Death Valley Revisited

Friday Image No.220

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley. Panasonic GX1, Panasonic 14-45 lens, ISO160, 1/60″ at f/8.0

Over the past week, I’ve restarted work on a new edition of my Essential Photoshop book. When I wrote the original book, I wanted it to be version independent and work with old and new versions of Photoshop alike. I even illustrated it using Photoshop CS5. Following a few requests, I’ve decided to revise the book to create Essential Photoshop CC, based on the 2019 version. Importantly, I’m creating a print version of the book as well.

One of the difficulties in creating a print edition and even a new eBook version for that matter is image resolution. What used to be the maximum eBook image resolution on Amazon doesn’t satisfy customers just a few years later. It’s also too low a resolution to print. This means I need to recreate many of the original screenshots which involves a lot of reprocessing. And that’s where I found this week’s Friday Image.

This is the image I use to demonstrate tonal correction using Photoshop Curves, although it’s a colour image in the book. As I processed the scene I thought “I bet that looks great in black and white and so I ran it through Nik Silver Efex Pro. I don’t think I’ve created a masterpiece, but I do like it and there’s potential when I have more time.

I can’t tell you too much about taking the shot other than it was Zabriskie Point in Death Valley one afternoon in March. The weather was dull and a little hazy which created a low contrast scene. I know from the camera data that I used a Panasonic GX1 with a Panasonic 14-45mm lens at 45mm. Given the weather conditions and composition, I doubt I used any filters and I would have shot it handheld.

What I do remember very clearly though were the large groups of photographers travelling around the park, shooting locations like this. They all had huge cameras, tripods and lenses and on more than a few occasions would push straight past, even standing directly in front of me to set up. I even had a few ask me about my “quaint little camera” and suggest upgrading it to something better (bigger).

I really miss that little camera and lens.

Have a great weekend.

The Nik Collection 2 Review

Apologies if you were waiting for last week’s Friday Image that didn’t arrive. That’s because I was doing a bit of a tour around the UK and couldn’t fit everything in. Part of my problem was unexpectedly managing to lay my hands on an early release of the new Nik Collection. This allowed me to prepare a video review in advance, but I hadn’t factored that into my plans for the week. Anyway, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to have a preview.

If you haven’t seen the new release already, it’s may be worth viewing my video before deciding whether to buy the release or not.

New Website Host

The other big demand on my time has been switching website host.

Recently the company hosting my Lenscraft website was taken over by a major hosting company. Since then the performance has been very variable and I’ve received increasing numbers of errors. I therefore moved the site to a different host and whilst it’s early days the performance has improved, and the errors have vanished. Fingers crossed this continues.

Friday Image No. 219

This is another image from my Scotland trip; unfortunately, I haven’t done much photography since. I still have quite a few nice shots I haven’t shared though so I’ll keep working through them.

4 image stich using Fuji X-T3, 50-200 Lens, ISO160, 1/12″ at f/11.0 Tripod mounted, 3 stop soft ND Grad on the sly.

This image was shot from a single-track road, on top of a hill, near to Achnahaird. We spotted the view whilst doing an initial drive around the area and decided to take a chance one morning after shooting the sunrise.

I stitched the panoramic from 4 frames in Lightroom. I took these with the camera mounted on a tripod and used a 3 stop soft grad on the sky.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Friday Image on Saturday – oops

The Scottish Highlands. Four image stitch using a Fuji X-T3 and 50-200 lens. ISO160, 1/25″ at f/11.0. Tripod mounted and Kase 0.9 ND Soft Grad filter.

I’m starting with an apology for not posting this week’s Friday Image on a Friday.

The past week has been rather frantic with quite a few time critical things:

  1. The Lenscraft June newsletter needed finishing and publishing. If you haven’t subscribed, you can read it here (https://lenscraft.co.uk/photography-tutorials/read-lenscraft-in-focus-photography-newsletter/).
  2. This week’s YouTube video tutorial explaining how to use the Nik Collection from Capture One needed publishing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XipDxh7tlbM&t=19s).
  3. I had to launch my new Luminosity Masking course. The course is only a month late but, in my defence, it’s almost 5 hours of video. You can find out more and watch three preview lessons here (https://lenscraft.teachable.com/p/the-photographers-guide-to-using-luminosity-masks/).
  4. Unusually I needed to prepare next week’s YouTube video a week in advance. This is a big review, but I can’t reveal any more at this time. The video goes out on Wednesday at 14:15 UK time so if you don’t already subscribe to my YouTube channel you may want to consider it.

