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

 

Assignments is back!

In my role of Social Media and Web officer for theBPPA, I have been working on the marketing and launch of our forthcoming “Assignments” exhibition, the details of which may be found below…

The exhibition of the best of British press photography returns – this time on Londons South Bank – taking over the Barge House at the OXO Tower.

The opening night is Thursday 16th May – and will run until the 19th to coincide with London Photo Week.

We are doing things slightly differently this year – full details on the website – but here are the key facts:

  • Entries open on April 1
  • Entries close April 12th
  • Pictures taken between 31st August 2017 and 14th April 2019 are eligible
  • We have increased the maximum number of pictures you can enter to 10 this year
  • There is a £10 registration fee to help us pay for everything
  • There is NO framing fee this year – our friends at Canon and Fixation are very kindly picking up the bill for us!
  • We will be doing the “catalogue” and the “contact sheet” again
  • (every image entered makes the contact sheet – so you can choose your own favourites)
  • Everyone who enters gets a pair of invites to the opening night party!
  • The exhibition is open to BPPA members – but if you have lapsed or haven’t got round to joining you can do so now

Check out the Assignments website for the full rules and details of how to enter: https://assignments.thebppa.com

GFX50S – First Touch for a digital medium format 1st timer.

Next week I have the first of a couple of large interiors architecture shoot. As I was planning the shoot I realised this would be the ideal test bed for the Fujifilm “medium format” GFX50S camera.

Until this week my only experience with medium format is my vintage Rolliflex, so I have never shot with anything other than Full-Frame or APS-C on digital. With this in mind I arranged to hire a GFX with the 23mm and the 32-64mm for a good few days before the shoot. My plan was to carry it with me instead of a little X-T to get the feel of the camera.

The first day I had it I needed to pop up to Gatwick Airport. Shot with the 23mm at F20, ISO800 (Not the ideal settings, I was rushing!!) , this JPG was shot in ACROS. I love the graduations in the greys, which given it is a JPG with it’s limited grey levels is quite an achievement.

I was struggling to find the limits of focusing, reframing and at what speeds I could hand hold the camera. It’s not really that much bigger or heavier than the full frame Nikon’s I used for years but there is a whole different feel (especially where depth of field is concerned) . This is another ISO800 JPG.

(Sorry for mixing colour and monochrome, a big no-no normally).

I’m sure every photographer has a long suffering partner that is asked to pose of “just look up” again and again and again. This RAF was shot hand-held at 1/40th on the 32-64 at 64mm. At 3200ISO and F4, using the Classic Chrome profile in lightroom mobile I love not only the colours and the graduations from light to dark, but also the way the sharpness in the eyes transition to the milky soft out of focus areas.

Its this transition in sharpness that give medium format its “almost 3D” quality.

This final picture was shot this morning, at 1/3000, F9, ISO100. The RAF edited in lightroom mobile has had the Velvia Profile applied and a couple of selective edits. This is only a small version of the image, you will have to take my word on how much detail there is in the wave.

So after a couple of days, what are my initial thoughts?

It’s not as big and as heavy as I thought it would be, its not much worse than say a D800 with a decent lens on it. Of course it is slower than its smaller Fuji cousins but I kind of like that, it reminds me to slow down and this about the shot I’m taking, I cant take 2 or 3 frames at high speed so I have to concentrate on the moment.

I was nicely surprised on how well Lightroom Mobile handled both the JPG and RAF files on my 2018 generation iPad Pro . Sure the previews took a while to build in the photos application import but copying over was fast, as was the ingesting into lightroom and editing.

The only real niggle I have at the moment is a user interface issue. The GFX50S has most of the buttons (in similar places) that the X-T range have. Why then can I not assign the front dial to ISO like on the smaller cameras. I could argue with myself that “well fast use is not what it is designed for, you are probably not going to be following action with the GFX50S up to your eye needing quick adjustments”. This is true, on a tripod or in a studio the top-plate dial is fine but why limit it? It’s only software. Why are these things not more consistent??

I had avoided this camera since its release because I was worried that I would love its image quality, I was right to worry….

More to follow….

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Like many photographers I must confess to not enjoying the “business” side of being a photographer as much as meeting people, creating images and being creative but the fact its, photography is a business and every transaction or project must be treated that way.

I don’t really write about the business of photography here so if you want to read my latest thoughts on this, head over to my main website and blog: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

A weekend at the BAFTAs

If you go back on my timeline you will no doubt find other posts from February’s past about the BAFTAs.

It’s an event I have been covering for quite a few years now and this year took a similar flow to years gone by; travel up on the Saturday, check into the hotel, cover the Nominees Party on the Saturday night, edit late, arrive at the Albert Hall for 2pm, cover the Red Carpet from 4pm till 7pm and then the Winners press room before heading back to the hotel at about 10:30 to edit till the early hours the next morning. A few hours sleep then finish the edit the Monday morning.

For the party I used 2 cameras, one with the 50-140/2.8 and the other with the 56/1.2 with the 56 used for only a few images like this one of the eventual Best Male Actor, Rami Malik

Rami Malik: X-T2/56mm @ F2

Just over 24 hours later, here he is with his award.

Rami Malik backstage: X-T2/50-140 @ F4

For the red carpet I used 3 cameras along with the 50-140, the 100-400 and again the 56 for the odd atmospheric shot

Lily Collins caught in a strobe: X-T2/100-400 @ F4.8 2000ISO

The 50-140 enabled me to get the fashion full length and half length images, combining with a Godox AD200 + remote head to fill in the shadows and detail. These are the images the magazines need as the following weeks publications around the world will be full of articles discussing the stars, their fashion successes and failures. (That is until the oscars when it will start again with a new set of outfits and stars). Getting these images is a case of setting the camera at the start and then continual concentration, the light is changing through the afternoon (white balance), the subjects may or may not look at you or even pose in front of you.

