Before and after wedding season each year, a fun little network of photographers I’m in hook up for a social somewhere to unwind, share and inspire one another.  We call ourselves the r-Tribe; the r coming from Stewart ‘R’andall, who originally set it up to keep in touch with photographers he once trained with.

(Above showed Emily Hancock showed us some of the most inspiring equestrian images I’ve ever seen)

Of course, the first rule of r-Tribe is that you don’t talk about r-Tribe!

The second rule is you don’t get involved in drinks rounds with Mark Lenik; cos you’ll end up real poor.

We use these catchups things as an opportunity to both share our experiences with and ask questions to other pros, who share a similarly geeky knowledge-base (as well as to get pissed and sing karaoke).

They’re always great fun – and for most of us it’s all about the social craic – but sometimes we do semi-structured workshops, sometimes go out shooting, and on and off through the year we meet in the North and South for coffee morning catch ups.

I’ve generally blogged the highlights from each hook up and if you fancy seeing em, click here.

They’re also fun for a bit of show and tell, and folk bring along new sample albums, branding ideas, new websites to peruse and new/old toys.

A few of the network are making major explorations back into film photography, including as James Pearson & The Lawsons, and Stu Cooper (the links take you to their film-related blog posts).  Stu brought along the above camera for show & tell – the halcyon of medium format film cameras – the Contax 645 with an 80mm f2 lens.

The view through the enormous pentaprism was arguably the most beautiful viewfinder I’ve ever looked through – you can actually see the depth of field and EVERYTHING LOOKS LOVELY.  Plus the pictures it produces on film blow your mind and if you’re silly rich, you can buy monster medium format digital sensors to strap on em instead of film.

Just quickly – while the DSLR world are showing off their ‘full-frame’ 35mm size sensor cameras, medium format cameras have SO much larger sensors:

This shows you pretty much life-size actual sensor/film sizes in a medium format & modern DSLRs, like the 35mm full-frame cameras (like the 5DmkIII I use) and a cropped APS C size DSLRs like majority of the range (such as the Canon 7D /60D / 600D etc).  When you look at the microscopic size of sensors in phones & most compact cameras, you realise that whether they can squeeze 8 or 15 megapixels onto them, their image quality simply doesn’t compare.   So next time someone tells you their phone has more pixels than your camera, refer them to this!

Essentially, what it boils down to is that the extra real estate on a medium format negative just captures so much more magic.

Sadly, to get one you need about £1500 for the body and one lens and every photo costs you about a fiver to shoot and develop.  #Ooof

The camera I took along was my new baby, the mirrorless Sony NEX7 camera, along with a clever Metabones ‘smart-adapter’, so I can mount on my pro Canon L-series lenses.  In sensor size, mine sports the an APS-C size sensor, which is huge for a compact camera, but small for a professional tool.

Herr Stewart Randall who originally set up the network and who runs the excellent Folio Albums, bought one of these NEX7’s ages ago to use as a low-profile backup camera to have in his shoot bag in case his DSLR died at a key moment, such as while stranded at the front of a church.  I looked on enviously, but bided my time till this smart-adapter was released, to bolt on and control the aperture of my professional L-series Canon glass.

I decided to ‘process’ these images a bit differently to how I usually do (here of the cheeky girls Hayley Ruth, Abby Wilkes, Jennifer Clare & Hayley Foster), as the latest fad in the photography world has been clipping the blacks so there’s essentially no true black in the image at all.

Alongside those returning to film, there’s also a shift in the professional photographic community to ’emulate film’; digitally adding grain, scratches, dust and film edges etc to give an aged image character.  It’s kind-of counter intuitive, considering digital cameras are using mad tech and doing everything they can to produce beautifully clean images at high ISOs, then we sprinkle them with mess; but it does help photographers stand out from the crowd and offer a different ‘look’.

Here’s Cris ‘Flash’ Matthews gassing with the Lawsons

The lovely miss Honeywell, not critically sharp, but hidden behind the mess it don’t matter!  (I’m a bit old school about sharpness – if the eyes aren’t sharp, I won’t accept it, but occasionally they just caught a moment and are worth keeping).

The software many pros use to get this filmic look, from simple emulation of famous film stocks to really appearing damaged and old, is called Alien Skin Exposure 4.  It’s a fab little plug-in that works with both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to add a lick of interest once you’ve balanced the exposure.

You can even make an image appear like an ancient ‘wet plate collodian‘ image, like this portrait of Surry snapper Ian Olsson.Being rumbled by the very silly Mr Tom Arber

I must admit, I do love the scratchy crap you can add to bring an otherwise pretty average image to life, here of Pete Boyd gassing with John Hope, but I’m not 100% convinced I’d ever offer it on the images I supply to a client.  One off framed prints perhaps, but in my opinion it’s not only degrading the image, but adds significantly more processing time to every image.Here’s the very excellent Rob Booker beavering away preparing a photo quiz for usQuiz time!NO PEAKING!The thing I love about my Sony NEX7 is that strapped to Canon prime lenses, you really achieve a shallow depth of field image on what’s essentially a tiny camera body.  

I believe Tom Arber papped this one of me during the quiz.  I’m not convinced that I don’t look a bit of a clueless douche, but it’s an interesting composition and the backgrounds nicely bokey!HAYLEY! Behave.The lovely Anne-Marie King & her quiz team, creatively named ‘team poo’The legend that is Peter Lawson.  Word is he’s never worn the same sweater more than once and has a whole barn filled with them.PB photo, giving it smirk.The loosing quiz team.

TEAM POO VICTORY! (+ goal hanger Tom, who was actually in our team).

This year we didn’t really do much in terms of photographic challenges etc to report, as shooting is what we do year-round, and it can feel a bit busman, so I basically I just papped these few around one arvo’s hangout as togs came and went.

It’s probably good that I didn’t take the camera out to the karaoke on Tuesday or Flares on Wednesday – though Booker’s got a pretty dubious video of us all dancing that I hope doesn’t go public.

But the whole experience of knocking ideas around in a relaxed social context with a bunch of photographers I really admire always leaves me super energised and instead of being worn down by a long wedding season, I bounce away with ideas to apply and play with in the downtime before next season.

You guys complete me


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