For the last five and a half years I have been running all night photography workshops in London with my good friend, London Black Cab driver and fellow Light and Land leader Terry Gibbins. These led to me developing a winter version based around monochrome night photography and Victorian London with amazing photographer, workshop leader and another good friend of mine Charlotte Gilliatt. On this workshop we also teamed up with Terry and another cabbie, Bobby Pinto to provide the bespoke luxury transportation around the Capital city at night.
Both of these night workshops have proved to be incredibly popular right from the beginning, so much so that they have been filling from an email shortlist and have not made it on to my website. Currently over 150 people are waiting to go on the workshops, which is a testament to Charlotte, Terry & Bobby and the wonderful locations we cover through the nights. As far as I know, no one else offers an all night workshop in London with bespoke London cab transport from pick up at the station to dropping off in the morning, with a ratio of just four clients to one teacher. Many of those who came on the workshops have won awards and competitions with images that they have taken on the workshops, as well as having them published in magazines and exhibited.
However, five and a half years is a long time. I have done, I think, around a hundred workshops and so, for me, it is time to call it a day and move on to new challenges. But I am delighted the concept is going to continue in the safe hands of Charlotte and Terry. They are also planning new locations too, which is exciting for those of you who have done the workshops before and would like to do them again but fancy something different.
I am going to hand over to Charlotte my email list of all those who are waiting for a place on the workshops so she can keep you up to date with places as they become available (but if you no longer want to hear of dates you can always unsubscribe from her mailing list at any time). I want to thank all of you who have been with me on these workshops. I have really enjoyed my nights with you in the city and the adventures we have had. I know some of you have enjoyed them so much you have been with us three times. I hope you get to go again with the new team to new locations.
I am still going to be running my own workshops, it is just the night workshops that I am pulling out of. I will keep you up to date with all my new plans through Twitter, Facebook, my newsletter (if you subscribe) and here on my blog. If you would like to sign up for the shortlist to hear of new dates for the night workshops, which Charlotte and Terry will be starting again in April and running right through the summer, as well as new dates for the winter ‘Gaslights and Alleyways’ workshops, please go to THIS PAGE on Charlottes website.
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
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).
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!
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.
From the first time I heard that Iains series, The Pool, was to be published by Triplekite, I was excited. I have followed Iains work for a few years now and The Pool series has become a favorite of mine.
I first came across the work on Iains website a year or two ago and was instantly entranced by its delicate beauty and simplicity. Iain is a full time professional photographer working out of Strathpeffer in Scotland. His work is often characterised by its keen observational quality. Iain is a man who walks around with his eyes wide open and seems to see things where many do not.
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.
I recently had the chance to take the Fuji X-Pro 1 with me on a workshop I was co-leading up above the arctic circle in the far north of Norway. I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to see how the camera performed in extreme conditions. I also had with me a newly delivered 23mm f1.4 Fuji lens to try out too. The images in this article were all made on the trip and all but the aurora shot are jpegs straight or virtually straight from the camera. If you followed my trip reports from the expedition you will have seen most of these images before (sorry!), but the aurora image with the 23mm lens is new, as are one or two of the others.
The idea of testing the lens here was to see how it performed shooting the “Northern Lights”, the Aurora Borealis, if we had a chance to see it. In theory the fast f1.4 aperture would make it ideal but I was also interested to test the sharpness of the lens and also to get a feel for its width, which although 23mm works out at about 35mm as a full-frame DSLR equivalent.
My main concern before setting off with the camera was battery performance in the extreme cold. I have found with the X-Pro 1, as many others have, that battery life is much poorer than I am used to with my DSLR. Of course, the battery is physically much smaller and the camera is fitted with a great electronic viewfinder (EVF) which must use quite a bit of power, so there are reasons behind this.
My frustrations with battery life are compounded by the fact of how difficult it is to change batteries quickly. I have the extended grip fitted to the camera which I find helps me with handling the camera and this has to be removed for every battery change. But, when shooting landscapes I also have to fit a quick release plate for my tripod and this requires a screwdriver (or coin) to remove it and this is also required to change the battery. The way I work I can easily go through four or more batteries in a days shooting and so this stripping down of the camera every time gets very tiresome. You can imagine how much I was looking forward to the drop off in battery performance in the minus 10 to minus 20 degree temperatures we were expecting.
So, how did the batteries perform? Surprisingly, quite well. In fact, I can’t say I noticed a deterioration over what I am used to. True, when shooting in such cold you tend not to shoot for extended periods, however the camera is cold, even in the bag. But I didn’t have to do more battery changes than normal. For that I was thankful.
How did the camera perform? There were a couple of issues. Bear in mind that at times I was using it at minus 20 degrees and often at well below freezing. The first issue I discovered almost straight away was the Fn button on the top of the camera which is programmable to whatever function you choose (I have it set to allow me to quickly change ISO) became “sticky”. To be honest, as it happened straight away I thought at first I had perhaps damaged the camera during the flight as the body had been in my pocket (with no lens attached). However, when the camera warmed up again later in the hotel the button returned to normal action. The next day, back in the cold, the stickiness returned. I found kit still worked but I had to press it carefully and be patient with it.
This button issue later extended to the AF button on the rear of the camera which allows you to select focus points for the auto focus system. In this case it went beyond sticky and refused to work, but again returned to life on warming up in the hotel.
Apart from these two issues the camera performed flawlessly in the extreme conditions we worked in and produced some images I am very happy with.
What I would say, however, is, that I found myself (contrary to what I have been doing here in the UK since buying the Fuji) reaching for my Canon 5D mk3 first. The Fuji has been my camera of choice since I bought it second hand a couple of months ago and I absolutely love it. But after a couple of days I realised I was favouring the Canon unconsciously over it, whereas since buying the Fuji I had not used the Canon at all except for a commissioned shoot which required it. I analysed why this was and realised that the Canon was much easier to use in the cold. I was wearing a pair of thin Merino wool inner gloves and with the Canon I could keep these on and operate the camera easily. However, the Fuji buttons required I take the gloves off due to the size and positioning of the buttons.
I also found the physical size of the Canon easier with gloves. So it was nothing to do with image quality, but rather the practicalities of usability in the arctic weather. I was also conscious of the button stickiness. The Canon had zero issues. It is a testament to the build quality that it shrugged off minus 20 easily. To give you an idea of what these temperatures are like to work in, my camera bag (and I) were getting frosted up at minus 20. Oh, and I didn’t change a battery in the Canon for the whole trip.
So, conclusions on the bodies. If I go to the arctic again the Fuji will stay at home (although it grieves me to say it). It is not ideal for these conditions. If it was my only camera it can handle it, but it is starting to show stress. I would, next time, take the 5Dmk 3 and and mk2 body as my spare body. However, on trips to warmer locations abroad, the Canon will be staying at home and My Fuji will be my travel camera and if my wife, Liz, will let me, her XE-2 body will be my spare body).
Now, thoughts on that 23mm lens. If you have used the 35mm lens you will know how wonderful it is. So you might be wondering if the 23mm is as good? Is it worth adding to your lens stable? Well, my in my opinion, you should. I have only used it a little but I am already blown away by it. It is as sharp, if not sharper. Wide open it is extraordinary. The bokeh is soft and dreamy. On the body of the X-Pro 1 the camera is nicely balanced in the hand (I use the body with the added grip). I am on the train going to London as I type this and I have the lens with me. If time allows I am going to put it through its paces on some street photography – a genre it is made for. I’ll post some images if they are up to scratch.
I used it for some aurora images in Norway. For shooting the aurora you have the lens wide open and focused on infinity. I could have done with a wider lens, in reality, to get more of the landscape in the shot. We were in a forest miles from any light pollution and this means total darkness so composing the image is very tricky. More width gives you latitude to crop away the edges if they are a bit messy. But it is not the fault of the lens that it wasn’t wide enough for what I wanted. The wide aperture gave me great speed, so at ISO1600 I was able to make these images at 10 to 20 seconds which is ideal for aurora images of this type. Had we had a more extreme display I think my shutter speed would have been down to a couple of seconds which would have captured the ‘curtain’ effect had we seen it. Even wide open, with the difficulty of focusing on infinity in absolute darkness I was able to get sharp images with surprising depth of field. The X-Pro 1 performs really well at high ISO’s. I pushed some images to ISO3200 and these do show some noise, but nothing that my Nik noise reduction plugin can’t reduce for me.
