RX10

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.

RX10 Starts to Impress

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Skiddaw Little Man. Captured on the RX10.
Skiddaw Little Man. Captured on the RX10.

I finally managed to get out with the RX10 at the weekend and the weather was only dreadful rather than delivering destruction on biblical proportions (although some parts of the UK continue to be battered by storms). Despite the poor conditions I was able to capture a few images where the operation of the RX10 impressed me.

The image above is of Skiddaw Little man which is one of the peaks on the Skiddaw massif. On this particular day we had ascended Skiddaw Little Man on the way to the main summit of Skiddaw. The snowline kicked in at around 700m and visibility was down to around 20m for most of the day.

On the way to the summit of Skiddaw
On the way to the summit of Skiddaw

It was only on the descent that there was sufficient break in the cloud to reveal this peak. Below you can see a shot of the pile of rocks and twisted iron at the summit.

RX10 capturing superb detail.
RX10 capturing superb detail.

The other aspect of the weather conditions that can’t be seen from these images was the strong and very cold wind. I had removed my right glove for no more than 2 minutes to take one shot and later, once I had descended it became very painful. It wasn’t until the next day that it stopped hurting and I can still feel it even today.

Despite all this I was able to take some OK shots with the RX10. The controls were quite easy to use through my gloves (I became a little more careful after the experience above). I found the DMF switch on the camera which activated the focus peaking. For those of you not familiar, this shows where the image is in focus, allowing you to set the correct aperture and focus point. This was great as I found I needed to adjust my usual approach to selecting the point of focus. I was also able to use the camera with a slightly wider aperture, which helped the quality.

In my previous post I mentioned the problem with the writing on the front of the lens reflecting on my filters. My solution was to use 3mm white board dividing tape to cover the writing and this proved very effective. If you find you have a similar problem get some black tape.

The quality of the image produced is very good and the lens appears very sharp at all apertures, although around f/4.0 it was particularly impressive. Yes the corners do go off slightly when at 24mm but nothing like as much as the NEX5 that I used to have. Image quality appeared good across all the focal lengths from 24-200mm but I really need some decent conditions to assess this properly.

The EVF was superb and the image quality matches that of an optical viewfinder. The only niggle I had with it was when it misted up due to the changing temperatures when I kept putting it in my backpack. The misting caused the screen on the rear to switch off as the sensor in the EVF determined the mist was my eye. You can of course override this.

Checking the camera menu before taking it out I had identified that all the buttons can be reassigned. This allowed me to configure it to work in the way I wanted. For example if I now press the centre button within the control wheel I can activate the flexible focus spot and then use the control wheel to position it. Turning the control wheel allows me to set the ISO. This is great and avoids needing to go through the Function button. These may sound like small features but it means you can set the camera up just as you want, making it much easier to use.

Overall I really enjoyed using the camera. It really does feel like it’s one of those great cameras that will pretty much handle anything you throw at it. I will continue to post more thoughts as I use this camera more.

And for fans of B&W, here is the first image processed in Nik Silver Efex.
And for fans of B&W, here is the first image processed in Nik Silver Efex.

First problems with the Sony RX10

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The colours produced by the RX10 are superb
The colours produced by the RX10 are superb

On Monday I managed to get an outing with the new RX10. It was a day of two halves. The first half was gales and driving rain during which I couldn’t use the Sony. Instead I resorted to trying to shoot with the LX7 but ended up switching that for my Infrared camera. This was because the Infrared GX1 doesn’t need a filter to shoot landscape where the LX7 does and the filters were getting covered in rain.

The second half of the day (about an hour) cleared up but the winds got even stronger. I was blown over several times and my camera bag (full of lenses) actually blew away. I’m not sure it was therefore great weather to judge the performance of the RX10.

Despite this I was able to identify a fairly major failing in the design of the RX10 and it’s one that I can’t believe Sony missed. As I was shooting I started to notice white marks appearing on my images. You can see an example below which I have ringed in red.

Example of the lens reflection. See the red circle in the bottom right.
Example of the lens reflection. See the red circle in the bottom right.

Sometimes these marks weren’t very noticeable but other times they were. In the end I was able to focus the white marks and realised it read “Carl Ziess”. Information about the lens is printed quite boldly in white around the edge. This is quite normal but the RX10 lens edge is angled where this writing appears. When you place a square grad filter over the front of the lens you find the writing around the edge of the lens reflects onto the inside of the grad and you get this strange circular blob.

The easy fix (which I am now adopting) is to place black tape over the writing so that it’s not reflected. This however is ridiculous for a camera of this cost. Do they not field test these before they rush them out to us poor consumers.