What Jessie Did Next...

...being the inane ramblings of a mundane Yorkshire bird.

Tag: photography (page 1 of 4)

07473_freedomtoIt’s Pride season in the UK – all sorts of carrying-on-alarming from the LGBT scene and its supporters, rainbow flags and walking groups, free hugs, camp-as-anything acts, and a lot of very very drunk people. The first Pride for me is usually the big one in London at the end of June which – after a hell of a car-crash of a parade in 2012 – has bounced back with aplomb.

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For a while I’ve lusted after a GoPro – tiny little self-contained wide-angle HD video cameras which can be strapped to cars, bikes, helmets, all sorts of things. They’re the cameras used for programmes like Top Gear, or where they’re strapped to some bloke skydiving out of a plane to get a point-of-view film; fun stuff and with my impending projects involving music videos I could sort-of justify it.

The GoPro Hero 3HD though has got horrendous reviews: from heat issues to random reboots or even just resembling a very expensive brick (you just need to look at Amazon for a litany of woe), so I wasn’t going to fork out the thick end of £400 for the setup I’d like (including the waterproof case et al).

Anyway, a week ago I went to Focus On Imaging, the big pro-sumer photography show at Birmingham NEC. Among the stands exhibiting was a dealer who were selling the Jobo JIB4 action camera – essentially a GoPro clone – which piqued my curiosity. I spent a while discussing with the dealer and came away with one including waterproof case, a pile of mounts, extra battery booster, a remote control and a lens cloth for a penny shy of £200. Winner.

So what’s it like? Tiny and fun! It’ll do 50fps at 1080p PAL (and a higher framerate of 120fps at WXGA), 170-degree wide-angle, and on exploring the menu system I discovered it had a time-lapse feature which automatically welds sequential JPEGs together to output an MP4 movie: I can squish about an hour’s capture into just under two and a half minutes.

Experiment time! I’ve spent a couple of commutes from home to work (and back) tweaking but this morning I had the first day of decent weather across the M62. So then, here you go – Wrenthorpe to Salford in 4 minutes:

(Just in case you can’t see that, there’s a link to the YouTube video here)

I think I probably need to clamp it to the roof-rack in its waterproof case – that way I’m not having to wash the windscreen all the time; I don’t feel quite brave enough for that yet! More experiments to follow, no doubt…

I feel a tiny bit sorry for Jessops after the announcement they’d gone into administration, but surprised it’s taken this long for it to happen. Jessops is (was?) a bit like PC World where you went in an emergency and paid the ‘now’ tax, but as my good friend Mike Hughes points out, why do that when you can get it delivered the next morning from an online retailer for substantially less dosh?

I’ve bought from Jessops in the past: my Canon 5D Mark II came from them when they were in very short supply and (for some reason) the shop in Leeds had two in-stock where everyone else was quoting several weeks’ lead time; I also vaguely recall reasonable experiences buying an EOS 30D from them in an emergency when my 10D packed up a few days before travelling: the Leeds shop staff didn’t mind me taking the body outside and doing a CCD dirt check on it so I could get the cleanest unit after it turned out the one I bought was mucky. More recently the Wakefield shop (sadly now an empty unit) was staffed by a couple of people who knew what they were on about, so it was occasionally nice to pop in for a chinwag: shades of its former life as local independent Richards’ Cameras.

They were purely box-shifters however, and their long-term returns and repair process sucked golf balls through pipette tubing. Long-time readers of this blog will probably recall the fun I had when my 5D Mark II developed hot pixels and they lost the repair; a few months ago when I totalled a flashgun my heart sank when I found out that MoreThan wanted to send it to Jessops to be fixed; true to form it took three months for it to be returned. I should really blog about the whole insurance experience but that’s a story for another day…

I digress. We don’t have an independent now in Wakefield so I can’t shop locally, however here’s where I get my stuff from:

For film, chemicals, and darkroom bits and bobs I first try Dale Photographic in Leeds. They’re upstairs in the Merrion Centre, our last local bastion of independence, their secondhand shelf is occasionally good for a prod around (although they still haven’t found me a Bronica or Mamiya 6×6 body, and they’re more Nikon than Canon). Prices for digital kit are usually more expensive than online but they can be good for a ‘need it now’ purchase.

If the chemicals or film aren’t available from Dale, I’ll go try RK Photographic or First Call Photographic on t’interwebs. Although in the latter case the postage can be quite punitive if you only order a few little bits, they’re good for niche things such as C41 chemicals or empty film cans for bulk purchasing.

