Tenba Skyline 12 Shoulder Messenger Bag by Ian Clark

Ohhhh! A camera bag.

Ohhhh! A camera bag.

Ok, probably not the kit blog post you might have been expecting (eagle-eyed social media folks will know I’ve recently purchased a Nikon D7200 - more to come!), but not long ago I treated myself to a new camera bag (my third already) and thought I’d share a few thoughts about it. Because, well, camera bags are a perennial pain in the ar…

I spotted the Tenba bags a little while ago (think I first spotted them in Digital Camera magazine a few months back), and they looked like the kind of thing I was after. I’ve had a little (Nikon branded) messenger bag back from when I bought my Nikon D3200 (the bag was a “I need a bag for this right now!!!!” moment), and I’ve been thinking I probably should invest in a new one for when I’m out and about in the streets or not intending to take my tripod with me. This looked to me like it might fit the bill.

A couple of weeks ago I was poking around in our local camera shop (hi Canterbury Camera Centre!) and spotted the range on display so thought it would be a good opportunity to have a good poke around and see if they might be suitable. Originally I had the 13 in mind, but it soon became clear on having a good look at it that it was actually slightly too big for my needs (one DSLR and three lenses). The 13 had space for a further two lenses and when I thought about it I realised actually there would be a lot of fumbling around if I bought the bigger version (it only opens from the top and the lenses would effectively be stacked on top of each other, separated by a divider). On reflection, I plumped for the 12. It was big enough to carry what I have without being too unwieldy (I think three lenses is sufficient for a trip out and about). I have to say, I’ve been really happy with it.

Inside…with my old camera.

Inside…with my old camera.

Despite coming in at a fairly reasonable £55 (-ish), it looks really professional and feels like it’s made from good quality materials. The zips are strong and the material is waterproof (it’s made of “water-repellant 600D fabric” apparently), which is..well…good. On the inside there are a couple of mesh pockets to put little bits and bobs you might need (big enough for a couple of circular filters) and that’s about it other than the obvious storage space for the camera and lenses with two velcro dividers so you can shift them around. The zippable section at the front also includes a small pocket.

As I said above, I’ve been really happy with this bag, it’s just the right size for carrying around the city or for times when I don’t need so much stuff. However, it does have one flaw: it opens the “wrong way”. I say “wrong way” it quite possibly opens that way for a reason, but I find it slightly fiddly that it opens away from the body rather than towards. I guess this is good in some respects (the zips aren’t then on the outside of the bag), but I just find it a little annoying when I need to grab a lens quickly and have to faff around trying to unzip the bag and open it. But that’s a fairly minor grumble to be honest.

So…yeah…that’s a camera bag review. A part of me feels it won’t be the last…

Tenba front pocket

A life in cameras by Ian Clark

Last week I had a ponder over all the cameras I’ve had over the years. As far back as I can remember I’ve always had a camera close by. For me, cameras were second only to personal music players and headphones as something I couldn’t ever imagine being without. Some cameras I loved. Some hugely frustrating. But I learnt something from all of them and I would be half the photographer I am without having had them.

So, here is my life in cameras…

1. Kodak Instamatic

Image c/o  Atelierele Albe  on Flickr.

Image c/o Atelierele Albe on Flickr.


I’m not 100% certain of the model number, but I’m pretty sure this is the first camera I used. And…well…I did not get on with it at all. Mainly I hated the shutter button. I used to find I’d have to really put some force behind it to fire it off, which inevitably meant blurry photos due to camera shake. I could not get it right. I’m sure there were the odd one or two that worked, which is maybe why I perservered and didn’t just give up. But it sure was a frustrating camera.

2. Halina 260

3427541800_13d324df34.jpg

This was the first camera I remember really using regularly. I mainly remember the little switch to turn the flash on and being really excited whenever I fired it up (you could hear this powering up noise when you switched it on). It wasn’t the best camera in the world, but it was the first one that got me taking photos regularly without getting frustrated!

3. Canon Sure Shot AF-7

Image c/o  Steve Harwood  on Flickr.

Image c/o Steve Harwood on Flickr.

