Category: News

The Fuji X-Pro 1 – Is It a Landscape Photographers Camera? Some Initial Thoughts.

fuji initial thoughts

As followers of my work will know, I have been shooting exclusively wit he Fuji X-Pro 1 for about a month now. My main camera is a Canon 5D mk3 (and I also shoot on film with an ancient and much beloved Hasselblad 500C and wooden Zero Image pinhole camera).

I bought the Fuji primarily for lightweight travel photography, street photography and as a carry anywhere camera. However, as soon as I started to see the results it produced I was keen to see how it performed in my main shooting environment as a professional – the landscape.

First a few caveats. This is not a full frame camera like the 5D mk3, the sensor is smaller and has a lower pixel count. The Fuji has 16 million pixels compared to the Canons 22 million. The aspect ratio of the sensor is the same as the Canon at 3:2. I am also mindful that the range of lenses available for the Fuji is far smaller than for the Canon, but more on this later. So I knew I was not comparing apples with apples.

 

Autumn Woodland. Handheld, ISO1600, f11, 1/30 sec

Having said that, the results shooting landscapes have blown me away. (all the images in the post are taken with the X-Pro 1. Sorry they are all tree images, but it is autumn and it would be rude not to spend my time in the woods. Please also note, all of these images are jpegs either straight out of camera or at most have just had a little high pass sharpening applied for uploading to the web. One or two have had VERY slight contrast tweaks, but that is it. I haven’t had time to really set about working on raw files from the camera yet). The X-Trans sensor is astounding. I am not a techno geek on such matters, but whatever Fuji are doing, long may it continue. The clarity of the files, the rendition of colours and contrast is stunning. I am sure this is partly due to the wonderful Fuji lenses which I see as being on a par with, if not exceeding the quality of the Canon L lenses, and that is saying something.

I am loving the weight and lack of bulk of the Fuji. I have bought a smaller travel tripod to use with it which is more than adequate. It fits in a tiny bag and even with several prime lenses, filters and spare batteries it weighs a minute fraction of the DSLR kit. I have been surprised at how much pleasure this has given me back. I can work for longer and walk further without fatigue and I am much more inclined to have the camera with me, in fact I rarely go out of the door without it. (I am in London as I type this and have it in my jacket pocket with the 18-55mm lens on. Couldn’t do that with the 5D). My feeling is that a lot of photographers as they get that bit older or as aches and pains start will be keen to move to a lighter more portable kit to help them maintain their joy in the field. I also think as the quality of these cameras will mean more will gradually move away from DSLR’s, especially if a full frame version emerges.

 

Padley Gorge - Handheld, ISO1600, f8, 1/30 sec


 

All the images in this article have been taken in the last month with the Fuji using the in camera “film simulation” presets for Astia and Velvia films. (I am sure these will annoy film users as they can’t possibly be anything like true Velvia or Astia, they are just adjustment presets, but he results can still be very nice, just don’t expect them to replace true films by any stretch of the imagination).

I have been shooting with raw plus fine Jpegs switched on. Annoyingly, when Lightroom imports these files it copies them all to the computer but only imports the raws into the Lightroom database. You will find the Jpegs in the same folder, but they won’t show in LR. I tend to go in to Finder (on the Mac, Windows Explorer on Windows) and find the JPEG file I am after and drop it into Photoshop. There I tweak it if necessary and save it as a tiff. This tiff is then imported into LR using the synchronise folder command in the Library module. A bit of a faff, but it works for me. (I have just been sent this tip by great photographer Lizzie Shepherd – In LR, go into Preferences and on the General tab you can tick a box which gets LR to treat jpegs as separate images next to raw files – problem solved, thanks Lizzie!)

I am shooting Jpegs as well as raw files because the quality of the Jpegs is really VERY good. I like the mono conversions the camera does as well as the film presets and these are permanent in the Jpegs whereas they are not saved in the raw files. The Jpegs also preserve the aspect ratio presets I use in the field. You can set the Fuji to shoot in square format (which I use a lot) and in a 16:9 panoramic format. For portraits and less critical images the Jpegs are often quite sufficient for my needs. For landscapes and images I will use professionally, it’s the raw files I will process.

 

Tree, North Wales. Tripod, ISO200, f22 (in error - rather extreme!) 1.6 sec


 

A word on some of the niggles I have with the Fuji, because it does have some quirks in the way it needs to be used, especially if you are used to a DSLR, and it has some very irritating “features” too.

Firstly, let’s talk about that battery life. It’s dire. I suspect it’s the electronic viewfinder that’s the culprit but if I am shooting for a day I will go through four batteries. I carry five and still feel nervous. I will be buying a couple more. I just can’t stand having to economise on battery power as I work. The batteries you can get on Amazon for around £12 seem to work just as well as the genuine Fuji ones which sell for £60. Guess which I am buying?

The other really irritating thing is the position of the tripod mount. This really hasn’t been thought through by Fuji. As soon as you fit a quick release plate it partially covers the battery/memory card bay door. Seeing as you have to change batteries every two hours, it is very annoying to have to unscrew the quick release plate every time to do this when simply positioning the tripod thread a few centimeters further away would prevent the issue.

I have found a couple of the buttons on the rear of the camera are easily activated in error. I particularly seem to catch the Q’ menu button. It is placed on a raised part of the body moulding and this makes it prone to being pressed. However, I notice this button has been recessed on the Fuji XE-2 which has just been released which is great (and I love it that Fuji really seem to listen AND RESPOND to customer feedback on these cameras. How many manufacturers ask for feedback but then never implement any of the changes we ask for? 

There are also some quirks in how you use the camera in the landscape. At least I see these as quirks having been used to using a Canon DSLR. The first is the focusing system employed by the Fuji. It works in a completely different way to a DSLR. On a DSLR the focusing sensors are most accurate when they can detect high contrast edges, where light areas but up against dark areas. By locking on to these they can measure distance and achieve focus. However, on the Fuji, such high contrast edges are just what the focus sensors don’t want to lock on to. They are most accurate when they can find a surface with texture, say a tree trunk or the surface of a wall. This takes some getting used to but I have found when the Fuji does lock focus I get a higher proportion of sharp shots compared to using autofocus with the DSLR. It is very accurate.

 

Silver Birch - Clumber Park. Tripod, ISO200, f16, 1/4sec


 

This leads me to another change I make in my workflow when making landscape images with the Fuji compared to the Canon. With the Canon I use Live View focusing with the lens on manual and love this approach. It is very accurate and allows for checking of depth of field with ease. However, on the Fuji, I have found It easier and more effective to have the lens set to auto focus but to press the AF button on the rear of the camera and select the AF point I want it to use. This locks the focus accurately for me and at f11/f16 I am getting excellent depth of field. With the sensor size of the Fuji, I am now experimenting with shooting wider, f8/f11 to see if this maintains sufficient depth of field while getting me closer to the sweet spot of the excellent Fuji lenses. My next experiment is to try back button focusing with the Fuji. I understand you can switch the lens to manual focus but still use the BBF button to focus and this sounds like it might be a good system.

