Category: Photography comment

First thoughts on the Canon EOS R and Multiple Exposure Photography

I had the chance this week to briefly test the brand new Canon EOS R mirrorless camera with the 24-105mm lens (and the EF adaptor along with my EF 70-300mm IS L lens). This was courtesy of my good friend Carl, who had pre-ordered the camera and was prepared to entrust it to me.

My reasons for wanting to try it revolved around the weight saving of a mirrorless body and the advantages of having an electronic viewfinder for multiple exposure photography (EVF). I have been, in the past an advocate of the Fuji mirrorless systems – both the X and GFX medium format body – loving the weight saving and EVF as well as the image quality. However, the lack of a serious multiple exposure mode coupled with having to carry two systems in order to have a proper ME system meant I recently abandoned Fuji for good and dedicated myself to Canon. As someone who travels a great deal I need one system that does all everything and so I currently use the superb 5D mk4 and only have one lens, the 70-300mm L.

Before I go further, some clarification. I am not sponsored by Canon. This review is entirely impartial. I will aim to tell it exactly as it is. It is based on just a couple of hours at most with the camera, using the 24-105mm R lens and barely 15 minutes with my 70-300mm lens and the EF adaptor. All of this time I was working in multiple exposure mode, so please don’t expect a review of using the camera for classic photography.

I would also add that I am not interested in this camera for shooting video. I may shoot some, but I am an art photographer and this review is written from that perspective. I am sure other reviews will guide you if you have interests in serious video work.

My final plea concerned the images – I was working quickly and just experimenting around my home – they aren’t meant to be serious work, just samples of the camera in action. Please don’t be too hard on me!

I am also aware of the near apoplectic rage there seems to be that the camera only has one SD card slot. My feelings about this? Yes, I would have liked two card slots (both SD, for me please Canon). But I do think we need some perspective. Yes, two slots has become the norm in cameras of this quality and I am sure the next iteration of this body will have them. If it is that big an issue for you I would just suggest waiting. However, in my experience, most photographers don’t know how their second slot is utilised – whether it is having a backup copy written to it, or if one card fills and then the second card fills – or if one card has raw files writing to it and the second has jpegs writing to it. Many cameras I have seen clients using don’t even have a card in the second slot. I have been using digital cameras for, I don’t know, 12 or 14 years and I have only had a card totally fail once in all that time. Once. I buy quality cards and I push my cameras hard in all weathers – I don’t wrap them in cotton wool (or polythene). Its not so long ago all cameras only had one card and prior to that, one roll of film. We managed somehow. My feeling is that the outrage is just a little over done – and I know that me just saying this will outrage some people. But I am just being honest (but please Canon – get another card slot in ASAP, I am pretty certain your design guys can make one fit).

Now that is death with let us get down to the nitty gritty. My first impressions about the camera. The build quality is excellent, as you would expect from Canon. I have big hands but ergonomically it is very comfortable in the hand. The balance is good and I liked the shaped grip. I work with one hand a lot of the time and this suited me well. I was surprised at how light it felt, even with the quality lens fitted. The EF adaptor is ridiculously light – this is because it is, in effect, just an extension tube. There is no glass in it. It just moves the EF lenses further away from the sensor and links up the electronics. So all of the lens functions still work as normal and everything still works in the EVF – you notice no difference in operating the camera. Even with a big lens like the 70-300mm attached it felt well balanced and lighter, obviously, than my 5D mk4. The weight saving is not huge but it is noticeable but it is also physically smaller so when travelling it takes up less bag space and it is less obtrusive in the hand, attracting less attention. Yes, using your L EF glass brings the weight right up, but you have the quality of the glass and it will be lighter than your DSLR. For some of you the weight saving while using your DSLR lenses will not be enough – but the R lenses are L glass quality and lighter. Canon will widen the range quite rapidly. I am happy to use the 24-105 for now along with my L 70-300 and the adaptor and cope with the weight – while benefitting from the physical size decrease (and it is lighter – noticeably so) while I wait for a lighter 70-300 R lens to be released.You will need to decide for yourself what you can cope with.

The 24-105mm lens was superb – the optics were brilliant as you would expect from Canon L glass. The image stabilisation was faultless as was the auto focus. Don’t ask me about frames per second and whether this would be a good camera for shooting wildlife on the Serengeti – that is above my pay grade. I am sure other blogs will help you with those questions.

What does the EOS R have to offer us as respects multiple exposure modes? This was a question we were really interested in. The answer is, it has all of the modes and functions of the 5D mk’s 3 and 4 (and other fully featured Canon DSLR’s). You will not lose anything by switching. But will you gain anything? The answer, I feel, is ‘yes’, which is why I would like to move to the ‘R’ myself.

Firstly, I want the size and weight saving. I am a traveller and I am always looking for savings in this area as long as functionality is not compromised. The EOS R gives me this. It has the same 30mp sensor as my current 5D mk4 so image quality is identical. I am guessing the next iteration of the body will have an ‘improved’ sensor but with this I give a warning. Valda had the 5Dr for some time which has the amazing 50mp sensor. Now, while this produces eye watering quality and huge files it brings with it a big issue to multiple exposure photographers. It becomes painfully slow. Stacking up several 50mp files and blending them in camera takes huge processing power and time. Valda found this really slowed her down in the field and, to an extent stifled her creativity so she switched ‘down’ to the 5D mk4 and is happier as a result. You may not find this to be an issue but we certainly did – so unless new bodies have significantly more processing power and speed, we would be reluctant to move to them. We have never had an issue as professionals with the 30mp files with our clients and galleries. The 30mp files for us still allow image cropping and manipulation to meet our needs. You need to decide what your needs are.

The second, and for me game changing improvement for multiple exposure work with the EOS R, is the EVF. This allows you to see the image ‘shadowed’ as you make each frame. You can’t see the effect of the blend mode being applied before you fire the shutter (but you do see, in the EVF the blended image after the next frame is added) however the big advantage is being able to line objects up. This helps hugely with composition. The next frame you see shadowed in the EVF is ‘brighter’ and so you need to look closely but it is sufficient to do what you need to do. The EVF also works seamlessly, I was not conscious it was an EVF, to be honest, it didn’t interfere it only assisted me. I like to have the camera to my eye when making ME images and previously I had to visualise in my mind where objects would be. You could use the live view screen, but this slowed the process down and meant holding the camera away at arms length which I found didn’t suit my way of working. I was blown away by the difference using the EVF made to my workflow. I am now finding using my 5D mk4 very frustrating indeed. I have opened Pandoras Box!

I have heard people expressing concerns about the controls on the camera – that there is only one control dial and so on. This is not the case. You have two control wheels so you can change aperture and shutter speed independently (or exposure compensation). The touch screen is a delight (but would be tricky with gloves in cold weather) However everything can be accessed through the quick menu and control buttons (no joystick on this camera) There is a slider bar which I didn’t have time to get to grips with.

The tilt screen also swivels – which would be a first for a camera I own. Exciting for me. Little things please me. I am also delighted to see Canon have used the same battery for the ‘R’ as used in the 5D range. This means all of the spare batteries I have acquired over the years will fit. How good to see a manufacturer doing this when so many use the release of a new model to change the battery shape in order to force us to buy more new batteries at exorbitant prices.

Another innovation which is interesting and useful is the addition of an extra ring on the R lenses. This ring can be programmed in a menu so that you can use it to change shutter speed, ISO or aperture – whichever is most useful to you. I didn’t get time to check, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you could program it to change something else too, if you prefer, like white balance etc. This may be very handy for working in cold weather or to save you accessing a menu for something you alter frequently.

