20 March 2018

The Photography Show 2018

On Saturday I visited The Photography Show and spent a few hours walking aimlessly around, drinking tea, catching up with my colleagues at Benro and making a new Fujifilm friend.

Catching the 07:27 train from Southampton Airport, we arrived shortly before the doors opened at 10am.

My first stop was the Benro stand.  It was impossible to miss the 3x2 metre print of my photo taken at Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.  It was only ever supposed to be a snapshot (taken while waiting for the sunset) to throw up on social media, so for it to be turned into the biggest I've ever seen my work displayed put quite a smile on my face.

One of the reasons I like to visit TPS is for the smaller companies that you just might not have heard of, the ones with innovative products, and I found one, a British company called Adaptalux that had a most interesting LED macro light system - take a look at their website - it'll explain their product much better than I can here.

Being jumped on (not quite literally) by a slightly bonkers woman on the Fujifilm stand, who had seen my Chernobyl patch on my jacket.  Turns out we have a Nikolai (the best damn Chernobyl tour guide in the 'verse) in common.

Visiting TPS over the weekend of Comic Con means a walkthrough by the cosplayers...

01 March 2018

First look at the Fujifilm X-H1

I braved the only proper day of winter in over five years today for one reason, to go to the Fujifilm touchy feeling day at London Camera Exchange where they were demonstrating the new Fujifilm X-H1.  Only slight problem was that Fujifilm weren't brave enough to actually turn up, and they hadn't told anyone it was cancelled.


Thankfully, my favourite camera store (thank you Tony!) to the rescue, let me have a play with their demo unit, and what a fine lust worthy bit of kit it is.

It's chunkier than the Fujifilm X-T2 or the Fujifilm X-Pro2, but not as much as I'd expected, and it felt so good in the hand.

Attaching the grip it turned this "small" mirrorless camera into a bit of a beast, and for me kinda defeating the whole concept of a smaller, mirrorless system.   That said, I can imagine times when I'd use the grip, complete with three batteries.

Okay Fujifilm, shut up and take my money....   If I had a spare £1699 that is!   One shall ye shall be mine.

I shall have to save my question of how I keep the eyecup from falling off my X-Pro2 until next time.

27 February 2018

Radioactive Moose in Chernobyl

Before my most recent trip to Chernobyl I'd only ever seen three wild moose (all in the same day at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming).  This was despite driving 1000's of miles around Canada, and only ever seeing moose in the gift shops there.

On my previous six visits to the zone, I'd only managed to see the bones of a very dead moose, and I knew that by venturing onto roads less traveled in Chernobyl - ie away from the main tourist trail - the changes of seeing a moose were higher. 

I only had a 200mm (full frame equivalent) lens with me so I knew any photos I got were going to be "meh" at best, but today was about the experience, with any photos, however much post-processing cropping involved would be a bonus.

Along the 60 km round trip (we were the only ones to use the road that day), we saw four moose.


I only managed to get photos of the first two, with the mother and calf being too flighty and running off into the woods before I even had a chance to raise my camera.

I was right about the 200mm focal length though (all of these images are very heavily cropped), not nearly enough.   Perhaps I can send a few (dozen) invoices and get the wonderful Fujifilm 100-400mm lens I've had my eye on for the last year before my next visit to the zone in August....

Still, at the end of the day I saw moose, and moose makes me happy!

26 February 2018

The dogs of Chernobyl (Winter edition)

There are many reasons I've fallen in love with the Chernobyl Zone, but meeting the dogs living in the zone is always a highlight.

Most of the dogs seem to live a mostly "wild" existence, but they all seem healthy and happy.   Some are a little nervous, and some, like Tarzan (more on him later) are playful.

If you're interested to learn more about my trips to Chernobyl, please take a look at my Photo Experience Days website.

Someone, whether its the locals, the workers, or tourists is looking after and feeding them.

Tarzan, the dog who lives at the entrance to Duga, was wonderful company and he kept us entertained on the walk up to the radar - playing in the snow, with various sticks, or just playing.

This is Tarzan.

(Someone remind me to buy some dog biscuits for my next visit to the zone in August!)

25 February 2018

Working on the Chernobyl zone railway

You'd think on a day where I saw four moose in the wild, and walked on a frozen lake for the first time, they'd pretty much be the high points of the day?  Normally, I'd agree, but not this day.

It was the first time I've visited the villages at the northern part of the Chernobyl zone (first time we've ever had time in the schedule with the extra day in the zone).  If that wasn't special enough, on the way back we saw some railway maintenance workers working on the line out of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station.

They were given us some curious "WTF" looks, but they waved back, and seemed friendly.

It wasn't long before they'd given us their tools to see if we could do their job of tightening up the bolts - I failed - too much of a wimp.  They had a bloody tough job, in sub-zero conditions, yet they all seemed happy.

Apparently we were the first foreigners they'd ever met, which given they were all around 50 years old was quite something.

Most of the workers in the zone barely give tourists a second look (or even a first one), which, just like the time I met one of the re-settlers, made this chance meeting all the more special.

After a few selfies (their idea!) we all shook hands and went on about our days.

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29 December 2017

Salisbury Catherdral Stich

There's nothing particularly remarkable about this photo of Salisbury Cathedral, except the fact that its four photos merged into one.  It came about because I didn't have the right lens with me, so it was either a choice of a very wide angle shot at (18mm), or shoot at 50mm and not get the whole thing in.

So I decided, very crudely I might add, to take four images (at 50mm) that I'd then try to stitch together.   Never having tried anything more than a simple horizontal panoramic before, I wasn't sure how my software of choice (Affinity Photo) would cope, but nothing ventured and all that...

