Friday, 17 December 2010

Travel Photographer of the Year announced

Last week saw the winner of this year's Travel Photographer of the Year announced. A big congratulations to Larry Louie of Canada for a beautiful set of black and white photos shot in Mali.
Image (c) Larry Louie

Head on over to the TPOTY winners gallery to see the whole set.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

New work from Sweden online

Back in August I spent nearly a month in Sweden shooting for Insight Guides. After a week in picturesque Stockholm I travelled south to the impressive fortress at Kalmar, across to the old university city of Lund, through the fishing villages of the Bolhousian coast towards Norway, then followed the Gota Canal back across the great lakes before heading up north to Lake Siljan and Dalarna county.

I spent four years in neighbouring Norway while growing up, and passed through Sweden on one of our epic family road trips in about 1986. This was the first time I had been back since, and one of the things that struck me was just how wonderfully empty and unspoiled the country is.

Coming from crowded South East England, Sweden is quite literally a breath of fresh air. Outside of Stockholm and Gothenburg there are very few cars on the road, and forests and lakes stretch across the landscape as far as you can see. If you love the great outdoors there is much to like.

I took my old Nikon FE2 along for the ride to shoot alongside my Canon 5D mark IIs for a bit of fun, and you can see the results in the Recent Work section on the website

Canon's new 70-300 L zoom

Back in august Canon announced a slew of new lenses, including updates to their super telephoto range and the remarkable 8-15mm fisheye zoom. But the lens that held the most interest for me as a travel and outdoor photographer was the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS.

I currently use the 70-200 f/4L IS, and I used to use the non-IS version before that. It is pin sharp even wide open, and with today's cameras producing clean shots at ISO 800 or even 1600, I'm more than happy to trade a stop of aperture for a lens that is half the size and weight of it's enormous f/2.8 cousin. All in all, I'm a fan.

The new 70-300 L is therefore pretty interesting. You get 100mm more reach at the long end, at the cost of up to a stop of aperture and 300g extra weight. It's also a bit shorter, which helps.

I played with the lens at Photokina at the end of September, but for me it's a bit too heavy and bulky and doesn't offer enough of a benefit over the 70-200 for me to replace it. So the 70-200 f/4 will still hold it's place in my camera bag as the ideal telephoto zoom for travel and location work.

Anyway, for those who want to know more about it Canadian snowsports photographer Dan Carr recently posted a detailed review on his blog. You can read it here.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Runner's World gear shoot

Last month I was lying face down in the mud shooting a 5-page gear spread for Runner's World.

The brief was to create a set of sport fashion images showing the season's latest gear in dramatic lighting. So we headed into the woods south of London and shot 4 setups using a mix of Elinchrom Ranger Quadras and Canon Speedlights, all triggered by the ever reliable Pocket Wizard Plus IIs.

I had about an hour to chose locations and set up lights before the models arrived, and was looking for places where the trees of the forest could provide a backdrop we could sculpt with the lighting. Once the models arrived, we only had 30 minutes per setup, including time for changes in outfits, locations and lighting between each shot. 

After 4 static shots we wanted an action shot for the final picture to open the feature. The light had dropped sufficiently by this time we took the models out of the woods and had them running across the park. The shot we got is at the top of the post.

All in all the whole shoot lasted three hours from start to finish - pretty damn quick if you ask me!  Check the full feature out in this month's Runner's World and see the pictures in higher resolution on the website here.

A big thanks to RW art director Russell Fairbrother, my assistant for the day Adam Swords, and models Guillaume and Julia from Snoop.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Shooting in Istanbul with the new Canon 60D

As mentioned previously on the blog, back in July I was on a week long shoot in Istanbul. At the time I had to be a bit cryptic about who it was for, but I'm now allowed to spill the beans so here goes:
The shoot was for Canon, to create all the still images and video to support the launch of the new 60D digital SLR.

The brief was simple - create a set of iconic travel photos and accompanying 3-minute video of Istanbul. The idea was to end up with something that was beautiful, but that purchasers of a mid-range camera could aspire to. At the same time it had to show off all the features of the camera.

I was shooting the stills while my good friend Richard Hadley at Ballistic (who also worked on the India ski vid with me) shot the video along side. The pictures are being used for brochures, in store promotions, sample images and press kits across Europe, while the video is being used in stores, at trade shows, and of course on YouTube (you can watch it in HD at the bottom of this post).

