Monday 31 December 2012


I'm writing this blog from Ardnacross on the Isle of Mull, over looking the sound of Mull.

A good place to reflect on what has been, for me at least, a tumultuous year.

In 2012 the highs were very high, and the depth of the lows could barely be imagined.

I lost my dear father who inspired me to set out on this remarkable journey and one of my very closest friends who so frequently inspired me at many different times in my life.

Having the Olympic Golden greats exhibition in the year of London 2012 was is something I will never forget, and something I will always be proud of, having achieved it with my partner Lucinda Marland.

It's to the Olympics I return.

Like many others the opening ceremony exceeded my expectation many times over, something to be proud of and something I believe will positively influence many people for many years to come.

The charismatic ringmaster of the opening ceremony was the talented and likeable Danny Boyle.

With the director of 'Slum Dog millionaire' and 'Trainspotting' at the helm it should have been a foregone conclusion that it was going to be a big hit, right?

Well let's not forget he also directed the lack lustre movie 'The Beach' for which he received a verbal lashing from the critics and some Hollywood insiders too.

He was recently interviewed by the Mark Lawson for the BBC Radio 4 arts programme 'Front Row' where he unveiled large neon sign with one word which he felt reflected the games and the year.

He chose the word 'Wonder'

But he said that he could have equally have chosen the word 'believe' but did not in the end, as it could come over as 'dangerously messianic'

I really like Danny Boyle but I reckon he bottled this one.

'Believe' would have been a little more direct and pertinent too.

Just as Danny Boyle, quite rightly, is the media darling at the moment with the success of the opening ceremony, I believe it was a success which was hard fought for, and was indeed built on the foundation of many of his less glorious moments and failures.

I'm not Danny Boyle, but aside from the loss of two people who were very dear to me, I have had to endure some career let downs this year which were bitter disappointments.

One can let events like this dent your confidence or even crush your spirits, but I'm taking forward the lessons learned and will build on the foundation of faliure to go 'Faster, higher stronger'

It really is all down to that word 'Believe'

Anything that one has a profound belief in does shine through.

That is particularly true in the world of photography, anything that I shoot which I'm really passionate about stands out a mile.

So, for 2013 I will be taking a little bit of Danny Boyle's advice and carry more belief into some of my 'background' projects than I ever have before, and this time next year let's see what the outcome is?

Friday 21 December 2012

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I was searching for a fun image to send out to my Agency Access mailing list when I remembered shooting this picture many, many moons ago.

On film in fact.

I know what your thinking, a set up picture, posed up?

Not at all.

I was driving through Kettering, Northamptonshire when I saw this guy walking through the town.


In fact it turns out he would dress up as all sorts of characters throughout the year from Benny Hill to Elvis Presley and it being he run up to Christmas he dressed accordingly.

As did his Yorkshire terrier, though I'm guessing it did not get much say in the matter......

As I recall, this was the very first frame I shot, as soon as he was aware of me the moment had passed, even though he was happy to be photographed.

I shot it on a Canon EOS-1 with a Canon 'L' series 70-200 F2.8

The shot was helped immeasurably by being shot on a hill with compression playing its part to give it a great feel.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who read this blog have a great Christmas.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Last Minute Christmas Present for someone special (or yourself)

Workshops, downloads....e-books.

Everyone seems to be at it.

But I want to recommend this really superb ebook by Mediastorm via iTunes.

I have mentioned this book before but it is my designated Christmas read.

It covers everything you need to know about creating great multimedia project's, that really work.

Here are some screenshots from the book.

It is a steal at $10.00.

Monday 17 December 2012

A special case

When I get my iPad 3 out with its high definition Retina out to show people my work I always get compliments.

But not about the work, nor for that matter the beautiful screen.

It's the case they like.

'What make is it...where did you get it?

Oh to be upstaged by an iPad case.

With good reason though.

I have a Portenzo 'book case' which as the name suggests gives your iPad the appearance of a well loved journal, where you can specify the exterior and interior colour, protecting your investment in a stylish lightweight wooden chassis, which further adds to the appearance of a journal and is strong, very strong.

I rely more and more on my iPad all the time, being impressed by how much I can get away with on it.

As a result my iPad's leads a pretty tough life.

Like the time when my first iPad had a little adventure on the roof of my car for two junctions of the M1.

As you can tell I'm a big fan.

And when the case does start to wear as mine has done, it just has the appearance of a well loved journal.

Also it does not quite look like an iPad, perhaps making it less of a target for the opportunist thief.


Not many.

Well, it is not the cheapest. If you spec it up adding all the bits and pieces the price can drift northwards of $100, and if you go for a leather version much higher but you are getting a very special case.

The way I have justified it to myself is as a really good value portfolio case and not as an iPad case per se.

You can customise the cover with your name and logo by special order but I would like the option of deleting the 'Portenzo' name which features on the back cover.

I wish the guys at Portenzo success, but not too much success.

I would hate to see this case EVERYWHERE and for it to lose its unique, special appeal.

I have re contacted a busy ad agency who could not quite remember me until I jogged their memory by saying I was the guy with the wooden iPad case.

Oh to be upstaged by a bloody iPad case, but at least they remembered me.

That is the most important thing surely?

Note: I do not have an affiliate link with Portenzo they are just cool cases......

Monday 10 December 2012

The Seal Hunters

When I worked for the Sunday Telegraph I was lucky enough to be set to some far flung and interesting locations.

At that time it was far more common place for photographers to be sent by newspapers to far flung corners of the world to record the stories of the day.

With circulation of newspapers in free-fall it does not happen on anything like the scale it did.

It gave me some of the most unique and special moments of my life.

Being a photojournalist is having a 'passport' into other peoples lives, in sometimes challenging situations, giving you an insight which can be challenging to put into photographs.

Often what made the journey special was the people I would meet.

In the late 1990's I was sent with reporter Adam Nicolson (a great writer and good company, a rare combination in journalists) to Newfoundland to report on the highly emotive seal cull/hunt.

We were guests of the Fisheries department of the Canadian government, who rather predictably played everything 'by the book' and would not let us anywhere near the seal cull, too difficult to get to and dangerous.....feelings running the line went.

Indeed we needed a permit from the Canadian government -which we did not have, for good reason.

