Author: dougchinnery

Skye Expedition – Day Five

skye day 5

Day five dawned and looked, again, unpromising, but is an example of how the weather up in Scotland can be deceptive. Again the group headed out to shoot the Sligachan river below the Cullin. There was not a star in the sky and the cloud hung low over the ridge. It had the makings of a dead loss. However, the old adage that the “harder I work, the luckier I get” proved true. Very gradually the clouds began to move and the light rose spectacularly. The diligence and effort of the group was rewarded with some great images of the Cullin with the mighty falls of Sligachan in the foreground, and all before breakfast.

Our next destination was the misleadingly named “Fairy Pools”. These are found in Glen Brittle on the opposite side of the Cullin Ridge to our hotel. Misleadingly named, because once up there, the effect is not dainty but dramatic. The river gushes off of the mountains and tumbles through an amazing series of pools and waterfalls. This is a place to devote at least several hours to if you visit. The Cullin wrap around you the closer you get and have a dark, ominous feel. The pools are full of amazing turquoise and green colours in the water. In summer they can reduce to a trickle but at this time of year the flow is perfect. The compositions are endless and absorbing.

It was here I met my nemesis. The group had gone on ahead of me and I was plodding up alone (my broken ankle, though fixed, is still not 100%). At one point on the path in to the falls there is a stream to cross. What, for most people, would be a straightforward hop, skip and jump across some rocks, bought flooding back to me the place of my fall back in January. The rocks were slab like, running in water. The jumps just uncomfortably wide. I had my newly acquired walking poles and after much debate with myself, including walking up and down the river side looking for alternate safer crossing points, I braced myself to cross. I got to the half way point but the final two moves were just too risky. I feared for my footing and the memories of three months being unable to walk forced me to decide to withdraw rather than risk another fall. It was hard to admit defeat. You really feel a wuss. I have crossed that stream before without a thought and I knew the images above were going to be great but I just couldn’t take the risk. There is also a tendency after a fall to be over cautious and this can lead to falls – not trusting your bodies balance and ability to keep you upright. I just didn’t feel I could trust myself to make the leap and so I missed out on the location. Not a nice feeling. Next time I come back here, when my ankle is stronger, I am determined to get back up to the Fairy Pools.

We headed off afterwards to The Old Ship Inn in Carbost. The Carrot cake there was simply astounding. I have eaten a lot of Carrot cake in my life (way to much, if the truth be told) but this was BY FAR the best. It was so good we decided to book a table to go back for our evening meal.

Our final destination was Talisker Bay and here we worked the wonderful dual coloured sand and boulder field, along with the rock stack and the ‘Icelandic’ waterfall pouring over the cliff face. Sunset was beautiful, especially after the sun has moved below the horizon, the deep blues really suiting the drama of the location. A great day in the field.

Skye Expedition – Day Four

skye day 4

We gathered outside the hotel only to be greeted with murky skies and drizzle but to make the most of what light there was and to get something out of the herculean effort we had put into getting up, we set up to make some images. Rather than work against the conditions and get frustrated with rain on the filters, I suggested the group leave the tripods behind, choose a lens with a tubular lens hood, crank up the ISO and shoot the layers of hills with light emerging through the swirling cloud. The conditions really lent themselves to moody black and white images.

At least we were only minutes from the hotel and a sumptuous cooked breakfast where we planned the day ahead.

We headed off onto the road to Elgol. Our first stop was the ruined Kirk at Loch Cil Chroisd. Here is a small stone built church with an ancient graveyard. The roof has long gone but the walls are lichen covered and inside ferns grow from the walls. Outside an ancient Ivy grows up, entwined through the stone wall. A great photographic subject. A short distance further on is Loch Cil Chroisd which has a stunning reed bed. We spent some time here photographing the reeds and a fence which drops into the water. We fended off the usual enquiries from passers by asking which rare bird we were photographing. Why do people always seem puzzled when you explain to them you are photographing the landscape?

We were also approached by a photographer who had driven for thirteen hours with his friend to Skye to take photos. He asked if anyone knew anything about Canon cameras and the group, helpfully (!), pointed him in my direction. He thrust his camera at me and asked if I could help fix it as it seemed to have stopped working. I asked what the problem was and initially said that “it was just like that this morning”. “Just like that” described the way it was locked up, with nothing functioning. I did the usual things, power off and on again, removed the battery and put it back in. No improvement. I then put my eye to the eye piece and couldn’t see anything through it. My first thought was the lens cap was on, but, no, it was off. It was then he said, “I ought to mention it got a bit wet yesterday”. Ahhh! I sensed more was going on here. But why no image in the viewfinder. I removed the lens to find there was no mirror on the mirror mechanism. I looked up at him. He looked back. I raised my eyebrows. He said, “oh, yes, a little mirror thing fell out yesterday. My girlfriend looked it up on the Internet and it said that it had to go back to Canon to have that fixed but I wondered if you could fix it or if it would work without it”. I replaced the lens, handed it back to him and told him that his girlfriend, and the Internet were right. The camera was dead and did need a professional repair. I do wonder sometimes.

Our day ended at Elgol. The Cullin were shrouded in cloud but this came and went, revealing and concealing the peaks. Showers were sweeping across the scene backlit by the sun, giving us some wonderful photographic opportunities. The temperature is dropping here now as forecast and we certainly felt it, exposed on the rocky beach at Elgol. It became evident that the weather was closing in again and that, while the sun was going to set, we weren’t going to see it. So it was back to the hotel for a meal and bed.

The weather is set to change tomorrow. The morning might be showery but northerly winds are bringing broken clouds (and a possible chance of seeing the aurora and even a dusting of snow on the Cullin) and much colder temperatures. It will be exciting to see what images this leads to.

Skye Expedition – Day Three

skye day 3

Yesterday Scotland bit back as it often does. Perhaps it feels the need to just remind us, after a day as good as yesterday, that it is still in charge and we should not get complacent. We awoke to driving rain and very low cloud and this continued throughout the day. Scotland is capable of throwing significant amounts of rain at you and I suppose we shouldn’t complain. After all, it is the weather here that goes a long way to forming the land into what it is that makes it so attractive to us as landscape photographers.

If any days was going to be wet, this was the best one for us as we were moving on from Glencoe up to Skye. After checking out we descended from the Kings House Hotel up on Rannoch Moor down Glencoe (stopping for a brief visit to the site of my fall last January which resulted in my broken leg and ankle. I grabbed some iPhone images but most definitely didn’t attempt to re-cross the river!). With little hope we detoured to Stalker Castle but on arrival the rain miraculously eased and blessed us with an hour or so of just the odd spate of drizzle. It was enough, coupled with a sufficiently high tide, to capture some great long exposure images of this castle which sits on its own island out in Loch Linne. A second benefit of a visit to Castle Stalker is the chance to pop in the cafe, which has nice views over the castle and serves exceedingly good cakes.

From there the rain returned and battered us all the way from the Castle to Skye. Even our stop at Eilean Donan Castle was hampered by rain. We were more than pleased to arrive at our base for the next four nights, the Sligachan Hotel which sits nestled under the mighty Cullin mountains. All this rain means the rivers and waterfalls are raging and the shooting over the next few days look interesting. The forecast is for the rain receding, temperatures dropping (with a chance of a dusting of snow on the tops of the Cullin) and some rising winds.

The next few days look interesting!

Skye Expedition – Day Two

skye day 2

From Outside the Hotel


Day two kicked off with everyone meeting in reception at 06:00 and promptly going straight back to bed. This was not a revolt against shooting sunrise, it was in recognition that the driving rain and wind meant that while the sun was going to rise, we were not going to witness it.

So, take two, we met for breakfast at 08:00 and tucked in to the full Scottish. Oh, yes. the VERY full Scottish. Well, you can’t concentrate on photography if you are hungry can you?

We started the day with a few images close to the hotel (the image above was taken right outside the hotel) before heading to the obligatory honey pot location of the waterfall below Stob Dearg. I have to say the light playing across the hills here was stunning and we spent almost two hours working the location (as numerous photographers came, grabbed the standard shot and fled back to their cars). It is a cliche location, no doubt about it. But it is so because it is stunning. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph it so helped the group with camera techniques and composition, before finding a couple of small ‘vignette’ style images I was much happier with.

The clouds today kept parting, allowing golden light to play across the hillsides. At this time of year up here the moorland grasses are turning a striking golden yellow and orange colour. The Rowan trees are laden with berries, the Larches are turning a soft gold and the broad leaved trees are moving swiftly into their autumn colours. its a great time to be here. Yes, you are likely to encounter showers, but these can be brief and the light before and after is sublime.

The rest of the day was spent meandering down the full length of Glen Etive. This glen with its river, waterfalls, woodlands and views of the surrounding hills is a wonderful playground for the landscape photographer. We really took our time, working each location thoroughly, experimenting with compositions.

We also got chatting to some canoeists who ran some rapids and waterfalls for us An interesting photographic diversion requiring a totally different set of camera skills. In addition to the landscape images we also squeezed in a session at the famous Glen Etive ‘Bike Shed” (if you have been there you will know what I mean). We also found a wonderful old barn and did detail images of the doors and windows.

By the time we got to Loch Etive, around 16:00 the midges decided to appear. We fought on bravely for an hour but eventually they beat us off and we headed back to the hotel for some well deserved pints of the local Scottish Stag bitter. This primed the way for most of us to order Haggis in a Drambuie sauce with “Tatties & Neeps” (Google it). it was, frankly, awesome 😉

Charlotte bought her new pride and joy down to the bar, a Fuji X100s and this prompted a lot of interest as we made some portraits of each other, without flash, trying the different film emulation modes. Its a cracking camera and made me all the more keen to get home to take delivery of the Fuji X Pro 1 I have bought second hand, which arrives a couple of days after I get home. My favorite mode was the mono setting with the red filter enabled. It is an easy camera to use and, along with the retro styling, makes just great looking images with a lovely ‘feel’ to them. Very impressive. Charlotte had to pry it out of my hands.

The forecast for Monday is heavy rain around dawn and for much of the day, so it may be limiting photographically (however, in Scotland as elsewhere, it can lead to wonderful glimpses of light and atmospheric images for those who brave the conditions). We have the drive to Skye so it is not a full on photographic day like yesterday, but I do have some great locations planned so it will be interesting to see what we get, photographically.

Skye Expedition – Day One

skye day 1

Rannoch Rain


So, what is a week long photography expedition with me like? Well, this week I am taking a group of six clients up to Rannoch Moor, Glencoe and Skye so I thought, if time allows, I would try and blog to give you a flavour of what a trip like this is like.

The craziness began at 02:00 yesterday. I met with three of the group, Keith, Kevin & John (names haven’t been changed to protect the guilty). The reason for the early start? I had the idea that we could squeeze in sunrise at Bamburgh in Northumberland en-route to picking up the rest of the group at Edinburgh airport.

I had hired a nine seater VW mini bus which is providing luxurious travel for the week. By having a nine seater we have loads of room for luggage and a couple of spare seats so everyone can spread out.

Needless to say after a bit of initial banter, my companions were soon snoring soundly as I ate up the miles on the A1 northbound and they awoke as we approached that iconic beach an hour before sunrise to be greeted with good levels of cloud and a receding tide – perfect conditions. An hour and a half later all had some great images in the bag and an appetite had been generated so it was off to a local cafe for breakfast.

The great thing about eating together on workshops is that as photographers get together the conversation naturally revolves around our shared passion and all sorts of conversations develop. I almost always learn things during these chats. You hear the names of other interesting photographers work to explore, you hear of post processing techniques to try, interesting tips about gear or locations and so on.

We had a text from Charlotte who had, courtesy of BA, been overbooked on her flight and would now be arriving a couple of hours later than expected into Edinburgh. Never one to pass up an opportunity I quickly held an emergency planning meeting and we decided to add an extra location, speeding off to Lindisfarne. Here we had a really enjoyable hour and a half shooting detail shots around the old fisherman’s huts in the harbour before hitting the A1 again. Needless to say my companions were soon asleep again.

Peter, Leonie & Charlotte were picked up at Edinburgh without a hitch and off we headed on the M9 and A84, stopping to refuel ourselves at the “Green Welly Stop” at Tyndrum. Then it was up onto Rannoch Moor and to our hotel, The Kings House Hotel. Is there a better location for a hotel?

Checked in we were straight back out and shot the sunset close to the hotel, which has a river running behind it with views over the moors to Glen Etive, Glencoe and Stob Dearg. What a great start to the trip.

Then it was time to meet for a couple of pints of Highland beer before tucking in to a great meal and bed. The group are already gelling and enjoying banter and great engaging photographic chat. You always find on these trips that “in jokes” unique to each group develop and its fascinating to each persons thoughts and feelings on different photographic subjects. This group is no different. I predict a great week. The first day is always tiring due to the travel but today the fun really starts. A full day out with the camera. I’ll let you know how it goes. But now, I must get down for breakfast (sunrise was cancelled due to wind and rain, but more of that in the next post).

The images here are a couple I rattled off using multiple exposure techniques on my 5D mk3.

End of Day - Rannoch Moor

Aspect Ratios

aspect ratios

3:2, 1:1, 5:4, 16:9 and so on. When we get a camera it comes complete with an aspect ratio. Indeed, some now come with a switch or menu item to simulate various aspect ratios, but basically our sensor size, film size, glass plate or paper negative gives us our aspect ratio.

And off we go and play with it.

It becomes our frame. The border we work within. It confines our vision and gives structure to our images. In fact, I struggle to think of anything which has a greater overall influence on our compositions than the aspect ratio of our chosen camera. It has a tendency to dictate to us how we compose our images. 

But we don’t have to be limited by the ratio we are given by the camera. In fact I would put it more strongly than that. Our choice of aspect ratio shouldn’t be determined by our sensor ratio or film size. Rather, it should be governed by our subject matter and composition. We should be looking at our image making in the opposite way than most of us do. 

It is so easy on location to work exclusively with the frame we are presented with, trying to fit the components before us into our rectangle. But in many cases this does not produce the strongest image. It is harder, but it is worth the effort, to look more closely at what the key elements of our image are and then visualise what aspect ratio best contains them.

This means either having a good visual ability to frame the scene in our head, or, it is very worthwhile to carry some of those cardboard frames in different ratios through which we can view the scene and examine carefully the possibilities. We may have seen photographers using them and thought they look a bit pretentious or silly, but in fact, this approach works really well. We can both use frames with different aspect ratios and move them closer to our eyes or further away to simulate the effect of shooting at different focal lengths. We can then select the appropriate lens and frame the image, admittedly using the ratio of our camera, but placing objects in the frame in readiness for cropping the image later.

Some photographers are using compact cameras with aspect ratio switches to make test shots, experimenting with framing options before setting up and framing accordingly with their main camera (Joe Cornish, for example, is seen doing this in his superb video, “With Landscape in Mind”  http://tinyurl.com/8z9k9dc  , if you haven’t bought the DVD yet, I really recommend you do.)

You might feel you can just frame up the image with your sensor aspect ratio and crop later (and you can) but a more thoughtful and considered approach will nearly always lead to a better image. 

Something I notice when teaching my workshops is, relatively, how rarely most camera users think in portrait orientation. Most cameras are designed in landscape orientation and so it is much easier to work that way. But so many images are stronger in the vertical.

How do you decide? Personally, I look at the “shape” of what I am photographing. Does the interest spread width ways, or does it run vertically? Is what is off to the left and right of interest, or is it dull? How best can I fill the frame with interest? Or, conversely, if working on a minimalist image, which orientation gives the greatest feeling of space or places the space in the most effect place in the frame?