So, there we have it. A brief run down on the Fuji X-Pro 1 in the Arctic. It survived, but had a couple of issues. Its not ideal for these extreme conditions, but it held its own and I am delighted with the images it gave me. (all the images here were shot on it). As I am blessed with being able to have two camera systems, the Fuji and the Canon, I have the luxury of choice so if ever I get the chance to return it will be without the Fuji. But if I was a sole Fuji user, I would happily take it knowing I would come home with a great set of images.
Last night Tony and I took it in shifts to keep a watch on the skies and the aurora reports but sadly the auroral activity was extremely low and there was nothing to be seen here despite broken cloud. At least the group had a long nights unbroken sleep to get over jet lag.
We headed out after breakfast into great soft pink light (the image above was one I managed to grab from one of the mornings locations). The temperatures here were below freezing all day and are currently around minus 10 a few miles inland. Here on the coast they are a little higher at around minus 2 to 4 but the wind is rising so it feels much colder. No snow has fallen after yesterdays blizzards.
The group were getting used to working in such cold conditions. You soon learn not to let snow get onto your gear. For example, I dropped a body cap into the snow. It would have been crazy to put this on to the body of my camera. The snow melts in the bag then when the camera gets cold the snow then re-freezes causing damage or sticking the cap into place. One member of the group had her tripod head accidentally dropped in the snow. This quickly froze the ball head, which we had to defrost on location.
Keeping yourself warm is key too. As hands get cold it quickly becomes impossible to operate the camera, so, even though it slows down picture making, it is important to wear gloves (only removing them when necessary and putting them back on again as quickly as possible). Hats, gloves and warm coats are all very necessary. Decent boots here are very important. Not only do they need good grip for walking on compacted snow and ice but they also need to have good thermal barriers in the soles to help keep the feet warm when standing by the tripod for long periods. I am wearing North Face Chilkats and they are performing perfectly.
At these temperatures the cameras are working well. Batteries do drain more quickly but it is not so cold that this is becoming a real issue at this stage. It is also not so cold yet that we have to put our cameras in poly bags when returning them to the vans to stop condensation forming and refreezing. This becomes an issue when the temperature gets lower – closer to minus 20. Then it is vital to bag and seal the camera body and lenses in sealed poly bags when moving from outside into the van or a building. This helps stop condensation forming. The condensation is not too much of a problem until you take the gear back into the cold when it instantly re-freezes. This kills cameras and when on the front of lens elements will need to be scrapped off, much like scrapping ice off of a car windscreen. Not something you want to be doing with your beloved pro-lenses.
For those interested in how the Fuji X-Pro 1 is performing I have a few things to mention. It is interesting. I am finding the Canon 5D mk3 easier to use with gloves on and some of the scenes are so stunning I am feeling the need to use the bigger sensor. I have noticed the ‘function’ button gets a bit sticky in the cold when it drops very low (I have the button programmed to quickly change the ISO). I haven’t been using it for long periods so I can’t say battery performance has seen a noticeable drop in performance. The image quality continues to be superb.
As we haven’t seen the aurora yet, I can report on how it performs being pushed to capture that!
We covered three locations today. The first was an inland fjord (you can see an image from here at the top of this post). Ice was forming at the edge of the fjord and the pink light in the sky was beautifully subtle. From here we moved to a small frozen lake with a range of jagged mountains behind. The group worked on capturing the snow, ice, small silver birch tree with some stunning Alpen glow on the mountains behind. Our final location was another fjord, with a great jetty to use as foreground with rugged mountains and delicious silvery blue light. Great for a lengthened exposure just to flatten the water a little. My image is shown below. Once we had finished here (which included shooting a lovely fisherman’s hut full of textures and detail) we dived into a coffee shop for some well earned Lattes and chocolate brownies (well, its not all work on these trips, you know!).
Back at the hotel we are now resting in our rooms prior to our evening meal. On an aurora trip its important to use the afternoon darkness to sleep in case we spend the night out shooting the skies. Over the meal we will consult the space weather, cloud cover, and auroral activity reports to see if everything might come together in our favour. Who knows what the night holds. (23:30 update – sadly the cloud has rolled in and although the charts show a little auroral activity it is impossible to see it. Even with no activity we had planned to go out and shoot star trails but with heavy clouds, a rising and biting wind with heavy wind chill this was just pointless, so it is back to bed. There is always tomorrow).
I was very privileged to be asked by Stephen Trainor earlier this year to be one of the beta testers of a new app he has designed to complement the hugely successful and absolutely essential photographers app, The Photograpers Ephemeris (TPE).
TPE has been around for a while now and is available as a desktop program or as an iOS or Android app. For most landscape and outdoor photographers it has become an essential part of their location planning kit. I couldn’t imagine doing my job without it. I also can’t imagine the brains and ability that has gone into designing such a complex and useful program.
Not content with TPE, though, Stephen has forged ahead and designed a new app for us photographers called, officially, “The Photographers Transit” but it is shortened to “Photo-Transit”. This is an app which again uses Google Maps as it’s foundation. The app then adds the ability to place yourself at any point on Earth and face in any direction. You can then select any lens for your camera (and it takes into account you sensor/film size) and it shows you what field of view you will achieve at any given focal length. This means, no more worrying if you have packed the right lenses for a long hike or a flight where bag weight is critical. It also means you can plan key shots in advance based on your kit. You will know if your lenses have the width or reach you need for the shot you envisage. Or, before arriving at a location you will know exactly where to be to make best, use of your lenses to get the optimum image. This is location planning in real detail.
There is also the ability to look at elevation data in the app to give an idea of how the land rises and falls. This helps with understanding how shadows will appear, when the sun will break the actual horizon and so on. You can also flip from the app over into TPE to work with both apps together which is very useful. The app can be used offline with available data and to help visualise potential images close to roads you can combine the app with Google Streetview. Added to this is the unique ability to save location information as you plan it, or to take images at a location and tie the image together with the map/lens/body/field of view information and save it for future reference. There is also a linked website sharing facility so you can share this data with your friends, camera club members and so on, including sharing via message, email, Facebook, Twitter etc.
I was pleased to be able to grab some time with Stephen in his frenetic schedule to interview him about Photo-Transit and here is what he had to say.
DC: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed Stephen. Can I ask first about your background and how did you come to design and program TPE?
SJT: Thanks for the opportunity, Doug. Maybe somewhere in my background is the semblance of a career plan, but if there is one, I haven’t found it yet! Over the years I’ve worked in classical music and opera, advertising, theatre engineering, telecoms and consulting, doing a variety of things along the way, including software engineering. I moved to Colorado from the UK in 2007 and started doing more landscape photography. Around a year later I signed up for a weekend workshop in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park . The workshop offered a ton of great advice and information on how to plan a shoot for the best light. Participants were asked to bring a number of items to the workshop, including paper topographic maps, rulers, protractors, calculators, pencils etc. It occurred to me that things in the digital world were by then at the point where all of this could be done in software. When I discovered that no such tool apparently existed already, TPE was born.
DC: Were you surprised at how popular TPE has become? Do you have any idea how many users there are now?
SJT: Very pleasantly surprised, yes! Across the various platforms we now have tens of thousands of monthly active users. The desktop version is downloaded around 75,000 times a year.
DC: Has anyone used TPE in ways you didn’t anticipate?
SJT: We’ve had some uses by archeologists looking for historical sun/moon positioning. Also, I’ve read about it being used by hunters, in the US mainly. Oh yes – and the trainspotters too!
DC: Is developing TPE and other photography apps your full time work, or do you have a ‘day job’?
SJT: I spend around half my time developing apps and the other half I do technology consulting, mostly in the area of digital media and online video.
DC: Are you a keen photographer yourself? If so, what style of photography do you like? Do you have a personal website where we can see your images?
SJT: I am. I like to shoot landscape primarily. I prefer a simple, clean style without too much post-processing. Photos that are “overdone” are all too common nowadays. At the same time, I’ve never much cared for the well-worn line of “my photography is an unaltered reproduction of what my eyes saw that day” and its variants. No matter how little processing is done, that’s clearly untrue, as cameras and photographic media, whether digital or film, just don’t work the same way as the eye. I’m definitely a fan of simpler compositions, although that’s something I continue to struggle to achieve in my own photography! I have a (slightly neglected) website at http://stephentrainor.com
DC: What are some of the technical issues in developing a program like TPE?