Some years earlier an image by Kent Gavin of the Daily Mirror of a young seal pup being clubbed to death on the ice caused widespread international outrage and a major headache for the Canadian government.

Our government minder did not want a repeat of this episode.

We could however meet some 'sealers' at a diner and get their perspective.

There is little more frustrating for any news photographer than having to sit through an interview having travelled half way around the world knowing that your photos are never going to match all the interesting stuff being said.

We met the two sealing representatives who were telling us how they were being unfairly portrayed and how the media had it wrong and how the seal hunt was just part of their seasonal rotational harvesting of the sea, depending on what there was to catch at that time of the year.

Snow crabs, Cod (before they were fished to extinction on the Grand Banks) and the Harp seals.

I went to get a coffee from the counter, leaving the journalist and the government minder talking to the other sealer and was joined by the most vocal and eloquent of the sealers a guy called Gary Troake.

The conversation went something like this 'it's a shame you can't see how we hunt seals'

I said I would like to but we needed a permit, we had no clue where the seal hunt was and we did not have an idea how to go out onto the ice.

'I will take you if you like' said Gary

'What about the government minder?' I said

'Just lose him' he said

I passed the journalist a note telling him of my plan.

There was after all one minder and two journalists so there was little he could do when I headed out into the parking lot and into Gary's car.

As we drove away from the diner I knew I was going to have and adventure but I was not ready for the kindness and generosity showed to me by Gary his wife Suzanne and his young family.

We had to wait for the weather to come right before we could go out on the ice.

They put me up in their spare room in their small house for several days. Giving me a valuable opportunity to document life in the community.

It gave an amazing insight into sealing but more importantly Gary's conservation views (well worth a read) which were pretty illuminating and learned.

One of the thing I did learn a lot about as a photojournalist was grey areas.

The world is full of them.

Just because Gary hunted seals it did not mean that he did not have a lot of sound knowledge and big ideas for conservation, some which were not always universally welcomed in the sealing community.

I think I was there 3 days until the weather was right.

Crystal clear blue skies with no wind.

Cold is a word which took on new meaning.

The sea was frozen.

They asked if I had good cold weather clothing and I confidently replied that I had, fleece and gortex layers galore.

In moments of being in the harbour I realised the clothes I was wearing was next to useless, the cold cut right through me.

They gave me a thick insulated survival suit, think of a babies romper suit made from hot water tank lagging and you will not be far off.

As we made our way out of the harbour the glass fibre hull of the boat cut though the ice making the most horrible juddering sound.

I was told this is why they favour glass fibre over wood, as it cuts through the ice and holds up better against damage.

Very little could prepare you for the sight once we were out of the harbour and into open waters.

Just clear blue skies, oily deep blue water which went on forever punctuated by the occasional piece of ice which had broken off from the ice flow.

Apart from the sound of the engine there was nothing, not a sound at all.

A few hours in one of the men saw a seal and fired a single shot.

He had killed the first of three seals that would be shot by the sealers that day.

I was not ready for it.

Camera's packed away because I really was not sure how they, or the batteries would stand up to sustained exposure to cold.

I was shooting with Canon EOS-1's and they did just fine but I had to manage my batteries.

I have to admit I did not shoot roll after roll of images as changing film was a mission and so damn cold to boot.

Just a matter of making every frame count.

From the day there was one frame which worked really well.

I was with one of the seal hunters on the ice who had just dragged the seal out of the water.

The others thought that they had seen another seal so left us, giving me a this shot which gave a real sense of the vastness.

The challenge was to tell a story often in one frame as this was frequently all a paper used to illustrate a story.

Then to hope that they use it.

How did I feel about going out with sealers who killed three of the most appealing mammals in my presence?

One has to leave one's emotions and prejudice's at the door when covering news.

But it was difficult to have any bad feelings for these guys and the community when they are just trying to hang onto life in one of the most challenging of places in the world.

One thing that struck me was just how dangerous their relationship with the sea was in small open boats, wether sealing or fishing.

A way of life that has claimed many lives in the small community of Twillingate.

When researching this blog I read with great sadness that Gary Troake and Roger Blake's small boat capsized in the icy seas while retrieving their nets.

Both men lost their lives.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Shameful goings on with the iPad mini.

Lead me not into temptation......

Some friends of mine were traveling into the UK recently who managed to get hold of a couple of the highly sought after iPad mini's.

They bought them for friends.

Lan Bui with and iPad mini he bought for someone else and ended up keeping for himself

The friends they bought them for did not get them, as they liked them so much that they kept them for themselves.

Another good friend of mine also managed to get hold of an iPad mini as a present for his girlfriend.

She has not received it, he opened the box to preload apps for her and kept it for himself.

More shameful and selfish acts tell you all you need know about the iPad mini.

Hold it in your hand and you are hooked by its size, feather weight and sheer quality.

Apple was late to the party with the iPad mini but in my view they really have hit the spot.

It did not have a retina screen but I did not miss it.

I use the brilliant and reliable Capture Pilot function in Capture One 7 Pro which enables you to share the shoot live with creatives on their iPad's, so they can choose the files as you shoot.

Tempting to get a couple just for this.

It is remarkable and baffling that I still encounter creatives who have never had this 'service' offered to them by photographers even on big high end shoots. It is a great way to win friends and influence the people who will give you your next big job. It is a mystery to me as to why more photographers don't use it.

I will let the parting shot go to

'If you want to save $50 and buy a cheap-ass tablet, go ahead. If you want quality the iPad mini will be waiting for you when you come to your senses'

I have a brand new iPad mini tucked away in the furthest recess's of my wardrobe for someone very special in my life.

When I open it up, just to set the email up and load it with apps you understand, lets hope that common sense prevails and not temptation.....

Monday 5 November 2012

THE crucial first accessory for shooting DSLR video

 Readers of this blog will know that I have a keen interest in video as well as stills.

One of the most frequent questions on asked is what rig do I use, three people asked me last week alone.

The truth is I do not yet have a rig, but I am in the process of choosing one right now.

I will share that process with you but it was heavily influenced by Rodney Charters DP of '24' and many other productions too.

So how have I managed to not buy rig for my DSLR for so long? After all it is a less than ideal form factor when it comes to handheld video shooting.

To see what is on the rear LCD you have to hold the camera at 'half' arms length, this in turn means you loose stability and you truly cannot see if the image is in focus and one does tend to shoot more wide open when shooting video on a camera like a Canon 5D MkII.

