Saturday, 12 June 2010

Gear change

The nifty little ZoomIt SD card reader for iPhone. © Magnus Andersson

This morning my ZoomIt arrived! I ordered this in early February and four months (!) later it is finally here. I paid $49.99 for mine and got a free 4GB SD card for being one of their first customers. They had various problems with manufacturing, including having to wait for Apple to deliver a key component. I'm pretty sure that Apple deliberately delayed delivery to ZoomIt so that they could get their own Camera Connector Kit for iPad ready (it only costs $29, but doesn't work with the iPhone as far as I can tell), but never mind.

The ZoomIt is a small device which connects to the iPhone and via the free app it turns into a SD card reader and a file management system. It means that you can now move large files to and from the phone and that's great news for us photographers with SD recording cameras! My walk around kit has always been a good compact camera - currently the LX3 - but its always been frustrating to instantly share pictures, having to revert to the iPhone and its camera with little control. Don't get me wrong, I love the usability of the built-in camera, its fun to use, especially when there are so many apps to edit your pictures with, and its easy to share them online, but you never had full control over focus or exposure and file sizes left a lot to be desired - until now.

The ZoomIt connected to the iPhone. © Magnus Andersson

After charging the internal battery for 20 minutes it was good to go and it works straight away. You plug in the reader to the phone, pop in your card and then launch the ZoomIt application. It should say 'Connected' on your screen and then you can start moving your images and videos onto the iPhone for editing with your favourite apps. I tried it out this morning with this tweet and it works a treat! Everything on the card shows up, so you can keep movies, TV shows, music and other documents on a separate card and transfer to the File Manager when you need it.

My walk around kit; a battered LX3, a shiny new ZoomIt and the slightly scratched iPhone 3Gs. © Magnus Andersson

The only drawback so far is that they have opted for a proprietary USB cable that you have to use to charge the internal battery and I can see this being a problem if you forget it at home or worse, loose it. Battery capacity could also be an issue, but I've only had it a few hours so its too early to tell.

All I need now is a CF card version so I can edit D700 pictures on the iPhone, but so far there have been very little movement on that front. Come on, developers, you can do it!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Long day

Mary Robinson, 89, Pearly Queen of St Pancras. Mary has spent years of her life raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital and other good causes. She would like to move to a ground floor flat, as there is no lift where she lives. She had a hip op last August and struggles to get up the stairs, but Greenwich council says there are no flats going. © Magnus Andersson

Lordy, what a day. Some lunatic goes on a crazy killing spree up North and I have the temerity to complain about my day? OK, I wont complain too much. For the record, this is just a little glimpse into the car madness that you have to put up with to be the only photographer covering most of south London for three different titles.

First thing in the morning, I depart Hackney for a job in Peckham which involves an artist, an MS sufferer in a mobility scooter and a miniature bulldog called Onion (who apparently has her own website, up to you if you want to Google). The next one takes me to the outskirts of Bromley to photograph a charity worker who is off to Sierra Leone and has set herself 25 challenges before she goes.

After that I'm on my way to a galleria in London Bridge where stall holders have been told to clear out with only two weeks notice. On foot I somehow dropped the front cap to my 17-35 lens, blast. Strangely, the stall holders have enlisted two kids to play viola and cello to highlight their plight. Hmm.

I was all set to leave for a job in Catford when the office called and said I need to go back Peckham again instead, this time a murder scene. A man had been poured petrol over and set alight inside the back seat of a car the previous night. The cordon meant I couldn't get very close from either end of the street but if I walked into the nearby park I could get as close as 2 yards to the police forensics. The bizarre thing was that this part of the park was also a playground and there were several little kids running around me and looking at the strange men and women in forensic suits on the street by the burnt out car, separated only by a metal fence.

The next job was in Oval where a community centre was throwing a party. One kid suffered a bad nosebleed in the bouncy castle (I missed the shot) and the older kids were smoking weed outside (I didnt dare take the shot). The sun was shining. Back in the car I found the previously lost front lens cap; it was in the boot all the time.

By this stage it was past 15:00 and I still hadn't eaten, but it was onwards and upwards to Sydenham where the Mayor was opening a new green space in Mayow Park. Jolly nice it was too because I arrived 10 min early for the 16:00 start, so I had time for two glasses of water and a quick Nescafe (and some photographs) before I had to be in Vauxhall train station for 16:45. As if.

En route to Vauxhall another job materialised before my eyes. Traffic ground to a halt and I decided to go and see what was happening. It turned out that the reason for the standstill was a car crash where one of the cars ended up smashing through the wall of a primary school. Took some quick pictures and phoned it in so that news desk had the facts, then back in the car.

This meant I was being waaay late for the last job which would involve the ever reliable London Mayor Boris Johnson. Having found parking space I lost £1.20 to a faulty parking meter and had to find another street to park in (in London this can be very tricky indeed). I finally parked up and ran over to the station (this was a hot day and my jeans were glued to my legs). Boris was supposed to show his face at one of the knife arches, basically metal detectors were travelling members of the public are forced through to make sure they are not carrying weapons.

I arrived at the station sweating like a beast, approximately 20 mins late, and I thought f'#k, f@*k, I have missed the shot. I am being directed to where the knife arch is and as I arrive I realise that Boris Johnson is about to stride through the arch for us photographers. On my 5-minute run over I have of course set my camera for 'dingy-station-tunnel-exposure' and over the backs of four other photographers I spray-and-pray...and manage to get the shot. Of course, if Boris hadnt been late, I wouldnt have got the shot at all, but still, hallelujah.

Some 50 miles was covered in one day, and if you consider the fact that the average speed of a car in London is 10MPH, not counting the endless minutes wasted finding parking or being stuck behind a car crash, this left me with less than 1.5h to take decent pictures at eight different jobs. That's roughly 11 mins per job. Does that make for good copy? And what about lunch?!!

And to put things in perspective; this time last year we where always three photographers on any given day. Not a lot when you consider the size of the area we cover, but a year later I am now the only photographer on the three busiest days of the week; Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Saying all this though, I'm pleased with the shots from today. Tomorrow is another day and I look forward to it, but I'd rather it'd be Friday night instead of this Wednesday night.

PS. I'll try to update this post with some of the pix once they have been published.

Alfred Dole, 80, Pearly King of St Pancras, partner of Mary (top). © Magnus Andersson