5D Happiness

As I posted, I went to get my zoom repaired at APM Cameras in Newcastle on Tyne the other day following the tripod fall in Dornie and I noticed a 5D Classic for sale for £450. It looked in great condition, and was labeled “new shutter”. So as I still have my old one with the broken sensor, I thought there was no harm in asking if he was able to repair it. Sadly the answer, as I expected was no. I’ve had the 5D in a cupboard for about 3 years now since I bust it in Wales and was hanging on to it simply because it cost so much money when new!

Anyway, we got to chatting and he indicated it might be of use to him for spare parts, so I took it into the shop. I still had the brand new low pass filter that I’d bought 3 years ago, and although the sensor was beyond repair, you can’t buy the filters anymore, so I thought that might be worth something.

So, I gave him the broken camera and the filter and he gave me the 5D, for £230. Utter bargain I’d say as when I got back to the van and stuck a lens on it, it performed flawlessly. In fact, a simple test shows that there is very little if any discernible difference between it and my 5D MK III using the same lens.  I’m going to do some proper shots later and will post some here to show the difference.

So now it’s my backup/second camera and quite frankly the only thing I miss from the Mk III is the ability to back button focus. I like good news 🙂


‘Professional’ photographers? I think not!

Earlier this year I was talking to a friend and bemoaning the fact that I had lots of old or unwanted photography equipment lying around, but I won’t use ebay as it seems to be full of crooks. He suggested using Facebook and gave me a handful of good links. I’d never used Facebook groups so I was keen to test it out and sure enough, within days of putting my first item out there, I sold an old camera bag that i didn’t want. Excellent I thought, time to get rid of some filters, lenses, an old flash, and a load of other bits, and maybe put the money to good use on my craving for the new 5D Mk III which is £2,000.

All was fabulous for a month or two until I got a message from the owner of one of the groups saying my post to sell a lens had been deleted and she had to ask me if I was a dealer, as there’d been complaints from other members of the group. I assured her I was not a dealer at all, and she said OK and  I continued selling stuff. I also joined 2 more selling groups and posted the same ads there. One night I made a mistake…norty me! One of the rules on almost all of those groups is that you cannot discuss someone’s price, unless you’re genuinely negotiating. I hadn’t read the rules, so I asked someone did they know that the price they had on their second hand camera was very close to brand new price? I was promptly made aware of the rule and apologised and backed of. I’d forgotten all about it until a few days later when I had an item for sale, and this bloke decided to come in my thread and be sarcastic about my asking price. When I politely told him to get lost he then reminded me what I’d done a few nights earlier on another thread. Well says I, does 2 wrongs make it right? Anyway. I deleted the thread so his posts would disappear, but he made some more on my next one. And the next one…and the next one! For 4 solid hours he hounded me around that group, ruining every thread I started. I even posted in his private FB and asked him to stop. But he refused and I was forced to block him in the end.

Another guy, I wanted to buy his camera. He was selling for £450 and wanted me to transfer the money direct to his account. The group we were part of recommended an escrow company called Transpact. They take the buyers money, when the buyer has received the item OK they release the money to the seller. It’s a flat fee of £2.99 and it had worked fine for me before so I suggested we use that. He asked what it was an I explained to which he replied “Sounds like a perfect scam to me!” I tried to explain it wasn’t and the group themselves recommended them but he wasn’t having it. His attitude stank and he was really quite insulting. He was…a professional photographer!

Now, weeks later I was on a wedding photographers group, full of pro photographers. A great place to learn methinks. A row started which the often did in that group, and a woman who was central to the row message me privately for whatever reason, and said “I really am not a c… you know.” I said “well I have no idea who you are really but if they say you are you must be because how could they be wrong! :p” Indicating the arrogance of some of the group and how they behaved.
Within a minute she had complained to the group admin that I had privately messaged her and called her a c…  When I was asked I tried to say what had been said, but the guy from the other night who hounded me came in and started slagging me off also. *sigh* Very childish…and I was banned. Well, that’s not such a bad thing. I’d joined the group hoping to learn, but found they were very scornful of anyone new, and anyone who was not a pro. All in all, no loss. However, at this point my opinion of pro photographers has diminished significantly.

