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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Canon & Vimeo Film Contest

The Story Beyond the Still - Behind The Scenes from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

Friend and colleague Vincent Laforet has announced a fascinating and ground breaking film contest on his blog.

In a nutshell, it involves films being made which take on the story from the end frame, a still image, on the film shot by the previous person. Watch the film and visit his blog for full details.

Storage For Photographers

Your Hard Drive Will Fail;

It’s Just A Question Of When

A yawn is the typical reaction from my colleagues when the topic of digital storage, archiving and backing up is talked about. That is, until one of them loses their work, because they weren’t paying attention to the need for a reliable back-up strategy. The yawns are then replaced by much shouting of obscenities and tears.

In this day and age of digital photography, the obsession of ever increasing megapixels, the need to shoot video and record audio, one thing is for certain; we need somewhere to store it all. The lazy and stupid will leave it all on their laptop until the disk’s full and then drag it off in a hurry, onto an external drive, usually losing stuff. Sometimes they’ll even be stuck on a job with no choice but to delete older stuff just so they can download the latest job and process it. I’ve even seen colleagues work straight of a CF card when in a hurry send a low res jpeg, forget to download the card and then format it. Disaster.

Sonnet's Fusion D800 RAID box with 8 bays

Although it’s a pain, at the end of a long day, it still pays to have a system. My personal way is to never format my CF cards until I have the same work on at least two hard drives. If it’s just on my MacBook Pro, then the CFs remain in my belt pouch until this has been backed up at home. I have a ThinkTank Photo Pixel Pocket Rocket which is always full of CF cards. I make it a point to have more than enough cards with me. I always have one small external hard drive with me too, so I might back up onto this. When on foreign assignments, I carry two external drives and back up onto these (these portable drives are never stored with my laptop. I’ll leave one in my luggage and have the other with me if leaving the laptop in a hotel or car). Once home, after a typical day in town or a trip, I’ll back up the assignment onto my Mac Pro’s Aperture Library.

I’m a big fan of Aperture and have it on all my machines. Apart from RAW processing, Aperture also acts as a fully searchable image database. At the moment I have more than 385,000 images in my Aperture library, and this number is constantly growing. RAW images are stored on an internal drive, in separate Project folders which are derived from the assignment. These are titled using a date and a name. An example would be “2009-09-28 Gordon Brown”. These Projects (with consolidated masters) are then backed up onto a Sonnet Technologies external SATA RAID box (more on which later). The same Project is also backed up onto an external hard drive which is kept off-site. It’s important to have off-site storage to secure the safety of data in the event of fire or theft. Lastly, important images, documents, video and audio are backed up to “The Cloud” (more on which later).

What’s New?

The old ways to back up were CDs and then DVDs. Blu-Ray doesn’t seem to have caught on, even though a double sided disc offers 50Gb of storage. The problem with optical storage, apart from the slow speed of writing, is that they don’t seem to have the longevity needed. I’ve had top brand CDs, kept upright in their cases and stored in cool, dark and dry conditions become unreadable after a few years. There is a 500Gb optical disc that’s being talked about, but again, how long is any media stored on that going to last? I for one certainly hope that it has proper archival stability, as it really would be useful to have.

My thoughts are that using several hard drives which are swapped out every three to four years, is the best method available. This provides speed and security. It also offers value for money, as drive prices continue to fall, with speed and capacities rising.

Seagate's FreeAgent FW800 hard drive units

If you’re wondering why I seem to have an obsession with several hard drives, and a golden rule that everything is kept on three drives at least, it’s because hard drives fail. It’s an absolute given. Anyone in IT will tell you that hard drives fail, it’s just a question of when. I’ve personally had a major brand name drive fail after 3 months of use whilst sat on a desk, but had others which have worked solidly for many years. It’s always a gamble, and you should be well prepared.

