What Jessie Did Next...

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

Tag: rants

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 🙁

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…

Time for a bit of a sweep up on tales of photography which came to conclusions recently…

Remember my whinge about Jessops’ poor repair service where they’d taken 10 days to get it to Canon’s repair centre? I got my EOS 5D Mark 2 back with a note of ‘readjustment’ – after a little bit of research it turns out that this is a fairly common operation, and while they don’t map the pixels out they actually re-adjust the CCD (which bit I don’t know, so don’t ask). Jessops themselves are unrepentant about the delay, it’s fairly average for them and the Interwebs are full of complaints.

In the course of my investigations into quicker repair options I came across Canon Professional Network. While most of the website is open to everyone (I recommend the video tutorials/masterclasses from professionals), if you qualify for their full programme you get priority repairs and equipment loan if it takes more than a week to get the unit back to you. The entry requirements are fairly sizeable – you have to own at least 2 L-series lenses and 2 ‘professional’ bodies (base requirement is EOS 40D so your entry-level dSLRs don’t count nor do the older bodies).

They also make sure there’s a repair centre on-site at major events such as Wimbledon and other major sports events, yada yada. That way if something goes bang you can get it sorted damn quick (and they cover your lenses too, hooray).

Anyway, I qualified for it in the end because I’ve acquired a Canon EOS 50D as a body for Nicky to use. The 30D has been very heavily used (the trigger is reluctant to fire sometimes) and the accessories will fit a 50D so it seemed like a sensible purchase. Nicky’s used it a little bit on holiday and I’m looking forward to the first gig pics using it.

I guess I’ll see how the repair service deals with the G9’s failure and will report sometime in the future, but bear in mind the experience may be a little different as it’s a travel-insurance job.

On a side-note, there’s unsubstantiated rumours of the EOS 7D (again) and of course the new G11 has been announced. Maybe if the G9 is irrepairable I’ll go find one of those instead.

I’m so Canon’s bitch.

OK, I’m annoyed. No, scratch that – I’m fucking livid.

After some nice experiences with Jessops over the past couple of years, they’ve done something that’s really irked me: they’ve sat on my repair job without sending it off.

Let’s backtrack: my Canon EOS 5D Mark II (list price over £2300) developed a small rash of measles on the CCD – dead pixels which would come up as red blobs indicating early CCD failure. Any photos which came out had to be manually retouched (including a lot of the ones from Pride London 2009), a completely unacceptable situation. I’d previously written about Jessops in both Leeds and Wakefield being excellent so let me be clear here, I’m not laying this at the door of the shops themselves.

I took the unit to the Wakefield branch of Jessops which (in my opinion) has a competent manager and isn’t so busy that they rush you along. Quite aside from the computer being a bit odd and linking the serial number to a Canon EOS 30D (!) they managed to book it in and said the courier would pick it up same day.

That was about a week and a half ago (10th July). I’ve started getting anxious for an update since I’m off on holiday next week and wanted to spend a good while getting to know the camera in bright conditions. I dug around on Jessops’ site for a link to repair updates: nothing there, no help at all – and the helpline I did phone said ‘call Canon on 0844 369 0100 and choose option 1’. So I did.

After sitting through what seemed like eons of ‘you must call xxx if you have yyy’ and other prerecorded messages I finally got through to a polite lady who took the serial number of the camera body, and then said she couldn’t tell me anything because of ‘data protection’. Right. Finally through a two-step comprising me telling her bits about what it was in for and stuff (and that it had been booked through Jessops) she let slip it hadn’t arrived at Canon until 20th July, it was in ‘the queue’ and the average wait time was 5-7 working days.

So, just to clarify: Jessops didn’t forward my 5 month-old camera body to Canon for almost 10 days.

(Sidenote: Jessops shouldn’t have told me to phone the Canon service centre apparently; “They know they’re not meant to do that.” said Polite Lady.)

I’m not optimistic of receiving the unit back before I go on holiday on 29th July. Indeed, aside from having to go back to the 30D I’m steeling myself for either a dash back up North on the Thursday, or getting a friend to courier the body out to Montpellier if it comes back in time (which might be a silly idea anyway, we’ll have to see).

To say I’m pissed off is an understatement. More as it unfolds.

And so last night we went to see the Pet Shop Boys at Manchester Apollo. I’ll blog about that in a bit but this is a little more of a grouch, so deserves its own blog entry. Actually no, it’s a full-on rant.

PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PUT YOUR FUCKING CAMERA PHONE DOWN AND WATCH THE GIG YOU PAID A FORTUNE TO COME AND SEE.

I am absolutely sick to the back teeth of paying a fortune for concert tickets to go and watch a band, purely to have some retard in front of me holding his camera phone sky high so I can either watch his arms or see it all through the back of his LCD display. This applies especially to large concert venues with stalls, gigs with lots of visuals, or places where we’re all crammed together and dancing.

