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Thank you for reading my Photography Blog. Birmingham based photographer specialising in Urban Landscapes but available for all photography commissions. Ross Jukes is also a professional Automotive photographer, please see his other website for details - www.rossjukesphoto.com 

Ross Jukes is a professional freelance photographer and owns www.rossjukesphoto.co.uk and all images / photos of Birmingham on this site. All images are available for purchase either as prints or stock and are also available to license the images for commercial use.

Unfiltered Lives: A Project in Collaboration with Birmingham University

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I am always up for a challenge, being self-employed, you learn to say ‘yes’ more than you say ‘no’. So when I was approached by Birmingham University to take part in a very special project, the ‘yes’ had already slipped out, way before I knew the full details. However, the more I go to know, the more I was ready to do something a little different.

The commission itself was to portray the ‘unfiltered lives’ of recipients of a very special programme administered by the School of Social Sciences. The research focussed on the lives of black and minority businesses and provide support via peer-to-peer mentoring, which was overseen by Professor of Leadership and Enterprise, Kiran Trehan.

However, for me, the project represented a chance to get out of my ‘comfort zone’ and create images a little different to my normal day-today work. Whilst taking headshots etc. is not new to me, creating specific environmental portraits and showing the business owners in their places of work, provided it’s own new challenges.

The project allowed me to not only explore the inner workings of some of these businesses, but also to experience first-hand, some of the challenges and pressures faced by them. Whilst creating the images, I got to hear the stories of how the research had helped the individuals overcome not only the pressures of running a business, but the incredible strain that it had put on personal relationships. Ultimately, the peer-to-peer mentoring and the support of Prof. Trehan and her team, had helped them through some very difficult times.

As a self-employed individual, I was amazed to hear how similar some of the businesses struggles had been to my own whilst ‘growing’ - including confidence issues, fear of failure and the obvious financial concerns. However, I was somewhat surprised and concerned to hear how there had been additional pressures for those coming from a black and minority background, including the fears of acceptance. This only cemented how important Prof. Trehan’s research and support had been to these individuals and how the University itself was working towards shining a light on these difficulties.

The project culminated in an exhibition of the images being displayed at the University’s new ‘Green Heart’ - an beautiful thoroughfare used by students and visitors alike - a fitting place for these ‘unfiltered lives’ to be showcased.

You can learn more about the business and the research at the Birmingham University website.

Special Thanks to:

Cleone Foods Ltd

Miss Macaroon

ID Security Systems

Longbridge Student Photography Competition - Your Chance to WIn a Camera!

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I have mentioned in the past that I am very proud of being born in Birmingham and in particular, Longbridge. The area is most commonly known as being the historic home of MG Rover (and all of the iterations of the company before that!) - the factory was even used as a production facility during the second world war!

However, in more recent history, Longbridge is now known for it’s complete reinvention and it’s new town centre. Bournville College along with various shops, bars and restaurants have all found a new home in Longbridge and this has also brought about huge residential development. St Modwen have been at the heart of this redevelopment and have played a huge part in helping many new residents find a home in the historic area.

So when I was approached to judge a student photography competition showcasing Longbridge, I simply couldn’t say ‘no’. The competition is open to students in the area and the closing date is the 19th July! So get shooting!

More details here on the St Modwens site! Good Luck!

I'm now an Amazon Influencer! Plus: 5 Tips for photographers on Amazon Prime Day!

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So this probably sounds more exciting than it actually is, but I have just been approved as an Amazon Influencer. What this means, in short, is that I can have a ‘Storefront’ on Amazon where i can showcase products that I use and recommend. The added bonus is, that if somebody makes a purchase of one of these products, I get a tiny percentage which helps go towards me making videos and reviews.

If you would like to see my recommended products - please visit my Amazon Storefront

And if you would like to keep up-to-date with my reviews, please click ‘Follow’ on my Profile

Five Tips for Photographers on Amazon Prime Day

Prime day (15th & 16th July 2019) is always an exciting time for photographers as notoriously expensive photography gear can be snapped up at bargain prices! However, it is easy to get suckered in by the tantalising discounts! Here are my five top tips for Prime day to ensure you are getting the discount you deserve!

Tip 1 - Only fools rush in…

Amazon does a brilliant job of making you feel like you are getting a bargain and in some respects, you probably are. However, the other interesting thing that Amazon does is put a time limit on the offer. This means that you can have some serious ‘FOMO’ (Fear of Missing Out) on a bargain - but do you actually need the item you are looking for? Has it been on your wish-list or have you seen a deal that’s too good to ignore, even though don’t actually need it! Don’t fall into the trap of buying things that you didn’t want in the first place!

