SAAL PHOTOBOOK REVIEW
A month or so ago (this was written in late March 2020), I saw an advert on Facebook for £100 off a photobook from a company called Saal. I'd seen the ad a few times and always ignored it (like most adverts on social media), but for some reason this time I decided to do some investigating, spent some time trawling the internet for reviews and eventually decided to give it a whirl.
As you'll have seen from an earlier blog post, last year was a 'special birthday' and we'd had a bucketlist trip to Jordan, so this was to be my subject and a way to print those memories.
Once I'd been allocated a voucher code, I downloaded their software and set to work. The software is very intuitive - select a style for your book (I chose 'Professional Line'), paper (matte) and cover/binding (leather/acrylic) and off you go.
Each page or spread can be designed either by dragging and sizing images, or letting the software 'AutoLayout' the page as you add images to it. Generally, I went for the automatic option - partly to test them and see how they fared, but also for ease - and I've got to say it did a pretty good job with minimum fuss. A nice touch that as images are added and size, the software displays a 'quality' tip so you know how well your image should scale.
Below you can see how the software looks - available images on the left, page/spread in the middle with all pages at the bottom, and available layouts on the right - along with the finished article.
Once I'd added any further pages I wanted and tweaked things and was finally happy with it all, I uploaded the images and waited. Timely emails kept me informed of where my book was in the process and dispatched, typically due to arrive when I was away from home with work!
Anyway, when I returned and got to open the package... Once I'd removed the easy-peel protection from the cover, the image with its acrylic cover really leapt out. The images throughout the book looked exactly as I expected them to (sometimes, colours can shift in the printing process, but not with Saal), and the matte finish is really nice.
- 22cm x 30cm Professional Line photobook
- 58 pages
- Matte photo paper
- Acrylic + leather ('leather cognac') cover
- No barcode or gift box
- 58 pages
- Matte photo paper
- Acrylic + leather ('leather cognac') cover
- No barcode or gift box
The cost of my order, once the promotional voucher had been applied, was £14.58. "Well worth it as a trial" was my thinking.
Overall, I'm very happy with Saal and they're now on my list of places to use in the future, and would definitely recommend them.
2019 - what a year!
Well, what a year it has been! Most of my highlights of the year have already been blogged about, but in short:
My first-ever client shoot for Harrogate Theatre - they're now using my images in their social media and marketing, including their brochures and posters. It's such a buzz walking past the theatre and seeing my photos! And then to cap it all off, the theatre chose one of my images to represent their space on the official Harrogate Monopoly board.
Various work trips all over the UK, Dublin and Luxembourg all produced some photos, but little I really fell in love with. A trip to Krakow in May produced some photos, but not many of Auschwitz - it felt wrong taking lots of shots there.
In June, of course, was the Great Knaresborough Bed Race that I wrote about - the theme of 'Yorkshire' seemed perfect for such a local tradition. Oh, and I bought myself a new camera!
September saw Harrogate hosting the UCI Road World Championships, and whilst I didn't get chance to shoot any of the races, the town laid on a light show in the Valley Gardens, and a new artwork celebrating the numerous natural wells was setup too.
However, the one trip that did yield some images I'm very pleased with was to Jordan. This year was a *cough* special birthday for me, so in mid-October we headed out to Jordan for a touring holiday of the country. I visited the capital a few years back with work, and had been itching to go back ever since, and this was the perfect opportunity (or excuse, depending on how you look at it).
A few days in the capital of Amman, including visits to the ancient Roman city of Jerash, some of the numerous desert castles and the Dead Sea were followed with a journey down to Petra - if you've seen 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' you'll recognise The Treasury - but nothing can prepare you for the sheer scale of the place! A couple of days later we headed down to Wadi Rum (where 'The Martian' and 'Lawrence of Arabia' amongst others have been shot).
Jordan is a fantastic country (though the driving leaves a lot to be desired!) and the people incredibly friendly, and definitely one to add to your bucket list.
And then to finish the year off nicely, one of my images of the Corn Exchange in Leeds was selected to appear in a local charity calendar. As I said earlier, what a year!
Here's hoping to a similarly exciting, busy and photographic 2020!
You may remember that earlier this year I did my first client shoot for Harrogate Theatre to provide them with images for use in their social media, marketing, and so on.
Imagine my shock and surprise when, whilst on holiday, I got an email from my contact at the theatre telling me that not only did they have a space on the official Harrogate Monopoly board, but that they'd chosen one of the images I shot for them to be used (I may have shouted "get in!").