My final comment is about the another adaptor Canon has issued. It is a very clever piece of kit, sitting between the body and lens into which you can drop either a polariser or a variety-ND filter so that these do not have to be fitted to the front of the lens. For me, this is a revelation. It is such a simple solution, so small and compact and will allow me to do ICM images with such ease. The ND filter goes from 2 to 9 stops – which is absolutely perfect for me. A stroke of genius from Canon and one I will definitely be adding to my kit bag.

So my verdict. For multiple exposure and ICM shooters, I think this camera is a game changer. I see no reason to stay with a DSLR any more. You can keep all of your EF lenses and slowly replace them if you with with R lenses – or not – the choice is yours. I see no real deal breaking disadvantages with the camera. I think if you have any other brand of mirrorless camera such as Fuji and you have a passion for multiple exposure photography, I would seriously consider switching. It is a big thing to do, but I don’t think you will be disappointed. This is a seriously good camera that for me and my work ticks all the boxes (just get a second card slot in the next one, please, Canon…. and maybe come up with some more, new, innovative blend modes that we can see being applied live in the viewfinder before we press the shutter – then you really do have something amazing).

Valda and I are running some one day workshops in November where every participant has a loan EOS R for the day courtesy of Canon UK – you can read full details and BOOK HERE

Review of Fotospeed Cotton Etching 305 Signature Paper

Some things in life only come along once. The genius of Bob Dylan. Newcastle United winning something (still waiting). My mother in law being lost for words. (also still waiting). A phone call from Toby, the very nice boss at Fotospeed asking if I might possibly be interested in working with them to design my very own perfect ‘signature’ fine art paper. (actually happened – still pinching myself).

That call came almost two years ago now – making a new paper from scratch is not a quick process and it took me almost a nano second to accept the offer. Which photographer and printer wouldn’t? Here was a chance to work along with acknowledged experts in the field to come up with what is essentially my very own perfect paper for my art. A dream come true, because I had used many of the fine Fotospeed papers quite happily for years and loved them, but always there are those little tweaks I would like to make – a little more texture, a little whiter base, a little more weight and so on. Now I had my chance.

So how does it work, this paper designing business? Sadly, all visions I had of me donning a lab coat and goggles were soon put to bed. I wasn’t going to be allowed anywhere near chemicals, or big machines. I think the very nice folk at Fotospeed felt that was just a little too risky, especially when they saw the manic glint in my eyes. Rather, I was sat down in a darkened room, behind layers of security and…. well no, not that either. In fact, it all began with a very long and detailed cross examination about what I wanted from my paper. I was quizzed on my images, what I wanted to bring out of them, their characteristics, what I felt was missing from not only the Fotospeed range but also from fine art papers in general. I was basically asked what my dream paper would be. So what did my specification look like?

I had a vision along these lines;

1. It had to be a matt paper.
2. It had to be heavy. I wanted a paper with substance.
3. I wanted a heavy texture.
4. I preferred a pure white base colour. So that colours were rendered naturally.
5. I wanted it to make soft, gentle images to look soft and gentle.
6. When printing images full of texture and detail it needed to render them sharply.
8. I wanted it to have a high cotton content and to be of archival quality.
9. It needed to be acid free and be suitable for dye based and pigment inks.
10. I really wanted it to handle a very wide colour gamut and produce faithful colours.
11. Finally, for a matt paper it had to deliver sumptuous deep, rich blacks.

By this point, the nice people at Fotospeed were looking a little queasy. I understood why. To ask all of this from one paper, especially a high cotton content matt paper was a very tall order. They were in for a long night. It turned out to be a long year. I think they ate a lot of pizza and drank a lot of coffee.

I actually lost count of the iterations we went through, but I was sent, I think, seven batches of paper to test in all. It was the seventh – the paper which has now become the paper I use almost exclusively, Cotton Etching 305 – which I finally gave the approval for to bear my name. The one which met all of the criteria on my list. The only thing in the end I wanted to change, and where Toby had to call a halt, was with the surface texture. If you look very carefully at matt papers you will see a repetition in the texture. This is because it is made by a mechanical process. I asked if this could be randomised. Apparently it could. If the paper was handmade. As you can imagine this would have made it so expensive it wouldn’t have viable and so I had to concede on that one point (and I have to admit I was being very fussy as it is barely noticeable).

I have to applaud the team at Fotospeed and the people they work with for being able to achieve this. Technically it really is no mean feat. If you are used to printing on fine art matt papers you will know and understand just how tricky they can be at times. How occasionally getting the colours to sing can be difficult. You will also know how hard it can be to get really wonderful rich deep blacks from them is. They can have a tendency to ‘flatten’ our work and give it a milkiness, to almost suck some of the life out of it if we don’t know what we are doing. Even if we do know what we are doing with our printing, with many images getting the colour and contrast right sometimes is just impossible.

If this has been your experience, I would urge you to try some Cotton Etching 305. I continue to be amazed at how easy it is to print on. I am achieving blacks I have never been able to render on a matt paper before. The colours in my images really sing out like never before. Even with the generic profiles from the Fotospeed website you should get good results. If you use their free customers profile service this will get even better as your colour gamut will widen and the performance of the paper will increase. You may feel I am just over-hyping the paper because the box has my name on it. If so, I would urge you to take a look at THIS REVIEW in Photography News. (quick quote – “The paper’s all-round ability to handle such a wide range of subject matter, contrast range and different degrees of saturation and so capably was a nice surprise. Some textured fine art finishes are less good with rich images with deep blacks, but no such shortcomings here. Apologies if this is all rather gushy, but honestly there wasn’t a print that I was unhappy with so I had little to have a moan at.”)

As for handling of the paper, a couple of tips I can pass on. Firstly, store the boxes flat. This prevents curling on the leading edge which can cause ink to catch and mark the paper. I also use a ‘rocket blower’ to blow over the print surface of the paper to make sure there are no cotton fibres adhering. It is very frustrating to hold up your print to see these drop away leaving a small unprinted area beneath them. It is good to allow the print to cure for at least a few minutes or longer before any extensive handling after printing. Check the colours and contrast over by a window, preferably with bright overcast daylight, rather than side by side at your computer monitor. This is a better test for how beautiful your print is and how it will look when displayed in real life.

I hope you enjoy trying Cotton Etching 305. I now use it for almost every print I make. Valda Bailey and I also use it for virtually all the prints we make for clients in our bespoke printing service for photographers and artists who don’t have their own printer, or who want prints larger than their printer is capable of. (full details of our service HERE).

To help you if you would like to try it out, or if you already love it and would like to stock up, the very nice people at Fotospeed have given me a 15% discount code to pass on to you. PLEASE NOTE, this code is only valid for 30 days from Tuesday 24th July 2018 and it should apply not just to Cotton Etching 305 but to all their papers (but why would you want anything other than Cotton Etching now??). Just put your paper in your basket and apply the code on checkout. The discount will only be applied right at the end. DISCOUNT CODE – Doug15NL – I do hope you enjoy using the paper as much as I do. It has changed my printing forever.

And who knows, maybe this year is Newcastle’s year? Howay the lads!

Onwards and Upwards


 
This is difficult to write. Very difficult.

On Tuesday 10th April I had a nervous breakdown.

While that is a hard thing to admit. It was a terrible thing to experience.

On that Tuesday I was in the middle of leading a Light and Land tour in London with my good friend Terry Gibbins. It was also the opening night of my first group exhibition in London at the OXO Gallery on the South Bank. I was in the position of being in a very public situation with lots of people relying on me and I was expected to perform. 

I had been feeling unwell for weeks, but didn’t realise what was brewing in my mind. I thought the anxiety building in my chest was simply over the opening night of the exhibition. Creative angst and all that, doubts about my work, of which I had many.

When I arrived at the private viewing I felt anxious in the extreme. I really didn’t want to talk to anyone. I couldn’t go and look at or stand by my images. I couldn’t engage with the visitors who were around them. I had to stay at the opposite end of the room. But I didn’t know why. People were being very kind, saying lovely things to me, especially Valda’s mum who seemed to sense I was struggling, but I didn’t know how to respond. The urge to run away was almost irresistible.

