Month: January 2014

Weekend Image No. 006

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Heswall Marina, near Liverpool
Heswall Marina, near Liverpool

It’s a day early (because I have a hectic schedule tomorrow and over the weekend) but here is this week’s weekend image and it’s an odd one. The reason I say this is because I like the image when I first look at it and it even prints very nicely. It’s then when I start to look more closely that I grow to dislike it. I can’t quite put my finger on why but I think it’s connected with the contradiction of the scene.

The reflection, composition and nice light give this a very tranquil feel which I like. The location though is outside an old boat yard on an estuary that is quite cluttered and not quite as perfect as perhaps the image suggests. When I look closely into the image I think I start to recognise the imperfections present in image. It’s this contradiction that makes me change my mind – I think.

As you probably don’t recognise the area, I hope you enjoy the image and that my indecision doesn’t influence you.

Photography with an open mind

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Ogden near Milnrow. Conversion with Nik Color Efex using the Infrared and Grain filters. Captured with a Sony RX10
Ogden near Milnrow. Conversion with Nik Color Efex using the Infrared and Grain filters. Captured with a Sony RX10

Yesterday was time for a walk in that it wasn’t raining hard; at least not when I headed out. As is usually the case I picked up a camera to take with me but this time it was a hard decision. Was it worth actually bothering?

You see the walk I was intending to do was around 10 miles and didn’t involve any mountains or spectacular scenery. In fact it was really a walk to keep up fitness levels. The area is quite nice if you like the stark, bleak moorland of the North of England but at the moment it looks pretty horrible with all the rain.

I walk in this particular area quite regularly and over the years have tried to take landscape images. It is, without doubt one of the most challenging locations I have come across. I have tried it in all weather conditions (snow isn’t bad), at all times of year and all times of day and night but I seldom come away with any photographs that I like.

This time I picked up the RX10 and after some decision making I decided to take it. In the end I stopped a total of 4 times to take a handful of pictures, but each time I captured something I quite like. I have never managed anything so productive in the past so why the sudden turnaround in my fortunes?

It’s certainly not down to equipment, although I really like using the RX10. No, I think it’s more to do with how I approached the photography or rather walk. I was out to do a walk rather than looking for images and because f this I had no expectations about what I would see or what type of image I was looking to create. I simply walked and if something caught my eye, I stopped and asked myself what it was. When I was clear in my own mind what was attracting me I took the photograph. You can see two of the processed images in this blog.

Drain in Holingworth Lake near Milnrow. Conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro. Capture with a Sony RX10.
Drain in Holingworth Lake near Milnrow. Conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro. Capture with a Sony RX10.

I think I need to take this approach more often rather than visit somewhere and become disappointed by what I find.

Friday Image 006

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Mountains of Norway. Captured on a Panasonic GF1 with Panasonic 45-200 lens.
Mountains of Norway. Captured on a Panasonic GF1 with Panasonic 45-200 lens.

In all my dashing around today I almost forgot to post my Friday image. I quite like the discipline of trying to create and post an image a week. I know others seem to manage one or more a day but I have too much else on to be able to make such a commitment. I think creating 1 image a week that I am happy to share is a good goal.

I shot this one almost 2 years ago on a trip to Norway. This was shot from the Hertigruten boat (I think it was the Troll Fjord). These provide a ferry service around the coast although it’s quite a bit more luxurious that this suggests. I think this was somewhere before we reached the Lofoten Islands. I came across the image whilst starting to clear out some of my many images and took a few minutes (about an hour really) to process it.

It was captured on a Panasonic GF1 with a Panasonic 45-200mm lens.

Have a great weekend.

Contemplative Photography

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Perito Morano Glacier in Argentina. Captured in 2007 using a Canon 400D.
Perito Morano Glacier in Argentina. Captured in 2007 using a Canon 400D. This is an immense slab of ice that is hard to appreciate from the picture. This section of the glacier face is probably a couple of hundred feet tall.

For some reason, quite often when I tell people that I am reading a book on photography they appear surprised. I don’t know why but it’s just the general impression I get. I start by saying this as I am about to discuss a book I have purchased.

Anyway, I was recently browsing the photography section of Waterston’s (for readers not in the UK, this is about the only remaining high street bookstore chain left). There seemed to be a plethora of new titles released for no doubt Christmas. Most of them were very similar and featured what I would describe as over processed images with impact but no lasting appeal. I then happened across a book titled “The Practice of Contemplative Photography” by Michael Wood and Andy Karr (link for amazon.co.uk and amazon.com).

From the cover I wasn’t expecting much but then you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover as the saying goes. Inside what struck me were the images. They were incredibly simple and the processing so subtle. A lot were by the authors but there were also some great images by people you are unlikely to have heard of. The authors had clearly spent a lot of time collating the images for the book.

Did I buy the book? Well, not from Waterston’s as they wanted £24.99 for a copy that was looking a little too worn. In the end I bought it from The Book Depository using Amazon Market Place (which was much better value) and it arrived this morning.

Now I have to say at this point that I haven’t read the text so as an instruction book I have no idea how good it may or may not be. What I know is that looking at the images it will make me contemplate my own work more.

