Cars

I don’t consider myself a car enthusiast and this series of pictures only began during a landscape photography trip to the Lake District one November when I heard of a rally close to where I stay. High up on the fell above Honister slate mine, the day was bitingly-cold, windy, raining and then snowing, and such an ordeal that many times I felt like going home. But you were close to the action and though I had longer lenses, it was a very deliberate decision to stay with a wide angle lens and grad filters for the sky.

I’m often up at the same time of year as this annual Vintage Sports-Car Club event. Other years these it’s been dark and torrentially-wet all day, or autumn is late and there’s still lots of colour, and I try to exploit my local knowledge. Hopefully the pictures remain landscapes with cars.

Gradually, somewhat-reluctantly, I found myself making trips to other venues around the country. But my interest in motorsport remains stubbornly “sterile” and technical, so the pleasure comes from the right shutter speed which froze action but kept the sense of movement, or from panning the camera and getting one sharp frame. Lovely though the cars may be, it’s still the event’s surroundings that catch my eye.

John – John Beardsworth

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

BJ forced back to Parliament

The day after the UK Supreme Court’s 11-0 verdict had ruled Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament to be illegal, BJ had just arrived to face the House of Commons.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Did BJ mislead the queen?

Just after Scotland’s highest courts had ruled that Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was illegal, a protester shouted at the gates of Downing Street. I’ve no idea who he may be, but the advice was loud and clear. I feel sorry for the bloke in the wheelchair.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Ragged Victorians

The ‘Ragged Victorians – The Great Unwashed‘ are a living history group re-enacting the lower classes of Victorian England, c1851.

Whitehall Watch

Parliament has been on its summer break since Boris Johnson moved into Downing Street. The new government’s planning for a kamikaze Brexit is being conducted at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall, and the SODEM protesters have started a daily “#Whitehallwatch” protest in that area. Whatever the weather, they are there – and yesterday was very wet! I was mainly taking pictures but took a couple of iPhone videos outside the Cabinet Office and then the 5 o’clock shout at the gates of Downing Street.

Brexit

While convinced that the 2016 referendum was a major mistake for Britain, I still expected that any British government could implement the result in a competent and pragmatic way that most of us would eventually accept. How naive I was! Brexit supporters wouldn’t agree among themselves what Brexit was, and out of her depth as Prime Minister, Theresa May wouldn’t seek a wider consensus. With alarming speed, Brexit had made the UK an international laughing stock.

In October 2018 I went on the “People’s March” to demand a public vote on the final deal and overturn the 2016 referendum. That day’s pictures kickstarted this project on the big London marches and on the daily protests outside Parliament, which is only an hour’s walk or a quick bus ride from my home in Leafy Dulwich (78% Remain).

This is a selection of my favourites. Also see my Instagram and blog posts on Brexit which are mainly links to short YouTube videos of the more eventful days and curious moments.

The People’s March

In October 2018 around 700,000 people from all over Britain marched through central London demanding a referendum on the final Brexit deal. Beginning in Hyde Park, the march filled the streets from Park Lane to the rally in Parliament Square.

No confidence in Theresa May

Over the winter of 2018-19 Theresa May tried to convince Brexit hard-liners in her own party to support her form of Brexit, and it was around that time that I began making more frequent trips into central London to take pictures outside Parliament.

Far right thugs lurk around the legitimate pro-Brexit protesters and one evening I caught them trying to encircle Mr Stop Brexit’s car. After they had tried to intimidate the anti-Brexit MP Anna Soubry, increased policing restored the mood and allowed pro- and anti-Brexit protesters to mix and disagree in reasonable, friendly ways, and one morning I spotting the leading pro-Brexit MP Jacob Rees-Mogg stopping to talk with Mr Stop Brexit and admirers. I spent 15 minutes close to him and these photos give a fair impression of how I encountered Rees-Mogg in person. Deluded but charming, he strongly reminded me of Tony Benn.

Put it to the People March

Over the winter of 2019 a series of evening votes rejected Theresa May’s deal with the EU and forced her to delay Brexit.

On March 23 a million people marched through central London, again filling the streets from Park Lane to Parliament Square. 6 million had already signed an online petition demanding the revocation of the UK’s notice to leave the EU. A crowd-funded campaign bought advertising space such as a billboard on a collapsing building, quoting Brexit advocates’ promises. In Westminster a journalist looks out from the Sky News gazebo at flags reflected in the clear plastic window which shields its broadcasts from the noise of protesters.

March to Leave

The only big pro-Brexit protest was on March 29, 2019 which had originally been the date when Brexit would happen. I shadowed the march from Fulham through some of the capital’s most prosperous and pro-Remain areas, then moved ahead and waited for the marchers’ arrival at the rally in Parliament Square. It was just-about full and the atmosphere was mostly good-natured, though the police cordon around the media village was unusually heavy and there was a far right presence near the Cenotaph, the national war memorial, where UKIP showed a video featuring Tommy Robinson, a convicted fraudster and founder of the EDL group.

European Elections

By Spring 2019 paralysis had set in. Theresa May still couldn’t get her own side to support her deal with the EU, and a cross-party majority in the House of Commons forced her to delay Brexit again. Protests continued outside Parliament, a T Rex arrived on St George’s Day, and in Trafalgar Square a flashmob sang Ode to Joy before marching on Downing Street. Brexit’s delay meant that the European parliamentary elections had to be held on May 23 and Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party was forecast to win the largest share of votes.

BJ in Number 10

After Theresa May’s resignation the Conservative Party then spent two months choosing her successor, Boris Johnson, who pledged to take Britain out of the EU by the arbitrary date of 31 October, whatever the costs. Protests greeted his arrival in Downing Street and continued outside the Cabinet Office in Whitehall where his team was planning his kamikaze Brexit during the summer recess.

Jolly japes?

What if a government, especially a minority one, could simply suspend Parliament if it couldn’t persuade MPs to agree to its policies? That’s what Johnson tried to do, and it struck me as un-British, disrespectful of our democratic tradition, and a veru dangerous precedent.

I spotted Rees Mogg just after news broke that the Scottish courts had ruled the government’s actions to be unlawful, a decision later confirmed by the UK Supreme Court -11-0.

The end

Like a turkey voting for Christmas, Jeremy Corbyn agreed to fight a general election at a time of his opponent’s choosing. But in the dog-friendly, 78% Remain, safe Labour seat of Dulwich there was little evidence of anything happening – I reckon it’s 27 years since my vote made any difference. Thanks to the UK’s broken electoral system, Boris Johnson‘s 43.6% of the popular vote became a majority government with 56% of the Parliamentary seats. By chance I saw him on the way to Buckingham Palace, and I was there when Parliament returned.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Another 6pm shout

Last Thursday a far right mob had walked from the Old Bailey to Parliament after their leader had again been sent to prison, this time for activity that endangered the trial of child abusers. Some thugs went straight for the anti-Brexit protesters and forced them to flee. Flags were burnt and poles were broken, but thankfully no-one was hurt and the protesters were back outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday (Monday).

So here’s the daily protest, again recorded on the Fuji X-T2. It’s with the 10-24mm, wide open, and I got the sound much better this time. What a difference one switch makes – not “blown out” and pretty clear when you consider all the traffic.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Daily protest

Every evening the SODEM pro-EU protesters go to the gates outside the Houses of Parliament and tell MPs what to do with Brexit.

