Tuesday, 29 December 2009

When travel no longer requires travelling

We've all known about the power of Hollywood special effects ever since Star Wars in 1977. But when Chase Jarvis recently posted a showreel from Stargate Studios I was blown away.

For me it was a real eye-opener how much footage from even relatively simple scenes was shot on a green screen, with a background composited in afterwards.

The advantages from the production perspective are obvious - you don't need to travel, get location permits and are not dependent on the weather. And creatively you are limited only by your imagination.

So what has this got to do with travel photography? Compositing in still photography has been around for a long time, and has become extremely prevalent in the last 10 years as Photoshop has become ubiquitous.

However, it's only been relatively recently that it had been common to see travel posters on the tube here in London where a couple or family have been composited onto a beautiful background. Sometimes it is done very sloppily and looks terrible, but often it is done with great skill and would not be noticeable to the casual viewer.

I can imagine this is a trend that will only accelerate in future. With high quality stock photography available for backgrounds, models can be shot in the studio without the need to expensive travel and weather delays.

The green screen is here to stay.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Are you safe to post on Flickr?

Many professional photographers have shied away from posting their work on social media sites such as Facebook or Flickr. Often they have legitimate concerns about whether their work is protected well enough from copyright infringement. The terms and conditions to these sites are often onerous, hard to understand for those of us that don't speak legal-ese, and in any case get updated so frequently it's hard to keep track.

The downside of not participating professionally in social media sites is that increasingly photo editors and art buyers are looking to them for inspiration, and to find new styles and new photographers. And with the current generation of 20-somethings entering the photo industry, who have spent all their adult lives participating in MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, this will only become even more prevalent.

So that you know what's what, the ASMP, America's version of our own AoP, have put together a web page that explains to you in plain language the T&Cs of the main social media sites, letting you know what they, and other users, can and cannot do with your uploaded photos and videos.

Something everyone should read IMHO. Go here for the details.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Travel Photographer of the Year results out

The international 'Travel Photographer of the Year' competition, the most prestigious award in travel photography, has just announced its 2009 results. This year's winner is Bangladeshi photo journalist GMB Akash. He has a great portfolio of ship breakers in Pakistan and railway travellers in Bangladesh. You can see them and the individual category winners here. I was fortunate enough to win the competition in 2006.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Where now for emerging photographers?

A lot of traditional magazines are dying - the drop in print ad revenue is not matched by the increase in online ad revenue. The result is smaller budgets, and less money to spend on creating interesting and original content.

And as a photographer who generates quite a lot of my income from editorial shooting, that can makes things pretty tough. Magazines are using more and more stock photos and commission less and less. Those that do still commission often take the copyright of the images, cutting off a source of future income in stock.

As well as all of that, magazines are the way many people have traditionally gotten into a career in photography. The reduction in commissioning is removing what has traditionally been one of the key steps on the career ladder.

For anyone getting in to photography and looking to get their first editorial clients, Tim Kemple, an adventure sports shooter from Salt Lake City whose blog I have followed for a while, tells it like it is.

"The modern day magazine, the one charging thousands a page for advertising, while paying out hundreds a page for photography, in a book that is 50% advertising is on its last legs…"

Read more here

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Film craziness is catching on

It seems the MF film craze is catching on big-time. Photographer and prolific author David duChemin over at the Pixellated Image recently picked up an old Hasselblad 500CM and seems to be having a lot of fun with it.

Interestingly, he talks about how shooting in a different format and style helps him sharpen his creative eye for when he uses his regular digital setup for his clients.

In the meantime, after my own little experiment with a Hasselblad, I've had some film come back from the lab. Of the two rolls I shot, there are a couple of portraits I really like. Now I just need to get my hands on a scanner to show them to you!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

New work on the website

I've recently returned from a 5 week shoot in Washington DC for AA Media, and I've just put up a new gallery on my website with a small selection of the shots. Go to the 'Recent Work' gallery, the link is at the bottom right of the home page.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The future of magazines?

Sports Illustrated, have put together a demo of what their magazine might look like on a tablet touchscreen device. And I have to say it looks pretty good.

If this is what a digital magazine subscription could look like in a year or two, then I think they'll be a huge hit. eBook readers like the Amazon Kindle have been slow to take off, but reading novels is very different from magazines. As adoption of touch screen devices grows I can see these flying off the virtual shelves.

