I'm DCW's lab manager, but don't go thinking of test tubes and white lab coats. My job is to scientifically test cameras using specialist equipment and software to give you objective and directly comparable reviews of camera and lens image quality.
Spending all day inside with geeky image analysis software doesn't leave much time to explore the great outdoors, but I do escape occasionally and snap something a bit more appealing than a black and white test chart. Here are my 10 favourite shots that I've snapped over the years.
Despite testing cameras and lenses that can cost as much as a new car, I personally use fairly inexpensive equipment. I've been a particular fan of the bang-per-buck offered by Nikon's entry-level DSLRs, with my first interchangeable lens camera being a Nikon D5000. I've also owned a D5100 and now a D5500, teamed with equally inexpensive glass.
I'm a camera and tech enthusiast not a visionary creative photographer, and my 'best' shots certainly won't be winning any awards, but here goes...
1. Italian Stallion, 2017
Cars are huge passion of mine, and like many a petrolhead, few things are more evocative than a scarlet Ferrari - here it's a 328. This particular car was on a presentation line up alongside a lot of other classic cars in a very crowded Gloucester town centre. In an effort to hide any background distractions, I focused in on a key feature of the car - in this case, its distinctive slatted engine cover. The purely red and black colours in the image further enhance the stylistic effect I was going for, helped by a quick Levels and Curves tweak in Photoshop to boost image contrast.
Camera: Nikon D5500 & AFS DX 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
Settings: 1/200s, f/5.3, ISO 200, 40mm
2. Bloomin' lily, 2012
Sometimes the most unlikely setting can provide an opportunity for a decent snap. This lily isn't in some exotic botanical garden, but rather a garden my upstairs neighbour's house at the time. The low angle from which the shot was captured came from necessity rather than choice, as I was hanging the camera out the window of the basement flat I was staying in. I got lucky with the lighting, and a quick Photoshop colour saturation boost and levels adjustment really made the shot 'pop'.
Camera: Nikon D5100 & AFS DX 55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR
Settings: 1/640s, f/9, ISO 250, 160mm
3. Autumn leaves, 2012
Many of my favourite shots are of ordinary subjects in ordinary places. This particular subjects is nothing that special - autumn leaves on the ground - but by ensuring no other background distractions made it into frame draws attention to the simple shapes and restricted colour pallet that make up the image. The shallow depth of field achieved by using a large aperture prime lens - in this case, a relatively inexpensive Nikon DX 35mm f/1.8 - further draws attention to a specific point of focus in the centre of the shot.
Camera: Nikon D5100 & AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G
Settings: 1/1000s, f/2.8, ISO 250, 35mm
4. Koala, 2011
Normally I try to follow the adage of 'never work with children or animals', but this particular Koala on the Australian Sunshine Coast was so well behaved that I was able to get a pretty decent in-focus shot. Sure, a more exotic lens would have made for smoother background bokeh, but I was traveling light and cheap with my bargain Nikon DX 55-200mm VR telephoto lens. The Aussie summer warmth of the image showed through in the original shot, but here I've helped it along with my usual Levels and Curves adjustment in Photoshop.
Camera: Nikon D5000 & AFS DX 55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR
Settings: 1/200s, f/9, ISO 320, 200mm
5. Old vs. new, 2016
Shot at a 'cars & coffee' meet-up in Bristol, UK, these events showcase a variety of diverse vehicles all displayed next to each other. The crowded setting makes it tough to get an image of one particular car without background distractions, but in this case it's the background that helps make the composition. The patina of the ratrod pickup truck in the foreground - basic, American engineering of a bygone era - plays off against the modern, high-tech Japanese Nissan Skyline GTR in the background. The tangential positioning of each vehicle further helps accentuate the contrast, as does the colour vs. monochome difference between the two vehicles.
Camera: Sony Alpha a6300
Settings: 1/80s, f/6.3, ISO 100, 25mm
6. Blue Lagoon, Wales, 2019
My camera of choice is now my Google Pixel XL phone. It may be 2016 phone tech, but continual camera updates and Google's terrific image processing means its shots still look superb in 2020. In my opinion, image quality from the original Pixel can rival that of current camera phones. The downside of this phone being that its single rear-facing camera severely limits your focal length flexibility. That wasn't an issue in this shot though, as I was able to get in close to the rocks to fill the frame and draw attention to the shapes, textures and colours in this amazing Welsh landscape. The rusty hues here have been boosted in Google Snapseed, but otherwise this image is largely the same as the original shot.
Camera: Google Pixel XL, Snapseed
Settings: 1/1692s, f/2, ISO 46
7. Negative space, 2013
People don't usually feature in my shots, as I find inanimate objects easier, more predictable subjects! However I made a rare exception at this wedding, and I particularly like this shot due to its back-lighting casting long shadows that act as perfect lead-in lines to the main subjects. This foreground area also acts as negative space, adding an extra feel of intrigue to the image.
Brief shout-out to the camera that this image was shot with - the mostly forgotten Nikon 1 AW1 - one of a very rare breed of shock resistant and waterproof interchangeable lens cameras! More info here
Camera: Nikon 1 AW1, AW 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6
Settings: 1/400s, f/3.5, ISO 160, 11mm
8. Backlit leaf, 2014
It doesn't really matter what camera you're using, if you get the lighting right, you can be almost guaranteed an attractive photograph. In this case, the camera is a 2014 Ricoh WG-4 small sensor waterproof compact camera, but its accurate autofocus and strong background sunlight illuminating the translucent leaves has brought this potentially ordinary image to life. This is a completely unedited shot, straight from camera. If you zoom in to 100% image size and really pixel peep, the small sensor limitations can be seen, as fine detail isn't as well resolved as it would have been had the photo had been shot on a DSLR fronted by good glass, but viewed at a typical size, the image holds up well in my oppinion.
Camera: Ricoh WG-4 GPS
Settings: 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 125
9. Sweet tooth, 2013
Patterns and repeating objects make for interesting compositions, especially when background distractions are blurred or cropped out all together. The simple colour pallet of this subject further serves to draw attention to the shapes and patterns, while a shallow depth of field focuses in on the chocolate in the centre of frame. This image was also shot on a budget Nikon DX 55-200mm VR lens, not some premium f/1.4 portrait prime. The shallow depth of field was achieved simply by moving further away from the subject and shooting at 200mm, meaning an f/5 aperture could produce a degree of bokeh that would normally require a far larger aperture if shooting with a more typical focal length for this type of subject.
Camera: Nikon D5100 & AFS DX 55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR
Settings: 1/4s, f/10, ISO 200, 200mm
10. Macro poppy, 2014
Once again, here's proof that you really don't need fancy camera kit to capture an attractive image. Sticking a lens down inside a flower on a sunny day is often an easy recipe for a simple but eye-catching photo, and I find it all the more satisfying to get a shot like this with a fairly average camera like this Sony Cyber-shot point-and-shoot. Sure, I have given the colour saturation and contrast some enhancement in Photoshop, as well as cropping from 4:3 down to 16:9, but the original image really wasn't all that different to this edited version. Credit goes to the camera's accurate autofocus for getting the central stamen perfectly in focus, and auto exposure metering was bang-on.
Camera: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX350
Settings: 1/1000s, f/3.5, ISO 80