7 November 2007

Competition news

Well I had a really good night tonight in the second digital projected image competition of the season. I managed to get the highest score on points overall which I was really, really pleased with.

The set subject was 'people or person' and I entered a portrait that I took a few weeks ago and which I titled 'Mischief making'. The shot is below:

I love this shot and feel that it really captures a special moment. The portrait session itself had been really hard work and at first I was a little dis-heartened with the results but after taking a step back I saw that I'd caught some really good shots in the end. I just love the little girl's expression. In the competition it scored 19 out of 20.
The 2 shots I used in the open category were one of my new shots taken in London one evening a few weeks ago, down by the River Thames and shows the Millennium Bridge and the other entry was of St Patrick's Cathedral in New York taken with my wide angle lens. I got scores of 17 and 19 out of 20 respectively, which I was more than happy with.
Hopefully the success will continue......

Studio portraiture course

I've got a studio portraiture course coming up this weekend that I'm attending down in Laycock, Wiltshire and which is run by Chris Burfoot. The course is in association with the Royal Photographic Society who get members a discounted rate on the normal fees.

I'm really looking forward to getting an even greater understanding of studio lighting and portrait photography which should help me even more as I continue to gain experience.

I'll report back on how the course went after the weekend.

Processing, processing, processing!

Well that's what it feels like all I've been doing every night for the last couple of weeks. I've finally finished the photos from my friend's (Simon and Jane) wedding and have sent them their photos. I'm still finishing off the photos from another couple's (Kirsty and Josh) wedding which was a couple of week's ago now but am making good progress. Will hopefully have all the shots ready for them for when they get back off honeymoon early next week.

It's going to be nice to be able to get round to sorting out the backlog of my own shots which has been building up slowly. I had a really good early morning shoot down by the Grand Union Canal in Watford a few weeks ago now and managed to get some great sunrise / mist / frosty morning shots before work one day. Just need to go through and sort them out. Also have a few shots taken on our studio night at the camera club that I want to get over to Sarah who modelled for us.

Hopefully I'll be able to catch up in the next few days!

19 October 2007

Up and running 2!

My website (John Wood Photography) is also now live. We were able to launch it on the same day as the exhibition opened so the timing was rather handy!

I've had a lot of positive feedback from site visitors which has been really encouraging and there was a steady stream of hits when the launch was announced to everyone. Thanks folks!

It's been a while in the planning and set up but I feel that it has definitely been worth the wait. I'm really pleased with the look and feel of it and will be adding to it over the coming weeks and months - so check back regularly for updates.

Up and running

Well the launch of the exhibition went brilliantly with over 40 people attending during the opening night. It was really good to see around 14 of my friends make the effort and come along to see it all set up in it's glory! Thanks to all of you - you know who you are.

We got some really good coverage in the Watford Observer with a great write up - the Arts correspondent even bought a couple of my greetings cards that I'd had produced.

The exhibition really does look good and a fantastic job has been done by all involved. Hopefully it will inspire us to keep the momentum up and do something like this again in the not too distant future and hopefully on an even bigger scale.

6 October 2007

Just over a day to go!

Well, the exhibition has been fast approaching and it's felt like a lot of my spare time has been getting to grips with cutting mounts and framing photographs, sending out invites to friends and family and sorting out my greetings cards.

Finally they're all ready to go and tomorrow (Sunday) is set up day. I'm really looking forward to seeing my prints on display at the exhibition and also to welcoming everyone to the preview night on Monday.

For a while on Friday I didn't think the greetings cards were going to make it - the printer had a bit of a nightmare but at 8pm I received delivery of 8 of my 10 designs. The remaining two will have to be printed on Monday - hopefully!

I spent a lot of Friday night and Saturday packing them up with their matching envelopes and sliding them into their protective cellophane pouches but I'm really pleased with the final result.

Roll on Monday!

19 September 2007

Competition news

I got some great news from my camera club tonight that one of my prints which was selected to go into the Harrow Camera Club Annual Exhibition and the Ron Wake Memorial Trophy towards the end of last season - story here, made it into the final 10 out of around 60-70 prints submitted!!

The photo was the one of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York that I took with my Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens. Unfortunately it didn't win the trophy but it did receive favourable comments which I'm really pleased about. Hopefully the external competition success will continue.

