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 julianlove.com 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.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Apple strikes back: Aperture 3 is here

Apple have just launched
Aperture 3, the latest version of their image management and editing suite. Back when it came out in 2006, Aperture was the first all-in-one photo management suite, including an image library, a RAW converter and web and print output options.

It seems hard to remember back then, but prior to the release of Aperture, digital photographers were having to use a whole suite of apps to manage, develop and edit their photos, such as iView (now Microsoft Expression Media) for cataloguing and keywording, Adobe Camera Raw for RAW conversions, and Photoshop for printing.

Although version 1 was flawed in some respects, it clearly showed the way for photographer centric applications, and by Version 1.5 released 6 months later, it was a well rounded application which I began using.

Clearly caught on the back foot, Adobe quickly made their beta version of Lightroom publicly available, and released it onto the market a few months after Aperture 1.5. At the time there was little to chose between them, but since then Aperture has seemed to be a bit of a hobby for Apple, while Adobe has gone on to aggressively develop Lightroom including killer features such as localised image adjustments and improved web and print output facilities. These features, along with the sluggish performance of Aperture 1.5, were enough to make me switch over to using Lightroom.

However one key area Adobe has not addressed is video. With most DSLRs now capable of shooting HD video, many photographers, myself included, are starting to shoot it more often. As far as Lightroom is concerned, it behaves as if your video files do not exist. While I do not expect to be able to edit video in Lightroom, the fact that it will not even simply copy video files off my memory card when I am importing photos is rather annoying, forcing me to go back to the Finder and drag them over myself.

Now Aperture 3 has been released, and not only does it include localised adjustment brushes similar to LR, it also handles video, including import, scrubbing, and combining with stills. For me this is a big deal, and will simplify my workflow enormously.

Just as localised adjustment brushes in Adobe Lightroom 2 greatly reduced the number of times I needed to take images into Photoshop, the video features in Aperture 3 should mean my copy of Final Cut Express gets very little use from now on. I was invited to pitch for a job at the end of last year that required stills and video to be combined, and this would have been just the trick.

So let's see. I've just downloaded the Aperture 3 trial. I'll report back on my findings here once I've had a good look around over the next few weeks.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Canon 550D announced

Canon have announced a new entry-level camera, the 550D, sporting a 18MP 1.6 crop sensor very similar to the mid-range 7D but in a smaller, less robust package.

Key features include:

- 18 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
- DIGIC 4 processor with ISO 100-6400 (Expansion to 12800)
- Continuous shooting at 3.7fps
- Full HD movie recording with manual control and selectable frame rates
- 7.7cm (3.0”) 3:2 Clear View LCD with 1,040k dots
- iFCL metering System with 63-zone Dual-layer Metering Sensor
- Quick Control screen to change shooting settings
- Exposure compensation +/-5 stops.
- Select maximum value for Auto ISO
- External Microphone socket
- Movie crop function

Key differences from the 7D appear to be:
- Entry level plastic body - no rear control dial and not weather sealed
- Frame rate of 3.7 fps instead of 7 fps
- Built-in pop up flash cannot act as a master controller for off-camera speedlites
- 9-point autofocus system borrowed from the 30D, rather than the new system from the 7D.

However, for those looking to get into DSLR movie making on a budget, this would look like an excellent choice, featuring the same full 1080 video in 30/25/24 FPS as the much more expensive 7D. More info at Canon with opinion over at Rob Galbraith and DP Review. For the video perspective see Phillip Bloom.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Canon's latest compared

Canadian ski photographer Dan Carr has a useful post comparing the three most recent high end Canon cameras, especially in how well they are suited for sports photography and video. Head over here to read his insights on the 5D mark II versus the 7D versus the brand new 1D mark IV.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Skiing in Gulmarg, Kashmir

Well I am now relaxing with friends in Delhi after 10 days skiing in Gulmarg, Kashmir. I had hoped to post updates on the shoot while I was there, but unfortunately my assumption of a fast and seamless internet connection was proven to be rather optimistic!

So what's so special about Gulmarg? Gulmarg is a small village in Kashmir, about 2 hours drive from Srinagar, which sits at the bottom of an enourmous mountain, Affawat. Gulmarg has begun to appear on the radar of Western skiers over the last 5 years or so after installation of a second hand gondola from a French ski resort. Reported to be the highest ski lift in the world, the gondola will slowly transport you up to 4000m, from where it is possible to ski back down.

And the beauty of it is there are no pistes. Just you, and the mountain. But more than that, at 4200m high, Affawat is a serious undertaking for any skier, but to compare it to a single alpine peak would be misleading. It is in fact an enormous ridge, and once you have skinned up the final 200m from the gondola station to the summit, is is possible to traverse across and drop in to any off the numerous bowls along the front or clime up the mighty Shark Fin ridge at the back. The backcountry skiing opportunities are almost unlimited.

Despite it's reputation for bottomless powder, this year Gulmarg has had limited snowfall. For my first few days we were able to access untracked conditions by skinning across the summit ridge and dropping into some of the more remote bowls. But when the first snow for a month eventually came half way through our trip, the base layer was so weak that the avalanche risk went through the roof. While this limited us to the lower slopes, we had great fun skinning up and skiing back down through the trees on nearby Monkey Hill and down to the shrine at Babarishi.

When we did eventually head back up the mountain, our guide had a lucky escape after being swept 300m by an avalanche down a 40 degree couloir. Amazingly his head was sticking out of the snow when we found him, and he was uninjured. But it was a timely reminder of the dangers of back country skiing.

We were shooting both stills and video on this trip, and while it will be a few weeks before we have edited the video, I'll be able to share some stills on the website shortly.

In the meantime, for anyone planing there own trip to Gulmarg, here are a few useful links.

Gulmarg Snow Safety - all you need to know about snow conditions and avalanche advisory
Gulmarg 09/10 - a blog with updates on Gulmarg and trip planning advice
Sunstone Adventures - a guiding company set up by the permanently smiling kiwi Paul Swettenham