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, that is inconvenient to the visitor and is little trouble compared to those faced by the poor people whose houses were flooded. That area of Keswick is dark at night, and some debris is piled up, but most places are open and they deserve support – so have that third pint you weren’t going to order!
This picture was taken on my second day when I was looking in the other direction and hoping for a sunset to catch the snow on Skiddaw. Looking around, I had noticed a line of birches in full sunlight and they contrasted nicely with those on the steep Grange Fell behind, but it was only once I saw how the shadow was moving up the slope that I started shooting pictures.
If I had been in any doubt about a trip in January, it was gone in those moments. And if you’re thinking of a trip, the Lakes are open for business. The fells haven’t been washed away, and the lakes are certainly not running dry.
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 the new features in Photoshop such as the new Welcome panel, Generator, and Libraries. These cloud-enabled features are now coming together and amounting to something that’s more than the sum of their parts. But when anyone asks me what’s new in this version, the first thing that comes to mind is this horrid splash screen.
Using the splash screen to showcase users’ creativity isn’t a bad idea, and in my opinion Lightroom 6.3’s current “blue face” is a great choice, for example. But isn’t it obvious that sometimes they are bound to choose an image that provokes negative reactions in some users? After all, if you let me decorate your office, it would be no surprise if sometimes you saw little virtue in my choice and would want to tear it off the wall. If you’re going to insert someone else’s idea of art into my daily experience, you’ve got to let me cover it up. if I choose.
Sadly unlike the office wall there is no simple way – and I have looked hard – for us to switch off Photoshop’s splash screen, revert to a generic blue rectangle, or substitute our own work – which you can do in Lightroom. While I’ve no doubt some people may like the image and find their creative juices rising like the Greta or Eden rivers, for the next 6 months every time I go into Photoshop I’m going to be confronted with this Bad Trip on Derwentwater, or whatever it’s called. You know, I’d rather see pictures of the floods.
Sometimes you just don’t mind people wandering into your landscape, do you?
I’m back from another trip to the Lake District. It was quite possibly the wettest two weeks I’ve ever experienced there, yet it had begun with a couple of glorious foggy days like you see in this photo. That morning I went out just as the fog was clearing and had only walked a few metres from the house when a neighbour suddenly appeared and walked into the perfect spot for me.
The rain began the next day, and it continued until even local people were complaining and sheep and cattle were lining up for the ark. There’s only one road through Borrowdale and the lake was pretty high, and in the following days some rivers burst and a few key roads were flooded. It was the start of a difficult time for the region.
For a photographer rain can be such a downer too, but I often think of a friend’s mantra about there being “no such thing as bad weather, just a bad attitude”, and one of my own sayings is that when something gets in your way, it’s probably just inviting you to photograph it. Without being very profound, such thoughts can just nudge the photographer into creative action when you might be tempted to cut a trip short or remain indoors. I have good rain wear and a ThinkTank cover for my camera, so if it wasn’t going to stop raining it would have to be the rain that I would go out to photograph.
And once you are out there, the “bad” weather does have the very great virtue of deterring most walkers and all but the most determined photographers. The landscapes are different, lakeside trees are suddenly in the water, fences cross flooded fields, the waterfalls are nice and full, and you have it all to yourself. When you do encounter another photographer you usually exchange wry smiles, maybe stop for a chat and hear what other locations are like.
But it seems a little different when you run into a photo workshop, don’t you think? You’re outnumbered, and it’s not hard to imagine why the workshop leader, if that’s what they are called, might not appreciate you chatting to his clients. It’s awkward enough when it’s dry, but I had been all alone at an almost-submerged Ashness Jetty when a one-to-one workshop arrived, and it was an encounter that reminded me of how you can feel in London when “professional dog walkers” use a public park to exercise their clients’ pets. Just as they can turn a space that’s supposed to be for everyone into their business place, on this occasion the water level left very little space for tripods, and yet I still felt it was me who was in their way, not them intruding into my scene. A single dog walker by himself is often welcome, of course.
So 2015’s Landscape Photographer of the Year winners have been announced, and the Lake District seems well-represented, I’m glad to say.
I wasn’t very keen on last year’s winner, but I could at least see a certain intriguing quality that made me want to keep looking.
This year’s overall winner does nothing for me though. Maybe it does look better as a print, but it just left me thinking snow is certainly unusual in Dorset and that it must have been chosen by southerners. Sorry, I don’t see much there.
Of the other winning entries, I’d have gone for Lizzie Shepherd’s zigzag walls in the snow (snow seems big this year), Julie Hutson’s clever treatment of London’s Shard, or most probably for Ian Taylor‘s “The Ref’s an Angel” – despite the corny title.
For a few moments I was thinking xxxx!, xxxx!, xxxxxxg kids!
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 crowd did boo the Normans.
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!).
Sometimes I wonder if it’s re-enactments that follow me, rather than the other way round. In September I was in the Lake District to photograph landscapes and while cooking my evening meal I happened to catch the words “re-enactment” and “Hadrian’s Wall” on the television. It turned out that a group called Legio I Italica had come all the way from Italy, a 40+ hour journey in two coaches plus a truck for their gear (including their own barbarians).
A weekend on the “Vallo di Adriano” seemed hugely emotional for many of these re-enactors, and more than one described the experience as like reaching Mecca. Most of the day was at Birdoswald fort not far from Carlisle, and then for the evening they transferred to the more remote Housestead fort where the temperature dropped a bit much for some members of the legion (it had been 40C when they had left Rome). It provided a real taste of guarding the Empire’s Northern frontier.
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 coach (in two coaches and a truck for their gear) all the way from Italy. They had also brought their own barbarians, which seemed an unnecessary luxury as there’s no shortage of them in this country!
And it was quite a day. I spoke with quite a number of the re-enactors and for many of them a weekend on the “Vallo di Adriano” was hugely emotional, a bit like getting to Mecca.
For the evening they transferred to Housesteads fort, and that’s where this picture is from. It’s a remote spot and the temperature had dropped a bit much for some members of the legion (it had been 40C in Rome), but surely that’s just what you sign up for if you’re protecting the Empire’s Northern frontier for the weekend?
So I’ve finally seen some of the best parts of Hadrian’s Wall. And so much for imagining there would be one weekend in September when I wasn’t photographing re-enactment.
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 way through the previous weekend’s pictures from Hoghton Tower. But by Thursday, while the skies were still overcast, at least I was beginning to recover and needed to get outdoors.
For me there seems a problem with timelapse photography – I only want to do it when I’ve nothing better in prospect. If the light’s interesting, do I really want to hang around in one place for half an hour, or much longer, while the camera snaps away? But if I shoot a timelapse sequence merely to fill time, when I can’t see opportunities for normal photography, are the results ever likely to merit the effort of standing around all that time? That’s a mental barrier I can’t easily overcome!
I haven’t shot many timelapse sequences and this afternoon I was testing my sense for how to match frame rate to different subjects. I think I’ve settled on 5 second intervals for big landscapes as it allows cloud movement to dominate the movie. The downside is that since 12 frames per minute produces a mere half a second of video, I’d have to stand around for at least half an hour to record a useful 15 seconds of landscape footage. With a busy scene like this, I was trying 2 second intervals and shot for about 90 minutes. It still seemed rather manic, so I’ve halved the speed and plan to use 1 second intervals next time.
Sound required a bit of ingenuity. I tried recording a movie on my iPad so that I could strip the sound off it, but I still could hear the D800’s shutter release from 20 metres away – at least when the ducks and geese fell silent. So when I had finished shooting the timelapse sequence I simply recorded some standard video on the D800.
I am a complete beginner with video editing. I have recently got my hands on Adobe’s Premiere Pro and After Effects, and I am enjoying learning them, but for relatively-simple video projects you can use Photoshop. So here it was Photoshop that was used to splice the sound onto the timelapse movie and then render the final result, and one advantage of Photoshop is that you can use your existing experience and techniques – in this case a Curves adjustment layer darkens the sky, and a couple of other things are going on too.