Not ideal at all.

When I started using the Zacuto Z finder, which clips onto the rear LCD, I could see what was sharp and what wasn't.

It was a giant leap forward in my video work.

But the really significant factor about using a Z finder is that the camera comes back to your eye and you gain what any video shooter craves.


When I shoot with my Z finder it gives me back the magical three points of contact between then camera and my body.

So all of a sudden a rig was not quite such a priority.

There are similar products out there, but I am consistently impressed by the superb build quality of the Z finder and for that matter all other Zacuto products.

I have dropped mine more than once will no ill effects.

You really do get what you pay for.

If you are looking for the first 'building block' on your video journey which gives the biggest bang for you buck, look no further.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Possibly the best time lapse. Ever.

 Time lapse is ubiquitous.

And quite rightly so.

Along with it's cousin super slow motion, I cannot think of a better way of capturing the passing of time.

I like many others tend to use it as a quirky bit of fun instead of using it as a narrative.

In fact examples of time lapse that truly tell a story are relatively few and far between.

When the space shuttle flew into Los Angeles for the last time it made one of the great photo ops of the year.

The juxtaposition of something big and that is normally in space was a sight to behold.

Bryan Chan pho editor and photographer at the 'La Times' shot a multi view time lapse of the shuttles final journey.

It really is outstanding.

He tells the story here in the LA Times blog.

As you will read planning is all.

Time lapse can be child's play, but when used to tell a story of an historic journey it is a very powerful tool.

Friday 19 October 2012

Hands on and samples from the Phase One 28mm and 240mm LS lenses.

I was fortunate enough to get some hands on and real world experience with the 28mm and 240mm LS lenses, the two latest pieces in the jigsaw puzzle from Phase One.

One that I knew I wanted and had been hoping they would make, the other a lens which I did not know I wanted until I used it.

In my forest series I have often used the quite brilliant 28mm F4.5 lens which is very sharp and remarkably little distortion. Importantly it gives full coverage of Phase One's biggest sensors, which is not the case with Hasselblad's offering, and played a small but significant part in my switch to Phase One a few years back.

 28 mm LS f/4.5 Aspherical

I used it on the Zebra shoot.

I have been in many situations where my widest lens was not quite wide enough and I hankered for a 28mm.

It has very low distortion for a medium format lens of its focal length too.

For all its strengths it did have one glaring shortcoming, in my eyes at least.

It had no leaf shutter, meaning I was stuck at 125th sec with my Elinchrom Rangers and on occasion it could be very frustrating.

A few years back when I suggested they make a version with leaf shutter I have to admit they did look at me somewhat sideways in a sort of 'why on earth would you want one of those? kind of way.

Well now they have done it and it is wonderful.

What photo opportunity did Phase One come up with to demonstrate the benefits of the 28mm with a leaf shutter?


Phase One CEO Henrik Hankonsson would put some sort of nasty flammable liquid in his mouth and breath fire, hopefully without setting himself or me on fire.

It might look like quite simple but it was a bit scary.

Its difficult to imagine another CEO of any company at all doing this for a photo and it does give you some sort of idea of the man AND the company.

Here is a 100 percent screen grab.

It was a little bit windy and the consequences of the fire blowing back into HH's face did not bear thinking about, so the location chosen for the shoot was a sheltered area in a former Danish military installation dating back to the Cold War.

It was one of those shoots where we had to get it right, I did not want to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons...

The area was a bit on the tight side as you can see so the 28mm was just the tool for the job, the leaf shutter meant I could shoot at 500th sec with big flash.

I lit the shot with two Profo 7B's.

Key light from the left with the back light on axis, the key light with a soft box, the back light bare bulb, using the built in kill spill.

I located them both very close to the walls of the bunker to give maximum stability and safety.

I will admit this shot took a couple of attempts.

When we all climbed back into the car unscathed I breathed a BIG sigh of relief.

Time then to get some hands on with the Phase One Schneider LS 240 mm f/4.5 the longest available telephoto lens for the Phase One 645DF camera. 

There has been a telephoto sized gap in the Phase lens line up and this lens was keenly awaited.
240 MM LS F/4.5 IF

Which at first glance, a slightly curious focal length lens, I can't think of another 240mm very easily.

The boffins at Phase were particularly interested to see what I made of it for a couple of reasons.

It was designed as a 240mm as this was found to be the optimum during the design process.

The resulting performance is remarkable.

When shooting on medium format I normally don't gravitate to the telephoto view, I tend to hover around the 120mm and wider, so while interested I did not think I would be THAT interested.

A brief walk around the streets of Copenhagen had me thinking a little differently though.

This is a really super sharp lovely lens with beautiful bokeh.

Here is 100 percent screen grab.

The internal focus mechanism works a treat and though it is not the lightest of lenses, weighing in at 1.6 kg/3.53lb's hand holds very well indeed, making a very stable package with the Phase One DF.

The AF seemed very snappy too, and on the new DF+, which I have not tried yet, one would imagine it would be even better.

One of the major failings of medium format lenses of this focal length is that they do not focus close enough.

This one does.

A close focusing distance of 170cm/5ft takes it well into the realms of a creative portrait lens.

My only slight reservation is the lack of a separate tripod mount for the lens.

I did not have chance to try the lens mounted on a tripod but the engineers at Phase One assured me this was not an issue due to the balance of the camera back /combo.

Lenses of this quality and calibre don't come cheap, and while I'm unsure of the final pricing of them, but I have never bought a Phase One LS lens and regretted it.

I have placed my order for the 28mm LS and look forward to shooting some more forest shots on it soon.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Purple fringing and the iPhone 5

Like many, I have been following the launch of the iPhone 5 with great interest.

I must stress I do not have one but it seems like a fine piece of kit, indeed everyone I know who has one is generally very happy.

There does not seem to be a day that goes by with out some new glitch being seized upon by commentators, some very valid-like the iOS6 maps which really do need quite a lot of work to bring them up to scratch( I looked for Whitstable on maps the other day three times and it just would not take me there)

But there are others which, I feel are a little unfair or unrealistic.

Which brings me on to Purple Fringing the latest 'Achilles heel' of the iPhone 5.

Since the dawn if digital photography I have owned many Camera's and lenses which have been susceptible to purple fringing.

