My History

I first picked up a camera in the late 1980's...

It's not me. It's your eyes. Honest.

I first picked up a camera in the late 1980's, took to the streets in and around the 'City of London' and photographed whatever caught my eye. I mostly used black and white film and rarely had my photographs developed at anything larger than 6x4. I look back now and wonder "what did I photograph?" as I've lost all of those early images.

In the early 90's I attended the London College of Printing and Distributive Trades (it's now the UAL/LCC) and sat a photolithography course that involved plate making for print, negative and positive film developing, darkroom techniques, drum scanning, DTP and the science behind colour, print and print substrates.

I returned to photography in 2005 when I purchased my first DSLR, a 6mp Fuji Finepix S2 Pro plus a 28-300 kit zoom and 90mm macro lens. I had no real direction, like most people, I just photographed what caught my attention. I eventually found this journey to be frustrating. I wasn't particularly frustrated with my progress in learning how to use my equipment, and I wasn't yet at a stage where I was looking back at my images and realising how poor most of them were. I was frustrated with image management and editing. There simply was no hassle free way to manage my growing image collection, and editing, even simple edits in Photoshop, were a chore. I was quickly becoming disgruntled with the whole DAM process. Then one day I was out and about, having observed a magnificent sunset over the city (of London) I wondered if I could capture scenes like these as panorama images? I knew nothing of parallax and nodal points, nor was I completely aware of how edge diffusion, vignette and lens distortion alone were going to turn my thought into a Photoshop nightmare that would almost make me walk away from photography all together! The results of my efforts to produce multi-frame panoramas were dire, stitching and blending was near impossible to do manually. I gave up.
This is where 95% of your images will belong.

When you finally realise this is where 95% of your images belong.

In 2012 I again returned to a higher level of photography (higher than the point n shoot I was using for snaps!) because I had seen that software had finally caught up. Adobe Lightroom was here. Lens profiles and lens correction was here. Reliable panorama stitching software was emerging. Raw was all the rage. There was hope for me after all!
I went overboard, purchased a D800 and several lenses, yes I went ham... and took to the streets...
At least this time round I had digital asset management tools to help me sift through and cull the 95% junk I was shooting!  I slowly got it together, started to really get to grips with the cameras potential, became obsessed with "manual" everything and started to think more about why I was doing what I was doing and what I wanted to achieve. That is when I returned to the idea of the panorama photography I had failed miserably at years earlier.
I had a decent camera plus some reasonable lenses at my disposal (I had a Tokina 16-28mm in my kit... rawr!) and I had actually armed myself with some useful practical information on how to approach shooting panorama imagery. So out I went, day and night, taking hundreds of series of images to use in panoramas.
Excluding the massive software learning curve with a trinity of Lightroom, Photoshop and AutoPano Giga at the core, I still had a lot to learn about the process, how to interpret a scene, how to expose for post processing, which itself is different to exposing for a good out of camera image! Trial and error error error....95% error by my reckoning.... I finally started to produce they types of images I had envisaged. Or so I thought. The critical evaluating process quickly dulls your elation. The end results were okay. But there were evident signs of the process (those tell-tale banana pano-curves) and a lack of imagination making many of the final results all look similar, even if some were actually quite good, and this began to irritate me. I had to find a way to deviate from this and to add a bit more... something.... to my images. 

I'm not deluded, I know I will forever be chasing this goal... its part of the learning and growing process.

Until this point, I had been using wide angle lenses to generate my image sets. I realised that this alone was a significant contributing factor in my self-felt disappointment at how these images were turning out, not only because they facilitate capturing images that would have that banana-curve, but because they were also the root cause of two other bug-bears of mine, sharpness and lack of detail. Stitching 16-20ish mm images together looks great on screen, but when you zoom in, or print at anything near 100% you immediately notice that there is a lack of detail. To conflate this, if your lens is soft at anything other than a specific focal length and f-stop, and you have to take images outside of these sweet-spots, you're on a losing battle. And then there is diffraction to further ruin your aspirations!
I swatted up on lens technology, quality and performance and with this information at hand, switched to using a 24mm prime (Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED), a 50mm prime (The nifty-fifty 50mm Nikon f/1.8D) and a 90mm Macro (Tamron 90mm f/2.8 v3). I instantly saw levels of detail and sharpness that was missing. The down-side to this was that I needed to take a lot more images for each panorama, not only did that mean more files, more storage, more time managing assets, more time editing and more cpu time generating panorama files... it also mean more time exposing images... more time for light to change, suns and moons to rise or set, clouds to move... I think you get the picture. Fix one thing... break another.
So that is where I ended up, using better glass, trying to keep within a lenses prime sharpness range. I also started using ND filters rather than f-stops to increase exposure time, and this alone was probably the first thing I should have done as it's the cheapest way to get more out of your lens. I was working harder than ever to preserving detail. My mantra for producing panoramas is simple, why bother producing a large scale image if you fill it with soft exposures in the first place!  But again, I'll say it, I have a long way to go, I have overcome some of my own deficiencies and jumped many technical hurdles and grown a lot, but I know "perfection" is a rainbow dream that I can only ever get close to. That's ok, it’s a great journey nontheless! I'm now at the point where I consider what I'm doing or going to do. My photography has improved, I've gotten past the snapshot stage, become an enthusiast with wide-open eyes that are looking for opportunity. But the reality is I'm barely in my infancy as far as this journey goes.
This is the only film-era image I have from my past. This was taken just before "that" big storm tore down the last remnants of Brighton's old pier. These six lads were enjoying the rough surf which preceded that destructive storm.
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