Worn-out Groyne*

This was taken just around the coast from last week’s shot. Although I wouldn’t recommend walking along the coast between the two points – there’s an inlet to the inner Dundrum Bay which gets in the way.

The groynes were emplaced on the beach to the north of Newcastle, starting roughly beside the Slieve Donard hotel (named for the great big lump of granite you see in the background), going towards Murlough and Dundrum.  I don’t know when they fell into disrepair, but I have never known them to be anything other than dilapidated.  As you can clearly see from the picture, any influence they had over the natural longshore drift has long since been counteracted.


Worn-out Groyne

Worn-out groyne


I got some weird looks when I was taking this shot, probably for a number of reasons.  My choice of subject raised some eyebrows, as did my use of a flash on such a bright day.  This got compounded when I laid the flash on the beach pointing the ‘wrong way’, and then proceeded to gaffer a reflector to my left leg** to give the flash something to bounce off***.  Then I crouched behind the reflector, resting the camera on the top edge.  The beach was a lot fuller than it looked, so once I was set up I did nothing for 5 minutes while waiting for people to move out of frame.

* Or, for the colonial cousins on the wrong side of the Atlantic: groin.

** It was far too hot to carry a light stand, and too breezy not to need the stability.

*** A lower sun would have meant that I didn’t need the flash.  The sun was too high for me to comfortably hold the reflector and shoot.  My VAL of choice was off getting a pedicure.

Mourne Mountains Across a Hazy Bay

Mourne Mountains Across a Hazy Bay

Mourne Mountains across a hazy bay


When nature edits* out my home town, I’d be a fool to skip the opportunity.  It was hot and still at slack water – perfect conditions for a haze to form over the bay.  The foreground is Tyrella beach, County Down.

Given that this is the first time my wife went back to Norn Iron with me and the mountains weren’t completely shrouded in cloud, this is also a memento of her discovering them.  There’s a joke in there somewhere about taking four years to find a mountain range, but I don’t want to sleep on the couch.

This is what the other side of the mountains look like.

*Well , OK, It’s not a multi-hour edit session by an expert, but I suspect Gaia most often uses her MacBook Air for browsing the web and email.

What camera should I buy?

This is more of a reference for friends and family, but it’s something I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Photos will resume next week.

The short answer:
I don’t know.

The long answer:
I don’t know, it depends what you want.

Do you just want to look pro?
Go and buy a pair of Nikon D4s, and a slew of lenses (14-24mm f/2.8S, 24-70mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f 1.4, 70-200mm f/2.8 and 85mm f/1.4 should do for starters, but you’ll probably want a tilt-shift, macro and fisheye as well). It won’t matter that you don’t know what each of these lenses are for, just stick the 24-70mm lens on one of the cameras set it to Auto and leave the rest in your Billingham bag. Don’t forget the macbook pro and photoshop subscription – they’re barely a rounding error in all of this.

You’ve got the best technology an SLR manufacturer can throw at you, so your pictures will now automatically be awesome – or at least look as good as the pictures taken by the kid next to you on her phone. Of course, you still won’t look pro due to the lack of scuffing, lighting gear, and (most critically of all) gaffers tape – plus a lot of the real pros use medium format cameras anyway.

Do you want a good DSLR?
Great, pick a budget, go into a shop find the camera that feels best in you hands at that price and buy that one – there’s no such thing as a bad DSLR these days. Buy it in that shop – it will help keep a local camera expert viable. If that’s too much like hard work, order a D3200 with kit lens, and a copy of Lightroom. Then the important bit: book yourself on a beginners photography course to learn how to use it.

Life has just become easier for a significant other wanting to buy you a nice present because you’ll probably want the 55-200mm VRII lens, 35mm f/1.8 lens, 85mm f/1.8 lens, and SB-600 speedlight in short order. That’s the start of your gear acquisition syndrome – and it will only get worse from there.

By the time you’ve figured out what frustrates you on the D3200 and why you’ll know enough to answer the question for your next body. Unless you’re really cranking out the photos (and learning from what you’re doing), this will probably take a year or two. If photography is still your thing reach for the stars and replace anything hitting End Of Life with the gear you really want (saving and waiting if necessary) – you’ll end up buying it anyway.

Do you just want to have a very expensive toy?
Buy a Leica M9, with a 50mm summicron lens. Never open the box and keep it in a locked glass case.

Do you want a nice camera?
Go and buy an Olympus OM-D, or Fuji X-Pro1 – whichever fills you with more joy. Don’t compare numbers, just pick them up in a shop and play with them. They’re so much lighter and less bulky than a DSLR and you’ll get the same photos.

Do you want a nice camera on the cheap?
Buy the Canon SX150 from Argos for £70 (the model number sometimes increments, the price tends to stay the same). This camera gives you control over the same essentials as a DSLR, albeit over a more restricted range. It runs on AA batteries so spares are available in pretty much every shop in the world (but I suggest getting good rechargeables). If you want to really splurge, buy an eye-fi card to go in it, so you can transfer the photos straight to your phone (oh look, automatic backup) and tweet them on the go. Don’t forget to book yourself on that course!

If you’re concerned the photos won’t be “good enough”: I’ve taken photos on the predecessor to this camera that have been selected for worldwide publication. By the time any limitations of this camera start limiting your output, you’ll know what you what to replace this with.