What’s best about the Nikon D700?

What Philip Dunn like most about the Nikon D700.

In a word – handling. The Nikon D700 is a really workmanlike camera to use. Not since I enjoyed the simplicity and handling of my old Nikon F3 film cameras have I felt so much at one with a piece of camera gear. They are becoming an extension of my eye.

I don’t actually want to think too much about the cameras I am using when I am taking photographs. The camera should be just a means to an end, part of the process, and the easier it is to handle, the more I am likely to forget about it – suits me fine.

I’ve been using my Nikon D700s for some three months now – handling them is becoming second nature.

Nikon D700 camera in useThese camera bodies fit my hands and have a comfortingly solid, well-built feel about them. The exception to this is perhaps my only real dislike about the D700 – the battery compartment hinged cover seems a little flimsy and I have visions of the battery dropping out of the bottom of the camera if it gets a bit of a shake. It’s the small plastic catch I dislike most. The truth is it does work, I have not had a problem yet and I have never heard of anyone else having a problem either – it just doesn’t feel hefty enough.

Otherwise I can’t find anything to dislike about a camera that can produce the most superb quality images even when the ISO is pushed to 800 and beyond. I find it very difficult to tell the difference between an image shot at ISO 200 and one taken at ISO 400. By ISO 800, you can start to see a slight downgrading of colour and contrast, but not a lot of noise.

One facility I do use regularly is the Exposure Delay Mode. No, this is not the same as using the Self-Timer. Exposure Delay Mode has an entirely different purpose. It causes the mirror to be lifted the moment you press the shutter button, but delays the actual exposure for about one second. This short delay is enough to allow any small vibrations from the mirror ‘slap’ to cease – and this leads to even sharper pictures. It is a mode I often use when the camera is mounted on a tripod.

You can buy the Nikon D700 from PhotoActive Affiliate Jacobs Digital or from the PhotoActive Camera Shop

You can find more reviews on the Nikon D700 DSLR at these websites:



Photoactive Camera Shop with Amazon

Coaching for Professional Photographers

I had a professional photographer with me from London recently. She came for a few days of one-to-one photography tuition. It is quite common for working professional photographers to come to me for coaching, and it’s part of the job I really enjoy doing.

But it all has to be kept very secret – no names, no pack drill, you understand. Sssh!

Unlike the situation in almost every other profession or sport, where good coaching is regarded as essential, it seems to be quite unacceptable to the management of newspapers and magazines that the photographers they employ should seek top level coaching and extra training in order to improve their technique and keep ahead of the game. Above all, professional freelance photographers should never admit to being coached, yet freelance photography is one of the most competitive jobs under the sun.

How very silly. The ability to keep at the top level of any profession is an ongoing and constant quest for more knowledge – more understanding. Advanced technique needs honing.

Just imagine a top class snooker, golf or football player never seeking coaching. Imagine a working surgeon closing his mind to learning new procedures during his career, or someone working in sales not attending a seminar where he might learn how to better close a deal. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Especially when you think of the large sums of money invested in photo shoots and art direction by some of the top magazines.

This sort of photographic coaching can have a very positive result on any professional photographer’s work. It can refresh and inspire the eye and help correct less-than-perfect camera craft. It can also make photographers more aware of a whole raft of simple short cuts to successful images .

The trick for a successful coach is to teach a photographer how to apply his or her own strengths and talents to the maximum effect.

“Learn from a master of his craft”, says the Picture Editor of The Sunday Times

Better Photography DVDs

Hertfordshire school bans photography

A secondary school in Hertfordshire, England, has banned photography to “safeguard” pupils.

Westfield Community Technology College in Watford has said parents will no longer be able photograph or video pupils at any school event.

In a letter to parents earlier this week, school principle Emma Aylesbury, said the decision had been made to “protect our students from potential unwarranted breaches of confidence and the possibility of ‘cyber-bullying’ and other on-line exploitation”.

The headteacher admitted the move would “upset” parents but stated that all camera equipment was now effectively banned from the school’s premises.

A report on the issue by the Watford Observer stated Hertfordshire County Council, the area’s educational authority, thought the move was “unusual”.

Online readers of the local newspaper have been quick to slam the Watford school’s decision, with one branding it “mad” and “loony”.

>> Enjoy street photography without fear of persecution on a photography holiday with Philip Dunn in Menorca.

Cashback offer on Nikon D90 and D5000

Nikon UK is offering up to £60 cashback for anyone who buys a Nikon D5000 or D90 digital SLR camera.

The special spring promotion entitles customers to claim up to £60 cashback on D90 digital SLR cameras and £50 on D90 digital SLR cameras.

