How to gain followers and influence people!

For the most part, if you ask people (and sometimes even if you don’t ask) for their thoughts on social media you will find that they fall into one of two opposing camps. The first, and seemingly growing camp, is those in opposition, arguing that social media is a major time waster and only serves to feed the user’s need for external validation through likes and comments. In fact, when I initially thought of writing this post it was going to be a bit tongue in cheek and all I was going to say was all you needed to do to gain followers and influence people is to be an Instagram model. Full stop. But then I realised my facetiousness was just an attempt to mask that I fall into the second camp of people who argue that social media can be used effectively and to achieve different goals. So I decided to do more of an actual post than just a silly clickbait article.

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Home is where I lay my hat…

I was reminded of the idiom that says you never know what you have until its gone is one the other day, walking on the Copacabana promenade early one morning with the sun fighting the wispy clouds in trying to come out.  I was grateful that the famous black and white stones on the walkway had been worn smooth by millions of Havaianas walking up and down as they didn’t hurt my bare feet as much.  My shoes had been soaked early when I got caught by a wave I didn’t see coming and I decided to walk back to the hotel some 4km away with them in my hand.  I hadn’t walked anywhere barefoot in ages.  But we used to do it all the time in Durban.  And the main strip in Rio, Copacabana Beach reminded me a lot of the golden mile in Durban.  Only Copacabana is scaled up a little bit and possibly a little more famous.  Durban is however not a 10 and 1/2 flight away.

Continue reading “Home is where I lay my hat…”

So do you shoot Canon or Sony?

This is a story about how I got into a fight the other day.  Not a real fight in a grungy bar or someplace like that.  Or anything that involved fisticuffs or any real physical violence. An online fight on Instagram.  Well maybe an exchange of words really, not to say that things don’t get out of hand on social media pages sometimes.  I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post with a Sony camera body and I think 3 different Canon lens mounted.  And one of the first comments on the post was to the effect of why, if Sony cameras are so good, do 90% of the posts show them with Canon lenses.

Now the question could obviously be interpreted as a genuine query on why this general observation would be so.  Or, and this was the more likely intention, it was a backhanded swipe at Sony using one of the common reasons people use not to buy the camera bodies – Canon and Nikon glass is considerably better.  If you haven’t noticed this already, camera nerds can be very very brand loyal.  To the point that they will pick fights with users of other brands in what can only be described as almost religious zeal. One of the first questions a camera nerd will ask is what brand are you shooting on.  Then they will tell you about what brand they are on and how it is better than your own.  Even I was guilty of that and some would argue this post talks to the same.

To an extent, with my limited use of my Sony camera and lens and the limited time Sony has been in country, I will concede that Canon and Nikon have the best range of lenses but Sony is indeed catching up.  Sony mirrorless mount lenses were limited in the past but the range is constantly being added to.  However, I have to admit that the good to great lenses come at quite astounding prices.  Sony recently announced a $12000 400mmF2.8 lens for wildlife photographers which is going to break the bank of many Sony users as soon as it lands.  If you look at the ratings on DXO mark for some of the GMaster lenses you will see that they actually are much better than their Canon and Nikon counterparts on the high megapixel count camera bodies.  My Sony 100-400mm Gmaster ranks a few points higher than the Canon 100-400mm MkII lens and almost as high as the 200-400mm Canon lens.  But the cost of the Sony is about 30% more than the Canon and what I have also been finding of late is that the availability is also an issue here on the Southern tip of Africa.

So for the compromise of the loss of a little (sometimes hardly noticeable) quality and saving a lot of money, a lot of Canon lenses get used in combination with the Sony bodies.  It just makes sense to use the best body you can get your hands on with the best lens you can get your hands on.  And Canon lenses in particular work really well with the Metabones adapters, losing very little autofocus speed and the quality of the lenses are for the most part close to what you would get with the native Sony lenses for stills (with the caveat that it may not be as great when shooting video).  Nikon lenses on the other hand don’t, or rather don’t have an adapter currently that performs the same as the Metabones does. So this is part of the reason that there are so many Canon lenses being used on the Sony bodies, and maybe not so many Nikon lenses.

The other part I have mentioned before.  For the R32 000 I paid for my Sony Alpha A7III, I would not be able to even get a Canon camera body that currently comes even halfway close.  The 6D MKII is full frame but slower on the frame rate and low light performance is worse than the 6D MKI so worse than the Sony and almost no comparison on the autofocus.  The 5DMKIV has a higher megapixel count but is closer to R60 000 all in and also is slower on the frame and autofocus is also perhaps not as well suited for action and fast moving objects.  So a lot of other Canon users are moving across to Sony and have a lot of glass that they bring with them.  Why not the same with Nikon?  Because Nikon has for a large part, kept up with the Sony bodies’ performance in the last few years and actually are better camera body makers than Sony so the need to change is not as great.  And without the added bonuses of being able to migrate expensive lenses across, I think fewer Nikon users may be tempted by the Sony camera bodies.  There are actually a number of stories of Canon users who got tired of waiting and switched to Nikon as well.

