To me, tripods are a bit like bags; I have had lots of them over the years and always seem to be on the lookout for a definitive model at camera shows that will collapse down to ten centimetres, extend to two meters, be very sturdy, weigh next to nothing and support a tiny well-made ball head that, in turn, supports a couple of kilos of camera. Oh, and it should never, ever move even when windy.
We are regular attendees at the annual Focus on Imaging show, staged at the NEC, Birmingham. It is the best opportunity in the UK to see and test the latest photography related products and to pick up sagely advice from the many seminars held throughout the event.
Upgrades aside, purchasing additional lenses is for most of us, driven by the desire to capture images that our existing lenses fall short of. There is nothing quite like taking a new lens into the field and shooting a bunch of pictures that have a different perspective to anything previously taken. The best fun I had was getting into wide angle photography many years ago; I used a 28mm lens for some years but found it was not capturing the expanses I wished to photograph. This heralded in 24 and 21mm focal lengths which addressed the problem. The ‘wow’ factor when looking through the 21 for the first time is something I will not forget in a hurry, and it opened the door to some great subject matter. As this was back in the film days, it took me a while to understand fully the properties of the lens simply because the results were not instantaneous. I also had to take notes of camera and lens settings for consultation when my slides were returned, something that is taken for granted in these days of easily accessed EXIF data.
Before the rise of the Internet it was far more difficult to get hold of test and review information be it cameras, hi-fi or any other subject. This kind of information was the domain of specialist magazines which were limited to the amount of page space available. Often it could take weeks for a new piece of kit to get the review treatment and sometimes, depending on an items popularity, it would be skipped altogether. Dealers were also a good source of information, but their opinions were sometimes driven by whatever item had the largest profit margin.
When I began taking photography seriously many years ago, one of the first lenses I used was a humble 50mm f1.8 that came with my OM1n. Being new to the realm of SLR photography I wanted to capture sweeping wide angle vistas. I became immediately dissatisfied with my 50mm as it produced images too ordinary, too boring. Within weeks it was replaced with a 28mm lens that instantly gave my pictures the drama and impact I was looking for, and I was soon pushing for wider and wider effects that lead me first to 24 and secondly 21mm lenses.
One thing that 30+ years of photography has taught me is that there is no such thing as the perfect camera bag. During this time I have used, abused, collected and disposed of so many different types of bag that I no longer easily remember them all. I think I must have a weakness for them as when I attend a camera show, or visit a shop, I find I gravitate towards the bag section in search of the perfect item. The worrying thing is that I still do this in the feint hope that I have missed something over the decades, or that a manufacturer has introduced the holy grail of bags that will end my (and others) search.
My favourite image viewing software program is FastStone Image Viewer 4.6. It is simple to use, offers easy to use image manipulation controls (although I prefer Lightroom for processing images) and handles most RAW file formats (including Adobe DNG). On top of this, it is available free to download (for home use) from http://www.faststone.org/, although donations are accepted to help toward future development costs.