Blimey. Talk about chuffed! So, if you happen to purchase the Harrogate edition of Monopoly for someone this Christmas, you'll see one of my images in glorious colour on the Harrogate Theatre space!
NEW TOY ALERT!
Well that didn't take long did it?! A week or so after renting a Panasonic G9 from Wex (see my previous post), I ended up trading-in my existing Panasonic G80 for one!
I've been toying with the idea of switching up to the G9 for some time, and having really enjoyed using it to shoot the Bed Race, decided that (at least I'd given it a good testing beforehand!) I'd treat myself, so I popped along to my local independent camera shop - Bass & Bligh.
They're always my first port of call when I'm looking for new kit - the guys there are incredibly helpful and really know their stuff. As I kinda knew they would, I was offered a fair price for my existing camera body and so the deal was done!
So, why did I make the switch, only a couple of years after I bought my G80? Well, I did really like the G80, but I missed the top LCD screen and second card slot from my Nikon D7000, and to my mind any other things I liked about the G9 would be a bonus. The fact that it felt very much like my much-loved D7000 but in a smaller, lighter package made it worthwhile making the switch.
the great knaresborough bed race 2019
This weekend was The Great Knaresborough Bed Race (the second Saturday in June), a tradition going back to the mid-Sixties.
In short, 90 teams - six runners plus one passenger - take part. The day starts with teams vying for 'Best Dressed Bed', following the current year's theme - this year it was 'Yorkshire', and you can't really ask for a finer theme! The winning team gets to lead the Parade from Knaresborough Castle down to Conyngham Hall, before the race proper.
The race starts and finishes at Conyngham Hall and covers a 2.4 mile course round the town - along the waterfront, up the steep Castle Ings, before heading through the town down the main street and over the High Bridge, before heading through McIntosh Park and finishing with a 20-yard swim across the River Nidd.
It's a great event, and I'm lucky enough to, along with a friend - Andrew Hawkes Photography, shoot the event. Andrew has shot it for a few years now, but I've only been helping (not sure that's the phrase he'd use!) since 2017.
In true Yorkshire fashion, it rained most of the day but apart from one sustained downpour it was mostly drizzle, and to us Yorkshire folk that barely even registers and we certainly didn't let it dampen our spirits! However, it did mean that the river was higher and flowing faster than last year which made the crossing trickier for the teams - more than one passenger ended up bed-less at some point!
FIRST CLIENT SHOOT!
This last few months has been pretty eventful - not only have I done my first ever exhibition, but I've also done my first client shoot!
Way back last autumn, our local theatre (Harrogate) put out a call for "a local amateur photographer to come and shoot the theatre for use in [their] social media, marketing etc." They were asking you to submit half a dozen of your images to give them an idea of your style, and would select one of the applicants. I applied, along with around another 50 and then heard nothing other than that they'd had more applicants than expected and so it would be a while before hearing anything - so assumed I'd not got the gig.
Then, a month or so later they sent me an email saying that having narrowed it down to a final ten and putting to a vote of their staff, I'd been selected! Wow! Talk about shocked and very pleased too!
So, back at the end of January I went along to shoot - it felt very odd walking in and introducing myself as "the photographer" rather than "the trainer" (as is normal!). My contact showed me around all of the backstage areas to give me a rough feel for the place and told me what they wanted, and we expected it would take a couple of hours.
Anyway, four hours later (well, you can't have a theatre to yourself and not take advantage can you?!) I left with a couple of hundred shots to process.
And here we are a few weeks later, the client seems very happy with their shots (I've included some below) and I've already spotted some of my images in their Twitter feed - talk about chuffed!
Can I just say a massive "thank you" to everyone at Harrogate Theatre who voted for me to be selected!
platypod ultra - update
In my last post I talked about having just bought a Platypod Ultra - a lightweight, compact baseplate for a ballhead that can go places tripods can't.
Well, this week I finally got a chance to take it out with me on a work trip to Manchester. I was staying in my favourite hotel - The Principal on Oxford Road - and it's a building that's beautiful with a real variety of architecture, not to mention a great hotel with excellent food and staff.
After I checked-in, I grabbed my camera, popped my 7-14mm wide-angle lens and Platypod on, and went for a wander for an hour or so. I've not yet had a proper chance to look through my shots and edit them properly, but here are two that I think show off the Platypod pretty darn well - look how happy it is sitting on the plinth of a pillar, not to mention the shot I got.