But let’s get back to the image.

This is yet another image from my Scotland trip. I shot it just after dawn and as you can see the sun is just creeping up over the horizon. It’s a stitch panoramic created from 4 shots with the X-T3 in a horizontal format.

I had the camera mounted on a tripod that I had spent quite a bit of time getting level. This allowed me to pan the camera across the range without it dipping to one side. This was important because the lens, a Fuji 55-200 was at the 200mm end because I was so far from the mountain range. I had my doubts that this would create a usable image, but I’m really pleased with the finished result.

In terms of filters, I was using a Kase 0.9 (3 stop) soft graduate over the sky. Ordinarily, I don’t like to use a filter when there is a lot of clear sky in the frame as it can make it appear unnatural. But in this shot, I needed anything to help me prevent the image from having too much contrast. I also had to tackle the problem of potential underexposure which I did by having the camera in manual mode.

The finished image is sizable. If I printed it at 240dpi it would be 47” x 17” without any resizing.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

My New Favourite Lens for the Fuji X System

Scottish Highlands, Fuji X-T3, Samyang 12mm lens, Kase 0.9 Soft ND Grad filter. ISO160, f/8.0, 1/00″ handheld.

I have a new favourite lens for my Fuji X series cameras, but I can’t explain why. It’s the Samyang 12mm. That’s right, a Samyang lens.

It’s sharp, I mean really sharp and it feels very well made. It’s manual focus only but at 12mm, there is so much depth of field you stop it down to f/8.0, focus on infinity and click away. When you shoot into the sun, as in the image above, the Samyang creates a wonderful 6-point starburst effect. Best of all, I couldn’t see any flare.

So how much did this cost me? Just £280 from Amazon would you believe (https://amzn.to/2HQoMi6).

This lens has made me want to buy more wide-angle primes. I know it’s silly because I already have the excellent Fuji 10-24, but the prime is a joy to use in the landscape.

The Friday Image

In all honesty, I’ve lost count of the number for the Friday Images so I’m just going to keep publishing an image along with updates. It’s yet another from my Scotland Trip. I couldn’t tell you the name of this bay, but I could take you there. It was a rather opportunistic shot; we were just driving past, and I asked to stop whilst I shot this. With the Samyang 12mm of course.

If you want to see other shots from the trips with a few location details, I published this video to You Tube recently. You may recognise some of the shots but there are a few new ones that I haven’t shared.

Enjoy the video and have a great weekend.

Shooting the Dawn Landscape at Mellon Udrigle

Pre-dawn at Mellon Udrigle, Scotland. Fuji X-T3, 16-55 Fuji Lens, ISO160, 20″ at f/11.0. Kase Wolverine 0.9 Soft Grad filter. Tripod mounted.

I said in my previous post that I had a few more images from my recent Scotland trip. This shot is one of them. I took it at a location called Mellon Udrigle which was around an hour drive from Ullapool in daylight. That might not sound like much but when you want to be in position by 6:00am, it makes for a long day. The drives also lengthened by the need to keep a look out for deer which emerge from the side of the road at an alarming frequency.

Putting all these difficulties aside, this was an excellent location to visit. I took the shot around 20 minutes before sunrise when the sky was nicely coloured by the sun below the horizon and everything was a strong blue/pink. I used a 0.9 (3 stop) Kase Wolverine soft grad filter on the sky and a 16-55 Fuji lens on my Fuji X-T3. The shutter speed was 20” at ISO160 and f/11.0.

I think this demonstrates the need to start shooting before the sun comes up. Once the sun came up the colours turned quickly to orange and yellow and the contrast in the scene increased sharply.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

More Landscape Photography from the Scottish Highlands

Lake Assynt, Scotland. Three shot panoramic with a Fuji X-T3. See below for full description.