Yes, I actually had a Canon camera! I bought this one when I started working on the photographic counter in Boots back in the early 90s. I seem to recall this was also the camera I took to uni with me. So mainly it was used for lots of drunken photos…I mean, field trips. Ahem. Actually, I really liked this camera and I think it was probably the best I had used at this stage. Of course, I didn’t stick with Canon…

4. Olympus Mju II

5284217674_307a147292_o.jpg


This was the camera I really fell in love with. It really was a beautiful little camera. It felt super compact (it literally fits in one hand) and I took some photos of it I was really proud of (at the time). It really was a joy to use, and it is one of many reasons why I held off switching to digital for a long time. I absolutely loved this camera. Even now, I look back on it with great fondness. To the extent I really need to go up in the loft and seek it out again…yes, it’s in the loft…somewhere…what a way to treat something you love!

5. Olympus C-60Z (no Creative Commons licensed images available)

This was my first foray into digital photography. I seem to recall choosing this one as it had a decent pixel count (6.1mp) and a good zoom (3x optical and 12x digital zoom). Looking back now, though, it was light years behond the digital cameras we have now. The screen was tiny and obviously resolution has come on some way since the beginning of the 21st century. Mind you, I have had some shots from it that I’ve been really happy with.

Shot with my Olympus C-60Z

Shot with my Olympus C-60Z

6. Lumix TZ-6

12409591795_6720ab8d96_k.jpg

I still use this camera today (although it looks like some sea water has managed to infiltrate the lens as there are some discolourations behind the front element (I noticed it after a trip to the beach). It’s got a fantastic wide-angle view and takes really good photos. I’m annoyed about the issue with the lens (although it doesn’t appear to affect the photos), but I really enjoyed using this camera. If I were to get another compact at some point, I would definitely go for a Lumix one.

Taken with my Lumix TZ-6.

Taken with my Lumix TZ-6.

7. Nikon D3200

And so now we have the D3200, my current camera. I have to say, it’s been an excellent purchase and entry into the world of DSLRs. My intention when buying it was to finally start to manually take photos rather than relying on the automatic functions of the past. It took me a while to get my head around it and finally start to play around with apertures, shutter speeds, ISOs etc, but I’ve made huge progress since picking this up. In that way, it comes very close to being the camera that I love the most (close second to the Mju II). Question is…what will come next…?

What about you? What was the first camera that made you fall in love with photography?

When things don't go according to plan... by Ian Clark

Another Time…something I wish I’d said to myself when I had the idea to head to Margate that morning.

Another Time…something I wish I’d said to myself when I had the idea to head to Margate that morning.

Ever have one of those mornings where you look around you and think “why didn’t I stay in bed rather than come out in these conditions and try to take photos”? Well, I certainly had one of those occasions walking past the Turner Contemporary in Margate last weekend. Not that I really looked around much. I was too busy trying to walk into the blustery winds to get back to the car. But, you know, the thought crossed my mind.

Like pretty much all other amateur photographers (I’m sure there are exceptions), the weekends are my one opportunity to get out with the camera and shoot some scenes. Normally this means spending all week checking the weather apps, hoping that there is an opportunity at some point. Maybe more than one. Let’s not get carried away though…

Sometimes this means buckling down and just going out no matter what to no matter where. It just so happens that last weekend that no matter where was Margate. Car packed, layers on, off I went on a 45 minute drive to the North Kent coast hoping that there might be a decent sunrise. Hmm…yes.

Margate is another one of those East Kent towns with a strong-ish connection to my past. Back in the day I worked in Cliftonville, just outside the town. There are a lot of things I could say about Cliftonville back then. Deprived and forgotten about would be two such things. I have a weird mixture of feelings when I go to Margate now. Great it’s been redeveloped, sad that (as per usual with such redevelopments) the locals find themselves priced out of the town as the middle class move in, buying up their second homes and turning the town into a “creative hub”, or whatever. But anyway, there is no denying that Margate has some amazing skylines. As I recall, some painter dude was quite keen on it too.