The promotion is running until 30th April 2010 and includes all D90 and D5000 cameras bought since 12th February.

All claims must be received by the 31st May 2010 in order to qualify – for more information visit www.nikon.co.uk/cashback.

What Nikon says about the D90 and D5000:

“The Nikon D90 digital SLR camera, the world’s first digital SLR camera to feature movie function, combines innovative high performance features with ease of use to offer a camera perfect for photography enthusiasts.

“Together, the DX format CMOS image sensor and EXPEED imaging processor deliver first class results whilst the range of in-camera editing features extend the creative possibilities of photography.

“Following on from the D90, the D5000 digital SLR camera boasts 12.3 megapixels and a flexible vari-angle screen that allows you to shoot from almost any angle.

“The wide range of scene modes and in camera editing features make taking stunning images fun and easier than ever before. Inheriting the D90’s groundbreaking HD movie mode, the D5000 is the perfect tool to capture family fun.”

Shortage of Canon’s 70-200mm f/2.8 lens

Canon Japan has announced a shortage of its  EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II USM lens.

In a statement on Canon’s Japanese website the company said orders for the newly released lens had been far higher than expected.

Apologising for the shortage Canon added they are looking at increasing supply of the lens.

Record year for Focus on Imaging

This year’s Focus on Imaging exhibition at Birmingham’s NEC is reported to have attracted more visitors than ever before.

Amateur Photographer say 37,352 people attended Europe’s biggest annual imaging show – up 3,000 from 2009.

Panasonic, who were at the event for the first time to launch their new G2 and G10, won the Focus on Imaging organisers’ ‘Best Stand in Show’ award.

Mark Robinson from Panasonic said they were delighted to scoop the prize after ‘weeks of preparation’.

Philip Dunn from PhotoActive Photography Holidays also hailed Focus on Imaging 2010 a huge success.

“It was our second show and it was even better than last year,” Philip said.

“There was a great atmosphere and it’s always good to chat with photographers about how I can help them with their photography.

“Being at Focus on Imaging is very important for PhotoActive as it shows people that we’re not a big, faceless company – we’re friendly, family-run and passionate about our photography holidays,” Philip said.

PhotoActive offer photography holidays and courses in Menorca and South West Scotland.

Philip Dunn’s Silliest Photography Assignment

I’ve covered lots of rewarding photography assignments in my career – and I’ve done some very silly assignments, too.

Perhaps the best contender for the silliest job I have undertaken was one for You Magazine, The Mail on Sunday Magazine. The art editor called me and said he would like me to go to Fiji. He knew I was a rugby fan and he also knew of my reputation for getting people to do things they might not do for other photographers.

Will Carling's Head in Cannibal's cooking potIt was the time of the Rugby World Cup, and England, captained at the time by Will Carling, were likely to play Fiji.

The fertile minds at You Magazine had come up with the extraordinary idea of having a picture of Fijian Rugby players sitting around a cooking pot containing a boiling head of Will Carling.

Yes, I know… but things were a little less PC in the early1990s. And it has to be remembered that just a couple of generations previously, Fijian natives were still knocking people over the head with heavy clubs and eating them – they were cannibals!

At great expense, the magazine had a pot effigy of Will Carling’s head specially made and the plan was for me to take this to Fiji for the shoot.

There were some serious negotiations on fees for such an assignment, especially when I was told that the magazine had made no previous contact with the Fijian ruby players as to whether they would agree to wear their grass skirts and sit around a cooking pot while looking savage and boiling Will Carling’s head. Success would depend entirely on my powers of persuasion.

I should point out here that the Fijian rugby team was made up of some highly educated people. Most were professional men: lawyers, architects, doctors and journalists. As it happened, they loved the idea – but I’ll come to that.

Fijian with Will Carling's head in cooking pot

Negotiations with You Magazine involved a package of assignments that included stopping off first in Los Angeles on the way to Fiji then moving on to New Zealand when the Fiji job was done.

If you think US Customs officials are unsmiling, humourless automatons, then you should try taking a straw-lined wooden box containing a human head through US Customs Control. It’s not easy.

No disrespect to Will Carling, I’m told he’s a lovely bloke, but I came to loathe his head.

It was surprisingly easy to sell the ‘cooking pot’ idea to members of the Fiji rugby team. The truth is that many Fijians are tremendously proud of their cannibalistic forefathers. Some members of the team even produces old photographs of their grandfathers carrying human victims back to their village to be cooked and eaten.

