Archive for the ‘Photo and Tech News’ Category

Habemas Papem

Habemas Papem by Luke Robinson
Habemas Papem, a photo by Luke Robinson on Flickr.

I was extremely fortunate that my first night in Rome in nearly 20 years coincided with the selection and announcement of the new Pope, Francis. More photos to come when I get back to London.

One of the things that struck me tonight in the Vatican was that when the announcement was made, and when the new Pope appeared for the first time, a sea of camera screens appeared in the audience, it seemed virtually everyone (myself included) was recording the event despite the TV cameras and press doing a much better job of it. Charlie Brooker was right, we have turned into a world of passive recorders, drones with phones. I realised that this would not have been the case in 2005 – as digital cameras were not nearly as pervasive – and the iPhone had not yet been released.

Seething as I am asked not to take pictures on my own street!

I just dashed off this fun little missive to the location manager, sub-manager and Brent Council Film Office contact for the location shoot that is going on across the road from me right now. Try to gauge my mood here.

Update 30 minutes later – wow, that was quick, they have replied to my letter – see the bottom of this post.

To whom it may concern, 
Hi, I live on [my] Road, and, having been on a film set before once or twice, was naturally interested to see a location shoot rock up on my humble street (despite lorries loudly arriving post-midnight last night).
Whilst on the way to do some shopping I whipped out the iPhone to do a casual snap of the film crew in action, to show my absent girlfriend later, when I was approached by one of the gentlemen from [Security Firm Name] who asked me not to take a photo. I was standing on the public pavement at the time. 
I am a photographer on the side and am, as you will see, very protective of photographic rights. I’m going to get pedantic here, but you need to hear it.
I explained to him that I had every right to do so, as I was on public land (see and furthermore he was a visitor on my street, not the other way around. 
He tried to explain that there was a “custom” of not taking photos of film crews, which was a new one on me. I said he did not have the right to ask me to stop – not even a policeman’s badge, much less a high-viz jacket, would give anyone the right to stop me taking a photo from a public place – and he demurred that I had the right to take the photo, but then he had the right to wave his arms around in front of me (which he did not do) in order to prevent the photo. I admit that this is technically true, but he would have been harassing me if so and the police might have got involved. I was called “argumentative” for sticking up for my rights. Damn right I am. 
The point of all of this is that you are filming in a public environment, and so am I. You have a permit, I don’t need one. For your information I took an oblique photo (not video) of the crew, no cast members, and nothing plot-threatening (to be honest, rom-coms are not my cup of tea). But that is not material. As long as I am standing on public property, I could have had my professional camera out, shooting right into the action, and been within my rights. 
I understand your desire to protect copyright and prevent plot details leaking, and I am excited to have this sort of action in my street, but your desires do not outweigh my rights, and I am not going to be cowed by some guy because he happens to be wearing a vest. 
Luke Robinson

This was the admittedly very conciliatory and friendly reply, sent within thirty minutes. Fair play, I am a bit less seething now.

Hi Luke

Thanks for your email.

You are quite right, we have no right to stop anybody from photographing on the street, we only try to avoid flash photography or sounds ruining our shots, but that’s all, and this is usually just a request.

I am surprised that any of my security crew would have stopped you from using a camera in the street, only to ask you to be careful not to use a flash or something similar.

Please accept my apologies if this has caused you any inconvenience at all, I can assure you that this is just a misunderstanding, I will ensure that this does not happen again.

Timelapse videos: Enough already.

This might be just sour grapes – after all I have never gotten it together to actually buy or make a timelapse motion control rig – but I reckon the internet has enough timelapse videos now.

There is nothing technically wrong with them. The creators deserve kudos for the time, energy and technique put into capturing all their timelapses – something which by its very definition is a time-consuming and laborious exercise. Some of them are great showreels for their creators.

