Getting to know us


As a company dedicated to making photography fun, a big part of that is getting to know us. We (after all) are the ones talking to you and getting to know you, so why not return the favour! Each month I will interview my colleagues to give a bit of insight into the person behind the counter. Just a bit of fun, but that’s what we’re all about!

 

RUSSELL LOVE (aka – Lord Love or Russ)

 

What about photography interests you?

I like winning competitions and beating Alice. I just like making nice pictures.

 

What do you like to do outside of taking photos?

Seeing friends, making videos (see link) Golf and having the constant battle with my dad about where the toaster should live.

 

Is there a particular style of photography you like?

Astro photography.

 

Does anyone/anything inspire you?

Me.

 

What camera equipment do you own?

I have the A7R and a Canon 24mm f2.8 FD.

 

Has working at Castle Cameras improved or inspired your photography?

Yes. By learning more about the technical side of photography. By being around cameras all the time, talking to colleagues and being able to borrow the equipment.

 

How do you get to work?

I ride a golden unicorn. (in other words, my mums bike)

 

When and where is your next holiday? Are you taking your camera?

Tenerife.
I can’t decide whether to take my camera as I want to take photos but don’t want to constantly worry that it might get stolen when I leave it on the beach to go skinny dipping.

 

Film or digital and why?

Digital cos its 2017. I don’t have time.

 

Name one thing you enjoy about your job and one thing you would change?

I like playing with cameras and talking to interesting people.
I would like to have more time to create more videos!

 

Here are some of Russ’s photos. He primarily focusses on astro photography (see his photos here) but he does take occasional photos of his cats from time to time and exploring abandoned places!

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Reach for the Stars


Russ has impressed us all with his beautiful astro photos. They get better and better as he gains more experience over the summer months (which is the best time to see the milky way) I took the opportunity to interview Russ and correlate his handy advice for any budding photographer wanting to branch out into the night.

 

I have always been interested in the night sky and I could spend hours looking up at all the stars and constellations. A clear night in the middle of nowhere with only your thoughts is a humbling experience.

To capture this through photography is something that inspires me and you can create some fantastic shots as each shot is different and it’s certainly a skill that needs refining.

Below is a quick start guide for anyone interested in taking up astro photography. What equipment I use, the problems I encountered and the improvements I have made throughout my journey. There are still areas I want to explore and the next step will take me into stars trails.

Hopefully this guide will help some of you to test your knowledge and expand on an area of photography that you may not have considered before.

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Taken at Kimmeridge Bay.

 

The equipment I use.

For successful astro shots there are a few essential items that you need in your kit bag.

 

LOW LIGHT CAMERA – I use a Sony a7R (full frame) camera for my photography, but when I started I was working with a variety of different crop frame cameras. Full frame cameras generally let in more light with their larger sensors, so having a full frame sensor for your low light shots is always an advantage.

 

TRIPOD – a heavy-duty tripod is crucial to prevent any blur from the wind. It can make all the difference when taking a long exposure.

 

WALKING BOOTS – these are useful when you are trying to find the best spot for your photography.

 

A FRIEND – It does get lonely and boring when you’re waiting for the camera to finish taking your shot. You can’t look at your phone as you’ll get light exposure and it will be too dark to do a crossword. A friend will make your long nights a little more bearable.

 

SPARE BATTERY – Long exposures use up a lot of power. Also, flicking through your photos uses up battery life. If you’re there for the long haul, a spare battery is essential. I have 7 batteries in my kit!

 

Problems I encountered and making the most of them.

 

LIGHT POLLUTION

This can be a big problem for any of you budding astro photographers out there. Light pollution can come from a variety of sources. Houses, cars, boats, street lights, to name a few! Even when you think you have traveled far enough to escape the lights, large towns can generate a huge amount of light that reach for miles!

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However, this can work to your advantage.

Taken with the Sony A7 + FE 24-70 f4
Taken with the Sony A7 + FE 24-70 f4

 

In my photo of Durdle Door a man had built a fire and was playing around with a torch below me. This all counts as light pollution, but I feel without these components the scene would not have come together as well. If you live in the city or are not able to travel far enough from the light pollution, use that opportunity to play around with what you have and experiment with the light to make your photography stand out from the crowd.

