Sunday, November 14, 2010

Great British Landscapes – A New Magazine Website from Joe Cornish

WebSite Review

Joe Cornish, the renowned, and probably the most famous contemporary British Landscape Photographer has, in conjunction with fellow photographer Tim Parkin, launched a  new magazine style website entitled Great British Landscapes (LandscapesGB). The site is the brainchild of Tim Parkin, and in their own words they describe the partnership as Tim being the driver and Joe as the Navigator. The site seems aimed at show casing contemporary ‘great’ British photographers, not only their work, but their methods. However the sites mission statement quotes:
“We hope in time that LandscapeGB will develop its own momentum, with contributions from anyone and everyone from the British landscape photography community who wishes to participate.”


The magazine also includes guides to locations, photography techniques, book reviews and processing techniques. Issue one contains an excellent guide to Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire, an article from Joe on “Shooting into the Sun”, and a run down on some of the winning photographs this year's Landscape Photographer of the Year competition (LPOTY). It will also contain video content to download and the premier issue provides a screencast by Joe on his post processing of one of his older photographs that was recently rescanned on Tim Parkin’s drum scanner. This particular screen cast is over an hour long, and many readers will be no doubt surprised to find out just how far Joe has gone into the realms of digital processing within Photoshop.
On the About page the magazine lists the type of landscape photographers that they are going to look at. It’s no surprise classical photographers such as Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, David Muench and Edward Weston are listed but also contemporaries such as David Ward,  Andrew Nadolski and Michael Kenna are also included. Local photographer (and rising star) Doug Chinnery is also listed.
Of particular note is the location guide with the one for Brimhan Rocks providing the precise locations for many of Joe’s classic shots, including his well know shot for the National Trust. This contains a precise location guide, details of where to park, how to get there, links to Google maps and panoramas and even some information on the geology. This is precisely the level of detail a photographer like myself likes to see and I’m sure this feature alone will prove to be very popular. We already have ‘JCB’ (Joe Cornish Boulder!) fully engraved into photography speak, so I can see bagging a JCL (Joe Cornish Location) becoming the next big thing from bagging a Scottish Munroe!
New issues of the magazine are to be released on a bi-monthly basis.

The Good and the Bad

The website is written in a blog style and very nicely presented and yes, like many blogs you can add comments and feedback. It is clearly still ‘work-in-progress’ but it’s good to see you can comment and add requests. The articles so far seem quite good and provide more depth and information than comparative magazine articles. The screencast of Joe is enlightening in seeing at ‘master at his work’, but at over an hour long, it is rather tedious to say the least. Joe will seem finicky beyond belief to most and only absolute Joe Cornish devotees and complete Photoshop anoraks would be able to watch this in it’s entirety in one session. It took me about 4 sittings to get through it all. As it’s Joe Cornish it will be watched; Joe’s pictures on a cover of a magazine increase circulation, and there are not many British photographers who can do that. However any similar video by A. N. Other on YouTube I feel would fade into obscurity. If this is to be part of a commercial venture I think the screencasts need to be much shorter, snappier and edited for content.
You’ll notice I stated ‘commercial venture’, yes I’m afraid the content is not free but can only be obtained on a subscription only basis. Currently you can acquire access to individual issues for £3 each or purchase a block subscription for 6 months or a year bringing the price down to £2.50 and £2.00 per issue respectively. The good news is that Issue one is free, all you have to do is register so you can test drive it yourself.

Summary and Comment

I can’t help but seem a little surprised that a photographer of Joe Cornish’s renown is entering into another commercial venture. I’ve already seen the proliferation of his elegant greeting cards and am left wondering whether he is exploiting his notoriety or this is a economic requirement. If Joe Cornish can’t make a dam good living out of selling his prints then I guess no landscape photographer within the UK can. If it’s the latter then it’s a real pity, since someone of Joe’s talent within the US would be up there with the millionaire photographers like Peter Lik.
The site content has the potential for it to be a real winner and we’ve longed for a UK site that can encompass British Photography in the same way the Luminous Landscape does for those elsewhere. If you compare Great British Landscapes (LandscapesGB) the the current, rather staid and repetitive UK photography magazine fodder, then it wins hands down. However it’s on the internet where most, if not all expect content to be free and it’s up against very stiff free completion. Will it succeed, well with name of Joe Cornish attached, I guess it probably will. I would like to see a downloadable PDF version included with the price however.
Will I subscribe? Well I’m not sure yet, but when I’m overseas it may just seem a too tempting a read. Go ahead and give Issue One it a try and see what you think.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tripod Woes