Now I am used to how the Fuji works I have developed a modified workflow and have found I can already work at speed in the field with it, enabling me to stop thinking too much about camera operation and focus more on capturing changing light and composition which is much more important to me.

 

Tran Hows, Dawn - Tripod, ISO200, f16, 0.5 sec


 

I am finding the light meter on the Fuji to be very accurate and so, as opposed to how I work with the DSLR where I shoot in full manual, I have been using aperture priority and then tweaking the exposure after checking the histogram using the exposure compensation dial on the top of the camera. This is working really well for me. Other than in really low light or very contrasty light, though, I am tending to find the light meter is pretty accurate.

I have now used the Lee Filters Seven5 system on the Fuji and love it. If you have the full sized Lee system you can save a lot of money by just buying step up rings as it works fine. It’s a bit big, but the cost saving is significant. However, if you can afford it or if you are new to Lee Filters the purpose designed system is a delight. Small, beautifully made and balanced it is the perfect match to cameras of this size. As always with Lee, you get what you pay for and the optical quality and clarity of the grads is superb. Positioning the grads using the live view screen is a doddle and they do the job just as designed.

 

Padley Gorge - Derbyshire. Tripod, ISO200, f9, 1/5 sec


 

I have been trying a vari-ND filter for my ICM shots with the Fuji and have been pleasantly surprised with it. It is very convenient being able to dial in the amount of neutral density effect you need and being a screw on filter it is better suited to ICM work than using a Lee holder. I also have a Tiffen screw on 10 stop filter but have to try this out, so no verdict as yet, but I see no reason why it shouldn’t be perfectly fine.

I am taking delivery of the brand new 23mm f1.4 lens on Monday (it has since arrived. Sadly the first lens had two scratches on the front element but the replacement was fine) and am excited to try this out. If it is as good as the 35mm it will be a terrific lens. I must add, my next lens purchase, which surprises me to say it, will be the XF 55-200mm. (since typing this on the train I have caved in and flexed the plastic and am now the proud owner of said lens). The last few weeks have made me realise how much I use a long lens in my landscapes. I often have my 100mm macro on my Canon (both as a macro and as a landscape lens) and I also carry the 70-200mm which I use a lot in my landscapes. I had anticipated shying away from long lens for the Fujis I imagine it might look a bit ungainly, but I have really missed the reach of a longer lens.I have also bought the 60mm macro, partly because (great excuse) my wife now has the XE-2 and she loves macro photography, but of course, we can share 🙂

I am travelling to Norway in two weeks to co-lead an aurora workshop with Antony Spencer for Light and Land. I will be taking my 5D kit, but the Fuji is coming with me too. This will be a great test for it, both as a landscape camera but also the ultimate test for long exposure high ISO shooting, with the 5D to compare it to. It will also be interesting to see how it copes with the low temperatures north of the arctic circle. (All bar two days of the trip we will have no daylight at all as the sun won’t rise above the horizon – we will be living I a world or twilight and darkness for 10 days). Note to self. Buy even more batteries for the Fuji.

I will try and find time to blog from up there to let you know how it goes as well as posting some images. Watch this space.

 

Clumber Park - Tripod, ISO200, f18, 1/3 sec


 

 

Talk for the Royal Photographic Society

RPS


 
I feel very privileged, and a bit frightened, to have been invited by the Royal Photographic Society in the East Midlands to be one of two speakers at their annual “Landscape Spectacular” event on 17th November.

I am to join talented and creative photographer, Peter Paterson , who is a Fellow of the RPS. We will both be giving lectures on landscape photography and also fielding questions from the audience.

The event is open to non-members of the RPS so I would love to see you there. Please come up and say “hello”. The price is £10 and you can also pre-book for a three course buffet lunch for £7.95. Full details can be found on the RPS website HERE.

I will be giving a talk illustrated by my images. It will be based around themes encouraging creativity and breaking free from conventional approaches to composition and camera techniques as well as a look at classic landscape imagery and techniques. I aim to make it stimulating, encouraging, motivating and practical – it certainly won’t be one of those ‘this is where I went on my holidays’ style presentations, you can be sure of that!

I will be taking a selection of my prints too that you will be able to have a look at (and get hold of, to really inspect).

I will be available during lunch too, so come and have a chat and I will be happy to answer questions you have on any aspect of photography and image processing.

It would be great if you would share this blog post among your photography friends, club and contacts in case they may be interested. I am sure it will be an interesting and engrossing day that will help you move forward in your photography.

“Sea Fever” – The New Book from David Baker

Sea Fever David Baker

"David Bakers - "Sea Fever" Cover


 
David Baker, or Milouvision as many of his online followers will know him, has been photographing and blogging for years (www.milouvision.com). Building his following and honing his skills with the camera, he has risen to real prominence over the last couple of years, first winning Outdoor Photography magazines “Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2012” title, followed by three successful exhibitions and the 2012 Landscape Photographer of the Year “Your View” category winner, culminating now in the publication of his first book, “Sea Fever”.

Published by Triplekite Publishing, Sea Fever is a collection of 26 of Davids stunning signature coastal wave images.

So, what are you to expect when you receive your copy of “Sea Fever”?

The first thing that will strike you is the stunning cover image, a taste of things to come. The image is one which was on display at the Masters of Vision exhibition at Southwell Minster ( http://mastersofvision.co.uk/david-baker/ ) this summer and it is a fitting image to lead us into the book. An image full of power and drama.
 

 

Inside, the foreword has been written in a beautiful alliterative style by accomplished landscape photographer, Pete Bridgwood. To quote Pete as he describes how David approaches his image making of the sea,

“He has a rare ability; to completely concentrate his creativity, to focus his intentions and develop a deep relationship with his subject…. it is immediately evident that this is no dalliance, no brief fling; this is an aching, impassioned love affair”

This gives an idea of the intensity and depth of the images that reveal themselves as we turn the pages. David also gives a brief introduction to his approach to making the series of images.
 

 

The book is printed in portrait format, an unusual choice for a book based mainly around landscape orientation images. However, the images that are shot in portrait orientation display well and then many of the landscape orientation images are displayed (by Dav Thomas, who has done a great job with the layout and design of the book) spread across two pages, often bleeding off of the edges to give the greatest impact. Others are often given wide margins, lots of ‘breathing room’ and this is pleasing to the eye. The fact that Triplekite have decided on such a generous page size means this all works well. Nothing feels cramped or stifled in any way. The images are the stars.