Back to reality - unfortunately

Well the holiday in Greece is finally over and it's a bit of a shame to be back here in the UK after a week of glorious sunshine and relaxation.

We went to Tsilivi on the island of Zakynthos and were pleasantly surprised by what we found. Our apartment for the week was set back up the hill from the main centre of Tsilivi and as a result was quiet and away from it all. It also had commanding views across the bay and up towards Kefalonia and the Greek mainland. The accommodation was really well presented and very clean.

Luckily we got the chance to explore the Island on a Jeep Safari day trip with Zante Insight. The off road trip took us to places that there was no way a hire car could get to, let alone find! There were photo opportunities around every corner from the stunning countryside, the small villages we passed through down to the rugged western coast.

We got a chance to see the famous shipwreck at Navagio Beach near VolĂ­mai. It is one of the top 5 most photographed beaches in the world and it was certainly easy to see why. The viewpoint is on a very precarious metal platform sticking out from the cliff edge - it only takes 4 people at a time and the cliff drops away vertically beneath you! The colours of the sea and the stunning view have given me some great shots - will get some posted up soon.

It never seems that a week is long enough but at least it left us with things to go back and see sometime. In the meantime, its back to the old routine again!

2 September 2007

What is it they say about working with children and animals?!?

Well I managed to do both yesterday! I did a shoot for some friends in the morning - Lindsey, Steve and their baby - Emma. We had a good hour and a half or so getting a whole variety of shots of the family.

Straight after that I went and photographed Ben - a border collie cross. Ben is used to the cameras - he starred in a forthcoming information video that was being shot and his owner said that he was very well behaved and did exactly as he was told and when during the shoot.

On his home ground, he was also well behaved but seemed to want to spend more time rolling in the grass having his tummy stroked than having his picture taken! With a bit of perseverance and bribery in the form of Digestive biscuits, we were able to get a selection of good shots.

Have just got to sit down and run through all the processing now! I think I rattled off over 300 shots over the 2 shoots so it will take a bit of time editing out the ones that don't make the cut and then processing the ones that do into a variety of different formats and styles.

Still, it's all good experience! As far as the title of this post goes - I think I understand what was meant now!!! Only kidding!

Monitor calibrations

I've just received my Pantone Huey Pro monitor calibration hardware. I decided that it was time to get my monitor properly calibrated as I think I'd been relying on the Adobe Gamma setting a bit too long. Getting the monitor profiled correctly is the first step in ensuring that colours of prints come out exactly as they should. You've got to see the photo displaying correctly on your screen before you send it to be printed.

The Huey pro was a breeze to set up after cleaning the lcd screen first with the cleaning kit and installing the supplied software. The calibration process takes around 2 or 3 minutes and then lets you create a profile which can be saved and applied each time you use the pc.

The calibration hardware sits in it's stand by the screen and constantly monitors changes in ambient light in the room and adjusts the display accordingly.

I've only been using it for a day and just for viewing photos, it seems to make them more accurate to how I actually remember it when the photos were taken. I'll have to see how things go when it comes to getting round to editing some photos and the results that are achieved. Things are definitely looking promising so far though.

23 August 2007

Nikon D300 has arrived!

Well after months of speculating, rumours on specs and general gossip, Nikon have launched their follow up to the well received D200 - the new D300. Nikon say it sits in between their pro and amateur range line up but initial reports give it a leaning definitely towards the pro feel.

Has the 2 year wait been worth it? Specifications include a 12.3 mega pixel sensor, 51 point auto-focus system, a 3 inch LCD screen on the back with 'Live view' along with a whole host of other improvements and additions.

A more detailed review can be read here on Digital Photography Review

My first impressions are that it looks fantastic - it shares pretty much the same body as the previous D200 model but is marginally lighter - though not on features! It would certainly be worth splashing the pennies, though at an RRP of £1,299 that's a lot of pennies!

The D300 is going to be available to buy from November, with detailed kit options available in September 2007.

Perhaps this will have an effect (downwards) on the prices of the D200's that are available at the moment but we'll have to wait and see.

Personally, I'm rather looking forward to seeing the new D300 in the flesh and giving it a try.

22 August 2007

Time goes by!