Thanks to A Photo Editor

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Great minds think alike

It turns out Mike Johnston over at the Online Photographer has also just made a post about the delights of film-based medium format. Worth a read.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Old Skool

This weekend I shot my first roll of film in 4 years. "Film? What's that?" I hear some of you cry. Well, after a month long assignment shooting 10,000 frames with my pair of Canon 5D mark IIs I felt like slowing down and getting back to basics.

So I rented a Hasselblad from Calumet. No, not a space-age 39 megapixel H3D, but a V-series 503 CW (pictured), the design of which is essentially the same as the 500C made in 1957. Along with an 80mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss lens, a film back and a light meter I was ready to go. Yes sir, a light meter - because the 500 series Hassies don't have one built in.

I spent the morning reminding myself how to load the film and use the light meter, and then it was off to take some pictures. The 10 step process goes something like this:

1) Find and interesting subject

2) Get out the light meter, set the ISO to match your film speed, and take an exposure value (EV) reading

3) Set the EV on the lens to lock in a shutter/aperture combination, and then rotate it until you have the particular shutter speed/aperture combination you want.

4) Remove the dark slide between the body and the film back

5) Frame your shot in the waist level finder. Not as easy as it sounds as the image is flipped left -to-right, so you keep moving the camera in the wrong direction.

6) Flip up the 4x magnifier in the viewfinder and focus the lens manually.

7) Check the depth of field scale on the lens to ensure you will have the correct amount of the scene in focus based on your chosen aperture and focusing distance.

8) Take a deep breath and press the shutter release. There is a huge "clunk" as the mirror swings up and a small "click" and the leaf shutter in the lens snaps shut.

9) Crank the winder to re-cock the shutter, wind on the film and return the mirror so that you can see through the viewfinder once again. No instant return mirrors here.

10) Hope that you took a decent picture!

With each press of the shutter costing £2 in film and processing costs, it's probably just as well that the magazine only gets 12 shots onto a roll of 120. But it certainly makes you think twice before you press the shutter. Is this an interesting shot? Have I metered the scene correctly? Is my focusing spot on? Can I handhold at this shutter speed?

It was nice to get back to a slow, methodical way of working, and having to think both aesthetically and technically before spending £2 on each shot. Over the whole weekend I shot 2 rolls of film, or 24 pictures. Using a digital camera I might have taken that many in a minute. But I expect the proportion of keepers from my 24 will be pretty high and I wouldn't be surprised if I get as many keepers as I would with 500 frames that I might shoot on a 5D in a weekend.

For those of you that have only gotten into photography during the digital age, try renting out and old medium format film camera one day. I think you'll enjoy it.

I'll post my favourite photo from the weekend once I get the film back from the lab and scan it in... Welcome to Old Skool!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

New best practices website from ASMP

The ASMP (American Association of Media Photographers) are a professional body similar to our own AoP here in the UK. They have just launched a fantastic resource for working photographers - the dpBestFlow website. It covers in detail everything you need to know about digital imaging standards for professional work, including:

- Calibrating your monitor, printer and camera
- Practical colour management, soft-proofing and CMYK conversions
- Delivering files to clients
- File management, naming, cataloguing, and keywording
- Backup and archiving your files

The information seems very well presented with lots of screenshots and videos.

Well worth a look.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Edward Burtynsky

I’ve been on assignment in Washington DC the last few weeks, and happily my time coincided with Fotoweek DC. Earlier this evening I attended a talk by Edward Burtynsky at the Corcoran Gallery talking about his new show “Oil”. It is one of the most powerful collection of photographs I have seen, and his talk gave an interesting account of how his ideas have progressed over the years and some of the challenges he has overcome to document the places he shows us.

Burtynsky is one of the world’s most renowned fine art photographers, having made his name documenting the impact humans have had on the landscape. The genius of his photographs lies in his ability to make the tragic look beautiful. As he says, “anyone can photograph these things and make them look ugly. By making them look beautiful, people actually pay attention.”

He started out covering railways in the 1980s, and since then has pointed his view camera at quarries, the mining industry, and the explosion of manufacturing in China.