It rained in Fiji and it was very hot. It hardly stopped raining.Will Carling with cannibal

I have an abiding memory of sitting in the back of a taxi between two of the biggest men I have ever met in my life. They were dressed in full tribal regalia – their grass skirts were sodden, the decorative leaves tied to their biceps dripped onto my shirt. Compressed between their massively muscular thighs I felt like a Lilliputian between two giants. It was a deeply unpleasant taxi ride.

We were going to a heritage site that celebrated the history of Fiji – including its links with cannibalism. Here they even had the archetypal village huts – and cooking pots, much praised for cooking missionaries, although real cannibals mostly used a ‘lovo’, or underground oven for the larger joints of meat.

The players really got into the idea of cooking Will Carling’s head and posing with their clubs, grass skirts and rugby balls.

It was all terribly civilised and after the shoot we headed back to the Suva Rugby Club for a pint.

And Will Carling’s head?

I have never been so pleased to part with anything. I left it in the cooking pot. I suspect that some lost tribe in the remote hills of Fiji is still wondering why it was so damned tough to eat.

In the Rugby World Cup, England reached the final but were beaten by Australia.

Fijian cannibals with victim

Old photograph of Fijian cannibals with a human victim


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Digital Economy Bill almost Law

The Digital Economy Bill gets its third and final reading in the House of Lords toady, March 15th. It is now almost certain that this Bill, which will seriously affect photographers’ copyright to their images, will become law within the next few weeks – certainly before the General Election.

Loss of UK Photographers' RightsThis law, which will make seriously adverse changes to the present Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, has been forced through parliament without a vote by the unelected Minister Lord Mandelson.

Photographers’ main concerns are about so-called ‘orphan works’, a government term for copyrighted material whose owners cannot be traced. In effect this law will make it very easy for images to be used legally without the consent of the copyright owner – legalised theft.

The Digital Economy Bill also makes provision for Mandelson to set up a quango where, if photographers wish to retain any form of control over their own images, they will have to register those images for a fee.

Make your views known to your MP now!

Street photography on Menorca Photo Holiday

High demand for Philip Dunn’s Photography Holidays in Menorca mean that an extra holiday has been arranged for 3rd – 10th September this year.

The overall theme of the photography tuition will be Travel Photography – and all that might involve: architecture, landscape, seascape, interiors and, of course, people and street photography.

Street Photography in Menorca

Photograph by Peter Metcalfe

The freedom to take pictures in public is a right that will soon be lost in Britain if the present government gets its way.

Delightfully, the restrictions and paranoia that affects the UK do NOT exist in Spain. Here you are free to relax and learn the art of capturing beautiful, natural and unposed photographs of people in the street. No one objects, no one gets uptight – people have common sense and photographers are made welcome.

I made my living from travel photography for more years than I can count – mostly on assignments for The Sunday Times but also for many of UK’s top magazines and newspapers. Travel Photography is an art that needs to be learned – and is best learned from experience.  I am able to pass on countless tricks of the trade that can ensure you always get the picture you want.

Street Photography in Mneorca during a photography holiday

Photograph by Peter Metcalfe

If you are considering a career in travel photography, these Photography Holidays are essential learning. Not only will you have a wonderful holiday, but you are likely to learn more in one week than you will pick up in months or even years of book or college study. I am always astounded at the lack of real first-hand professional experience behind so many college photography courses.

When booking a photography course or holiday – ALWAYS ask what practical photography experience your tutor has achieved – paper qualifications do not necessarily make good photographers – or good teachers.

If you are wanting to take better travel photographs before you set off for more exotic destinations, then Menorca is the ideal place to learn before you go. It is highly photogenic, there is lots to photograph, and the people are helpful and sensible.

The two pictures above are were taken in Menorca by one of my students Peter Metcalfe, who came on a Photography Holiday last year with his wife Jennifer. These wonderful photographs speak volumes for the joys of photographing people in public and, sadly, the sort of photographic art that will be soon lost for ever in Britain.

This is what Peter and Jennifer said about their Photography Holiday:

“Just a note to say, once again, how much Jennifer and I enjoyed our photographic holiday. It is probably one of the best holidays which we have ever had, and much of this is down to the hard work and careful attention to detail undertaken by you both.”


Happy Birthday Christian

It is my son Christian’s birthday today.

Happy Birthday ChristianIf you happen by our stand (L47) at the Focus on Imaging Show at Birmingham NEC today today do wish him a Happy Birthday – he’s feeling a bit down about getting old now that he’s 29.

Mind you, when I gave the lad a mug of tea in our hotel room this morning, it was a sight that only a mother could love ;-)

Come and see us on Stand L47 at Focus on Imaging Show NEC Birmingham