Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Archive for January, 2012

A Bridge Too Far

…or perhaps “Store Wars: The Hybrid Menace“.

This post has been brewing for quite a while. It seems as though each term, more and more people show up for courses listed as being suitable for DSLR/SLR users with so-called “hybrid” or “bridge” cameras. If I mention the fact that they’ve signed up for a DSLR/SLR course, they often (and I’m losing count of how many time I’ve heard this) say “but the man in Jessops said its just like a DSLR“.

It isn’t.

It might look a bit like a DSLR. It might have inter-changeable lenses. It might cost even more than a DSLR… but it is NOT a DSLR. It’s called a “hybrid” or “bridge” because it is neither fish nor fowl. It isn’t a compact, admittedly – but neither is it a DSLR.

I sometimes have to stipulate “…For DSLR/SLR’s” in the course description because there may be a need to connect to external flash, for example, which many hybrids simply can’t do. But even beyond that, hybrids are at a disadvantage in many other areas. Your DSLR or SLR is the ultimate creative machine – there is pretty much nothing you can’t photograph with it. But a hybrid has certain, very definite, limitations including a very limited range of apertures in some cases. This mightn’t be a problem for a one day workshop but more of a problem for a longer course, where we would explore more of your camera’s possibilities.

Over recent years, the boundaries between different types have cameras have become increasingly blurred: hybrids have removable lenses (something that only SLR’s used to have), video cameras are shooting high quality stills, DSLR’s are shooting HD video – it’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, as Ray Davies once said.

Think your hybrid is just like a DSLR? Here’s the litmus test…

Take off your lens cap and switch off your camera. Now look through the viewfinder. See anything? If yes, you have a DSLR or SLR. If not, you have something else.

With a DSLR/SLR you are seeing the world as it is, in real time, via a mirror and prism through to your viewfinder. Any other camera basically “films” the world and then “televises” it in your viewfinder or on your camera’s rear screen – a spilt-second after it’s actually happened. What this means of course, is that when you’re shooting action or movement, you think you’ve got the shot of that Formula 1 car, but when you look at the photograph you’ve taken, you realise you only have the back end of the car. Manufacturers are aware of this problem and have developed systems so that “you start taking the picture even before you press the shutter”. But even if the reality/viewfinder lag is sorted you are still not seeing the subject optically, just an electronic representation of your subject.

This Lumix has a Leica lens! But it isn't a DSLR.

I don’t have a problem with hybrid/bridge cameras, I really don’t. I think they occupy a valid space in the market place. I am just increasingly frustrated that they are being sold to the unsuspecting public as being “just like a DSLR”. In the last week I was discussing this with a hybrid-owner who has a lovely camera – some £700+ worth, but he wasn’t able to use it for some of the things he would like to. And he was understandably pretty cheesed off.

So if the man in Jessops says “but it’s just like a DSLR”, why not buy a blimming DSLR?


That Time Of Year Again: Get Focussed

A gentle reminder, if any is needed, that it’s time to register for this year’s Focus On Imaging exhibition at Birmingham’s NEC. Love it or hate it (and many people I know fall into the latter category) it’s a major date in the photographic calendar for most of us.

I always think of it as a barometer of what’s happening in the industry, and the wider economy. There are gasps and suspicious whispers when a long-standing major exhibitor doesn’t appear. I notice that according to the list of exhibitors today, Sony won’t be appearing – although the list doesn’t always show the full picture. Perhaps they’re fed up with Sony owners asking why their hotshoe flash adaptor is priced at over £100 (£102 on Warehouse Express at time of writing) when Nikon and Canon‘s equivalent are less than a quarter of that. Perhaps we’ll never know.

Anyway, our chums at Viewfinder (of Leicester) will be there, as will Dunns Imaging. Strangely, Kodak are still listed as an exhibitor, but there is no mention of Silvershotz or Billingham. We live in hope.

So I’d advise you get online and register as soon as possible. Pre-registering will almost certainly reduce your queuing time when you arrive plus you’ll save two quid (if you’re non-industry). Those of us in the trade will get in for free. Remember, you can use your pass to attend every day if you’re especially keen/wealthy/bored.

Oh, and I’ve learned from bitter, nerve-jangling experience that the first day – the Sunday – is invariably RAMMED, with a large proportion of peeps trailing their bewildered-looking offspring along (usually chanting “Can we have MacDonalds now, Daddy?” repeatedly). Not pleasant.

But the benefit of getting there early is, my good mate Gareth Jukes tells me, that you can skip right along to the Disabled Photographers Society stand and have first dibs at the astonishingly cheap bits of second-hand kit they’re selling off. That is if you can get there before Gareth.

See you there.



Art? Or Old Art Re-touched?

Many thanks to my former student who brought this to my attention this week….

Mysterious Swedish artist Sanna Dullaway has recieved a fair amount of press attention this week for her digital colourizations of pre-existing, and sometimes iconic, photographic images. I think this work raises some important questions about authorship, meaning, and even the definition of art.

According to the Daily Mail online (, “it is thought she is hoping to sell her work on the internet – and there is sure to be some firm interest”. Really? If so, what exactly is that interest based on? The amusement of seeing a (possibly) familiar image in a way it has never been seen before? Or awe athe proficiency with which the colouring has been achieved?

And if she does indeed intend to sell her work online, where does this leave the original photographer? Would Dorothea Lange approve of the transformation of her original image from gritty, period-appropriate monochrome to colour?

