouse Express, a large online supplier, since December and they still haven’t had any stock.

By February I was getting desperate, and collared a Canon rep at the Focus on Imaging trade show at the NEC. He promised to prioritise an order for me but they still haven’t had any stock to ship.

Around the same time I bought the Wireless File Transmitter (WFT), which takes the same battery. However, Canon, in their wisdom, decided not to ship it with one. So I had to cannibalise the battery from my second body to power the WFT, essentially turning my backup 5DII into a £2000 paper weight.

About to depart on a major shoot (see future posts) I was desperate to get my hands on more batteries. Eventually I resorted to bribing a friend with a slap up lunch in order to persuade him to lend me the battery for his 5DII (thank you Dominic!)

How Canon can release a major camera such as this, which will likely be used by as many pros as amateurs, and not be able to supply extra batteries for 4 months after the camera’s launch is simply ridiculous. It almost makes the camera unusable as a professional tool...

Yes, there are aftermarket batteries beginning to appear on eBay and the like, but they lack the electronics of the Canon batteries, cannnot use the same charger, and cause the camera to give out warning messages. Not an ideal solution.

Here’s hoping they ramp up production soon.


I’m writing this on the 10 hour flight to Jamaica, where I’ll be spending a week shooting some adverts for the Jamaica Tourist Board. For the first time I’ve got a video camera in the kit bag too, so next month look out for some behind-the-scenes coverage of what goes into a major travel shoot. I’m not promising my first attempts at video-editing will make motion-picture history, but they should give you an idea of how a big travel shoot gets pulled together. Big thanks to Adam Swords who will be assisting me this time around.