2020 has been a challenging year to say the very least – and one that will go down in history for all the wrong reasons. As once again many of us face (or are already in) a further period of ‘lockdown’, we wanted to share a glimmer of positivity and hope.
During this difficult time, one in which many people are facing numerous challenges, our gardens and open spaces have been one area where many of us have sought solace, joy and quiet.
As well as the benefits of being outdoors, gardens can be beautiful and inspiring in every season – helping guide us through the winter, with sparkling frosts and colourful foliage, until the first shoots of spring emerge.
With this in mind, we wanted to share a virtual celebration of colour and positivity, from one of our very own Wilki Ambassadors, Clive Nichols.
The spring and summer of 2020 saw some of the best British weather, pollution free skies and misty mornings ever – and in turn, the UK saw a massive surge in the popularity of gardening, growing our own edibles and generally appreciating the outside space we can access.
Clive (considered Britain’s best garden photographer by PhotoPlus Magazine) talked us through how 2020 has, creatively, been one of his best years and the positive impact his stunning imagery has had for so many people.
‘I’ve been shooting mostly big country gardens on dreamy mornings, or when the evening light drips into them. It’s definitely been a mental release for me and people seem to love the pictures we put on Instagram – it’s pure escapism,’ said Clive.
‘I know I am in a very privileged position because gardens are one of the few photographic genres where you can work totally alone. So during lockdown I was able to continue working and photograph some really gorgeous gardens, which were completely empty of people, save for the odd gardener or owner.
‘You were allowed to go to work if you couldn’t work from home and as I don’t have much of a garden at home, I was able to go out to shoot private locations.
‘The weather was also amazing – day after day of gorgeous sunshine and with few planes and cars around the light was just incredible. I noticed when processing my pictures that I didn’t have to add any colour saturation to my RAW files even in the Raw Converter which was almost never the case in the past with garden scenes. It reminded me of the light you get in Greece or Provence where there is little or no pollution, so I shot some of my best images ever!’
‘People are realising that gardens are a sanctuary where they can get away from all the mainstream media nonsense and get some sanity back in their lives. It’s also a perfectly safe environment because you can potter about on your own and socially distance easily.’
‘Of course some locations remained closed and all of the gardens that I shot during lockdown were country gardens – but these are the gardens I like shooting most anyway.’
In your world it’s almost like Covid hasn’t happened – we’re just transported to a beautiful, peaceful place: perfect escapism. Do you think people have found solace in your images?
‘Instagram is my primary social media platform and I wanted to give people a really positive message during lockdown, so I posted pictures every day that I hoped would show people that they could still have some beauty in their lives – and that it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Since the pandemic started, my Instagram following has almost doubled, now with over 90,000 followers.
‘I must say the response from my followers has been fantastic, with many of them saying that they looked forward everyday to seeing my feed because it cheered them up after all the gloom in the news.
‘I am a half full kind of person and so I tend not to dwell on negativity – if you want to run a successful business then you have to stay positive, especially when economic conditions are difficult.
‘We saw a huge surge in followers – and interest in garden photography generally – with people looking to learn which gardens are good to visit and looking to gain a deeper knowledge of garden photography, gardens, flowers and veg!’
What were your favourite locations from this time and do you have a favourite image that really stands out for you?
‘There is a beautiful garden in my village called Pettifers and the owner, Gina Price, always plants thousands of tulips, which were at their peak during lockdown. I made several visits in April and May and they were some of the best photos of tulips I have ever taken.
‘I also visited a wonderful garden near Redditch called Morton Hall which I have been photographing for the past five years and I took some amazing shots during those beautiful spring days.
‘My favourite image was a shot of blue camassias beneath blossom at Pettifers.
‘I also heard the other day that gardening is now the UK’s most popular hobby – not surprising as people have found such sanctuary in their gardens this year.’
2021 Gardens Calendar
‘We are about to bring out a 2021 Clive Nichols’ Gardens Calendar that will feature some of the gardens featured on my Insta feed – it will be out very soon, more details to follow! Keep an eye on my Instagram (link below) or Wilkinson Cameras’ own social media platforms.’
‘Unfortunately, one of the projects that has been delayed is the launch of my new book which features some of the finest gardens of England – this has now been pushed back until Spring 2021.
‘The current plan is to launch it on Instagram first around next spring – with physical launch events and books signings at some of the garden venues after that – Covid permitting!’
And finally, we’d really like to thank Clive for sharing not only his beautiful photography, but also his positivity in these difficult times and his daily dose of visual joy!
Have you been wondering how to improve your video calling or online presentations? If you’re reading this, this chances are that you’re a photographer and you’re used to exceptional image quality. The low quality webcam built into your laptop just isn’t cutting it and the awkward, unflattering angles from your phone camera are only serving to highlight your lockdown weight gain. (Don’t worry… we’re in the same boat!)
Did you know that the chances are you can use your DSLR, Mirrorless or potentially even a premium compact to stream or as a webcam? Instantly improve your work team meetings or present yourself the best way you can to your clients remotely.
First off, let’s cover the different ways you might want to use your camera as an alternative to a webcam or phone camera and then we’ll show you how each of the different camera brands work to allow you to use your DSLR, mirrorless or compact camera as a webcam.
What exactly is streaming? Essentially it’s just live video online.
We’ve seen a huge uplift in live events on Facebook and Instagram as companies and individuals seek a way to get to their audience when the high street is quieter, or maybe they are currently under restrictions meaning their customers can’t come to them.
For many photographers, especially those who previously ran workshops in person, being able to stream in good quality online has meant they have been able to adapt their business and keep it viable going forward. Wilkinson Cameras have hosted various live webinars and workshops alongside brands like Canon, Nikon, etc. If you want your presentation to look slick, clean and as professional as you are, then using a proper camera as your streaming device is almost essential.
There’s also another huge market for streaming and that is gaming. Twitch is the biggest platform in the world for video game streamers and presenting gorgeous visuals is a sure fire way to make you stand out from the crowd.
One that is definitely overlooked is client introductions.
A lot of photographers now are forced to do their initial meetings via Skype, Zoom etc. and there’s no better way to start this relationship than making your client say “Wow, what webcam are you using!?”
You’re selling yourself as a photographer, don’t let the initial impression disappoint.
Not everything has to be for the public though: a good quality camera for video conferencing can be just as important, especially if you’re trying to make a good impression on managers, directors, etc., who could be watching.
A lot of job interviews are now also taking place via video call. Imagine the first impression you’ll make looking sharp, with a flattering angle and beautiful bokeh behind you.
The bit you’ve been waiting for… What brands can I use for this? What models of camera can I use? I have more than one camera, which is better? What do I need to make it happen?
As always in our blog posts, this information is correct at the time of writing but might not completely reflect what’s available at the time of reading.
The list of models that you can use this with is incredibly extensive, including (but not limited to) the EOS R5 and EOS R, EOS 6D Mark I and Mark II, EOS 5DS R and the EOS 1D X Mark III. More compatibility information is available on their website here.
If that wasn’t enough compatibility, check out the list of currently supported software:
With OBS and Streamlabs being featured that means your streaming world is literally at your fingertips, as these software allow for streaming to most major providers.
What do you need to make this work?
For some of the cameras, just a Wi-Fi connection! But when that’s not supported or available, you can use a USB cable connected directly to the camera, providing you with a clean output.
Canon have even provided us with a brilliant how-to video, making all of this a doddle.
Olympus is a little different: their software, Olympus OM-D, is still only in Beta.
But ‘only’ isn’t doing it enough justice as the software is currently in a very comfortable state, and even has compatibility to stream using the fantastic Olympus LS-P4 audio recorder.
The OM-D Webcam Beta allows you to use the follow cameras as a webcam:
The PC version appears to be more compatible with the range of software as mentioned above, but it is worth mentioning that the MacOS version only allows use with OBS and Google Chrome, meaning video conferencing isn’t available just yet, but keep an eye out on their page to find out if this changes.