But here’s the thing: they all seem to blend in together after a while. If you keep up with photography blogs or websites, you know what I am talking about, I feel sure. Every video seems to feature some combination of the following:

  1. Cityscapes (bonus points for river traffic in harbour cities)
  2. Landscapes (bonus points for moving stars and/or aurora borealis)
  3. Stirring piano music (must be earnest and if possible contain grandiose string sections) *
  4. Suspiciously uniform two-metre horizontal travel (blame the dollies)
  5. Tilt-shift (optional extra)
  6. Vimeo (well where else would you put it, duh)

I am ready to see someone do something new in the world of timelapse videos. How can this already-stagnating format be invigorated?

*I swear all of the timelapse videos in the last year have used the same music, but it is so generic that it is impossible for the human brain to recognise it when heard repeatedly.

My new approach to offsite backups from Lightroom

April 24, 2012 1 comment

Hi all,

I realise I haven’t posted in a little while here, apologies firstly but the simple truth is I haven’t been anywhere outside work trips (airport-hotel-meeting-restaurant-hotel-airport is not usually conductive to photography) and the UK weather has not exactly been inspiring photo jaunts of late either.

Anyway I am posting today not to show new photos, but to talk about something simultaneously quite pedestrian and yet essential: backups of your photos.

I have a pretty large archive (1.5TB) of my past digital photos stretching back to 2000, and even farther back – I’ve got scans of photos from the pre-digital era. They’re all fairly well organised into folders by year, then month, then subject (e.g. “2008 > 01-January > Marrakech”).

Now I’ve been lucky that (thus far) disaster has not befallen me. I’ve never had a hard drive crash before I could get my photos off of it, nor have I had a fire or burglary which has taken from me my only copies of any precious shots. But this is down to luck so far, and a casual perusal of the internet is all it takes to remind you of how easy it is to lose everything, even by something so daft as an errant press of the delete key.

A couple of years back I was running out of space on my main photo drive, so I upgraded to a RAID system (a QNAP 419+) with 2x 2TB drives operating in a RAID mirrored configuration, with 2 empty drive bays for future expansion. The RAID mirroring means I don’t have to worry about a hard drive failing – if it does, the other drive will just take over until I can replace the dud one. So far, so good.

However, this is not truly backed up. For one thing, I could still fall victim to the dreaded accidental Delete key. RAID won’t help with that. And I could still lose the whole thing in a house fire or burglary. In an ideal world I would either be using Time Machine on my Mac – which would involve having another, even BIGGER drive to back up to – or I could keep an external hard drive, remember to back it up once a week or so, and keep it offsite. To be frank, I was too lazy to do this.

I do, however, have two assets that I should be able to use to effect a lazy-man’s offsite backup: Adobe Lightroom and Dropbox.

Like many photographers, I have been using Lightroom to catalog, organise, and process my digital photos for the last couple of years. I have also been using Dropbox for about the same amount of time. Never before, however, had I figured out how to combine them to good effect. But Eric Scouten’s recent update of his Lightroom workflow made me think about backup again and how I might use Dropbox.

I wanted somehow to make it so that I could tag my “keeper” photos in Lightroom and somehow automatically export them into DropBox, crucially with my existing folder structure intact – so a keeper from my Marrakech trip would still be found within the “2008 > 01-January > Marrakech” folder in my new DropBox archive.

My Eureka moment was when I found the HierarchyExport plug-in for Lightroom on the Adobe site. It’s very flexible, allowing the user to either create a new export folder hierarchy (e.g. based on photo metadata, Lightroom collection hierarchy) or, and here’s what stuck out to me, to replicate the file folder hierarchy of the source image. Crucially, it also has an option to skip or overwrite files in cases where the filename already exists in that location.

Then I figured out how I could semi-automate this from Lightroom. I started a new Smart Collection called Dropbox Backup, which I set to include only the photos that had the keyword “DropBox” added to their metadata. I then went about setting up the first batch of photos to backup. Your mileage may vary, but I use the green label (“8”) for “artsy” shots that might end up on Flickr or the blog, and the blue label (“9”) for social / personal / snapshot images. Most of the time, if I then Flag the image (“P”) then it signifies that I’ve uploaded this somewhere. So just to start out and build my collection a bit, I filtered my 2011 photos for green- or blue-labelled, flagged photos. I then did a Select All in the grid, added the Dropbox keyword, and watch the Smart Collection populate with my just-selected photos.

