Emotional Challenge 2

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Processing in Nik Analog Efex 2
Processing in Lightroom,  Photoshop and Nik Analog Efex 2

Recently I posted a blog entitled Emotional Challenge where I spoke about my recent interest in the emotional aspect of photography and how we could create images that had more emotional impact. As an initial example I posted the image of a seagull flying over the sea. Now some of your reading this will be relating the image of the seagull to seaside holidays, perhaps recalling childhood memories. Others though may have an entirely different perspective of the image.

If you are not from a climate where the seagull is a common sight on the coast you may not have any emotional memory to attach to the image. Instead you may see a huge open stretch of water with a bird gliding graceful over it and flying off into the distance. For you the emotional message in the image is one of freedom.

Today I have posted a few variants of the image that are also intended to add further layers of emotion, using various tricks or rather emotional triggers.

The first variant below has cropped the image to a square format. Whilst this possibly doesn’t give as dynamic a composition as the standard rectangular image, it is none the less a trigger. Some people will associate the square format with older cameras. The other change in this example was the vintage effect. Here lighting and colouring have been used to create the impression of older photography. All these changes were achieved quite quickly in Lightroom using the crop tool and a few gradients.

Processing in Lightroom
Processing in Lightroom only

The next example is a little more complex. This takes the Lightroom conversion and applies effects using Nik Analog Efex 2 (which is a recent release). The effects here are light and colour adjustments, blur, vignette, dust and an edge effect similar to the old Polaroid film.

Old film effects in Nik Analog Efex 2 only
Old film effects in Nik Analog Efex 2 only

In the next two examples the results of the Nik Analog Efex filter have been added as a layer in Photoshop to the Original Lightroom image. The blending mode has then been changed on the Nik layer. In the first of the two the blending mode is set to Soft Light.

Lightroom and Nik versions blended in Photoshop using Soft Light mode
Lightroom and Nik versions blended in Photoshop using Soft Light mode

In this second image the blending mode is set to Overlay.

Processing in Nik Analog Efex 2
Lightroom and Nik versions blended in Photoshop using Overlay mode

All these images are likely to mean different things to different people but all are likely to have an effect. If we can isolate the emotional triggers from great images and then learn how to recreate these in our own work, our photography will improve. But this carries two significant dangers. Firstly people are likely to either love or hate your work. Secondly your work can become a cliché and the effects boring.

I never said it was easy.

Quality costs but it also pays

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Olympus EM5 with 14-45mm lens. Lee Seven 5 0.9ND Graduated filter. Post processing with Nik Color Efex and Viveza. f/11 at ISO200 for 1/13" handheld.
Olympus EM5 with 14-45mm lens. Lee Seven 5 0.9ND Graduated filter. Post processing with Nik Color Efex and Viveza. f/11 at ISO200 for 1/13″ handheld.

Looking back some 3 to 4 years, I was a devoted user of Lee Filters although they were far from perfect. I didn’t think the quality was great and I can point to examples of colour shifts in my work. When I moved to Micro 43 I found the Lee 100mm filters were too large so I switched to using Hi-Tech 85mm filters and then more recently the Hi-Tech 67mm.

I was very pleased with the Hi-Tech filters and they were also much better value than the Lee equivalent. That was at least until I purchased the Sony RX10. When I use the 85mm Hi-Tech filters with this camera (the 67mm filters vignette badly) I find the sky takes on a purple tint. I can correct this in Lightroom using the grad tool but it’s annoying. What’s interesting is that this isn’t a noticeable problem when I use the filters with the Olympus EM5.

Now enter the GM1 and I found a similar problem was now occurring with the 67mm Hi-Tech filters. It’s not as strong an effect as the 85mm filters on the Sony but I can still notice it. Again, the effect isn’t noticeable when using the filters with the Olympus EM5.

It was this small but very frustrating tint that has taken me back to the Lee filters. I decided to bite the bullet and invest in the Lee Seven 5 filters, and I’m so pleased that I have. These filters and holders are very well made indeed. Best of all there is no discernible colour shift on any of the cameras I use. What really hit home for me was when I used the 0.9 Grad for this image and found the effect to be perfectly natural. If there was going to be a colour shift it would be with this filter but the results are excellent.

If you are thinking of investing in the Lee Seven 5, my view is that the expense is well worth it.

What are your favourite filters?

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Sea and cloud scape. Shot with an Olympus EM5 and processed using Nik Silver Efex
Sea and cloud scape. Shot with an Olympus EM5 and processed using Nik Silver Efex

I’m really interested in something and need your help. I love photography software and in particular filters and editing tools. I’m always on the lookout for new software that’s good and want to know what recommendations people have. Here are a few of the filters I already use in my workflow:

  • Nik Collection
  • Topaz (B&W Effects, Star Effects, Adjust, Detail)
  • On One Software Perfect Photo Suite
  • Photomatix (HDR)
  • Photo Wiz (B&W Styler, Contrast Master, Focal Blade)
  • Neat Image Noise Reduction
  • Qimage Ultimate (printing)
  • Akvis Magnifier (resizing)
  • Helicon Focus (image stacking)
  • Hugin (panoramic stitching)

Now I don’t want just names of filters and adjustment tools you have heard about, I want recommendations of tools you use and think are great. What do you recommend I look at?

Friday image No.017

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Long exposure on Filey Brigg using an Olympus EM5, 9-18mm lens at f/8.0 and 8 stop ND filter
Long exposure on Filey Brigg using an Olympus EM5, 9-18mm lens at f/8.0 and 8 stop ND filter. Click to view larger image.

