Royalty, Celebrity and the Press

Just a heads up.

I am doing a little talk at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke this weekend (18th August).  If you are free why not pop down and say hello. There will be cream tea’s, a good selection of photos (not all mine) and (hopefully) an interesting talk (plus the BPPA’s assignments exhibition) .

Info and booking:  http://www.stokemuseums.org.uk/pmag/whats-on/events/?event=EVENT598806

Hopefully see you there!

Hi my name is Julie and I’m a creative

In a world where it seems everyone wants to leave the “rat race” and become a “creative” of some kind, why does it seem so guilty to admit it?

Phone selfie

“Hi I’m Julie and I’m a photographer” – almost sounds like something that should be said at “Photographers anonymous” . Well I am and after a few months of struggling I am happy to admit it again, to myself and others.

Note: It’s often said that press photographers should not be creative but thats just rubbish, there are times to be creative and times not to be creative in this job, the key is knowing when.

I had become jaded with my work, with the situations I found myself in, with the images I created. The fact is it’s easy to blame the situation, the lack of control (in public places or arranged photocalls), the light, the kit (oh how often do we hear “if only I had xxxxxxx”) but the fact is, what we produce is never the fault of the kit, of the situation, of the lack of control.

National Youth Dance Company / Botis Seva perform MADHEAD during a Photocall at Sadler’s Wells. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2+XF90 @ 1/100 F2

What we produce is always a product of the decisions we make given the situation we find ourselves in. They may not be the images we planned, or want but we always have a choice how we shoot something, how we approach it, our attitude and our commitment.

National Youth Dance Company / Botis Seva perform MADHEAD during a Photocall at Sadler’s Wells. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2+XF35 @ 1/20 F1.4

I was recently introduced to the concept of “Hell Yeah or No”. Put simply it means 100% commitment. When presented with an opportunity, decide “Can I give this 100%?” . If not then say no! Once there, commit to the job, no matter what the situation, too controlled? poor light? bad positioning? poor location? If they are things you can control then take ownership. If not, make the best images you can.. 100%..

National Youth Dance Company / Botis Seva perform MADHEAD during a Photocall at Sadler’s Wells. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2+XF56 @ 1/15 F1.2

Take the 3 dance images above. When I had the notice that this photocall was available, I checked my diary, found I was in town and had time. It was obvious that it should make nice images, I was not sure what they would be as you never know how a production is staged until you see it, all I could be sure was that the light would be “interesting”. Upon arrival it was suggested it was “a bit dark”. I had sort of surmised this before and although I did not take a tripod I did carry my 35/1.4 , 56/1.2 & 90/2.0 giving me the best chance in low light. From then on it was a case of using what I had, making the most of the light and making the most interesting images I could. Some I shot with intentional blur, some I froze the movement.

The key was though, I did not think “this is too dark”, I just committed 100% to what was in front of me. Looking back now (and listening to others) it’s obvious, if I (you) don’t commit 100% to what I (you) are shooting, how can I (you) produce the best images possible?

“Hi, I’m Julie, I’m a creative and I am always going to create the best images I can”

WOMAD

Despite using, writing about and loving the XF90/F2 lens over 2 years ago in Cannes (and borrowing one since), I had not purchased one until a few weeks ago, when I took advantage of the (recently expired) cash back offer to pick a shiny new XF90 up from my preferred dealer Fixation.

It’s with this new purchase, a pair of X-T2’s plus a XF14/2.8 and XF56/1.2 that I rode down to cover WOMAD this weekend. Travelling by motorbike means I like to travel as light as possible. I had guessed that the XF90 (equivalent of approx a 135mm) would be ideal for half length images on the main stage, with the XF56 for full length. I guessed right.

The 2 most effective ways of using a wide such as the XF14 is either to get in close to exaggerate the perspective or to take a step back for the wide general view.