After the viewing I had to take my tour group out to do some more night photography but by now I was struggling to function. It felt like an out of body experience. Looking back, I don’t know how I got through the session.

It was back in the hotel room that It all went wrong. The room was terrible. A bleak nondescript cell. I was alone and an awful all encompassing blackness enveloped me. I was dry heaving, struggling to breath, the chest pains were extreme. I had hardly eaten for three days. The feeling of absolute bleakness is so hard to describe. The hours of the night stretched out endlessly. I couldn’t sleep, just pacing up and down the room. I daren’t leave the room because in my state of mind, while I didn’t think I would harm myself, I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t and I was worried that in not thinking clearly I could do something stupid. 

I had never imagined I would be the type of person who would consider harming myself. I have always been a happy, outgoing, positive, optimistic person. For me, no matter how bad things are, I always see the positive side and make the best of any situation. I fight to make things better. I never give up. But this night I experienced a complete reversal of who I am. There was no light. Nothing positive. I had nothing to hold on to. I was falling into blackness and I didn’t know where the bottom was. I was terrified. I was losing my mind. But from then on each day has been a real struggle.

Since that initial breakdown I have had several repeat episodes along with panic attacks and constant anxiety accompanied with chest pains and other physical symptoms. My doctor, diagnosing the breakdown, has been very sympathetic and helpful. The medication has taken nearly four weeks to start to have a real impact on the symptoms, the dose having been doubled. I thought I would recover in a couple of weeks but it is dawning on me that this is not going to happen. As I look back, this has been a long time coming and it is going to take a while to get over. I have made progress, but there is a way to go yet.

I have had huge support from my wife. She has suffered with depression for years and so she really understands what this feels like. My teaching partner, Valda Bailey, has been a tower of strength listening to me and giving me good advice. She has been a rock in this storm. She also had to cover for me recently on a workshop when I had a ‘meltdown’ and was in no fit state to teach. I have to apologise to the group. Valda used a mythical, and as I learned later, extravagantly overstated case of ‘Montezumas Revenge’ as the excuse for my absence. It seems in her eagerness to make my situation seem serious enough for me not to be able to attend she gradually embellished the symptoms to such an extent that it sounded like I needed hospitalisation. So I must apologise to the group at Bosham that I asked Valda to deceive you, it was a hard decision for both of us, but at the time I was in a very bad way, but still didn’t feel able to reveal the real reason. I hope you understand. I have to thank her for coping with the group all on her own.

Other friends I have confided in, Terry, Chris, Carl, Gary and Martin as well as my sister, Lisa, have all been wonderful. I don’t know what I would have done without them and their genuine concern, patience, listening ears and wise advice. True friends at a time like this are life savers.

So why have I felt the need to write all this? While I am not entirely sure, I do have a real feeling that I don’t want to keep this hidden. I hated making an excuse when I was too ill to teach. I know that in future weeks there may be times I am with people and I won’t be myself. I don’t want to lie or mislead people. I’d rather be open about it. I’m ill, and it is affecting me in significant ways. 

If I have been quiet, distant, seemingly ignored you, or just not been myself in recent weeks I hope I haven’t offended you. If I have, I want to apologise.

I feel stupid, weak, useless, silly and, to an extent, ashamed. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. I have always been someone who helps other people. Someone who sorts things out for others. A fixer, not someone who needs fixing. I am usually the strong one. To be in this position feels like failure. It feels like I am letting everyone down who relies on me. There is huge guilt associated with it.

The cause seems to be pressure. Too much pressure over too long a time. Pressure of work – not just the teaching and running the business but coping with keeping up with an overflowing in-box. Coping with all the myriad ways people can contact us these days – Phone, email, text, Whats App, Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM’s, Instagram Messages – it has become overwhelming keeping up with this. I also have some clients contacting me at all hours and so personal time and space has become almost non-existent. Then there is the pressure of caring for my mother in law – she is 94 now and has lived with us for nearly four years. She needs 24 hour care and so either my wife of I needs to be here all the time. We are, to all intents and purposes prisoners in our home. Caring for my Mum who is disabled and in hospital much of the time but in reality not doing enough for her and feeling guilty about that. Having responsibilities as secretary of my local congregation which was very time consuming. 

So I have taken steps to prevent this happening again. I have reduced my workload considerably and will be reducing it further. I am only going to do as much work as we need to live. I have relinquished, reluctantly, many of my congregation responsibilities. I am simplifying my life as much as possible to reduce stress so that I am concentrating on the most important things. My goal is to get off of the medication as quickly as I can without relapsing.

I now have even more sympathy for any of you reading this that have had breakdowns, suffer with depression or anxiety. Having a wife who suffers I have understood a little what it involves, but now I have a much better understanding of just how bleak and all encompassing it is. I also understand how the medication affects you too. It is not a magic wand. I now feel neither happy nor sad. I feel nothing. Just dull and relatively emotionless. Cold. I lack motivation. I am sleeping too deeply and too long. I don’t like it, but it is better than the blackness, the lack of hope, the deep guilt and the feelings of total worthlessness of a couple of weeks ago. But I crave feelings. I want to feel emotions again. This is still not a good place to be and so I hope it is only temporary. 

As a good friend keeps telling me, “onwards and upwards”. I just hope it is.

I can’t think of anything else to say.
 

Hyperborea – The Lands of the North.

©Chris Friel – From ‘After’

It is impossible to visit the Hebrides and not be affected by them at some deeply elemental level. A place of ever changing moods, sculpted and formed by the wind and sea over millennia, it carves itself into your soul. At times the white sands of the beaches, the teal and turquoise of the waves seduce and beguile. In a heartbeat, though, she transforms. The islands can become a place of deep and abiding melancholy, of exhilarating storms which purge and restore. No wonder artists, poets, musicians and now, laterly, photographers, have been drawn again and again to ‘Hyperborea’. This mythical location ‘beyond the north wind’, identified by some as the Isle of Lewis.

‘Hyperborea – The Lands of the North’ is the title given to a group exhibition currently on display on Harris & Lewis, at the An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway, the capital of the Island. Curated by Alex Boyd, it features the work not only of Alex himself (a photographer working in antique processes, striving to capture the essence of the northern lands, his work in the exhibition is entitled ‘Dark Mountains|Silent Islands’) but also the epic, insightful and truly moving work of landscape and documentary photographer Ragnar Axelsson entitled ‘Faces of the North’ along with a moving collection of images by photographic artist Chris Friel.

His contribution to the exhibition, a project comprised of 49 images entitled ‘After’, is a truly heartfelt and moving response to the loss of his dear son, Joe, who took his own life in early 2016 following a struggle with mental illness. Joe loved the Hebrides and so it was to here that Chris returned to make images in just one day in the place they had shared together. Running in conjunction with the images in Chris’s part of the exhibition is a video of images made by Chris on Lewis in August 2017 entitled ‘Still’ accompanied by a piece of music composed in Joes memory by Matthew Herbert, entitled ‘Be Still’ and recorded at the North Sea Jazz Festival on 9 July 2017. You can see the images and listen to the piece HERE

I had the privilege of printing the 49 images which make up Chris Friel’s ‘After’ collection in the exhibition. To work closely with Chris throughout this creative process was an honour. The images are so personal to Chris and it was essential to me that I did my very best to interpret the work exactly as Chris wanted. To give you an insight of the creative process, of how I work with Chris, how we chose the paper we used for the exhibition (in the end, Fotospeed Platinum Baryta) and also how I prepare the images for print in Lightroom, I have created two short videos. These take you through the process from start to finish and I hope you find them both interesting and that you also might learn a few tips from them too to help you with printing your work.


