Friday 17 July 2009

Guest Photographer - John Bulpitt FRPS

Today is the first of what will hopefully be a new features for Wildlife Photography across the Water with our first guest photographer slot on the blog.

John Bulpitt read this article I posted back in February and contacted me ahead of a trip he made to Africa earlier this year and we got into dialogue about digital storage. But before John's story her a few details and background on John.

John's Bio

I have been a keen sports photographer for more than 20 years and gained my RPS Fellowship in 2003 with a panel of athletics/track and field prints. More recently I have diversified into nature and street photography. Most action pics are taken with a Canon 1D mkII with either a 70-200f2.8L (often with a 1.4 converter) or a 300f4 IS. A Canon 40D is used for more static subjects.

I enter many National and International exhibitions and am an enthusiastic member of Cambridge Camera Club, click on the Gallery for some of my sports pics. If you can take sharp images of Greyhounds, birds in flight are straightforward!

John now takes up the story below with his article that was published in summer 2009 edition of "The Iris", the magazine of the Nature Group of the RPS.

Storing Digital Images on the move

On a recent trip to Tanzania with Mark Hamblin of Wildshots, I took about 8000 images. Some may find this excessive, but as a photographer whose main interest is action photography in all it's manifestations, I tend to hit the motordrive and only stop when the Bar opens. In any event, it does raise the question of how you back up and store digital images on a "big" trip. Over the past five years I have tried four different solutions. If I knew then what I know now my kids would (eventually) be far better off.

One could take a pocket full of CF cards. I tend to use Sandisk Extreme 11, 4GB cards and shooting in RAW on a Canon 1DmkII would need about 20 of these for the trip described above.

At the time of writing (April 1st appropriately) these would cost about £280 from Amazon. You could argue that fewer are needed because of the facility to edit in camera but I would counsel against this. You can't really see what you are doing and it can corrupt the card. However, the main drawback with total reliance on CF cards is that you can not take full advantage of the benefit of digital the facility to review a day's shoot and learn any lessons that need to be learnt in preparation for the next day. There are cheap CF cards but I wouldn't go there personally. You could also buy bigger capacity cards but I would be nervous about having too many eggs in one basket as it were.

The second possibility is a photo viewer. I think that today this is the most expensive solution. The Epson P4000 costs about £390 and holds 80GB. Other than cost I also believe that this can be the worse solution out of the four options outlined in this article. You can not back up and hard drives do fail. you cannot edit other than delete and downloading takes about 15 minutes for a 4GB card. Moreover the battery has a relatively small capacity. It will download two 4GB cards, but not three which can be a problem in places with an intermittent power supply.

Then there is the laptop. This may not involve additional expenditure because many of you may already own one. You can back up onto an external hard drive, DVD's or a number of 16Gb pen drives. it will also take imaging software, But of course Hard drives can fail..... The main drawback is that it takes a big chunk of your carry on baggage allowance and opportunist thieves can spot them from a thousand paces.

The final option and the one I have now decided on is the Netbook. Essentially this is a very small laptop. I have bought the Samsung NC10 (£380 from John Lewis with a 2 year warranty). It has a 160GB hard drive and comes with a 1GB RAM, but I have upgraded to a 2GB (about £20 from Amazon) I back up onto a Seagate external portable hard drive. £75 from PC World a few months ago but you can buy similar products today a much lower price. It all fits very easily into the outside pocket of my camera rucksack.

Of course the hard drive can fail... you know the story now! And it will not load Canon software because the screen resolution is 1024 x 600 and not 1024 x 768***. But it will take Breezebrowser pro (free 15 day trial download available). This enables me to review my images quickly but a full edit would be a bit of a fiddle and cuts down on drinking time. if you are still with me you may have concluded that there is no perfect solution and this is where i have got to, But in my view, the best solution at present is the Netbook plus a lot of CF cards.

I am most grateful to RPS Nature group member Martin Dyer for his help with my Netbook purchase and configuration. Martin co authors what, in my view, is the best wildlife photography website around.

Thanks for that John....... and of course we are most grateful for the kind words about our blog.

*** Note: I (Martin) have found a way round this now and will report in a couple of days time on how to get 1024 x 768 res. and unlock other programs.

And now for a few of John's favourite images. So for all lovers of African wildlife, here are some great images.

Taken in Ndutu where the migration reaches full swing on Jan/Feb. Shutter speed of 1/30th. Pan and blur is not easy from a Landcruiser!

Lake Manyara NP where unlike Ndutu you cannot drive off road. I think that backlighting often works well with small mammals but doesn't suit every subject.

Ngorogoro crater. Good numbers of these birds scavenge around the picnic area. The tatty tail feathers tell you that this bird spends a lot of time on the ground

Ndutu - my favourite place in Africa. We came across a mother and four cubs on four consecutive days and were able to photograph many different behaviours.

Lake Manyara. We saw the bird go into it's nest hole and hoped it would emerge quickly as we were blocking the road

Well many thanks for that great article John and the fabulous images. It looked like you had a great trip.

So finally a note to other wildlife photographers. If you would like to feature as a guest photographer, please tell us about yourself, send us some images and we will get you on the blog. Use the comments box if you want to contact us (remember we don't need to publish your contact note as the comments are moderated - so we won't be telling the world).

Thanks again John


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