Digital Photography

Friday image No.034

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Olympus OMD EM5 + 45mm Olympus lens
Olympus OMD EM5 + 45mm Olympus lens. Click the image to enlarge.

Yet another trip from my recent visit to Nantes in France.

This time I was walking along the river and spotted these three bird(two cormorants and a heron). They appeared quite tame as this was shot with my 45mm prime – it was the longest lens I had with me at the time. Fortunately it was the 45mm prime which is exceptionally sharp and will allow me to a high quality enlargement if required.

I hope you like it and have a great weekend.

Don’t buy a Micro 43 lens until you read this – Part 4

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Captured with an Olympus OMD EM5 and Panasonic 45-200 lens.
Captured with an Olympus OMD EM5 and Panasonic 45-200 lens.

Telephoto (Long) Zooms

Continuing this miniseries, it’s time to take a look at telephoto lenses. I class these as lenses that have a focal length beyond 45mm. And please do remember, I only cover lenses that I have used. As I haven’t yet tried any pro level lenses in this class I haven’t included them in the review. If anyone does have experience with these please add your thought to the comments section. I for one would be interested in the Olympus 40-150 f/2.8 or Panasonic 35-100 f/2.8. Lens titles include links to amazon.co.uk to view the lens and ensure you know which I am refering to.

Panasonic 45-150mm

This is my current long lens having switched from the 45-200 below. The reason for my switch is because of the size and weight. This lens is actually tiny when you consider its focal length. It’s only very slightly bigger than the 14-45 kit lens so is very easy to carry. This is a huge advantage over the typical telephoto DSLR lens which tend to get bigger and heavier.

Performance in image quality ranges from excellent at the 45mm end to very good/excellent at the 150mm end of the range. At the 45mm end I would say that my example is sharper than the 14-45mm kit lens that I love so much. It also performs well from wide open, displaying little colour fringing but does improve slightly when stopped down.

A lens of this quality for such a low price is a real bargain.

Panasonic 45-200mm

This is another good performer which achieves results similar to the 45-150 lens discussed above. Beyond the 150mm lens the image does soften slightly but it’s still very good and beyond what many DSLR lenses can achieve at this focal length.

As I mentioned above, I recently sold this lens because I found I wasn’t using the additional reach beyond 150mm, given the additional size and weight of the lens.

Panasonic 100-300mm

I have seen some negative commentary on this lens but have found this difficult to understand. From my experience, I have wondered if the problems are more to do with technique than the lens. With a lens of this focal length, small vibrations can be a problem as they are significantly magnified.

The downside to the lens is that it’s quite costly and also quite specialised, giving the equivalent of 600mm at the long end. Whilst this is a good focal length for getting close to action, the maximum aperture is quite slow, making it less suited for low light work.

Next time we will look at prime lenses where there are a few surprises.

Another Door

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Another door in Nantes, France. Olympus EM5 + 12-40mm Olympus lens. 1/60" at f/4.0.
Another door in Nantes, France. Olympus EM5 + 12-40mm Olympus lens. 1/60″ at f/4.0.

As my previous image of a door in Nantes has drawn such favourable feedback I thought I would adjust one of the others. This one is perhaps not as elegant but it was still in use as I found out. Someone opened it from the inside just as I was lining up the shot. I’m not sure which of us was the most surprised.

I have also included a black and white conversion and a classic camera conversion using Nik Analog Efex. I actually think the Nik Analog Efex conversion is my favourite.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Converted in Nik Analog Efex
Converted in Nik Analog Efex

Friday image No.032

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2014_08_RNW9587

A simple image from my trip to Whitby last week where I was busy trying out a new camera. I will reveal shortly just what that camera was, and why I want to use it to make some comparisons. It’s going to get interesting.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Don’t buy a Micro 43 lens until you read this – Part 1

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Steps at Sandsend near Whitby. Olympus Em5 + 25mm Olympus lens. The quality of this lens is amazing.
Steps at Sandsend near Whitby. Olympus Em5 + 25mm Olympus lens. The quality of this lens is amazing. Click the image to view larger.

