24-70: Sheffield Botanic Gardens

I’m very much making the most of the clement weather this week, and took myself off to the Steel City’s softer side today. The clouds were the perfect counterpoint to the vibrant colour of the early flowers.

The images I’ve picked today summarise the finer optical qualities of the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD.

Excellent short range capabilities

_DSC9335

Pleasing bokeh, even when stopped down

_DSC9349

An image stabiliser that allows you to use slow shutter speeds hand-held for creative effect

_DSC9346

Pin sharp detail, corner to corner, and excellent contrast reproduction.

_DSC9353 _DSC9357

24-70: The arrival of Spring

A few shots today taken from various locations around Rotherham, all using the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD. One thing’s apparent using this lens: the aperture range of F/2.8 – F/22 and the combination of focal lengths makes for a versatile package indeed. The close focus distance of this lens can yield some very pleasing results for small subjects, as long as you can get close enough to your subject, and it’s possible to get some very different results by changing the viewing angle by just a couple of feet with different settings (see the last three shots in particular).

I’m always happy at this time of year. Just another couple of weeks, and the woods should burst into colour as the bluebells start to appear. It’s the highlight of an English spring.

_DSC8412 _DSC8423 _DSC8501 _DSC8710 _DSC8732 _DSC8742 _DSC8811 _DSC9222 _DSC9238 _DSC9240 _DSC9274
_DSC9260 _DSC9262

24-70: Chatsworth House

_DSC8942-2The other half of last weekend involved a trip to Chatsworth House. It’s not somewhere I’d been before, and it didn’t take long to work out why it’s so popular. The “driveway” consisted of several hundred acres of land and more Fallow deer than I’ve ever seen in my life, and would be a pleasant place to visit in its own rights.

We walked alongside the house to the topiary maze, and had a real laugh trying to figure out the way in the the middle. Forty five minutes to get in, three to find the way back out! The Tamron 24-70 USD was the main lens used that day (a short break for macro photography), and in grounds this large it really came into its own.

_DSC8945 _DSC8984 _DSC8957_1

The lens is really crisp, all the way to the edges, which is obviously very important when photographing anything with bold geometry such as buildings. The cloud cover was really changeable for us that day (although we didn’t see any rain), but the 24-70 seems to hold sufficient contrast really well no matter what.

It was a bit of a shock to us that I had to leave my camera bag behind before entering the house (and even more shocking since the restrictions didn’t seem to apply to everyone), so I became reliant on the 24-70′s versatility quite unexpectedly. The image stabiliser came in quite handy, and the range of focal lengths and excellent close-up capabilities (a feature of every Tamron lens I’ve ever used) meant I was able to get a wide selection of shots with just the one lens.

_DSC9066 _DSC9068 _DSC9101 _DSC9120_DSC9064

24-70: Lumsdale Valley

_DSC8857

My wife and I had a rare weekend off together where neither of us had work to do, so we decided to have a night’s stay in Derbyshire. A quick google hunt led me to the Lumsdale Valley, which has the ruins of an abandoned mill set back in the woods. It really was a stunning location, even at this time of year when life is only just returning to the undergrowth. I imagine that in the autumn it’s really something special, and I imagine that I’ll make a return trip at some point.

_DSC8885

It’s on trips like this that I’m reminded just what an excellent landscape lens the Tamron 24-70mm USD really is. Because I enjoy macro photography so much, I tend to visualise shots in terms of longer focal lengths. As a result, 50mm is quite a wide focal length for me, and 35mm is usually my “go-to” focal length for wide angle shots. With both of those classic focal lengths factored into the markings on the lens barrel, it’s unusual for me to go wider, but I think I used the 24mm setting more on this exploration than any other I can remember. Using an FX camera, 24mm is quite a pleasing focal length to use for wide shots. It’s equivalent to around 16mm on a cropped sensor, but without the extreme vertical distortion that you’d experience with that short a focal length.