This is with the Fuji X-T2, shot at 4K, and yes, I know I overcooked the sound. As I have been doing more video, I acquired a Rode VideoMic microphone last week and this was its first outing. In this case though, I don’t think the blown out sound (not sure what the tech term may be!) seems too wrong.

Yellow vests in Whitehall

On Saturday I was in central London just as a protest march approached the Cenotaph in Whitehall. It turned out to be a “yellow vest” protest mixing chants about Lee Rigby (the soldier murdered in Woolwich by Islamist thugs), prosecution of soldiers for alleged crimes, and in favour of Brexit. Once you’ve got the idea, I would recommend turning the sound right down – the singing doesn’t get any more musical!

The British way

This morning I was already recording some close-up clips of flags fluttering in the sunshine (for use in other videos) when the Brexiter started shouting. He then recognised the elderly former Conservative MP John Gummer and started ranting at him – until a passerby intervened…..

It’s only a short clip and at the time I was so wrapped up in the comical Brexit supporter. But since when did shouting at frail old men belong in British politics?

Guy Verhofstadt visits SODEM

On Friday May 10, 2019 the former Belgian PM and now head of the EU Parliament’s Brexit committee Guy Verhofstadt was in London to help kick off the Liberals’ campaign for the EU elections. Hold on a second, I thought the EU was supposed to be undemocratic? Anyway, as part of his trip, he arranged to meet Steve “Mr Stop Brexit” Bray and the SODEM protesters who campaign for the UK to remain in the EU.

As before, it’s a combination of Fuji X-T2 stills processed in Lightroom, and video shot on an iPhone8, all assembled in Premiere Pro.

Extinction Rebellion

I’ve just added a couple of new collections of pictures to the site – one on the Brexit protests and another on Extinction Rebellion.

A year ago I remember telling a German friend how I have never really felt at home in London, even after 30+ years and how I’ve always thought that in 5 years’ time I would be elsewhere. I’m a European first, from Northern England, and I always react if anyone refers to me as a Londoner. My friend loves her adopted city in the Rhineland and she was surprised and saddened by my comment, as was I, and it was one of those conversations that has just stuck in my mind. Surely I should find something to like?

Unconnected to that conversation, shortly afterwards I began taking long daily walks, not missing a single day for over a year. I mention this because part of the motivation has been how much I have enjoyed rediscovering the city. Sometimes I stay close to home in Dulwich and have learnt to appreciate nearby Brockwell Park or I explore elsewhere in London such as the paths along the river towards the Isle of Dogs or Greenwich, places I used to go when I first started taking pictures. Another aspect of this re-acquaintance with London is the interesting stuff that goes on in this huge and varied city. I feel that’s why I am doing more “street” photography, and it also explains my project on the Brexit protests.

So photographing April’s 10-day-long Extinction Rebellion protests was interesting and was the good exercise that I need. They blocked roads and bridges, preventing buses from south London reaching the centre, so they certainly stretched my daily walking routine. 16 km on a single day was an exception though – and it’s really not the kind of thing Londoners do.

The videos were just shots on the iPhone, normally handheld but using a sturdy Gorillapod 5K for the timelapse.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion protests closed down central London for a week in mid April. Unlike many demonstrations which strike me as bonding exercises for those already persuaded of the cause, these protests seemed much more about reaching out and convincing the rest of us. I found this fascinating and I spent much of the week walking between the various locations. October’s seemed less successful, one badly judged protest on public transport provoking reactions from commuters and taking the headlines away from the real issue.

Musical Monday

Almost three years after making the country an international laughing stock, the Brexiters still don’t agree what Brexit means and Theresa May has failed to force through her “Brexit means Brexit” on March 29.

So protesters remain outside Parliament, Brexiters alleging betrayal and treason, Remainers more hopeful that Brexit can be reversed. It’s busier when there is a major vote or on Wednesdays when Theresa May attends Prime Minister’s Questions, and recently Mondays have become more lively as regional Remain groups swell the numbers for “Musical Monday”.

As before, this is a combination of hand held iPhone 8 video and Fuji X-T2 stills. One photo shows Jacob Rees-Mogg arriving at Parliament in a taxi, protesters on either side, and gives an interesting but misleading idea of the scale of the demonstrations. I am sure I’ll miss this when it’s all over.

1640s timelapse

After experimenting with the iPhone’s standard timelapse feature at the Brexit and Extinction Rebellion protests here in London, I thought it might suit a historical re-enactment that I was going to over the Easter weekend. The phone was left on the tripod while I carried on photographing, and the files were automatically imported into Lightroom Mobile and synced to my computer.

Though I am able to assemble the movie in PremierePro, it’s not very high tech. And it is fun.

Another day in Brexistan

The scenes outside Parliament continue to fascinate me, and on a nice day it’s too tempting to continue my daily walk round Dulwich and carry on the 4-5km into central London, or I’ll just catch the bus up to Westminster and spend an hour or two there. This was a Wednesday, usually more busy thanks to Prime Minister’s Questions, but it was particularly significant as Theresa May was due to travel to Brussels later that day to request another delay to the UK’s departure date.

The movie is a combination of iPhone video and stills taken on my Fuji X-T2. Some video is 4k 60fps, but the timelapses were shot with the phone on a Jobo Gorrilapod which fits nicely into my small “walkabout” rucksack. It was assembled in Premiere Pro which I am slowly feeling more confident using. It still takes me hours to put something together, and there are only so many times you can listen to some of these demonstrators’ voices….

Brexistani Times

The video does have a few rough edges, but I hope it gives a good impression of the scenes outside Parliament every day. It’s a combination of stills taken on my Fuji X-T2 and video from my iPhone.

Ploughing on….

Shire horses ploughing ground to make a wildflower meadow in Brockwell Park, South London

One morning last week I got home from a brisk walk around Dulwich, pleased to have done my daily exercise and ready to spend the rest of the day working.

But I was straight back out of the door soon after turning on the computer and seeing that a local pub had tweeted a video clip of Shire horses ploughing in the park. It’s not something that happens often in the 21st century, certainly not 4-5 km from the centre of our capital city, so the shoes were back on and 20 minutes later I was in Brockwell Park.

It turned out to be a perfect afternoon with clouds coming right out of a John Constable landscape. The horses belong to Operation Centaur and were breaking up ground that’s going to sown with wild flowers.

This is pretty-well straight out of the camera – just cropped a little. Weak pun intended.

 

 

Street

I have always admired “street photography”, and for me that doesn’t mean photographs taken in streets but the genre is really about observational or candid public photography, whatever the location or environment. Some of my earliest “serious” photographs, like the couple in Trafalgar Square, fitted into this definition and I still enjoy the challenge of making pictures when people know you are there, and of capturing the amusing side in ordinary scenes.

Instagram

For a few months I have been posting new pictures to Instagram and odd videos on YouTube. Just don’t take this as evidence of any burgeoning social media strategy, let alone of any ambition to be an “influencer”, or whatever. It’s just proof that I am still alive, if anyone is wondering.

John – John Beardsworth

2017 has been and gone

I knew I was struggling to keep the blog going, but I just realized that I hadn’t made a single “real” post in the whole of 2017! I am still alive, I do tweet, quite often, I still help people in forums, occasionally exchange harsh words too, and Facebook a little too, which I am told is a verb. But for some reason, I’m just not as communicative as I used to be!

Brooklands

I did in fact have a long post lined up, but just never got round to publishing it. It was about the Fuji X-T2 which I did get in September 2016, days after they released it, and it was going to be “3 months with the X-T2”, then it got pushed back to 6 months, then a year, and I still intend to unleash it on the world!

In short, the X-T2 wasn’t content to remain as a second camera to my Nikon D800 and pushed it aside for almost all types of photography. Mid way through 2017 I added the 100-400mm lens to my kit bag and while I still have my Nikon I barely paid any attention to its replacement the D850. I’m happy with the switch, if that is what it is, and all three of my favourite images from 2017 were shot on the X-T2.

The first picture here isn’t perfectly-sharp but I love the subject and the expression of the boy in the passenger seat. It reflects a bit of a change in my photography as I’ve slowly been getting into vintage motorsport since encountering the Vintage Sports Car Club 5-6 years ago in the Lake District. I’d only been to a few events, but in 2017 I “went for it”. This was at the old Brooklands circuit and I had no idea what this car was. Its shape is freakish, and the engine noise is like no car that I’ve ever heard. But in fact it it quite well known, a one-off special built in 1911 by FIAT to beat the land speed record, and it’s powered by an aircraft engine. Just watch this video if you want to know why it is named “The Beast of Turin”.

HastingsMy second favourite was taken in late October at the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings. My re-enactment photography began in a small way 12 years ago when I had nothing to do one weekend and went to an event nearby. But as someone who studied history at university and who still reads academic works on the subject, I imagine it was always likely to attract my interest. I am still not a re-enactor and nothing would make me want to dress up and go into battle, yet as a photographic subject I still find it presents interesting challenges and enjoyment.

I often get my best shots away from the battle itself, sometimes before it begins when they’re lining up before entering the battlefield, or afterwards when they’re sweaty and knackered. So this picture was taken when the Norman army was beginning to assemble and for a moment this French re-enactor gave me a look of such hostility. I don’t know whether he was playing up for me or was just annoyed at the big lens – this was on the 100-400 – being pointed in his face, but it’s the Norman version of Millwall’s “No-one likes us, we don’t care”.

Castle Crag
But my favourite picture of 2017 is, not surprisingly, from the Lake District. I was there a lot again – thanks to my brother and his wife – and got two particularly-wonderful “peak autumn” weeks in mid November.

This shot was taken using the 55-200mm late one afternoon from a spot just over Seatoller in Borrowdale. It’s not a scene I had ever noticed before but at that time of year the light falls beautifully along the line of the fells.

As so often with my longer-lens landscapes, I had been up there to photograph a different scene – Castle Crag itself. But isn’t that the beauty of photography? Planning is great, but reacting and improvising is so much more rewarding.

 

Author

I’ve written about 10 books on digital photography, but my background hadn’t been as a photographer or artist. I had been in accounting, then in financial IT. Photography had been a hobby, and I loved darkroom printing, but working for the printing press manufacturer Heidelberg meant I was familiar with Photoshop about 1990 and had built up my digital skills with scanned negatives and slides. Then in 2003 I mentioned on my blog that I had just bought a Nikon D100, and this led to the opportunity to write the first of three books on digital B&W.

Advanced Digital Black and White Photography is probably my favourite. Partly that’s because I know it contained a few big firsts for books on the subject – Lightroom, Photoshop’s B&W panel, using SilverEfex, and smart object workflows. It’s still bang up to date.

Consultant

I have moved all my newer Lightroom content over to my other web site, Lightroom Solutions.

My knowledge of Lightroom has origins in my murky past as a spreadsheet warrior. Qualifying as a chartered accountant, I learnt to program Excel and databases and became more of a financial IT guy and eventually was in consulting roles, implementing big accounting systems, OLAP cubes and “business intelligence”. That background happens to be ideal for managing photos and the field of “digital asset management”, so I found myself improving clients’ Lightroom productivity and designing web sites (my own web site has been going since 1997) which integrate efficiently with their workflows. And after using it for 28 years, I do know Photoshop pretty well too.

 

#2016top3 3/3 – Grange Crags

Grange CragsThe third of my #2016top3 favourite images, a birch and bracken on Grange Crags, has in fact already been on the blog.

The photo was taken in mid January, and what I like so much is that the scene was completely different when I first noticed its potential but developed exactly how I imagined it.

I had gone to Grange Crags that afternoon only thinking of taking a wide angle view in the opposite direction, a sunset across Derwentwater to Skiddaw. But as I waited I saw a line of birches in the sun that contrasted against the trees in the shadow of Grange Fell. There was one birch that I could isolate – I like compositions involving negative space – though I didn’t like how all the bracken in the foreground was in bright sunlight. But I spotted how I was in the shade and the shadow was probably going to move up the slope. From then on it was a matter of waiting and hoping the shadow would continue in that direction, nicely parallel to the slope.

 

#2016top3 2/3 – Honister Pass

You’re looking up the Honister Pass from the Buttermere side, and the lights at the top belong to the quarry.

It’s a scene I’ve shot in daytime with the light coming down the valley and picking out the curves of the wet road, but the idea of shooting it at night has been in the back of my mind for a while. Usually in the evenings I just want to eat, read, review the day’s pictures, nip to the pub. In November though it was getting dark well before pub time and it was also very mild for the time of year, so this was an ideal opportunity to get the shot.

The first attempt didn’t turn out too well. The light trails were soft, and I’m unsure if it was because a tripod leg may have been slightly loose or because I was finding it too dark to focus with the Fuji. But helped me work out the rough exposure time – and prepare for long waits between cars.

It’s a combination of two 75 second exposures with my Nikon D800. I had already been waiting half an hour before a car appeared. It headed up the valley and then stopped half way, so that was the end of the first exposure. Almost immediately another car started coming down and this second exposure stopped just before the white headlight trails reached the red ones left by the first car’s rear lights. I did take another exposure which recorded the second car as it came all the way down, but I prefer them this way.

#2016top3 1/3 Rainbows

Double rainbow over Derwentwater from Ashness Jetty

In the last few days there’s been a Twitter hashtag going round, #2016top3, for your favourite 3 landscapes of the year, and as I had joined in I thought it was a good excuse to get myself back into posting to this blog.

I like to get up to Borrowdale early each November. It can be risky, and last year I got one day of sun and mist followed by a week of solid rain. Or you can be too late and a big storm has blown away all the leaves. But this time I really hit “peak Autumn”. The landscape was full of autumnal colour, and mist / fog / sun / snow had been perfect conditions for photography, but this picture came on the one day when it was raining and I was just taking it easy.

That morning during a break in the rain I spent an hour or so playing around with close-ups of the carpet of red maple leaves in the back garden. Sun kept breaking through, and I remember noticing a rainbow over Castle Crag, but it soon vanished and I would have been perfectly satisfied if those red leaves had been all I’d photographed that day. So when I set off for Keswick I wasn’t thinking of rainbows – it just seemed a good time to nip into Booths supermarket.

