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Hadrian’s Wall

1/200 at f9, ISO 3200 on a D800, adjusted in Lightroom

The only bit of Hadrian’s Wall I’ve ever seen is its Western tip on the Solway, and I have often thought of exploring the area as it’s only an hour’s drive away from where I stay in the Lake District. Somehow it just hasn’t happened.

Roman history is not “my period” but I suppose I have become slightly more interested in it recently, and last Thursday I had visited the Hardknott Fort which is high up over Eskdale and still in great condition (those Roman soldiers could teach modern day Cumbrians about building walls made to last). But I hadn’t any plan to visit the Wall during this trip.

Then last Friday evening I was cooking, and I just happened to make out the words “re-enactment” and “Hadrian’s Wall” on the television. That sealed it.

Most of the day was at Birdoswald fort. The re-enactors were a group called Legio I Italica and had travelled 40+ hours by coach (in two coaches and a truck for their gear) all the way from . . .

Every cloud….

Keswick’s landing stages must be one of the most-photographed locations in the Lake District. You can still get lovely images if you choose your time or conditions – early morning mist, still water, autumn colours, even the unusual angle of sunset in late June – but there will always be other people hanging around, and other photographers to avoid. If you do make eye contact with another photographer, you know you share his guilt of laziness in your choice of subject.

I certainly wouldn’t be around that part of Derwentwater in the middle of an afternoon at the height of summer, but last month I had a week up in the Lakes and I simply couldn’t motivate myself to fight the weather. There is a saying that for the photographer there’s no such thing as bad light, just a bad attitude, and it seemed to sum up how the week’s unchanging grey skies had affected me. Sunrises seemed too early, sunsets didn’t really happen, everything was just green, green, green, and so I caught up with some reading and worked my . . .

Silence is golden?

Blea Tarn in March

If you are worried, don’t be, I’ve not disappeared. I’ve just not posted anything for a while, but I’m frustratingly the same John as ever. Though with a beard, that is different!

In the past I might have done quick posts on things such as the 2015 election which never happened here in Dulwich, apart from just 2 window posters, and our fraudulent system that allowed 1.5 million Scots to elect 56 MPs and 4 million UKIP voters to elect one (and I’m not pro-UKIP). Yes, I’m still angry at that, at least as much as one can be after being a supporter of PR since the days of the SDP, if you remember them.

Or I might have spent 5 minutes making a post about:

the wonderful remove cat before flight video
the lovely and clever puppies timelapse
CNN’s wonderfully-embarrassing 7 minute report about the “Isis flag” in London’s Gay Pride parade – which in fact used dildos instead of Arabic writing

Over the last few years I just don’t seem to post as often as before. Partly, I sense . . .


Speakers Corner

I must have taken my first photos of Speakers Corner around 1989-90, so I’ve got thousands of negatives and digital files recording what’s supposed to symbolize our tradition of free speech.

There was a time when I went quite often, and an hour at Speakers Corner seemed to fit in with meeting friends for dim sum or a bit of shopping on Oxford Street.

I’ve gradually gone less and less, and I was quite surprised to discover that last year I’d been there four times. The year before it had been twice, and I’m pretty jaded by it. I don’t really get much out of listening to the ranting of one deluded religious zealot after another, and you can’t get a clean photograph when everyone in the crowd is holding a camera phone to record what’s really just a freak show for tourists.

But I wasn’t doing anything last Sunday and the Charlie Hebdo atrocity made me think it might be more interesting. It wasn’t, and it was as if the events in France had never happened, but thanks to a . . .

War crimes

Stacy Kravitz‘s series of photographs of re-enactors depicting World War II Germans is interesting partly for her inclusion of herself in the pictures:

For three consecutive years, Kranitz participated in nearly weeklong Battle of the Bulge re-enactments at Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville, Pennsylvania. She took on the part of Leni Riefenstahl—the “super brilliant,” “gifted,” but ultimately “fucked up” German filmmaker behind the infamous Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will—with whom she’d been fascinated since she was 15.