SJT: The initial challenge is implementing the various algorithms required to calculate accurate sun and moon data. Nowadays there are a few implementations out there, but the accuracy and sophistication does vary. Not all algorithms account well for factors such as atmospheric refraction, for example. (I certainly can’t take any credit for the algorithms themselves – in that regard, I’m standing on the shoulders of mathematical and astronomical giants!) Maintenance of the software becomes a bigger issue over time as the code ages and grows. I’m currently in the middle of a major modernisation of the TPE for iOS code base, much of which dates from 2009-2010 – the middle ages, in terms of iOS software. Once that’s done, the Desktop version will need to be reimplemented as a web app – all required to keep up with the technology of the day.
DC: What then gave you the idea to develop this new program, The Photographers Transit? (TPT)
The concept of displaying the field of view on a map was a suggestion made independently by a few different TPE users. I liked the idea very much and wanted to think about how to incorporate it into the app. However, after thinking it through, I decided to develop it as a separate app for the primary reason that there would be a lot more inputs required of the user to make it work: which camera? which lens? what orientation? where are you pointing it? etc. One of the keys to simplicity of use in an app is minimising the amount of input you require of the user. I think – and many would agree – that TPE is quite complex enough already without piling on yet more functionality.
DC: What is TPT designed to do for the photographer?
SJT: I think of Photo Transit as a general purpose digital planning tool for outdoor photographers. It provides a mix of digital “surveying” tools that you won’t find elsewhere, so far as I know: a horizontal field of view indicator overlaid on a map and a vertical field of view chart plus elevation profiler that shows what terrain is visible. In addition, we spent quite a lot of time on shot saving and sharing. You can create projects that contain multiple shots and share these easily with friends, colleagues, workshop participants etc. from the app. We were keen to make sure that any information you put into the app is easy to get out of it, so there’s the ability to email shots/projects, view them on a freely available web-site (http://share.phototransit.com) and to export as KML. You don’t need to own PhotoTransit to be able to view shots that have been planned using it. (BTW, ‘we’ is my wife, Alice, who does all of our graphic design, and I…)
DC: How do you see photographers putting TPT to use in their work?
SJT: It’s an advance planning tool, first and foremost: you can use it to build up a list of shots that you’d like to capture on forthcoming trips or shoots, having explored the compositional constraints of the location, your camera and lens ahead of time. Beyond that, I’d like to see photographers using it to share ideas for shots with one another. It provides an easy and complete way to share the physical setup for any stills image. I think it also has an educative role. Many people find numerical values such as field of view or focal length easier to understand when they can be visualized and, like TPE, Photo Transit is a visualization tool.
DC: How does TPT work with TPE?
SJT: Currently, you can open TPE directly from Photo Transit and match the same subject location. The next update to TPE will add the ability to open Photo Transit directly from TPE to go in the reverse direction. We have some further bells and whistles in the works too that will improve the interaction between the apps even more.
DC: What hurdles did you have to overcome to get TPT working?
SJT: Not too many – fewer than for TPE, I’d say. The data model in Photo Transit is definitely more complex (projects, shots, locations, cameras, sensors, lenses), so that took more work. However, many of the harder lessons were already learned with TPE. The Apple maps saga of 2012 cost many hours, but the lessons learned made the mapping choices and implementation for Photo Transit much more straightforward.
DC: Can you give us any clues as to your next project? or is it a secret? or are you still so tired after working to get TPT out that you haven’t had time to think about it yet?
SJT: We have another app in the works that we’re dusting off – it was shelved at the start of the aforementioned maps saga last year. It’s not directly photography related, but more than that I can’t say quite yet. We also have multiple TPE and Photo Transit updates and improvements planned.
DC: Final question, can you recommend websites of any photographers whose work you love? Who are some of your photographic heroes?
SJT: Some names that spring immediately to mind: Bruce Percy (http://brucepercy.com): I think Bruce’s photography was the first that really conveyed to me a sense of personal style. He does a great job of distilling, culling and crafting to achieve a portfolio that has an amazingly consistent ‘voice’. Jack Brauer (http://www.mountainphotography.com): Jack has an incredible collection of beautifully produced photography covering mountains all over the world. He produces wonderful photographs of places that I don’t ever expect I’ll have the strength or fortitude to reach! Guy Tal (http://guytal.com): Guy’s work from around the desert southwest of the USA is probably the most original and distinctive being produced today. He has a great eye for compositional simplicity.
You can visit the Photo Transit website HERE and you can follow on Twitter @photoTransit
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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?
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
I have taken the plunge and bought a second hand Fuji X Pro 1. Why? A number of reasons. I needed a smaller camera system for some trips that could produce high quality commercial images but without the weight and bulk of my DSLR system. I had also had a chance to use the X Pro and it’s sibling the X100sa nd both had blown me away both in terms of usability and in the ‘filmic’ quality of the images the sensor and lenses produce. I also hold my hands up and unashamedly admit to being seduced by the beautiful retro styling and the superb build quality of the Fuji’s. I have some workshop ideas for the camera too, so there were commercial considerations in my mind also.
As I bought second hand I didn’t have a choice of lenses. The kit I bought came with the 35mm f1.4 prime (which I would have chosen even if I was buying new) and the 18-55mm zoom lens which I probably wouldn’t have gone for, rather erring towards a set of primes. However, the zoom is by no means a ‘kit lens’, this is a full on, high quality piece of glass which is solidly made and performs incredibly well. So I may well hold on to it. Only time will tell.
I have had the camera just three days and today was the first real outing for it. So my comments here are based purely on this first days shooting and my feelings may modify with time. I am writing this on the train home so I have only seen the images on the back of the camera, and we all know how deceptive camera monitors can be! I will review the images when I get home to add some to this post and may have to add some paragraphs once I have seen the images full size.
But that aside, what are my initial thoughts on the X Pro?
Let’s look at the camera from a number of angles. Remember, I have been doing fast moving hand held street photography with it today, so my comments are based on this. I will blog about how it performs as a landscape camera once I have used it for that purpose.
So, firstly, what is it like ‘in the hand’? It is not a compact camera. With one of the Fuji lenses attached it has some weight but is quite usable one handed. I have the extended grip fitted (this is not a battery grip but it just makes the grip for the right hand bigger and more comfortable, especially if you have big hands – it costs about £75 as an extra). I also have fitted a leather wrist strap which I am delighted with. I can let go of the camera if necessary knowing it is secure on my wrist. I much prefer this to a neck strap.
I also fitted a ‘thumbs up’ which is a small £5.99 accessory which slides into the hot shoe and provides an anchor for your thumb. It is designed to aid stability when shooting one handed (as street photographers often do). I have found these very useful on other cameras but today, on the larger X Pro, I found the distance from the right hand edge of the camera to the Thumbs Up was too large. I just didn’t find my thumb naturally sat in the groove and so I can see me removing it as unnecessary for me.(an overnight afterthought – I may try removing the hand grip and seeing if I prefer using the camera with the Thumbs Up and without the grip as removing the grip moves your thumb closer to the Thumbs Up. It also reduces the bulk of the camera somewhat.)
I did find my thumb kept activating the Quick Menu button inadvertently as it is placed right where the heel of my hand and my thumb naturally rest on the camera. This is not a major issue, but as I lifted the camera to my eye I had to press the shutter button half way to clear them I to see my shot which slowed me down a bit – a disadvantage when street shooting, without a doubt.
All of the controls are beautifully placed and you soon find you can adjust just about all the settings without taking the camera away from your eye. This is aided by the very sophisticated electronic viewfinder (EVF) which shows the menus as you access them through the eyepiece just as if you were looking at the rear screen. It also shows you your last shot, which is a nice feature too.
You can flick to the optical viewfinder (OVF) and this shows you a wider view than the lens sees, which many street photographers love. They can see people before they enter the frame and antipate when to fire the shutter. However, you have to get used to the fact you are not looking through the lens when you do this and the framing is slightly different to what the lens sees. You can still overlay technical information, like shutter speed and aperture etc into the OVF which is very useful.
The aspect ratio of the sensor is the same a s a full frame sensor, 3:2, but the sensor is not full frame. It is smaller. How’re the image quality is reputed to be amazing at 16mp and capable of exhibition quality prints at A3+ and above. Pete Bridgwood has exhibited prints from his X Pro to great acclaim. (Petebridgwood.com)
Other aspect ratios can be set including my beloved 1:1 as well as vararious rectangular ratios including panoramic modes. The raw files will always be imported at full size, no matter what aspect ratio y select but Jpegs will maintain the ratio you choose. This applies to the film simulation modes Fuji have built into the camera too. So you can shoot as if using Velvia, Astia or other film types along with some gorgeous mono styles utilising colour filters. I particularly like the mono mode with the red filter applied. In orders o maintain what I see on the monitor while maintaining the greatest flexibility with my files I have set the camera to shoot in fine JPEG and raw. Thus I can refer to the JPEG to see what I saw on the camera screen and use the JPEG if the file size etc suffices of my needs or use it as a reference to convert the raw to mimic that look back in the digital darkroom.
