August 25th, 2010

A whole bunch of reading

It’s amazing how much passes you by when you go away for a few weeks. Just now managing to catch up on some links I saved for reading later, which may be of interest:

The LA Times launched a new photo blog called Framework

5DtoRGB – A free professional transcoding application for Mac that claims to do better quality transcoding than Canon’s E1 plugin, albeit slower I think

Came across an old post on the ProLost blog about the advantages of using a flat, low-contrast, low-sharpness picture style for video-shooting on the Canon 5D MkII

Stuart Freedman wrote an interesting piece on the EPUK site about the state of photojournalism and professional ethics

Reporters without Borders updated its Handbook for Journalists – “for those going to dangerous parts of the world, listing international norms protecting them and containing practical advice on how to stay alive and safe”

VTZilla – a useful Firefox plugin that can be used to scan files on the internet against viruses and malware – before you download them

The Planet5D site launched an HDSLR news aggregator page showing lots of links to DSLR news from other sites on a single page

10,000 words published a list of 11 top news photoblogs

Photojournalist Zed Nelson gave a fascinating interview about his life and work to the UK’s Professional Photographer magazine

The Plymouth Herald in the UK came up with a clever strategic response to a ban on all media photographers at their local football club. Also see here

The Camera+ iPhone app introduced a great feature to use the volume button as a shutter button to take pictures on your iPhone, and was swiftly followed by Apple pulling the app for potentially “resulting in user confusion”. Jeez… Does anyone know a currently-working way to have this function, without jailbreaking?

Norwegian cameraman/journalist Paul Refsdal wrote an interesting article on the NYTimes Lede blog about embedding with the Taliban – a one-stop shop for converting audio, videos, images, documents, & ebooks between different formats without the need to install software

For those interested in Egypt, the Economist wrote a whole bunch of special features examining the current state of the country:
Thank you and goodbye – For good or ill, change is coming to Egypt and Saudi Arabia soon
America’s lieutenant – But Egypt’s role as a regional peacekeeper is getting harder to sustain
A slow learning curve – A rotten education system lets the country down
No paradise – Most Egyptians put up with a lot
Saving faith – Islam seems to be fading as a revolutionary force
After Mubarak -Change is bound to come, but when?

The last NCTJ photojournalism course in the UK closed down. I did this course in Sheffield before starting my career, and it’s a sad day. I wish the course’s head Paul Delmar – the source and subject of some legendary stories surely known to all who passed through there, all the best for his retirement.

December 10th, 2009

Cameras 101

Posted by Ben in Gear, General

As a photographer, I often get asked by friends and other non-professionals which compact camera they should buy. Apart from the top-end compacts, I don’t really keep track of what the latest models are – there are so many and they get replaced so quickly.

So if you get asked to explain the basics, here is a rather useful primer to send to amateurs on what features to look out for and some basic explanations as to photo terminology and technology.

Gizmodo explains: What everyone should know about cameras

November 19th, 2009

Future of “the media”

David Campbell, professor of cultural and political geography at Durham University in the UK and associated with the Durham Centre for Advanced Photography Studies, writes one of the smartest analyses I’ve recently read on the future of the media and photography. His essay titled “Revolutions in the media economy” comes in four parts:

1. The Context of Crisis
2. The Changing Structure of Information
3. Photojournalism’s futures
4. Disturbing the University

If you’re mainly interested in the media you can probably skip part 4, but the rest is well worth a read if you want an idea of the issues currently facing journalism, some of the solutions, and particularly are wondering how the hell it’s all going to be paid for.

April 14th, 2009

Stop motion with wolf and pig

Posted by Ben in General, Multimedia

Bizarre yet strangely impressive stop-motion video from Japan. Watch in full-screen with HQ (High Quality) option clicked for best effect:

“Stop motion with wolf and pig” (YouTube)

[via Wooster Collective, via The Click]

April 9th, 2009

Searching for Sonny – using 5DmkII

Posted by Ben in General, Imaging, Multimedia

Interesting blog posts by the filmmakers behind Searching for Sonny – a feature film shot entirely on the Canon 5D Mark II camera, discussing the technical details and methods they are using.

April 8th, 2009

Liberia – long story, bit by bit

Posted by Ben in Africa, General, Photojournalism


As someone who photographed the climax of the Second Liberian Civil War, siege of the capital Monrovia, and downfall into exile of then-president Charles Taylor who is now on trial for war crimes by the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting at the Hague, I have always been utterly fascinated by Liberia and have watched its progress from bloody civil war to relative peace and economic progress.