 

One positive thing that has come from the awful tragedy of Joes death is the fund set up by Chris and his family through the Just Giving website which is dedicated to Joe and is raising funds for the Young Minds Trust, a very worthwhile cause which aims to help young people struggling with mental illness. The families goal was to raise £16000, a £1000 for every year of Joes life, but at the time of writing in October 2017 the generosity of family and friends has raised a wonderful £44,376. Please visit the web page HERE to see a video created by Chris about Joe and to donate to the charity. You can also see the book Chris created with the images in the exhibition along with his personal images from Joes life. Entitled ‘Joe’, and curated with the help of Joseph Wright, it was a beautiful testament to his son. View it HERE. The book is not available for purchase. You can also vote on the Just Giving site for Joes fundraising page to receive recognition with an award. Please vote for it HERE.

You can see the images for the book ‘Joe’, HERE on Chris’s website. The landscape images from the book were then used as the source by Chris as the basis for the exhibition but he did further work on them and you can view the finished work as collection HERE.

I would like to urge you, if you have any chance at all to visit the exhibition, you will not be disappointed. It is on now and runs until 4th November 2017. You can find full details HERE.

You can buy Chris Friel’s prints through my website from THIS PAGE

I would also like to thank the great team at Fotospeed for their help and support throughout preparing for this exhibition.

Being Interviewed on the Togcast

Some time back I was surprised and humbled to be asked to an interviewee on the excellent ‘Togcast’ podcast which is run by two very capable and nice gentlemen, Sam Gregory and my fellow Light and Land leader, Paul Sanders. (I would highly recommend you use your podcast software on your smart phone to subscribe to the Togcast and listen weekly – it is interesting, entertaining and you get to know many photographers we know from social media so much better.)

You can find more information about the Togcast HERE you can subscribe via Apple podcasts HERE, and you can visit the Togcast website HERE

So it was a few weeks ago, Sam arrived at my home early one morning on a whistle stop tour of the North. He was cramming in several interviews with other far more worthy photographers than me on a marathon journey up ones side of the country and back down the other. Sam has a very engaging manner and I soon forgot I was being interviewed and we nattered away about photography for a couple of hours. I am very grateful to Sam for taking the time in his busy schedule to come and talk to me and I hope you find our chat interesting.

I have no recollection of what we spoke about and I am horrified to think what I must sound like or what I waffled on about. I am certainly not prepared to listen to myself back again. (After all, I have to listen to myself all the time, and that is quite enough, I can assure you).

He not only did an audio interview for the podcast, but he tried out doing a video session too, where we discussed three portfolios of my images in my Lightroom catalogue and he has released this as a separate video.

So, if you have nothing to do. And I mean absolutely nothing to do, if you have cleaned the oven out, sorted all your carpet tacs into jam jars by size, and organised your photo book collection alphabetically, then you might just want to have a watch and listen. But if you still haven’t got around to creosoting the fence, I would probably get that done first. Really.

Here is the video of our discussion of some of my images

And here is the audio Podcast

YŪBI – Truly a book of ‘Gentle Beauty’

There is a (pleasing) trend towards more photographers publishing collections of their work as photobooks. Some are choosing to approach specialist publishers such as Triplekite or Kozu Books. These publishers will work in close partnership with the photographer and use their expertise in desktop publishing and printing to help bring a project to fruition. They may also have access to distribution and sales channels to help the photographer with, what is often the most difficult part of the project, selling the books.
 

 
Others prefer to do things on a much smaller scale and self publish using a proprietary platform such as Blurb, Lulu or one of the many others available. These companies often allow ‘print on demand’ so there is no upfront investment in pallets of stock and even if the photographer just wants a handful of copies to sell or give as gifts to family and friends this is relatively affordable. Some of these organisations include electronic versions and allow selling through Amazon and other sales channels. The quality can be good. It can be rather poor, but it may meet the needs of some.
 

 
There is now another approach some photographers are taking to make their work available to an appreciative photo-book collecting audience. The hand made (or partially hand made) photo book. These are made in very limited numbers due to the intensive nature of putting them together. They are usually beautifully printed on fine art papers, hand bound and often presented in hand made slip cases. The printing is usually of the very highest quality and as such they become treasured art objects in their own right.
 

 
One such example I was very fortunate to add to my collection recently was ‘YŪBI’, a hand made photo-book by husband and wife landscape photographers Denis and Freda Hocking.
 

 
Freda came on a workshop I was running with Valda Bailey up in the Lake District and she had bought a copy of the book with her. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have a copy. It is unusual, though not unique, for a couple to work together so closely on photographic projects. If you visit the Hockings website (and I recommend you do) you will see they share it. The galleries display work from both of them. The galleries and images do not identify who has made them. This is truly a partnership at work. You will see images of the most wonderful quality throughout the website – and this is echoed in ‘YŪBI’. If you would like to listen to a great interview with Freda and Denis, I can highly recommend this one on the Togcast (I also recommend subscribing to the Togcast for great interviews with photographers on an almost weekly basis).
 

 
The book itself is a thing of great beauty. It goes without saying that the images within are stunning. Landscapes made world-wide on the Hockings global travels, that mesh with the meaning of the Japanese word ‘YŪBI’, which is ‘Gentle Beauty’. You will see images which reflect their individual styles (although no images are identified as to who took which – part of the fun is trying to second guess the originator). The whole book has a calmness, a serenity which aptly echoes the link with the principles of Haiku.
 

 
The couple had assistance from Eddie Ephraums at Envisage Books. He provided guidance on the format, sequencing, fonts, layout, paper choice, printing, binding and all the other areas where he has great expertise. His guiding hand is very evident in the quality of the book. But knowing Denis and Freda, it is also their incredible attention to detail, their striving for perfection and their intense love for the landscape and photography which completes this book. From the hand stitched Japanese binding (which must have taken many loving hours of work to complete, through to the perfect and beautifully printed slipcase complete with fine Japanese calligraphy (provided with help from the expert Yukiko Ayres) you can see this has been a real labour of love.
 

 
The first edition has been produced in just 100 copies, of which just a few remain. I can wholeheartedly recommend that anyone who loves the landscape and collects beautiful photo-books should invest in a copy of YŪBI. I am sure it will become a treasured addition to their collection, as mine has.

You can obtain your individually signed and embossed copy HERE.

Working with Fotospeeds New Square Fine Art Papers

Fotospeed

The new Fotospeed 12 x 12 inch square paper range

Many of us love making images in the square format. We either ‘see’ our photographs that way and compose for them in the field, often aided by the clever way many digital cameras these days allow us to display a square mask on the rear view screen. I love this feature and use it all the time on my Fuji X-Pro 2. Shooting in raw, I still have the option back in the studio to use the entire sensor area, but in the field it is so helpful to see the image on the screen cropped square. It makes composition so much easier. (If you shoot in jpeg, the file will be square and the data beyond the boundaries of the square is lost forever).

Sleeklens Landscape Plugin Review

Sleeklens

I was contacted recently by sleeklens.com who asked me to put one of their plugin packs for Adobe Photoshop through its paces. They make plugins for all types of photography, particularly portraiture and architecture but they also have a pack designed for landscape photographers so it seemed appropriate to give that a try. I opted for the Photoshop version, although they do a Lightroom version of all their plugins too for those who like to keep their workflows just within the Lightroom environment.

Trying a different approach to rucksacks

Trespass

Ask any photographer and they will tell you, you can never have enough camera bags. Or it might be that we can never find the perfect camera bag. I’m inclined to think that there is no single one bag that meets all our needs. I have different situations I go into with my camera and need a different bag for each. Recently, I found myself frustrated with a limitation placed upon us by camera bag manufacturers and so turned to a conventional rucksack manufacturer, Glasgow based company Trespass, for the solution.