File format also deserves some thought. Here I shot directly to movie format because my D800 has a timelapse feature that bakes a 1920*1080 pixel MOV file. While this seemed simpler than shooting hundreds of raw files and baking the timelapse movie in Lightroom or Photoshop, the latter approach would allow more scope to adjust the results and more pixels might allow you to add interesting pan and zoom effects during post production. I’m unsure if I would use Photoshop or Premiere Pro or After Effects for panning and zooming, but figuring it out is a big part of the fun.
And isn’t that the point? The weather might be dull and uninspiring, the subject may a cliche, and “l’enfer c’est les autres”, but isn’t experimentation interesting enough in its own right to get you out of the door? It should be, shouldn’t it?
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 private as others have become more open about what they’re doing. The rise of social media makes one feel that nowadays everyone sees such funnies, and Twitter or Facebook often seem a better place to point them out. But I’m not a big Facebooker, limiting it to people I know in person, and I am growing less enthusiastic about Twitter than in the past, so I might not post much there either. As a result I get the occasional nice email enquiring about my well being. Thank you 🙂
As for the photo, it was taken in mid March at one of my favourite Lake District locations, Blea Tarn in the Langdale valley. I’d been along the tarn’s shore, from where a million photos are taken, and as I was about to wander back to the car I had noticed the stile and behind it the rocky outcrop from where I took the picture. Usually at that time of year the lovely orange reds of autumn have gone and look dead, or the greens of an early spring have taken over, but the winter must have been pretty dry and everything was this lovely golden colour.
What you don’t see is that for maybe half hour it wasn’t anywhere near as serene as it looks. Just after setting up my tripod on this outcrop, maybe 50 metres to my right a drone was buzzing up and down, its owner just playing with it as if it was the first time he’d used it. I don’t think he noticed me glowering in his direction, and how I wish I’d marched over and told him drones were banned in the national park (they may be in the US but not here!). The last thing anyone wants, someone droning on, eh?
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 Metropolitan Police horse I think I finally managed to convey a flavour of the debate….
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 was singled out by Gestapo re-enactors, taken outside, and “shot.”
In my experience of the British re-enactment scene, I’ve not seen any evidence of “histories as members of hate groups” among those who depict German World War II units. Mostly these re-enactors go out of their way to tell you they’re not Nazis and to explain they deliberately chose to represent the Wehrmacht or regular army units. The few who do portray the Waffen SS are often shunned by other re-enactors and lurk on the fringes of events, but even they would say they’re depicting history with its warts, not expressing any hatred.
Of course, acceptability does depend partly on one’s own particular viewpoint. To my British eyes, British and American World War II re-enactment groups appear uncontroversial, the Italians too, but a group depicting our allies, the Red Army, provoked a completely-different reaction from a Polish friend. Other 20th century re-enactors also walk this fine line between good and bad taste, so for instance Spanish Civil War enthusiasts only seem to be Republicans and no-one wants to be on Franco’s side. Earlier periods are affected too, but how can the American Civil War be portrayed without the Confederate flag? Surely depicting a period can’t make someone guilty of endorsing its crimes and darker aspects, even when those events are within living memory. Still, I think it’s far better to stick to the 17th century.
Thanks to Richard Baker
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 two weeks of morning mist, still water and not a single drop of rain. Or you can get last Christmas when the downpours barely ceased. But usually you just get change, and as the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather now, just give it another ten minutes – it’ll be worse. Or it could be better. You just never know.
This time though, it wasn’t really changeable – a better word is “capricious”. This place, Dalt’s quarry, isn’t far from where I stay but I’d only seen it for the first time in September. That day, this scene was very green, but it looked like an autumn location and I made a mental note to return in November. On the first day I went, the forecast had been grey but dry – yet it was pouring down by the time I got there. My walking gear is fine, my camera gear is well-protected, and I believe there’s no such thing as bad weather, just different light – but the photos just weren’t up to much. So when I tried again later that week, I’d only been walking for 5 minutes when the clouds parted and wasn’t going to repeat the same walk in the rain and the same rotten pictures – not when I could turn back and go for a pint instead! I’d more-or-less decided that fate was against me and Dalt Quarry.
On the final morning of the trip though, I had so-nearly decided to set off and drive straight down to London when a bit of sun made me give Dalt’s one last go. And that’s what you see here. The cloud had cleared by the time I reached the quarry, the sun was nicely at an angle behind the trees and falling on the famous yellow streak, the air was still and the reflections perfect – and I had the place entirely to myself. It’s a 0.6 second exposure at f22 on the Nikon D800, with a Lee 3 stop soft graduated filter holding back the sky.
Fate did eventually intervene, though in a different if not unexpected way. I’m pretty good at not dropping photo gear or getting stuff wet, but there is one big exception – cable releases. Since I first picked up a camera, I consistently need a new one every couple of years, almost always because of moving around with the cable release attached to the camera and it dropping off somewhere. So it’s totally my own fault, and I’m pretty inured to the thought of giving Nikon £50-70 for a replacement every other year. This time was only unusual in that the cable got caught under my size 12 boot as I clambered up the left side of the quarry – as I pushed myself up a steep bit I tore it apart. Here we go again….
Anyway, this time my £70 hasn’t gone to Nikon. I did look at their fancier £130 release because it does something that really belongs in every high end camera – it lets you set manual shutter speeds longer than 30 seconds. Camranger is great, but it’s more than a replacement for a cable release, while I had seen Triggertrap being used by Richard Leishman when we shared Brandelhow jetty one morning, but it required a smartphone and mine remains in the stone age. So instead I went for the Hahnel GigaPro II wireless remote control. It’s small, worked first time, works when I’m half way up the street and the camera is behind a glass window – and it cost no more than a simple Nikon cable.
So after two good soakings, sometimes fate does work to your advantage.
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 in the beginning it went very well. But as I walked, it started getting steeper and steeper….
Now that rings so very true, doesn’t it?
So Nikon have just announced a D750, and it’s got some interesting new features for Nikon’s higher end bodies.
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 a lot less rolling around on the ground!
Another way the D800 felt old-fashioned was in the lack of wifi. Again, that’s arrived in the D750, so it will probably enable remote shooting without a Camranger or other third party gear. The other aspect is transferring recent images directly to a phone or tablet.
If I’d been switching now, I might still have gone to the D810 (despite a fixed screen and no wifi) but I can certainly see D700 users finding the D750 very attractive.
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 far, Inirio hasn’t been tempted to transfer his skills to the digital realm. “Digital prints have their own kind of look, and it’s fine, but fiber prints have such richness and depth,” he said. He thinks darkroom printing will always be with us—after all, he pointed out, “people are still doing daguerrotypes.”
You can’t disagree that there’s a difference in look and feel, but I wonder how often people making such a comparison are thinking of digital images printed on ordinary inkjet paper, rather than on the more modern baryta-based printing papers. Even as one whose photographic roots lie in the darkroom, I’m enormously impressed by the look and feel of inkjet papers like Permajet’s Royal or Hahnemuhle’s Glossy FineArt (the two papers I use most with my Epson 3880).
But I was particularly struck by Inirio’s printing plans for some well-known pictures. It’s ten years since I really got my hands wet, and my own dodging and burning plans were usually sketched out mentally, but the method is familiar or second nature to any serious darkroom printer. More than that though, don’t his lines and ovals remind you of Lightroom’s local adjustments?
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.
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.
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 evangelists, one or two black nationalists, someone called William who claimed he was the reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison, and there was the odd Muslim, usually a British convert who had already morphed his way through a range of other religions before deciding to grow his beard and wear a turban. The exact mixture varied from week to week, and as a photographer you could happily develop your documentary skills. Shouldn’t every photographer know how to use their elbows?
As life moved on, I visited less often, maybe not for months, but by the end of the 90s it was very obvious that Speakers Corner was different. Soper had gone, politics was peripheral, and the place seemed dominated by religion. On one side were the bible bashers, West Indians, Americans, Northern Irish – no English, of course. On the other were Muslims who were much less benign than the hippy convert. These speakers, all men, seemed to arrive with small bands of bearded followers and were either English-speaking first and second generation immigrants from India, Pakistan, East Africa, or spoke Arabic and addressed an audience of foreign students and Arab-speaking visitors to the UK. Debate seemed far less important than preaching their word, and as an atheist it felt like photographing something that was of little more value than a freak show. Yes you could still exercise your picture taking skills, and the results could still be surprisingly interesting – I have pictures of at least one Muslim activist who subsequently got 10 years for involvement in terrorism.
