General Archives

Fuji XT-2 – an easy camera to like

I 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 more…

Cumbria’s open for business

Sunset in Borrowdale from Grange Crags

After my November trip to the Lake District, the weather seemed to get worse by the day. Shortly afterwards, my brother and his family were almost  cut off by flooding, and that was before the really serious rainfall arrived at the start of December.

Still, I was up there again in January. So early in the year, it was hard to gauge the effect on visitors, but don’t be deterred by what you may have seen on TV.

The closure of the main A591 between Keswick and Grasmere is both spectacular and devastating, and from a visitor’s viewpoint it means you can’t easily get between the Southern/Central Lakes and those in the North. So you choose one side or the other.

At a more mundane level, the damage is more subtle and inconvenient than you may think. So for instance, one location above Lodore Falls was unreachable because the footbridge was in a dangerous state, or Watendlath Bridge is spoiled by scaffolding and a temporary crossing. The flooding hit both of Keswick’s supermarkets, but as I say, more…

Bad Trip on Derwentwater

The ugliest Photoshop splash screen ever?

After the recent terrible flooding in the Lake District, you can see the region at its best or, thanks to CGI, at even more than its best in the new Star Wars which uses Thirlmere, Derwentwater and Watendlath for scenery. Well spotted, Colin Bell.

Unfortunately, part of Derwentwater is also used for the splash screen of Photoshop’s latest version which includes a view looking along the Keswick landing stages. You can see some jetty poles, and Hope Park and Skiddaw are in the background on the right (see location on map).

Without getting too deep, splash screens set one’s mood and perhaps one’s aspirations, and in the past Photoshop has featured feathers or raindrops or exploding crystals or other images that conveyed the amazing power of this application. This one, apart from desecrating a location I know well, seems to set the bar at the much lower level of Instagram or Snapseed? It must be the ugliest Photoshop splash screen ever, don’t you think?

It’s a shame because, for the record as they say, I happen to like more…

Rosthwaite Dog walkers

Are photo workshops the “professional dog walkers” of the photographic world?

Snow’s the winner

2015’s Landscape Photographer of the Year winners have been announced

Out of my way?

The Norman army arrives. Bloody immigrants, coming here and stealing our country, eh?

For a few moments I was thinking xxxx!, xxxx!, xxxxxxg kids!

This was last weekend at Battle Abbey, Hastings, built above where the great battle of 1066 is supposed to have taken place.

Almost 10 years ago I’d been to a big re-enactment there and I still remember feeling the ground shake as a line of dozens of horses charged up the hill. That was one of the bigger events there – I’m sure they’re planning something similar for next year’s 950th anniversary – but Saturday’s event was on a more modest scale.

The re-enactors depicting the Normans had just arrived at the bottom of the field and were marching up directly towards where I had stood. And these kids decided to stand right in the way, or rather right in my way. For those few seconds I was thinking damn them, or why can’t they turn to face me.

Afterwards, I was just thinking ooh, ooh, ooh those kids.

As usual the Anglo-Saxons lost. But I am very glad to say the more…

Industry

Just been looking at Simon Butterworth’s impressive black and white images of Redcar steel works which looks like it will soon be no more, along with so many jobs.

I knew of his name as the winner of Landscape Photographer of the Year a couple of years ago but I don’t think I’d ever seen his web site. There’s some fine photography there, and having recently visited Cwmorthin I particularly enjoyed see his series on Welsh slate. There’s a lovely abstract half way through.

It makes me remember how landscape photography shouldn’t just mean pretty views (or the currently-fashionable tangles of trees!).

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. The drive up the Hardknott and Wrynose Pass is exhilarating in itself, then high up over Eskdale the fort is still in very good 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 more…

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 more…

Silence is golden?

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. Unfortunately what they thought was Arabic writing was in fact dildos

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

Cynicism

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 more…

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 more…

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 more…

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 more…

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 more…

Continuity

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 more…

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 more…

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, more…

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.