An Apology

Apology

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I am writing this blog to apologise. I am apologising about not replying.

You see, almost eleven years ago, when I started teaching workshops I used to say to my students, “if you have got any questions after the workshop, just drop me an email” and this was fine. I enjoy helping people overcome problems they have with their photography, helping them select the right gear or giving some help on good locations to try, so it was no problem to get a couple of emails a month with questions and to answer them.

‘april, may, june and then july’ by Roj Whitelock

april may june july

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I was felt very privileged some months ago when approached by photographer Roj Whitlock to write a foreword for his photo-essay entitled ‘april, may, june and then july’.

I had seen the images and Roj’s moving writing for the project some months earlier, following the death of his father to cancer, Cyril Henry Whitelock, who lived to be 101 years old. Roa had used walks with his camera in local woodlands as an escape, a diversion, as therapy, as solace during the last months of his fathers life. The images reflect the rollercoaster of emotions and feelings of such a time, which any of us who have supported a friend or loved one through cancer (whatever the outcome) will know all too well. His words add a deep poignancy to the photographs.

‘Fragile’ by Valda Bailey

Fragile by Valda Bailey

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Before I start writing my review of ‘Fragile’ by Valda Bailey, I need to declare an interest. Valda is a good friend of mine. We teach workshops on alternative photography techniques for Light & Land and so it is very unlikely this review will be entirely unbiased, but I will try my best.

It is with a sense of pride that I opened this book when it arrived in the post from Triplekite Publishing. You see, I first met Valda on the 15th of August 2011. I can be very precise about that because she had booked me for a one to one – to learn about ICM (intentional camera movement) techniques, and in showing her some of those techniques that day I made an image which has become very popular for me – hence my ease of knowing the date, I just have to look at the raw file metadata. So, here we are, almost five years on, and Valda has gone from student of mine to co-workshop leader and has far surpassed me in her abilities with the camera in creating wonderful images. Indeed, here she has had a book published long before I am even considering such a thing.

New Dropbox Style Cloud Service I Am Trying – Sync

Sync

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I have been looking for a more flexible and better priced service than Dropbox for a while. I think I have found it. It is called Sync. They give you 5GB of free cloud storage, which I am currently testing (and if you USE THIS LINK I think you will get an extra GB, so 6GB in total, and I will get 1GB for referring you – https://www.sync.com/?_sync_refer=de5f7b0 )

The paid service gives you 500GB for $49 a year and 2TB for $98 a year, which is very competitive and will allow me to store virtually all of my data, including all of my images on the service.

Edgelands – The Floods by Joseph Wright

Edgelands by Joe Wright

Every now and then a photo book comes along which is a bit different, a bit special. Today was one of those days. I received my copy of Joseph Wrights ‘Edgelands – The Floods’.

The book is different in several ways. Yes, the images are beautiful, but not in a classic landscape photography way. Joe has chosen o venture into those areas that surround the places we live, the edges and margins of our towns, cities and villages, which most of us tend to ignore or dismiss as ugly, unkempt. The abandoned scrublands, the borderlands or neglect. Some were once used, now left to their own devices. Others are places which have never quite fitted the needs of developers, being the wrong shape, in the wrong place, too wet or perhaps difficult to build on. Nature has no such qualms about these places. Nature quietly gets on with colonising them, plants growing, animals living quiet lives while we rush by.

Joseph has ventured in and started to make sense of the chaos. He has discovered beauty in the confusion and documented this with his 10 x 8 large format camera. Then, he has taken the project in an interesting direction, printing the images at pretty much the same size as his film (8 x 10 inches) for this book. Imagine having a sensor in your camera that is 10 x 8 inches in size. Can you grasp the resolution and detail that would resolve? A 10 x 8 negative has to be seen to be believed and here they produce glorious prints. Joe has then gone on to learn, from none other than grand master John Blakemore, how to sequence the images and hand make them into a book. Joe has individually crafted and bound these books with his own hands. This is truly a craft process. Along the way he has had extensive mentoring from Eddie Ephramus who specialising in helping photographers who want to achieve their creative vision in print and it includes a foreword by Robbie Cowan which is an extract from a work of his based on these ‘edgelands’. The results are stunning.

I invested right at the beginning of the project (Joe ran this as a ‘Kickstarter’ style project to help raise the not inconsiderable funds required), in one of the very limited Collectors Editions, limited to just 30 copies. These came with a signed limited edition print from the project and the book itself enclosed in a beautiful linen covered hand made clam case with another inset image from the project. This inset image is unique to each clam case, so each collectors book becomes a unique item in itself. The collectors editions will never be released again. It is a beautiful thing to own. Seventy copies of the book alone are being made as a standard edition and some of these are still available (I am not sure at this time if any collectors editions are still available – if they are they will be in very short supply). You can read full details and purchase your copy HERE ON JOES WEBSITE.

I think the approach Joe has taken here, making a short run of a hand crafted photo book is a very interesting approach to self publishing. he had the pages produced commercially but hand crafted and assembled the book himself. I like the idea of the book being more of a craft object. It has a nice tactile feel and the hand made element ties in with the analogue approach of large format film photography. It provides another alternative to volume publishing for those looking to get their work before an audience, albeit a smaller one. I am drawn to the intimacy of it, to the deep involvement of the photographer, to the breadth of skills needed. I feel a greater engagement with the artist and the book becomes more of a treasure, an art object rather than being ‘just a book’ (although, never would I want to downplay just how valuable I feel books are). This becomes an object which bridges the gap between a fine wall print or painting and a volume run book. It takes a great investment of time, learning and passion from the photographer (and the team who has supported him) and this shows in the finished artefact. I am a big believer that art must have an artefact.

I have produced a brief video of my Collectors Edition to give you an idea of just how beautiful it is – please take a look.(and please forgive my very amateurish iPhone video skills).

How to Travel Light With Your Fuji Camera Gear

Fuji Gear

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Airlines seem to be making it increasingly difficult for us to travel with our camera gear these days, especially on budget flights. Most of us want to keep our precious cameras and lenses with us in our carry-on bags and yet the size permitted for those bags continues to decrease, as does the amount of weight we are allowed to pack into them.

Triplekite Books New Discovery Series

Triplekite Discovery

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Its always a good day when a photography book is delivered at home. Today, three were delivered, making it a very good day. Triplekite Publishing have been hard at work producing the first three in what is planned to be an ongoing series of books under the ‘Discovery’ series.

The stated aim of this series from Triplekite is to produce a ‘cohesive representation of landscape photography’. The plan is to release three books a year, identical in size (240 x 240mm) and page count (48), each with 25 plates which, despite being smaller than Triplekite’s other photography books, will still be made to the same exacting production standards. The plan is to release a further three or four books in the series in 2016.

Integrity & Generosity in Photography – Become a ‘Photographic Philanthropist’

Integrity

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It’s late. I want to go to bed, but I feel I have to write this blog post. It is based on something that has been niggling at me a lot of late, and then a comment was posted on my Facebook page which finally moved me to write my thoughts down.

I was nominated for one of these ‘Facebook Challenges’ this week – I don’t usually take them up, but in this instance I was asked very nicely by a photographer who I admire a great deal if I minded being nominated and since I had already been nominated by another photographer who I also greatly admire, I guessed it was time to give in. The first post went okay (the ‘challenge involves posting an image a day for five days and nominating other photographers each day to do the same).

Autumn in Snowdonia – Trip Report

Snowdonia

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I have just returned from a three day trip to North Wales where I was running a workshop in the Snowdonia National Park. Our base was the fabulous Tan-Y-Foel guest house where we were cared for perfectly by owners Chris & Maria. (If you are planning a trip to Snowdonia I can highly recommend staying at Tan-Y-Foel, the location is breathtaking from its elevated position set away from the road in above a beech forested valley with views to the mountains. The rooms, food and service could not be better and being just outside of Betws-y-Coed it is in the perfect place to explore magnificent Snowdonia – have a look at their website, which will be updated in early 2015 – http://www.tyfhotel.co.uk ) Chris and Maria kindly reserved the whole property for us so we had it to ourselves and this meant we could choose breakfast time to fit with our sunrise shoots – perfection!

