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New Book Launch – Essential Colour Management

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Essential Colour Management
Essential Colour Management

I am pleased to announce that my new book “Essential Colour Management: What every photographer needs to know” has launched and is available on Amazon (Link to amazon.com and amazon.co.uk) for $3.99 and £2.49. Other countries are similarly priced in their relevant Amazon stores.

I don’t know of any photographer who has not suffered from colour management problems and I am fre3quently contacted by some of those suffering. This is a disjointed and complex area of photography that many people struggle to understand and gain control over. I know what this feels like as it took me more than a few years of testing and research to understand everything I needed to know.

This new book condenses this subject into the essentials you need as a photographer. It provides the key information in an understandable format. If you are a registered member of my Lenscraft Website (membership is free) you will shortly be receiving notification of the $0.99/£0.99 sale dates.

Another Bag Update

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The cotton grass on the moors this year is amazing. I have never seen so much. From a distance it looks like patches of snow.
The cotton grass on the moors this year is amazing. I have never seen so much. From a distance it looks like patches of snow.

The weather here in the UK is absolutely glorious at the moment. This is especially unusual in the area where I live (Saddleworth) which is well known for being wet (and unfortunately for the Moors Murders back in the 1960’s). Yesterday I took full advantage of the weather and went for a 12 mile walk over the moors. I did of course take my camera and used my belt pack discussed here recently to carry the equipment.

Front view of my Marmot pack
Front view of my Marmot pack

The weather for photography was poor as it was simply too bright and the light too harsh even at 9:30 in the morning. The only camera that was likely to work reasonably well for me was my Infrared GX1 which loves these conditions. My decision was therefore to take the GX1 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 together with 3 lenses (Panasonic 14-45mm, Olympus 9-18mm and a 7.5mm Fisheye). As I wanted to do a few comparison shots for depth of field against the MD I also popped the Sony RX100 in there together with its leather carrying case. Finally a couple of spare batteries, a HiTech ND graduated filter, filter holder and lens adapter ring were added.

Unfortunately not everything listed here fit into the belt pack. In the end I had the 14-45mm lens attached the OMD body in the main compartment of the bag. The 9-18mm lens and the Fisheye lens were both packed in Neoprene lens pouches and placed in the main compartment alongside the OMD. The GX1 body was placed in a front pocket where it fitted easily without a lens attached. The filters, accessories and batteries all went into two internal pockets. Only the RX100 had to be carried separately but that’s not a big issue.

Overall the bag was perfect and far, far better than I had expected and seemed to carry a huge amount of equipment. The entire kit was very light and easy to carry. When walking any distance I had the belt pack behind me where I didn’t notice it. When I stopped to take some pictures I simply spun the belt pack around (without needing to remove it) and everything became easily accessible. Whilst I didn’t take a backpack on this occasion the bag when worn on the front was not uncomfortable and would still easily allow the use of a backpack.

Was it perfect? Very nearly but I do reserve the right to change my mind after further use. My only minor problem was with the lens neoprene lens puches. I have a habit of carrying my lens hoods attached in a reverse position on the lens. When the 14-45 lens had the hood lens attached it wouldn’t fit properly into the lens pouch I had taken. This isn’t a huge problem as I do have larger pouches I could use but I wanted to avoid large pouches. I may therefore not take the lens hoods in the future.

I think this is quite a good carrying solution for a small micro 43 kit and doesn’t look like a camera bag.

Micro 43 Infrared is addictive

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Simple scenes can take on a new drama with Infrared
Simple scenes can take on a new drama with Infrared

Over the weekend I spent some time experimenting with my newly converted infrared GX1. My conclusion is that digital infrared is totally addictive.

The light was not very good for traditional photography and the sky lacked any real detail. Seen on the infrared LCD however this drab scene took on a completely different appearance. I also found the Panasonic Lumix GX1 is very easy to carry as a second body; it’s easy to slip it into my bag or pocket. In the end though I was walking around with two cameras around my neck because they are so light; the unconverted GX1 with a 14-45mm lens and the Infrared version with a 9-18mm lens.

