Staff Writer on June 29th, 2010

I have just completed my latest project on Architecture and have posted some of the images in the gallery for you to have a look at.

The interesting thing about projects such as this is that as well as having to get to grips with the challenges of photographing buildings during the day and at night, it is an opportunity to learn more about the buildings themselves, the architect, the owners past and present and even the history of the period when they were built.

I decided to go for Regency architecture, which basically means John Nash working for the Prince Regent. Between them they completely changed the area of London, from Buckingham Palace, along the Mall, Trafalgar Square, the Haymarket, Regent Street, Regent’s Park and most of the streets surrounding the park.

They also had a big impact on Brighton with the centrally located Royal Pavilion which still stands today as the single building that most defines the town.

Working on this project, mainly with the Nikon D300 and using Photoshop to correct and process the images, I also took some black and white films and also colour slides, which for me still produce some of the best colour available.

I do recommend that you have a go at shooting some buildings in different conditions and hope that you enjoy the new images in the architecture section of the Gallery.

The Holme, Regent's Park

The Holme, Regent's Park

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Staff Writer on May 6th, 2010

I was very fortunate to get a ticket for the Royal Photographic Society Photo Journalists Group event last evening when Adobe presented their latest and greatest offering, Photoshop CS5.

I had already read stories of how you could cut out a tree from a landscape with ease but nothing had prepared me (or indeed anyone else who was there judging by the gasps of amazement) for seeing what it can really do.

The first “killer” new thing is Proximity Match. Simply by selecting an object with the lasso but including some of the surrounding area (ie. not selecting too accurately) and then choosing Proximity Match, you can remove an object even if it has fine detail on the edges and it will leave you with a background that looks as if the object never existed.

On the edges of a picture, you can use “Content aware fill” and expand the sky or other key landscape areas to fill the edges of your selected area. For me, this was the most incredible thing to witness as it really seems that the program is reading your mind.

There are a few “mundane” things like Lens Correction that emulates the use of different (very specific) lenses. This could save you a fortune and cost the lens manufacturers dear. Camera RAW 6 automatically improves the image quality for you!

And then there is “Puppet Walk”. With this, you can put three of four dots on a horse’s leg, for example and then move the leg to a new position in the picture. Now, we are out of the realms of what we currently know as image manipulation and into changing pictures to be what we wished they were in the first place. You might even make the local carthorse look like Red Rum!

There are many people, particularly those outside photography who feel that using Photoshop in this way is cheating and part of me has to agree. One cannot help but feel that the future will belong to image manipulators, not photographers. However, we can’t hold back the tide and the reaction from the RPS members last night convinced me that CS5 is set to become the “must have” item for photographers in 2010.

I know that we have always manipulated images, even since Ansel was a lad, but we really are on the threshold of a time when we all will be able to produce results that would have been considered award winning just a few short months or years ago.

I have been racking my brains and trying to think of good analogies to the situation but it is difficult. Robots build economy cars today that are consistently better than luxury ones of a few years ago. TV, the web, mobile phones etc allow us to do more that we ever thought possible. But there are many rich people who are still prepared to pay large sums of money for a hand built car or a designer brand of electronic equipment.

I am sure that the “photographers??” of the future will develop the new skills in new areas to continue to amuse and stimulate us, but it seems to me that it is going to get much harder to compete with the robots.

Congratulations to the Adobe team of software engineers on their amazing achievements but I am not sure that they are really on the side of the serious photographer. Perhaps I will have to take a look at video. Oh dear – I think I’ll have to think it out again!

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Staff Writer on May 4th, 2010

Although there is a tab on this web site called “places” that aims to list interesting spots that I know about, I felt that the subject of where to go to take interesting photographs deserved more. So I have created www.goodphotolocations.com

I hope that you will pay it a visit or two and find it useful when you are planning holidays or just weekends or away days. More importantly though, I hope that you will join in and recommend some of your favourite spot. The best way to do that is to email me at john@goodphotolocations.com

Currently the site consists of a list of places that you can search by continent, country, town etc and soon there will be suggestions of special regions of the World, such as The Lake District”, where there are lots of photogenic places within a small area. As well as sharing your favourite places, please let me know if there are any new features that you would like to see on the site that will make it easier to use or more helpful.

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Staff Writer on April 14th, 2010

We all know that the Internet and digital media in general have changed photography beyond recognition over the last few years. Although it is possible to argue that taking good images is much easier than it used to be and the art has been deskilled in some ways, there are many benefits from the new technology.

Suddenly though, the ease of the digital system looks like it might be starting to bite us and we need to be careful.

In the UK the Government have been accused with some justification of rushing through the Digital Economy Bill. The most important part of this as far as photographers were concerned seemed to be Clause 43 that basically said the if someone wanted to use one of your images but couldn’t trace you as the rightful owner, they could pay a fee to the Government and go ahead. This has now been dropped and you can read more about it on the Stop43 web site www.stop43.org.uk

Don’t relax though. Talk Talk, one of the UK’s three biggest Internet Service Providers has said that it won’t co-operate with measures in the same bill to combat file sharing that include insisting the ISPs block the sites of customers suspected of copyright infringement.

The Royal Photographic Society has issued a guideline that recommends all members to ensure that proper attribution is given to their work in all situations. It goes on to list some concerns about the new rules. You can see the detail on www.rps.org and then by clicking on Copyright statement.

As if this isn’t enough for us simple souls to worry about, the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and others have filed a class-action lawsuit to stop Google scanning 18 million books for an online database again they are worried about copyright infringement. You can read more about that on www.asmp.org

I am sure that we will be hearing much more about these and other related issues over the coming months and years and it is pretty clear that photographers everywhere need to keep their wits about them.

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Staff Writer on April 13th, 2010

[mappress][mappress]Just to let you know that I have added a couple of new pictures to the Gallery today.

The view from the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, India got an honourable mention in the exhibition print competition at the Reigate Photographic Society yesterday and Yorkshire Water, a picture of Kettlewell Beck, won the prize for the best landscape in the same exhibition.

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Staff Writer on April 1st, 2010

There are many things in life where it seems impossible to select the best solution to a problem first time round, no matter how much time and trouble you take over it. A comfortable bed, for example, a motorcycle helmet and for photographers, an easy way to carry your ever expanding amount of gear. The problem is that you don’t really know what works for you until you have tried it for a good period of time “in the field”.

So in the hope of saving you some time, I am going to plug Think Tank camera bags. I have no relationship with these people and in fact, I found them by a kind of accident but they have more than lived up to my expectations.

I have tried several solutions to my carrying requirements and none of them suit all situations but until now I was struggling. The “over the shoulder” bags are handy but I find them terrible to carry. So I tried a rucksack style. This is fine up to a point but for some reason I find it really heavy.

So my latest solution is a roller bag that will carry pretty much all my equipment, go in the overhead locker on an aeroplane and also means that I can play “trip up the other passengers” at railway stations. I have been trying to get the bag made by the same people who made my rucksack, as I have been well pleased with the quality of it, but everyone was out of stock. (I won’t name them as that would be unfair). Then someone suggested that I try Think Tank instead. The spec seemed to meet my needs, so I took the risk and ordered it to be delivered to home.

I knew as soon as I opened the package that this was something special. The information provided, the way it was packed and the sheer quality of the bag itself told me that I had made a good decision. It holds tons of stuff and looks built to last a lifetime.

Looking at the Think Tank catalogue and web site www.thinktankphoto.com, you can tell that these people really understand the needs of photographers and I suspect that the other company have lost a customer should I ever need any other type of camera bag. The roller bag is quite heavy, but only when you have to pick it up, not when it is rolling along. And when you do have to pick it up, the handles are strong and comfortable. The only weak point might be the handle as they have made it telescopic to suit different sizes of people and as a result, it isn’t as rigid as those on normal roller bags. However, as long as I obey the rules and don’t try to swing it around with this handle, I am sure it will be fine. Thank you Think Tank people, you have made one photographer very happy.

