Press photographers are a creature of habit. We find a system that works (cameras, favoured lenses, computer hardware, software and transmission methods) and stick with them until absolutely necessary. This way we can concentrate on breaking events and the equipment is just an extension and just works. As a result, the decision to switch to a new computer platform or software doesn’t come easily.
Working for the wire services and newspapers, for me speed is of utmost importance. In this day and age of evening papers, national and international clients, there are always deadlines to meet. Speed means publications.
I used to shoot RAW for around 15% of my assignments. These would be features or portraits for the papers when the deadline was days away, not minutes away. That’s when I came across Aperture. Shooting RAW has its obvious advantages but its always been just a little too slow to process. My old work flow for RAW used to include five different software packages. Now with Aperture I’ve cut this down to three. I use Aperture to download the card of images, caption, edit, apply corrections (colour, density, sharpness, cropping) and then export into Photoshop for finalising the image (any selective changes like dodging or burning). Lastly the image is sent via FTP to the client.
Initially I had a bit of a steep learning curve to conquer. Aperture did things differently to the way I worked. However, after a week of using it, I was smitten. I sold my PC laptop, embraced my new PowerBook Pro and added Aperture to my arsenal.
Perhaps the biggest UK assignment this year happened on June 27, 2007. Prime Minister Tony Blair was to finally step down and hand over the reigns of power to his Chancellor, Gordon Brown. Amongst the hundreds of media, squashed into the tiniest of spaces and with international deadlines looming, I would never have ever considered shooting RAW before; but I did. I knew my work flow was going to be speedy. I’d already written my captions the night before and saved them as a template in Aperture. All that remained was to shoot the job.
I counted my blessings on the day. I switched all three cameras into RAW; I had a 24-70, a 70-200 and a 300mm all fixed and ready to fire. I shoot 99% of my assignments in manual mode (to my colleagues amusement I even use a hand held light meter for most jobs!). I had set my exposures and was ready for Tony Blair on his return from the House of Commons. He came back, got out his Jaguar, stood by the door to Number 10, waved and went in. Great; the shots were good but the main shot would be when he left number 10 for the last time. Soon enough, he came out with his family, hung around for a short while for the gathered media and then drove off to the Palace to formally resign. Why am I counting my blessings? Well, around a split second after the Blairs came out, the sun shone out from behind the clouds which were hiding it so well. It was harsh with terrible shadows. I was so deeply concentrated in making an image from what proved to be a very dull moment (but historically of significance) that I’d over exposed a few of the initial pictures. Well, to say that shooting RAW and using Aperture came to my rescue would be an understatement. Using a combination of the exposure control, the highlight and shadow recovery and the levels modules the overexposed images were rescued, captioned and sent.
After I’d wired the images of Blair, it was Gordon Brown’s turn. He was driven into Downing Street and took a short walk to a microphone, made his speech, stood by the door, a couple of awkward waves and he went inside to run the country. Frame after frame in quick succession, swapping cameras and in a few moments it was all over. Within minutes my first images were wired to Polaris in New York.
I was still a bit concerned by some of the overexposed Blair pictures. A call to the picture editor proved that I was worried for nothing. “Good job Edmond; nice shots”.