At the moment, I have 12 external drives in my office and all the associated cabling and power bricks cluttering up the floor area. After some research, I recently decided to go for a Sonnet D800 Fusion RAID ( ). This is an external SATA RAID box with eight drive bays. This means that it will hold eight hard drives, connect to my MacPro (its multi platform) using eSATA cables (connecting to its own controller card which installs inside your computer) which means that it’s blisteringly fast, and has only three cables; two eSATA cables and one power cable. To say that it’s a neat and tidy solution would be an understatement. I’ve recently finished moving my archive over to this system and will do away with most of the external drives. This also makes the office more quite and power-efficient.

I have the drives in the D800 set up in pairs of RAID 1 (also known as Mirror RAID). This basically means that everything that is saved on the drive (and you will only see one of the drives on your computer), is automatically copied onto its partnered drive. This is transparent, automatic and at the same speed. This protects the data from a hardware failure. I then manually back up data from this unit onto an external drive via FW800. This ensures that if by accident I erase an image, or an image gets corrupted, I can get it back from this back-up. These back-up drives are then stored off-site.

In use the system is amazing. Accessing images or video on the unit is blisteringly fast as it’s working over SATA, which is much quicker than even FW800. I’ve had the unit running for weeks without powering down and it’s been absolutely stable on the Mac Pro running Leopard.

The other new term you may have heard is “The Cloud”. This is virtual storage that’s kept on servers, somewhere in the internet, sometimes even in different countries. The Cloud’s not such a new thing, but with faster broadband, it’s now becoming more usable. Apple has had “.Mac” (now called “Mobile Me” ) for years. Part of this service has been the iDisk which has been a virtual drive, available for use by Mac and PC users. I’ve been using this system for many years, and although a little slow, it’s been solid and stable.

The other Cloud system I’ve been using for around a year is Amazon’s S3 via Jungle Disk ( ). This mounts a virtual drive onto your desktop (it’s multi platform) and allows you to use it like any other drive. It’s a faster system than iDisk and allows you to pay for the storage you use. At the time of writing, this is $0.15 per Gb per month. Your data is then saved on Amazon’s servers either in the USA or in Europe at locations which are not disclosed.

I’ve been using the Cloud in two ways. When on assignment, if I’ve shot a particularly important image, I’ve been saving them immediately to my iDisk. This has been for back-up purposes. Also, if I’ve got documents to which I need access, as well as having copies with me, I’ve also got them on my iDisk. This also includes email and FTP account details, which means if my laptop gets stolen, I can still function by accessing this information from another machine.

Jungledisk's activity monitor shown running on a Mac Pro

As my working year continues, every few weeks, I upload the edited pictures from assignments to my Amazon S3 drive. At the end of the year, like most photographers, I look through that year’s work and select my best work for competitions. Once I have this edit sorted, and the images processed to perfection, I take the contents of this folder and also upload it to Amazon S3. This gives me an off-site back-up of the year’s de facto most important and best work.

Lastly, a word on automated back-ups. I use Apple’s Time Machine to back up everything apart from my work images. This includes emails, invoices, letters, music, family snaps and so on. It’s saved me twice so far after I accidentally deleted important information. You can get back-up software for any platform, and I urge you to also have this system in place. For me, I use a separate FW800 drive for this purpose.

One thing’s for sure; as prices tumble for memory cards and hard drives, there’s no excuse not to have a solid and dependable back-up strategy. A little time spent planning and executing this strategy will save much stress and tears; trust me, I’ve seen enough colleagues suffer.

This article was originally published in the BJP on October 07, 2009.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Season's Greetings To All

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I wanted to wish everyone a peaceful holiday season. A very merry Christmas to all who celebrate and a happy holiday season to all. I wish the new year to bring you all joy and good health; wisdom and luck too :-)
Take care and keep well :-)

Monday, 21 December 2009

Pictures Of The Decade

I'm pleased to share the news that the Press Association (PA) have named one of my pictures from the London bombings as one of the ten news pictures of the decade. My thanks go to one of our industry's top picture editors Martin Keene at PA for including my image in his selection. I'd also like to extend my thanks to Phil Coomes for featuring this on the BBC's excellent blog on photography, Viewfinder.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Cops & Togs