Well it's certainly been a busy old month since the last post! I've been pretty busy with things and have a lot of photos to process. Managed to get up to Crosby to see Anthony Gormley's 'Another Palce' statues on the beach. They were certainly quite a sight - seeing 100 life size statues all facing out to sea in different positions on the beach. Got some good moody shots as the sun set with stormy skies approaching. Just need to sort out and tidy up the good shots.

I've also been to a wedding in the Lake District - first time up there for a few years. It was one of my wife's uni friends who got married and I managed to get a lot of great photos throughout the day. I got all of the photos processed in Photoshop and sent up to them before they got back from their honeymoon. I'd also taken the plunge and bought the Proshow Gold AV creation software and this gave me a chance to put it through it's paces and create a finished project. I was certainly very pleased with the end result and by the sounds of it so were the new happy couple - we got a message to say that she had cried throughout the whole DVD I'd created for them and it brought back all the happy memories. I hope that's a good sign!!!

Being in the Lake District gave me a good chance to get some photos while we were up there. Although the weather wasn't generally great, I did get some good shots at Stockghyll Force and down at Lake Windermere as well as a few other locations.

Here's a shot from Windermere:

A couple of weeks ago I also managed to get out on one of the camera club's summer walks to the Withey Beds Nature Reserve near Rickmansworth. Was really please I went along as it was well worth the trip. Got some great macro plant shots and even a stunning close up of a stag beetle with my Sigma 70mm f2.8 lens.

Last Saturday, Caroline, a friend of my wife's was over and the two of them were heading out for the night. She asked if I could take a couple of photos as she wanted a new Facebook profile photo. Not to waste an opportunity I put the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens on the camera and snapped away for a few minutes. I got a good selection of shots that I was able to play about with in Photoshop and give her a cd when they got back from their night out. Also had another go with Proshow Gold to good effect. Here is one fo the shots of Caroline:

All in all it's been a good but busy month.

12 July 2007

Weekend photography

I went to Shugborough in Staffordshire last weekend whilst visiting the in-laws. They've currently got a photography competition running to capture the essence of Shughborough - the stately home of the Earl of Lichfield.

It was great to wander around the grounds and get some photos - just need to sort through them now to see if any are worth entering.

The closing date isn't until the end of December so there's plenty of time to go back and get something different as the seasons change.

Struggling retailers

Jessops has been in the news a fair bit this last fortnight. It seems that they've really been hit by the on-line merchants and have announced that they are closing over 80 of their high street shops and making many staff redundant.

To some observers this might not have come as a major surprise given the several profit warnings that they've issued recently.

From a personal perspective, I've had a mixed experience with the company. They've always been useful to go and physically look and get the feel of photography products which you simply cannot do with an online firm. However, their pricing has been less than competitive at times! Sometimes they offer price matching and other times they don't. At the end of the day, if there is something you know you want to get but you can get it elsewhere for less, then in most cases you'd take that option. Looking at the prices they charge for memory cards, when you can get a 2gb Sandisc card for £17.99 including delivery from an online store but Jessops still insist on selling it for c£60, it's no surprise they're in trouble.

The worst experience I've had though was when they lost all of the films from my engagement trip to Iceland that were being processed. It seemed that the loss was down to sheer incompetence as I kept on getting told different stories. First the films were in the store, then they were still with the processors, then they'd been sent to another branch by mistake. They just didn't know what had happened. Unfortunately this really was the last straw as far as I was concerned. I soon went to owning a digital slr after that event!

Would I be sad to see them go from the high street? In some ways yes but in others, no. the jury is still out so we'll have to wait and see.

Mount board and prints

Last week I got the chance to pop into Lion Picture Framing in Birmingham and happened to visit on their 30th anniversary celebrations. It turned out to be a very worthwhile visit as not only was I able to purchase a good supply of mountboard for my photographs but was able to see their new digital services team - Lion Fine Print and also stay for a couple of talks which were being offered to visitors.

The team at Lion were extremely helpful and I found them more than willing to offer lots of useful advice and assistance. They've certainly gained me as a satisfied customer.

I've also had back a selection of prints for the exhibition in a couple of months. They look really good and I can't wait to get them framed now. I still need to select some more for the exhibition and also arrange to get the cards printed off too.

