Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Photographic magazine sales in 2015

Sales of photographic magazines in UK continue to fall. I last reported here the circulation figures for photographic magazines in 2013. Sales for all fell. That downward trend has continued and again in 2015 the circulation of all photographic magazines audited by ABC in UK decreased.

I know that the number of titles stocked by our local W.H. Smith has also fallen. I haven’t been able to find Advanced Photographer (not audited ABC) for months. The professional photographic journalists who edit and write the magazines must continue to be very worried. For example, Amateur Photographer sales have fallen by 19% in two years. They are only 14% of what they were 30 years ago, such has been the decline.

Magazine sales suffer is because much better information is available on online even though the excellent stuff has to be distinguished from a lot of utter rubbish. The problem with UK photographic magazines is that they are neither fish nor fowl; too elementary for those with any experience but too modern for those ill at ease and left behind by the digital world.

Here are the ABC figures for 2015 showing the year-on-year percentage changes:

Title% Change
Digital SLR Photography-24.7
Amateur Photographer-11.9
Digital Photo-10.2
Photo Plus-6.2
Digital Camera Magazine-1.6
Practical Photography-1.4

Monday, 13 June 2016

"Zoo Quest" in colour. Why colour for black-and-white television?

Those who saw the recent BBC programme after the discovery that the original footage of "Zoo Quest" from the 1950s was filmed in colour will have been amazed by its quality and by the skill of Charles Lagus, the cinematographer. Nearly twenty years before the appearance of colour television in U.K. the technical people at the BBC insisted on the use of colour negative film rather than black-and-white film for the clockwork-driven 16 mm camera. Sir David Attenborough explained that the BBC only agreed to 16 mm, necessary for portability in the field, after a huge row. 16 mm was for amateurs: professionals used 35 mm. The reason why Charles Lagus was chosen was because he had experience of using 16 mm equipment (technical films which would be projected for relatively small audiences were filmed in 16 mm because the equipment and film was much cheaper).

What was not explained in the programme was the reason why colour negative film was insisted upon. I can only assume that it was less grainy than the black and white negative stock available at the time with the silver grains having been washed out during processing to leave the dyes. If that were the case then colour positive stock would have been the alternative. However, the exposure latitude of colour negative was, and still is, much greater than colour positive film. That would have been an asset in the field where it would be difficult to get the exact exposure that postive film demands.

It would appear that only black-and-white prints were taken from the original footage since neither the presenter nor the cinematographer could remember that it had ever been in colour. In what form it was televised I do not know but printing from a colour negative with relatively wide latitude would have enabled contrast to have been controlled at the printing stage and the use of slow, fine-grain black-and-white material.

The advantage in terms of quality of output of using colour negative film stock would have been offset by their lack of speed. Colour films were then incredibly slow by modern standards (about 10-20 ASA). Indeed there were situations, when the Komodo Dragon was lured into a trap, for example, when a faster black-and-white film had to be used just to get a shot. The quality was noticeably lower.

You can also see from the footage another advantage of using 16 mm rather than 35 mm film for wildlife—the greater depth of field.

I have not been able to find what colour negative film Charles Lagus was told to use. The BJP Almanacs for the early 1950s list only 16 mm positive films. However, I have read that the BBC worked with Kodak in the 1950s and 60s to bring 16 mm cinematography to a professional level (i.e. to replace 35 mm for television use) so my guess is the film was Kodak but which one I have not been able to work out.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Final Cut Pro X with Lightroom. Yes you can

One valuable feature of Final Cut Pro X is the ability to import photographs directly from Apple’s own Aperture and Photos via the Photos Browser. When I moved to Adobe Lightroom, in anticipation of the demise of Aperture and faced with the pretty useless Photos, I missed that feature. I thought there was no way of getting photographs from Lightroom into Final Cut Pro X other than by exporting them and then importing them into FCPX directly or via Photos. I was wrong.

The Published Smart Folder created in Lightroom
I found a workaround that had been published on an internet forum in September 2015. In Lightroom it involves creating a Publish Service to any local drive. I first created a folder called LR for FCP (to remind me what it contains) in the Pictures folder. I then used Lightroom to create its own ‘Published Smart Folder’ within that folder. I set up the latter folder to contain anything Flagged in Lightroom. I only used ‘Flag’ as as example for automatically including photographs in the Smart Folder—all the other smart folder options (star rating, colour label, keywords) can be used.

The contents of the smart folder are held there until you right click and press ‘Publish Now’. The queued photographs are exported to Published Smart Folder.

The Published Smart Folder open in FCPX
That folder is now dragged into the Photos Browser of FCPX and there are the photographs ready to drag onto the Timeline.

Provided you have FCPX set up to ‘Copy to library storage location’, the photographs can be deleted from the Published Smart Folder and those in its smart folder in Lightroom can be unFlagged and removed (the original photos are left in place of course).

I think I now prefer this method to using Aperture or Photos since I do not need have to wade through all their folders and photographs In the Photos Browser in FCPX to find what I want.

This method also works with Motion and I found another advantage. Layered graphics in psd format (such as the ones I use for moving maps) can be saved directly from Photoshop to the Published Smart Folder. They can then be dragged to the Canvas in Motion with the option for them to appear as separate layers (in FCPX the layers can be separated in the Timeline).

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Aperture to Lightroom in 2015; now it’s to Lightroom CC/Lightroom Mobile and Photoshop CC

The last full-fat version of Photoshop I used was CS, introduced in 2003. As later editions of Photoshop Elements included more features that I needed than CS I changed to that much cheaper product. In recent years with Aperture and then, instead, Lightroom, I have done very little that could not be done with Aperture or, now, Lightroom (with Nik and other plug-ins), with the occasional use of Photoshop Elements with the plug-in Element+. However, with infrared work I have been worried that the restriction to 8-bit processing was putting jagged gaps in the histogram when Levels were used to tone the pretty flat images that emerge from an IR-converted camera. Secondly, although possible, developing Actions with the help of Elements+ is a hassle compared with Photoshop proper. Because of the 8-bit problem and because I often want to experiment with different colour temperatures before conversion of faux-colour IR images using the channel mixer (or the hue slider in Viveza 2) and, therefore, generate a number of variants as quickly and as automatically as possible, I took the plunge back into the full-version Photoshop world, even though I dislike the software subscription business model. So now I have Lightroom CC (which apart from the import from files bit I like greatly) and Photoshop CC, with Nik Software plugins.

Photoshop CC is, to my delight, brilliant and so much easier to use than the early versions, including CS. The modern algorithms are so good that I have reprocessed some difficult, images scanned from positives, negatives and prints with considerably more success. I have been helped with modern Photoshop by internet tutorials and Martin Evening’s book (a hard copy is much easier to look things up in than a Kindle version).

Having now used Lightroom 6/CC and Photoshop CC, I can see why Apple dropped Aperture. The intellectual and capital investment needed just to keep up (and to work round any problems with intellectual property) must have been so daunting that it was just not worth Apple’s while.

Also, Lightroom Mobile works extremely well, at least to show photographs on an iPad or iPhone (the only way I would want to use it).

The most annoying problem with using Lightroom compared with Aperture, as I have remarked before, is in not being able to import photographs directly from there into Final Cut Pro X. However, I have read of a workaround which I am about to test……..