I have decided to give away my bestselling book in March. On the 14th and 15th March 2015 you will be able to download “Essential Photoshop” for FREE on Amazon (here is the link for Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk). It’s intended to take you from knowing very little to having a good grounding in the key adjustment skills every photographer needs. So if you don’t already have this book grab yourself a free copy on one of these two days (depending on your country or time zone you may need to be patient as there can be some variation in the exact time the book becomes free).
Now I do want to ask a favour in return but it’s not a tough one – please share this blog post with every photographer you know so that they can also take advantage of the free download. Let people know in any way you can that the book will be free on the 14th and 15 March. Post the news on facebook, tweet it, share it on forums, send an email, perhaps even resort to just telling people.
Thanks and I hope you enjoy the book.
This week’s Friday image comes from my recent trip to the UK Lake District. I post this not because it’s a great image but because I started playing around with the RX10 image to see how much detail I could pull out of the image and also how much I could enlarge it by. The results have surprised me but I will save them for another time.
In the course of this processing “play time” I applied Topaz Detail to emphasise the detail in the grass and rocks. It made an amazing difference to the image detail but it also allowed me to make some adjustments to the colour that really lifted the image. I then went on to convert the image to black and white, first using Alien Skin Exposure 7 and the my old favourite, Nik Silver Efex Pro. Sometimes it just great to play with some of the wonderful software tools we now have.
I hope you like the images and have a great weekend everyone.
I mentioned in my last blog that I had been using the Sony RX10 exclusively over the last week and in doing so I noticed a few things about how to get a good exposure. Here is what I learned:
When the highlights clip they literally fall of a cliff. This can make the areas around the blown highlights appear very ugly. The Olympus EM5 highlights by contrast seem to behave much more like film, which seem to be more gradual.
One of the features of the RX10 is that you can display “zebras” in the live view. These “zebras” show you where the scene is exceeding the dynamic range of the sensor and the highlights are blown. You can also set the level of this so that you see a warning before the damage is done. For my camera I have this set at 100%+ so that if I see zebras I know there is clipping which as mentioned above can look quite ugly. I do this because I shoot RAW and can usually recover some of the damage.
What I have found is that there just isn’t much headroom in the RAW files beyond the zebras so you need to take care. With most cameras I have found I can expose to the right (deliberately overexpose the image) and then correct this by careful processing of the RAW file. This typically results in a higher quality image with less shadow noise and more detail. With the Sony RX10 this doesn’t seem to be the case and leaving the camera to calculate the exposure without any compensation seems to render very good images.
So how much can I over expose the image by? Well it seems to be only 2/3 of a stop. BUT a nice feature I have noticed is that the histogram that you can display whilst taking the image seems to reflect what is being captured in the RAW file whilst the zebras seem to indicate where the JPEG file will blow the highlights. I have noticed that I can be showing the warning zebras (set at 100%) but the histogram shows no clipping. The JPEG will show clipping but when I get the RAW file into Lightroom I can fully recover the problem areas.
Hope this helps other Sony RX10 owners out there.
You might have noticed that I haven’t posted anything over this past week. That’s because I have been taking a break in the Lake District enjoying some walking and a little photography. I had with me a range of cameras (you never quite know what you will need):
- Sony RX10
- Olympus EM5
- Panasonic GM1 (including a new 35-100 lens I have just purchased)
- Canon G16
I started the week using the RX10 as the weather was looking quite changeable and it’s easy to push the camera under a coat. I also didn’t want to be bothered keep changing lenses which is quite a pain when out on the hills. As a backup I had the GM1 in my backpack.
By the end of the week, interestingly, I had only used the RX10. I must admit that some of the images were a little blurred due to camera shake but I just shot a few of each composition to ensure I had at least one good image.
If you had asked me at the start of the week I would never have predicted that I would use the RX10 exclusively. I must admit that I loved it and best of all I learned a few new points about how the camera seems to work out exposures. I will share these with you in my next post.
I’ve had the RX10 for around 14 months now so I should be in a position to say if it’s a good camera or not. Had you asked me this question 12 months ago I would probably have said (if I was being totally truthful) that it was a bit of a letdown.
You see my expectations were way too high having previously owned a Sony R1. The reason I expected so much was that the R1 had an amazing lens and the RX10 looked pretty much identical. It’s a huge Zeiss lens with a tiny sensor bolted to the back and a bit of a grip to hold on to. It won’t win any awards for being beautiful but it certainly feels good in the hands.
Part of the reason I felt let down also was that the EM5 produces such sharp, crisp, detailed images. I had dearly wanted the RX10 to produce the same “quality” but it doesn’t. It also has corners that are a little distorted and soft in comparison. What I had failed to realise and what only dawned on me when I bought the Nikon D800 is that most cameras suffer from this. In fact the RX10 is a very good performer, it’s just different. In fact, I’m now really quite pleased with the image quality I am able to achieve. The images make lovely prints all the way up to A2 (I haven’t tried anything larger).
But it’s not the image quality that I like, it’s the handling. It’s very easy and intuitive to use. I like the aperture ring on the body of the lens (isn’t this something we had on all lenses at one time). I also like the huge zoom range from 24mm to 200mm and the fast f/2.8 constant maximum aperture. It even has a great battery life.