Rachel Brosnahan backstage: X-T2/100-400 @ 386mm/1/250th

Whilst ensuring that I don’t miss the fashion shots I like to keep a careful eye out for the images I find more interesting to shoot: Tight portraits showing the emotion, the stars standing in the queue waiting to have their photos taken (every year a queue forms consisting of the technical people that no one ever sees (the unsung hero’s), standing next to the up-and-coming actors, standing next to some of the biggest stars in the movie world.

Spike Lee waits in the queue: X-T2/100-400 @ 1/250th ISO2500

I shoot the close-ups with the 100-400, sometimes triggering a remote AD200 flash, sometimes on available light. This means using an higher ISO of 2000+ with a slower than standard recommendation shutter speeds (in most cases about 1/200th – 1/250th with the lens at about 600mm equivalence). A steady hand and good the great stabilisation of the lens rule here.

Steve Coogan waits in the queue: X-T2/100-400 @ 1/250th ISO1600

Over the course of the weekend I filed about 950 images, just under 20 were taken with the 56, about 170 with the 100-400 and the remainder with the 50-140.

I’ll post a fuller set of colour images (more likely to be seen in publications) later in the week but at the moment I thought a quick post featuring these images and a description of the working methods would give a good taste.

Snow on the Beach

I quite often enjoy a wander along Worthing beach first thing on the morning, usually with a cup of tea in my hand (I do not live far back from the beach). However this morning that tea would have gone cold rather quick.

UK Weather: Snowy and icy seafront at Worthing, West Sussex

Photographer on the beach :  X-T2 + XF100-400 @400mm 1/100 F5.6

Worthing quite often misses the snow when the country is hit, probably due to being shielded by the South Downs. However, this morning, last night’s snowfall remained and the beach still had a slight dusting. Having lived here for over 11 years now, I think this is only the 2nd or 3rd time I have seen the beach like this.

Snow meets the sea on at beach as Snow hits the South East of the UK on Friday 1 February 2019

Snow meets the sea : X-T2 +XF100-400 @ 1/200 F5.2

The combination of having the white of the crashing waves vs the white of the snow I thought looked quite surreal.

Commuters walk along the icy promenade as Snow hits the South East of the UK on Friday 1 February 2019

Commuters walk along the icy promenade : X-T2 + XF16-55 @16mm 1/250 F6.4

A cyclist rides along the icy promenade as Snow hits the South East of the UK on Friday 1 February 2019

A cyclist rides along the icy promenade : X-T2 + XF16-55 @16mm 1/250 F8

While snow and sea makes for nice landscapes, as a press photographer it’s the human aspect that is important, which means hanging around, watching and trying to show people dealing with the weather whilst at the same time trying to make a pretty picture.

The range of images here show working with the 16mm end of the standard zoom all the way up to the 400mm end of the long telephoto zoom (24mm to 600mm equivalent)

UK Weather: Snowy and icy seafront at Worthing, West Sussex

The sun rise & Ice : X-T2 + XF16-55 @16mm 1/1000 F8

Finishing with a nice pretty image – where I placed the camera in the snow and used the adjustable rear live view to see what I was doing….

Always be on the look out for those different angles..

 

Fuji and Godox at an event.

Once a month I can be found at the British Film Institute (BFI) working as the official photographer at film critic Mark Kermode’s live show.

Steve Coogan, Nadine Labaki, Mark Kermode, Liv Hill, James Gardner and Cyril Nri backstage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. The guests gather backstage before the show. Picture by Julie Edwards.

This entails working backstage to get a nice group shot of Mark with all of the guests as well as joining everyone for a pre-show run though to make sure I know the order as well as the host and the guests. This way I can make sure that I am always positioned in the best possible position to get good images of both Mark and the guests which are suitable for both social media and press. For the group shot I use an X-T2 with the 16-55/F2.8 coupled with a Godox TTL wireless controller and an Ad200 handheld high above me near the ceiling. This way I can be sure to get (fairly) even lighting without flash fare or reflections in any spectacles.

Steve Coogan on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. Steve joined Mark to chat about his film Stan and Ollie which he is watching here. Picture by Julie Edwards.

During the show I work with 2 X-T2’s, usually in Astia film simulation, preset to a fixed kelvin white balance, one with the 16-55, the other with the 50-140. As well as photographing the obvious, I am always looking out for the less obvious, the images that might capture the atmosphere of the event. The image above was shot at 10000iso, 1/100th and F2.8, and as you can see, with a little bit of an edit on the RAW file, its fine for social media and press use.

Nadine Labaki on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. Nadine joined Mark onstage to discuss her film Capernaum. Picture by Julie Edwards.

I tend to have the focus set to “s”, sometimes with Face Recognition, sometimes without. Using it makes images like the above a whole lot easier to capture.

Mark Kermode on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. . Picture by Julie Edwards.

Within minutes of the show ending, the images are on my laptop, loaded into lightroom and I start posting to social media (facebook, twitter and instagram) to publicise the event (with fully researched hashtags and handles where appropriate). At the same time, appropriate images are syndicated to press.

Working this way I am able to help build the reputation and visibility of any event I am employed to cover…..

Steve Coogan on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. Steve joined Mark to chat about his film Stan and Ollie. Picture by Julie Edwards.