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There can’t be many people on this planet that hasn’t heard of Instagram. For anyone who hasn’t – Instagram is an online photo-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and share them simultaneously on a variety of social networking platforms, ie, Facebook,Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.

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The distinctive feature of Instagram is that it confines your images to a square crop. On the surface this could be seen as a simple, uncomplicated one, but is it really? Creating square images from your digital camera is, for me, one of the most creative aspects of photography itself. Once you’ve mastered the art of composition, composing for the square format can, sometimes, transform a messy, or poorly composed image into a high-impact one.

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The square format lends itself to most types of imagery, portraits and landscapes in particular. You have to remember this was once a very popular format in the 50’s and 60’s when legendary cameras like Hassleblad and Rolliflex were the sort after models of the day. These cameras were known the world over as medium format, they used 120 roll film and gave the photographer just 12 images per roll.

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Fortunately, we’re not restricted to such confinements with today’s modern digital cameras. The new breed of mirror-less cameras, such as the FujiFilm X-T1 will capture images in the1:1 (square) format. The X-T1 also has a flip-out rear screen, which again, is very reminiscent of the way we used our Rolliflex and Mamiya cameras of yesteryear.

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If your camera doesn’t have the facility to shoot square format images all is not lost. There are several programs or apps available to allow you to do this. If you’re a photographer, working on a PC or Mac, my guess is you’ll be using Photoshop or Lightroom. If you’re a Phone or Tablet user I can whole heartedly recommend Snapseed, which will not only crop your image 1:1, but also fine tune and add filters to your work if required.

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The biggest hurdle to overcome with all social networking sites is building a presence. Instagram champions the use of the humble hashtag, a type of label or metadata tag, which makes it easier for others users to find your content. For example, on Instagram the hashtag #bluesky allows users to find images that have been tagged as containing a blue sky, and #monochrome is a popular tag for black and white images.

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Using popular hashtags is one of the main tactics you can employ to get people to interact with you and your work. It also helps if you only post your best images and only use relevant hashtags for each of the photographs you upload.
Because I mainly shoot Street Photography with FujiFilm X series cameras my hashtags represent that. If you want to follow me and see more of my images, simple type #dotcomjohnny and be sure of a follow back.

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It doesn’t seem like five minuets since I did my last Birmingham Photo Walk, that one was organised by FujiFilm and included two Fuji X Photographers, Matt Hart and Damien Lovegrove, both renowned for their Street Photography skills.

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Unfortunately, neither Matt or Damien could make it on Saturday so I made the return trip with a fellow Fuji user (and good all round mate) Paul. Paul made the 2 hour journey from Spalding specially to try his hand at some Street Photography, whilst I decided to try out the XF18-55 F/2.8~4 R LM OIS.

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I usually plump for primes, but having read how good the 18-55 was, I decided to buy one and give it a go.

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Using the 18-55 on the X-T1 was a good experience. It delivered fast and accurate focus for each and every shot, despite the poor weather conditions that prevailed on the day. My only let down were the Fuji batteries, but hey, that’s another story!

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I liked the 18-55, it compliments the DSLR styling of the X-T1 perfectly. Having said that, I don’t think this lens is discreet enough for serious street photography, but as a general walk-about/travel lens you couldn’t ask for better. Add the equally good 55-200mm to your bag and you’re covered for pretty much every situation.

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No visit to Birmingham would be considered complete without visiting Digbeth. Digbeth is dubbed the City of Colour because of its street art and graffiti. Much of the art work is centred around the Custard Factory, which is short five minuet walk from the bull ring market. It’s an amazing sight with so many buildings, walls and entire streets transformed by these mesmerising works of art. Once a deprived area of the city, Digbeth today is a hotbed of flare and creativity and where better than to test this lens.

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Would I recommend the XF18-55mm f/2.8~4 R LM OIS lens?

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If you’re looking for an all round travel lens, yes! This will certainly do the job . . and more. Would I use this lens for Street Photography? Probably not. Personally, I still prefer a short prime lens, the XF27mm F/2.8 being my favourite go to lens at the moment.

 

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Liverpool is steeped in history, which isn’t surprising given that it celebrated its 800th anniversary back in 2007. Tourism now forms a significant part of the city’s economy and I for one never miss an opportunity to go back and photograph it whenever I can. The photo walk started at 11am from Pier Head, the area of Liverpool, which includes the trio of harbor buildings known as the Three Graces: the Port of Liverpool Building, the Cunard Building (named after Canadian Samuel Cunard, owner of the first shipping line from Liverpool-Halifax-Boston), and the Royal Liver Building.

