photography

Christmas Book Sale

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Nik Start to Finish-book

I’m reducing my Nik eBooks in price to either £0.99 each or $0.99 each (depending on which amazon site you use). Now unfortunately the offer is only available on amazon.com or amazon.co.uk so if you don’t or can’t buy kindle books from either of these you won’t be able to take advantage – sorry, that’s amazon’s rules not mine.

The sale runs from 1am 19th December to 11pm 21st December. So if you are thinking of adding one of my titles to your library and you use either of these sites, this weekend is a good time to buy.

Alien Skin Exposure 7

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Heading for the Summit of Acantango (6,054m). 5,700m at this point. Olympus EM5 with 12-40mm lens. Processed with Exposure 7.
Heading for the Summit of Acantango (6,054m) in Bolivia. 5,700m at this point. Olympus EM5 with 12-40mm lens. Processed with Exposure 7.

I’m happy. I just received a free upgrade to my copy of Alien Skin Exposure. I purchased Exposure 6 back in July and Exposure 7 has just been launched. As I purchased my copy later than June I get a free upgrade – fantastic.

I’m not experimenting with all the features and new film presets. It feels a lot like Exposure 6 but that’s a good thing. If you like film and film simulation, this is an excellent package to try out. I tend to use it in combination with some of the Nik filters.

I’m off to play some more.

Working with Textures

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EM5 imaged combined with texture file

One thing that I really enjoy doing is working with texture files. I like the surprise of the new and enjoyment of creating something more akin to art than photography. I don’t often share this sort of work as many people don’t class it as photography and quite a lot don’t like it.

But if you do like it you might like to share in some of the high resolution texture files I have created. They are available for free download in the members area of the Lenscraft website. There are two styles on there at present; Grunge (dark) and Watercolour and I plan to add more in the future. Here’s a few samples.

Grunge03-thumb Grunge09-thumb Watercolour 07-thumb Watercolour 14-thumb

So if you like working with texture files and want some new textures head over to www.lenscraft.co.uk and log in to the members area.

Enjoy.

Seasons Greetings – I think

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Descent from Scafell, The Lake District. Three image stich from a Panasonic GX1, 14-45mm lens at 14mm, ISO160, f/7.1
Descent from Scafell, The Lake District. Three image stich from a Panasonic GX1, 14-45mm lens at 14mm, ISO160, f/7.1

I need to get something off my chest I’m afraid. Yesterday I sent out a mailing to my Lenscraft subscriber list wishing people a Merry Christmas a Happy New Year. As there are people from all over the world subscribing and no doubt from all faiths I did think long and hard about this as I never want to offend anyone.

In the end I reasoned that sending out my best wishes with the best of intentions wouldn’t be offensive. Putting myself in someone else’s shoes, if I were to receive a message of good wishes based on different faith I would actually be very happy.

It appears my good intentions have been well received by the majority. Someone even thanked me for not using the politically correct “Happy Holidays”. However there have been a few people who have taken offense and become angry. Well I’m sorry if I have offended anyone but isn’t it better to receive a well intentioned greeting than none at all?

Friday Image No. 43

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Olympus EM5 12-40mm lens at 16mm, ISO200 1/1250" at f/7.1
Olympus EM5 12-40mm lens at 16mm, ISO200 1/1250″ (that’s not a typo) at f/7.1

Sometimes the power of nature just stops you in your tracks. This is another image from my recent trip to Bolivia. We were crossing a huge dried up salt lake surrounded by mountains when we noticed a storm cell forming. As we drove on the sky became more and more ominous but the storm was localised over one of the mountains. This was such an amazing site that we had to pull over and admire it. Even our guides were captivated by the scale and power of scene.

Hope you like the picture and have a great weekend everyone.

Piccure+ Update

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Olympus OMD EM5 + Olympus 12-40mm lens. f/7.1, ISO200, 1/400" shutter speed
Olympus OMD EM5 + Olympus 12-40mm lens. f/7.1, ISO200, 1/400″ shutter speed

 

After my previous post about Piccure+ and Topaz Detail I had a few question by email asking how well Piccure+ worked with my EM5 and Olympus 12-40mm lens. I hope the following answers this question.

Firstly the camera should be irrelevant as the software is intended to correct lens aberration and optical defects. Secondly the Olympus 12-40 is a pro spec lens and is already very sharp and performs exceptionally well. On this basis I wouldn’t expect the software to make much difference. Here is a section of the starting image viewed at 100% magnification without any sharpening (converted from RAW in Lightroom).

14-12-10 Image 1

The the starting image has been processed for noise reduction in Nik dfine and has been sharpened using Nik Sharpener Pro – RAW Presharpener.

14-12-10 Image 2

The resulting image is clean and sharp. Now let’s take a look at a section of the image when run through Piccure+ using a sharpness setting of 14 (the software goes to 100).

14-12-10 Image 3

I actually now find this too sharp and almost unnatural. I suspect I would have been better using a lower sharpness setting. My quick and dirty alternative is to reduce the opacity of the Piccure+ layer I created in Photoshop which produces the following.

14-12-10 Image 4

This I am very impressed with. What I compare the starting image with this, the starting image looks almost as if it has a haze on it that Piccure+ removed. Very impressive.

And if you have a passion to play around with sliders rather than adopt the simple workflow of piccure+, here is the result I managed with Topaz Detail.