Following up on my previous posts I have also made some useful discoveries about shooting infrared with the GX1:

  • I reported previously that the focussing seemed to be off and indeed it was. I have now switched to using the pinpoint focus rather than the movable area and the problem has corrected itself. I have since switched back to the moveable area focus and that now appears to be working also. I don’t know what caused the problem but I will monitor it carefully.
  • I found an article on IR photography on the internet that said setting the white balance is very important and that the AWB seldom gives good results. I had pretty much ignored the AWB setting as I shoot in RAW reasoning that I could set it later. I would never have thought however about making the adjustment that was recommended, taking the Colour temperature to the minimum (2,700K). When I came to update my camera I found that the company who performed the conversion had already registered 2 custom colour settings in the camera and they work very well.
  • I had previously thought the images produced were a little grainy so I performed a Pixel Refresh from the menu and the problem seems to have been corrected. This might however be as a result of the new white balance settings that I am using as a starting point for my conversion to Black and White.

Whilst the weather wasn’t great at the weekend I am starting to realise some of the potential of my converted camera and am actually quite pleased with some of the images. More will appear on these pages in the future.

My GX1 Lightweight Trip

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Formby captured on a GX1 with Olympus 9-18 lens at 9mm. The conversion to B&W was made using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2
Formby captured on a GX1 with Olympus 9-18 lens at 9mm. The conversion to B&W was made using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

I was going to use today’s post to tell you a little more about how I used the Topaz Detail 2 software to emphasise the detail in my LX5 images to produce enlargements. On Friday however I attended a Topaz webinar about Detail 3 which is due for release shortly. Detail 3 seems to be a big leap forward on Detail 2 (which is already very good) so I will wait until I have the new software to explain more. Instead I want to share some information about a trip out yesterday.

These days my opportunities to shoot tend to be when I am out in the landscape walking so my main camera for this is the GX1. Every month or two however I have the opportunity to get out with other photographers and spend a day or two just photographing. For these trips I tend to supplement my usual GX1 and LX5 cameras with a 5D MKII. I do like to use this camera and the results are superb. The downside is that it’s heavy and walking around with two full camera systems on your back for a long period of time is hard work.

For this weekend’s trip I decided I would only take the GX1 and LX5 with me together with some ND graduated filters (“P” sized HiTech) and a lightweight Velbon tripod (that I discussed a few posts back). The GX1 was a replacement for my 5D and the LX5 was a sort of point and shoot experimental camera with which to explore ideas.  The GX1 and 3 lenses weighs less than the 5D body but the big surprise was how much I used the LX5; I literally couldn’t put it down.

What a joy it was packing such a limited amount of equipment. There was far less than usual and everything I needed fitted in a small Low Pro slingshot bag. This allowed me to walk around all day on the beach, easily access my equipment and not need to put the bag down on the sand. In the past this has been a problem with the bag ending up with sand in it, not to mention the neck pain due to hanging a heavy camera round it.

In the end I enjoyed the photography much more than usual as I was free to more around with ease due to the small camera size. I felt very fresh through the day so was more prepared to put up with the very cold conditions. I was also able to shoot quite late into the day without the need for my tripod. I was even shooting handheld with the LX5 well after the sun had set (not that you could see the sun yesterday afternoon) but I will speak about that another day.

Lightweight only days are definitely going to be a feature of my future trips and I’m now wondering if it’s worth retiring the 5D.

Micro 4/3 or LX5 Infrared

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This image shot on a Sony NEX5 has been converted in software to give the appearance of being shot in infrared

As I mentioned in some of my recent posts I have just been up to Whitby with a friend. These trips are great as we talk about all things photography including quite often the new equipment we would like. It was during one of these discussions that I had to admit I would really like an infrared camera. In the past I might have sought to purchase an old DSLR and have this converted but that wouldn’t fit with my new lightweight approach.

After a lot of consideration and debate I think I have two choices. The first would be to purchase and convert an LX5 whilst the other would be converting a micro 4/3 camera. To be honest, I would love to have an infrared LX5; the lens is excellent and the camera fits in my pocket. What puts me off is that I have heard the LX5 suffers from hot spots under some conditions. I would hate to have an otherwise great image ruined by this so I am loathed to go down this route.