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This shot was taken at Lulworth Cove. I find the lights from the boats really add to the overall effect of the image. The stars stand out, but your eye is drawn to the boat lights, which Alice thinks looks like alien beams ready to abduct you onto their space craft…..whatever works for you!

 

WEATHER

You may have read about our staff competition.  I desperately wanted to get some astro shots for it. However, the competition ran from January to March. This was not the best time to look for a clear sky! It was either raining or incredibly cloudy blotting out the starry sky. (Not to mention, COLD!) I did achieve some interesting cloud movements at long exposures with a few stars peaking through. Something must have worked, as I came third in the staff competition!

 

TRAVEL

To get the best astro photos you will need to travel to find the darkest places that has the least amount of light pollution. This can create problems in itself. A man wandering around in the middle of the night can look highly suspicious and I have been questioned and told to move on by a policeman who didn’t seem to believe I was taking photos! It is a slightly daunting prospect to walk around by yourself in the middle of no-where with no light to protect you from any potential ghosts. If possible take a friend with you. They will add extra protection and someone to talk to on those cold nights out in the stars.

 

And finally…. MAKE THE MOST OF IT.

Oooo, that’s an interesting star trail photo (especially for a first attempt!) I hear you say! Well thank you, but that’s not what happened here! This photo was created by accidentally knocking my tripod while the camera’s shutter was open. I was incredibly lucky to generate a photo that looks like the natural movement of the stars and its become one of my favourites. My point here is don’t despair if you make a mistake. It may work out to your advantage.

 

THE TECHNICAL SIDE

Here are a few photos I have taken and the settings I used to achieve them. Please feel free to experiment and have fun!

All photos were taken with the A7R + Samyang 14mm f2.8 at 15 sec exposures. We do not have the A7R anymore, please click here for the upgraded version!

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Taken at Lulworth Cove

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Taken at Lulworth Cove

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Taken at Knowlton Church – The light from the church is a candle I found and decided to light to create a warm glow that adds to the overall effect.

Frog Blog


Wild Arena are hosting their ever popular macro workshop in our Salisbury store on the 22nd of September 2017. In honour of this, I thought I would write a blog about Macro photography, focusing on when Wild Arena bought in their beautiful peacock tree frog and the shots that I created. Who knows, you may be able to meet this little fellow (who is a female by the way!) if you book on the course! Don’t miss out!

A few years ago I had the opportunity to photograph a beautiful peacock tree frog while Wild Arena were hosting their mini beasts macro workshop at the store. As one of the largest tree frogs in Africa they make for fantastic photographic models, but still small enough to use a macro lens and capture the fine detail. Wildlife photography and macro being a particular interest of mine, I thought I would take the opportunity to talk through some of the finer details of this style and give you tips that helped me produce a photo worthy of this exotic creature.

(All shots taken with the Canon 6D and Canon 100mm f2.8 L IS USM)

 

Your First Photo

 

 

Information is a beautiful thing. It fills our mind with knowledge. However, too much thinking can get in the way of a creative masterpiece. We need to work on our emotions and the FEELING we get when we hit that shutter button at the exact right moment. With that thought in mind, shown above is my very first shot in a series of frog photos being taken with an hour at my disposal and I think it’s my best one! Of course, photography is speculative and I’ll let you make up your own mind, but my point is still valid. Sometimes its better to forget all the technical knowledge you know and shoot with a passion and excitement that comes from a primal feeling. Technology can only get you so far. The rest is endless.

 

Capture the moment

Following on from the above is the necessary need to capture the moment. Animals have a certain time frame of patience and they are gone! You have one shot to get the perfect pose or you might not get another opportunity. The Peacock frog was placed on the back of the leaf to climb onto it giving me a second to capture the image you see above. She hadn’t settled yet so there were some interesting poses awaiting me. As soon as she had settled she did not move a muscle! This gave me the opportunity to get lovely macro shots. However all the action and movement were in the first few seconds. The last thing you want is to stress the creature, so if they don’t move don’t poke and prod but rather work around them. (See “Perspective”) Animals work to their own tune. You just have to guess what that tune will be and be ready when they create their music.

