Month: November 2013

Further Variations

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My last post has drawn some interesting feedback on which image people like best and why. The thing I find fascinating about this exercise is not only do we tend to favour one image over the other (most of the time), but we tend to do this for different reasons. I have just read a great comment from Paul making the point that the different tones in the surrounding grass, some dead and some alive is distracting as well as the direction of the grass. Whilst I also see this (more now Paul points it out), it doesn’t cause me any issues with the colour image. In fact it makes it feel more natural to me.

Another comment from David talks about liking the subtle graduations in tone from the colour image. This is also my perspective and what I find so attractive about the colour image. I do however also like the sharpness and clarity of the black and white image BUT wouldn’t want to see that reproduced in the colour image. I feel it would lose it’s subtly if that happened.

This suggests to me (perhaps this is obvious to others) that when we assess an image we each favour different qualities over others. Some of us look for strong shape and form in an image and judge this to be the priority. Others look for subtle graduations in colour and tone ahead of other factors. Maybe other favour texture over everything. Perhaps if we develop an awareness of how others see photography we might develop a more rounded view ourselves, which could lead to our performance as photographers improving.

So enough of the psycho analysis. I wanted to share a few more versions of yesterdays image, adopting some (not all) of the suggestions made.

Any favourites?

Variation 1
Variation 1. Click to enlarge.
Variation 2. Click to enlarge
Variation 2. Click to enlarge.
Variation 3. Click to enlarge.
Variation 3. Click to enlarge.
Variation 4. Click to enlarge.
Variation 4. Click to enlarge.

The last two images are my preference, but the colour one sneaks it, for me at least.

Which do you like best

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Frosty leaf. Converted to Black and White using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
Frosty leaf. Converted to Black and White using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. Click the image to view larger.

I captured this image of a frosty yesterday morning on the edge of a car park. It did raise a few eyebrows from passersby. My initial intension was to convert it to a black and white image using Nik Silver Efex Pro. I made a few variations of the image using different conversions, some high key some low key and some high contrast but none ticked the box for me.

Then I remembered a new Nik programme that I had downloaded whilst trying to fix a problem with Lightroom 5.2 (still not fixed) and thought I would give it a go. The filter is called Analogue Efex and allows you to simulate all sorts of camera and film effects. Usually I am not impressed by such applications and to be honest, looking through the presets I wasn’t hopeful. I then found the custom sections where you can create your own effects and the image below was the result. I produced both the colour version and then converted this to the black and white version above with Silver Efex Pro.

Frosty leaf version 2. Click the image to view a large version.
Frosty leaf version 2. Click the image to view a large version.

I have made prints from both and the prints are excellent quality but I don’t know which I prefer. I think I am edging towards the colour version but then I switch to black and white. I was wondering what others thought – my wife dismisses anything black and white immediately so if you have similar tendencies your immediately banned from commenting.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

I almost forgot, there also seems to have been other updates installing themselves in the background. This includes a few presets for different applications but I also noticed the grain simulation is now superb. It looks completely natural and is so much better than before. I actually find myself wanting to add grain.

Its Weekend Again

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Elterwater, The Lake District
Elterwater, The Lake District

I think I will try to make it a habit to to share an image for the weekend on Fridays. That probably means I will fail dismally after this one, as my commitments often keep me from sticking to a schedule.

Let’s start with this image though. I shot this a couple of weeks back on a trip to the Lake District. At the time we had hoped for much more as the weather had been beautiful and we thought there would be some cloud to give a sunset. The weather was also perfect for mist to rise from the river (as it often does at this time of year).

In the end the cloud vanished. There was no sunset to speak of and the mist was very wispy. Even more annoyingly was the condensation forming on my filters constantly caused by the sudden drop in temperature once the sun had set.

The mist you see on the image here is the result of my cleaning my filter at the top and bottom so that I left a misty strip along the centre. I then lined it up on so that it appeared to hang over the water. It’s old tech but it worked

A new lens in the bag

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English Lake District
English Lake District

To be totally honest, it’s actually two new lenses in the bag. The first is a 14mm prime which I picked up very cheaply. It was originally part of a Panasonic G series camera kit, but was sold separately having never been used (there are a lot of these on the market at present). The other lens and the subject of this blog is the new Panasonic 14-140mm lens.

I have wanted one of these lenses for a while and my hope is that it will replace my 14-45mm and 45-200mm lenses. This won’t be all the time but when weight and convenience is a factor. Typically this will be when I am out walking in the mountains as I don’t really like to stop to change lenses. I know that sounds lazy but when you’re up a mountain in bad weather, possibly with others, possibly at altitude, you don’t want to start messing around swapping lenses.

My first impression of this lens is that it is well made as you would expect from Panasonic. In terms of size it’s only slightly bigger than my Panasonic 14-45mm and doesn’t weight too much more. The front element is slightly wider at 58mm where the core zooms in my Micro 43 kit are all 52mm.

What matters to me most however is performance. If I compare this lens to the two lenses it needs to replace, my first impressions are that it isn’t quite as sharp as my 14-45mm but performs very nicely within this zoom range. Beyond this I am a little uncertain. It certainly isn’t as sharp as my 45-200mm which is excellent and its performance seems to dip beyond about 60mm BUT I think this may be my technique.

So far the weather hasn’t allowed me to really get the feel for the longer focal lengths. I have been shooting these handheld and the speeds haven’t been as fast as I would like. Every so often I have been able to shoot an image which looks good and the performance has been quite close to the 45-200mm lens. I think I need to get this on a tripod and take some comparison shots.

Hope you like the image.

One for the Weekend

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Thorntons Force
Thorntons Force

Not a long post today but I thought I would share one of the images I have been working on. This is Thornton’s Force in the Yorkshire Dales (UK). A friend and I had visited the Lake District to shoot Landscapes but the rain had come in so we reconsidered our plans. We checked our mobiles and only an hours’ drive away the weather looked much better (don’t you love technology). When we arrived, it was still overcast but at least it wasn’t raining heavily.

For those of you who know the area, this is quite an impressive falls. It is heavily photographed but most images that you see tend to look at the falls directly from the front. Despite this, the point I shot this image from is equally accessible but for some reason few people seem to use it. I’m sure there are lots of images out there already but I quite like this and wanted to share it.

Have a good weekend.

It’s Good to be Dissatisfied

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Woodland scene from Acadia National Park, Maine, USA
Woodland scene from Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

I was out taking photographs with a friend at weekend and mentioned that it’s good to be dissatisfied. Let me explain my theory.

When we first start out in photography it’s likely that we won’t take very good pictures. After some weeks or months of practice we might capture a few images that we recognise as being better than the rest. At this point it’s likely we will begin sharing these with other people. If we are really honest we find that most of us are probably seeking validation that our work is good.

This sharing of photographs will continue as our desire for external validation of our skills grows. After some time, as our skills improve (possibly years later) we will reach a point where we recognise that our work is good and no longer care what others think. We now have an internal reference against which to judge our work.

When we reach this point in our development, where we don’t care what others think, we move to the next stage. Here we recognise our work is good but you also immediately pick out the faults. These can be many and varied but ultimately we become dissatisfied with our own performance, be that technical or aesthetic. Interestingly, we seldom show our work in public for comment at this stage. We may however show selected images we believe are of a better quality with other photographers whose opinion we respect. This is not to seek their approval but their agreement on the faults and how to improve the image.

Just occasionally, we manage to capture an image where everything is right. When this happens to you, you will immediately pick the image out of your collection as being much better than the rest. You will likely show this to the other photographers whose opinion you respect to see if their assessment is the same as yours.

This happened to me this weekend where I shared my print of the above image. Now it’s likely you are looking at this image and thinking there is nothing to it, it’s just a bunch of trees. The print however is exceptional and looks like you could just walk into the scene. The screen view just doesn’t do the image justice. Interestingly this print was with others that aren’t as good yet my friend still managed to pick it out.

This is very satisfying.

New Book Launch

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Nik Sharpener 3 Book Cover
Nik Sharpener 3 Book Cover

I am very pleased (or relieved depending on how you look at it) to be able to share that my new eBook covering Nik Sharpener Pro 3 is out and can be purchased from Amazon.  It’s titled Nik Sharpener Pro 3: How to achieve razor sharp images. It’s priced as usual to be value for money at $3.99 (£2.51 in the UK). Here is the link to the book on Amazon.com. If you are in another country such as the UK, Amazon provide a helpful link over on the right hand side(see the green box) to switch to your own country where the book can be purchased.

If you are a member of my Lenscraft website you will shortly receive an email advising of a special introductory offer. If you’re not a member and would like to receive advanced notifications of future offers by email, add yourself to my mailing list by signing up as at www.lenscraft.co.uk. It’s completely free and I promise not to share your email address with others or bombard you with email (I hate it when people do that to me).

I hope that those of you who purchase the book enjoy it.

Panoramic Photography Update

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7 image stitch captured on the Olympus OMD in portrait format using my homemade panoramic kit.
7 image stitch captured on the Olympus OMD in portrait format using my homemade panoramic kit.

Recently blogged about my lightweight (and to some extent cut price) alternative to using a Panoramic head. By combining a Macro focussing rail (purchased from Amazon for an unbelievably cheap price) with an L-Bracket I was able to position my camera vertically and rotate it around the nodal point to avoid parallax error.

Parallax error occurs when objects in the distance appear to shift position in relation to foreground objects when you swing your camera in order to make exposures for stitching. If the movement is small, the stitching software you are using may be able to fix the problem. The best solution though is to avoid it. Panoramic heads fix the problem by mounting the camera so that when the camera is rotated it moves around the nodal point (actually the term is not entirely correct).

Whilst I have a couple of panoramic heads they are bulky and heavy and quite expensive. I have therefore been searching for lighter and cheaper solutions, hence my earlier post. One of the more expensive components in my solution is the L-Bracket which is a Novoflex item. This is very well built and quite light given its size. I hinted at the time that I was exploring an alternative and am now able to confirm this has arrived.

The new L-Bracket is much smaller than the Novoflex item as well as lighter. It was also around £20 including shipping which is amazing. I purchased this from ebay and here is the link.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/MPU100-Universal-Quick-Release-QR-L-Plate-Bracket-For-Camera-Body-Arca-Swiss-/330947325790?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4d0dff6f5e

To say that I am delighted is an understatement. The only problem some people may experience is that the item is small for SLR’s and may not fit larger models. For Micro 43 users however this is the perfect size and very well made. Even if you are not thinking of shooting panoramic images, this is a great solution to being able to change the orientation of your camera without moving the tripod head.

It’s not often you find something so good for such a great price.