While Kranitz and Camp were mostly well-liked at the Pennsylvania event, their presence was always contentious. They were the subject of many suspicious message board threads, and were once nearly told to leave an event. It didn’t help that, at the beginning, Kranitz’s Riefenstahl costume was “awful” and she mostly failed to cover up her modern Nikon camera with the prescribed historical camouflage.

To make matters worse, Kranitz is Jewish, a fact that didn’t escape her subjects, some of whom had histories as members of hate groups. Initially, she was accused of being an Israeli spy, and once, while hanging out at a recreated French Resistance café, she . . .

A not-so-remote quarry

Dalt’s Quarry is in Borrowdale, just off the path from Grange to Castle Crag

I got back from the Lake District at the start of the week. Before I went the forecast really hadn’t been too promising – a series of low pressure systems rolling in from the Atlantic – but for various reasons I’d only made one trip up there this year, so I was really missing the place.

In any case, early November is often the ideal time for autumn colours, and I also wanted to get to a vintage sports car rally I’d photographed last year at the top of the Honister Pass. The rally was on the Saturday and luckily there was no repetition of the freezing rain and driving snow that almost broke my spirit, but I still got a good soaking just when I thought the weather was going to be kind. That was pretty typical of the two weeks.

Of course, Lake District weather is famous notorious for its bewildering changeability. You do get spells like this September when high pressure dominates and I had . . .

Norway in 5 minutes

For one reason or another, something always crops up whenever I’ve planned to visit Norway. Long ago, a Norwegian girlfriend moved on before our summer trip, a business conference was cancelled at the last minute, and more recently a tour company had booked me to lead a tour to the fjords but seemed to go out of business and disappeared without trace. Norway remains one of the few European countries I’ve never seen.

I imagine it’s very beautiful and that it’s great for photography, so maybe one day, but I enjoyed watching this short set of timelapse movies by Morten Rustad who travelled the length of the country to capture spectacular scenes in all kinds of weather. I’d also recommend looking at his blog where he describes the project and includes pictures showing some of the gear he used. I always like comments like this:

As I was standing on top of the peak, I could get a more complete overview of the landscape, and found what I thought was a much easier and faster way down. I started the hike, and . . .

Nikon’s D750 – now that’s an upgrade

So Nikon have just announced a D750, and it’s got some interesting new features for Nikon’s higher end bodies.

Early this year, when I switched from a D700 to a D800, I wrote about how it felt a rather old-fashioned camera. And no doubt I would say the same of its replacement, the D810.

OK, the D800/810 does offer video, but things have moved on from when video felt new in a still camera. Articulated screens aren’t new, and I’ve loved using them on cameras like the Fuji XT1 and I have been puzzled by the feature’s absence on newer Nikon bodies. The D750 has one, and I suspect I would use it in many ways to gets pictures that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to take. That might be candid shots of people, or in less-sneaky situations where you want to maintain face contact with your subject but quickly glance down to review the composition, a bit like using a medium format viewfinder. And thinking of one thing I’ve been doing this week, photographing mushrooms, an articulated screen would certainly mean . . .


I enjoyed this interview with Magnum New York’s darkroom printer, Pablo Inirio, Magnum and the Dying Art of Darkroom Printing:

I was curious to see how the last few years of digital progress have affected things at Magnum, so I checked in with Inirio by phone this week. He was still there, bubbling with the good cheer that, along with his darkroom skills, have made him a favorite with Magnum photographers. In the three years since we met, he said, surprisingly little has changed at Magnum. He had to switch to Ilford paper when Agfa closed, and he hopes Kodak doesn’t take his stop bath away—but otherwise, things are the same. “Collectors and galleries still want prints on fiber paper—they just like the way it looks,” he said. He’s often called upon to print from current members’ film archives, and for the estates of various deceased members, like Dennis Stock and Henri Cartier-Bresson. The prints go to exhibitions, book publishers and private collectors. “I’m still pretty busy—in fact, I’m backed up,” he said with a laugh.

Magnum has been digitizing its archive, but so . . .

