Don McCullin: Seeking the Light

Don McCullin is one of Britain’s greatest photographers. He has travelled the world, capturing raw, powerful images of war, famine and disaster.

Having used film exclusively throughout his photographic life, this summer McCullin agreed to make a film with Canon documenting his journey into digital photography using the new Canon 5DMk3 camera.

Screen shot 2012-12-04 at 16.18.25

This 30 min film is fascinating to watch. Set in the South of France, it shows McCullin learning about and adjusting to the new technology for the first time.

Although at times a little like a love letter to Canon, it nevertheless offers a real insight into how one of Britain’s greatest photographers thinks about making his images.

Well worth a look here at Canon’s CPN website.


The Relentless Increase of Image File Sizes

A couple of days ago we walked along the near deserted beach between Seaton Sluice and Blyth, bathed in crisp winter sunshine.

I had the Sony NEX in my pocket and returned home with 29 (nondescript?) images, mostly of beach huts and gentle waves breaking the shoreline.

Winter Beach

I processed the RAW files and selected some 14 for further work using layers in Photoshop.

Following my now standard routine for saving and back-up, I was shocked to see that the folder containg these few images was 1.8Gb in size.

The 29 original RAW images made up 0.5Gb (about 17Mb each) and the 14 Photoshop files (PSD) comprised the remaining 1.2Gb.This averages some 85Mb for each processed image comprising 2 layers, from the original single layer PSD file of 40Mb.

Beach Huts-2

My computer “upbringing” harks back to the days, not that long ago, when the hard drive in a shiny new PC was 100Gb. So I’ve struggled to come to terms with the fact that my current internal 1Tb drive was nearly full, and that my backup routine has required the purchase of two (thankfully cheap) 2Tb external drives.

Am I doing something wrong? How are you coping with image file storage?

North Tyne Print Competition

Dave Richardson APAGB was the judge at this year’s Competition evening at Wallsend on Wednesday 28th November. The final scores were as follows:

1.  Tynemouth   210 points
2.  Whitley Bay  197 points
3.  Gosforth      194 points
4.  Cramlington 189 points
5.  Ponteland  188 points
6.  Wallsend     175 points

First to show and highest scoring of our 8 prints [with 26 points] was Bill’s “Smoke in the Trees” (below). The judge praised the lovely atmosphere and the beautiful light, with varying densities of smoke and shades of green. His only criticism was the solidity of the tree towards the RHS.

Reduced Jpegs- Smoke_in_the_Trees
Second was Veronica’s “Road Works” which scored 24 points. It showed hardship and social comment. He was ambivalent about the bottle [?!].
Next up was Jess’s “Highland Cattle”. He observed it was a soft image but wonderful atmosphere, with a Ready Brek glow. 23 points.
Fourth to show was Mike’s “Forest Mist” – 22 marks. He liked the dissipated colours and the delicate green shades, but wanted some focal point.

…at this stage we were second equal with Gosforth.

Then came Kath’s “Dry Art”, atmospheric and “a British thing” queuing in the rain and triumph over adversity. He liked the idea and the effect produced. 24 points.
Sixth to show was Veronica’s “Glen Nevis” landscape. Dave loved the colours [tho’ his wife was not so sure!]. Suspected a blurred layer effect had been applied ( what!) to make it glow. He liked it, 25 marks.
Seventh was Frank’s “King’s Cross” and that got 23 marks. He liked the beautiful artistry of the roof and the sweep of the lines, tho’ not the mauve lighting.
Last to be shown was Jess’s “Bubble and Sleek” image of her dog with bubbles. It scored 21; the judge said he  liked the fur tones and the nice light on the eye. He said he was a dog lover but couldn’t relate the dog to the bubbles!! 

The highest scoring print was by Geoff Edmonds of Whitley Bay. It was an artistic, pastel effect rendering of a view in the Western Isles of Scotland.                                                                     Mike

Image Interpretation

Bill writes “On Monday 26 November we had the second of our Member’s Presentation sessions, Image Interpretation. Four participants, Alastair Ruffman, Michael Balfour, Chris Francis, and Mike Sadler submitted four images each of which two were chosen to be interpreted by the other participants.

As you can see from the results below, the exercise resulted in many varied and innovative interpretations of the original. It was interesting to note that whilst two members used Photoshop CS, others used Elements, which only goes to show that one doesn’t necessarily need advanced software to produce outstanding interpretations

Thanks to the four presenters for such an entertaining evening. I hope that the session has given you additional inspiration and as Gary pointed out, maybe now is the time to revisit some of those images that were put aside earlier. ”

Thanks to Bill for this item and for organising and running the whole session.