Dorothea Lange's image as tweaked by Sanna Dullaway

I know nothing of the process used to achieve these amazing results – and amazing they certainly are – but one assumes that in the absence of any colour information in the original image, some sort of arbitrary decision was made (either artistically or mechanically) about the appropriate colours to use. How much might this have affected the original “meaning” of the image, if at all?

Better in colour?

Imagine you convert your colour image to black and white because it gives it more impact, or reduces colour distractions within the image – and then years later someone “appropriates” your image and colourizes it, either accurately or inaccurately. How would you feel?

See more at

More “Pride of the Black Country”

A year ago, I exhibited my “Pride of the Black Country” project, my first serious stab at documentary photography, at fotofilia. POTBC was about the wonderful work done by Paul Gough and his team of trainers at Priory Park Amateur Boxing Club in Dudley in providing discipline, direction, and positive role models for the area’s youngsters.

Copyright David Rann

Since then, I’ve gone on to do lots more boxing photography but haven’t really progressed with the project: something I fully intended – and still intend – to do. In the meantime, Dave and Kate, the proprietors of the wonderful Brewsmiths Coffee Shop in Livery St, Birmingham offered me the chance to display some of the images from the series there for the next month or so. This is particularly appropriate as this is where I usually seem to bump into people I know from my boxing photography (including Paul Gough himself, and Neil from the nearby Fighting Fit gym).

If you’ve heard the name Brewsmiths before in this blog, it’s because Dave and Kate kindly allowed me to photograph model Katie-May there a few months ago and it’s also since been the venue for a CLUB/f2 shoot.

So if you’d like to see a few of my images in the… er… flesh(?), pop along to Brewsmiths and have a look over a cappuccino, and while you’re at it, try one of the superb cakes (especially the “porter…” one with the gold maltesers or the “King Kong Kake”). A shameless plug I know but what can I say? I like it there and they’re photography-friendly.

Oh, and remember, if documentary photography is something you’re interested in, we’re starting a 6 week Documentary photography masterclass with Andrew Jackson at fotofilia this week and as it’s been fully booked for some time, it won’t be the last.

New Exhibition: My Story Through A Lens

We’re kicking off 2012 in the gallery with our first exhibition “My Story Through A Lens” which has its launch events (yes, there are two) on Tuesday 10th January 2-4pm and 7-9pm. Birmingham’s own Poet Laureate, Jan Watts will be opening the events so I hope you’ll be able to come along.

Here’s a description of the exhibition by organisers Louise and Nadeem:

My Story Through a Lens aims to challenge & reduce the stigma & discrimination often associated with mental health issues, through the content of work produced & its accessibility to the public.
This Exhibition is the culmination of a ten week project involving participants exploring their own individual stories using photography and creative writing.
The group have previously featured their work at the Mindful Exhibition, Arts All Over the Place & Survivor Art Exhibition at Birmingham University.
Shared experiences of mental health issues brought individuals together as artists who express their creativity through photography and writing and leads them to believe:
“Problems don’t have to be the end of the world”
“We are a group of artists who have mental health issues
rather than a group of service users who ‘do’ art”
“We have seen a side of life not everyone has experienced,
and have benefited from it”
As you may remember, at Fotofilia we are keen to encourage and display work which spans art forms, and especially photography and the written word, so for many reasons, this is an exhibition we are especially proud to bring you and a great introduction to the gallery’s 2012 calendar.
Find out more about Loudeemy Productions and their work at

Thank You Santa!

Over a Christmas drinkie with my mate Mark, he casually announced, “I’ve got a few bags at home. I think they’re camera bags. Do you want ’em?”. I can never have enough camera bags for the ever-growing mountain of kit piling up in the studio so I agreed to pick them up later, half expecting them to be well-worn car boot finds. “They’re black. I think they’re new”, he added finally.

So when I went to pick them up, he brought down a big cardboard box and pulled out…

…a black Billingham bag, and of a style I’ve never seen before. Not a camera bag as such (no padded sides or partitions) but unmistakeably Billingham in style, black canvas with black leather straps. And there are six of them! I know that “Billy” bags start at around £100 so this was rather a nice surprise.

They’re actually more like messenger bags, with shoulder straps (still separate and folded inside most of them). I’ve trawled the internet and found nothing like them anywhere.

So where did they come from? Mark was clearing an empty unit in Brierley Hill near Dudley (where Billingham used to be based) when he found the box of bags. I can only guess that these were part of a test run or aborted product line. They’d been sitting in Mark’s shed for a while before he thought to mention them to me. Consequently, some of the metal fixings are a bit dulled, but I’ve successfully removed this with a dry cloth.

As I’ve said, there’s no padded internal seperators, but there is a zipped document pocket at the back of the back and a leather handle at the top (in case you’re not using the strap, perhaps).

I’d be interested to know if you have a bag like this, or have ever seen them before. I certainly haven’t and I bought my first Billingham bag direct from the factory (an ex-display model) close on twenty years ago.

I’m going to keep two of these rare bags, plus another for a future competition prize. So I have three more than I’m going to sell. Any offers?

PS. Sorry about the dreadful hastily-snapped photos. In my defence, I was a bit excited.

UPDATE: I have spoke to Billingham and it seems that these are actually “Hadley Pro” bags (currently retailing at £135+) but without the padded partition insert which can be bought separately for £37+VAT from Billingham.