Today I wanted to share another image from my recent Scotland trip. I suspect there will be a few more yet to come. Originally, I had intended this to be a black and white shot, but it doesn’t work as well when converted. The problem is that the trees become lost against the background.

To be entirely honest, it doesn’t quite work in colour either, but the scene is so tranquil that I still love it. Had I been able to, I would have liked a little more height so that I would be looking down on the island. This would have placed the trees against the water, balancing them with the reflection. Unfortunately, I was already on the highest point; such is the challenge of landscape photography.

I shot the image using a Fuji X-T3 camera. In case you’re wondering, yes, I do think it’s an improvement on the X-T2 but it’s difficult to put into words why. It just is. I was using a Fuji 18-55 lens which is the kit lens that came with my X-T2 and is simply excellent. I also used a Kase 0.9 ND Graduated filter which I inverted to darken the light reflecting off the water in the foreground (I appear to be using the Soft ND Grad filters a lot more these days). Without this the exposure became too unbalanced. I had the camera mounted on a tripod to capture three frames of 1/17” at f/11.0 using ISO160 (the base ISO on the X-T3).

I then stitched the three frames to a panoramic using Adobe Lightroom. I used the Pro Contrast filter in Nik Color Efex Pro to fine tune the colour balance after which the Detail Extractor filter to open the shadows in the land. I then enhanced the Contrast and Structure of the foreground in Nik Viveza. This may sound like a lot of processing, but the changes were all very minor and subtle.

DxO Sale and the Nik Collection Free

I had an email earlier this week from DxO announcing their 30% sale on all their products until the 14th May 19. I wanted to share it in case anyone waiting for a DxO sale had missed the announcement. Unfortunately, the sale doesn’t appear to extend to the Nik Collection which I used for editing the image above.

But did you know you can still get the Nik Collection for free?

Whilst this is the old Google edition of the software it still works well for lots of people. It also appears that it’s not common knowledge how to do this, so I’ve published an article explaining how.

That’s all for now.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Have You Tried Topaz Gigapixel?

Scottish Highlands, Lake Assynt. Fuji X-T3, 18-55, ISO80, 1/6″, f/14.0. Tripod and Kase 0.9 Soft Grad.

Gigapixel from Topaz is an image enlarger. The hype on the website says it uses machine learning to create more detailed enhancements. The website also shows lots of comparisons between Photoshop and Gigapixel. I was intrigued but at the same time very sceptical of the claims, so I decided to try it out on some of my images. You can see one of these in the video below which I just published on my YouTube Channel.

If you decide to try Gigapixel (and I strongly recommend you try it before buying), please use the link on this page. It’s an affiliate link which helps me cover the costs of running the Lenscraft website, this blog and producing YouTube videos, but it doesn’t cost you any more.

Friday Image No.219

This week’s image is another from my recent trip to the Highlands of Scotland. If you subscribe to the Light and Landscape free magazine (it really is excellent) you may already have seen this in my interview.

The image is a great example of matching the content to the conditions. The conditions at the time were surprisingly calm and the loch which was usually very choppy became like glass. There was also a thick blue haze in the air which tended to fade the distant hills. This allowed me to throw more emphasis onto the island and its reflection.

I captured the image using a Fuji X-T3 camera and a Fuji 18-55 kit lens. I mounted the camera on a tripod, and I set the ISO to 80 and aperture to f/14.0. This was to slow the shutter to 1/6” so that the surface of the loche was smoothed a little and the reflection became more broken by the ripples. I tried other speeds, but they didn’t work as well as this. A Kase 0.9 Soft ND grad was used over the sky to help balance the exposure.

Iridient X-Transformer was used to convert the RAW file to the DNG format before processing with Adobe Lightroom. The colour image was then processed to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Lenscraft Newsletter

For members of my Lenscraft website, the latest newsletter goes out on the 4th May. It’s also published on the Lenscraft Newsletter page on the 4th May.

I hope you like the Friday image and have a great weekend.

Making Mirrorless Work

%d bloggers like this: