Reflections – I’m a GuruShots Veteran

When the “Reflections” challenge ends later today, I’ll be a #GuruShots Veteran. Ha ha ha …. Anyways, this is the image I uploaded:

Gormanston Reflections

I’m chuffed to bits because I’m moving up the rankings but it’s also completely aware that this is in reality slightly meaningless as a measure of how I’m improving technically in my photography. That said, I’m going to take this as a pat on the back because I do think the quality of my images (in terms of clarity) have definitely improved – probably due to a better tripod so more stability – but also with a massive pinch of salt. I am certainly NOT a veteran so I think it’s the description more than anything that tickles me and makes me chuckle. Still, I think overall pleased with the move up the GuruShots rankings as I have been making an effort to get out and practice more so – as I’ve noted in previous posts – this is my primary incentive in taking part in challenges and on this basis, I’m winning!

I’ve had the DSLR (Nikon D3400 – a decent entry level camera) since around Sept/Oct 2017 and have been using a tripod since the workshop I attended in Jan 2018. Given the freezing cold weather, I didn’t really start practicing in earnest until the weather warmed up slightly towards the end of March (by which time I had to watch a lot of YouTube training as I’d forgotten a lot of the “finer details” of the workshop such as white balance).  The first tripod I bought was a CaseFlex – exactly like this one (https://www.caseflexaccessories.com/caseflex-premium-alloy-camera-tripod-pro-blue). It was and still is mostly a great little tripod but I took it to the beach one day and managed to get some sand or grit stuck in one of the twist locks and now cannot lock the lower part of one of the legs. I can still use it if I don’t need a lot of height but you do get what you pay for and this is a fairly lightweight tripod. I’d certainly recommend it for absolute beginners who only want to use it online and not in the sea or in rivers and when there is no wind. The legs are quite flimsy but if only the higher (thicker) parts of the legs are extended, and provided you’re happy to bend / sit down behind the camera, it’s fine.

The second tripod I bought is a Manfrotto Pixi Evo 2 which I bought for trip to Edinburgh when I didn’t want to take the CaseFlex. This tripod would be best described as a table topper – it’s fine for using with my Nikon D3400 and kit lens and fine with the Sigma zoom but I do notice that it slips a little with the latter. I have used it in the evenings, propping it onto of my camera bag, and it’s excellent for quick filter shots – I’ve enjoyed using it and it’s light enough not to even realise you’re carrying it but unless you’re happy to lie on the floor to take images, it’s no substitute for a regular tripod.

I’ve invested in a new tripod – it’s a Vanguard AltaPro 263 AB 100. This is a blindingly good beginner / amateur level tripod which is super stable and amazing good value for money. Unless the CaseFlex, which has twist lock legs in four sections, the Vanguard has flip locks and three sections which makes is a fair bit taller when collapsed than the CaseFlex – I’m not bothering measuring to get an accurate difference (it’s not that interesting a topic). The Vanguard is also quite a bit heavier: I think I could carry the CaseFlex attached to my camera bag (a LowePro Tahoe HP 150 in “Galaxy Blue” no less – https://store.lowepro.com/tahoe-bp-150) but pretty certain if I tried to attach the Vanguard, the mesh pocket would be destroyed. So, if I go on a hike (unlikely but who knows), I think I probably would take the CaseFlex – and/or possibly the Manfrotto as I imagine I’d be lying down anyways a fair bit.

Anyways, if anyone is interested in a sub-£150 tripod recommendation from a (GuruShots) veteran photographer (LOL), I don’t think you’d need to look much further than the Vanguard … hopefully it’ll be my tripod for a few years to come.

#GormanstonBeach # CountyLouth #Ireland #CaseFlex #Manfrotto #PixiEvo2 #Vanguard #AltaPro #Tripod #LoweProTahoe #GuruShotsVeteran #SpeedChallenge #Veteran

[June 2018]
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Solitude

I’ve submitted a late entry to the latest #GuruShots speed challenge – this one is entitled Solitude.

