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Sunday, 29 June 2008

Clash of the Titans: Canon Vs Nikon

Who will take the crown of best DSLR; the Canon 1D MkIII or the Nikon D3?

"Being a working press photographer in London, I come into contact with a lot of photographers. Strangely, photographers from competing news organizations are best of friends once the action of the assignment dies down. Even stranger, Canon and Nikon users live in perfect harmony. Amongst press photographers, brand loyalty is perhaps not as strong as amongst other groups of photographers, and we speak quite openly about issues with gear; both good and bad.

For several years, colleagues who have shot on the Nikon D2 series of cameras have constantly complained on its noisy images and the fact that they can’t shoot at anything approaching 800 ASA and upwards. There were also complaints that Nikon refused to look at full frame cameras and kept insisting that the DX format was the best way to go. Canon users on the other hand were worried about their brand new 1D MkIII cameras and shooting in AI Servo mode in bright light. Thankfully for both camps, it looks like the two giants of DSLR manufacturing have been listening".

I have done a hands on review of both these cameras for the BJP (British Journal of Photography) out on July 2nd. If you're interested to read the rest of the article, get yourself a copy. Also in the same issue is coverage of the winning images from PPY (Press Photographers' Year), showing the best of British press photography from 2007.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Vincent Laforet Interview

In 2007 I had the pleasure of meeting Vincent Laforet at the University of Southern California (USC) where we were both part a small group of World Press Photo winners giving a seminar to the students.
I had been a fan of his work before we met and I must say that as well as being extremely talented, he's a wonderful chap to boot. Canon has an interesting interview with him here.

Update: Sports Shooter have a very interesting interview with Vincent which includes his thoughts on the industry - a must read.

46664 Concert: In Celebration Of Nelson Mandela

Lets face it, this is without a doubt the best job in the world. Yes, the days can be long and the stress plentiful; its occasionally dangerous and often unappreciated, however, its still the best job.
I was fortunate enough to cover the 46664 Concert, in celebration of Nelson Mandela's life, achievements, birthday and his charity. It was an amazing experience.
As always, there were some issues. The photographers' area was around 50 meters from the stage which meant my standard lens became a 500mm! The slightly bigger problem was that there were several hundred people in front of our position - which wasn't raised high enough. This brought its problems of trying to avoid the tops of people's heads (there's always someone very tall around in these situations!). It became worst as the crowd put there arms up, and even worst when camera phones and compact cameras were brought into play.
Still, it was an absolute joy to be there and a bigger joy to photograph it. We had two photographers covering it, two runners (taking our CF cards back and forth - many thanks Nina and Eli) and two AP editors back in the press room (Dejan and David - top job gents). Its such a joy to work with professionals. There was even some time for a little bit of fun!

EXIT Gallery Show

The EXIT Gallery private view of "A Looking Glass Eye - 21st Century London" exhibition took place on the 26th of June. Its by far the most unique exhibition opening I've ever been to. The concept of the show is an interesting one; modern day London as a melting pot of all that it is is mirrored in the montage of images capturing the diversity that is London.

What a week!

Its been an amazing yet ridiculously busy week!
I've had three assignments, one of which was the Mandela concert, given two seminars and a full day workshop and had a gallery show opening!
However, as is the life of a freelance news photographer, next week so far has one assignment in the diary!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Digital Photography & Imaging Show

"DPI" is on this coming Thursday and Friday in London. Anyone interested can pre-register for free entry to the event.
Check out the conferences and seminars time table on their web site.
The Guardian's Sean Smith and World Press Photo award winner Vanessa Winsip will be holding conferences at the event.
I'll be giving a seminar on press photography and my workflow on both days from 3.45pm to 4.30pm, part of which will be slide shows of work over the years.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Photoshop Disasters

Just came across a blog with tons of Photoshop disasters. Its got a load of really very funny and stupid mistakes made by retouchers / photographers.
My stand in any type of editorial photography is absolutely no Photoshop work outside of traditional darkroom techniques. The second we start to add or subtract anything from our images, we call into question all that we take with our cameras.
However, some tabloid papers and perhaps all beauty magazines retouch their images; sometimes very heavily, and often in a very obvious way. The Photoshop Disasters blog is doing a great job of showing the extent of this.

A Looking Glass Eye - 21st Century London

Just a heads up on a group exhibition I've got a few pictures in: A Looking Glass Eye - 21st Century London at the EXIT Gallery, above Soho Books, 121-125 Charing Cross Road, London WC2. 27 June to 12 September.