In the last few years my my visits have become much more sporadic. Each time I go, the place just seems ever more frozen in religious dogma, the same tired characters pumping out variations on their tedious themes, and each time I go I seem to have even less sympathy – so much so that I struggle to find a lower description than freak show.
But something has certainly changed – “non-photographers” aren’t snapping photos any more, they’re recording video. You can’t just wait for them to compose their shot and put their phone back in a pocket because they seem to want to hold it in your way until their arms fall off. Even if you can elbow your way past them and get to the front, more phones are then ruining your background.
It means that I’m not sure I’m photographing Speakers Corner any more – it’s as if you’re photographing how people experience any event. And I’m not sure that’s totally a bad thing.
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.
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, when I bought my first digital camera, a Nikon D100, one thing I immediately enjoyed was no longer feeling a “need” for two bodies. I could choose the ISO for individual shots, and decide upon colour or black and white later in the digital darkroom. After a while the D100 was replaced by a D200 which would itself be replaced by a D700, but the older camera always went into a drawer – not into the camera bag. So while my usual ThinkTank backpack is probably heavier than most people would tolerate, for the last 10 years I’ve only carried a single camera body.
Two things have made me wobble though.
Much of the time I don’t need a second camera body, but there are occasions when I lose great opportunities to get pictures. For instance, at historical re-enactments you just don’t get time to switch from a 70-200 zoom to a wide-angle when the cavalry comes charging right past you. On important occasions I can rent or borrow, but I had been thinking the best solution would be a used D700. But then the D800 was launched, and for all its 36 megapixels and video, I wasn’t ready to replace my trusty D700 and I was still pretty reluctant to buy it a second body. It’s usually best to “keep your powder dry” until you’re clear what you want, isn’t it?
The other reason was curiosity about the rise of the mirrorless camera. Over the last couple of years each new Olympus or Fuji seemed more credible than the last, and every so often someone whose opinion I respect would have bought one and was enthusing over it. In some cases they had even switched entirely and disposed of full frame Canon or Nikon gear. But while I handled many of these models, none had won me over and to me they all seemed more like alternatives to something like a Canon G16 than a a second main camera body. That was until I saw the XT1. The electronic viewfinder was the best I’d seen, and I liked the articulated LCD screen. For me the key to a new feature is if it lets you capture pictures which you wouldn’t have tried, and these screens let you compose with the camera placed on the ground or held way above your head, or maintain eye contact when you’re shooting portraits from a tripod. Although I suspect in the near future we’ll do that with phones or iPads (the XT1 already has wifi) I wish all high end cameras had these screens. And the XT1’s was nice.
On the other hand, these Olys and Fujis are called “compact system cameras” for a reason. A Fuji might weigh less than a second full frame body, but a second system would soon mean extra Fuji lenses and other accessories. I doubted I would be able to stop myself.
But what finally pushed me back to two bodies was something the Fuji also offered – video. Now, I confess, I have often teased videographers by questioning if moving pictures would ever catch on, and semi-seriously by likening video to vacuuming a scene rather than choosing the decisive moment (Jarvis Cocker says making the Pulp documentary ‘like emptying a hoover’). I’ve not really changed my mind. I don’t want to get too deeply into video, but I’d like to see what I can do at re-enactments. One guy has been doing it, and the results seemed amateurish, but another is an experienced TV cameraman and did some fascinating 1200 frames/second slow motion on a £200 Nikon J1. With the kind of privileged access I get, plus knowing how to use the video features in Photoshop CS6 (and here), I’ve been wanting to see what I could do – and if nothing else, at least I’d get some sound effects I could use for slideshows. So one morning a few weeks ago, a D800 arrived at my door.
My first reactions were that the D800 felt resolutely old-fashioned – no articulated screen, no wifi, no built-in GPS. On the other hand, it felt like a nice progression from the D700 and I really liked the biggest change in handling, the replacement of the fiddly focus mode switch with a new design that’s nicely-integrated with focus point control.
It’s easy to switch to recording video, and the hardest aspect has been to learn:
- You don’t reach for the shutter release when you see something interesting – it’s already rolling!
- You don’t compose video in portrait mode
- Be prepared to wade through 5 minutes of crap – and find that’s all there is
Simple things, but it’s quite a mental shift between still photographer and videographer. Maybe it is temporary, and soon I’ll be switching just like I used to drive to the airport in my own car and then rent a left hand drive at the other end, or could it be more fundamental like when I used to play a lot of squash and could only adapt to playing tennis by switching to that sport for the whole summer. We’ll see.
And one other thing the D800 has taught me – don’t forget your old disciplines. I say that because when I ran out of space on the SD card I put a Compact Flash card into its second slot. Surprised it still contained some pictures from months ago, I formatted it – and managed to wipe the 32Gb card in the SD slot and which had all the video and photos I’d shot earlier that day. It wouldn’t normally be a mistake I would make, as I usually download everything each evening and format all the cards before the next day, but 32Gb cards had made me complacent, and in the heat of the moment is when accidents happen. Luckily it had been near the end of the day and thanks to ImageRescue I lost nothing of value – apart from a day of my time.
A couple of weeks in. I still think getting a D800 feels like a perverse decision, but I’m definitely getting used to it.
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.
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.
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 and maintain changes in underlying technologies.
I always thought Mini Bridge was a waste of effort, so good riddance, but I liked Configurator and thought it was promising – not least because it could be used by people with fewer coding skills than me. However, my need to automate Photoshop is much less than it once was, and multi-image processing is handled much better by Lightroom with the addition of Photoshop droplets on the few occasions when the pictures needed some extra batch processing. So if I ever have the need, I suspect the Adobe Extension Builder and A Short Guide to HTML5 Extensibility will prove more than enough.
I like Kuler as a quick way to build colour schemes, and it’s good that an HTML5 version is coming. As for the Oil Paint filter, I did have a brief and passionate fling with it, but I can’t believe it’s a big loss.
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.
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, or Sella’s, but it’s nothing new that royal families find ways of misspending public money like buying league titles or flying around Australasia shaking hands and waving, and Sella must have been glad that this member of the Italian royal family funded the trip and paid for the porters who lugged his glass negatives up into the mountains. If you’re interested in seeing more work by Sella, who was much admired by Ansel Adams, see this site.
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 he had written – or at least that I could find in Cambridge’s book shops and university library. As it’s a copyright library, that did mean everything.
I immediately took to Marquez’s flights of fantasy, always cut through with sharp reality – a priest who raised money for the village church by learning to levitate, until the soldiers came and beat him with their rifle butts. It’s interesting that this intercutting of the idyllic with polemics is highlighted in the Guardian’s 1970 review of his masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude:
The villagers are … astonished to find in the cinema that “a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears of affliction had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one.”
There is no agreement among the inhabitants of Macondo on the exact location of the borderline between fantasy and reality. Yet not even Macondo’s most obsessed lunatics are so arbitrary in their deployment of fantasy as the Colombian Government and its ally, American capital.
Thus a strike in a banana plantation that an American company establishes in Macondo is discouraged by the company lawyers’ assertion that its workers simply do not exist: ‘The banana company did not have, never had had, and never would have any workers in its service because they were all hired on a temporary and occasional basis.
When the workers finally do strike they are all shot and their bodies are secretly whisked away from Macondo by train at night. Yet a solitary surviving witness of the incident is not able to convince anyone that the slaughter ever occurred, and future generations of Colombian children are to read in their school textbooks not only that there was no slaughter, but indeed that there was never even a banana plantation in Macondo.
Sounds familiar? Certainly this passage reminded me of the little green men who weren’t in Crimea.
If you don’t know his work, try 100 Years of Solitude itself. It’s not heavy-going, unlike some big L literature, or just dip into some of his short story collections. Look for the story Big Mama’s Funeral, or No-one Writes to the Colonel.