Davids “Sea Fever” images captured the imaginations of lovers of seascapes as soon as they began to appear. (and I have already seen a few ‘Sea Fever’ wannabes imitating the style! I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?). They have a power and transcendent beauty which seems to connect with all who have a love (and respect for) the sea. By slowing the shutter just a little he retains enough detail in the waves to show the power, movement and flow of the waves while softening the effect and merging the waves into the sky. There is no real, defined horizon in his images – they become almost ‘as one’. In fact, the skies are not playing ‘second fiddle’ to the waves but enhance and complement them perfectly, almost becoming part of the waves themselves.
 

 

Every image in the book is just beautiful. Some are full of stormy ominous power, others gentle light and gracious delicacy. There is not a weak image in the portfolio and I would love to have any of these on my walls at home. Each has a mesmerising quality to hold our interest for many years.
 

 

I had the opportunity to interview David a few days ago about the book and his work and thought you might enjoy his comments.

D: First of all, let me congratulate you on the publication of your first book, “Sea Fever”, I have seen an advance pdf copy and it looks stunning. How did you feel when you first saw the design?

DB: Many thanks! Yes, a great feeling to see the flow of images due to Dav’s design skills.

D: How did the book project come about?

DB: I was fortunate to be one of the exhibitors at Masters of Vision which opened in late July 2013 and during that weekend I met David Breen (Triplekite Publishing) and Dav Thomas. I knew of David’s photographic work and of course of Dav’s book. In early August David emailed suggesting a book based on the Sea Fever project part of which had been exhibited at MoV. A really good day!

D: How did you decide to focus on such a tight project as “Sea Fever”? Was it more difficult, do you think, than doing a retrospective on your work, or would that have been harder?

DB: I’ve held previous exhibitions which have been a selection of my favourite images and at the time of MoV I had just completed a show of the Ridge Trees project and was in the midst of Sea Fever so it seemed natural to show what I was passionate about.

D: How did you find the process of selecting the images for the book? Was the choice difficult? How did you go about narrowing down the selection?

DB: There wasn’t a huge selection anyway as I’m a ruthless editor. But for the book I provided the required number plus an extra 25% I think and then Dav undertook the skilful design.

D: Without giving away too many secrets can you give us an idea of how you make the “Sea Fever” style images? What kit do you use? Shutter speed etc?

DB: I experiment with a variety of shutter speeds and focal lengths whilst trying to look for relationships between the waves and ideally clouds. I aim to have at least a line of foreground or central wave across the frame. I try to take a painterly approach if that makes sense as I want the images to say this is how it feels to be at the shoreline with the battering wind full of salt, the spray, the thump of the waves, the sense of vulnerability. How can an hour at the shore be captured in an image?
 

 
D: How long have you been working on the “Sea Fever” project? How long did it take to perfect the style of the images?

DB: I was in the Outer Hebrides in March 2012. During my previous trip in February 2008, I had taken mostly long exposure shots (as during this time the B+W 10 stop filter featured in many a photoblogger’s work) but during March not one long exposure shot was made. Feeling a little ‘unsettled’ I started taking shots during the closing days of the trip to capture the sea’s power in a way I had not undertaken before.

The first image, Hebridean Sea III, was uploaded to my photoblog in late April 2012 and that was that. Nothing happened in terms of development of the project until August of that year when another image was processed. I hadn’t realised I had a potential project but something must have been percolating away as in March 2013 onwards I started experimenting in acquiring images to compliment Hebridean Sea III.

D: Do you like working on projects? Or do you prefer more random ways of working? If you prefer project working, what benefits do you see working that way?

DB: It’s only during the past couple of years that a project based approach has been developed. I worked up one called Ridge Trees which concentrated on the New Forest and was defined by three attributes – dawn, mist and geography. Whilst the structure of a project is appreciated, I’m not restricted to just that type of work.

D: Why the sea? What draws you to photographing it so intensely?

DB: Good question! I usually mumble something about energy, and change. It’s not something that I’ve nailed down yet, and I’m not sure I want to. I’m not a great deconstructor (in an image sense) although I written a little about this aspect in the book.

D: Have you always been interested in photography? What is your photographic ‘history’?

DB: At 15 I wanted to be an architect. My dad had introduced me to an architect client and despite the then (1978) 33% unemployment in the industry, I was keen on pursuing architecture as a career. Despite good grades, events didn’t entirely pan out as planned, and after dithering about a course at Salisbury Art College and flirting with a technical drawing apprenticeship, I joined the Civil Service. It’s fair to say that there’s been little creativity work-wise since. I’ve always had a great love of art (especially sculpture) so I guess the creative ‘urge’ has always been there albeit mostly dormant.

I started using a small compact digital camera in about 2003/04 documenting visits to stone circles, dolmens and standing stones. A friend subsequently talked about his new digital SLR and suggested that I also buy one, so in January 2005, trying to engage a creative aspect of myself, I also bought a 300D.

From a technical aspect, almost immediately I wondered what I had let myself in for. I started reading magazines, books (fortunately Southampton has an excellent library) and looking at other images in various exhibitions and photoblogs. In the spring of 2005, I began posting images on a web forum and as a consequence a photoblog was started in late 2005.

Why photography? It was accessible and there was an immense amount of support and inspiration from the photoblog community.
 

 
D: Who would you say was your first inspiration in photography? And who do you find inspirational now?

DB: Just after I started using a SLR, I saw a photograph in Outdoor Photography of a Hampshire beach at sunset by Guy Edwardes and the sea looked fantastic drawn over the shingle beach. The wave trails looked ethereal and a week or so later I attempted the same and that was that, I was caught and I’ve been a seascaper ever since. Current inspiration is from a wide variety of sources.

D: What does photography do for you? What do you get out of it that drives you to pursue it as a passion?

DB: I guess it’s the conduit for a creative aspect that must be present in myself.

D: Have you ever hit a creative block? If so, how do you get over it?

DB: I get very keen on my work and then very disappointed by it very rapidly. I then go off to make more images. And then the process starts again.

D: What camera equipment do you currently use?

DB: 5D2, 24-70 and 70-300 lenses, Lee filters, Gitzo tripod and a RRS ballhead. The camera, lenses and filters all fit in a Billingham bag. There’s no need to march huge distances for my work, and I’m (hopefully) finished with the days of rucksack wrestling against a rapidly incoming tide.

D: Is there a piece of kit you really couldn’t live without? A favourite piece of equipment?

DB: For years I used the Canon 17-40. Everything was at 17mm and hang the consequences. That used to be nailed to my 300D and then to the 5D. Now, I think the 70-300 zoom is used significantly more than ever. Almost everything is on the tripod too.

D: Is there any piece of equipment you lust after and would love to own?

DB: I was considering the Gitzo Ocean tripod.

D: I know you are a keen and active photoblogger and Twitter user. Why do you love photoblogging? What do you enjoy about Twitter and the photographic community on there?

DB: The immense amount of support and inspiration from the community plus the free exchange of ideas, links to work, exhibitions, and the occasional meet-up.

