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Thursday, 31 July 2008

Selling Cameras From A Plastic Bag - by Tim Bishop

At any party there’s always bound to be a few guests who are a pain.  It may be just a little bit too much wine.  They might get loud and shout.  There’s a scene.  Asked to leave, and it all gets aggressive. These are the people that may even have been just passing by, heard the noise, fancied a free drink, and slipped in without an invitation.

But the worse guests are the ones who were invited, but just didn’t know how to behave.

So at the start of the celebrations for the UK only press photography awards since the demise of the Picture Editors’ Awards (PEG), The Press Photographers Year (PPY), supported by Canon Cameras, four hundred squeezed into the foyer of the Lyttleton at London’s National Theatre complex on the South Bank to see the pictures, buy the book, and watch the winners get their prizes.

These are not photography awards as we have known them.  Forget the grand guest speakers to tell us how clever they are, with some obscure connection to photography: a politician, a celebrity, someone who has had to cope with ‘being photographed a lot’.  Even strike that black tie. As for seating plans: there are no seats.

It will come as no surprise that the PPY, who charge next to nothing for press photographers to enter, and is free for members of the British Press Photographers’ Association, needs to be heavily supported, and simply wouldn’t exist without the long term support of Canon. But in keeping with the emphasis on the pictures, Canon have been content to keep the branding low, and the marketing opportunities by reputation. It wasn’t even noted that all but one of the winners in the twelve categories of the PPY used Canon. No product on show.  Let the images speak. It’s all about pictures, not photographers, images not cameras.

So what did happen to that 35mm camera so many professionals used to use? Surely not everyone shoots Canon? What about Nikon?

Back five years ago, Canon readily agreed to be a sponsor for a project called ‘Five Thousand Days’, put together by the British Press Photographers Association (BPPA).  A number of  BPPA members who were not then Canon users, were keen to involve their camera manufacturer, Nikon, as well. We asked Canon if they might agree to a ‘joint sponsorship’ for the ‘good of the profession’. Then, to our astonishment and delight, Canon tentatively agreed. This would have been a first, and particularly brave of Canon, who had nothing to lose, as they were already by then the market leader in professional 35mm cameras. 

A small group of dedicated long term Nikon champions arranged a meeting. All seemed promising, as Nikon had recently announced they were pulling out of sponsoring the ill-fated PEG awards. These three BPPA members, who between them had scooped dozen of photographic gongs, including World Press, met at the corporate offices of Nikon in South West London.  It didn’t go well. At the end of the meeting, two of the three, Jeff Moore, the Chairman of the BPPA, and Edmond Terakopian, BPPA committee member and a World Press Photo winner, immediately decided to switch to Canon. Since then, they both have become major champions of the ‘Canon brand’, and between them have encouraged many others to switch.

What happened?  The boys were told by Nikon that ‘press photographers were not a target market’. Nikon just didn’t get it did they? It really wasn’t about marketing: It was support. Nikon firmly shut the door in the face of the five hundred or so members of the BBPA. At a conservative estimate, BPPA members have a total spend on cameras in the millions of pounds annually. Nikon’s contempt for press photographers spread through the trade like wildfire, and they couldn’t have made a bigger marketing blunder. Nikon were already losing the technical battle in the digital scrum to produce the quality, speed, and design professionals craved, now they lost the goodwill too.

Imagine the organisers surprise at this year’s PPY, to see amongst the packed opening, someone working the crowd with a mission.  Not unlike a replica watch salesman in Nanking Road, Shanghai, there was a hiss in your ear, and turning, photographers were face to face with a well know representative of Nikon Cameras.

Those Chinese watches certainly look very like Cartier, they sparkle and all is gold, but you don’t have to be a horologist to know that you don’t buy expensive designer watches from a man in the street with a plastic bag.  I suppose by the same token, you’d be pretty silly to be excited by a rude guest pushing a ‘top end’ professional camera from a plastic bag as well.

I’ll leave out the ‘I wonder if they’re fake’ jibe, though it’s tempting. And quite a few camera makers must want to build their own Canon 5D, the camera that many would argue has changed the way many news photographers work: light, small, highest quality full frame file size, and low cost.