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The 1.5 mile route followed the River Mersey East, past the new Museum of Liverpool, the Albert Dock, the Beatles Museum before finishing the walk at the Echo Wheel. Our final meeting place was back at the Waterfront Cafe at 3pm for a coffee and a chat. Despite being windy, we had lovely blue skies and sunshine all day long – brilliant!

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Having made a move (not a complete switch) to shooting with a pair of FujiFilm X-Pro 1 bodies before Christmas, I’ve now added an X-T1 to my arsenal too. Photographing Liverpool again gave me the prefect opportunity to test the X-T1 along with the two zooms I purchased with it, these being the highly regarded XF18-55 and 55-200mm. As I’m sure you will agree, Fuji have yet to produce a bad lens, zooms included. Because of the SLR type styling of the X-T1 the zooms, particularly the XF55-200mm, doesn’t look too much out of place on it – not so sure I would use either of them on my X-Pro 1 bodies though, as I really love my original trio of primes (18/35/60mm).

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As expected, neither zoom disappointed me on the day. However, of the two lenses I did prefer the 18-55, as this is more suited to the type of photography I do. I’m not sure how much use the 55-200 will get, maybe I should have gone for the XF14mm f2.8R instead?

Because of its history Liverpool has a considerable amount of variety when it comes to architectural styles , ranging from 16th century Tudor buildings to modern-day contemporary architecture, like the ships funnels; pictured below.

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It’s an interesting fact that there are over 2,500 listed buildings in Liverpool, of which 27 are Grade I listed and 85 Grade II listed. Liverpool also has a greater number of public sculptures than any other location in the United Kingdom aside from Westminster.

This richness of architecture has subsequently seen Liverpool described by English Heritage, as England’s finest Victorian city.

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Another lens I decided to take with me on Sunday was the XF27mm f2.8 (see above) this is a surprisingly very small lens and one that, more often than not, gets massively over looked. There have been moments when I’ve thought about getting an X100t, purely for its size but I just don’t see the point. Besides, I like the extra bit of reach the 27mm gives me over the 23mm fixed lens of the X100t. I can definitely see me using the 27mm more, particularly for street photography.

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One of the very latest landmarks to grace the Liverpool skyline is the Echo Wheel. An awe-inspiring 196ft “Big Wheel” with 42 capsules including a luxury VIP capsule with glass floor, leather interior and DVD player. This attraction offers breathtaking views over the city for anyone with the stomach endure it. Being the coward that I am I decided to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground and offer a worms eye view, or should that be, “Fisheye” view, seeing that I used my 8mm (180 degree field of view) Samyang Fisheye lens.

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This is the only non-branded X-mount lens I own, but believe me, it’s a great lens!

If I’m honest, I was a little sceptical at first about owning 3rd party lenses, particularly a manual focusing one. But right from the off, this is one truly fantastic lens, I can’t praise it enough. Let me just say, I’ve owned two Nikon Fisheye lenses, the 16mm f2.8 (FX) and the 10.5 (DX) and neither of them come close to the Samyang offering – regarding image quality.

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Shooting with the Samyang 8mm, on either the X-Pro1 or the X-T1 is a doddle! Choose an aperture of f8 or f11 and set a distance of around 6ft and everything will be in sharp focus – and that means edge to edge sharpness too (something both my Nikon lenses struggled with).

Here are a few facts you may not have known about Liverpool:

Liverpool was the first city in the United Kingdom to have a School for the blind, High School for girls, Free school milk and free school dinners for children. It was the first city to bring about Slum clearance, provide Council housing – (social housing). A Juvenile court, a Lifeboat station and a Mosque!

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Liverpool is the 4th largest city in Britain and was once one of the world’s largest ports. Liverpool is home to more top selling musicians and rock groups than any other, including the Beatles. The Beatles played at the city’s famous Cavern Club almost 300 times before being discovered.

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Liverpool welcomes approximately 58 million visitors per year, which in turn supports a tourist industry of around 48,000 jobs. It’s popularity is thought to be due to The Beatles, its extensive maritime history and its flourishing art scene.

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To compliment my Collectable Classics series I thought it would be a good idea to run though a check list of things you should lookout for if you are thinking of buying a classic Nikon 35mm camera.

1. Before you embark on your search, for whatever Nikon camera it is you want, make sure you have some idea of its worth. Just because someone is asked £500 for an F4 doesn’t mean they’ll get it!

 

2. Always check for signs of abuse or misuse. A lot of old Nikon were professionally used. Personally, I will avoid anything with dents or items sold as Not Tested!

 

3. Most cameras rely on batteries as their main power source, always check for corrosion and make sure you take fresh or newly charged batteries so that you can test the equipment before making your purchase. Don’t buy before you try.

 

4. Make a detailed inspection of the cameras light seals, in particular the mirror box foam, found within the camera body, behind the lens mount. This small foam strip acts as a shock absorber for the mirror, if the foam looks compressed or feels sticky – do not fire the camera, replace the foam strip as soon as possible. If the mirror box seal needs replacing then the chances are the film door seals will do too. Kits are ready available for around £15. If you need a kit let me know, I nearly always have them in stock.

 

5. Look for missing parts, small screws, strap lugs and plastic terminal covers. Replacing any of these can add pounds to your purchase later.

 

6. If the camera has a manual mode run though the shutter speeds. Don’t forget to check in the view finder to see if the meter is working and that the focusing screen isn’t too dusty.

 

7. Check that the shutter curtain isn’t damaged and that there is no visible signs of wear.

 

8. Pay close inspection to any lenses that may come with the camera. Check the front and rear elements for scratches and fungus, both will degrade image quality. Don’t store cameras or lenses in their old leather cases, leather is susceptible to damp, which is liable to causes fungus growth within your camera or lens.

 

9. It always pays to know what you’re looking for, do your homework, know your cameras and their value – don’t go over budget!

 

10. Finally, enjoy your classics, use them often and in doing so – keep film alive!

Ever since I became interested in photography I’ve had this compulsion to enter competitions, first at camera club, then in exhibitions and now, occasionally, to photographic magazines.

Just before Christmas, 2011 I sent three images off to Digital Photographer magazine. The competition was for their Digital Photographer of the Year Awards – Monochrome Portraits.

Having shot many urban and sport type portraits over the past couple of years I had several good ones to choose from.

The 3 images I sent had already proved their worth in both National and International exhibitions, having gained gold and silver medals, plus a host of ribbon too. If anything was going to stand a chance of winning it had to be these.

To my amazement all 3 images were short listed for the final round of judging.

Days of Despair (short listed image)

There’s No Going Back (short listed image)

Then, shock! I received further notification that Mud, Sweat and Glee had been chosen as the overall winning image.

Mud, Sweat and GleeWinner! Digital Photographer of the Year Award for Monochrome Portraits

My prize, a Samsung NX100 with 20-50mm and 20mm f2.8 prime lens.

Having already decided to do more Street Photography in 2012, the NX100 will come in really handy.

Thanks to all at Imagine Publishing Ltd, looking forward to meet up with you all at Focus-on-Imaging next month.

 

1940’s Weekend: Arley Station, Severn Valley Railway; 25th June 2011

Despite having to contend with scorching temperatures the turn out on Arley Station was surprisingly mild for a 1940’s event.

Anne; A Brief Encounter © John Powell EFIAP DPAGB

I won’t lie! The only reason I chose to go to Arley, instead of usual journey to Kidderminster, was because you don’t get charged to walk on the platform there!

As always the people who turned up in costume were very obliging when asked to pose for the camera.

Evacuation Day © John Powell EFIAP DPAGB

I returned having met some wonderful folks and with two possible competition images.

Contact: dotcomjohnny@gmail.com or why not follow my on Twitter: @dotcomjohnny

The London Salon of Photography 100th Annual
Exhibition, 2011.
The London Salon was founded in
1910, but before that it existed as the Brotherhood of the Linked
Ring, a photographic society that was established in 1892. The
original Linked Ring members were a breakaway organization from the
(Royal) Photographic Society, who at that time placed more emphasis
on the science of photography than photography as a form of art.
Days of Despair
© 2010  John Powell EFIAP DPAGB BPE4*
Today, like back then, the aim of the London Salon is to exhibit
only that class of photographic work in which there is distinct
evidence of artistic feeling and execution. Membership to the
London Salon is still by invitation only. However, their annual
exhibition is open to all photographers. You can also lend your
support in the form of an annual subscription (friend of the London
Salon). Friends receive a personal invitation to a private viewing
of the exhibition along with a free colour illustrated exhibition
catalogue. Waiting in Vain
© 2011  John Powell EFIAP DPAGB BPE4* I
received confirmation today that 2 of my
prints have been accepted, these are: Days of Despair and Waiting
in Vain. The exhibition will be showing at two venues. The first at
The Mark Mason Hall, 86 St James’s Street London SW1A 1PL on
Saturday July 30th (doors open at 2pm). The second venue is a the
Old School House, Churchbridge, Oldbury, West Midlands on Saturday
August 20th (doors open at 1pm). All accepted images will be on
display on the Salon website shortly. Useful links relating to this
post: The London
Salon
| Brotherhood
of the Linked Ring
| Photo-Secession
| Royal Photographic
Society
Images © John Powell, 2011 All Rights
Reserved.

