Month: February 2014

Friday image No.010

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Captured on a GX1 Infrared converted camera.
Captured on a GX1 Infrared converted camera.

As some of you may already have gathered, I love Infrared Photography. It’s much more frustrating than traditional photography to create good images but the challenge makes it more rewarding. It also opens up a new world of seeing as scenes can take on a completely different appearance. Also, when the time of day or weather isn’t great for traditional photography you may find that it is great for Infrared.

Here’s one of my Infrared images that I wanted to share. Captured last March on a trip to San Francisco (wow is it really almost a year ago). The scene is very ordinary and the light was a bit too harsh to create a good image. Looks much better in Infrared.

Have a great weekend.

Something for Nothing

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One of my old Sony R1 images processed in Perfect Effects. The software creates a nice artistic effect.
One of my old Sony R1 images processed in Perfect Effects. The software creates a nice artistic effect.

Photography has been through a very odd transformation over the past 10 years. In the pre-digital era good photographs were relatively rare from amongst the amateur community. Also equipment (I mean really good equipment) cost a fortune and wasn’t really affordable by amateurs. Sure there were a few talented people but most images evidenced problems. The digital era has turned all that on its head and now everyone is a photographer with the ability to turn out pro quality images.

Whilst this has led to a higher demand and usage it’s also lead to a glut of great photography. People who are using images now seem to want photographers to literally give away their images. Basically people expect something for nothing from photographers but it’s rare that the photographer can get something for nothing. That’s why I want to share something with you.

As many of you will know, I am a heavy user of Nik filters and have been for probably the past 4 years now. What you might not know though is that I am also a user of the On-One Software filters and have been using their products for around 8 years now. The other night I happened to be browsing their website when I came across their free products section and found you could download a free version of Perfect Effects 8.

As I already have the full Perfect Photo Suite I can’t install this version but if it’s anything like the Perfect Effects in the Photo Suite it’s well worth having. Here is the link to the free download and whilst you are there, check out the free presets for Lightroom and similar software also.

http://www.ononesoftware.com/products/effects8free

Have fun.

Friday image No.009

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Captured with the Olympus OMD EM5 and Olympus 9-18mm lens.
Captured with the Olympus OMD EM5 and Olympus 9-18mm lens.

Possibly the final image I will post from my recent Yorkshire Dales trip – although I reserve the right to change my mind. Again, I like the light in the image. This was actually a bit of a grab shot whilst I was stood talking to my friends, contemplating the forecast impending storm. I turned to my left and the line in the rocks caught my eye.

Have a great weekend.

RX100 V’s LX5 and LX7 – Part 2

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Death Valley Sand Dunes - RX100
Death Valley Sand Dunes – RX100

Continued…

Sensor quality – Here I would say I am interested in producing natural colours and smooth images (free from noise). The LX7 is better than the LX5 but neither can touch the Sony. The Sony has smooth images with very limited noise that doesn’t get exaggerated when the images are processed. The colours from the Sony are also very lifelike. I have often thought the Panasonic colours, especially Green, look a little unnatural. The ISO performance of the LX7 is better than the LX5 but the Sony is much better than both of these. As I shoot most of my work at base ISO and hardly ever go above ISO800, the LX7 and RX100 are fine. The LX5 struggled above ISO400.

Pixel Count – This only becomes important if you are going to be producing large prints and by that I mean above A3+. The Sony will produce a slightly larger than A3+ print at 300dpi without any enlargement whilst you will need to enlarge the LX5 or LX7. What is interesting is that some of the LX5 or LX7 images enlarged appear sharer and more detailed than the Sony. If you go to A2 printing the LX5 and LX7 can achieve this is you take care whilst the Sony can be enlarged to this easily but it can reveal the soft corners (I said it was irritating). If you are only going to share your images on the Internet then any of the cameras will be fine.

Filters – I shoot landscapes so I need to be able to attach square filters such as ND Grads. All three cameras allow this but the LX5 requires a bulky tube to be attached. I hated this as it stopped the camera fitting easily in my pocket. The LX7 uses a screw in adapter which I like but I can’t leave the filter adapter ring attached as it jams the lens when it retracts. It also causes vignetting at the 24mm end when shooting 16:9 format (which I do alot). The RX100 filter adapter is a stick on affair which is very slim and works well but it’s expensive.

