Friday, December 5, 2008

My first photography book

I've just published my first photography book.
Check it out at:
Its a book recording through photographs the journey my wife and I have made from the conception to birth of our first child.
Please go on and have a look and let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My latest photoshoot

I had the priviledge of running a proper [albeit small] photograph shoot at a friends house last week. The little lad, Ben Sheppard, was adorable but tricky to shoot. He didn't smile much making it difficult to get a good keepsake for the folks. Never the less, I bagged some good ones and my favourite is above.

I definitely am developing my fondness of people photography and am going to develop this further. I think it might be my strongest aspect of photography and one that I am keen to improve on. My next purchases are going to be in this direction. I am hoping to buy a support system for backdrop fabric [its such a pain to constantly get someone to hold up fabric for you], buy a batter grip to aid shooting in portrait mode, buy a reflector to help eliminate those nasty shadows and then maybe some studio lighting!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lake District again

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Lake District for a family holiday. My wife and I enjoy low level walking and with the arrival of our new baby girl, we had to stick to easy to manage low level walks. This however didn't prevent me from sampling some wonderful places to photograph.

My favourite I think is Rydal Hall where I was able to photograph some lovely waterfals. Have a look at these and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Extension tubes

I've finally got my Kenko extension tubes and am really pleased with them. I have had a go with them this afternoon for about 15 mins and really like the effects you can get, especially with flowers and small animals.
I will post some pictures here soon of what I've achieved!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Colour space in Lightroom

I have had trouble getting photos exported from Lightroom to look the same as the photos displayed in Lightroom. The images seemed to lack colour saturation, the colours seemed to shift in their hue slightly and the contrast was reduced.

I realised that in the export mode you can set which colour space you wish to use when exporting the photos. I was using the standard 1998 setting. I tried using the sRGB setting and have got much better results so far. I have been warned however that using this setting can result in a loss of image quality but so far I am yet to see exactly what this means. I have actually set a colour space using a screen calibration device but I haven't worked out how I can use this colour space when exporting! Any ideas anyone? It's not coming up as an option when I export from Lightroom.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Trouble with Ebay!

Having trouble with an E-Bay company at the moment. I bought a set of Kenko extension tubes from sighterz-uk on 13th June and worryingly they still haven't arrived. I emailed them to let them know and they have been pretty good at keeping in touch which makes me think they're a legitimate company (with good feedback scores too). But still no tubes!

A bit disappointing but will keep you posted!

Hoping to do a bit of photography today as I haven't had my hand in for three weeks now!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More red squirrels

I went back to Alverstone Mead Hide a week ago and saw the reds again. As curious and quick as ever, I found that this time photographing them was much harder. The canopy overhead was fully overgrown meaning that very little light was getting through and I had to push the ISO to 1600 to get fast enough shutter speeds. This resulted in low depth of field which caused no end of problems trying to get sharp enough images. In the end, I managed to get this shot of a brave little squirrel who was keen to see what I was doing. The image isn't technically great as I have chopped a bit of the ears off and the image doesn't have a lot of depth of field. But I say that despite all this, the image is a good one as the posture and poise of the squirrel is just right and means the squirrel jumps off the screen and grabs your attention. Now that is what photography is about and I'm quite pleased to have got this shot. What do you think? Comments on this blog welcome!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Photographers Lounge - Swanage

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending a few days relaxing in Swanage and I stumbled over a wonderful photography gallery owned and run by a lady called Kate Cross. Its a very stylish, modern little gallery showcasing work from several excellent photographers. Kate is herself a professional photographer with a real passion for street photography and you can see this in her own work which is also displayed in her gallery.
If you are ever in Swanage, make sure you make a point of visiting it, even for 10 minutes just to say hi and to have a little look. Its a wonderful place and you might even be tempted to buy the photos which are very reasonable in price.
Also, if you have time, check out the gallery's website -

Monday, May 26, 2008

Reflections - The world in your eyes

The world in your eyes
Originally uploaded by danlayphotos

Becs needed some new sunglasses when we were on holiday and these ones looked fab on her. When we were out walking together, I was amazed at the reflection that appeared so sharp in the glasses and how wide-angle the glasses are.

I decided to try and photograph her to get the reflection sharp. I took a few photos and eventually got myself out of the reflection (actually quite tricky).

In post processing, I overexposed it and put some extra colour saturation so that it appeared almost an ethereal picture.