Sadly there was no glorious sunrise. There was cloud. There was wind. There was sleet. There was ice cold air. This is not what I came to Margate for. So I wandered around. Headed back to the car. Moved to another car park and waited. Then the rain stopped. Sort of. I mean, it was less of a sting on the face than it had been about 45mins earlier. Seemed like that meant it was a sign that maybe I should leave the increasingly misted up car, and head back to the coastline.

It was still cold and still windy, but I perservered. I also nearly lost my tripod and camera on two occasions as the wind lashed across the beach. So that was fun. Needless to say, I also fancied my chances of getting some nice long exposure shots with my 10 stop. Spoiler alert: 30 second exposures in strong winds are not wholly successful. That’s definitely being written in all caps in my photo notebook…

I snapped a few shots, none of which I was particularly happy about. I found I struggled for inspiration, as I often seem to do in Margate. I find the obvious shots, the obvious scenes, but I always feel I am missing something a bit special. Perhaps I need to spend more time there on a day where I don’t feel like I’ve been thrown into a washing maching on a real cold wash. I mean, that can’t hurt, right?

And lo…some two hours after sunrise, the sun…appeared. Too late for some good low light fun, but at least there was some interest in the sky. You cling to what you can get.

I’ve not quite figured out Margate, despite those connections. I guess I’ll get there in time. Definitely when it’s not as cold and miserable.

And so, with feelings of disappointment, I headed back home. Mind filled with what might have been had the conditions been right. Well, that and the dude who walked up next to me on Fulsom Rock wearing jeans and a hoodie, gave me a cheery “morning”!, produced their smartphone, took a snap and walked off. I looked at my tripod, my multiple layers and thought… ”yeah, I should have stayed in bed”.

St Margaret's Bay by Ian Clark

Winter sunrise down in the Bay

Winter sunrise down in the Bay

Last weekend I took a trip down to St Margaret’s Bay, just outside Dover. It’s a place that I’ve long had some sort of connection with. Of course it’s nextdoor to the town I grew up in, but I also have happy memories of spending time there in my twenties (ok, more in the way of hazy pub memories than scenics, but still…). It’s a place I keep finding myself going back to, taking in the views and enjoying the sea air.

There’s only a short promenade running along the Bay with either side cut off at high tide (checking tide times is essential if you are planning a visit). But it doesn’t really matter. With views of the White Cliffs either side of the Bay and the vast expanse of the Channel in front of you, the scenary is pretty spectacular. And when the light is right, it really is on another level altogether.

At this time of year, the sunrises are stunning when the clouds allow it (and fortunately, the car park behind the Bay is free in the winter!). The photo at the top of this post was taken just after sunrise on a cold January morning. The conditions were spot on. The tide was coming in, there was interest in the sky, and the light on the cliffs themselves was perfect and ever-changing - from pink to yellow to white.

With the waves crashing down ever nearer, and growing louder with each crash onto the shore, I set up my tripod and went for a long exposure shot with my 10 step ND filter (a Christmas gift). I was pretty pleased with the results. Needless to say, with the busiest shipping lane in the world in the scene, it was difficult to avoid getting blurry shapes on the horizon as the various ferries and cargo ships slid from left to right, or from right to left. But the timing was just right and I managed to get a good clean shot. Even looking at it now, I can feel the cold wind brushing my face and the sound of the waves getting more frantic, more aggressive.

A few more shots later, and I packed my things, munched on a flapjack and made my way back up the narrow, windy road away from the Bay and back into the village, through the streets that I hazily recall stumbling through in my youth, before heading back up the A2 to Canterbury. My trips to St Margaret’s may not be as frequent as I would like, but unlike the hazy memories of my youth, they are certainly memorable.

How do I decide where to go? by Ian Clark

Now there’s a big philosophical question to headline a blog. Tempting though it is to launch into a bout of critical self-reflection about my life choices, this is less about the paths I have taken in life and much more about how I make decisions about what location I am going to on any given day. How do I organise the locations I go to? What things do I consider before deciding where to head? How do I organise all the information to help me make those decisions? Well, that’s what this post is about. So, not quite mid-life crisis levels yet…

I haven’t got a huge selection of locations that I regularly visit, but there are a few recurring places that I head to that I am slowly getting to know. Each time I head to one of these locations I notice something new. Whether it’s the positioning of the sun, the different opportunities the tide brings or individual trees in woodland, there is always something different to remember for future trips. There are two main methods for recording these details, one a bit old school and one a bit more…21st century.

