Anecdotes, stories, information, technique, pictures and fun all about photography. A PHOTOGRAPHERS TALE part 1.


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A PHOTOGRAPHERS TALE ONE. I began my career in photography as an amateur some thirty years ago in the Midlands, England. I was 21 and had never used a camera. Since then I have worked for national newspapers on the staff, Freelanced as a photographer for many of the worlds top companies and the media and now have my own website with an image library and I am setting up a school of photography by popular demand.


I bought my very first camera, a ‘ Pentona II ‘ 35mm camera with a fixed 50mm lens and brightline viewfinder. I think it had speeds from 1-1/500 and a maximum aperture of f3.5. My fiance an I were booked on a holiday to Ireland and it seemed a good idea to record the event.

Off we went to northern Ireland by ferry and across to Donegal, a beautiful area around Narin and Portnoo,
Problem was I had not any experience with a camera at all. and had I bought a couple of rolls of Kodachrome 64 transparency film and took instructions from the little leaflet inside the film carton.
Not understanding that exposures for slide film needed to be very accurate ! I should have bought colour print film with its wider exposure latitude.

Wonderful holiday , beautiful countryside, so much to capture on film. We stayed at the famous Glenties hotel and enjoyed long walks along the superb beach and cliff paths.
One path in particular wound its way higher and higher up the side of a cliff to a headland.
The path was barely 18 inches ( half a metre ) wide and often sloping for much of the way. Now I have no head for heights, in fact sometimes I get vertigo looking down at my feet and I’m only 5’7″ tall ! However I continued along the path with my fiance , whom was not in the least concerned about the drop of some hundred feet or more to the rocks below. Higher and higher we went and narrower and narrower the path became until at one point it became little more than a sloping ledge which we had hop across. We then reached a bend and the pathway broadened out to some four feet or more. Now I have inherited an Irish sense of humor, a sense of the ridiculous and here was a fine example. At this point, the widest and safest part of the path had a fence around it !

After the holiday I posted off the Kodacrome films to Kodak in the envelopes provided, for only Kodak could process them.
When the results came back I was disappointed for about 50% were either grossly under or over exposed. Beach scenes washed out and night scenes simply blank.

I then bought my very first copy of the Amateur Photographer magazine in 1963. Determined not to repeat the disaster. In fact I still have that magazine. I was bitten by the photography bug and had no inkling as to the future and my life as a photographer. Just three years later I was chief photographer on a local newspaper.



ALL ABOUT weblog


Posted on July 12, 2009

by kfbphoto

After the disaster with my holiday pictures from Ireland and my purchase of my first copy of the Amateur Photographer magazine, my training in photography began in earnest.
I went to the local library. No internet then. Scoured the photographic dealers in my area and chatted to the staff. Even got a saturday job with a photographic chain store. Then bought an SLR. A Practica. I laugh now, but the Practicamat was top of its range then and I was thrilled to bits.
I then joined a photographic society in Birmingham and discovered not only like mined souls bent on improving their photography skills, but a very helpful, informative and friendly lot of people.


The next investment was an enlarger, after all everyone else at the club developed and printed their own and your not a real photographer until you can do so. The enlarger was a Gnome alpha 2, basic amateur job, though it did have a clever built in split image focusing aid. I then bought my first developing tank a single reel Paterson Universal, which could develop 35mm and medium format film. Off I went around my area shooting anything that moved and did not move. Returning home to my little cupboard converted into a darkroom. I recall having a great deal of difficulty winding my first roll of film into the spiral. This of course done in total darkness. The desperate desire to switch the light on to see what was going wrong had to be resisted ! Finally I got the hang of it and went out into the light and my kitchen where a row of chemicals, measure’s and a thermometer were all laid out.