Another nice feature, shown to me today by Tim Allen, ( http://www.timallenphoto.co.uk/ ) is you can, in camera, take any raw file and apply any of the film or crop effects and save a copy as a JPEG. We quite enjoyed playing with this, taking shots we liked and experimenting with different versions in camera. The raw file remans untouched, of course, and you will have the various JPEG versions when you gets home.
You can set seven custom presets on the Fuji. I have used these straight away and found myself flipping between them all the time today. I programmed in various mono settings at different ISO settings etc and also a couple of Astia settings as these are my favorites already. It saved me messing about in menus and I could quickly grab the set up I needed for a particular set of images.
If you are a DSLR user you have to change the way you use the camera. Firstly, the autofocus is much slower than a DSLR, but apparently more accurate (I can’t verify or deny this yet, it’s what I have read). The autofocus works differently. Whereas with a DSLR we are used to locking on to high contrast areas, points where light and dark areas touch, with cameras like the Fuji this is exactly what you don’t want to do. The focus works best when aimed at surfaces with texture. This takes some getting used to, but is very effective once you do. The fact the focusing is slower is just something we have to accept for now. Fuji have issued several firmware updates (and it is easy to update the firmware for your body and each of your lenses, and ought to be done to get the very best from your system) and these have, apparently, improved things, but it is still slower and less responsive than a DSLR.
Now let’s talk battery life. I was surprised at how quickly the X Pro eats batteries. I am used to a Canon 5D mk3 which can go all day on one battery, two at most. I burned through two and run out of power nearly tw hours before my time to head home had come. I could have done with at least one more battery, probably two to be on the safe side. Now, I was shooting continuously, using the screen, and working the camera really hard. Nonetheless, it is obvious this is a power hungry beast. I will be ordering two more batteries when I get home. One other things about the batteries, they get to the point where they show red, quarter remaining then all of a sudden the camera just shuts down. The first part of the battery discharge gauge takes some time to fall then the last half goes really fast. Beware. It’s like a car with a. Fuel gauge that says full for ages then drops like a stone!
I really enjoyed using the camera. It is not tiring in the hand, it’s black body is unobtrusive and the 35mm lens is exquisite. I have a feeling more primes will be in the offing. There is a 56mm f1.2 due in January which sounds very nice indeed.
The camera was a dream to carry all day, with a spare lens and filters in my bag. It was so liberating not to have my big rucksack with all the DSLR kit. Will it replace my DSLR? I doubt it, but I am no ruling it out. I wil see what the image quality is like. I will see how it performs as a landscape camera from a usability point of view. I am not wedded to the DSLR by any means. If the Fuji proves it’s worth and can produce the quantity and size of files I need, I see no reason to carry on with the big DSLR kit. However, if it falls short, I am happy to run two systems and use whichever suits the job at hand ( but I will be reaching for the Fuji as often as possible due to its lightness and portability).
If you are considering the Fuji X Pro 1 then you really ought to be take a very close look at the X E-1 too (and the XE-2 which is rumoured to be released any day now). It takes all the same lenses. The sensor and many other specs are identical but it is smaller and lighter and may well be a wiser choice for you. Take a close look, see what you think.
I am excited to get home tonight and look at the images I have. Let’s hope they live up to my expectations.
(Added the day after) I have now had a chance to look at my images. first things first. I need to work on my skills as a street photographer! I can see I missed some opportunities, sometimes by a fraction of a second. I am going to have to concentrate harder when doing this type of photography. I also have some images I am moderately happy with, especially as this was my first day out with a new camera I was totally unfamiliar with.
I have put a few images from the day into this post. Most were shot with the 18-55 lens, wide open although a few towards the end of the day were shot with the 35mm. I wish in hindsight I had used the 35mm more. I. Used this wide open too. Most of the images were shot at ISO1600. The day was dull and I wanted to ensure a decent shutter speed. I ignored the histogram, this is not landscape photography (as long as I wasn’t clipping the highlights). I just let Aperture Priority do it’s job for me. I have not run any noise reduction on these files, just tweaked them a little in Lightroom, and I have not sharpened the files either. I wanted to show them more as the camera produced them.
So, that’s my initial thoughts. No doubt, I’ll have more to say as I get used tot he camera. I have another day out with it next week on the south coast. A different environment and a different style of shooting to look forward to.
A BIG thank you to Tim Allen ( http://www.timallenphoto.co.uk/ ) for organising the day and our walking route and to both Tim and Valda Bailey ( www.valdabailey.co.uk ) for being such good company on this day out in London. I am sure their images will be way better than mine.
Dark Light III – Taken handheld from Rannoch Moor.
I have written some time ago about my thoughts on working with what you’ve got. Basically, the premise of my mantra is, if all you have is a 50mm lens, then shoot with it. If its raining, rather than giving you he technicolor sunrise you envisioned, shoot the rain. You get the idea.
Recently, on the day I broke my leg in fact, I had to work to my own maxim.
I was leading a workshop up in the snows on Rannoch Moor and Glencoe, in Scotland. On the first day of the trip, just an hour into shooting my tripod head broke. It broke in a major way (and kudos to Manfrotto for replacing it for me straight away once they saw what had happened).
I tweeted about the failure and many of my followers replied with sympathy (and we all like a bit of sympathy). Several said how angry I must be feeling and how it would ruin my trip. I could understand their point of view but I just didn’t see it that way.
Kit fails. You have to get used to that which is why I have back ups or alternatives with me for virtually everything in my bag, including tripods and heads. Except this time. This time I was car sharing and to save space the one thing I hadn’t bought with me was my spare tripod & head. Ironic, huh?
Getting angry about it would have just spoiled the trip, it wouldn’t have actually changed anything. Here I was in the most stunning of locations with amazing light. I was going to work with what I had.
So this meant shooting landscapes, often in low light, handheld.
So how did I approach this? I was using the Canon 5d mk2 and was happy taking the ISO up to 800 (and in very low light I went to 1600 at times – whatever it took to get the shot). I also went wide with my aperture. So I abandoned my usual preference for f11 (or f16) most of the time and went wider, right down to f2.8 at times in low light, but often working at f8, all with a view to keeping the shutter speed high enough to get sharp images.
If this hadn’t been possible I would have gone over to shooting ICM (intentional camera movement) images. Again, working with what I had.
Another approach I adopted was to shoot in burst mode. Firing three frames at least for each image to give me a better chance one would be sharp. It meant I came away with nearly 900 frames fom the day, but it did increase my success rate.
I also moved to auto focus. On a tripod, I use manual focus in Live View mode which is perfect, but hand holding it just isn’t practical to focus manually all day. There is no benefit in it, in fact, auto focus is perfect for just this situation. I use centre point focusing so I have complete control over what I am focused on. So I turn on just the centre focus point. I then point the centre of the lens very precisely at what I want to be my focus point, press the shutter button half way to lock focus and hold it there, reframe and then complete the shot. You can also use the Focus Lock button on the back of the camera in the same way.
I found I got the best results using my longer lenses, especially the 70-200 f2.8 IS L zoom. This stayed on most of the day. The image stabilisation helped with sharpness and I followed the basic rule of thumb that you need to keep your shutter speed faster than your focal length so I tried to stay above 1/200 sec all day, using ISO and aperture to do that.
Another advantage of using the 70-200mm (and the 24-70 f2.8 L which I also used on the day) was they both have long full tube shaped lens hoods. On the day, blizzards kept blowing through and these hoods really helped to keep snow off the front element of the lens.
When I came to review the images later (and trust me, I had plenty of time to review them, lying in my hospital bed) I realised that broken tripod head had done me a favor.
I had an extraordinarily high “hit rate” for successful images on the day. I took many more that I was happy with than I normally would. I found I was able to react really quickly to the fast changing light up there. As the blizzards were blowing through we had amazing gaps in the clouds with shafts of light and wonderful cloud shapes. On a tripod I would have been faffing about and couldn’t have got half the images I did.
I also would have been shooting much wider lenses, 45mm or 24mm, out of habit and on reflection, images at those focal lengths wouldn’t have had the impact I got from the 70-200 lens. (For my wider shots with the long lens I shot several panorama sequences, all handheld, and Photoshop stitches them perfectly. It’s amazing).