Moon Hooch performs on the Charlie Gillett Stage WOMAD Festival (World of Music Arts and Dance) on Friday 26 July 2019

Moon Hooch performs on the Charlie Gillett Stage : X-T2 & 14mm@F11

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage WOMAD Festival (World of Music Arts and Dance) on Saturday 27 July 2019

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage shot from the top of the Light/Sound Tower. X-T2 & 14mm@F2.8 (1/5th sec)

On the smaller, less bright stages, the speed (wide aperture) of the XF56 enabled a lower ISO and higher shutter speed than the slower F2.8 lenses.  Gigs (should) feature bright lights, strong colours and high contrasts which can make them tricky. Shooting with the  Astia simulation dialled in, I set a fixed white balance (depends on the venue) and the dial down the hilights in camera whilst increasing the shadow contrast. The resultant jpgs require minimal work. (If it is a tricky venue, I do switch to RAW).

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage. X-T2 +XF56@F1.2

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage. X-T2 & XF56@F1.2

Macy Gray performs in the Saim Tent at WOMAD X-T2 & XF56@F1.2

Macy Gray performs in the Saim Tent at WOMAD X-T2 & XF56@F1.2

The XF90 allows me to stay further back and produce an image with a lovely soft out of focus background. To enable a wide aperture on bright days I sometimes resorted to the Mechanical + Electronic shutter option. As long as there are no artificial lights or fast moving subject the ES is fine.

Atmosphere at the WOMAD Festival (World of Music Arts and Dance) on Friday 26 July 2019

Relaxing in a hammock checking a smartphone. X-T2 & XF90@

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

I must admit i got a bit carried away with the bright reds of the robes against the dark greens of the arboretum and did not really shoot enough wide images to put the brigade into a wider context. I did love the images i got though..

So that was WOMAD, shot on 3 fixed length lenses. Zoom lenses are very handy but they are not the only tool!

Next up, probably Brighton Pride next week…..

Assignments 2019

I’ve been working hard on two major projects for the last couple of months, really taking over my work life and reducing time out actually shooting.

Well this week the first came to the first major milestone and huge pressure has lightened. The second rumbles, the second opens next week and it is something i am really proud to be involved in: Assignments 2019, the regular exhibition from theBPPA (British Press Photographers Association) showcasing the work that press photographers do.

Not only have I been involved in the design of the website along with the social media images and campaign, I was also asked to be a curator due to my thoughts on Entertainment photography.

Here are the basic details but if you would like more information head over to the website assignments.thebppa.com where you can also see previous years images.

Storage

I’m going to make a confession….. I like tech… I like it when I find a new piece of technology that can improve what I deliver to my customers, that speeds up my workflow, that makes nice images or just makes my life better.

Thats not all tech though. My confession is not the liking tech (most photographers do) its that I hate one particular type of tech: Storage! Hard disks! Big, small, fast, slow, firewire, usb, thunderbolt, it does not matter, I find it boring and annoying. Why? Just look at the reasons I gave for loving tech, storage meets none of these. Its just a constant, a necessity that grows year on year, each year needing more space, each year replacing older failing drives, not actually adding value to the business, just providing something that the business cannot do without.

So what has brought on this rant? I have known I was running out of storage space for a while now and I had been trying to work out the best way forward. Then, last week, my OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock failed. Totally. A few exchanged emails and I have sent it back for exchange. A quick visit to Amazon.co.uk and I was working agin, with all 4 thunderbolt ports on my MacBook in use; Power, External SSD, DisplayPort and Ethernet/USB3 and a right mess it looked too. Every time i needed to back up the system, I had to choose which device to remove whilst I plugged in the Time Machine disk.

Back to the storage situation. Most of my storage solutions are LaCie, I like how they look and they use high quality drives internally. I know they are a “marmite” company, with as many swearing at them as those who swear by them. It was whilst browsing their site, thing about how I could expand my storage and backup that I came across the LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt 3 Dock (the name  just trips off the tongue doesn’t it). So I started to re-think my workflow and storage to see it this might be a solution.

My practice has always been, ingest into the local disk on the MacBook, edit there and when complete and delivered drag the folder(s) onto my server based “Library” disk (within Lightroom). The server then runs nightly backups making sure I have 3 copies of everything (a phrase I will never forget and I live by – if you do not have a file 3 times, you do not have it at all). The server is a Mac Mini with USB3 and Firewire connected drives, running Carbon Copy tasks each night to complete the replication. The problem with this solution is some of the jobs I work on are too large for the space on the MacBook disk, so I have to work on an external SSD which in my mind is just too messy. I have never had a large external disk attached to my main working computer, always only as an archival deice on the network.