D: Would you describe yourself as a “Landscape/seascape Photographer” or do you enjoy other genres of photography?

DB: I’m a seascape/forest photographer really. I really like looking at the landscape big views plus the more intimate landscape compositions and also the very experimental ones. I also really like looking at street work (especially if there’s humour present).

D: What advice would you give to young or new photographers to help them make progress with their passion?

DB: Believe in the value of your talent and your images. Experiment, and have fun. If considering a project, make sure it’s personal to you, and choose a subject which will allow access to create the images you want. Think about the story and how the work will be shown – book, exhibition or blog.

D: What software do you use to process your images? Does much work go into processing the “Sea Fever” images?

DB: For ages (and ages…), I used RawShooter Essentials (which became Lightroom I think) as I loved the ease of use, and the mono images it could produce. During the last year I’ve used Canon DPP for the Raw files. I make no corrections in DPP aside from using the lens profiles and the auto-dust correction (the principal reason for moving from RSE). Everything else in undertaken in PS, and I use Bridge as a catalogue.

D: What is the URL of your website so readers can have a look at your work?

DB: milouvision.com (although some project highlights are also at dbphotographic.com).

D: So, finally David, what next? More “Sea Fever” images or is the project complete? Do you have other projects on the go? Any other plans?

DB: I’m not sure at present. It took a few Ridge Trees and Sea Fever images to realise I had the makings of a project so I’m sure something will present itself soon.
 

 

The soft back book itself is outsized at 410mm x 305mm and is being printed in Malta by the same high quality printers who printed Dav Thomas’s acclaimed “With Trees” book. The paper used for this book is 170 gsm Valletta Silk and it is being printed using the same Sublima 240 lps screen process as with Dav’s book which yielded spectacular print quality.

There will be two versions. For the serious collector there is a very limited edition of 50 which will be individually signed and numbered by David and comes complete with limited edition A3 print for £85. The standard edition is £25. The price excludes P&P of £8.50 (UK) or £23.50 (International). You can pre-order your copy HERE.
 

 

The attention to detail and print quality achieved for Dav’s book by Triplekite must inspire confidence that “Sea Fever” will look stunning when it arrives. (this review is based on seeing an advanced pdf copy, not a full print copy). David Breen and Dav Thomas seem to have started the company as they mean to continue. The fact they are both keen photographers first and have a passion for photography is reflected in the way they are putting the images ahead of profit. So many photography books are churned out by large publishing houses and treated much the same as cookery books and other books with pictures in. Often the paper and print quality is disappointing and doesn’t reflect well on the photographer whose work is often outstanding when seen in the flesh. With Triplekite the quality of the images comes first above everything, so the paper and print process choice has to be able to display the images at their very best. Attention to detail is seen at every step of the process, from the selection of the photographer and the images, to Dav’s design and layout right through printing and even into the packaging. It is a refreshing change to see a publisher who seems to care more about the photography than the bottom line.

I have a feeling many photographers around the world are going to beating down Triplekites door asking to be considered for their next book. But I also know Triplekite are putting their customers first by being very selective in those photographers work they choose to publish. Triplekite seem to have a tight focus on exactly where they are going with future publications to hold true to their vision for the company. This can be seen in the latest announcements that the next two “Portfolio” books will be by the wonderful Paul Kenny and Marc Wilson respectively. They have also announced a third series of books entitles “Land|Sea”, each of which will feature a small portfolio of work by five photographers carefully selected and which will build into a collectible library of great landscape work. 2014 Looks to be an exciting year for lovers of fine photography.
 

 

“Sea Fever” is the first in Triplekites new innovative “Portfolio” series, designed to be project based. Being focused on such a tight project with all of the images shot in a very similar style and with a common technique some may find they desire a greater variety of images, but that is not the purpose of this type of book. Its focus is its asset and it is a great example of how, as photographers, our work can get so much stronger if we focus on a tight themed project. While smaller and lower in cost, it will still adhere to Triplekites philosophy of making the images shine through large page sizes and superb print quality. These books are an ideal way to showcase the talent and work of some of the Worlds finest photographers. I can see the series becoming very collectable.

I, for one, pre-ordered the book as soon as I heard it was to feature Davids “Sea Fever” series and look forward to getting my signed copy and print. Having now seen the pdf proof I am even more excited. A firm delivery date is yet to be announced but is expected to be around mid to late November.

For lovers of fine land and seascape photography and especially if you love really fine photography books this is another ‘must-have’ (and what a great gift, even for non-photographers) from Triplekite. Order your copy HERE
 

Exclusive First Interview with Landscape Photographer of the Year Winner 2013 Tony Bennett

LPOTY 2013 Tony Bennett

Mist and Reflections - The winning image by Tony Bennett in the Take-a-View Landscape Photographer of the Year competition 2013

After a long and nail biting wait wait for the photographers who had images shortlisted in this years Landscape Photographer of the Year competition the announcement was made at the weekend that Derby based photographer, Tony Bennett had won the overall prize with his image “Mist and Reflections” (above). I was especially delighted for Tony as I know him as a customer who has been on my workshops (although I take absolutely no credit for his win. Tony is a long established photographer who has been making images for many years).

For many landscape photographers in the UK, the LPOTY competition is the “Holy Grail” of photography competitions and many aspire to have an image feature in the book which showcases the successful photographs, published by the AA and available here on Amazon To have a picture in the book is quite something considering around 20,000 images are entered each year and just a couple of hundred at most feature in the book. To have an image Highly Commended, receive a judges choice or to win a category is an even higher honour. Many must be very disappointed each year.

Last years competition was sadly marred by controversy over the originally selected winning image which had to be disqualified for excessive manipulation. This year, with a new Technical Director, Tim Parkin, addressing the selection and checking process hopes are high that the standard of images in the book and subsequent exhibition at the National Theatre in London starting in December (Free to attend and a must see event) will be higher than ever. From what I have seen of the images which have received awards, the standard does seem very good indeed. There are some truly outstanding images already revealed and this has whetted the appetite for the book

I got in touch with Tony as soon as I found out about his win and was delighted that he agreed to give me an exclusive interview for you to enjoy here, along with his winning image and some other images from his portfolio. I hope you will enjoy visiting his new website too. But first, here is the interview I conducted just yesterday with Tony.

D: First of all, let me congratulate you on your wonderful success in winning LPOTY 2013. Your image is stunning and a deserved winner. How did you feel when you heard you had won?

T: I was totally overwhelmed. Charlie Waite phoned me whilst I was in the car and the next mile passed as a blur. It was beyond my most optimistic hope. It took several days for the realisation to dawn upon me that i had actually won. I knew my image was good, but being good is not enough; you have to hope that the judges not only think it is good, but the best. That is the difficult part. And I knew that many very good photographers had entered the competition with some truly excelllent images.The competition was fierce.

