I was accidentally born in Somerset; five months after my parents had closed the door of their terraced cottage in Bow, East London leaving it and most of their belongings to escape the doodlebug raids at the end of the war.
We remained in Minehead (I never knew why they chose that town and never will now) until my father thought it safe to return home which we did during an air raid in the late Spring of 1945.
I grew up in a London pitted with bomb sites and like most children used them as playgrounds. I was aware of the flowering of these wastelands as they supplied one of the few splashes of colour in a black and white 1950’s world but had no idea of their significance. Without knowing, I played on the classic urban habitat.
Today most of these habitats have been built upon and our green space continues to disappear at an alarming rate. There has, however, been a fight back with groups and individuals taking over bits of waste land too small for the developers to bother about and turning them into gardens. This cheers up the environment, encourages wildlife and lifts peoples' spirits when they see them.
Happily, this gives me lots of opportunities for photography right here on my doorstep!
It’s at this point that photographers traditionally talk about their camera equipment. I can’t say that photographic gear greatly excite me. I tend to quickly turn the pages of photographic magazines when there is an in depth view of this camera or the other. I'm not always looking for something new and if I find something I like I tend to stick with it. Having said that I have had just a quick peak at the new Nikon D850 and I am impressed!
My current choice is below.
Nikon D750 full frame camera
Nikon 24mm – 70mm f2.8 lens
This is my favourite lens, it’s so sharp and fast I sometimes wonder if I’ve actually taken the shot!
Nikon 70mm – 200mm f4
I bought this instead of the f2.8 so that I could hand hold it and it’s good but for some reason I don’t have a lot of use for it.
Nikon 105mm f2.8 macro lens
An old film lens which works fine on a DSLR. I haven’t felt the need to replace this yet, maybe in the future.
Nikon 200mm - 500mm f5.6 lens
I did want a second-hand 200mm - 400mm lens but was worried about the weight. A visit to the WEX lens show at the Business Design Centre, close to where I live, confirmed that the lens was too heavy for me. Whilst I knew that once it was fixed to a Gimble head on my tripod it would be weightless, the problem was getting it onto the tripod! I had to ask one of the young assistance to position it for me. Sadly he wouldn't be available to help once out in the field !
I haven't yet had an opportunity to try out this lens but look forward to doing so.
Gitzo GT 2541 Explorer
I bought this very pricey carbon fibre tripod to replace my Benbo. I didn't want to but Benbos are hefty, made of steel and this really is an issue for me as I'm no heavyweight weighing in at 8½ stone if you voted to Leave or 54Kg if you're a Remainer. The tripod has a central column that will go from vertical to below horizontal and the legs can be moved and locked into any position individually to 90 degrees. It's ideal for plant and wildlife photography. Importantly it closes to only 24inches which means it fit comfortably into my shopping trolley.
It's proved to be a great success, better than I'd hoped, not as versatile as my Benbo but so much lighter and less of a mind of it's own!
Benbo Mk 1. Mine is so old it's actually made by Kennett Engineering.
You either love or hate Benbos, some people liken them to an Octopus because once you undo the central locking lever the legs and the central column are loose at the same time? Once you know what you're doing however you realise it's full potential. With the lever undone each individual leg can be moved into any position and adjusted to any hight simply by undoing a single knob on the leg and moving them up and down. For low level shots the tripod can lie flat with the central column parallel to the ground. (It's a pity I can't!) Benbo tripods are renowned for their adjustability.
I have several tripod heads these include two by Manfrotto.
Manfrotto Midi 498 Ball Head with RC4 Plate.
This should be a good, general purpose head but this particular one has proved to be a nightmare. The lever on the RC4 quick release plate sometimes sticks and no amount of pressure will release it. My partner can generally get the camera off the tripod after a few attempt but it takes brute force. I have on a couple of occasions whilst out for the day had to take the head off with the tripod still attached to the camera and carry it home in situ. This has quite put me off the lever type quick releases and I'll buy an Arca Swiss plate next time round.
Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head
Another Manfrotto head with the RC4 quick release, this one works though. This is a pan and tilt geared head which can also be moved from side to side, it's particularly useful for macro and landscape work. It's a heavy bit of kit, rock solid with no creep whatsoever.
Lensmaster R2 Gimble head.
I bought this to use with the 200mm - 500mm lens but haven't tried it yet.
All the above goes into one of my shopping trollies. My current favourite is a Rolser which coverts from two wheels into four so that it can be either pulled or pushed. When closed, two wheels, it's good for London buses with four wheels being better for pavements.
I always use public transport.