Over the last 10 years he has turned his eye to oil, and through it the impact we have had on the land. The show begins with a series of photographs of the hell-on-earth landscapes of the Canadian tar sands, to show us where oil comes from. Next, a series of aerials shows us the lifestyle oil has allowed – the endless suburbs of Las Vegas and the enormous motorways of LA. Finally, he shows us what happens when we are finished with it all. From the deserted oil fields of Baku, now one of the most polluted places on earth, to the ship breaking yards of Chittagong where bare-footed workers scrap oil tankers by hand, we get a glimmer of the future – of what the world will look like when we have run out of oil.

In spite of the beauty of the photographs, it is not a pretty sight.

You can see the curator of the show, Paul Roth, give a brief introduction here.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Don't forget the content

With all the technical information about photography available on the internet I worry that sometimes people forget that one of the most important things about any photograph is having an interesting subject.

I was over at Thom Hogan's site this morning. Thom writes about all things Nikon, and although I'm not a Nikon user, he often has an interesting take on where the camera industry is going.

I don't usually care too much for his photography - he focuses on fine art landscapes. But he has a completely arresting image on the front page at the moment of a snarling lion that he grabbed while in Tanzania.

It's soft, under exposed, and blurred, but it captures such a wonderful moment you can't help but look at it agin and again.

As he says:

"Sometimes the subject transcends the technique, something that keeps getting forgotten (or at least ignored) in this "need more megapixels" world. This is a 10mp image taken with a consumer zoom with questionable technique (when a lion is doing this and you're as close as I was, I doubt your technique would be any better). Yet I'm pretty sure that you had a visceral and real reaction to it when you first saw it. Whatever camera you use, don't forget the content..."

I'm all too aware that many people looking to get into photography are so concerned about sharpness and pixel peeping that they forget photography is about communicating something. Thom's image does that perfectly.

He changes the image on the front page every couple of weeks, and I can't see how to link to the image specifically, so check there soon before it is gone.

Monday, 28 September 2009


The Tour of Britain might not have the glamour of the Tour de France, but when the finish stage came to London last weekend I wanted to get some pictures. Cycling is a great sport to photograph as the riders all wear bright colours, the bikes look like something from a science fiction film and they often pass though spectacular locations.

It's always good to get a different perspective on things, and I managed to get up onto a bridge over the course at the start:

Then I tried a few panning shots from the side of the track. A shutter speed of about 1/100th seemed to get the right amount of motion blur:

Finally, I love shooting against the sun, so I found a corner where the cyclists had a clear view behind them. I used a wide angle lens and pre-focused at 1m (yes, the riders were that close!). I used on camera flash in high speed sync mode to provide some fill. I kept the aperture wide to allow the flash to recycle quickly, as I was shooting on motor drive:


Thursday, 17 September 2009


I recently shot a friend of mine who is a member of the GB triathlon squad. We headed out to Richmond Park on a cold August morning, and despite nearly freezing the death at first, the sun came through for an hour or so at about 7am.

There are a couple of techniques that you ned to nail for these kinds of shots.

The first is mixing ambient light and flash with a moving subject. Because your camera will only sync with the flash at 1/250th, you need to be careful not to get motion blur from the low (for action photography) shutter speed.

The second is panning. When you actually want to have motion blur, rto capture the sense of speed, you need to be sure to get just the right amount. Ideally you want the background blurred and the subject remaining reasonably sharp. When shooting close up with a wide angle lens, this can be particularly challenging. The solution is lots of practice and re-shooting again and again until you get it right.

Monday, 3 August 2009


It's been a while since my last post, but that's only because there's been so much going on. I'll try and bring you up to speed over the next few posts.

I recently returned from Chamonix, the home of mountaineering, at the foot of Mt Blanc. We spent a few days hiking and shooting We were exceptionally lucky with the weather, getting rain on the way out and the way back, but glorious sunshine fior most of the time in between. Sometimes things just happen that way.

These kinds of outdoor adventure shoots are always weather dependent and there isn't a lot you can do about it, so it's a huge relief when things fall in your favour.

Here are a few images:

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Death of the photo print - part deux

I've written before about the death of the photographic print, so I was interested to read someone else highlighting the desire to be able to show fine art work on flatscreen displays. Head over to A Photo Editor for large format photographer Olivier Laude's take on it all.

In my original post I imagined it might be common in 10 years time (and I wrote that a year ago) but maybe it is even closer then I think...

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Finally, a decent pocket camera?