I’d read somewhere that he had Alzheimer’s, but in his last moments, wouldn’t it have been great if García Márquez had looked back and remembered a distant afternoon in Macondo?
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 outside the UK? I don’t know, but well worth watching both.
Moving the camera during a slow exposure can produce fascinating impressionistic effects, but it often left me wondering why I don’t just take a normal photograph and apply Photoshop’s motion blur filter. So I began moving the camera in a circular motion or in waves – though I’m sure I could fake those effects too.
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 on the corner of the living room while sitting in the kitchen, at the back of the house and with no clear line of sight back to the camera. But CamRanger really felt like a polished solution, from the small iPhone-sized device that plugs into the D700 and wifi-enabled the camera, to how the corresponding iPad app quickly connected to the camera and accessed its crucial settings.
A day’s play isn’t a real test, but CamRanger is definitely worth a try if you have a need to remotely control a camera. I have been a fan of Capture One’s Capture Pilot, but it is for tethered shooting and so it means carrying around a computer. I hadn’t even heard of CamRanger until a month ago but immediately thought it might interest a friend who shoots performing arts. Fixation loaned him one and he loved it, setting up his third camera on a tripod in a different part of the theatre and capturing alternative views without moving away from his position. One interesting observation was that although an iPad is in his bag, he found he preferred to control the CamRanger from his iPhone.
- In the screengrab you can see the live view image – you just have to imagine the camera’s nestled in the corner of the net as Wayne Rooney goes one-to-one with the keeper. There is a fractional delay when you press the Capture button, but in such circumstances you would often be shooting a burst of frames.
- Along the top you can see the images you’ve captured – shooting RAW+JPEG seems the best way to see results quickly
- Working down the right side, you can see focussing controls – but what I really liked about CamRanger was that you can focus the camera by touching the picture itself. This was very slick.
- At the middle right you can see “A”, so the CamRanger is picking up the stored settings on my Nikon. Nice.
- Below the A are all the main exposure settings including bias. Are any crucial settings left out? I don’t think so.
So the overwhelming feeling I had from CamRanger was that it was a very polished and intuitive solution.
Returning to my initial thoughts though, I should soon be getting my hands on a Fuji XT1. And what has it got – an articulated screen and built-in wifi….
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 first time back in the early 1980s when he was in his pomp and by a long way one the most inspiring orator I’ve ever heard. You didn’t have to agree with him, and I didn’t always, but his clever deployment of his ideas was wonderful and carried you in his slipstream. He looked frail when I met him last year, yet there was still the same old fiery glint in his eye as he wound up his speech and thanked the Sealed Knot for their role in the commemoration of Thomas Rainsborough. In the 1640s the radical Civil War leader had advocated one man one vote, and I wish I’d recorded what Benn said, but it was along the lines of… you know [pause for effect], if those in power thought voting would change anything they wouldn’t have given you the vote, and we’ve always had to be ready to fight. I think he was talking about the 1640s, but it sounded like a call to take up arms in 2013 and made me laugh, and I subsequently sent him a copy of this photo.
Ultimately though, I’ve long thought that Benn lost his way or rather chose the wilderness, so last Christmas I gave my nephew a copy of Benn’s memoirs and wrote in it something suitably Blairite about the price of holding tightly to principles being that you never gain the power to implement them. But that’s too sour a conclusion on one of the most engaging figures of our times.
Interesting to see Nikon have sneaked out a beta of a new incarnation of Nikon Capture – called Nikon Capture NX-D – which is free to use until September 2014.
Capture NX, which I’ve owned ever since I went over to digital in 2003, never lit my fire. For one thing, I’ve just never felt there’s much benefit in a raw converter picking up in camera parameters such as white balance or monochrome which I would never set. In the heat of battle you go for composition, focus, exposure, maybe one or two others, but the very point of shooting raw is to choose most adjustment settings afterwards. Who wants to miss a shot because you’re looking for the camera’s sharpening menu? A second factor was that it’s always been a curious program with a disjointed interface that was only made palatable by the U points. The one potential benefit was that it could update the embedded preview in the raw file, so I could see a picture’s adjusted appearance in other non-Nikon apps such as my cataloguing program. But that wasn’t a big benefit, and was done better by Adobe’s DNG. So while I’m surprised to discover Capture NX2 is still on my computer, I’ve not the foggiest idea when I last opened it.
It’s never been obvious how many copies Nikon Capture ever shipped, and it never seemed hugely-popular even before Lightroom and Aperture gobbled up the market. It looked very much as though it was on life support with no significant updates for almost a decade.
More recently Google bought Nik, the company Nikon had apparently hired to write Capture NX and who had supplied their U Point technology, so one did wonder what the acquisition might mean for Capture NX’s future. Perhaps now we have the answer, because it looks like Capture NX-D is a ground-up rewrite of the program that doesn’t include anything from Nik. For instance, they seem to have discarded Nik’s great contribution:
- Q: Do you plan to include U Point functions (for portional editing) later?
- A: No, we do not plan to include these functions. We are looking into the possibility of being able to open and display images to which effects have been applied using U Point functions for support purposes with future versions.
A minor detail is that they’ve gone down the route of saving adjustments back to sidecars files rather than updating the raw files themselves. Apparently that was good before, because you can trust Nikon software to update Nikon proprietary raw files, but now it’s supposed to be good that it’s not doing so.
I’m curious to see what it’s like, but it’s hard to work up much interest. Perhaps that’s because I also find it hard to understand why anyone would want to invest time in raw conversion software that’s limited to a single brand of raw files. I just don’t need Nikon software to keep me loyal to Nikon.
Update – Thom Hogan thinks they’re now licensing code from Silypix. I really agree with his closing comments about “The correct strategy all along was: (1) make sure every software provider and company supporting digital imaging could get the best possible results out of Nikon data; (2) if you want to create for-sale software make sure it continues to fit into the best existing workflow, not change the workflow;” They could do that if they’d offer the non-proprietary DNG as an option, of course, and paraphrasing my earlier comment – I just don’t need a Nikon proprietary file format to keep me loyal to Nikon.
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 period seems to have its re-enactors. Imperial Rome has an obvious attraction but also seems to draw those who want to research authentic uniform and tactics. Others just like being Saxons or Vikings for the weekend and are not deterred by their chosen period’s relative lack of written evidence. Medieval enthusiasts can again recreate the period through paintings and other records, and the Swiss re-enactors in the Chateau de Chillon really reminded me of Flemish Renaissance scenes.
Other pictures are from re-enactments of the Battle of Hastings (1066) held on what has traditionally been regarded as the original site. 3000 re-enactors from across Europe attended the event held on the 940th anniversary and a hundred charging horses really made the ground shake. Yet even then, I still missed the sight and sound gunpowder!
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.
Long before I owned a camera I had appreciated photography, and living in London made it easy to see shows featuring the war photo-journalist Don McCullin, Chris Killip, Martin Parr, Sebastaio Salgado and others. Brian Harris‘s black and white work in the early Independent newspaper particularly impressed me too. That may have influenced my long term documentary projects like Speakers Corner and one might draw an obvious connection from McCullin to my interest in historical re-enactment. But this also resulted from having read history at Cambridge and a decent knowledge of art history. And I was also a big fan of Robert Mapplethorpe, yet studio photography in general has always left me cold. So maybe my photography is more about hunting or finding images rather than constructing them? How my other photographic love – landscape – can be explained is beyond me. But does one really need to explain?
Yesterday I met up with a friend at the Harp, an excellent recent discovery, before we went along to the big David Bailey show at the National Portrait Gallery. The show runs until early June, so if you find yourself in central London there’s plenty of time to nip in and see it.
Just be prepared for crowds. After all, has any other name been as synonymous with British photography as Bailey?
While you’ll have seen many of the portraits before and no probably not find too many many surprises, it’s rare to see quite so many of Bailey’s prints in one place. You can see the range of the show from how many rooms were dedicated to it, though I wasn’t sure I cared much for the four sets of reportage – Sudan, Naga tribes, Australian aboriginals, Delhi – or for the other non-studio projects. Usually I’d favour these, as for me photography is about hunting for a picture rather than constructing it in the studio, but I didn’t feel one’s appreciation of Bailey was improved by including them.