Something I have found incredibly useful is a Google Map i’ve put together highlighting some key scenes around Kent where i have found good compositions. The map features good sunrise and sunset locations, particularly good views and good spots for trees and woodland photography and also indicates the options for high and low tides. I find this really useful as at a glance it can really help me choose where to go on any given day (particularly if I can’t be bothered to explore new locations). This helps to make going out with the camera as painless as possible as I don’t have to waste huge time and energy trying to think of places to go to.

Photo location Google Map

Photo location Google Map

The old school method is a notebook that I have scrawled similar details into. The notebook itself is divided up into a number of sections: seasons, sunrise, sunset and locations. Within each section there are several blank pages of spaces to enable me to note down good locations for each of the seasons, good sunrise/sunset spots and good locations in general. For each I note a load of details (again, compositions with tides, specific elements) so that it makes it quick and easy for me to find locations and I identify potential compositions quickly and easily.

My notebook with handy tabs!

My notebook with handy tabs!

Of course, the problem with these things is actually updating them (full disclosure: I soon realised upon writing this post that I hadn’t updated either in a while…d’oh). But when up-to-date, they provide a valuable resources that saves me time and frustration.

There are a number of other things I use as well to help me make decisions as to where I should go:

  • BBC Weather app - for the obvious information on the…er…weather, as well as sunrise/sunset times.

  • Photopills - a great app for sunrise and sunset, could not do without this app, it’s invaluable in plotting compositions.

  • MeteoEarth - this one is great for cloud cover (it also has a website as well as an app). It gives me a good indication as to what the cloud wil be like in any given location (if it indicates heavy low cloud, then I know sunrise/sunset shots are probably a write-off).

I suppose I could split these things into two groups: the recorded information to choose locations I know about, the apps etc help with new locations (as well as the familiar ones).

What about you? How do you decide where you are going to go? Do you keep notes on locations? Share your tips below!

Printing and keeping in 2019 by Ian Clark

Canon Selphy CP1300

Canon Selphy CP1300

One of the things I promised myself to do more in 2019 was to print and keep more of my images, preferably in some kind of dedicated scrap book. So after Christmas I took myself off to Paperchase (now there’s a dangerous place to shop), bought myself a scrapbook, some photo corners, a nice pen and made the commitment to print and keep more over the coming year.

Fresh, untouched scrapbook…THE DREAM.

Fresh, untouched scrapbook…THE DREAM.

A pen.

A pen.


Last year I was fortunate enough to get a Canon Selphy CP1300. It’s not a professional standard printer, but it prints fairly decent 6x4 prints and is handy for printing out shots on my smartphone as well as the odd camera photo. The prints aren’t perfect, and on close inspection they don’t appear as sharp as you might like, but it’s still handy for quick and dirty printing. I probably ought to review it at some point. Let’s face it, I’m never going to get round to that, but it’s a nice thought…

Page 1: done.

Page 1: done.

So I have the gear, I just need to do it. No excuses. Print those photos, add some notes, look back on them over the course of a year and see how I’ve progressed as a photographer. Let’s see how I get on…

What are your commitments for 2019 photography-wise? Be interested to hear what you are intending to do for 2019!

How I take seascape photos by Ian Clark

Sunny Sands in Folkestone, Kent.

Sunny Sands in Folkestone, Kent.

One of the benefits living in my part of the country (and god knows there are a lot of negatives…) is that I have got easy access to the coast. From my house it’s relatively easy to head to coastland to the north, the east and the south, giving me plenty of options for some seascape photography. Given we are not blessed with many spectacular land features, the coast provides a wealth of options for interesting photography. Given the coastline is ever changing, subject to the flows of nature, it also has the benefit of never being dull. No matter how many times you go to the same location, the seasons and the currents always seem to offer up something new.