One of the things we gave up with the move to digital over the last decade, was the small but quality pocket camera. Today's digicams typically suffer from very poor high ISO performance, slow zoom lenses and glacial speed whens shooting RAW, if they shoot RAW at all.

Back in the film days we had the Olympus Mju, the Contax TVS and various other high-end compacts. And because they took exactly the same film as their SLR cousins, you lost nothing in image quality.

These days, if you want to take high quality images then that usually means packing an SLR. Now, when shooting professionally then sure, pack the SLRs and all the other gubbins. But when I'm out just taking pictures for myself or grabbing some shots of friends, I don't always want to lug around a big heavy SLR.

But if you only carry a digicam you compromise so much on image quality that you end up just taking snapshots and not tryng to make real photographs at all. Generally anything shot at ISO 400 or above is a disaster, and the handling often leaves a lot to be desired.

It seems that the launch of the micro-4/3rds format by Panasonic and Olympus last year might finally put that dilemma to rest. These cameras pack a sensor almost as large as an APS-C SLR, but by dispensing with an optical viewfinder, manage to squeeze it into a considerably smaller package.

Panasonic have already had considerable success with their micro-4/3rds G1 and video-capable GH1, and now Olympus have lept into the ring with the EP-1. Featuring a compact 17mm f/2.8 (equivalent to 35mm on full frame) pancake lens and an optional accessory optical viewfinder, this might just be what I have been looking for.

Mike Johnson over at The Online Photographer has always been an advcate of what he calls the DMD camera - DMD stands for "Decisive Moment Digital" - and on his blog he now has the first hands on preview of the new Olympus.

If it lives up to my expactations of decent image quality and handling then I may well pick one up.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

More on lighting interiors

Further to my post a few months ago on shooting interiors, Strobist has a great post on lighting for interiors featuring archive videos of legendary photo educator Dean Collins lecturing at the Brooks Institute of Photography.

These videos were shot in the early 1990s, and Dean is talking about shooting film in large format cameras. But the beauty of light is that the laws of physics don't change, and everything he talks about is just as relevant today as it was then.

Dean is one of those guys you wish all your school teachers had been like - he's passionate, amusing and extremely knowledgeable. Head over to Strobist and enjoy.

The importance of scouting

A lot of planning had gone into my recent Jamaica shoot. Over the course of several meetings and conference calls we had agreed an itinerary that allowed for some scouting time at each location the day before to find the best locations and viewpoints. All except one…

One afternoon we planned to shoot horses riding through the surf, but we weren’t going to have time to scout. However we had explained at length to the local producer exactly what we were looking to do over the phone.

On the day, we were late arriving at the stables after the producer had kept us waiting earlier. With about an hour to go until sunset, we had some horses and some guides, and they took us down to the beach.

Except that there was no beach.

Instead there was a stinking stretch of swamp knee deep in horse crap. It clearly wasn’t going to do. Tempers were fraying. On explaining that we wanted an wide, sandy beach there was much scratching of chins. After a couple of minutes it was agreed there was a sandy beach not too far away. The guides galloped off to check if the access road was open.

It was not.

By now I was getting pretty stressed. The sun was dropping fast and the light was gorgeous.
We were then told there was another beach not too far away. It was the only available option, so we had to go and give it a try.

After a 15 minute drive following the horses, we arrived at a rocky cove surrounded by low scrub. Not exactly what I had in mind, but with only 30 mins before the sun went down I was just going to have to get on and make the most of it.

So we got the models and the guides up on the horses, and had them wading through the surf back and forth. The shoreline was so rocky that the horses had to step quite gingerly – so no galloping action shots today.

So instead I chose to shoot into the sun, to disguise the location as much as possible and give a warm feeling to the shots. I was on manual exposure and took a few test shots to get the correct amount of sun flare while still holding some shadow detail.

The WFT was transmitting files to the laptop so the art director could view them as I was shooting. He liked what he saw so we tried a few different variations.
By now I was standing waist deep in the water and getting splashed a few times by the waves, but luckily the camera held out despite getting a bit of a soaking. Finally just as the sun went down we shot the other was, out to sea, to get the most of the soft light on a nearby headland.