_DSC8872

The subject choice meant that I used a moderate to tight aperture, so vignetting all but disappeared. There is next to no visible colour fringing, and what little there is vanishes when checking the relevant box in Photshop’s Camera RAW Plugin.

_DSC8917

_DSC8931

Of course, the 24-70 USD is  a versatile walkabout lens, and I was able to use its depth of field properties to simplify the impact of this shot of my wife, in preference to having to include a handrail behind her when sitting in an old window. For those times when I couldn’t alter my distance to change my composition, I was able to select in interim focal length to get the shot I wanted without cropping.

_DSC8864

_DSC8889

_DSC8903

_DSC8934

24-70: Meeting Legends

I made tracks for Birmingham this morning to attend Future Publishing’s new event “The Photography Show”, with one of my friends in tow. While the mainstay of the show is the range of products on display, my interest in going was to attend one of the seminars.

Joe McNally thanks his audience for coming before a seminar at The Photography Show, Birmingham, UK 2014.

Joe McNally thanks for coming his audience before a seminar at The Photography Show, Birmingham, UK 2014.

Like many photographers, I cut my teeth looking at copies of National Geographic as a child. The photographs in those pages burned into my brain, and encouraged a feverish curiosity in the world that stays with me to this day. I appreciated those photographs before I really understood photography as a craft.

There are two photographers who I later learned were responsible for a huge number of the images I remembered. The first was Joe McNally. When you approach the world of Nikon’s Creative Lighting System, you are going to come across his name pretty quickly. He’s an absolute wizard with this system, and has used small flashguns for some really amazing projects. Pretty much every flash or studio shot I’ve ever been involved in has been aided by his experience (“Hot Shoe Diaries” is indispensable reading). As well as being a true creative, he’s as mad as a box of frogs. So it was always going to be worth a drive to go and watch him present a talk on his photographic journey. We weren’t disappointed. The talk was excellent and was accompanied by McNally’s outstanding images and frequent off-beat humour. It was enlightening to hear someone “in the know” describe the pleasure’s and pitfalls of working for some of the world’s most famous publications as you might expect to hear about any employer.

Joe McNally presents to a captivated audience

Joe McNally presents to a captivated audience

Joe McNally describes the process of creating his most complicated image to date

Joe McNally describes the process of creating his most complicated image to date

But it got better. McNally introduced himself to as many as he could before the show (myself included), and was happy to chat and pose for photographs afterwards. Furthermore, the other influential photographer I mentioned was watching the same seminar, and just a few seats away. Steve McCurry is responsible for some of the finest portraits of the 20th Century, and perhaps none is more famous than “Afghan Girl”, which graced the cover of National Geographic in June 1985. I was not yet four when it hit the shelves, so it was waiting patiently for me when I began to wonder what the significance of the yellow-spined magazines on my father’s bookshelf was. McCurry has a command of colour which is second to none. He also happens to be my friend’s favourite photographer of all time, and it was a pleasure to photograph Ian with his hero. This was an unexpected treat, since we’re unable to attend McCurry’s seminar tomorrow. If I’d have thought I would have the opportunity to photograph two such highly regarded photographers, I’d have packed a flashgun of my own! As it was, I had to settle for mixed temperature lights and the VC in my 24-70mm. Thankfully it was up to the task.

I met Joe McNally after the show. Image taken by Ian Frankish.

I met Joe McNally after the show. Image taken by Ian Frankish.

Ian Frankish meets lifelong hero Steve McCurry

Ian Frankish meets lifelong hero Steve McCurry

Of course, I also had a chance to have a look at some fantastic gear. I had a play with the Nikon D4s – and immediately wished I hadn’t, as I came away with a serious case of the gimme gimmes – and checked out the Tamron 150-600mm. Although I wasn’t able to try a Nikon sample, I have to say that my first impressions were excellent. It’s certainly robust, but not so heavy you can’t hand-hold it; has a very solid construction, and considering it’s got a maximum aperture of F/6.3 when racked out, the autofocus locks on almost instantly. I’m very eager to try it out, since it’s pitched to be a bit of a game-changer in terms of quality for cost.