For camera bodies and things I could really do with taking back in person if they don’t work or develop a soon-after-purchase fault, I go to Calumet Photographic (our nearest branch is in Manchester). I’ve had splendid experiences with the staff there helping me with bits, chasing around to see if they can obtain me something that’s in short supply, or just having a chat when I saw Lynese (who runs the Twitter feed) at events. They also do ‘open days’ where you can go play with kit and talk to specialists in that particular area.

Finally, if I’m buying lenses and I know what I want (because obviously I’ll have tested it out with a week’s rental from Lenses4Hire), I’ll just go to Amazon. I think I found Bristol Cameras this way, and obtained things like my 17-35mm f/2.8 L-series glass via there. Check the feedback and returns policy though!

While Jessops going under isn’t surprising and their box-shifter role was usurped by other companies who could do it cheaper and better, it will still leave me without a place to go in an emergency if I’m stuck in somewhere without a ‘real’ camera shop because they had retail units everywhere. That bit’s tedious, at least.

Oh dear oh dear, Instagram, bad move. As widely reported elsewhere in the past 24 hours, the biggest photo-sharing platform on the planet – acquired some months ago for $1bn by Facebook – has released new T&Cs. From their blog it looks like a good thing: “our updated terms of service help protect you, and prevent spam and abuse as we grow.” Bravo!

Except it’s not. There’s a couple of important points hidden here under the ‘Rights’ section:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

Quite a few journalists have pointed out this gives Instagram the rights to monetise your photos without any compensation – C|Net have the best article on it that I’ve seen so far. Bad times.

Of course what you might say is “hah, who’s interested in my holiday snaps?”. I suspect Internet blogger Poppy Dinsey asked the same question before her blog images were hijacked to advertise a porn site. It happens, and it could happen to your photos, crap filters and all. And in a rare invocation of think of the childrennnnnnn it could happen to pics of your kids too. Heck, a friend’s just pointed out that if you’ve popped up some photos and you happen to be a teacher, you’ll now be in flagrant breach of the DPA too (although what part I don’t know, I haven’t investigated that yet).

Being pragmatic here, I think it’ll get retracted or at least an opt-out added – it’s not the first photo hosting service to have tried this. But just in case they don’t, Wired have published steps to downloading then removing your Instagram account.

More concerning is that this sets a precedent for Facebook: There’s been rumours about them doing it for a while (and that’s all they’ve been – rumours) but given who owns Instagram I can only think it’s a matter of time before the rumour become reality despite denials in late November. That for me is the bigger worry: as a photographer I use Facebook to promote my work. My images are of suitably low resolution and are watermarked (most of the time), but even with that ‘protection’ I don’t want to worry that Facebook will put that into an advert – that’s what people pay me for.

Finally, it feels like it’s a blow for the whole ‘cloud’ concept. If a company can retrospectively apply copyright (Instagram’s T&Cs will come into effect in January but apply to your entire image archive) then what hope for other cloud providers? Will Dropbox do it? What about Flickr? YouTube? Tumblr? For creative people will the only ‘safe’ option now be to run your own site?

What a mess. I’m so glad I’m not in that industry any more.

Update: BBC News have an article about it now.

Since I wrote about Lightroom 4 speed issues on the Mac, I’ve installed version 4.2 and done quite a few big shoots including gigs and a wedding; there’s been no shortage of images to process.

Regrettably, it appears the LR4 fixes involving Time Machine and recreation of the catalogue had only a temporary effect and the software has reverted back to its previous slow behaviour. On a shoot of 1200 images this makes it painful to sort through and has an extremely negative impact on my workflow.

There seems to be little alternative out there though (at least, not a solution where I can seamlessly move the catalogue across) so I’m just going to have to stick it out for the moment. This annoys me – it’s yonks since Adobe put out Lightroom 4 and still these problems. It’s very very tedious.

If you were considering a leap to Lightroom 4, I’d advise you not to. Stick with Lightroom 3 if you can, or suffer the consequences 🙁

You might have noticed over the years but I take a lot of photographs, and like many photographers I keep them in a catalogue on a computer: this catalogue allows me to find photos quickly and easily, and also apply retouching, colour changes, and all that sort of thing. The application I use is called Adobe Lightroom and I’ve been a user since version 2 back in 2009. Now with over 110,000 photographs in the catalogue spanning 34 years you might say I’m a power-user.