So after several pre-production meetings in London and a lot of time on the phone to Istanbul, Richard and I flew out on the Saturday and met up with our producer and fixer, Munir Ackdogan and Nihan Ozkan, and our driver Mehmet. We spent the next 48 hours travelling all over the city, scouting locations and coming up with our plan of attack.
On the Monday, Miles Willis from Canon flew out to join us. In his luggage were 3 pre-production 60D cameras and an enormous Peli case full of lenses - everything from the el-cheapo 18-55mm kit lens to exotic beasts like the new 17mm f/4 tilt-shift and 300mm f/2.8.

Now the cameras were in town we could shoot - so we immediately set out to start working through our shot list. What followed was a frantic 5 days seeing us up at 5am every morning to catch the sunrise and not getting back to the hotel at 10pm after we had shot sunset. On the final day, we were up at 4 in order to drive 2 hours over to the Asian side where we rented a helicopter to shoot some aerials over the city.

By then our work was done and on Friday afternoon Miles flew back to London with the cameras, and we had a chance to relax and enjoy a night out on the town before Richard and I flew back on Saturday. 
Using pre-production cameras in a public environment is not without its risks. Although we were taking precautions and they were covered up with black tape, on a couple of occasions we were approached by people asking what cameras we were using. We simply told them it was a secret and moved on.

Another catch of using pre-production cameras was that my preferred editing software, Adobe Lightroom, didn't support the RAW files from the 60D. So I was having to shoot in RAW and JPEG and review my shots each night using the JPEGs. Then, half way through the shoot Canon were able to supply me with a beta version of their Digital Photo Professional software that could convert the 60D's RAWs to TIFFs, and from then on I could work with the TIFFs.
We got back to London on Saturday evening, but with the print deadline looming there was no time to rest. My Sunday was spent editing and processing images ready for a review meeting back at Canon the next morning. Here we made the final selects and delivered the images, while Richard spent the remainder of the week editing the video for delivery on Friday.

Despite the last minute location change and the quick turn around on the edit, everyone has been thrilled with the results and the 60D looks to be selling like hot cakes. So mission accomplished.

It also shows that shooting stills and video along side each other can be a very simple and cost-effective way to deliver a high quality shoot for a client. You get stills and video that work seamlessly together, as we were at the same locations at the same time of day, and the simplicity of dealing with one brief, one PO number and one invoice.

I'll talk a bit more about some of my favourite pictures in future posts, but for now head over to the Recent Work section of the website and see them for yourself. Click below to see the video:

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Street Photography Now

My good friend Laura Willis, the Marketing Director at art book publisher Thames & Hudson, has just informed me they're running a street photography project in collaboration with the Photographers Gallery to coincide with the recent launch of their new book Street Photography Now.
From the website:

"Street Photography Now Project is a collaboration between The Photographers’ Gallery, London and Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren, authors of Street Photography Now (Thames and Hudson).

Each week from 1 October 2010, a leading contemporary street photographer will issue a new instruction, written to inspire fresh ways of looking at and documenting the world we live in.

Over the following six days photographers around the world are invited to upload one photograph in response, to form part of a Street Photography Now Project Gallery on Flickr. After six days the next instruction will be issued.

The Project will run for 52 weeks. The aim is to build a global community of photographers exploring the rewards and challenges of documenting public life. All photographers, including those who contribute to the Instructions, will be encouraged to comment and respond to the images posted to the Flickr groups.

Though not a competition, at the end of the Project one photographer will be chosen who has made the most outstanding contribution to the project across a number of weeks. They will be awarded £1000 of Thames & Hudson books and have their work displayed on The Photographers’ Gallery digital Wall for All.

The Street Photography Now Project was launched in September 2010, as The Photographers’ Gallery closed its doors for the redevelopment of its building on Ramillies Street. The Project will run for one year and is scheduled to end when The Photographers’ Gallery reopens in late 2011."

Visit the website to learn more and to take part.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The temple of football

While in Rio, Carlos Vergara's son Joao took me along to see a football match at the legendary Maracana stadium. And it wasn't just any old football match - it was a face off between Rio's arch rival clubs of Flamengo and Botafogo.

I was an honorary Flamengo fan for the day, but unfortunately we lost 2-1 after a thrilling match. I later got to shoot some aerials over the city and I made sure the Maracana was on my hit list. 

Here are few shots:

Monday, 20 September 2010

A 'traditional' digital camera at last - the Fuji X100

The run up to Photokina, the world's largest photography trade show, is always proceeded by product announcements from all the major camera manufacturers. But this is the first one this year to get me excited - the Fuji X100.

It's a traditionally-styled rangefinder camera with a 12MP APS-C sensor and a fixed 35mm f/2 lens. It has a manual shutter speed dial, aperture ring and exposure compensation dial, is small and compact, and is almost the antithesis of every other digital camera on the market - with the exception of the ridiculously priced Leica M9 and X1.

It also has a cleverly designed viewfinder - a hybrid rangefinder and high-res electronic live view finder with the ability to switch between the two. You can have the optical finder with a histogram superimposed, or use the 1.4MP electronic finder for through-the-lens viewing. If it works as well as described it should be perfect.

I spent many years shooting with manual Nikons in my early days, first the FE2 and later the FM3A. I sold them when I went over to Canon digital cameras, but I've been on the verge of buying another one over the last month or two to be my 'fun' camera, as I just miss the beautiful feel and operation of a manual camera. I have kept on hoping that Nikon might release a digital version - an "FM3D" - sometime, but so far have been disappointed.

Although it won't hit the shelves until 'early 2011', Fuji are to be applauded for breaking the mould and producing a really distinctive camera. Being a premium niche product I'm sure it's not going to be cheap, but if the ease of operation and image quality are up to the mark then I will almost certainly be buying one.

And, if the X100 sells well, then maybe Nikon will develop that FM3D I've been hankering after.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Back from the Dolomites

I've just spent the last week on a well earned break in the Italian Dolomites, hiking from hut to hut through the mountains with a friend. After all the work trips this summer, which you will hear more about over the next few weeks, it was great to switch off and relax, enjoy the mountain views and spend time with an old friend. Of course, I also took the camera - here are a few of my favourites:

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Carlos Vergara

While I was in Rio earlier this year I was fortunate enough to visit the studio of one of Brazil's most famous living artists, Carlos Vergara. I was shown around by his son, Joao, and it was wonderful to explore his studio and workshop and see where so many important works had been created. There were a couple still being worked on while I was there.

Here are a few pictures.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Normal programming will resume shortly...

Apologies for the echoing silence on the blog over the last month or two. This summer has been stupidly busy, with shoots in Brazil, Turkey, Sweden and the UK. In fact I've only spent 5 weeks at home since the start of April! With only one week of travel scheduled in September, I hope to get back to my usual routine of posting once or twice a week. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

New work from Rio online

I spent the best part of 8 weeks in Brazil earlier this year shooting for AA Media in and around Rio de Janeiro. I arrived in the middle of the worst floods for 40 years, but fortunately things soon got back to normal and I had a great time exploring the city and the surrounding towns. I've now posted a selection of my favourites on the website here.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Back from Istanbul

I got back home on Saturday after a fun but hectic week shooting in Istanbul. If you've never been before, Istanbul is a great city with everything from 1000 year old buildings to hip bars and restaurants, spread across both side of the Bosphorus with ferries constantly sailing from one side to the other.

My job was to shoot a set of classic travel pictures while my friend Richard Hadley at Ballistic, who shot the Himalaya ski video with me, was along side shooting video at the same time. With sunrise at 5.45 and sunset at 8.30 we had some pretty long days, typically up at 5 and not getting back to the hotel until after 10 at night.

But thanks to a slick production team led by Munir Akdogan and a fantastic fixer in Nihan Ozkan everything went extremely smoothly - even with only a few days to set everything up. Permits, location access, model releases and more were all taken care of in expert fashion and Rich and I could concentrate on shooting knowing everything else was being taken care of.

I can't talk too much about the rest of the shoot now, but all will be revealed in October. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Skiing in Gulmarg in the Himalayas - new video online

Well after a long wait I'm pleased to bring you a short video from my ski shoot in Gulmarg, Kashmir from earlier this year. Gulmarg is a small village in the Himalayas, about 2 hours drive from Srinagar, the capital if Indian Kashmir. In 2005 they finally completed a gondola that goes almost to the top of 4,300m Mount Affawat, making it the highest operational ski resort in the world.