I would also have been more likely to have been trying to use my Lee filters. This would have slowed me down even more and with the falling snow caused frustration and even more lost shots.
Yes, that tripod head did me a big favor. Of course, looking at it another way. If it hadn’t failed I would have had it with me later when crossing the river and would have been using it to steady myself so maybe I wouldn’t have fallen and broken my leg… But let’s not speculate.
So, the lesson. If something fails in the field or you forget something, work with what you have. Think laterally. Work around the problem. Find a solution. It might feel uncomfortable, but just do the best you can. Getting angry with yourself or your kit, or giving up and going home don’t help, and you never know, like this occasion, you might just produce something unexpected by approaching the problem with a positive frame of mind.
If its something really bad like leaving all your batteries or memory cards at home, then use your mobile phone camera. If that’s back in the car, then just sit back and enjoy the sunrise. There will always be another.
Dark Light II – Taken handheld at the mouth of Glencoe
I have a confession to make. When I first heard of Pinterest I dismissed it quickly as irrelevant. It seemed to me to be a hangout for young women with boards entitled “My Perfect Wedding”, “Cute Kittens” and such things. Boards full of images of people too perfect to exist having weddings that would never happen and then live in houses just to perfect for real people. I left within minutes of logging in.
That was a couple of years ago. Then, a week or so ago, I can’t remember why, I had occasion to visit the site again. This time I stayed.
Why the change?
This time I thought it through and explored a bit deeper. Certainly, the site is populated primarily by women. 80% of ‘pinners’ are women. Nothing wrong in that, obviously. It’s just that for me, as a man, the kind of things the majority of the ladies were devoting boards to were of no interest to me. As much as I love cute puppies and recipes for homemade eye makeup remover, I wasn’t really looking for that kind of thing. It is this ‘noise’ that had put me off so,quickly on my first visit.
This time, however, I took a deep breath and typed in a search for, imaginatively, “landscape photography”. The results were interesting. Yes, lots of over saturated cliched images, but also I soon found boards created by discerning pinners full of stunning work.
Spurred on, I searched for creative black and white images. The same resuLt. What really impressed me was that much of what I was finding was from older photographers. By older, I mean photographers working a hundred, fifty or twenty five years ago. The great names like Adams, Sudek, Stieglitz, Rowel, Weston, Maier and so on. You don’t find these on Flickr.
Also there are photographers whose work I have not found through any other channels. I was soon hooked, created my own account and was feverishly creating my own collections.
So how does Pinterest work? The idea is simple. Imagine a pin board on your studio wall on which you pin snippets of information and pictures to inspire you or to help you with a project. In Pinterest you can create as many such virtual boards as you wish. These boards can be public or secret.
You can then search within the Pinterest site on the public boards of others and re-pin things which you find interesting or inspiring onto your boards. The origin of these images or items originally is pages on the Internet. The item always retains its link back to the original source page, no matter how many times it is re-pinned. You can go to the source page by double clicking the item. This is really useful, as when you find an image by a new photographer or artist you like you can then leave Pinterest and go and explore their own website.
You can also introduce new items into the Pinterest site onto your boards by pinning them yourself when you find something on a website you wish to pin to one of your boards. In fact, this is something that more pinners need to do. Around 80% of pinning is ‘re-pinning’ of images from the boards of others, so you do begin to see the same images appearing in searches. More members need to search out new material from the web and pin it to their boards for others to discover. This keeps the site fresh and, if you are prepared to do this, you will quickly find lots of pinners will start to follow your boards as they offer something fresh and new. I have only been active for a few days and already have close to fifty people following my boards.
An interesting side note that I have noticed is that Pinterest has started to drive low volumes of new traffic to my website since I started actively using it. I am guessing this is coming from people who are seeing my images on boards and following them back to their source on my website. It may also come from people checking out my profile on the site and clicking my website link. Don’t get me wrong, the volumes are small at the moment, but noticeable, and growing. I am not recommending using Pinterest as you would other forms of social media to drive traffic to your website or blog. That wouldn’t be an efficient use of your time if it was your sole purpose in doing it. However, I am pleasantly surprised by the effect already and see it as a knock on benefit.
There are also some serious concerns about copyright, which as artists and photographers should concern us. It is up to each user to decide on this issue and if you want to read an article on it you will find one here.
You can follow individual boards of others if you like what they pin and this allows you to see when they add new things to that board in case you wish to pin it to one of your boards (likewise people can follow your boards if they like them). Or you can follow an individual and see everything they pin to all of their boards.
You can also create boards of your own images or pin your own images into your boards and they may get re-pinned by others who like them.
I use the site extensively now to collate inspiration for my work. Not only in photography, but I have also found myself researching art as well and learning valuable lessons from it.
I have also found interesting Photoshop tips and have a board to collate ideas for remodelling my photographic office and studio here a home. My wife has fallen in love with Pinterest and is collecting ideas about make up, cleaning solutions, decorating tips, craft making ideas, gardening – the scope is endless. Where I thought it would be a location just for organising my inspirational images, it is fast becoming a location to collate visual information for all sorts of projects and ideas. Some boards are public, others are private. Many designers use boards for design ideas, graphic designers use them to collate new fonts collections or colour themes, gardeners use them for plant and garden layout ideas – the uses are endless. If you search for ideas on the site you will soon find some very, very clever people who have ingenious solutions to problems, people who have ways of recycling items for amazing uses and who seem able to come up with things I would never dream of.
In the screen shot below I typed in “Recycle Pallets” – thousands of ideas came up, these are just a tiny, tiny fraction – just try it – click here
I would encourage you to have a look. Why not take a browse at some of my boards and see what you think. I would be interested in hearing your views. You can find my boards here – http://pinterest.com/dougchinnery/ Why not sign up and make a start by following me 🙂
It has been a while since I blogged about my backing up strategy and I have made some changes to make my systems more secure, so now seems a good time to update you on how I protect my data.
I regularly have friends and customers who tell me stories of how they have lost prized images, even their entire library, due to equipment failure or theft of their computers which they didn’t have backed up. They go pale as they speak about it. Some even break down and cry 🙂
If your system experienced a complete failure this minute, how much would you lose?
If your computer and the drives with it in the same room were stolen today, how much data would you lose?
How would that make you feel. Your wedding pictures. The pictures of your children growing up. The images of your loved ones who have passed away. Those landscapes you toiled so hard to capture. Need I go on.
Sobering questions, aren’t they?
It is crucial to understand that EVERY hard drive WILL fail. It is just a question of when, and they often don’t give any notice. One minute you are happily using your computer and the next you are looking at a blank screen. As with so many things in life, we think it won’t happen to us or we think we have time to back up next week. You just have to decide how much data you are prepared to lose and tailor your system to protect you to this level.
I had a brand new drive in a brand new computer fail completely just three days after buying it. I had just finished setting the system up with all of my programs, settings and data. I had also set up my back up solution and so was fully protected.
The issue is many people feel that backing up is a nuisance. They feel they don’t have time. Often, it is also because they don’t really understand how to do it, or how to set up a good reliable system which is easy to run.
I can’t afford to lose my data. As a freelance photographer my images are my business. If I lose them, I don’t pay my bills. They cannot be replaced so it that is a great motivation to have a good system in place.
So how am I organised and how do I make it easy to have a bullet proof back up solution working for me?
My first layer of protection
When in the field, especially on longer trips, I copy all my compact flash cards to my iPad. I don’t format the compact flash cards until the images are copied to my computer back at the studio. This gives me two copies of my images while I am away from home. I keep the compact flash cards in a holder with me and the iPad is left hidden in my vehicle. I may also copy the images on to my Mac Book Pro while I am away which then gives me three copies in the field.
My second layer of protection
My main computer is a 27 inch iMac with a 1tb drive. I have a 1tb drive attached (I recommend this one – http://tinyurl.com/bs4vhcm – the WD drives have always performed perfectly for me). This is set up to use Apples Time Machine back up system which is built into all Macs. It has saved my life several times and is so easy to use. Just select the drive to back up to and the system backs up every hour. It deletes the oldest back ups once the drive is full. The most data you can lose is one hours work. Frustrating, yes, but not critical.
I also have another two 1tb drives which are kept onsite, but away from the computer (in the hope that if we have a burglary and the computer and back drive which sits next to it are stolen, then this drive may be missed).
To copy files to this from my iMac I use a great easy piece of software called Superduper. You will find it HERE
(if you are a Windows user I would highly recommend using Microsofts free SyncToy which does a very similar job and is also so simple to use. You will find it HERE. Please note, I stopped using Windows a couple of years ago so this may not work with the latest versions of Windows or other solutions may now be available which I am unaware of).
