Month: December 2014
It was an early start yesterday. Up at 4:30 in the morning in order to make the 2 hour journey to Ullswater in the Lake District for a dawn shoot. Despite the early morning start it was without question one of the most enjoyable days photography that I have ever had.
Overnight the temperature had dropped like a stone and there was a thick haw frost on the ground. Most waters in the Lakes had a thin layer of ice starting to form around their edges but because the temperature had dropped rapidly the deeper water was still cooling. Instead of ice covering their surface they had a wonderful mist and the conditions just got better as the day went on. The image you see above is of the boat jetty near Pooley Bridge, at dawn. Captured on the Olympus OMD EM5 with Olympus 12-40mm lens and a 0.3 ND Grad on the sky. Aperture was f/9.0 (a mistake as I would have shot this at f/7.1 usually). ISO200 and shutter speed 1/125″.
So you might ask, what is the important decision? The answer is, that I have decided to sell the Nikon D800; but I want to explain and share my reasoning.
Firstly, this is the third trip I have made where I can’t bring myself to carry the extra weight. When I returned from Bolivia I suffered a prolapsed disk at the base of my neck and for a while it looked like I might need major surgery. Fortunately, this is looking less likely now but the pain over the past couple of months has been unbearable at times – and pain killers just didn’t have an effect on it. I was finding that even trying to lift and support the heavier equipment was aggravating the pain.
OK, so this might be a temporary condition (I certainly hope it is) but other things are more permanent and important. One of the reasons I bought the D800 was that a lot of people were claiming how the image quality is exceptional with the right lenses and I would agree, yes it is. The camera would perform very well even with lesser quality lenses but needed a little more adjustment to really bring this out. But the important point is, the image performance is no better at low ISO (which I use almost exclusively) than the EM5. In fact, the corner and edge sharpness of the EM5 images beats the D800 even with high quality lenses.
All I really get with the D800 is an image file that produces a 24.5″ inch image rather than 15.36″ at 300dpi. Does this additional image size matter? Well, unless I am going to be making a print larger than 30″ and look at this with my nose pressed against it. You really need to be doubling the print size to notice the difference in output quality due to the way inkjet printers work. If you print on Matt paper then you might even need to go larger than this. As for output to the Internet, there is no benefit to having more pixels and then throwing most of these away by downsizing the image.
Where the D800 does score well over the EM5 is in the RAW files. I seem to be able to push these all over the place in editing and see almost no noise, even in shadow areas. This is very nice but again it comes with a downside. The RAW files from the D800 do seem to need much more processing in comparison to the EM5 RAW files. It’s almost as if the D800 RAW files are a little flat, possibly to the additional dynamic range the camera has. Whatever the reason, it feels like I am having to relearn how to get the most out of the camera and I don’t really have time for that at the moment.
The final and most important problem is that the D800 really doesn’t suit my style of shooting. What I don’t like to do is pop the camera on a tripod, spend a lot of time getting into position, check everything and then make one or two good exposures. This just doesn’t work for me. My approach is to move around and into the subject, taking lots of pictures and checking them regularly. As I work I find images that I like or things I like about an image that I work with to incorporate. The shots gradually get better until I arrive at the image I want. This style of working isn’t for everyone but if it’s your style, you will find it hard working with a large DSLR.
I do have to admit though that I didn’t always recognise this. It was only when I moved to the EM5 that my shooting style really started to develop in this way and that I started to feel free. Now when I try to go back it’s as though I am constrained and I have lost that feeling of freedom and spontaneity.
So, this is my reasoning but I will caveat it with a final thought. I reserve the right to change my mind. As I was writing this I was looking back at some of my RAW files from the D800 and they do have a quality that I really like. I’m just not sure it’s enough to make me want to keep the camera.
I had a bit of a scare over the holidays that made me realise how sloppy I have become with my backup process. At one time I was pretty rigorous in processing and backing up my images. Everything went into a holding area on my hard drive which was duplicated to a second hard drive. Once the images had been processed and had keywords applied I would then move them to a processed folder set, again duplicated and then also burned to CD.
Over time the image size has increased and so have my storage needs. At some point I seem to have relaxed control and stopped using my complicated, multi copy process. In short, I have become sloppy. I did recognise this a few years ago and took out a little insurance, investing in a Drobo with 4 drive bays. That way if one of my drives dies I still have the data across the others.
Great idea; I love the Drobo and all has been well for the past 4 years.
The only problem I have with this set up is that it’s not very easy to have a backup of 8Tb’s of storage. Sure if one or even two of the disks die I can recover with minimal data loss. But what happens if the whole unit dies. The first thing a Drobo unit does when you insert a new drive is format it.
I had this thought about a week ago and then the unthinkable actually happened. My Drobo wouldn’t boot. Even when I managed to get it started the PC wouldn’t recognise it and the unit would go back to sleep.
I have managed to get the unit started now. I have no idea what caused the problem but it’s made me invest in a second Drobo and hard disks. I am going to spend a lot more time in the coming year developing a sensible archiving policy for all my images. I’m now adding images to the collection far too quickly. I can’t risk losing everything.
Storage may be cheap but the time taken to manage data and image archives isn’t. I think this coming year will be a year of tidying everything up and becoming as streamlined as possible.
It doesn’t happen often but I don’t have anything to actually say for myself today. I also feel a little frustrated that I’m looking through my library of work over the past year and I’m somewhat under-inspired by my efforts. Some things catch my attention but when I look more closely I lose interest. I think I need a few days break over the Christmas period.
I will leave you with this moderately interesting sand pattern from the beach at New Brighton.
Yet another image from my trip to Bolivia. This time the view across the mountains as we climbed Acontango. The original image is very blue despite being early in the morning, due to the altitude. This wasn’t a problem as I knew I could make this work for me in the conversion to black and white. The conversion was done using Nik Silver Efex pro having first been sure to remove excess noise in Nik Dfine. The image was also corrected using Piccure+ before processing in Silver Efex in order to produce higher quality edges on the mountains.
Hope you like the picture and have a great weekend everyone.
I’m reducing my Nik eBooks in price to either £0.99 each or $0.99 each (depending on which amazon site you use). Now unfortunately the offer is only available on amazon.com or amazon.co.uk so if you don’t or can’t buy kindle books from either of these you won’t be able to take advantage – sorry, that’s amazon’s rules not mine.
The sale runs from 1am 19th December to 11pm 21st December. So if you are thinking of adding one of my titles to your library and you use either of these sites, this weekend is a good time to buy.
I’m happy. I just received a free upgrade to my copy of Alien Skin Exposure. I purchased Exposure 6 back in July and Exposure 7 has just been launched. As I purchased my copy later than June I get a free upgrade – fantastic.
I’m not experimenting with all the features and new film presets. It feels a lot like Exposure 6 but that’s a good thing. If you like film and film simulation, this is an excellent package to try out. I tend to use it in combination with some of the Nik filters.
I’m off to play some more.
One thing that I really enjoy doing is working with texture files. I like the surprise of the new and enjoyment of creating something more akin to art than photography. I don’t often share this sort of work as many people don’t class it as photography and quite a lot don’t like it.
But if you do like it you might like to share in some of the high resolution texture files I have created. They are available for free download in the members area of the Lenscraft website. There are two styles on there at present; Grunge (dark) and Watercolour and I plan to add more in the future. Here’s a few samples.
So if you like working with texture files and want some new textures head over to www.lenscraft.co.uk and log in to the members area.