And there are no pistes. That's right....none.

This makes it a powder skier's paradise, a whole mountain covered in virgin snow, and you can make your own lines down the mountain. Once you get away from the top station, you will hardly see another skier. The open mountain and local culture make a wonderful change from the over developed resorts we are used to in Europe and North America. I hope to make it back there next season.

The whole video was shot on a pair of Canon 5d mark IIs, and this was the fiest time I had shot video on these cameras. A few things I learned:

  • Exposure is tricky, especially on the snow in bright sunlight (the recent 2.0.4 firmware update helps with it's live histogram)
  • Focusing on fast moving skiers is almost impossible
  • Shooting handheld is very wobbly...
We were primarily there to shoot stills and enjoy the skiing, so the video was a bit of an afterthought. Given that we didn't plan any of the shots I'm really pleased with how it came out.

I shot the video with my friend Richard Hadley at Ballistic, and Rich did a fantastic job on the editing. So when you have a spare 6 minutes, click on the video below. Crank up the volume and watch in full screen mode for the best impact.

Gulmarg 23.01.10 from Julian Love on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Favela painting

While I was in Rio I visited the latest site of the awesome Favela Painting project with Rio Times journalist Doug Gray.

Favela Painting was founded by Dutch duo Haas & Hahn who met while collaborating on a film about hip-hop for MTV, shot in the favelas in Rio. Wanting to contribute something to the communities which they met, they designed a giant mural and enrolled the locals to help them build it. Since then they have completed 2 other projects, the most recent of which you see here. 

They provide the design, and then employ the locals do all the painting - providing them with employment, a new skill set and increasing the value of the houses in the process. It's a great scheme and now they are looking to do projects in other cities in South America.

Check out Favela Painting on Facebook and read Doug Gray's article about the latest project for the Rio Times here.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Back from Rio - new video online

I'm now back ion London after an epic 8-week shoot in Brazil - 5 weeks shooting in Rio city and 3 weeks travelling around the rest of Rio state.

Here in the UK we tend to only hear about the city, but there are some beautiful places to visit within a few hours drive of Rio. My favourites were Ilha Grande - a giant tropical island with heavenly beaches - and Paraty - a perfectly preserved colonial town.

The various tourist boards in Rio were a huge help in organising the logistics, especially Miriam Cutz at TurisRio, but also a big thanks to Patricia Rodrigues at RioTur and Andrea Revoredo at the Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau. And thanks also to all those who put up with my terrible Portuguese!

I had a couple of days free at the end to experiment with shooting some video with the Canon 5D mark II. This is only my second foray into video so it's pretty basic. I have another one from India which I shot earlier this year with my friend Rich Hadley at Ballistic that I'll  post soon.

Pictures to follow over the next couple of weeks.

Once upon a time in Rio from Julian Love on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

2010 PDN Photo Annual

Photo District News, the US photography industry trade rag, has just posted it's influential Photo Annual online. Take a look to see some of the best photography happening around the world right now. 

One of my favourites is Simon Harsent's campaign for the World Wildlife Fund - "When they are gone, they can't come back" - beautifully illustrating a powerful message.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Postcard from Rio

I'm currently nearing the end of an extensive shoot in and around Rio de Janeiro. It's my first time in the city (in fact my first time in Brazil). Not speaking Portuguese, I have been getting by with speaking Spanish - the languages are similar enough that most people can vaguely understand me. The only problem is the accents are so different I can't understand a word of their reply!

Here are a few recent shots.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Apologies for the lack of posts recently - I'm currently nearing the end of a 7-week shoot in Brazil and have been too busy to post! I'll begin with a new series of posts about the trip next week.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The perils of microstock

When companies are looking for photography for their website or brochure they face a few choices:

1) hire an assignment photographer for the shoot
2) use a rights-managed stock image where they can see who has used it before and buy and exclusive license if necessary
3) use royalty-free microstock

When the bill for the first two options might run to hundreds or thousands of pounds, it's not surprising that many are turning to microstock where they can license an image for their website for £10 or less.

