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Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier

We catch up with Tom Stanier, a K-3 Pentax Ambassador.

| Professional Interviewed

Hi Tom! What have you been up to since we last chatted?

Well, In the past 6 months, I’ve been a very busy guy! Aside from a Full-Time job as a Network Technician, I have been teaching a BTEC Level 3 Music Technology course and I’m coming up to half way through completing my IT Practitioner Level 3 NVQ. I have been on holiday to Dubai with my girlfriend where we spent ten days relaxing, exploring the more remote UAE states such as Fujairah and Ras-al-Khaimah and spending far too much money in the amazing shopping malls! 

Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier Dubai Montage

Photography wise, I’ve been out to some track days at Croft, my local Motorsport Circuit and have really enjoyed getting to grips shooting fast, loud cars and bikes. A few months back I joined a photography club based at Low Barns Nature Reserve and have been dabbling in some nature photography. 

We have had a few famous faces at the Comedy Club too! 
Top Left: Russell Kane
Top Right: Pete Firman
Bottom Left: Jo Caulfield
Bottom Right: Chris Ramsey

Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier comedy club


You've been trying your hand at wildlife and falconry photography recently - how are you finding that?

A huge learning curve, not only in shooting technique but patience too. I have a massive amount of admiration for professional wildlife photographers, they must have the patience of a saint! It’s very hard to find the time alongside my various activities to spend out in the wild or at Low Barns, but I have really enjoyed the guest speakers who come down to the club on a monthly basis and show their wonderful images. The amount of knowledge in the group is incredible, as I am a complete newbie to this form of photography, this has been a great help. A falconry centre brought down some beautiful captive owls to photograph in a group workshop. This was an excellent experience and hopefully one day I may get the chance to photograph some owls in the wild. There were a number of different owls which we took to fitting locations in the nature reserve. A very young, inquisitive Great Grey Owl was a joy to shoot, as was the small Tawny. 

Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier baby owl


Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier owl


What makes your Ricoh kit good for this type of photography?

One of the huge benefits of my gear is it's all weather capabilities, I’m frequently out when horrid weather sets in and as other club members were running for cover when the inevitable happened, I was happily shooting away without any worries. Another benefit of my Ricoh kit is the size of setup in comparison to other brands. I have an extremely versatile setup that is much smaller and lighter than other brands, but by no means does that make it feel flimsy. The K-3 and all of my DA* lenses are built to an extremely high standard and feel completely solid to hand. I frequently find myself hand-holding a K-3, D-BG5 Battery Grip plus a DA* 300mm F/4.0 for a few hours comfortably, and I’m a medium build, 5ft 3" male, certainly no strong man. Many of the club members have been astounded by the compact size of my K-3 setup, so you could say that size matters, or lack of it in my Ricoh setup! 


What other photographic ventures have you been on this year?

Dubai: Although I tried to spend little time with a camera in my hand whilst relaxing on holiday, I captured one of my most favourite images here. This shot was taken from the top of the Burj Khalifa, Just after sunset in what us photographers call ‘The Blue Hour’. A tripod would have been a good idea for this shot, but the height of the viewing glass made this an impossibility. I made do by bracing my lens, battery grip and shoulder against the glass and dangled the K-3 just over the edge of the viewing slit. A 3 second exposure was the longest I was able to hand-hold the camera completely still resulting in a sharp image of the post sunset skyline with cars lighting up the spaghetti like road structure. 

Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier Dubai


Scotland: I have had the urge to shoot the Forth Bridge ever since I saw it on my last trip to Scotland. We made a trip up to Edinburgh on a weekend and stayed in Queensferry. After a day in Edinburgh exploring the castle and fringe festival, we ventured down to South Queensferry just after sunset, armed with an LED head torch and my tripod at the ready. This image took some time in the making and lots of trial and error on my part. I used my head torch to light up the seaweed in the foreground during the 30 second exposure.

Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier Forth bridge


High Force: This image was shot in the late into blue hour with lots of help from my trusty head torch to compensate for the lack of direct light on the rocks, both in the foreground and around the cliff near the waterfall. Even during the 158 second exposure, there wasn't enough natural light to make the rocks visible!

Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier High Force


Ingleton Falls: I had a great trip down to one of Yorkshire’s most beautiful places to walk around with a camera at hand. If I may quote Alfred Wainwright "… Here nature, always bountiful, has been lavish indeed: charming rivers, sparkling waterfalls, wooded ravines, sinister pools and gorges all combine to present a pageant of unexcelled beauty and grandeur. Here, loveliness walks abreast.” I could spend many days here without getting bored and will definitely make a visit in the near future!

Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier Ingleton falls


Croft Race Circuit: I’ve spent many hours trying to perfect my technique with fast moving cars and bikes. With lots of help from a new friend and Motorsport photography guru, Simon Harrison. I have started to make a good improvement in this form of the discipline. A steady hand, smooth panning motion and fairly slow shutter speed is needed to create a sense of speed with both cars and bikes. After many attempts I took this image which I am pleased with. Hand-held with my DA* 300mm f/4.0. Shutter speed set at 1/250th of a second allowing me to motion blur the background whilst keeping the bike in focus.

Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier motorbike


Are there any other areas of photography that you'd like to try that you've not had chance to have a go at yet?

I would love to concentrate on getting out to focus on improving in the wildlife area, and I have some pretty big ambitions for the coming years. I would love to travel to Botswana’s Okavango Delta to capture some images of many different species of animals. I’d be delighted to photograph some lions, leopards and wild dogs in their natural habitat. A friend and fellow Ricoh Ambassador Mike Muizbelt has inspired me to undertake this trip sometime in the future, His images from his photography trips are mind-blowingly amazing!


What tips do you have for anyone looking to photograph fast moving subjects like wildlife and Motorsport with Pentax kit? 

On the K-3, the autofocus system has been vastly improved compared to previous Pentax bodies and I have been confident to shoot both wildlife and Motorsport using the AF.C mode and the Expanded Area AF (L) setting which allows the AF system to auto track subjects. I usually pre-focus manually on the subject and then engage the autofocus system. This gives me the highest keep rate with fast moving subjects. If you know that you are going to be keeping your subject in the center of the frame, then I would usually choose the center focus point as this is the quickest. Certainly in terms of Motorsport, keep your eyes on the action and follow the movement of the cars/bikes with your camera, engage your AF well before your planned capture point and allow the AF system to do its job. Another thing that I have found whilst trackside is; if you’re panning and shooting, turn your Shake Reduction system off as this can actually add camera shake as it tries to compensate for the lateral movement you are making. 

Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier car


What new lenses or cameras have you been using recently and how are you finding them?

I have had two additions to my kit since we last spoke. One I have already mentioned which is the DA* 300mm f/4.0, and the second is a recent newcomer to the Ricoh line-up, The long-awaited HD 1.4x AW Rear Converter. 

DA* 300mm f/4.0: What can I say? Wow! This is very quickly becoming my favourite lens in my kit. At f/4.0 It is sharp, but stopped down to f/5.6 you could slice marble with the tack sharp images it can produce. I was astounded with the optical quality from the moment that I received this lens. A 450mm Full-Frame equivalent lens on the K-3 ,that is nearly 1/3rd lighter than the Nikkor or Canon equivalent. I haven’t found this lens to hunt before achieving AF lock, even in low light situations and it handles superbly no matter what I throw at it. I spent 6 hours watching a league representative cricket match and took this shot hand held after around 4 hours of shooting. My arms showed no sign of fatigue as this combination is still pretty light. You really can’t go wrong with this lens. 

Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier cricket

The HD 1.4x AW Rear Converter is frequently a companion to both my 300mm and 50-135mm, the 1.4x Converter makes my 300mm a 630mm F/5.6 Full-Frame equivalent lens, without any noticeable effect on image quality. A huge bonus of the HD 1.4x is the weather sealing which means the WR capabilities of my K-3 and DA* lenses are never compromised. I took this image of the full moon with the DA* 300mm f/4.0 + HD 1.4x AW Rear Converter in September and I’m very pleased with how sharp it is. 

Interview With Pentax Ambassador Tom Stanier: Tom Stanier moon


What's on the cards for the future?

Hopefully, I will be able to fund a photography trip to the Okavango Delta which would be a trip of a lifetime! Financial stability is hard to manage at my age but once I am comfortable, I hope to one day 'go it alone' with a photography venture and run my current business full-time. With enough drive and passion, I believe that this would be achievable in the future. 

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