 

 

Perspective

Don’t be frightened to move around. Most people are afraid to move anywhere other than the space in front of them missing all those opportunities that are right in front of their nose! Try and get into the mind of the frog and focus on features that aren’t necessarily the obvious. The Usumbara peacock tree frog likes to reside on low hanging branches in the wet tropical forests of Tanzania. Although this may not be common knowledge, working around the frog to incorporate the leaves can create a different viewpoint. The leaves are part of its environment and should be a focal point of the photo. The leaves and frog are as one. If you can think out of the box your image will stand out from the crowd and get you noticed.

 

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Macro

The draw to macro is the ability to capture those finer details. This opens up a whole new style of photography. This doesn’t mean that you need to get up close each time. You can create fantastic shots at a sensible distance, but still achieve the fine detail that macro lenses are known for. The most widely used lens in my kit is my old Sigma 105mm f2.8 (The equivalent is now the Sigma 105mm f2.8 EX OS) I use this lens for portraits as well as macro and it does a fantastic job. Look beyond the lens functions and play around with what your lens can achieve outside of its advertised purpose.

After the frog had retired from her photo-shoot it was time to bring out the big guns. The beautiful, if not slightly scary stick insect. The reason I have mentioned this, is to highlight the fact that you should never be satisfied with the obvious. Focus in on key areas and try to find different ways of shooting the inevitably shot to death animals.

Above all, have fun. Nothing is worth the time or money if you don’t have fun with it. If you fail this time round, just appreciate the fact that you got to spend time out in the field or in a studio environment getting up close and personal with the animals on this earth.

Make a Splash!


Bournemouth is well-known for its beautiful sandy beaches. Sandbanks, Chesil beach and Hengistbury Head are just a few around the area. Epic sand castles, fantastic seascapes and splashing about in the water is what it’s all about! You want to capture these special memories,  HOWEVER sand and salt water are your cameras killer, so your electronic equipment stays safely hidden away.

However, all is not lost! There are quite a few underwater or weather resistant cameras that will allow you to capture those interesting unique shots without fear.

The Panasonic FT30 is a handy slim-line compact that can reach a depth of 8m, more than enough for snorkeling or splashing about in the shallows, you can leave it on the beach and its secure design means any dirt or sand stays outside! (Where it’s supposed to be!) The compromise for having a tough waterproof compact is the small amount of zoom it has, meaning there are limitations for any distance work. However, I think this is a fair compromise considering you can submerge the camera underwater. If you’re surrounded by fish, this can make for some fantastic shots that you would never be able to achieve with your £500 land camera! One great photo is better than no photo at all!

Underwater cameras have progressed quite a bit from their humble beginnings.  From the Panasonic FT30 (as mentioned above) the Nikon W300, or the Leica X-U (to name a few!) They have all improved significantly and found that using them as a standard point and shoot does not compromise on quality. Surfing, paddle boarding or kayaking all become memories to capture without worrying about splash back or dropping your camera in the water, if that happens, you pick it up, wipe the lens and carry on!

                                    

As someone who has never owned an underwater compact before, I really put the camera through its paces for the first time on my honeymoon. It is a little bit daunting submerging (what looks like) a standard compact into the water, but I soon got used to it. Having discovered that the fish darting around in the shallows loved bread, I became surrounded by hundreds of fish and it was awesome! If I didn’t have an underwater compact I would not have captured these fun photos!

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Action cameras are another great choice for the budding underwater photographer. They don’t have any zoom, but do have a superb wide-angle view. You can be sure to get the image you want if the animal you’re trying to capture is darting around all over the place. Or some fantastic landscape views.

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What about those of us that enjoy the professionalism of a DSLR system I hear you say! Well, fear not my water-loving friend, there are options out there! I would guide you towards Pentax. Almost all the Pentax range come with the *WR symbol (*weather resistant) If you get caught in the rain, take your new camera out on a boat in choppy waters, or simply don’t want to worry about the crazy English weather, then Pentax may be for you. Don’t forget to purchase WR lenses which will complete the kit. I did hear a story about a customer who mistakenly though WR meant underwater and happily took his new Pentax camera for a swim! Luckily the camera coped with the big surprise and the customer was none the wiser! The images came out brilliantly! This is definitely something I would not advise, however it shows how Pentax are made incredibly well and if one camera can handle underwater shooting, then you can have full confidence that a little rain will be water off a ducks back (so to speak!)

