Month: May 2016

Road Trip America

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Portland, Oregon.
Portland, Oregon.

Back at the start of May you might recall I wrote a short piece about the equipment I would pack for a trip I was planning to make. Unfortunately, (for me at least) the trip is now over and I’m back in the UK. Whilst I have been trying to write and reply using a mobile phone, I have fallen a little behind. Hopefully things will get back to normal this week.Over the next few weeks I expect to be sharing quite a few examples of photos from my trip as well as share some of the photography related “learnings” I experienced whilst shooting for the duration of the trip.

My trip involved a lot of driving, perhaps too much if I’m honest but I did see some great sights. I started in Seattle for 3 days before driving to Olympic National park where I stayed at Crescent Lake and also Lake Quinault. From there it was down to Canon Beach for a few days. This was followed by a stopover at Coos Bay on the way to Crater Lake. After Crater Lake it was on to Mount Hood followed by Portland then Mount Rainier before heading back to Seattle.  A total of 18 days and 2,000 miles later I have just short of 5,000 new images to work through.

As for equipment, the majority of the time (probably 80%) I found myself using the Olympus EM5. This accounted for almost 4,500 of the images shot. The remainder were taken with the Sony A7r which I carried as a backup camera but also because I wanted some very high resolution shots of certain scenes. I should mention that I had upgraded my firmware on the Olympus EM5 a little while back from version 1.1 to 2.2 and the camera has started to play up a little since then. As there is no way back from a firmware update I thought it best to have two cameras for the trip.

In terms of other stats from the trip, I only used the 12-40mm and 45-150mm lenses with the EM5 and the majority of the time it was the 12-40. I did take a fisheye which I used for a couple of shots and the 9-18mm lens wasn’t used once. It was a similar story with the Sony. All the shots were taken with the 24-70mm lens and 16-35mm was never used.

I experienced 1 memory card failure which was with the EM5. This was after trying to shoot a video of the sea and has happened to me before where I have been mixing video and still images on the same card. This is probably coincidence but there may also be a lesson in there.

The company who arranged everything for me was The American Road Trip Company. They did a fantastic job and provided excellent service. If anyone is planning anything similar I can highly recommend them.

It’s that Tree Again

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Lone tree at sunset, above Malham, The Yorkshire Dales.
Loan tree at sunset, above Malham, The Yorkshire Dales.

Someone recently mentioned that you could do a book on this iconic lone tree. Whilst I don’t often visit the area, on this last trip I do seem to have photographed the tree quite a few times in different conditions. Here’s one from the end of the day. The Photographers Ephemeris said we were in a good spot for a sunset but the hills were definitely blocking the best view. I suspect it was user error. Just goes to show that there is no substitue for local knowledge.

Friday Image No. 93

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Sony RX10, four images, ISO80, f/6.3, 1/50"
Sony RX10, four images, ISO80, f/6.3, 1/50″

This is Mam Tor in the Peak District. Given that I live on the edge of the Peak District and this location is just a 40-minute drive from my house (ignore the 1 hour walk once you get there) I seldom go. I don’t know why but the landscape never seems to appeal in the same way that the Lake District does.

This image was shot when we went for a walk. It’s actually 4 images shot on the Sony RX10 and then stitched in Lightroom. I used a 0.3 ND grad on the sky as although it was misty, the sky was still bright and causing the Sony to show those worrying zebra patterns that indicate over exposure. I know that I have about 1 stop of latitude when shooting RAW but I don’t like to push the RX10 too far. Once you pass the exposure point, the detail vanishes in an instant. It’s not like the EM5 or film where the overexposure gradually fades to white, it just vanishes with the Sony RX10. If you have one of these great cameras, watch out for this problem when shooting landscapes and try to use ND Grad filters.

Have a great weekend.

Processing Friday Image No.92

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Soft hazy light and subtle colours. The conditions weren't what I wanted but I can now see they work.
Soft hazy light and subtle colours. The conditions weren’t what I wanted but I can now see they work.

Last week I posted Friday Image No.92 and made comment about my having some kind of image blindness. In this particular case I think it was down to the conditions I was shooting in and the expectations I had in my mind. I often go out hoping for wonderful light and clean air, only to find the conditions are dull or hazy. Below you can see the starting shot for Image No.92. before any adjustments were made.