When Lightroom 4 was released in Spring 2012 I pre-ordered it, but as with critical applications within my workflow I wanted a few days to get my head around it before using it ‘in anger’. I’m glad I did, because quite quickly it became apparent there were major problems with it – principally, the speed of the software. It’d lag for 30 seconds switching between modules, and using the sliders to alter an image was almost impossible. I reverted back to Lightroom 3.6 which worked perfectly, as did everything else on my laptop.

Sidenote: for the benefit of the hardware nerds out there my main machine is a MacBook Pro Core i7 2.66GHz model (MacBookPro6,1), with a 512GB SSD, 8G RAM, running (at the moment) OS X 10.7.4. It’s not the most recent MacBook Pro, but it’s a 2010 model which with updates has no problems with anything else.

Time passed and I bought a new camera: a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. This wasn’t supported by Lightroom 3! Indeed, it took Adobe until version 4.1 before Lightroom could read its RAW files so I suppose you could say I was forced to upgrade. I bit the bullet, installed the software and predictably the speed problems returned: a photoshoot which I would have previously been able to sort in a lunchtime would take me 4 or 5 hours simply because of the lag when picking images to retouch (the ‘triage’ stage of sorting a shoot). The whole experience became incredibly frustrating and a solution was needed. Adobe released a beta of Lightroom 4.2 which made no difference.

Googling around led to plenty of other people with the same problems, and even Adobe acknowledging there was a problem but there was no solution. I got naffed off, and decided to do some investigating of my own. So here’s what I did, and what it fixed (touch wood, so far):

A Solution Of Sorts
The first thing I did was try and blitz the Preferences files. This has been known to work for Windows users, but of course the Mac version is different – at least that bit is. I’ll save you some time and tell you now that it didn’t do a dicky bird other than freak my copy of Lightroom out, so I ended up reinstating the plist files.

Then a friend suggested recreating the catalogue (cheers Gaz!). My LR4 catalogue came via a port from LR2 to LR3 over the past few updates. First thing I did was create a new catalogue and import everything from the old catalogue in to the new one via File -> Import From Another Catalog. It took a while but gave me a clean catalogue which sorta worked a bit better – still not massively fast, but faster.

The real paydirt came with Time Machine though. In common with a lot of Mac users I have a small external disk which I use to keep backups, handled by the OS. In addition to that there’s a sort-of journalling system which handles versions and Time Machine when the external disk isn’t connected (and incidentally will explain disk space discrepancies – you can read more about the phenomenon here).When I added ~/Library/Caches to the backup exclusions, LR4 was back to the speed I’d have expected.

To do this, click on your Time Machine icon (on the menubar, it’s the little clock with the arrow going backwards), and thenOptions on your Time Machine screen. It’ll allow you to exclude particular directories from the backup.

I can’t think of any particular downside to this as cache files are usually temporary, but I’m sure another Mac fanboi will correct me in the comments if this isn’t the case. As it is, it seems to have fixed it for me so far and I’ve been using Lightroom heavily for the past day or so. Whether it gets slower in time I don’t know and I’ll post an update if it does so. But I do hope this helps other frustrated Mac photogs out there!

You know all that medium-format stuff I was going on about with my Grandfather’s Halina A1? I’ve been bitten with the MF bug well and truly since then, commandeering the kitchen on a Sunday evening to develop whatever film I’d experimented with that week and going to bed with my fingers stinking of fixing fluid. I’ve also been painfully aware that Grandad’s Halina is a delicate thing – not an expensive item but certainly I’m emotionally attached to it and bits of it fell off long before it was in my custody! I’d already resolved a while back to get another MF setup for proper photography work, carefully digging through the pros and cons of Bronica, Rollei and Mamiya setups…

Then last week I acquired a Yashica MAT-124G medium-format twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera from Harrison Cameras in Sheffield. I’d been keeping an eye on their website and they do a great job of tweeting what secondhand kit has arrived – it’s a 10 minute walk from where I currently work in Sheffield so it was a bit of a no-brainer. The guy who served me took the time to walk me through the device which was substantially different to the Halina A1 in operation, and off I went with a fresh spool of Ilford Delta 400 loaded.

Once I’d got the hang of cocking the shutter (which hadn’t been covered in the shop) I started taking photos. I blew a stack of film over the weekend trying different things – in the park, inside Unity Hall, and at a gig. It’s definitely a lot sharper than the Halina (especially at the edges) and is much easier to focus, although in low light it’s still a pain as I can’t see what aperture or exposure time I’ve got it set to. It’ll be fine for acoustic gigs though.

