Month: August 2015

Friday Image No. 63

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West Burton Falls, Yorkshire Dales. Olympus EM5 converted for Infrared
West Burton Falls, Yorkshire Dales. Olympus EM5 converted for Infrared

This is West Burton Falls in the Yorkshire Dales, England. It’s the first time I had visited the location and the conditions were far from perfect. Rather than a lovely velvet trickle of water over the falls it was a gushing torrent with a grey overcast sky. I did shoot a number of colour images but wondered what it would look like shot in Infrared. I really like the effect.

Have a great weekend everyone.

New Brush in Lightroom 6

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Liverpool Skyline. The new Brush tool was helpful in selectively darkening the sky whilst using a Gradient Filter.
Liverpool Skyline. The new Brush tool was helpful in selectively darkening the sky whilst using a Gradient Filter.

I recently published a Friday Image and mentioned that I had found a new brush tool in the Lightroom filters. My intention was to post a blog explaining a little bit more but the lack of time has prevented me from doing so. That is until now.

The new brush is available with any of the Filter tools (Graduated or Radial) and can be seen on the following screenshot.

Location of the new Brush Tool
Location of the new Brush Tool

It becomes available the moment you draw a graduated or radial filter on your image or select one that already exists. Click on the Brush heading and the brush settings appear at the bottom of the filter panel.

New Brushes
New Brushes

You might well recognise these settings as they are identical to the Adjustment Brush tool. You have two regular painting brushes and an Erase brush. The regular brushes allow you to expand the filter effects to other areas of the image whilst the Erase brush allows you to remove the filter effect from an area.

As a Landscape Photographer, the best use I have found for these so far is where I am using the Graduated filter to darken a sky but there are elements above the horizon which are also adjusted. Previously I would need to drop out of the Gradient filter and use the Adjustment Brush to lighten these areas. Now I can use the Erase brush to stop the effect from being applied in the first place.

One other tip for using the brush tool with the Gradient or Radial filter is to ensure you check the “Show Selected Mask Overlay” option at the bottom of the screen.

Selecting to view the mask
Selecting to view the mask

This displays a red mask which allows you to see the changes you make to the mask as you use the brushes.

If anyone comes up with other useful ways to use this feature I would be interested to hear.

Canon G7X Field Report

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Waterfall at Keld in the Yorkshire Dales. Olympus EM5 and Lee 6 stop ND Filter
Waterfall at Keld in the Yorkshire Dales. Olympus EM5 and Lee 6 stop ND Filter

Yesterday I met up with a friend for some well-deserved landscape photography. We had intended to visit Anglesey but the weather forecast was dreadful and so decided to visit Yorkshire instead. It was also a useful test of my new G7X to see how it faired in the field, especially as the Lensmate filter adapter had arrived from the US.

The Lensmate adapter was very easy to fit and whilst it’s made of plastic and feels a little flimsy, it just works well. I was able to screw in my Lee Seven 5 filter rings and use the same filter system as I use with my Micro 43 kit. The profile of the Lensmate is very thin which allows the camera to still fit in a pocket.

As the weather wasn’t really great for photography (damp and overcast) I spent most of my time shooting long exposures. For this I was using the Lee Little Stopper 6 stop Neutral Density filter. The image at the top of this post was shot using the filter attached to the EM5. Using it with the G7X I noticed a few things some of which I’m not too happy about.

The first thing was that no long exposure noise reduction. I went all thought the menus and settings but I couldn’t any settings and neither was it being performed automatically. Having said this, the results don’t appear to be suffering from long exposure noise.

The second thing I noticed was that when in aperture priority mode the longest shutter speed is just 1”. No problem really as I could switch to Manual Mode which allowed much longer shutter speeds, but it is a basic omission.

The third thing I noticed is that the display on the back of the camera could see through the 6 stop ND filter very clearly and which made composition much easier than with the EM5. The EM5 seems to struggle a little with these very dark filter.

The fourth thing that I noticed and which is something that I’m not happy about is that light is leaking into the camera from the lens barrel. Take a look at the following filter.

Light leaks on the Canon G7X, evident in long exposures
Light leaks on the Canon G7X, evident in long exposures

This is light leaking in where the two parts of the lens barrel join which allows the lens to extend and retract. The red in the image is the reflection from my red jacket which is reflecting off the back of the filter attached from the camera. I found that I was able to block it if I wrapped the lens barrel in a cloth. The other alternative was if I zoomed in as the problem was only really evident at wider focal lengths. I will be contacting Canon to see what they have to say about the problem.

Despite this problem, the camera seemed to perform well and the image quality was good. I will be posting something further about this soon.

Friday Image No. 62

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Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

This week’s Friday image is one from my trip last year to Bolivia. It appears that I am running out of interesting images to share as well as being short of time. I don’t know what’s happening to me at the moment. I didn’t even manage to post the blog about the new Lightroom Brush I mentioned last week. I promise to try harder.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Further Thoughts on the Canon G7X

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Test shot with the Canon GX7. Nice colour handling and the RAW file captures a lot of data.
Test shot with the Canon GX7. Nice colour handling and the RAW file captures a lot of data. Don’t judge the picture, it’s a test snap. I need to get out with the camera for some serious landscape work.

Last week I mentioned that my new Canon G7X arrived and I shared my first thoughts on the camera, having not even switched it on. This past weekend I charged the battery and inserted a memory card. Whilst knew I wasn’t going to get out to for serious photography I was determined to shoot a few test frames. This is how it went.

My first shots with the camera were whilst stood in my back garden. I shot a few reference frames and examined them on the back of the camera at maximum magnification. This revealed what I call Jaggies (the individual pixels of the image). When I see Jaggies such as this it means either the camera is not rendering a smooth image from the RAW file or the lens is exceptional. Importing the images to Lightroom later would allow me to see the truth.

