29 June 2016

Benro GoPlus Classic TGP27C Carbon Fibre Tripod Review

I don't normally do reviews, but everything starts somewhere, so perhaps this will be the first of many.

Benro GoPlus Classic TGP27C Carbon Fibre Tripod
Benro B1 Double Action Ballhead

First of all a little disclaimer. Benro sent me this tripod and head for testing purposes, but that said, this review will be unbiased.

I'd been aware of the Benro name for some time, but it wasn't until the London Camera Exchange show in Southampton in 2015 that I took a serious look at them. I liked the Travel Angel tripod so much, that I purchased it on the spot, and it's proved perfect for hiking around London and travelling with.

Having kept in touch with Benro via Twitter, I finally managed to talk them into sending me a "proper" size tripod to test with a view that it might replace my existing full sized Manfrotto (055 carbon fibre model).

I'm going to start with the negative, of which there is only one... One of the legs unscrews to convert into a monopod, but this requires you to attach the centre column (which is metal) to the carbon fibre leg. Not only does this make it top heavy, it also means the foam rubber grip thingy is now half way down the monopod. It would be so much better if you could simply unscrew the head and attach it directly to the leg.

My only other negative is to do with the model name, and that it's so hard to remember.  According to Benro the breakdown is as follows - TGP27C. T=Traditional (folding legs), GP=GoPlus, 2=2 series, 7=3 sections of tube per leg (Factory logic), C=Carbon, which might all make sense in the factory, isn't exactly a great marketing name.  

Now to the positives, which is just about everything else.

Starting at the top, it has an Arca Swiss mount, which having used just for a few months with the Travel Angel, is a vastly superior system to that of the Manfrotto mount I've been using for years.

The legs have three positions, normal, wide, and stupidly wide... the final one sees the tripod centre almost at floor level, which in the short time I've been using the tripod, has been my favourite. It allows me to sit on the floor, and the tripod is ultra stable at its lowest position.

With the centre column that comes out it means you can have the camera fixed to the tripod at just about any position - including floor level.

It's built like a tank, assuming they built tanks out of carbon fibre that is, but it's still light enough to hike down to Durdle Door without it making a dent in your shoulder.

It comes in a quality bag, designed to fit the tripod with head attached. In the side pocket of the bag are some spikey feet, which you can swap out with the standard feet depending on where you'll be shooting.

I don't impress easily, but my views would have been the same regardless of whether I'd bought this for myself. I really rather like this tripod. It ticks all of the boxes and then some. I have a feeling the Manfrotto is going to be listed on eBay rather soon.

Hopefully the photos will tell the rest of the story. If you want a really good tripod, buy one of these!

Some specifications
Weight : 1690gm (Head is an extra 400gm)
Max height : 168cm (with head 177 cm)
Min height : 66cm (with head 76 cm)

16 June 2016

Photographing a field of poppies

When a friend on Facebook posted a few photos taken in a poppy field I was quick to ask her where they were.  She was kind enough to tell me (thanks Kate!), and the very next day I made my way there.

Stunning.  Breathtaking.  Wow...   Insert your word of choice here.  They were all of that and a little bit more.

I've now made two visits there, with the second trip finding a field even more redder than the first.

Not knowing much about farming, I assumed poppies were the crop.  Apparently not.  The crop was originally supposed to be rape seed, but according to a knowledgeable local who happened by, the farmer ploughed too deeply and disturbed the poppy seeds, hence the field of brilliant red.

To quote the internet...   "The field poppy is an annual plant which flowers each year between about May and August. It's seeds are disseminated on the wind and can lie dormant in the ground for a long time. If the ground is disturbed from the early spring the seeds will germinate and the poppy flowers will grow. 

This is what happened in parts of the front lines in Belgium and France. Once the ground was disturbed by the fighting, the poppy seeds lying in the ground began to germinate and grow during the warm weather in the spring and summer months of 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918."

From what he was saying the field has pretty much been abandoned by the farmer for the year.

Bad luck for the farmer, but brilliant for us photography people.

Here are some of my favourite images from my two visits.

09 June 2016

The Bloom Twins in Kiev

When I heard that The Bloom Twins (I'd photographed them before when they were supporting Duran Duran in Bournemouth) were playing in Kiev the evening we arrived for the fourth Chernobyl PED I got in touch with them to see about getting a photo pass.  With a little bit of help from my friends on the ground in Ukraine (thank you to Helen and Nikolai) I got the pass.

This was my first concert in Ukraine, and indeed the first time I've had a media pass outside of the UK. 

After a slightly bizarre taxi ride across the city, our driver having first found out we were English put on some Adele for us...   I wasn't having any of that rubbish, so his next choice was Bee Gees played at full volume, which I hate to admit was really rather a lot of fun.

The venue was Atlas Club, which from the front door looked like a rather run down place.  We were waved inside by the guys at the door (I'm still not sure if they were security or....).  Upstairs we found a rather nice (if a bit hipster) bar.  Everything was a bit vague still - where do I get my pass from - where do the others get their tickets from - but I figured it would all work itself out.  Indeed an hour later I managed to find my contact (thank you Juzzee!) who invited us all into the club.

It was a small ish venue, perhaps 500 capacity, mostly standing, but with a seated balcony.

Having been awake since the arse-crack of dawn, not having slept very well the night before, I really didn't want a late night, but it was too good an opportunity to miss.  However after the two support acts, and the venue getting very hot and crowded, I admit I kinda wanted to leave...  It was probably around 10pm by the time the Bloom Twins came on stage.   The atmosphere was very different to the big arena of the Bournemouth BIC, with them singing in English, but speaking in Ukrainian between the songs.

Two things struck me as being different to concerts at home.  The first the high number of people in the audience with "proper" cameras moving around taking photos.   The second was the high number of breathtakingly beautiful women in the audience...  Really, Ukraine really does have some very attractive women.

I wish I could have stayed for the whole concert, but after 5 or 6 songs the heat of the venue and fatigue of the very long day got the better of us and it was time to try and figure out how to get a taxi back to the hotel.  Big thank you to the guy working the Atlas Club bar for helping us with the taxi.

To the photographs.  I was travelling very light, so I only had a 45mm lens with my Olympus OM-D EM-1, which limited what I could do a bit.