D: Can you describe the morning when you made the image?

T:That morning was just magical; one of those mornings that happen so infrequently but are always remembered. With a friend, Sarah, we left the hotel early and raced to the lake side. The dawn was just beginning to break. We set up our tripods at the water’s edge and for the next hour and a half, just captured as many images of the ever-changing scene as we could. Did I say it was magical? It was. We eventually had to get back to the hotel for a late breakfast, but by that time the real mood of the scene had changed to mere normality, the mist had virtually gone, the sun was up and the lake surface was disturbed – no longer the glassy mirror it had been.

D: Have you entered LPOTY before (and if so, had any previous successes) or was this your first time?

T: No. This was my first time.

D: Why do you think entering competitions like LPOTY is a good thing for photographers and photography?

T: These competitions offer a challenge to photographers to produce their very best work. All too often, our images stay on the hard drive and don’t get the finishing attention they should. When you enter a competition, you owe it to yourself to offer the very best you can. This can take time and effort, but sometimes, as in my case, it proved worth every effort, including that early morning start.

D: Have you always been interested in photography? What is your photographic ‘history’?

T: I have been interested in photography since my 20’s. (I am now well retired!). I have spent many hours in the darkroom trying to produce the ‘perfect’ B&W print, without success! I have also done some wedding and industrial photography back in the film days, but my first love has always been landscape images. Up to this time, I have only entered club competitions and our local N&EMPF annual competitions. This is the first ‘real’ external competition that involved a prizes. (memo to self: must enter more!)

D: who would you say was your first inspiration in photography? And who do you find inspirational now?

T: I can’t remember any one initial inspiration that has driven my photography. Today, undoubtably, Sebastiao Salgado i find truly inspirational.

D: What does photography do for you? What do you get out of it that drives you to pursue it as a passion?

T: I love the great outdoors and capturing beautiful images.

D: What camera equipment do you currently use?

T: I currently use a Nikon D700 with the 16-35mm lens, and the 24-120mm lens. For the winning image I used my 70-200mm lens; that lens trio, plus an old macro lens, covers all my photographic needs. Recently I have bought an Olympus EM-5 and found it to be very useful on a recent trip to Venice on the hottest day of 2013! It was light and easy to carry and produces pretty decent images that can be enlarged to about A3 size.

D: Is there a piece of kit you really couldn’t live without? A favourite piece of equipment?

T: Strangely, it is my very sturdy and stable tripod.

D: Is there any piece of equipment you lust after and would love to own?

T: I would love to have a Nikkor 24mm tilt shift lens.

D: I know you are a keen and active member of the Derby City Photographic Club. What do you enjoy about being part of a photography club?

T: I enjoy club photography for the personal friendships I have made and my friends’ support for my photography. (They are always there with honest criticism!) I also relish the challenges the competitions offer. Our Club is a great social as well as a photographic club. We have excellent speakers who challenge, stimulate and entertain.

D: Would you describe yourself as a “Landscape Photographer” or do you enjoy other genres of photography?

T: I have done studio portraiture, and wedding photography (many years ago). I like to think of myself as a landscape photographer. Perhaps I can, now!

D: What advice would you give to young or new photographers to help them make progress with their passion?

T: Join a camera club and GET INVOLVED. Don’t just turn up, enjoy the proceedings, then go home. You only get out of any activity in proportion to what you are prepared to contribute.

D: What software do you use to process your images?

T: I use Lightroom primarily and use Photoshop for any post processing that can’t be done in Lightroom. Topaz plugins are very useful to extend the scope of LR and PS. I also use Photomatix Pro for HDR images and Helicon Focus for focus stacking of macro shots.

D: I see you have a new website, Tony. For those who are keen to see your work, what is the URL?

T: www.inspirational-images.com (Don’t forget the hyphen). It is my first website, put together in rather a hurry in view of my competition win. It is still a bit clunky, so please excuse that. It will be added to and improved as time goes on.

D: So, finally Tony, what are your plans now you have won the competition? And do you have any plans for spending your prize money?

T: The last few days have been rather hectic, but eventually, I guess, things will return to normal. I have no plans to spend the prize money at the moment. When things settle down I think I might just treat myself to a new lens, or camera, even.

D: Thank you for your time in being interviewed, Tony, especially as I know you are suddenly in great demand. I am sure my readers join with me in wishing you well and we hope you enjoy all the exposure that comes from your win.

Here are some more of Tony’s images and you can see more of his work at his website, www.inspirational-images.com You are also able to buy prints of his winning image.
 


 

 

 

 

 

Skye Expedition- Day Seven

skye day 7

Eilean Donan Castle

Day seven of our expedition to Skye, a day to move on, a day to start heading south again.

The group were up again an hour before sunrise to take on the mighty Sligachan river outside the hotel before breakfast and a frosty sunrise ensure clear views of the Cullin and a chance to capture the raging river and rapids.

Once packed up and checked out we headed off of the island across the Skye Bridge and was soon at Dornie, home of the photogenic Eilean Donan Castle, probably the most photographed castle in Scotland, if not the World (and rightly so). The way it sits out in the Loch, reached by a stone bridge with three perfect arches, its placement beneath the peaks and out in the loch as well as its classic Scottish Keep shape make it a wonderful subject. (I wish I could say the same about the quality of the cafe, but sadly the minuscule pot of tea and so-called “Whiskey Fruit Cake, which I think had just had a whiskey bottle waved at it rather than pouring any of its content into the mix, had certainly succumbed to the tourist trap disease. Disappointing as every other eatery we had used in Scotland was superb).

The long drive from here to Glencoe is never arduous. The scenery is just too wonderful for it ever to become a chore, especially as at this time of year the autumn foliage is starting to form up. A quick fill up with diesel in Fort William and then, en-route to our hotel in Glencoe village, a fortuitous glance over to the loch and I glimpsed an old wooden sailing boat, its reflection mirrored in the loch with the evening light illuminating the hills beyond, capped by cirrus clouds. A quick U-Turn had us all piling out of the van with our gear to capture this idyllic view before the light went off the hills. It was amazing. We had only been there for a few minutes before several other vehicles full of photographers began to stop and jump out to see what we were shooting. They soon joined in framing up the scene, although one group of what looked like nature photographers going by the camouflage gear and length of their lenses just said ‘Oh, its only a boat”.

Our final night was spent enjoying a great meal together reliving the glories of the week, its incidents, its highs and lows, the ‘in’ jokes and great things we had experienced. As always seems to happen on these trips, friendships are forged which last years and this is often of even greater value than the images made or the new things learned.

