HM Queen Elizabeth II … pt 1.

I was sitting with a number of other “entertainment” photographers at the Red Carpet for the Mercury Awards on the evening of the 8th when the PR for the televised event came and told us it was cancelled. Although we had an inkling earlier in the day, that was really the point at which I knew the Queen had passed away.

It was strange, although I have not covered “proper” news for some years, instinct kicked in, do I go to the the palace and wait for the flag to be lowered to half mast? Or do I go somewhere else? What I actually did was wait for the news to be confirmed by the palace and made a commitment to myself to make sure I do my upmost to photograph as much of the historical period as I could.

In the morning I was on the phone to Nathan at Fixation “can you get me a 150-500”? (In my mind the 100-400 might be pushing it over the next week or so for the upcoming state funeral and other events). Quite simply there were none of the new Fuji long zooms in stock. Next stop was Fuji themselves to see if there were any hire units available… yep! A few mail exchanges and I was sorted, about 30 minutes after which Nathan called me back “they have just come into stock, do you want one? I can get it to you tomorrow morning (Saturday)”. One credit card transaction later followed by a few hire cancellation emails and the new lens was winging its way to me.

All this occurred whilst i was on a train to London with 2 cameras and a couple of primes (the 35 & 90) to get a feel for the atmosphere there.

X- H2S & 35/1.4
X- H2S & 90/2

The mood was very sombre and quiet but I could not help but feel there was quite a few people being a bit over-zealous with “I’m sad” , “here’s a selfie of me being sad”, “here’s a picture of my flowers”, “here’s a selfie of me laying my flowers” oh and for good luck “here’s a picture of my flowers at the palace”..

I did not shoot much that day, nor over the weekend where I stayed at my studio in Worthing and on the beach practicing with the 150-600 which was delivered nice and early on the Saturday morning. (Posts to follow on this lens!)

My next day in London was Monday the 12th in the capacity of photographer for Mark Kermode Live at the BFI (a monthly show) preceded by a trip to Green Park to see how the floral tributes were shaping up. The mood remained sombre and I was pleased to see far less people making their visit about themselves.

X- H2S & 90/2
X- H2S & 90/2
X- H2S & 90/2
X- H2S & 90/2 (more about this horse later 🙂 )

I was back in town the next day; I needed to collect my accreditation and go through security checks for the procession to the laying in state the next day but also photograph the late Queen arriving at Buckingham Palace for the last time (as she was travelling down from Scotland that afternoon).

Hanging around the palace from about 2pm, taking a few more pictures and discussing the events with other photographers it was really difficult to judge what to do. It was clear for me the palace needed to be in the image (as surely that was the point) but knowing where the official position was and how many other photographers were around it was difficult to come up with a plan (where possible I don’t like to follow the herd, it’s true that sometimes there is just one image thats right but this night was not one of those cases). I was walking away from the front of the palace wondering if the wellington arch might be a better spot, concentrating on the hearse and the crowds and as I walked down the side of the palace I got an image in my head.

I did not have a clue if this would work. It would be dark by the time the Queen arrived (remember at this point we did not know the coffin would be lit) but I decided to do an all or nothing gamble. To be honest I thought I had maybe a 50/50 chance and even if it did work it would not be the sort of image that most of the press would use but I did think it would be a moment in history so I sat down, in the drizzle, hoping I would not be moved on and waited for 5 hours , chatting to those around me.

It got dark. Then it got darker. I kept turning the ISO dial, ending up on the max setting!

X-T3 & 16-55@2.8 – ISO 12800

The image above is the one I had in my head. A small coffin returning to the large “state” (I hoped it would be lit by the car behind, the fact the coffin was lit was a huge bonus).

X-H2S & 50-140 @2.8 – ISO 12800

The second image probably tells the story better for many though. The coffin, clearly draped in the royal standard, lit, passes into the arch as 2 soldiers stand guard.

The latter part of this blog tells the story of one image, by one photographer. Image then how I an others must feel when we see pages like this one on the bbc site. All those images created by many photographers, each image (all much better than mine) with a story, planning and a lot of time by a photographer and yet not one photographer is credited. The credits go to the organisations that distributed the images (or the photographers employers) and the people that selected the images on the page.

So please. Next time you look at an image (still or moving) on the web or in the paper, spare a thought for the work that has gone into it by a photographer.

