Month: April 2017

Alternatives to The Creative Cloud 4

Posted on


Today, I’m going to continue my series looking at alternatives to Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription. I do this because not everyone is happy to rent their software on subscription. Personally, I quite like the renting arrangement as it gives me access to the latest versions of Lightroom and Photoshop.

Despite being a big fan of Photoshop, I’m going to share an alternative that is equally as impressive and flexible, yet costs less than Adobe Elements. The software is Affinity Photo from Serif.

Affinity Photo used to be Mac only, but recently launched version 1.5 which is also available on Windows. I believe the regular price for the software is just under £50. When I purchased my copy, there was a 20% discount available which made this an absolute bargain.

Some people refer to Affinity Photo as being a Photoshop Clone. Personally, I don’t think that it’s a clone, it just offers similar tools. If you know how to use these tools in Photoshop you should have no trouble at all using Affinity Photo.

Here are a few of the features that have impressed me:

There is an excellent RAW converter which includes brush and gradient tools for selective adjustments.

Affinity Photo screenshot 1
Screenshot of the RAW Converter

Once you have developed your RAW file you are then able to apply manipulations with the many tools in Affinity. As with Photoshop, Affinity supports the use of adjustment layers and masks. The following screenshot shows just some of the adjustments available.

Affinity Photo screenshot 2
Some of the adjustment tools in Affinity Photo

In the following screenshot, I have applied a black and white conversion filter followed by a Curves adjustment to create an Infrared effect.

Affinity Photo screenshot 3
Example Black & White Conversion

In addition, a great selection of adjustment layers, there is a great range of filters provided. At this point, some of you might be saying but what about special features such as Panoramic blending that are found in Photoshop. If you are, then your also in luck. Look at the following section taken from the File menu in Affinity Photo.

Affinity Photo screenshot 4
Section of the Affinity File manu showing some further tools. Reminds you of Photoshop doesn’t it?

I could go on and on but if you’re interested in a very competent replacement for Photoshop, I would suggest visiting the Serif website and reading up on Affinity Photo. It really is an excellent piece of software.

I’m very much looking forward to the iPad version being released.

Friday Image No.132

Posted on


Minimal Landsape. Fuji X-T2 + Fuji 18-55 lens. F/11.0, 1/60″ at ISO200.

It’s been another hectic and busy week. Wednesday evening was spent over at Llandudno Photographic Society giving a presentation on Landscape Photography and editing with Nik tools. Thank you very much to everyone who attended for giving me a great welcome.

Following this, it was over to Penmon the following morning to shoot some beach detail. Unfortunately, this was a complete failure as the video (hopefully coming soon) will demonstrate.

One thing that has worked out well this past week though is the new, improved website infrastructure. In the past I have received a few complaints about the slow speed of Lenscraft in some countries. I have tried all sorts of things to correct this but never seem to be completely successful. I can see that the UK and some European countries perform well but people in Australia have really been suffering.

Now I think I have cracked it by moving the site onto CloudFlare. The bounce rate (% of people who land on the site and then leave without doing anything) has fallen dramatically. I’m also seeing countries such as Australia, Canada and Brazil spend much more time. It’s early days but I am hopeful. Best of all, the site security is also reinforced.

With the week being so busy, I decided I wanted to share a very minimal image. I spotted this one when out for a walk with my wife. I shot it back in February and then ignored it. Now seeing it again, I quite like it. I also like the way that the Fuji RAW files need only a few tweaks in Lightroom to make them shine.

I hope you like it also and have a great weekend.

Camera Equipment Storage

Posted on


A damp misty morning captured with the RX10. Damp conditions are perfect for encouraging mould.

Following my recent RX10 mould issues, I was discussing the problem with someone at The Real Camera Company in Manchester. These were the people where I sent my RX10 to the repaired and who did such an excellent job.

It appears the common approach of many photographers is to store their equipment in camera bags. Typically, the camera would be left in the camera bag between outings. A bag which would usually be zipped shut and sometimes be damp from being out in the field. What better conditions for mould to thrive than in dark, damp conditions with no circulating air.