“Pssst..want to see the new Nikon D700?”

Author: Tim Bishop

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Obama Visits Number 10

Barack Obama, US Democratic presidential candidate visited Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street yesterday. Not being a head of state, one would imagine there wouldn't be a huge media presence there. However, there must have been around 150 members of the press. Colleagues who had covered George Bush's last visit to Downing Street told me that there were only around 20 press for his visit!
During this kind of visit, it pays to get to Downing Street to reserve a spot early; very early. The visit was to start at 9am, and I got there just gone 7am. However I know friends who'd been there from 6am!
Bruno Vincent and a colleague fix their remote cameras to the scaffolding.
One of the nice things about the job was the huge American media attache who were travelling with the senator. I got a chance to chat to a few of my colleagues from across the pond; its quite funny that one can strike up a conversation with a total stranger. With the common element of photography and our passion for what we do, the conversation just flows!

Alas the whole side of the street we were on was covered in scaffolding which made getting a good spot even harder. Due to some good luck and a chat with the Police I managed to bag a spot directly opposite the door of number 10 - perfect!
The two hour wait for the senator's departure and press conference.
The only down side to this is that it means you really can't use direct flash as the door is a high gloss black which reflects really badly. Being a fan of natural light this wouldn't normally worry me. However, as luck would have it, it was a very bright sunny day. This sun though was falling on number 10, and half way through the street was shadow. Where the senator was due to stand for his press conference was in the shaded area, and as a result the back ground was at least 4 stops brighter! Normally I'd try and balance this by using flash, but this just wasn't possible.
Luckily I was using Canon 1D MkIII bodies (and a 5D). On the MkIIIs, there is a highlight tone priority custom function which helps with trying to eliminate blown highlights. The problem was that the exposure latitude between the extremes was too much for this custom function to cure on its own. I ended up having to slightly underexpose the foreground. But shooting in RAW and using Apple Aperture (which has a great restore and highlight feature) meant that I could get the images right. The combination of the camera's custom function and software worked perfectly.
Apart from this technical issue with light, the scaffolding and the large number of us squeezed together like sardines, the day actually went quite well!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Eizo Monitor At Great Price!

Came across this from a company called Sterling XS. They're selling brand new Eizo Flexscan S1921-SH 19" monitors at £152.74 (in VAT).
Eizo make some amazing monitors. Whilst I have no personal experience with that monitor, the price seems to good to miss. Also, I have no connection with the company, but wanted to share the deal.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Photographers' Quotes

Came across the Photo Quotes web site today. Makes good reading!

Can You Believe All You See On The TV News?

Whilst watching the BBC News yesterday, I saw an interesting and bizarre story about the world's first hotel made of sand; the Sand Hotel on Weymouth beach in Dorset. It had a concierge and you could stay there for £10 per night.
I decided to make the three hour drive and timed it so I'd be there just before sunset to get some nice soft light. My other hope was some pictures of the concierge and the guests who had paid £10 a night to stay there. Imagine my disappointment when I found an empty "hotel" with a security guard.
The whole story was made up and a pure publicity stunt; you couldn't pay to stay at the hotel and the story, whilst obviously a silly and fluffy story was reported in a way that said it was actually a temporary hotel, which it was not. Now, this is the silly season and news organisations do scratch the bottom of the barrel sometimes, but I just don't condone behaviour which straight forward misrepresents the reality of a story. The story was a good one and should have been covered, but they should have mentioned that its just purely a stunt and people cannot use it as a hotel.

Broadband - Are We Getting What We Pay For?

I'm probably one of few who have two ISPs. I have Demon ADSL using copper wire and Virgin Media using Fibre Optic for my broadband at home.
I took out the Virgin Media because as a bundle with cable TV it was working out cheaply.

I just did a speed test at 4.30pm and the results are astonishing!

For Demon, I pay for an 8Mb connection but get 0.52Mb download. Upload was 0.36 Mb.
For Virgin Media, I pay for a 20Mb connection and get 17.98Mb download. Upload was 0.7Mb. To get these speeds with Virgin you need to make sure you're in an area that has fibre optic; don't go for the copper wire ADSL as it'll be just as slow as everyone else's.