My next post will detail the following day of the state procession

The death of Queen Elizabeth II

I am not a “royal photographer” by any sense of the imagination, however over the years I have photographed Queen Elizabeth II many times as part of my work as a press photographer either as part of the “royal rota” or at what are known as “fixed points” (i.e. Accredited)

My first memories of the queen having any influence / importance are from the Silver Jubilee year, I can remember the street party and fancy dress quite well but my overriding memory is away from these.

The Queen was due to visit Highbury Fields (my family are from the Islington area in London although we lived in Edmonton at the time). My parents wanted to take my brother and I to see her on this day however it was a school day so mum planned to phone us in sick. That day was also my cycling proficiency test day and I was in tears, being extremely upset at missing it which would mean I would be unable to cycle to school.

A compromise was reached. I went to school in the morning, did the test, earned my right to cycle to school before earning another award – this time for acting as I threw my best “tummy cramps and headaches” performance.

My parents collected me from school “sick” and we made it to Highbury fields seeing Her Majesty shake the hands of a couple of elderly women standing next to us (dad had a theory that she had a regular pattern of greeting on these walkabouts).

Anyway I digress… here is a very quick selection of photos I have taken of the late queen over the years….

My first Royal Job – HRH Queen Elizabeth attends the World Premiere and Royal Film Performance of The Cronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of The Dawn Treader at Leicester Square, London, 30 November 2010.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinbugh return to Buckingham Palace from Horse Guards Parade following Trooping the Colour in London , UK – 17/06/2017. HRH Queen Elizabeth II , Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh.
HRH Queen Elizabeth II at Trooping the Colour at The Mall / Buckingham Palace, London , UK – Saturday June 17, 2017. Queen Elizabeth II returns to Buckingham Palace from Horse Guards Parade where the Welsh Guards of the Household Division Trooped their colours.
State Opening of Parliament – HRH The Queen Elizabeth II departs The Houses of Parliament, Sovereign’s Entrance at Victoria Tower on 21 June 2017
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh formally welcome His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain at Horse Guards Parade on Wednesday 12th July 2017.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh formally welcome His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain at Horse Guards Parade on Wednesday 12th July 2017.
HRH Queen Elizabeth II at Trooping the Colour and Queens Birthday Parade on Saturday 9 June 2018
HRH Queen Elizabeth II at Trooping the Colour and Queens Birthday Parade on Saturday 9 June 2018 in Buckingham Palace ,
Easter 2019 Windsor Castle
Easter 2019 Windsor Castle
Trumped !!!
The Queen meets the President of the United States of America and Mrs Trump on Friday 13 July 2018 at Windsor Castle, Windsor.
Thank you and goodbye Ma’am

X-H2s – 4 jobs in

Ok, I know I said a few posts back “no camera reviews” , however – a few thoughts….

At the time of writing (a week or so ago), I had completed 4 “proper” jobs with the new flagship camera. Below are some images and thoughts from 3 of these jobs:

  • Kermode 3D at the BFI
  • Mabel at Somerset House
  • Bullet Train Gala

The above image is Nick, running the clips on the Kermode show at the BFI. He’s only lit by his laptop, no house lights. He is laughing (hence movement blur on the face). The camera had absolutely no problem locking onto his eyes. The technical details are below.

Face tracking and IBIS in the (very) dark
Face tracking and IBIS in the (very) dark

I’m closer this time – the eye tracking locked onto Nick’s eye despite so much of the face being covered.

The next job was Mabel performing at Somerset House. Shooting with the 90mm fully open on AF-C, face tracking. No issues with the flashing lights, dancers, fast movement or profile shots.

I’m still trying to get used to the button layout but as my camera’s are in Manual mode 90% of the time, the P-A-S-M dial is not an issue. That said I find it really annoying that in Manual mode I cannot re-assign the front command dial to roll the ISO as then it would match my X-T3’s and be far faster to adjust. When most of my lenses have aperture rings it really makes no sense to dedicate this dial to aperture!

The last of the 3 jobs was the Bullet Train UK gala screening. For this I used the X-H2s with the 100-400 for headshots. The eye tracking always found its target – tracking accurately as they walked and moved, even finding Brad Pitt’s eye on a 3/4 rear view (i.e. the dip in the profile where the eye was as he turned – i am wondering if it was the reflection on the sunglasses!)

Overall this camera is a HUGE step up from any of the other Fujifilm cameras with subject tracking that can be relied on at speed. Additionally although the CFExpress cards are expensive – seeing the RAW files download in a fraction of the time that it takes to download JPG images from the SD, the switch is positive.

Happy shooting and back to the Workflow with the next post.

I’ve seen posts declaring “Fuji is loosing it’s soul”

A slight intrusion into the workflow posts because the number of posts I have seen with this “loosing their soul” comment is making me smile. I do wonder why people are so blinkered nowadays and feel that “change is bad” or “this works for me so I cannot see why it does not work for everyone”

Top View X-H2S

The thing that has upset everyone is the change in the top-plate dials. Gone are the separate shutter speed and iso dials and in their place, a PSAM dial & secondary display.

As you readers know, I’m a press photographer – I drive my cameras hard and need to change settings fast all of the time (I say this just to hilight I am not a studio photographer where the settings on the camera can be stable for the whole shoot).

I switched to Fuji with the X-T1 for work because I loved the colours in the images, the lightness and it was obvious that mirrorless was the way forward. I also loved the look, the feel and the dials – especially the aperture ring but to be honest – wonderful as these dials are – they are just not fast enough – in my world i need to be able to change the settings – all the settings – without removing the camera from the eye. My current X-T3’s are both set with the ISO on’A’ (so it can be adjusted with the front command dial) and the Shutter on ‘T’ (rear command dial), with the aperture on the lens ring.

If you are designing a camera that is all about speed (X-H2S – the clue is in the S) then having the default way of using to be the way I have my X-T’s set up makes sense, in which case, from a designers point of view, (logically speaking) what is the point of the dials? If the dials are of no use, then why have them? It’s just another possible location of a water ingress or other failure. Lets use that space for something else (when I used the X-H1 I loved being able see the state of the batteries without turning the camera on).

So have they lost their soul? Have Fuji abandoned their roots? I will argue no. My argument is not based on the dials, not based on going after financial rewards or entering difficult markets, it’s based on one fact.

The camera features a 26.1MP BSI X-Trans 5 stacked sensor. Not a bayer sensor, an X-Trans sensor! Its the sensor that is responsible for the look of the images that Fuji produce that we love so much, and having that sensor in this camera indicates, to me, that Fuji has without doubt not changed it’s path. The image is everything.

This is a professionals camera, a tool, that enables Fuji to operate in a market that it was not able to. We have to remember that the camera interface is just like everything else in the world. One size does not fit all.

More workflow stuff next week.

Mobile Workflow Overview

I mentioned in my last post that these writings would be more about my workflow, thoughts and practices and less about camera equipment reviews.

The next few posts will revisit my mobile workflow and the use of the iPad as a very serious tool (laptop replacement), starting with this very basic overview.

A very poor iPhone image of my iPad in its keyboard case

My mobile (travel) kit consists of;

  • IPad Pro M1
  • Gold and Cherry iPad keyboard case
  • Apple Pencil
  • Apple Magic Mouse (Series 2 preferred)
  • Lightroom Mobile (Adobe photography plan inc. Photoshop)
  • ShutterSnitch
Lightroom Mobile & ShutterSnitch running in a split screen

One of the key improvements over the last couple of years of using the iPad has been the multitasking (various split screens, slide over etc) and later posts will show how the applications can work together in a similar way to a full blown computer (mac or otherwise).

The workflow outline:

  • Create Collection in Lightroom for job
  • Import from memory cards direct into collection
  • Select and edit photos in lightroom
  • Add titles
  • Create a collection in ShutterSnitch for the job
  • Share images to ShutterSnitch collection which completes the captioning and sends via ftp
  • Archive the images
Lightroom during the image selection and editing process

The next post will start to detail the intricacies of using Lightroom efficiently and outline some possible pitfalls (there are a few!).

Until then.

Lens in the Bag

One of the most annoying questions I see (almost every day) posted in Facebook groups and the like are “what lens should I buy next”, often with very little explanation. (I am willing to accept that this is my issue and lack of tolerance).

With this question in mind, this post is a run-through of the lenses I took to Cannes along with quick explanations of how I used them along with samples.

This is the list of lenses I used and image count of each from this years Cannes folder (taken from Lightroom)

Tackling that list in order, I start with the workhorse; the 16-55/F2.8 Of all the lenses, this is the lens that is probably of most use in general purpose photography. From a wide angle through to a slight telephoto (full frame equivalence of approximately 24-70), it is suitable for almost everything and should (almost) be the starting point for any kit bag.