14-12-10 Image 5

The only point with Topaz is that it seemed to accentuate noise where piccure+ didn’t seem to do anything to residual noise.

Friday image No.042

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New Brighton Lighthouse

I always promise myself that when I go out on a day’s shoot that I will wait for a while before I publish any images. I find that it’s this distance from the days shooting that allows you to appreciate which images are the best. That way you avoid being caught up in the emotion of the day and are not influenced by your expectations.

Then again I’m really impatient and some images just scream share me. Here’s one from last weekend. This was shot at New Brighton. It now quite a different place to that that Martin Parr captured.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Improving the D800

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14-12-01 RWhalley_D800_2014_11__RNW0431

As regular readers of this blog will know I purchased a Nikon D800 a few months back in order to do a real hand on comparison with the Olympus EM5. The first few months of usage have been somewhat mixed and I have found myself reaching for the EM5 on more than one occasion, not least recently when I have suffered a very painful prolapsed disk in my neck.

Anyway, I digress from the point that I wanted to make in this blog and that is one of the most irritating things I have found in using the D800 is the image quality. When I look at a RAW file from the EM5 its crisp and has a lovely level of contrast, especially in the mid tones. The D800 is not as good in this respect and lacks the bite that I see in the EM5 files. I have thought that it might be the lenses but then when I have tried out some pro lenses, I still have the same disappointed feeling. I can see the image is sharp but it just doesn’t seem to reveal the level of detail I had hoped for.

Then recently someone shared the details of a software program that I hadn’t come across that is designed to correct optical limitations in lenses. It’s called Piccure+ and you can get a free trial download from their website. Here is a comparison of a section of the foreground from the D800 image above, shown at 100% magnification (click the images to see the full enlargement). The image below is prior to processing Piccure+. It has been converted from RAW in Lightroom with full adjustment including sharpening.

Before Processing
Before Processing

The next image is following processing in Piccure+. This now feels much more like the quality of image I achieve in the EM5. This is a clear improvement.

After Piccure+
After Piccure+

Now to confuse matters I thought I would also run the image through Topaz Detail which I used to use a lot. Not sure why I stopped using it but I think it’s about the time I switched to Micro 43.

After Topaz Detail
After Topaz Detail

So, what I can deduce from this is that the detail is there in the image but it needs some good processing to bring out the best. Piccure does a great and very natual job. Topaz Detail seems to bring out more detail but it also lightens the shadows a little too much. Personally I prefer the Piccure+ restul better but then I have more control with Topaz (I just need to take more care).

If you haven’t tried either of these products before they are well worth it. You might just find that lens you were struggling with isn’t as poor as you think.

You Lucky People!

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Wales - see Friday Image 41. Nikon D800.
Wales – see Friday Image 41. Nikon D800.

Yesterday I loaded a number of Lightroom Presets I had been building, to the Lenscraft website. I then sent out an email broadcast to the membership list saying the presets were now available and free to download.

From the stats, I can see a lot of people have been able to access the site and download the presets. A few people however have complained about the site being slow and some are having problems signing in; the site is reporting they need to have cookies enabled when in fact they have.

Part of the problem is that Lenscraft is becoming a victim of its own success and the traffic volumes are increasing quite rapidly. To give you some idea, in November there has been 10,000 visitors and the site server up some 70,000 pages. This is around 20% up on the previous month which is about 20% up on the month before.

I realise this is not a lot in comparison to some of the commercial sites, but I run Lenscraft as a free resource for Photographers and need to keep costs down. Now the cracks in the hosting are starting to appear. I have therefore decided to invest in a major hosting upgrade (my wallet is still hurting) and we are now running on something that has about 5 times the processing capacity of the previous host. Checking a short time ago I can see a substantial improvement in the sites performance and I hope you will also.

If following this anyone has any problems with cookies do let me know as I may need to recreate your account.

As for the image today, this was taken at the same time as the image in the previous post. It was captured using a Nikon D800, tripod mounted, 18-35mm Nikkor lens, 0.9 ND grad filter. Shutter speed 1.3″ at f/14.0. It took an age to get the camera into a workable position.

Friday image No.041

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Rough Seas. Olympus EM5. See text for details of settings.

I did wonder whether to post this shot or not. If you look hard at the image you find it feels cluttered. It isn’t a great composition (because there wasn’t much to compose). It’s also a grab shot.

You see I shot this whilst spending ages fighting with the Nikon D800 on a tripod. I couldn’t get into position on very slippery seaweed covered rocks. In the end, in total frustration I fired off this shot with the Olympus EM5 which was over my shoulder.

You shouldn’t be able to handhold shots like this at sunset, but you can with the EM5. The base ISO is 200 (as used here). The lens is the superb Olympus 12-40 f/2.8 set at 12mm. The aperture was f/4.0 giving a shutter speed of 1/60″. And yes, it is sharp and has sufficient depth of field. Try that with a full frame camera.

I should also add that I used a 0.6 (2 stop) neutral density graduated filter on the sky. It was one of the Lee Seven 5 series which I am very impressed with.

Now as cluttered as the scene is, it also conveys the feeling of a stormy sea well. It also has some great light on the water. It’s this feeling of stormy light that comes across to me every time I look at the image. So whilst it may not be an accomplished photographic composition I think the image works well because it has emotion – at least for me.

Have a great weekend everyone.