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.