Many landscapers choose a camera with a ‘full frame’, that is with a 3:2 aspect ratio mimicking the ratio of 35mm film cameras. This gives a bright viewfinder and a feeling of space and ‘width’ which landscapers tend to want. However, and this is just my personal view, this aspect ratio tends to give slightly long, thin images, especially when viewed in portrait orientation. Sometimes this can be used to advantage such as when shooting wide sweeping landscapes. But I find it often makes for a more pleasing composition with better balance to crop these images to the 5 x 4 format used by the large format camera users. This gives a closer ratio between the width and height which seems, to my eye at least, to be sensibly weighted without the stretch of the 3:2. I have seen full frame users who mask off the live view screen on their camera with tape to a 5:4 ratio to help them compose this way.

Mr. Hasselblad had a different view on aspect ratios. He felt, rightly in my view, that the most sensible ratio for a round lens was 1:1, the famous square frame of the Blad. This makes the best use of the image projected by the lens. The square format is one photographers seem to either love or hate. For me, it is my favorite format. It suits my love of symmetry and it gives a certain ‘constraint’ to images which is hard to describe, but when used well, images in 1:1 seem well balanced. For me they have a purity about them. I am delighted to see many modern digital cameras will allow a 1:1 view on the live view screen, cropping the image for you in camera.

So I would urge you to consider the final crop/aspect ratio right at the beginning of the composition process, not as an afterthought later. While sometimes after the event, when we view our images on the large screen of our computer we do become aware of images within images, or more pleasing crops, I am convinced it will lead to stronger images in the majority of cases if we make this choice a conscious creative decision as we place key objects in the frame. If this is something you don’t currently do, try it, see what you think.

Going Back

going back

Following on from the theme of my last post I wanted to tell you about a conversation I had recently.

A photographer asked me recently where I was planning to photograph in the coming months. When I told him he explained how he had no interest in going to those locations because he had already “done them”.

“Done them”

On chatting further, it became apparent he viewed locations much like a twitcher views rare birds. As something to be acquired. Ticked off. And once visited to be of no consequence. Been there, done that, what’s next? A teenager with a low boredom threshold.

Is it me, or do locations have more to offer than that? Are they not radically different as the seasons change, as the weather changes, as the light changes? 

Even with the honeypot locations, is there not more than one way to portray them? I saw Terry Gibbins image of Bamburgh Castle a few months ago, shot in the snow, and now a print of it sits proudly in my studio. It’s magnificent. So different from the usual “Sunrise at Bamburgh” that I and seemingly every other photographer who has visited Northumberland has shot.

To really get under the skin of a location, to really have a chance of capturing it at its finest, in all it’s guises, it needs to be visited over and over again. We need to get to know it. To understand how the weather, light and seasons affect it. In fact, it is hard to really build a fine body of work on a location without living close to it, to allow repeated visits, reacting at short notice to fast changing conditions.

Look at Ansel Adams. He spent most of his life photographing Yosemite. Yes, Yosemite is spectacular, but how many people go there once, photograph it and never return. “Oh yes, I’ve ‘done’ Yosemite”. It is no wonder Adams made amazing images of the place. He had great raw materials in the natural wonders of the place. But much more than that, he worked hard there. He put in the hours. He toiled. I’m sure his archives, alongside the classics we gasp at, also have their fair share of so so images of Yosemite from the less than wonderful days he witnessed there. But he still went out on those days and worked his patch. 

He himself said that “any photographer worth his salt has 10,000 bad negatives under his belt”. He was certainly a master photographer, but he also put in the hours in one place and it produced the goods. His idea of “doing” Yosemite was to devote a lifetime to it.

Take a modern example or two. Joe Cornish took a hill. A hill many had admired for years. Some had no doubt made images of it, good images. But Joe has devoted himself to this local hill, just up the road from his home. You can’t say “Roseberry Topping” to a landscape photographer in the UK who knows his stuff without mentioning Joe in the same breath. The hill is pretty, but Joe, through his devotion to it, has made it iconic. Would as many others go there to photograph it as do, if it wasn’t for Joes images? How many of us would belt past it going to and from the coast without giving it a second glance? be honest? Joe, however, has photographed it from hundreds of angles, distances in all weathers, seasons and in all types of light. I’m sure there must be a book there! Now, do we say, “oh it’s alright for him, having a hill as good as that on his doorstep”. But I would bet that wherever Joe lived he would find something, a local patch, and he would work it and find deep beauty in it. A small copse. A little field. A stream. Anything. He would work it. And then others would follow.

Look at Dav Thomas. Relentless, year in year out, working the woodlands near his home. Photographing what most landscapers recoil from as too difficult. Woodlands. But he has stuck at it. Toiled. Grafted. Made it his. Now he has a superb body of published work gaining international recognition. All through working his local patch.

So if we want to produce really fine work, rather than dashing about ticking off locations (Corfe in the mist, tick, Nanven boulders at sunset, tick, Elgol sunset, tick) lets devote ourself to working a patch. Look locally. It doesn’t have to be a “hero location”. How many of us who think our area is devoid of opportunity have bought our OS map and walked every footpath, bridleway? investigated the rivers and streams, lanes and byways, hills and woodlands, fields and shorelines? (I’m not saying, don’t visit and shoot the honeypots, the hero locations. They are well photographed for good reason. I photograph them. Beautiful images can and are made there. I’m just urging an opening of he eyes to the wider possibilities. Don’t limit yourself to these places).

If you need more convincing, more inspiration, Take a look at the work of Iain Sergeant. Particularly his series, The Pool, here. This is, I think, a stunning example of a photographer showing how beauty can be found in the ordinary places close to home. Iain saw a small pool of water just a couple of meters across within minutes of his home, surrounded by plants and proceeded to record it. The finished project is sublime. So simple. So beautiful. Not a hero location and right on his doorstep.

If we can identify a spot, visiting it and revisiting it, over and over we begin to open our eyes and start to see what we didn’t see before. Its tough at first. we shoot the obvious and think there is nothing left. Thats when the work begins. We have to stop looking and start seeing. We put in the hours. We graft. We will churn out some dross, no doubt, but gradually, just occasionally an image that pleases will be created. Over time a body of work we will be proud of will emerge. 

That has to be more satisfying than, visit, tick. Visit, tick. We are photographers. Not collectors.

Seeing for Ourselves

I read an unattributed quote recently. The gist of it was this;

“The photographer who is able to look at the work of another, admire it and not be tempted to imitate it has finally begun to mature”

It seems to me there is a lot in this. As photographers, most of us love and seek out the work of others. I spend hours each week looking at photographs. The quality of what I find often amazes me. Some shocks me. A lot is awful, but then that’s only my opinion which is only of worth to me, and some makes me smile. I do like images which make me smile.

Why do we look at the work of others? Stimulation? Inspiration? Motivation? Plagiarism? Entertainment? There are lots of reasons, most valid, some shady. I sometimes refer to Cole Thompson, a photographer who has taken a conscious decision to avoid the work of others as much as he can. His reason? He doesn’t want his work to be influenced by anything he sees others doing. I can understand his motive and even admire it. His work certainly shows an individual style, so hard to achieve in the world of millions of images, but I don’t think I would want to work that way. I want to be inspired by the work of others.

Inspired, yes, but when does inspiration become plagiarism? When does what we see another doing affect us in such a way that what we do is head out and try and replicate it?  I think there can be merit in the beginner, the learner, in duplicating an image they love. If, and it’s a BIG if, their entire goal is not to pass the image off as their own, but simply to gain an understanding of technique and light, and that they very openly attribute the image to the originator.

Those of us with commercial customers also have to produce the ‘classics’ (as we would prefer to think of them, but ‘cliches’ is a much better description.) our customers demand them. However, in our personal work, we have the freedom to break from this strait-jacket.

It seems so sad, then, when photographers seem to get locked in to simply going from location to location producing identikit images. Reproducing what has been done before by others and Often to a much higher standard. Where is the real sense of accomplishment in that? Where is the craft? The art?

How much better to reach a point in our development as photographers when we can admire what others do, be inspired by their work and then head off and do something quite different. Let it influence us, but not direct us.

It takes a certain amount of creative courage to do this. An explosive sunset at a beautiful location is guaranteed to please the crowd. Showing our audience something different, showing them the world in a different way often leads to a deafening silence. Most of us can’t stand the silence and soon go back to the crowd pleasing. Doing what everyone else does.

So why not, as a private project, set about photographing something as you see it. Not as you have seen others see it? Those who like the results will truly like it. There might be fewer of them, but their appreciation for the way you have shown them the world will be more sincere than the “wow, great shot” crowd. You may start to become a leader, not a follower. You might become the inspiration. How much more fulfilling that would be?

A famous photographer, I forget for the moment who, talking to photographers once said, “don’t show me what you see, show me what you feel”. Sound advice.

Adobe announce new Creative Cloud package for photographers

Adobe caused a huge amount of anger, resentment and upset with its surprise announcement some months ago that along with launching its Creative Cloud service it would no longer be releasing any of its Creative Suite products (including Photoshop) in any other format in future. No more downloadable version to own. No more DVD’s.

Basically, the Creative Cloud allows you to have any of the Adobe Creative Suite program’s installed on your computer and for this ‘privilege’ you pay a monthly subscription. It was a brave move by Adobe to make this move so decisively. I believe this model is the one all major software manufacturers will want to move us to in order to guarantee cash flow into their coffers. Anything other than a complete termination of supplying the software by other means will mean few would opt for this system. We naturally don’t like it. We don’t own the software, we are leasing it. We have no way to decide if we want to upgrade or not.

Hence the anger amongst many of Adobes customers. But perhaps I ought to be more specific. The anger was chiefly raised among lone users, hobby photographers, one person businesses and so on. Adobes main customers,  graphics companies, design agencies, large academic institutions and so on, were delighted with the plan on the whole. The pricing works for them, access to all the programs, free updates and monthly pricing works well for business, it helps with cash flow and budgeting.

For most small users it was a disaster. Adobe had not thought through the impact on these small users who only use Photoshop and Lightroom. For us the model is hugely overpriced. The outcry was massive. It took Adobe by surprise. It led to lots of bad publicity. 

It seems Adobe listened to the outcry. They have just announced a new level of membership aimed at users of just Photoshop and Lightroom. 

This is how it will work. If you have bought a legitimate copy of Photoshop CS3 or above you will qualify. Between now and the end of the year you will be able to subscribe to the Creative Cloud. In the US the price is $9.99 per month. In the UK I thought it would be jacked up to £9.99 but in fact it will be £8.78 per month and it starts in two weeks time.

For this you will get unlimited use of Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, all updates which are released as soon as they are available, 20gb of Cloud storage, a free Pro Behance portfolio website and free support. If you already subscribe to the Photoshop only version of the Cloud you will be moved automatically to this new level when it goes live.

For those who now feel aggrieved that this offer is just for those who have bought CS3 and above please spare a thought for those who have. They have spent in excess of £600 on the program and then upgrades have added more to this investment. It is only right that they be compensated for this outlay and loyalty to Adobe. We don’t yet know how much the subscription will be for those who are currently Elements users or who have never bought a legitimate copy of Photoshop. I estimate £12 to £14 a month, but this is only my guess.

For those who qualify for the £8.78 price point I feel this is an exceptionally good deal. Do the maths. How much do Dropbox charge for 20gb of storage? You can’t by just 20gb but 100gb, the lowest amount is $9.99 a month so 20gb has to be worth $2 a month. A Behance Pro site, which is a good portfolio site, costs $99 a year – so those two features alone cover the subscription. Now most of us wouldn’t go for a Behance site, but if you currently are paying for a Smugmug, Clikpic or other site you might use this to save that subscription and move to Behance (which is professionally recognised and viewed by many creatives). If you are paying for Cloud storage you could save that cash and use the Adobe space instead.

Besides this you are getting £600 plus of Photoshop and the very latest version of Lightroom along with all future updates. Already Photoshop CC has some great new features and no doubt over time more will follow. How much do you spend on Photoshop and Lightroom purchases and upgrades over, say, three to five years? Add it all up and I think the subscription represents good value.

Even if you don’t have CS3 or a newer version of PS, decide you want to buy in to the Creative Cloud and have to pay, say £12 or £14 a month, I still believe it represents good value for money.

I think, despite our reluctance to accept the leasing model, we are going to have to get used to it. Other software companies will soon follow Adobes lead. Microsoft is already offering, but not forcing, a Cloud edition of Office. The others will follow. It makes sense for them and they have us where they want us. We can resist for a while by not upgrading but gradually the new features will draw us in. Or, our current computers will get old, our version will not run well on new operating systems, file formats will change. Bit by bit it will become impossible to resist for all but the most determined.

In the meantime hopefully this news from Adobe will cheer some up who were rightly aggrieved by Adobes heavy handed and thoughtless first offering of the Creative Cloud. I think they should be given credit for at least listening to and responding to what their smaller and less profitable customers said. Quite refreshing in today’s corporate world.

 
Here are some FAQ’s to help explain things further, taken from Terry Whites excellent tech blog
 
Q: What is the Photoshop Photography Program Offer?
A: This offer includes access to Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5, plus feature updates and upgrades as they are available, 20GB of cloud storage for file sharing and collaboration, a Behance ProSite, and access to the full library of video tutorials in Creative Cloud Learn.
This offer is available to customers who own a previous version of Photoshop or Photoshop Extended product, version CS3 or later (CS3.x, CS4, CS5.x, or CS6). Suites do not qualify. Requires annual commitment, billed monthly.
Offer valid through December 31, 2013 and is available in countries where Creative Cloud is purchased directly from Adobe.com. This offer is not available in China, Vietnam or Turkey.
Q: Can I get Adobe Bridge CC with the Photoshop Photography Program Offer?
A: Yes. Bridge CC is available for download and use as part of your Creative Cloud membership.
Q: I am already a Creative Cloud member; do I qualify for this offer?
Existing Creative Cloud members who wish to transition to this offer must own a previous version of Photoshop or Photoshop Extended product, version CS3 or later (CS3.x, CS4, CS5.x, or CS6). Suites do not qualify.
Those who meet the qualifications have two options:
Creative Cloud Single App members for Photoshop CC who already completed the qualification process when they originally signed up for their membership will be automatically transitioned to this new program when it ships, with the additional benefits and lower ongoing price.
All other Creative Cloud members who meet the qualification requirements may contact Adobe Customer Service to discuss transitioning their membership to this new offer.
Q: I own an earlier version of Lightroom but not Photoshop. Do I qualify for this Photoshop Photography Program offer?
A: Only customers who own a previous version of Photoshop CS3 or later qualify for this offer.
Q: Will the cost of my membership increase?
A: This price is not a special introductory price for your first year only; it is the standard price for this level of membership. Customers who sign up by December 31, 2013 will be able to continue their membership at the same price. But if you cancel your membership in the future, you will not be able to re-join at this special price.

Why Usability is More Important than Image Quality To Me and Why I Wouldn’t Buy Nikon.

usability

Lets get one thing really clear at the outset. This post is not a Canon verses Nikon post. I am a Canon user and this post will go some way to explaining why, but right from the beginning lets be clear, If image quality is the most important factor to you in camera choice right now, as a DSLR buyer then go right ahead and get yourself a Nikon D800. It is amazing. What you read in the reviews is right about the quality of the files it produces. Here, at last is a DSLR which produces files very (very) close to medium format quality. You will not be disappointed by the images you get from it as regards the way it handles colour, contrast or detail. You will be able to crop into images heavily and still be able to produce wonderful prints. It is a ‘game changer’.

Would I buy one? No.

Is that because I am biased? No.

Is that because I am heavily invested in Canon EOS lenses? No.

Is it because, in reality, I like blurry, soft, images and, in fact love analogue images more than digital? No.

Why then?

One word. Usability.

I work with workshop participants weekly. I work with every make of camera on the market they bring along. Every model. Without exception, Canon DSLR’s are the most user friendly cameras on the market today.