Nothing in particular made me stop as I passed Ashness jetty, just the thought that the day was short, but the rainbow appeared the very moment I went down the steps. The picture was taken on my Fuji X-T2 (I’m preparing a hands on review) and was only gently adjusted in Lightroom. At the time I was awestruck by the brightness of “the rainbow” and I didn’t even notice the second one. It just left me thinking that with photography sometimes it’s inspiration that comes looking for you.

Fuji XT-2 – an easy camera to like

X-T2_BK_18-55mm_FrontLeft_White-590x480I can’t be the only photographer whose head has been turned by the new Fuji XT-2, and this week I had a great chance to play with one at Fixation in Vauxhall. So if anyone else is wobbling or wondering – and if anyone still reads this blog – I thought I’d jot down my impressions.

Bear in mind that I’m not very familiar with Fuji bodies or indeed with electronic viewfinders (EVF), and my most recent hands-on experience of either was after the XT-1’s release. I was also limited to handling the camera and wasn’t let loose to use it in practice!

  • In the hand
    • Robust feel and it wasn’t too small in my big hands.
    • I didn’t particularly like the grip which felt angular and big – adding 50% to the body’s height.
    • I much preferred holding the camera without the grip and it felt very comfortable with the 18-55mm lens.
  • I was a little concerned about its heavy battery usage
    • This would be mitigated by getting the grip with its two extra batteries.
    • As 4K video is an attraction of the camera, I can understand why one would get the grip.
  • Electronic viewfinder
    • The updating speed made it barely noticeable – very impressive compared to when I last played with an EVF.
    • I liked how the EVF showed the effect of changing aperture, shutter speed or ISO. I imagine that comment is no surprise, if you’ve used an EVF much more than I have, but I felt myself thinking about how I would use it in practice.
  • Key controls
    • Liked the dials for shutter speed and ISO
    • Really liked the aperture ring on the lens – that takes me back!
    • Quickly got used to changing aperture, shutter speed or ISO without taking my eye from the viewfinder
    • Enjoyed the focus points – quickly figured it out
    • Liked the one click zoom in for critical focus
  • I liked the 3-way articulated LCD and felt it was sufficient for holding the camera high, low, or more importantly at waist level for covert photographs or for simply maintaining eye contact
  • No built-in flash – on the other hand, I’m an available light photographer
Sept 12th Update: Uh oh

Sept 12th Update: Uh oh

So will I get one?

Not sure, might do, but the doubt has little to do with the XT-2, which I immediately liked very much.

It’s really that I’ve no great desire to move from Nikon or change my D800, and I am unsure if I really want to carry a second camera body. It’s handy when you need different focal lengths, and I did feel that it wouldn’t be hard to use the Fuji and Nikon at the same event. Unlike using different bodies from the same camera maker, these two would be so different that I would never be confused. The other worry is if I would be able to limit myself to just an XT-2 and a single lens.

We’ll see.

Hadrian’s Wall

It sometimes seems that re-enactments follow me, rather than me seeking them out. In September 2015 I was in the Lake District and was cooking my evening meal when I caught the words “re-enactment” and “Hadrian’s Wall” on the television. It turned out that a 100+ strong group called Legio I Italica had arrived from Italy for an event that weekend. Being on “il Vallo di Adriano” seemed a hugely emotional moment for many of the participants. Initially at Birdoswald, in the evening they transferred to the more remote Housestead fort where, after having left Rome in 40C heat, the sudden temperature drop provided a real sense of guarding the Empire’s Northern frontier.

Sealed Knot hi res photos

These photos are copyright of the photographer but may be used freely for Sealed Knot publicity.

Try to give a photo credit to the SK and the photographer.

We’ve reviewed the photos for authentic details and other potentially-awkward content, but contact John if there’s something you notice.

Earlier periods

My favourite re-enactment periods are from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Partly that reflects my own interest in early modern history, but it is also an aesthetic thing – gunpowder usually produces lots of photogenic smoke.

But every historical era seems to have its enthusiasts. Imperial Rome has an obvious attraction, but it also seems to draw those who enjoy researching authentic uniform and tactics. Others just enjoy being Saxons or Vikings for the weekend and are not deterred by a relative lack of evidence. By the Medieval period, documentary records and paintings again offer plenty of assistance, and the Swiss enthusiasts I found in the Chateau de Chillon really reminded me of Flemish Renaissance scenes.

A few of these pictures come from re-enactments of the Battle of Hastings (1066) held on what has traditionally been regarded as the original site. Around 3000 re-enactors from across Europe attended the big event held on the 940th anniversary, and a hundred charging horses literally made the ground shake. Yet even then, I still missed the sight and sound gunpowder!

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Historical re-enactment

Photographing historical re-enactment began in a small way one weekend when I had nothing to do and somehow I heard of a large multi-period re-enactment event nearby. Earlier that year I had been wondering about history-related photographic projects as I’d studied it at university and still love academic literature on the English Civil War and other periods. I immediately realised I had found a new subject for photography. Apart from appreciating some of the historical details, I also found it brought together other influences. One is that I used to be a big newspaper reader and had always admired war reportage – above all, Don McCullin’s work in Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, and Lebanon. Another is my knowledge of art history, so sometimes I’m photographing a scene that reminds me of Uccello or Breughel, for instance, or even Grant Wood on one occasion. It began in a small way, but in hindsight it seems obvious that a weekend would turn into a 10 year project.

Best of 2019

Brexit

Parliament is a convenient number 3 bus ride or an hour’s walk from my home, and photographing the Brexit protests in London seems to have been a big part of my 2019.

Around London

I always have a camera, usually the Fuji X-T2, on my daily walks extended further. And in such a big city you never know what you are going to encounter, even heavy horses ploughing in my local park.

Extinction Rebellion

I hadn’t intended to photograph so much of the first week-long closure of central London but I was fascinated by how the XR protesters sought to reach out and persuade. With Brexit soon going to be “done”, I suspect I’ll photograph more of these protests in the coming year.

Re-enactment

I am still very much into the English Civil War re-enactment scene. One change was using off camera flash on a couple of indoor events after I got a pair of Cactus V6 II triggers to fire my Nikon flash gun from my Fuji camera. I still prefer natural light, but it’s a very portable setup and seemed to bring out my inner Caravaggio!

Shadows

In spring a musician friend had shown me a picture using a puddle. It was so clever and typical of this intensely-creative guy, and the idea stuck in my mind all year.

Lake District

My 2019 wasn’t a big year for landscape photography. Brexit made staying London too interesting, and it was only in October and November that I got up to the Lake District. And it rained.

The Shard

This ongoing project took shape in late 2013 as London’s tallest office building neared completion. I find it quite an elegant structure, and I love noticing it behind other scenes and offering new ways to illustrate life in this big city. Like its inspiration, Hokusai’s series of Fuji prints, there will be 36 frames, eventually.

English Civil War

The 1640s and the English Civil War has always been my favourite period, so the heart of my historical re-enactment project is on the Sealed Knot, Europe’s largest re-enactment group. While I do shoot in colour, I didn’t see paintings from the period until I moved to London, and I grew up seeing the likes of Van Dyck and contemporary lithographs reproduced in books in B&W. So to my eyes the 17th century looks right in B&W.