Visualisation, Pre-visualisation, Preparation and Pedantics

visualisation

This post is the result of an interesting and stimulating Twitter debate this week and I felt it needed exploring in more than 140 characters.

The question was raised “do you (or should you) ‘pre-visualise’ your images of a location before you visit?” or something along those lines. This is a big question and I would just like to tackle it from a number of different perspectives.

What is DACS? and Why you should claim

dacs

There is a way for published photographers (and artists, poets and writers) to receive additional income from their work and I thought it might be useful to put a blog post together about it.

In the same way that the Performing Rights Society monitor radio stations, TV broadcasts, public events and music played in public places in order to make sure musicians are compensated when their work us played, there is a similar organisation in place for creatives whose work appears in print.

Seaworks 1998-2013 by Paul Kenny

Seaworks by Paul Kenny

I first became aware of a man, Paul Kenny, several years ago through an article in, I think, Outdoor Photography magazine. I read about a photographer who was visiting, annually, a small stone sheep pen by a beach on the west coast of Scotland. Here he camped for a week or two each year and photographed this sheep pen. The rocks, the lichen, the patterns, shapes and forms. The enclosure had been built no one really knows how many centuries or millennia previously, the rocks used were beautifully round, smooth and encrusted in lichen which grew painfully slowly over generations of mans existence, populating their own spherical worlds, forming continents and islands of life. I had never come across such devotion and application in a photographer before and he really made a deep impression on me.

Artisans – A new photo book supporting an excellent cause

artisans

I was delighted to receive my copy of a very limited edition photo book this week, ‘Artisans’ by photographer Tim Allen. This is his second book produced in support of the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society who do great work for people suffering with that condition. Tim has been putting out teasers on Twitter for some months about the book so it was great to finally get my hands on my copy.

Tims day job is as a graphic designer so not only is he able to make the images for the books but he also does all the design work himself. He contacted several ‘artisans’ in the south east of England asking if they would mind if he went to their workshops to photograph them working at their craft and it seems many were eager to get involved in the project. Indeed, the project is still ongoing, so maybe a second volume will follow. In this book we have a violin repairer, stained glass window maker, stonemason, boat-wright and a blacksmith.

The images are all in monochrome which I feel is the perfect choice for this theme. It gives the images a timeless feel and links in wit the way these craftsmen are working with tools and using techniques often centuries or more old. There is something evocative about these trades and the tools they use, the workshops they inhabit that makes them a fascinating subject for a photographic project. Tims images often get in close, focusing on the hands and the attention to detail of craftsmen. I also love the images of all the paraphernalia decorating the workshops, the odd tools with unimaginable uses, the bottles and tins of liquids and pastes all with wonderful graphics and names. The oil, wood shavings, the soft light – you can feel yourself there watching them work through the images.

This is only a slim volume of 35 pages in soft back but it makes a lovely addition to any photo book collection and the print run is small at 200, so once its gone its gone. The delight of investing in projects like this is the knowledge that not only do we get a lovely book to treasure for life but the profits will be supporting a very worthwhile cause too. When you buy a copy you have the option, if you are a UK tax payer, to ‘Gift Aid’ your contribution (just a tick box – nothing more) and for doing this the charity gets an extra 25% added on to your donation from the government, which has got to be good!

So, I know these are selling out quickly, why not drop over to the website and hit the ‘buy now’ button and treat yourself to a little something and help others in the process – you will find all the details on the website HERE. And spread the word on Twitter and Facebook – projects like this need to be supported – its so good to see people giving back and any help we can give to help them, I think we should. Thanks!

Should I sell my DSLR and buy a Fuji?

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I am being asked this question by clients so often now (twice in the last 24 hours, for example), I think it is time to put the answer in a blog, to save me writing endless emails if nothing else 🙂

So many photographers are hearing the buzz around the Fuji system (and other mirror-less systems. Many of these others are excellent, but I am a Fuji user so will use Fuji as the basis for my answer, but you can substitute the system you are considering just as well). They are seeing the amazing images these cameras produce and looking enviously at the small camera bags and lighter tripods required.

Many of us are getting to an age where kit weight becomes a bigger issue, year by year. It is a great shame if lugging kit gradually puts us off from going out with our cameras. Photography should not be about kit, but about making pictures and loving being out making them. Anything that gets in the way needs to be looked at and if possible, fixed.

The big question in the minds of DSLR users when considering switching to a mirror-less system is “will it be as good as my DSLR?”. Perhaps you are wondering, “will I lose quality?” “Will I be able to print as big?” “Are the lenses any good?” “How good is the autofocus?” and so on, and these are all very important questions. It’s important to look into the capabilities of kit before investing, but once the purchase is made it is even more important to get back to enjoying making images rather than obsessing about kit. Kit doesn’t make great pictures, we do.

So I will try and answer those questions for you based on my experience. I am not kit obsessed, I am not interested in brands (Despite me teasing Nikon users on Twitter on a regular basis) and I will tell you the facts, warts and all. I am not writing this as some Fuji evangelist to try and convince you to switch. Nor am I writing as a DSLR die hard with an obsession about megapixels who wants to put fear into your hearts. All I care about is pictures and enjoying photography. Read on and make up your own mind. (Oh, and all images in this post were made with the Fuji).

As you read, remember my comments on auto focus, battery life, frame rate etc are based on my Fuji X-Pro 1 (and some use of my wife’s XE-2, when I can prize it lout of her hands). The X Pro 1 is the ‘old man’ of the Fuji range now and all subsequent models out perform it in frame rate, auto focus, battery life etc – so I am experiencing a worst case scenario. If you opt for the XT-1, you will have a much better experience than me (and I love my X Pro 1).

How did I come to invest in the Fuji system? Well, I was doing a lot of foreign travel leading workshops for Charlie Waites company, Light & Land. On tours my main role is guiding and teaching, but when you are away for a few days you do get a chance to make some pictures of your own. I wanted a light, compact system I could fly with which produced good images, but was easier to travel with than my professional Canon system.

I am the privileged position that I can run two systems so I didn’t have to agonise about giving up my DSLR. But I realise for most photographers, a choice has to be made.

To be honest, I wasn’t really interested in the Fuji. I viewed it just as a second body, a compromise for limited use. I had no thoughts about it replacing my Canon kit. I bought a second hand X-Pro 1, with the 35mm and 18-55mm lenses. I got a nice lightweight tripod and set off on my first trip.

That trip was a revelation. From day one I loved using the Fuji, it felt great in the hand. The image quality when I got home astounded me. Bearing in mind this is a 16mp sensor and I am used to the 24mp of my full frame Canon 5D mk3, I could see little or no difference. In fact, the way the Fuji handles colour and contrast really appealed to me. In some ways the images were better than the Canons. There is something ’filmic’ about the images. I love using the camera so much I have hardly used my Canon in the last year.

I do prefer the Canon for macro photography. I have the Canon 100mm L macro lens which is breathtaking. The macro lens Fuji produce is perhaps their weakest, slow to auto focus and not a true macro as it only works at 2:1 rather than 1:1 like the Canon. Of course, as with all lenses, I could buy a Fuji/Canon adaptor and put my Canon macro on the Fuji, and this is certainly an option. I will say the Fuji macro lens us great for portraits and other types of photography.