Let me give you some examples of issues I have with Nikon’s in particular which make them unusable FOR ME (but you might be fine with).

1. Exposure simulation in Live View. In both Canon and Nikon systems as you adjust the aperture or shutter speed while in Live View the monitor will get brighter or darker to simulate this for you, just as a helpful approximation, the affect of those changes on your image. Slow down the shutter speed and the screen gets brighter. Speed it up and it gets darker and so on. Except, and it baffles me as to why, but the Nikon designers decided tht this really useful feature should stop working when the shutter speed exceeds 2 seconds (6 seconds on some models). Yup, thats right. Do they think it is of no help to see what’s happening when light levels are so low that we need exposures longer than 2 seconds? What on earth possessed them to BUILD THIS IN? Canons on the other hand simulate the exposure right up to 30 seconds. Usability.

2. I would love a Nikon designer to explain to me why they decided you can’t see the light meter gauge superimposed on the Live View screen. You have to turn Live View OFF, and either put your eye to the eyepiece or switch on the “Quick Info” menu to see the Light Meter gauge. Baffling. Needless to say on the Canon it is viewable in Live View.(UPDATE: apparently, you can see some sort of light meter gauge by pressing the OK button in LV on some Nikon bodies, high end it seems, but not all. I will have to see exactly what this looks like next time I have a Nikon in my hands to assess)

3. Another completely unforgivable omission on a Nikon that I find unacceptable is that while you can focus in Live View mode, manually or automatically, you cannot use the depth of field preview button in Liew View to check you have focused on the correct point and have everything you require in sharp focus.  Whereas, of course, you can on the Canons, even the most basic models.(UPDATE; I have, since writing this, found out that on the D3 and D800 models depth of field is simulated constantly in Live View. This seems to me to be a great feature. The only thing I would say is, in using D3’s and D800’s, the graniness of the monitor compared to those used by Canons is so bad that I hadn’t noticed that this was, in fact the case. So although I applaud the ‘feature’ It would be good, now, to improve the sharpness of the monitors on these cameras to make the feature useable)

By the time I get to point three I find that a Nikon is so frustrating to use I just refuse to consider buying one, no matter how good the image quality is over a Canon. I know that at some point Canon will release a full frame body which will rival or exceed the D800 in image quality. In the meantime I also know the 5D mk2 and 3 still exceeds any requirements for image quality my customers have ever required already, so they are not poor cameras. I can wait. I am baffled by those who have sold their (in my opinion) superior L EOS lenses  and bodies to jump on the D800 bandwagon, seduced simply by image quality. 

They certainly do have amazing, stunning image quality. No doubt about that whatsoever. But I wonder how many are secretly fuming and regretting the move. Furious that they didn’t realise how poorly designed the Nikon’s are and how frustrating they are to use to to those who are used to the amazing usability and functionality of Canons EOS range? I wonder how many stand behind the D800 in low light in turmoil wondering if they have the depth of field they need? Remembering how easy it was to check on a Canon? Annoyed about yet again having to turn off Live View and turn on another screen just to make exposure adjustments, while reminiscing at how easy it was back in the day when they had a Canon? And more money in their bank account?

If you are a Nikon owner, please don’t get me wrong. They are superb cameras that will give you years of great service. If you have never owned a Canon you probably haven’t even noticed these issues and have no problems using your camera. My comments are aimed more at Nikon themselves or these design flaws and at Canon users, especially high end 1ds and 5d users who are being seduced away from Canon by the IQ of the D800. It is these I am urging to think again.

(UPDATE:Since writing this, I have have had others raise issues to do with Nikons being difficult to operate with gloves on, compared to Canons, issues to do with how complex and baffling their menu systems are, that in Live View the D800 drops to just 4 frames per second, the inexplicable AF/MF switch on Nikons etc, etc, etc. I am sure there are many more. For me the functions I have mentioned are just those that would affect the way I use a camera the most. All cameras have their foibles and I know Canons have some of their own too. I also wanted to add that if you don’t use a camera in the way I do, maybe the features I have discussed may have no impact on your choice of body manufacturer, which is fine. I just felt I had to flag up certain things about Nikons which most users do not become aware of until after they have spent a huge amount of money buying into a system of bodies and lenses and are pretty much tied into for the foreseeable future. I just wanted you to go in with your eyes open).

So if you are thinking of switching systems, think long and hard. Don’t just consider IQ. Think about usability and functionality. If you are thinking about buying a DSLR for the first time, think about the same things too. The decision you make now will tie you in to a system, potentially for many years to come. 

It’s not all about megapixels. It’s about usability, so that operating the camera becomes simple and invisible. Thus your mind is free to concentrate on what is really important. Composition. Timing. Light. Art. Not faffing about with a bit of kit that just frustrates you.

New Dropbox Style Cloud Based Service with 20gb Free Space

Copy

As followers of my blog are aware, I am a keen backer up of my files and advocate using off site cloud based services, such as Dropox, Skydrive, Googledrive etc.

Each of these companies gives its users a small amount of storage space for free to get them used to using the cloud. They also hope that soon we will want more space and so sign up for their paid service. Here you pay for how much space you require per month.

I use all of these services, just accessing the free space each gives. I find Dropbox is very user friendly, especially as they have free apps to help you access your files from your smartphone, tablet and computer as well as via a browser. If you would like to try Dropbox, please CLICK HERE to get your free space and the I will get some extra space for referring you, thank you.

I also want to tell you about a new service called “Copy”, which is being very generous in the free space they are giving us. Currently you get 15gb free when you sign up. But even better, if you use THIS LINK to sign up you will get an extra 5gb of free space. You need to send back the confirmation email to confirm your email address and download the Copy app to manage your space. This will activate your free space.

I use this space to back up my important files and also to share large files with friends, family and customers (you can send them links to files you want to share). While 20gb is not enough to back up all our photos and music, in most cases, it is usually ample for backing up all of our other documents and files so at least these are protected.

I find cloud storage is also useful when away from home. You can access files you have uploaded from any computer which has web access from anywhere in the world. It has saved me many times. (for example, I copy all my flight tickets, hotel reservations, scans of my passport, airport parking details, travel insurance, emergency contact numbers etc to the cloud before a trip. If anything gets lost or stolen, you can recover the details from wherever you are).

I hope you find these links useful and get your stuff backed up safely.

“With Trees” by Dav Thomas, a Review

With Trees, Dav Thomas

In 1961 a very young Bob Dylan recorded “Blowin in the Wind” and within months his life had changed forever. After seeing “With Trees” I have a feeling life won’t ever be quite the same for Dav, either.
 
So here we are in the lull before the storm. I think it’s true to say that, outside of UK landscape photography circles, Dav is largely unknown. But amongst us he already has a reputation for quietly doing his own thing with no other purpose than to make beautiful images. If Dav tweets a link to a new image on his website, Twitter goes quiet for a while as we all click to see what he has achieved this time. Then the retweets and plaudits begin, such is his reputation.
 
So when it was rumoured that Dav would like to “do a book”, many urged him forwards and since then the landscape photography community in the UK has held its communial breath and waited. The waiting is almost over.
 

Cover

"With Trees" by Dav Thomas - Book Cover


 
Davs reputation is largly built around his images of trees and woodlands and so it was natural that they should be the basis for this book. I haven’t seen a physical copy of the book itself for this review as it is currently being printed in Europe, but knowing Dav and his attention to detail it will be beautifully finished and presented.
 
So what can we expect as regards the presentation of the book and its technical specification? The book is quite large, bigger than many photography books at 270 x 345mm with 112 pages. The hardcover is to be printed directly, so no dust jacket, and the cover is matt laminated. There will be 88 photo plates.
 
Dav and David are pushing for real quality with this book by opting for 170 gsm paper for the inner pages. This quality is further emphasised by the fact that they have opted to go for the more expensive but infinitely higher quality stochastic litho printing which is very close in quality to fine ink jet printing as opposed to using dot pattern printing employed in more cheaply produced photography books.
 

 
There are to be a very limited run of 30 luxury limited edition books, signed and numbered, which come with three of Davs signed prints (you can’t choose which, but if you know his work, this shouldn’t be an issue). These prints are limited to the book making this a very good value purchase for those fortunate enough to secure one. The prints will be made on 310 gsm Photorag paper at 195 x 245mm, each individually signed and numbered. This edition also comes in a foil blocked slip case at £125 plus postage.
 
There is also a special edition of the book limited to just 50 copies which comes with one of Davs signed prints (print specification as above) which will not be available elsewhere. (Again you cannot choose which print) These books will be signed and numbered by Dav and also come in a foil blocked slip case. The price for this edition is £75 plus postage.
 
The standard edition of the book, pre-ordered, will also be signed. These are priced at £40 plus postage.
 
The book is now available to pre-order now (from 28th April 2013) from the website http://www.withtrees.co.uk and for those who do pre-order and pay in advance for their copy are to be rewarded with a gift of an additional signed print. These won’t be available once the book goes on general release, so a very good reason to pre-order your copy.
 

 
The book is being published by David Breen at the newly formed Triplekite Publishing and I interviewed David recently about the project. (This interview took place about a week before the book went on pre-release).

Is your background in photography?
 
I am not that sure I would describe what photography means to me as a “background”much as a passion. I have had numerous cameras over the years, but for a long time I “took” some photos as opposed to “making” an image. Quite a few years ago I stumbled into landscapes and it felt natural and to be something I could become knowledgeable about.
 
For me, my photography passion is not just about making an image myself, I am genuinely fascinated and enthralled by the genre in its entirety. I probably started to become somewhat proficient myself about the same time as my 3 children arrived. So as I should have been practicing more and developing, I found an equal lack of time.
 
So I am possibly more versed in the output of other people’s photography than my own. I have also always had a borderline obsession with books and learning, which is my career, so naturally the genre of the Photo Book became a real interest and active collection.
 
How did the project between you and Dav come about?
 
I have had a few ideas for books over the last few years, associated with photography mainly and the organic aspects of corporate structure and politics as another, not surprisingly I think one of those will be a little more interesting to produce than the other. Parking the delights of comparing plants to large corporates to one side, I started to look for a photographic related book project. This is where twitter, some fortuitous coincidence and going with your instincts combined. I knew of Dav and his work through twitter and I decided for many reasons to try out working with film. I got amazing help over many days of many people, but most notably Tim Parkin and Dav. Between them 140 characters and the odd email, they taught me zone metering and off I headed to Padley Gorge. As I parked up in Surprise View car park I saw a fella wandering around the woods with a square of cardboard in front of his face, coincidence meant I met Dav Thomas, who was as helpful in real life as online. A few months later a bunch of people were asking, encouraging, cajoling Dav to publish his own book via twitter and it seemed a natural question to ask if he would like some help to do so.
 
Why did you think it was worth backing a book by Dav?
 
Oh, that’s a tough question, there are so many reasons and so few of them all that logical. I would love to say its because I have years of experience on photo book publication and can spot real, undiscovered talent, but that would be a lie. And to say I think this will be a huge commercial success would be a lie too. Probably the closest I can get to explaining it is to say, I believe his work has a unique feel to it which can be appreciated by both photographer and non, in equal measure. And that doing this, gives me the opportunity to fulfill a personal goal, business goal and to help someone else, helped me, in the process. Which is not to say I don’t think it will be a commercial success, or that it won’t lead to other things.
 
What were your first thoughts about the book when you saw Dav’s early proofs?
 
Shock, amazement, satisfaction and relief. Shock that he had achieved so much in such a short period of time, I was expecting a book layout with maybe ten percent of the images in it for illustrative purposes, what he sent looked almost finished. Amazement at just how good it was, and that every page turn seemed to reveal another gem. As well as the images which he hadn’t shown publically, those a little different. Satisfaction that my gut instinct was looking to be proved right, and relief that Dav and I wouldn’t be working the car boot sales of Northern England for the next couple of years.
 
Do you have a background in publishing?
 
This will be the first book my company has published, which is a business goal of mine achieved. When we get to send that first edition off to the national archive of the British Library, which is a legal requirement, it will be a very special moment to me personally and I expect Dav also. But to say I am completely new to publishing isn’t exactly the full story either. I have worked for nearly 20 years in the field of professional learning and development and in that time have supervised and been responsible for the publication of many things. So the process of it isn’t new. My company today also has a fledgling business channel in greetings cards and calendars from other photographers known to me.
 
What difficulties have you encountered in the process, and how have you overcome them?
 
We have been lucky so far in this respect as Dav is also a graphic designer, so the book layout etc. is down to him. With that experience comes many print contacts and support. I think we are also in that fortunate position of it being our first, so we don’t know what mistakes we are making, and are therefore not precious about changing our decisions. The quality of the finished book is always the deciding factor. At the end of the day, Dav has put his faith and trust in Triplekite to help him to produce as good a book as we can of his work. We believe we are working with a photographer of high enough quality and potential that we can truly make something great. The rest as I so often say “is just noise”.
 
We are planning to have the book in the UK, in our possession during July of this year, and launch at the Masters of Vision Exhibition where Dav is exhibiting.
 
Will you be selling through book shops, through online retailers or just through Davs website?
 
We are still very much in the planning stages where this is concerned, initial pre orders with the “thank you” print, will be sold direct. We are still in ongoing planning & in some cases discussions with numerous retailers, both independent and larger. We do however only have 600 copies in the first edition, so its very much dependent on how the pre orders and initial sales go.
 
How are pre-sales going at this early stage, is much interest being shown in the book?
 
So far we have only really soft launched it to friends via twitter, Facebook and Davs website. Support has been incredible and we are truly appreciative of all the support. To show how much that support means, we changed our pricing strategy by asking anyone who cared to contribute to tell us how much the book should be. Its fair to say that we dropped the price of one edition, kept the price of another the same, and chose to ignore the opportunity to raise one price based on the feedback given.
 
If the project is a success, do you think you would like to be involved in another photography book?
 
I think so yes, ISBN numbers are bought in blocks of ten so I have 9 remaining, 8 if I include the “Organic Organisation book. But all joking aside we have spoken about other titles with some people. The attention, resource, energy and focus right now, is about making this book as good as it possibly can be.
 
If so, any hints as to photographers you might like to feature, or is that all under wraps at the moment?
 
I think it would be unfair and commercially unwise to talk about any particular photographer. There are of course names who are producing great work right now but are yet to be published, these artists spring to mind when asked, but who knows. It may not even be a monographic work. The other answer is of course that we are open to ideas and approaches, talking about possibilities costs nothing, but rarely is anything made that hasn’t started with a conversation. There will be many, many photographers out there with great skill who we have no idea even exist right now.
 
Have you considered publishing a book of your own images?
 
Of course I have… I have a project called “18 months” which is a journal of hotel room images I have stayed in during my recent business life… and if I ever find a desire to own 600 copies of my own book I will definitely be publishing it. My commercial side suggests to me I will be better off publishing other work, or a “set of 6 postcards” of my own. 😉
 

 
So what are my impressions of the book?
 
The first thing I saw was the cover image of Bullrushes in the Frost, which is a particular favourite of mine. In fact, I have a print of it on the wall of my studio. It. Is a fitting image to set he tone for the rest of he book.
 
Inside we find a foreword from David Ward, which again says much about the book and even more about Dav and his work. David would not put his name to any book that did not show the very highest of standards in photography.
 
Turning a few pages soon confirms that Dav spends most of his time photographing in mist, frost and very subtle light. If you are a lover of intense sunrises and post apocalyptic colours then this is not the book for you.
 
Most of the images are made in the Peak District close to Davs Sheffield home, although interspersed among them are images from Scotland, the Lakes and elsewhere. Using, mainly, a 5 x 4″ large format film camera, Davs images reveal intense detail and subtle colour and tonal detail. He works with a number of film types and these seem to be chosen to work well with Davs chosen subtle light and colour palette.
 
It is evident from close inspection that Dav takes great care when scanning his negatives or transparencies to maintain the subtleties the film has captured. He then maintains this subtlety by going gently with the sliders and controls in the software. Just because a slider goes to ten, he certainly doesn’t feel the need to push it to ten. There is a lesson there.
 
For many of us, to wander into a woodland with our camera is to come out in a cold sweat. For many it is not long before we wander back out again in search of a nice easy beach, some lovely boulders or a comfy lake. The confusion, tangle and chaos of the woods can be intimidating. Where are the flowing lines? The foreground interest? The fore, middle and background all neatly delineated? Where is the sky? The horizon? Minimalism? No chance. Simplicity? In your dreams! And yet, here is Dav Thomas making it look effortless. The chaos is tamed. The tangle, untangled. The confusion, simplified. It can’t be as simple as he makes it look.
 
A close examination of the images reveals that he doesn’t just point his lens at just any old tree. He obviously takes enormous care in searching out his subject and then dignifying it by carefully placing all the elements so carefully in the frame. And all this in fast changing light with a large manual camera with no instant feedback screen and histogram. This is evidence of a master at work.
 

 
While many images in the book are shot and revel in the colours of autumn, Dav doesn’t rely solely on this season to make his images. We find many are also shot in spring and through winter. If anything, I get the feeling Davs camera lies undisturbed for the summer. I failed to find any images which were clearly shot in the warmer months.
 
If anything comes close to competing with the trees which are the star of he show, it is the weather. Frost, mist and various types of subtle light show off the trees to best effect. I also suspect Dav has an affinity or grasses and bracken too as they often feature as strong elements in he images.
 
I was pleased to be able to interview Dav recently about the book. Here is what he had to say.
 

 
Dav, can you tell me a bit about your photographic background?
 
I’ve more or less always had photography in my life, it was a passion ignited by my cousin who taught me how to print my then rubbish black and white photos in his darkroom when I was about 10, he also gave me his hand-me-downs, allowing me to set up my own darkroom. I studied photography a bit at art college, but then became a graphic designer by mistake! I carried on with photography using medium format cameras, mainly alongside my graphic design business, offering product photography as part of the service. I became interested in landscape photography about 6 years ago – it was part of a plan I had to get fit (which didn’t work!).
 
For those interested, what sort of kit do you use for the images in the book?
 
I almost exclusively shoot film for my landscape work (are trees landscapes? Maybe treescapes might be a more appropriate term!). Soon after taking up landscape photography I followed the obvious route and ‘went digital’ and sold all my medium format kit, processing equipment and drum scanner. It didn’t take me long to realise I’d made a big mistake though; digital just wasn’t cutting it for me. So I returned to film, only bigger – I took up large format.
 
The vast majority of images in the book are shot on 4×5 film, either with a Linhof Technikardan s45 or a Chamonix 045. Most images are made with a Nikkor 300mm lens, which is equivalent to about 80mm in 35mm terms. There are a few images made with a digital camera – my Sony a900, a few medium formats (a Hasselblad 500c/m) and a couple of 35mm film camera images. There’s even an image in there taken with my iPhone!
 
Why do you prefer to make most of your images on film?
 
There’s a number of reasons; firstly, and I suppose most obviously, is the quality you get from film, particularly large and medium format. The quality isn’t confined to size and detail; for me the real benefit is the tonality of film – it brings a scene to life and by utilising different film stocks I am able to render scenes differently. Increasingly, I’m using negative film, which gives me a huge dynamic range and its tones are soft and understated, which I prefer in my images.
 
Secondly, the large format camera pushes me to work in a certain way – it’s a much more pondered way of working than with a 35mm film or digital camera. I do the majority of my visualising before the camera even comes out the bag – I work the scene slowly, it’s almost like stalking an animal (probably, I’ve never actually stalked an animal!); hunting down the best angle, working out how the image can be distilled to its important compositional parts.
 
The way the image is viewed on the ground glass is also important to me. Being under the dark cloth focuses the mind, cutting out any external influences, allowing me to totally concentrate on the composition of the image.
 
Why trees?
 
Good question! I’ve always had a love of trees I think, I have great memories of playing for hours in the lightly wooded area near my house as a child. The wonderful feeling of having an area of woodland to myself remains today, without sounding to New Age; it’s almost like being a fleeting guest amongst their midst. I started off with landscape photography much in the same way as most other people; views, the seaside, foreground interest and wide angle lenses. I soon realised this wasn’t reflecting ‘me’ and my connection with the landscape, I started exploring more local ‘wowless’ locations and inevitably this lead me back to woodland. I’m fascinated by the textures of not only the trees themselves, but also the grasses and mosses that go along with them, and of course the changing atmosphere as the seasons change.
 
I must say I gain great pleasure in finding a location that no one has ever bothered even looking at before and finding beauty within it. There’s much more pleasure for me in making an image in such a location than I’d get from any honey spot location in the world.
 
Many photographers avoid photographing in woodland. They struggle with the confusion and chaos. How have you overcome this? How do you find your compositions in such a chaotic place?
 
I really enjoy the challenge of finding images in these chaotic environments. I wouldn’t say I have a set formula for making my images in woodland – at least, not one that I consciously think about.  I tend to approach my photos as a graphic designer – I look for an interesting shape, colour or texture that I can use to make a composition, it’s then a matter of working out if I can find a composition with those elements, usually this entails removing as many elements as possible to emphasis the feature that originally drew me in. I’ll do all this before I even consider getting the camera out; using a plastic viewing card to find the composition. One technique I use is to utilise swing on the large format camera to emphasise the relationship between two or more trees, that way I can throw areas of the photo out of focus, drawing the eye into the photo establishing the visual link that I want to portray.
 
You have a reputation amongst landscapers for being down to earth and not ‘arty’ about your images – what is your philosophy about making pictures (if that’s not too arty a question!)
 
I can’t be doing with people forcing the ‘I’m an artist’ thing down people’s throats. There’s no great concept behind my photographs – that’s not to say I’m flippantly taking photos when I go out – I feel a great connection and love for the landscape that I’m photographing and I hope that love comes out in my images. I simply photograph the things that fascinate me, treating the components of the landscape as elements to make graphic compositions with. It’s not for me to tell you my images are art – if the viewer considers them to be art, then all well and good, but I think it’s up to my audience to decide, not me.
 
How did you feel about working with David at Triplekite on the book with this being your first book, and his?
 
I must say, until David approached me about it, I’d never really considered producing a book – I suffer somewhat from self doubt when it comes to my photography, and without the help and encouragement from David (and a number of my Twitter contacts), my photos wouldn’t have made it much further than my website. I’m sure David’s job has been made easier by the fact that I’m able to design and produce the artwork for the book myself, meaning we haven’t had to deal with any third parties.
 
How has the collaboration between you worked?
 
It’s been rather a laid back relationship, but it’s been great to have someone who’s a natural salesman pushing me to get the book moving (I’m not the most organised person!). David’s input about editions, pricing, marketing and the like have been invaluable. David has been busy sorting out the technicalities – ISBN numbers, costings etc. leaving me to concentrate on photo selection, design of the book and the book’s website. I only wish he could write the copy as well – as it’s not a job I enjoy!
 
If this book is a success, do you think you could see yourself working together on other photographer’s books with you doing the design and David handling the publishing side of the business?
 
It would be great to work on the design of other photographer’s books with David and we have discussed the idea of working together further – so hopefully our working relationship will continue.
 
How did you choose which images to go in the book?
 
The difficult part of the selection process was trying to get a flow through the book – I wanted images that worked together and not to have too much of a jar when you turn the pages. The book is roughly organised by seasons, but as I have very few images from the summer months, it is definitely winter heavy! There are a few images that I have not been able to include, just because they don’t fit in with the mood of the book. The layout of the book allows for different sized images, which means I can use some images shot on smaller formats, whilst maintaining the quality of the images; they just appear smaller. The amount of pages in the book was only governed by how many images I had to include so I basically just chose the images that I feel most happy with.
 
I’m very tempted to ask if you are good at everything you do? I know you make amazing Indian food, bake superb bread, you are a talented graphic designer and hand make furniture with your own VW camper interiors business. All this, and you are a master with a camera? Please tell me there is something you can’t do?
 
Haha, well Caryl, my girlfriend, say’s she’ll make you a list of things I’m no good at if you like! I’ve never liked the idea of being just one thing… a designer, a furniture maker or a photographer. I’m passionate about design and love to design furniture, brochures, websites and photos! I consider photography to be an extension of the design process, my photos are designed just as much as a brochure layout or a website design. The downside of this is that I’ve constantly got some creative dilemma going on in my brain, resulting in my inability to switch off and go to sleep – one thing I definitely can’t do well is go to bed and get to sleep at a reasonable time! As you mention, I also love to cook – I’m not one to do things by halves, so if I’m going to take something on, I tend to get obsessed with it; I’ve spent hours on curry forums trying to work out how to master the techniques involved, but like my photography; however hard I try, I never think I’m quite good enough at it!
 
Do you have the images to make another book if this book does well?
 
I certainly don’t have another books worth of tree photos (I’m not sure the world could take another book of tree photos!). So this will be the last proper book from me for a few years I think. I do have some ideas for a very different publication though in the next year or so.
 
I understand the release of the book is to be timed to coincide with the Masters of Vision exhibition. Will some of the images in the book be exhibited?
 
Yes, I all the images in the Masters of Vision exhibition will be images from the book, unless I manage to make 12 new masterpieces before then, which I think is unlikely!
 
What’s next for you, Dav? What are your photographic plans?
 
I have a rough plan for a project, which has a working title of ‘without trees’! I don’t want to get comfortable with my photography and just replicate what I’ve produced before, although I won’t go out of my way to work in new ways and produce ‘art’ for art’s sake. The project I want to work on will be focusing on the Peak Districts moorland which I’d like to cumulate into a hand made, very limited edition, hand printed large format book. Back in my hippy days (!) I used to make my own paper and bind my own books – whilst I won’t be going as far as producing my own paper, it would be great to do my own binding. I see these as being very different images to my usual style, I need to get on and see where it takes me…
 

 
Many of the images are well known to those of us who love Davs work. Indeed, it would be like going to a Dylan concert and him not singing “Blowin in the Wind” if they weren’t there. But in amongst them are many new images too, including some wider landscapes for which Dav is less well known. Some photography books are comprised of many strong images but are filled out and somewhat diluted by a proportion of weaker ones. That is not the case with this book. In fact, there is only one image I really don’t “get” and that is more likely to be me rather than the image! In fact, in this book you will see many images I truly feel are “world class”, exceptional and worthy of the very highest praise.
 
I have written a lot of book reviews in the past but this has been the easiest. You may feel I have been a bit gushing about it. I tried, really tried to search for some negatives in the interests of balance, but honestly couldn’t find any. Unless the print quality is awful or the book falls apart, those who buy this book are going to own something I feel is very special. As with many photography books, it is an opportunity for us to own a body of work from a photographer we admire, when we simply could not afford, nor do we have the wall space to by and hang them all as prints.
 
As I said at the outset, I think this is the start of something for Dav. I think we will look back in a few years time and view this book as a milestone. A turning point. As one of the special books in landscape photography that comes along from time to time. It deserves a place alongside Bae, Bien-U’s “Sacred Wood” or Porters “In the Realm of Nature”. As such I think it will quickly become collectible, a classic.
 
I, for one, hopes Dav stays “acoustic” and doesn’t “go electric” anytime soon. The only problem, now, is going to be the “tricky, second album”.
 
To pre-order your copy go to http://www.withtrees.co.uk
 

 

Shooting Landscapes Handheld. You Are Joking!

Handheld

Dark Light III – Taken handheld from Rannoch Moor.

I have written some time ago about my thoughts on working with what you’ve got. Basically, the premise of my mantra is, if all you have is a 50mm lens, then shoot with it. If its raining, rather than giving you he technicolor sunrise you envisioned, shoot the rain. You get the idea.

Recently, on the day I broke my leg in fact, I had to work to my own maxim. 

I was leading a workshop up in the snows on Rannoch Moor and Glencoe, in Scotland. On the first day of the trip, just an hour into shooting my tripod head broke. It broke in a major way (and kudos to Manfrotto for replacing it for me straight away once they saw what had happened).

I tweeted about the failure and many of my followers replied with sympathy (and we all like a bit of sympathy). Several said how angry I must be feeling and how it would ruin my trip. I could understand their point of view but I just didn’t see it that way.

Kit fails. You have to get used to that which is why I have back ups or alternatives with me for virtually everything in my bag, including tripods and heads. Except this time. This time I was car sharing and to save space the one thing I hadn’t bought with me was my spare tripod & head. Ironic, huh?

Getting angry about it would have just spoiled the trip, it wouldn’t have actually changed anything. Here I was in the most stunning of locations with amazing light. I was going to work with what I had.

So this meant shooting landscapes, often in low light, handheld. 

So how did I approach this? I was using the Canon 5d mk2 and was happy taking the ISO up to 800 (and in very low light I went to 1600 at times – whatever it took to get the shot). I also went wide with my aperture. So I abandoned my usual preference for f11 (or f16)  most of the time and went wider, right down to f2.8 at times in low light, but often working at f8, all with a view to keeping the shutter speed high enough to get sharp images.

If this hadn’t been possible I would have gone over to shooting ICM (intentional camera movement) images. Again, working with what I had. 

Another approach I adopted was to shoot in burst mode. Firing three frames at least for each image to give me a better chance one would be sharp. It meant I came away with nearly 900 frames fom the day, but it did increase my success rate.

I also moved to auto focus. On a tripod, I use manual focus in Live View mode which is perfect, but hand holding it just isn’t practical to focus manually all day. There is no benefit in it, in fact, auto focus is perfect for just this situation. I use centre point focusing so I have complete control over what I am focused on. So I turn on just the centre focus point. I then point the centre of the lens very precisely at what I want to be my focus point, press the shutter button half way to lock focus and hold it there, reframe and then complete the shot. You can also use the Focus Lock button on the back of the camera in the same way. 

I found I got the best results using my longer lenses, especially the 70-200 f2.8 IS L zoom. This stayed on most of the day. The image stabilisation helped with sharpness and I followed the basic rule of thumb that you need to keep your shutter speed faster than your focal length so I tried to stay above 1/200 sec all day, using ISO and aperture to do that.

Another advantage of using the 70-200mm (and the 24-70 f2.8 L which I also used on the day) was they both have long full tube shaped lens hoods. On the day, blizzards kept blowing through and these hoods really helped to keep snow off the front element of the lens.

When I came to review the images later (and trust me, I had plenty of time to review them, lying in my hospital bed) I realised that broken tripod head had done me a favor.

I had an extraordinarily high “hit rate” for successful images on the day. I took many more that I was happy with than I normally would. I found I was able to react really quickly to the fast changing light up there. As the blizzards were blowing through we had amazing gaps in the clouds with shafts of light and wonderful cloud shapes. On a tripod I would have been faffing about and couldn’t have got half the  images I did. 

I also would have been shooting much wider lenses, 45mm or 24mm, out of habit and on reflection, images at those focal lengths wouldn’t have had the impact I got from the 70-200 lens. (For my wider shots with the long lens I shot several panorama sequences, all handheld, and Photoshop stitches them perfectly. It’s amazing).

I would also have been more likely to have been trying to use my Lee filters. This would have slowed me down even more and with the falling snow caused frustration and even more lost shots.

Yes, that tripod head did me a big favor. Of course, looking at it another way. If it hadn’t failed I would have had it with me later when crossing the river and would have been using it to steady myself so maybe I wouldn’t have fallen and broken my leg… But let’s not speculate.