Time flies by

It's been a while since the last post and I can't quite believe just how fast time seems to have flown by. I've been on holiday to Ireland for just under a week and got the chance to get a few photos fired off. I've also had a weekend on Dartmoor in what can easily be descibed as the worst weather conditions I've been our in.....ever!

19 June 2007

New equipment

Well yesterday was my birthday and I was lucky enough to receive quite a few photography related presents.

I'm now the proud owner of a Logan 301-S mount cutter which will allow me to create my own mounts for photographs and give me greater flexibility in choosing what format and size I want to display my photos in. I just need to make a visit to Lion in Slough to get myself a supply of quality mountboard.

A new Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens is also sitting in my camera bag and initial shots that I've taken have come out really well. The lens itself is pretty small in size but is perfect for portraits and creating fantastic depth of field shots where I need the creative control. I'm really looking forward to using this lens a lot over the coming months and years.

I also received a couple of books which will really help me to improve my photography further and provide a great source of reference.

15 June 2007

Slideshow / DVD presentation software (2)

Having tried out the Proshow Gold software for a couple of weeks now and created a few slideshows for viewing on a PC and also a DVD for viewing on a regular TV, I've been very impressed.

It's a really easy process to just drag and drop your photos into the show and do the same for your audio tracks as well. You can even automatically synchronise the length of the slide show to the length of your audio and it works out the duration each slide is visible for and it's transition.

It certainly looks like it will be a very worthwhile bit of software to have.

3 June 2007

What a wonderful weekend!

Had a great weekend so far. I went up to London as I wanted to visit an exhibition at the OXO Gallery on the South Bank. The exhibition was called 'Ocean' and was a display of the work of the famous marine photographer Philip Plisson. There were some stunning and inspiring photographs on display, really capturing the changing moods of the sea and coast. It was well worth the visit.

Going into London also gave me the opportunity to get some photographs along the South Bank. Around by the Royal Festival Hall I was able to get some great action shots of the trick riders on their BMX bikes as they rode around under the concourse. I also got a selection of shots of the London Eye and tried various techniques with exposure compensations to counteract the strong sunlight. I've just got to sit down now and do the post-shoot processing.

Website progress

The re-design of the website is coming along well. My good friend (and web designer!) Nolan, has shown me a mock up of the home page and one of the subsequent linked pages and I'm really happy with how things are progressing.

We decided on a couple of tweaks but it's coming along very nicely. I'm just sorting through the pictures to include in the galleries so people can see the standard of my work. Not an easy task trying to whittle things down to a manageable number really!

I'm really looking forward to getting it all up and running now.

23 May 2007

Portrait feedback

Yesterday I sent the final edited versions of the photos of a friend who I did a portrait session for with her and her little boy a couple of weeks ago. This morning I had an email from her to say how much she loves them:

"All I can say about the photos is.....wow! They are amazing, thank you so so much.
Simon will absolutely love them and you are right, I don't know how I am going to pick which ones to blow up!........
.......Thanks again, I am so pleased with them and I actually think you have captured him much better than Venture did a while back."

The feedback gave me a real lift and confidence boost. So thanks - you know who you are!

Here are a couple of the shots I took:

The shoot was hard work at times but very rewarding overall and I felt like I captured some great shots during the session. Striking the balance between what you want your (young) model to do and keeping them entertained is absolutely key. A bit of friendly bribery worked a treat in this case and we just took our time and knew when to call it a day.

Slideshow / DVD presentation software

I downloaded a trial version of ProShow Gold last night and first impressions are that it could be really useful for me as a photographer. The software allows the user to create slide shows of photographs, set them to music and change the way that shots are blended in and out. You can then either burn them to DVD for viewing on a TV, create a self running exe file on a PC and even make available via email and on-line web slide shows. Am sure it does a whole lot more but these are the main things.

I put together a quick show of a recent portrait sitting I did for a friend and was really impressed at what can be achieved very quickly. I'm sure that with practice, there will be loads more to discover.

It would certainly be an advantage where I could create a slide show of the shots I've taken during a portfolio shoot and use it for selection of prints if clients aren't able to meet up for a viewing. The photos would be secure on the DVD or embedded in the exe file so the potential problem of copyright issues would be removed or minimised to say the least. It's also possible to watermark the images for added security.

I'm going to try it out with a few more sessions and see how it develops. Could well be worth offering though.

