Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Monday, 14 December 2009
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Monday, 30 November 2009
Saturday, 14 November 2009
Thursday, 12 November 2009
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
Monday, 28 September 2009
Thursday, 17 September 2009
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
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
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.
A few pictures for you:
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
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
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.
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Monday, 23 February 2009
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:
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 192.168.1.20
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: 192.168.1.2 (This is the default IP address of the WFT-E4)
- Subnet mask: 255.255.255.0
- Do not use DNS Server
- Make sure “Use IP Security” is unchecked
Under FTP Settings, set the following:
- Server: 192.168.1.20 (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.