The internal light meter had been frigged with a modern battery cell (it’s meant to take Mercury cells which aren’t made any more) and consequently there’s about a stop and a half overexposure if you go by the light meter itself. After the first couple of films the overexposure was pretty obvious so I spent a few hours comparing the on-body meter with a proper hand-held meter: it’s a linear difference so fairly simple to compensate, thankfully.

Overall, no buyer’s remorse yet and the remote trigger works fine with it. I’m looking forward to photographing the Rhubarb Bomb 5th Birthday this weekend (maybe with a flashgun as well), there are acoustic and eclectic acts which will work nicely on that format. Results, as always, will be posted on Flickr.

A few weeks ago I spent a spare evening importing pre-1999 photos into my Lightroom catalogue: about 10,000 images which had been taken on both digital and film since 1977. I’m not especially OCD about my photo organisation but I needed to access some of my older gig pics and a few photos from my Star Trek fanclub days (1992ish) for the Leeds Starfleet reformation – the images I waded through set me thinking how sad it was that some were such low resolution.

Back in the late 90s when I started out in digital photography I borrowed a small digital camera from one of my Mailbox Internet colleagues for a few nights. It took photos at a VGA resolution of 640×480 which were perfectly adequate at the time but now are way too small to be used on the high-res monitors we have nowadays. Given availability of hi-res scanning I regret not using more film even though it was pricey (24 exposures would set you back at least £7 on film+processing) as I’d love to have decent, untainted, nice images. Sadly I have to resign myself that those memories are forever held in under 1MP of poorly colour-balanced postage-stamp JPEGs. The Kodak DC200 I bought in 1998 was marginally better, a great little point-and-shoot which was convenient (if you saw me taking photos in a pub with friends in the late 90s, odds on it was this particular camera) but still 35mm outweighed consumer-grade digital… put up with 2MP or shut up.

However (cue fanfare) we can make the decision nowadays: we have splendid small high-resolution point-and-shoot cameras available to us on the high street for the price of a tank of petrol… yet many people still insist on using low-resolution low-quality cameraphones. Why?!

Don’t get me wrong – I believe that there’s fun places for cameraphone pics and there’s a whole branch of imagery (“phonetography”) which takes advantage of it. My beef is that many people will use them instead of a decent little point-and-shoot at important events. Case in point: I asked a friend if they wanted to borrow one of my better P&S cameras for their best friend’s wedding; the answer came back “oh no, I’ve got my cameraphone thanks”. The resolution’s there, but the glass in the front of the phone, the absence of flashgun, the light balance issues, even image stability are all going to factor into taking a pretty bad shot.

It gets worse: with the prevalence of Instagram, Hipstagram and all those ‘retro’ iPhone apps, you don’t just get to destroy your memories with bad photos, you get to utterly demolish them with ‘cool’ effects which in a few years time are guaranteed to be cringeworthy. Those wonderful memories of your honeymoon? The gorgeous photos of your newborn son? “Oh, yeah, they’ve got that really really cool negative ID mark and colour-burn and they look oh so retro, but… well, sorry we can’t fix it, we’ve only got that pic of Grandad holding Billy when he was just a few hours old and it’ll have to just do.”

There’s a final issue: when was the last time that you, as a consumer, copied the images off your camera onto a better storage solution? I’m not talking about uploading to Facebook (see arguments passim along the lines of “online is not a storage solution”), I’m talking about sticking them on a memory stick and putting it in a drawer. Several friends have lost images through phone resets, broken memory cards and such; when I’m asked to help, sometimes I just can’t and I have to break that news to them. So copy those images off, frequently! Memory sticks are less than a tenner from WHSmith, are your memories worth less than a tenner? Can you guarantee they’ll be worth less than a tenner in a few years time?

So here are some suggestions: get a reasonable little point-and-shoot, stick it in your handbag, take that to your events. Don’t rely on your cameraphone, and especially don’t chuck your images through some naff retro-image-processing tool without keeping the originals safe (I’m picking on Instagram and Hipstagram here but there’s loads more). No matter how random the photos, they’ll form part of your memories in later life so keep them safe and untainted.