Chris Barton has humorously outlined the perils of this approach on his blog. Well worth a look. Next time you have a company turn you down for an assignment, suggest they take a look too.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

New Profoto ActuteB 600 AirS

Having just finished writing up my experiences of using Elinchrom's Ranger Quadra light weight 400ws battery flash, Profoto have struck back by announcing an upgrade to the 600ws AcuteB 600 - the new Profoto AcuteB 600 AirS.

The new model has a Lithium Iron (LiFe) battery that reduces the weight by over a kilo and increases the capacity from 160 to 200 flashes. Contrary to the fears raised in my Quadra review, the lithium batteries have been certified safe or air travel. The new pack also integrates Profoto's new Air system to allow for wireless triggering and power control. These improvements now make it a formidable competitor to the Quadras I reviewed earlier.

In a nice bit of design, the new LiFe batteries will work in the old AcuteB generators and the  the old lead-acid batteries will work in the new AirS generators - so people with the older model can mix and match as they like. You can also use them while they are recharging (note - the Quadras may also do this, I'm not sure).

So to update my previous comparison between the Quadra and the AcuteB:

Profoto AcuteB Pros:
- Half a stop more power (600ws versus 400ws for the Quadra)
- More flashes (160 at full power versus 100) - now 200 flashes versus 100
- Faster recycling (1 sec versus 2 secs at 400ws)
- Takes all existing profoto modifiers without an adapter

Profoto Acute B Cons:
- Bulkier and heavier (nearly 8kg for a pack/cable/head versus 5kg) - now only 6.5kg
- No ability to adjust output wirelessly - now has ProAir integration
- More expensive

So while it is still heavier and bulkier, the gap has reduced considerably, and you get the advantages of 50% more power and twice the battery life. If you throw in a spare battery for the Quadra to make it able to equal the AcuteB's 200 flashes, then the weight and bulk of the two systems are essentially equal while you still get to enjoy the extra power of the Profoto.

I typically rent my gear, but if I was in the market for a battery flash system right now then I'm pretty sure these would be at the top of my shopping list. Read an FAQ about them here.

If you need more power
In a related note, Profoto has also upgraded the B2, the AcuteB's bigger brother, with a new 1200ws unit called the Profoto B3 1200 AirS. Featuring the same new LiFe battery technology and ProAir integration, this is certainly going to be a welcome upgrade from the old 7b and B2 for those who need the extra power. The Elinchrom Ranger Speed AS, the 1100ws top-of-the-range big brother to the Quadra, is looking a bit  stale compared to this.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Thoughts on the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra

**Just updated with a few more details and some corrections**

On my recent shoot in Switzerland I used 2 of the relatively new Elinchrom Ranger Quadra battery powered flash units. As there is not that much information around on them I thought I would share my impressions here. 

First of all, a bit of background. All my shoots are done on location, and I usually work with just one assistant. Taken together these two facts means my kit has to be lightweight and as portable as possible. Traditional battery pack flashes are large and heavy - a single Profoto 7b or Elinchrom Ranger (big brother to the Quadra) setup will weigh in at 12-15kg. In comparison, the Quadra is only 5kg all up - pack, cable and head. Because of the light weight, it is also possible to use a light weight stands, which save you another kilo or so.

So what are the Quadras like to use? 

Firstly, they are small, and the heads are in fact tiny. 2 packs, 2 heads and 2 spare batteries will easily fit in a Lowepro Photo Trekker backpack with room to spare for a camera body and a couple of lenses. Build quality of the packs is quite good, if not as bullet proof as a Ranger or Profoto 7b. The heads are rather flimsy however, with the reflectors built of quite thin metal that bends easily.

Secondly, the heads are not supplied with any covers for the flash tubes, which makes travelling with them a bit nerve wracking. Luckily we didn't break any but I wouldn't be surprised if they would break occasionally in regular use unless you treat them with kid gloves. UPDATE - I've just been told that they are now shipping with a cover for the flash tube so it looks like this has now been addressed (thanks Dave T.)

So just how powerful are they?

The Elinchrom Ranger Quadra is rated at 400ws. That's about a stop and a half less than its 1100ws big brother, the full size Ranger, and the 1200ws Profoto 7b or Profoto B2. How much more powerful is it than a speedlite? Well, one of the problems in comparing battery flashes with hotshoe flashes is their power is rated differently. Battery flashes are measured in watt seconds, while hotshoe flashes use a guide number. The easiest way to know for sure is to test them, which is what I did.

I ran a quick test of the Quadra versus a Canon 580 EX II and a Nikon SB28. I set them up at a distance of exactly 3m from an evenly textured wall and varied my aperture until they provided the same level of illumination, as judged by the histogram on the back of the camera. All were on freshly charged batteries and at full power. I got the following results at 24mm on a full frame 5D mark II at ISO 100:

- Elinchrom Quadra with standard reflector: f/13 with even illumination across the frame
- Canon 580 EXII zoomed to 24mm: f/8 with even illumination across the frame
- Nikon SB28 zoomed to 24mm: f/6.3 with significant light falloff on the edges of the frame

So the Quadra is about 1.3 stops more powerful than a 580 EXII, and about 2 stops more powerful, and with much more even coverage, than an SB28. But in all cases the Quadra recycles much faster - a speedlight on full power takes over 5 seconds to recharge, where the Quadra takes just 2.


One of the big advantages of battery flashes over speedlites is the range of light modifiers available. The Quadra heads have a built-in mount for a shoot through umbrella, and Elinchrom also make a 40cm soft box for them. Using a relatively lightweight adapter you can also attach any of Elinchrom's other modifiers for their larger heads, including the highly rated octaboxes.

I only had the chance to use them with shoot through umbrellas, but the mounting system is quick and easy, you just slide them in. Be advised all Elinchrom brackets use the non-standard 7mm shaft, so you need brollies especially designed for Elinchrom.

OK, fine. But how do they perform in the real world? 

Unlike a speedlite, the Quadras do have enough power to work as key or fill light on a reasonably sunny day, even when shot though an umbrella. Here's an example shot in cloudy bright light. With the pack on half power (200ws) the flash head was being held on a boom and being shot through an umbrella about 2m above and in front of the subjects. Recycle time is less than 1 sec.

The highlight on the right side of the models' faces is from the sun. The illumination on the rest of their faces is all fill light from the flash/umbrella combo. By way of comparison, here is a similar shot taken without the flash as I fired before it had recharged:

To do this with a speedlight would have required full power and about 5 seconds recharge between shots - way too slow for me. And if the sunlight had been any stronger I would not have been able to balance it unless I shot without an umbrella, giving harsh, unnatural looking light.

Shooting lifestyle images like these requires a lot of shots. Once you set up the initial parameters, the models have to interact with one another while you shoot away to try can catch a natural moment. With a fresh battery the recycle time starts off at around 1 second, but it rapidly increases as the battery loses charge. In fact after about 80 shots the recharge was so slow (4 secs plus) that we needed to change batteries. So plan on carrying spares for a day of shooting.

Wireless control

Another thing to mention is the Quadras have Elinchrom's wireless Skyport system built in, so you can adjust the power of the flash from on camera, using a small device that sits in the hotshoe. It is much smaller than a Pocket Wizard Plus II (which is what I normally use), and allows wireless power adjustment of multiple groups, not just triggering, which is pretty neat. When working with an assistant it's not quite as important, but when working alone this would be a really handy feature.

The competition
So what other choices are there out there? As far as I am aware, the only other lightweight battery pack from a major manufacturer is the Profoto AcuteB 600. I've used these packs a few times, and here are their main pros and cons versus the Quadra:

Profoto AcuteB Pros:

- Half a stop more power (600ws versus 400ws for the Quadra)
- More flashes (160 at full power versus 100)
- Faster recycling (1 sec versus 2 secs at 400ws)
- Takes all existing profoto modifiers without an adapter

Profoto Acute B Cons:
- Bulkier and heavier (8kg for a pack/cable/head versus 5kg)
- No ability to adjust output wirelessly (no ProAir integration, while the Quadra has Skyport)
- More expensive

So it's a bit of a mix up which is better - it depends on what you are looking for. Overall though I was very happy with the Elinchrom Ranger Quadras. What I would like to see is a longer lasting battery - Lithium Ion anyone? (or maybe not - see the comments from Dan Carr below), more sturdy reflector and a cover for the flash tube when travelling (looks like they've fixed this now).

Otherwise I think Elinchrom are on to a winner.

Here are a few other people's thoughts on the Quadras:
Drew Gardener

- Simon Keitch
- Neil Turner, part 1 and part 2
- Zack Arias - comparison with other options (thanks Dave!)