It would also be a great promotional tool - it would enable potential clients to see examples of my work all displayed in a professional manner.

Safe as houses?

Well, after the scare the other weekend, I can now say that everything critical has been safely backed up to the new external hard drive and DVD.

Must admit that I certainly now feel a lot happier knowing that if the worst happens, I should be able to get everything back quite quickly. Fingers crossed I'll never need it but it's good to know it's there.

21 May 2007

Backup solution has arrived

Well it's finally arrived; my Freecom 400gb hard drive was delivered at lunchtime today. I'm now looking forward to getting it set up and everything critical copied across to it as soon as possible. It certainly looks good but I was quite surprised at just how much the thing weighs - 750g to be precise.

Still at least it should be solid and dependable - well I hope so at least!

Website - redesign

A good friend came round on Thursday evening to go through what exactly I want out of my site. He's going to be designing my site for me over the coming few weeks to replace the existing site I've got there as my first temporary presence on the web.

I've spent several weeks scouring many photographers websites to see what designs appeal, work well and what would fit in with what I'm trying to achieve. Sometimes trying to remember which ones I've seen and ones I haven't seem to blur into one big mass!

I think that it's certainly going to be something that evolves over time and gradually builds up as my photography grows! The idea at the moment is to have seperate galleries of my work as examples of what I can do to really showcase my photography.

Hopefully I'll be able to announce the re-launch soon!

16 May 2007


Heard tonight that we can now collect our frames for the exhibition being held later in the year. Looking forward to seeing the final product as we've only seen a sample frame which looked a bit the worse for wear really!

Will be fantastic to get my prints mounted in the frame and ready for display.

Last week's competition

Had a really good evening a week ago when I entered my prints into my camera club's Print of the Year Competition. We had a top judge - Chris Palmer (ARPS, AFIAP, DPAGB and APAGB), marking the prints. He's been a judge at several top Salons including the Southampton International Exhibition of Photography.
I received some great comments and even had one of my shots held back for consideration later in the evening.

Here it is:

It's also now being included in an external club competition over the summer, so I may not get it back for a few months yet - hopefully in time for the exhibition though!

The evening certainly gave my confidence a bit of a boost too.

15 May 2007

Exhibition time

I've signed up to take part in my first exhibition during October. It's being organised by fellow members of the XRR Photographic Society and is going to be held at the Newton Price Centre in Watford, Hertfordshire between the 8th and 28th of October 2007. This is the link for the exhibition information

There should be space to display about 4 or 5 photographs for each exhibitor, so I'm now putting some serious consideration as to which ones I think will display well (and hopefully SELL!).

Valuable lesson learnt!

Had a bit of a fright over the weekend when my PC refused to progress past the initial BIOS checks. Spent a day or so worrying that I'd lost a whole load of my work as it had been a while since I last ran a backup of everything.

To my great relief, I was fortunately able to get the machine up and running again on Monday morning following a bit of a reset with the brilliant assistance of Dell's tech support line. Felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

The big lesson I've now learnt is to back everything up much more regularly and as a result I'm now awaiting delivery of a 400gb external hard drive to do just that. Will also be burning files to DVD as an extra insurance policy too!

9 May 2007

Getting qualified

My wonderful wife bought me membership to the Royal Photographic Society last week to help me further myself in this field. I'm now going to start preparing for and undertaking the Licentiateship - hopefully later this year or early next year. I need to build up a cohesive panel of 10 prints to get judged.

Think I'll be attending one of the preparation workshops that the RPS organise to assist those undertaking the assessment.

Learning new stuff

Had a really good evening last night learning how to cut my own mounts for displaying my photos with a fellow member of XRR Photographic Society. Didn't realise quite how easy it really is! Now have 3 of my A3 prints all mounted and ready to be entered into tonight's competition at XRR. Hopefully they'll do well!

Have got a Logan 301-S mount cutter added to my wish list of equipment I want to get now!

8 May 2007

Let's get it started!

Just launched this blog which will hopefully follow me as I build on my photography skills and undertake more commissions for clients. I'm currently building a portfolio of my work, some of which will be showcased here and on my own website which is also under construction.

No doubt there will be highs and lows along the way - preferably more of the former though! Hopefully this will be a long and successful journey.