Sunday, 22 November 2009

This is why I always have a camera with me!

OK, it was only my iPhone 3G, but it's good enough for this. I thought that these shots would give you a laugh a show a great example of memorable sign writing on a van for sanitary engineer!

You'll not miss this in your rear view mirror!

Both of these images have had some work with "The Best Camera" iPhone app. You can view them on my Best Camera page

Monday, 16 November 2009

Good Bye MXV (Sussex) Ltd

It's with a heavy heart that write this post. MXV was one of those camera shops where you always received a hearty welcome from the staff and invariably left the shop spending money even when you had no intention of doing so.

Paul Beaumont had a knack of recruiting very knowledgable staff who without exception also had a well developed collective sense of humour. In one case I'd say the humour was more warped than mine (which takes some doing!). It became a standing joke between Jim & I that the main reason I made period pilgrimages to Uckfield was the fact that I received a better level of abuse from the staff than I did at other camera stores.

I sorry to see MXV close and wish all the staff well for the future in these difficult economic times.

The Digital Journalist

There is a common myth that all content on the web is or should be free. Ultimately someone has to create this content at the expense of their time and business overheads. Everyone has to make a living in order to survive and if we don't make money from what we do, we have to find other sources of income.

This morning I received the email below from Dirck Halstead, publisher of The Digital Journalist. As you'll see, what for many of us has become essential reading over the years, may come to an end as Canon are no longer prepared to supports Dirck's work.

Think carefully before you subscribe to the plethora of free information on the web. Is there a donate button to help the publisher of the information continue publishing? Does the information add value to your work and in turn make money for you, r just give you pleasure? If so, give something back.

Here's Dirck's letter:

I am afraid that the December issue of The Digital Journalist may be our final issue, at least for a while.

As many of you on our mailing list know, The Digital Journalist has been online producing our monthly magazine, about visual journalism, for 12 years. During that time we have presented the memorable work of some of the greatest photojournalists in the world, while offering opportunities for publication to many new photographers. Our columns and reviews have taken a 360-degree look at the industry, and predicted much of the upheaval that has taken place as the media around us have been buffeted by the shifting winds of technology, and now, a crippling economic downturn.

We have also sponsored over 37 Platypus Workshops around the world, which have taught photojournalists how to cope with and adapt to these industry changes.

Unfortunately, our principal sponsor, Canon, whose market has also been impacted by these turbulent times, has decided they can no longer afford to provide their financial backing to The Digital Journalist. We are very grateful for the generous support they have given us over the years.

Even before Canon's decision we were planning to reorganize. We are aware of how seriously a lot of our readers, who make their living from photojournalism, have been hit by the recession through the failures and cutbacks of countless publications, magazines and newspapers, as well as TV and cable. Our reorganization goal is not only to continue publishing The Digital Journalist, but to provide funding in order to send photographers out into the world to do their work, documenting the important stories that shape our lives and history.

Such an ambitious undertaking requires serious fundraising efforts on our part.

So we are asking you, our loyal readers, numbering more than 10,000, to help us raise these funds. Effective immediately, we have set up a PayPal link on The Digital Journalist ( ) and urgently ask for your pledges so that we can continue the work which will help us all. We have never solicited paid subscriptions, but these dire times call for dire measures.

If you value The Digital Journalist, this is the time to step up and make a pledge. If enough people do, we may be able to keep The Digital Journalist -- and video journalism -- alive. Consider it as an investment in yourself, and the future.

Thank you all for your loyalty over the past years. We appreciate your continued support, and look forward to seeing you on the Web.

Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher

Thursday, 12 November 2009

South Downs National Park Boundary Announced

Given the chance, I spend as much time as I can in this wonderful part of the English countryside. It's a place of changing moods and lush green rolling vistas. The South Downs are a great place to exercise, relax and unwind.

Today, Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP (Secretary of State Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) signed the documents officially stating the long awaited boundary decision. You may be thinking that this was probably done behind closed doors somewhere in London, or in the offices of the South Downs Joint Committee - but no, the whole process was carried out in a quintisentially English location - The Ditchling Tea Rooms, located in the village of the same name.

It's quite normal for an event such as this to be hush-hush and consequently I only found out about the job late in the afternoon the day before. Again, this is one of those commercial jobs that's time sensitive and had to delivered within a couple of hours of being shot.

Here are someshots from the morning. They're not the ones the local press would use, but record this historic event and also illustrate that with preparedness and timing interesting shots can also be had.

Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP points towards the South Downs.
For those of you who remember the BBC TV series Fawlty Towers, this reminded me of a scene where Basil Fawlty (played by John Cleese) is up to his usual antics!

Checking to see that he's been given the right files to sign!

To me, this shot says it all.

As professionals we have to be prepared for the unexpected and ready to work at short notice, some times making the most of a not so ideal location - photographically, that is. Ditchling Tea Rooms are a fine establishment, serving and excellent range of snacks and beverages with especially good scones!

I must crack on and get my gear ready for the morning and finish backing up today's data.

For those of you interested, here's the press release:

South Downs Joint Committee welcomes designation and boundary decision for new National Park

Local people can be certain today whether or not their home will be inside the new South Downs National Park as Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced its finalised boundary. The Secretary of State’s commitment to the creation of a South Downs National Park was emphasised by his signing the designation order in Ditchling, which lies within the confirmed boundary of the National Park. The order will bring the Park into existence from 31 March 2010.

The first members of the new National Park Authority will be appointed and in post from April 2010. They will, over the following 12 months, agree how the National Park will be run and what its priorities should be. During this time, the South Downs will continue to be managed by the South Downs Joint Committee (SDJC).

Martin Beaton, SDJC’s Countryside Officer, said:

“The South Downs National Park has been 60 years in waiting and today we are one step closer to permanent protection for this unique working landscape. We now have a definite boundary and our experienced staff, rangers and conservation volunteers look forward to working with the new National Park Authority members. Together, we will work to establish the best National Park for the 21st Century and beyond.”

Alice Holt Forest in Hampshire and Green Ridge to the north of Brighton have both been included within the boundary, along with other areas of land that were considered at the public inquiry in August 2009.

Detailed boundary maps can by found on Natural England’s website at:

Marks and Spencer, Haywards Heath Store Fund Raising

If you're wondering why this is here? I was the photographer who produced the images for the press release. A simple job that has to executed in a professional manner and delivered the same morning. Difficult to acheive if you have a another day job.

Even a simple group shot such as this needs a degree of planning and pre-visualisation. It's no use going into an assignment and not knowing what shots to get. You're being employed as the professional and must know what you want, and how you're going to get it. And, most important, be able to communicate your requirements and get people on your side. The above shot took less than 5 minutes in execution, but probably 30 minutes planning - which is just as well as I had 10 minutes before the store was due to open and rain was beginning to fall.

Oversize cheques and glasses of fizz seem to be essential for this kind of local press stuff. Part of the skill is not getting the hands looking too messy and making sure the client's branding is clearly visible and in a spot where it can't be cropped out of the shot - in this case it's on the cheque, but you still have to make sure a stray arm doesn't obscure the logo.

Employees from the Marks & Spencer store in Haywards Heath presented a cheque to St Peter & St James Hospice yesterday after having raised nearly £5,000 under the M&S 125 Fundraising Challenge. The challenge saw M&S employees across the country aiming to raise £1.25million in 125 days as part of the retailer’s 125th birthday celebrations.

This target was smashed with M&S employees pulling together to raise over £2million for local and regional charities. The Haywards Heath store more than tripled its original target of £1,500.

Yesterday, Fundraising Coordinator Karen Riddleston and Section Manager Sandra Pack (OK, I've an interest in this story, she's my wife!) handed over the cheque, which was gratefully received by Gill Cronin from St Peter & St James Hospice, a charity which provides specialist care and support for those living with progressive, life-limiting illnesses in East and West Sussex.

The store raised the money through various fundraising initiatives, the highlight of which was a 125km in-store bike ride undertaken by staff. The store also involved local schools, including the Windmills Junior School in Hassocks, Harlands County Primary School in Haywards Heath and Southway Junior School Burgess Hill. Between them the schools raised nearly £500 for the cause by hosting ‘Bright is Beautiful’ non-uniform days.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Free London Photo Walk

Ben & I have teamed up with Helen Atkinson , the director of Snapperstuff (who import Think Tank Photo bags amongst other fine photo gear into the UK) to bring you a free photo walk in London on Friday 11th December 2009.