It’s back to images from my Filey trip for this week’s Friday image. This was shot from Filey brig and is a long exposure taken during the day. It’s a 6 second exposure which I captured on the Olympus EM5. I used a Hi-Tech 8 stop ND filter from their ProStop IRND range (here is the link to a 10 stop on amazon). I have to say that I am really impressed with these filters. They give a blue colour cast to the image but it’s really nice and something that I decided to accentuate in this shot. The image quality is very good and I am going to buy some more of these in different strengths to give me more choice. As I am using them with Micro 43 I only need the 67mm size so they become very affordable.

There is something about a simple image such as this that I find quite relaxing.

Hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Infrared Filters

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Canal near to my house. Shot on an IR converted GX1 but with an IR850nm filter on the lens. Halation effect added in Photoshop.
Canal near to my house. Shot on an IR converted GX1 but with an IR850nm filter on the lens. Halation effect added in Photoshop.

Over the weekend I published my spring newsletter. Those of you who subscribe and who have had an opportunity to read the latest issue will know that the main article explores the options for infrared photography (including some that cost very little). As I was writing this it got me thinking that I wanted to shoot some Infrared film using my Hasselblad XPan which I haven’t used for about a year.

Choices for film are very limited these days so it was either Ilford SFX (which isn’t really a true infrared film) or Rollei IR400. I purchased a few rolls but realised I didn’t have a 49mm Infrared filter for the XPan lens, so needed to turn to eBay. I also realised I had sold my light meter thinking (incorrectly) that I wouldn’t need it again, so ended up needing to buy another.

Anyway, whilst searching for a 49mm Infrared filter (720nm strength) I also had a quick look for an 850nm Infrared filter and found quite a few. For anyone who is unfamiliar with these filters they will block out light with a wavelength shorter than the filter strength. For example a 720nm filter blocks light with a shorter wavelength, effectively blocking visible light but allowing infrared wavelengths through.

The reason for wanting a 52mm 850nm IR filter (which incidentally only cost £10 including postage) was so I could use it with my Infrared camera. When I had the camera converted to infrared I had a choice of having it fitted with either 720nm filter or an 850nm filter. The 850nm filter gives a more dramatic effect and can only be used to produce black and white images. I opted for the 720nm filter as this allows you to create some false colour effects. By using a screw in 850nm filter on the lens it’s like having my camera converted with the stronger filter.

When the new filters arrived I checked them. The 720nm filter made no difference to the IR camera but blocked the visible light from a standard (unconverted camera) so I knew it was a good filter. The 850nm filter when attached to a lens on my infrared camera caused a loss of about 2 stops of light making it very usable for handheld shooting. It also caused a colour shift to blue in the image but this is probably because I didn’t bother setting a custom white balance. The blue tint was easily corrected during the RAW conversion.

Now here’s the interesting thing, when I used the 850nm filter on the infrared camera, although the shutter speed was slower by 2 stops, the image quality was better. I didn’t take sufficient images to check this out properly but across about 10 scenes, the 850nm images appeared to have sharper and finer detail in all cases. I can’t explain why as in fact I had expected the opposite to happen. I’m going to keep a close eye on this as the light starts to get stronger and better for shooting infrared.

When is an A Series Filter not an A Series Filter

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Sunset on the mud flats. ND Graduated filters are a must for shots such as this.
Sunset on the mud flats. ND Graduated filters are a must for shots such as this.

I want to share with you a valuable lesson about filters. Those of you reading this blog regularly will no doubt be aware of the importance I place on the use of filters, particularly ND Graduated filters, for Landscape Photography.

For some time I have wanted to try out the reverse ND graduated filters that have started to become so popular recently. These are just like the normal ND graduates except that they are slightly lighter at the top part of the filter. This means there is a darker band running across the centre of the filter. The idea is that you place the darker band on the horizon where it is typically lighter at sunrise and sunset. This helps prevent the rest of the sky becoming unnaturally dark.

The problem with these filters is that they are unusually expensive. To buy a set of 100mm filters you need to take out a second mortgage and I can’t help but feel that I’m being ripped off. The P series are a little better but still cost upwards of £60 each.

My solution has been to switch to using A Series filters. I can do this as I use micro 43 and compact cameras (forget the recently acquired RX10 for the moment). To give you the complete story a friend had been thinking about the same thing and made the purchase first. I tested the filters on my lenses and all worked perfectly with no vignette so I was happy to make a purchase.

The filters I bought were the HiTech 67mm which are the same size as the Cokin A Series and are the same as my friends. He was using his with the Cokin A series filter rings and holder but I thought that I would buy the HiTech versions. This was more costly but I liked the modular holder and it would allow me to attach a 77mm polarising filter with a separate adapter.

All is fine with the filters and the holder is great.

It was at this point that I decided to purchase a cheap Cokin holder as a spare. Well, the damn thing won’t fit on the HiTech filter rings. They are too thick and slightly too wide a diameter. I checked this again by trying to use a Cokin A Series filter ring with the HiTech holder. That doesn’t work either as the Cokin ring is too small.

So, this lesson didn’t cost me very much (about £10) but I thought it would be worth sharing.

The A Series filters from HiTech are much more affordable as well so my loss is more than compensated.

Black & White Converter Update

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In my last post I was vigorously outlining the benefits of the RX100 and especially the Low Light Hand Held mode. I also presented one of the images I had shot on my recent trip to France and which I had converted to Black and White using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Well here is a new version of the image that I have just made using a new Black and White converter (new in that I haven’t discussed it before). I know I have introduced colour in there abut I like this muted tone effect.

Reprocessed version of my RX100 image discussed in the previous blog post.
Reprocessed version of my RX100 image discussed in the previous blog post. Click the image to open a larger version.

If you are wondering what the converter is that I used, it’s Perfect B&W. I expect to post more about these tools in the future.