For those of you who already have your perfect purchase then the op-tech rain sleeves are a good option for spring showers, the coming winter, or the standard good old English weather!

Embrace the rain and water. Take your camera wherever you go.

Here are two shameless animal selfies courtesy of myself (Alice) and Luke in Salisbury. Have you got a shameless underwater selfie you would like to share?

    

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The overlooked essential of the photographers kit.


You have done all the research, talked to your photographer friends and specialists. You spend sleepless nights on your computer flicking from page to page comparing megapixels, ISO, zoom and sensor sizes. A decision is made after months of research and you walk away with your camera purchase happy as larry…you then chuck your precious cargo into your unsupported rucksack along with your lunch and keys.

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Unfortunately, this is all too common for the keen photographer and I am guilty of this sin. You may think a bag is just a bag to hold everything in one place, but it is so much more than that. Tripods fall under the same prejudice. A tripod is used for steadying the camera and what really is the difference between a metal stick with three legs? Surely they all do the same thing?! Yes, you are correct. They ARE designed to do the same thing, but there is a massive difference between a £30 tripod and a £200 one.

Let me take you on a journey through the jungle that is our bag and tripod area and explain why doing your groundwork for these items are just as important as your camera research.

I recently went on a trip to the Farne Islands. A bird photographers paradise. Terns, cormorants, puffins and guillemots to name a few, reside on this small island and I could spend all day there. You take a 1-hour boat trip to Farne and if its windy expect to be soaked in salt water! You are walking around the island and need quick access to your range of lenses for flying shots, portrait and wide-angle photos. A secure sturdy and comfortable camera bag is ESSENTIAL. A rucksack would not cut it.

Here are some Artic terns and puffins for anyone who likes birds.

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My bag of choice is the Lowepro flipside 400AW. (We do not stock this bag anymore, but click here to see a similar design) It is designed to hold heavy equipment with full support around the waist for long walks. I felt comfortable all day, even with a Canon 80D, Canon 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM, Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L mkii, Tokina 11-16 f2.8, Canon 100mm f2.8 L Macro, a water bottle and lunch! It has a hidden compartment for a waterproof case (brilliant for the salt water spray) and big enough to comfortably fit all my equipment. My lunch was kept in a separate area so as not to dirty my rental lenses! I never felt weighed down by the bag on my back, leaving me to concentrate on what was important (taking photos)

 

Starting out, I used my standard rucksack. This was never good enough. All my equipment collected at the bottom, putting strain on my back and shoulders. There were no compartments for other accessories meaning that my poor cameras LCD screen took the brunt of my bundle of keys. Most importantly, a standard rucksack does not have the padding designed for expensive electronic equipment. When you are constantly changing lenses and exploring, your bag will take the strain of the elements. Wind, rain, snow, rocks, accidental falls, the end of the world – your bag will go through a-lot. A good quality bag will be hard-wearing and strong, lasting through all your adventures. Doing your research will save headaches in the future.

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If we had to buy our skulls to protect our brains (the organ that holds all our precious memories) would we compensate on price? If your photography is important to you, why compensate?

Just because I work at Castle Cameras does not mean I have all the handy equipment. I will be honest. I don’t own a tripod. I find it easier to handhold for fast quick shots and find tripods a bit cumbersome to carry and set-up. I may need to change my attitude to this. My friend came with me to the Farne Islands and bought with her a Manfrotto 190X. At the time I scoffed at the idea of carrying the heavy aluminium tripod when most birds were diving and flying suitable only (I thought) for handheld photography. However, my friend found an area to set up, saw the birds coming in to land and used her tripod to pan the camera and get some excellent sharp flying birds with her Canon 300mm f4 L. This action saved her arms from the heavy weight of the 300mm and eliminated any extra shake from the hand. Although I am pleased with the images I got, I feel that a tripod would have given me that extra edge. Because she set up her equipment and quietly stayed in one place most of the time, she had the opportunity to capture a herring gull attacking a small tern chick and one competition worthy photo of its head in the gulls mouth! As I was moving around, I lost these opportunities.
Patience is a virtue and having a tripod would have compelled me to wait and capture a potentially amazing scene.

A sturdy tripod with the facility to extend the legs horizontally (for any macro work) is a great piece of kit. A cheaper tripod would be made of plastic rather than aluminium or carbon fibre. (Therefore not as stable) The three legs would be connected, moving in unison and limiting the capabilities when out in the field. There are a variety of tripod heads for different uses – ball head, tilt head, 3 way head, fluid head, among others. At the budget end you wont get a choice of head as they are usually attached to the legs. As you go up the scale the heads become an option and are usually much more fluid in movement. So for any video or panning work you get a very steady shot

Choice is something we are privileged to have, but it can create mayhem in our minds! When you round the corner at Castle Cameras you will be blown away by what we have in store. However if you are trying to choose the best bag or tripod for you we are always here to help and advise.

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If you have already spent a small fortune on your new camera, then check out our clearance offers this week. Good quality items at reduced rates – to help the purse strings but still making sure your camera and photography get the best help out in the big wide world.

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DJI Mavic Review (with help from Russell)


Castle Cameras is an Aladdin’s cave of various cameras, scopes, bags and accessories. Amongst all the electronic gear (of which Canon is my camera of choice) are the drones. They open up a new avenue for the budding aerial photographer. It is a great item for beginners and professionals alike.

Having not had a chance to test the DJI out or seen it in action, I thought it was about time I had a play around and see what all the fuss was about! Russell has had a lot of experience with the DJI Mavic Pro, so I got him to show me the basics. Below, you will find my review, with a few hiccups along the way!

The first thing to do is download the DJI app. This was very simple to do. I would suggest having WiFi access as it takes slightly longer than normal and you don’t want to use all your data to download the app. Once this is up and running, its time to fit the DJI together! I won’t go through the ins and outs of this, but as a general rule make sure you take time to slowly and securely fit everything together, as once its up in the air there is nothing you can do about it (more on this story below!)

I have an iPhone SE that didn’t seem to fit very well in the controller; however once it was in I was confident it wasn’t going anywhere (even though it didn’t look like it!)
To turn the controller and drone on and off, you need to hit the power button, then again for 5 seconds. This is in the comprehensive instruction book, but anything I can tell you to make your life easier with the DJI is always a good thing!

 

TIME TO FLY.

I was a bit unsure about flying a £1099 drone when I never have before, so Russell offered to go through the basics with me before going solo! I popped the propellers on and laid it on the ground ready for its first flight with me at the helm! This is when the “fun” started! I had failed to check all propellers were secure, so when the drone tried to lift off, one of the propellers flew off! The drone (powerful little device that it is) still flew and proceeded to spin uncontrollably through the air making its way towards a brick wall!
Russell being the heroic gentleman he is, ran towards the drone and caught it in mid air. (I would not advise doing this. Although it has made for a funny story and Russ is fine, it could have been a lot worse) He has his battle scar now. The true testament of a man!  Moral of the story, double and triple check the propellers. If in any doubt, get someone else to check it!
Russ then put the drone in beginner mode ☹

 

ON MY OWN.

Russ fit the propellers on for me and I took it home! I live by a big field so this was the perfect place for someone who is slightly nervous (after almost dismembering her colleague!) I was impressed at the height and speed it could go (after I disabled beginner mode – sorry Russ!) and my husband had a great time zooming about all over the place. I can see how easy it would be to become engrossed in the videos or photos you were taking when watching the controller screen and forget about where the drone is headed. You do have to be extremely careful of trees, buildings, animals and other people when flying. It did take a little bit of the fun out of it for me, but (as always) safety first and as you get more used to the DJI the more relaxed you become. As I went higher with the drone, I saw a beautiful sunset that I never would have seen otherwise.

I was a bit apprehensive of other people in the field as you can never be too sure about what they may think. The DJI Mavic is loud when it flies and not easy to ignore. I have been reliably informed that it is incredibly quiet compared to other drones. This is something I have not had experience with, having only ever flown one drone so far, so I am going by my experience as a complete beginner! Transporting it was painless. It’s very light and I carried it in one hand. The controller can fit in a large pocket.