So, the lesson. If something fails in the field or you forget something, work with what you have. Think laterally. Work around the problem. Find a solution. It might feel uncomfortable, but just do the best you can. Getting angry with yourself or your kit, or giving up and going home don’t help, and you never know, like this occasion, you might just produce something unexpected by approaching the problem with a positive frame of mind.

If its something really bad like leaving all your batteries or memory cards at home, then use your mobile phone camera. If that’s back in the car, then just sit back and enjoy the sunrise. There will always be another.

Dark Light II – Taken handheld at the mouth of Glencoe

Limited Edition Prints. Should I Sell Them? Should I Buy Them?

limited edition

Let me start by saying I don’t issue limited edition prints myself. Although some would argue that I sell so few prints they are all, in fact, limited editions. 🙂

I came across an article this morning commenting on a court case in the US. In the case a very serious collector of limited edition prints by the photographer William Eggleston had complained to the courts because Eggleston (or his estate) had issued a new “limited edition” of a famous print of his, some years after the original edition had sold out. You can read about the case here.
Here is the image concerned, one of Egglestons most famous, Untitled 1970  © Christies Images LTD
(I do love the image and it has become rather iconic over the years).
The basic issue the collector had was that the same image was used, albeit in a different size and using a different print process and this devalued his considerable investment in the original limited edition (his original print reportedly costing him $250,000). 
The judge disagreed, ruling in Egglestons favour, saying that the new edition was completely different from the first. The image was the same but the size, paper and print process (the original edition was dye sublimation, the new one digital) and these differences made the new edition justifiable and in the judges opinion had no effect on the value of the original edition. (It might even be argued that the original edition now gained even more collectibility as elevated above other, later editions).
Egglestons lawyers explained they felt this judgement was good for artists and collectors. Many collectors disagree.
This case raises lots of interesting questions and issues around limited edition prints. I will attempt to deal with some of them here and put my point of view, but I would be interested in your views and comments too as this is a volatile and debatable issue from both the artist and collectors point of view.
Firstly, how do limited editions work (or how are they supposed to work)? The idea is the photographer declares that they will only sell a set number of prints of a certain image. This is done to add kudos and collectibility to the image. It is designed to give a rarity value. 
To claim very high prices for prints, photographers who are collectible will sell very small editions of, say, just five prints. In the most select art photography case, photographers sell the single print in existence along with the negative (these are most often analogue images, not digital, so shot on film or glass plate negatives etc). The print and negative come with a certificate from the photographer stating there are no other copies in existence. This is as close as a photograph comes to being a unique piece of art in the way a painting or piece of sculpture is. Needless to say, from the right photographer, these pieces can  command very high prices.
Editions more commonly run to ten, twenty or more. Michael Kenna issues forty five prints in each of his editions, as an example. The photographer has to decide whether to sell every. Print in the edition at the same price, or to increase the price gradually as the edition gets closer to selling out. This encourages early buyers to invest in editions and creates a perceived (if not real) increase in value, making the prints seem even more desirous and collectible. Michael Kenna, for example starts his editions at around £1300 a print and this rises over time until an edition getting close to selling out has prints selling for £6000 or £7000 each.
Once runs get above fifty prints you have to start to ask yourself if they are truly limited. Owning number 879 of 1000 doesn’t really cut the mustard in my view. Having said that, if you are paying less than £100 for the print, you can hardly complain. As I have shown in previous blog posts, photographers who charge less than £100 a print are actually selling at a loss. They may think they are making a big profit over the cost of paper and ink, but they are ignoring the true costs of making the photograph. You cannot run a photography business full time on print sales and price your work on a cost plus basis. You will soon go bankrupt. It shows a lack of understanding of business and finance. But that is a whole other topic. So having a massive limited edition run is really just a marketing tool to give some perceived value which, if we are truly honest, doesn’t really exist. If we produce 250 prints of a sunset and we are not a collectible photographer is that print really going to increase in value because it is number 139 of 250. Not really. Not if we are honest.
However, in researching this piece I was astounded to read that Peter Lik’s “limited editions” are of 950 with an additional 45 artists proofs. Personally, I feel this is taking limited editions too far and exploiting collectors, but his images almost all sell out and the values often increase. (Many by huge amounts- some collectors of his work have made very handsome profits from selling on his images after editions have sold out). So there are no rules (and no accounting for taste, either). His collectors are obviously happy or they wouldn’t buy and many of his prints sell out before they even hit his shops so demand is huge. (Is this down to the quality of his work, his skill as a marketeer, or investors knowing they can make a return on their investment?)
If we do decide to sell our work as limited editions, and it is a personal decision and can work very well for us, we have to get set up properly. This is a matter of integrity. If you tell people they have a limited edition print, that’s exactly what it should be. You should be able to prove it. So the edition needs to be recorded and documented. A spreadsheet should be kept, forever, and be kept accurately logging every sale and print number. This tends to be okay when we enthusiastically start offering a print. But come five years later and we have only sold five copies of our limited edition of fifty are we still prepared to maintain the records? Lets be honest. Most of us, myself included, don’t sell huge volumes of prints and so editions of these sizes will take years to sell out. For me it would take a lifetime!
Each print needs to be signed by you (with a pen that does not harm the print and does not fade or change colour with age, or with pencil), it needs to be dated (probably) and many photographers go to the added expense of buying an embossing tool of their logo which they emboss into the paper. This adds a feeling of genuiness and quality. It is a good marketing tool and worth the expense if you at going to run limited editions (or even if you are doing open editions).
Hahnemhule also sell a kit with certificates you can print to issue with the print and each has a hologram too, to add genuiness. All this adds weight to your offering and real collectors expect such refinements. They are paying you a lot more for it, after all.
Pricing of limited editions is tricky. What often happens is a photographer sets a price and an edition run of say twenty five and it starts to sell well. They then realise they could have charged more or sold many more. Pound signs in the eyes kick in. They now want to sell more editions and do what Eggleston has done, varying the size or paper to justify the new edition. 
So when you set your price you can adopt Kennas model and increase the price as the edition sells out. He is very upfront about this, so no deception is involved. Early buyers know they are getting a ‘bargain’ while those late to the party pay for being slow off the mark. 
Or, you can decide how much you want to make from an image and be content with that. So you make a nice image and decide to sell twenty five limited edition prints. You decide you would like that image to make you £5000 and so you price each print at £200 each. 
The issue is always one of greed. If a print does well, photographers might start to wish they could sell more. They worry that this steady source of income will soon dry up,when the edition sells out. What if they they don’t take many really popular images. Their income will drop as they realise they don’t have anything quite as good to take its place. This is where true professionals are out constantly shooting, trying to find the next image to replace their better sellers that are selling out. They accept when an edition has gone its gone, just as a painter paints a canvas, sells it and then has to paint another.
An additional layer of complexity comes in the form of poster prints. Although many well known and collected photographers sell limited edition prints at high prices you can also buy poster prints of the same images from them. So, going back to Michael Kenna as an example, but the same would be true of many others, you can buy posters of his images for £20/£30 or so. You can buy his images on calendars and in his books. Now the posters and calendars, while very nice are not printed to the same quality as one of his hand printed darkroom prints, but the image is identical. Does this devalue the limited edition? They do allow mere mortals like me to own an image from a photographer whose work I love and couldn’t afford any other way. How else could I own “Storm Clearing” by Ansel Adams, for example, if it wasn’t for posters?
Recently in fourteen US states a law has been passed to begin to regulate Limited Editions. There is a fascinating blog post by Joshua Kauffman who is a lawyer on this subject. You can read it here . In the article he shows just how some artists and photographers had really pushed their “limited editions”, necessitating the law change. It makes fascinating reading.
I also found a very interesting blog by an artist, Stuart Duffin, on the etiquette surrounding limited edition proofs and it includes some very interesting details about the abbreviations you find on editions which can tell you a lot about what you are actually buying. This too is worth reading here.
I wonder if, for most photographers, issuing limited editions is done more for our own self esteem than or any real value for our customers? It’s much nicer to say the print we are selling is “limited”. It certainly is a useful marketing tool and there is no harm in exploiting that as long as we don’t make any claims, actual or implied, that what our customers are buying is definitely going to become collectible or soar in value. And who is to say it won’t? Every now an then a new talent emerges and their early work becomes hugely valuable. It might just be yours. Customers also like to think they are buying something “limited”, even if subconsciously they realise it is not really of huge or rising value. They just like the feeling that buying a limited edition gives them over a regular print, and if the customer likes this, who are we to deprive them of it.
There are no hard and fast rules respecting LE prints (except in some US states now and that may well increase). So it is down to each of us to decide if we are going to offer them and if we are, how we will operate the system. What is important, in my view, if we o offer LE prints, is that we are totally. Upfront, honest and transparent with our customers so they know exactly what they are getting and what we may possibly also do in the future too.
I am not famous enough, nor is my work collectible, so as I said at the outset, I don’t issue limited edition prints of my work. If things change and I suddenly become the Banksy of the photography world I may have to alter how I work, but I can’t see that happening any time soon, if ever.
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts…

Canon 5d Mk 3 Woes and Why I Heard Music

Canon 5dMkIII

Drive by Shooting - Image Courtesy of ©John Birch 2013

Drive by Shooting - Image Courtesy of ©John Birch 2013


I have been using the 5d mk2 quite happily for a couple of years and had seen no reason to upgrade when he mk3 was released. I am not one who always has to have the very latest model of everything, unless there is a very good reason for it.Having a go with customers Mk3’s showed me it was better made, had a better screen and weather sealing and some nice refinements ergonomically such as the grip shape and position of the depth of field preview button. Nice though these things were, they weren’t a huge leap forward and so I contented myself with my faithful mk2’s.
 
That was until a customer, accomplished photographer Valda Bailey, came onto a workshop up in Northumberland in January. (You can view her work on her website, and you should (its really good) HERE ) She is a creative photographer and was experimenting with a feature buried in the menus which is not well known. Exposure blending. Some of you may know Chris Friels work and will have seen he has been using the same feature on portraits. Valda didn’t really show me what she was getting over the weekend until we had breakfast on the last morning when she bought her laptop into the cafe. She asked me to have “a quick look before I delete them”.
 
So I did.
 
What I saw made me stop eating my breakfast.
 
Very little stops me eating breakfast. Cafe on fire. War maybe. Little else. I was astounded. I thought I had got some nice images from the weekend as we had had wonderful light and atmospheric weather but on seeing hers I felt like formatting my cards. The images were astoundingly good. Hang on my wall good. I don’t think she believed me. But I don’t butter people up, I tell them honestly what I think, without being unkind – I believe in constructive comments, but these deserved unbridled praise. I wanted a mk3. I wanted one right there and then.
 
Then I broke my leg.
 
This had two effects. Firstly it meant I would be able to go to Focus on Imaging at the NEC, the biggest photography trade show in the UK, which I would have missed as I was due to lead a workshop on Skye, but the broken leg meant that was now possible. The show is the best place to buy gear at low prices generally speaking. The other, negative, effect was, although I could now go to the show (and be pushed around it in my wheelchair by my mates Carl & John) I was now unable to work and so cash was a real issue. Very frustrating. Until my card provider stepped in with 18 months interest free credit, so problem solved (well, problem delayed, lets not fool ourselves!)
 
And so it was I became the proud owner of a Canon 5d mk3, along with a free battery and 16gb compact flash card, plus £160 cash back from Canon. This bought the price down, effectively, to under £2k. A very good deal. Now at the show there were two companies offering the same deal. Calumet and Cameras Direct (if I remember rightly). However, Cameras Direct were also giving you a free copy of Adobe Lightroom 4 as well, worth around £100 at Amazons prices. So why did I buy from Calumet? Well, I have Lightroom 4. But I could have sold the free copy and made some cash. However, I knew of Calumets reputation. They are known for being suppliers to professionals. Solid. Dependable. They are known for good service, so I opted for them.
 
Boy am I glad I did.
 
On my first trip out with the camera (you can read John Birches blog post about he trip HERE – it’s a great read, and his blog is well worth following generally, well written and authoritative. He knows what he is talking about) I started to see an intermittent fault with the camera. You can see here some images which show the problem.
 
Shutter issue
 
Mirror Issue
 
Blizzard

Winter Wasteland - The shot I was after!

I think either the mirror was not lifting quickly enough or he shutter curtain was sticking, and thus shadowing on images. It would happen to a group of about three or four images and then wouldn’t occur for another hundred shots or more.
 
Straight away I tweeted to Calumet about the issue but to no response. It seems they don’t man Twitter at weekends (this might be something you need to address, Calumet, Twitter is 24 hours). Because I have about 1000 followers on Twitter (you can find me on Twitter as @dougchinnery), most who are photographers, this started to generate traffic as you can imagine with theories about the problem, possible solutions and so on.
 
On Monday morning I emailed the company with a description and images of the problem and a few minutes later, via Twitter, had a tweet asking me to call them. The phone was answered in two rings. This pleased me. A person answered. Still good. I explained the issue and without hesitation she said, “no problem, I will get FedEx to collect it today to bring it back for us to look at”. I was very impressed by the FedEx collection. Most companies tell us to pack it up, drive to the Post Office and send it back to them by Special Delivery at our cost and risk (about £20 to £25 for a camera). I was hoping she would say we will replace it, but accepted they would want to take a look first. A couple of minutes later (literally) I got an email from Laurence at Calumet. He had seen my email and images and said, “we will collect it today and send you a new replacement”. Result.
 
Then things got a bit surreal. Ten minutes after that who should knock at the door but the FedEx man. I hadn’t even boxed up the camera. When I opened the door I told him it felt like I was in a FedEx commercial (his uniform was well pressed and he was smiling and rather TV adverty-looking). All it needed was the sun to come out, birds to start singing and an orchestra to start playing and the cameras could roll.
 
In my rush to pack the camera for him I left the Calumet battery in (not the genuine Canon one) and my 16gb card in he camera. Doh!
 
I won’t bore you with all the details but Laurence at Calumet remained my single point of contact throughout. He replied to every email within two or three minutes. Everything he said he would do he did. He was superb. Whatever you are paying him, Calumet, it is not enough. They got a new camera to me in less than 48 hours. They even went to the trouble and cost of FedEx’ing my battery and CF card back to me. It was all done with courtesy and efficiency. It is, quite simply, the best service I have had from a photography related supplier ever.
 
Needless to say they now have me as a loyal customer. Yes, they may not always be the cheapest. But ask yourself when you buy that lens from a supplier in Hong Kong on eBay that has a fault. Will the hundred quid or so you saved seem like such a good deal when they ask you to post it back to Hong Kong? When Canon or Nikon in the UK won’t honour the guarantee because it is a grey import. (They will fix it, they just won’t do it under guarantee). It is rare these days for modern electronics to fail, but when they do, it’s a pain. I am so pleased I opted for Calumet and will be an evangeliser for them now. I don’t know how the other outfit would have handled my problem, but I can’t see how they could have done any better unless the MD had hand delivered it in his Bentley same day.
 
So, my message is. Consider using Calumet in future, especially for major items (they also do lens and body hire). Also, beware grey imports. They are cheaper for a reason. Often we get away with it, but it only takes one issue with a body or lens to wipe out the savings we have made on several items over the years in hassle and grief, if we ever do manage to get them to sort it.
 
I also love FedEx. And the driver really was like a bloke from an advert. It was a bit surreal. No orchestra though. Shame really. I would have liked to have heard music.
 

Winter tree

Tree in a Blizzard - Shot from the Car

Is Pinterest of Value to Photographers?

pinterest

I have a confession to make. When I first heard of Pinterest I dismissed it quickly as irrelevant. It seemed to me to be a hangout for young women with boards entitled “My Perfect Wedding”, “Cute Kittens” and such things. Boards full of images of people too perfect to exist having weddings that would never happen and then live in houses just to perfect for real people. I left within minutes of logging in.
 

Cute Kittens

Let the nightmare begin. There are a LOT of cute kittens (and puppies) on Pinterest, but you don't have to look at them if you don't want to


 
That was a couple of years ago. Then, a week or so ago, I can’t remember why, I had occasion to visit the site again. This time I stayed.

Why the change?

This time I thought it through and explored a bit deeper. Certainly, the site is populated primarily by women. 80% of ‘pinners’ are women. Nothing wrong in that, obviously. It’s just that for me, as a man, the kind of things the majority of the ladies were devoting boards to were of no interest to me. As much as I love cute puppies and recipes for homemade eye makeup remover, I wasn’t really looking for that kind of thing. It is this ‘noise’ that had put me off so,quickly on my first visit.

This time, however, I took a deep breath and typed in a search for, imaginatively, “landscape photography”. The results were interesting. Yes, lots of over saturated cliched images, but also I soon found boards created by discerning pinners full of stunning work.
 

Mono photography

But there is also a lot of really good photography to suit any taste and from all genres withn Pinterest. Of course, you can also introduce images from all over the Internet which appeal to you onto your own boards too, to elevate and inform other users 🙂


 
Spurred on, I searched for creative black and white images. The same resuLt. What really impressed me was that much of what I was finding was from older photographers. By older, I mean photographers working a hundred, fifty or twenty five years ago. The great names like Adams, Sudek, Stieglitz, Rowel, Weston, Maier and so on. You don’t find these on Flickr.

Also there are photographers whose work I have not found through any other channels. I was soon hooked, created my own account and was feverishly creating my own collections.

So how does Pinterest work? The idea is simple. Imagine a pin board on your studio wall on which you pin snippets of information and pictures to inspire you or to help you with a project. In Pinterest you can create as many such virtual boards as you wish. These boards can be public or secret.
 

Pinterest Board screenshot

This is a partial screenshot of one of my Pinterest Boards - this one for images of colour landscape photographs


 
You can then search within the Pinterest site on the public boards of others and re-pin things which you find interesting or inspiring onto your boards. The origin of these images or items originally is pages on the Internet. The item always retains its link back to the original source page, no matter how many times it is re-pinned. You can go to the source page by double clicking the item. This is really useful, as when you find an image by a new photographer or artist you like you can then leave Pinterest and go and explore their own website.
 
Pinterest Boards

My home page of pin boards. Each board is for images on a different subject, so i can keep my images organised.


 
You can also introduce new items into the Pinterest site onto your boards by pinning them yourself when you find something on a website you wish to pin to one of your boards. In fact, this is something that more pinners need to do. Around 80% of pinning is ‘re-pinning’ of images from the boards of others, so you do begin to see the same images appearing in searches. More members need to search out new material from the web and pin it to their boards for others to discover. This keeps the site fresh and, if you are prepared to do this, you will quickly find lots of pinners will start to follow your boards as they offer something fresh and new. I have only been active for a few days and already have close to fifty people following my boards.
 
Pin Boards Closeup

A close up image of some of my pin board icons


 
An interesting side note that I have noticed is that Pinterest has started to drive low volumes of new traffic to my website since I started actively using it. I am guessing this is coming from people who are seeing my images on boards and following them back to their source on my website. It may also come from people checking out my profile on the site and clicking my website link. Don’t get me wrong, the volumes are small at the moment, but noticeable, and growing. I am not recommending using Pinterest as you would other forms of social media to drive traffic to your website or blog. That wouldn’t be an efficient use of your time if it was your sole purpose in doing it. However, I am pleasantly surprised by the effect already and see it as a knock on benefit.

There are also some serious concerns about copyright, which as artists and photographers should concern us. It is up to each user to decide on this issue and if you want to read an article on it you will find one here.

You can follow individual boards of others if you like what they pin and this allows you to see when they add new things to that board in case you wish to pin it to one of your boards (likewise people can follow your boards if they like them). Or you can follow an individual and see everything they pin to all of their boards.

You can also create boards of your own images or pin your own images into your boards and they may get re-pinned by others who like them.
 

Pinning widget

Here is an example of pinning an image from an external website, in this case my own, using the widget you can get from the Pinterest site for your browser. When you are on a web page with an image you wish to pin, just click the "Pin It" button and this dialogue opens (it also allows you to choose which image if several images are on the page), you can add notes and select which of your boards you wish to add it to and then just pin it when done.


 
I use the site extensively now to collate inspiration for my work. Not only in photography, but I have also found myself researching art as well and learning valuable lessons from it.

I have also found interesting Photoshop tips and have a board to collate ideas for remodelling my photographic office and studio here a home. My wife has fallen in love with Pinterest and is collecting ideas about make up, cleaning solutions, decorating tips, craft making ideas, gardening – the scope is endless. Where I thought it would be a location just for organising my inspirational images, it is fast becoming a location to collate visual information for all sorts of projects and ideas. Some boards are public, others are private. Many designers use boards for design ideas, graphic designers use them to collate new fonts collections or colour themes, gardeners use them for plant and garden layout ideas – the uses are endless. If you search for ideas on the site you will soon find some very, very clever people who have ingenious solutions to problems, people who have ways of recycling items for amazing uses and who seem able to come up with things I would never dream of.

In the screen shot below I typed in “Recycle Pallets” – thousands of ideas came up, these are just a tiny, tiny fraction – just try it – click here
 

Recycle Pallets

Some pallet recycling ideas


 
I would encourage you to have a look. Why not take a browse at some of my boards and see what you think. I would be interested in hearing your views. You can find my boards here – http://pinterest.com/dougchinnery/ Why not sign up and make a start by following me 🙂

Lessons from Visiting Exhibitions

lessons
Trees

Bastion

I have been very fortunate in the last couple of months to visit three landscape photography exhibitions in London. Landscape Photographer of the Year at the National Theatre, the Michael Kenna exhibition at the Chris Beetles Photography Gallery (both now concluded) and the Ansel Adams exhibition which runs until April 2013 at the Royal Observatory Museum, Greenwich.

The one I really want to focus on here is the Adams exhibitions but I’d just like to make a few comments on the Kenna first.

I think first I must say how important I feel it is for us as keen landscape photographers to make the effort if at all possible to visit exhibitions of the work of others. It is good to view images on websites and in books, but there is nothing like seeing an image in print, especially if the prints are well made and presented.

They have a quality and feel which no web page or book, no matter how good the monitor or print run can get close to matching. To see fine work up close opens up subtleties in composition and light that so often get missed in other mediums. We are seeing the images as the artist intended. Print runs and monitors distort, even slightly, what the artist wanted to portray and so some of the images beauty is lost.

When visiting these exhibitions I felt sure I was going to be seeing print making at its very finest. Both Ansel Adams and Michael Kenna are renowned for being superb dark room workers with extreme attention to detail and levels of perfectionism. I knew I was in for a treat. Mr. Kenna especially is a photographic role model for me. I love his images, his style, his simplicity of composition, his work ethic, his avoidance of crowd following, his genuine “niceness” as a person and his love of the world around him. If I could spend a day with only one photographer, it would be Michael Kenna.

My first exhibition was the Kenna. Held at the Chris Beetles Fine Art Photography Gallery close to Piccadilly Circus in London, this was very much a commercial exhibition. While Chris Beetles is to be very much commended for bringing master photographers work to London for us to see, which is wonderful, make no mistake, it is being done to sell prints, not for purely artistic or historical reasons as a museum would.

The exhibition space is small and intimate, well lit and ideal for a display of Kenna’s beautiful prints. They were crammed in somewhat, but this ties in with the commercial nature of the gallery. For a premises like this to succeed in London it has to maximise sales and so the more prints it can offer the greater the chance of success, so this is not a criticism. I would rather see the exhibition than lose the gallery. In a non-commercial setting I am sure fewer images would have been hung to give each image more space, more room to “breath”.

Kenna’s prints are refreshingly small. Less than 8” square. In a world where photographers seem to think bigger is better these days, I loved the intimacy of his prints. The size requires that you get up close and examine them. I wear reading glasses, and needed them to really view the fine details of the images. I liked that.

His skills as a print maker leapt out from every print. They were exquisite. Delicately toned with just a hint of sepia to warm them, the images displayed the care Kenna takes with composition and the darkroom process.

Many images were well known to me through his books and website but they are SO much better as darkroom prints. The difference is quite marked. Some of his books are printed to a high standard, but his prints here take the images to another level. Prices ran from around £1300 for an image from a new edition through to £6000 or £7000 for an image from an edition close to selling out (he increases the price of images as editions sell out to encourage buyers to get in early). As Mr. Kenna has at least one exhibition somewhere in the world most months of the year plus he is represented all year around by several other galleries (along with his book sales), even taking off gallery commission, I am guessing he makes a very good living which is rare for a pure landscape photographer (especially one who does not, or very rarely, runs workshops etc).

I was, however, a little disappointed with some of the images on display. I felt that some were a little weaker than I would expect compositionally and the subject matter rather “touristy”. That is an unusual term to use, but I find it hard to find another. I can’t use the word “snaps” because they certainly weren’t that. They were just not what I would have expected to see from Michael.

Now Michael has a very distinctive style, which I love, and I wasn’t expecting or hoping to see exclusively long exposure night shots and minimalist images of trees in the snow. I also imagine he is trying to expand the styles he shoots as so many wannabe photographers are going to locations he has pioneered and are copying his style and churning out identikit images. It must be so frustrating for him to have so many copying his work so closely. So, perhaps, the shots I saw, that I wasn’t so keen on were his attempt to show a different side to his work. I don’t know. I just felt there were too many of them, and they failed to excite me. They didn’t shout “Kenna” at me. In fact they didn’t shout anything at all other than “what’s that doing here? It just doesn’t fit”. They were images that if they appeared on Flickr under a name like “Joe Bloggs” (or “Doug Chinnery”) would get hardly any notice at all, I’m pretty sure. These I felt let down an otherwise beautiful exhibition of a photographer at the height of his powers.

Despite this slight issue I had with some of the images on display, the show was exceptional and I was so pleased to have seen it. My love of Michaels work is even stronger as a result. It also heightened in me a growing desire I have to learn real wet room darkroom printing. I have shied away from this due to the cost, space required and mostly the time required for the learning curve involved but I have a feeling that one day I am going to be seduced into the world of making my own dark room prints. This would complete the creative circle for me – from shooting on film, processing the film myself and then creating the prints in a darkroom by hand with no digital intervention, making my creative work more of a hand craft and closer to a pure art form than it currently is. But thats another story.

I couldn’t afford to buy a print from the exhibition so I spent as long as I could drinking in the beautiful prints and studying the details of composition. Then I treated myself to a copy of the exhibition show guide which has been added as a treasured addition to my photographic library. Maybe the closest I will ever come to owning a print from just about my favourite landscape photographer.

And now, on to the Adams exhibition. A more controversial experience for me altogether.

Amongst landscape photographers there is one name which rises above all others, the pioneer of modern landscape photography “Ansel Adams”. There is hardly a landscape photographer who doesn’t list as one of his or her inspirations Mr. Adams (although for many I have a sneaking suspicion they say it more because it is the done thing rather than because they have really studied his work and admire it).

There is no doubt about it, Ansel really understood photography and took it to new heights. He worked so hard, often in near poverty until late in his life, and he created some images which really deserve the overused title “iconic”. He was largely responsible, with others, for getting Yosemite protected as a National Park and he made some quite simply breathtaking images there.

He worked with glass plate negatives (incredibly difficult in the field) and film. He, with others, developed the “zone system” to aid exposing images in such a way as to make superb negatives which would enable the photographer to realise his or her vision for the final print in the darkroom. He was also a darkroom master himself, often spending days perfecting a print.

There is no doubt about it, he is rightly revered and fittingly takes his place in the annals of photographic history.

So, even though I don’t claim him as one of my inspirations, I was looking forward to my visit to an exhibition of his work in London. However, within minutes, I found myself somewhat irritated. Irritated by intellectuals.

I am guessing it is the intellectuals that are at the root of my irritation. I have seen video interviews of Ansel discussing his work and he seemed very down to earth and not at all pretentious.

The exhibition, interestingly, showed images taken by Ansel from a very young age right through his life. It was fascinating to see these images, some never seen publicly before. The irritating thing was the way they were described. Quite frankly, and not surprisingly since the images were made by a young boy with a box camera and no photographic experience, the images were “just snaps”. I am sure there are millions of such images in boxes in lofts the world over taken at the time Ansel was a young boy. However the intellectuals who wrote the labels beside the images had taken it upon themselves to try and see awesome compositional skills emerging in these pictures. They were trying to read (see?) into them what clearly wasn’t there at is stage, and nor should they have expected it to have been. They were trying to make out that he was some sort of photographic child prodigy and that every time he pointed the camera at a lake or a bush something earth shattering happened, which when you looked at the picture it clearly hadn’t. Why they couldn’t just show these images as examples of him playing with and experimenting with early basic cameras like many children do and leave it at that I don’t know. I have a funny feeling Ansel himself would have been rather embarrassed by what they were writing.

As I moved around the exhibition I was also dismayed to find images taken a little later in his life which, again, quite frankly, were just simple pictures, snaps. The kind of thing anyone would take on holiday standing on a cliff pointing a camera at the sea and rocks. Nothing wrong with that, but again these were being trumpeted as wonders of photography. If the curators of the exhibition had been shown these pictures and been told they had been taken by Doug Chinnery they would have been immediately discarded as worthless (and rightly so). The curators were so clearly trying to make out that everything he took was some sort of amazing accomplishment, which is not true for any photographer. It bothers me that some images made by “a name” in photography get elevated and praised when, in reality, if the observer was shown the image anonymously they would view it of little or no merit. (Wouldn’t it be good to have a photo sharing site where images were posted anonymously so all comments were based purely on the image and not on if the poster was our mate or because they were well know?)

Please don’t let photography go the way of much of art these days where everything gets intellectualised and is spoken of pompously. Please let us enjoy images just for what they are and don’t try and make them out to be what they are not. And please, don’t try and make great photographers into some sort of prodigies, trying to imply every time they fire the shutter that something magical happens, because it doesn’t. They make poor images like we all do and there is no shame in that whatsoever.

What I do have to say is, despite my irritations with the writers of the labels and the curators of the exhibition, in amongst the images I felt were unremarkable or weak were those which were simply breathtaking.

It is these which make the exhibition worth going to alone. Surely Ansel took more of these and these are the ones which we want to see, his best work. Let the intellectuals fantasise about his skills as a nine year old in there thesis but let us see and gasp in admiration over the images of which Ansel himself was so rightly proud.

His image of the storm clearing through Yosemite which others have tried to emulate is unspeakably beautiful in the flesh. I was open mouthed and stood for a full ten minutes just drinking it in. His image of the Tetons and river is stunning in every sense. Tucked away in quiet corners of the exhibition were images of flowers and flowing water, images of ice and rocks all just so wonderful in composition and amazing in print quality. It was a privilege to see them first hand.

I really enjoyed both exhibitions, but with reservations. There is still time to get to see the the Adams exhibition so go if you can and see if you agree with me, or not. I also encourage you to visit exhibitions of the work of as many photographers as you can, known and unknown. There is much to be learned from them and they will certainly appreciate your support.

I have no doubt you will have feelings on this subject and I look forward to hearing them.

Silver Light

Silver Light

Stay with me back in the dark ages

Dark Ages

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those blogs where I witter on about the joys of shooting on film. I have also resisted the temptation of January 1st blogs which feature either “my best shots of last year” or “My resolutions for the year ahead”.