So, I carry on. Selling in selling groups, buying bits and pieces, and chatting in threads for fun and learning. And indeed I was learning, and being inspired.

I finally raised the money for my shiny new 5D Mk III, but within weeks it was faulty so had to go in for repair. (It was eventually replaced) so I placed a spoof ad in the groups I was in asking for a second hand one for £1,000. Who knows if I might have got one or not, but in one group I got some severe abuse for doing this from the ‘Pro’s’. Comments were such as “Do you not understand the real value of equipment?” Do you want everything for nothing!” “Buy cheap and sell for more you rip off!” and they were some of the nicer ones. I was actually flabbergasted, but my nature is that I hate keyboard warriors who think they can abuse others’ from the safety of their bedroom. So I politely kept explaining my stance and my basic argument was, “Does it actually affect you?” I deleted the thread in the end as it was so full of nasty comments and started a new one. Same thing happened. And again, and again, and again. 7 times. If these are pro’s, what were they doing with their time!!

I messaged the admin of the selling group and explained what was going on and … I was banned!! He explained politely that I had caused an uproar and so he’d had to delete me from the group. I was genuinely shocked and hurt. That’s like kicking a child out of school because he got bullied. Annoyingly, the same thing was happening in the other 2 selling groups too. To cut a long story short, I was banned from those also for the same thing, and I learned later that one man was admin on 2 of the groups, another was admin on all 3, and yet another was admin on a different 2 of them. They all knew each other and were all friends and were all…professional photographers! I wish I didn’t have to admit that this upset me greatly. Firstly, I’d done really well selling stuff on the groups, got rid of loads of unwanted kit, bought lots of stuff new, and made a few contacts. To be targeted with such hatred by so many people who are supposed to be professional was shocking. I could barely believe what had happened. I’m not soft, or overly sensitive, but I was quite sad for some time that people could be this way, like a pack of dogs.

Anyway, I found more groups to be part of not for buying and selling, just for chatting and meeting like minded people. My experience was that the vast majority of the groups was filled with professional photographers, often the same bunch in all of the groups. The attitudes, the abuse, the childish behaviour, unbelievable. I was brought up on a  rough estate but the sheer and consistent disrespect for anyone in these groups was worse than that. It was appalling and I blocked people like mad and left groups constantly. In all the years I’ve been on the internet I can honestly say I have not seen behaviour so bad as from professional photographers.

Another group was started by a photographer specialising in lighting. His knowledge is almost boundless and the group got off to a fantastic start. However after stating on a thread that I was a fan of one particular wedding and portrait photographer, the owner and admin of this group messaged me privately stating the man I was a fan of was not really that good, was arrogant, and had moved abroad as he could not make it work here! I was dumbfounded. Later it became evident that he had been successful in his recruiting because a thread started up and they mauled this guy in it. They were so rude, and I was moved to post myself and say they were like a pack of dogs. All of them, long term professional photographers, all of them nothing better than schoolyard bullies.

I finally found a really professional sounding group: the National Photographic Society. I observed for some time before posting, and there was not many fights in there. So I started contributing to threads in a simple way and it was good. Until a thread started one day, named PC Vs Mac. Now as you know I’ve tried long and hard to get an iMac to work in my camper, but they simply use too much power compared to a PC. So I said that and offered the figures, and explained I’d love a Mac, but this was where a PC scored over them. Instantly I got attitude from one of the members, who turned out to be non other than the guy who said using an escrow service to buy his camera was a scam! I trod carefully so as not to upset him, but he was having none of it. He was insulting, sarcastic and sneering in all of his comments. I finally told him that I recognised him and he clearly had an issue so we should take it private. He’d ruined the thread by now with his sarcasm and insults, as had one or two others who were joining in. I did message him and he was the most arrogant, insulting, rude person ever. I explained over and over that my opinion was simply a matter of 5 tests and here were the results but no, he was not having it, Mac’s could not possibly be that bad blah blah blah. Finally he called me a freak and blocked me.