Old Workflow

The smallest of the Lacie Dock’s features 2 x 4TB drives that can either be RAID0 (striped for speed) or RAID1 (mirrored for redundancy). It also features a daisy-chaining Thunderbolt 3 port, a DisplayPort and card readers, which would mean it could handle most of my devices whilst I was waiting for my OWC to be returned. Much googling and reading later and I came to the conclusion that maybe I could totally change my workflow and for once, invest in a storage solution that I found mildly interesting. The reviews pointed to the LaCie being extremely fast in RAID0 configuration and with 8TB in this format, it would fit my main library and leave masses of “working” space. It’s clear that the target market for this device is video editing and it is not designed as a long term storage solution (especially in RAID0) but if I am fastidious in my backup regime I am pretty sure this is a good solution.

New Workflow

So now I have a very fast Thunderbolt 3 LaCie dock as my main working disk holding the main library also. A single Carbon Copy task wakes up the MacBook overnight to mirror the data to the server with the Carbon Copy Safety Net future enabled to keep all data for 90 days, so even if I delete a file from my working working area, it should be on the server for 90 days. (unless of course I delete it before it’s backed up). The main library is also mirrored to a third disk as before. When working at home, new jobs are ingested straight into the working area on the LaCie, if out then as soon as I get home, they are moved from the MacBook internal drive onto the LaCie. Not only is it providing storage, whilst my OWC dock is being replaced, it is also connecting my MacBook to my 27″ monitor and the ethernet, meaning I am only using 2 of the 4 thunderbolt ports on the MacBook. Its much neater.

I have been running this solution for a week now and so far I am very happy: the speed of the system is great. This morning, having the main library available on a fast disk was a great boon as well: In the run up to the the 20th FrightFest this year, I have been asked to share some of my favourite photos (having covered the event as official photographer for 10 years), being able to go back to an image that is 10 years old, edit it quickly in Lightroom, bring it up to the my latest standards, then share it to social media at the same speed as if I had shot it yesterday was great. Finally a storage solution that makes me smile.

I’ll finish with that 10 year old image. With this being a blog about using Fuji X-Series, I really should not as I was not using Fuji cameras back then as they did not exist! However, the image has made be smile so here is Myleene Klass being attacked by Zombies at Frightfest 2009 (and no – the colours in this image are not as good as the colours we now get from Fuji).

Zombies attack Myleene Klass at the Film 4 Frightfest at The Empire Leicster Square

 

FPS – FUJIFILM Professional Services

This week I had the need to return one of my X-T2’s for a repair. It has been worked hard and for some reason had developed an intermittent fault where it would not turn on.

Luckily I qualify for FPS – FUJIFILM Professional Services. Logging on to the page ( https://fujifilm-connect.com/en/fps.php ) , I selected the camera from the list of my registered bodies, entered the fault and accepted the quote. After paying online the booking was confirmed.

As the repair was not too urgent, I waited for the pre-paid packaging that Fuji send out (otherwise I could have sent in urgently myself). Fuji send a pre-paid Royal Mail Special delivery bag with custom box and packing for the item being returned which just needs dropping at the post office. 2 days later the camera was back in my hands having been delivered by courier back in the custom packaging. Nice and pristine it looked too, obviously having had a good clean as well as the main circuit replaced (according to the delivery note).

I have read varying comments on the Fuji service but I have to say my experience was very positive once I understood how it worked.

FUJIFILM Professional Services is also free for all people that register two qualifying X Series cameras and three qualifying XF lenses or free for all people that register a qualifying GFX camera body and a qualifying GF lens. It’s worth taking a look at . ( here )

Shooting interiors with the GFX50S

I mentioned in my last post that I had hired a GFX50S for a major interiors photoshoot (well, I’m not sure if I mentioned interiors).