Now the scary bit, all excited I read the mixing instructions several times again and proceeded to pour the developer into the tank for the first time. 68 degrees F or 20 degrees C. I started my timer and developing began. Every 30 seconds I had to invert the tank to let fresh chemicals get to the film surface, or the emulsion will not develop evenly and nasty marks and uneven development areas will result. The minutes passed and the time came to pour out the used developer and pour in a stop bath.
I had been advised to use white diluted vinegar Which indeed does the trick perfectly for it is clear acetic acid. Its a lot cheaper than proprietary brands of ‘ stop bath ‘ and you can buy it at most supermarkets. The stop bath does just that, arrests the developer and helps the next stage, fixing. Several inversions of the tank and after 30 seconds or so, its time to pour out the ‘ stop bath ‘ and on with the final process, the fixer !
A few minutes later it was time to wash my film and then , and then for the first time ever, at least for me, get to see my results. Nervously unscrewing the developing tank top, I took out the spiral holding my wet film. Carefully unravelling the delicate 5’ 4.1/2 inches of Ilford FP3 I looked at my work. I was so excited, there appeared to be 36 negatives running along the length of film. Success ! That excitement has never really left me. So much fun, anticipation, much more so than looking at a computer monitor. I must have been made to be a photographer by the way. A 36 exposure film measures five feet four and a half inches. Film can be bought in ‘ bulk lengths ‘ and you can load this into cassettes yourself, Its cheaper this way. So how do you measure the film in total darkness. Well there are ways , but it just so happens that when I stretch my arms out and hold film at arms length, guess what, just right. I was Made to be a photographer.


I hung the film up to dry in as dust free atmosphere as I could manage and went off to have a celebratory cup of coffee and also to remove myself from the vicinity of the film while it dried so as not to create and dust particles. About half and hour later the film was dry. So I made up some print developer ( this is generally different from film developer ) Stop bath and fixer ( invariably the same type of fixer as used for film ) topped up my three 10” x 8” print developing trays and inserted my first negatives into the enlarger. Made a rough guess at exposure and put the paper into the developer. It rather rapidly turned almost black ….
Strange emotions, excitement, disappointment and confusion all rolled into one, what had gone wrong ?
That’s for the next episode.

About kfbphoto

Photo-journalist for over 35 years. Providing the finest news images and commercial work to many of the worlds top companies, media and the public. an innovator who was one of the first digital artists and published the UK's first local newspapers on an computer. Vast experience in film and digital. Writer, author and lecturer about photography. BBC overseas weekly radio spot for over a year on photography with 350,000 listeners. Now based in Gibraltar and Spain providing top quality service and with own personal ever expanding picture and image library



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  • Kfbphoto's PICTURE COLLECTION Blog

ALL ABOUT weblog


My first print was, as I said in the last post, a bit of a disappointment to say the least.
All I had for my efforts was a wet sheet of paper witch had to all intents turned black on one side. Exposure I realised immediately was the problem, but how to remedy it and by how much ?

We jumped out of ' our ' helicopter and immediately began taking pictures.

So I tried another print this time giving it half the exposure of the first. I slid the blank sheet of printing paper into the developer and began to rock the tray gently back and forward to cover the print with developer. Again the paper began to darken, this time rather more slowly. after a minute I had a photograph, still too dark, but at least I could see the original scene I had taken. After fixing the print I took it out into the light and washed it in the sink. Wow, my first black and white photograph. Too dark, but now I was getting somewhere and it was exciting, and after all these years and many tens of thousands of prints, still is a wonderful experience. If you have never developed your own films and prints, you are missing out on a very particular experience.
There is an even more important connection.
Learning about digital photography and playing on a computer is one thing. Learning how to use film gives you an insight and greater understanding into photography that enables you to use digital cameras and photoshop to a greater degree.

I am self taught in digital photography and photoshop techniques. I had to be. Way back in the very early 1990’s I had the honor of a call from the press office at Whitehall, in London. The call came through at 3.00am. I was told that If I wanted I could go on a trip to the Royal Navy aircraft carrier ‘ Ark Royal ‘ which was heading for the Bosnia coast. I had to be at Portland Bill in Dorset at 6.00am for a pre flight briefing !

Problem was I was in Wiltshire at the time, about a 100 miles away. What ! I then woke up, bloody hell, I’m off to the Ark Royal by chopper. I did my usual ablutions at double speed and grabbed my camera bag. In the large Billingham 550 bag were my trusty Nikon F2, F3 and an FM2n for back up, though I have never needed a back for a Nikon yet ! Grabbed an SB16 flash thinking there would be little need for flash anyway and to take a big Metz was too bulky. Now in a state of panic I decided on lenses. 20mm f2.8 essential as space would be limited and I liked to get in close for those intimate impact images. Next a 28mm and my 80-200 f4 Nikkor, that I decided would cover just about every possibillty. Grabbed a pro pack of Ilford HP5 and some 400 ASA ( ISO ) colour neg.