Lewis Speight, who you may know from some of our in-store events, has even produced a video on how to get started with a few common apps such as OBS, Zoom and Teams.
What do you need to make this work?
The USB-C cable that is included in your box and a PC/Mac that is capable of running the above mentioned software.
Again, another Beta but one that appears to be a very stable release as well!
The LUMIX tether application allows you to run some of the best cameras LUMIX have to offer, including the S1H, allowing for the but beautiful streaming possible! If you haven’t seen our review of the S1H you definitely need to give it a watch and find out about this amazing piece of kit.
The spec requirements for your computer are also really low, allowing for pretty much any level of PC/Mac user the ability to run the LUMIX tether application.
Lumix have also included a “How to live-stream with LUMIX” video, which again is very handy especially if you’re a first time user of live stream software.
What do you need to make this work?
The USB cable that is included in your box, and any manner of PC/Mac.
The Nikon method requires pre-existing kit, or a separate purchase in the form of a Capture Card.
What is a capture card? Simply put, a capture card records what is being shown on one screen and uses that as input device to be displayed onto another.
This requires the camera plugged into the capture card to display what is known as a “clean out”.
A clean out is a video feed with nothing other than what is going into the lens being displayed, no shutter speed or ISO settings, no focus tracking markets. Just a clean video feed.
Thankfully, all Nikon cameras allow this and Nikon have provided us with not only a guide on how to set up their cameras with a capture card, but also a mini guide on lens choice and lighting.
While this does require a separate purchase, one would argue that this is truly the most versatile way to stream, record and video conference as capture cards work with ANY software of your choosing.
What do you need to make this work?
A HDMI cable that fits your camera, a USB cable for the camera and an external capture card, such as an Elgato.
Fujifilm have actually just released their FUJIFILM X Webcam ver2.0!
Their newest software even lets you make on the fly adjustments to film simulations, white balance and exposure compensation without even touching the camera, something that truly stands out in terms of software power.
The first and largest problem we have is that officially, OBS is not on their list of supported software, only:
Which of course, is perfect if you’re conferencing, but not if you’re streaming.
There’s nothing much to say about the Imaging Edge Webcam software, as their website details are vague, but Sony are known for creating smooth pieces of software, so we can’t imagine any problems happening here.
Though, the Imaging Edge Webcam software is perfectly suited to any video conferencing software, such as Zoom, Teams & Skype!
Lighting & Tripods
In terms of tripods, there’s two ways we can go with this.
If you have the room, great! A full length tripod allows for complete freedom with how you place, tilt and angle your camera.
The Lumimuse is great for lighting in myriad situations with excellent maximum light output and 4 step dimming to regulate light intensity. The USB rechargeable Li-on batteries provide superb battery life allowing you to make the most of the photo/video shoot. The Lumimuse 8 comes with a ball-head, which includes both hot-shoe attachment and a standard thread to enable you to attach it directly to a tripod or alternative supports.
These are great, as they’re cheap enough to create a full 3 point lighting set up, whilst also adding some incredibly useful kit to your bag.
Also included in each kit a set of snap-fit filter mount and filters which modify the colour temperature and diffusion of the light; you can simultaneously use up to 3 to achieve various effects.
We also have the LituFoto F18 Bi-Colour LED Light which is as small as a mobile phone, yet is a durable, bright and convenient LED light perfect for a range of situations.
Featuring a built-in 4040mAh large capacity lithium battery, the full light output is approximately 1.9 hours, and at 5% output you will get around 8 hours use.
It is ideal for indoor and outdoor environments and since it is only about the size of a mobile phone, the LituFoto F18 Bi-Colour LED Light is the perfect lightweight, portable LED light for a range of situations. There is an OLED screen which displays power, brightness and colour temperature clearly.
Often ignored, but equally as important as great quality video, is great quality sound. Your camera’s internal microphone is ok as a general mic, but consider a dedicated microphone suited to your needs.