Aperture to Lightroom

Even before yesterday’s announcement  Apple To Cease Development Of Aperture, consistently the most-visited page on my Lightroom site was Moving from Aperture to Lightroom. Since the devil is always in the detail, I would encourage any Aperture refugees to read the comments as well as the article itself – there’s a lot of little insights from different people.



What seems to ruin a photograph can be its making?

I’ve always thought that photography helps you experience any subject – we appreciate clouds, architecture, events, faces – and when I first started taking pictures in the early 1990s I used to love nipping round to Speakers Corner, usually before or after a dim sum with friends.

Mobile video means there’s no longer a decisive moment to get a photo without phones. Is it really worth elbowing your way to the front?

In the beginning I certainly felt in tune with the underlying concept of the place. I saw Donald Soper, the great Methodist and Socialist orator, who had been familiar to me from his appearances on the BBC’s Any Questions and was well-known for having addressed Hyde Park crowds for 50 years. While I had my own doubts, and the dim sum gang used to tease me about going there, fundamentally I did believe that Speakers Corner was indeed a symbol of British free speech and open debate, and Soper seemed to embody that tradition’s continuing health. In those days other speakers engaged in serious political debate, there were Christian . . .

A perverse choice?

Getting a D800 has taken my mind back to my “Peak Film” years around 1999-2000 when I went for a 6 week trip to Australia and Japan, then did a couple of trips to Iceland, Italy too, and routinely carried two Nikons and a Bronica SQA with a pair of film backs. The bag, a Billingham, also contained all the lenses and filters and the other things a photographer needs, plus rolls of Velvia, Ilford FP4 and HP5, Agfa APX25, and Tmax 3200, many in both 35mm and 120. While Beardsworths may be bred for manual labour, it was about as much as I could carry in comfort.

Remember the film leader retriever?

I did have a lighter setup. This involved winding back the Velvia mid-roll, retrieving the film’s leader so it was ready for re-loading, scribbling the frame number on a scrap of paper, and then loading whatever black and white film suited the subject. So “light” meant just a single Nikon and its lenses, my Bronica and the spare back….

So while not a stranger to carrying two camera bodies, . . .

Future publishing

Interesting article on Future Publishing (hope my friends there are OK):

Magazines were once a two revenue stream business. You got money from advertisers and readers. Successful publishing depended on holding the balance between the two. This delicate equipoise has gone. As cover price revenue either declines or refuses to grow then the bulk of the money that pays your salary comes from advertisers, sponsors and commercial partners.

Seems to apply to photography publishing in general? We’ll all have to sully ourselves.

Driven to edit

Next time you scoff at the idea of using an iPad to edit photos, remember this ad – filmed on iPhones, assembled on an iPad, edited in a Bentley.

Just in case you’re wondering, I don’t think you need a new Mulsanne for this – you could do it just as well in an Audi.

And do it in black and white too – it looks better and there’s less need for colour management than the iPad can offer.

Via John Nack.

Is anyone still interested in Photoshop: Spring Cleaning?

I don’t know whether to post this on my Lightroom blog, as it’s a bit techy, or here since it’s really not about Lightroom. Also I’ve no idea if people read both sites or if visitors here would pick it up from the Lightroom Solutions feed at the top of the page, or to reveal a nagging doubt about blogging in general, maybe no-one reads either and am I just writing this for my own benefit? Feel free to reassure me. Is anyone there? 😉

Anyway, for my own interest or hopefully for yours too, after seeing something Rory Hill wrote on aspects of Bridge’s scripting being broken since CS6, I dug around a little and thought I should point out this post by Adobe’s Jeffrey Tranbery Photoshop: Spring Cleaning which provides some important information about the future of scripting and automation in Photoshop [CC]:

the following features will be removed from the next revision of Photoshop.

Extension Panels using Flash, including:

Mini Bridge
Party Panels [Configurator]
Oil Paint filter

The decisions made were based on customer usage as well as the cost and ability to support . . .