Gaza demo, London. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

No doubt you've all heard of the Police's "War on Photography"; not so much Axis of Evil, but f-numbers and shutter speeds. I have to say, that its becoming ridiculous. Photographers, professional and enthusiast, are being constantly bullied and their rights completely eroded by the Police's misuse of Section 44. For those not in the know, this act is all about Terrorism and not photography.
Someone I know through Twitter even commented that all of this is making him stop coming to London to take pictures! Its an absolute disgrace, and all the Police officers who are guilty of misusing this power, be it the officer on the street or those sat behind desks and throwing down these orders should be ashamed. How disappointing that in this free country that we think so much of, the act of wanting to photograph something in public is being used as a reason to hassle law abiding people; be they news gatherers or people being creative. We are supposed to have freedoms in this country and I beg all officers around the country to take a step back and see the situation they have created. I wonder how the tourist trade might suffer if visitors to our shores realise they're not allowed to take photographs outdoors?!

Now I fully understand that our country is under the threat of terrorism and I myself was on the front line in Edgware Road tube station after the bombing there. I applaud our intelligence services and the Police for all the successful operations they have carried out and for cleaning the streets of extremists who do not believe in our freedoms (the Police don't seem to believe in these either). However, I would assume that a person involved in gathering intel would probably just log onto Google's Street View (why doesn't anyone shut this down? I'm guessing Google's lawyers would be a match for anybody where as individual photographers are easy targets) from the comfort of their home. Or, I would assume that they would use small cameras and blend in with the thousands of tourists around town. Maybe they would even use spy type cameras in their ties, hand bags or hats?! Would they really used big DSRLs, sometimes on Tripods? Seriously? Is this what the intelligence tells us?

Being frisked by a security guard at Wembley Stadium. Photo: Stuart Emmerson

I've been a professional news photographer for over 20 years now, and it saddens me to see how much things have changed. Although relations with the Police haven't always been brilliant, they have been miles better than this. We spend so much time stood at the same cordons that its ridiculous not to become friendly! There is no need for hostility, misinformation or game playing. There is room for respect for each other, honesty and humanity.

I remember in the early 1990s going to a light airplane crash (which unfortunately was fatal for the pilot) in an address in Harrow, Middlesex. The light plane had crash landed into the wooded garden of a mansion in the area. It was one of those rare occasions when I was suited and booted, and naturally the woodland was thick and the rain heavy and constant. After a few officers played their games and sent me on wild goose chases, I finally came across an officer who showed me where it was. He took one look at me and said that I couldn't really get through the woodland with all my gear whilst wearing leather soled shoes. To my disbelief, he took my huge Billingham bag off my shoulder, My Canon F1n and 300mm f2.8 off the other shoulder and led the way! It was a long trek. He was kind enough to take me to the inner cordon and naturally asked me not to go inside - which is totally understandable. To this day I regret not making a note of his name and praising him to his superiors. Polite and helpful; a real gentleman.

In contrast, I was covering the Palestinian demos at the Israeli Embassy in London at the beginning of the year. As the night drew on, the Police started to kick out protesters, arresting those that they had special interest in. However, press or no press, we were thrown out of this area too. Not so much of a problem, but the TSG officer escorting me to a safe distance walked next to me, with a gentle hand on my arm. Once we got there (I need to point out that I was naturally doing as asked) the officer just drove both his arms into my chest and pushed me! Why he did this, I'm not sure. I think he was perhaps aggravated that I was doing as told. Again, I wish I'd taken a note of his number. Pointless!

* 'Togs' is a common shortening for 'photographers' *

Friday, 4 December 2009

Report-First Open Workshop, 28 November 2009

Workshop in progress at Jacob's Pro Lounge. Photo: Ghene Snowdon

Photography is alive and well, and talent and passion are in abundance. This is my conclusion after my first open workshop which took place at the end of November. It was kindly organised by Ghene Snowdon of Photosocialise and I'm forever thankful for the wonderful folks at Jacob's for letting us use the Pro Lounge in their New Oxford Street branch.