Audio can make or break just about any content that someone is watching, whether it is a video conference, a webinar, digital lesson or live stream.
There are usually 3 main types of audio capture for these set ups:
Lavalier (aka “lav”) /Lapel Mic
A shotgun mic is great as it mounts directly to your tripod or camera, making it incredibly easy to use.
They also have a nicely defined area of sound pick up, which means you’re easily separated from any background noise.
The limiting factor there is if you plan to move around, as you need to be in the pick up area for your voice to be captured.
A desktop mic provides an all round experience, with the area of pick up usually being wherever you are in or around the desk.
And a lavalier mic, also known as a lapel mic, allows for the closest possible audio recording, with the ability to move around.
Not only does this combine a broadcast quality condenser shotgun microphone, but it also features a Rotolight ring light!
The LED video light fits neatly around the microphone, meaning no need to have an extra pair of hands or having to find a way to use both a light and a microphone without affecting the balance of your camera.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more dedicated microphone, one that we use a lot in our videos is the Rode Videomic Go. It’s a compact and lightweight shotgun mic that perches nicely on your hotshoe, and delivers clear, crisp, directional audio with no prior skills.
For a desk mic, we recommend the Rode MIC NT-USB Mini Microphone. The NT-USB Mini is a fantastic solution in that it delivers Rode’s world class studio microphone technology into a compact package which fits perfectly anywhere on your desktop. Featuring a built in pop filter and a high quality capsule, you’ll find this delivers some of the warmest audio possible.
Combining Rode’s best wireless transmitters, incredible battery life with USB power as well, and stunning omnidirectional lavalier quality, you truly can’t go wrong with this.
If you’re looking to move around during your webinars, lessons etc, then this is the ultimate solution.
Simply clip on to your belt, pants or even pop in your pocket, and you can move around with complete freedom.
The lav mic supplied is of broadcast quality, meaning you can’t get much better than that.
If you’d like to know more about any of the products we’ve listed today, or just need a hand setting everything up, make sure you visit any of our social media platforms, visit us on our Website and head to live chat, or even pop in to a local store, and we are more than happy to help!
Wilkinson Cameras ambassador, astrophotographer Alyn Wallace, has kindly written a blog post sharing his top 10 backyard astrophotography ideas for lockdown with us. Check out Alyn Wallace’s website and find him on social:
With many of us stuck in lockdown, quarantine and self-isolation, I thought I’d share 10 ideas for astrophotography that you can do from home, even if you live in a light polluted town or city. If there’s one thing that this pandemic has taught us it’s that we’re all in this together and astrophotography and astronomy only help to solidify that sense of unification. We all live under the same Sun, the same Moon, the same planets and the same stars. People stuck at home all over the world have a chance to photograph the same subjects and share their images with each other. This borderless aspect of astronomy is one of the reasons I love it.
1. Light Painting with Sirius
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky and can be seen from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. At the moment it’s in the south-west after sunset and sets in the west later in the evening (though don’t confuse it with the brighter Venus). Once you’ve located it you’ll notice that it twinkles quite profoundly, especially when it’s low on the horizon and its light becomes more disturbed by the turbulent layers in Earth’s atmosphere in a process known as stellar scintillation.
You can use this twinkle for creative artistic effect. Put Sirius in the frame, make sure it’s slightly out of focus to accentuate its twinkle and flickering colours, and then intentionally move your camera during a long exposure to light-paint with it. Or check out the example above where astronomer Steve Brown arranged multiple photos of an out of focus Sirius in an almost pop-art fashion.
2. Moon Photography
No matter how much light pollution there is in your area it will never wash out the Moon! It also opens up a whole host of different photographic opportunities. You could should a wide-angle shot and include some foreground interest. Or it’s a great excuse to whip out the telephoto lens and get a better view of the surface details. Crescent moons and full moons are particularly good for a telephoto shot as they are low on the horizon during the twilight hours. Or, you could try a HDR shot and combine 2 exposures for the illuminated side and dark side.