There are only around 77 hours to go before the challenge closes and only one photo (swaps allowed) can be submitted / displayed at one time. I’ve opted to submitted a photo I took a few weeks ago of a single tree in the Baltray dunes in Co Louth. This image achieved 1 like and of the 408 views had 246 votes so I’m hoping this speed challenge goes well. As ever, an update will be posted at the end of the challenge.

The image was taken on my Nikon D3400 and I focused up at the bottom third – the lens was the kit Nikkor 18-55 mm.

Lone Tree in Baltray_Vibrant

Update: It’s really interesting to see how other people express solitude in their images.  I think (at least I hope) I’ve conveyed this as simply  being alone. Many people have uploaded images that seems to focus on loneliness and a great deal of these images convey sadness. As I had a spare free swap,  I thought I’d switch the image of the above image of a tree for another one! :-)

Machu Picchu Tree

Taken in Machu Picchu, Peru, the mist rolling across the Andes moves quickly. It is thick, cold and very very damp and can completely blanket this small tree and even the large peak behind the citadel that seems to feature in approximately 90% of all images I’ve seen seen of this incredible UNESCO site. I didn’t walk along the Inca Trail – sheer madness – but took a bus up the side of the mountain after taking a long bus trip from the fantastic city of Cusco.

The image was taken on an ancient but loved FujuFilm FinePix F480.

The ‘Solitude’ Challenge ends in about 50 hours – I think this swap has already been successful but I’ll wait until the challenge comes to a close before posting more.

#GuruShots #MachuPicchu

Update: Delighted that I achieved 600 votes in total which resulted in an Elite ranking. Hurrah!

As ever some amazing Top 50 photographs on display but all those in the Top 40 (bar one which featured an image of a moose and another one of a yacht) had a very similar there. Generally there was a single figure standing in silhouette with their backs to the camera facing a sunrise or sunset. Interesting.

[April 2018]

Rocking the Boat & Street Photography

So there are two new #GuruShots challenges in play.

At the current time, there are 9 days left in the challenge entitled ‘Rocking the Boat’. I’ve submitted the following images – from left to right:

  • Three Rowing Boats on the River Boyne
  • Fishing Boats on the River Boyne
  • The Irish Trader (shipwreck on Baltray Sands) – heavy filter use on this image!
  • The Irish Trader (shipwreck on Baltray Sands) – side profile without the filter!

Rocking the Boat

As you can tell from the votes, these images are hardly setting the world on fire. At present time of writing, I’ve reached Popular (along with 3606 others) but it’s great that people have voted for them at all. What is interesting is that the dark image of the Irish Trader has more votes (albeit a small amount) than the lighter image of the same wreck and I think the one with less votes is better.

I’ve also entered the GuruShots challenge entitled ‘Street Photography’. Like the ‘Rocking the Boat’ challenge, there 9 days to go before this challenge closes and voting starts in approx. 1 hour from time of publishing this post. Shown (in the update below) are the images I’ve submitted – from left to right:

  • Umbrellas in a Dublin Side Street (taken Monday 9 April)
  • A Quiet Sunday Morning in Madrid (taken in 2016)
  • Graffiti on a North Quay Dublin Building (since demolished) (taken 2016/7 through my car window when stuck at traffic lights)
  • Oil Spill on Leeson Street, D2 (taken earlier this year)

Each of the ‘Street Photography’ images were taken on an iPhone 6 and I’m happy enough with the results. These days, mobile/cell phones have great cameras and are perfect for taking quick hassle-free images.

I think my images in ‘Street Photography’ are a little better than those in my ‘Rocking the Boat’ challenge but I’m a lot more interested in the results of the latter challenge because all the images were taken in the last few weeks on my Nikon D3400 DSLR. By uploading these photographs – and trust me, I do know they can be improved upon – I just feel that I’m making (some) progress in my ultimate quest to take great photographs.

In an attempt to try to earn more GuruShots points however, in due course (possibly after the weekend), I’ll try to dig out some other (better?) images that I’ve taken in my pre-Nikon D3400 days and try out a few swaps. As I’ve noted before, GuruShots is at the end of the day a game but it is also an interesting way to share images and measure my own progress at the same time. As usual, updates will follow as relevant.