You will also find the Fuji bodies slower to auto focus than most DSLRs. By slower, I don’t mean they take a week and a half to lock on, but they are just a little less responsive. I have the X-Pro1 and the XE-2. The XE-2 focuses faster than the X-Pro1. I understand the XT-1 focuses faster than the XE-2. Fuji are improving all the time. If you are PRIMARILY a sports or wildlife photographer then I would caution against jumping in to the Fuji system just yet. You will miss a lot of shots. If you are PRIMARILY a people, landscape, architecture or still life photographer I honestly think you have no worries at all. Many pro wedding photographers are using Fujis to shoot weddings beautifully, and they need responsive auto focus, but tracking a hunting cheetah on Safari is pushing the Fuji!

For outdoor photographers it needs to be born in mind that it’s only the XT1 that is weather sealed. Fuji have also just started releasing a range of weather sealed lenses. So if you plan to shoot in wet weather, go for the XT1 and weather sealed lenses.

You are NOT buying a DSLR and it won’t perform like one. The focus is a little slower. The frame rate might be slower. But how often, in reality, do you need to fire 9 frames a second and for all of them to be tac sharp. REALLY? But how often does having a big heavy bag on your back take the joy away from photography or make you quit earlier in the day than you would like?

You will hate the battery life on the Fuji. I carry five, yes five, spare batteries for a days shooting to make sure I have power. Having said that, batteries are only £9 currently from Amazon, so carrying several isn’t prohibitive. The battery warning light gives almost no warning it’s about to fail either. It’s a long way from DSLR battery performance. You will also find the cameras boot up time is slower than a DSLR (at least my xPros is). With each new model it is getting faster, but I have missed shots by having the camera off to preserve battery power, seeing something but by the time it is ready to fire the moment has passed. It takes a second or two to boot up. It doesn’t sound a lot but to a street photographer it’s an eternity.

On the XPro I also hate it that I have to remove my tripod quick release plate every time I need to change the battery. That’s bad design. But Fuji are addressing it on later models.

I was worried I wouldn’t like the electronic viewfinder (EVF), but these fears were unfounded. I love it. It is fast, responsive and well designed. It has got better model by model, so don’t worry that this will be an issue for you.

What is the high ISO performance like? I regularly use mine, handheld, at night, wide open at ISO 1600 and 3200. At 1600 and above noise is noticeable but, depending on your point of view, perhaps attractive. It is easily reduced in software. At 3200 it is very evident. At ISO 800 and below the camera produces clean files you will love. I often want the graininess of “noise” so for me it is not usually an issue.

How do I rate the lenses? Here Fuji have excelled. They have committed to a wide range (a lesson Sony could learn from for the amazing A7). I find the lenses as good as the Canon professional ’L’ lenses, and that is saying something. I now have the 18, 23, 35, 60, 18-55 & 55-200mm and love them all (just with the provisos about the limitations of the macro lens I mentioned earlier). I lust after the 56mm and will probably add the 14mm also. Most of the time the 23 and 35mm live on the camera and I often go out with just on or the other and force myself to work with it.

What about the big question of resolution and whether you can print big from the files? I have printed to A3+ with no issues and have customers printing much larger from the files (and by much larger, I mean several feet wide – sometimes the files are upscaled – yes, sharp intake of breath, that actually works really well). This comes down to a basic understanding of how big images are to be viewed. Enlarging beyond the native resolution of the sensor means detail is affected… But this is only noticeable if you stick your nose 2cm from the paper. Big prints are big because they should be viewed from several feet away. When you step back and enjoy them as designed there are no issues. If you are expecting the resolution of an A4 print to be maintained at A2 then forget it, but unless you have a medium format sensor or similar the same applies to DSLRS. If you are obsessed with micro sharpness and pixels, if you spend your life looking at images with your nose pressed against the paper and only print at A2 and above then the Fuji might not be for you. But if you really enjoy photographs and view at the correct distance for the size of print and generally print up to A3’ish, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. If you then need to occasionally print biggest, yes, the files will go bigger. Just don’t expect them to look like Phase IQ180 files at 3 meters wide. This is a pet gripe of mine, enjoy pictures, not pixels. (Please watch this video by Zack Arais on resolution and sensor size too – he puts things into perspective, and it’s funny).

I found I have to have a completely different workflow in the field when using the Fuji. I tried using it as I do my Canon system and found it frustrating, so I have developed a Fuji workflow. Whereas with the Canon I work in manual focus and manual exposure, on the Fuji I use auto focus and aperture priority. I also shoot in JPEG plus raw on the Fuji, whereas on the Canon I use raw only. This is because and (I never thought I would say this), I love the Jpegs the Fuji produces. I use them for Facebook, Twitter and quick work. For my master files I then process the raw files.

There are still issues processing the files in Lightroom. Some images (and it is only some) display a mushiness in the fine detail. There is a workaround you can read about HERE. I am sure Adobe are working on the situation and will soon remedy it. They have already added the Fuji film presets to LR so these can be applied to raw files if you wish.

I enjoy using a smaller tripod. I love having a tiny camera bag. I love the Lee filter kit designed for mirror-less systems. I love how inconspicuous the Fuji is, attracting less attention on the streets and in buildings. I love it’s retro look. I love the quality of the files it produces (the closest to film in I have found from a digital camera). I love how it will shoot square format for me. I love the film simulation modes, especially the mono ones. I love the ease of packing for flights. I love being able to work for longer without feeling tired. Yes, I am a convert. The Fuji is now my camera of choice for just about all of my photography, except macro and multiple exposures.

A point I would like to mention which really sets Fuji apart from just about all of the other manufacturers, notably so, is the way they listen to customer feedback. All modern companies say they value our feedback, but so often disappoint us by not doing anything about what we say, or falling short in meeting what we ask for. However, I am constantly surprised and delighted by Fuji who REALLY DO listen and react to customer comments. Often within weeks customer suggestions are implemented in firmware upgrades and in new models we see the majority of customer requests implemented. I strongly believe this is a major reason why Fuji has built such a loyal following so quickly. They are making cameras we want, the way we want and improving them all the time in response to the ways we use them. They are a fabulous company to buy into. It gives me great confidence to invest my money into their gear.

So, should you sell your DSLR and jump on the Fuji bandwagon? It’s up to you. Ask yourself, what is most important to you? Remember, currently, in some areas, they don’t perform like DSLRS, but be honest, do you really push your DSLR hard? I honestly think that for the majority of camera users a mirror-less system is ideal and will exceed your expectations. They are not for everyone, wildlife, sports and perhaps people who do a lot of astro photography should stick to a DSLR. For most others, switching needs to be seriously considered as an option. I’m fortunate I can run two systems (I run several, actually, if I include my old film Hasselblad, my pinhole etc) so don’t have to choose. I have the best of both worlds. But as soon as Fuji bring out a model which is just a little better, I can see me selling my Canon system. At the moment it is only macros and multiple exposures that are keeping me with it.

Whatever you decide I hope that, once the choice is made, you get back to enjoying making images rather than obsessing about the kit!

I would be very interested in your thoughts on this. Please leave a comment with your experiences or questions, below.

My first experiences with Fotospeed papers & lessons learned about soft proofing

soft proofing

"After Hours"

I have long used Ilford Gallerie Gold Fibre Silk as my paper of choice for my monochrome prints and Hahnemuhle 308 Photorag for most of my colour prints. I was happy with the Ilford, but the Hahnemuhle was causing me issues. Despite being a beautiful paper, with a lovely texture, it frequently got jammed in my Epson R2880 printer or picked up roller pinch marks. I also found, despite being air blown before printing, that it would shed fibres after printing, leaving white areas on the image. It is an expensive paper and these frustrations got the better of me.