PS. Some may consider this hypocritical considering my enthusiasm for B&W photography recently. In actuality I’ve made this mistake myself but using B&W instead of my 5Dmk2 at a family event, so it’s still fresh in my mind…

Today’s fun, assuming it gets sunnier in Headingley by lunchtime… a Kodak Brownie Model I!


Acquired from the Wakefield Hospice warehouse for a fiver, it takes 620 film although I’ve managed to frig it for 120… and it’s f/14 so I’ll need the sun! More info about this particular model on Camerapedia.

It’s been almost a month since I wrote about my adventures in B&W photography and there have been some developments (pun intended) since then.

As it seemed to be a hobby which was sticking around, I invested in an Epson V700 scanner – various places including DPReview and Amateur Photographer stated that this was pretty much the best flatbed I could get. Why was I after a flatbed? Well I’d already anticipated I wanted to do some medium-format (MF) photography and most affordable slide scanners are limited to 35mm film and slides so would be useless after a while. The Epson was an investment, and proved to be an exceptional one.

Sadly what lets the Epson down is the software. It’s bundled with a package called SilverFast (version 6.6SE in the case of my purchase) which doesn’t work very well with the Apple UI and can be quite hard to use. It frequently crashed and ate a lot of CPU, and the version shipped was crippled in various ways (including being able to profile film emulsion – the entire reason I’d bought the scanner in the first place). When trying to use the support forum I came up against messages such as ‘Sorry but you cannot use search at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.’ Eventually I gave up and bought a copy of Vuescan which at a few cents shy of $40 was a lot cheaper than the SilverFast upgrade, gave better results and has a reasonable English-speaking support base. It would appear I’m not the only person to have done this switch

So back to the photography: I did a photoshoot on Ilford Delta 3200, the subject being a punk-electro band called Minny Pops. Back in the early 80s they were on the same billing as Joy Division, they were a Martin Hannett-produced band and they were signed to Factory – hell, even Rob Gretton was involved with them; this made the act a perfect band when they played at The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, perhaps in the style of one of my favourite photographers Kev Cummins. Here’s an example shot (dig around my Flickr stream for more), processed using Ilford Microphen high-grade developer (that particular image was picked up for publication by a UK music national which I’m quite chuffed about – still to see it ‘in the wild’ though). Not bad, and I resolved at that point to start using film a little more on gig shoots where the act would warrant it.

I spent most of January experimenting, and mentioned to my Grandmother what I was up to. She told me that she had a big box of photographic kit once belonging to my Grandfather and I was welcome to have a dig round and see what might be useful. It was quite a fun box-ful: the cache consisted of lots of lenses, a few USSR and GDR-manufactured 35mm bodies in varying condition, some filters and a few unexposed spools of film – but the unexpected bonus was finding a Halina A1 twin-lens reflex medium-format camera from the late 50s/early 60s… it had a spool of film inside which I wound on.

Now I’d thought about doing MF back in December, even going so far as to working out if I could afford a second-hand Bronica ETRS camera outfit, and I’d decided I would eschew the 645 format in favour of jumping straight to square 6×6 (being a substantial move from plain 35mm so I figured I’d appreciate it more). Dale Photographic in Leeds had a Hasselblad I coveted, but spending £1500 on a MF film setup rather than getting a family holiday wasn’t going to endear me to Nicky so I left it for a while. However, the whole MF thing was still bimbling in the back of my mind, and finding the Halina was timely.

I worked out a short workflow to see how it would fare – heck, I didn’t even know if it was light-tight. Thoughts of light-meters led to the brainwave of downloading one from the App Store for my iPhone (perhaps a bit of cheating, others may say ingenuity!). It hardly made a noise when the shutter activated I wasn’t even sure it was working and spent ten minutes exploring to make sure! So far so good.

The next day I wandered round the streets of Headingley with the Halina and a fresh roll of Ilford FP4+ 120-roll film. Colleagues at work were curious. I scared the living daylights out of some poor lady in St Michaels Cemetery in Headingley taking photos of gravestones (sorry missus!). Once back at home out came the dev tanks and (after following this tutorial on YouTube on loading 120 film into the Paterson tank) I ended up with some perfectly passable 6×6 medium-format negatives. The images were a lot sharper than I’d anticipated, having seen reports that this particular camera was favoured by the lomography crowd because of its soft focus – hooray!