So, tips for aspiring photographers at gigs, please:

  • Remember people are standing behind you – they don’t want to see you fiddling with your camera all the way through. They paid just as much as you for a ticket (and may be shorter in stature as well).
  • If you do want to take a few photos (which is fine, I do it myself with the Canon G9 occasionally), don’t do it throughout the entire gig. At some gigs I get asked to photograph, I’m restricted to a couple of songs where I can take pics then I have to sod off (or at least not get the camera out again) – take the lead from that, the rule’s there for a reason.
  • Feel free to stand in the aisles, in front of a stairwell, next to a wall, somewhere like that and hold it high if you want – at least you’re not pissing anyone off behind you.
  • If you’re not backed by a wall, aisle, etc. then hold the camera at head height, not a foot and a half above.
  • If all else fails and you do want photos, take your pics in the cheering, applause, etc. when there’s no major performance going on – folks can’t really object to that when they’ve got their hands in the air cheering!
  • Turn the flash off! You will get shit photos with the flash on, probably of the backs of the heads of the two rows in front of you and unless you’re an aspiring hairdresser this will not be what you want.
  • Likewise they don’t want to smell your armpits. It’s hot in here, don’t make the experience worse.
  • Avoid taking video – the sound will be terrible (loud, distorted), the quality will be awful, and the bloke standing behind you will miss an entire song.
  • Hey, you might be on a hide into nothing anyway: unless you have brought a reasonable point-n-click your phone photos will be rubbish – blurry, lots of movement.
  • The gig photographers will do a better job than you, why not look on Flickr for the event tomorrow morning instead (I found some pics of last night’s gig which are lovely)?
  • Remember YOU PAID HARD EARNED DOSH TO SEE THE BAND, NOT HOLD YOUR CAMERAPHONE UP.

So, last night I finally said something to the guy in front of me: “‘Scuse me feller,” says I. “Are we all going to have to watch the gig through your phone screen?” “Er, no. Sorry.” he stammered. At least he did shift it, and was suitably embarrassed. It’s just thoughtless.

This may strike you as hypocritical considering I profess to be a reasonably competent gig photographer (and get frequent requests from bands to take photos for them). Fair one. However, I try and be careful not to get in the way and I think I do that pretty well (doing stupid things like crouching next to million-decibel speaker stacks, and less stupid things like turning off the LCD) – OK there’s been one transgression (knocking a mike stand, thankfully in an almost deserted pub) which I duly beat myself up over for days afterwards but by and large I’m there to get in the way as little as possible.

Ergo, I’m not saying “don’t take photos” – I’m saying “don’t let it get in the way of other paying customers’ enjoyment of the gig.”

In other words, just be considerate eh?

There used to be manned ticket barriers at Leeds railway station – manned by real people who would check your tickets and stuff. You’d usually get two people there at least, reasonably efficient. That all changed a few months ago when the barriers got pulled up, the staff moved elsewhere, and the powers-that-be put in automated ticket barriers.

Since then it’s been a total fail:

  • The barriers take several seconds to open! Although I’m used to London Underground barriers (ticket in/run through/grab ticket/close behind you) the time taken to get through the Leeds barriers is excessive and causes extreme congestion in rush hour.
  • The ticket readers are unreliable – standing there for half a minute attempting to get the thing to read your Metro-card looks to be quite common.
  • There’s usually at least two barriers wide open, attended by agency staff who don’t look at the tickets anyway.
  • There’s usually at least two barriers out of action (broken?) with cones or something across them.

However, there’s an even bigger failure you can have fun with: you can use almost any mag-stripe ticket in them. One morning I was in a hurry and pulled out an expired Metro-card, which quite happily let me through the barrier; subsequently I tried a London Underground ticket from 2007, a National Rail ticket from 2005 and even a ticket from somewhere foreign (Trans-Perth rail probably). I’ve also had confirmation that credit card receipts from the ticket machines work as well.

(NB. I should point out at this juncture that I did have a valid Metro-card during the period of testing, at no point did I attempt to dodge fares).

It does bring an interesting question to mind though – why did they install these? It’s easier to fare-dodge using the new barriers (if not via the expired-ticket method then you can just stroll through since the attendants don’t check tickets anyway); it doesn’t increase efficiency but instead increases congestion as commuters attempt to get through the barriers; there’s no decrease in staffing either.

It all just seems a waste of time, and it’s bloody frustrating for us commuters.

“Crystal Reports – oh dear God I’d forgotten about that – the last time I used it was in 1998 when I worked with Deverill in Poole. Horrible piece of software.”

And now I’m getting it to talk to PHP via the Crystal Reports web service. *shudder*

Just got back from lunch after a totally and utterly failed trip to Oracle Bar in Leeds, and I felt that I should document our experience because it was utter bollocks. They actually take quite a bit of money off us in this company – we had the MD’s birthday lunch there last week, and I’ve visited there with other staff as well.

So, we arrived and sat at a table. And waited. And waited. And after waiting for a waitress for a while, one of us goes to the bar and gets beers ‘cos it’s quicker – and find out the reason we’ve not been served is that we’re not “in a food area”. Ok – the food area’s not delineated and there’s no indication but never mind, we move. And wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually we manage to flag a waitress.

“We’ve got 15 minutes – can you feed us two burgers and chips?”
“Sure.” she answers. “Let me just check with the kitchen.”
That’s fair, so off she potters.

Then we get pounced on by another waitress carrying a clipboard – looks like the manager or something asking if we’d been served – yes we have thankyou, at which point she just… ‘hovers’. Then the original woman comes back and says “No, we can’t – waiting time of 20 minutes on burgers.”

So (only having a short time for lunch) we think “never mind” and start finishing our beers so we can grab sandwiches elsewhere (from Yum Yum in fact, highly recommended), and not two minutes later Clipboard-Waitress (who knows we’re about to leave anyway) comes back to say “oh you can’t sit here, you’re not having food.” Mention no fact that there’s another 9 empty tables around us.

There’s an epilogue: while leaving, we got chased by Clipboard-Waitress who attempted to return us somebody else’s credit card. Not sure we’ll be going back there. Anyone got any other suggestions for lunchtime beer-n-burgers?