Looking down on myself. BFI Southbank. GFX50S, 32-64/F4

Given that I am mainly a press photographer, you might consider it a bit strange I am shooting interiors, the short line is, I actually started out many years ago shooting and teaching very technical architectural and historical building photography including producing rectified images that could be used for measuring features.

Back to the present day and I have reinstated building photography (well actually venue photography) to help grow my business (new website coming soon).

This led me to using the GFX50S with the 23mm and 32-64mm on a Tripod in the BFI Southbank in the second week of March.

Bar & Restaurant , BFI Southbank. GFX50S, 32-64/F4

Working in mainly performance venues and cinemas, my typical subjects have very bright lights (stage lights and projectors) in very dark rooms (with typically black dark walls). This means a very high luminosity range in most scenes and therefore my go-to method in the past has always been a form of HDR, bracketing all shots and then choosing how I combine them to get the get, most realistic result back at the office.

When I moved over the the X-Series cameras, shooting bracketed series became so much easier. On my old cameras I could set the bracket but I still had to press the shutter for every exposure i.e. Correct exposure, +1, +2, -1, -2 having to count each shutter press, every now and then I got out of sync and had to start again. With the X-Series (and now the GFX) this became so much easier, turn on the bracketing, switch to continuous and a single press fires the 5 shots. So much easier!

I shot the BFI with a mixture of X-T2 and GFX. For the larger auditorium the X-T2 and 14mm was mounted on a correctly set nodal ninja to produce a wide panoramic image (interesting note – although Lightroom has introduced panoramic blending, ptGui still does a better job with more control in my opinion).

NFT1 of BFI Southbank. X-T2, 14mm, Nodal Ninja

I triggered both the GFX and X-T2 using a Pocket Wizard PlusIII with a cable plugged into the 2.5mm socket. One thing to note that although the pocket wizzard can trigger the Autofocus, it is far more reliable to manually focus each shot, making use of the focus peaking to check the DOF. (For panoramas I never refocus, I choose an appropriate aperture and use hyperfocal).

So how is the GFX an improvement over the X-T’s for this work? If we ignore that the fact that the camera is producing bigger images there are 2 key points.

1. Detail. I know this has been covered to death but this camera really does capture all the detail and nuances of the scene in front of it. Even thought the delivered image might be no bigger than a file delivered from an X-T, the detail in even the downsized images still exceeds that rendered by it’s smaller cousins.

2. Dynamic Range. This to me is the real game changer. Scenes where I would still have typically used a second exposure just to add shadow detail, I could just lift the shadows on the GFX files. There really is so much more in the files as the comparison below shows.

Riverfront Upstairs BFI Southbank GFX50S, 23MM, Single RAF vs HDR comparison.

Whilst there are a number of DSLR’s now with around 50MP, offering a similar sized file, what the GFX50 offers with its larger sensor are less tightly packed pixels compared to standard full frame (simplifying it somewhat) . This very visibly leads to better quality pixels, resolving more detail and packing a greater range of light sensitivity, giving greater detail and smoother graduations in colour and light/shadow.

Obviously there are downsides. Autofocus is not fast enough for my press or red carpet work (although I have ideas here). It is expensive (compared to the remainder of the X series, less so it comparing to the high end professional Full Frame Nikons & Canons like the D5 & 1DX). I am going to try the GFX50R next to see how it compares which at it’s lower price point, may be a more viable option (although no vertical grip may make this too much of a compromise).

BFI Southbank GFS50S, Handheld 32-64/F4

So the bottom line, what value will it add to my business? Would it just be improved image quality or are there other benefits? Would these improve my profitability? These are the difficult questions every professional photographer has to consider when new cameras and technology are released.

At the price point, this camera in my mind is without comparison for photographing interiors and I will ensure I price all future work of this nature to enable me to hire this in. In such a technical genre of photography, this camera can feature as a sales point as well as production tool. The same is true for studio based portrait work where again, I will hire it in for the higher-end shoots.

The Riverfront , BFI Southbank. HDR GFS50S, 32-64/F4

At the moment I cannot quite justify adding this system to my owned arsenal but should the pricing change with the introduction of the GFX100 (100MP version), this point of view might change.

If you photograph buildings or landscapes, I highly recommend trying this camera if you have not already.