Park Cameras have kindly donated a £10.00 gift voucher for each participant.

For more information visit the dedicated page on

This went to the press yesterday and we're already getting a lot of interest. So if you want to come along, be sure and contact me soon to reserve your place.

Here is one of the frames I created last week when planning the walk. If you do come along and want to participate in the mini lowlight and night workshop, you'll need a sturdy tripod.

Canon EOS 5D MkII, 24 – 105 mm f4 IS L Series. Focal length 24mm colour temp. 4850K (daylight), RAW, -1 stop exposure compensation, tripod, remote release, ISO 200, f8, 1/6th sec Image cropped after adjustments to RAW in ACR

If you're without a tripod you can use a firm surface for support and still achieve a good shot. I always have some off-cuts of fleece (the stuff they make thermal clothing with, not the stuff from sheep!) in my bag. This serves a multitude of uses including stopping your gear scuffing and as a base when you're making long exposures. For those interested, I'll be demonstrating a few techniques to steady your camera when the tripod has been left in the car or "it's a pain in the ... carrying the damn thing, so I won't bother taking it!". Which in my experience, it's normally the latter.

Must go now and return to editing this morning's images.



Monday, 9 November 2009

Sussex Symphony Orchestra at St Bartholomew's Church, Brighton

On Saturday evening I had the pleasure of witnessing a stunning performance of Verdi's Requiem Mass by the Sussex Symphony Orchestra and the Sussex Chorus conducted by Mark Andrew-James.

I was lucky enough to present as part of a long term project documenting activities in around the church and inner city Brighton parish. St Bartholomew's church has to be one of the most spectacular churches in England and as one person said last week, it's on a par with some cathedrals. Put a choir and orchestra in St Bart's and you've the makings of a great evening.

The above frame was shot from the organ gallery with a Canon 5D MkII and 24 - 105 mm f4 IS L Series lens, securely fixed to a Manfrotto tripod. During the perfomance I was allowed to capture frames from the side lines providing I didn't use flash, which in any case would provide a distraction and be useless at some of the shooting distances unless I set up remotely fired units, for which there was no time. Um, lighting the above shot with flash would be a challenge!

Personally, I prefer to work with the available light where possible and remain invisible.

This shot of mezzo soprano Yvonne Howard was captured handheld with Canon 5D MkII and 24 - 105 mm f4 IS L Series lens at 1/13th of a second at an aperture of f5, focal length 105 mm the image stabilisher switched on and my back braced against a wall! Flash here would not be appropriate and totally distract form the performance and performer. I could have used a monopod to support the camera, but left it in the car - idiot!

The colour balance for these frames was set to tungsten which was appropriate considering the lighting set up. For me, the both the RAW & JPEG files were a bit on the cool side, so I added some red & yellow for a tad more warmth.

I'll be posting more images as the project progresses, so watch this space.



Aaduki Multimedia Insurance Price Freeze

Following on from my post on Friday about the theft and loss of valuable camera equipment I've just been informed that Aaduki Multimedia are freezing their rates until the end of December 2009.

Press Release:

Aaduki Multimedia Insurance has announced it’s freeze on rates for photographers, journalists and video makers/film makers due to expire on the 31st October has been extended until the 31st December 2009.

Vince Brown, Sales Manager for Aaduki said, “At this time of economic uncertainty we wanted to try and offer the best deal for essentials for the media industry, that is why we are proud to announce the extension that insurers have agreed to today.

Nik Stewert, National Marketing Manager said, “Vince and the team at Okehampton have been working hard behind the scenes to let Insurers know that the multimedia community is suffering from the economic crunch and that we need to try and mitigate this as best we can so as to keep the industry moving in the right direction. I am delighted that he has managed to secure this agreement which I believe will benefit a majority of photographers and video makers particularly those on a smaller income.

Aaduki Multimedia has been working hard to offer best value for money for its customers all through 2009. It continues to strive to do this and quotes are available Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0845 838 6933. Quote indicators can be obtained 24 hours a day from the Aaduki website.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Theft and Loss of Camera Equipment

I've just been reading a story on a US website about a spate of thefts of high-end DSLRs from wedding photographers in Salt Lake City. Apparently, thieves are following photographers and then stealing kit from their cars once the car is unoccupied. The photographer in the story was unlucky enough to loose all her gear, laptop, hard drive and Compact Flash cards! Which also meant she'd lost all the valuable images from the wedding.