Interestingly, I made a post on my own FB status about how I was a bit fed up with these so called pro photographers, especially when you go on a semi-official, professional group like the National Photographic Society. You just expect things to be better! Which in fact they were, I was insulted by fewer than I would be on other groups lol!

Anyway, the Chairman of the National Photographic Society, who had asked me earlier for some info he found interesting and I’d located it in my archives and he didn’t have the decency to say thank you, messaged me regarding the thread. I am ace at reading tone, even from text. Remember, for almost 8 years I’ve moderated chat rooms, I’m skilled at reading people even when they’re just typing on a screen. And I knew instantly that this chairman was not the friendliest of people. However I was polite and he said that I was unfair for knocking his group in my post. (He saw my status as I had friended him in order to pass him the info he had asked for)

I explained how I felt and he agreed that I had kept my temper and that in fact he not only had commented to this rude guy that I had kept my temper, but also that he ought to wind his neck in. I replied, why didn’t you tell him to stop? Ban him for 24 hours? Or at very least apologise to me on his behalf seeing as you’re the Chairman of the group. But no, all he was concerned about was how I was dissing his group, saying it had thousands of members and I had met only one bad one. In fact it has 1800 members, and I’d met about 4 bad ones in that thread. But that wasn’t my point anyway. He himself was part of the thread with Abusive Man, and whilst he says he messaged him and told him to wind his neck in clearly that didn’t work, but not one word was said in public on the thread to support me. And over the next 2 days not one time did he even say, I’m sorry that you had a bad experience there. He banged on at me for 2 days about how I was in the wrong for dissing his group, how I was wrecking 5 years of hard work, how I was being unfair and bitter. You know what it reminded me of? Cynical old people who blame a short skirt for the reason a woman got raped. That was his attitude, I was the victim, yet I was in the wrong for complaining about it. So, chairman of the National Photographers Society, you can repeat over and over your claims that it’s my fault for whingeing about being insulted and abused, however I think you had the opportunity to stop what was happening, and fix it afterwards, and you did nothing except have a go at me. Bullying might work with frightened kids in school, but bullying adults to get your own way simply shows you for what you are.

So, as you can all imagine, professional photographers, in general because not every single one is the same, are so far in my experience, arrogant, insulting, rude, abusive unhelpful and spiteful bullies, and they’re allowed to be by the admins who run the groups who are also usually professional photographers.
Let me advise anyone who has an interest in photography and wishes to join a Facebook group to learn and to meet like minded people. You need to be strong, block a lot, ignore a lot, and don’t get involved too much. Even when people seem to be your friend they turn out not to be. One group of amateur photographers I am a member of is excellent. Full of happy, helpful, friendly people who just like taking photographs. It’s called Lets Talk Photography North East. There is another one, a pro group where I have never even seen an argument let alone a fight, it’s called Brett Harkness Photography Training and is owned and run by the renowned wedding photographer. He’s a good guy and doesn’t really come in and spout rules, I’m a landscape photographer and I feel at home there, although his group is primarily focussed to weddings.

Wow, that’s probably the longest post I’ve ever made in almost 8 years. That shows my strength of feeling for these awful people. but right now I see an interesting thread starting in Lets Talk Photography North East so I’m off to join in!

Taking a brake

Put my van in to be checked at G and C Autos in Gateshead. I was worried about a brake light on the dash, but apparently it was just the sensor on the rear going mad. I knew the front one was broken too as I had snapped the lead one day when putting the snow chains on, so they fixed that also. Topped up the brake fluid and reported that the load balancer was leaking. *sigh* Another part fitted by Croxdale Autos just over  a year ago, so now I gotta get booked in for that. I wonder where Croxdale get their parts from cos they fitted a wheel bearing that failed too, although luckily that failed in warranty.

Anyway, brakes all cleaned and working again, so they aren’t the reason the van is using too much diesel and lacking power. They suggested going to a diesel inejctor specialist so thats what I’m going to do. Happy days :s

My zoom fixed

Went into APM cameras in Newcastle to se if they could do anything with my 17-40 zoom. The lugs were snapped off, but he glued the bezel in place  and so far it seems to be working ok. He only charged £5 so that was good but time will tell if the lens has suffered any other damage and needs to go back to Canon. Cross your fingers, so far it appears to be fine 🙂

From Scotland to Hawaii and back again

Castle Moil, Skye
Castle Moil, Skye

Just on the edge of the Isle of Skye, beside the bridge to the mainland, is a small village called Kyleakin. Castle Maol is a ruin just a little outside of the village, on a hill top overlooking the Kyle Akin. Oddly, it is also known as Castle Moil, Dun Akyn, Dunakin Castle, Dun Haakon and Castle Dunakin! It was the family seat of the McKinnon clan and it looks commanding still, standing on the headland even though it is ruined.  I was taking photos from about a half mile away in a car park when a car pulled up and the lady driver asked if this was the way to the castle. I replied there was a path, but it was steep, muddy and in parts quite deep in mud and water. It is also overgrown and difficult to find in parts so this point was the best view of the castle by far without getting really dirty and tired.

She’d gotten out of the car and she smiled and told me this story:

“I’ve been going to night school to learn genealogy and I’ve found out about some of my ancestors going back hundreds of years. My great, great, great grandfather was a McKinnon. His family owned and at one time lived in the castle. Sometime in the late 18th Century he emigrated to Hawaii. He opened a bakery store there which whilst not in the family now, is still operating. I’ve thought about the family members who are lost in time now and who I’m resurrecting  in memory, and to find out I have  a physical connection to them through the castle fills me with an incredible need to be here, to see it, to touch it.

So I’ve hoped and dreamed for 20 years and finally planned this trip and now here I am, a half a mile away from something that has filled my thoughts and dreams for most of my adult life. I want to touch it, as my ancestors did hundreds of years ago and feel connected to them emotionally, across time and history. Getting muddy and wet is the least of my concerns and nothing will bar me now from going up there and touching the stone.”

Her and her elderly step-father set off and I took some more photos, feeling a little humbled by her story. Suddenly I thought about her amazing journey, and I thought about my journey too. I am agnostic, so I don’t believe there is a point to life, except the point you make. Mine is about People, Places and Experiences. This blog is about relating them too. Here I was in the midst of a great story, in a great place, about some amazing people, so I set off quickly to catch them up.

Home at last
Home at last

They’d not gone far as the bracken and undergrowth had grown over the path. She had jeans and trainers on and her elderly step-father was wearing some very smart leather slip ons. They really weren’t dressed for this so being in walking trousers and boots I tried to beat a little path for them. As we walked I introduced myself and she said her name was Tari Thompson.  I explained about my blog and that her story had touched me and how most of my life now was spent going places and meeting people and having experiences. I asked if I could walk up with them and photograph her realizing her dream and touching the stone. She was happy with this idea and we set about making our way to the hill that the castle was on. I chose an adjacent hill when we got nearer, as I had an excellent view across with the Kyle Akin in the background. I then went over to where they were after giving them some time alone.

Tari Thompson fulfills her lifelong dream and touches the stone of her ancestral home.
Tari Thompson fulfills her lifelong dream and touches the stone of her ancestral home.

I got some photos, and I took some for them on their ipad and their camera. It really was a touching moment. This was a lifelong dream for someone coming true, and they shared it with me. I left them alone then so she could dwell on her own thoughts uninterrupted, but I left her my card, and hopefully she will email as I asked her to so she can see the photos I took and approve them to be published here.

And here they are 🙂

I love my life lol



EDIT: Some time after this was published, I received an email and I’ve copied the contents below…

Castle Maol

I want to thank you for the great blog you wrote about Ms. Thompson
fulfilling her dream of placing a hand on the castle and connecting
with her ancestors. Her ancestors are, in fact, my own. It gave me a
chill to think about doing the same one day. Thanks again!

Jonathan McKinnon

What’s the chances!!


Lightroom Workflow

A couple of people have asked me how I manage tens of thousands of photos, so I decided to put my workflow here.

Lightroom import screen
Lightroom import screen

I use a program called Lightroom. It’s basically an image library cataloguing tool, but it also has some high end image editing functions. It’s got several modules, the first being Import. When you first import it asks you to choose your folder. My folder is simply called Pictures. However it’s then got sub-folders for England, Scotland and Wales. (There’s a different catalogue altogether for countries abroad) In each UK folder there are folders for each county, such as Cambridgeshire, and then each city/place within that county, such as Wisbech. Finally, Wisbech and all other folders like them have sub-folders named Wisbech March 2004, Wisbech December 2012, Wisbech May 2006, etc etc you get the picture. You can see this in the folder tree at the right of the screenshot here.

You can also set keywords here. Keywords are important, as not only will they help you to find your pictures later on, they are used when you upload them to other sites where you display/sell your images. My basic keywording is simple at this stage. Using the above example, I’d use ‘Cambridgeshire, Wisbech, fens, UK’. If they were all of one shoot, say…down by the quay, I might add ‘river, boat, vessel, water, sailing, transport’. The keywords at this stage are just generic and are added to every photo that you import in this session. I also add my copyright mark at this stage so every photo has it. There’s a load of other things you can do at this stage too such as renaming all the files, applying specific presets, making copies etc etc although I never use these options. I only ever shoot in RAW, so it’s only RAW images I import. I don’t work with jpg’s until I export one from the completed RAW file.


Library module

The next screen is the library mode. Here it is:

The library is where most of the work takes place. You can view the files you’ve just imported, or go to any folder you choose using the Explorer type tree at left. I go to the ones Ive just imported and do what I call my initial cull. This is the getting rid of images that are no good. There may be obvious ones which are over/under exposed, perhaps I shot 4 and only 1 is what I wanted. Maybe I moved and they’re blurred, so they go. As I flick through them I simply press 6 on those to go. 6 marks each image with a red label. When I’ve finished, I can select only those images with a red label, and delete the lot in one go. This makes for a quick and easy initial cull. I can then settle in and look carefully at the remainder with a closer eye, to determine which if any are worth working on to process. Sometimes the act of making a cuppa then coming back clears my mind and I can easily cull a third of the ones remaining. Those which I am really not sure about I type with a 9, which assigns a blue label. I can very quickly see later on which ones I thought were worth a second glance.

Once I’ve decided which ones I’m keeping and processing, I then work through the keywords. This can be time consuming, but it’s almost essential. An image of a car might have keywords such as ‘car, Vauxhall, Astra’, but you may also add ‘transport, personal, transportation, automobile, motor’. You can also add the colour, and if it’s moving fast then the keywords ‘speeding, moving, motion, driving, travelling, cornering’. Depending on the type if shot it is, you could even add ‘panning’ and ‘motion blur’ to say what type of technique you used, and also ‘exhilaration, fun, joy, excitement’ as emotionally descriptive words. The thing is you have no idea later on what you are going to search for. Someone may ask if you have a photo which shows exhilaration, or personal transport, or simply Red. If you can’t find the photos you’ve taken, you wasted your time taking them. Remember if you’re selling images, when you upload you will be required to fill out teh keywords. If you haven’t got them right, you could miss a sale. I know many who don’t dedicate much time to their keywording and I don’t get it. It’s really important if you’re going to manage a huge library and maybe try to sell your images later. You can select many images to keyword at the same time, and I do this, but I then look at each one individually and see if there is anything to add. Most often there is. The keywording is the heart of your library. Time spent here is well spent.

Develop module
Develop module

The next main screen is the editing module, which is called Develop. This is where you carry out the major alterations to your image. The first thing I do is check that lens corrections have been applied. This happens automatically when you open an image if you have it set up. If there’s any alterations to make to the image due to lens distortion, that’s the first thing I do. Once that’s done, I go to the crop tool and ensure that the image is level and vertical, and crop the image down to the size I want. I’ll check it for noise to see how much there is, but I won’t adjust it yet, I just want to know if there is much, to assess what impact it’s going to have.
The next stage is checking for dust bunnies. Sensor dust, little particles of dust that enter the camera when you’re changing lenses, are the bane of all modern DSLR’s. It’s OK if you can afford a camera body for each lens, but most people obviously can’t, and it’s impractical carrying that amount of kit around anyway. Dust bunnies show sometimes more than others, and can vary from tiny spots, to faint smudgy circles, to quite dark ‘scrapes’. I view the image at 100% and use the spot removal tool set to heal to get rid of these. Visualize spots is a fabulous method of seeing them too and if  there are several images of the same subject, you can copy the settings out of this image, and apply them to other ones too, so you don’t have to take out the same dust bunnies from every photo, it’s done automatically. I should point out at this stage that you are not altering the image here. Whenever you make a change, the information is saved to an .xmp or sidecar file. It’s applied to the image whenever you view it in supporting software, but the image itself is not altered in any way. Only when I have an image that I really like do I export a jpg.

So, images are imported, keywords are set, the initial and second cull has been done. Lens corrections have been applied, the image cropped and dust bunnies masked. I’ve now got a clean image to work on. In some cases, there is nothing left to do. In others, I alter the white balance first, then the exposure and contrast. There are many, many controls in Lightroom to use: some images need none, some need a lot of work. I won’t go into the operation of every tool here, that’s not what this is for. But I can spend anywhere from 3 minutes to a full hour working on an image to get it right. On very rare occasions I may export the image to Photoshop if I need to use a tool that isn’t in Lightroom.

Map module
Map module

Once the image is complete, in Lightroom 5 you have the option to go to the map screen. Here you can take 1 or more images, search a place which will appear on the map, then drop the images to points on the map where you took them. This adds GPS co-ordinates to the images metadata. I’m sure in the future some programs will be able to take advantage of the information that is embedded into the picture file, however I’ve got about 40,000 to map retrospectively, so until there is a case to justify it I use this facility on new images only. And then, only when I remember.

It’s time for another cup of Tetleys green tea., then it’s back to the Library module to complete the last part of the workflow. Import, tag, edit, map, then caption and export. Captioning again is quite important and takes the form of two sections: the title and description. The title might be simple, such as “Vauxhall Astra”. The description may also be relatively simple, “an image of a Vauxhall Astra being driven around Croft circuit at speed”. Some images require more than this, perhaps a story that puts it into context, or if it’s a monument, some detail about who built it and why. Location is always good here as this also helps both in searching, and for people who view it when you’ve uploaded and don’t know where the scene is. Giving a little story is quite useful and helps the viewer connect with the image. You could also give some extended information about the technical aspects of getting the image. Check your spelling!! Then, export. Lightroom has a reasonably good export screen but you will never really need many options. Simply export your jpg to do with what you require.
With my camera even jpg’s can be quite large at 18 mb, so I only export those that I will be using straight away, such as those I’m uploading or sending to someone.I should point out that I have a fast external hard drive where the images are kept, and the Lightroom catalogue is also held. Each time I work in Lightroom, and I mean ‘every’ single time I work in Lightroom, I get an identical external hard drive, and I sync them both, so that all changes on one, are backed up to the second one. I can spend weeks waiting for the right light to take one image, and hours working on some. I’m not about to let a bad hard drive lose me my stuff. I’m getting a new computer built this month as Lightroom isn’t very efficient, and demands a high spec machine. I will be having a second hard drive built into it, and still use the back up drives. Even if you’re not a pro but you take many shots of your kids, family, the dog, you must value them and if you don’t back up then at some point you will, not might, you will lose a lot of photos.

Final workflow is Import, Cull, Keyword, Edit, Map, Title, Export, backup.

And that’s it. I’ll add later anything I can think of that I’ve missed off, but hopefully that’s proved useful to someone. If it has, please like and share with anyone else you think might also like it.