Starting image prior to any adjustment. This is the straight RAW file.
Starting image prior to any adjustment. This is the straight RAW file.

The light was quite nice now looking at this but it certainly wasn’t sharp light which is what I guess I wanted. I still took the shot but it’s only now that I recognise it’s potential. In case you’re wondering why I included all the sky, there is actually a hill in the foreground that prevented me from framing the shot any lower.

For the processing of this image I decided to crop the image to a more panoramic format which would remove the distracting sky and focus attention on the two halves of the image. There is the left half with the path and the right half with the mountain which is almost the inverse of this.

My initial thought was to produce a soft image with subtle colours that would make more of the hazy conditions. Often when you try to fight against and counter the conditions you end up with an image that doesn’t achieve what you want. It’s usually much better to work with the conditions and emphasise them even more. In the following screenshot you can see the conversion settings used in Lightroom – the colour temperature used is quite a bit warmer than the capture setting (originally around 5200).

Lightroom Adjustments
Lightroom Adjustments

The other key change was to use some negative Dehaze, which was set to -7. This was sufficient to lighten the image and emphasise the haze. I also added some selective adjustment to the shadows on the hillside to the right. This was intended to open the shadows so that they appeared to have texture rather than be a mass of black. The resulting image can be seen below.

For the final conversion to Black and white I used On One Photo Effects 10.5 with a Tonal adjustment to highlight the detail together with a black and white conversion. This is the same adjustment that I tend to use with my “Views from the Moors” collection of work.

Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 14-45 lens. ISO200, 1/200" at f/8.0
Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 14-45 lens. ISO200, 1/200″ at f/8.0

I personally can’t make my mind up which I prefer most, colour or black and white. I think I’m favouring the colour version.

Friday Image No.92

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Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 14-45 lens. ISO200, 1/200" at f/8.0
Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 14-45 lens. ISO200, 1/200″ at f/8.0

Last week I shared Friday No.91 which was taken on my first outing with the Olympus EM5. Later the same day I shot this image with the EM5. At the time I liked the scene but the conditions were very poor. It’s only now that I recognise I captured the image I wanted to. I definitely have some kind of block which prevents me from seeing a good image until sometime later (usually many months).

I will share some further thoughts about this next week.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Topaz Texture Effects Book Launch

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Before & After Texture Effects
Before & After Topaz Texture Effects

I’m very pleased to be able to announce that my latest book “From Photography to Art with Topaz Texture Effects” has now been published and is available on Amazon. The book covers in detail how to use the Texture Effects software and provides two full length examples for you to follow. In common with my other books you are able to download the starting images for these examples so that you can follow the examples on your own computer.

In addition to the descriptions and examples, the book provides a number of more creative ideas for using the software. For example, did you know that you can use the software to create new Borders and Textures. This information hasn’t been previously shared and isn’t even available on the Topaz website.

If you don’t already have the Texture Effects software, you can use the 30-day demo with the book (available from the Topaz website). The book also includes a 15% discount code should you later decide to make a purchase.

You can find the book using the links below or search for the title on your local amazon store.

Friday Image No.91

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Haweswater. 4 image series on the Olympus EM5 with 14mm prime. ISO200, 1/160" at f/8.0
Haweswater. 4 image series on the Olympus EM5 with 14mm prime. ISO200, 1/160″ at f/8.0

I shot this image almost 3 years ago in June 2013. It was my first outing with the Olympus EM5, a camera that I feel has changed my photography. This is actually 4 images merged in Lightroom. I shot a lot of these panoramic series back then as I found the EM5 was so easy to use. But until the new Lightroom merge feature was introduced, I have left many of these to sit on my hard drive.

The location is Haweswater in the Lake District. It’s actually a reservoir that’s been engineered to look like a lake. There’s even a very pretty manmade island. It’s a shame they had to flood a village to do this. If you have never visited this area, it’s well worth a look. It’s much quieter than the rest of the lakes and the Haweswater hotel makes a great place to stay.

Hope you like the shot and have a great weekend.