Working for Light & Land with Charlie Waite and his team of photographers I saw how they used Fotospeed papers. I went to see Charlie’s exhibition, currently on at the National Theatre in London (If you haven’t been, go, it’s wonderful – allow an hour to enjoy it) and he had printed it all on Fotospeed Platinum Etching 285. I was stunned by the prints, being sure the paper choice had enhanced Charlie’s sublime photographs. I was also aware of Joe Cornish high regard for the Smooth Cotton White 300, printing his work on this paper. This encouraged me to investigate their products further.

My first purchase was Platinum Etching 285. From the first image I printed I was hooked. It ran smoothly in the printer without shedding fibres and the colours and tones were a near perfect match to what I was seeing on my screen. The soft Matt texture was ideal for the style of the image.

The above image "After Hours", printed on Fotospeed Platinum Etching 285

My next print job with Fotospeed papers was more important. Not only was it for a client, rather than a print for myself, but also the images were Chris Friels, rather than my own. I always feel a greater sense of responsibility printing the work of another photographer, trying to realise their vision for the image.

If you are familiar with Chris’s work you will know he uses extreme dark tones and some intense colours. This makes them challenging to print. This job proved to be true to form. The first image I tried was in grey tones with a very slight magenta/lilac tone. This I felt was the easiest of the three, to get me started.

I always print from Lightroom, loving the controls there. I had no worries over the colours so didn’t soft proof the image and went straight to print. It came out bright magenta. And I mean BRIGHT! My immediate thought was a cartridge had run out, throwing off the colour balance. I replaced three cartridges showing low levels and hit print again. Same result!

mmm... Magenta!

Now I was perplexed. I soft proofed the image but apart from an issue with some deep blacks it wasn’t showing any issues. Then I realised I hadn’t downloaded the ICC profile for the Platinum Etching paper from Fotospeed, I had it set to Hahnemuhle 308 PhotoRag. (I’m ashamed to say) That must be it! I remedied that, hit print again. Same problem. Now I was worried. What was going on.

iPhone shot of my computer screen to show what the image SHOULD have looked like!

I decided to follow Fotospeeds printing instructions (Typical man, only refer to the manual as a last resort). Their instructions apply to Photoshop so I decided to give it a try and did to the letter what they recommend. This got to the root of the problem. It reminded me of a bug I read about somewhere. I had 16 bit output checked in my original prints as I am usually printing from tiffs. However this particular image of Chris’s was shot as an 8 bit JPEG. The Fotospeed instructions showed the 16 bit option turned off, this reminded me of the issue so I deselected it. The print was perfect. Lesson learned.

The three stages - On the right the magenta madness, in the centre an improved print but still a magenta cast. On the left the final print (wrapped for dispatch in archive sleeve - but you can see the colours are matching the original image).

I was on a roll now and moved to the second image. This image was made up of extreme colours so I soft proofed in Photoshop. This showed that almost nothing in the image was printable!!! I tried my usual soft proofing techniques to pull the colours into gamut but they were so far out it ruined the image. The colours differed too much from the original and went very flat, losing vibrancy. Not an option. So I tried changing the rendering intent from Perceptive to Relative (see this post for more details on rendering intents) but this didn’t help either.

Hard to see from this iPhone shot but the left image is printed on Platinum Etching 285, a matt paper (with a beautiful texture but narrower gamut capabilities), the print on the right which is on Platinum Baryta was able to cope with the bright, rich reds in the original file. The Etching muted these to a duller more burnt orange with less vibrancy. Showing that paper choice can affect the appearance of the final print colours & contrast.

My next option solved the problem. I switched the paper (And the ICC profile) from Platinum Etching 285, which is a matt paper, to Fotospeeds Platinum Baryta. Why did I do this? Because matt paper is only able to display a very limited range of colours (a gamut of colours) than lustre papers. Gloss papers can display an even wider colour gamut. So if ever you have issues getting the colours right on matt paper, try moving to a lustre or gloss paper (remembering to switch ICC profiles in your print software). Often this will fix the issue. Fotospeeds Baryta paper had a gamut wide enough that I didn’t have to make any colour adjustments in soft proofing. The image printed beautifully.

Then on to the third and final image, another with extreme colours. This time, using the Baryta paper I soft proofed with no issues and it printed first time.

This whole process taught me several lessons. Firstly, I need to always check I have the correct ICC profile loaded for the paper I am using. Secondly, to use soft proofing to check the paper can handle the colour gamut. If the gamut is an issue, to make changes in software or to move to a different paper with the ability to display a wider gamut of colours.

The big lesson for me, though, was how much easier it was to work on the image to get it right for printing in Photoshop. I hate to say this. I have always loved printing from Lightroom and it does print beautifully. I also like how easy it is in Lightroom to set up page layout templates.

However, I found Photoshop is much better at making colour tweaks to an image to pull colours into gamut without spoiling the whole image. You can be very targeted in the colour ranges you work with, whereas Lightroom doesn’t allow you to be as precise. I Also preferred the way Photoshop displays the image with the papers ICC profile applied to simulate the print. The other thing I liked was sizing the print in Photoshop. So I have moved from being a die hard lover of Lightroom for printing to someone who will use Photoshop for tricky prints in future. I guess it is all about personal preferences and also using the right tool for the job. I definitely think that for difficult prints, Photoshop is the tool to use.

Printed on Platinum Etching 285 - Beautiful subtle tones

(One nice feature I will miss from Lightroom if I soft proof in Photoshop is something the soft proof virtual copy does for us. When we soft proof in Lightroom it offers to create a virtual copy if the file with the soft proofing adjustments, so that our master file remains unchanged. A great thing about this virtual copy is that it embeds the ICC paper profile into itself for the paper we are proofing for. Then when you print it automatically communicates this profile to the printer along with the rendering intent you proofed for. This is clever stuff and a benefit of soft proofing in Lightroom)

A lesson I have learned, which explains a lot, since doing this print job concerns the visible gamut warning in Photoshop and Lightroom. I have always used this thinking it was an accurate warning of colours which the printer would be unable to reproduce on my chosen paper. However, I must admit, I have often found (and told my students) it often is best to go ahead and print even if the gamut warning is indicating an issue with some colours as the resulting print is often fine. I put this down to the rendering intent doing a good job at replacing those out of gamut colours with close replacements. However, further reading has revealed that the gamut warning system used by Adobe is rather old and predates ICC colour management. It was designed for a graphic arts based workflow rather than photography and modern fine art printers actually will have no issues rendering those colours. What is actually of more importance now is the contrast ratio of monitors compared to papers. Many monitors are set to a contrast ratio of 500:1 or similar whereas gloss paper is closer to 200:1 with matt and lustre papers running even lower than that. Soft proofing should focus on correcting contrast issues and tweaking colours to bring them back to a correct state in soft proofing with the gamut warning turned off in most cases. I am going to try this and see how I get on.

I have now switched my studio over to using the Fotospeed range of papers exclusively because I have been so impressed with them. I will blog about each type I use as I put them through their paces and I am pleased to be working closely with the guys at Fotospeed too. They are a long established company and really know their stuff.

Another printed on Fotospeed Platinum Etching 285 (and its an ICM image so its supposed to look like that 🙂

Soft proofing is a big subject and will make a huge difference to the quality of your prints. It’s one of the things I cover in my Lightroom and Photoshop workshops and will be dealing with on my print workshops with Master Printer, Jack Lowe. The next Jack Lowe workshop is fully booked but if you would like to go on the no-obligation short list to hear of future dates, please just click THIS LINK TO EMAIL ME.

I am pleased to say that from now on in my Lightroom and Photoshop workshops (which I hold in my home studio) you will go home with a free print on one of Fotospeeds beautiful papers (perhaps one of mine, or one of your own) along with the knowledge of how to make beautiful prints of your own work too.

You will find available workshop dates ON THIS PAGE or, please CLICK THIS LINK and drop me an email if you would like more details or would like to book a one to one session with me.

You can find full details about and buy Fotospeed papers HERE – I recommend you give them a try.