In no particular order Canon DCS520, Canon G series (up to G5) and one of my favourite lenses the 'L' Series 85mm F1.2 has its moments when used wide open.

I'm not picking on Canon, it's just what I have owned and used.

Purple fringing or different chromatic aberrations did not make any of these Camera's or lenses 'bad' but merely a fact of life that with a little manipulation one could get over relatively easily

(Capture One has a great 'Remove purple fringing' option which often works very well indeed)

So why bother talking about it?

I find it amusing that as the Camera's in phones improve all the time, people have sky high expectations of them and really need to do a reality check.

It is a camera and is subject to the same photographic laws as any other camera.

There have been chromatic aberrations since the dawn of photography so we might as well all just get on with enjoying this amazing technology at out fingertips.


Friday 21 September 2012

Hasselblad's Lunar Moment

Anyone who follows my blog will know that I am a big fan and friend of Phase One.

But before Phase I owned a Hasselblad H1 and H2, not to mention a lovely 503CX.

I crossed the floor to Phase One as Hasselblad made it clear that any future Camera's would not support the Phase One back.

The back and the software really are the important bits....

It left myself and other pro's wondering what the future held for this fantastic company which I have more than a little affection for.

After a torrid few years struggling to make a profit they were bought by venture capital fund Ventizz.

When they acquired Hasselblad they said they would be exploring 'exploring new markets' or words to that effect.

You did not need to be Einstein to work out what that would mean, I'm just surprised that Sony are the bed fellows, my money was on Fuji, they do after all make the body and lenses for the H series for Hasselblad.

There was even rumour (unsubstantiated) doing the rounds at one point that the Fuji X100 was meant to wear an Hasselblad badge.

The camera's from what I can tell, on the first models anyhow, seem to be very heavily based on Sony offerings, the NEX nonetheless,which have been given the 'luxury' touch, as Hasselblad's own press release says

'The Lunar embraces the traditional Hasselblad state-of-the-art image capture combined with stunning Italian design features. For the first time we are using carbon fiber, titanium, wood, leather and precious metals - including gold'

And then we have the Sony/Hasselblad planned foray into the DSLR market.

Goodness me.

It has a very erm...'special' look.

Taking styling cues from the Hasselblad 500, even mimicking its flip up waist level finder.

I will leave it to you to decide whether this design is made in heaven or hell.

Badge engineering is a very dangerous route to take, having the potential to send all the wrong messages out to existing customers, in its existing market segments.

Which leads me to the H series.

It received a Ferrari Red paint job by way of update last Photokina, this time around it seems to have received a bit of black paint, with a few detail changes to the spec and nothing more.

And that is what bothers me.

There has been much talk of new market segments but precious little has been said about their long term commitment to the medium format market.

Does this matter?

To me it does.

Great they are trying different ways to bring the brand to a larger market but if it comes at the expense of its existing heartland.

Why do I care? I am after all a Phase One user.

There are effectively only two players left in the medium format market.

Watching them push one another along to greater things has led to some positive developments which have benefitted pro photographers.

If Hasselblad were to turn its back on its existing and loyal customers to chase the glittering prize of a prosumer market for €5000 rebodied Sony NEX, which may not even exist, it would be a very sad day indeed.

The Lunar, and the questionably styled forthcoming DSLR, has the potential to take Hasselblad to a whole new planet or into a black hole.

Time alone will tell.

I will leave you with the promo video which made me feel a little sad.

HASSELBLAD - Lunar from Claim | branding value on Vimeo.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Blogging Radio Silence

Where on earth have I been?

Why no posts?

I have not done a Rob Galbraith (his voice on the web will be sorely missed)

But it has been a rather packed and trying couple of months to say the very least.

July was taken up with a massive advertising shoot on a big scale, which required me to hire a tube train carriage. When the wraps come off I would love to talk about it, needless to say it took over my life for a while, leaving little room for anything else.

Then it was August and family holidays and I just wanted to kick back and do nothing.

It was at about this time that my body told me in no uncertain terms that I had been burning the candle every which way and it wasn't going to have it anymore and I got sick.

Bit of a scare for me if I'm honest, but I came down with hepatitis - bought on by glandular fever.

I'm on the mend now and feel like blogging again so I'm back on the scene.

With some super shoots ahead too.

Friday 27 July 2012

If you are about to buy a new Macbook Pro.....beware.

I love Apple products and I have spent many, many thousands of pounds on their products over the years.

My home and office have become an inadvertent Apple shrine.

But I'm a little concerned that their level of success has made them a little less customer focused in the area of customer care.

Let me explain.

I have a 5 year old Macbook Pro which still works well.

The other day when using it I noticed it did not sit flat on the table anymore.

Upon closer inspection I saw the battery has 'puffed up' like a balloon.

With a fair bit of prizing I managed to remove the battery.

I popped into the Apple rent street store and I went to see an Apple representative.

I showed him the battery and he said 'its what they are designed to do if there is a fault'

I told him that I thought the battery was probably out of warranty and he said they would not replace it.

He was unmoved when I said I accepted the failure but not the distorted and cracked open casing.

Surely it should not do this?

'You can buy one if you like but I'm not replacing it' was his response.

Perfectly within Apple's rights but I have come to expect better than this.

In fact this HAS happened before and they were kind enough to give me a replacement.

I can't help but think that Apple has a new mentality which is most unfortunate, in my opinion.

But let's just think, if you buy a Macbook Pro, one of the new super slim Retina screen models,
what would happen to your beautiful new purchase if this happened? bearing in mind you cannot remove the battery?

I put this to the Apple rep in store and he said 'it would be OK'

Now I don't know much about the internal design of laptops but surely this level of expansion would have some kind of impact on such a wafer thin design.

The new Macbook Pro IS brilliant but bear in mind if this happened to you on a big shoot you would be able to do little about it.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Canon plays it safe

Announced out of the blue the Canon EOS M is a late comer to the mirrorless market.

That does not make it bad - far from it.

Canon has a track record of following competitor products and doing a much better job.

Will anyone ever remember that Canon followed Minolta into auto focus and even trailed Nikon into video, albeit by a few weeks.

I have no doubt that it will be a fine offering, spoiling quite a few mirrorless parties that it's competitors are having, particularly as it has the largest sensor of any mirrorless camera, bringing low light performance that others have struggled with in this arena.