Of course, there are plenty of the instantly-recognisable Bailey studio portraits – the high contrast front-lit, black clothes, bleached background style that made his name and powered a 50+ year career. In fact there are so many that you imagine his clients would surely have been disappointed had Bailey not anointed them with that Kray-like black and white glamour. Yet my favourite (by far) had to be this 1982 shot of Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie which seemed almost recognisable as a Bailey – but with a subtle progression.
Two things really struck us. One was that there seemed to be a lot of prints which had taken the standard Bailey-look much too far and had ended up looking rather crude. Little more than “chalk and charcoal”, these prints just lacked the tonal richness and variety that made other images so successful.
The other worry was the number of portraits where the skin tones had been rendered to make the sitter look as if he had spent far too much time baking under the Florida sun, as in this picture of Don McCullin (yes, that is him). A blue lens filter can certainly be valuable in B&W portraiture, exaggerate skin features and perhaps revealing character, but I’m not sure pictures like this really merited being in the retrospective. Interesting but unsuccessful experiments?
Of course, that’s just my opinion, yet it was shared by my friend, a highly respected photographer who also made his name in the 1960s. It certainly didn’t affect my enjoyment of the show, and I certainly recommend starting – and perhaps finishing – in the nearby Harp.
With 2015’s election creeping over the horizon, you’ve got to expect Cameron to use the 100th anniversary of World War I’s outbreak to try to wrap his party in the flag. To be fair, dogs bark. ducks quack, and any other occupant of No 10 would probably do the same.
Of course, given the sheer scale of 1914-18’s slaughter, no government would so crass as to encourage any hint of celebration – so no public money will go to fund street parties – but I’m sure a lot of us expect an unwelcome “patriotic” tinge to the commemorations. After all, Cameron’s image didn’t benefit from 2012 London Olympics with the economy being so shaky, Boris stealing the stage, and Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony providing a less-than-Tory version of British history. The following year the Queen’s 60th jubilee was drenched by the soggy British weather and came far too early to be of much electoral benefit, as did the Windsors supplying yet another baby for their loyal and less-loyal subjects to fund. But using WW1’s centenary to wave a few Union Jacks wouldn’t hurt electoral prospects in 2015, would it? And anyone who depicts the war as a foolish disaster – from Wilfred Owen to the writers of Blackadder – must be ever so slightly unpatriotic, don’t you think? What a shame such neo-McCarthyite nonsense came from Michael Gove who, as well as being in charge of our schools, does actually possess a less vulgar appreciation of history than he pretends.
So it is welcome to see Niall Ferguson, who I’ve always considered a conservative-leaning historian, taking such a contrary line on Britain’s involvement and labelling it “the biggest error in modern history”:
The Laurence A Tisch professor of history at Harvard University rejected the idea that Britain was forced to act in 1914 to secure its borders and the Channel ports. “This argument, which is very seductive, has one massive flaw in it, which is that Britain tolerated exactly that situation happening when Napoleon overran the European continent, and did not immediately send land forces to Europe. It wasn’t until the peninsular war that Britain actually deployed ground forces against Napoleon. So strategically, if Britain had not gone to war in 1914, it would still have had the option to intervene later, just as it had the option to intervene after the revolutionary wars had been under way for some time.”
He didn’t mention a more recent example, the Franco Prussian War of 1870-71 when Britain stayed free of entanglements with other European powers (a notion which should appeal to Cameron’s right wing “allies”) and watched on during that war’s early stages, then remained in its splendid isolation as the Prussians, who happened to be our traditional allies, proceeded to overwhelm our equally-perennial enemy, France. There are too many similar exceptions to try to justify Britain’s intervention in 1914 as a time-honoured policy of intervening whenever a single power threatened to control the nearby continent, and backdating it as conveniently far back as Elizabeth I is even less convincing when you observe that her England was merely a minor power barely able to protect its own shores. I’m not making a case that Britain should never have intervened in 1914 (for instance I’ve not mentioned the issue of Germany’s growing naval strength), but it does make one wonder how Cameron’s Euro-sceptic friends can wrap themselves up in the flag over what turned out to be a disastrous engagement in European affairs. Better to make a mental note of this being the centenary, and just leave it at that?
Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers seems to place the blame on the alliance system and is the next book I have lined up in my Kindle app on the iPad (I expect it to be good but heavy going like his previous Iron Kingdom) and I’ve a yellowing copy of Volker Berghahn’s “Germany and the Approach of War in 1914” and two or three other books from my university days which I might revisit. I’ll also mark the year with some photos, as there will be a lot of re-enactment events connected to 1914. But I’ve long thought that the best way to commemorate 1914’s centenary would be by melting down a few statues – George V, his generals and politicians. Somehow I can’t see Cameron letting that happen though.
I was up in N Wales for a wedding and afterwards took the opportunity to head deeper into Snowdonia and explore a location that had been on my radar for a few years. Cwmorthin near Blaenau Ffestiniog is an abandoned village surrounded by disused slate quarries and with ruined buildings, a chapel, and spoil tips that extend like fingers into the lake.I only spent one day there, but it’s a very special place.
Lake District again
I was up in the Lake District again in November 2015. After two days of wonderful foggy mornings, the rain arrived and didn’t stop. In fact, what one couldn’t know was that it would continue after I left and that it would culminate in December’s damaging floods. But as I often do when something gets in my way, I tried to make it the subject of my photography.
During a landscape photography trip to the Lake District in September 2015, I heard by chance that a 100-strong Roman legion re-enactment group from Italy was spending the weekend on Hadrian’s Wall. As I had never really visited the Wall, it was an opportunity too good to miss. More photos here.
This was back in June 2015 when I had just finished photographing sunset over Derwentwater from Castlehead. I was about to head down to the car and just took one last shot when I noticed the wonderful shape of these branches. Half an hour later….
Early one Monday morning I was all alone at Wells Cathedral and shooting my own version of Frederick H Evans’s famous “Sea of Steps“. When someone else did arrive, it was the principal organist from Vienna’s state opera company who had booked a few hours on the cathedral organ as part of his summer vacation. So I found myself being treated to a virtuoso performance, mainly Bach. I did notice he warmed up with a bit of Deep Purple though, and after all, what is really so wrong about photographers performing the works that may have inspired us?
My last re-enactment of 2014 was a bit special – a weekend in Hampton Court Palace. The event commemorated the 300th anniversary of the accession of George I and the start of the Hanoverian dynasty, and the re-enactors were the Queen’s Regiment who depict British soldiers in the time of Marlborough.
The other picture shows another less-frequently re-enacted period, the Spanish Civil War – and you never see anyone depicting Franco’s forces. While I don’t often name pictures, but for me this is “La Pasionaria”.
Up in the Lake District again for Christmas and probably New Year – the “probably” being that if the weather doesn’t improve London may have more appeal. I certainly don’t need reminding that the trip is about Christmas, but I’d arrived in one storm and another was forecast to follow, so I was despairing of getting any decent pictures. I don’t think it stopped raining on Sunday, only for a while on Monday, and it not at all on Christmas Eve, so the road to Keswick had one patch of flooding that made me turn back and take the long way round over the Honister Pass and down the Newlands Valley.
Today the second storm arrived and the weather has been both atrocious and exhilarating as it proved John’s first law of landscape photography – when you wake up and can hear the weather outside, it’s probably not going to be your day. But Christmas Day itself was dry, and so was much of yesterday when I took this picture.
Calling it Christmas in the Lake(s) is unusual for me – I don’t like naming pictures. Clever titles may well amuse, or convey some profound meaning or ironic twist, yet don’t they readily appear corny or trite?
Even worse, in my opinion, is how a title provides the viewer with an explanation or interpretation. Surely they should be left to develop their own understanding and interpretation of the photograph.
So this picture would normally be named Derwentwater or something similarly po-faced. If I wanted to be truly pretentious I’d perhaps add some Roman numerals and call it Lodore Study II. But Christmas in the Lake(s) seems to fit this one – interpret that how you will!
While thinking names, “Seriously Bad Elf” must win John’s award for the best seasonal ale this year. And 9% too. It would be too rude not to try it, don’t you think? Happy Christmas!