You can see where I am going with this. The process I have come up with is:

  1. Install HierarchyExport plugin referenced above using Plugin Manager
  2. Create new “Dropbox Backups” Smart Collection filtered for photos with the “dropbox” keyword
  3. Tag “keeper” photos with keyword “dropbox”
  4. Switch to “Dropbox Backups” collection. Verify photos appear in this collection.
  5. Select All photos in Grid View
  6. From the File menu, choose Export…
  7. At the top of the Export dialog, change the dropdown to HierarchyExport
  8. Change the parameters of the plugin to suit yourself. In my case I use Original Folder structure, and I skip files if they already exist. Note: this will prevent you writing out the same files over and over again as your collection grows.
  9. Set the image export particulars to suit yourself. I actually went for exporting to 100% quality, non-resized JPEGs. I would have gone for TIFFs if not for space concerns. I also turned off watermarks in case I want to use these as print files.
  10. Set the Export location to somewhere within your DropBox folder. I actually put these in an “Archive” folder within the Photos folder on mine. That ensures that I can browse them from anywhere on the internet, if need be.
  11. Save this as a User Preset by using the + button on the left. Call it “Backup Dropbox”.

From now on this means that all I have to do is tag my photos in Lightroom with “Dropbox”, go to the smart collection, select all and do File > Export and pick the “Backup Dropbox” preset. Lightroom and the plugin will backup all my chosen photos with folder structure intact, will be smart enough to ignore ones it’s already done, and I will finally have my long-sought-for offsite backup.

UPDATE August 2012

Well a few months into the process, I have made a slight modification that saves a lot of time on exporting. Once my files have made it through to the DropBox folder, I select all of the successfully-backed-up images in Lightroom and change the keyword from “dropbox” to “dropbox_backedup”. I have also changed the Smart Collection filter to exclude any of the “dropbox_backedup” images. In short, I have saved the export routine from going back over all of the previously-exported images every time I want to do a backup. This saves a lot of time on my increasingly-ancient iMac.

Rant on Loving Photography

Here’s a great post from Allen Murabayashi of Photoshelter on why we should all just chill out and love photography unconditionally:

The business of photography is undergoing massive change. People who used to make a ton of money aren’t making the same money any more. Amateurs are giving away photos for free. I totally get it.

But listen. There are so many more incredible photos today than there ever were. And more people consume more photography than they ever did thanks to things like Facebook, Instagram, iPads, blogs, and “best of” compilations. This is the golden age of photography. Everyone takes photos now, and there is inspiration all around us. History is being made, and we’re capturing it.

Hear hear.

Categories: Photo and Tech News

Why I don’t think Google+ is ready to succeed Flickr (yet)

December 6, 2011 1 comment

Thomas Hawk has been very vocal in recent months about the supposed superiority of Google+ and why all the professional photographers he knows are moving to the service, and leaving Flickr in droves (see: “Flickr is Dead“). I am not sure I agree, at least on the superiority front. I have been frustrated with Flickr’s lack of innovation in recent years, but the fact remains it has a robust set of tools for management and sharing, and these simply don’t exist yet in Google+.

Thomas’ most recent post on the subject asserts:

Over the past few months the tide has begun shifting even more. Photographers are moving in mass from Flickr to Google+ as their primary photo sharing network.

Just like the social crowd moved from Webshots and Fotolog to Flickr a number of years ago, the social photography crowd is now moving from Flickr to Google+.

This may well be true, but I don’t find Google+ any more compelling for photo sharing than I did several months ago when first trying it. I summed this up in a comment on Thomas’ post:

I am a bit late to the party here, but I am perplexed at Thomas’ incessant promotion of Google+ as a superior photo service to Flickr. I will grant that engagement on a photo-by-photo basis seems to be higher, and that more innovations may be coming from Google+ than from Flickr (though I would debate this) but there are still some pretty glaring omissions that haven’t been addressed since the last time I looked at switching from Flickr.

I am currently uploading some shots to Google+ that I also uploaded to Flickr, using the Google+ in-browser uploader. (Note I have not tried using Picasa to upload).