Going over the shots back at the hotel afterwards, we agreed that we had successfully snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. And in the process I learnt a valuable lesion – no matter what others tells you, always ensure you get a chance to scout a location personally before shooting!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Interview on the Canon Professional Network

I forgot to mention that I was interviewed for the Canon Professional Network last month. It's a bit equipment focused - as you might expect from Canon - but if you want to learn about what's in my kit bag and how I use it all you can read about it here. You even get to see a dodgy picture of me you lucky things...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

I'm rather liking Live View

If you've ever tried taking pictures from strange angles, or close to the ground, with an SLR, then you'll know that is a surefire way to either get a crick in your neck or end up with a badly composed photo. Just when you've spotted a great photo you find it required putting the camera in a place where you can't actually get your eye to the viewfinder.

The old fashioned way to get around this (i.e. up until about 18 months ago) was to use an angle finder. These attached to the eyepiece of the viewfinder and gave to a bit more breathing room. But they were expensive and not always very easy to use.

But angle finders can now be relegated to the dustbin of history, as the latest generation of DSLRs all have Live View. In this mode the mirror flips up and you get a live image of what the sensor is seeing on the rear LCD.

With the 5D mark II that I typically use, the screen is bright enough and has a good enough viewing angle that this has become a seriously useful feature, even for non-tripod based work. Stick the camera where you want it, compose on the rear screen, and take the picture.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind though. The first is that autofocus works rather differently in this mode. No near instant AF. Instead you either have to use painfully slow contrast detection AF that will take a few seconds to focus. Or the mirror will flip up, achieve focus with the ragular phase-detection AF sensors, before the mirror flips down again and live view resumes. So if you're hoping to catch the decisive moment this way, then be sure to have focused in advance.

But even with this limitation it allows for some cool perspectives. Both the photos in this post were taken this way on my recent assignment to Fes.

All I wish for now is an articulated screen to really open up the angles.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

CardRescue to the rescue!

Getting back from a day of shooting in the Judean desert while out in Jerusalem recently (as you do), I followed my usual procedure and backed up my CF cards to my NEXTO portable hard drive. I got distracted while I was waiting, and after the process had completed the NEXTO had shut down (as is normal). I took the card out and formatted it in my camera for the next day of shooting.

But when I turned the NEXTO back on to check how much space it had left, I was horrified to see the message “previous copy failed!”.

Now I was beginning to sweat.

Because I was simply visiting friends and not on a commissioned shoot, I had only bothered to bring one NEXTO with me, and it was still filled with images from the previous shoot. So it was running low on space and rather than backup each card twice like I normally do, I had only tried to do so once.

Sure enough, the NEXTO had run out of space and, being left alone for more than a minute, had switched itself off to conserve battery as it is meant to do. I hadn’t bothered to check the backup completed properly and now had just formatted my card without having a copy on the NEXTO.

Now, when you format a memory card, most cameras don’t actually delete the files. They simply reset the table that tells the camera or computer where the files are. This makes the it think the card is empty, and allows it to overwrite it with new data.
So, as long as the files are not overwritten with new data, you can, in theory, recover the ‘lost’ files using special software that scans the disk for files that are not in the lookup table. The key thing is not continue to shoot on that card, to prevent the files form being overwritten.

Although I knew the theory, I had never tried it in practice, leading to a rather sleepless night. I had been out hiking in the desert to an ancient monastery and wasn’t going to get the opportunity to go back there.
I immediately put the CF card aside, so that I wouldn’t accidentally shoot over it again.

When I got home, I immediately plugged the card into my card reader and ran the
Sandisk Rescue Pro software that comes with all Sandisk memory cards.


OK, so I was now starting to get slightly worried. I did a quick search online, and found good reviews of Card Rescue, a £30 download, that worked on Mac and PC. Luckily it has a trial version that allows you to see whether it can rescue your files before you pay for it. I ran the trial and, after about 30 mins examining my 8GB card, it found every single missing file. I paid my £30, saved them to my hard drive and counted my lucky stars.

So there you have it – my new favourite piece of software.

On Assignment - Jerusalem

Shortly before heading out to Fes, I spent 5 days shooting in and around Jerusalem. Being at the heart of three of the world's most important religions makes it an intriguing place. Within a few hundred meters of each other are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Christianity's holiest site), the Western Wall (Judaism's holiest site) and the Dome of the Rock (Islam's 3rd holiest site after Mecca and Medina).

A few pictures for you:

On Assignment - Fes

I’m just back from on a week-long assignment to Fes for a new client – Lonely Planet Magazine.

Fes is one of the most beautiful cities you could hope to visit. Once you pass through the city walls, it is easy to feel you’ve entered the land that time forgot.

I had been there before, which always makes life a bit easier. I visited for a few days back in 2005. It’s good to be back, and to be working with award-winning travel writer and middle-eastern expert, Tahir Shah.

Full report on and some photos soon.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Behind the scenes at Gulf Photo Plus

A few pictures from GPP in Dubai a couple of weeks ago. It's not all work, work, work...

Chase Jarvis tells it like it is:

David Hobby - aka the Strobist - drinks light:
Joe McNally tries to make a break for it:
Scott & Cody from Chase Jarvis Inc start a fight:

Kate Jarvis and Ali Al Riffai:

Mohammad, the man who makes it all happen:

Adam Swords chats up the ladies:

Erik, Zack Arias' studio manager, finds something in his beard:
The "non-official" official photographer:

Erik, Nathalie and Omar are surprised:

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

An end to battery madness

For those that are also tearing their hair out over the availability (or lack thereof) of batteries for the new 5D mark II, I can now inform you I am the proud owner of 3 new batteries courtesy of Canon Dubai!

While in Dubai for Gulf Photo Plus I immediately made a bee-line for the Canon stand with a red-hot credit card in hand. Less then 2 minutes later I had them in my grubby hands. The local dealer assured me there were no supply problems in UAE, so why they are so scarce in UK continues to be a mystery. Oh well.

New "Strictly Business" blog

The Association of Media Photographers (ASMP - the American equivalent of our own Association of Photographers) has recently launched a great blog focused on the business of photography.

The subject matter and material is based on their "Strictly Business" seminar series they ran last year. Chase Jarvis was kind enough to sponsor me and 3 other photographers to attend the Chicago event, and it was very rewarding, helping to shine bright light on how I should be running my business - everything from producing estimates and bids, to image licensing and negotiation skills.

I've had a look through the first few posts and the new blog is well worth adding to the list of photography resources for any emerging photographer.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

On Assignment - Jamaica part 1

Jamaica is one of the most fun places you can hope to shoot - the people smile, the place is relaxed and the sun never seems to stop shining. Unless you are trying to shoot a family having fun on the beach, in which case it decides to cloud over and start raining...

Needing to pull something out of the bag, I tried to make up what we were lacking in cooperative weather with some fun and drama. Our "family" of models got into their swimwear and I had them begin to run out of the sea. The colourful boat had been hired for the day and I placed in the background for some visual interest.

With the sun just about peaking through a cloud, I had them backlit as they came out of the ocean, while setting the white balance on the camera to cloudy helped give the pictures a warm tint. To keep the action looking fresh and natural, I had them run through the water about 10 times, reviewing the shots on the rear monitor each time and giving them instructions.

To get a dramatic perspective I shot at the wide end of my 16-35 from close to the ground. As the familay ran out of the sea, I would run backwards holding the camera by my knees and maintaining a roughly contant distance to the models.

I didn't trust the camera to focus properly by itself, so I pre-focused at a distance of 3m and shot at f/11, knowing this would provide enough depth-of-field to keep everyone reasonably sharp. I also set exposure to manual and bumpoed the ISO up until I had a shutter speed of over 1/500th to freeze the action.

After each sequence I would review the shots on the rear screen to check the position of the people and the surf, provide some direction to the models, adjust my framing and shoot another sequence. My call of "just one more time!" became a bit of a running joke, but we ended up with a beautiful picture we were all proud of.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Weather Sealing is your friend

For the kind of photography I do, I need my cameras to be reasonably robust. I‘m often shooting in the snow, in the desert, or even in the water, all of which do not play nicely with precision electronic equipment.

And it’s at times like those that you want to have complete faith in your equipment. If you’re worrying about looking after your gear then you’re not focused on making the best photograph.

Because of this, I was slightly concerned that my switch from 1-series bodies to the new 5D mark II might come back to haunt me. While Canon suggest in the manual that the 5DII is as well sealed as the EOS 1n top-of-the-line film camera from the 1990s, reports on the interweb have suggested that the weather sealing on the 5DII is not very good at all. In particular, during Michael Riechmann’s photo tour of Antarctica, fully one quarter of the 5DIIs on the trip died after being exposed to “light rain”.