Day eight saw us make the dash back to Edinburgh airport for the first drop off and then the long drive back home. There is always a quietness in the van on the way home. Perhaps a bit of melancholy at the trip being over, perhaps some meditating on the experiences of the week and, to be honest, going by the snoring, quite a bit of catching up on lost sleep 🙂

I am already planning several new trips like this one (a couple more extensive to some amazing locations) for 2014 and 2015. If you would like to be added to the no-obligation shortlist, please send me an email or use the “contact me” form on the right hand side of this page. Most of these trips book up from people on the shortlist so they never make it on to my website or into my regular newsletter. I hope you can join me on my next adventure!

The Fearsome Cullin - Isle of Skye

Skye Expedition – Day Six

skye day 6

Day six. The Big One. Any landscape trip to Skye necessitates a dawn shoot at the Old Mano of Storr. It is not a huge distance from the road, but the ascent is hard for all but the fittest. With a camera bag and tripod it is even harder. Add to this the fact the ascent has to be made in total darkness and it is a tough climb. In order to be in position up there an hour before sunrise you need to be leaving the car park at the base about an two and a half to three hours before sunrise. So we left our hotel at 04:30. The group were rewarded for their efforts with the most dramatic of light up there – a snow shower blowing across the Storr was side lit by the warm rising sun with an amazing glow of light full of drama. It made all the effort worthwhile and the group was ecstatic as, back at sea level, we enjoyed a well earned breakfast in Portree.

From Portree we headed back towards the Storr and got some great images of it in the distance shot across a loch, with a small island in the middle, lit by the morning sun. The wind driving rows of bubbles across the lock providing great leading lines. It was a bonus location and good to view the site of the mornings climb from a new perspective.

From here, we moved on to the Quiraing, further along the Trotternish Ridge above Staffin. Again, the late morning light worked for us and we made images of the prehistoric ridge, bathed in pools of golden light playing across the landscape. The famous Rowan tree (site of my lost Lee polariser last year – if you find it, its mine!) was also a popular image. To cap off our time there we marvelled as a Golden Eagle swooped around the view, spiralling on the thermals and effortlessly covering huge distances with a few strokes of its wings. It was a truly breathtaking sight and a lovely end to the morning.

By this time we had been out photographing for ten and a half hours so we headed back to the hotel for a break but some of the group wanted a Lightroom session so we set up in a lounge and had a couple of hours tuition with a drink before heading out to our sunset location.

This was to be Neist Point Lighthouse. There is really just one main composition here, but if the light is good, what a composition! And the light was REALLY good, the best I have ever had there. We made it just in the nick of time, in reality we should have arrived half an hour earlier. It was one of those evenings that as we drove to the location the light was so good, everything was photogenic. Very frustrating, but we had to keep our goal firmly in mind.

It was a happy group back at the hotel that re-lived the days glories over another great meal.

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 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

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.

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
 

 

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

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

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.

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

New Exhibition of My Work

Dark Light

New Exhibition - "Dark Light"

 

I have been to Gainsborough today to hang my new solo exhibition entitled, “Dark Light”

It is being hosted at the Trinity Arts Centre in Gainsborough and is an exhibition of monochrome photographs. The Arts Centre is a council run location dedicated to the promotion of the arts in North Lincolnshire. The gallery space doubles as a mingling and bar area outside the main theatre and so is ideally placed for people visiting for performances to browse the images. If you happen to live in or near Gainsborough I would love you to pop in and take a look, but please don’t make a special journey.

The exhibition consists of 16 images (it was planned for 22, but the gallery didn’t have enough hanging clips to put all of the images up, requiring an on the spot rejigging of my hanging plan – the joys of exhibiting!). Here are a few iPhone images from the venue to give you a feel for what it is like.

Trinity Arts Centre Gallery

Main Wall

Side Wall

The Curved Wall

Here is a quick montage of some of the images on display

Montage 1

Montage 2

 

If you would like to go and see the exhibition, the gallery is free of charge. Opening times are;

Monday – Closed

Tuesday – Closed

Wednesday – 10.30 – 3.30

Thursday – 10.30 – 3.30

Friday 10.30 – 3.30

Saturday – 9.30 – 2.30

Sunday – Closed

The gallery is also open for performances – see the Trinity Arts Centre web site or Facebook page for details.

The address is

Trinity Arts Centre

Trinity Street

Gainsborough

DN21 2AL

(There is a car park (free) at the back of the centre but its a bit tricky to find. Drive past the centre on your right and go a few more yards to the roundabout where the big Tescos is and turn right. The road bends around to the right as you go around the corner you will see a row of terraced houses ahead on your right. Immediately after them is the entrance to the car park).

If you ever get the chance to hold your own exhibition, what do you need to know?

The first thing is, don’t expect to make a lot of money from sales. Its a sad fact in the UK that most people don’t value photography as art and as a result are very reluctant to put their hands in their pockets to buy images. If you have tried selling prints from your website you have perhaps realised this. True, some do make a good amount of money from print sales but this is usually because they are a big name and their images are of the very finest available or their name alone makes the images collectable. In fact, expect to make a loss if you hold an exhibition. The costs to hold one are high. For a start, many galleries charge you a fee to exhibit, whether you sell or not. They also take a commission on any sales and this can be from 25% to 60% of the sale price. Now factor in your printing costs (whether home printed or outsourced), framing costs and your time getting it all printed and framed. You also have to make labels for each image (mounted on foamex board) as well as writing an artists statement, designing a poster and producing a price list. You have to drive to the venue and spend a few hours hanging the exhibition on your own, the gallery rarely help in this. Then drive home, perhaps drive back for an open evening (for which you provide drinks and nibbles) and drive home again. Then at the end of the exhibition drive back and take it all down and drive home again! You can see why it is difficult to make a true profit if you factor in all of the costs.

Before you exhibit you need to be clear about what the gallery provides and what they expect you to provide. Some of the better ones will provide the drinks and nibbles, for example. Most won’t. Many expect you to provide all of the packaging for any items sold. if people buy prints or framed prints you will probably be responsible for posting them to the buyers unless the buyer is willing to return to collect them.

You need to be clear on insurance. Some galleries provide a certain amount of insurance cover if works are stolen or damaged. Will this cover your work. If they don’t provide cover, you lose if anything happens to a picture or pictures.

Be clear with the gallery too, on what advertising they do for you. Do they have a website and will they use it to promote your exhibition? Do they use Twitter, Facebook etc. Do they have an emailing list and will they use it to mail their clientele? In reality, many galleries are poor at advertising on your behalf. They leave it all to you, so what is your ‘reach’ as regards advertising? Are you on social networking sites and if so are you suing them to promote the exhibition? Do you blog, use Twitter and have a mailing list? If not, who is going to know about the exhibition apart from your close friends? Do you have the gumption to ring the local newspaper and see if they will run a piece for you? Are you up for contacting the photography magazines to see if they will list your exhibition? This is all additional time you need to spend to make the exhibition a success while remembering you are still unlikely to sell any or many prints!

In smaller local exhibitions you are more likely to make sales if your images are of local scenes. Also seasonal scenes sell better, so if the bluebells are out bluebell images sell better, for example. More ‘arty’ and creative work has a lower chance of selling because it will appeal to a smaller audience, however will, perhaps, command a higher price.

This leads us to the age old question of what to charge. You can approach this one of two ways. Most people add up the cost of the paper, ink, frame and so on and then add a bit on top. This is called ‘cost plus’ pricing. If your frame, print etc costs you £25 and you charge £50 it sounds like a good 100% profit. But remember, the gallery will take a huge slice and you are unlikely to have factored in the true costs I have listed above. In reality, if you are charging any less than £100 or more you are making a crushing loss IN REALITY, whatever you are fooling yourself into thinking. The second method of pricing, is to view your work as art. This takes courage and also lessens your chances of selling anything! Here, you think less of the costs involved and place a figure on your work based on the fact you feel it has, and will increase in, value. You are thinking more like a painter or sculptor. So you may value prints at £250 or whatever. This is a brave photographer who takes this approach as sales become even further apart. Ask yourself, would you spend £100, £200 or more on a framed print from a photographer you have never heard of who is relatively low profile? No? Neither will they. Why? Because they think they can go to Ikea and get a very nice framed print for £20 and then when they redecorate they take it to a charity shop or car boot sale and buy another that fits with the new decor. The English do not value photographs as art in the way the Americans do.

So this all sounds very pessimistic. Why on earth exhibit? Good question. If you are in it just to make money, don’t. However, if you want to invest in your profile or want the world to see what you create and are prepared to take criticism as well as plaudits, it is a lovely thing to do. It does bring kudos and respect from fellow photographers. It is also a starting point. I am sure Charlie Waite, Joe Cornish & Michael Kenna went through these early loss making exhibitions. But because they were prepared to put themselves out there and make the investment in time and money gradually, and because they have real talent, they became more successful. Now Joe has his own, amazing, gallery (one of the few UK photographers who make a success of this) and images by photographers such as Charlie and Joe command good prices and have become collectable in their own right – they have broken the glass ceiling so it can be done. One day someone who runs a ‘better’ gallery may walk in and be impressed with your work and offer to represent you long term (this is the route Michael Kenna has taken – working with galleries for years who display and sell his images all year around as well as holding solo exhibitions on top of these). A publisher may see your work and ask you to do a book. A print manufacturer might be scouting for talent. If we don’t promote ourselves, even at a loss, we will never know. If we really want to make something of our images then we should view an exhibition as an investment in ourselves and go in with our eyes open. This saves us from disappointment.

I hope this helps you if you are considering exhibiting. I am not trying to dissuade you at all. I just want you to know what it is really like. If you accept this it can be a very fulfilling and positive experience and if we make some money too, so much the better.

And to finish, heres another image you can see at the exhibition.

Thinking of Winter

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Polaroid

Polaroid

Avast, Me Hearties!

 

As many of you will know, I do like quirky photographs! Among the styles I love is the Polaroid. My dad had one when I was young. Being keen on holding on to his cash, he resented having to pay Boots or Bonusprint to develop his films and so thought Polaroid was the answer. He soon realised the costs were similar, you, in effect, paid up front for the instant development of Polaroids in higher film costs and so once the novelty had worn off the camera rarely came out to play.

Ever since, I have loved the washed out images the Polaroid film produces. There are digital tweaks you can make to imitate the look, but nothing really compares to true Polaroid for that sixties/seventies feel. Like many, I was so disappointed when, in 2008, Polaroid announced they would no longer be making the film – again economics took priority over art. However, a small group of dedicated European Polaroid lovers put their faith in the medium and with great foresight bought the old Polaroid film making machinery that was being sold off. They had no idea how to make the film. No idea of the chemicals involved. Oh, and they had no money.

Kippers by Post

Thus started the ‘Impossible Project”. The name came from the fact that whet they were trying to achieve was deemed ‘impossible’ by everyone they asked but this just seemed to make them all the more determined to succeed. To raise money they started a website along the crowd-funding principle. They asked Polaroid lovers world-wide to commit to buy a certain amount of film if they could make it. Once they had enough pledges they called the money in, bought a load of chemicals and put on the rubber gloves. I am sure it would make a great movie, because, against all the odds they succeeded in making  batch of film. (you can read the full story here). From there, the team have gone from strength to strength and employ 25 people, many of whom originally worked for Polaroid.

Fishing Boat - Whitby Harbour

A few words about the film itself. They make a colour and a mono film. Both are, shall we say, very unpredictable. VERY unpredictable. But it is this unpredictability which makes them so good in my eyes. The film has to be shielded from light in the first few seconds after shooting and can take half an hour to develop (best done in one of the film boxes). In fact, it can continue to develop for the next 24 hours. Sometimes the chemicals don’t mix correctly. The exposure can be all over the place. Flare and other aberrations abound. I am currently using some of the early close to prototype film which they sell at a reduced price and so am experiencing extreme quirkiness. The new generation films they have released this year apparently show greater consistency.

I bought an old Polaroid camera from eBay and adore it. The film packs are expensive (think, about £1.50 an image once postage is factored in) but the packs are well made, quite complex and contain a battery to power the camera and flash, so there is a lot going on. You get eight shots per pack and it is best kept in the fridge (DO NOT freeze the film). The camera is totally retro and I feel like a seventies Dad walking about with it. I used it in Whitby earlier this week sand people were stopping and staring 🙂 It got a great reaction. The Impossible Project have plans on the drawing board to make a new Polaroid camera, so exciting times lie ahead. The project has been such a success that they are opening Polaroid shops in capitals around the world to service customers. I got my film, from Germany, via UPS in a couple of days.

Camera meets Camera

Today I put a pack of the Silver Shade mono film in the camera and am blown away by the results. The tones are beautiful. I can’t wait to use the new generation of mono film they have released. I have one pack but am going to use up the old batch film first. new products in the pipeline will please large format film users as they are working on 10 x 8 and 4 x 5 versions of the film which was used by many large format camera users to test exposures and for quick client approval shots. The possibilities are endless.

On My Desk

 

I am keen to get out with the camera as soon as possible to continue experimenting. Ideas I have in mind are a trip on a train with just the Polaroid to see what it brings. Also, I would like to try some urban decay as well as ‘seaside’ photography. If you decide to give it a go, be warned, it is addictive and could be expensive but the results can be wonderful. Even the ‘spoiled’ frames can become happy accidents that in their own way are works of art. I enjoy the lack of precision and unpredictability of the Polaroid. I love the retro feel of the images and the tactile nature of holding a Polaroid in your hand to admire it. I already have some which I will frame for my walls. No doubt you will be seeing more of them from me in the near future.

If you fancy dabbling in film photography to see if it is for you, why not consider joining Jonathan Stead and myself on a film based workshop in September. We provide the camera (if you need one), a roll of film and show you how to develop the film cheaply and easily at home (without any need for a darkroom). You can get full details here — Go on, come and try some ‘real’ photography and enjoy the pleasures of analogue.

Me, myself and I

A new era at Doug Chinnery Photography

New Era

Things never seem to stay the same, do they? Look at Mars Bars – they are way smaller than they were when we were kids. Its no different in business. To succeed they need to change and adapt. So its time for change here with my photography business.

Since going full time as a professional photographer in 2011 my business has grown and developed much quicker than I anticipated. As many one person businesses find, the work load can become overwhelming and as a result customer service can suffer. My business background is in sales and marketing management and so I know how important it is to give excellent customer service. I have been having to spend increasing amounts of my time at my desk processing paperwork and answering customer questions which means less time doing what I love, which is being creative. I also have loads of ideas about projects that I want to launch, but time is making this impossible. There are also family issues with being a professional outdoor photographer and workshop leader. It is inevitable that you have to spend quite a bit of time away from home. I love being out in the beautiful places in the UK but I would enjoy it a whole lot more if my wife (and Stan, our dog) could be with me occasionally.

Until now, my long suffering and eternally supportive wife, Elizabeth, has worked part time every day as an administrator in the NHS meaning she has to stay home while I go off on various expeditions. However, this week, she handed her notice in at work in order to join me in the business. This 100% growth in staff has a lot of consequences. It will mean when you contact us, initially your enquiry will be handled by Elizabeth. She is an excellent administrator, well organised and efficient so hopefully you will see a faster response to emails. Any photography related questions she will route to me to handle. It also means I will be running more and diverse workshops as I will be freed from much of the mundane business management. You may get to meet Elizabeth (and Stan) on occasional workshops if she comes with me (and she is promising to make her world famous cup cakes and tea in the camper while we go off shooting too, so we will have refreshments on our return). I will also be free to write more blog posts and articles, to increase the amount of personal photography I do and I will have more openings in my diary for one to ones etc.

This is a big change for us. It is a leap of faith to give up a secure job and source of income, but we feel that to look after our customers in the way we want and to develop the business it is an essential progressive move. So, from mid-September onwards you will find Elizabeth on hand to help you in any way she can and I am here too, to help answer your technical and location questions. It also means that, a la David & Wendy Noton, she may well appear in more of my images as the ‘lone figure in the landscape’ (probably with a blurred dog running around her, too).

 

My wife, Elizabeth

Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011

LPOTY 2011

I am pleased to announce that this image of mine entitled ‘Scintilla IX’ which forms part of my ‘Lone Cloud’ project has been commended by the judging panel in this years Landscape Photographer of the Year competition. As such it will be featured in the AA Publications book of the winning entries which is to be published in November. It will also form part of the exhibition of the winning images in an exhibition at Londons National Theatre on the South Bank.

Free downloadable long exposure calculator chart

I have just put on the downloads page of my website a free pdf long exposure calculator chart

Just download it, print and laminate it for use in the field.

I hope you find it helpful.

I plan to add some other free downloads so please sign up for my email newsletter for advanced notice of these – just use the form on the right hand side of this page.

if you have any ideas for useful downloads, please drop me a message using the ‘Contact Me’ form on the right.

New website launched

As you will have noticed my website has had a complete makeover.

I was quite happy with the look and feel of the old design, in fact, I feel the look of this one is not as good but there is a reason for the change.

While the design was fine to my eyes, in Googles eyes it was repulsive. The old site was created in Apples iWeb program which is great if you need a very simple web design program. Everything is drag and drop, click and re-size, WYSIWYG etc. However to make it so slick and simple the program is creating horrendous code in the background which Google takes one look at and walks away from in disgust. Sadly in this age, if we are running a business and need traffic to our site then we need to feed Google what it wants. hence I have taken the plunge and created this site from scratch using WordPress.

WordPress is free, open source software originally created for blogging but it soon became apparent that it was ideal for creating websites too. If you just want a blog you can sign up on the WordPress website http://wordpress.org/ and they will host a lovely free blog for you but if you want a website using the software it becomes a whole lot more complicated. You need to download WordPress from them (which they are fine about) and then sign up with an Internet hosting company that supports WordPress websites. They need to be able to run MySQL databases (which runs under the WordPress bonnet (hood, for my American readers!)  and organises all the data and be able to run php (whatever that is?). I opted for a UK based company, www.1and1.co.uk, which many people complain about and yet I have had no issues with at all.

You use an ftp program (I used the free and excellent Filezilla) to transfer the WordPress files to your bit of webspace hosted by 1and1 in my case. Then you start the installation and configuration of your website which is all done through your web browser. This is where for the first two weeks I had a nightmarish time. Every help file I looked at for hand-holding and guidance seemed to make assumptions that I knew stuff. This is stuff I now know, but at the time with no experience whatsoever it was very frustrating. You will get detailled instructions on a stage in the process which is ideal and then they will drop in a sweeping statement with no explanation of how to perform that step. Stage 5, reconfigure the widget module for multi-spronged upwiggliing. WHAT! Then followed endless trawling of help forums reading the posts of exasperated newbie WordPress users like myself who had come up against the same wall and after much searching I would find a kindly soul who had taken the trouble when they had discovered the answer to go back and write a short detailled description. With this, it became simple again until the next sweeping statement was reached.

But, by sticking to my task like Frodo and Sam on their quest, I eventually came out of Mordor and to the point where I could start actually building web pages. Here things got simpler ad I was soon steaming through the laborious process of moving the old website to the new.

What I do like about WordPress is all the widgets which you can integrate into the site to do things I could never do with iWeb. Things like have a subscription form that works for people to sign up to my free newsletter (its over on the right of this page, by the way – fill it in for me to test it, thanks!). I am also able to have the ‘Contact Me’ form instead of having to put my email address on the website. I love the Twitter, Flickr and RSS buttons which are so easy to add so people can follow me trough other channels easily. But most of all, I love the way Google loves WordPress sites. I am hoping I begin to turn up higher in searches for photography workshops in the UK, for instance.

I am not happy with the look of the site. It is okay but I now need to get my head down and learn how to modify the code you can’t see to get the look and feel I am after. There are some glorious websites made in WordPress out there and I want mine to be as good looking and as easy to use as those.

Plans I do have which will be implemented in the next week or so include a downloads page where I have some ideas for free downloadable pdf’s that you can grab and print out for use in the field – sign up for my free newsletter for an announcement of when they are up and available.

I am also going to go back through my old blog posts and upload all the most popular ones, the ‘to-do’s’ and ‘how-to’ articles so that there is a base resource here to start the new site off. This is useful to my readers and also gives more food for Goggle because that hungry content monster needs feeding. If the food is good, it keeps coming back for more.

I would welcome your comments on the site, good, bad and indifferent as well as any thoughts you have on how I can improve it.