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Tip 2 - Have a plan and stick to it!

For obvious reasons, Amazon doesn’t ‘tell’ you prior to Prime Day what deals are coming up. So rather than face the trap of Tip 1 and buying stuff you don’t need, audit your gear and write a ‘must have’ list of items that if they do appear on offer, then you can snap them up! If they do not appear on your list of must have items, approach with caution and ask yourself ‘why’ you need to buy it in the first place!

Tip 3 - Big Money Savings!

An all-too-common trick that many retailer use around any ‘sale’ time is to bump up the standard recommended retail price, then offer a discount based on this higher price - so you’re not actually getting the savings you think you are. I’m not accusing Amazon of doing this, but it is important to go in with a good idea of what a ‘fair’ price is for the item you are after! A quick price comparison either using Google or websites such as ‘Camera Price Runner’ will give you a good idea of whether the price really is that good - is that £000’s off! really that good? Be realistic, do your research…

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Tip 4 - eBay is your friend…

One thing I have learnt to do is to have Amazon open in one tab and eBay open in another. It is all too easy to see a ‘huge’ discount and think it’s a bargain - but can you make even more savings on an auction item on eBay? One feature that eBay has introduced is an ‘Average selling price’ - when you click on an item, it gives you an indication of what other auctions have finished at - this can then be compared to whatever price Amazon is offering and the rest, is simple…

Tip 5 - Have fun, grab a bargain!

With all of the above tips, the basic rule is ‘proceed with caution’. However, Prime day is very popular amongst shoppers because in truth, there are bargains to be had! The final tip is to, basically, enjoy it - New gear is always motivating to us photographers and the thought of shiny new tech turning up in the post gets our creative juices flowing! So if you have a set budget (never spend more than you can afford!) and you see something that you actually need, then grab it! Good luck…

Finally, don’t forget to ‘Subscribe’ to my YouTube channel for future reviews and advice on products…

Broge Poles - How to get a Drone style shot without the Drone

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As a photographer, I am always looking for ways of creating images that are truly unique. One way of doing so is shooting from an angle that nobody else can access. The most common way of doing this, is to use a Drone. However, Drone use is not only prohibited in certain areas, they can be quite costly and difficult to use. Now though, it looks like there might be a safe, affordable and easy solution. I tested out one of Broge’s composite poles, to see how it stacked up.

Aerial Photography - the hidden problem

Aerial Photography is not a new thing. However, consumer Drones have opened up the market to anyone and everyone. I myself am a Drone user and I am regularly impressed by the quality of content produced by other Drone users. However, I also see many who fail to abide by the ‘Drone Code’ a series of rules set out by the Civil Aviation Authority to encourage safe Drone usage. One of the main issues being the use of Drones in built-up areas.

As a Drone user, I have also been tempted by the desire to use a Drone to get truly unique vantage points over some of the city’s best buildings. However, the potential risks (not only the potential fines) are a moral deterrent. I certainly see how easy it would be for a ‘run away’ drone to potentially cause a huge accident, in particular if it was to strike a vehicle on one of the city’s main roads.

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A different view point

However, there is a much simpler alternative to getting a special view that not many others will have seen. Step in, Borge. When I found out about the composite poles, I was very keen to see whether they would honestly give a much different perspective. Without doubt, they would not be able to reach the hundreds of feet that a drone can, but could they be used to create striking images? I quickly found the answer…

From the moment I placed my Sony RX100V on the easy-to-use ball head and started to elevate the poles, I could see a whole new perspective open up. As I was shooting at a fairly wide field of view, around 24mm - the moment the camera got above two or three meters, completely new possibilities started opening up! The fact that the pole I was using could be escalated to 8 meters, I knew that this was going to be an interesting piece of kit!

Build Quality and Ease of Use…

Straight out of the box, I knew it was a quality piece of kit. The pole itself came in a very nice carry case, making the pole and attachments easy to transport. The pole is made from high-quality Carbon Fibre and comes in telescopic section. Each section has a clamping ring that is loosened as you raise each section and then tightened to secure it. Having been a tripod user for many years, I appreciated how robust the clamps were and the fact that they felt secure when the pole was at maximum height.

I was using a ball head to set the camera to a portrait perspective, as most of the shots that I post are set to portrait for better social media use. I was also using a Universal Phone Mount Clamp Kit to secure my iPhone. As I don’t have 8 meter arms, I was using my phone through the Wifi app so that I could control it whilst it was at the top of the pole and it all worked a treat. The phone holder was easy to adjust so that I could easily use the phone whilst holding the pole. However, the pole also had a Foot Plate at the base so it added an extra element of security.

The pole was simple to erect and even easier to take down and at no point did I feel that the camera was in danger of falling off. The only thing that I would recommend, it being mindful of strong winds and using anywhere near power lines etc. - but I really hope that is self-explanatory! Overall, both the build quality and ease of use were very impressive.

Final Thoughts - Does it Stack Up?

I was skeptical at first as I did not see how an 8 meter pole could compare to something that can actually ‘fly’. However, I have been very impressed by the results and my images have certainly gone down well on social media. I think the fact that it takes away all of the risks and dangers associated with Drone use, it makes this one a no-brainer.

In addition to this, I could also see how many alternative uses it could have outside of photography - such as for use in inspecting roofs, guttering etc. It also opens up other possibilities in terms of shooting over crowds, where access may be an issue or even elevate angles inside properties - something that Drones could not do. Overall, this is an excellent piece of kit and something I can see being very useful in a whole host of situations.

For more information and to purchase, visit: Broge Website



A Foggy Morning in Birmingham

 Ross Jukes Photography Birmingham - www.rossjukesphoto.co.uk

Nothing drags us photographers out of bed quicker than the chance of a bit of fog and mist. After a few busy days, I was completely ready for a lazy Sunday morning until I popped my head out of the window and saw, well, nothing…I quickly got ready and pretty much ran into town. Conditions were perfect and a bit of fog mixed with patches of light, always makes for interesting images.

I was very pleased to see plenty of the local photography community hoovering up images so keep an eye out for those. Here are a quick selection of some of mine of Birmingham drizzled in a pleasant layer of fog…

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REVIEW: Adam Audio A5X Studio Monitors

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I’m a big believer in quality products, you really do get what you pay for. I use this ethos when buying equipment and when sound quality of videos is crucial, having good studio monitors for checking sound is critical. That and the fact that there is always music playing in my office so only the best will do! Will the Adam Audio A5X’s cut it? Read on…

Specifications

The A5X’s are a nearfield studio monitor that have proven to be popular with music professionals. The key specs are:

  • Adam Audio’s ‘X-ART’ Tweeter

  • 5.5“ Woofer (Carbon/Rohacell/Glass Fiber)

  • Amp. Power RMS / Music: 100 W / 150 W

  • Frequency Response: 50 Hz - 50 kHz

  • Max. SPL per pair at 1 m: ≥110 dB

  • Stereolink

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Build Quality

Easily one of the most impressive things about the monitors (and certainly the first thing you will notice straight out of the box) is the quality of the build. The wooden cabinets are predictably weighty but all of the fittings (the tweeter mount, cone, inputs on the rear) all feel rigid, well built and properly manufactured. There are clearly no shortcuts here and being hand-built in Germany, you wouldn’t expect anything less.

However, equally as impressive is the functionality. Well thought out design is very apparent, such as the on'/off switch and bass tunnels actually being on the front of the monitors, not only making them easy to use but optimising the sound in smaller rooms, which is predictably, where monitors like this will be used. Overall, they feel like a very high quality product and there are no disappointments in this department.

Sound Quality

So this is the biggie, does the sound quality live up to the circa £600 price tag? Well, in short, yes, and then some. From the moment that I plugged these into the DAC and ran the first track through them, I have been incredibly impressed. I have even had to get a second opinion from friends who ‘know their stuff’, just to make sure I wasn’t being too over the top!

So what sets them apart? The first thing that strikes you is the clarity that the X-Art tweeter adds, but more of that later. The bass is equally sharp, with no muddy tones and the ‘room’ micro controls on the rear, really help you fine tune the monitors to suit your space. All though they have a fairly narrow dispersion, it will be worth considering placement of the monitors but rest assured, when you find the sweet spot you’ll know. The first few tracks that I listened had me twisting my head around in circles as I was picking up instruments left, right and centre - they really do provide a fantastic sound image.

I almost think that they are a bit of ‘overkill’ for anyone who is not producing music on a regular basis (me included!) but they are incredibly accurate and a joy to listen to with no audio-fatigue experienced whilst using them. They carry plenty of bass (though an additional sub-woofer is available) but unless you live in a detached house in the middle of nowhere (or own a recording studio!) I don’t think you’ll require any additional low. Additionally, at 150 watts, you won’t have to push them hard before you have some very upset neighbours, should that be something you’re interested in!

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The Star of the Show…

A special word has to be said about the X-Art tweeter. It is a Ribbon Tweeter, something that I had not (knowingly) experienced before and it completely blew me away. To be honest, explaining how it works would take me way out of my comfort area as I’m not a studio technician, but if you fancy learning more about the technicality of it, you can read up HERE

The only thing that I would say is that it really needs to be experienced to appreciate the differences it makes. Having previously used the M-Audio BX5 D3’s - I would struggle to go back to them, having heard the quality and performance of the A5X’s. The performance of the mids & highs really does lift these monitors above the competition.

Conclusion

These are the best studio monitors that I have used by some distance. Stepping up from the M-Audio’s, there really is no comparison. The sound is so much clearer and crisper and you can really feel the difference that the X-Art tweeter makes. I would say that only studio professionals would need (or even be able to differentiate between) anything more expensive than these monitors. I certainly feel that you would be getting into the realms of diminishing returns with more costly monitors.

Should you purchase these monitors? That really is your choice but if they fit your budget, they should be very seriously considered. I would be amazed if you didn’t think they were anything other than a bargain considering the quality of the sound.

For more information, visit Adam Audio

What is the meaning of Photography?

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It’s that time of year when we all get a little bit reflective and look back at the year that has passed, but also look ahead to what is to come. I, like many others, have some big plans for next year but I kept coming back to the same thought that I felt like I’d lost my way a little. Somehow, I felt like I wasn’t even sure ‘why’ I was taking pictures. This got me thinking, what is the meaning of Photography?

the process or art of producing images of objects on sensitized surfaces by the chemical action of light or of other forms of radiant energy, as x-rays, gamma rays, or cosmic rays.
— Dictionary.com

Now, in the most fundamental sense, photography is, as the definition states, simply capturing light in one form or another. However, anyone who has ever captured a beautiful sunset or the smile on the face of a loved one, knows that Photography is much more than that. You don’t even need to be particularly talented to take an image that means something to you, many of my favourite images were taken in the 80’s & 90’s on disposable 35mm cameras and the reason the images mean so much to me, they are of my Mom & Dad, who are no longer with us. That means that these images, with all of their technical imperfections are still incredibly valuable to me.

 Ross Jukes Photography Birmingham Skyline - www.rossjukesphoto.co.uk

So what does that mean for those of us that are lucky enough to either has Photography as a hobby or even a job, what does it mean then? Well, the truth is that it becomes a passion. It is something that you can’t go a day without, like food and drink. Many people will get differing things from the art form. For me, it started an an opportunity to explore my city, Birmingham. It was a great way to discover new areas that I wasn’t aware of. It also open the doors to a whole new social world of people with a shared passion. I was fortunate that Birmingham has a fantastic community of photographers who are incredibly supportive (and sociable!).

 Ross Jukes Photography Birmingham Skyline - www.rossjukesphoto.co.uk

In terms of Photography as career, when you are out shooting a muddy building site on a freezing December morning, it may seem like it would be easy to become disillusioned and just see Photography as a ‘job’. However, the pure satisfaction of creating an interesting image from the the bleak surroundings is still incredibly rewarding. Having a skill and being able to achieve something where others may struggle is a hugely satisfying thing.

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On the other hand, there is social media, where ‘likes’, ‘hearts’ & retweets are strewn around like nobodies business. We all find a secret little thrill when we hear the ‘ping’ of the latest notification and our eyes dash to the vivid red of that latest ‘heart’ on our images as the endorphins start to race around our bodies. Nobody else feels like this? OK, well I may need to see a Doctor!

 Ross Jukes Photography Birmingham Skyline - www.rossjukesphoto.co.uk

So what is the meaning of Photography? For me, it is simply creating something meaningful, something that brings joy to others or simply gives you the gratification of knowing that you have a skill and can harness it to your own advantage. This is what I feel I may have lost sight of over the last twelve months as I went through a bit of ‘creators block’. I now feel re-energised and ready to go into 2019 and focus on creating images that bring me satisfaction and maybe, other people might enjoy them too. We will see.

VIDEO - Canon EOS-R Preview

So I have took the plunge and gone and bought myself a new camera! More specifically, the much anticipated Canon EOS-R - A new full frame mirrorless option from the camera giant. Where as I have only had it for a couple of days, I thought I would share my initial thoughts on the handling and the feel of the camera with a full review to follow shortly, so don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel!

VIDEO - Landscape Photography Wales - Fail!

I know that Landscape Photography isn't really that easy. However, on a recent trip to Wales, I found out just how frustrating things can be. In particular, when you fail to make the correct preparations!

I take a pretty 'common sense approach to all of my photography, checking weather, looking at maps and generally trying to pre-visualise shots before I go out. However, for someone completely ridiculous reason, I did none of that on this trip!