Into the scanner. Set the controls. Forgot I set them for 35mm and of course MF has larger negs so I ended up with a gigapixel image – Lightroom struggled over it and Flickr hated it, so eventually settled on 4800dpi, 95% JPEG, 4-pass-plus-IR out of Vuescan. Here are the results (click backwards to see more I took that day) – banal subject matter but I’m very very pleased how they’ve turned out! Wonderful square high-contrast images which would make perfect album covers!

As a sidenote, you remember I mentioned that exposed film in the Halina? Purely on a whim I developed it. It was a Kodak X-Pro film (I think) and thought there wouldn’t be any harm in giving it a shot – but the bloomin’ thing dev’d fine and after scanning I saw the face of my Great-Grandfather staring at me. Blimey – I didn’t actually think almost 40 year-old film would process properly (nor had I really worked out timing for the dev tank, I just left it for 7ish minutes in Microphen). Ellie was fascinated, and we’re soliciting family members to try and date it as it’ll give us an idea when the camera was last used!

Anyway, as I left you in my last blog entry tonight I’m heading to another gig, this time to try and shoot a friend’s acoustic act in MF using Ilford HP5 which I intend to push to 1600. How I’ll get on I don’t know – this is a completely manual attempt! Even the practicalities of winding film with only the red-coloured rear window of the camera body may defeat me (given stage lighting) – maybe I should take a torch! I’ll be sure to post the results on my Flickr stream if there are some presentable images, of course.

When I was 7 I bought myself a film camera from Wakefield fleamarket – a Halina 35mm camera purchased for £1. I took it all over the place and went through the first couple of films like mad (mostly taking photographs of the sky or the floor because I couldn’t get the hang of the viewfinder). My father was processing film at the time and started loading the occasional spool of B&W in and that’s how I started out in photography… once we’d moved to a larger house he took over the cellar and we did prints too.

Almost 30 years later I’m using digital for my semi-professional work: I carry various Canon pro digital bodies around and a complement of lenses (a partial kit-list is on my Flickr profile), and I post-process using Lightroom on the Mac. An average gig shoot for me results in about 200 photos per act and I pare those down into about 40 or 50 shots for a client, all of which is a far cry from 24 frames on film.

I recently did a contract in Halifax (good lord deliver me) as part of my dayjob. Lunchtime wanderings uncovered a camera shop near the market (Janet Green Photographic, I’d link to a website but they don’t have one) where there was a window full of second-hand photographic kit – everything from mid-1950s medium-format bodies up to low-end digital, and so a germ of an idea formed – get an old film camera and learn to develop my own photos again. I pressed my nose to the glass almost daily in the hope that a suitable camera would be on display. Christmas drew closer, the end of the contract loomed, but less than 2 weeks before I’d be out of the area one appeared in the window for just £29: a Canon EOS 500N, one of the more recent 135 Canon range. I bimbled in and after verifying it would accept my Canon EF lenses I walked out as the proud owner of a film camera body, some chemicals and a few spools of Ilford FP4+ film.

The first thing I noticed was that I was conscious how many photos I wasn’t taking using film. I assumed I’d go through film like wildfire but it took me the best part of 3 days to blow my first 24-exposure film (the second film took a little less time principally because I was out in sunny Halifax getting some gritty industrial images :)). This did make me realise that although I scattergun at gigs I am more inclined to take time to set up a shot elsewhere.

Once home and in the kitchen I mixed up some developer and spent 20 minutes lightproofing the understair cupboard. Every last LED from the wireless base-station, burglar alarm, central heating system got double helpings of gaffer-tape. Hallway lights went off, the cracks around the door stuffed with scarves. Total darkness, hooray. I turned the safelight on, loaded the film into the canister and went off to develop it.

Right. Safelight. Yeah – about that: there’s no safelight for film… I’d forgotten that bit and overexposed it. I had also been using a dodgy thermometer, not that it would have made much difference. The second time I was a lot more careful and some success ensued, having processed a spool of Ilford HP4+ (ISO400) in Ilfosol-3 developer: this resulted in quite a chunky grain. Still, not bad considering I’ve been trying to remember how to do it all based upon vague memories of watching Dad.

As a sidenote: I haven’t been doing any printing, instead using a slide scanner from Maplin to throw the negatives into JPEG files; it’s only a cheap thing with a lamp which shines the slide onto a small CCD and auto-compensates for exposure etc. – the results aren’t very good. This one will do for the moment as long as I put the images through Lightroom, at least until I find a USB slide scanner I’m happy with.