My long suffering partner was a wonderful lady and had risen and while I was getting ready had made coffe and breakfast and then decided to drive me there herself.

Now north Wiltshire to the Dorset coast for those not of UK origin is not a road journey you would pick if you needed to get somewhere fast. No motorways for a start. ‘ A’ and ‘ B’ roads was the best route we decided and at that time of the morning there would be little traffic. Driving through the dark we past Warminster, Longleat Safari park, then down through Dorset passing the giant ‘ Rude man of Cern Abbas ‘ a 180 foot high figure cut into the hillside was just visible in the dawn mists. Thought to date back to 180-190 AD the figure is of a man and there is no doubt that it is of a man ! Always meant to get some pictures of him, but I thought the MOD would not be best pleased if I turned up late because having stopped to take pictures of a chalk figure on the way !

The panic only ended when we arrived at Portland Bill Naval base with minutes to spare and I was ushered into an office with several other photographers and journalist from the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and the Times. We were given our briefing and then had to climb into our survival suits. Bright orange and very cumbersome. A bit like an old fashioned bell diving suit in luminous orange. An instant camaraderie developed between members of the press. We all looked so silly and so had to record the event by taking pictures of each other of course.

Then we marched across the runway to our transport, a Lynx helicopter. I had been in a Lynx several times before while taking pictures for the Navy and royal dockyard in Gibraltar, but some of my companions were not too sure about the trip to say the least.
My previous experiences had involved sitting at the open door attached to the chopper by a leather belt around my waist and that in turn attached to a long strap. it is in fact possible to fall out, but only about ten feet !

As we arrived at the aircraft carrier the BBC and independent TV crews were busy filming and I wanted to get some shots. I got up from my seat and undid the strap, for on this occasion it was short and did not allow me to get close to the open door with it still attached. I groped my way past my fellow passengers who seemed quite content to remain where they were. Now Being daring to get pictures is one thing, being stupid is another. How was I to get close to the doorway without the possibility of falling out. The survival suit meant considerable mobility problems and of course hanging on to something was impossible while using cameras at the same time. I had the honor of being invited and respect for that alone meant being careful not to turn the exercise into a rescue ! A journalist sat opposite the door nodded to me and I understood. He would hold on to my belt while I stood in the doorway. Speech was not possible due to the noise of the engines.


We were then told to prepare for landing, so I thanked my ‘ saviour ‘ and managed to hobble back to my seat.

Landing was a little bumpy, I love all that sort of thing, but it seems I was one of the few on board that did ! Immediately on landing I started shooting pictures on deck in the rough weather. Then disaster struck. I reached into the pocket of my bag for more film and drew out a pro pack of 120 roll film ! in my rush and being half a sleep I had packed the wrong sized film. I had only a few frames left in one camera and half a roll of fast colour neg in the other. I was going to have to be very careful about the pictures I took !

Having judiciously shot a few more pics. a rating came up to me. ” are you Kevin ” ? he asked. Yes I replied rather curiously. ” Can you come with me, Chris North, our phot says he knows you and wants to see you ”
I coulden’t believe it. Chris, a brilliant photographer was at the time the Royal Navies chief photographer and an old friend from my gibraltar days, just happened to be on board.
Astonished I was led down into the bouncing ship.
After a rapid chat about coincidence and old times I could not resist the opportunity, ” er chris I seem to have left most of my film on shore I wonder if … ”
He laughed, you mean you come all this way and have left your film behind ? ”
Feeling very sheepish I had to admit my stupidity. ” Here ” he kindly tossed me a few rolls, that enough ” ? I thanked him profusely and we agreed to meet in the officers mess for a few pints later.
That chance meeting meant I was given the right to roam after a chat with the skipper. I was well know from Gibraltar and chance had thrown me a line.

I spent an hour wandering about the ship taking shots and NOT taking others.
A photographer has to know his stuff in such circumstances and I knew there were pictures you took and those you did not. Same were common sense, some were down to knowledge. Thus my ability to roam. From experience and a degree of common sense I knew the score.

honored I was allowed onto the Bridge of the Ark Royal

A few pints of HSBC in the mess and a chat to other photographers from ‘ Fleet st ” revealed that we were on a slippery slope. The introduction of autofocus, autoexposure cameras had increased the number of photographers chasing celebrities. The tabloids were selling more papers with such ‘ news ‘ pictures. ‘Real ‘ or serious photographers with vast experience and talent were becoming redundant and the numbers of people chasing so called celebs for money were flooding the profession. You either had to take up running a pub or do weddings and commercial work.

Which is where I left off. Learning to use photoshop at speed became a necessity if I was to survive. ‘ I had been out of the game ‘ for just a few months and things had changed rapidly as I was about to learn when I tried to sell my pics.

Choppers on deck of HMS Ark Royal during excercise

I phoned the picture desks and was asked if I could ‘ Mac ‘ my pictures through as sending bike riders to collect the films was no longer being used. Portland Bill to London by car was out, it would take to long. I did manage to sell my pics, but not as many as I could have,
I knew how to use a computer and a Mac from old and so It was a rapid purchase of an Apple Mac and a film scanner. No digital then, that was about to happen.
Brides and Grooms sometimes ask me if I miss doing such work. Yes I do, but wedding photography in Wales can be just as demanding, but I never have forgot to take film….

Many thanks to Chris North who now runs a photography business in Leeds.


Now resident in PORTUGAL and available in Gibraltar and the Costa del sol for  my picture library at I am a self taught photographer and in return photography has taught me much about life and the world around me. From humble beginnings as a an amateur ( not that there is anything humble about being an amateur  ) to covering major events for the international press. Photography has been my life and photography made that life so very interesting.

Next time you take out your camera wether it be a camera built into your phone, top of the line digital SLR or film camera, think about the world around you. Try a little test. First restrict the amount of pictures you take. Digital photography has led to many people taking hundreds of pictures only to whittle them down after many hours to a few.

Some professionals are just as guilty, indeed some so called professionals make a living out of photography this way. Auto everything and shoot hundreds of pictures. Its why some photographers are so expensive. All that time in front of a computer sorting out the rubbish has to be paid for ! Is not photography and certainly not art and does not bring satisfaction.

So to save time, relax, enjoy yourself and improve your photography. Imagine you have a roll of film with 36 exposures. Select a topic, gates, windows, people, trees whatever you fancy and try to restrict yourself to that subject. Though if Prince Charles rides past on a white horse wearing nothing but a long wig don’t miss it and get on to the Sun newspaper and negotiate your fee first !

Seriously if something beyond your topic looks excellent take the picture. Just try to stay on topic. Then give yourself a time limit. During your lunchtime from work an hour if your lucky. Or a Sunday stroll for 3 hours. Also try to remain within your immediate locality. In walking distance. You have now restricted yourself. Probably to an area that is very familiar to you.

However now try to see what you have not seen before. Above, below, both sides and don’t forget behind you. Practice seeing pictures behind you and imagine what the scene you have just passed will look like from that angle then turn and see if you were right. Notice light and shade on familiar places and objects. Patterns in the most overlooked obvious things sometimes reveal great pictures. More than that this method improves your ability to ‘see’ and improves your photography and experience of life.

Try really hard to relax and live life. See as you have never seen before. Clouds and trees can be breathtaking when you allow the beauty to come through to you. Only practice in interpreting those sights will bring results you are satisfied with. But it does not prevent you enjoying the experience. Restricting the amount of pictures you take will seriously improve your ability and your pleasure of the experience. Many contemporary forms of technology lead us to expect perfection and immediate satisfaction. We have been conditioned by advertising and business to rush, work and buy. In fact taking pleasure from trying to improve our abilities with a quality approach and thinking about what we are doing brings greater skills, satisfaction and appreciation. In short it makes you a happier person. Its good for you and so is the exercise.

When you download those pictures on to your Mac or PC. It will be paradoxically quicker than usual. Study all the pictures carefully before you edit and ask yourself why you took the picture. Did you miss a better angle ? Would the picture be better if you went back on a rainy day or at night ? When you have selected your favorites do a few basic improvements in contrast and saturation if needed. Again study the picture/s, will they stand without any more manipulation ? hopefully you will find a few pictures that are fine without too much alteration.

If you are good they will all be good pictures. That is what you are aiming for. Taking more time to enjoy the experience and improve your ability. That in turn brings peace, satisfaction, fulfillment and happiness. Just for taking a few photographs,
Much better than cheating by taking too many and manipulating the results. Some pictures and scenes cry out for manipulation and indeed it can be very creative and fun. That is however another story for later.

