DECEMBER 2008 - The archive page

Welcome to the December archive of the dg28 pre-blog. The idea here is simple - every month I will remove the older copy and stick it into a dated archive... read on...


24.12.2008 | 11:01 GMT | Merry Christmas

I have been flat on my back with a heavy duty virus (man-flu) for a week or so, just popping out to shoot a couple of commissions so my big plans for a Christmas spectacular picture shot for the blog haven't exactly panned out! I was thinking about an image to use and came up with this one - shot on this day, last year. I was having a wonderful family Christmas up in Scotland and we all went for a walk which happened to take us past a distillery. Imagine that! It was a wonderful holiday and this picture brings back memories of (other people) having a nip of The Famous Grouse.

The world economic situation isn't looking too clever and a lot of photographers are looking at a pretty uncertain time in 2009 and so I'd just like to say that everyone is in my thoughts as I shake off the last of the virus that has been dogging me for over a week now. I hope that everyone who is celebrating Christmas is celebrating it with the ones that they love. The soundtrack at this point should be The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl and "The Fairy Tale of New York". Merry Christmas.


15.12.2008 | 16:25 GMT | Flash and blur at Christmas

The very first technique example that I wrote about on the original dg28 site was a portrait made using flash and blur. When I went through the statistics for my web site"flash and blur" was the most searched phrase.

Coincidentally, I spent some time on the recent London Strobist group meet up showing some of the others a few simple ways to make pictures with the Christmas lights on the trees in the centre where we were playing.

This example makes use of having a zoom lens. It really would be a feet of skill to do this one with a prime lens!

We were shooting on a balcony which overlooks the concourse of a very trendy shopping centre where every tree is decked out with lights. My subject was very simply lit with my ultra-portable lighting kit...


15.12.2008 | 15:56 GMT | Leaving college unprepared

Back in 2001 there was an awful lot of talk in the industry about the perceived shortcomings of the education that young photographers were getting. I wrote the piece below about dealing with people as my response but now it's the end of 2008 and I have to say that it is not getting any better. I meet young photographers who have no grasp of how to be in business let alone the idea that the vast majority of photographers working in the UK today are freelance. Most seem to have no concept of stuff like copyright, licensing, workflow, IPTC, budgeting and marketing.

Leaving full time education after completing and passing a course and not knowing what is what would be unforgivable if it were the students' fault. I don't think that it is. It looks to me as if its the system that is to blame. A framework that makes teachers and administrators tick so many pointless boxes combined with a profession that is moving so fast that anyone who has been away from the coalface for more than twelve months probably doesn't understand what is needed.


14.12.2008 | 20:48 GMT | The 1st of some old opinions

I have been writing "opinion" pieces on dg28 for a few years and I have been going back through them to see if any of them deserve another outing in this blog. I came across this one from 2004 that I always liked and the final sentence is something that I quote with monotonous regularity to students...


11.12.2008 | 12:27 GMT | A pre-blog is born


So here we go then... a little over three months after leaving my job as a staff photographer at TSL Education I have been persuaded that it's time to launch my obligatory blog. The main subject matter will be light and the way that I use it in my day to day work but I am going to meander around a whole range of other stuff.

Why now, well I shared some pizza with the one and only David Hobby when he was in London the other day and he convinced me - damned persuasive guy. So, David, thanks - I think.

10.12.2008 | 21:14 GMT | Freelancing - what's that about...

Photo of me shot by John McEchnie after a particularly cold but successful magazine shoot in Cambridge.

The decision to go freelance wasn't entirely mine. The newspaper that I had been working on was going through some changes and there was no longer enough work to justify them having a staff photographer. With a mix of excitement and sheer unadulterated terror I went on a "how to be self-employed" course laid on by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs quickly followed by a round of ringing newspapers, magazines and agencies trying to make appointments to show my shiny new portfolio. A week after my first showing, I did my first job - of all places back in a school. After fourteen and a half years shooting schools, my first step as a freelancer was in a school.

Within the first three weeks I had shown my folio a dozen times, sent two hundred emails and made a hundred phone calls. My on-line folio had been viewed over six hundred times but I have no idea whether that was by interested picture editors or my friends and family. My business cards arrived in week two - all 2,500 of them and I have made it my life's work to give them all away!

By the end of month one I had worked for four different clients, by the end of month two that figure was up to seven and by the end of month three I had worked for ten. I had also had a really great holiday with my wife (pre-planned before I knew that I was leaving my staff job).

Here I am almost 100 days into a new phase in my career and I'm still finding my feet. I'm working - not as many days a week as I'd like - but I'm shooting some really nice jobs and I find myself looking forward to the next day at work in a way that I haven't for quite a while.

::About the picture of me>>

10.12.2008 | 20:20 GMT | Seminar now booking

Photographer Simon Lusty contacted me a couple of months ago with an idea for a series of dg28 live seminars starting in March 2009. I really love teaching the kind of techniques that you have been able to find on my site for the last eight years and this is your chance to come along and see me doing it live.

I am delighted to say that he has been working hard arranging a venue and all of the equipment needed to put the event on and we are now accepting bookings for the first one. The venue is a beautiful farmhouse in Worcestershire and the number of places is being limited to 15. This is a full day seminar with plenty of hands on opportunities. The first seminar is entitled "that editorial look". To find out more and to book (group discounts and BPPA member discounts available) go the the Live Seminars web site.


10.12.2008 | 18:15 GMT | A few cameras and a few flashes.

A couple of days before David Hobby - The Strobist himself - gave two seminars here in the UK, a group of ridiculously enthusiastic photographers gathered in central London for a meet-up. This was my first and it was great fun. Just a bunch of people with cameras making interesting and unusual pictures with a whole range of flash units, stands, triggers and light modifiers. Every once in a while they'd gather into small groups and admire each others' handiwork in mass chimping sessions. I know that I do this kind of stuff for a living, but I was bowled over by the effort and enthusiasm that these folks showed.

The session was facilitated by The Flash Centre and the great Drew Gardner was on hand to offer advice, light stands and even his services as a model. That's Drew above with the black puffa jacket and very little hair. The London Strobist group do this kind of thing all of the time and I hope that they will invite me along again to have another go.

10.12.2008 | 18:10 GMT | New toys in da' house


I'm a photographer, and I'm a geek. I love new toys and the best new toys of all have to be cameras. The Canon EOS5D MkII has been a long time coming and I have been very excited waiting for it to turn up.

On Monday 1st of December at about 3.30 in the afternoon I went and collected the first of the two bodies that I had ordered on the day that it was announced.

If you order on day one, you expect to be pretty high on the list of those who are going to get one. I was staggered to find out that I was as low as number 24 on the list of this particular Canon dealer. Number 1 on their list had pre-ordered a staggering seven months before the camera was even announced! That's before even Canon knew what the specification was going to be.

The camera is a joy to use. After only nine days with it I am learning to love it. A lot of people writing on discussion forums have pointed out that it is a bit of a risk being an early adopter of anything new - and they are right. I was in the strange position of needing to buy new gear after going freelance at exactly the same time that my camera manufacturer of choice for the last twelve years was bringing out something that promised to be very special. It's here and, so far, so good.

Before the 5D MkII was in the country I also bought an early model Canon EOS50D. I fell in love with this little camera at an event to launch the 5D MkII and I thought that it represented amazing value for money and would provide an ideal stop-gap between the four year old EOS1D MkII bodies that I had been using and the 5D MKIIs. It is also going to be a brilliant third body when my second 5D MkII arrives.

Along with the new cameras I have upgraded Photoshop to CS4 to get the version of Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) required to handle the 5D MkII CR2 files. I promise you that this was the only reason that I decided to spend the money but there are two features that I really love. The first is the ability to view images at any degree of magnification without aliasing (previously that was only possible using 12.5%, 25%, 50% or 100%). I work on a laptop a lot of the time and filling the screen for editing is important and now I can without worrying about jagged lines on the screen. The other advance is the tabbed windows for multiple images. In CS3 and all previous versions that I can remember (and I go back to version 2.5) every image was opened in a separate window - which was cluttered and a bit confusing when you had more than six images open at a time. No longer! Now we have a single window with tabbed access to each image - a big improvement.



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