So after the first couple of months of putting the 5DIIs through their paces, I’m happy to report that mine seem to stand up reasonably well to abuse.

Firstly while shooting in the falling snow in London in February, the cameras got very wet with melting snow, but coped very well.

And more recently while shooting in Jamaica I spent a couple of hours was standing in the sea shooting models on the beach and riding horses through the surf.

On both occasions the waves were higher than I was expecting and when I got soaked, so did the camera - including the WFT wireless transmitter – on 3 separate occasions.

Although I feared for the worst, I’m delighted to report they both came through with flying colours, not missing a single shot.

So it would seem that once again, I have a set of cameras that, within reason, will withstand adverse conditions without any special treatment, which is a great relief.

Unfortunately my iPhone was not quite as tough, and failed to recover from a brief submergence!

Gulf Photo Plus

Gulf Photo Plus, an annual photographic photography festival held in Dubai, is quietly turning itself into one of the premier training events in the world.

For one week each April you can attend courses given by some of the biggest names in the photosphere right now, including Joe McNally, Chase Jarvis, Vincent Laforet, David Hobby (aka The Strobist), our very own Drew Gardener and many more.

Ranging from 5 days spent learning the ins-and-outs of staging a commercial lifestyle shoot through to 3 days on advanced shooting and photo-compositing techniques for high-end fashion.

What makes GPP unusual is the range of courses given by working photographers aimed at pro and aspiring-pro shooters (although there are additional courses suitable for people of every level of experience). And the fact that it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

I’ve just arrived in Dubai, and this year will be attending Chase’s “Prep, Shoot, Wrap” course for the second time. I got so much out of it last time, and met such a fun and passionate crowd, that it didn’t take much convincing for me to go back for a second helping.

Look for a full report when I get back.

Friday, 20 March 2009

The ridiculous story of the Canon 5DII Battery

As anyone else who has bought a Canon 5DII will no doubt have found, the availability of extra batteries is non-existant. I have had 3 spares on order from Warehouse Express, a large online supplier, since December and they still haven’t had any stock.

By February I was getting desperate, and collared a Canon rep at the Focus on Imaging trade show at the NEC. He promised to prioritise an order for me but they still haven’t had any stock to ship.

Around the same time I bought the Wireless File Transmitter (WFT), which takes the same battery. However, Canon, in their wisdom, decided not to ship it with one. So I had to cannibalise the battery from my second body to power the WFT, essentially turning my backup 5DII into a £2000 paper weight.

About to depart on a major shoot (see future posts) I was desperate to get my hands on more batteries. Eventually I resorted to bribing a friend with a slap up lunch in order to persuade him to lend me the battery for his 5DII (thank you Dominic!)

How Canon can release a major camera such as this, which will likely be used by as many pros as amateurs, and not be able to supply extra batteries for 4 months after the camera’s launch is simply ridiculous. It almost makes the camera unusable as a professional tool...

Yes, there are aftermarket batteries beginning to appear on eBay and the like, but they lack the electronics of the Canon batteries, cannnot use the same charger, and cause the camera to give out warning messages. Not an ideal solution.

Here’s hoping they ramp up production soon.


I’m writing this on the 10 hour flight to Jamaica, where I’ll be spending a week shooting some adverts for the Jamaica Tourist Board. For the first time I’ve got a video camera in the kit bag too, so next month look out for some behind-the-scenes coverage of what goes into a major travel shoot. I’m not promising my first attempts at video-editing will make motion-picture history, but they should give you an idea of how a big travel shoot gets pulled together. Big thanks to Adam Swords who will be assisting me this time around.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

New office

This week I moved into new offices just behind Tate Modern. The new set up gives me some sorely needed extra space. I share the space with a firm of architects, Studio Octopi. So here's a rare peek behind the scenes of Julian Love Photography. Enjoy!

Monday, 23 February 2009

How to go wireless - setting up FTP with the WFT-E4

UPDATE: This post has proven to be very popular, so I've just updated it with one or two corrections and extra details to make it even easier to set up your WFT E4

UPDATE 23/06/2010: A few extra details added

After I picked up my Canon WFT-E4 I found it very hard to get set up. The manual is a textbook example of how to confuse people, and even with all the advice on blogs and forums, after clicking through the setup wizard on the camera at least 10 times with no success, I was ready to give up.

Eventually I ignored all the tips and set up the device using the WFT Utility that you can download onto your computer. This allows you to set the configuration on your laptop using a much easier interface, and upload them to the camera over a USB cable. Everything was up and running very quickly and easily.

I know I'm not the only one who's had problems getting it set up, so here's how I did it:

1. Setup an FTP server on the laptop

Go to System Preferences (found under the Apple menu at top left). Chose Sharing.

On the sharing screen, check the File Sharing box:

The click on Options, and check the Share files and folders using FTP box and the "Account Name" box next to the account you log in as:

Click Done.

2. Set up an ad hoc network on the laptop

Click on the wireless icon in the top right corner and select Create Network...

Set the Name as your network name, the Channel to automatic and uncheck the Require Password box.

Click OK. The wireless icon at the top of the screen will change to a greyed out image of a computer

3. Set the IP Address of the laptop

Go to System Preferences (found under the Apple menu at top left)
. Chose Network.

Click on the Advanced button at the bottom right.

Select Use DHCP with manual address from the drop down and enter

Click OK, then Apply

4. Configure WFT Utility and upload settings to the camera

OK, now start EOS Utility
, click on Accessories then click on WFT Utility

If you don't have WFT Utility installed you can download it here for Mac OSX and here for Windows

Under TCP/IP set the following:
- Check “Use the following IP Address”
- IP address: (This is the default IP address of the WFT-E4)
- Subnet mask:
- Do not use DNS Server
- Make sure “Use IP Security” is unchecked

Under FTP Settings, set the following:
- Server: (this is the default IP address the WFT-E4 looks for)
- Port: 21

- Enter your computer’s login name and password (you must do this before the next step!)
- Select the destination folder on your computer you would like your images transferred to
- Uncheck “Use proxy”

Under Wireless LAN Settings, set the following:
- SSID: enter the name you chose for your ad hoc network that you set in Step 1
- Conn. Method: “Ad hoc 11g” and select “WFT-E4” and “Channel 11” from the drop downs

- Encryption: None

Give the settings a name in the top text box: e.g. “Adhoc_FTP” and save them.

5. Upload the settings to the Camera

Attach the WFT to the camera, turn it on and navigate to the WFT Settings menu. Under Connection select Disabled

Next, connect the camera to the computer via USB. Upload the settings to the camera by clicking on the Upload Settings to Camera icon at the top of the WFT Utility.

Save them on the camera as Set 1, turn the camera off and disconnect the USB cable.

6. Setup the camera

Connect the WFT-E4 to the camera and turn it on

Press Menu and navigate to the WFT Settings menu

From the WFT Menu select Set up

Select Load Settings and select Set 1 – the settings you just uploaded

From the WFT Menu select Communication Mode and chose FTP

Congratulations! You should now be ready to shoot. You should see a flashing green LED on the WFT, and the LCD screen on the WFT will show the signal strenth of the connection to the computer. Transfer speed should be good up to about 20m distance.

OK, now you have the connection set up, you need to decide how you want the images to be transferred:

7. Customising the WFT-E4

Once you have the wireless transmitter up and running you can customise how you would like the camera to behave with the options in the Setup section of the WFT menu.

Transfer only JPEGs

Transferring RAW files is quite slow, as they are 25MB each. You can set the camera to shoot RAW and JPEG you can transmit just the JPEGs, which is much faster. The RAW files will be saved to the memory card in the camera. This is detailed on page 33 of the manual:

- Set the camera to shoot RAW + small JPEG.
- Under the
WFT menu on the camera select Setup then select Transfer type/size
- Under
RAW + JPEG Transfer select JPEG only

Transfer only the images you want

You can chose to have the WFT transmit every image as you shoot it, or configure it to only send the images you want while you review them on the rear screen when you hit the SET button.

To transmit all images immediately as you shoot them (page 32 of the manual):
- Under the WFT menu on the camera select Setup
- Under Automatic Transfer, select Enable

To transmit only the images you chose (page 34 of the manual):
- Under the
WFT menu on the camera select Setup
- Under
Automatic Transfer, select Disable
- Go back to the Setup menu and under
Transfer with SET, select Enable

This is great if you don’t want your client to see all your setup shots, or if you are shooting fast moving sequences, you can send just the good images.

8. That's it, you're done!
I hope this helps anyone who is having trouble getting FTP mode to work on their WFT-E4. Once you get it up and runnning the device is great.