I was therefore excited to learn that last year’s World Press Photo winner Tim Hetherington (see interview about his winning photo) has a new photo book coming out shortly which focuses on Tim’s extensive work covering recent Liberian history, entitled Long Story, Bit By Bit

Tim had a unique perspective on that conflict being one of the few journalists, along with James Brabazon (see interview), to cover it primarily from the (geographical) side of the LURD rebels, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing this new publication, which Tim tells me is already printed and will be launched in early June.

His website says the book launch will take place on June 3rd at the Umbrage Gallery in Dumbo, New York, an exhibtion of the work will be on show there from May through to June, and Tim will give a talk about the project in the gallery space on May 16th. The exhibition will then move to the Lincoln Reade Centre in New York to accompany the Human Rights Watch Film festival that runs from June 10th to 29th

If you want to learn more about the fascinating history of Liberia I also highly recommend you watch these two films:

Liberia – America’s Stepchild (PBS documentary on Liberia’s long history, produced before the fall of Charles Taylor)
Liberia – An Uncivil War (documentary by Jonathan Stack, James Brabazon, and Tim Hetherington on the Second Liberian Civil War and fall of Charles Taylor)

Also see this previous post I wrote about an exhibition of Tim’s work in Liberia and a selection of his photos from that exhibition here

…and if you want to see a selection of the photos I took during that conflict go to my photo galleries page and select one of the two galleries entitled “Liberian War”. There’s a brief one of 15 images, and a longer one of 70 images.

Glenna Gordon has an interesting new interview with Tim about the book, conducted while he was recently in Monrovia.

Long Story Bit by Bit – some links
Publishers page
Press Release [PDF, 216kb]
Amazon US pre-order
Amazon UK pre-order

March 1st, 2009

Days of the darkroom numbered

Posted by Ben in General, Photojournalism

An era almost over…. Richard Nicholson photographs London’s dwindling professional darkrooms.
A great photo-story idea.

[via The Online Photographer]

February 17th, 2009

Magenta does (not) exist

Posted by Ben in General


Interesting article on the brain’s handling of colour perception.
Summary: The colour magenta does not exist and is a pure fabrication of the brain.
Update: ArsTechnica argues the colour magenta does exist. Who knows…

[via 1854 blog]

February 6th, 2009

Skype 4.0

Posted by Ben in Communications, General, VoIP, Windows


If you use Skype for VOIP calls, you should really upgrade to the recently-released version 4.0 (Windows-only so far). There’s a bunch of interface “improvements” (in my opinion that’s debatable) but the most significant difference is under the hood. Previous versions used Skype’s proprietary audio codec SVOPC but the latest version brings a supposedly much improved new codec called SILK.

Why should you care? Well, they say the new codec achieves almost 50% better audio quality for a given bandwidth, which should mean that all users experience better audio quality, but particularly those with slow or otherwise bad internet connections e.g. in Africa. If you’re running Windows (unfortunately it is the only version that has been upgraded to the SILK codec so far, as usual the Mac version lags behind) then it’s well worth the upgrade.

A few caveats though:

1. Even if you are running v4.0 you’re unlikely to experience the audio improvements unless the person you’re calling is also running v4.0, otherwise it’ll still use the older SVOPC codec. I verified this by calling a Mac user and it indeed still used SVOPC.

2. I’m guessing (but not sure) that the new codec won’t be used for Skype-Out calls to “real” phone numbers, only for Skype-to-Skype calls.

For more explanation of the technical aspects of SILK, take a look here and here.

Personally I still much prefer using SIP for VOIP calls to telephones, largely because it’s an open standard giving you a wide choice of different providers and you can do so many things with it that you just can’t with a proprietary system like Skype, also I just find the audio quality much better… but… it’s hard to ignore the already large user-base that Skype has.

Finally, if you hate the new large window that takes up half your screen, you can switch it back to the old look by going to the View menu and changing “Default view” to “Compact view”.

Skype Download

August 23rd, 2008

Dexter Filkins / Iraq

Posted by Ben in General, Middle East

Dexter Filkins, a staff writer who covered Iraq for The New York Times from 2003 to 2006, looks back on his time there.
UPDATE: Filkins answers questions about the article from readers here and here

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