Subsequently I walked into Halifax and blew off a spool of Ilford FP4+ (ISO100). I haven’t tried pushing the film yet, I’m taking baby-steps and since Christmas I’ve been using it as an occasional ‘grab camera’ to play with rather than anything serious.

Most of my supplies are coming from Amazon marketplace sellers (RK Photographic are sending me most of it including a black bag, a load of FP4+ and a film spool opener). Locally Dale Photographic in Leeds sells chemicals and film which is useful in an emergency and if anyone wants to buy me a present they have a secondhand Hasselblad MF 6×6 120-roll camera with a couple of lenses for £1500… thought not!

Tonight though the 500N gets a proper run at a gig using Ilford Delta 3200 film (ISO3200) which I will probably process using Microphen developer later on in the week. I’m hoping to replicate some of the more iconic Kev Cummins film shots from the early 80s – somehow doing colour-to-B&W in Lightroom feels like cheating and I’m hopeful of good results. At least I don’t have to worry about red/yellow saturation 😉

(The photo is me aged 8 with the Halina – my Dad took it when we went on a photowalk in Wakefield; the courtyard is round the back of the old Post Office, and it’s now known as ‘The Latin Quarter’.)

Update: Julian (aka @liquidsquid on Twitter) said that this was his idea. If I’m going to be perfectly honest it was discussions with quite a few folks which led to this, not least @leica0000, @john2755 and my landlady in Milton Keynes towards the end of last year who gave me a box full of old Patterson developing kit. That said, the Delta3200 was definitely Julian’s idea.

So in what is now an annual event, once more I plonked myself behind the camera taking photos in Santa’s grotto at Wrenthorpe Primary School (previous instalments are documented from from 2009 and 2008).

Refresher: it entailed taking pics of Santa and kids after they’d just got their gifts. The ‘grotto’ is a little side-room with ‘fireplace’ and obligatory sled full of toys, and a sideroom where I hid until required to take pics plus the computer operator could sit to print the images. The first time we did it there were about 180 pics and around 250 kids so it’s not something to be done lightly.

This year I repeated last year’s setup with one important change: Adobe Lightroom 3 now has a ‘tethering’ feature. This means you can plug your camera direct into the computer with a USB cable, take a pic and LR3 will process and make available the photo immediately; the new print function also enables two pics to be selected and I can immediately slap two 6×4 photos on one piece of A4 with all colour modifications. Much quicker, and lots less messing around.

I had a willing assistant in Alex, a lovely lass who’d never used a Mac or LR3 but still cottoned onto the process pretty quickly. I reckon that with a little practice I could probably do it all on my own, really.

The other (minor) change was in the off-body aerial flashgun. I used a 420ex last year on a stand with a remote trigger, but this year used a 250W strobe with an umbrella. Slightly less harsh, lots more control over intensity.

(I love Lightroom 3, it makes life so much easier…)

While I’m doing less contract work, I’ve been concentrating on taking snaps…

Alongside photographing such luminaries as Miles Hunt (from 90s band The Wonderstuff), former drug-lord Howard Marks, and the usual local Wakefield bands I’ve starting touting myself around as a more general event photographer; after all, I need the cash and I’m not too bad at it (he said, modestly). I’ve got the kit from here-and-there: a few months ago I acquired a small portraiture lighting kit comprising 3 x 250W strobes (with modelling lights), umbrellas, softboxes and stands. I also managed to blag a 3-metre backdrop stand and a couple of used backdrops – well I say used, the black one is still in its wrapper and brand new as far as I can tell! I’ve had a bit of practice and assistance from my old mucker Neal Lewis on strobism plus reading up on techniques in various tomes such as Light Science & Magic and the results aren’t half bad.

I’ve also been asked to do my first few weddings, so have quoted for those: no prints, just CD, but you get around 250 photos in a candid style (no, I’m not doing freebies but nice of you to ask ;))

A week or two back I found myself photographing Leeds Guide Retail Therapy Awards 2010, the first awards ceremony I’ve done and an amusing experience herding drunk award-winners around the stage to get some photos (I’d link directly to them here but they’re embargoed until tomorrow). This sorta ties into the thought that in order to be a photographer of people (weddings, portraiture, events, etc.) you really need to be assertive as a person and be able to easily gel with folks, which I think I’m probably reasonably OK at. Client seems happy anyway, and I think there’ll be some in the print edition of Leeds Guide which comes out tomorrow (Weds 10 Nov 2010).

