Saal-Digital Wall Decor Product Review

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Recently, the nice people over at www.saal-digital.co.uk asked me to test out and review their wall decors. So please read on to see how I felt about the whole process and final product.

Ordering: Saal-Digital offer two methods for ordering, either online through their website, or by using their downloadable software. I chose to use their free software as it allows for more detailed design options. The software was very easy to use and has many useful tools for designing your print. Although there are lots of options when deigning your wall decor, it is still a very simple process if you want it to be. They also make it very easy to create a custom sized print if that is what you're after, as I was. I chose this image of mine, taken in the Malaysian jungle, not only because its one of my personal favourites that I've always wanted to hang on my wall, but also because it will be a good test of the printing capabilities.

There are six printing options available from Sale-Digital, I chose to go with the Alu-Dibond material. Having never printed my work on metal before I thought this would be a great opportunity to do so and test out its quality. The print is made up for three layers, two sheets of aluminium with a polyethylene centre. This medium is typically very sturdy and long-lasting and is useable indoors or out.

 

Delivery: Shipment of my order was very quick. The print was shipped the day after I placed my order and it arrived within the five days I was quoted. I was happy with this considering the company is located in Germany. The package had sustained some damage in transit, however the print itself was very well protected and was totally undamaged.

Product: Now for the really important bit. Overall I am very impressed with the quality of the print, in fact I'm finding it difficult to come up with any criticisms. The image I chose to print has quite a tonal range and some subtle colours that have all been reproduced very well. The print is representative of my original image in terms of colour and it looks great on the Alu-Dibond material, which is also very strong and sturdy just as advertised. I chose to go with the aluminium subframe mounting option, an optional extra which came prefixed to the back of the wall decor and was very simple to hang, requiring just two screws in the wall. The subframe also gives a 'floating' look which I am a big fan of. Please see some photos of the print below, but do bear in mind that they won't do it justice!

Value: The total price of this order came to just under £70, that includes the 70cm x 40cm print, aluminium subframe and delivery. Compared with other companies who offer similar products I feel this is a very competitive price and definitely good value for the quality.

Overall, I would certainly recommend Saal-Digital, they offer many more products including photobooks that I think would be great for amateurs and professionals alike. If you want more information please do have a look at their website: www.saal-digital.co.uk 

Thank you Saal-Digital! I look forward to using your services again in the future!

Endangered Malaysia: Book of the Year

In 2016 I made my first book, entitled Endangered Malaysia. This included images from my first two trips to the country, trips that showed me the beauty, diversity and amazing culture of Malaysia, but also showed me how these are all under serious threat. I made the book in the hope of raising awareness of these issues as well as for my final project of the Marine and Natural History Photography course at Falmouth University. 

I created Endangered Malaysia with BobBooks.co.uk, who I would definitely recommend. Having won their 'Book of the Month' competition I was entered into the 'Book of the Year' competition as well. I am very happy to say I was chosen as the Book of the Year 2016! Follow the link bellow to read a little more about it and have a flip through the book in its entirety too while you're there. 

https://www.bobbooks.co.uk/blog-post/book-of-the-year-winner-2016

Malaysia 2015

Green-crested Lizard - Perhentian Islands

Last summer I spent six weeks in Peninsular Malaysia as part of the Perhentian Ecology team (www.facebook.com/PerhentianEcology). We worked on a preliminary study of the terrestrial wildlife of the Perhentian Islands, which is currently relatively understudied. Our research was in partnership with Ecoteer, a responsible travel organisation with various conservation and community projects set up around South-East Asia. 

During our stay in 2014 we also had a bit of time at some of Ecoteer's other projects around Malaysia. One of these was based in the village of Merapoh, just outside the largest National Park in the country, the Taman Negara. The project works both on wildlife conservation areas and community work primarily with the Batek, an indigenous tribe, whose culture and way of life is under threat. 

This summer I was lucky enough to be asked to return to Malaysia to work as a photographer/videographer with Ecoteer at their project in Merapoh. This is a very brief account of some of the highlights of my 8 weeks in the jungle.

The Malaysian wild is home to a variety of large mammals such as the Malayan tiger, Asian elephant, sun bear and the Sumatran rhinoceros that is thought by some to be extinct. The numbers of these animals in Malaysia has taken a serious hit due primarily to the loss of habitat from deforestation and from illegal poaching. Although some areas of jungle are protected in Malaysia there are still crucial areas that are extremely vulnerable. The two main areas of protected jungle in Peninsular Malaysia are separated by a thin stretch of unprotected forest that is vital for the migration of animals such as the Malayan tapir, gaur and sambar deer as they search for food and mates. These animals are the prey of the Malayan tiger, a sub-species of tiger that is unique to Peninsular Malaysia and is critically endangered. Numbers of Malayan tiger in the wild are disputed, but recent estimates put numbers as low as 250 individuals. 

Sun Bear pugmark

Ecoteer's project in Merapoh conducts regular jungle treks in this area to the north-west of the National Park. The purpose of these walks is to not only record any signs of tigers and their prey, such as pugmarks and scat, but also to hopefully deter poachers through our sheer presence. I cannot say what we found regarding tigers as this is sensitive information that could put the animal at risk, but we were quite successful in finding signs of other animals like leopards, sun bear and multiple deer species. These are promising signs and show the importance of these locations.

The landscape of Malaysia is covered in limestone hills that are often targets of the mining industry. Limestone is a big business in Malaysia but the destruction of these hills can result in disastrous ecological impacts. The hills are full of cave networks that are home to thousands of bats that are vital for pollination and pest control. The underground river systems found in these caves also help regulate the flow of water to the main rivers. We would visit caves at least once a week to demonstrate that their value as a tourist site, as a long-term alternative to destructive mining viability. The fauna we found whilst caving was pretty amazing, but it's possibly not everyone's cup of tea...

One of my highlights of the trip was working with the the Batek community. This Orang Asli (original peoples) tribe used to live nomadically in the jungle, foraging for food and sustainably using natural material to make shelters. Around thirty years ago they were put into a concrete village by the Malay government who didn't want them in the protected national parks and as a lot of the rest of the jungle was destined to be turned into palm oil plantations.

One of the Batek ladies foraging in the jungle.

The Batek still rely heavily on the jungle, but are slowly integrating elements of the culture, technology, food and language of the surrounding Malay population. It is quite evident that if this continues at the rate it is, a lot of their unrivalled jungle knowledge could be lost. The unique language they speak is also under threat, spending time with them I learnt that the children often can't even understand the elders because the kids are learning elements of both Batek and Malay. To try and promote the value of their culture and knowledge Ecoteer employs some of the men as jungle guides and hires the women to lead foraging and camping trips for volunteers. Their knowledge of the environment is truly amazing and you can see how potentially beneficial it could be to fields like medicine.

 

 

We also worked with the village's children regularly, teaching English classes three times a week. At first they were very shy but over the course of our stay they became very comfortable around us and it was very sad when we had to leave them. As we left one of the ladies asked if we would remember them, needless to say they were unforgettable.

So, at the end of my trip I am left with a few thousand images and lots of memories. Be sure to check back here and on my 500px page (500px.com/joshuagray) where I will be gradually uploading images and in the near future I will be creating my first book containing more stories from my time in Malaysia and drawing attention to the issues facing the country's environment and people.

A big terima kasih to everyone who made this trip possible and made it a brilliant experience (you know who you are).

Ecoteer are always looking for more volunteers to help with their projects and I cannot speak highly enough of their staff in Merapoh, so have a look if you're interested: www.ecoteer.com

More Macro Mantises

Over the last week I've spent a lot of my time looking at a computer screen working on some of the hundreds of photos I've taken. Hundreds may seem like a lot of photos, however around 50 photos will make up just one image in most cases. This is because I have been trying out a new technique called focus stacking.

This involves taking a series of photos of the same subject at slightly varying focal points and then using specialised software to combine them into one, extremely sharp, image. Lucky for me my uni has a machine that can take all these photos automatically, trying to do this manually would be very tricky. You simple set up your shot and then tell the Stackshot machine to move a certain distance and take a certain number of shots as it moves. It was a challenge at first, but once I got going I couldn't really stop....

This lead to me having a load of very similar photos to deal with. I have ended up with about 16 images, each made up of between 30 to 60 shots, and each one taking around 30 minutes to combine. Oh and edit for a while too, so yeah, its been a long week.

But I do think it has been worth the time as the detail in these photos is really impressive (these photos are not done any justice on the web).

P.S. these are not live mantises if you were wondering, they tend not to sit still long enough unfortunately... 

The Mantis Project

If you know me, you may know that I'm a big fan of creepy crawlies. Most people won't agree with me on this, but hey, maybe thats why I like them so much....

Not long ago I took a trip to Kernow Exotics in Truro and came home with my own Dead Leaf Mantis, she has now become the main model for my new Self Devised Assignment. For this project I have chosen to look at the behaviour and biology of mantises. I began shooting last week in the studio, mostly as a test but I was quite happy with the results. 

Also during this first shoot I tried out the Mamiya Credo 40 with a 120mm macro lens. This was the first time I had shot with a digital medium format camera, it was a bit tricky to get used to but the results were very impressive.

There is a lot of work I still need to do to get the shots how I want them but I think this was a decent start. 

Big thank you to Ellie as well for assisting the shoot and lending me her Ghost Mantis. Check out her website here: elryderphotography.com

I'll keep this blog updated as my project progresses. 

Josh.

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Welcome!

Welcome to my website! 

I had to put this off for a while as I've been very busy with work, but it's finally here! This site will act as a place for me to showcase some of my images, university projects and general goings-on via this blog. I can't promise to be that consistent when it comes to blog posts, but I'll do my best to put something up every week or two.

Hopefully in time this will become a platform for me to easily sell prints etc. For now I have set up a contact form on my "About" page which can be used for any questions, inquiries or just general thoughts you may have. As this is a new website please feel free to give me any feedback, positive or negative, on the layout and functionality of the site. 

Also there are links in the top right to some of my social media accounts, give these a follow if you are interested. Up there also is my 500px profile which contains a much larger collection of my images.

Also a big thank you to Krisi Hughes who helped me out with the logo and some other bits. Check out her blog here: krisihughes.wordpress.com