This makes a carbon copy of your entire hard drive. The first back up you run with it takes a while as it is copying every file (as does Time Machine) but subsequent backups are much faster as only files you have added, deleted or changed are updated. This system does not hold on to old copies of files, so you can’t go back to a file which was deleted weeks ago in error to restore it, like you can with Time Machine. The drive is always a copy of your computers hard drive on the last day you backed up with it.
Superduper can be set to run on a schedule so you don’t have to do anything as long as the back up drive is connected to the computer, or it can be run manually at a time you choose (this is how I use it as my drive is hidden and not permanently connected to the computer).
It is also fully bootable so in the event of a hard drive failure you can boot your computer using it and get working straight away. If you want to have several carbon copy drives you can. You give each drive a name and Superduper remembers each drive.
When I am on the road I take one of the Superduper drives with me. This gives me an offsite backup and it also means I have all my files with me so I can work on the road. If I do this I just have to keep a copy of the changed/added files and update my iMac with them when I get home.
The final layer
The last layer of protection is the one which gets neglected by most people because it is the most difficult to manage. This is the offsite backup.
This protects you in case of theft or the destruction of your property by flood, fire and so on. I wonder how many people have lost all their files this week in the floods?
My old system, which was flawed, but better than nothing, was to have a third 1tb drive backed up to using Superduper which I then stored at my parents home. This is fine if you remember/bother to go and get it and update it regularly (and to be honest, this needs to be weekly as a minimum). I just didn’t do this often enough, it becomes too much hassle.
Prior to this year my new solution would not have been feasible as my broadband speeds were just too low. I now am blessed with BT Infinity 2 and this makes backing up to a Cloud service easy.
There are lots of options out there but most are very expensive for large amounts of data. They are really designed for smaller amounts of file storage and also geared for you to be uploading and downloading the files on a regular basis.
Fortunately, Amazon has identified this issue and set up a brilliant new service to remedy this. It is called “Glacier”. Anyone can use it, from home users to world-wide corporations and it is purely designed to store large amounts of data you will probably never need again… unless something goes badly wrong with your primary layers of protection which I have described above. You can find it HERE
The basic things to know are;
- The cost is very, very low, just $0.01 per gigabyte of data per month for storage, so if you have 200gb of data with them it costs just $24 a year. Compare that with the true cost of buying external drives and then keeping one off site and up to date!
- There is a fee if you delete backups within 3 months of uploading then
- There is a fee to download data, although you do get a free allowance per month, but as this is designed for long term storage (in fact, its for data you hope you will never have to download) it is not a major issue
- Data that is uploaded takes several hours to be processed by Glacier and it takes several hours to start downloading back to you if you need it – this is how they keep the costs so low – so don’t view it like you do Dropbox, for example.
- You need to break your data down into zip files that are no bigger than 4gb and this is a hassle when you first get set up.
- You can’t update a backup zip file once it is uploaded. If you make changes to files at your end you need to upload them again and delete the old one if necessary. For this reason I am using it for archives. I back up the files I am working on all the time to Dropbox (or Skydrive etc) Sign up for Dropbox HERE
- Glacier have yet to release a program to handle the uploading but two free programs are available from others. The Windows one is Fastglacier and the Mac client is Simpleglacier. I use Arc back up which is a paid for program.
- Your data is encrypted using 128bit encryption keys – so extremely secure. The server farms also sit behind very secure firewall systems.
- Glacier claims 99.999999999999% protection. The server farms are held in extremely secure bunkers and there are several of them around the planet. Your data will exist in three locations in at least two countries. So you are pretty much protected form everything except Armageddon, when, lets face it, the last thing we will be bothered about are our files 🙂
I am currently going through the tedious process of zipping all of my data (images and files) into 4gb batches and doing an upload overnight each night. I can upload about 60gb a night with my connection. I have done several years worth of files and just have 2010 to today still to do. I have just got my head down and started working through this methodically. It has also helped me delete over 200gb of useless and duplicated data which was clogging up my system – a really nice feeling having a spring clean 🙂
Once it is all there, plan to upload weekly the latest images although it may end up being monthly. I am expecting to have around 600gb of zipped data on Glacier by the end of 2012 with a cost to me of about £3.75 a month at current rates. I think that is exceptional value.
This all might sound like the ravings of an obsessive compulsive with a disaster fixation but I have my livelihood to think about and I hold work which is critical to my customers too. You can go as far as you feel you need to in order to get the level of protection you need.
As a minimum get Time Machine working for you if you are a Mac user, or something similar if you are a Windows user. I also recommend getting in to the habit of backing up each days work at the end of the day – let it run overnight. in reality, on most days, if you do it daily, an incremental backup will run in a few minutes. As a minimum get into the habit of having a ‘Backup Friday’ or similar so at least your weeks work is protected.
I highly recommend you also get set up with Dropbox – you can sign up here – as this will give you 2gb of free storage accessible world wide for regularly used files and for sharing files with friends and family. You can also access it from your iPhone, Smartphone and iPad etc It is brilliant and I use it daily.
Alternatively you can have the thrill of being a gambler and live life on the edge and not bother backing up at all (or have that back up you did months or years ago and always mean to get around to updating, maybe next week when your not so busy). Enjoy the ride! Me, as you can see, I am more a belt and braces kind of guy who likes to sleep well at night.
Have you ever wondered how to go about capturing light trails? They look dramatic and add a dynamic feel to urban images and are easy to capture.
Before I go into technique there is an important factor about this image which lifts it above many light trail shots. The Sky. Its not just a case of shooting at night. In fact the ideal time is a short 15 minute period shortly after the sun has set. For architectural photographers and those after light trails this is the prime time to shoot. If you look at the image you will see the sky is not black, there is still some residual light (twilight) in the sky. In this brief period of minutes the light in the sky balances perfectly with artificial light which is why it is so perfect for capturing architecture and light trails. You can still shoot the light trails when the sky is black but the images won’t be quite as attractive. Have a browse of the finest architectural night photography and you will see the photographer works in this evening twilight period (or gets up early as a similar is experienced some time before sunrise).
Lets say you are in position at the right time. Get there well in advance so you can sort your composition out and get your exposure right before twilight. It is very frustrating to miss the brief twilight window becuase you weren’t in position and set up in time. Needless to say you need to be on a tripod with a remote shutter release. No graduated neutral density filters are needed as the camera can cope with the dynamic range of the image by this time. You may need a standard non-graduated neutral density filter (perhaps a 2-stop) to slow the exposure down if you are getting too short an exposure for the effect you are after (alternatively, you could use a narrower aperture, say, f16. I would avoid using f22 unless I was forced as the image quality will degrade due to ‘diffraction’, but thats another whole issue!)
For these images the lenght of the exposure is as important, if not a little more important, than depth of field. For my shot of Westminster I worked at f11 (which gave me sufficient DOF and kept me close to the sweet spot of the lens (around f8 would be about perfect). At ISO 100 (for the lowest noise possible), this gave me an exposure time of 4 seconds on my 24mm TSE lens. (As I was using a tilt and shift lens, I could have worked at f8 and used the tilt mechanism to give me the depth of field I needed but I was working quickly and didn’t want to complicate matters).
I test out several shutter speeds before the light gets to its best so that I am ready. The speed of the traffic and the brightness of the lights will dictate the length of exposure. Faster moving vehicles need a shorter shutter speed than slower vehicles. In my case, timing was vital. I could have shot when just cars were passing but I found it was worth waiting for a bus to appear as this gave a wider stripe of lights because of the upstairs windows. I fired the shutter, using a handheld remote release, a fraction of a second before the bus entered the frame. A few buses later, I had my image, the light dropped and it was time to head off for more night shots around London.
If you would like to master low light and night photography, why not join me on one of my London Night Workshops. We even have a London Black Cab to drive us around all of the best locations all night. Drop me an email if you are interested as these are selling out before I can list them on my website.
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.
Here is a quick montage of some of the images on display
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 address is
Trinity Arts Centre
(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.
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).
I am sitting in my studio with rain lashing down. April showers is one thing, but this is ridiculous! I thought it might be an idea to post my top tips on photographing in the rain.
Many photographers simply dismiss making images in wet weather out of hand, but in doing so I think they are missing out on some wonderful and different images. Granted, if the rain is really driving and especially if it is blowing directly onto the lens, it is pretty much impossible to work outside. It is then I look for an indoor location or head home, fire up the iMac and do some image processing with some good music on and a nice hot cup of tea to enjoy.