Garden Photographer of the Year

Magdalena Wasiczek has won the International Garden Photographer of the Year 2012 competition with her image called Upside Down.

Andrew Lawson, one of the judges, said: “I love the subtlety and balletic simplicity of this picture. The brimstone alighting on a sweet pea is a fortuitous event, brilliantly seen. The butterfly and the flower are the the perfect complement to each other. The outlines of the insect’s wings are continuous with the lines of the flowers; and the patterning on its wings picks up an echo of the pink colour of the flowers.”

Other winning images can be seen here on the GPOTY site.

Dust on the Sensor

Surprisingly (?) it’s not a topic I’ve heard much about at PPS. But many of us experience it one way or another – particularly with interchangeable lens cameras.

The new Nikon D600 camera, which has received rave reviews for its image quality and high ISO abilities, is currently the subject of much internet grumbling over the frequency of dust on it’s sensor. This is claimed to be much greater than normal – to the point of suggesting that a manufacturing/design fault may be to blame.

Canadian photographer Kyle Clemens just bought a Nikon D600, but rather than get straight out and start shooting with it, he decided to investigate the widely-reported claims of a ‘dust problem’. Clements set his D600 up with a fixed 50mm F1.8 lens, pointed it at a white wall, and shot 1000 images. Then he created a timelapse video which shows the slow accumulation of debris on the camera’s sensor.

So what about your own experience of dust?

With a brand new Sony NEX 5N camera these two frames were captured within two minutes of each other. The weather was sunny with no wind and the camera lens remained attached throughout.

The left hand image is clean of debris, but at least three large spots (of something) appear in the right hand image – ringed in red here.

In common with many cameras, the Sony has a “dust removal” setting causing the sensor to vibrate at high frequency – to shake off any dust. The debris in my case proved shake resistant and could only be removed by a wet clean using sterile swabs and Eclipse Cleaning Fluid.

I think the debris got onto the sensor from inside the camera, since the lens had not been removed between these adjacent frames. In a new camera, it makes you wonder!

So what’s your experience of dust on the sensor and how do you deal with it when it occurs?

Members Top Ten Images

Last Monday’s Top Ten Session produced not only some very good images but also some interesting thinking from the four presenters about their approach to photography generally and what they aimed to achieve with their chosen images. An interesting and thoughtful session as shown by these examples:

Suzanne showed her image of her grandchildren against the strong colours of urban graffiti  “When my grandchildren visit from their farming life in rural Northumberland for sleepovers at Nana’s they love the A1 underpass experience!

This is a walk which takes in a housing estate, open fields and an underpass which has the most amazing ‘Banksy’ type wall art – they love it and so do I!!!”

In contrast, Bob’s presentation reminded us how much we can learn by studying the images of other photographers. He  says “we often respond to photographs in an inarticulate way. They are capable of capturing the essence of something which is almost impossible to put into words. So it is with this photograph by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen.

The space-hopper places it in a particular time frame but the energy of the unknown child allows us to consider the optimism and hope of all children dreaming of the possibilities and adventures in their  future lives. The child may be looking across at the soon to be demolished houses but she already knows that they are not to do with her. She will have a very different life .”

Writing about her work which documents the last months of old Byker, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen said “I roamed around the streets by day and hung about by night: chasing my heartbeats,stumbling in and out of other people’s lives; striving to share my excitement through photographs where words would fail me”


Steve showed us a number of images from his bird watching trips. He says  “I took this photo on a holiday in May last year on the Greek island of Lesvos. We enjoy bird watching but I am frustrated by the inability of my 250mm lens on my Canon 450D to take photos of birds which appear bigger than pinpricks on the image.

This middle spotted woodpecker chick in a tree beside a road enabled me to get reasonably close but my lens didn’t look much compared with those of the ‘twitchers’ camped beside the tree. Again the bird was a tiny spot but the bark of the tree was such a nice texture that it enhanced the small birds image when I cropped it down and sharpened it a bit. I received some good advice from Ian after the meeting, about using a 1.5 multiplier to enhance my existing lens at a much cheaper price than buying a bigger lens.

Thanks to Suzanne, Bob and Steve  for these examples from their presentations. 

Perhaps a key message from last Monday’s session is that the real value of sharing our work within the Club is not just learning about the “how” but also to understand the “why”.   So how about scribbling a few lines about one of your own images and we can publish it in the Journal?.                                         Gary