Whilst making these test shots I also made a sequence at different ISO settings, starting with the base ISO of 125 and going up to the maximum 12,800. The light levels were very poor due to an impending thunder storm, which resulted in a shutter speed of 1/8”. Very pleasingly I found that I was able to produce consistently steady shots even with such slow shutter speeds. This would suggest the image stabilisation in the G7X is quite good.

I had high hopes for the image quality but on reviewing the test shots on the computer later I was quickly disappointed. The images were steady but the lens just appeared soft and incapable of rendering a sharp image. The ISO tests did perform better and showed the noise to be well controlled. The noise at higher ISO settings also reminded me a little of strong film grain.

The next day I took the camera out when I when shopping. The image of the canal that you see above was taken on the way to the Supermarket. This time I had set the camera to shoot RAW +JPEG which allowed me to zoom in to the image and assess the quality a little better on the camera. Again the images just didn’t seem to be as crisp as I had wanted but the Jaggies were gone. It was then, looking through the settings, I noticed that the camera had been set to a focus stacking mode. This is a neat little feature that allows you to take multiple shots with the focus point being moved automatically between each (you can later merge them in software to a single image). When I turned this feature off the next images seemed to snap into focus on the camera screen.

Reviewing the images later on the computer I could see they were of a higher quality than I initially thought. I won’t say that the lens is exceptional but it does produce a solid performance, although the corners at 24mm display some distortion. Two other points I noticed are:
1. The colour handling is very natural and I like it a lot.
2. The touch screen selection for the focus point is excellent. This is a feature that I first came across on the Panasonic GX1 and I loved it. The Canon implementation is almost identical to the Panasonic and it makes the camera very nice to use.

In summary, this is a pleasing start to using the G7X. I’m now waiting on the Lensmate Filter Adapter to arrive from the US so that I can begin using filters and testing some landscape work.

Friday Image No. 61

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Olympus EM5. Irregular blurring in Lightroom 6 using a Radial Filter
Olympus EM5. Irregular blurring in Lightroom 6 using a Radial Filter

At the moment I have a really strong feeling that I want to shoot some coastal scenes. I haven’t been getting out very much at all with my camera as there have been too many other things that I need to do that unfortunately don’t relate to photography. The best I can do is content myself with looking back over past images and choosing some to reprocess.

I then started to process the image above in Lightroom which is where I came across a rather interesting feature that I think is new in Lightroom v6. At least I don’t recall it in an earlier version. When using tools such as the Gradient Filter or Radial Filter a mask is automatically created. There is now a collection of brushes within these tools that allow you to refine the masks. Experimenting with a Radial Filter I was able to make the selective adjustments to blur irregular areas of the image. I’m going to investigate this further and will probably pull together a short piece about it.

Have a great weekend everyone.

My First Impression of the Canon G7X

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Zabriskie Point, Death Valley
Zabriskie Point at dawn, Death Valley. Sony RX100, ISO80, f/4.0, 1/80″, 0.3ND Graduated Filter

In my previous post I mentioned that I was going to buy a Canon G7X given how impressed I was with the G16 compact camera I had been using. Well it arrived yesterday and I have decided to do something unusual. I’m going to give a quick review of my first impressions having not yet taken a picture with the camera (I haven’t even put the battery in the camera).

I bought the camera because I thought it was the same body, or at least very similar to the G16 but this isn’t the case. I was quite surprised to find the G7X feels a fair bit smaller than the G16. The G16 has a rubber hand grip on the right which feels quite chunky and nice. The G7X by contrast feels thin, small and a little slippery. The handling reminds me of the tiny Sony RX100 I had (hence the image above).

The tilting screen on the back of the camera is nice but why has Canon not gone for a fully articulated screen. The screen is limited to tilting upwards with the hinge along the top. This is fine if you have the camera in Landscape mode but if you want to shoot with a portrait orientation it doesn’t work. Despite this, it’s an improvement on the G16 which doesn’t have any screen tilting.

The next thing I noticed is that the controls are very small and cramped, much of the space having been given over to the screen. This makes them a little tricky to use if you have anything other than small hands. The use of the dials on the top of the camera has also been changed, again making them a little tricky to use. I can foresee a problem when using this camera for Landscape Photography in cold weather.

Despite the limitations of the size of the buttons and dials the layout of these is very well thought out which does make them very usable. This also makes the G7X a true pocket compact. The G16 may feel nicer in the hands but you need a big pocket to carry it around.

The camera came with a strap, but this was only a wrist strap which may trouble some people. My automatic reaction was to want a neck strap but then I have a habit of wrapping this around my wrist a number of times to carry cameras in my hand. Perhaps the wrist strap with this camera will be helpful and again make it easier to fit in a pocket.

The final point I notice is that there is no way to attach filters to the camera. On the G16 there is a removable ring around the lens which then accepts an accessory tube to which filters can be attached. With the G7X the ring doesn’t detach but instead has a number of functions that can be assigned to it. As filters are essential to my work I have ordered a stick on adapter from the US. This again is similar to what I had to do with the Sony RX100.

One minor lucky point is that the screen protectors from my EM5 fit the G7X screen so I don’t need to buy any of these and can put the money towards some spare batteries. The battery for this camera is tiny and I can’t imagine it will last all that long, although we shall see.

In summary the G7X is a very well designed and well-built camera but it feels as though Canon have tried to copy Sony (even down to the 1”, 20Mpixel sensor) and in the process thrown out some of the better points from their G range.

I will share further thoughts as I begin to use the camera.