The design is very safe and won't win any awards for pushing the envelope for innovation.

Though I'm betting the touch screen user interface will be particularly good.

Build quality I suspect will be fine too with its metal construction.

It's not quite the camera I hoped for though.

You can't bring it up to your eye, so no '3 points of contact'

I'm guessing that Fuji in particular will be breathing a sigh of relief that Canon have played it relatively safe with this offering - leaving only themselves and Leica (who would have thought it?) in the retro/heritage market, with the the higher margins associated with being niche.

There lies the rub for me.

I feel the EOS M will be a good camera and a big sales hit, but in a sea of 'me too' mirrorless offerings will find itself slugging it out in terms of price instead of perceived quality.

Which brings me back to the Fuji X100 - a camera which regular readers of this blog will know I have had a Love/HATE relationship with (think of a camera version of an Alfa Romeo and you won't be so very far off)

At the moment, following a particularly effective firmware upgrade I'm in a 'Love' phase with the camera.

Which seems to have made the most of the good bits and helped the bad bits (autofocus in particular) and for all it's quirks and annoyances, it remains a firm favourite, and possibly the first digital camera I have had some sort of 'connection' with.

If someone were to build a 'heritage' camera which had better autofocus, speed, less weirdness with cards and a more intuitive menu they would do very well indeed.

I have suggested as much in previous posts.

As much as I would love Canon to come up with some kind of offering I sort of hope that they don't.

For as daft as the Fuji X100 is at times, it would be sad to see the demise of another film manufacturer, particularly one who was able to innovate in a retro kind of way and think outside of the box, giving the photographic world a flawed but brilliant gem - creating a Leica for the 'masses'

Sunday 15 July 2012

Defending the indefensible

I really can be quite unsympathetic when I see bad photography.

Particularly when it is by a 'Pro' working for a major and world renowned organisation.

When I first became aware of the furore surrounding the shots of the USA Olympic team by Joe Klamar I really was pretty astounded by what I saw, and despite all the excuses from his photo editor the pictures are, apart from a couple of exceptions, pretty rotten.

Nothing can really put into words what it wrong with them, lighting, execution, concept.

They are bad.

As I'm sure Joe Klamar(whom I have never met, nor do I have any connection with).would readily admit to, over a beer perhaps.

If you are expecting me to join in giving Joe Klamar a verbal lashing, which in my mind has been similar to the stoning scene in 'The Life of Brian' where all the women are wearing fake beards, well think again.

I have committed similar photo crimes to Joe and so very much worse too.

Let me explain.

The photo's are generally indefensible until you read his account of the assignment.

'I was under the impression that I was going to be photographing athletes on a stage or during press conference where I would take their headshots for our archives [and] I really had no idea that there would be a possibility for setting up a studio'.

I have seen some pretty strong comments from all comers.

But I would ask any of them to consider this.

What would you have done?

It's all very well winning 'blah, blah' photo of the month with some unforced photo of something you like to shoot and had some kind of control or input in.

With the possibility of planning too.

Joe was sent on the equivalent of a photo suicide mission.

Without wishing to play the blame game, one could look elsewhere.

What brief was he given?

Most of my photo apocolypses have been set up by either poor briefing ( ie not telling the photographer what they were getting into) or when I have not listened to the brief properly.

I have no idea which it was but these are scenarios which are possibilities.

The comment which cropped up often was 'I could have done better with my iPhone, and in the right conditions I dare say we all could.

And there is the rub, in the right conditions.

Consider the excellent American baseball team photos by Nick Laham, shot on an iPhone in the restroom, seemingly against the odds but there was some form of preparation, note the KinoFlo's ( I LOVE them!), and I'm prepared to wager he was not fighting with every other news organisation to get the shot either.

Imagine it was you who was sent to shoot this super high profile assignment unprepared, not knowing what the possibilities were, and having all the wrong gear.

On the AFP blog, Joe tells how he arrived with 2 bodies, 3 lenses and one flash unit..........oh dear.

After the wave of nausea had swept over you and, providing you were still standing, you would have to come up with some sort of plan, and quickly.

You might have done better than he did or you may have cracked under the pressure and done even worse.

He shot something which was not his finest moment, though I do actually like the shot of the guy with the dreads.

There is a native American saying which we could all do well to pay heed to

' never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes'

Tuesday 26 June 2012

'the Aviator' travel Jib from Zeke Kamm

I met Zeke Kamm at the 'Collision' conference at the the LA film school.
Zeke is a man of considerable passion, with some big ambitions and ideas.

There are no shortage of kick starter projects out there but this one caught my eye as it looks to be a good way to travel with a lightweight jib or crane offering the user the chance to add considerable 'production value' to a project.

Check out the examples and you will see what I mean.

Though just like a steady cam and slider it takes practice to master.

I do hope Zeke gets this off the ground as it is a clever and elegant design which doesn't break the bank.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Paying new prices for secondhand goods

Buying goods online requires a degree of trust.

You pay for a new item and you expect to get just that - something that has not been previously owned.

But that is just what has happened to me twice in the past few months.

I decided to buy an AirPrint capable printer and I opted for a Canon MX515 which I bought via a reseller on Amazon - £99.00 inc postage.

That one click purchase is too tempting, right?

Printer arrives.

First alarm bells ring.

Canon printers ALWAYS have little bits of orange tape on them, just about everywhere, holding various components in place.

There was no orange tape.

Then I went looking for the ink cartridges and saw that they had already been installed.

And one power cable - a two pin for Europe.

The little voice in my head told me that this is most probably the 'new' way.

I listened too, as I was in a rush and just wanted to get it up and running.

From that moment on no what I did the output was blurred - out of register and printed with big gaps in any image or text.

Nozzle cleaning did nothing neither did the clever auto pint head alignment feature.

It then began to dawn on me.

I'm pretty certain in my own mind that this printer had been used, rejected and returned by another user.

The vendor then decided they would try their luck with another customer.

What now makes me so certain of this?

I was in a hurry and I had now bought spare ink for the Canon MX515.

So I went to Staples and bought one over the counter for £79.00 (£20.00 cheaper than the reseller on Amazon)

Go home and open the open box.

There was a spanking new printer plastered with the orange tape.

Packed with a myriad of phone cables, adaptors and two power leads - Europe and UK.