Equipment Failures

I have had my fair share of disasters in the past with photographic equipment. Usually it’s odd items like scratched or broken grads and lost lens caps but I also have had my tripod blown over at Robin Hood’s Bay damaging my EF 24-105mm lens and a fall in the field in Africa which required a new IS unit to my EF 100-400mm zoom lens. Fortunately in both cases I was insured and the bulk of the repairs were covered.

Recently however, I had a rather an odd mishap and lost (yes lost!) a leg from my tripod. This was from my much prized Gitzo GT-3541-LS carbon fibre tripod; not a cheap item either and a tripod you expect to be built to the highest of standards too. But I guess you’re wondering how on earth I could loose a leg. Well it’s not quite as difficult as you may think.

Gitzo 3541LS copy

For quite some while now my backpack of choice has been the Lowepro Pro Trekker 400 AW which is an excellent backpack and I’ve sung it’s praises in the full review I did here. It features a tripod loops on the front and sides of the backpack which are really just large pockets without a bottom. The top (rim) of each is heavily reinforced so you can just slot two of your tripod legs inside and let third leg rest outside. The the main tripod holder in the centre of the pack also has a couple of straps to secure the tripod further, and has a fold down foot holder although neither of these two features I have thought necessary if you are just walking short distances. Unfortunately that has been to me detriment.

Whilst out with my family on a walk from our holiday cottage in Craster down to the coastal path towards Cullernose point we got caught in a downpour. Not just any old downpour mind you, a really hooly. The weather turned from blustery but sunny  to wild wet and windy in a matter of minutes with the rain sheeting down and blowing almost horizontally. You know the sort. As prepared as we were, it was time for a mad dash back to the cottage where we headed with some urgency.

I had my Lowepro Pro Trekker 400 AW slung over my back with the tripod just sat in the central tripod pocket, not fastened in. It was really blowing and I was concentrating on getting back fast, keeping an eye on my daughter Sophie whilst keeping one hand on my rain hood to stop it being blown backwards. Unbeknownst to me, the action of my quick walking and the motion of my backpack was slowly but surely unscrewing the uppermost joint of my tripod. Until it fell out. You’d think I'd notice it fall, but I didn’t under the conditions and it didn’t hit my legs either. It was only the next morning on inspecting my pack I found I was missing the bottom 3 sections to one of the legs.

Of course I searched the path and rocks several times with my son, but no trace of the offending leg could be found. It had either ended up being washed out to sea or (probably more likely) been picked up by a later passer by. Either way I was left without a tripod.

The prospect of spending the rest of the holiday without the ability to take photographs was just too much and I contemplated driving all the way home to get my back-up. However, in the end a trip to Newcastle’s Metro centre and a purchase of a Manfrotto 055PROB proved the easiest option.

That all happen in August. Today my replacement leg finally arrived from Gitzo, a good 3 months after placing my order for replacement parts. I heard Gitzo could be slow so that was no surprise. A big thank you has to go to Ian Hemingway at
Manfrotto & Gitzo UK Service Centre for  just managing to sort out the correct parts. As it turns out, just about every Gitzo tripod is unique and they seldom share common parts, and even though less than two years old my model had already been superseded.

Today my wallet is a further 142 quid lighter, not to mention the cost of the temporary replacement Manfrotto. It takes just 4 1/2 turns to completely unscrew one of the leg joints on my Gitzo. I can’t be sure, but I suspect I didn’t tighten it fully from the previous shoot, but I’m still amazed it managed to unscrew itself whilst on the back of my backpack.

And the moral to this tale … well make sure your tripod is tightened fully at each joint after every shoot, and secured properly to your backpack no matter how short the walk to the next location.

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