#Dublin #Baltray #RiverBoyne #Umbrellas #IrishTrader #Shipwreck

Update: The Rock the Boat Challenge has finished and I got a Skilled ranking. Happy with that! :-)

Update: Delighted and quite surprised to have achieved an Elite ranking. As I thought, these images were more popular than those in the Rock the Boat Challenge and the final votes were as follows:

image001

[April 2018]

Seeing Textures

To celebrate my new Challenger status and to try to move forward to the Advanced level, I’ve submitted some images I took this evening. These are clockwise from top left:

  • Slippers
  • Guitar Case
  • 1970s Waffle Blanket
  • My dog, Trip – a close up!

GuruShots Textures

There are 11 days from this post until the challenge closes so we’ll wait to see what happens … I’ll try to take some ‘swap’ photos over the weekend. #GuruShots

Update: I decided to swap out the blue fluffy slipper image for one I took over the weekend in Baltray, Co Louth. I focused on the foreground to get clear definition of the straw-like grass. The photograph was taken on my Nikon D3400 (the settings were 1/800 sec | F5.3 | ISO 100) using my Nikkor 18-55 mm kit lens. I don’t think it’s a particularly successful image but hopefully conveys enough texture to be a positive swap in the challenge.

Lone Tree in Baltray

Lone Tree at Baltray

The sky remained a beautiful blue (first I’ve seen in Ireland all year tbh) for all of 45 minutes until a thick sea mist rolled in. I took advantage of the drama however to walk down to the ship wreck on the sands – not sure the photographs were all that successful but it was a great opportunity to practice with my ND grads. I have to remember I’m still learning so will be getting a lot of mixed results but onwards and upwards! If I want to get better, I just have to keep practicing.

Anyhoo, there are still 9 days to go for the ‘Seeing Textiles’ challenge and at this time, I’ve only 73 votes to go to move from Premier to Elite level. Hope this swap does the trick – we’ll see.

Update: So the challenge has ended and the swap did the trick! Managed an Elite ranking which I’m very happy about. Total number of votes were 1195. The images with the most votes (which I was a little surprised about) was the guitar case with 509 votes.  The waffle blanket achieved 252 votes, the tree (swap image) 246 and the close up of Trip 188 votes. I suspect however that this challenge resulted in one of the highest number of All Star ranking images: 5873 entrants managed to achieved this rank. Elite was the most populous ranking with 8795, Premier with 6154, Skilled with 1446 and Popular with 1033. Although the ranking was busy, I ranked # 105 in the Elite level. Amazingly, I need ‘only’ another 4 challenge rankings of Premier or above to move to the Advanced user category. I don’t feel at all ‘advanced’ in terms of my photography skills but this is after all a game and I’m enjoying the taking part!

[April 2018]

Bodies of Water

As a Speed Challenge, I can only display one image at a time but have submitted three views of the River Boyne which I can swap. From left to right, the images are:

  • View from the bank of the River Boyne at Baltray,  towards Drogheda at dusk
  • View of the River Boyne rowing boat from Mornington
  • View from of River Boyne fishing boats from Baltray
Bodies of Water

Bodies of Water Challenge

There are 91 hours for voting so let’s see how this challenge goes. Updates to follow soon.

Update: My swap (see image below) significantly boosted my votes and took me to Premier level which I’m really happy about. I’m getting the hang of the tactics for this game although I need to refine my tactics and obviously submit more decent / better photographs to improve my rankings further. Given that I’ve only had my DSLR, a Nikon D3400 (a beginner level digital camera but decent enough with its Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR kit lens) since September and haven’t really been able to use it thanks to the awful weather in Ireland, I’m looking forward to less rain so I can practice.  I want to get to grips with the technical elements of the camera and start taking some of those fancy long exposure seascapes in the very near future.

Importantly, I have moved levels up from Newbie to Rookie and I’m chuffed to bits about that. :-D

Clouds Over River Boyne

[April 2018]