Italy

These pictures are all from southern Italy – mainly from periods based in Tropea, Calabria. I suppose what I like about the south is that there’s less “perfection” than one encounters elsewhere in Italy where everything has been tidied up and restored, and there’s also more of a connection to earlier Mediterranean cultures.

Life during wartime

The re-enactment scene isn’t just about pretend fighting, and the “living history” side allows people to depict camp life, music, crafts and other non-military aspects of their chosen periods. Since many events are based at historic houses, I particularly enjoy looking for anything happening indoors where the surroundings often provides strong echoes of those times.

Speakers Corner

Back in the early 1990s I seemed to photograph Speakers Corner almost every Sunday – it fitted in well with dim sum – and I liked what seemed a healthy mix of serious political and religious debate, humour and weirdness. So Christian evangelists waved their bibles, a guy claimed he was Jim Morrison, a British Muslim convert was heckled about why he was no longer a Buddhist, while others called earnestly for the overthrow of capitalism. Yet Donald Soper was still addressing crowds after 50 years, and this seemed to confirm that Speakers Corner was still a symbol of Britain’s democratic tradition.

Yet as time passed I fell out of love with the place as it became more about bearded men shouting praise of whatever deity starred in their sacred book. The Christians were still there, but more fervently evangelical, while Muslim preachers from the Middle East or South Asia addressed groups of other like-minded Muslims and no longer received warm, scatological heckling. You might still see an authentic British bigot railing against sodomy or racial mixing,  9/11 and Iraq conspiracy theorists, but it all seems just a freak show for the tourists. And their phones and selfie sticks are everywhere, as much an element of your composition as the speakers had once been.

So the last photograph shows a Jewish convert to Christianity speaking to tourists. A police horse had just passed by – and had expressed itself as eloquently as any speaker that day!

USA

Over the years I’ve been to the US many times on business and as a traveller. I certainly feel very at home in New England, not surprisingly, but I am more drawn to the much less European appearance and culture of the South West, California, the North West, or even Las Vegas (and I certainly do feel out of place there!).

Welcome

About me

20th Century

Re-enacting 20th century wars seems a distinct part of the re-enactment scene and perhaps as much about collecting original uniform and equipment. Sometimes there is direct family history, and contemporary politics and interests can also intrude. Often these seem as harmless as the two Italophiles who bake pizza and ciabatta in their 1940s Italian army kitchens. A liking for rock n roll, Mash and Americana seemed to be shared by those portraying US paratroopers, while a more left-leaning personality seems drawn to the Red Army – though the availability of cheap Soviet uniforms and weapons is also an attraction. Modern sensibilities have most impact on representing Fascists and while it’s common to see the Wehrmacht or regular German army, people are very wary of groups that do depict the Waffen SS – not least because some also own a tank.

Napoleonic

Not surprisingly, the Napoleonic re-enactment scene is very pan-European. and though some British enthusiasts began thanks to the TV series Sharpe, it’s my impression that others seem to have more Europhile attitudes and tastes than their English Civil War counterparts.

Politics by other means

I began photographing re-enactment not because I’m into warfare or military history but because of my interest in political and social history. So I’m always hoping re-enactors will depict the underlying political differences.

Most of these pictures show the Sealed Knot’s Tower Hamlets Trayned Bandes re-enacting the Putney Debates at the original location, St Mary’s Church, Putney, where in 1647 the victorious New Model Army’s generals and soldiers’ representatives met to discuss the peace settlement they wanted Parliament to make with the defeated King. Proposals included universal (male) suffrage, freedom of conscience (for Protestants), and other liberties which were radical at the time but would later be at the heart of the Anglo-American democratic tradition.

Re-enactors generally steer clear of modern politics, and this event in 2013 was a memorial to Colonel Thomas Rainsborough who had been on the Levellers‘ side at Putney and was later assassinated by Royalists. The veteran left-wing Labour politician Tony Benn spoke and unveiled a commemorative plaque, and Jeremy Corbyn also spoke. Then an obscure backbench MP, at the time no-one imagined Corbyn would ever become the leader of the Labour Party.

In 2019 the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon, where Cromwell had been born and was MP, organized a couple of events including a re-enactment of the trial of Charles I.

If that trial interest you, I recommend The Tyrannicide Brief – its author is a leading war crimes lawyer.

A war for religion

Religious difference was a major cause of the war and the reason cited most often by individuals for their choice of sides. During the 1630s King Charles I’s government had been introducing into the Church of England doctrines and ceremonial that appeared suspiciously Catholic, while persecuting the more-Calvinist or Presbyterian “Puritan” dissenters. Popular fear of Catholicism was amplified by news of massacres of Protestants in Ireland and in Europe where the Thirty Years War was in its most brutal phase. After a Presbyterian-led rebellion in Scotland, the King recalled the English Parliament to vote funds for his army, but Parliament’s refusal led the King to resort to force.

Some re-enactors are drawn to Puritan firebrands such as the preacher Hugh Peters (who had helped found Harvard while exiled in the American colonies), but others redress the balance and portray the established church. I’ve even seen some brave souls portraying Catholics.

List View

SNAG-0014ListView is a plug-in for Lightroom (3 or later) that displays images in a list style just like in most other DAM (digital asset management) programs. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to review your metadata entry in a list than by scanning through a grid of thumbnails.

Other things you can do with List View:

  • Change the information in any column
  • Save columns as presets
  • Sort by any column
  • Save custom-sorted pictures to a new collection
  • Export metadata to a browser
  • Export metadata directly to Excel (or OpenOffice etc)
  • Export data as CSV
  • Export data as tab separated text
  • Edit metadata in a File Info panel

All posts related to List View.

As with my other main plug-ins, it’s available from Photographer’s Toolbox.

Capture Time to Exif

The plugin’s original purpose was updating the EXIF data of scanned photos, making Lightroom display them by capture date instead of the date the negs were scanned.

Capture Time to Exif is essentially an in-Lightroom interface for Exiftool. Its main purpose is to allow you to edit EXIF data, particularly dates, without having to understand much about command lines.

So you can:

  • Update the Date Time Original EXIF field of scanned images. Lightroom’s filter panel and smart collections can then find the images by searching for when the pictures were originally taken rather than when they were digitised.
  • Write other EXIF and IPTC information such as the camera model and maker. You can enter whatever Exiftool command line arguments you choose.
  • Store frequently-used command line arguments as presets.
  • Write directly to TIF, PSD, JPEG, and DNG file formats
  • Write directly to proprietary raw formats – though normally it will use sidecar files, which have limitations.
  • Generate a log file which can be run as a batch file in Shell/Terminal – use this method for debugging or other advanced needs.

 

Capture Time to Exif is for Lightroom 3/4/5/6 on PC or Mac, and is available from Photographer’s Toolbox. The trial version is limited to 10 images at a time but is fully functional.

 

Big note


Big Note
is a very simple free plugin which adds a custom field to the Metadata panel. This lets you add notes about the picture. You can store any text in the field, and it can also be searched by smart collections.

Big Note is free and should do the very limited job for which it’s designed. But it is totally unsupported.

I am cautious about encouraging people to enter custom metadata in Lightroom. It is stored only in the catalogue and is never written to the images’ XMP files or included in files exported from LR. That’s both good, in the sense of privacy, but bad in that the data is trapped inside the catalogue. So I do not generally recommend the use of custom fields if you can’t support them yourself.