This isn't Demon's fault as its the technology which is terrible. Using copper wire has many drawbacks; distance from phone exchange and number of people using the pipe. Most ISPs have a 50:1 contention ratio. Fibre Optic doesn't have these issues.

In this day and age of doing almost everything via the computer these slow speeds are crazy! Naturally for us upload is often more important and I use Virgin when filing from home or doing off site backups. Its so much quicker. As "Cloud" services begin to grow and we're beginning to use off site virtual storage providers, internet service providers really need to start looking at raising these upload speeds.

Copper wire is dead; bring on fibre optic for the masses.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Apple iPod Touch and iPhone Version 2.0 Update

I've written about my fondness of the iPod Touch before, so I won't be going over those comments.
What I did want to share though was the amazing Version 2.0 update. I don't have an iPhone yet, so my comments are from experiencing the update on the Touch, but the same should hold for the iPhone.
I upgraded around a week ago and I must say its turned my unit into a completely new piece of kit, making it even more useful than ever.
The most obvious change is the "App Store" which can be accessed either from iTunes or the iPod Touch itself. There are already loads of applications available, ranging from utilities to games.
I've installed a few things:
1-File Magnet which allows you to transfer files across from your computer.
2-Vicinity which finds your location using WiFi triangulation and lets you know where nearby places are, including banks, bars, hotels, convenience stores, hotels, restaurants, taxis etc. Absolute genius software.
3-Google Mobile App which works like Spotlight for the unit. Superb.
4-Backgammon which has got me hooked, and
5-Super Monkey Ball which is a very entertaining game where you control game play by tilting the unit! Very novel!

One of the other big changes is "Mobile Me" which is the new name for ".Mac". This "pushes" changes to your calendar and phonebook straight across to your unit (its having some teething problems and doesn't happen immediately yet) and also pushes new email to the unit without you having to do this manually.

Just moving away from the iPod and iPhone, the "Mobile Me" service works perfectly with your other Macs. I now have all my Macs fully synced automatically. Its absolutely superb!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Rates For The Job - PR & Commercial Work

As photographers, one thing we are all universally good at is moaning. We moan about work, lack of work, our picture desks, the light, lack of light, wrong type of light, cost of everything and pay, or more correctly, the lack of pay.
Editorially, shift rates have gone up very little over the past decades. However, the cost of equipment has gone up astronomically and the job is no where as well paid as it used to be. Our workload has also gone up as we now do all the post processing as well.
In the days of film you could have a descent professional camera system for around £10,000, now days you're looking at more like £30,000. To top this, you also need to change cameras a lot more often as digital is changing and getting better at a very speedy rate. Lets not even talk about the computing technology making leaps and bounds.
Where we do have some control on the rates of pay is in the PR sector of the market. However, we choose to shoot ourselves in the foot. My rates haven't changed in years, and I stick to them no matter what the client says. Everyone tries it on; the client doesn't have enough money, the job's a quick one, its a hospital, its a charity etc. One thing you can be sure of is that the PR companies charge full wack, but they will always try and get the photographer for cheap so they can have a larger profit margin; why not? Its a business and they have to make money - but so do you.
The problem we all face is that less established and less experienced photographers are under charging massively for this type of work. PR rates have always been three to four times that of editorial work. However the thought process seems now days to be "well, some money is better than none" or "its better than doing an eight hour shift"! Painfully, its not just the less established photographers who have this philosophy; alas a few established names are also doing this.
In the short term this does mean more income. The thought being to make money. One of the excuses being "well the economy's not that strong". Be warned though; once you drop your rates and give discounts and do things like editing or wiring for free, you will never be able to get back to your normal charges when things get better. Its a one way street; there's no going back.
My advice and my way is to stick to my rates and not budge. For very regular clients I'll do DVDs for free, or drop a wiring charge as a token of appreciation for doing long term business. I know that once I give in to a cheaper rate, this rate will then be always expected regardless of who the end client is or how well the economy is doing.

24mm to 60mm f2-2.8 Lens On A Compact!