You are probably thinking that’s all well and good but Canon will probably catch up with their own Mirrorless Full Frame camera body soon.  And indeed, that’s exactly what some of the rumours are saying.  Canon and Nikon have both recently announced their intentions to build a new mirrorless full frame camera aimed at directly competing with Sony.  And I believe that they may well do it, except they are about 5 years behind already so it has to be a massive leap forward in terms of technology but would also require a massive mind shift on the part of the predominantly DSLR manufacturers.  And that is they will have to aim to cannabalise some of their own DSLR sales to slot the mirrorless full frames into the current line up.  Canon has been particularly bad at this though, deliberately down speccing cameras so that they do not compete with each other in recent years (perhaps the reason why the 6D MKII was a bit of a damp squib).  So I believe they know what needs to be done but whether they will do it is still debatable.

I think, for what its worth, Canon should perhaps try an alternate tack.  They know how to make lenses and how to make a lot of different lenses.  If I were Canon I would approach the guys at Sony and offer to make their lenses for them, with the correct mount to fit the Sony systems.  Like Tamron and Sigma currently do with their lenses.  Keep making the DSLRs because there are pros who will never switch off Canon so the market may be shrinking but could be there for a while.  And avoid the distraction of trying to out-compete Sony on the full frame mirrorless front and perhaps carve a new niche as lens suppliers.  But then again time could well prove me wrong and they could make a good show of it.  Maybe by this time next year we will know, I just got a case of the proverbial ants in the pants and could not wait that long to see if they came close. And as much as I love my Canon lenses, if I can shoot with them on the Sony body then why not?  So do I shoot Canon or Sony?  Both actually.  And DJI to boot.

First Impressions: Sony A7III (and possibly the 100-400mmF4.5-5.6 GMaster by association)

The Backstory

So.  Have you read enough about the Sony Alpha cameras already?  Actually if you are not a camera geek like me you probably haven’t heard much of the Sony camera’s currently taking the world by storm.  Unless you are friends with me on any form of social media – then you probably heard too much in the last couple weeks and you are probably hoping that I would stop.  And I promise that this blog post is the culmination of what has been an exciting few weeks.  I therefore ask that you bear with me and maybe this is the last you’ll hear of it…for now!

Continue reading “First Impressions: Sony A7III (and possibly the 100-400mmF4.5-5.6 GMaster by association)”

Which lens to choose for beginner wildlife and nature?

Ask me when did I get into wildlife photography and I would struggle to answer. Before getting my first DSLR I had been to the Kruger a total of 1 times in my life, late in 2005 I think it was.  My progression was first into landscape photography, documenting the places I had been travelling to and I started of shooting wide.  The transition to long lenses I think only started late in 2011 when I got a 70-300mm USM and even then the next step up did not come for a long while. So I will run you through some of the lenses I have owned and used and still use in some instances and hopefully guide your own journey. Continue reading “Which lens to choose for beginner wildlife and nature?”

Getting more Air time!

So if you read my blog a few months back on the trials and tribulations of setting up the DJI Spark you will know how excited I was for my first foray into droning and drone photography (Spark of insanity ) But almost as much as it excited me the littlest drone in the DJI line up did leave me frustrated for the 4 months or so I did own it.  Flying through a WIFI connection to the phone, the biggest bug bear I had was that the furthest out I could get it before losing signal was just over 100m at the limited height of 120m.  Limited battery life was addressed through multiple batteries and the ease of flying with the remote was actually quite impressive.  And then, in almost an ultimate act of insanity and almost to fulfill the prophecy I laid out in September, on the 30 December, the little spark flew out about 70m over the waves of Nature’s Valley and about 4m high then started to come back in reverse and decided to spit its own battery out and plummet into the knee-deep water of the Southern Indian Ocean.

Continue reading “Getting more Air time!”

Is it talent or hard work and experience or simply having the right equipment that counts most?

One of my quotes of all time is from Albert Einstein that goes “I have no particular talent, I am merely extremely inquisitive”. Now I make no claim to be anywhere close to the genius that was Einstein but I would say that  I too have no particular talent except perhaps for being curious.  And that can get you a long way sometimes but perhaps curiosity is not all you need (cos we all know that love is all you need).  I’ve, in the last couple months, been having a recurring conversation with a few different people on the topic of natural talent versus hard work towards a goal versus having the better tools on hand to finish the job and buying some luck with that.  The conversations seem pretty pointless because they inevitably lead nowhere because this debate is as old as time. I mean I’m sure even the early cavemen had hunters who made more kills because of a better spear or fishermen who caught fish easier because they were fishing 7 days a week.  But let me give you my take because you’ve already read so far in, you might as well read on…

Continue reading “Is it talent or hard work and experience or simply having the right equipment that counts most?”

I’m making 2018 my year of influence

So full 2 weeks of the New Year have come and gone.  If you are still holding on to your resolutions good on you!  If have already you broke them for whatever reason, well you only 2 weeks in so you can always wake up, shout “Mulligan!” and start over.  If you didn’t make any, you do you as best as you can, because you never know who’s watching and looking up to you!  My resolution for 2018 is actually something along those lines, but before we get there some background.