The idea behind doing a one-off workshop was to see the interest from photography enthusiasts and I have to say that I was left very enthused myself. The day went superbly with an introduction of my work, lots of Q&A, a briefing and then some street photography by the attendees of the workshop. We then had a quick edit session and a projection of the collective works.
The feedback has been so great and the suggestion of a series of workshops has been made several times, that I'm pretty sure we will get together a series for 2010; watch this space! If you'd like to see more workshops, please make a comment, adding any suggestions for what subject matter would interest you.

I'd just like to share with you my favourite top five images of the day. In the end it was between two images for the top place, and you can see them below:

First Place: Harry Engels

Runner-Up: Antje Bormann

Also in top five: Carlo Nicora

Also in top five: Johan van Eck

Also in top five: Matilda Egere-Cooper

Here are, in no particular order, some comments from Twitter on the subject of the workshop; many thanks for all the kindness :-)

"thank you for the talk. Very interesting and inspiring - look forward to the next one"

"Thanks to @terakopian for the great Workshop! "

"@terakopian well fone fella. A good workshop worth attending."

"@terakopian excellent workshop. thank you!"

"@terakopian Also re the workshop, I'd happily have paid double. Really enjoyed it and would happily do another."

"Back from an inspiring workshop with @terakopian. This is my achievement; as it turned out, runner up of the day:"

"@terakopian Hey Edmund! Enjoyed today, looking forward to the next one x"

"@terakopian it was a great workshop!! well done!! so glad I came :-)"

"@terakopian thank you very much for the useful workshop! I hope you run it again (and again)!"

"@terakopian Hi Ed, great workshop on Saturday, really enjoyed it and the chance to see other people's take on street photography."

Finally, a couple of blog posts regarding the workshop:

Monday, 30 November 2009

Olympus E-P1 - Full Review

Photographer Edmond Terakopian trying out the new Olympus E-P1 with the 17mm lens and external viewfinder. June 27, 2009. Photo: Ghene Snowdon /

These are very exciting times for photographers. Admittedly, if the recession wasn’t on, it would perhaps be even more exciting as we would be able to afford these things, but nevertheless, in the past few months there has been a range of great cameras announced.

The first of these, and the subject of this review, is the Olympus E-P1. This is the first in a new genre; the micro four thirds non SLR interchangeable lens camera, which was announced earlier this year on June 16. Its a great little camera. In a nutshell, it has a 12.3 Megapixel sensor, shoots at 3fps, ISO range of 100 to 6400 and has a built in IS system. The camera was launched with two lenses; a 17mm f2.8 pancake (equivalent of 34mm) and a 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 (equivalent 28-84mm).

I first got to play with the camera for a couple of hours in June, and this first brief encounter left me smitten. The E-P1 was everything the Leica M8 should have been. I have yearned for a proper digital rangefinder since switching over from film and have been disappointed by Epson and Leica’s attempts. Having tried the M8 twice, alas it was clear to me that it just wasn’t for me. The sensor’s cropped size, terrible performance in mid ASA’s upwards and need of extra filtration has put me off for good. I really wish that they sort out these shortcomings instead of just focusing on limited editions and luxuries like mineral crystal LCD covers.

However, a lot has happened since then. On September 2nd, Panasonic announced the very interesting Lumix GF1, which like the Olympus is a micro four thirds camera with interchangeable lenses. Interestingly it has an optional electronic external finder. Having had a Leica Digilux 2 for several years, I’m used to this type of finder but not necessarily a fan; on the Digilux 2 fast panning movement would cause streaking and lag. I’m looking forward to testing the Lumix GF1 to see how its electronic finder works.

Leica also announced the M9 and X1 (which appears to be a Lumix GF1 but with a fixed lens and different body) on September 9. Although I have yet to test either of these cameras, apart from its price point, the Leica M9 looks like it just may be the camera to get Leica back into the world of working photographers. To add to these, Canon announced its G11 on August 19; whilst it differs from these cameras by having a fixed zoom lens (equivalent of 28-140mm) and being firmly in the compact camera category, it promises to be a great tool as it has thankfully left behind the megapixel war and concentrated on image quality, whilst being based on the very user friendly and sturdy G10 chassis. Whilst at launch, the Olympus E-P1 was totally unique and literally in a league of its own, it now faces some tough competition.