I had to install the ink cartridges myself.

And then the printer goes into a once only start up mode just like a Mac.

Quite at odds with the 'dud' printer.

The second occasion this happened was when I bought 4 Hitachi 3TB 7200rpm HDD's for one of my BRILLIANT QNAP servers, which were heaven sent following my Drobo experience.

I purchased the drives form a highly reputable reseller in the Midlands.

The drives arrive.

Well packed but not in the 'one shot' antistatic foil bags but opened bags secured by one small piece of tape.

Foolishly I thought nothing of this.

Installed the first one in the QNAP.

It failed to be recognised.

And so it was with all of them.

I turned to QNAP, whose support was swift and most illuminating.

(If you are looking for superb and simple storage I cannot recommend QNAP too highly)

They viewed the QNAP TS879 remotely.

'We can see your problem' they said.

And took me through to the super special diagnosis screen which showed that someone had used and formatted the discs for use in a PC before they had got to me, and could contain some data.

I returned the drives and will no longer use the company concerned following this incident.

Yes, I should have realised much earlier on that both of these products were not quite as new as the vendor claimed.

Lesson - If the packaging looks like someone has opened it before then be VERY cautious.

It may well have had another life which the vendor does not want to share with you.

Friday 22 June 2012

Stansted Airport Quadra Qaundry

I'm on the plane now, flying out to Belfast for a nice environmental portrait, having negotiated airport security at Stansted Airport.

I have all the gear with me that I packed but it could all have been so very different.

Stansted Airport security has always had a bit of a curse on it where I'm concerned - it is rarely smooth and I once missed a flight while waiting in a queue for more than an hour.

Bag packed.

1 x Canon 5d mkII with 'L' series 24 -105mm F4 lens, Fuji X100 (as back up) 2 x Canon Speedlights, Pocket Wizard TT5's, 2 x Manfrotto 5001B lightstands, two Lastolite reflective brollies (perfect for the job in hand) and 2 x Elinchrom Quadra systems, which all fit inside my Manfrotto Lino bag.

As I packed my bag a little voice in my head said 'why take the Speedlites as well as the Quadra's ?'

I'm now pleased I did, because this choice could have saved the day.

At security my well packed bag was subjected to an extra through fingertip search post scan, and was swabbed for explosives as per usual.

But this guy was beyond thorough.

I was polite and helpful.

Clock ticking, time to departure getting uncomfortably close.

Then he 'found' the Quadra packs and started a minute examination.

All clear - then he started to read the labels on the pack, where he found the words 'Lead Acid Gel'

'You can't fly with this'

'Oh really?' I replied 'I fly with it all the time and I believe it is safe to fly with'

'I'm going to take these to my supervisor' he said

I eavesdropped on the prolonged debate which swung back and forth between the powers that be, between a 'yes' and a 'no'

They let me through in the end but with more than a sideways glance - leaving me to run to the gate and make the plane by the skin of my teeth.

I understand their concern, lead acid batteries per se can be an issue but I understood gel to be different.

Lithium Ion is and issue too which they are even more stringent about.

I think Elinchrom have a certificate/document for download to show the security guys at airports.

I will be checking this one out pronto to ensure this does not happen again, or at least give my argument more of a persuasive fighting chance.

Location:Stansted Airport

Wednesday 20 June 2012

The honesty of 36 Fames.

I have been a fan of David Burnett for sometime.

If you are not familiar with his work, do check him out.

He has lived many lifetimes through his work and by all accounts is a true gent too.

This week he is interviewed in the Washington Post about the moment he missed one of the key images of the Vietnam war, which some argue played no small part in ending the conflict which claimed so many lives.

We live in an age where we don't have to think of the limitations of 36 frames.

Put a 32GB card in a Canon 5d MkII and stays on 999 frames and you can shoot for an age before it falls below that number.

I have talked in the past about my own experiences 'managing' 36 frames under sniper fire in Kosovo.

Back in the day the moment of switching a roll was a nervous moment indeed.

David's account is honest and illuminating, and perhaps should give us all food for thought.

What would your photography be like if you had to shoot 36 frames at a time?

I in no way at all hark back to the days of spending hours on end in the darkroom getting dermatitis from the chemicals and ruining endless pairs of trousers.

I am prepared to wager though that if we shot in a more controlled way our photography would be more thoughtful - and all the better for it.

Monday 11 June 2012

Olympic Golden Great Webinar today

Olympic Gold Medalist David Hemery

A last moment announcement on my blog though it has been trailed pretty heavily elsewhere.

I have been rather busy of late and blogging and tweeting have been far from my mind....more of that to come.

Tonight I will be talking about the 'Olympic Golden Greats' series which Lucinda and I shot over the past two years on webinar hosted by Manfrotto.

There are still some spaces left if you click here

Even if you care nothing for sport you may be interested in the location lighting side of it.

Please come and join me.

Monday 14 May 2012

Canon missing a trick with their new cinema lenses?

Canon kicked off the DSLR revolution (it was just that despite what others may tell you...) and have progressively updated DSLR's in the line through new models and clever firmware upgrades to the MkII to dominate this segment.

They followed this impressive foot hold with the Canon C300 and have shown the C500 which when released will answer many of the (mostly unfair) criticisms levelled at the C300.

To cap this, Canon have started to roll out the release of a range of cinema lenses too which are very serious offerings indeed.

I'm delighted that Canon are doing this, I even suggested way back in 2009 to the mass of Canon representatives at 'Converge 1' held at the National Film Theatre in London that this would be a good idea.

So why do I think that Canon could be missing a trick?

I had been mulling this over in my mind for a while but what crystallised the thought was the announcement of the Canon 14.5 - 60 Cinema lens which looks to be a superb offering(check out the AbelCine Review) but has a very high estimated street price, while these figures are not confirmed I have seen numbers of anything up to $20,000 banded about.

$20,000 per zoom lens is way out of my league.

It may be of a 'modest' size in terms of cine lenses but weighing in at more than 8lb's (4.5kg's) really takes it out of 'Run and Gun' territory, even if you could afford it.

This is a zoom range which I use a lot with the C300 which leaves me little choice but to use the Canon EF-S 17-55 F2.8.

A lens which has a good zoom range, good optical quality, image stabilised (a real boon when shooting handheld) and a constant F2.8 f-stop.

