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Exotic Equipment: The Canon 1200mm f/5.6 L lens.

Working on film sets I frequently get to see and work alongside some of the best cinematography equipment available today. It’s always comforting to see Arri, Cooke or Zeiss logos floating about the camera department.

I’m a grizzled old camera guy, having seen pretty much anything camera manufacturers can throw at me I don’t get excited by camera equipment very often. I could walk past cameras and lenses that cost many thousands of pounds without really thinking much of it.

However, there are certain lenses for stills cameras that are only spoken about in gasped, reverent tones. Lenses like the alien Nikon 6mm Fisheye lens, or the extraordinary LEICA 50mm f/1 NOCTILUX, that are so rare the photography average consumer will likely never see one face to face.

Today, courtesy of MPB Photographic, a second hand photographic supplier with whom I’ve purchased goods from before, I got to meet a very special beast. The Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L lens. A near mythical lens of which no more then 2 dozen are publicly known to be made. (Click any image to embiggen!)

Canon 1200mm f/5.6 L lens nameplate

 Much like large format photography, there’s not very much concrete information about this lens floating about online, mostly ghostly rumours. So I hope to disperse the clouds of mystery, at least a little bit. Have a look at this beast!

Canon 1200mm f/5.6 L lensCanon 1200mm f/5.6 L lens

 Operating this lens very much echoes using cinematography cameras or my large format camera. You need to use it calmly and ideally planning what you’re shooting in advance. It might even behove the user to have a second person with them to help operation go a little bit quicker / more safely.

I couldn't carry this on my own if I wanted to!

I like to get very close to the lenses I use. My Canon 50mm 1.2  L lens has certain characteristics which you need to understand to fully utilise it. If you fail to pay attention to those little quirks you can easily turn an awesome photo into something very underwhelming. The 1200mm lens appears to be no different. The telescopic view is so extreme that very few subjects are actually ideal for it’s usage, and like every other telephoto lens, it isolates the subject so much that a photo can appear context-less and isolated. Focusing is also clearly something that isn’t to be rushed with such a lens. Having only 10 minutes to fiddle with the lens meant that I didn’t get the time I’d like to understand the lens.

Canon 1200mm f/5.6 L lens

This is the 1200mm seen through a Full Frame Canon 1Dx, shot with a 50mm on a 7D. Just look at the power of that magnification! At 24 times more powerful than my 50mm lens, every movement of the lens creates extreme movements in the frame of the image, every vibration makes the image that little bit softer.

So just how good is this lens? Magnification isn’t everything! It could be soft!

The guys were kind enough to let me shove my camera on the lens and give it a quick test drive.

Here is a photo of the London Eye shot with my Canon EF 50mm 1.2 L lens on a 7D body.

London Eye shot with a Canon 50mm 1.2

Here is it shot with the Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L on the 7D.London Eye shot with 1200mm Canon Lens

 Wow! This was shot from a good 200+ meters away! You can even read the warning label inside the capsule! (100 percent cropped image)


At these distances atmospheric distortion is a genuine concern, so the fact that I can read these words from such a long distance really is remarkable.

Next we turned the camera around and pointed it at Big Ben / The Elizabeth Tower. Here it is with the 50mm lens again.


Look where those guys are scaling it at the top there? Remember that spot, because damn, you’ll be lost otherwise. Here it is with the 1200mm lens.IMG_4568[1920]

IMG_4595[1920] IMG_4572[1920]

I actually loudly exclaimed “Oh my God!” when I looked through the viewfinder for these images. I’ve never, in all of my days of hanging around the streets of London seen the clock face in such detail.

Finally, here is the view across the Thames again towards the old County Hall. With the 50mm on the 7D again.


See the “County Hall” signage? I eventually realised that’s where I pointed the camera at for the next photo.IMG_4515[1920]

 Incredible levels of detail for a subject so far away, and yet I can’t help but feel that I was only scraping at the potential quality of the lens. If I was given time to familiarise myself with the optimal operation of the 1200mm lens, I would be able to make these photos much, much sharper. I would kill to have a couple of hours with myself and an assistant on a rooftop in Central London to really find out what I can bleed out of this colossal piece of glass. As long as the security services don’t think I’m trying to spy on someone!


 What a beautiful monster!



Out in the open!

I love it when films I’ve been a part of are released to the public. Projects can be under wraps for months if not years, so I’m always happy when I can prove that I’ve been a useful person and not just a make believe creative.

Go ahead and get entertained by this delightful homage to the adventure genre by Chris Cronin.

And because, you know, I’m a photographer, here’s some photography! Click to Embiggenate to full size!




Suddenly, a Film!

