An Immersive Tour of the Burleigh Pottery Factory – A Documentary Approach

I have always had an interest in manufacturing industry, it probably stems from my grandfather who was a pattern maker and an amazing craftsman. A few years ago I was given the opportunity to photograph at the Burleigh pottery factory in Stoke on Trent.

Burleigh is a rare success story in Stoke. Whilst most pottery manufacturing has been moved to the far East, production still takes place on site.

On entering the factory I was amazed by how everything just looked like it would have done in Victorian times. The only concession to modern manufacturing methods seemed to be the kilns, which are now gas fired. It really was like stepping back in time.

Burleigh Pottery – Transfer Department Click for bigger image.

For the next few hours I took stills, using black and white film in my Leica. I have to admit after processing the film I was really disappointed with the results. They did the job, but just didn’t capture the wonders or atmosphere of what I was seeing.

A few weeks earlier I had been approached by a web design who wanted me to do a 360 virtual tour for one of his clients. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that this would be a great way to capture some of the atmosphere of what I was seeing. Whilst shooting real estate or architectural pictures is pretty easy with a VR rig, trying to capture people who were moving, was a lot more challenging. To create a full 360 degree panorama, I had to shoot four images using an 8mm lens and then stitch them together using software. My approach was to get an action shot of someone working, and then, just fill in the other 270 degrees around them. I put the images online a few years ago, but soon took them down because of issues with the Flash plug in. Having now discovered a simple HTML solution, I have now posted the VR 360 tour again.

The tour can be viewed in any browser. However with a phone or a tablet you can use the built in accelerometer to ‘move’ around the images. To get the best experience try using VR Goggles. I tried it with the Samsung VR Headset, using the Oculus browser. Unlike 360 video you can really get high resolution images, so they look great. Give it a go!

Kit used: Canon 20D – Sigma 8mm Lens – PTGUI Pro – KR Pano – Affinity Photo.

The iPhone X – Fur Coat and No Knickers –Time to change!

Maybe I should start by explaining the title. In the UK we have a saying ‘Fur Coat no Knickers’, it is used to describe something that looks impressive, but in reality is nothing special. This term for me, pretty much sums up the new iPhone X. Many of the ‘ground breaking’ features, have been available on other phones for almost two years and for a much lower price. The entry model costs £999 in the UK. For many people, a substantial part of their salary!

I am disappointed in Apple, for years it has been the choice of creative people all over the world. The company under Steve Jobs was truly innovative. Their products and software changed the way people worked, in a revolutionary way. However the focus now seems to be on creating fashion/status items and to extract as much money from people as possible. My frustrations started, when they dropped the 3.5mm jack with the introduction of the iPhone 7. Half my sound accessories became redundant, and I had multiple sound sync issues. So I have decided to jump ship and try an Android phone.

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Dealing with iOS/Android Spam

App Klaxon: For the past twelve months I have been travelling around Europe in a Campervan. I have relied on my phone for loads of things including emails. Unfortunately Email spam was getting to the point where my main email account was becoming unusable. I use spam filters on my laptop but couldn’t find anything similar for the iPhone. A few days ago I found SpamDrain it seems great so far, it has knocked out everything. There is a cost of £16.50 per year per account but it is saving me at the moment. Could be useful for Journalists travelling.

There is a 14 day free trial as well! If you use this link I get 3 months credit

Mojo, The Future and Will It Involve Apple?

I should apologise for the recent lack of posts on this blog. For the past twelve months I have been on a sabbatical from work. This has given me a lot of time to reflect and also work on a book about Mojo skills, which will be published in the New Year.

Red Hydrogen

Over the past five years, more and more journalists have come to realise that their humble phone, is capable of producing serious news content. The limiting factor is not the technology they carry, but a lack of imagination on how to fully exploit its capabilities. At the same time, some news organisations have also woken up to the fact that they can substantially cut their overheads by equipping a single journalist in the field, with nothing more than a phone, a microphone and a tripod. With news organisations like the BBC and RTE the Irish broadcaster championing the format, it has quickly grown in popularity. Continue reading

Time to Reflect

I am currently travelling around Europe in a Campervan. I have a years sabbatical from work, which has given me loads of time to reflect! On Friday I visited Sebastian Selgardo’s Genesis Exhibition in Gerona. It left me a bit cold really. (First off there was not one picture of Peter Gabriel, and to be honest I think the band went downhill after he left … sorry a joke for the over 50s) There are obviously some amazing images but as a body of work it doesn’t really have a message for me. It is too diverse. It got me thinking about why I take pictures. Down the road was a demonstration against forced redundancies outside a bank. Without thinking I started taking images….. here was a reason to get a camera (iPhone) out. To show support to people who are fighting a system that wants to throw them on the scrap heap. Thirty odd years after I started taking pictures, my goal hasn’t changed. I hope in a small way my cameras contribute to creating a better world! It sounds crass and probably what I would have said when I was a naive 17 year old, but I can’t think of any other reason why I do it. It’s certainly not for the money I earn! I will get off my soap box ????

What Mojo Isn’t!

I have had a few questions recently about why I haven’t been posting many blog posts about #Mojo (mobile journalism) kit. Well the answer is simple, I don’t think there is a need. For twelve months now we have known, that in the right hands we have the necessary kit and apps to produce very professional news packages. So you might argue that the future looks good! Unfortunately I am not sure that that is the case.

The tech heads have taken over, posts on the forums have become increasingly about the technology that drives the movement, but very little about the most important thing, storytelling.

One of the keys to mobile journalism is that, it is not only produced on mobiles, but also consumed on mobiles. This means we need to explore different ways of getting messages over. I wrote a blog post in January 2015 about how ‘Content Was Key’, but to a large extent this is the area that is being ignored. Recently at a journalism conference the organisers ran a competition asking people to post pictures of their kit, as though this is important. In what other creative industry would we be asked what kit are we using. ‘Hey Leonardo, great painting, but lets have a picture of your paints and brushes’! Another post on a forum featured ’10 Apps to make your Mojo better’. Again we are missing the point, apps will not improve your work, unless you have a compelling story to tell and you are able to engage your audience. In Ken Kobre’s seminal book Video Journalism, he talks about how the viewing habits of modern audiences have changed. He quotes research that shows the viewing habits of people consuming news:


Research shows that within 10 seconds you will have lost 10% of your audience. By 5 minutes you will only have 10% of your audience left! Time has become a valuable commodity, which as a producer of content you are competing for. It is these issues that need to addressed not what kit you are using.

12 months ago I was really excited about the opportunities that Mojo offers, I still am. It democratises news gathering. There is a huge potential audience. It allows people to tell their own stories. In the right hands it is a powerful tool. But if all we talk about is the technology, we will be guilty of missing an amazing opportunity.

RPS Workshop – Environmental Portraiture

From the series Look Back In AngerI will be running a workshop for the Royal Photographic Society on April 23rd, with Paul Hill and Nick Lockett. This workshop is about approaches to portraiture on location. There will be plenty of practical photography, going out into the old market town of Wirksworth in small groups with Paul Hill, Nick Lockett and Martin Shakeshaft, ‘Sitters’ and locations are arranged in advance for you to photograph – or you can go off to do your own thing. And there will be a session on how to use lighting to improve portraits, and the opportunity to get feedback on what you take.

Topics include:
– Portraits on location
– Directing people in a photo shoot
– Continuous feedback on your images
– Location lighting
– Portfoio reviews of previous work

Non RPS Members     £155.00
RPS Members     £130.00

With three vastly experienced tutors it will be possible to will cover a wide range of topics, including developing personal photographic projects that lead to a meaningful body of work; how to improve your digital capture; medium and large format photography; working with lighting – speedlights and studio lights; moving image on your DSLR; publishing your photography online and in books. At the end of the day there will be an open feedback session in the seminar room where the group will look at each other’s selection of images made during the day. Bring your work-in-progress portfolio along for a one-to-one feedback review session with one of the tutors.

Groups will be no more than six people per tutor.

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I Would like to Announce the Death of Stills Photography :-)

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 16.29.45You saw it here first. I would like to announce the death of stills photography. I know you have heard it all before, but it’s true this time. When is is going to happen? Well sometime in 2018.

“Panasonic will spend around 10 billion yen ($80.8 million) to develop next-generation image sensors, with plans to release them in fiscal 2018.” “The Japanese company aims to develop sensors that support 8K technology, which provides 16 times the resolution of conventional high-definition video, and feature fast image-processing speeds. Eliminating the boundary between videos and photos.”

So they will be producing images at 25/50 frames per second at a resolution of 8K (7680×4320 pixels). The decisive moment will be where ever you want it to be. Panasonic already have a focus stacking ability in 4K. At 25 frames per second it takes a stepped focus image, allowing you to choose after the event where you want your focal plane to be.

Anyone want to buy some Canon gear?

Review of the Inmacus 18mm Wide Angle Lens for the iPhone 6

The Inmacus 18mm, with close up lens +5 and circular polarising filter. Click on all of the images to enlarge.

The Inmacus 18mm, with close up lens +5 and circular polarising filter (Click on all of the images to enlarge).

When I studied documentary photography in the 1980’s, for the first six months we were not allowed to use any lens other than a 50mm. It was a really useful  experience, as it made you think carefully about framing. Eventually we started to experiment with other focal lengths, but to this day I can fairly accurately predict, which lens I need for any given situation. If I am put in the position of only carrying one lens, my preferred focal length for the type of work that I do, is a 28mm.

With the iPhone, I have tended to zoom with my feet, but would have liked to have had a slightly wider focal length than the standard. I did try some experiments with the Olloclip 4-in-1 lens, but to be honest, whilst it’s fun, it softens the edge sharpness too much for my tastes. It does have a distinctive look, similar to a Lomo but it’s not suitable for the type of work I do.

To a large extent, after this experience, I dismissed the idea of using supplementary lenses, until I read a review of the Inmacus 18mm lens. The results looked excellent so when the company recently offered a 50% discount, I ordered one.

The Inmacus 18mm Lens, with included cover.

The Inmacus 18mm Lens, with included cover.

The lens comes in a specific iPhone 6 or 6 Plus mount. Included is the 18mm lens, a +5 close up lens and a circular polarising filter. First impressions are very positive. The lenses all have metal threads, are multicoated and come in a soft bag. It attaches using a unique design. You squeeze the sides of the mount which expand and grip your phone. The upside is that the fit is excellent and very secure, but it does mean that the mount is model specific.
In use, I have to say that the results are excellent. Lets have a look at some practical examples and compare it to the Olloclip I have.

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