Having spent this morning on the east Kent coast (in Folkestone), I thought maybe the first blog as part of my renewed commitment to blogging, should be something on how I do seascape photos. What follows shouldn’t be considered the advice of an expert, just a rundown of the things I do. If you have any tips, please chuck them in the comments at the end! Right, let’s go…

Tide Times - This is crucial. Checking tides is fundamental to your safety and cannot be underestimated. As I can’t swim, this is doubly important for me. I don’t want to find myself stranded due to the tides. When planning a trip to the coast I always ensure I do a quick check on tidetimes.org.uk. It’s a pretty basic website, but at a glance you can see the tides for up to seven days, which is all I need really.

Scouting The Scene - By and large it takes me several trips to get shots I am happy with. On my initial trip I like to get an idea of what the scene would look like at high and low tides. I then plan future trips according to what I think will work. Sometimes a low tide will give me the best composition, sometimes a high tide. Scouting the area is crucial to determining what will work.

Items Of Interest - I always try to look for foreground and background interest in a seascape to try to ensure the image holds the viewer’s gaze. It could be a pier or some distance building for the background, ideally finding some curve in the coastline to lead the eye. For the foreground it could be rocks or sea defences. I think seascapes work well if there are a couple of items of interest in the image leading the eye around the scene.

Sunsets And Sunrises - I use PhotoPills to check sunsets and sunrises and see how they will suit the compositions I’ve identified. In Kent, some locations are great at sunrise (Dover, Folkestone for example) and some are great for both (Herne Bay, Reculver and Whitstable spring to mind). Given the geography of Kent, I’m not sure there is somewhere great for sunsets only in the county and not sunrises, but I may be missing something. Also, I try to match the tides with the sunrise/sunset. For example, sometimes a low-tide at sunrise can help with a composition to the east with an item of interest on the horizon (see the photo of Reculver below for example).

Sunrise in Reculver at low tide. Only at low tide is it possible to get a clear shot of the towers looking east.

Sunrise in Reculver at low tide. Only at low tide is it possible to get a clear shot of the towers looking east.

Going Long But Not Too Long - Long exposures are always an obvious thing to go for when water comes into the composition, but I find it works best not to go too long. The photo at the top of this post, for example, was shot at 0.6 or 1/6. For me this seems to work best in capturing the sea without smoothing it out too much that it loses that sense of motion and interaction between land and sea.

Timing The Shot - I really like to capture the moment when the wave loses momentum and starts to retreat back out to sea. That movement really captures the shape of items on the beach and, for me, makes an image really work (especially with an interesting foreground subject). I tend to fire the shutter at this precise moment and I find the lines of the water as it recedes really helps add interest to the image.

Tripod Maintenance - Ok, not really related to composition etc, but I always make sure I clean my tripod after a trip to the beach. What with the salt water and sand, there’s a lot of damage that can be done. So I always make sure I wash my tripod down afterwards to get rid of any unwanted stuff doing damage to it.

What about you? Do you take seascapes? What are your top tips? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019 by Ian Clark

So I decided to write a blog post. I’ve not been doing too well on that recently. A quick look back shows that I kinda abandoned my posts on a trip to Spain after Part I. That’s not the best is it? It begs the question what is the point of having a blog if I don’t ever use it. So, I’m going to use it more. There. Straight off the bat. One New Year’s resolution established and committed to. I will blog more regularly.

This year I have been doing a lot of looking back. With my mother passing away in February, it’s only natural to spend a lot of time reflecting on the past. I don’t want to do that too much here. I’ve spoken about my mother and life and so on elsewhere, but it is important to acknowledge the sheer weight of the loss upon all aspects of my life, and the extent to which it continues to have an impact.

Looking back over the year in terms of my photography and I really feel like I’ve taken some big leaps forwards. Investing in some new gear (like, filters and stuff) has certainly helped to a degree, but the biggest impact has been the various YouTube channels I subscribe to. I’ve learnt so much from Thomas Heaton and Nigel Danson (for starters) that I feel like I have really come on in terms of technique and skills over the course of the year. I’m thinking about my compositions far more than I was in 2017. Now it’s much less a case of pointing and clicking, and far more thought around the composition of images (I still have some way to go obvs).

