Back In ’77


Photo: D. Stirling

I first got into photography when my cousin suggested we should visit our local photo supplier and buy a couple of Minolta cameras and a few Rokkor lenses. So we did — along with tanks, chemicals, trays and an enlarger. And film, of course.

We shot just about anything and everything. On one occasion we travelled to our impressive parliament buildings which were closed because of ongoing sectarian violence. In 1976 while local politicians raged at one another and the death toll mounted, our Province was governed from Whitehall (direct rule). Under a cold blue sky we harmlessly shot slide film for an hour or so, and met no one. The entire area was deserted with none of the barriers, gates and chains we see today. I still have the slides I took that morning.

The following summer below the Mourne Mountains my cousin returned to our rented caravan and woke me from a very pleasant afternoon doze by calling my name over and over. Not one bit pleased — to put it mildly — I stuck my head out the door to see what on earth he was going on about.

It’s probably the only photograph of myself that I’d want to keep. Sadly, age kept coming while the hair kept going.


Photography On YouTube

There’s a lot of good material on YouTube for photographers. But because I’m getting old and don’t do cool or awesome I skip those who wave their arms about and wear baseball caps indoors back to front. It’s not a good look. (Neither is hair from 1973.) These days it seems half the photographic world is sponsored by Squarespace and everybody’s getting their teeth whitened.

Arguably, a number of more popular photographers are getting bogged down in lengthy preambles about not very much. They are really good at elaborate drone fly-overs and slow-motion walks through puddles and ferns. It’s pretty and I’m miffed that I don’t have the skills or equipment to do it. Of course, if I wanted over 250,000 views I could tape a GoPro to my right foot. Sheesh. So I taped an action cam to my vacuum cleaner and I’m pretty sure no one’s watched it but me.

In a nutshell, the most appealing content out there mixes eye-catching footage (and bearable music) with detailed technical explanations in the field and software processing techniques at the computer. We just need measured and helpful content that tries to be interesting and inspirational too.

There is an abundance of photography-related videos on YouTube.

After years of general viewing, Tony Northrup remains top of my list for the sheer volume of his authoritative output. Some presentations with his better half may at first come across a bit disingenuous and grate on you, but he knows his subject. And she’s smart too of course.

When I was trying to grasp the complexities of Adobe’s software I found Anthony Morganti, Robin Whalley and Dawn White really helpful. They have a very systematic and structured approach, and don’t talk at 100 mph. Mr Morganti also has a series of tutorials on ON1 Photo RAW software, the program I now use after switching from Lightroom. Other favourites include Practical Photography, ON1 training videos, and the countless lectures and seminars on B & H.

Be sure to also check out Scott Davenport’s channel, Michael Erlewine’s “Close-up, Macro Photography, and Focus Stacking” series, and Adorama’s “Through the Lens” videos. And click on the images below to watch Brenda Tharp and John Greengo share inspiring images and offer practical advice to help take your photography to the next level.

“Take your images from ordinary to extraordinary with what you’ll learn at this engaging and informative seminar with Brenda Tharp.”

Follow the excellent photography series One Hour Photo hosted by John Greengo.

Click on each of the names below to visit a YouTube photography channel. And if you happen to land on this page please email me or leave a comment if you want to share your own suggestions.



When You Don’t Have A Second Card Slot

How viable an alternative to a second card slot is an On-the-Go card reader? A camera that writes simultaneously to a second card offers real-world insurance particularly when shooting  in challenging one-off contexts. If one card fails the other has already created copies of all the files.

According to some professionals cards fail more often than many of us think. I had a new 32 GB Samsung micro SD card suddenly fail in my Samsung tablet. So it can happen.

Recently I bought the card reader above (£10) and used it to copy my SLR’s 120 image files to my smartphone’s micro SD card. I always shoot RAW + JPEG. The 60 20 MP JPEGs copied across very quickly indeed and each .CR2 RAW file took about 5 or 6 seconds. A fancier phone may do better.

It’s definitely not as convenient as a second in-camera card. I know I’ll have to stop shooting, take out the card, put it in the reader and connect them to my phone or tablet. But it takes just several minutes and it’s good to know all my precious images are safely stored on the phone in my pocket. And of course, in a demanding situation (unlikely for me), another option is to put a second card in the camera while the first is backing up to the phone.

Needs must.

Photography and the LAW

Non-professional Photography In Public Places (UK)

Many amateur photographers in the UK aren’t sure about their rights when they are shooting in public places. The following information will be helpful.

From the Metropolitan Police website (autumn 2017; check for updates):

Photography advice

We encourage officers and the public to be vigilant against terrorism but recognise the importance not only of protecting the public from terrorism but also promoting the freedom of the public and the media to take and publish photographs.

Guidance around the issue has been made clear to officers and PCSOs through briefings and internal communications. The following advice is available to all officers and provides a summary of the Met’s guidance around photography in public places.

Freedom to photograph and film

Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.

Click on the image to read full text.

The following video presentations are worth watching.

Among the Dunes

Two versions of the same image processed for colour and then into black and white. The black and white version was deliberately processed to leave the shadows much darker than the plant itself. Software: ON1 Photo RAW 2017.

Cliff Grass and Black Rock

The original.

There are so many creative possibilities in software it’s hard to know where to draw the line, and it’s all to easy to over-process. It’s very subjective, and rightly so. What works for one person can leave others distinctly unimpressed.

Making localised tonal adjustments with Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush.

There are some things that are usually best avoided: over-sharpening, over-saturation, awkward cropping, muddy tonal processing, unrealistic skies, and so on. Some global adjustments can harm the tonal balance of an image so it’s typically best to use tools to target specific areas, as the image above illustrates.

Just a few steps back from the cliff the rocks had been turned black by the sea.


A dark opening in a cliff face by the sea turned out to be a cave running into the rock 40ft or so. So in the dark, cramped, and spider-infested far end of the damp cave I ambitiously attempted to capture at 24mm as much of the tonal range as I could. At first I tried manually editing the 5 images, painting in and painting out and so on, but it was too much of a challenge — for me anyway.

In the end I used a combination of editing programs. To start with I threw everything I could at the project in SNS-HDR. Along the way I also used On1 Photo RAW, Lightroom, Corel PHOTO-PAINT, Silver Efex Pro 2 and Viveza 2. What a rigmarole.

Was it all worth the time and the range of images needed to create the final versions you see below? The HDR software and Viveza were particularly flexible and Silver Efex Pro 2 did great job with the black and white processing and toning.

But it was all good experience. Regular practice in the field and at the computer are very important. I’m reasonably pleased with the black and white version. And now I know where to hide at the end of the world, if gun-toting preppers don’t get there first.