The plugin code is unencrypted and might help you learn bits of Lua, LR’s scripting language (see the LR SDK and particularly the reference manual). You don’t have to know much about coding if, for example, you just want to add a second custom field to your catalogue.

But please don’t ask for help using it. Big Note is free and will do the limited job for which it’s designed.

Locktastic

Locktastic is a simple plug-in for Lightroom 2/3/4/5/6 that:

  • Marks read-only or “locked” files with the red label
  • Selectively imports read-only files from a folder, bypassing LR’s standard import dialog

When photographers review images in the field, it’s common to “lock” those that they particularly like. This simple procedure makes it that little bit harder to delete a good shot. Some time-pressed event snappers do this locking much more systematically, “chimping” during the event and tagging pictures they particularly want to work on when they get back to their desks.

Unfortunately Lightroom won’t show which images are locked – in fact its import from camera routine removes the read-only file status (if it imports from the hard drive using “Add”, the read-only tags are preserved).

This plug-in is designed to solve those problems.

Syncomatic

Syncomatic-workflowSyncomatic (available here) is a Lightroom (3 or later) plug-in that synchronises Library and Develop settings between groups of files:

Here are some examples of how it’s being used:

  • One photographer sends JPEGs to clients
    • they add ratings in Bridge for pictures they want
    • client sends the files back to her
    • she imports the JPEGs into LR
    • she then uses Syncomatic to copy the client’s ratings from the JPEGs to the raw files
  • Another photographer outsources her raw processing but continues to keyword and add other metadata to raw files in her catalogue. When the TIF/PSD files are returned, she updates their metadata with Syncomatic.
  • Files hidden inside stacks, or virtual copies, don’t have the same metadata as the one that’s on top. Syncomatic corrects this.

All blog posts relating to Syncomatic.

 

Expression Media & iView Mediapro

Between 2004 and 2010 I used iView / Expression Media and Bridge to manage my picture archive and writing projects (I now use Lightroom), and worked with some leading pros to improve their digital asset management and photographic workflow. This covered:

  • personalized training
  • scripting and automation
  • integration with Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture
  • data migration
    • moving your metadata to Lightroom
    • getting metadata into Expression Media

About these scripts

These scripts come from those projects:

  • the scripts are free but are unsupported (here’s my Amazon wish list)
  • use them at your own risk – test them on test files in test catalogues
  • custom scripts can be quick for me to write but can save you lots of time. They can be on an Amazon basis.

Adapting for Expression Media

Edit the script in Notepad or TextEdit. Look for the CreateObject line and replace the word “iView” with “ExpressionMedia”.

Adapting for PhaseOne MediaPro

Edit the script in Notepad or TextEdit. Look for the CreateObject line and replace the word “iView” or “ExpressionMedia” with “PhaseOneMediaPro”, so it reads “PhaseOneMediaPro.Application”.

About the re-enactment project

about the historical re-enactment project

What I think makes my historical re-enactment project different is that it combines photography with my long-suppressed aspirations to be an academic historian, specialising in the English Civil War. In a sense, I’m trying to report and explain the war and its lasting impact on British history. Too much Don McCullin for my own good?

Originally this page was based on an article I wrote for Amateur Photographer magazine where I described the project on, its technical aspects and the creative choices I make. The article covered a holiday weekend when I was “embedded” with the Marquess of Newcastle’s Regiment of Foote, part of the Sealed Knot’s Royalist Army. For two days I took photographs, and then on the Monday I was kitted out, handed an 18 foot long pike, and marched onto the battlefield ….

causus belli

I’ve always loved history and in particular the English Civil War thanks to three wonderful teachers at Bolton School, and when I went to Cambridge it was with the intention of a life in academia. But those undergraduate years enriched me with other equally-exciting interest and while I was still passionate about my subject I wasn’t so single-minded. Meanwhile Margaret Thatcher’s depressing government was hacking away opportunities in my chosen field, so I put aside the idea of doing a PhD and “got on my bike”, enduring a 2-decade career in accounting before eventually digging my way out via financial IT.

In my late twenties a teenage interest in photography suddenly became a passion, and I had my own black and white darkroom and slowly transferred these skills to digital. In 2003 that led to my first book on digital black and white and this new confidence in my photography meant I was searching for new subjects. One day I hit upon combining my interest in history with my photography, and in retrospect the idea seems so obvious that I can’t work out where it had been hiding.

reconnaissance

The original concept was broad – recording how the past is kept alive by ordinary people. I was interested in depicting how they dedicate their spare time to running steam railways, driving vintage cars, and a variety of other activities. It was never intended to focus on military re-enactment though, not least because I like the old British tradition – a reaction to Cromwell – of being suspicious of the army and militarism. But as is supposed to happen in war, the plan didn’t survive the first big encounter with the subject…

first skirmishes

Military Odyssey was a huge multi-period re-enactment event that sprawled over the August 2004 holiday weekend. From what I observed, the hobby seemed to fall into two very different scenes – those groups who into the twentieth century, and those who did earlier periods. The former often seemed to be more like militaria collectors, so the members of the 2nd Guards Rifle Division had taken advantage of the ready availability of original Red Army gear. The guys seemed more liberal/left inclined than one group with black Waffen SS uniforms – they also had a Tiger main battle tank. Others had more attractive contemporary overtones though, so I felt much more at ease with the Italophile surgeon whose two man Italian army kitchen re-enactment group was cooking ciabatta and pizza in a field oven. To service this very diverse market were stalls selling all sorts of medals, books, maps and other military paraphernalia.

engagement

The other half of the scene I detected at Military Odyssey consisted of groups who re-enacted periods largely before the twentieth century. I found these groups much more interesting, perhaps because the participants struck me a lot less materialistic and less into collecting. The exceptions were mostly amongst those whose periods were in living memory and where they had interesting personal connections, such as the Victorian infantry group whose members had ancestors who had fought in the Boer Wars and had inherited pieces of equipment or uniform.
collectorsBut in general, I liked how this part of the scene (really more of a spectrum) seemed much more into the history for its own sake, and I saw every era from WWI to the American Civil War, back through the Napoleonic era and on into the Dark Ages and Romano Britons. The only group I’d ever heard of was of course the giant of the British re-enactment scene, the Sealed Knot. It re-enacts my period, the English Civil War, and that weekend fielded 3000 soldiers plus cannon and cavalry. Finding a great spot very close to the action, on each day shot so many pictures I filled all my memory cards and even had to switch to jpegs rather than raw format. Since that first encounter with the Sealed Knot I’ve photographed dozens of English Civil War musters.

the campaigning season

Each year there are a few dozen English Civil War re-enactments which take place all around the country, often in beautiful locations with connections to historical events. Some are on the original sites of the battle they depict.