Enjoy your photography a and learn to enjoy your life more through the art of seeing. But photography has much, much more to offer. My next blog will go a little deeper into the psychology of photography and improving your imagination. After all it was Einstein that said imagination is the greater part of intelligence.

Kevin Fitzmaurice-Brown ©


About kfbphoto

Photo-journalist for over 25 years. Providing the finest news images and commercial work to many of the worlds top companies, media and the public. an innovator who was one of the first digital artists and published the UK's first local newspapers on an computer. Vast experience in film and digital. Writer, author and lecturer about photography. BBC overseas weekly radio spot for over a year on photography with 350,000 listeners. Now based in Gibraltar and Spain providing top quality service and with own personal ever expanding picture and image library

  • kevin says:
    April 23, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    The photography information about Gibraltar and the picture library is most informative. wedding photography blog also

Posted on May 14, 2010

by kfbphoto

Panoramics of Gibraltar. I have been asked so many times by clients big and small for something different to illustrate their product of location over the years. A client in Gibraltar  also wanted somethign different. so I showed the an image I took for an Oil refinery in Wales.


My client wanted the refinery to look ‘ pretty ‘ a difficult task to say the least. and the final image was to be blown up to 10 metres by almost three metres , That around 30 feet by 9 feet. The quality had to be stunning also. Yes you can do a panoramic on an iphone or amateur digital camera, but the quality ? These images are from between 150 mbts and 4 gigbyts each ! Meaning they can be enlarged to enormous sizes without loss of quality.


So I decided the only was to to do a panoramic. this involved 64 separate images. 32 for a sunset sky and 32 for the oil refinery and the foreground. The final image was 4 gigabytes in size. A lot of calculation and preparation was needed, not to mention the hours of work afterward.


A true panoramic is not just a picture taken with a wide angle lens. the wide angle ‘ squeezes ‘ in as much as possible depending on the lens, but also distorts perspective in order to do so. Don’t try taking close up portraits of your friends with a wide angle if you want to keep your friends !


A panoramic is a series of carefully overlapped images blended together. a special tripod head is used which includes a leveler, spirit level, and panoramic head for the camera. It is not possible to use a normal tripod head.

Creating a good panorama requires thought, calculation and experience. For example you cant shoot one from a boat or other moving object. Nor can you normally do a ‘ pano’  of objects that are themselves moving, boats under sail, busy street scenes with moving traffic etc. Because you are overlapping images you will capture two or more of a moving object or person producing several ‘ ghosts ‘ Great sometimes if you want a surreal image. not if your clients wants accuracy !


Talking of ‘ ghost ‘ images. A UK Council which looked after an area with a population some 200 times that of Gibraltar and Gibraltar has a government.  Wanted a picture of the new shopping mall without people Trouble was they had already opened it and thousands of people walked through every hour. No problem I said. The man at the council looked at me suspiciously. ” you can do it ” ?


Off I went to the busy shopping Mall. I borrowed a ladder and climbed onto a high ledge among potted plants. Set up my camera. It was loaded with the slowest film available. the wonderful Kodachrome 25. 35mm still vastly superior in quality to any digital camera today. I added two 8x neutral density filters, these reduced the light coming into my camera by 16 times. Working out the reciprocity failure factor and colour shift ( I wont go into that here ! ) I decided that the inddor shot would take over 1.5 hours.

I released the shutter on ‘B ‘ left the camera in its position and went for lunch in the local pub. Nice way to earn a living !


Well I presented the picture to the man at the council. The only sign of a human being was the slight ghost of a man who had stopped outside a television shop to watch TV for around 20 minutes. Other than him the shopping center was empty. can you work out why ?


Next blog panarama’s in Rhondda and Ronda !

About kfbphoto

Photo-journalist for over 25 years. Providing the finest news images and commercial work to many of the worlds top companies, media and the public. an innovator who was one of the first digital artists and published the UK's first local newspapers on an computer. Vast experience in film and digital. Writer, author and lecturer about photography. BBC overseas weekly radio spot for over a year on photography with 350,000 listeners. Now based in Gibraltar and Spain providing top quality service and with own personal ever expanding picture and image library

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