For some strange reason the Rushden organizers posted the statistics for their 29th Open Exhibition on their web site ahead of sending out individual results. Maybe this was there way of warning photographers to expect a poor set of results, who knows?

The statistics didn’t make very good reading. Out of a total of 3613 entries, only 518 made it into the final exhibition, just 14.3%, which for a digital only exhibition is a bit on the mean side, but that’s just my opinion!

Judges for this exhibition were:
General & Creative
Les Nixon DPAGB
Malcolm Ranieri FRPS MPAGB
David Steel

Nature & Monochrome
John Lacy ARPS CPAGB
Barbara Lawson FRPS DPAGB
Tony Wharton FRPS AFIAP

My entry consisted of 4 colour images (general section) and 4 monochrome. The score given by the judges are in brackets.

Muddy Hell

Muddy Hell

Muddy Water Blues

Muddy Water Blues

Theres No Going Back

Theres No Going Back

Time Gone By

Time Gone By

Living in the Past (10)
Muddy Hell! (11) accepted
Muddy Water Blues (11) accepted
There’s No Going Back (11) accepted

A Time Gone By (12) accepted
Contemplation (10)
Foot Loose (9)
Monty (9)

The exhibition is being held in the village hall at Irchester, Wellingborough on Sat, 7th May, 2011 at 6pm and can be seen at the following venues through out May, June and September.

Peterborough PS – 3rd May
Desborough & Rothwell PS – 13th May
New City PS – 26th May
Kettering & Dist. PS – 20th June
Burton Latimer & Dist. PS – 14th Sept, 2011

 

Damson Blossom, originally uploaded by dotcomjohnny.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The damson or damson plum (Prunus domestica subsp. insititia, or sometimes Prunus insititia) is an edible drupaceous fruit, a subspecies of the plum tree. Sometimes called the Damask plum, damsons are commonly used in the preparation of jams and jellies. The plum spirit slivovitz is made from fermented damson fruit. The tree blossoms with small, white flowers in early April in the Northern hemisphere and fruit is harvested in late August or early September.

The name damson derives from the Latin prunum damascenum, “plum of Damascus”. Damsons were first cultivated in antiquity in the area around the ancient city of Damascus, capital of modern-day Syria, and were introduced into England by the Romans. Remnants of damsons are often found during archaeological digs of ancient Roman camps across England, and ancient writings describe the use of damson skins in the manufacture of purple dye. Prugne damaschine figure in the long list of comestibles enjoyed by the Milanese given by Bonvesin de la Riva in his Marvels of Milan (1288).

The damson was introduced into the American colonies by English settlers before the American Revolution and are regarded as thriving better in the eastern United States than other European plum varieties.

The term “damson” is often used to describe red wines with rich yet acidic plummy flavors.

Nikon D2Hs/Tamron 70-150mm f2.8 (varisoft) lens @ 1/640 sec – f4.0

Tamron’s fast 70-150 F/2.8 constant aperture zoom lens was specifically designed for portrait photography, and was the first compact telephoto zoom lens ever produced by any manufacturer which featured a built-in softness control. This lens is extremely sharp at all focal lengths when not using the softness control since a total of six lens elements are used in the variator and compensator groups to reduce zoom dependent aberrations to their absolute minimum. Although the optical performance is somewhat optimized for 105mm (the ideal portrait focal length), this lens’s optical performance nevertheless is very good throughout the entire zoom range.

The London Salon of Photography invites you to submit prints to their 100th Annual Exhibition, 2011.

The London Salon was founded in 1910, but before that it existed as the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring, a photographic society that was established in 1892. The original Linked Ring members were a breakaway organization from the (Royal) Photographic Society, who at that time placed more emphasis on the science of photography than photography as a form of art.

Today, like back then, the aim of the London Salon is to exhibit only that class of photographic work in which there is distinct evidence of artistic feeling and execution.

Membership to the London Salon is still by invitation only. However, their annual exhibition is open to all photographers. You can also lend your support in the form of an annual subscription (friend of the London Salon). Friends receive a personal invitation to a private viewing of the exhibition along with a free colour illustrated exhibition catalogue.

My entry into this years salon is:

Days of Despair

Days of Despair

Urban Existence

Urban Existence

Waiting in Vain

Waiting in Vain

Savage Landscape

Savage Landscape

Days of Despair, Urban Existence, Waiting in Vain and Savage Landscape. The closing date for all entries is: Monday 25th April, 2011 – see the London Salon website for more details.

Useful links relating to this post: The London Salon | Brotherhood of the Linked Ring | Photo-Secession | Royal Photographic Society

Images © John Powell, 2011 All Rights Reserved.