Rather, I have decided to make an appeal that you ditch a piece of technology (if you have adopted it, of course). What am I on about?
Picture the scene. It’s pre-dawn. A group of photographers are setting up by their tripods on a remote beach. Things are looking good, the air is clear, the cloud scattered and not banked on the horizon. You can sense the excitement.
As the light grows shutters start to fire, images at being made by all. By all except one in the group. He is identifiable by his strange antics. Hoping about behind his tripod waving one arm in the air at different heights, periodically peering at both his and and the back of his camera, which stays resolutely inactive. While his companions gasp t the results on thir screens, it is unrepeatable utterances that emerge from his.
The root cause of his problem? His wireless remote shutter release.
From years of running photography workshops, often starting like this before dawn, I can almost guarantee that if anyone will have teething problems first thing it will be someone with a wireless remote. (The others who struggle are those with low cost flimsy and poorly deigned tripods and heads – but that’s a subject or another blog).
It shouldn’t really be the case, should it. Technological advances should make things better, easier, quicker, more reliable, surely? I love wireless technology. I use it as often as I can in other areas of life. But having seen the anguish they cause so often, I won’t use a wireless remote on my camera. 
Admittedly, it is the low cost pattern “brands” which tend o be the worst culprits. (how often have I had a customer proudly telling me how he got it “off eBay from China for £5” and then seen it be the cause of them missing the most wonderful light because it wouldnt fire when hey wanted it to? Factor in the cost of the workshop and travel to the location only to miss the shots and they don’t seem to be such a bargain). The genuine brands do seem to work more reliably, but I still see they perform temperamentally on a regular basis. I can’t risk this. I need kit I can have absolute trust in.
And as landscapers, exactly why do we need wireless remotes anyway?  Wildlifers, maybe, but unless we want to be in our own pictures, or have some reason I can’t think of to need to trigger the camera from some distance away, what is the benefit of them?
Certainly, if the exposure is 30 seconds or less we can use the cameras self timer, but in low light or when doing long exposures, this just isn’t an option.
I use genuine Canon remotes. I tried the cheap knock offs, but with my level of use they last just a few weeks before the switch fails. Genuine units last me two or three years or more and so outlast many, many knock offs. I have never had one fail in the field. And by that, I mean, every single time I have pressed the switch the camera has responded. If I have missed a shot, it has been my fault, not the kits.
So if you have a wireless remote, take a piece of advice from me. Put it in a pocket in your camera bag as a spare and treat yourself to a corded remote. Come and join me back in the good old reliable dark ages and be sure not to miss the light.

Stand Developing Film

stand developing

If you follow me on Twitter (@dougchinnery) or Flickr you will know that in addition to shooting on film for my personal creative work, I have also started developing my own black and white film myself.

It costs about £3.50 to have a mono film processed and supplied in negative strips ready to scan into the computer by a commercial firm. Processing the film myself reduces this to just a few pence per roll.

It was recommended to me to start with a simple process called “Stand Developing”. This is a basic process which is ideal for beginners before you move on to more standard techniques. 

Usually in processing film the chemicals are kept at a instant temperature throughout and the film is ‘agitated’ in the liquid to ensure fresh developer comes in contact with the surface of the film throughout. Then, after a set period (of just a few minutes) the developing fluid is removed and another chemical is added to stop the development, otherwise the film can be damaged. Finally, the film is washed and dried, ready to scan.

Stand development takes a different approach. The developing chemical is mixed with water at a very dilute concentration, I have been using 1:100. The film is then left to stand in this fluid for an hour. As the developer is so dilute it first brings out the highlights in the images and as its effectiveness reduces it slowly brings out shadow detail. By the time an hour has passed it is almost expired and so no stop chemical is required, just water to wash it off the il before the fixing chemical is applied for a few minutes followed by a final rinse.

The developer I use is about the oldest available and is called Rodinol (R09). It has been in use for over 100 years and is readily available. For the fixing and rinsing I use Ilford chemicals. All are safe to be disposed of own the sink after use (although the fix chemical can be stored and reused many times).

People have asked me if you need a dark room to process film and the answer is “no”. The only part of the process which needs darkness is lading the exposed rolls of film into the developing tanks and this is done in a dark changing bag. These have two arm holes so you can out all you need in the bag, seal it, and then load the film in darkness with your hands in the bag. This is a bit tricky for the first couple of times but you soon get used to it. The developing drum will, in my case, take two rolls of 120 film at a time and is cleverly designed to allow you to add and pour out liquids without letting any light into the drum.

So here is the recipe I have been using. Please note this is ONLY for black and white film. Please also note, contrary to developing film by other methods, you can mix film types in the same developing drum with this method. Normally, if you are going to develop several rolls of film together (I have a drum that allows me to do three films at one, for example, to save time) you have to keep the film types the same. So three rolls of Ilford HP5 for example or 3 rolls of Tri-X. 

First, load your film onto a reel in the processing drum inside a changing bag. Then carefully measure out 5ml of Rodinal. I use R09. To measure it accurately I use a small medical syringe with a ml scale on the side. Mix with this 500ml of tap water. (if you are using a drum with more than one roll, use 500ml per roll) There is no need to use warm water for this as you do with most developing processes as the water is standing for so long, warm would go cold anyway. In winter I would add some warm water to the very cold tap water just as a precaution. Pour this into the drum and agitate the drum  for 30 seconds. By ‘agitate’ I mean invert and twist the drum in your hands repeatedly. Don’t just shake the drum but really move the liquid around so it has plenty of contact with the film. At the end of this period of agitation, tap the drum a couple of times on a firm surface to dislodge any air bubbles from the surface of the film and let the drum stand for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes just agitate the drum again 3 times only and then let it stand for another 30 minutes.

Once the last period of standing is up, pour the liquid down the sink but DO NOT open the drum yet. Fill it with cool tap water, agitate 5 times and pour away. Repeat but agitate 10 times and pour away. Finally repeat and agitate 20 times then pour the water away.

Now pour in 500ml (per roll of film) into your fixing solution. I use Ilford Rapid Fixer. This comes concentrated and so I mixed it with water at a ratio of one part fixer to three parts water in a clean storage bottle. Start a stopwatch (I use the one on my iPhone) and agitate for 30 seconds. Tap it and let it stand for 30 seconds. Then agitate it three times, tap it and let it stand for a minute. Repeat the three agitations on each minute until a total of 6 minutes has expired then pour the fixer back into its storage bottle as it can be reused many times.

Then fill the drum with water from the tap, agitate 5 times and pour away, repeat but agitate 10 times and then do it once more but agitate 20 times.

Finally, I fill the drum with a mix of water and a wetting agent. I use a tiny squirt of the Ilford wetting agent (some people just use washing up liquid). The amount you need in 500ml of water is tiny, just a couple of ml. Agitate the drum 40 times and then pour the mix away.

Open the drum and remove the spool with your film on. Do not wash the suds off of the drum under the tap as this will ruin the effect of using a wetting agent (which is to stop the tap water leaving smears on the film due to water hardness). Simply place a finger on each flat surface of the film and run them down its length to remove most of the water and wetting agent suds. Then I use a piece of clean chamois leather and run this down the film to dry it some more. What is vital when you do this is that there is no grit on your fingers or the chamois as this will scratch your film. Hang the film to dry slowly from a line. I use a bulldog clip to clip it to a wire I have put up in my bathroom. As dust free a place as possible is best for this (so not by the dogs bed!)

Once the film is dry you can cut it into frame lengths to suit your scanner. My scanner (an Epson V700) has holders which take two strips of three frames of 120 film so I cut a roll into four strips of three frames per strip. Now you can scan the images in and see what you have.

On reading this it may sound really complicated and long winded. It did to me when I was researching the process. However, once you have developed two or three films you will know the process by heart and be doing it without thinking. It is great to see your images emerge from the drum and to be part of the whole process from capture to final image. It also means I can go out and shoot and within an hour and a half of getting home I have my images in Lightroom – not quite the instant feedback of a digital camera but as close as you can get with film.

This process is about the simplest way to develop black and white film. The process tends to bring out the grain in the film. It also produces high contrast negatives. The blacks are often rich and dark while the highlights bright and punchy. You need to be bear this in mind if you want low contrast negatives which are more ‘subtle’. For these, Stand Development may not be the best choice.

I buy my chemicals from AG Photographic http://www.ag-photographic.co.uk/ They are a small UK firm who give good service and are very helpful on the phone if you have any questions.

If you are just getting in to analogue photography or are interested in trying stand developing as a new tool in your film processing arsenal, I hope you have found this post to be helpful. (the image below was Stand developed)

Amazing one day only deal on Adobe Elements 11 on Amazon

This is just a very quick post as I have just found out Amazon are doing a one day deal on Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 today (10.12.12). They have the full official version for £32.97 which is way below half price for a superb piece of software which has almost everything we need as photographers and is a huge saving over the full version of Photoshop. You can check it out HERE – so grab yourself a real bargain.

My back up strategy

back up

Lakeland River


It has been a while since I blogged about my backing up strategy and I have made some changes to make my systems more secure, so now seems a good time to update you on how I protect my data.
 
I regularly have friends and customers who tell me stories of how they have lost prized images, even their entire library, due to equipment failure or theft of their computers which they didn’t have backed up. They go pale as they speak about it. Some even break down and cry 🙂
 
If your system experienced a complete failure this minute, how much would you lose?
 
If your computer and the drives with it in the same room were stolen today, how much data would you lose?
 
How would that make you feel. Your wedding pictures. The pictures of your children growing up. The images of your loved ones who have passed away. Those landscapes you toiled so hard to capture. Need I go on.
 
Sobering questions, aren’t they?
 
It is crucial to understand that EVERY hard drive WILL fail. It is just a question of when, and they often don’t give any notice. One minute you are happily using your computer and the next you are looking at a blank screen. As with so many things in life, we think it won’t happen to us or we think we have time to back up next week. You just have to decide how much data you are prepared to lose and tailor your system to protect you to this level.
 
I had a brand new drive in a brand new computer fail completely just three days after buying it. I had just finished setting the system up with all of my programs, settings and data. I had also set up my back up solution and so was fully protected.
 
The issue is many people feel that backing up is a nuisance. They feel they don’t have time. Often, it is also because they don’t really understand how to do it, or how to set up a good reliable system which is easy to run.
 
I can’t afford to lose my data. As a freelance photographer my images are my business. If I lose them, I don’t pay my bills. They cannot be replaced so it that is a great motivation to have a good system in place.
 
So how am I organised and how do I make it easy to have a bullet proof back up solution working for me?
 
My first layer of protection
 
When in the field, especially on longer trips, I copy all my compact flash cards to my iPad. I don’t format the compact flash cards until the images are copied to my computer back at the studio. This gives me two copies of my images while I am away from home. I keep the compact flash cards in a holder with me and the iPad is left hidden in my vehicle. I may also copy the images on to my Mac Book Pro while I am away which then gives me three copies in the field.
 
My second layer of protection
 
My main computer is a 27 inch iMac with a 1tb  drive. I have a 1tb drive attached (I recommend this one – http://tinyurl.com/bs4vhcm – the WD drives have always performed perfectly for me). This is set up to use Apples Time Machine back up system which is built into all Macs. It has saved my life several times and is so easy to use. Just select the drive to back up to and the system backs up every hour. It deletes the oldest back ups once the drive is full. The most data you can lose is one hours work. Frustrating, yes, but not critical.
 
Layer three
 
I also have another two 1tb drives which are kept onsite, but away from the computer (in the hope that if we have a burglary and the computer and back drive which sits next to it are stolen, then this drive may be missed).
 
To copy files to this from my iMac I use a great easy piece of software called Superduper. You will find it HERE
 
(if you are a Windows user I would highly recommend using Microsofts free SyncToy which does a very similar job and is also so simple to use. You will find it HERE. Please note, I stopped using Windows a couple of years ago so this may not work with the latest versions of Windows or other solutions may now be available which I am unaware of).
 
This makes a carbon copy of your entire hard drive. The first back up you run with it takes a while as it is copying every file (as does Time Machine) but subsequent backups are much faster as only files you have added, deleted or changed are updated. This system does not hold on to old copies of files, so you can’t go back to a file which was deleted weeks ago in error  to restore it, like you can with Time Machine. The drive is always a copy of your computers hard drive on the last day you backed up with it.
 
Superduper can be set to run on a schedule so you don’t have to do anything as long as the back up drive is connected to the computer, or it can be run manually at a time you choose (this is how I use it as my drive is hidden and not permanently connected to the computer).
 
It is also fully bootable so in the event of a hard drive failure you can boot your computer using it and get working straight away. If you want to have several carbon copy drives you can. You give each drive a name and Superduper remembers each drive.
 
When I am on the road I take one of the Superduper drives with me. This gives me an offsite backup and it also means I have all my files with me so I can work on the road. If I do this I just have to keep a copy of the changed/added files and update my iMac with them when I get home.
 

Mist in the Woods


The final layer
 
The last layer of protection is the one which gets neglected by most people because it is the most difficult to manage. This is the offsite backup.
 
This protects you in case of theft or the destruction of your property by flood, fire and so on. I wonder how many people have lost all their files this week in the floods?
 
My old system, which was flawed, but better than nothing, was to have a third 1tb drive backed up to using Superduper which I then stored at my parents home. This is fine if you remember/bother to go and get it and update it regularly (and to be honest, this needs to be weekly as a minimum). I just didn’t do this often enough, it becomes too much hassle.
 
Prior to this year my new solution would not have been feasible as my broadband speeds were just too low. I now am blessed with BT Infinity 2 and this makes backing up to a Cloud service easy.
 
There are lots of options out there but most are very expensive for large amounts of data. They are really designed for smaller amounts of file storage and also geared for you to be uploading and downloading the files on a regular basis.
 
Amazon Glacier
 
Fortunately, Amazon has identified this issue and set up a brilliant new service to remedy this. It is called “Glacier”. Anyone can use it, from home users to world-wide corporations and it is purely designed to store large amounts of data you will probably never need again… unless something goes badly wrong with your primary layers of protection which I have described above. You can find it HERE
 
The basic things to know are;
 

  • The cost is very, very low, just $0.01 per gigabyte of data per month for storage, so if you have 200gb of data with them it costs just $24 a year. Compare that with the true cost of buying external drives and then keeping one off site and up to date!
  • There is a fee if you delete backups within 3 months of uploading then
  • There is a fee to download data, although you do get a free allowance per month, but as this is designed for long term storage (in fact, its for data you hope you will never have to download) it is not a major issue
  • Data that is uploaded takes several hours to be processed by Glacier and it takes several hours to start downloading back to you if you need it – this is how they keep the costs so low – so don’t view it like you do Dropbox, for example.
  • You need to break your data down into zip files that are no bigger than 4gb and this is a hassle when you first get set up.
  • You can’t update a backup zip file once it is uploaded. If you make changes to files at your end you need to upload them again and delete the old one if necessary. For this reason I am using it for archives. I back up the files I am working on all the time to Dropbox (or Skydrive etc) Sign up for Dropbox HERE
  • Glacier have yet to release a program to handle the uploading but two free programs are available from others. The Windows one is Fastglacier and the Mac client is Simpleglacier. I use Arc back up which is a paid for program.
  • Your data is encrypted using 128bit encryption keys – so extremely secure. The server farms also sit behind very secure firewall systems.
  • Glacier claims 99.999999999999% protection. The server farms are held in extremely secure bunkers and there are several of them around the planet. Your data will exist in three locations in at least two countries. So you are pretty much protected form everything except Armageddon, when, lets face it, the last thing we will be bothered about are our files 🙂

 
I am currently going through the tedious process of zipping all of my data (images and files) into 4gb batches and doing an upload overnight each night. I can upload about 60gb a night with my connection. I have done several years worth of files and just have 2010 to today still to do. I have just got my head down and started working through this methodically. It has also helped me delete over 200gb of useless and duplicated data which was clogging up my system – a really nice feeling having a spring clean 🙂
 
Once it is all there, plan to upload weekly the latest images although it may end up being monthly. I am expecting to have around 600gb of zipped data on Glacier by the end of 2012 with a cost to me of about £3.75 a month at current rates. I think that is exceptional value.
 