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Spark of insanity…

I don’t usually do pure tech reviews.  Mostly because by the time I decide to buy anything I have done loads and loads of research and generally am half way to being in love with it already so am generally biased towards being positive.  I think the same is true about the DJI Spark that I recently purchased but it hasn’t been all positive for a change so I decided to write it up on here.

I have been following Casey Neistat after a friend brought his channel to my attention late last year.  He was sent a prototype version so I had the first view of the smallest drone in the DJI line up months before it even became available here in South Africa.  Then he got the real version and his review was just brilliant (with an apology to his wife at the end but that’s Casey for you!).  So after doing more research, speaking to the guys at ODP and much advertising hype I decided that come September I will be getting one.  And I was going to pay full price for it and everything, then the white fly more combo went on special and a quickly grabbed it up!  That’s why people like Casey are social media influencers I guess, they influence you into buying what they get sent…although his reviews are not sponsored. Continue reading “Spark of insanity…”

Getting over the hump…

I get asked quite often these days how long I’ve been so passionate about my photography, quite often I think, with the expectation of the answer being something like all my life.  And when I reply in all seriousness that it has been perhaps only in the last few years that I have really dived right in I get some surprised responses.  Photography, and in particular photographs, have been a part of my life for a long while.  My dad had various cameras, many of which I recently reclaimed and shot many rolls of film of us growing up and growing older.  However I didn’t really pick up a serious camera until about 10 years ago and only got my first DSLR about 6 years ago.  Even still I’ve never taken my photography seriously and probably still don’t because of a few significant reasons.

  1. I’ve never thought myself good enough.  Now this is not to say that I am someone who strives for perfection.  To the contrary, I’ve always been one for trying your best and if your best is not good enough then you can always wipe the slate clean and try again.  But for various reasons I’ve never felt my photography was good enough for me to call myself a serious photographer.  Perhaps it has been the influence of other aspects in my life that say that, yes while I am good, I come off second best more often than not, so why should it be any different with my photography.  And it’s always been the hardest thing to accept a compliment for me.  Like someone would say nice haircut and I would reply with a self deprecating comment about my big head (But seriously I do have a big head). So it’s hard to actually internalise good feedback when I do get it.  But its something I actively work on these days, finding the best way to accept that I may be good by first saying how I captured a shot, then what I like about it and only then saying what I think I could do better.
  2. Putting myself out there opens me up to criticism. Now to even get any good comments you have to learn how to handle the “bad ones”.  And they always seem worse when you are getting them.  But you have to learn how to weed out the good from even the bad.  And be willing to admit mistakes and failure when it happens and be willing to learn.  I’ve said it before on here I think, but no-one ever won anything by playing it small so you will have to put yourself out there as a photographer at some point, just so you can learn to get better.  Even then there will be someone will not like your work.  What has helped a great deal for me is joining a photography club and more recently joining my stock photography site.  That anyone is willing to pay for my photos is great positive affirmation for me that I must be doing something right.
  3. Photography means I have to will have to interact with people. Many photographers I know struggle when it comes to dealing with people.  They may love to take people photographs but the social anxiety of having to deal with people may just be too great and they tend to shy away.  For many, photography is an escape, a way to get out and do what they love for an by themselves.  So having to come back to reality and deal with people may well be a very limiting factor.  I am no shrinking violet when it comes to interacting with people, believing there is always some or other common ground you can strike with someone you have just met.  And I can spend hours talking about my photography.  But, for the two previous reasons I think I have tended to stay away from photographing people.  And many photographers go their whole careers doing just that, mastering other genres but eventually you will have to deal with people, even if it is to sell them your photos or share your photos on social media sites.  So sooner or later as a photographer you have to deal with people so you have to learn how to.  Even if it’s slowly over time.  I have started asking my friends to pose for me and mostly they are more than willing to oblige.  The feedback they will give you is honest and will also help with both previous points.
  4. Comparing myself to others is mostly a bad idea.  This one is a general life rule I think.  For the most part I avoid comparing myself to others in other aspects of my life, knowing that we not all running a giant race against each other but rather in our own lanes finding our way home.  Even when I run in actual races I use the same philosophy, running withing myself more often than not, taking time to enjoy the beauty of the run rather than pushing myself to do better.  I think I ended up last of everyone who did the 10km over the weekend in the local zoo trot.  But when it comes to photography there always seems to be someone better.  Someone who is doing brilliantly with the same kit you have, at the same places you visit.  And this is often the feedback loop to the first point for me.  Again I am learning to get over this, learning to ask questions and sometimes learning to be grateful to have seen something that simply astounds you.

I had to get over these mostly self thought up humps (and some smaller others such as technical know how) before starting to believe in my photography skills.  And like with anything you learn, I progressed through the 4 stages of competency from unconsciously incompetent  before I picked up my first camera to nearly the point of unconscious competence now. Personally I would add a fifth stage to the model – confidently competent.  Where you are good and willing to put yourself out there enough to make the most of your skills, photography or otherwise.  Just don’t jump the gun at the confidently incompetent stage!

P.S.  Why the cover of a Giraffe you may ask? Giraffa Camelopardalis – the leopard spotted camel (who have differing numbers of humps if they are named Sally)