Samphire How at sunset…with strategically placed sheep. Good work, sheep.

I’ve also pushed myself to try out things that I would never have been comfortable with in the past. Street portraits, for a start, were something I’d never have considered before, either because of the sheer fear of approaching strangers, or because of my concerns around privacy (which is a bit of a thing for me). Ok the results weren’t spectacular, but I was fairly happy with the images I got and I’ve learnt a bit more about taking portraits, something that isn’t something I’m generally that into.

I’ve also been getting my head around using an ultra wide-angle lens and thinking more about how I can put together interesting compositions using it. Alongside investment in some graduated neutral density filters, I feel like my landscape photos are getting better, I’m much happier with the images I’ve produced in 2018. I guess the fact I’ve printed some out, slapped them into framwes and chucked them on a couple of walls in the house says it all. My technique has definitely improved too. Rather than just flicking it onto auto-focus, I’m getting used to manual focus with live view to ensure photos are as sharp as they can be (or sometimes relying on auto-focus but also using live view to get the focus just right).

Reculver Towers at sunrise…one of two slapped in a frame during 2018 and hung in our house.

So, what next…?

I was fortunate to get a 10 stop Cokin filter, which I’m looking forward to chucking in front of my wide-angle lens and capturing some smooth long exposure coastal scenes, as well as a polariser (also for the wide-angle lens) for that glare suppression and blue sky popping.

I’ve also been mulling over more broadly some things I should look into doing in 2019 to take things a step further. Here are a few things floating around my head…

1) Do more video work - I have mixed thoughts about this. I have a (currently dormant) YouTube channel that I’d like to start using more of, but I’m conscious I don’t have the equipment (or confidence!) that many YouTube photographers have at their disposal. So jury is out on whether I will actually do anything on this in 2019. That said, one of the things I was looking forward to once I bagged the new iPhone XR was to play with video. We’ll see…

2) More street photography - I definitely want to do more of this after dipping my toes in the water in 2018. I feel I’ve got a bit more confidence now in tackling this kind of photography, I need to hone my skills quite a bit more, so I guess that means pushing myself out into the streets with a camera in hand…

3) Print more - I have a small Canon Selphy CP1300 at home which I’ve used fairly frequently (mainly for casual family pictures). But I’ve rarely printed and framed. I want to do more printing, chucking stuff in frames, small albums, little scrapbook type things…more physical, not just throwing everything online and being done with it.

4) Blog more - So if the video thing doesn’t happen (SPOILER ALERT: it won’t), the other thing I’ve been intending to do this year is to post more regularly, like…once a week. A weekly blog. On a specific day. A bit like all those great vlogs I watch that are released on a weekly/bi-weekly schedule. I’m going to do the same. I’m going to go out on photo trips at weekends, do a write-up, post it. Job done. I figure it’ll help me learn, bit of reflective writing and all that. And maybe it will be useful to others that are thinking of picking up a camera and start playing around with it. I think I might just do that. BLOGGING. IT’S BACK.

5) Discover new locations - I need to do this. Try out a few new places. Now I have a phone with a GPS thingy that actually works (SAY WHAT NOW?!), I might go out and explore a little more. Go beyond my usual locations. Try something new. Keep it fresh. Because, you know, same locations time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time…well, you know…

6) Oh yeah, 365 Project type stuff - Ok, normally this kind of thing isn’t really my bag. I’m not hugely into commitments over a long period of time (well, there are exceptions…)…routine gets a bit tiresome for me. But I have been persuaded to the 365 photo project the year. I’m having a crack at it, but don’t hold your breath I’ll last more than a month (tbh a week will be quite something). You can find my half-arsed 365 effort on Instagram at captureyield365 (yeah, imaginative innit).

So yeah, let’s see how this all goes. One thing is for certain, I don’t want to stand still. Well, unless that works for the composition anyway…

Happy 2019!