However, we often get gentler rain or it is blowing in from behind us so the lens stays clear. It could be the rain is coming down vertically or is intermittent. In those circumstances it can be ‘game on’.
The first thing is to protect our gear. Whether we shoot on film or digitally, water and cameras are not a good mix. If our body and lenses are from a pro range, like the Canon 1ds and ‘L’ lenses, they are heavily sealed against water and dust and can perform in extreme conditions, but mid range bodies and lenses down, while having some weather sealing can soon start to be affected (often terminally) by water and dust. I have tried all kinds of camera protectors and to be honest, most are just impractical. At one end there are over designed complex polythene systems with arm holes and gussets, seals, elastic and goodness knows what that take a couple of days and a lot of patience to fit and are then so bulky and restrictive in their desire to totally protect the kit that operating the camera with them fitted is like trying to thread a needle with our hands submerged in a bucket of jelly.
There are other simpler protectors which are so flimsy they are worse than useless.
I do carry a couple of the disposable Optech ‘Rainsleeves’. These are low cost, come in packs of two and are designed to be used a few times and then thrown away. With careful use they can last quite a while. They take up little space in the kit bag and the price is very reasonable. It has to be bad for me to put them on though because, like most rain covers, they restrict us in using the camera. Everything becomes fiddly and a bit of a chore. The worst problem is getting your eye to the eye piece to compose and focus (or, if you use Live View, seeing the monitor clearly as the polythene is not optically clear enough to focus critically). There is a hole in the protector which is designed to go around the eye piece but to fit it you need to take the eye pice rubber off and then re-fit it over the polythene and by this time I am losing the will to live.
A simpler and much cheaper option is to carry a thick polythene bag. I carry one which is big enough to simply pop over the whole of my set up on the tripod. It covers camera, lens and filters. Obviously, you can’t work with this in place but it saves packing up for every shower. As soon as the rain has passed over, just whip it off and got on with the business of making images.
I also carry a cover similar to this one. Bought on EBay for less than £15 it gives good access to the cameras controls and is quick to fit and remove. Focusing and zooming are a bit tight but the cameras body controls are very easy to use, as is the eye piece and screen. I have been using mine for a couple of years and it is stills waterproof. Made from proofed nylon you buy one to fit each lens and body combination (in theory) but I bought one for my longest lens, my 200mm f2.8, and use it on all my lenses – the shorter lenses just have the cover a bit bunched up but it is not an problem for me.
Then, yesterday, on one of my bluebell wood workshops, a client had a new ‘device’ which seems like a brilliant idea to me (Thanks for the tip, Maria!). She was given the idea by photographer, Jeremy Walker. It may sound a bit strange but in really wet conditions yesterday she was able to shoot with ease and keep her kit dry. It was a very large sheet of Chamois leather. Told you it sounds strange. However, it is is not your average Chamois from Halfords. She got this from Skye Skynes – here on this page . Now, when you see the price (£22 delivered in the UK) you will probably have a sharp intake of breath and think I have finally lost my marbles, but before you shake your head and leave this post let me just tell you, these are the most amazing Chamois you have ever seen or felt. Skye Skyns make them from sheep skins on the Isle of Skye and they are very thick – many times thicker than the Chamois I use when cleaning the car. It is also the softest Chamois I have ever felt. The sheet is really big and you just drape it over your camera and lens. In between exposures you can drape it over the front of the lens (and filters) to protect the glass from drops of rain. It absorbs the rain and is perfect for wiping kit dry too. Because it is a sheet rather than something fitted you can double or triple fold it and just drape it over the lens and position it as you wish. As I watched my client work I was impressed with how easy it was for her. The Chamois has another advantage, it makes a great thing to wrap kit in to protect it. So even in dry weather it iso earning its keep in the rucksack. They are washable so when they get grubby they can be spruced up easily. I have ordered mine and can’t wait for it to be delivered, although knowing me it will come the day a long drought starts and I won’t get to use it in anger for months!
A good style of hat to wear in the rain is a hat with a rigid peak, like a baseball cap (but waterproof). This keeps us a bit drier and warmer but also the peak goes over the top of the camera while we have our eye to the eyepiece and helps stop the rain fogging the viewfinder. Absorbent lens cloths (and often several of them are needed for a rain session) are essential for drying fog off of the viewfinder and lens.
I also keep all those little bags of silica gel which come in many products packaging when they are delivered to us, you know the little white sachets with beads in which have ‘do not eat’ written on the outside. Silica gel absorbs moisture. I keep them all and drop a few in my camera bag, to help dry the air in the bag. Every now and then I swap them out, dry the old ones out at home and let the new ones do their job in my rucksack. (I also keep them in my laptop bag, lens cases and so on. Every little helps.
What about drying kit off after the session? I use absorbent cloths to dab the camera and lens dry, getting the worst of the wet off. I then let the kit dry slowly and naturally in a warm spot in the house, but not by direct heat. Then, once dry it needs a clean and polish to get any residue off of the body and glass. For cleaning my lenses I have stopped buying the ridiculously expensive lens cleaning fluid the manufacturers would like us to use. I get a big bottle of lens cleaner from my opticians for £2.75 (and that amount lasts me a couple of years!!). I use it to clean my glasses and honestly can’t see any difference when using it on my lens compared to the stuff sold by camera suppliers. I have a small spray bottle I decant some into to take into the field from the large bottle which stays at home.
That’s enough on keeping the kit dry. What about technique?
Firstly, I don’t tend to use lens hoods for protecting against flare but I do use them to keep rain off of the lens. The two lenses I have which have particularly effective lens hoods are the Canon 24-70 L and the 70-200mm. Both of these come with a lens hood which is a full tube, not ‘petals’ which is more usual on wider angle lenses. These completely shield the lens glass from all but rain which is driving towards the lens in strong winds. The downside is that you can’t use Lee filters. To overcome this limitation I take bracketed exposures and blend them later in Photoshop. Problem solved.
I sometimes carry a golf umbrella which is useful to work under as long as there isn’t much wind. (This is the umbrella I use – designed for use in high winds – CLICK HERE) If the rain is coming in horizontally or the wind is strong, forget the umbrella, it is just impractical. I have been toying with the idea of trying studio lighting clamps to see if I can find one which will lock on to my tripod leg and hold the umbrella over me and the camera so that my hands are free to work. I will let you know if I find one that is suitable.
It makes sense not to fight the rain, so if it is blowing in from a particular direction, see if there are images to be made that will enable you to turn the lens away from the direction it is coming from. I also often head to woodlands in the rain. Trees in leaf will provide good cover although when the leaves get very wet it will start to get through to you, but it is dripping vertically from the leaves and not blowing in to the lens so with some of the protection I describe above we can continue working.
So, there we are, all set up with a protected camera and some techniques to help us keep dry while we shoot. Is there any way we can use the rain to enhance our images? Most certainly.
The first thing to say is that the light as ‘bad’ weather passes or just before it arrives, is often spectacular. Foregrounds can be lit with glorious golden light with a deep black sky (one of the rare occasions that the sky is darker than the foreground). Shafts of light can pour from the clouds and glide across the land or sea. Rainbows decorate the sky. It is the photographer who is prepared to be out in the rain that gets to capture this glory.
In rain I often focus on making detail images, intimate landscapes. In woodland or in amongst the shelter of rocks there are lots of fascinating details which look great when wet. The diffused soft light when it rains is perfect for detail images as there are no strong shadows to contend with and the colours are rendered beautifully. The woods or rocks provide some cover and working on the close landscape provides a nice change from shooting the wider world.
While it is raining keep an eye open for things being back-lit. As the sun emerges from the clouds, wet trees, plants and buildings can glow as the sun catches the wet surfaces. If you want the opposite effect and want to kill reflections and saturate colours, fir a polarising filter and rotate it while looking through the eyepiece and see the reflections disappear. Shooting in the rain is also an ideal time for more creative image making – try shooting through wet glass from inside a car or cafe. The rain blurs the world and creates an impressionistic feel to things. Or go the whole hog and have a go at ICM (intentional camera movement) utilising the low light to lengthen the shutter speed and create images with blur by moving the camera.
If you like long exposures, try shooting them in the rain. If you can keep the kit dry, the effect of the long exposures is to turn the rain into mist and you end up with an image which looks like it has been shot on a misty or foggy day.
A final idea is to shoot puddles and running water. The raindrops create radiating patterns and often the light and colours above the water is reflected in it and yields great creative possibilities.