I still find it unreal that despite having entered all kinds of information into my IPTC / EXIF tags of my exported images in Lightroom, most of these don’t get preserved when uploading to Google+. Why do I need to enter a caption again when I have already set this in Lightroom? Why can’t I look at more than a few cursory lines of EXIF information in the photo details page? How come I can’t set Creative Commons options? And why can’t I have the option to upload a scaled-down, web-sized version of my shots instead of having to suffer through painfully-slow (from the UK) full-resolution uploads?

And once the photos are up – can I browse by tag? No. Can I automatically reorder my photos by capture time if I add more shots to an album? No. Can I see a map of my photos within Google+? Astoundingly, no.

Most infuriatingly, is there an easy way for me to generate embed code to share a photo inside my own blog posts? No.

All of the limitations above also limit the ability of others to discover my photos and socialise them.

I am just as annoyed as anyone with Flickr’s stagnation and worry about its future. But, Mr Hawk, I think for you to say that Google+ is currently a superior photo sharing or discovery service stretches the bounds of credulity.

Until Google+ can address some of the shortcomings I see above, I can imagine a lot of photographers will hang fire on completely ditching Flickr. That day may come, but it isn’t here yet.

As a postscript, I do wonder whether Thomas’ experience with Google+ is coloured by his prominence as a photographer / social networker – in other words, his experience and engagement with Google+ has never been less than amazing because he came to the party with an existing mass of followers? For me, as someone with rather less popularity, the supposed benefits of the social experience on Google+ do not outweigh the lack of basic functionality…

TIME Lightbox: Tourism in Southeast Asia

August 25, 2011 1 comment

A great photo essay about the joys, heartache and hypocrisy of the Asian backpacker “scene” from Jörg Brüggemann. I am well aware of this “scene” having done a few backpacking trips in the region, but I don’t feel part of it any more. I was pretty unpleasantly surprised at how over-touristed and well-trodden Vietnam was when we went earlier this year but I still enjoyed it nonetheless.

Photo by Jorg Bruggeman
(Image copyright Jörg Brüggemann)

Photographer Jörg Brüggemann joined the backpacker trail in South and Southeast Asia: a stretch of turf that has been densely charted already by Lonely Planet, that is lined with tours and scams ready to swallow up the unsuspecting, and that is trod over by millions each year. Many of these tourists are young people on gap years or study abroad, journeying ostensibly on latter day quests of self-discovery, financed on a shoestring. But, according to Brüggemann, what were once whimsical, individual explorations have turned into banal spectacles of packaged mass tourism. “Thailand,” he says, “is already like Mallorca.”

His photos from Thailand, Laos and India capture the backpacker experience in its ironies and idiosyncrasies. Young Western kids smoke hash, ape the meditation of holy men, pad around hostels, get drunk. Throughout Asia, it seems tourists are rarely engaging in the country they visit on its own terms, but rather, on the hackneyed ones manufactured by the whole backpacker tourism industry. In his seminal work Orientalism, the great, late, humanist intellectual, Edward Said, described how many Western scholars of the East—the Orient—treated it not as a real place but as a “theatrical stage affixed to Europe.” In a different context, the backpacker circuit achieves the same effect.

Read more:

One disgruntled would-be DSLR videographer’s open letter to Canon

I’ve just seen this brilliant video by Doug Bayne, an aspiring film-maker, who complains to Canon that whilst they have provided him with the technical means to make videos like Vincent Lafloret, they have forgotten to include inspiration and competence in the box with the other bits of kit. I feel Doug’s payne pain as I have taken loads of video out and about with my 7D and about 99% of it is utterly awful.

An open letter to Canon from safetyhammer on Vimeo.

Great photo report from the London riots by AFP’s Leon Neal

August 12, 2011 3 comments

I just wanted to share this post from AFP’s Leon Neal, a snapper I have been lucky enough to talk with on many occasions via Twitter (where he goes by @TabascoKid). Very scary stories (and brilliant shots) of what it was like to try and cover the London riots of August 2011 from a press photographer’s perspective:

It’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time to check this out.

I am now on Google+

If you’d like to hook up on Google+, you can find me at: