Windows ate my Lightroom catalogue

On Thursday my PC got the latest Windows 10 update. On Friday, my external hard drive had disappeared. Lightroom still showed my photographs using its previews, but it couldn't find the originals. Every single folder displayed a question mark. Hundreds of thousands of image files had gone missing.

The more I researched the problem online the more worried I became. Neither the online help systems nor the user forums of either Microsoft or Western Digital turned up the simple, clear, recent advice I wanted: “It's a well-known issue, just do x and y.” Instead, the articles and threads were long and confusing, with multiple options and many comments of the “I tried that, but it didn’t work” type. Many suggested reformatting the hard drive as the best solution.


I told myself to stay calm. It was true that everything was backed up in the cloud. But still, downloading terabytes of data and rebuilding my Lightroom catalogue was not the way I had planned to spend my weekend.

I turned off the PC.

I unplugged the hard drive from the USB port and powered it down.

I turned on the PC.

I powered up the hard drive and plugged it back into a different USB port.

Reader, it worked! Everything is back to normal. Windows sees the drive again, even on wake from sleep or hard reboot. Lightroom knows where to find each photograph.

Birds: singing. Sun: shining.

Microsoft 0 - 1 Simon

Not photographing people

We’ve had fabulous weather in Brussels this week, frosty and clear with low winter sun creating one long ‘golden hour’ from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon. I’ve used it to do something I haven’t done in ages — take pictures of buildings. I’ve criss-crossed the city by bus and tram and on foot, and have really enjoyed myself. It’s amazing how exhilarating it is to look at fresh subject matter, entirely different from what you usually shoot.

A couple of weeks ago I received a commission for four large mounted and framed prints of buildings in Brussels as decoration for a client’s office. I asked my client for feedback on about 20 images from my catalogue in order to get a sense of what she was after. This turned out to be architectural studies without any dominant human presence. Apart from that she was very open — whole buildings or details, art nouveau, art deco, modern, post-modern…

I don’t like using a tripod — it makes the tiny last-minute changes in position that determine the angle and framing of each shot almost impossible. So I was shooting hand-held, mostly with a 135mm f/2.0 Nikkor, which is a lovely lens but lacks image stabilisation (or ‘vibration reduction’ in Nikonese). And since I knew that some of the photos would be printed at 90 x 60cm I used my Nikon D810’s base ISO of 64, which always produces a startling leap in resolution and dynamic range by comparison even with ISO 100. Happily, the day was bright enough that I could shoot almost everything at 1/250 sec or above.

Of course, I couldn’t resist the temptation to include people in a few of the photographs I took. How many can you spot?

Photographs for a corporate website

I am working with Brussels-based communication agency ESN to create images for its new website, which should be online by the end of 2018. It’s a work in progress — I probably have another day of shooting and editing still to do. But it’s already been a great learning experience and I wanted to record my impressions while they were still fresh.

The brief was to shoot three sets of images to give the website a real flavour of the agency’s human side — full portraits of key people and group shots, as well as simple headshots of the whole team of 50. We decided to shoot most of the portraits and groups at a handful of well-known locations in central Brussels.

For the group shots, we set up loose scenarios in which the subjects discussed an actual project. I found that if I could get them talking about something that really interested them we could avoid the kind of acting that always looks exaggerated and false in the photos.

I planned to crop these group images to the ‘cinematic’ 16:9 aspect ratio, since they will probably be used for page headers, so I tried to shoot for this format. But it still isn’t clear whether the agency is going to use them in colour or in black and white. In the end, I have delivered both versions of each image. Which do you think works best?

I’m doing the headshots in an empty office with simple LED lighting to balance natural light from the window. It’s a fascinating challenge to try and capture each individual’s personality in just a few minutes. As usual, a number tell me that they are not photogenic or don’t like having their picture taken, but I’ve gently insisted on making at least 20 or 30 images of everyone, and so far I think we have succeeded in avoiding the classic photobooth look. Some subjects gave me a little longer and were willing to play in front of the camera.