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Staff Writer on March 27th, 2010

I have heard it before but never experienced it for myself – until now.

For my latest project I am taking pictures of buildings designed by the Regency architect, John Nash. I am taking some during the day and some in the evening. Those of Marble Arch, the Institute of Directors, the Theatre Royal, Haymarket and the Royal Pavillion in Brighton all went well and without incident. However, when I moved to the steps between the two sections of Carleton House Terrace, things changed.

It was 8.00pm in the evening and already dark and I was using a tripod, an 18 to 200mm zoom lens and mirror up with a remote shutter release, but the place was deserted and I wasn’t in anyone’s way.

The way I read it was that someone left an office in Carleton House and had a close look at me as they drove from the car park in front of the building and into the Mall. About one or two minutes later, a police car arrived, went past me, did a U-turn and parked about six feet away, to my left. You can see their arrival in the picture below.

Nothing else happened. They were out of the cameras’ line of site; they ignored me and I ignored them. When I had finished, I packed my gear and walked away. I looked into the car but they appeared engrossed in paperwork.

Perhaps the rally in nearby Trafalgar Square when photographers protested about police intimidation has had some effect but clearly there is still something about a serious photographer with a tripod that disturbs people. Unless they park there every evening, of course – but I don’t think so!

Evening all

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Staff Writer on March 16th, 2010

I am so pleased that Spring had finally arrived and the snowdrops and crocuses didn’t take long to take advantage of the warmer weather. After the terrible Winter we have had, they seem even more special this year and I have put three new pictures in the flower section of the gallery on this site. I am extremely pleased with them and I hope that you like them too.

Tomorrow I am heading out to take some more pictures for my Architecture project and just maybe I will be able to incorporate some flowers in those as well. I will have to move fast with this project now, as the trees will be getting their leaves soon and that will obscure some of the better angles on the buildings. Nature is great but we can’t have it all ways and that is one of the challenges of outdoor photography.

Anyway, I hope that you will be inspired to get out and shoot as much as I am.

Crocus 2010

An artistic shot of two lovely crocuses

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Staff Writer on February 12th, 2010

As photographers we often need to keep notes of things and be able to refer back to them easily. I have just discovered two things that can help with this and thought that you might like to know about them.

The first is for the “techy” generation who possess iphones. It is a neat application called Awesome Note. It is available for £2.39 or there is a very good Lite version, which is free but limited to 7 notes. They are perfect for photographers, as you can combine the notes with a to-do list, customise the look, add icons and folders and best of all, add photo attachments –  much better than the notes app that comes pre-installed.

The second solution is for the “pen and paper brigade”. I know that there are many people who still prefer this method and for them, a good sturdy, compact notebook is a godsend. In this case, the answer might be a Moleskine book. Although the pages are fixed in, the quality and versatility is a bit like Filofax. They come as notebooks in a variety of sizes and with different types of ruling. They also come as diaries and city guides. A piece of elastic holds the pages together and there is a useful pocket in the back for loose bits of paper. You can check this out at http://www.moleskine.com

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Staff Writer on February 8th, 2010

I have just returned from a visit to the British Library in central London, near Kings Cross station. Entitled “Points of View”, it is a selection of photographs from the library’s collection and examines the development of photography and its influence in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

This was really two discoveries in one for me, as it was the first time that I had been to the British Library. It is a wonderful place holding 14 million books, 920,000 journal and newspaper titles, 58 million patents and 3 million sound recordings. It also hosts a range of exhibitions, events and lectures, most of which are free.

The exhibition is an excellent overview of the origins of photography and I highly recommend it to anyone who is seriously interested in the art/science. Just go to the web site http://www.bl.uk/ and search for “points of view”.

Points of View

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