It has taken me a few days to put this post together. Now, as I finish it, the day is warm and bright. the rain seems a million miles away, but it is forecast again for tomorrow. I find myself hoping it will rain, so I can go out and have a go at capturing something with my camera. I hope you feel inspired to, too.
Here is the new winter/spring 2012 workshop schedule for my digital photography workshops.
I am introducing a range of new workshops and locations for 2012. You will also see I have teamed up with two more very talented photographers as co-leaders on some special locations. I will be posting full details of these workshops on my website in a few days time and soon you will be able to book and pay online via PayPal. Direct booking via email will still be available.
As a special offer for the new season I am offering the first ten who book and pay their deposits a 10% discount off of the cost of a workshop in the schedule. This does not apply to Capture-to-Computer workshops but will apply to one-to-ones. (just four reduced places now remaining)
If your family or friends are struggling to buy the perfect gift for you, why not suggest they buy you one of my gift vouchers. They can select any value they wish from £10 upwards and it can be redeemed against any workshop, one-to-one or Capture-to-Computer workshop of your choice. If the value of the vooucher exceeds your chosen workshop I will refund the difference or it can be credited towards another workshop. If the workshop exceeds the value of the voucher you can use it in part payment. I even send you a blank greetings card with the voucher with one of my images on for you to present the gift to a loved one.
6th & 7th – ‘Coast & Castles’ Northumberland, with Antony Spencer (now a Light & Land tour leader). Two days photographing the spectacular coast of Northumberland so beloved of photographers like Joe Cornish, including three castle locations. £149 per day or £125 per day if booking both days. Includes breakfast. Does not include accomodation.
13th – Capture-to-Computer’, Yorkshire Coast, Yorkshire Limited to two people & includes breakfast. £149 per person
16th – Black & White Landscapes, Peak District. Includes processing in Silver EfEx Pro & Photoshop. Includes breakfast. £70 per person
22nd – Beginners introduction to your camera, Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. Three hours approx. Any camera no matter how basic. £35 per person
23rd – Complex Compositions – Bole HIll Quarry, Peak District. Includes breakfast. £70 per person
30th – Peak District (New Locations) includes breakfast. £70 per person
11th – Lakeland Landscapes. A day spent photographing classic lakeland locations. Includes breakfast. £70 per person.
18th – Northumberland. A day photographing the finest coastal locations in Northumberland. Includes breakfast. £70 per person.
24th – Capture-to-Computer, Somerset coast. Limited to two people and includes breakfast. £149 per person
25th – Black & White Photography, including long exposures, with co-leader & mono specialist, Paul Wheeler. Weston-Super-Mare. Inlcudes breakfast & ‘how-to’ pdf’s. £99 per person.
29th – Peak District Landscapes, Half day, including refreshments. £45 per person.
3rd – North East Coast – Nature & Industry – Saltburn & Paddys Hole. £70 per person including breakfast
5th – Peak Woodlands, Bole Hill Quarry. Includes breakfast. £70 per person
9th – Capture-to-Computer – Yorkshire Coast for Seascapes & Long Exposures. Includes breakfast. Limited to two people. £149 per person
10th – Long Exposures, Yorkshire Coast with long exposure specialist, Noel Clegg. Includes breakfast. £99 per person.
17th – Capture-to-Computer, Spurn Point, Yorkshire. Limited to two people, includes breakfast. £149 per person.
18th – Beginners introduction to your camera, Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. Three hours approx. Any camera no matter how basic. £35 per person
2nd – Peak District Landscapes, with Antony Spencer. £125 per person, includes breakfast.
3rd – Peak District Landscapes, with Antony Spencer. £125 per person, includes breakfast.
10th – Private macro workshop for members of the Nottingham Photographic Society.
13th – Bole Hill Quarry, Peak District woodland landscapes, half day, including refreshments. £45 per person
22nd – Peak Landscapes, half day to sunset, including refreshments. £45 per person
28th – Bluebells in Ashridge Forest, Buckinghamshire with co-leader Tim Smalley. Includes breakfast. £99 per person.
I look forward to seeing you on a workshop soon
Some recent testimonials from customers;
“Just wanted to say a huge thank you for a fantastic weekend!”
“I thought all the venues were spot on and enjoyed the fact that both of you brought so many different skills and knowledge to the event.”
“Since I started doing “serious” photography about 7 or 8 years ago I’ve been on at least half-a-dozen workshops or courses. I gained more from this one day than I have from all the others put together.”
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.
It seems that most photographers are men. I have never really understood why, because, on the whole, those women who do make images seem to be very good at it. I think I am on safe ground to say that men tend to be more competitive than women too. So we have large group of male photographers bursting with testosterone all with an eye on the competition. So the question arises, can there be a photographer, male or female, who could rightly claim to be ‘the best photographer in the world’?
No, I don’t think so. How could you possibly go about measuring such a thing? Even if you were to try and become the best landscape photographer in the world, or the best fashion photographer, wildlife photographer it would be impossible to make a decision. Would you base it on income? Or output? Number of books published or exhibitions held? Would you measure it by Twitter followers or number of Facebook friends? I can’t think of any measure that would work. I can’t see why anyone would try to establish themselves as ‘the best’.
Photography, like all art forms, is subjective. I know who I feel are the best photographers in the world, but they only get that accolade from me – it is my view, dependant on my taste. Others may agree with me, many would vehemently disagree. None of us would be right. In some ways, trying to improve as a photographer is like playing golf. Golfers while out on the course in a tournament can do nothing to affect what the other players do. They just have to play the course to the best of their ability. If they get round in the fewest number of shots they win. (this is where the illustration breaks down! Because if they win more tournaments than any other golfer that year, they do become ‘number 1’). As photographers, all we can do is our best. We need to strive to hone our skills with the camera and develop our abilities in composition (and, today, in the digital age, increase our skills with software too). We can build a reputation as a good photographer. We might make some great images. Our sales might increase. We might exhibit or be published. Others may view us as an authority or as an inspiration. From a personal standpoint, we can measure our growth as a photographer and have a gauge we apply to ourselves as to how we are doing. But, like a golfer, it is pointless comparing ourselves to the competition, because there is no competition.
Some photographers seem to see our ‘game’ as competitive. Photographic societies and clubs foster a competitive spirit. Some photographers jealously protect location knowledge or technique skills. I can never understand this. I have much greater admiration for those photographers who freely pass on knowledge and encourage others to develop. I believe if we do this we, ourselves, benefit as others will likely help us too. I see little joy and satisfaction coming from being a ‘Scrooge’ amongst photographers. I once emailed a photographer in the Lake District to ask him if he would mind giving me some help on the best place to park at a location. His reply left me stunned as he basically told me to ‘bog off’ – why should he help me to get an image that might be better than his? What drives a person like this?
You sometimes experience it on location. There you are on some beach or hillside in the pre-dawn light and another photographer turns up. You wave, smile or try to initiate a conversation and they just ignore you and give you the cold shoulder. Been there? I have, many times. What is their problem? Wy do they seem to resent our presence? What is wrong with being polite and friendly? On the there side of the coin, I have heard stories of other photographers who have met men most of us admire and look up to as being at the top of our game – men like Charlie Waite and Joe Cornish. They have met them in the field and these leading lights have been friendly, helpful and complimentary. Not aloof and distant. What a much better way to be.
I have experienced so much help on social networking sites from other photographers. Twitter is a great place to help and advice from respected leaders in our field. I have asked for advice on kit and within a minute had several replies which have been so useful and saved me so much mine and hassle. I have had location advice and help with technique. Nothing seems to be too much trouble for these guys. Hopefully I am able to the same for others because social networking is not a paces for leeches who just use it to promote themselves and suck stuff out of others. It should be a medium to be used primarily to give rather than take and then occasionally we can use it to promote ourselves. I soon stop following individuals who only want to blow their own trumpet and expect me to follow and fawn over them. Whereas those who try to offer something, even if it is just links to useful websites or to photographers sites worth looking at, I follow avidly and try to help them in return.
So, what is the point of this rant? Forget trying to compete. none of us can be the best in the World. Be happy when others sell a picture, have an exhibition, get something published. Help them do it. Share information. Give advice when needed. Promote what others do. Hit that retweet button. What goes around, comes around. Help others and we will be helped. Be friendly and contribute something. Don’t be a misery only looking to feather your own nest. What’s the point?
Those who subscribe to my newsletter know that I have been trying to organise an unusual workshop on a farm, of the potato harvest. Well, I am pleased to announce it is now on.