This summer the EXIT GALLERY at Claire de Rouen Books is putting on a group photography show of London in the 21st Century. A very ambitious project for such a small gallery. The star of this show is London, as seen through the lens of both new and established award winning photographers... Stephen Gill, Valerie Phillips, Wassink Lundgren, Simon Wheatley (Magnum), Peter Marlow (Magnum) and Edmond Terakopian to name a few. Just like the melting pot that is London, this orderly mess makes for compulsive viewing. It's free and on for over two months.

"Who you waitin' for"?

How often have you heard that? All it takes is a couple of photographers and almost every passer by will stop and ask "who you waitin' for"?
The unfortunate thing is that the public, no thanks to programs like the BBC's Paparazzi, think that every photographer is waiting for a celebrity. People seem to think that the only thing we photograph are celebrities.
Last week I was sent on a door step to try and photograph Abu Qatada who was released on bail. With his family, he's now living under house arrest in west London, with an allowance to leave the house for two hours per day.
It was rather amusing to see the reaction on people's faces when my colleagues would answer that we're actually waiting for Osama Bin Laden's right-hand man. It must have come as a bit of a surprise to find out that: a) we photograph non celebrities too and b) who their new neighbour is.

Sunday, 22 June 2008 up and running

Good news! My hosting company has sorted out their servers and my web sites are back online!

Saturday, 21 June 2008 down

It seems that somehow my websites and have been hijacked. There is also the less sinister possibility that there is a server issue with the company that hosts them.
I'm trying to resolve the issue ASAP.
In the mean time, if you do manage to get onto the above two sites, be warned that there are no areas where you will be asked to login. There's also no possibility to purchase anything, so if asked, do NOT give over any credit cards or any information about yourself.

UPDATE: Just got an email from the hosting company that there is a server issue. However, please play it safe and follow the above advice just in case it is more sinister than a server issue.

The Frontline Club Award

John D McHugh was awarded the club's first ever award for journalism last night. The award was given as a result of his outstanding work and dedication to covering the war in Afghanistan. Although John D is a photographer, he also covered the story using audio and video.
To read more about John D's experiences, see his blog.
On his last trip he was filing pictures and copy for The Guardian.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Larry Burrows Presentation

There's a superb short film on the great Vietnam conflict photographer Larry Burrows on The Digital Journalist. Well worth a watch.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The 20th Visa Pour L'Image, Perpignan, France

You often hears talk amongst photographers asking who's going to Visa or Perpignan. This talk refers to Visa Pour L'Image which is an annual festival of photojournalism, which takes place in Perpignan in the south of France.
This year's festival, the 20th, will run from the 30th of August until the 14th of September. During this two week period there will be some 30 exhibitions dotted around the beautiful city; the venues are very interesting in themselves - there is a convent and even a prison.
The professional week runs from the 1st to the 7th of September. This is open to professional photographers, newspaper and agency photographic staff and apart from the above exhibitions it incorporates talks and presentations, evening screenings (on a huge outdoor screen - this is also open to the public), a chance to show projects and portfolios to the agencies present and generally network.
This year will be the fifth time I'll be attending the festival. If you've never been, take a week off and check it out. You'll see some great work exhibited and if you're a professional, getting accreditation will open up a whole lot more. The talks and presentations are given by photographers at the top of their game and its an ideal and unique opportunity to see the world's picture editors all under one roof.
To top this off, the town is beautiful with some great restaurants. The social scene is one of the great things about the festival too. Just check out the Cafe de Post near the Castillet and you'll see photographers and editors drinking and chatting the night away 'till the very early hours.
One tip - book your accommodation now as the town gets packed during the professional week.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Electric plugs and sockets of the world

As the holiday season nears, I thought it might be handy to share this great page with all sorts of sockets and plugs from around the world. Its best to be prepared with the right plug converters!

As a photographer though, it always pays to have a small travel bag constantly packed for those last minute foreign assignments. My favourite adapter is the World Travel Adapter which is compact and will change any plug type to any socket type. I have four of these in my travel kit bag.

There are various companies from Tumi to Fuji who have the same product under their own branding; I actually don't know who makes the original one!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

My favourite portrait photographer

Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002).
If you're not familiar with his work, I strongly urge you to check out this new website dedicated to his life and photographs.
His lighting and compositions are a thing of pure beauty.

America's Forgotten War - Videos

I'm pleased to say that John D McHugh's back from Afghanistan and The Guardian have now posted the latest in a series of videos which he shot whilst out there; "Lost in Translation".

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Photo Therapy

What a day! I was supposed to have an assignment in London today but plans changed and I was sent to Canterbury. A journey which was supposed to take around two hours ended up taking well over three and a half hours. To top it off, the subject was rather rude. To say I was stressed would put it mildly!
On my drive back home my sat nav decided to take me on a bizarre route and I ended up in Hackney. Whilst driving through the back streets I saw the most amazing light shining through the trees in a local park. Eventually I managed to park up and went for a stroll, camera in hand.
Whilst these pictures will never set the world alight, they did me the world of good. Photography isn't only the greatest job and hobby, its also therapy; who would have thought?!!

Saturday, 7 June 2008

War on Photography!

Yep, you read it right! There's a war being waged against photographers; both pro and hobbyist.
Even the Met Police has made up posters asking people to be on the look out for people taking pictures.
The Guardian has an excellent article written by a chief security technology officer. Its a good read and has a few interesting links at the bottom. If you're in a public place, you can take pictures of anything (as long as they're not military installations) and anyone. 

Friday, 6 June 2008

The Press Photographers' Year 2008 Results

The PPY results were announced earlier today. Looking through the winning images in the slideshow, last year has proven to be a great year for British press photographers.

You can see the winners' list here.

Congratulations to Daniel Berehulak from Getty who has produced some stunning work; both visually strong and sensitive in approach, and is the very deserved author of the "Photograph of the Year"; PPY's highest accolade.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Claire de Rouen Books

I had a meeting at Claire de Rouen's bookshop yesterday for an upcoming exhibition at their EXIT gallery.
I have to say that this shop is a hidden gem! I was sad to see Zwemmers leave the Charing Cross Road in London; it was by far my favourite photographic book shop. I have now found the better alternative!
This place is definitely worth a visit. They specialize in photography and fashion. I think you'd be pushed to find a title they didn't have.

It took me several attempts to actually find the place! The address is Claire de Rouen Books, 125 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EA. However, they're based on the first floor and to gain entry you need to go to Soho Original Books and use the staircase to gain entry.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Does Size Matter?!

Ok, I’ve done the unthinkable! As photographers we need the most powerful laptops we can get our hands on so we can edit quickly in the field. So, what possessed me to leave my super fast Apple MacBook Pro at home and decide to take the MacBook Air on my assignment to France (mentioned in an earlier post)?

Well, it was all down to weight. I wasn’t sure what the level of access would be on the job, or how much trekking would be involved. On the camera equipment front, I decided to take the bare minimum, so I packed a couple of 1D MkIII bodies, a 16-35mm F2.8L MkII, a 70-200mm f2.8L IS, the 50mm f2.5 macro, a 15mm f2.8, a 580EX II flash and a couple of teleconverters. I really wanted to take the 300mm f2.8L IS, but decided that as I was going to be on foot and in the mud, it would’ve just slowed me down and brought excess fatigue. Anyway, the 70-200 and the x1.4 converter are a superb combination.

I’d originally packed my 15” MacBook Pro, but after I lifted the backpack (a ThinkTank Photo Ultra Light and Artificial Intelligence laptop sleeve) onto my back, it was just going to be too heavy to carry all day.

I’d originally got the MacBook Air to use as a laptop for holidays and to have with me on days off (I always have some camera gear with me). I’d played around with Aperture 2.1 on it and it worked fine, but was slower than my other Macs. I decided to risk it and packed the Air instead.

I was really glad I did! As it turned out, I only had around a mile of trekking to get to and back from the site, and I did this a couple of times a day. But having less weight to carry, really helped. As it was, after filing throughout the day and then late into the night, sleep was usually around four hours; so, anyway to cut down on fatigue was welcome.

We’d found a lovely little cafe in Romelles and this turned into a media office for our stay. The battery power on this tiny machine is amazing. Using it full on, I was getting over three hours of power. The single USB slot was a bit annoying, but usable. I do wish it had a Firewire 800 port as this is what I normally use for importing images. So, my workflow was to plug in the USB 2 card reader, import into Aperture 2.1, edit and prepare the images for FTP. Then I’d plug in the 3G modem, wire and unplug. This was followed by plugging in an external portable hard drive and backing up all images.

The only problem was that the machine was noticeably slower in use as I was editing hundreds of RAW images, however it was useable. Aperture’s minimum requirements are 2Ghz processors and the Air has 1.8. Also, not having a dedicated and powerful graphics processor is also an issue. But, as I mentioned, it did work and I didn’t miss any deadlines. As the assignment finished three days later, I evaluated my choice, and considering that there was a fair amount of trekking, I decided that the choice to bring the Air was the correct one. My back was certainly thankful (as were all the locals and other journalists who couldn’t believe the MacBook Air’s size!).

One thing I forgot to mention; I've got the 64Gb SSD version and I've never seen any computer, on any platform or any price point, boot up, start programs or shut down as quickly as my Air! Also moving files around either from the Air, or onto the Air is seriously quick too.