That is the good news - now for the bad.

It's build quality and action of focus and zoom are shall we say, a little flaky at times.

As I'm sure Canon would admit, not really optimum for pro video use.

On occasion robbing you of very smooth actions that you need.

Not helped at all by the fiddly, tiny focusing ring.

The Canon EF-S 17-55 lens, used out of necessity
The choices open to a Canon user when the 14.5-60 cinema lens is finally launched will be to buy one of these for $20,000ish or $1000 on the EF-S 17-55.

This is further compounded by the fact that the new 'L' series Canon 24-70 lens, which even if you could live with the slightly too long bottom end focal length, lacks image stabilisation even though the new 28mm lens has IS (go figure?)

Canon are catering for the very top end cinema movie makers and the pro-sumers while, so far, passing by the large rump of C300 users( and 7D users too)

Prime lenses are all well and good, and there are some fine offerings from Canon and Zeiss but often a zoom is of much more real world use.

How about a compact 'L' series zoom lens which covers 17-55 range, with some of the features of its big brother, retaining IS which would have a street price of $3000?

Over to you, Canon, Zeiss or perhaps even Schneider?

Whoever pulls it off will have a sales hit on their hands in this so far neglected section of the market.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Celebrity Photography Webinar 17/5/12 19.00 BST

Olympic Gold Medalist Lindsey Vonn, in the Austrian Tyrol for Sports Illustrated

Next week I'm presenting a celebrity photography webinar hosted by the Manfrotto School of Excellence (It will be free of charge too).

I will be talking about celebrity portraiture and how to make it happen as well as some behind the scenes stories.

It will be about the technical side including lighting but it will be about so very much more than that.

Communication with celebrities and their agents is the key part, and so is planning.

Please join me for an insight into this world

Places are already going fast.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

A wet Bank Holiday weekend in Whitstable, with a pleasant surprise.

Off with the family to one of my very favourite spots.

Whitstable in Kent.

A beautiful gem of a town which has class while still keeping its feet on the ground.

If you have not been, do go.

Right now would be a good time as we made a very welcome discovery.

Renowned shooter to the stars Brian Aris has an exhibition in the Whitsatble museum.

It is not the biggest show ever but what sheer quality.

If you have not familiar with him check out his site

Bear in mind too that the lions share of his work in the show was shot on film, which meant you had to get the exposure right.....and post was not widespread.

What struck me about his work in addition to the craftsmanship was how personal the portraits are - the rapport which he has managed to strike up with some of the biggest names in show business tell you much about the man.

His portraits of the late Paula Yates were particularly poignant.

I'm trying to get hold of Brian at the moment to see if we can have a chat about his work.

The exhibition runs until June 10

If you do get down to Whitstable and like seafood, ring ahead to try to book a table at the amazing Wheelers seafood restaurant, a culinary institution which has changed little since it opened some 150 years only and no drinks licence either.

You will need luck on your side as it only seats 12 covers at any one time.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Out and about with the Canon C300.

A busy old week.

Out and about in London with the Canon C300.

The more I use it, the more I like it.

The medium format style ergonomics make so much sense and one feels at home with very quickly.

It's one thing doing low light tests in controlled conditions but in real world situations it is such an advantage.

We were shooting in the Victoria and Albert Museum were the light was very low indeed so we rated the shoot at 5000ISO and the quality was simply superb.

Something which would have been unimaginable with the otherwise excellent Canon XF305, which is not suited to low all.

Next stop street shooting in the West End.

We expected to hit some kind of trouble from some type of person in a uniform telling us we could not film but we were thankfully left alone.

I can't help but wonder how much of this was down to the fact that the C300 does not quite look like a video camera?

So great in low light and great inconspicuous run and gun camera too.

One gripe though....

It would be great if one could use XLR Mic's straight into the body instead of having to fit the clever but sometimes a little bit unwieldy LCD/XLR module to the top of the camera.

It is a bit of a pest when it is time to remove the module too.

The HiRos cables which plug into the body are super stiff to remove .

They are getting better with use, but they can be trying if you are under pressure.

I hope that someone soon comes up with a discrete and compact XLR solution.

More C300 adventures soon......


Friday 27 April 2012

Farewell Terry Spinks - An Olympic Golden Great

When I turned the radio on to listen to 'Today' I heard the sad news that Terry Spinks, who won an Olympic Gold for Flyweight Boxing at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic games has died.

Terry featured in our 'Olympic Golden Greats' exhibition, Sponsored by Manfrotto, at John Lewis in the Stratford Centre.

In fact he made it to the private view, along with his Cousin Rosemary and her husband Terry, who have cared for him for many years.

I cannot claim to have known the family well but they are Lovely kind people, who's kindness and generosity are sadly no longer the norm in society.

In fact their deeds hark to days gone by.

Terry is said to have given most of his money and possessions away - while he was out on a cold night he gave away his fancy coat to a homeless person.

Think of that for a moment if you will.

Rosemary led a long campaign for him to receive an honour from the Queen, an MBE is normally the order of the day, but it took a hard fought campaign before he finally received one in 2002.

Lucinda and I shot him at the atmospheric West Ham Amateur boxing club, which has changed little since Terry trained there for the 1956 Olympic Games.

We wanted to shoot on the Phase One DF with P65+ with a very shallow depth of field, F2.8.

To light him, and the club.

We used 3 Elinchrom Quadra's.

Key light on Terry from camera left, with a Chimera small soft box

Back light on Terry from Camera left, with a Chimera extra small soft box and a grid.

One light in the far distance on camera left to light the background.

We used my BIG Gitzo 5560SGT and its remarkable height  to be half on and half off another boxing ring to get the right angle. This tripod has made the difference on so many occasions because you can put your camera in extreme positions in a very stable way.

Here is Lucinda with Terry and his cousin Rosemary.

It was a special day.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

The iPad 3's Achilles heel

I have been a big fan of the the iPad since it was introduced.

If one accepts its limitations it is a very effective device.

In fact I did not take a laptop with me on my tour of the Far East, it has filled the niche so well.

The iOS version of Keynote being particularly excellent for presentations on the fly.

I even tried a Time lapse with it and it was pretty good.

I bought the iPad 1 but skipped the iPad 2 as one can take the purchase of glittering Apple jewels a little too far.