Distilling the Karakorum

Well done to Richard Earney for pointing out this hour-long programme on Colin Prior which looks like it was on BBC Scotland last night. It concentrates on a project to photograph the Karakorum range in northern Pakistan and it’s particularly amusing to see the usually-rugged Prior needing a porter for his camera bag because of the altitude. As if the area wasn’t already remote, the expedition coincided with a massacre of climbers not far away. You don’t get to see many of his photographs for long and I couldn’t find any online (he seems to hold them back for book or other sales) but you certainly gain an appreciation of his dedication to “distil the landscape” – which seems such an appropriate phrase for a Scot.

1909 panorama by Vittorio Sella

There’s more about the filming here, and the programme will be on the BBC iPlayer for at least a week.

One major theme was the panoramas made by an Italian photographer, Vittorio Sella, during a 1909 exhibition. I couldn’t hear if it was the Duke of Abbuzzi whose baggage weighed 6 tons, . . .

Distant afternoons

No doubt a reflection of one’s own age, I fear this blog is in danger of becoming a series of obituaries. Not long ago it was Lou Reed, then Tony Benn, and I could easily have rambled on about Tom Finney even though his playing days were before I was born and he seemed the closest thing my Dad had to a hero. And now Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I was in my second year at university when an Italian girlfriend introduced me to his work. She was already in her mid-twenties, and she seemed even more sophisticated and worldly a few weeks later when it was Marquez who won the Nobel prize. It was a time in my life when I was first encountering the wider world. Before then I’d never been outside England, and at school English Literature had never caught my imagination – endless analysis of “character development”  – but I’d recently discovered Kafka and Grass’s Tin Drum and would soon be a huge fan of Faulkner. I ended up reading one book after another, until I’d devoured everything . . .

Photography on the BBC

I wonder if the BBC is having a photography week. On Sunday I noticed What Do Artists Do All Day? featured the great Albert Watson dragging his team of assistants around the beautiful, windswept landscape of the Isle of Skye. Driving round in an Audi and backed up by his team, it had the impression of photography on a big budget. While that takes something away, on the other hand it’s nice to see such a commercially-successful photographer enjoying taking pictures (I know some who no longer can do so). You just have to pity the poor tech assistant trying to use her laptop on a bleak hillside as the rain came in, again.

Then last night there was Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington who was killed in Libya a couple of years ago. He comes over as charismatic and brave, but what was amazing was how much he seemed to be revelling in the danger of places like Liberia and Afghanistan that would terrify most of us.

Is this stuff accessible . . .

On great leaps forward

Is it such a bad thing to have a strong sense of diminishing marginal returns from new camera gear, or is it more a sign of confidence and feeling you know what counts? I ask this because over the last week I’ve looked at a new Nikon, the D4s no less, and expressed disappointment that it didn’t have an articulated rear screen. OK, I’m sure that the D4s is as wonderful as it is beyond my budget, but shouldn’t a camera that does do almost everything also give you the opportunity to compose a shot with the camera held high above your head or resting at ground level? I really see this omission as disappointing.

So I’m less of a gear head than people might suppose, more a May than a Clarkson or Hammond. Yet every so often I encounter a piece of kit that really, really impresses me, which is why I post this screengrab of the CamRanger.

Unfortunately the loan was both at very short notice and brief, and I didn’t have a better use for it than testing it . . .

Tony Benn

Tony Benn at Wapping, 2013, unveiling a plaque to Thomas Rainsborough, the radical Civil War colonel

Sad to hear this morning’s news about Tony Benn. He’d been quite frail when I saw him speak last year at the unveiling of a plaque to Thomas Rainsborough, and I’d recently heard he had been taken to hospital. So I wondered about him when Bob Crow’s sudden death was announced earlier this week, thinking that two of the great left wing figures might pass in a single week. But what coupled them in my mind wasn’t their political position but that both always put forward their views with a cleverness and charm that won them admiration and affection from those who disagreed and opposed them. From the other side I’d put Boris and Nigel Farage in the same group, but others like Thatcher or Scargill may gain the love of their supporters or followers but only earn grudging respect, if that, from their opponents. Benn always seemed a cut above the rest.

I heard him speak a few times, and met him twice, the . . .