The 2022 Lambeth Conference had been on my mind and/or hiding somewhere in the very depths of my consciousness for almost three years. Like so many things since the arrival of COVID-19, this exciting, intriguing and extended commission had been delayed. I had first discussed the job back in the late summer of 2019. At that point it was scheduled for July and August 2020. Before the first lockdown I had signed a contract and had been to a few meetings and site visits so the unwelcome delay was a huge professional disappointment to add just one more to the many we were all feeling back then.
Monday 25th July 2022 was the day that I finally I loaded the car with two weeks worth of clothing and pretty much every single item of photographic equipment that I could have conceivably needed before heading to Canterbury.
It’s surprising how much of the work that we all do could be done a little easier and with a little less stress if our cameras were silent. I have been shooting inside a Cathedral quite a bit over the last couple of weeks and I have been shooting in a conference much of the rest of the time. The combination of that recent experience and the news that next year’s tennis at Wimbledon will be DSLR and shutter sound free have made me decide that it’s time to give the whole mirrorless experience a proper go.
A couple of months ago I wrote about the amount of power that I perceived that I needed in a computer in order to efficiently edit images. Shortly after that I saw a Mac with an M1 Max processor in action converting batches of RAW files and I decided that I’d order a Mac Studio a couple of days later. I went for the base model with a 512Gb SSD and 32Gb of RAM for two reasons; the first of which was that it was easily going to be powerful enough for even the chunkiest RAW files and the second was that it was the only model that had any chance of being delivered in time for the heavy batch of editing that I am now in the middle of.
When was the last time you finished a shoot, went through the edit and genuinely thought that you really couldn’t have done better?
My answer is that I cannot remember ever having that thought. I’ve come close and been really happy with what I have done man, many times but I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that ‘complete satisfaction’ hasn’t featured in my work.
I have never taken a perfect picture and I have certainly never made one in post-production – but I’m OK with that.
This question was triggered by listening to an artist being interviewed on a radio programme who said that she had gone through something of a crisis of confidence having finished a piece and in that moment thinking that it was perfect. She talked about coming very quickly to hate the idea that she might never achieve that level of mastery of her craft again and that she may well have reached a professional peak at a relatively young age. That was something which her passion for what she did led her to develop a form of depression.
When I published this May 1991 portrait on my Instagram feed a couple of years ago I was shocked by the clarity of my memories of shooting it. A year or so after publishing it I was giving a talk to a wonderful group of people at a camera club who had invited me to come and show some work and tell some anecdotes and, once again, I remembered so much detail about the day and the pictures. The power of still images to evoke a time and a place is a wonderful thing. I thought that it would be good to share those memories again here and this is what I wrote underneath the post on Instagram:
When Apple announced their new desktop Mac – the Mac Studio – I watched the keynote address and was very interested in what this new bit of kit had to offer. Starting at £2000.00 including VAT it looks like a veritable speed machine. I have read some reviews and looked at test bench scores which are supposed to give us real world performance data so that we can compare one machine against another. With all of that in mind, it looks really good. But… what do those score mean for me?
In the editor part of my working life I often end up editing 200, 300, 400 or more RAW files from different cameras a day. When I am shooting my own pictures it is rarely that many and, of course, the files will all be from my own cameras and therefore not varied set of RAW formats. The most power hungry work will all be inside Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) and I want to know what time savings this new Mac will actually give me. Having watched several reviewers (mostly high-end video editors) talk about what has frustrated them in their workflow I started thinking about the relatively few times I find myself waiting for things to happen in ACR.
The truth is that there aren’t many things that take time and frustrate me with my ageing 15″ MacBook Pro but here are a few:
In the past you could pick a linear gradient or radial gradient straight from the tool box and apply those relatively simple options to an image really quickly. You could also use a brush to painstakingly paint a mask onto an image in order to carry out local colour, tone or contrast corrections to the masked area. The two most common functions were quick and simple whilst the more complex functions were, well, complex. I grumbled about why you couldn’t have the best of both worlds because the method for selecting the simpler ones had changed from a single mouse-click to three mouse-clicks.
Anyone who knows me and anyone who has read this blog would probably say that I am keen on technology. I would agree – I’m a geek. Despite my love of the whole digital process there’s one thing about the way that we work these days that I am not so keen on.
What’s that then? I hear one or two people asking. Put very simply, I don’t get to meet or even chat with editorial clients any more. I know that the whole COVID-19 pandemic has put a mighty spanner in the works but even accounting for that I was disappointed and a little bit shocked to realise that I have never actually met any of the folks who have commissioned me to shoot editorial work since well before we went into the first lockdown. Some of that can be explained away by my being based a hundred miles from London where a sizeable proportion of them live and work but even accounting for that I find it really sad that I haven’t got to have a coffee with any of them or even shake the odd hand here and there.