Realistically then it’s probably down to a choice of which micro 4/3 camera to purchase and convert. If I chose the GF1 I would worry about the age of the camera and the cost of the conversion in the UK is about twice the cost of the camera. Alternatively the cost of a new GX1 is now down to £315 after £50 cash back. This seems to be amazing value for money but I still need to find a conversion service that has a good reputation.

Now if you are reading this and wondering why I am not doing my Infrared conversion in software, it’s because it’s very difficult to create a realistic effect without introducing a lot of artefacts around edges in the image. It’s very difficult to get just the right look and to be honest I would rather have a converted camera that I can snap away with.

You will hear more about this in the future as I have convinced myself I need an infrared camera.

Sony NEX5 Sweep Panorama

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This interior of a shopping centre in Milan was shot using the Sweep Panorama of the Sony NEX-5

I have discussed on this blog in the past how I sold my NEX5 because I wasn’t happy with either the range or quality of the lenses. These factors were very important to me so I’m not saying the NEX5 is a bad camera. Quite the opposite in fact and there is one feature in particular that I deeply miss and that is the Sweep Panorama.

This is the ability to shoot a panoramic picture by simply releasing the shutter and moving the camera slowly and smoothly in a given direction. The camera takes images in quick succession and then stitches them into one long panoramic image in camera to produce a final JPG. If you have never used this feature I can assure you it is very addictive and makes shooting panoramic much easier than shooting and stitching multiple images in software. What has suddenly made me nostalgic for this feature was my recent trip to Whitby where my friend was using his new Sony camera and I would regularly hear the tell tale clicking shutter of the sweep panoramic.

With this in mind I decided to review some of my old sweep panoramic images such as the one shown above. Now whilst I am raving about the sweep panoramic there are a few limitations you need to be aware of – at least in the NEX5 at the time I was using it.

Firstly you need to set up the camera with the direction of sweep. Is it left to right, bottom to top or the reverse of one of these? This can take time and sometimes you don’t have the camera ready at just the moment you need it.

Moving subjects can be difficult to capture. Imaging you are standing on a beach and photographing a wave coming in. The wave will have moved slightly between each shot and the stitching usually couldn’t deal with this.

Moving elements in the scene pose a real problem for the Sweep Panorama

Finally there was the problem with stitching fine details which was magnified further when using a wide angle lens. Take a look at the sample below which shows this problem.

The in camera stitching also struggles with fine detail. Take a look at the figures on the wall closely and also the right hand window. None of these quite align properly.

This can of course be overcome with some work in Photoshop however I would rather avoid this and have a finished image where possible.

On a final positive note, the Sweep Panoramic seemed to overcome the problem with soft corners (although this may be due to in camera cropping).

For now then I will still have to lust after the sweep panoramic mode and continue to stitch my images in software.

Taking My Own Advice

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Flowing water and rock shot on a 5D MKII. This isn’t a Light Weight camera

I had an interesting weekend, making a photography trip to Whitby with a friend. Initially we went to shoot the coastal scenery but by 11:30 the sun had become so harsh in the clear blue sky that all attempts at Landscape Photography were thwarted. At this point we sat down, had a coffee and decided to switch our attention to nearby woodland where we knew there was a waterfall.

On arrival we could see the main fall some 80 feet below our path and down an inaccessible cliff. We knew that the falls must be accessible though as we had seen some pictures of it shot from the river. Walking along the path we found a trail that lead down to the river and then a further footpath leading back along the river to the falls. Neither of these paths was easy to walk as the one down to the river was extremely steep and muddy and it took all our efforts to stay upright. The path along the river was even worse, being very deep with mud that came over the top of your boots. Hopping between branches of fallen trees, rocks and tufts of grass was all we could do.

As we made our wall to the falls we came across a large tree that had fallen across the river, blocking it and a steady stream of water was cascading over it. This is the image you see above and it was shot on a Canon 5D MKII. The reason I tell you all this is that despite having my faithful and very light GX1 kit with me I insisted on taking the 5D. I also took a full set of Lee filters, a very large tripod and a large bag filled with all sorts of accessories that I didn’t need.

The result is a nice image but also a hard fall against some rocks as the weight of my bag caused me to slip, overbalance and graze my right hand quite badly. I feel confident I would have avoided this and still have achieved the shot had I left everything behind except for my lightweight kit. I need to listen to my own advice.