This really is an excellent piece of kit - I wish I'd bought one ages ago! I didn't get chance to try it out with its feet to deal with uneven surfaces and such, but I'm very happy with it and can see it replacing my tripod a lot of the time due to its size and ultra-portability.
I've just treated myself to one of these little gizmos. I've read and seen so much about them and eventually bit the bullet this week and bought one.
So, what is the Platypod Ultra? In simple terms, it's a tripod. Ish! It's a base plate that you fit a ballhead to, and it's so small, light and (it turns out) sturdy that it's perfect for those times and places where a tripod isn't suitable.
If you've ever tried shooting on a tripod you'll know that not only do you have to lug them around with you, but the number of places that won't let you shoot with one is unreal. The Platypod Ultra solves this nicely as it's so small that you can just put it down pretty much anywhere.
This is my Panasonic G80 with 12-60mm lens and as you can see the Platypod Ultra is holding it perfectly, despite the angle I've got the camera at. I've tried it with my 7-14mm wide-angle and it's just as sturdy, even tilting it back so that the lens was pointing straight up and it's rock solid.
Needless to say I'm very happy with this new purchase, and can't wait to get out with it and use it 'for real', and can seriously see me ditching my tripods in the future, who knows?
This video is Scott Kelby's explanation of what it's all about.
setup and behind-the-scenes
I'll be honest, I'm pretty rubbish when it comes to this - I'm usually so busy setting up the shot I'm wanting to take that I completely forget to document the setup! Ah well.
We recently spent a couple of weeks in Crete, staying not far from Agios Nikolaos. We headed into the town one afternoon with the plan (well, my plan) of still being there around sunset so that I could shoot the town, and especially the lake the town is known for.
Anyway, come early evening we decided to see if we could find a small café or similar for something to eat and stumbled across the very nice Café Migomis. Not only was the food and service excellent, but the views over the lake were fabulous too!
We sat down, but couldn't get near the window as the tables were full, but I grabbed my camera and popped it on the table, just in case I could squeeze between some of the tables when the time came. Luckily, one of the tables left, and the waiter - spotting my camera - asked if we'd like to move!
So, I setup my camera on my trusty tripod and perched it on the end of our table (as you can see in the left-hand shot below), switched the camera to a two-second timer (to avoid any camera shake from me pressing the shutter), and periodically took a photo.
The image on the right is the final shot, after some light editing in Lightroom. Taken with my 12-60mm lens, 1/3 secs at f/22, ISO 200.
exhibition update, and a happy customer!
Here we are a month later, so how did it all go? Apart from those sold or ordered on the night I've sold another couple of mounted prints, two 30x40in canvases (one, the Clifton Suspension Bridge you can see in the previous post, to a lady as a 28th wedding anniversary present for her husband who proposed to her there - I feel very honoured that she would choose one of my prints for something so personal) and a provisional order on a third, smaller canvas.
Would I have liked to have sold more? Obviously yes - but I'm incredibly happy that I managed to sell anything at all, and it's definitely given me a new focus for my photography for the rest of the year (work commitments notwithstanding).
Today I had the privilege to hand-deliver one of my prints to its new owner - I think she was happy about it, but not as happy as I was!
exhibition opening night
Well, last night was the opening of my exhibition at our local café - Bica Café & Bistro. Blimey! I think I've just about recovered!
Apart from what felt like an afternoon of running around making sure I was happy with everything, and obviously a trip to the café to hang all the images (many thanks to my wife, and Ana - the café owner - for helping me), there was then the stress and nerves of my first-ever exhibition.
The 'having to talk to strangers' bit didn't bother me too much - as an IT instructor, it's what I've been doing for a living for the last 26+ years, so I just had to switch into that mode and I could cope with that. It was more the 'just because my wife and I like what I shoot, would anybody else?' that started to niggle at the back of my mind.
I'm incredibly grateful to all my friends and family who turned up to support me, though with the number of other people who turned up (yay!) I didn't get much chance to socialise with them. But I did get to spend some time with others who were very interested in my images and in me as a photographer.
So, I set myself what I thought was a vaguely realistic target - if I could maybe sell just ONE print, to someone that I didn't know (as opposed to a friend, who might - in my mind - be buying it out of sympathy/to support me), then I'd be a very happy bunny.