Events vary in size. At small ones there might be just 50-100 participants, maybe one or two cannon, and a living history camp. These are less crowded and more informal, so you can smell the gunpowder and get nice and close with your camera. Larger “major” events such as Wetherby might have 2-3 thousand participants, cannon, and cavalry, and can be very impressive.

showing one’s colours

cavalryA very satisfying aspect of the project has been sharing the pictures with the participants (who of course can’t carry cameras themselves!). Immediately after the first event I attended, I had set up an online gallery and posted its URL in the Sealed Knot’s online forum. The resulting feedback was hugely encouraging – after all, you can’t photograph yourself when you’re in the 17th century – and I now create a gallery after every battle and leave it online for a few weeks. I gladly email full-res files to anyone who recognizes themselves, and occasionally sell prints to re-enactors. Not being too mercenary, and showing I shared their interests, I found it was a great way to introduce myself at other re-enactments and it soon led to opportunities to photograph private events or Newcastles Regiment’s invitation to join them for Wetherby.

While I am glad when people see themselves in my pictures, I’m very clear about not wanting to take photographs for that reason. A war photographer doesn’t shoot “team photos” and the pictures would soon become very different, more records of events. You need a certain detachment.

An English or British Civil War

I grew up thinking of the English Civil War, but over the last 30 years historians have increasingly interpreted the war in less Anglocentric ways and describing it as a more complex series of overlapping wars in the three kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland.

This picture of a member of Owen’s regiment, a Welsh unit, shows how the war grew increasingly brutal but also illustrates its ethnic or national dimension. At the start of the war Protestant settlers in Ireland had been massacred, and in England there was a constant fear that the King would bolster his army with native Irish regiments. In fact Parliament passed the ordinance of no quarter to the Irish) as a deterrent. But Welsh and Cornish speakers were aware their Celtic languages meant they could be easily mistaken as being Irish. One atrocity was after Naseby when the King’s baggage train and large numbers of Welsh-speaking women had been captured, and later in the war many besieged Royalist garrisons delayed surrendering until they had received guarantees for the safety of any Welsh and Cornish soldiers.

ambush

I always arrive nice and early. For one thing, I like to see the battlefield and get some idea of what’s planned. I’ll try to decide where to sit, generally looking for where I can shoot into the light (to make the best of gunsmoke) and the background is also very much part of my thought process. Apart from not wanting the crowd in my pictures, it’s amazing how much modern junk we can overlook.
livinghistory
Arriving early means there’s time to raid the Living History camp where you find all sorts of contemporary scenes – cameos of Puritan preaching, candle making, music, and other crafts, soldiers relaxing. Also just before the armies march onto the battlefield, they usually get held up at a gate or some other bottleneck, and at these moments you can get nice and close – there’s often an interesting tension in the air.

a godly people, a godly army

Right from the start I sought to depict the wider history of the Civil War, not just its military aspects, and religious differences were a major reason for taking up arms. In England Parliament’s Puritan leadership opposed the government’s attempts to make worship conform to practices that some regarded as close to Catholicism, similar policies in Scotland caused rebellion, while in Ireland the native Catholic Irish rose up against the Protestant settlers. Once war began, the established church sought to uphold the King’s authority, Parliament remained in control of Presbyterians, while Puritan fundamentalism flourished in the New Model Army and grew it a crusading or at times revolutionary self-belief – or at least allowed it to attribute its victory to its godliness.

religion

There aren’t many opportunities to capture these religious aspects of the conflict, so I try to seize every one. Puritan preachers and their High Church opponents sometimes perform cameos near the crowd line, or before a battle you may find a preacher in the living history camp. Very rarely you can get shots of ordinary churchgoing folk – the picture on the left was taken at the Sealed Knot’s annual church service.

tactics

Battles often show a historical engagement that happened in the area. The action lasts roughly an hour, and often deviate from their script – so a regiment moves left when it should have gone forward, or withdraws when it should have stayed close to the crowd line. So I’ll often move to 2-3 viewpoints. Fortunately I’m tall enough to shoot over spectators’ heads if needed.

Battlefield-wide scenes are impressive to the naked eye but are inherently chaotic. “Everything and the kitchen sink” doesn’t usually make a good photograph, so I’m continually seeking out details, individuals or patterns within the chaos.

I mostly zoom in with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens, often with a 1.4x teleconverter and with the camera usually on a monopod. This brings the risk of only seeing whatever action is happening in the viewfinder, so I continually look up from the camera and scan the scene for anything interesting that may be developing – it’s a similar experience to sports photography.

munitions

Apart from my particular preference for the history of the English Civil War, there’s another reason why I like re-enactment of warfare in the period from the 16th century through to the American Civil War – gunpowder and all that smoke. Generally, musket or cannon fire looks at its best when you’re shooting into the light and the sun is coming through the smoke. The contrast range can be very high though and on sunny days you can also get extremely bright reflections off any shiny breastplates or helmets. I always shoot in raw format but I also tend to underexpose. Even if the pictures then look too dark on the camera’s LCD screen, I can then lift the shadow tones later on computer, knowing I’ve captured detail in the brightest parts of the picture.

logistics

This need for tonal range is why I only shoot in raw format. You also need a lot of pictures to be sure of capturing fast-moving action and gunfire. That imposes quite a logistical burden, because in a couple of hours you can easily shoot a few hundred 15Mb frames. There’s no time to review and delete duds in the field, so I now carry enough memory cards for 1000 shots and can also download pictures onto the Epson portable hard drive that I keep in my bag.

Powering all these electronics was a problem for the Wetherby weekend. As I was camping, I bought an adapter for the car’s cigarette lighter to supply power to my three chargers. I also bought an extra 4Gb memory card which held 250 raw files and feel that it was an easier solution. Spare camera batteries would be a good idea too. It all means more weight – luckily Beardsworths are built for manual work!

weapons

When you photograph muskets or cannon firing, there’s a fraction of a second between seeing the first sparks from the fuse, and flames shooting from the barrel. You have to be dead lucky to capture both in the same frame – and a moment later the entire scene will be lost in a mass of white smoke.

So you need to listen for the order to fire, or see the match being put to the breech, and then keep shooting pictures. My previous Nikon D100 needed to write the pictures to its flash card after only 4 shots, so I often missed the crucial moment, but Wetherby was my D200’s first re-enactment. It lets me blaze away at 5 frames a second for up to 21 frames – perfect for the heat of battle.

War on Photoshop?

scotsI don’t do a lot of Photoshopping to the pictures. I will happily remove anachronisms like the 20th century telephone poles behind these Scots, and I’ll also dodge and burn just like in the darkroom, but I don’t believe in adding anything that wasn’t there.

However, cannon fire can be hard to capture because it happens so quickly. Your first frame may capture sparks shooting from the fuse, the next may freeze the explosion from the barrel, but you’re extremely lucky if you get both in the same frame. So what I sometimes do is blend two exposures in Photoshop, shift dragging one image onto another and then painting on the layer’s mask so I end up with the perfect combination. I don’t really see that as subterfuge or cheating, more “previsualisation” and the result of planning and technique.

black and white

Another early decision was to make the pictures black and white. Partly my own preference, this was also a nod towards the great tradition of war photography which I’d grown up admiring – Capa or Baltermants’s WW2 pictures, or McCullin’s work in Vietnam, N Ireland and other conflicts. I wanted to apply a reportage style to the 17th century and b&w seemed ideal.

