Shine a light!

Or, go somewhere really cold and be astounded…

Abisko Aurora

I’ve just come back from a fantastic weekend in Northern Sweden. Inside the Arctic Circle. Landing and taking off from a snow-covered runway at Kiruna Airport. Mostly eating reindeer.

Looking up from time to time, so I’ve been able to take amazing photos like the one above.

I’ve learned how to ride a snowmobile. I’ve also learned how to crash a snowmobile. Fortunately, landing in a couple of feet of snow is a cushioning experience, and the only bruises I came away with were to my pride, and to my wallet because a small plastic fairing got broken.

I’ve glid across deserted frozen rivers, almost silently, moved by nothing but dog power.

I’ve spent a (very chilly, -29C!) evening with top Aurora photographer Chad Blakley, picking up tips on how to get the best out of your Aurora photography, and how to set up and look after your camera in freezing conditions.

When the temperature gets down below about -15C, ice forms on any exposed hair (such as eyebrows and facial hair), up your nose, and in my case, sometimes on my glasses, as the moisture from your breath freezes.

The whole experience has been fantastic, and everyone we dealt with has been friendly, welcoming, and shared their love of the amazing area around Abisko.

We arranged the trip through Weekend a la Carte, who gave us first class advice in terms of being prepared for the Arctic, and put together a seamless experience for us.

What an amazing experience. Brilliant. Coming home to a damp 11C feels positively balmy.

Lapporten IMG_7912.jpg

Jessops goes bump

Widely covered in the press today is the another high street retailer going into administration, this time, the photography chain, Jessops.

Jessops was the sort of place you would go to buy camera stuff if you needed it quickly and couldn’t wait for it to be delivered, i.e. you were desperate for a particular widget that they happened to have in stock. The other reason you might visit Jessops is to check something out, and then go and order online for a better price.

For instance, I like photography. Before I headed on holiday at the end of last year, I thought I could do with a good wide-angle lens for my DSLR. Running out of time before the trip, I had looked at the local Jessops. Compared to Jessops’ walk-in price, the lens was over £150 cheaper online and still delivered next working day.

The professional market spurned Jessops for being too consumer oriented (with a limited in-store range and high prices) in favour of independent and online shops (or small, specialist chains like Calumet), and the bottom has fallen out of the consumer point-and-shoot market because almost everyone’s mobile phone has a half-decent point-and-shoot camera packaged in it.

Jessops did have an online store, but the prices weren’t significantly better value than those offered in the high street, and not competitive against other online retailers such as Amazon.

That’s what killed Jessops. They were expensive, failed to move with changing habits, and ended up appealing to a very fickle and limited audience.

Phone cameras: Apple continue to dominate

I was carelessly browsing through flickr’s camera stats, and I thought I’d go back and revisit the post I did 6 months ago, where I thought that flickr’s stats on cameraphone usage said something about the loyalty of the iPhone userbase.

So, the latest breakdown of the most popular cameraphones used to upload to flickr is still dominated by Apple:

The 4S has now overtaken the 4 as the most popular camera, just in the past month, but 4 usage isn’t really falling off, it seems to have plateaued.

The long tail of 3G and 3GS continues, with the nearest Apple competitor, the Galaxy SII only garnering the same number of daily uploads as the 3G.

Now, if anyone from flickr is reading this, what would be interesting is a comparison of iOS vs. Android vs. Windows Phone devices, as it will be interesting to see how this changes over time, particularly as there seems to be just more and more feature parity and less USP across the smartphone market.

I also thought that it was interesting that uploads from cameraphones to flickr are altogether higher than dSLRs, with the iPhone 4S dominating, and have been for some time: