RX10

The Bleak Weather Returns

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Sony RX10 - ISO80, 1/80" at f/5.6. 2 stop ND Grad filter on the sky.
Sony RX10 – ISO80, 1/80″ at f/5.6. 2 stop ND Grad filter on the sky.

I was out walking yesterday in the Lakes – what a mistake. The weather was dreadful. It was windy, foggy and the rain was driving down hard. Despite this I managed to pull out the Sony RX10 and rattled off a few frames. I quite like the one above as I think it conveys well just how poor the weather was.

New Website Call

I’m also going to be taking some time out shortly to build my new Lenscraft website. I know that quite a few people who read the Lightweight Photography blog are members of Lenscraft so I would like to publicise an offer. If you are a Lenscraft member, have your own website and would like me to add a link in the “Members Sites” section, email your details to me at robin@lenscraft.co.uk. I just need your name and a link to your site. Obviously feel free to return the link but there is no requirement.

My most disappointing camera is…

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The hills and moors above Dovestones in Saddleworth
The hills and moors above Dovestones in Saddleworth

I should actually say my most disappointing camera was because there has been some remarkable changes with it. But first you need to hear a story to understand my disappointment.

Back in 2009 I purchased a Sony R1. For those of you don’t know, the R1 was a bridge camera with a fixed lens that was the size of a small DSLR at the time. It was very expensive new and had quickly lost favour with the general public. It was quite a weight really due in part to the huge lens. This was a 24-120mm lens made by Zeiss which was razor sharp. The 10Mpx sensor was the same one as used in some of the Nikon DSLRs at the time and was good at ISO 200 (base ISO) but quickly became noisy. The camera also lacked image stabilisation.

Despite its limitations the camera was a joy to use and produced amazing images. There are many fine art photographers who used this camera at the time and indeed I sold mine to one in 2011. Despite loving this camera I had become convinced that the Sony NEX5 was going to be a direct replacement for it but much smaller. Needless to say it wasn’t and I ended up switching to Micro 43, which I’m very pleased I did.

Roll forwards to December of last year and Sony launch the RX10. I didn’t pay much attention at the time based on past experience but then I say a picture of the RX10. It was clear that it was a reworked R1 with the same huge Zeiss lens. I did have some reservations about the 1″ sensor but already owning the RX100 I knew the sensor was quite capable. I purchased one immediately having traded in a very poor Panasonic 14-140mm lens.

The new RX10 was everything I wanted it to be. It reminded me so much of the R1 but improved. It handled well and meant no more lens switching. The lens range was now improved to 24-200mm with a fast f/2.8 constant aperture. I was so pleased.

But then came the let down. On paper this camera should perform brilliantly but when I processed the RAW files I couldn’t attain the sort of legendary image quality as the R1. At the time I was comparing this to the Olympus EM5 which is my main workhorse camera. The RX10 just seemed a bit, well soft in comparison. I tried all sorts, even convincing myself that the files were good enough. Once or twice I even came close to selling the camera had it not been for the excellent handling and convenience. In the end it was relegated to be my walking camera.

I hope you can now understand my disappointment.

Then to surprise recently I decided to open some of the RX10 RAW files in CaptureOne 8 (more on this some other time). The results were excellent. Image quality was not as “crisp” as the EM5 but then the images appeared more natural. The colours were also amazing.

At this time I also decided to update the firmware in the Sony as it was version 1.0 and version 2.0 was now available. Whilst the firmware talks about improvements to video, I’m sure they have done something to the focusing and image stabilisation. The camera now handles much better and I am getting much less shake than previously.

Over the past couple of weeks I have made a number of A2 prints from the RX10 files and they are really nice. There is a good feeling of depth to the images and they don’t feel so crisp that they appear unnatural.

In summary, a camera that was often left at home as it was disappointing has turned into one that I am happy to use and pleased to have purchased.

Another Drought

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Low water in the reservoir. Sony RX10. See text for details.
Low water in the reservoir. Sony RX10. See text for details.

I had intended to get out yesterday for a long walk (about 20 miles) as I find it helps to clear my mind. In the end the 24 hours of torrential rain and quite severe thunder storms put an end to my hopes.

Today was much better though and despite not having the time for a 20 mile hike I did manage a drive over to the Peak district and a clocked up 12 miles over the hills.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived was how low the water level was in the reservoirs. Above is one of the images I shot with the Sony RX10 and it makes me wonder if we are heading for another drought with all the nice weather we have been having.

As a side note for those of you wondering about my use of the RX10, I have tended not to use it much as I don’t find the images anywhere near as crisp and sharp as my Micro 43 cameras. Despite that the camera has a lovely feel and is a joy to use.

For this particular image I didn’t use the usual Nik sharpening tools but opted for Focal Blade. This is an excellent although quite complex sharpening filter which I have been using on and off for a number of years. I don’t know why but it appears to achieve better results than Nik Sharpener Pro with the Sony images.

The other thing I did was apply Contrast Master which is a contrast adjustment tool from the same people who produce Focal Blade (PhotoWiz). I was reasoning that the images from the Sony seem to lack contrast and pop which is easily corrected in Contrast master. Having just printed this image at A3+, the detail is excellent. It also has a very nice quality to it, very much like film.

I just thought I should try adding some grain and making another print. I’m off to experiment…

Friday image No.013

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The BT Tower at sunset. Captured on a Sony RX10.
The BT Tower at sunset. Captured on a Sony RX10.

This weeks Friday image isn’t anything spectacular. I captured this on my trip to London last week and for those of you who are not familiar with the UK, this is the BT Tower, which was formally known as the Post Office Tower. At least it was when I was young when this was an iconic building. I think for me it was iconic because I watched this show (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitten_Kong) – boy we have come a long way since the 70’s.

Compositionally you can’t really do much with this building. But look closely at the right hand side of the tower that’s facing into the setting sun and you notice some lovely warm light.

Have a great weekend.

Friday image No.012

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Hotel stairs. Sony RX10. Converted to B&W in Nik Silver Efex Pro.
Hotel stairs. Sony RX10. Converted to B&W in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

I spent this week away on a well earned break in London, celebrating my 25th Wedding Anniversary. Wow, how time flies. As you can see from the image above I managed to take some photographs of London – but not what you might expect. This one was the staircase in the hotel we were staying at. It just caught my eye.

Have a great weekend.

Friday image No.011

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Reflections on my walk - Sony RX10
Reflections on my walk – Sony RX10

I love reflections., I find them fascinating and beautiful whether created on manmade surfaces or in nature. I suppose the ones we find in nature are the ones that really enthral me and I can’t help reaching for my camera.

Here is one from my walk last weekend in Jumbles Country park near to Bolton. I just printed this and my immediate thought was that it has a lovely soft quality to it. It was shot on an RX10 which is an easy take anywhere camera. Such a shame it’s so expensive and twice the size of the Olympus EM5.

Have a great weekend.

Free Your Mind

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Captured with a Sony RX10 and processed with Perfect Effects
Captured with a Sony RX10 and processed with Perfect Effects

I went for a walk at the weekend to a place called Jumbles Country Park which is near to Bolton. It’s not very far from where I live, about 40 minutes in the car. It’s even nearer to where I used to live before I met my wife. The strange thing is, I have never been there and nor did I realise it even existed.

I decided before setting off that my equipment for the day would be the Sony RX10 and a single 0.6 ND Graduated filter. This after all was going to be a walk and not a photography outing. Whilst I really like the Sony, I felt strangely exposed without having my Olympus EM5 to fall back on but decided as this was a walk I would just take a few snaps. What this also meant was that my mind was free from expectations of taking great images. This left me able to wander and identify scenes that I might otherwise miss.

In the end I didn’t capture anything that was earth shattering however I did really enjoy myself. I spotted a number of good scenes that were typical spring scenes in the landscape for the North West of England. This particular scene was one that really caught my attention. I had seen the viaduct as we had been walking but it was completely in shadow. As I stopped to try a shot the clouds opened and bathed it in a wonderful light. I managed a few shots before it was back in shadow.

The image you see here has been manipulated and has a dreamy feel to it but this is exactly what was running through my mind at the time I took the shot. A straight representation of such a landscape just isn’t going to cut it. I hope this doesn’t offend anyone as I am primarily an artist, I just happen to use Photography as my medium.

Bad Weather Photography

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Blackpool Seawall. Sony RX10
Blackpool Seawall. Sony RX10

Last week I wrote about how I visited Blackpool to photograph the storms when the bad weather hit. In case you weren’t aware, the UK has been hit by a series of storms for some 8 weeks now (usually a couple each week). Each storm brings huge amounts of rain (for the UK at least), high winds and often a storm surge affecting the tides in coastal regions. Large areas of the country are flooded and the sea defences are crumbling.

The image you can see above shows waves crashing over the new sea wall in Blackpool. Ordinarily high tide would just about reach the sea wall at this point. The sea wall itself is at least 20 feet high and designed to absorb the force of the waves. This should give some idea of just how large the storm surge and this wave is. Notice also how the cement between the concrete blocks is giving way and water is forcing itself through.

The following image also gives a good idea of how rough the seas were.

Bad weather in Blackpool. Sony RX10.
Bad weather in Blackpool. Sony RX10.

Photographing under these conditions can be challenging as you don’t want the camera to get wet and you certainly don’t want it to get wet with seawater. The approach I used to keeping the RX10 dry was to place it inside a zip-lock plastic bag. On the front of the lens was a UV filter. I pulled the plastic back tight over the filter and then screwed in a Cokin filter ring to the front of the UV filter. This did two things:

  1. It trapped the plastic bag between the filter UV filter and the filter ring
  2. It caused the plastic bag to become cut so that I could remove the central part of the bag to expose the UV filter.

With the central part of the bag removed I could use masking tape to attach the plastic bag securely to the filter ring. This provided a good seal and allowed me to keep the camera dry whilst shooting in the driving rain. All I had to do was keep wiping the UV filter to dry it.

I hope you find this tip useful if you are going to photograph in the rain and a cheaper alternative to some of the rain covers you can buy.

An unexpected twist to the weekend

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Reflections in Dean Clough. Captured with the Sony RX10
Reflections in Dean Clough. Captured with the Sony RX10

It was a rather unusual weekend. I was due to be out with a couple of friends in the Yorkshire Dales shooting the landscape which is famed for its wonderful Lime Stone. Unfortunately the weather definitely had other plans for us.

We met up the night before and spent the evening looking at the weather forecast and planning the best locations for the following day. The forecast was to be clear up to around 10:00am but then a severe storm with high winds was due to hit. This really isn’t the sort of weather we wanted to be out in on an exposed hillside.

As it turned out the weather forecast was good to its promise and as the winds got up we retreated down the hill to a local cafe. Assessing the position we moved to the coast (Blackpool) where we decided to photograph the storm surge making land (more on that in another post).

Sunday was little better and offered very little potential for traditional landscape work. We tried some waterfalls but there was just too much water flowing, so decided to change our subject matter entirely. Staring back towards home early we called in at the town of Halifax and Dean Clough Mills, on old and impressive mill complex that is now a business park. This it turned out was another good decision and allowed us to capture some pleasing images although definitely not what we had anticipated on the Friday evening.

Above you see my most successful Lime Stone image (look at the top of the image) from the weekend.

Photography with an open mind

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Ogden near Milnrow. Conversion with Nik Color Efex using the Infrared and Grain filters. Captured with a Sony RX10
Ogden near Milnrow. Conversion with Nik Color Efex using the Infrared and Grain filters. Captured with a Sony RX10

Yesterday was time for a walk in that it wasn’t raining hard; at least not when I headed out. As is usually the case I picked up a camera to take with me but this time it was a hard decision. Was it worth actually bothering?

You see the walk I was intending to do was around 10 miles and didn’t involve any mountains or spectacular scenery. In fact it was really a walk to keep up fitness levels. The area is quite nice if you like the stark, bleak moorland of the North of England but at the moment it looks pretty horrible with all the rain.

I walk in this particular area quite regularly and over the years have tried to take landscape images. It is, without doubt one of the most challenging locations I have come across. I have tried it in all weather conditions (snow isn’t bad), at all times of year and all times of day and night but I seldom come away with any photographs that I like.

This time I picked up the RX10 and after some decision making I decided to take it. In the end I stopped a total of 4 times to take a handful of pictures, but each time I captured something I quite like. I have never managed anything so productive in the past so why the sudden turnaround in my fortunes?

It’s certainly not down to equipment, although I really like using the RX10. No, I think it’s more to do with how I approached the photography or rather walk. I was out to do a walk rather than looking for images and because f this I had no expectations about what I would see or what type of image I was looking to create. I simply walked and if something caught my eye, I stopped and asked myself what it was. When I was clear in my own mind what was attracting me I took the photograph. You can see two of the processed images in this blog.

Drain in Holingworth Lake near Milnrow. Conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro. Capture with a Sony RX10.
Drain in Holingworth Lake near Milnrow. Conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro. Capture with a Sony RX10.

I think I need to take this approach more often rather than visit somewhere and become disappointed by what I find.