Another factor was that my school and university English Civil War textbooks were illustrated with contemporary lithographs and woodcut prints or greyscale reproductions of Van Dyck’s paintings. I only saw colours much later in London’s National Gallery and I still feel I subconsciously dismiss these paintings because they show the rich and powerful, not the ordinary reality of the period. One Sealed Knot commander, who in the 21st century is a graphic designer, immediately spotted what I was aiming for when he said that for the 1640s black and white is simply “authentic” (a doubleplusgood word in re-enactment circles).

I don’t just photograph the English Civil War though, and I extend this concern for visual authenticity to other periods. To my eye, sepia and purplish tones work best for the American Civil War, while the earlier Napoleonic era seems inconceivable in anything other than bright colour.

For the black and white era pictures, I use Lightroom or Photoshop’s black and white adjustment layer, in the latter case often using more than one adjustment layer when one conversion mix doesn’t work for the whole picture. I’ve tried Silver Efex Pro a number of times, and I do like it, but I don’t really like its preset-driven interface and I consider it overpriced.

The final prints use special paper and inks – Permajet paper and their pure MonochromePro inks.

Some pike regiments only fight “at point” (left) as it is historically accurate. The alternative “push” style of fighting (right) dates from the less authenticity obsessed 1960s origins of re-enacting. More like a rugby scrum, it’s enjoyed by participants and the watching crowds.

the reluctant knotter

This project started in 2004 but it was only when it was still going strong in 2007 that I decided to join the Sealed Knot. I still have no inclination to become a re-enactor myself, and I have only been in kit twice – once was for the studio shot for the magazine cover. The other time was for real at Wetherby when the Newcastles kitted me out, armed me with an 18 foot pike, and marched me onto the battlefield. I’m not at all ashamed to say I made a poor soldier – I don’t like being ordered about, pike blocks crushing into each other was too much like rugby union for my taste, and the battle was in the middle of a storm. Shafts of light were coming through the clouds and the swirling gunsmoke, great action all around, and all I had in my hand was a wooden pike. Never have I missed my camera so much!

Another reason for a reluctance to join up was that Knotters generally camp near the events and there’s a big element of socialising around a beer tent (the Sealed Knot is nicknamed “the armed wing of Camra“). Much though I like my real ale, I like to be independent and camping holds little appeal.

In borrowed uniformBut the key reason for my eventually joining up was photography and wanting to get closer to the action. As Capa said “if it’s not good enough you’re not close enough”….

Some people join particular regiments because they were recruited by friends, others were literally born into theirs (the Knot’s been around for 40 years), and others simply feel drawn to the Cavalier or Roundhead cause. I’m one of that last group whose conscience determines their flag. So is that King or Parliament? Well, that’s probably where I experienced the danger of being embedded with the military in Iraq or Afghanistan, and I worked hard to ensure the Newcastles, a fiercely Royalist regiment, never uncovered my true Parliamentarian sympathies. You know, I’m rather lucky I didn’t meet a premature end with my head on a Royalist spike….

Books

I’m a writer who can take good pictures and a photographer who can use words effectively – a combination that doesn’t always go together – and so I hope that my publishers don’t waste time or money correcting grammar or spelling, or sourcing the images that help make the book jump off the shelves.

On the right you can see the books I’ve published, and I’ve also tech-edited a number of books including Peter Krogh’s The DAM Book.

Capabilities

If you’re a publisher checking me out for a writing project, I can take on anything involving these programs which I use daily:

  • Image editing – Photoshop – Lightroom – Aperture – Capture One
  • DAM – iView / Expression Media / MediaPro – Extensis Portfolio – Bridge
  • Web design – Dreamweaver – WordPress
  • Mobile – Adobe DPS

While I list programs where I’ve plenty of experience, that’s not always necessary. It is just as important to understand what the typical reader would seek to accomplish. In fact, in one case I received a commission to write a book without ever having seen the program which was its subject – and began writing the book too. My wider experience allowed me to discover, and convey, what the reader would need to learn to use it effectively.

Open Directly

Open Directly is a plug-in for Lightroom 2/3/4/5/6 that opens images directly in another program. That other program may be another raw converter, or any program the user chooses. In either case, the plug-in simply sends the original file and invokes the other program.

Other raw converters

Some Lightroom users want to manage raw files in Lightroom but use another raw converter to adjust them. Unfortunately, Lightroom’s Edit With command generates a TIF file rather than sending the raw file itself. Dragging the thumbnail to the other raw converter program’s icon isn’t much use when you work in full screen mode. Another alternative, Lightroom’s Export command, can launch the other raw converter but only by generating copies of the raw originals. Open Directly was originally intended to get round these problems.

Not just raw files, not just raw converters

You aren’t limited to raw converters – you can send photos to any other program.

For example, here one “editor” is set to Mac’s Mail application and another is HoudahGeo, a program for geotagging photos. You can add up to 6 different programs and while programs like Excel or Dreamweaver might be amused to receive a batch of raw files, there are no restrictions on the apps you can choose.

Payment and Updates

The trial version only allows one external app to be set up.

Purchasing the plugin will give you a registration code that will remove this restriction. All future updates are free.

 

 

Search Replace Transfer

Search Replace Transfer is a Lightroom (2 or later) plug-in designed for bulk changes to text in Metadata Panel fields.

It searches through the chosen metadata field looking for a word or phrase, and then replaces all its occurrences with alternative text.

  1. Searches and replaces text like a word processor
  2. Appends text before or after existing text
  3. Adds sequential numbers
  4. Transfers text between fields
  5. Copies metadata between IPTC location and IPTC-Extension fields
  6. Parse + Audit checks you’ve entered data in fields like the title, caption and keywords
  7. Makes most EDIF/IPTC and Develop values searchable
  8. Transfers metadata from iView/Expression Media

Quick links

LR etc

There’s much more on Lightroom at my Lightroom site

As one of the leading experts on Adobe Lightroom and on DAM systems such as iView and Extensis Portfolio, I work with leading photographers to help them establish robust and efficient workflows.

Lightroom pro training

  • Based in London and the North West (elsewhere by arrangement)
  • One to one or small group
  • Screen sharing over the internet
  • Quick start or advanced
  • DAM, metadata and Library speciality
  • Develop productivity
  • Migration from legacy systems

Lightroom plug-ins

Other scripts

 

Contact

You can contact me by email. Please make your subject line obviously human or leave it as set by the link.

My Italian is good, and I am OK in French and German. Please don’t blame me for Brexit – it’s definitely not my fault.

And if you see me somewhere, do say hello. I am told that in person I am nowhere near as frightening as you may – quite reasonably – imagine.

Photography

My photography is varied and ranges from landscape to documentary.

What first made me want a camera in my late 20s was the work of photojournalists like Don McCullin and Brian Harris (in the early Independent newspaper) and I also remember being impressed by shows by Chris Killip and Sebastaio Salgado. I like long term projects, one early one being on Speakers Corner, and in the last 10 years I’ve photographed a wide variety of historical re-enactment, perhaps the fruit of my history degree from Cambridge meeting my inner McCullin. In 2018-19 I started a project on Brexit.

Landscape has always been my other love. Maybe surprisingly, McCullin was an early favourite as I had his wonderful book of harsh black and white Somerset landscapes. Others would be Fay Godwin and William Neill, while more recently some of David Ward‘s ideas have been thought-provoking. Yet just as much inspiration comes from my interest in art history.