This is by no means a definitive review. Having only tried the camera out once it would not be fair to judge based on my limited skills. However, I can appreciate the immense capabilities of drones, the new dimensions that have now opened up to the average Joe (that could only ever be achieved by professional photographers in helicopters!) It was a lot of fun (once I got over my fear!) I will be sure to take it out again and practice with a few more fun videos! Watch this space.

Please see below for a lovely selection of Russell’s photos taken on the DJI Mavic Pro. With a bit of practice you can achieve beautiful shots like this!

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Rental – The Future of Photography.


Have you ever rented camera equipment before? If not, you should! Renting equipment opens up a whole new world of possibilities that may never be available to you. Imagine an £1000+ lens that you can have for a day at a fraction of the cost (£40) or lenses that may not be available to buy anymore. All this at your fingertips.

 

Sometimes you may want a specific shot that could only be achieved with a certain lens or camera. You wouldn’t spend the money to have the equipment for one task, but you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. Rental to the rescue!

Renting an item also gives you the opportunity to try before you buy. Not many people would want to spend out £1000 if they aren’t too sure whether its right for them. Hiring equipment means you can really put the item through its paces in situations you are comfortable in. There is only so much you can test on a shop floor!

 

In case you weren’t aware, we offer a rental service. We at Castle Cameras can help you with any rental queries you may have.

 

Of course, if you can buy outright, congratulations and we hope you enjoy your fantastic purchase. But for those people who are a bit hesitant to make the plunge, “RENTAL HERE” at your service.

 

Here are a few photos taken using the rental service –

 

Taken with the Sony a7 + FE 24-70 f4

Taken with the Sony A7 + FE 24-70 f4

 

 

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Taken with the Canon 6D + 100mm f2.8 L IS USM

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For those who want more information about the service we provide, please refer to our previous blog on the ins and outs of renting with Castle Cameras. http://blog2.castlecameras.co.uk/author/graham-fry/page/2/

Nikon D500 in stock today


Great news for people looking for a Nikon D500!

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We are pleased to say we have on the shelf stock of the Nikon D500, This incredible camera has been in very short supply and is sure to head out the door fast!

Check out Professional Photo magazine’s review of the D500.

Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR

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Along with the D500, we have the new Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR on the shelf, ready to buy!

Bird Watch magazine have reviewed the amazing 200-500mm lens and given their verdict as follows:

“Out in the field this lens is a joy to use. The zoom is quick and smooth….. you won’t be disappointed with the results.  It is excellent quality at an unbelievable price! – Birdwatch magazine, March 2016”

The D500 and AF-S 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR are an amazing combination and will deliver unbeatable results when photographing sport, wildlife and airshows this summer. Grab yours now from Castle Cameras, whilst stocks last.

Caught Red Handed!


We had a bit of excitement in the shop last week, when we were joined by a film crew from the BBC.

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They were filming for a BBC1 programme, Caught Red Handed. The show looks at ways technology, like CCTV or hidden cameras, can help to stop a crime or wrongdoing and can ultimately lead to a conviction. The program is presented by Dom Littlewood and will be aired in the Autumn.

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As most of you will know, two years ago we were raided by an organised gang of thieves who made off with tens of thousands of pounds worth of stock. Our in store CCTV assisted in the capture and conviction of these criminals. This show will feature the raids on Castle Cameras, and includes interviews with Castle Cameras owners, Brian and Racheal.

We put our camera on the film crew as they worked! Enjoy the pics and Look out for the episode when it airs!

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Ride Your Vespa To Work Day


Today the Vespa Club of Great Britain have organised a day where people are encouraged to ride their Vespas to work, to help celebrate 70 years of Vespa and all it stands for.

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Howard and Graham from our Bournemouth branch are both keen Vespa enthusiast owners and both rode their Vespas into Castle Cameras today.

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Howard actually commutes daily from Swanage on his 2015 Vespa GTS 125 Super Sport, come rain or shine all year round!

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Graham rides a restored 1962 Vespa 150. Being a delicate old girl (The scooter, not Graham) it only comes out occasionally, for day to day duties Graham rides a Scomadi 125.

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If you’re a proud Vespa owner, we hope you managed to ride yours into work today, if you did, send us a pic!

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