From its feature set the iPad 3 was a candidate for an upgrade, and overall I'm happy with it.

But with one very big caveat.

It's power consumption.

That beautiful retina screen is a power hog.

With my iPad 1 I could manage to get by with sporadic and occasional charges, it would get by on a whiff of power and hang onto the charge quite nicely thank you very much.

If you play this game with the iPad 3 you will pay the consequences
and as a result I'm never far away from some way of topping up the power.

What is more not only does it seem to charge more slowly, but if you are running an screen heavy app while charging you may well experience a 'static' battery situation - where the battery power does not go down, but neither does it go up.

This has caught me out a couple of times, where I have been running an app while it has been charging overnight, and in the morning the battery has been in much the same state of charge as when I plugged it in.

So when I was about to make my presentation I was left wondering if I would make it through, a nerve wracking experience.

The problem further made worse by the fact that you cannot charge the iPad while it is plugged into a projector as the share the only external connection point the device has.

Yes, I should be more organised and together but this is real life and we all have quite enough going on without committing too much mental capacity for a charging strategy for ones mobile device.

Don't get me wrong, I do like my iPad 3 and I'm writing this blog on it as I travel to London.

All I'm saying is that by upgrading the screen Apple has changed the character of the device in my opinion.

Before you buy one try to assess which you value more, the retina display or battery life?

If you want a solution where the battery lasts through the day and beyond you might like to consider the iPad 2 and save some cash too.


Friday 20 April 2012

My GoPro v iOS for timelapse on the move

My travels around the Far East on the Phase One IQ tour were a great opportunity to shoot a few time lapse sequences from every stop on my trip.

I cannot say I planned this at all, but I had the idea while I was in Bangkok after shooting a time lapse in Hong Kong on my iPad 3.

Shooting time lapse on an iOS device is surprisingly easy with any one of a number of app's to do the job.

I tried iTimelapse, Timelapse and Motion pics, all which have their own strengths and weakness's.

The great benefit of this being you can render, export and share it straight away from the device.

The other benefit being no one pays much attention to you, particularly if you are using an iPhone for the task in hand.

The downside of this is that there is still no truly suitable and secure way of attaching your iPhone or iPad to a mount, and the few that are we're not available on my travels.

Even if there were, a bigger problem is that you can't use your device for anything else while shooting a time lapse.

Then there is the small matter of jeopardy - while traveling would you really be happy hanging your main means of communication out of the 23rd floor window of a hotel?

With all this in mind I scored myself a GoPro Hero 2.

Relatively cheap, verging on the indestructible, and not totally the end of the world if it gets stolen.

Try to bear in mind that though the GoPro 2 is a step forward over the first version, low light is still not it's strong suit.

Note in this cracking GoPro promo short there is no low light work at all.

Next the mounting solution.

It may come with a couple of single use sticky pads, a sucker cup, a head band or even a flotation device, and a waterproof housing, depending which version you buy.

But it does not come with a tripod mount.

It is listed as a spare part but I found no shop which stocked them on my travels.

I resorted to buying an unbranded clamp which had a tripod mount in the bottom.

This opened the gateway to a myriad of solutions, the cornerstone of which being the Manfrotto Super clamp which I used in conjunction with the Manfrotto 709B mini tripod, from which I use the tiny ball head to bolt to the clamp, and sometimes use the mini column too.

There are many, many things you can achieve with this set up.

My friends the Bui Brothers use something called the 'Nasty Clamp' which is lightweight, effective and takes up little space in your bag.

I then use the SD adaptor from the iPad camera connection kit to check the framing, the optional LCD screen that GoPro sell would be good but I'm holding out for the WiFi adaptor instead so I can see what shot I'm getting via my iPhone.

Then there is the small matter of powering the camera

The standard battery will power the camera for around two and a half hours.

But what happens if you want to shoot for more than that?

Once again GoPro sell clip on battery pack for additional power, once again no one sold these in the Far East and if they had anyway I'm not sure I would have bought one, because I had another solution.

When I last saw Lan Bui of the Bui Brothers he was travelling with a large external battery called an iSound.

Now it looked big and bulky so I took the mickey out of him for having it.

I mean, why on earth would you need one of these?

Fast forward a couple of months and I had to eat my words as I bought one.

This meaty looking device will charge your iPhone, iPad and yes, you can run a GoPro for hours and hours, though not while in its waterproof housing.

Here it is alongside a hotel flower.

The big downside with the GoPro set up was that while on my travels I had to resort to computer surfing to render my files using QuickTime Pro 7, as I could find no way of doing this on the iPad 3, it should be possible but there was always one factor or another which got in the way.

If anyone knows differently please do let me know.

One thing to bear in mind if you are shooting time lapses from indoors are reflections.

There may not seem to be any when you set the camera up but when the lights come on in the building you are in it can ruin your best efforts.

Here is what happened in Jakarta.

All clear at the beginning......

And then the lights came on, while I was away of course.....

I did get away with it (just) by trimming the worst reflection from the end of the clip and by using local adjustments and a vignette in Capture One Pro 6 to minimise the effect.

I run all my time lapses through Capture One Pro 6 to tweak them, and I found the 'Clarity' tool particularly useful to cut through haze on city scopes.

Here is the GoPro set up on the Manfrotto 709B in the Jakarta hotel.

If you have a busy schedule and you want to make sure the camera is OK, you can even recruit a friendly security guard and reward them appropriately.....

Here is my final timelapse from the roof of the spectacular Marina Sands Bay Hotel complex, which offers unrivalled views of Singapore.

Once again I bolted the camera to the safety railing and stood with the camera for more than three hours, unhindered by security personnel, imagine doing this in London? I suspect it would only be moments before they kicked you off.

I waited until my return home before dealing with the files.

I was bitterly disappointed to see the camera set up had been more adversely affected by people leaning on the railing and made the sequence sporadically 'jump' because of the movement of the camera.

This is one of my pet hates and characterises poor time lapse, in my books anyhow.

I was adding the audio track in Final Cut Pro X and thought I would try the stabilisation setting.

To my great surprise it worked a treat and banished the dreaded 'bounce' of the camera.

Many of us have it in our minds to shoot time lapse but getting round to it seems another matter entirely.

The truth is it has never been easier.

The rewards are great when you do though.

Why not try it this weekend?