Digital Photography

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 and log in to the members area.


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?

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.

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.

How I Created the La Paz Image

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La Pas, Bolivia
La Pas, Bolivia

It seems that my previous post created a bit of a stir with a few requests for a tutorial added to the site and many more sent by email. I have therefore bowed to public pressure and added a tutorial to my Lenscraft site describing how the image was captured and then processed. There may be a few surprises in there for some of you. Here is the link

And for those of you wanting to see the starting image, here it is.

La Paz Starting image
La Paz Starting image


Hope you enjoy.

A Surreal Experience in Bolivia

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Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, Olympus EM5, 12-40 lens at 12mm, ISO200, f/7.1, shutter speed 1/200″

I must admit that I have seen some beautiful and unusual landscapes around the world in my time but this one in Bolivia has to take the prize for the most unusual. The salt flats of Uyuni in Bolivia are spectacular. They are flat and white but in some locations there are small islands of cactus. This particular one is called Salar de Uyuni.

The trip over to the island was rather unusual also. We were travelling in two Toyota Land Cursers, side by side speeding across the flats at around 70mph playing Guns & Roses (welcome to the Jungle) followed by the Sex Pistols (Anarchy in the UK).

It’s moments like this that tend to stick in the mind. Hope you like the image.

New Book Launch

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Offshore Wind Farm
Offshore Wind Farm

Some time back I posted the above image as a “Friday Image”. It drew quite a favourable response so I decided to include it in my latest book as one of the examples. The new book is now live on Amazon and is titled “Nik Efex from Start to Finish: Workflows and examples using the Nik Collection”.

I have now written detailed books for most of the Nik products and they continue to gain favourable reviews. But I have received quite a lot of mail from readers who want to understand more about how to integrate Nik filters into their workflow. What is the best approach, Lightroom or Photoshop? Should I use more than one filter? How do I decide which filter I should use? I have also had people ask where they can find more worked examples because these are so helpful.

I wrote this latest book because a lot of people need this help. There is no denying the Nik filters are incredibly powerful and can produce fabulous results, but they can be confusing. I hope this book will cut through a lot of the confusion for readers. The book also includes 5 detailed examples which are supported by a download file available from the members are of Lenscraft.

The new book is available from all Amazon stores and is priced at $2.99 or similar in your local currency. And if you are a member of my Lenscraft website you will shortly receive an email confirming details of my Christmas Sale which will include this title.

Friday image No.039

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Rock at Aberdaron, Wales

This week’s Friday image was shot on my trip to Wales last week. It was 10:00 in the morning on Saturday and the rain was coming down hard from the dark sky. My friend checked the weather forecast and announced the weather would clear at 11:00 and that we should leave now to be ready for the storm breaking. I didn’t believe the forecast but agreed.

At 11:00 there was a break in the clouds and within 30 minutes the sun was breaking through the storm as predicted (Ed, if your reading this well done. All that new computer kit at the Met Office is paying off). As usual when a rain front breaks you get dramatic lighting and this was no exception. We raced over to the small coastal town of Aberdaron where we thought the light on the beach would be interesting; we weren’t wrong.

At the time I had the camera set to shoot in black and white as there wasn’t much colour from the contrasty lighting. To make the image more interesting a 6 stop Lee ND filter was used which gave a shutter speed of around 1 second. The image above represents pretty much my vision for the finished image (which by the way hasn’t had a lot of processing). It wasn’t until I saw the colour version that I realised there was a better option. Printing the two images at A4 the black and white looks good until you compare it side by side with the colour version. At A3 and larger the colour image is particularly impressive.

Let me know if you agree the colour version is better and have a great weekend.

Rock at Aberdaron, Wales