In all, this is a very impressive camera and great when you don’t want to carry around multiple lenses. I am starting to find myself reaching for this camera more and more, especially when I am out walking.
So, I have to start this post with yet another apology. I was feeling quite pleased with myself after the flurry of activity last weekend and a few nights this week. Security on the Lenscraft website was much tighter and the response speeds were very good.
How things have changed.
Last night I received an email from my hosting company advising that they were doing some maintenance on their infrastructure and that there may be a short outage on my web site of 10-60 minutes. The site has been down almost 24 hours.
If you try to access the Lenscraft site at present all you get is the message “Error Establishing Database Connection”. This is made worse by the fact that I can’t access the control centre for the website where I do all the maintenance.
I reported this some 14 hours back and all I received was an email telling me support will be a minimum 24 hours response. I am now sat on an instant message session with the support team who have identified the database server has stopped and are now trying to reboot it.
I just want to be a photographer!!!!!
Further update (2 minutes after posting this). The fault was traced to the database server which has now been restarted. Lenscraft is back on air. I think I deserve a glass of wine!
Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I didn’t post the usual Friday Image on Friday. My apologies for this but I am still battling with too much to do and too little time. I have fallen some way behind in responding to emails and queries as the numbers have shot up recently. I love replying to everyone but it takes time.
Anyway, I set out on a walk in the Peak District today with a camera. I was going to take the new G16 but in the end I went for the RX10. I really do love this camera but it’s been somewhat of a frustrating relationship. My first ever outing found that the white writing around the edge of the lens reflected onto my filters when the sun was at certain angles. The other major frustration I have is that the image stabilisation is poor. Sometimes I find myself keep checking if it is actually on.
It’s very easy to find the shutter speed has dropped below 1/25″ as I like to shoot at the base ISO of 80. I find that 1/25″ is pretty much as slow as I can risk, even at the wide end of the focal range (the camera has a 24-200mm f/2.8 constant lens). Below this and camera shake is evident and ruins pretty much every shot unless you are lucky. That’s one of the problems with a sharp lens, you notice the smallest of movement.
More recently I have become attuned to this problem and now push the ISO to 200 or 400. This goes against the grain with me as I always want to shoot at the lowest ISO and I hate noise. But you know what, even at ISO400 you can barely notice it and the image quality is that much better.
So this has been a bit of me rambling (pun intended) to tell you that the RX10 is one of the most enjoyable cameras I have and the one that I increasingly turn to when I just want to walk and can’t be bothered with different lenses.
In my previous blog post I shared some of my first impressions about the Canon G16 compact camera I had purchased. Today I would like to share a little more about my thoughts about the image quality. Of course these revolve around my approach to photography so may differ from how you would use the camera. None the less, it may prove useful to some of you out there.
First, how I like to use the camera…
Where possible I shoot at the cameras base ISO. You may be tempted to think this is the lowest ISO but this is not always the case. With the canon G16 the base ISO is ISO80. This should give the combination of least image noise and highest dynamic range.
I tend to use the wide angle end of lens a lot.
Many of my compositions need good depth of field because there are elements in the foreground and distance.
Whilst I need good depth of field it’s the foreground elements that need to be at their sharpest. I therefore tend to use an aperture range of f/4.0 to f/5.6. I feel this allows the lens to perform well whilst giving me good depth of field.
Selecting the right point of focus is important to me as this helps with the depth of field but also ensures the key foreground elements are sharp.
Keeping all this in mind, I have included the full sized image for you to examine. This was from a capture made in RAW format which was then converted to TIFF in Lightroom. A small amount of capture sharpening was applied and a little processing was done in Viveza. The image was then saved as a JPEG. Enjoy.
It’s a very quick post for this week’s Friday image. That’s because I have only just got home and I need to pack for a trip to the Lake District tomorrow. Hopefully I can take advantage of the forecast snow.
I wasn’t too sure which image to post so I thought I would resort to another from my last trip to the lakes. I was browsing through and noticed this one I had shot. There was just something that I liked about this tree. I hope you do too.
Have a great weekend everyone.
I’m currently preparing a presentation on Lightweight Photography for Chorley Photographic Society where I have spoken in the past. As part of this I decided to take a few shots with my Panasonic LX7 when I was out in the Lake District on my last trip. Above you can see one of the images which I have also printed at A3 to take along on the day. The print looks quite nice with lots of detail. With the addition of a little grain I would say that it doesn’t look very “digital” at all.
This exercise got me thinking that I haven’t been using my compact camera very much over the last year. This time last year I was missing the LX5 which I had replaced with a Sony RX100. I then found I didn’t enjoy using the Sony as much so sold it for the LX7. Don’t ask me why but I never seem to be carrying the LX7 and this defeats the objective of owning a compact camera.
Anyway, I found that I really enjoyed shooting with the LX7 in preparation for the presentation and before I knew it I had ordered a Canon G16. What a bargain; £290 new from Amazon and then £40 cash back from Canon. This is where breaking the resolution comes in as I said I wouldn’t buy any more equipment this year.
I can’t yet report on the Canon as although I took it on a walk with me over the weekend the terrible weather meant that I didn’t shoot anything that’s worth showing. What I did notice is that the image stabilisation doesn’t seem to be as good as the LX7 but the noise handling appears better. Time will tell but I did find I enjoyed using the G16.