Handling – I find the RX100 small to handle but it is improved by the addition of the Sony leather half case. The layout and dials are good on the RX100 as is the front aperture ring which can be switched to other purposes such as focussing. The LX7 has a great aperture ring and I love the format switching ring. The LX5 is similarly good but lacks the aperture ring. If pushed I would say the LX cameras are easier and faster to work with than the RX100. If your bag is street photography then I think the LX cameras are probably better to work with.

What this all means is that for me, none of these cameras is perfect but all will perform well and achieve the results I want. I suspect (unless you see something above to convince you otherwise) that they would also serve you equally well. The best advice I can give is what I started this blog with – understand what features are important to you and why before investing.

If I had to use just one camera it would actually be the RX10. It has the great sensor of the RX100 but the lens is amazing. Its failure (if you can call it that) is that it’s significantly larger than the others and won’t fit in your pocket. Surprisingly my Olympus EM5 is quite a bit smaller than the RX10 and produces the best image quality of all the cameras – I still can’t fit it in my pocket unless I am using prime lenses.

Remember, no camera is perfect for all tasks.

RX100 V’s LX5 and LX7 – Part 1

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Death Valley dunes - RX100
Death Valley dunes – RX100

It’s funny how the same questions keep coming up in photography and this is one of them. Which is the better camera the RX100 or the LX5/LX7? I see people arguing on forums, it comes up as a search term in the traffic stats for this sight and I even receive emails asking this. I thought therefore it would be good to post a blog on the subject as I can understand people’s confusion.

At the outset I should say that I have owned all three of these cameras and currently still own the RX100 and LX7. Initially I had purchased the LX5 some 3 years back and was delighted by its performance. My only niggle was that I wanted more megapixels. When the RX100 came out I purchased that also and in time found I was using my LX5 less and less, so I sold it. Just before Christmas this year I found myself buying an LX7 as I was missing the LX5 and finding weak spots in the RX100 performance (but more on that shortly).

The first important point is to realise that you can’t expect to compare cameras based on specification alone. If it were that simple we would all be buying the same cameras (providing we could afford them). Buying a camera is a personal thing so you need to understand what is motivating you to make a purchase and what your expectations are. Most people overlook this point and as a result waste money, often being disappointed in the results.

What follows is my comparison using the points that are important to me. What’s important to you may be considerably different.

Wide angle lens – Ideally I want a 24mm equivalent lens at the wide angle. Both the LX5 and LX7 have this but the RX100 is 28mm. It may not sound like much but it is if you shoot landscapes. For me though this isn’t a deal breaker, but it is important and something I find frustraiting when using the RX100.

Long lens capability – Ideally I want 150mm at the long end of the lens or more. The LX5 and LX7 have a long end of 90mm and the RX100 of 110mm (I think). In practice there is little difference and neither gives me what I want here in order to be truly versatile. Again though, this isn’t a deal breaker.

Lens quality – I want a lens that is sharp from corner to corner and displays little chromatic aberration. Detail should be well resolved and appear nice and crisp in the final image. If I chose to resize the image I want to have confidence the image will look good. Both the LX5 and LX7 have great lenses and produce corner to corner sharpness. I would say if pressed that the LX5 lens on the camera I sold was better than the LX7 I now have, but it’s marginal. The RX100 lens is great in the centre but the corners are soft at the wide end and it drives me mad. Also, under some conditions the corners of images from the RX100 can also take on a red tint. These “features” may not worry you but I find them very irritating.

Image quality – This means the ability to shoot RAW (which all three cameras do) but I find the Panasonic RAW files easier to work with than the Sony files. This may just be my personal feeling.

To be continued…

Friday image No.008

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Wonderful morning light. Captured using an Olympus EM5 and Olympus 9-18mm lens (my favourite lens for landscape work).
Wonderful morning light. Captured using an Olympus EM5 and Olympus 9-18mm lens (my favourite lens for landscape work).

Another image from my recent Yorkshire Dales trip. This was also taken on the first morning and is perhaps my favourite image from that day. I feel the quality of light is amazingly strong in this image. The light quality is often better in the morning than the evening as there is less dust in the atmosphere. This gives the light a sharp and clean feel. The heavy rain storms the night before also helped a lot. It’s this feeling of clean, sharp yet warm light that I find so captivating – the locations not bad either.

Have a great weekend.

Bad Weather Photography

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Blackpool Seawall. Sony RX10
Blackpool Seawall. Sony RX10

Last week I wrote about how I visited Blackpool to photograph the storms when the bad weather hit. In case you weren’t aware, the UK has been hit by a series of storms for some 8 weeks now (usually a couple each week). Each storm brings huge amounts of rain (for the UK at least), high winds and often a storm surge affecting the tides in coastal regions. Large areas of the country are flooded and the sea defences are crumbling.

The image you can see above shows waves crashing over the new sea wall in Blackpool. Ordinarily high tide would just about reach the sea wall at this point. The sea wall itself is at least 20 feet high and designed to absorb the force of the waves. This should give some idea of just how large the storm surge and this wave is. Notice also how the cement between the concrete blocks is giving way and water is forcing itself through.

The following image also gives a good idea of how rough the seas were.

Bad weather in Blackpool. Sony RX10.
Bad weather in Blackpool. Sony RX10.

Photographing under these conditions can be challenging as you don’t want the camera to get wet and you certainly don’t want it to get wet with seawater. The approach I used to keeping the RX10 dry was to place it inside a zip-lock plastic bag. On the front of the lens was a UV filter. I pulled the plastic back tight over the filter and then screwed in a Cokin filter ring to the front of the UV filter. This did two things:

  1. It trapped the plastic bag between the filter UV filter and the filter ring
  2. It caused the plastic bag to become cut so that I could remove the central part of the bag to expose the UV filter.

With the central part of the bag removed I could use masking tape to attach the plastic bag securely to the filter ring. This provided a good seal and allowed me to keep the camera dry whilst shooting in the driving rain. All I had to do was keep wiping the UV filter to dry it.

I hope you find this tip useful if you are going to photograph in the rain and a cheaper alternative to some of the rain covers you can buy.

Friday image No. 007

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Twistleton Scar, Ingleton, The Yorkshire Dales. Captured on an Olympus OMD EM5
Twistleton Scar, Ingleton, The Yorkshire Dales. Captured on an Olympus OMD EM5

Nothing too much to describe here.

This is Twistleton Scar in the Yorkshire Dales and was photographed last weekend. I love the location and it’s not often I can get to it for dawn. I really need some time to perfect the processing of the image but I hope you like this early version.

An unexpected twist to the weekend

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Reflections in Dean Clough. Captured with the Sony RX10
Reflections in Dean Clough. Captured with the Sony RX10

It was a rather unusual weekend. I was due to be out with a couple of friends in the Yorkshire Dales shooting the landscape which is famed for its wonderful Lime Stone. Unfortunately the weather definitely had other plans for us.

We met up the night before and spent the evening looking at the weather forecast and planning the best locations for the following day. The forecast was to be clear up to around 10:00am but then a severe storm with high winds was due to hit. This really isn’t the sort of weather we wanted to be out in on an exposed hillside.

As it turned out the weather forecast was good to its promise and as the winds got up we retreated down the hill to a local cafe. Assessing the position we moved to the coast (Blackpool) where we decided to photograph the storm surge making land (more on that in another post).

Sunday was little better and offered very little potential for traditional landscape work. We tried some waterfalls but there was just too much water flowing, so decided to change our subject matter entirely. Staring back towards home early we called in at the town of Halifax and Dean Clough Mills, on old and impressive mill complex that is now a business park. This it turned out was another good decision and allowed us to capture some pleasing images although definitely not what we had anticipated on the Friday evening.

Above you see my most successful Lime Stone image (look at the top of the image) from the weekend.