Saturday, 6 March 2010

No plastic sleeves

No Plastic Sleeves is a great blog set up by Danielle Courier where she displays and evaluates photographers' and designers' portfolio packages. She's just published a book with all her knowledge summed up in 270 pages. From the blurb:

This text will guide you through the complete process of conceptualizing, designing and developing all the interconnected aspects of your total portfolio package:

- Objectively evaluate and edit your work
- Develop a distinguishing self-brand concept
- Understand and apply effective design strategies
- Create a custom-made portfolio book
- Translate and extend your ideas into an online portfolio
- Plus develop integrated self-promotional materials and marketing strategies

It's available for pre-order on Amazon, and is released at the end of the month. You can preview the table on contents and introduction on her blog. I've just ordered my copy, and I'll post my thoughts here once I've had a chance to read it. But if the quality of advice is as good as the blog then I'm pretty sure I'll be a happy customer.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

New work from India on the website

I'm back from a great shoot in Switzerland, and have now had time to edit and upload some of the pictures from India last month. Take a look in the Recent Work section on the website to see my latest work from the spice market in Old Delhi and skiing in Gulmarg. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

What goes in the bag? Packing for a commercial shoot.

I'm leaving this morning for Switzerland, where I will be on a 5-day brochure shoot for a luxury holiday company. As I'm spending today testing and packing all the gear, I thought I would share with you how I prepare and pack for a shoot like this.

First up is to create a pack list. I have a template that I use for this that basically covers all the kit I own, and then I simply strike off items that I know I won't need and add any gear I will be renting, until I have a customised pack list for the shoot.

As I pack the gear I tick off the list. This way it makes it (almost!) impossible to forget something. There's nothing worse than arriving on location and finding you forgot to bring a battery charger or some other vital bit of kit.

For my commercial shoots I often rent additional lighting gear. For this shoot I've rented two Elinchrom Ranger Quadra kits - I've mentioned them here before but they are essentially very lightweight battery flash units. Given that we will have to be skiing with the gear to get to several of the locations, small and light weight are very important.

The packs and heads are so small that a couple of them will easily for within a mid-size photo backpack, and at 400ws they punch out a lot more light that hotshoe flashes. This is the first time I've used them on a real shoot, so I'll be writing a review of them when I get back.

I'll then be taking my usual gear - 2 Canon 5D mark II bodies, a set of L-series zooms,  some backup Speedlites and Pocket Wizard radio triggers, a tripod and some light weight light stands. For most of the shots we'll be shooting to a laptop using the WFT-E4 wireless transmitter, so I'll also be packing the MacBook Pro, a couple of Lacie Rugged external hard drives, and a Sandisk Firewire 800 card reader.

Add on the usual bits and pieces such as sensor cleaning kit, various power cables and adapters etc, and even for a relatively straight forward shoot such as this you end up with quite a lot of kit.

So how will we be packing it? I'm a big fan of rolling bags, and often use the Lowepro Roller. But given that we will be skiing with our gear, it has to fit in backpacks. In this case we'll be taking a Lowepro Photo Trekker and a Dakine Sequence. The Photo Trekker will take all the lighting gear and will be carried by my assistant, while the Sequence will take all the camera gear and will be carried by me. Additional kit such as light stands will go in a separate bag. 

So here it all is, ready to go:

Thursday, 11 February 2010

New website now live!

After a couple of weeks on "soft launch", I'm happy to announce my new website is now live! It was due to be launched last month, but spending 2 weeks in India threw a bit of a spanner in the works of my schedule.

Why go to all the bother of a new website?

For one, I wanted to be able to show my images much larger. The old site limited pictures to have a height of 440 pixels. On todays 24 inch monitors, 440 pixels is pretty small. With most art buyers and picture editors (the main people who hire travel photographers) sitting in front of large screens with super fast broadband connections, there's no reason not to have huge images.

Secondly I wanted a site that looked a bit slicker and more professional. I hired a graphic designer, Ed Robin, to design a new logo with matching business cards, letterhead, DVD labels and so forth to match. So I feel I present a slicker brand to my clients.

I've posted before about the options for hosted portfolio websites. In the end I went with A Photo Folio, as I felt they had pretty much all the features I wanted at a price considerably lower than industry leader Livebooks.

Let me know what you think.