Panasonic has announced the new Lumix LX3 which has a 24mm-60mm f2-2.8 lens. Thankfully the manufacturer has stuck to 10 Megapixels rather than jumping on the bandwagon of cramming more in (although in my opinion 10 is still too high for a compact with a small sensor).
According to Panasonic the low light capabilities of the camera are an improvement on its predecessor.
It can go up to 3200ASA at full resolution and shoot at 2.5fps.
Accessories include an 18mm wide angle converter, external optical finder and a flash.
No idea how this camera's going to perform, but the press release makes interesting reading and on paper the camera seems superb.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Natural History - How Flashguns Are Made

As I'm in a silly mood, I'll share a funny one!
Those who were under the impression that flashguns are made in a factory might want to check out this.

Screen Calibration

This is such an ignored practise that its astonishing!
We all put a great deal of effort in getting to the right place at the right time, take our pictures making sure they are technically correct, download the images to our computers and then completely mess up the colour on an uncalibrated monitor!
Every single monitor, be it a separate screen or a laptop's screen behaves differently. No two are identical. Each one shows a completely different tone to the colours we see on screen. On top of this, we change the brightness on our screens (especially on laptops) depending on the ambient light and then proceed to change levels, curves and saturation settings on our images.
These are then saved as jpegs and sent to the office where someone on a calibrated screen proceeds to try and correct our mistakes and as a result the image becomes degraded.
One of the most important things in image processing is to start by having a calibrated screen. For those who have never tried this, it seems a scary and expensive prospect. Surprisingly, its both easy to do and relatively cheap.
You can pick up a good screen calibrator from around £150 up. My personal calibrator is a Gretag McBeth Eye One Display 2 (now owned by and rebadged X-Rite). This came with its own software which was pretty decent. However, I discovered something called Color Eyes by Integrated Color which gives even better results and supports a host of calibrator pucks. You can download a free trial and compare it to the results you get from the supplied software that came with your system.
I've used this on Apple 30" Cinema Screens, an aluminium iMac (which doesn't calibrate perfectly as its screen is way too bright) and several MacBook Pros and a MacBook Air (which calibrated perfectly).
Go on, invest a little money and get your screens set up properly; you won't regret it!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Nokia E71

At long last, the Nokia E71 has arrived to our shores after its recent launch. Vodafone has it listed as "coming soon" and its available SIM free from several outlets.
I've been using the phone for over a week now and must say that I'm extremely impressed by it.
I had the E61 previously which served me well. The E71 does everything the E61 does, but better and in a much smaller and more stylish package.
Although the E71 is much smaller, the keyboard is a work of genius and is surprisingly much easier to type on than its predecessor.
The phone supports push email on both POP and IMAP services which is handy for checking out emails on the move without resorting to taking out the laptop.
The web browser on the device is also very capable and makes it very easy to check the internet when needed on both 3.5G and WiFi.
The user interface has been improved and the phone's screen and hard key shortcuts are fully customisable. What's more, the Symbian OS is much faster and there is practically no lag when using it.
I've also found the battery life (which is changeable) to be excellent, easily lasting for over two days of solid use.
The only negative point so far is that when syncing with a Mac using iSync and the Nokia plug-in, the descriptions field in the calender is cut short and will only carry a long paragraph. The E61 didn't have this problem and long text could easily be added and synched from computer to phone and back again. I find this a huge problem as it means I can no longer put long details for assignments on the phone. I do hope this is sorted out soon.
Apart from that, I'm very impressed by the phone and can't recommend it enough. The only other phone which has caught my interest is Apple's new 3G iPhone which I'm toying with getting on a separate phone line.

Parking in London

Probably the single most annoying thing about working in London is the parking problems one encounters from borough to borough.
I came across Park-Up which is a great web site which helps out a lot with details of where to park on and off the road. Check it out!

Axis of Evil Photoshop Technique

Its nothing new; photography's been used as a form of propaganda for decades. All you have to do is research the Soviet Union's use of picture manipulation.
However, the newest form came out of Iran a few days ago when images of the missile tests got released.
Apparently one of the four rockets didn't fire and was "photoshoped" in later.
Read more about it at The Guardian and the National Post.