I may be over cautious, or even paranoid, but whenever I shoot a job, whether it was in the days of film or now digital, I ALWAYS, without exception take the media with me when I leave the car. As professional photographers we have a duty of care to our clients to protect our images of their special day, event, products or whatever.

These days I copy my Compact Flash cards to an Epson P3000 storage device and whenever possible an external hard drive via my MacBook. If you must take your laptop with you to a job, make sure that any valuable data is backed-up and stored elsewhere, or better still don't keep critical or valuable data on any device that you remove from your premises. My hard and fast rule is simple - make sure before you leave a job that the image or video data is backed up to two devices in addition to the original Compact Flash or other media cards.

When I'm working I use a Think Tank Photo Pocket Rocket to store my Compact Flash cards. Each card is individually numbered and contained in its' own pocket. My workflow is simple; make sure that all the Compact Flash cards have been erased or formatted in the camera in which they will be used before you start your shoot (this will save valuable minutes when working); all cards are face up in the Think Tank Photo Pocket Rocket before I start work; as the day progresses the cards are returned to the respective pocket once copied to the Epson P3000 with the numbered side now visible. This work flow will reduce the possibility of accidentally loosing your valuable images.

Once the job is over (given time, but if there's tight deadline, this isn't always possible) I find a quite corner and copy each Compact Flash card to an external hard drive via my Mac Book, returning the Compact Flash cards Think Tank Photo Pocket Rocket with the numbered side uppermost.

Think Tank Photo Pocket Rocket is then placed in my pocket along with the external hard drive and doesn't leave my sight - for whatever reason.

Something we also need to consider is the security of our gear when stored in our cars. If like me you have an estate car you must ensure that your gear is covered at all times. My vehicle has a manufacturers sliding cover over the load area, which I've covered with some reflective sheeting to reduce the temperature when left in the sun. The manufacturers covers are better than old blankets as they give no clue as to the contents. Blankets take on the shape of the cases underneath. Also consider securing your bags to the load securing rings if you have vehicle with these D shaped rings or other fixings. Think Tank Photo have introduced the Airport Security v2, International v2 and Airport Airstream roller cases with added lock and cable features. Also, these cases have the added benefit of allowing you to move your gear in style without a cumbersome backpack or shoulder bag.

And finally, insurance. I can not stress the importance of having the correct cover for your gear and business. Whilst cover may not be cheap, in the event of a loss it can save you a lot of stress. You'll need All Risks cover for your gear and Professional Indemnity cover in the event of losing images. There are many good insurers in the UK. Two that come to mind are Towergate Camerasure and Aaduki Multimedia - both of these insurers in my experience understand the professional market and provide the appropriate policies.

Epson P series storage devices may be purchased from Park Cameras.

Think Tank Photo bags are available from Snapperstuff.

And lastly, you'll never see me do a "What's in my bag?" on this blog or any other website. There's no better way of telling potential thieves what gear we own. If anyone wants to know about the gear I use, either get in touch or participate in a photo walk or workshop.

Remember, look after your gear and it will look after you.



Thursday, 5 November 2009

Kata Dream Bag Challenge

Kata Bags have announced their new competition for 2009/10 - the Dream Bag Challenge. This is an opportunity to submit a design or designs for your dream photo bag. For the duration of the competition each design submitted will be judged by a panel of experts and posted on the Dream Bag Challenge website

In return you could win a mega prize of your dream bag being made by Kata and filled with $5000 of photo gear including a Canon EOS 5D MkII camera body, lenses, Gitzo tripod & Litepanels LP Micro Pro LED light source. Currently, the competition has been announced by Bogen Imaging in the US, but not the UK.

If you have an original or radical idea for a camera bag, look very carefully at the Terms and Conditions before submitting your idea - the prizes may look attractive, but if you submit a design*, you will in all probability be loose any rights to ownership of the intellectual property for the design or designs. The T & C's have been written (from what I can see) for the US Law. You may want to check validity with an English legal advisor before entering your design to the competition. If you belong the BIPP or Federation of Small Businesses in the UK, their legal advice telephone services may be able to help.

You could also look at this another way; no doubt all the other camera bag manufacturers will be looking at the designs submitted to the Dream Bag Challenge. Who knows what the outcome could be?