Why you dont need a DSLR

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Captured on a DSLR - a 10 Mpixel Canon 400D (just to prove I'm not biased). This makes a great A2 print.
Captured on a DSLR – a 10 Mpixel Canon 400D (just to prove I’m not biased). This makes a great A2 print. Processed in Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex.

One of the great things I love about my blogging platform is that it allows me to see how people have found my site. Recently I have seen a lot of traffic coming from forums where people have considered switching from a DSLR to Micro 43. Typically someone with a good DSLR such as a Nikon D800 or Canon 7D will poses the question to gather the thinking of others and make a decision.

Often the reason they give for considering such a switch is not because the images are higher quality but because the Micro 43 cameras are more practical. Try carrying a full sized DSLR and 3 lenses up a mountain (with all your other gear) and you will soon understand the problem. Micro 43 is also more flexible than a bulky DSLR and people are now waking up to this fact.

The typical response I have seen to this question are dozens of replies from people suggesting they will regret it and will miss the quality of the DSLR. Clearly a lot of these answers will be based on what people have read in the photography magazines and not on personal experience from using the equipment.

So far I have resisted pitching in to these discussions as my voice and opinion will probably be lost in the noise. I thought therefore that I would post some reasons why you may not need that big DSLR (having made the switch myself) in case it provides help for someone grappling with this problem.

  1. If you are happy with your DSLR at the moment then don’t bother switching. You should only really consider this if you are at the point where you need to replace the DSLR or you have sufficient money to invest in dual systems. You are unlikely to achieve a noticeable improvement in performance unless your current lenses are poor quality (micro 43 lenses are typically better for their cost) or your camera is poor in which case you are back to needing to replace it.
  2. Do you really have the need for something smaller than a DSLR? I am a huge fan of Micro 43 and high quality compact cameras as they give me freedom to shoot in ways that DSLR owners would find difficult. But not everyone finds themselves in this position. Be sure you understand and need the benefits a smaller camera format would offer before you make the switch.
  3. What do you do with your images? If all you are doing is putting them on the internet to share with others then your typical dimensions are going to be around 1000-1500 pixels on the longest side. Even my camera phone does more than that. If this describes you, you are wasting all that extra resolution and lens quality. Why spend £1000 on a lens that is super sharp and largely free from defects only to reduce the image resolution to a point where the benefits can’t be seen.
  4. The last point also leads on to printing. Do you print your images and at what size? If the largest print you make is an A3+ then a quality compact camera is going to be able to do that just as well as a DSLR. It doesn’t matter that you may need to enlarge the image to make the print, you won’t be able to tell. Printers can’t resolve anywhere near as much detail as you can see when you view your image at 100% on a monitor. And if your thinking that you need the image to look sharp and detailed when viewed at 100% on screen, your back to the argument that says you will be reducing the image resolution in order to view it. We don’t view images zoomed in. We view them at a resolution where we can see the entire image on screen at once.

The recurring argument that people seem to trot out on these forums is that you will notice the reduction in quality when switching from a DSLR to a Micro 43. My response to this is you might. If you are viewing your images at 100%, full resolution on the screen and you have a D800 or similar then yes you will notice there is a larger print with more detail than my Olympus EM5. If however your reducing your resolution down to 1500 pixels to share your images on the internet, no you won’t.

Equally, if you are printing your images then you will need to be printing at larger than A2 from an image made on a top of the range DSLR, using a great printer (with good technique) in order to distinguish any difference to my Olympus EM5. Oh yes, you would also need to have good, young eyes with the print viewed close up.

If you want stunning results, it’s not the equipment that will make the difference it’s knowledge and skills. That’s where you should invest your money and not buying into all the marketing hype spawned by camera companies and perpetuated by the magazines that need advertising revenue (you can’t blame them) to survive.

End of rant. I have probably blown any chance of sponsorship from a major camera manufacturer.

Friday Image Tutorial

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GX1 Infrared image
GX1 Infrared image

The tutorial describing how I created an A2 version of the Friday image is now live on Lenscraft. You can download it using this link http://www.lenscraft.co.uk/resources/164.html.

There is quite a useful technique described of how to create an edge mask to prevent noise reduction damaging edges.

I hope you enjoy.

The Friday Image 005

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GX1 Infrared image
GX1 Infrared image

I missed sharing my Friday Image over the Christmas and New Year break so here is the first one of the New Year.

I shot this image back in March last year on a trip to San Francisco. I don’t know the name of this building and the only location details I have are that I was in the Financial district (I think) when I shot it. The capture was made using a Panasonic GX1 that had been converted to shoot Infrared.  I know most infrared images tend to involve trees, plants and water but it’s easy to forget you can get some great results in the city.

I also plan to produce one of my fact sheets for this image, describing how it was processed because it makes quite an interesting study (well I think so at least). Because the image was shot on a digital infrared converted camera there really isn’t as much information in the colour channels as you might expect from a standard colour shot. My plan is to produce an enlargement for printing at A2 so it will take some careful processing to achieve this given the nature of the image file. I will put a note on the blog once the fact sheet is available.

Have a great weekend everyone.