50 Not Enough For You?!!

Well, if 50 megapixels isn't enough for your needs then you might be interested in the new P65+ by Phase One which has 60.5 megapixels.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Photo Forum - Thursday July 10

A quick heads up on Photo Forum which will be taking place tonight from 6pm to 8pm at Jacobs Pro Lounge, 74 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1EU.
Tonight's gathering, free and open to all, will showcase "Toys", the result of more than ten years of travels round the world from Julio Etchart, a short show featuring the coverage by 15 of London's finest photographers of President George Bush's visit last month to Downing Street and a presentation of work by me. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

First Reviews for Apple's 3G iPhone

The first reviews are now hitting the internet for the 3G iPhone.
In a nutshell things seems positive with the faster 3G, the news apps and GPS with the only real downside seeming to be the shorter battery life (which still seems to last an average day).

See the reviews in their entirety at:

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

How Many?!

50?! Yep, its 50! Hasselblad's just announced their new H3DII-50 which has a 50 megapixel sensor. That's more than twice the output of the Canon 1DS MkIII!
The H3DII-50 produces a 300Mb file, shoots at 1fps and has an ASA range of 50 to 400.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Apple 3G iPhone now available to order

I'm sure almost everyone has heard of the new 3G iPhone. Its launch date is July 11, but you can also now order it direct from O2 and have it delivered for the 11th.

John Moore Interview

Digital Journalist has an interesting interview with john Moore; well worth checking out.

400Gb Optical Storage....on one disc!

Pioneer have developed a 16 layer optical disc which will hold 400Gb on a Blue Ray disc. This is obviously great news for archiving pictures. However as with all things optical, its going to take a while to find out what the longevity of these discs will be.

As a side line, my advice is back everything up on at least two hard drives and then optical media. Also, look into "cloud" services like Amazon S3 (Using Jungle Disk) or Apple's ".Mac" (soon to be relaunched as "Mobile Me" for virtual storage space on remote servers for important files.

Thursday, 3 July 2008


I've just come across the work of Zoriah. I must admit to not being aware of his work, but he has some very powerful images and a very interesting blog.
This picture shows the aftermath of a suicide bomb in Iraq. An elderly man sits as if asleep in a lawn chair. He has in fact lost his life. To read more about the day's events, look here. Please be warned that there are some very powerful images which may be upsetting to some.

W. Eugene Smith Fund - Deadline 15 July

The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund wishes to remind
all that call for submissions to its 2008 Grant in Humanistic Photography is still open for entries.

Application deadline for the coming W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography is July 15, 2008. Photographers interested in applying may download an application at:

We hope you will spread the word by email to photographers in your communities and to emerging photographers who might still not be aware of the Grant.

The W. Eugene Smith Grant is presented annually to a photographer whose past work and proposed project, as judged by a panel of experts, follows the tradition of W. Eugene Smith’s compassionate dedication exhibited during his 45-year career as a photographic essayist.

For 2008, the Smith Grant will be $30,000, with an additional $5,000 in fellowship money also to be given at the discretion of the jury. The Grant recognizes photographers who have demonstrated a commitment to documenting the human condition. The grant program is independently administered by the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund and is funded in part with contributions from Digital Railroad, Getty Images, The Mona Fund, and Open Society Institute. Winners receive their awards in a ceremony held in New York City in October One of the most prestigious honors in photojournalism, the Smith Grant was established in 1978 following the death of Smith, the legendary photo essayist, by his friends Howard Chapnick, Jim Hughes and John Morris to perpetuate his work and spirit. The grant program provides photographers with the financial freedom to envision and carry out major photographic studies.
Applicants must include a written proposal, which should be, concise, journalistically realizable, visually translatable and humanistically driven.

Applicants are also asked to provide a resumé of educational and professional qualifications along with evidence of photographic ability in the form of photographic workprints (8”x10” prints preferred, and no more than 40), and/or photocopies, duplicate transparencies, contact sheets and clippings of published stories. Digital images will be considered only if delivered as low-resolution jpegs on a CD or DVD (no RAW files, TIFF files, or on-line applications).