In any case, it’ll help top up the coffers and pay for the insane electricity bill which British Gas seem to have decided to send us. Idiots.

Tomorrow is Photocamp Bradford {2010}, the annual ‘unconference’ for photographers where sessions are part-seminar, part-discussion, part-talk/presentation, all sorts of things. Last year was a lot of fun and I met a lot of Flickr-ers, and I learned tons of stuff. It takes place at Bradford Media Museum (formerly known as the Museum of Film, Photography & Television), and includes talks and access to the museum’s curators, etc.

So this year I’ve volunteered to run a session on gig photography – not just techniques but also how I got into it in the first place, breaks which worked, essentials to keep in the bag, kit, etiquette, and post-processing. I’m aiming for it to be about 50% talk, 50% discussion so my slides will be starter-points for discussion rather than me standing up preaching at everyone. The session will be about an hour long and is pencilled in just after lunch; as with all unconferences though it’s subject to a bit of change – I hope I don’t clash with any other sessions I want to see such as the wedding session and the landscape session from the headliner speakers.

There are still a few tickets available – go to the Photocamp Bradford {2010} website and follow the links through, you can buy them from the museum in-person too.

(Yes, I should have blogged about this earlier but it’s not really been that high a priority for me given I’ve been up to my gills in work. Sorry.)

Nowadays, I take a lot of photos in a shoot – probably about 500 at a minimum, but more likely a few thousand if I’m on-site for more than an hour or so. Gig photography mandates this a bit and in the more extreme venues you can end up ‘scattergunning’. As I carry the EOS 5D Mark II and shoot in full RAW it’s inevitable that a shoot will eat up at least a 16GB memory card (probably a lot more) so I need stacks of memory cards for when I’m out on the road and can’t process the photos in a hurry.

Browsing around I happened upon 7dayshop.com. I’ve picked up some cheap flash memory from them in the past (2GB no-name SD cards for the DAB radio and the kids’ cameras) which was fine, so splashed out on a few 32GB Kingston Elite Pro CF cards. The first big shoot after they arrived was Pride London 2010: in previous years I ate up 70GB just shooting JPEG, this year shooting RAW it was going to be utter carnage on the memory side – we’re talking at least 25MB an image here.

(I also bought a Vosonic digital wallet with a 500GB hard disk in it, useful for dumping off photos if I ran out or in case of unexpected issues – I’m quite glad I did that, in hindsight.)

During the course of the day, the Kingston cards performed well. Slow to write but you don’t expect blistering speeds for a penny shy of £60, and the occasional check in review mode showed the images were writing nicely. Simon (who was photographing with me) began running out of CF, and he’d obtained some 16GB Kingston cards so I offered to dump the images onto the Vosonic; we sat down for a quick pint while they copied, the Vosonic chugged through the first few then reported a corruption of the card! Er, what? The images were fine on the back of the camera, we checked again. It was stumbling on one pic so Si deleted it off using the camera, we tried again. It chugged through, then stumbled on a different image. Uh oh. I can’t remember what we did then – probably switched to another card or I lent Si one, I honestly don’t know. Either way, that was the first sign the Kingston cards weren’t up to scratch.

Fast forward to post-shoot when I started dumping images onto my laptop. 32GB of images from one of the Kingston cards and it seemed the computer didn’t recognise it using my USB card-reader – I panicked a little, and connected the camera up directly to the laptop… where it read fine. Phew, but still worrying. I tried it with another reader (I’ve got several card-readers) and all of them exhibited the same behaviour with this particular 32GB card: will read in the camera directly, won’t read on anything else.

One of the 16GB CF cards began showing the same symptoms last week, in the middle of a shoot in Hull. Popped it into the Vosonic where it refused to completely read the card and I ended up using Cardrescue to get the images back. Another pit-of-the-stomach moment, one I can do without.

Since then I’ve done a bit of digging and asking around – three friends are reporting that the cheap Kingston cards cause issues for them, and a discussion on a maillist yielded a link to criticism of Kingston’s MicroSD cards and another FAQ on Kingston CF compatibility. It all points to Kingston rebranding cheap cards and using new microcontrollers from about 2009 onwards which perhaps don’t meet with the electrical specifications demanded by the CF interface.

Needless to say I won’t be buying Kingston again, and now I have about 80GB of CF cards I don’t trust. An expensive mistake, but not as expensive as if I’d lost a shoot completely (I’ve since replaced the Kingston cards with Sandisk and verified they are genuine).

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