*I haven't looked to closely, but have any of the competiton design authors exerted their IP (Intellectual Property) ownership of their bag designs submitted to Kata?

Here's the link to the competition T & C's.

Good luck with your entry! I've an idea or three, but I'm holding back...

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Canon Easy-PhotoPrint for iPhone

Canon today launches the “Easy-PhotoPrint for iPhone” application (Canon iEPP). Free-to-download, the simple application prints photos from the iPhone or iPod touch wirelessly to Canon PIXMA MP990, PIXMA MP640 and PIXMA MP560 printers.

The user-friendly application is compatible with iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch (OS 2.2.1 or later) devices and produces excellent quality Canon prints in three easy steps: from opening the application, to image selection and printing. Once the Canon iEPP application is installed from the iTunes App Store, it takes care of all the hard work – automatically detecting printers on a WiFi connection so users can quickly enjoy printing their images.

Utilising the intuitive iPhone and iPod touch technology, users can review an index of thumbnail images with a simple flick of their finger. With an effortless pinch of the fingers shots can be enlarged for a clearer print preview - a handy feature that cuts down on unnecessary printing. A swift touch then sends the selected image directly to the PIXMA printer.

Photos downloaded from online photo sharing sites or taken on the iPhone can be printed effortlessly. Furthermore the Canon iEPP application incorporates the ‘camera’ button so new shots can be seamlessly captured and printed. Supporting various Canon media types and sizes , with options for bordered or borderless printing, the Canon iEPP grants users the freedom to easily print and enjoy their images.

The Canon iEPP application will be available for download from early November.

Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise® 70 Pro

For the photographer carrying two regular or pro size DSLRs with lenses attached to each
camera body – or even a 70-200 f2.8 lens attached to any camera body – Think Tank Photo
announces the release of the cavernous Urban Disguise ® 70 Pro.

This is a briefcase style gear bag for traveling in style and protecting camera equipment without attracting attention as an obvious camera bag. The interior accommodates a host of camera configurations that enable photographers to keep all their gear secure in one bag.

It features:
• Secret pocket -- On the inside of the front pocket is a “secret” zipped pocket. It is designed to hold airline tickets, passports, and other irreplaceable items.
• Attaches to rolling bags -- The Urban Disguise 70 features a slot that allows it to be secured to a roller. A tab on the bottom prevents it from accidentally unzipping.
• Stretch pockets -- The pockets on either side of the bag stretch to hold items like mobile phones, strobes, and even smaller water bottles.
• Business card slot -- The back of the bag has a slot big enough to hold many business cards so you can give them away to clients and friends.
• Rear zippered pocket – Ready access to magazines, notebooks, plane tickets, and other essential items.
• Shoulder Harness -- With Think Tank’s Shoulder Harness (sold separately) the shoulder bag converts into a backpack.

Like all of the Urban Disguise shoulder bags, this new model is designed to
allow photographers to travel in style while protecting their valuable equipment from
prying eyes. They are intentionally designed not to look like camera bags, thus
allowing photographers to carry even their larger lenses into potentially perilous
settings. “This design concept is the culmination of years of observation of
photojournalists and other photographers who have jury-rigged their bags to
decrease their public exposure,” said Think Tank Photo founder and lead designer
Doug Murdoch. “Whether it is a professional who wishes to maintain a subtle
presence in potentially dangerous situations or a serious amateur who wishes to
lessen the risk of having their gear ripped off, the Urban Disguise’s design allows the
right gear to be carried with less fear.”

Internal Dimensions: 37 x 31 x 16.5 cm
External Dimensions: 38 x 32 x 19 cm
Weight: 1.0 - 1.7 kg depending on accessories used

Recommended UK price £135.75 inc. VAT

# # #

Online from:

In store & online from: 360 Tactical VR; Arrimedia (Uxbridge); Clifton Cameras (Dursley, Gloucestershire);
Conns Cameras (Dublin, Ireland); EOS Magazine www.eosmagazine.
com; Fixation (London); Grays of Westminster (London); Harrison Cameras (Sheffield);
Jacobs Photo & Video (London; Cardiff; Leicester; Newcastle); Morris
Photographic (Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire); PFD (Manchester); Speed Graphic