I recently bought another camera (used) and whilst I will have more to say on that in the future, one thing it made me realise was just how good the Micro 43 lenses are. But this isn’t the case for all of the Micro 43 lenses; there are some really poor ones out there. When these lenses are good they are really good. The corners are sharp and show little distortion and you can use them wide open without worry. But when they are poor, they can make you question your decision to invest in the Micro 43 system. With this in mind I thought I would share some of my experiences and hopefully others of you will share yours.

I will point out that this is not a scientific lens review but what I think are the important points having used the lenses discussed. You also need to be aware that being a Landscape Photographer I like to achieve a good depth of field, very sharp images and well defined details. Depending on your photography interests you may have different needs.

Now both Panasonic and Olympus produce some excellent lenses (as well as some poor ones) but they take very different approaches to image stabilisation. Olympus builds stabilisation into their camera bodies whilst Panasonic build it into the lens (but not every lens). This means that if you have an Olympus body you can use any lens and still benefit from stabilisation. If you have a Panasonic body then you will only benefit from image stabilisation when you use a Panasonic lens (and only then if it is stabilised as not all lenses are).

Now you can mount a Panasonic lens on an Olympus body without any problems; this is one of the prime features of Micro 43 – it’s a standard. For example, I frequently use a Panasonic 14-45mm lens with stabilisation on my Olympus EM5. I do take care to turn off the lens stabilisation using a switch on the lens barrel. But even when I forget it seldom causes an issue. With other lenses such as the Panasonic 45-150 the lens is stabilised but there is no stabilisation switch on the body. Despite this I have never experienced a problem mounting these lenses on my Olympus EM5 and leave the stabilisation for the camera on all the time.

In short, don’t worry about mixing lenses and camera bodies from Olympus and Panasonic although you might need to give a little thought to manually switching it off for some combinations of lens and camera body.

Next time we will start to review some of the zoom lenses I have used. But before we go I will leave you with a few section of the above image zoomed to 100% magnification. This shows just how good the Micro 43 system can be.

100% magnification
100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.

 

100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.
100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.

 

100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.
100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.

Friday Image No.031

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View from Yewbarrow
View from Yewbarrow

Regular readers will have noticed that I didn’t post a Friday image last weekend. That’s because I was on my way to the Lake District (the Wasdale area to be precise) for a long weekend of walking and taking photographs.

The image above is from the Saturday walk up Yewbarrow (again to be more precise it was a scramble up and down due to my route) and is taken from just below the summit looking towards Pillar in the distance. It’s one of the most scenic destinations in the Lake District and for any overseas visitors to the UK you should make it one of your destinations. And for anyone wondering what Yewbarrow looks like here you go.

Yewbarrow in the Lake District
Yewbarrow in the Lake District

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Deciding how to edit a photograph

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View from the leading edge at the top of Yewbarrow
View from the leading edge at the top of Yewbarrow

Following my last blog post on the Essential Skills for photography, the question was posed “Where I’m stuck is the step between picking the strongest image and playing with software. How do I decide what to do with it. ” This seemingly simple question is one of the most fundamental in photography and is one that I found myself wrestling with for a number of years. This is how I resolved the for myself. As I am a Landscape Photographer I will speak about scenes but you can apply this approach to most forms of photography.

The key to deciding how to edit an image doesn’t start when you download the image to your computer, it starts much earlier. It even starts before you even lift the camera to take the shot. It actually starts when you spot the opportunity to capture an image. When something catches your eye and you recognise there is a photograph to be taken, at that moment you should be working out what has captured your attention.

Having identified something that is attracting you to a scene you will begin to take photographs. It’s unlikely your first image will be what you wanted (if it is you are either amazingly talented or very lazy) so you need to experiment with angles and composition. As you work with a scene your vision for the image should become stronger. This is the vision that will become so important when you come to edit your image later.

Having a strong vision is the key to understanding how to edit your image.

Having selected the image that you want to work with; the one that best represents your vision, you should ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. What defects is the image suffering from that I need to correct? Perhaps it’s too bright or it looks a little flat. Perhaps it has a lot of dark areas which look ugly and need to be opened up. Spend time looking at the image and identify what you don’t like about it. Defects in the image hide your vision from the viewer.
  2. Now consider your vision and ask how can this image be enhanced to better convey my vision for the photograph? This should take you right back to the reason for taking the picture in the first instance. Why did you take the picture? How can you emphasise this aspect of the image to the viewer?