In Cannes, my main use of this lens is on the Red Carpet, mounted on a X-T3 with the V1 flash fitted for shooting the full-length fashion type images as well as half-length portraits.

16-55 @ approx 16mm / F3.5
16-55 @ approx 32mm / F2.8
16-55 @ approx 52mm / F3.5

At the start of the week, I experimented using the 27mm pancake lens on the Red Carpet – mostly I use it as a camera body cap and walk-around lens. The way it deals with light coming directly into the lens (flare control) means it was not really suitable on the carpet or at gigs

27mm @ F3.6

Both of these lenses are perfectly good and produce nice contrast images (if you set your camera up appropriately) but for me, they show up the limitation of using an APS-C sensor, there is a limitation on getting a shallow depth of field. For this reason my two really favourite lens are the 56mm/F1.2 & the 90mm/F2 . I use both of these in a similar way.

The 56 is a great portrait lens, the distances involved on the Red Carpet means I usually create 3 quarter or half-length images with it, always shooting wide open. After all there is no point using a nice fast lens and then not making use of the shallower depth-of-field.

56mm @ F1.2

The 90mm I use in the same way, just tighter images (normally on the X-T2 body as the focal length leads to the images rarely needing much cropping). One thing I will say is the 90mm does seem to produce richer images than the 56.

90mm @ F2

The 50-140 telephoto lens is another real workhorse lens, enabling me to get fairly tight portraits when the subjects are at a closer range or full-length group shots up on the staircase. I think (on my X-T3’s with grips) that this lens handles fantastically, the zoom ring is lovely and smooth.

50-140mm @111mm / F2.8
50-140mm @140mm / F2.8

Because of distances, crowds, my love of tight portraits and less posed images, my 100-400 is my second most used lens (after the 16-55). With it I can shoot the talent in the crowds at the head of the carpet, create really tight and personal looking portraits on the carpet as well as head-shots up the stairs.

100-400mm @400mm / F5.6
100-400mm @400mm / F5.6
100-400mm @234mm / F5
100-400mm @190mm / F5

Hope this post gives a little insight on how my use of lenses helps to create different images and gives me more creative options.

Next week I will write my guide to back restorative exercises needed after carrying them all around for 2 weeks. Actually I will probably write about the GFX50R which I purchased last winter during the lockdown with the prime aim of shooting more landscapes (and for use in the studio shooting portraits).

Happy Shooting. J

ShutterSnitch Metadata Editor – A quick look

The last two posts on mobile workflow have raised a few questions from readers on how I deal with metadata. I thought I had dealt with it in previous posts (admittedly a long while back) but re-reading them it seems I had not covered everything.

Therefore this is just a quick overview. I am actually looking at running a course or two on this mobile workflow in the UK this year in conjunction with theBPPA. If you are interested, please let me know and I will send out booking information if and when…

A quick apology for the image I have used in this post – it was all I had on the iPad at the point I outlined this post.

From our last post we are at a point where there is a collection of images in ShutterSnitch either with or without metadata in the title field.

The first issue is, where do we start with our data? Can we start with Photomechanic? The answer to this is yes we can. I export the XMP from PM into Dropbox and then on the iPAD, export the file into ShutterSnitch.

Select file in DropBox / Export / Copy to Shutter / Create a Preset

The i Icon on the top toolbar switches ShutterSnitch to the Metadata Editor.

The Metadata Editor

As shown in the above images there are a number of options along the lower screen. The left-most tool is the Preset Editor

The choices are just to select a preset or use the Edit button to edit the presets available (the usual iOS left swipe to delete) or click to edit. Hold down to duplicate an existing preset.

The blue circle tick to the right indicates wether the field is applied in the preset, so if using the title field from Lightroom this would be unticked next to the Title/Object Name. Notice the %%titleObject%% – this is a variable, much the same as the Photomechanic variables although they are named differently.

If using Photomechanic , the variables will need replacing. There are far fewer in ShutterSnitch. They may be accessed from the tool hi-lighted above. Below is a typical preset driven by the Title/Object Name field with the date automatically added also.

Note: It does not seem possible to add variables into the keywords at the moment.

Headline, Caption, Keywords and other metadata in the preset.

If driving the Title / Object Name from Lightroom, the above preset could be applied to all images when selected and a quick check as you flick through will reveal all of the fields set.

Once the preset is created, other tools are available in the editor. Quick select strings (which are field sensitive, so create them in the Title field if that is where you plan to insert them) may be created and selected.

This enables a list to be built, maybe copying and pasting from a website before the event

Use Split Screen on the iPAD to Copy/Paste into Quick Select Strings

The final options are Shortcodes.

Press and hold to edit the available lists. Creating new Sets and editing are fairly straightforward.

In use Shortcodes are slightly less usable than in Photomechanic as after entering the code (however many letters you use), the Icon (tee-shirt) needs a quick click for the software to expand the code to it’s full length. Shortcodes do, however save on spelling errors and incorrectly titled subjects.

All that is left after adding the metadata is to send using FTP or other Actions which are well covered towards the end of this post.

There are many more options are settings but hopefully this will get you moving. As always, please ask any questions in the comments to that others can also learn.

Primes for the Prime Minister

I am just back from 3 weeks of party political events, photographing the autumn conferences of our largest political parties; starting with the Liberal Democrats in Bournemouth, moving on to Labour in Brighton before finishing up with the Conservatives in Manchester.

It’s a gradual build up of importance culminating in the Prime Ministers speech – arguably the most important event of the 3 weeks (especially this year with BREXIT and the stories circulating about our Prime Minister Boris Johnson).

I headed up to Manchester having the 200mm/F2 Fujion lens on hire again, along with the 1.4TC (giving the equivalent of 300mm/F2 and 420mm/F2.8 on my Fuji X-T2 bodies). Added to that I took my normal supply of 3 x X-T2, the 14mm/F2.8, 27mm/F2.8 pancake, 90mm/F2 and the 50-140/F2.8 (just in case but the plan was not to use it).

My workspace on the final day – taken using the “miniature” filter on the X-T2 with the 14mm

On the morning of the PM’s speech, we arrive early for a briefing that informs us of the plan for the speech; entrance, exit, timings, security arrangements (where we can stand, where not) etc.

With the stories circulating about the PM it was clear that “the picture” of the day would be Boris and Carrie (his girlfriend) leaving at the end of the speech. However the briefing made it clear that getting this image clearly would be very difficult and as the pool photographer would get it perfectly, it was not worth worrying about.

So I formulated a plan..

I would start at the rear at the top of the stadium seating to photograph the PM as he enters, I would then bit by bit move around the rear of the hall, over the stadium seating at the other end before working round to the rear quarter, photographing Boris “conducting” his troops before working my way back to the original position for his exit.

Arriving in the hall before a good while before the speech I was pleased that as I suspected, most of the photographers covering the event had opted for the central positions to shoot the “traditional” speaker image. I was happy to be sitting up at the back near the entrance alone, hoping the others had missed a trick and that my plan was not totally unworkable.

Waiting, I shot a few images of party members around me and the general atmosphere. Then the moment arrived, the PM walked in alone down a dark part of the hall below me to greet members down the bottom of my seating area.

Atmosphere before the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 14mm

My plan with the blog post now was to show two totally out of focus images showing that we all make mistakes totally contrary to how we are supposed to portray ourselves online. However going back through the images I have found one that was in fact useable, one that I missed in the heat of the moment editing on the day…

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, enters to make his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. X-T2 + 90mm @ F2

Starting with establishing shots on the 200, 90 and 14….

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 14mm
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 90mm

Then adding the TC on the 200 (giving an equivalence of 420/F2.8) before moving down the back and shooting through spaces between the seating. A quick nod with one of the PM’s security detail to confirm all was ok with the location (next to him) , staying there for 5 minutes or so before moving on to the next location …

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC

Having been briefed that the speech would be 40-45 minutes I allowed myself approximately 5 minutes in each location before moving on, getting the the far point on time for the “conducting” shot, before returning via the same method to my original position.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC

Once back, I was joined by one other photographer in this position for the exit but as there were about 8 positions reserved for us there was plenty of room. Planning for a “melee” image as the PM leaves, I removed the TC….

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, exits the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. Boris huged Carrie Symonds, his girlfriend, before greeting activists as he exited the hall. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm

In all, photographing the speech and editing took about 6 and a half hours; from entering the hall at 8am for the briefing , planning, re-entering the hall at 10:30am through to leaving it at about 12:45 and then finishing my edit with all images with the agency by about 2:30pm. All for a set of photographs that I knew were unlikely to make the front page the next day because, as I said, the story was Boris and Carrie.

Not every paper went with the pooled “couple” image.. but most did…

Onwards…

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.