Professional photographer and journalist, founder and editor of magazines PHOTOpro, Photon, Freelance Photographer, f2 and Cameracraft. For 25 years director of the Minolta Club. Fellow of the BIPP and Hon. Fellow of the MPA.

Reposted in 2021 as it was no longer visible!

A true story for the Millennium

Forgive me, Ron, wherever you are, for breaking my word and letting the world know about this story. I found the negatives by chance, on the eve of the 25 years before the writings are due to be revealed. I do not know where they are, but perhaps I was meant to photograph the box and to be told what was inside it – otherwise it might be that it has all been forgotten, and the people who set this in motion are all now dead. At least by telling this story, and showing the evidence of the pictures, I may set things in motion to ensure that what was originally intended does happen.

The few of you who know me through my photographic magazines will know that I have no politics but tend to be assumed to be coming from the left, and have no religion though people mistakenly assign me some concern with affairs of the spirit. Similar assumptions are often made in matters of money, or education. The truth is I have very little of any of these things.

Over twenty-five years ago, I made the acquaintance of a man called Ron Wilkinson who had the ability to carve wood unusually finely, in the style and perhaps even to the standard of Grinling Gibbons. Having the above-mentioned lack of education I promptly wrote an article about him in which Grinling (Chatsworth House, et al) was transmuted to Orlando (more at home with the lute than the chisel). Ron forgave me, and I photographed his work over a period of two or three years.

One day in 1975, he called me urgently to his home and workshop. He thought I might have an interest in some writings. An elderly – and apparently uneducated – lady in the nearby village had produced a huge volume of automatic writing. She believed this to be the work of St John the Divine (the topical one – Revelations). I had a brief opportunity to read some of this; it had a metre and verse structure, though not in rhyme, and a quality which seemed unlikely to come from the conscious mind of the ‘channel’ herself, whom I met. Ron then swore me to secrecy about what he was going to ask me to do – I was to photograph a chest, which a ‘group of people’ had paid for to hold these works until the new Millennium.

The chest was to be held securely in a chamber inside a mountain in Scotland, and against the express wishes of his sponsors, Ron wanted a photographic record before it was lost for ever. I set up two flash heads, and shot the chest in cramped conditions using a 35mm camera on Agfachrome film, which I had been using regularly and always had processed by A H Leach of Brighouse, the main professional Agfa lab in my area. Ron was to have the entire roll of slides, so that no copies would exist outside his keeping, even for me.

This film, however, was not be a triumph of process control. I was told that the Agfachrome had been processed, and fixed, in black and white negative chemicals. By this time the chest had been filled with the manuscripts and sent on its journey north. I could not believe the misfortune ­ and I wondered, at the time, whether ‘darkroom forces’ had been at work Leach’s then worked miracles (figuratively; I should watch my words). Somehow they recovered some of the colour into a few of the extremely grainy, dense frames. They made hand C-type 12 x 15s, and their artists carefully retouched them to restore apparently natural colours. They then made 5 x 4 copy negatives and final 10 x 8 prints, which showed the details Ron had wanted to keep on record.

I filed those copy negs and thought little more of it – 25 years seemed so far away then that I never considered it likely I would be there to see the end of the Year 2000. Ron, rather suddenly, gained the (deserved) patronage of the Duke of Devonshire. He left his south Yorkshire village cottage, and the next time I saw him he and his wife Eda had a lovely farmhouse looking across the Chatsworth estate. He had become, however, very reserved. I could no longer photograph his carvings; he was busy restoring the Gibbons work in Chatsworth House. When I visited him, I could feel the tension, and I think he was not in the best of health. I am not sure when Ron died, or if Eda is still with us, or would remember me if she was; I am sure that someone will tell me.

I found the copy negatives by chance, when looking for another photograph from 1975. I had not forgotten, but I had consigned the story to the backroom of memory. I scanned the 24-year-old negatives. Modern digital techniques made far superior ‘prints’ emerge, even if the crossed curves which had once made half the print almost blue could not be eliminated entirely. Had those negatives been the intended 35mm slides, they would have been handed over; and all my commercial ‘packshots’ of that date were long ago consigned to the bin. The 5 x 4 copy negs had survived because they were kept separately.

If I feel sure of anything, it is that the Duke of Devonshire himself had some part in the encystment of the automatic writings – of the ‘songs of angels’, and ‘pearls of wisdom’, as the old lady identifed them. I may be wrong with the first name; I did not take notes. I do not know who else will have been privy to the location of the chest, whether they are still alive, whether their plans and intentions have been forgotten or kept alive. If the writings are of any importance they must be published either in the Year 2000 (which the public see as the start of the new Millennium) or preferably on January 1st, 2001. The year 2000 is merely the final year of the second millennium, just the same way that the year 100 was the last year of the first century. Regards of our calendar errors and arbitrary dating, it is in 2001 that we should be celebrating the future.

Everything is in place –  the Internet is complete and globally functioning, we have the fingers and the keyboards to transcribe the manuscripts, and we have the scanners or digital cameras to record each page in evidence. It is only necessary now to start the work – if it has not already been started – and to open Ron’s locked and vaulted box to the world, electronically, in the single moment of a new server going live on World Wide Web.

Whether I believe in any of this does not matter one bit; it is a certainty that many millions of people in the world will read, study, translate and absorb the words. From what I saw and read myself, I believe this will do nothing but good. Words, whether written or spoken, can be magic bullets ­ as indeed can photographs.

If we are to witness a battle between Good (with a capital G) and Evil (likewise) then it will be fought on Internet between words and images ­ and much though I regret to have to say this, you probably all know very well where my beloved photography takes its place vis-a-vis God vs Auld Nick.

If there are two things you can be sure the Devil has in his museum of triumphs over mankind, they’ll be a five-string banjo and a Leica.

The second coming won’t need the Word to be made Flesh, nor even into a book. Our computers, our satellites, our cables and our TV screens are all the flesh that words need now.

And as for Lucifer? Well, with a name like that he must have dominion over the realms of lens and light if not the darkroom!

David Kilpatrick, March 1999

Get the latest Cameracraft issue from Pocketmags now!

We popped printed January/February 2021 issues in the mail on December 30th for everyone – UK and worldwide – and now the edition can be found on Apple, Android, Kindle, Windows, PDF download here:

https://pocketmags.com/quickbuy/f2-cameracraft-magazine/janfeb-2021

We kick off the year with a fascinating UV-flash hair fashion cover and portfolio, meet the homeless of the Home Counties, examine the case (or not) for bothering to shoot stock photos, see flowers frozen in time, profile the Camera Crazy lady, test the new Sigma 105mm macro and Tamron 28-200mm and the Sony A7C.

photokina calls it a day

Received from the organisers today – and we don’t honestly see that it will return in the same form, ever. Perhaps some other technology show, as it already encompassed digital comms, design, film-making, 3D printing and many other non-photo things. Or perhaps – is it too much to hope? – a show once again mostly about photography:

90 years of photokina – 1924 to 2014. The final one was in 2018.

photokina will be suspended until further notice 

After 70 years, decreases in the imaging market force a hard cut 

In view of the further massive decline in markets for imaging products, Koelnmesse has decided to discontinue organising photokina at its Cologne location for the time being. “Unfortunately, at present the framework conditions in the industry do not provide a viable basis for the leading international trade fair for photography, video and imaging,” according to Gerald Böse, President and Chief Executive Officer of Koelnmesse. “This hard cut after a 70-year shared history was very difficult for us. The trend in this industry, with which we have always had a close and trusting partnership, is very painful for us to witness. But we are facing the situation with a clear, honest decision against continuing this event, a decision to which, unfortunately, we have no alternative.” 

Even before the coronavirus pandemic began, the imaging market was already subject to strong upheaval, with annual declines in the double digits. The momentum in this direction intensified massively in 2020, most recently reporting a decline in the 50-percent range. Recently, these developments have had a profound effect on photokina, which – in Cologne since 1950 – for generations has been the top address for the imaging industry and ranks among the most favourably and emotionally charged brands in the trade fair world. 

Since 2014, Koelnmesse, together with the German Photo Industry Association, has taken its cue from downward market trends, responding with adjustments to the underlying concept of the trade fair as well as considerable investment in new exhibitor and visitor segments. “These changes in conceptual design, along with a shift in intervals and a change of dates, did not fundamentally improve the situation of the event,” says Oliver Frese, Management Board member and Chief Operating Officer of Koelnmesse. “While there are more photographs taken today than ever before, the integration of smartphone photography and videography, together with image-based communication, e.g. via social media, was not able to cushion the elimination of large segments of the classic market. As a result, the overall situation is not compatible with the quality standards of photokina as a globally renowned brand representing the highest quality and professionalism in the international imaging market.” 

Koelnmesse has made its decision in close coordination with the German Photo Industry Association. Kai Hillebrandt, Chairman of that association, remarked: “Our partners in Cologne have done everything in their power to maintain photokina as the leading global trade fair. Nonetheless, an event held in 2022 could not have met the expectations of the entire imaging community that those efforts were intended to serve. That is why we, on behalf of our association, are joining them in taking this regrettably unavoidable step. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the team in Cologne for a tremendous 70 years together!” 

Your contact: 

Guido Gudat 
Vice President Corporate Communications 

Goodbye white sky…

With cloud covering much of Britain and our own home territory in near the North Sea coast shrouded in featureless white for days, remember that post-processing can transform landscapes

This was just a few days ago when the promise of a sunset disappeared. The sky was taken ten minutes before I expected the best sunset, and shot without any ground – it had potential for use as a stock sky to compose into other shots. The ground, a field of wheat taken from the highest point looking north-west a short distance from our office, was shot hand-held with a 1/5th exposure, stabilisation providing a sharp image from the 17-28mm Tamron FE Sony lens – but the wind blowing the crop selectively, so some ears show contrasting movement.

And that, above, is what a straight conversion from the raw capture looked like (you can also see how the sky had not morphed into a lovely sunset but instead lost any colour and became a neutral dusk). The point is that even a shot like this, in conditions like this, can be turned round by adjustment from raw and combining two frames. The almost square result is also a 170MB file, big enough for an acceptable print the size of some living room walls.

Landscape Pro as a solution when the weather lets you down

We used Photoshop for this but if you don’t have a full Mac or PC editing program, Anthropics’ Landscape Pro is purpose-designed for even more complex fixing-up and comes with its own library of royalty-free sky images (you can add your own). Here’s an example from Anthropics:

This one uses the masking functions of Landscape Pro to fit the sky to the shape of the rocks, and its controls to define water, mountain and trees as separately adjustable zones. There is also an intelligent function to create reflections in water with a realistic density. Notice that the water-weed in the foreground remains intact in the processed image and the sky reflection has been very accurately masked at the left hand side.

Using the program is well explained in a series of short videos on the Landscape Pro website. These are not the tedious kind of how-to vids you tend to find on YouTube which seem to aim to take several minutes to get to the point, maybe to enable advertising to appear. They are short and very clear in their message, and there’s a good selection (screen shot below).

There is a discount offer of 50% at the moment and an additional 20% off with our code CC8L – this code was not working when this post went out on August 16th due to a technical glitch, it is now working and can be used up to Sunday August 23rd.

Save on Landscape Pro & Portrait Pro using Cameracraft code CC8L

Code valid on any Anthropics software (PortraitPro, PortraitPro Body, LandscapePro or Smart Photo Editor), new editions, upgrades, or bundles. Download your free trial today! 50% OFF sale now on + for an EXTRA 20% OFF use the code CC8L.

high speed flash two images combined

Elinchrom ELC500 TTL studio flash

A new generation from Swiss masters of studio flash Elinca SA brings multi-platform TTL, super-fast recycling and flash durations, brilliant LED modelling and many design innovations. David Kilpatrick has been trying out the twin head kit.

The second wave of any innovation in technology is often safer to invest in than the pioneering first generation. Studio flash offering IGBT duration and power control, allowing much the same TTL and high speed functions found in camera speedlights, has been in development for over a decade but whole generations have been orphaned by advances in wireless trigger and camera firmware.

Finally bringing this to their new mid-range ELC TTL heads – one rung below the ELC Pro and one above the BRX – Elinchrom has worked for maturity in the whole technology. So, when the ELC 125 and 500 TTL arrived they worked much like any head with the EL Skyport Pro. Days later new firmware for the triggers enabled TTL operation, across a range of camera platforms already proven with the portable ELB 500 TTL.

The ELC 125 TTL is a little larger than a D-Lite. The ELC 500 TTL is substantial – as expected.
Continue reading »

Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS

The neatest solution for sharp long tele shots on Sony A6000 series APS-C

  • Excellent full aperture performance from 70 to 350mm
  • OSS stabilisation works with every Sony Alpha E-mount APS-C body
  • Perfect for movies with A6000, A6300, A6400 without sensor stabilisation
  • Compatible with all NEX and Alpha E-mount models from 2010 on
  • Enhanced OSS with A6500, A6600
  • Compact and light weight
  • G series optical quality, Custom Button on lens, AF/MF and OSS switches on lens
  • Lens lock at 70mm to prevent zoom creep
  • Single extending zoom barrel
  • 67mm non-rotating filter thread
  • Bayonet lens hood included
  • Moisture and dirt resistant multicoating
  • Coverage allows use on full frame bodies with larger than APS-C crop

This lens was purchased in October 2019 and the review is based on nine months of use on Sony A6500 (ILCE-6500), A6300 (ILCE-6300), A6000 (ILCE-6000) and A7R MkIII (ILCE-7M3). Review by David Kilpatrick.

A solution for practical photography out and about – worldwide

I had been using the Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS full frame tele zoom on my A7RIII for over a year. This lens is very sharp wide open and benefits from the best close focusing in its class at 90cm meaning a scale of 0.31X at 300mm. It weighs 854g and has a double tube zoom extension. As you can see above this lens (left) is only a few mm longer physically than the APS-C 70-350mm (right) but the extra barrel heft, 72mm filters and much larger lens hood meant it needed a bigger kit bag, and proved harder to change quickly when swapping lenses.

The 70-350mm for the smaller image sensor proved if anything even sharper, right to 350mm. Lenses like this often prove soft at maximum focal length and maximum aperture. The 70-300mm at f/5.6 is a third of a stop faster, but to get it as crisp as its newer little brother, it needs to be set f/6.3 – a match in speed. You can see above how much bigger the full frame lens becomes at 300mm. The 70-350mm only weighs 625g but its very fast and silent XD Linear Motor AF can only get as close as 1.5m at 350mm, 1.1m at 70mm. The maximum subject scale is 0.25X.

I knew the 70-350mm would be my choice for travel and daily use with my A6500, but I was going to miss that closer focus. The full frame lens has an AF range limiter, full range or 3m to infinity but oddly no 0.9m to 3m choice. The APS-C lens has no limiter but I have never missed it and rarely used it on the 70-300mm.

My big question was – can I do without the 70-300mm and use the 70-350mm on my full frame bodies?

Cropping power, sensor resolution and coverage

Tests quickly proved that distortion and vignetting kick in fast beyond the crop format field of view, but sharpness remains good and depending on focal and aperture you get much more than APS-C. You can almost get a full frame at close range.

This mushroom (about hand sized) is at 350mm and f/11 on the A7RIII, and you can see the mechanical vignetting cut-off left and right. It’s caused by the lens rear baffle not the optical design – the lens could be modified to remove this, but it’s not advised.

At 70mm on a very demanding subject the distortion without lens profile, on full frame, is extreme (left) but with Lens Profile correction applied at 200% plus -8 Manual, and similar vignetting adjustment, Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom can almost handle it. On a neutral subject like a portrait with a foliage background the coverage would be fine. More to the point, manual crops much larger than the 16 x 24mm you could expect from an APS-C lens are fully usable.

But why use a full frame body? Unless you own a Sony A7RIV (61 megapixels) you won’t actually get a more detailed distant animal or bird. The modest 24 megapixels of all the current APS-C bodies beats the 18 megapixel crop format of the A7RII/III. Canon users have much the same position, their smaller APS-C (1.6X not 1.5X) and 28 megapixel resolution matches 60 megapixels on 24 x 36mm. The advantage of full frame is that you may catch more of your subject, your framing and tracking active subjects enjoy more leeway. If your subject stays in position the smaller sensor can capture finer detail – and this is where the 70-350mm excels.

This is a good example. At 198mm on the 70-350mm on A6500, it’s the same composition I would have had with the A7RIII and 70-300mm at 300mm and that would have produced a larger more detailed image. There’s only a real benefit to the 70-350mm on APS-C when you’re near the 350mm end. Did I keep both? No – I already knew I wanted a much faster but still compact zoom for the full frame kit, and the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 was coming in six months’ time. So I sold the 70-300mm and decided to use the A6500 with 70-350mm for all longer tele shooting.

From the start it proved a very capable combination.

Fast lenses are not as important now

Mirrorless cameras with phase detection autofocus, good high iSO performance and better resolution electronic viewfinders have made wide aperture lenses less essential for low light. The linear motor focus of the 70-350mm rarely misses a shot regardless of conditions. One of my first shoots was a music festival, where this lens allowed me to work from the very back of the hall and never get in the way of the audience.

Processed from a raw file at ISO 6400, this shot of Steve Byrne performing was taken at 350mm wide open at f/6.3. The same on full frame would need a 525mm lens at f/8 and ISO 8000 (a direction Canon is taking with their new 800mm f/11 IS STM for the R mount – the working aperture no longer matters much if the viewfinder stays bright, AF is accurate and there’s not much noise at high ISO settings).

The long reach in a concert hall is one side of using a 350mm on APS-C. Here’s another – the lens may only achieve a quarter life size and need you to be 1.5m away at 350mm, but 0.25X on a 1.5X factor sensor is 0.375X in ‘old macro’ terms. Not only that, the ISO 2500 used here is about the same in grain or noise terms as an ISO 400 film and the stabilisation of this lens on the A6500 is as good as you get. A 1/125s shutter speed did not prevent tiny hairs on the caterpillar’s head being sharply resolved.

This lens is far better than the 18-200, 18-300, 18-400 or 16-300mm I’ve used on a variety of DSLRs for long APS-C reach. It’s free from the residual aberration which demands you ‘stop down one’ to clean up the long end image. Combined with Sony’s PDAF it handles a concert or low indoor light as well as an ƒ2.8-4 on a conventional DSLR.

Compare this with a 100-400mm for the same format

For the sake of 50mm at the long end – a difference of only 12.5% in image scale – the excellent Fujifilm Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM also gives a half to a third of a stop more light transmission in its longer range. But look at the cost! It is twice the price and weight, and you can see the size. Gains – a near-apochromatic performance, matched 1.4X and 2X converters available (not an option for the Sony and never likely to be). Losses – only 0.19X close-up scale. It’s remarkable how much difference there is in the physical aspect of these two lenses. I have used both and in practice they are equally sharp on 24 megapixels.

The Sony 100-400mm and Sigma 100-400mm are both full frame lenses and much larger. The 70-350mm is unique as far I can tell, no-one else has a lens like it. It also answers one of the major criticisms of the original E-mount APS-C system, the lack of any lens longer than 210mm and that only in a 55-210mm design best described as consumer grade. I’ve actually found it pretty good for the money – but it’s not much money!

Sony 70-350mm G OSS image gallery

Rather than write much more, I’ll leave you with this gallery. I have reduced the file size but where you see an enlarged section clip along with the full frame – well, you can judge for yourself.

Sony 70-350mm G OSS verdict

If you own any of the APS-C Sony bodies, from the NEX-3 and 5 of 2010 onwards, this lens will not disappoint you. The effective OSS image stabilisation means that even if you prefer to compose and shot using the rear screen and hold the camera away from your body you’ll get sharp stills and steady movies. It’s a big step up from the 55-210mm and much more affordable than, say, a 70-200mm f/4 G with 1.4X or 2X converter.

You may have to control colour fringes in some strong backlight situations with blur when working from raw files, as it’s not an apochromat just a regular very good tele zoom. However the resolution reflects advances in design over the last decade. It’s also a very handsome looking black lens with its silver G logo and designation contrasting with white markings. It feels robust and the zoom and manual focus (when needed) are smooth. The metal bayonet is a tight precise fit on my A6500 and A7RIII, a little less so on my A6000 with its older four-screw type body mount.

I can carry this lens all day without even realising it’s there, round neck or shoulder – and there are not many lenses covering this range you would want to hang on a strap round your neck.

You can support my reviews if you check these links for availability and price:
Amazon UK – didn’t have any stock at all at the time of writing – https://amzn.to/30ZC4Ck
Park Cameras UK – https://tidd.ly/3jLHbP7
WEX UK – https://tidd.ly/3hKRhhA
B&H USA and Worldwide – https://tinyurl.com/y6cguvpo

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