As you consider these questions, make notes about the changes that you would like to make. Don’t try to get all technical about how you will make the adjustments, just describe the changes. If you want to make some dark areas lighter, write that down. If you want to make the pinks more vibrant and colourful, write it down. If you think the image looks a little hazy and you want to give it more snap, write that down.

Once you have the list of changes you need to write out a plan for the adjustments you will make. Start with the global adjustments and work down to the smaller localised changes. Also try to make the corrections and fixes (question 1) before you make the enhancements (question 2).

I hope I haven’t made this sound easy as it’s not. It takes years of practice to develop your own styles and preferences as well as the skills necessary to be able to make the adjustments. But preserve and improvements will come.

Starting image for the scene above.
Starting image for the scene above.

Essential skills for Photography – Skill 6

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RWhalley_5D_2012_04_IMG_7272

In this final blog post of the series I will introduced the sixth skill that I believe is essential in producing great photography.

Image Adjustment

There are two aspects to this:

  1. Technical skills to be able to make the adjustment
  2. Aesthetic skills so that the adjustments are pleasing and not taken to an extreme

For the first element you must understand the image editing and adjustment tools that you use. You must also seek to use the best and understand how the different controls can be used to manipulate he image. You also need to understand this from the perspective of a photographer or an artist. You are not interested in lightening an image or adjusting the contrast, you are interested in creating illusion. Illusions such as sharpness and clarity. You need to understand how to control and manipulate light.

As you master your chosen tools you also need to understand the aesthetics of the adjustments you make. Your adjustments should be believable and realistic. Take your adjustment too far and the image will appear ugly. This is art and this is where you can truly introduce your vision.

Now it’s your turn. What have I missed? Do you agree with the skills discussed or do you find the concept of these skills too vague? Let’s share some opinions.

Beautiful Evening Light in Whitby

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Whitby Pier at sunset. Canon 5D MKII, 24-105mm Lens.
Whitby Pier at sunset. Canon 5D MKII, 24-105mm Lens.

I don’t know about you but my photo storage is a bit of a mess. I do like to keep each shoot in a separate dated folder and then import these to Lightroom. But sometimes something goes wrong. A few months back I suffered a Lightroom Catalogue crash and I lost a lot of work. I thought I had recovered everything but it turns out that I hadn’t.

Today I found some folders that I hadn’t re-imported so I had a quick look through the images. Here’s one that I like and thought I would share. It’s a sunset shot taken at Whitby, North Yorkshire in April last year. There wasn’t very much cloud in the sky but the atmosphere picked up the colours from the sun quite well. The low sun has also coloured the pier quite nicely with the low light levels allowed me to use a slow shutter speed (with the help of a Neutral Density filter).

I love looking through old images that I had forgotten about.

Another Example of False Infrared Colour

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GX1 Infrared image converted with a red blue channel swap to create a false colour
GX1 Infrared image converted with a red blue channel swap to create a false colour

In my last post I shared an example of the false infrared colour technique and explained how it was achieved. I also confessed that in general I don’t like the effect, although in some cases it does work well. I thought it would be good to share another example that I think works reasonably well (although not as well as the previous post)  although I will admit that I still prefer the traditional black and white conversion.

This example is a little more stylised than the previous image and was created by first converting the image to colour before applying a Fuji Provia Slide Film simulation in Exposure 6. This was then further edited with a boost to the Vibrancy slider and a negative Clarity to give the soft effect. My reasoning for these adjustments was to prepare the image for conversion to black and white but I found I quite liked the colour image.

When converting the images with the Channel Mixer it can seem a bit hit and miss. It appears to help if you have both sky and foliage in the image. With a Red/Blue channel swap such as shown here the sky will turn blue and the foliage will go red. Most other areas (in landscapes) tend not to be affected.

You can improve the results by picking a white balance point during RAW conversion which causes the foliage to take on a blue tint. Typically this will leave the sky with some red tint and when the channel swap is made with the channel mixer the red tint in the sky turns blue and the blue tint of the foliage turns red.

Also try to avoid images which have been shot in the shade (such as tree lined country lanes) as you won’t get such a good effect. You really need direct and strong sun to make this work well.

Hope this helps anyone who is also struggling with Infrared false colour.

Infrared conversion from my GX1 Infrared camera
Infrared conversion from my GX1 Infrared camera