Fool On The Hill

In July this year I undertook a review of a tripod and part of the exercise required me to take photos of myself using it. I decided the best location for this would be Cley Hill near Frome (very close to Longleat) which would allow me to get dramatic skies in the background.

As anyone local knows, Cley Hill isn’t a huge mountain; it’s not even a huge hill, but it’s big enough and a very steep climb. Which is fine on an ordinary walk, but to get photos of myself using the tripod I had to take two cameras and an extra tripod so I could have a camera on the test tripod and one mounted and aimed at myself to get the self-portraits.

The plan was then to trigger the remote camera using my radio triggers. Which I forgot to take with me. This meant resorting to the self-timer function of the camera, which only gave me 10 seconds to get from the “taking” camera to the one on the test tripod. That’s not easy when you’re trying to line up a shot at the top of a very steep hill, the wind is blowing, and cows are starting to take a close interest in what you’re doing.

I wanted to use evening light to get the best drama from the sky, but what with having to get to the top of the hill and set up, time was ticking by and things weren’t helped by the fact that I had to keep changing my location due to one factor or another.

Once I’d finally found the spot that would work best I was able to get cracking, but 10 seconds isn’t that long when you have to dash up a last steep section to get to the location before the shutter clicked and as you can see from the photos below, I slightly mis-judged the timer…

Cley Hill cows on a path

Originally I’d wanted to use this hill crest, but the curious cows wouldn’t shift

View of Tim Gander's back as he fails to get into position before the camera fires

I didn’t quite get myself in place in time for this one

Photographer Tim Gander sits with his camera on a tripod on the side of a hill

Just made it, but if I look like I’m panting for breath, that’s because I am

Back view of Time Gander scrabbling into position for a photo on Cley Hill

The light worked better on this set up, but I missed the timer again!

silhouette of photographer Tim Gander atop Cley Hill in Somerset with his camera on a tripod.

Finally! I look like a heroic, adventurous travel photographer. Truth is, I can almost see my house from here

Missing My Baby

Slim, petite, cute and so nice to touch… but I miss my Fuji X20. She’s in New York as I write this, being shown the sights by another man and I’m jealous as hell.

In fact I miss her so much I was compelled to go back to the review I wrote in July for Wex Photographic just to have a look at photos of her pretty, sleek lines and see the pictures I’d taken with her back then. I’m glad I did because there was a new comment on the article I hadn’t seen before, and I do enjoy responding to the comments and helping where I can. That’s just the kind of guy I am.

It’s also interesting to see the different view statistics between the various articles I write; a camera review will get lots of views in a short time. Write a review about pretty much anything else and the numbers climb much more slowly.

Fuji X20 review photo

I enjoy using the X20 in black and white as a street camera

With the X20 in particular I have noticed that in addition to healthy numbers of clicks on the article, it’s probably had more comments than just about any other review I’ve written for Wex. People really engage with this camera, which is after all just a camera, but then people engage with cars, coffee machines, just about anything shiny really.

The difference with some of the things I’ve reviewed is that, unlike the X20, they are not usable in isolation. Let me explain that better; when I reviewed the Canon 16-35mm zoom lens, that’s a bit of a niche lens, very expensive, and requires a camera to make it do what it does. Design-wise it’s hard to make a lens beautiful because it has to perform certain functions well and within fairly standard design constraints.

When I reviewed the LowePro Transit Sling 250 camera bag, that was also destined not to get thousands of views because bags are a bit dull. They aren’t what takes the pictures, they’re not at the glamorous end of photographic kit, and like lenses they’re functional rather than aesthetic.

I think what the X20 has achieved though is something extra. Fuji have tapped into the retro trend in the design of this camera, but as I think I’ve said elsewhere it’s not retro for the sake of it. The design works as well as it is attractive. Design and function coming together in a dinky package that’s easy to engage with and love. I do miss her…

Xcellent20

Once again I’m too swamped with work to write a full blog article. Luckily for you, an article I wrote for Wex Photographic about the rather super Fuji X20 has just been published, which is also lucky for me as it gets me off the hook for another week. I’m away next week too, so I may have to give it a rest until the week after.

In the meantime, do please read and share the Wex article with all your best friends! They’ll thank you for it I’m sure. Thank you for your patience, here’s one of the photos from the review as a reward.