It was a fantastic day out, and Future Publishing are to be commended for the range of speakers and vendors on display. The Photography Show certainly exceeded my expectations, and I’ll be watching out for next year’s event.

24-70: Fitzwilliam Estate

_DSC7998 _DSC8082 _DSC8117 _DSC8153Fitzwilliam-estateI went for a walk around the grounds of Europe’s largest privately owned house the other day, which conveniently lies just three miles from my home. The weather was a bit changeable, but this isn’t really an issue since the Tamron 24-70 USD has built in weather seals. It’s a great walk-around lens for me, since the range almost perfectly matches the DX 17-55 that I used to use before moving to full frame.

In effect, the 24-70 is a wide angle lens, a standard lens and a short telephoto in one package. Great for when you have a range of subjects that don’t require more specialist equipment, and don’t want to change lenses every few minutes. When viewed that way, the slightly weightier feel of this lens seems worth it.

24-70: A visit to the menagerie

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 70mm; F/4; ISO 500; 1/40s. Handheld, VC on.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 70mm; F/4; ISO 500; 1/40s. Handheld, VC on.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 52mm; F/4; ISO 450; 1/50s. Handheld, VC on.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 52mm; F/4; ISO 450; 1/50s. Handheld, VC on.

Well. It’s a fairly loose application of the word, but that’s the brand that’s been given to the petting zoo in the local garden centre. But when the weather’s poor, and you’re starting to feel the constraints of your own four walls, it’s one way to fill your lungs with some fresh air.

There’s a distinct advantage to using fast lenses for shooting captive animals, regardless of the weather. Since a wide aperture comes with a shallow depth of field, you can all but eliminate any fencing between you and your subject, provided you can get fairly close to the fence and there’s a bit of distance between the wire and whatever you’re photographing.

Longer lenses are generally preferable, but I thought I’d see what was possible using my standard telephoto, the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD. It’s a fantastically sharp lens, and like every other Tamron lens I’ve ever used, works best at closer focusing distances. So for a task like this, it’s brilliant. I could isolate the depth of field to almost eliminate the fences (you may spot the linear aberrations caused by the diffraction of light around the wires) , and capture some really finely detailed close ups.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 70mm; F/4.5; ISO 1100; 1/80s. Handheld, VC on.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 70mm; F/4.5; ISO 1100; 1/80s. Handheld, VC on.

Call me strange, but I think chickens make great photographic subjects. There’s a lot of detail around the eyes, and it’s funny to me to think that dinosaurs evolved into these idiots. I loved the mock prune that’s balanced on this one’s beak.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 70mm; F/4; ISO 200; 1/80s. Handheld, VC on.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 70mm; F/4; ISO 200; 1/80s. Handheld, VC on.

The ability to isolate your depth of field is one of my favourite things about faster lenses, as it has the effect of reducing the impact of visual clutter, even when you want to include more in your photos.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 55mm; F/3.5; ISO 320; 1/60s. Handheld, VC on.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 55mm; F/3.5; ISO 320; 1/60s. Handheld, VC on.

I finished my trip in the aquatics shop. The close working distance of the Tamron 24-70 meant that I didn’t need a macro lens to get some interesting images, and the built-in stabiliser made all the difference when trying to get a detailed shot. To paraphrase George Orwell,

All 24-70 lenses are equal.

But some are more equal to the task than others.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 70mm; F/4; ISO 640; 1/40s. Handheld, VC on.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 70mm; F/4; ISO 640; 1/40s. Handheld, VC on.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 70mm; F/4; ISO 450; 1/40s. Handheld, VC on.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 70mm; F/4; ISO 450; 1/40s. Handheld, VC on.