Planets, unlike the stars, reflect the light of our Sun and are much more visible in light polluted areas. At the moment you’ll spot Venus shining insanely bright in the western skies and it will be around until about May. If you have a south-eastern view then you can also spot Jupiter, Saturn and Mars together in the dawn skies.
4. Star Trails
Even if you can’t see that many stars in the sky you’ll be surprised at how many your camera will pick up. You can do star trails even if you live in London! Take multiple exposures of 20-30 seconds, set the ISO to 800 and adjust your aperture until you have a good overall exposure, but don’t over-expose! Leave a 1-2 second interval in between the shots you take. If you have a new camera and a good spec SD card then you can get away with 1 second, but if you have an older camera or a low-end SD card then go for 2-3 seconds. There’s nothing worse than missing an exposure and having a big gap between your trails. Talking of gaps, you can stack all the exposures in the free software StarStax which has a gap-filling mode, nice!
If your camera doesn’t have a built-in intervalometer I recommend the Pixel TW-283 for reasons I explain in the video above. Also, it may be worth putting a lens warmer on to prevent any condensation forming on the front glass element. There’s nothing worse than coming back to find hundreds of photographs of a foggy lens!
5. Shoot A Timelapse
In a similar fashion to star trails, you can shoot multiple exposures using an intervalometer and turn the images into a timelapse video. In order to get smooth motion you need the video to playback at least 24 frames per second, so every 24 images you take will equate to 1-second of footage. In the tutorial video I posted on YouTube you’ll see that I used the same frames from the star trail image to create a timelapse video.
There are many ways you can stitch your images into a timelapse and you can find tonnes online but I’ll be sharing my own tutorial on YouTube very soon so make sure to subscribe to my channel if you don’t want to miss out on that.
6. International Space Station and Starlink Satellites
It’s worth keeping an eye out for any International Space Station flyovers for your location. My favourite app is ISS Detector as it gives you a nice star map showing you how the path will look for your exact location. You could also capture an image of the SpaceX StarLink satellites although that’s a very touchy and controversial subject for astronomers and astrophotographers at the moment. To keep an eye out for those I recommend Heavens Above.
If you’re lucky there may even be an ISS transit of the Moon or the Sun for your location too.
7. Bokeh Stars
If there’s not that many stars in sight then one way to accentuate them is to focus on the foreground, so that the stars turn into large bokeh balls. It helps to have a bit of a longer focal length here, something between 50-135mm. Although you can do this technique with 20-24mm lenses too, just be sure to be nice and close to your foreground subject. The technique is easy, just focus on your foreground subject.
Constellation photography in dark sky locations can actually be quite difficult. Your camera picks up so many smaller stars that the constellation gets lost in the chaos. A little bit of light pollution or moonlight, however, washes away the smaller stars and helps the conspicuous constellations to stand out. Use an app like Stellarium to locate them. Some of the most obvious right now are Orion, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, and Leo.
9. Pinhole Solar Photography (Solar Can)
You could try your hand at making your own pinhole camera, or you could buy a ready-made one from SolarCan. Just set it up outside facing the Sun, peel off the black tab to unveil the pinhole and then leave it for at least a week. The resulting image on the film inside the can shows the path of the sun over an extreme long exposure image. I’m going to leave mine outside for the duration of the lockdown here in the UK. Then the image will serve as a quarantine souvenir!
10. Deep Space Astrophotography
You may be quite surprised at how good a result you can get out of deep space astrophotography in light polluted areas. With the right light pollution filter you can really hone in on your distant target and if you have an astro modified camera you could even do some narrowband astrophotography. Whilst I dabble in deep space astrophotography, I’m no expert, which is why you should check out some of the YouTube channels listed below: Astro Backyard Peter Zelinka Dylan O’Donnell
BONUS: Edit Your Past Images
You may have plenty of images sitting in your archive that are still waiting to be edited. Or how about going over past images to see how your editing has improved. As a bonus, my Astro Workflow Lightroom Presets are currently on sale during lockdown. See how they can improve your workflow and take your images to the next level.
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