I didn't exactly make it easy for the software, adding the photos (Fuji RAW files) in the order taken starting bottom right and working clockwise.  Some time later out popped this result.   A quick Nix Silver Efex filter later to turn it black and white, and the result was really rather pleasing.

It's a technique I'll be experimenting with more.

27 August 2017

Retiring from fitness event photography?

I've thought long and hard about this, and as much as I've hugely enjoyed photographing fitness events over a great many years, I think it's probably time gracefully retire from shooting them.

Over the last 15 years or so I've photographed many of the biggest and best fitness events;

Arnold Classic (Columbus, Ohio)
GNC Show of Strength (Atlanta, Georgia)
Fitness America / Bikini America / Musclemania (Miami and Los Angeles)
Miami Pro (London)
NABBA (Italy)
FAME / WNSO (Toronto)
UFE (Birmingham)
and of course WBFF (Toronto, Edmonton, & London)

The only thing missing from the list is Olympia, which although I've been to the Expo a few times, I've never quite managed to get in to shoot the competition bits.

I've fallen out with some (I spoke out about the awful organisation behind one of the first Miami Pro events), and some have simply struggled to get going over here in the UK.

Despite getting published more times than I can remember in North America (Planet Muscle, Musclemag, Oxygen, American Curves), and doing 100's of photo shoots across the pond, I've always struggled to translate that success to the UK market.

Indeed, I remember a conversation with Paul Dillett quite a few years before their first UK event saying how well I think WBFF would do in the UK, and it was (is!).

I've had the privilege of being the only photographer allowed to photograph every WBFF UK event to date (not including the 2017 Worlds), and I've enjoyed every moment of it.  Sadly though my business skills aren't quite up to standard, and I've struggled to turn the passion I have for photography into profit, which is a big part of why I think this is the right time to retire.

Who knows, hopefully it'll be a temporary retirement and I'll be back at shooting soon.

Only time will tell.

03 June 2017

Photographing Common People Southampton - Day 2

I arrived a little later on the Sunday, missing the first couple of acts.   One thing I noticed that was very different to the 80’s festivals I’m normally photographing was the crowds.  There was almost no one watching the first few acts, whereas for big crowds are always present from the start for the 80’s gigs.

Another day, and another artist late, again blaming traffic.  You’d think these creative types would at least think up a better excuse for their tardiness.   Nadia Rose had just three songs, and she didn’t stray from the front right hand side of the stage.  She stopped shortly into her third song because the next band were sound checking, and she didn’t much like it.  My guess was the band didn’t much like her performing during their scheduled sound check time either.  She tried to get them to stop, they didn’t, so she sang her song anyway.   Again I found the whole situation rather amusing.

Again the acts came and went throughout the day, as did the rain showers, thankfully clearly late afternoon.  Amy MacDonald, Black Kat Boppers, British Sea Power, Signals, and Wild Beasts.

Groove Armada played another DJ set.  I simply don’t get it as a main act...  Sure stick them on the side of the stage and let them DJ away between sets as Sam Hall (aka Goldierocks) had been doing all day.  At least she wasn’t hidden away towards the back of the stage.   Groove Armada couldn’t even be bothered with their presentation, with plug sockets showing, talking to each other, and not really seeming to give much of a damn.   I took a few snaps, and then headed out into the audience who were for the most part, apparently enjoying their act.  


With nearly two hours to kill before the headline of Sean Paul, I bimbled around a bit, got another cup of tea, a portion of cheese chips, and generally sat politely moaning with some of the other photographers about how dull DJ sets are to photograph.

I’d never heard of Sean Paul before, although I did check him out on Youtube.   Hmm, not exactly my kind of music.   However, just because I don’t much like the music, doesn’t mean to say I can’t appreciate a good performance / show, and that Sean Paul gave.  He worked the stage brilliantly, a real showman, giving the photographers more than enough to photograph.

We only had two songs before we were ushered out.  A few of us headed out into the audience to try and get some crowd shots of the stage and light show, with the disabled access area directly next to the sound stage proving the perfect place to photograph from. 

By the time I arrived home at around 22:30 I could still hear Sean through my bedroom window, the sound, and the ultra heavy bass travelled.

It had been a good two days, actually I lie, it had been a great two days!  Much fun, and not a hint of any of the problems the negative reviews from last year had mentioned.

This was the first time I’d used my newly acquired Fujifilm X-T1 with 40-150mm f2.8 lens in anger at any kind of music event, and I was a little unsure how it would handle, or how long the battery might last.

The only problem I had was my memory card (Sandisk Ultra 80mb/s) weren’t up to the job, and I kept hitting the buffer limit which caused the camera to freeze up for what seemed like hours, but was really only a few seconds.  This has never been a problem before, but I was shooting RAW+JPG which meant much bigger file sizes than I was used to with my Olympus.  I found a slighter faster card (Sandisk Extreme 90mb/s) which was better.  I’ve already purchased a couple of UHS-II cards (Lexar Professional 150mb/s).

The X-T1 isn’t the ideal camera for fast action.  The focus system is a little slow, and I know that the updated X-T2 would be much better, but that’ll have to wait until I’ve saved up for a while.

I wasn’t sure about the battery life, and I had a bag full of extra batteries.  I didn’t have to worry though, as they lasted rather well.  I had to change the battery in the grip of my X-T1 just once on day 1, and on day 2 they lasted for the whole day.  Obviously they’ll never last as long as a DSLR battery, but yeh, I was impressed.

What I did like, and this was quite refreshing, was the quality of the JPG’s straight out of camera (SOOC).  I’ve never not processed RAW files from any concert before, and it was a revelation, not to mention a huge time saver when you have 700 images to get through.

I will still be shooting in RAW and messing around with processing them as and when necessary.  The extra detail they hold can at times save an image, but if the JPG’s are this good (everything I’ve posted here is SOOC) then why make work for yourself?