The Smith Fund’s executive committee appoints a three-person jury each year to review the applications and proposals. The jury meets twice, first to select finalists. The finalists are then asked to submit a comprehensive photographic portfolio, to write a more details and focused proposal and to answer questions about the project.

At their second meeting, the jury reviews the new material and selects the grant recipient and the recipient of the additional fellowship. The recipient must warrant that the project in progress is ongoing, and agree to provide the Fund with a set of photographs when the project is completed. The photographs will be housed as part of the permanent W. Eugene Smith Legacy Collection at the ICP.

There is no entry fee. The application advises that preliminary material will be returned only when accompanied by appropriate packaging and sufficient U.S. postage or its equivalent in U.S. dollars or prepaid return Delivery Form by courier. The Fund is not responsible for loss or damage.

Please send all submissions to:

W. Eugene Smith Fund c/o ICP
1133 Avenue of the Americas
New York, 
NY 10036 — USA

For any and all questions please email:

Trying To Be Different

A couple of days ago it was hot. The temperature reached 29C and as anyone in the industry knows, weather pictures are all the rage. Its a strange concept, but the papers love weather pictures; not just extreme weather either.
As I wasn't on assignment, I decided to go and try to find a good weather picture. In a situation like this, one has to try and be different, and the obvious shot of people sun bathing isn't going to stand out.
So I decided to head to Kensington Gardens and see if I could get anything different. I had seen birds taking a bath in a fountain there many years ago, and thought this might make a good shot.
Alas, it didn't really work!
Two hours spent in the sweltering sun produced a couple of ok pictures, but nothing amazing. I believe the saying is "never work with children or animals"!!

Why a D700?!

As a Canon user the answer to this is pretty obvious to me. However, having been asked this question, I thought I'd share my answer here.
The reason some Nikon users can't see the point, is that when a grip is included in the price of a D700, the cost comes close to the Nikon D3, which is more rugged and faster.
The whole point of the camera for me would be to use it without the grip, making it smaller and marrying it up with a handful of prime lenses and going old school. This won't work for some more newsy situations, but for reportage, features and portrait jobs its a perfect setup.
Along with two Canon 1D MkIII bodies, I also use a couple of 5Ds. I have a bag (ThinkTank Photo Urban Disguise) with two 5Ds, a flash, and a bunch of primes: 20mm f2.8, 28mm  f1.8, 35mm f1.4L, 85mm f1.2L II and a 135mm f2L. This is the bag I pick up for the types of work mentioned above. The 1D MkIII, zooms and long glass is used for traditional news and extreme weather conditions (as its weather sealed).
The Canon 5D without doubt has revolutionised how photojournalists work. Its given us amazing image quality in a small body, with small batteries and chargers. All one has to do is look at the amazing work produced by photographers like Sean Smith (The Guardian) and multi award winner Daniel Beltra.
The D700 still has to prove itself, and I have no idea about its image quality or handling. The one thing which is certain though is that Nikon are way behind Canon on prime lenses. None of the Nikon glass (apart from the super telephotos) have built in silent AFS motors and at the high end, the range is very small. Nikon needs to bring out fast aperture, AFS primes covering the wide to short telephoto range. This married to the D700 could promise a killer system.
Rumours have it that the Canon 5D replacement is due later this year. I for one can't wait to see what Canon have done. It'll definitely be interesting to compare the 5D MkII and the D700.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

New Nikon Full Frame Camera

It certainly seems the folks at Nikon have been busy. There had been a few rumours on the net about the Nikon D700, and now the full facts are out:

12.1 Megapixel Full Frame
ASA 100 to 25,600
51 point / 15 cross-type focusing points
5 FPS shooting speed (8 FPS with optional grip)
Colour AF Tracking
Built in sensor cleaning
Priced at US $2999.95

Its good to see Nikon taking a U-Turn in its original stance of refusing to consider full frame cameras as it used to insist that its DX format was the way to forward. I guess the Canon 5D's sales have proved to the manufacturers that there is a huge market and need for full frame.

For more details and pictures head over to DPReview and Rob Galbraith.