Photo taken in Bath using the Fuji X20 camera

I’ve enjoyed shooting in black and white with the X20

Read lens review (not Len’s review)

I’m painfully aware that for the second week running I’ve missed publication day for my blog, which is normally on a Tuesday. For this I am quivering with apologia as I know some of you do little else on a Tuesday than await the publication of my next thrilling article; the truth is I’ve been busier than a bee with a very long to do list, and while I’m not sorry to be working and making a living I genuinely do regret the obvious disappointment caused by the non-appearance of fresh reading fodder for you here.

By way of compensation (or perhaps for some, this is a further slap in the face) I can present you with this lens review wot I wrote and which appears over on the Wex Photography blog. I do hope at least some of you go and read it and that a reasonable proportion of you (maybe 36.5% or thereabouts) might actually enjoy it. Even if 53.284% of those who click the above link actually read beyond the opening paragraph, there is a fighting chance that around 40.7239999 (recurring)% will read to the end. I suspect the larger proportion of those of you who respond positively to the survey question “Did you enjoy reading Tim’s excellent lens review?” will be lying, but that’s ok. I’m interested in statistics, not the truth.

Enough of this nonsense. Move your mouse pointer back to that link… go on… now cli…

Reviewing a Gem

If you haven’t already seen my review of the Fuji X10 over on the Wex Photographic website I suggest you get there post-haste and read it without further delay. War and Peace it isn’t, but what you will get is a camera reviewed in working situations and which shows what the camera is capable of when you delve deeper than the auto settings. What I discover is that the X10 is a little gem.

Although I’ve only ever reviewed two cameras (the aforementioned X10 and the Canon G1 X) I can honestly say I enjoy the experience and of course Wex know I’d like to do more.

Test photo for Wex Photographic review of Fuji X10

One of my first shots with the X10, testing macro and low light abilities in one shot.

It’s one of those tasks which is kind of scary but also exciting; I know I have to deliver a coherent critique of a camera and I need to get it done within a reasonable period of time, while of course I enjoy getting to try out new equipment.

Wex give me the freedom to decide what images I take, but I’m always looking for pictures which don’t just show that a camera can take pretty snaps in Auto mode, but that it can be pushed and stretched (figuratively of course) to show what it can and can’t do. There’s no point me just stepping outside the office and taking pictures of buildings and pretty scenes. Any camera that can be called a camera can pretty much do that standing on its head, albeit the pictures will be upside down.

With the G1 X and X10 I wanted to see if the camera could take sellable pictures. In the case of the G1 X I sold a flood picture which I took on my first outing with the camera. With the X10 I used it on an assignment and mixed the results in with photos taken on my main camera as it proved very useful working in a situation where shutter noise would have been distracting. The client was happy, and it gave me another chance to show people what the camera could do in less than ideal conditions.

In both cases I tried the cameras out with my portable studio lighting, and both worked incredibly well. And although I don’t class myself a Street photographer, again both allowed me to have a go at this tricky genre and I was pleased with the results.

Wex already know I’m champing at the bit to have a go with the X10’s successor, the imaginatively-named X20, as soon as I can and of course I’ll publicise the article widely if/when that happens and of course you’ll read it, won’t you?

My camera review has arrived!

Woman on steps of Shepherds Barton, Frome

I was stunned at the quality from this little camera

To make up for my not publishing a blog article this week, feast your eyes instead on the review I wrote and shot pictures for on the Canon G1 X for Warehouse Express (see here).

I’m really rather excited about the whole process of reviewing a camera, and it’s been an interesting exercise. I wanted to shoot pictures that I would be proud of, in the style of the kind of work I do. Too many reviews just feature colour charts or random photos of pretty scenes on sunny days, and I wanted to push the G1 X to see what it’s really capable of.

Do take a look at the article and I’ll be happy to hear what you think.

Now go. Go on read it… you still here?

Review preview

For some time now I’ve contributed occasional articles to the Warehouse Express blog site where I’ve discussed topics as diverse as looking after your copyright on social media sites, the changing face of photography since 1945, fast flash synchronization, and using flip-out screens on compact cameras.

The flip-out screen article was inspired by my having bought a Canon G11 which has one such flippy-outie screen. Warehouse Express asked if, being something of a G-series fan, I would be interested in writing a review of the G1 X, Canon’s new, beefier version of the G-series cameras. How could I refuse? So they sent me one.

Having played with the G1 X for over a week now, I have to say… well you’ll have to read the finished article to know what I think of the camera and see the pictures I’ve taken with it, but I’ll give you some insight into how the review process is going.