A couple of months ago I worked with Chris Cronin to produce my first ever short film called “The Gardeners Go To War” on behalf of Roots & Shoots to be displayed at this years RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Somehow, as if almost by magic and time travel, we have delivered a finished film, despite both me and Chris having worked on-set in numerous other films during the post production of Gardeners.

With it being the first public day of the Chelsea Flower Show, the film has also been released! Have a looksie! Cast entirely of students and staff of Roots & Shoots with no prior acting experience, “The Gardeners Go To War”  is a story about how the community surrounding a 1914 era manor house is transformed by it’s men being recruited into the army to fight in World War 1.

I would also like to take a moment to thank the key crew involved, Chris Cronin, Alex Stone, Sheara Abrahams, Lilly Hale, Joel Catchatoor for their hard work on this extraordinary project. Without these people the film would’ve been virtually impossible to pull together. Still looking for more WW1 era goodness? Here’s some more stills for you to eat up at your leisure.

If you have any comments or questions about “The Gardeners Go To War” please feel free to drop me an email at



Cinematographer Alex Stone








Cinematographer Alex Stone







A Blimp What Now?

Photographing a film set has both unique opportunities and boundaries. You’re given total freedom, except when you’ve got none at all!

During a take (recording a performance) the stills photographer is quite rightly on bottom on the list of priorities. Any noise or significant movement is an absolutely terrible offence, taking pictures is a very quick way to make enemies on set.

That is, unless you have a camera blimp!

A what now? A flying camera? How does that help in being quiet and unassuming?

Despite it being a staple piece of equipment for an on-set photographer, many people, even filmmakers don’t know what they are. So, in the vain hope of having to explain myself less often in the future, I’m going to show you what I use to stay quiet on set.

No, it’s not a flying camera.


A blimp is actually a box that’s designed to encase a camera and render it nearly totally silent while taking pictures. This particular one I own is actually a custom-made blimp that I stumbled onto in ebay. It’s a bit ragged from heavy use by it’s previous owner, however I intend to fix it up a bit and give it a sheen of polish.

Made of metal, with a lining of lead and foam, it’s designed to reduce the slapping noise of the mirror and shutters inside the camera. Here, take a listen!



For me, the silencing is the least interesting part using this equipment. It does what it says on the tin, makes the camera quiet. Even though you can here it in the video, a shotgun mic turned away will never pick it up over dialogue or environmental noise.

For me, the things worth spending time to think about is how if affects my shooting style and workflow while on set.  There are a lot of small, but important things that will change the way I shoot.

One thing, is that the blimp does not have neck strap loops on it, meaning it can only be handheld. Now I use two cameras on set, because changing lenses is a fantastic way of making sure you miss everything important, a terrible distraction. However that means that at any time there’ll be at least one camera hanging off my body in one way or another.

This now has to change, and now I’m going to be spending time making sure that the blimp is placed somewhere safe when it’s not being used. Film sets are busy, highly dangerous and variable places, even if I plop it between my feet I need to be aware of anyone that might be headed my way in case I need to move it off the ground. The last thing I want is a camera operator or gaffer to trip over my blimp when handling heavy, expensive equipment. A sure fire way of upsetting insurance companies. Additionally, I’ve also had to remove the camera strap from the camera itself to fit it inside the blimp, so even when I’m not using it, I have to worry about a strapless camera.


Another consideration is that I’m forced to change auto-focusing (AF) habits when using the blimp. By default DSLR’s tie AF to the shutter button, which is fine for casual use, however I deliberately use a custom setting to place AF on a different button, disengaging focusing from shutter release / exposure lock. It gives me extra creative freedoms for little extra complication. With the blimp however, I’m forced to reset that back to the default setting, because only the shutter button is accessible. This means that I must automatically re-focus every time I press the shutter button, a rather frustrating time waster.


The other minor frustration is the lack of monitor window at the back. To check exposures or focusing of previous images, I need to crack the blimp open. Another time-waster. Fortunately I’m confident enough to not require checking too frequently, however If I have 10 seconds to spare, I’m now far less likely to double check that everything is cool. It’s a bit of a hassle when I’m also tackling a focusing system I haven’t really used in a long time.


The last issue, is that the blimp is pretty heavy! It easily adds another kilo to an already pretty heavy collection of equipment. This in itself isn’t a huge problem, I could sure do with the exercise. However when you’re outside in a freezing cold winter, or roasting in a small studio that’s filled with cooking hot studio lights, that extra bit of manual labour can seriously detract from my mental sharpness. It means that I’m going to struggle to hold the camera steady for longer, which can be tricky when having to wait for that right moment I need to perfect a picture.


Fortunately it’s not all negative. Despite all these issues and restrictions, it’s easily worth the ability to take photos during a take. There are many situations that won’t occur when the cameras aren’t rolling. I can take photos of actors giving their best performances with the lighting at it’s most dynamic! It also means that people are less aware of when I’m taking pictures even when we’re not rolling. This helps in reducing self awareness in the subject, and enables me to photograph more naturalistic portraits. Interestingly, when I shoot without a blimp, people tend to block out the incessant clicking, however with one camera in a blimp people will now immediately pick up when I’m using my second camera due to the sudden alien noise in the environment.


The blimp can also affect the relationship between photographer and subject, especially when the subject is aware of DSLR’s but not blimps. DSLR’s are so common that the cameras themselves carry no sense of authority to the person using them, however I’ve seen that people will pay attention to someone photographing with such a weird piece of equipment. It seems to be that one must know what they’re doing if they’re capable of working with such an odd looking camera!

On the flip side, because it’s so bulky and awkward, it can slow me down, and block my face from the subjects perspective. It makes a physical barrier when I’d rather be spending time communicating face to face with the subject, instead of being a voice behind a black box. If I have time I’d prefer to take the camera out of the blimp to shoot a portrait where I need to communicate with or direct an actor.

So there you go! Camera Blimp! If you found this post interesting and would like to know more, or if you’re suddenly inspired to work with me, fire me an email at – I’d be grateful!


Stepping Above The Line

I’ve always dabbled a little bit with the production side of movie making, mostly out of just giving a hand where one is needed in the complex process of making a film. However I’ve never, ever took charge of an entire project. Until now that is. For some reason I answered the beckoning call of endless work and chaos wrangling!

I’ve been asked by the London based charity Roots & Shoots to produce a  high quality creative media supplement as part of their display at this years RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Working with director Chris Cronin we’re creating a <5 minute B&W silent movie that shows the story of a 1914 manor house and how the community handles the loss of it’s gardeners who are sent off to fight in The Great War. The awesome part is that all the cast are students and staff or friends of Roots & Shoots, which gives it a charm that would be difficult to obtain with professional actors.

We’ve just wrapped on Principal Photography and are now in post-production! If time isn’t too hard to find, I’ll write about my experiences of heading a highly non-traditional short production.

In the mean time I’m going to let the power get to my head and enjoy the power of releasing my stills without having to worry! Believe it or not, these photos were only taken in last week! Have a look at this wonderful, beautiful location!






There’ll be plenty more where these came from! Keep an eye out for more news and information!

Any questions? Email me at

The Photos Must Come First

Having been busy working constantly since 2014 rolled over, I’ve unfortunately been forced to divert my attention away from my site somewhat. However there was one thing about my site that was constantly bugging me; my photos were displayed far, far too small.

Films are made to be displayed big, bold and proud! In the cinema they fill your vision and demand your attention, doubtlessly the best way to envelop yourself in something amazing.

The previous design of this site, while stylish lacked impact and was too busy with information that distracted from the reason you visit the site in the first place, amazing photography! It resembled nothing like the displays of cinema that I love so much.

Frustrated by this artistic disparity, I’ve gone ahead and overhauled the design of my site. It comes at the expense of making it harder to read my older Large Format Photography articles, however ultimately, the photography must come first.

If you like what you see, please let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the new design, because nothing is concrete. Likewise, if you think something can be improved, I’d love to hear your ideas. Email me your thoughts at

New Year, New Photos!

It’s a huge shock to the system to get back into the swing of things after spending the entire Christmas period away from the computer, having one of these rumoured things normal people call “holidays” where your work brain switches off entirely.

Couple of things to show off! First off – New Large Format photo! Secondly – Exclusive stills from the next work in progress Chris Cronin film! Woo! Content releases!

Tech Hunt – Large Format

The first photo today is one of the successful Tech Hunt experiments from over a year ago! Originally shot as an examination to my critical focusing skills with a large format camera, it’s been decided that the photo is good enough for you, the wonderful public to enjoy! (Image actor – Michael Collin) – Click to embiggen!

techhunt (2)[contrasted][webl]

Also, because I cannot get enough of it, a 1080p anamorphic crop!

techhunt (2)anamorphic contrast 2014[1920]

I’ll be writing a follow-up article about the techie stuff behind these Large Format photos over the coming days – I didn’t want to clog up a sweet collection of photos with boring details.


Next up are a smattering of key stills from the next, mysterious Chris Cronin film, hinting at things to come! This first still really should be viewed as big as your screen can make it! Click and embiggen it up! Exclamation marks!



If awesome actors (Cameron PrudamesNatasha Goulden) aren’t enough for you, have a look-see at some awesome crew too!




Did you like these photos? Want to tell me you liked it? Maybe you even want me to take photos for you? Give me a shout at