To improve on this, I could try to overlay an ethereal scene into her glasses or a scene from armageddon or something. My photoshop skills aren't that good so I might just try photographing her again like this but in front of run down derelict house or ruin (something evocative) and put it into black and white!

What do you think?

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I have been watching the "Great British Menu" on BBC Two and was inspired by one of the Chefs (Atul Kochhar) to consider "Balance" in photography. He was obviously referring to balance in terms of tastes, colours and textures on the dishes that he serves but I think it sums up what is so hard to with photography.

To make good photos, it's not enough to just photograph a subject with the right depth of field, sharpness and colour reproduction. You need to have a sort of Yin-Yang that ensures that what you're photographing has the right level of attention and is set out to stand out.

Backgrounds should be complementary to the subject in terms of colour and texture. Sometimes this might mean your background is blurred and the same colour as the subject or is a contrasting colour to lift the subject the page.

The textures in the picture should be balanced. Again, this can be that the texture of the subject is reflected in the background (e.g. Old rusty shopping trolley in front of massive urban decay) or harshly contrasted by it (e.g. a rough stone on a smooth wooden floor).

Composition should allow the attention to be placed firmly on the subject matter. e.g. leading lines should lead to the subject, the subject should be placed on the intersection between the line of thirds, the subject should be allowed to 'breathe' in the image and not be so intensely crowded out.

Light should be balanced with the shadows to enhance the attention and beauty of the subject.

The photo above is an example of putting the above into practice.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More fun at Alverstone

I was back at Alverstone Mead last weekend and paid a flying visit to my red squirrel buddies. Unfortunately, owing to a poorly grandmother, we couldn't visit early morning as we had planned and so this time ended up visiting at about midday. Predictably, the squirrels were not really showing their faces and so I only shot about a dozen pictures, of which the above is my favourite.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Photo shoot with friends

With our first baby on the way, I took the opportunity of turning the would be nursery into a white room studio for two weeks. I've invited friends and family to come over for some photo shoots so that I can have some practice and they can have some photos!

Today my friends Dave, Helen, Noah and baby Freya came over and we had lots of fun! Boy was it hard work but great fun. I didn't realise quite how hard it would be but it was really worth it. A childs smile is worth ten from a grown up.


I had a go this week at photographing a landscape type scenic shot of bluebells. We have two small coppiced woods where I live and both are abundant with blues this time of year.

I chose to do an early shoot (about 5:30am) as I wanted to capture a scene with mist and sun beams. I got the mist but no sun which has sadly meant that my photos are quite dull and lifeless. I'm not happy with them. The other thing I struggled with was not having a strong enough line through the picture, e.g. a well walked path or a broken down tree. The pictures I took lack life and impact. They're a bit bland.

What I really wanted was a dramatic sunlit misty scene with the bluebells punching through with their lilac colours. I shall try again before the season is out and might try shooting later in the morning and hope for some sun beams!

Anyone else got any good suggestions?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Alverstone Mead Hide

Hey there photography peeps.

As you can see, I've had some fun recently photographing red squirrels. It all came about from a holiday in Center Parcs where a forest ranger there told me about how abundant red squirrels are on the Isle of Wight.

We all as my father-in-law lives there and I knew I would be going there soon, I did a bit of research and found a hide at Alverstone Mead that apparently had an abundance of red squirrels using the feeders. The hide has a wooden walkway to it and as I was walking to it, red squirrels started popping their heads up to greet me!

They were tricky to photograph as they wouldn't stay still for that long and ended up coming so close to you that you would struggle to get all of them into the picture! My big problem was getting the images sharp. Photographing on a cropped sensor using a 70-200mm lens meant I had to use an f-stop of around 11 in order to get the animals sufficiently sharp. That was tricky considering it was an overcast day. I had to boost the ISO to 800 in the end and got some satisfactory shutter speeds.

My personal criticisms of my photos of these squirrels are: 1) the backgrounds aren't focus enough and 2) I crop my photos too tight missing off bits of the squirrel like its ears or tail! You can see more of my squirrel photos at: Please go on to the photos and leave any constructive comments you like. I appreciate honest feedback.

The hide is a wonderful place to go to so make sure you visit it if you are ever on the island. Type Alverstone Mead Hide into Google and you should get a location map of where it is. Otherwise, just send me an email and I'll send you more info!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Image stabiliser really works

Well, as you can imagine, I have been trying my hand with my new Canon 70-200mm lens and it is prooving to be a real gem. The one thing I had some doubts over was the image stabilisation. I have heard lots of people say good things about it but wanted to see for myself how good it was. So I tried taking a picture of a neighbours car alloy wheel from a standing position. I extended the zoom to 200mm and took the picture with a shutter speed of only 1/50secs.
The results are shown below.

Image without stabilisation (200mm f5.0 1/50)

Image with stabilisation (200mm f5.0 1/50)

I am amazed at the difference and all the extra cost for this lens makes it worth it! The extra sharpness I can get at these low shutter speeds is just wonderful. I can't wait to see what kind of photos I can now get from events, sports matches, family and friend gatherings and weddings! This is truly an amazing lens!

Monday, February 25, 2008

New Lens - Canon 70-200 F2.8 IS L

How cool is this! I am the proud owner of a spanking new Canon 70-200 F2.8 IS L lens! Very happy chappy indeed! All I need now is the weather to brighten up a bit and i'm in business!

My main purpose for this lens will be people and animal photography. In time I shall get some extension tubes so that it will convert to a macro lens and I shall also possibly get an extender to increase the reach for better bird close ups!

My first impressions of the lens is how well built it feels. I get the feeling this will outlive my camera body several fold (indeed I have heard that some people have outstripped six EOS 1D bodies with this lens! Not bad going). With the flash unit attached, it makes my camera look so small! But its the glass and the flash that are the most important thing my more educated photographers tell me so that's where i've spent my money so far!

My second impression of the lens is how amazingly quiet the motor is. I could bearly hear it when I started using it! So quiet. That should stop scaring the birds away then!

My only gripe is that it's white! Why? Why? Why? Just make it black Canon! No need for white.. honestly.

Will hope to post some more photos soon!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My lens is bust

Bad news folks. I had a lovely weekend of photography planned only to find that my lens is no longer working in the autofocus department. I contacted Sigma and they are happy to fix it under warranty but I'm a bit gutted. I had lots of photo opportunities spoiled. Ho hum. To be honest, it makes me wonder about whether to go for Sigma lenses in the future. I have a 70-200mm lens in mind next and despite the £500 price difference between Canon's L version and Sigmas EX version, I might still opt for the tank like build quality of the Canon.
Your thoughts friends?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I got me a flash unit!

I have the privilege of taking the photos at my sisters wedding next year and after some consultation with some photography friends, it became apparent that a powerful external flash unit is an absolute must! So having scraped some pennies together over Christmas, I decided to take the plunge and bought on EBay a brand new Canon speedlite 580EX II.
I haven't yet really had the chance to use it much but am planning to do some portrait work soon (if my work and study let up!).

Does anyone have any useful tips they can give me? I really am a novice when it comes to using a flash unit!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Playing with sweets!

I was in a longish meeting at work on friday and I got a bit bored as much of what was being discussed didn't directly effect me. We had a tin of quality streets on the table and we were happily munching through them! As my mind wondered I thought these wrappers might be a challenge to make into an interesting photo.

I pocketed a range of colours and had a go at photographing them at home. It was a lot harder than I first thought it would be. I got two nice photos in the end. The one above and another on my flickr account.

This image above I particularly like as its not immediately obvious what it is! My wife thought it represented a rose, I thought at first it looked quite like a rough cut jewel or piece of glass.

In Lightroom, I overexposed the image slightly and increased the colour saturation to make the image stand out as much as possible.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Single light on white tulip

I thought I would try my hand at taking a photo of a flower in a dark room with a single light source. I used a piece of black card stuck to a wall and put single tulip into a vase about 0.5m in front of it. Using a small desk lamp set about 1m away to the right, I switched off the room light and began taking photos from my camera set on a tripod.
I was at first amazed at how difficult it was to get the back drop plain black without any reflection from the light. I need to invest in some black cloth methinks!

Then my next challenge was to try and get the light coming in at the right direction to light up the tulip enough but to leave some of it in shadow. I experimented with a sheet of white paper as a reflector to get a more even lighting on the subject, ideal for portrait photography. The end result was a very flat looking image so I abandoned that idea!

I also toyed around with the aperture settings to try and get as much in focus without losing the fuzzy background I wanted.

Post processing was easy. In Lightroom I simply boosted the blacks and contrast a little. That was it!
So what do you think? Do you have any improvement suggestions? I appreciate all comments.