Canon G1 X

My review copy of the Canon G1 X

I was a little daunted at first when I realised I was actually going to have to go out and take pictures with this camera, preferably ones I’d be proud to show and which would demonstrate its capabilities. I mean I’m always happy to take pictures, but I don’t like reviews that don’t really push the equipment or show interesting photos. Colour charts and pictures of buildings on a sunny day don’t really do it for me.

As luck would have it, the day after the camera arrived so did some heavy rain and local flooding (don’t worry, no houses flooded). I grabbed the G1 X leaving all other cameras at home on purpose and headed out to the affected part of town. The camera was going to have to sink or swim! Well, not literally; I don’t think buoyancy tests are a normal test for a digital camera.

Since then I’ve shot portraits, events, street scenes and I’m hoping to test the camera in the most difficult of lighting conditions, the Frome farmers’ market at Standerwick, which has been a long-term photographic project for me.

With a bit of luck I’ll have a total of about 3 or 4 weeks to really try this thing out, and once I’ve processed the images and written up the review I should think the finished article will go live on the Warehouse Express blog pages pretty swiftly.

Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to make a big song and dance about my first product review. I won’t let you miss it.

Until then, I will offer this sneaky peek at the picture set since the picture below has already been released for editorial use via Alamy Live News.

flood waters in Frome

First outing I had with the G1 X was a bit of a weather event

Ziss Zeiss ist no gut!

They do say you should never meet your idols as you risk bitter disappointment, and so it was for me this morning.

Before I proceed I should state that I don’t do equipment reviews, and in the purest sense of reviews, this isn’t one. What it is is a rushed, cursory look at a lens I’ve fancied for a while.

There are no colour or distortion charts for you to geek over, no tests at all f-stops and all focusing distances, just a couple of random snaps as I only had about 10 minutes with the lens in rather dull light this morning.

So maybe this is unfair, but some issues cropped up that I wouldn’t normally expect, and now I’m gutted that my “idol” lens, the Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f2, isn’t the T-star I’d expected.

I’ve posted up some fairly high-res images for you to look at to illustrate my points, but suffice to say I think in this case the price reflects the name, not the quality.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely lens to handle once you get used to the quite heavily-damped focus ring (no autofocus of course), and it looks the dog’s vegetables with it’s sexy black alloy barrel and all, but at around £880-£920 I’d expect far better optical performance.

I was using this one on a 5D MKII, and maybe the lens performs much better on a cropped sensor camera, but then at f2 you could get a cheaper 35mm lens from Canon and just do away with the pose value and probably get better image quality, which is what really matters.

Maybe I’ve misunderstood the Zeiss concept, and as I’ve already hinted this is a deeply flawed “review”, but having tried this lens even briefly, I think I’ll just be saving a bit longer to get the Canon 35mm f1.4 lens instead. Not that I’ve tried it yet. At just over £1,000, I bet it’s dreadful.

Zeiss 35mm lens test image

A photo of nothing in particular, but I was looking at close focus and wide-ish aperture (f4.5). Read on…

The Orphans are Back!

IP review laid out

Interesting plot, but predictable outcome.

I’d hoped to comment much earlier on the government-commissioned independent Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, but the resulting document produced by Professor Hargreaves and his team has taken me far too long to wade through while still trying to get on with the business of being a photographer.

And herein lies a common problem with such reviews. Those who stand to lose the most are the ones with the least time to spare to influence and pour over the review’s conclusions.

Like may photographers, I simply don’t have time to wade through all 123 pages of the report. I submitted my views back in March, and they were duly noted and published on the Review site, but apart from a few passing references to photography, the review seems to have concerned itself more with music, film and TV rights when dealing with copyright in the creative industries.

So you’ll forgive me (probably thank me) if I don’t go into great detail here about what I think of the review, it’s implications for professional and amateur photographers. I think I may be review-weary, especially as many of the arguments raised and defeated in the Digital Economy Bill debate are predictably reappearing.

What is quite ironic though is that one of the main areas for the review to consider was that of Fair Use of copyright works.

In announcing the review in November last year, David Cameron said:

“The founders of Google have said they could never have started their company in Britain. The service they provide depends on taking a snapshot of all the content on the internet at any one time and they feel our copyright system is not as friendly to this sort of innovation as it is in the United States. Over there, they have what are called “fair use” provisions, which some people believe gives companies more breathing space to create new products and services.”

But it would seem the one thing he picked out for special consideration appears to be the one thing the review recommends against, the truth being that although the USA does have Fair Use exceptions to copyright, this has done nothing to stem the tide of legal actions in copyright disputes.