Conclusion
 
This all might sound like the ravings of an obsessive compulsive with a disaster fixation but I have my livelihood to think about and I hold work which is critical to my customers too. You can go as far as you feel you need to in order to get the level of protection you need.
 
As a minimum get Time Machine working for you if you are a Mac user, or something similar if you are a Windows user. I also recommend getting in to the habit of backing up each days work at the end of the day – let it run overnight. in reality, on most days, if you do it daily, an incremental backup will run in a few minutes. As a minimum get into the habit of having a ‘Backup Friday’ or similar so at least your weeks work is protected.
 
I highly recommend you also get set up with Dropbox – you can sign up here – as this will give you 2gb of free storage accessible world wide for regularly used files and for sharing files with friends and family. You can also access it from your iPhone, Smartphone and iPad etc It is brilliant and I use it daily.
 
Alternatively you can have the thrill of being a gambler and live life on the edge and not bother backing up at all (or have that back up you did months or years ago and always mean to get around to updating, maybe next week when your not so busy). Enjoy the ride! Me, as you can see, I am more a belt and braces kind of guy who likes to sleep well at night.

I am featured in a new Craft & Vision eBook

craft and vision

I am very pleased and honoured to say I have been featured in the new Craft & Vision eBook by Andrew S. Gibson entitled “Slow”

The 64 spread book, which is beautifully illustrated with the authors images (as well as mine) is focused on the creative techniques and results that can be had from taking control of your shutter speed and slowing it right down. Andrew is a great writer and very clearly shows exactly how to do this in different ways to achieve different effects and styles of image.

I am featured over several pages as a case study, using my ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) and blur techniques. I wrote an in-depth set of instructions on how I create these images and how you can use them to develop your own ICM styles. Its a great way to make images which express your own style. I also love the way it helps me break free from conventional image making – it releases the artist within.

Another great reason to get the book is that the second case study is the very talented Joel Tjintjelaar. He has developed a reputation for particularly fine long exposure black and white images, using long exposures in a totally different way to my ICM techniques. His images are refined, precise and very contemporary. So much so, he has been used by BMW in some of their car advertisements. In his case study, he shows how he achieves the look and style of his images which makes for fascinating reading.

David du Chemin, the great photographer behind the Craft & Vision brand, says this in his blog on the new book;

“SLOW is 64 spreads of teaching and inspiration on the techniques and aesthetics of using a slow shutter, including panning and intentional camera movements, long exposures, related equipment, and issues of exposure. He’s included a couple case studies from photographers Doug Chinnery and Joel Tjintjelaar, to compliment his own work, and created an excellent primer on the subject. I’m as excited as I am about this one because I’m using so much intentional camera movement in my own work, as I explore impressionism, and it’s resulted in new ideas and projects I’d have never pursued if I hadn’t started thinking laterally about exposure.”

The book, which is a great addition to the Craft & Vision line up, is only $5 and I really recommend treating yourself to a copy. If you use this link – Click here to visit Craft And Vision. I will get a small referral fee but you will pay no extra. If you do decide to buy a copy, I would like to thank you for supporting me in my work, it really does make a difference to me. I am sure you will find the book very instructive and interesting, I did. They are downloaded as pdf’s and can be copied to your iPad to carry with you, printed out or viewed on your computer.

You can also buy the other Craft and Vision eBooks (as I do, myself) from here – Click here to visit Craft And Vision. I have collected many of them and will be reviewing some soon. If you like mono photography, for example, the books on working in black and white and making black and white conversions are the best I have read anywhere.

"Slow" - The new eBook by Andrew S. Gibson, featuring me as a case study

What filters should I buy?

Landscape photographers fall into two camps. Those who like to get things ‘right’ in camera and, so, use filters to balance exposures, and those who prefer to make two or more exposures on location and then blend them together back in the digital darkroom.

 

Some will insist one way is ‘correct’ or better than the other but in reality, it’s just a personal choice. I use both methods. When the contrast in brightness between the sky and foreground is really high then I will use the blending option. If the contrast is more manageable, then I prefer to use filters.

 

I often get asked which filters to buy to get started in using them so I thought a post on what I would suggest might be useful. Filter systems are not cheap so it’s important to make an informed choice and not to buy items you probably won’t need.

 

The first choice is which system to invest in. This is down to money and is also influenced by how much of your photography is landscape based. If you are only an occasional landscaper (especially if funds are tight) then investing in the best system might not be worthwhile. Even if you do a lot of landscape work, if funds don’t allow, you might not be  able to buy the best but you may still be able to afford a mid priced system which will give you acceptable results.

 

The system I would strongly recommend avoiding is Cokin. They a very competitively priced and this makes them a tempting option. Please resist unless you absolutley can’t afford/bear to wait and save up for a better system. The filter holders are poorly designed, but, worse still, the filters will create horrible colour casts on your images which you won’t be able to correct in software. Most photographers who do buy into Cokin usually end up ruining so many precious images they sell up and get something better.

 

The next system which is an improvement over Cokin and is thus a possible option for the occasional landscaper or those on a budget, are High Tech. This newish brand is readily available on EBay and elsewhere, and is priced well. The filters fit the Lee system holders although they have their own holder available too. The downside? Some of the filters still give colour casts, but nothing as bad as Cokin. Optically they are not as pure as the Lee system. It’s always good to realise that our lenses are only as good as the cheapest piece of glass in the system. So if we have invested in some nice Canon or Zeiss lenses, putting cheap filters in front of them makes them much poorer. We might as well have bought cheaper lenses.

 

This is the reason I don’t have UV filters ‘protecting’ my lenses. Even if you buy the ‘pro’ range filters the glass is unlikely to be as good as the glass used on lenses such as those in the Canon L range. To protect my lenses I use a lens cap. Then I am getting the top performance from my glass. An additional benefit in not fitting UV filters is the reduced chance of vignetting with wide angle lenses when adding your filter system on the front of the lens.

 

The filter system I use and always recommend (even if it means going without them for a while, while you save up for them) is Lee. They are the best filters available. Lee have very tight quality control and each filter is individually hand made and checked. The process is very labor intensive, they even pour the resin themselves. Lee neutral density filters are truly neutral. No colour casts at all with Lee.

 

This explains the cost. Getting set up with the Lee system is going to cost you around £300 to £500, depending on what you buy. However, they will last you for many years (or life if you take great care of them) and will fit any future cameras of lenses you buy.

 

So, what do you need. I will describe the most basic system first. This can be expanded piece by piece as you find what will be of most use to you. Just about everything is available as an individual item so you can build on your starter kit gradually.

 

The first essential is the adaptor rings. These are bought to fit the diameter of your lens or lenses. If you have a 77mm diameter lens, you have to have a 77mm adaptor ring. These aren’t cheap at £30 to £40 each. Lee used to make two types, standard for non-wide lenses and wide angle (for wide angle lenses, funnily enough). I believe they have now decided to rationalise to just wide angle adapters, which fit all lens types and will help eliminate vignetting. I have one permanently fitted to each of my lenses that I use my filters on, so that I don’t have to keep fitting and removing them. I then use the white lens caps Lee make (a pack of three caps is about £7) and these fit onto the adapter ring, protecting the lens. I then write the type of lens on the front of the lens cap so I can see at a glance which lens is which when I open my camera bag.

 

The next essential item is the filter holder which clips on to the adapter ring and holds the filters in position, allowing you to slide the filters up and down to position graduations correctly. You can buy these individually but if you are just starting out it is more economical to buy Lees “Digital Starter Kit“. This will give you a filter holder with two slots in, a two stop hard graduated neutral density filter and a two stop Pro-Glass full neutral density filter as well as a lens cloth. All of these items are essentials and the kit gives you a cost saving over buying each item individually.

 

A good alternative to this is to buy the starter kit Lee produce exclusively for David Noton. It contains the adaptor ring as part of the kit (you select the kit with the adaptor ring you need for your main lens. The only issue has been availability and at the time of writing (19.10.12) they don’t have kits in stock. If it is available it might be a good option for you.

 

You now have enough to make a start in using filters but you will soon find the limitations of the starter kit. Your next addition will be a three stop neutral density graduated filters for higher contrast scenes. These can also be ‘stacked’ with your two stop grad to give you five stops, but this is rarely needed and if you do need this much filtration I would strongly considering making multiple exposures and blending them in Photoshop rather than using too many ND grads stacked up.

 

The question I am always asked is ‘should I go for hard or soft grads?” you will notice Lee give you a hard grad in the starter kit. This is because, in reality, the hard grads have quite a soft enough graduation when using digital SLR’s due to the sensor size. The filters were originally designed for medium format cameras and so the soft grads are very softly graduated on a DSLR. So if you are going for one type, go for hard.

 

Having said that, I carry both. I use hards mostly these days but if I have a scene with lots of things intruding into the sky (like trees, hills etc), it is sometimes best to use softs to really blur the change from the neutral density effect to the clear part of the filter. I would avoid using soft grads at the coast or anywhere you have a level distinct horizon as the graduated area will make the foreground a bit too dark. (a tip when positioning your grads is to hold in the depth of field preview button as you slide it into position. This will make sure the positioning is spot on as you will be seeing the shot as the lens will capture it

Do you need one stop graduated filters? If you want to perfectly balance some exposures, yes. But this is my least used filter and if you need to save cash you can do without it. Some times you may need to use the graduated filter tool in Lightroom later to adjust the exposure of the sky if the two stop filter was a it too strong but this is easily done.

 

The next filters I would add are the three and ten stop full neutral density filters. The three stop is very useful, as is the two stop you got in the digital starter kit. For extending exposures. They will enable you to make light trail images, to blur waterfalls, create blur effects in breezy woodlands and a host of other great effects.

 

The ten stop filter, named by Lee the “Big Stopper“, is a tool I use a lot. They will enable you to extend exposures to several minutes to produce the minimal, ethereal shots which have become so popular in recent years (although they are becoming. bit of a photographic cliche). They enable me to make striking images outside of the golden hours when I wouldn’t have been shooting in times past due to the quality of the light.

 

You need to be aware that although they are thought of as ten stop filters it is impossible for Lee to control the manufacturing process that accurately. So your filter could be anything from about 9.25 to 11 stops in strength. This explains why your exposure times in identical conditions to a friend working beside you with a Big Stopper using identical settings can be quite different. A stop difference in filter strength can mean a two minute exposure for one person and the other needs four minutes to get the same exposure result. Please also note that Big Stoppers are very fragile, made of glass. I am on my fourth! Not a cheap thing to break at around £110 each.

 

The final filter to add to your arsenal is a polariser. In the Lee system this means buying another adaptor ring which screws on the front of your filter holder. This allows the polariser to be fitted on the outermost position of your stack which is important as it needs to be rotated to get the polarising effect. The adapter ring is another £30 to £40 but his pales into insignificance when you realise the filter is over £200. It is 110mm in diameter which reduces vignetting. It also means you can use one polariser with every lens you have to which you can fit your Lee system. The quality of the filter is very good.too, but nonetheless it’s an expensive item – but one I feel is essential (and I write as someone who has lost one on a mountainside and had to bite the bullet and buy a replacement.) the effect of the polariser is something that no software can replicate and will transform the quality of many images.

 

A slightly cheaper alternative is to buy a B&W 110mm LINEAR polariser. For digital cameras we should use a CIRCULAR polariser. This doesn’t describe the shape, it describes the way the glass is treated. Linear polarisers are of a older design and can affect the auto focusing of lenses. The lens may not be able to auto focus. I always focus manually so I was able to buy one of these and save myself about £50. Don’t buy one if you might need to auto focus with the filter fitted. The B&W filter fits the Lee holder ring.

 

The Lee filter holder comes with two slots so you can stack two filters. A useful and low cost improvement of the holder is to buy an extension kit which enables you to dissemble the holder and add one or two more slots. This allows more options for stacking filters. I have three slots in mine which is generally enough.

 

I also use the Lee filter cloths, they are very good quality and wash beautifully. I keep my filters in the three slot soft filter wraps from Lee and then have a three section Lee pouch. One slot has my hard grad filter wrap, the second my soft grad wrap and the final slot holds my wrap with my two, three and Big Stopper ND filters. I write on the wraps what each wrap holds so I can grab the right one quickly.

 

Lee do sell filter cleaning fluid which is fine. I, however, buy my cleaning fluid for my filters and lenses from Specsavers. They sell a 250ml bottle for about £3 (compare that with around £5 to £7 or more for the ‘proper’ cleaning fluid sold by lens and filter manufacturers) and I can’t tell any difference from the ‘proper’ fluids. They also sell a pump bottle with about 50ml which I refill from the big bottle and carry with me in my bag for lens and filter cleaning in the field. It works beautifully. I am sure some optical engineer will email me about particulate size or some technical reason I should use the over priced fluid from manufacturers but I would take some persuading to change.

 

That pretty much covers what you need to get set up with Lee filters. The cost is high, but the results justify this. I hope this helps you get set up. All you need now is one of my workshops to show you how to get the best from them 🙂

 

If you buy items using the links in this post I will receive a small referral fee but you will not pay more. This helps me in my business and is much appreciated.

How do I create light trail images?

light trails

Westminster by Night

Have you ever wondered how to go about capturing light trails? They look dramatic and add a dynamic feel to urban images and are easy to capture.

Before I go into technique there is an important factor about this image which lifts it above many light trail shots. The Sky. Its not just a case of shooting at night. In fact the ideal time is a short 15 minute period shortly after the sun has set. For architectural photographers and those after light trails this is the prime time to shoot. If you look at the image you will see the sky is not black, there is still some residual light (twilight) in the sky. In this brief period of minutes the light in the sky balances perfectly with artificial light which is why it is so perfect for capturing architecture and light trails. You can still shoot the light trails when the sky is black but the images won’t be quite as attractive. Have a browse of the finest architectural night photography and you will see the photographer works in this evening twilight period (or gets up early as a similar is experienced some time before sunrise).

Lets say you are in position at the right time. Get there well in advance so you can sort your composition out and get your exposure right before twilight. It is very frustrating to miss the brief twilight window becuase you weren’t in position and set up in time. Needless to say you need to be on a tripod with a remote shutter release. No graduated neutral density filters are needed as the camera can cope with the dynamic range of the image by this time. You may need a standard non-graduated neutral density filter (perhaps a 2-stop) to slow the exposure down if you are getting too short an exposure for the effect you are after (alternatively, you could use a narrower aperture, say, f16. I would avoid using f22 unless I was forced as the image quality will degrade due to ‘diffraction’, but thats another whole issue!)

For these images the lenght of the exposure is as important, if not a little more important, than depth of field. For my shot of Westminster I worked at f11 (which gave me sufficient DOF and kept me close to the sweet spot of the lens (around f8 would be about perfect). At ISO 100 (for the lowest noise possible), this gave me an exposure time of 4 seconds on my 24mm TSE lens. (As I was using a tilt and shift lens, I could have worked at f8 and used the tilt mechanism to give me the depth of field I needed but I was working quickly and didn’t want to complicate matters).

I test out several shutter speeds before the light gets to its best so that I am ready. The speed of the traffic and the brightness of the lights will dictate the length of exposure. Faster moving vehicles need a shorter shutter speed than slower vehicles. In my case, timing was vital. I could have shot when just cars were passing but I found it was worth waiting for a bus to appear as this gave a wider stripe of lights because of the upstairs windows. I fired the shutter, using a handheld remote release, a fraction of a second before the bus entered the frame. A few buses later, I had my image, the light dropped and it was time to head off for more night shots around London.

If you would like to master low light and night photography, why not join me on one of my London Night Workshops. We even have a London Black Cab to drive us around all of the best locations all night. Drop me an email if you are interested as these are selling out before I can list them on my website.