Month: January 2014

Weekend Image No. 006

Posted on


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

Posted on


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

Posted on


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

Posted on


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

Posted on


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

Posted on


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

Posted on


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.

New Book Launch – Essential Colour Management

Posted on


Essential Colour Management
Essential Colour Management

I am pleased to announce that my new book “Essential Colour Management: What every photographer needs to know” has launched and is available on Amazon (Link to amazon.com and amazon.co.uk) for $3.99 and £2.49. Other countries are similarly priced in their relevant Amazon stores.

I don’t know of any photographer who has not suffered from colour management problems and I am fre3quently contacted by some of those suffering. This is a disjointed and complex area of photography that many people struggle to understand and gain control over. I know what this feels like as it took me more than a few years of testing and research to understand everything I needed to know.

This new book condenses this subject into the essentials you need as a photographer. It provides the key information in an understandable format. If you are a registered member of my Lenscraft Website (membership is free) you will shortly be receiving notification of the $0.99/£0.99 sale dates.

RX10 Starts to Impress

Posted on


Skiddaw Little Man. Captured on the RX10.
Skiddaw Little Man. Captured on the RX10.

I finally managed to get out with the RX10 at the weekend and the weather was only dreadful rather than delivering destruction on biblical proportions (although some parts of the UK continue to be battered by storms). Despite the poor conditions I was able to capture a few images where the operation of the RX10 impressed me.

The image above is of Skiddaw Little man which is one of the peaks on the Skiddaw massif. On this particular day we had ascended Skiddaw Little Man on the way to the main summit of Skiddaw. The snowline kicked in at around 700m and visibility was down to around 20m for most of the day.

On the way to the summit of Skiddaw
On the way to the summit of Skiddaw

It was only on the descent that there was sufficient break in the cloud to reveal this peak. Below you can see a shot of the pile of rocks and twisted iron at the summit.

RX10 capturing superb detail.
RX10 capturing superb detail.

The other aspect of the weather conditions that can’t be seen from these images was the strong and very cold wind. I had removed my right glove for no more than 2 minutes to take one shot and later, once I had descended it became very painful. It wasn’t until the next day that it stopped hurting and I can still feel it even today.

Despite all this I was able to take some OK shots with the RX10. The controls were quite easy to use through my gloves (I became a little more careful after the experience above). I found the DMF switch on the camera which activated the focus peaking. For those of you not familiar, this shows where the image is in focus, allowing you to set the correct aperture and focus point. This was great as I found I needed to adjust my usual approach to selecting the point of focus. I was also able to use the camera with a slightly wider aperture, which helped the quality.

In my previous post I mentioned the problem with the writing on the front of the lens reflecting on my filters. My solution was to use 3mm white board dividing tape to cover the writing and this proved very effective. If you find you have a similar problem get some black tape.

The quality of the image produced is very good and the lens appears very sharp at all apertures, although around f/4.0 it was particularly impressive. Yes the corners do go off slightly when at 24mm but nothing like as much as the NEX5 that I used to have. Image quality appeared good across all the focal lengths from 24-200mm but I really need some decent conditions to assess this properly.

The EVF was superb and the image quality matches that of an optical viewfinder. The only niggle I had with it was when it misted up due to the changing temperatures when I kept putting it in my backpack. The misting caused the screen on the rear to switch off as the sensor in the EVF determined the mist was my eye. You can of course override this.

Checking the camera menu before taking it out I had identified that all the buttons can be reassigned. This allowed me to configure it to work in the way I wanted. For example if I now press the centre button within the control wheel I can activate the flexible focus spot and then use the control wheel to position it. Turning the control wheel allows me to set the ISO. This is great and avoids needing to go through the Function button. These may sound like small features but it means you can set the camera up just as you want, making it much easier to use.

Overall I really enjoyed using the camera. It really does feel like it’s one of those great cameras that will pretty much handle anything you throw at it. I will continue to post more thoughts as I use this camera more.

And for fans of B&W, here is the first image processed in Nik Silver Efex.
And for fans of B&W, here is the first image processed in Nik Silver Efex.

First problems with the Sony RX10

Posted on


The colours produced by the RX10 are superb
The colours produced by the RX10 are superb

On Monday I managed to get an outing with the new RX10. It was a day of two halves. The first half was gales and driving rain during which I couldn’t use the Sony. Instead I resorted to trying to shoot with the LX7 but ended up switching that for my Infrared camera. This was because the Infrared GX1 doesn’t need a filter to shoot landscape where the LX7 does and the filters were getting covered in rain.

The second half of the day (about an hour) cleared up but the winds got even stronger. I was blown over several times and my camera bag (full of lenses) actually blew away. I’m not sure it was therefore great weather to judge the performance of the RX10.

Despite this I was able to identify a fairly major failing in the design of the RX10 and it’s one that I can’t believe Sony missed. As I was shooting I started to notice white marks appearing on my images. You can see an example below which I have ringed in red.

Example of the lens reflection. See the red circle in the bottom right.
Example of the lens reflection. See the red circle in the bottom right.

Sometimes these marks weren’t very noticeable but other times they were. In the end I was able to focus the white marks and realised it read “Carl Ziess”. Information about the lens is printed quite boldly in white around the edge. This is quite normal but the RX10 lens edge is angled where this writing appears. When you place a square grad filter over the front of the lens you find the writing around the edge of the lens reflects onto the inside of the grad and you get this strange circular blob.

The easy fix (which I am now adopting) is to place black tape over the writing so that it’s not reflected. This however is ridiculous for a camera of this cost. Do they not field test these before they rush them out to us poor consumers.