This is an ongoing project which took shape in late 2013. Eventually there will be 36 frames and like its inspiration, Hokusai’s series of prints of Fuji, the conical presence of London’s tallest and most-elegant office building will always be present somewhere in the background.
Here’s another from yesterday. Guess where?
I guess one problem of living in such a well-known place as London is that anywhere in the city centre is recognisable and must qualify as a clichéd location. yet should one apologise for shooting it again?
This thought was in my head as I wandered round the Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition (a post coming later) and recognised scenes that are so frequently-photographed that you imagine erosion must be unnaturally accelerated by the effect of all those tripod holes.
Yet what can be wrong when there’s still such an element of the photographer’s effort, eye, and skill?
It was foggy this morning so when I nipped into central London to buy some photo paper (my new Epson 3880 arrived yesterday…) I took with me the camera, my wide angle lens and the grad filters and hoped I might get a few shots. The centre doesn’t get a lot of fog and I expected it would be gone by the time I got off the train, but London can look lovely when a lot of it is hidden in fog! And stepping out at London Bridge, it was just gorgeous!
So what better way to kick off a new project – 36 Views of The Shard. Hat tip to Hokusai, of course.
There was just one very big problem – I’d forgotten to check I had a flash card in the camera! What an idiot! So there followed half an hour of frantically chasing round looking for somewhere to buy a compact flash card. The Jessops by Cannon Street station? No longer there – they went bust. Jacobs too. WH Smiths and Boots both stocked lots of SD cards and memory sticks. But finally I found one in Maplin and luckily the fog was still swirling around nicely when I got back to the river, and in fact it stayed for a couple of hours more.
After finishing near Tower Bridge, I then walked along the river to Covent Garden for a bit of shopping, then caught the Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition at the National Theatre and – legs beginning to tire – I called it a day and headed down to Silverprint to buy the photo paper (Permajet Royal if you’re interested). And what happened? Silverprint had also disappeared*! It was that kind of day. About the only thing that didn’t disappear was the fog.
* Fortunately, I’ve now found out Silverprint is still around, just moved a few streets away.
Stuart Maconie writes an amusing guide how to write about the North
Try to evoke a vague, slightly chilly sense of up-thereness and isolation. Mention any traffic problems on your journey, failure of lineside equipment near Stockport or any particularly awful baguette you were offered on the train. Ask: did you know they have wi-fi and sushi?
It should probably be read alongside Boris Johnson’s “of our species” speech, don’t you think?
Last Sunday morning the finely-tuned plan had been to be up bright and early. I’d drive into central London to snap the 7am start of the London Brighton veteran car rally, and then carry on up to the Lake District.
So everything had been packed on Saturday afternoon, the alarm was set on my phone, the phone was charged, and it was near the bed. What could go wrong? Only my own incompetence. The phone’s time was 12 hours wrong – AM instead of PM, or whatever – and by the time I woke up the cars would already have been half way to Brighton. So much for planning (a familiar theme).
But sometimes you get a bit of perhaps-undeserved luck. The weather here can be unpredictable and varies in different valleys, so on Thursday I was just checking various webcams when I noticed a link to a veteran car rally in Honister slate quarry. And it turned out to be an annual event which was taking place on Saturday. Bingo! Just a couple of miles from where I’m based, this quarry is at the top of one of England’s steepest roads and it’s a location I know well (I’m a big fan of what they do). In fact when I was here in September I’d been up the quarry track three times in a couple of weeks. It zig zags up to near the top of the mountain, Fleetwith Pike, and I could easily imagine how spectacular the veteran cars would look battling their way up its 25% incline. Mine workings scarred the valley opposite and the huge views across Borrowdale would be a wonderful backdrop.
So that was my Saturday. I was up there an hour before kick off and didn’t leave until it was getting dark and when the last driver decided it was a challenge too far. I think we endured 4 mixed rain-wind-hail-snowstorms, and at times it was depressingly cold. Great day though!
I think a few things stand out :
- Vintage cars are nice and slow, even more so up those hills, and you can usually get closer than with modern cars.
- A low angle worked well – and that was thanks to spending the day standing in the streams which line the quarry track.
- Most of the time I used my wide angle lens, which tends to produce a dramatic effect when action is so close, and a few were with my 50mm. My 70-200 might as well have stayed at home.
- I felt my mentality was landscape photography with motorsport, not photographing motorsport. I think that helped avoid boring car shots (sorry motorsport enthusiasts!).
- A neutral grad filter stayed on the wideangle lens and was great for keeping detail in the sky.
- Open top cars make better pictures because you see the people – those with roofs just look lifeless unless you get a view of the driver.
My favourite shot has to be the girl with the lovely big smile. Only one person is allowed to drive the car down, and she had just told her passenger he was walking back. On reflection, I wish I’d gone for more of this type of observational picture – but there’s always next year!
It seems like everyone from the BBC’s Mark Mardell to the Bishop of Norwich turns out to be a closet Lou Reed fan – the bishop sounding vaguely ashamed to confess that he hadn’t started a band after buying the original Velvet Underground album. I suspect, though it’s hard for me to be sure after so long, that Transformer was the 3rd or 4th vinyl LP the teenage JB ever bought – after the first two Queen albums and probably Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets – and it was soon followed by stuff like Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Talking Heads, Magazine, Television, Richard Hell, even Lloyd Cole, that all fell firmly into that indie tradition. Even the stuff that’s on in the background now, the Fado of Mariza’s second album, has that kind of gloom and a stripped-down style that must appeal to a dark, puritanical streak in me!
But am I alone in wishing the BBC had never used Perfect Day? The song once seemed respectably-obscure, a favourite of the kind of people who might go to watch Trainspotting or seek out Robert Mapplethorpe shows, and I seem to recall feeling unembarrassed enough to try to impress someone with my own attempt to sing it (what we suffer for love, eh?).
And then the BBC did their promo video. All of a sudden Perfect Day became a standard known to people who seemed to have no right to anything so “cool” and edgy (odd that David Cameron and George Osborne haven’t yet jumped on the Lou Reed bandwagon). It became so mainstream you’d encounter it if you were unfortunate enough to be watching the ballroom dancing or talent shows on Saturday evening TV. Apart from this gruesome duet with Pavarotti (you’ve got to wonder how those two got on in person), even Susan Boyle recorded it!
The only saving grace was the thought of these newcomers’ reactions when they delved a little deeper into Lou Reed’s back catalogue or their 10 year old asked them what the words meant….
Still, all is not quite lost. There’s a fine duet with Elvis Costello, who you can imagine being a big fan, but it’s trumped by this one (from Jools Holland’s Late Show) with Antony which is more than decent.
As for my own favourite five, in descending order:
- Caroline Says II – Berlin
- Halloween Parade – New York
- Venus in Furs – Velvet Underground
- Cremation – Magic and Loss
- Dirty Boulevard – New York
A cheerful little playlist, don’t you think….
Sometimes you just make a snap decision that turns out rather well. It was last Sunday and I was heading down the A16 after photographing one of my English Civil War re-enactments at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire. While the weekend seemed to be almost over, it was a nice afternoon with lovely wispy clouds as well as sun, and a likely 7pm sunset seemed worth hanging around for. I was trying my hardest to tell myself not to carry on and drive straight back down to London. But where to go?
Usually before any re-enactment weekend I look up possible locations for other photography but I’d already ticked off one side-trip to Skegness on Saturday evening and another, into Boston, on Sunday morning. Maybe I should simply get off the main road and drive around looking for isolated trees, water-filled dykes and big skies? At least, that’s what the enormous flatness of that part of Lincolnshire seemed to offer, and I wasn’t too enthused. So as I came to the A17 junction I was heading straight ahead and thinking I’d be back home before dark. It was right for Sleaford, which I didn’t want, straight ahead for Spalding and London, and King’s Lynn was the left turn.
And that’s when plans changed. My weekend’s shortlist had almost included Hunstanton since I’d once seen a photograph of rounded boulders and cliffs on its beach (I don’t actually remember the picture itself or where I saw it). But once I’d seen where it was on the map, Hunstanton had quickly fallen back into the limbo of all those locations in Norfolk that I always put off for another day. Nothing against the county, but I never have a reason to go, it’s such a trek to get there, and it’s then an even longer trek to anywhere in Norfolk once you are there. This afternoon, though, I signalled left and Hunstanton was where I was heading. London could wait.