Cameron was mis-guided to site Google as an example in any event, because unless I’m missing something, Google appears to function perfectly well in this country. In fact I suspect that had Google started in this country, it would have been when their service hit US digital territories that they would have run into trouble.

There’s a generous smattering of conditional terms in Cameron’s introduction, such as “feel”, “some people” and “believe”. In other words, Google had a hunch their startup stage would have been hampered in the UK, but they have no real evidence to support this view.

In essence I’ve not really scratched the surface of the review in this posting, but I’ll sum it up like this:

1 Orphan works is back – I hope someone sees the sense to keep contemporarily-created images separate from museum-held works. Not an easy distinction, except that any orphans then can ONLY be works which have been digitized from orphan originals held by museums, art galleries and other public bodies. And images cannot be called orphans just because the meta data has been stripped (as happens when images are submitted to Facebook, BBC etc).

2 No apparent extra protections for photographers works – no sanctions against the stripping of IPTC info, or the willful creation of orphan works.

3 Worrying references to “flexible legislation” which potentially means copyright law can be changed without recourse to Parliament.

At this stage I can’t say I’m getting overly anxious. The report will be poured over and picked apart. For any of it to become legislation it will have to be drafted by lawyers and debated in Parliament, and in the meantime it seems rulings are coming from the EU which point to better protections for creators, and all this needs to be standardized across the EU, including the UK.

One final irony is that while the report seems to be concerned almost exclusively with music, TV, films and games, the cover features a photo of what appears to be a photographer’s studio. It would be nice if they’d bothered to listen to photographers then.

Reviewing the Review (so far)

Last Friday was the deadline for submissions to the “Independent Review of IP and Growth” (stay awake now) which is looking into intellectual property and copyright in the UK and how it should adapt to this digital age.

The review is headed by Professor Ian Hargreaves, who according to his blog has spent most of his working life involved in the creative industries. Well, newspapers to be precise which I would say USES creative input, but doesn’t strictly count (in my humble opinion) as a creative industry.

Much (ok, all) of the IPO review panel, was made up of corporate suits whose main interest in copyright lies in arm-twisting it from the hands of individual creators, but I don’t want this article to descend into political rantings so I’ll pause there and instead ask the question, “so what happens now?”

Not being an expert in constitutional affairs I can only be a little vague about this, and indeed Professor Hargreaves doesn’t really know either so I won’t be too hard on myself about that.

In a nutshell, the evidence is in, the review team will start to review submissions and evidence, and then report to Government in a few months’ time who will probably um and ah for a while before drafting legislation that will (probably) be deeply flawed and skewed in favour of some future Google-style startup.

So what evidence will the panel and the Prof be considering? Well I have to say, I’m a little surprised that by Friday morning there were only 180 submissions of evidence, including mine. I sincerely hope there was a late and massive surge as the day drew to a close, because that 180 will have come from all quarters – individual film makers, musicians, writers, artists, the trade bodies representing those industries as well as consumers, inventors, entrepreneurs and the publishers, broadcasters and aggregators who deliver creative content. Suffice to say a lot of submissions from many quarters and interest groups, both in favour of and against the strengthening and or weakening of copyright.

epuk logo

EPUK submitted on behalf of its 1,000 members.

However, as with previous reviews and proposals, I fear the voice of photographers will have been drowned out by those who view copyright as an impediment to theft. Perhaps drowned out is the wrong phrase to use if, as I suspect, the number of submissions from UK photographers is pitifully low.

There are thousands of photographers in this country. Think of all the wedding and portrait photographers there must be out there. The editorial, commercial, corporate, advertising, industrial, architectural photographers. You could pave a four lane motorway from here to Moscow in both directions with the skin off the backs of all the photographers in the UK (I didn’t say it would be a good motorway), but where are they when they need to defend their own business assets?

It’ll be the photographer’s enemy and constant companion apathy again. That, and the fact that many of us are heartily fed up with fighting the constant threats to our working lives, while simultaneously trying to get on with our working lives. My suspicion is that if this review and subsequent legislation don’t give the Big Boys what they want (unfettered access to anything you or I create), we’ll end up right back where we started, with another review and another call for evidence.

stop 43 logo

Stop43 submitted on behalf of photographers more generally.

Mr Hargreaves, don’t get too disheartened; Mr Gowers went before you and I suspect someone else will have to conduct another review in another five or six years. Assuming of course there’s anything left of copyright to review by then.