Yeah, well. Hmmm... I only went and sold FIVE! Cue a very happy Richard!
So, I ended up leaving some mounted prints in the café for people to purchase and take away if they want, and everything on the walls is for sale, as well as hopefully taking some orders via my website.
Who knows where it might all lead...?
Well, what an eventful few days it's been and going to be!
Apart from all of the usual mundane stuff, this week brings the Great Knaresborough Bed Race - a local tradition harking back to the 1960s. It's a fantastic event and, as last year, I've been asked to be one of the official photographers. I guess that means I did an OK job last year! Anyway, I'm massively looking forward to it - not only is it a great day out (if you're not working!), but I get to shoot something that's massively different to what I'd also usually shoot.
On top of that, my long-delayed (mostly due to work commitments) exhibition is definitely going ahead! The owner of a local independent café that we (might just, perhaps, every now and again) go to used to be an art lecturer at Aberdeen University; she saw some of my photography on social media and asked me if I'd like to exhibit my work there - she tries to exhibit work by a local artist every couple of months or so.
Anyway, now that all of the pesky work stuff is out of the way I've finally been able to get everything together and I'll be running my exhibition there through July, with a 'meet the photographer' (eek!) open evening on 6 July. This is my first exhibition and I'm super-excited about it, but also nervous too.
Here's hoping it all goes well!
quick site update
I've been wanting to give the site a little bit of a revamp for a few weeks now, but real life (you know, work and stuff) kept getting in the way!
Anyway, I've managed to do it today (phew!) and remove some of the images I wasn't so happy with and replace them with others I preferred. I've also added a new album - world on white seamless - inspired by an idea of Scott Kelby's that I saw some time ago and really liked the idea of, so this is my take on it.
favourite shots of the year
Last year, at around this time, I decided to create a Flickr album for my favourite images that I'd taken that year, with a view to (trying to remember to!) doing the same each year.
In 2016 I chose around a dozen pictures, and 15 this year. They're not necessarily the most technically challenging images that I may have taken or even the 'best' (isn't that very subjective anyway?), but they're the ones that I liked most. For whatever reason(s), they're images that I just like, that speak to me in some way.
So, in the last few days Adobe have announced new and updated versions of Photoshop and Lightroom. In particular, Lightroom has been split into two products - the all-new 'Lightroom CC', and an updated version of the Lightroom you may know and love, now rebranded as 'Lightroom Classic'.
If you're a Lightroom user and unsure which of the two new Lightrooms would suit your workflow best, maybe the video below from Adobe's Julianne Kost will help.
Personally, for now at least, I'll be sticking with 'Lightroom Classic' as it better suits my needs, and it's reasonably uncommon for me to need to edit on-the-go.
Why the switch?
Now that the site is finally up-and-running, I thought I'd add a quick blog post. This is in answer to a question I've had a lot recently "Why did you switch from Nikon to Panasonic?"
And the answer is actually quite a simple one: I didn't, as such. I switched from a DSLR (specifically my much-loved Nikon D7000) to a mirrorless camera - the Micro Four Thirds Panasonic G80 (I'd have loved to get the GH5 but my budget wouldn't stretch far enough!).
Why did I move to mirrorless? A variety of reasons really. Partly, because I'm a tech geek and love new gadgets and toys. Partly because I like learning new stuff. And partly for sheer portability.
Well when I'm out and about - even with my camera on my trusty SpiderHolster Pro - by the end of the day, I know about it. It doesn't matter how I've carried my cameras over the years, whether it's in-hand, on the manufacturer-provided neckstraps (ugh!), or even the slingstrap I had for a while, I ended up aching. So, having had a chance to play with a mirrorless camera on a recent training course, I decided to make the switch.
Of course, over the years, I'd built up a collection of four lenses, a couple of filters and suchlike, none of which would fit my new camera. Eek! So I went along to my local independent camera store - they're always incredibly helpful - to see what I might get for trading-in my old kit against the new.
And the price they offered me was just £50 shy of a shiny new Panasonic G80 and kit lens (a surprisingly handy 12-60mm). So in one fell swoop, I got rid of all my old kit (rather than lots of faffing around on eBay) and funded the purchase of my new one - happy bunny!
Now that I've had some time to start to get used to it - obviously aside from the standard camera controls for aperture/shutter priority and the like, all the controls are different, the menus are different... So, it's a new learning curve, but one I'm starting to get to grips with. How well, only time will tell!