The camera has a fantastic feel to it. It’s solid and well built and for weeks I’ve had it on my shoulder. Its feel just encourages you to pick it up and take pictures. Eclipsed by only the Canon 5D MkII, I’ve never had a camera that has piqued the interest of my colleagues so much as the E-P1; on any type of gathering, it has instantly been the topic of conversation.

As my colleague Jonathan Eastland pointed out in his technical review (BJP 29.07.09) one instinctively brings the camera to the eye; alas there is no viewfinder and the rear screen is used much like any digital compact camera. Thankfully there is an option of an external optical viewfinder, the VF-1, which is matched to Olympus’ pancake 17mm lens. This tiny little accessory changes the camera completely. Olympus had difficulty in getting the VF-1 to me and for several weeks I carried the camera to jobs and couldn’t use it. I am of the school where a camera is raised to the eye and not kept at arm’s length. After this initial period I was very close to calling the camera a flash compact camera that had interchangeable lenses. However, fitting the viewfinder makes it a very useable tool.

I generally put the camera onto centre spot focus and could more or less guesstimate where the point would be in the external finder. This system works very well, both in terms of speed and accuracy and only failed on a small percentage of shots. Whilst the camera is generally fast to focus lock, it does rarely just take so long that the shot passes you by; as I mentioned though, this was for a small percentage of shots. Another focusing mode which worked surprisingly well in combination with the external finder was face detect; this would recognise faces in the composition and rather accurately focus on them.

Although the VF-1 is a snug fit, it needs a lock. To take this external viewfinder system to the next level, it would be fantastic if it incorporated some electronics in the form of focusing spot points, focus lock indicator and exposure values.

However, as things stand, the only four thirds lens with a matched external optical viewfinder is Olympus’ offering as reviewed here. Panasonic is launching a great looking 20mm f1.7 (equivalent 40mm) pancake lens. As Panasonic’s viewfinder is electronic, there is no matched optical version. My thoughts are that for this camera to really work and be useable, there needs to be a set of prime lenses with matched external optical viewfinders. My personal wishes would be for a 24mm or 28mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses to be added, all with their own matched finders. Ideally, the current 34mm pancake lens will also be replaced with an f2 or faster version. Whilst the silver version of the camera I have been reviewing looks great, the only other option is white. I have yet to see this in the flesh, but it does look great in the pictures. What’s really desperately needed is a black version.

The 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 (equivalent 28-84mm) zoom lens is a surprisingly good performer in good light. Its tiny size meant that I had it with me for “just in case” situations. Naturally this lens has to be used with the rear screen as there is no zooming external finder available. I must admit though, I was smitten by the little tiny 14mm pancake lens which is smaller even than my Leica M lenses. Its a fantastic performer, producing sharp, contrasty images full of colour. Flare was very well controlled too. My only wish, as mentioned before was that I just wish it was faster than f2.8.

Unlike the Panasonic GF1, the E-P1 does not have a built in flash. Olympus however do offer the dedicated FL-14 flash. Like the camera, its very well made and feels solid. In use, it has a tendency to occasionally over-expose the first shot and then is fine for remaining shots. For its size, and considering it uses two AAA batteries, its amazingly quick to recycle. Using it on aperture priority with slow shutter sync enabled produced some excellent and very well balanced results.

This camera performs rather well in higher ISOs. Its never going to come anywhere near a Canon 5D MkII for low light work, but as far as Olympus cameras are concerned, it does do an extremely good job. I did a whole series of shots from 100 to 1250 ASA, and all of the images impressed. 1600 and 2000 ASA were usable, and anything above is really for emergency use. The fact that the camera has IS and the 17mm is f2.8, does mean that you can work in pretty dim situations.

The camera has a 3fps motordrive which is pretty impressive. It’s very responsive and the drive speed makes it very usable. The unfortunate thing is that the camera is very loud. It’s not even the drive; the shutter is just too loud, even on a single shot. Considering there is no mirror to move, the camera should be much more quiet.

The main use I put the camera to, especially when the finder finally arrived, was street photography. It just seems to be in its element on the street. Although it was shiny silver, the size meant that it could be easily hidden and taken out for a picture. I found it very usable and really enjoyed making pictures. It just so happened that when on most of my news assignments, although I had the camera with me, I didn’t use it much. This was purely down to not having the external viewfinder yet.

So, who’s this camera aimed at? It’s not a compact and not an SLR; think of it as a modern day rangefinder style camera. For me, its ideal for features, reportage and street photography. However, its usefulness depends on the lenses released in the future. These need to be fast prime lenses with matched external viewfinders. Newer models really need to be much quieter (I’ve used DSLR’s which make less audible sound). But even with these improvements, it’s not all clear cut; the offerings from Canon, Leica and Panasonic will need to be considered. Having said that, I congratulate the birth of this new format and wish it longevity.

Originally Published in the BJP, September 2009

For a full set of images shot on the E-P1 please visit my Flickr page

Saturday, 21 November 2009

ABC News' Person of the Week

Conservation Through Photographing Decline

Daniel Beltra, a photographer who has dedicated his career to documenting the inhumanity of man to his surrounds has been named by ABC News as their "Person of the Week". There's an excellent video showing just why this accolade has been afforded Beltra; to see the it, please click the link at the top of this article.

Friday, 6 November 2009

What Would You Do If You Won The Lottery?

It's a question often asked by people. Sometimes the answers are more predictable but occasionally they are completely unique and full of character. To mark the 15th anniversary of the National Lottery, I had the pleasure of photographing 15 lottery winners who have spent some of their winnings on the quirky to the life-changing. Its been a fascinating journey that has taken me all over England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and all the way to Canada. The shooting of the project took around five months, sometimes spending days getting to location. Its been an absolute joy to do, and I'd just like to send a big thanks to all who helped from the Camelot press office, and the kindness and patience shown by all my photographic subjects.

Meredith Davies from Carmarthenshire won £2,069,730 in October 2004. He set up a stud farm with around 25 Welsh Cobb ponies for £100,000. Photographed with his partner Kate Chester.

The project will be exhibited at the Fulham Palace Gallery from November 14 to 22 (check the gallery's opening hours, on their web site). The exhibition is spread across two huge rooms with some of the images being printed by Metro Imaging to over 2 meters across. Its going to be well worth seeing.

Technically speaking, I decided to carry identical kit to all the shoots. This would help keep the same flavour across the shots. I packed everything into a ThinkTank Photo Airport International, including a Change-Up and Skins pouches to use when on location. Camera kit consisted of two Canon 5D MkII bodies (5D for the first shoot as I didn't have the Mark II yet!). Lenses were the Canon 15mm f2.8, 16-35mm f2.8L II, 35mm f1.4L, 85mm f1.2L II and the 70-200mm f4L IS. Looking through the images, it looks like my favoured lenses were the 16-35mm and 85mm.

Sue & Peter Busby from East Yorkshire won £1,660,769 as part of the Tesco syndicate who scooped £18,268,465 in July 2005. They purchased a luxury, top of the range Lunar caravan for £14,500. With their dog Jasper by the shore of Derwentwater, Northern Lake District. Keswick Camping and Caravanning Club Site, Keswick, Cumbria.

The many thousands of RAW images, occupying many gigabytes of storage were backed up across several drives, including the brilliant Sonnet Fusion D800 and in the 'cloud', giving me peace of mind. All the editing, captioning, colour corrections, raw conversions and output were done on Apple's Aperture and finishing touches added on Nik Software's Viveza and Sharpner Pro 3.0. The ultimate compliment came from master printer John Cleur at Metro Imaging when he said that the files looked great and needed very little work done to them before printing!

Thea Bristow, who won £15 million in July 2004, features in this landmark exhibition and is pictured flying over her 13-acres of woodland – a purchase which meant the land was saved from housing development. Over 300 new trees have been planted and a walkway built through the woodland before it is opened up for the public to enjoy.

So, don't forget to check out the exhibition from November 14 to 22 at Fulham Palace Gallery, Fulham Palace, Bishop’s Avenue, London, SW6 6EA.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

First Open Workshop

A montage of images of me at work, ranging from 1994 to 2009

I'll be having my first ever open workshop on November 28th, 2009. The general themes will be photojournalism and street photography. It's going to be most suited to intermediate and advanced photographers, both amateur and professional. Although having done many workshops, lectures and presentations in the UK and abroad, this is the first ever open one, meaning anyone can book and pop along.

Part of the workshop is also a portfolio review, so if you think your work might benefit from some one to one attention, you can also book this.
I'll be showing some work from my 20 year career as a press photographer, answering any questions you may have and then getting down to the actual workshop, so make sure your batteries are charged and your cameras ready!

The business and booking side of things is being dealt by Ghene Snowdon, so visit the Photosocialise site to make bookings.
As it's a first and there's a recession, we've decided to keep it mega cheap. These prices will definitely never be repeated again, so if you're interested, do make a booking sharpish - places are limited and are booking up already!

To see a report from the workshop, click HERE.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Kew's Seed Bank Hits 24,200 Species

Kew Seed Bank 2009 - Images by Edmond Terakopian

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership celebrates banking its 24,200th species, a Yunnan banana seed - a pink wild banana from China which is an important staple for wild Asian elephants (Musa itinerans). Royal Botanical Gardens Kew is celebrating collecting, banking and conserving 10% of the world's wild plant species. Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst Place, East Sussex. The seed is banked inside the vault which is kept at minus twenty degrees centigrade.

Must admit, I thoroughly enjoyed this assignment. Its astonishing to see the size of the project and how much has been achieved already. It still leaves 90% to be collected though, so visit their web site and see if you can help out.

At work with my 5D MkIIs and Think Tank Photo bag and pouches

Photographically speaking, I took a couple of Canon 5D MkII bodies and mostly used the 15mm f2.8 Fisheye, 16-35mm f2.8L II, 35mm f1.4L, 50mm f2.5 Macro and the 85mm f1.2L II.
What really surprised me was how well the cameras and lenses behaved, but more so the batteries; I was going from minus 20 degrees centigrade (which reached minus 30 near the coolers because of the wind chill) to hot and humid greenhouses and then back again to the arctic temperatures. After having shot over 1000 RAWs, both cameras' batteries showed full power! Astonishing.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Focus on the Rainforest by Daniel Beltra

Press preview and soft opening of photographer Daniel Beltra's exhibition Focus on the Rainforest with The Prince’s Rainforests Project and Sony exhibition, Nash Conservatory, Kew Gardens, London. September 30, 2009.

Daniel Beltra, Focus on the Rainforest from Edmond Terakopian on Vimeo.

Winner of this year's Prince's Rainforests Project via the Sony World Photography Awards, Daniel Beltra, has his new exhibition is opening to the public from October 3rd to December 6th, 2009 at Kew Gardens. The theme is the project shot for the PRP, Focus on the Rainforest.

The exhibition is a collection of very graphical and interesting images from the Amazon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia, depicting deforestation around the world, and showing some of its effects to our environment.

Beltra's list of awards is impressive. He has two World Press Photo awards, winning Best of Photojournalism and International Photography/Lucie contests and is a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. He has also won the Global Vision Award from the Pictures of the Year International contest, to name but a few. His career began by being a photojournalist in his native Spain and he has shown the same journalistic approach to documenting the state of our environment, concentrating on man's effects on it.
His love of nature and the environment drove him to freelance for Greenpeace for the past 20 years. He is represented by the prestigious Reportage by Getty Images.

The standard of photography is stunning, and only outdone by the versatility shown by Beltra's approach. Images taken from the air showing natural beauty and toxicity of the human condition are only matched by the sensitivity and respect shown to the subjects of his photographs on the ground. He is equally at home in the air with his Canon 100-400mm lens, as he is on the ground with a 24-70mm on his Canon 5D MkII.

I can't recommend this exhibition highly enough; definitely put aside some time and go and see it.

If you'd like to be kept up to date with his projects, become a fan on Beltra's fan page on FaceBook or visit his website and follow the blog link there.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Leica M9 & X1 - Hands On Preview

Leica M9
Trying out the M9. Photo: Antje Bormann

Yesterday I had the opportunity to have a look at the new Leica M9 and also the X1. The M9 was a final pre-production model, so it was pretty much what you would get if you bought one. However, the X1 was a mid pre-production sample so my comments should be taken lightly until I get a chance to try out a final sample.

A small bit of background info on me; I used to shoot quite a lot of my film work on Leica M rangefinders. I've had the M4-2, the M4P and the M6. My lenses back in the day ranged from the 21mm f2.8 to the 75mm f1.4. I've always loved the quality of the cameras and more so the lenses. The silent approach to picture taking has always suited me.

At 160ASA the image quality is stunning

Alas the M8 put an end to the love affair and I had to definitely close the door on Leica; I just didn't think the quality was there. Terrible image noise when trying to work in low light, a cropped sensor and that silly filters on every lens thing just put me off. I tried the M8 when it first came out and recently a few months ago, and it still didn't do it for me.

Seems that the M9 has put a stop to that though and I find myself yearning to get back to my rangefinder days; well, the recession's kind of getting in the way, as there's no way for me to justify the £4850 price tag, but at least now its not the quality that's putting me off, but merely the cost. As the chap from leica said yesterday, its reassuringly expensive!

This image at 1250ASA is still extremely good and way above the M8 in quality

At first glance the camera's very similar to the M8 but now thankfully has a dedicated ISO button. The interface is usable but no way is it near the ease of use offered by the latest Canon DSLRs. Still, its a big improvement on the M8.

At 500ASA image quality is fabulous

Where the camera really shines though is that it now has a full frame sensor. The cropped sensor of the M8 was a huge disappointment for me. The other huge improvement is that there is much less image noise, so working in low light is again a possibility. Whilst the camera's high ASA ability doesn't come anywhere near matching a 5D MkII, its still very impressive and a million times better than it used to be on the M8. At 160 ASA its faultless; absolutely stunning. I pushed it higher to 1250 ASA and its still extremely good. There's some grain, but it looks right and the colours also look right. I shot a load of tests indoors under mixed lighting and also outdoors in daylight and apart from some shifts in the auto white balance, the colours where great.

Whilst the shutter is no were near as silent as the old cloth shutters, it has several quite modes which allow the cocking to be done on release of the shutter button; this makes operation much more quite.

As far as the quality of the files concerned, I'm extremely happy with the jpegs which you can see here. As the camera has only just been announced, I'm waiting for Apple to release a RAW update so I can have a look at the RAW's using Aperture. If the jpegs are this good, I'm sure the RAW's will be a knock out.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm really happy with this camera; Leica and Kodak who make the sensor chip have done a great job and made the camera usable as a professional tool. With the M8, you got great shots if all the elements were right and the light was perfect; now with the M9, it looks like you can adapt to the elements and not just give up.

My full review of the Leica M9 is now available HERE.

Leica X1

The other camera of note which has recently been announced is the X1. Initial rumours suggested that it was based on the Panasonic Lumix GF1 which is a micro four thirds, interchangeable lens camera. It isn't the case though, as the sensor is a bigger APS-C sensor with a lower crop. The X1 however doesn't allow you to change its 24mm f2.8 lens as its fixed. This 24mm lens translates into 35mm in 35mm terms. I really wish that it was an f2 though.
Its a very handsome little camera and feels nice in the hands. I was rather impressed by the lens as distortion is very well controlled and the optics are pin sharp. However, I must admit that I wish they had made it an interchangeable lensed camera. However, to use this camera properly, I'd seriously suggest an external finder as otherwise its just a flashy compact camera. At 500ASA, the image quality was very good and noise was well controlled. Focusing was sure footed and pretty speedy. My only initial thoughts are that its a shame there is no face-detect, as this would work well when using the external finder - I have since found out that it does have face detect. Although an early sample, I must admit to being very impressed by the image quality.
As mentioned before though, I'm going to reserve full judgement as this was a mid pre-production camera.

For a gallery of images check out my Flickr.

Addendum: You can now read my full review of the Leica M9 in the BJP (British Journal of Photography).