Bits of luck then seemed to tumble one after another. When I reached Hunstanton it looked like there were some cliffs at one end, and so that’s where I chose to park. For all I knew, it could have been the wrong spot, but I found my way down to the beach and was right by these wonderful striped cliffs. Maybe they are well-known, at least among geologists, but I had no idea they would be so spectacular. The red and white strata looked amazing in the setting sun.
Keeping the camera level seemed far less important than keeping my feet dry as the tide came in, and all I really needed to do to the picture afterwards was straighten my horizon and correct its white balance (it was taken with the Big Stopper and neutral grad).
The problem is, I can’t quite see how to make it black and white. Yes, that is the way I look at most photos!
My latest book is published today, October 7 – just in time for Christmas (!).
Digital Photo Workflow (Made Easy) is a short book that tries to cover everything and to make it look easy – or at least make it the obvious way to work. That’s quite an ambitious scope and one that may seem beyond 128 pages, but I often find that learning soon grinds to a halt once it’s smothered by how much detail one can offer in a larger volume. Instead this book is more about appreciating the overall tasks, fitting them together, and equipping the reader with guidance about best practice.
While it teaches you a lot about Lightroom, it doesn’t pretend to be a slider-by-slider manual. It’s a short book that tries to cover everything you need to know to get going, and the right way to do things. So instead of having a lengthy chapter on using multiple catalogues, for instance, instead it points the reader directly towards using a single catalogue and not fragmenting one’s workflow. It tells you about folders in Lightroom, but makes clear that you need to avoid the (natural) temptation to use folders to categorize your pictures. Folders store, keywords categorize. For those who won’t start using keywords because it’s too big a job, there’s some pretty brutal advice about the journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step. There’s a lot of best practice in there, but sweetened and expressed in familiar language. So it’s a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Once you know which direction to go, you can figure out the sliders and which buttons to press.
David and Daniel is the fascinating story behind one of the photographs that won David Burgess the 1973, showing a Chilean man under military arrest in Santiago’s football stadium. The man, Daniel Cespedes, was subsequently released and forty years after the coup Burgess and writer Nathan Thornburgh tried to track him down.
… there was something like a rule that came to be understood later on: if a photo of you in government custody made it out to the wider world, then you might well be released at some point. It is hard to disappear someone if they are in a photo in your custody.
“Photographers saved lives here”, added their local fixer, whose own father seemed to have been released after being photographed under arrest. Somehow, I don’t think that’s true any longer, though I’m not sure if that’s the result of the murderously-inclined being more media-aware and banning photographers or alternatively taking perverse glory in their deeds. Or are images just so common they’re taken for granted?
Incidentally, I’ve long been in two minds about what happened in Chile, not because I don’t believe it was appalling but due to a conversation in Paris in the early 80s with a Chilean back-packer who supported the regime. Obviously from a well-off background, he simply wasn’t the rabid anti-communist one might expect, and I recall his description of pre-coup Chile seemed like our Winter of Discontent, Brixton Riots and Miners Strike being rolled into one. Not that anything justifies what happened, but at least he made me aware that things couldn’t be so simple as we believed, not if the junta could have supporters who weren’t bloodthirsty thugs. Still, wasn’t it a great feeling in 1998 when our government arrested Pinochet?
This Google+ post caught my eye:
We’ve supported full-size photo backups for almost a year now, and as a result many of you have been storing your RAW images on Google+. Of course: any time you view RAW files we convert them to JPEGs — to optimize the file size, and keep the service fast.
Starting today, and thanks to +Nik Photography, our RAW-to-JPEG conversion is now significantly improved. RAW images from more than 70 different cameras will look better as a result (full list below), and we’re tuning additional models over time.
I’m not sure who Ronald Wotzlaw may be, other than being a Google guy. My guess, based on the topic and that he hails from Berlin, is that he must be one of the people that Google acquired last year when they bought Nik.
So how close are Google to offering raw processing and editing? And what level will it be pitched at – Snapseed/Picasa, or more like Nik?
For a while I’d been aware of this old mining hut, now a “bothy” where walkers can shelter or stay overnight, but I only knew very roughly where it must be. In fact I was pretty frustrated I’d never found it, so before this trip up to the Lakes I’d pored through walking guides and Google maps and was pretty certain I’d tracked it down.
After arriving in Borrowdale late in the evening, I woke up to “perfect” Lake District weather – ie a real mixture of everything – and decided to head off in search of it. And as it turned out, I quickly spotted it from the top of Fleetwith Pike. It was easy to reach, the weather was just what I wanted, and I had it all to myself. The only thing is, when you’re near somewhere for a couple of weeks, is it a great idea to head immediately for the place you most want to photograph? I’ll just have to go back for more.
The 1640s have always been my favourite period and so the largest part of my historical re-enactment project is what I still call the English Civil War – even if historians now talk more of the British Civil Wars or the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The Sealed Knot is Europe’s largest re-enactment group and are shown in these favourite pictures.
While I shoot in colour, to my eyes the 17th century looks better in B&W. I think that’s partly because I grew up before newspapers and history textbooks were in colour, but also because lithographs were used to record many scenes.
These pictures are all from southern Italy – mainly from a period I spent in Tropea in Calabria. I suppose what I like about the south is that there’s less perfection than one encounters elsewhere in Italy, and more of a connection to other, earlier Mediterranean cultures.
Favourite long lost love – Mamiya RB67. A beast, but loved its revolving back
Guaranteed goo – kittens, and cats generally
The re-enactment scene isn’t just about pretend fighting, and “living history” lets people depict camp life, music, crafts and other aspects of their chosen periods. I particularly look for events that are indoors where you often catch echoes of those times.
Long before I came to London, I’d heard of this corner of Hyde Park which symbolized our democratic tradition of free speech.The great Donald Soper had spoken there every Sunday for 50 years and was still addressing the crowds when I started photographing there in the early 1990s. So at first I had little doubt that it still served an authentic democratic purpose and there was a time when I seemed to be there every Sunday (before or after our dim sum). But it increasingly became dominated by religious fanatics, Christian and then Muslim, and I wonder if it is now much more than a freak show?
Eliafur Eliason’s marvellous Weather Project placed an artificial sun and pumped mist into the former turbine hall at London’s Tate Modern gallery. For once there was something fascinating and real behind the high-falutin talk of people interacting with art.
Over the years I’ve been to the US many times on business and as a traveller. I know I feel most at home in New England, not surprisingly, but perhaps it’s because I enjoy difference that 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!).
I just noticed that the organisers of the UK’s main photo trade show Focus on Imaging have said 2013 will be the last. Things must have changed since their “We all look forward to seeing you again next year” at the close of this year’s show, which seemed every bit as crowded as usual and featured all the exhibitors you’d expect at the event (although Adobe’s presence was limited to being scattered around partners’ stands).
It’s a shame, and it’ll be a year or two before anything comparable emerges, if at all. With high street shops gone or dumbed-down, where do we go to get hands on or see something for real? Regional shows are all well and good, but Focus had scale and variety – and lots more people to meet. That’s the big loss, of course.
Update – Future Publishing are launching a show to replace Focus. Great move!
Because the period is so recent, the twentieth century re-enactment scene appears to be as much about collecting original uniform and equipment as it is about historical re-enactment, and there can also be contemporary cultural and even political overtones. In some cases it’s quite amusing, so two Italophiles collect Italian army mobile kitchens and enjoy a weekend baking pizza and ciabatta while showing people the Italian army recipe book and its much-thinner British counterpart. Members of a group depicting US paratroopers seem be into rock n roll, 50s cars, Mash and Americana in general, while a different, maybe more left wing personality type seems attracted to the Red Army, although it helps that authentic Soviet gear is readily available and cheap. Portraying WW2 Germans is more controversial. While being Wehrmacht seems acceptable, I’m not they only one who is wary of those who depict the Waffen SS – and not just because they also own a tank.