As this video shows, not only did I fail to 'scout' locations and pre-plan some shots that I think would have been worth capturing, but I completely underestimated the weather and the terrain. This was quite silly as it left both me and my girlfriend cold and frustrated with the lack of 'good' images.

Whereas the weekend itself was fun and the landscape was particularly beautiful, the lack of the real 'wow' images, left me a bit underwhelmed. Ultimately, this only came down to poor planning on my behalf and with a little bit of effort, things could have been really different.

The moral to the story? Well, it just goes to show that a little bit of preparation goes a long way. In the future, I will make sure that I have more of a plan... and more warm clothing!

REVIEW: Loupedeck+

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Loupedeck have certainly made a splash in the photography market over the past couple of years. Ever since the launch of their inaugural product, many photographers have adopted the Loupedeck into their workflow. There really is something about being able to twiddle a knob that is far more satisfying (stop laughing!) than dragging a mouse around. I too, was an adopter of the Loupedeck way of life so when I heard that they had launched their updated model, the Loupedeck+ - I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and have a twiddle!

The Loupedeck, for those that are not aware, is a physical controller for Lightroom, with pre-determined controls for everything from Exposure to individual hue & saturation dials. The benefit of this is that it speeds up your workflow as you are not scratching around with a mouse, trying to make minute adjustments and constantly having to go backwards and forwards, trying to find the perfect spot. The physical controls are responsive and accurate and once accustomed, you’ll wonder how you ever used a mouse in the first place. Still not convinced? Keep an eye-out for a video to follow which will show you in more detail.

First Impressions…

Straight out of the box, the plus feels like a premium product. It comes extremely well packaged and is presented beautifully in the all black packaging. The controller itself is plastic, which comes as a little bit of a surprise consider the price point. However, this actually makes sense, in particular if you are going to travel with the controller as it keeps the weight down. That being said, the plastic is clearly good quality and it has enough weight to it that it doesn’t feel flimsy. The dials also feel good quality with a rubberised touch and a distinct ‘click’ when rotated, to help with the ‘feel’ when in use. However, I would have liked a touch more resistance to them as they are quite easy to rotate and I would have liked a little more feedback - I’m sure this is just personal preference.

The controls are all laid out in a very logical fashion with the priority dials such as Exposure, Contrast and Clarity all being fairly central (which will suit both right and left-handed users) and the tonal controls and temperature controls more to the right. The function keys, such as undo/redo and shift & control etc. are all to the left of the controller, which again makes pretty good sense as they are used slightly less frequently. Finally, there is a good array of customisable buttons, but more of that later. Setting up the controller for first usage is also pretty simple. However, it does require downloading the appropriate software for your platform but once installed, it communicates with Lightroom pretty well and I certainly didn’t have any issues getting started.

In use…

As with it predecessor, the Plus certainly adds the element of speed to your editing. However, it does take a little bit of time to get use to. Very much like learning to type, it takes a while to understand where every dial and button is. When you get it (and it really doesn’t take long to get) it’s a dream, it just becomes second nature. There is certainly a benefit to having something tactile, that you can control your fine adjustments with. However, I did repeatedly keep finding myself having to have a quick glance down, to check that I was ‘twiddling’ the right knob.

One of the main upgrades is the potential for the Plus to be used with more than just Lightroom. It is now compatible with Skylum (formally Macphun) and Aurora HDR. This certainly adds value to the device and is great for those looking to get even more creative with their editing. However, it doesn’t stop there, it is also now compatible with Adobe’s Premier Pro video editing software. Though I have not tried this yet it is certainly appealing to people like myself, that produce photography and video - the idea of having one, tactile editing interface is very appealing.

The improvements continue with additional customisable keys and a ‘custom mode’ which allows you to take full control of all keys and dials. This really opens up the possibilities with the device. The keys are also now mechanical which give improved responsiveness so you always feel in control. In addition to the physical improvements, the configuration software has also had a spruce up and worked flawlessly whilst setting up.

Final thoughts…

I have always been a fan of the Loupedeck. I love having something tactile that I can use to edit and feel it gives you a lot of extra control over your editing. I am pleased to see some improvements but also would like to have seen a few further additions - notably Bluetooth. However, having used the Plus for a few weeks, I can’t really see how I would go back to the ‘traditional’ style of editing. There is simply something so satisfying about taking manual control over your editing to really nail your edits.

I look forward to seeing how the Loupedeck evolves over the coming years and guess that there may be software updates during that time, opening the Loupedeck+ up to even more versatile uses. Check out the trailer below.