Not surprisingly, the Napoleonic re-enactment scene is very pan-European. and though some British enthusiasts began thanks to the TV series Sharpe, other British re-enactors often seem to have more Europhile attitudes and tastes than their English Civil War counterparts.
War, Clausewitz said, is politics by other means, and 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.
The other pictures are from 2013 and show the veteran left-wing Labour politician Tony Benn unveiling a memorial to Colonel Thomas Rainsborough who had been on the Levellers‘ side at Putney and had later been assassinated by Royalists. Also present was Jeremy Corbyn, then an obscure backbench MP but who in 2015 somehow became the leader of the Labour Party.
If anyone is curious about what I think of today’s news that Alex Ferguson is to retire as Manchester United manager, what better way than this screenshot? I may name my hard drives after players, but the computer’s name is Fergie…..
Maybe one day I’ll name a computer after Moyes or Mourinho? Somehow, I don’t think so.
Well, for me Moyes is a decent choice, and was my preference in the few days since the annoucement. I had quite liked the thought of Mourinho, and at times favoured him, but I’m not sure he would be right for United.
Mourinho obviously has great coaching ability, though perhaps any fool would win a title or two if the owner is prepared to throw a billion pounds of looted state assets at the problem (City prove that too).
Yet we shouldn’t forget that when Mourinho left Chelski he’d shaped an ugly style of football based on wellying the ball up to Drogba. This Wimbledon-on-steroids game had become so turgid that even on one of the biggest nights of the club’s rather-thin history – a home game to mighty Rosenborg – their middling-size stadium was less than half full. I know Chelski are as much a way of laundering Abramovich’s money, but to his credit it’s obvious that the owner loves watching football (wish I could say that about the Glazer gnomes!) and simply wasn’t having much fun seeing the fare that his court jester was placing before him. Mourinho’s treatment of referees was also shocking even by comparison with Fergie who never caused a ref to retire from the game.
Mourinho’s arrogance would be fun, for a while at least, but arrogance comes in different bottles and ours has always been the special arrogance of Best or Cantona or Ronaldo – winning with such style that the rest are unable to prevent themselves appreciating it (for example, read this Liverpool fan’s eulogy to Fergie) and with our own money and local players.
So I can see as many downsides to Mourinho at Old Trafford as I can see positives. As for Moyes, at some time last year I remember thinking that Chelski had been stupid not to go for Moyes and start building something, so now I’m happy he’s got the big job – he deserves the chance.
I’ve joked that if Lightroom had been invented in the Lake District, its dust spotting feature would have been called the sheep removal tool. I’ve nothing against them, and they can enhance a picture, but I’m convinced they do their best to frustrate the photographer. If you ever want them to use them as part of your composition, you’ll find they scatter the moment they see you, or they have a way of standing that makes them look three-legged or headless.
But this was different. This was taken in late March in the Langstrath Valley. 8″ or 25cm of snow had fallen overnight and I was happy as the proverbial pig in muck! I’d already done one circuit and the snow was starting again, so I was on my way to a barn further up the valley when I came across this group who had found the only shelter from the wind. Most of all I loved how the only black one seems to be their leader. No way was she going to move for any photographer.
By coincidence John Gravett of LPH was in the same rather-small area an hour or so later and you can see his version here. Same flock, same place. We didn’t see each other though, not in that weather! If you’re in Keswick during July, see his exhibition at the Theatre by the Lake – it’s called “No such thing as bad weather, just different light!”
Most of these pictures show the Stadio dei Marmi, a Fascist-era sports stadium in Rome which is ringed by marble statues of athletes. In Mussolini’s day they probably represented health and manliness, but post today they remind me more of the male nudes of Mapplethorpe and Weber.
Religious difference was a major cause of the war and for individuals’ choice of sides. Throughout the 1630s Charles I had been introducing Catholic-looking doctrine and ceremonial into the Church of England, while Calvinist or “Puritan” dissenters had been persecuted. Popular fear of Catholicism drew on memories of Mary’s bloody counter-Reformation in the 1550s and contemporary massacres of Protestants in Ireland and in Europe where the Thirty Years War was in its most brutal phase. Faced with a Presbyterian-led rebellion in Scotland, the King demanded that the English Parliament voted funds for an army to suppress the Scots, and its refusal eventually 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 King’s support from the established church. I’ve even seen some brave souls portraying Catholics.
This morning a friend and I took almost the last chance to see the Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour show before it closes over the weekend.
I’m not so sure it really did live up to its claim to “illustrate how  photographers working in Europe and North America adopted and adapted the master’s ethos famously known as the ‘decisive moment’ to their work in colour.”
Some pictures did seem to fit into that agenda, but there was a series by one photographer shot from his car window that might have been a whole lot more interesting had that moment been devoted to getting out of the car and using his legs.
My favourites all seemed to be by two photographers, Saul Leiter who has obviously been around for a long time but was a completely-new name to me, and the much younger Carolyn Drake (right) whose web site has more excellent work.
I’ve not been quite so assiduous in buying Black and White Photography magazine this year. It only seems to be at the bigger WH Smiths in railway stations, and for some reason I’ve not passed through casually or nipped into town to pick up a copy. Or maybe it’s that when I do catch a train home , my iPad means I already have plenty to read and just want to sit down and resume my Nordic noir or that Steve Jobs biog? Anyway, I do still love my b&w and yesterday after enjoying a grown up pint with my nephew (at a great discovery called The Speaker in Westminster) I wandered over to Waterloo station and was glad to see the magazine’s not gone under.
In fact, it was particularly full of great b&w thanks to their BWPOTY (do such acronyms need to be written in full) and my favourite was a series of studio nudes by Banhegyesy Antal. It turns out he’s Hungarian and I very much enjoyed his site – even if there’s only a thumbnail of the picture that really caught my eye (legs in the air, her knickers strung between). Well worth a visit, well worth getting buying Black and White Photography magazine again.
My initial response to the now-disqualified winner of the 2012 Landscape Photographer of the Year was that I liked the image very much. A black and white had come top of the pile too, and it wasn’t really a cute dog picture, unlike one previous winner, or belong to another genre which happened to please the sponsor Network Rail. This year I was glad to see the judges had chosen a picture that was unequivocally a landscape.
Maybe their decision would have passed unquestioned had the photographer’s web site not mentioned he’d been trying to copy a friend’s photo of the same scene – and had succeeded in doing so. Alex Nail and then Tim Parkin deserve credit for digging further and demonstrating that clouds and other landscape elements had been added in Photoshop, breaching the rules for that section of the competition, and as a result the winning picture and two others by the same photographer were disqualified. The objection wasn’t to the photographer, and you could readily accept that he hadn’t read the rules if you saw his grasp of spelling and grammar in online forums where he defended himself. The real beef was with how the organisers had not succeeded in enforcing their own rules.
In fact earlier this year I’d met the organisers of another of the major UK photo competitions and advised on methods for validating shortlisted images. So I’d been thinking of where I would personally draw the line. For myself, I’ve always thought in terms of “darkroom rules” and feel less-satisfied if I know my Photoshopping has extended too far beyond what one could achieve in the darkroom. Yet you don’t need to know much about the history of photography to know how much latitude that might give the unscrupulous. So how does this definition work – if you could perform the manipulation in Lightroom / Aperture / C1, a picture rightly belongs in a photography competition. If that’s not the case, and the image is the result of compositing layers, surely the picture would feel much more at home in a Photoshop contest?
Anyway, I wasn’t so keen on the eventual winner. The photo had initially caught my eye, and I liked the choice of subject and its foreshortened treatment. But I keep thinking it’s let down by the messy trees in the lower quarter, and the photographer Simon Butterworth has certainly done far better work. Seeing it this week in the exhibition at the National Theatre, my view didn’t change. No, my winner was this Peter Laurence shot of redwoods in Scotland which was printed at a metre tall and looked magnificent. Black and white too. There’s a surprise.
Late notice, I know, but if you’re anywhere around South Essex over the next week, see if you can nip into the Royal Opera House’s production centre (the place where they create the sets) at Thurrock just off the M25.
It’s already been round some of the major opera houses in China as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and may be in New York in 2013.