My own approach to storing camera equipment as to keep it in a camera bag but with the top open and use silica gel sachets to limit moisture. If the bag became wet I would remove the equipment until it had been dried for at least 48 hours. Thinking about it, I decided this wasn’t good enough given the cost of equipment.

This is when my wife had a great idea and suggested this storage.

Shoe Storage Unit

This was purchased from Costco for around £20. It’s actually storage for shoes but it fits camera equipment perfectly. I can fit my Fuji X-T2 + lens in one of these compartments. I can fit all the Fuji lenses in the next and so on. I now have all my camera equipment and key accessories in this 4 x 3 unit. Everything is easy to get at, the units are semi-transparent so exposed to light and air can circulate freely.

Let’s hope this keeps mould away.

Alternatives to the Creative Cloud 3

Posted on


This image has nothing to do with the post, I just like it.

Today I would like to share a further idea about an alternative to the Adobe Creative Cloud that you may not have considered.  Or, perhaps you have considered it but ruled it out for possibly several reasons. That alternative is Adobe Elements.

Now please don’t dismiss this suggestion immediately. Elements is a good package, it’s just that it’s a little limited. It includes a nice organiser which is a cut down version of Bridge. You can use this to easily organise, rate and search for your images. Elements also has sufficient editing tools to produce good results when working with photographs. Best of all, it’s quite easy to use.

What appears to rule Elements out for most photographers is not its features but its limitations. Personally, I would find editing all my images in 8-bits worrying. I would miss the ability to create smart objects and I would cry over the loss of the Curves tool (which I find essential).

But what if you could solve these and other problems? Would you then be interested in using Elements? If you’re thinking ‘maybe’ then you should investigate The Plug-in Site, especially their enhancements for Adobe Elements:

  • ElementsXXL – Adds up to 640 powerful features to Photoshop Elements that were previously only available in Photoshop. These are included as new menu items, icons, buttons, key shortcuts and dialogs, to integrate Elements interface.
  • ActionsXXL – Allows users to create, record, play and save Photoshop actions. ActionsXXL also offers a Batch feature for automatically processing multiple documents or image files with actions, scripts and other features. You can even use actions created in Photoshop.
  • LayersXXL – Adds up to 180 photo and design features to Photoshop Elements that were previously only available in Photoshop. These are all designed to help you work with Layers in Elements.
  • MetaRAW – Extends the functionality of the Adobe Camera Raw plugin in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. It lets you open camera raw files with Adobe Camera Raw, which are normally not supported by it, and allows applying Adobe Camera Raw as a filter to image layers.
  • Filter HUB – A powerful replacement for the Filter menu of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements and offers many advantages over it. It supports built-in filters (from the Filter, Adjustments and Enhance menus), filter plugins and third-party automation plugins.

All of these can be purchased either individually or together in the Elements Bundle for a substantial discount. The only drawback is that most of the products are only available for Windows.

In case you’re wondering, no I don’t get any commission from this. I just like to share good ideas with fellow photographers.

Friday Image No.131

Posted on


Ponta de Sao Lourenco, Madeira
Eastern end of Madeira, Ponta de Sao Lourenco. Olympus EM5, 12-40 lens, f/7.1, 1/400″ @ ISO200

For this week’s Friday image, I wanted to share another from my recent trip to the island of Madeira. This image is taken from the eastern edge of the island where a long strip of land juts out into the sea. This is taken towards the end of the strip, looking back towards the main part of the island. It’s quite dramatic to be standing on a relatively narrow strip of sea cliffs, able to look down on the sea to either side. Damned windy as well.

I hope you all have a great weekend.

Checking my RX10

Posted on


Derwent Valley, The Peak District. Sony RX10 with 0.6 ND Graduated Filter

A few weeks back I wrote about my Sony RX10 and how it had to be repaired. The front element had a problem with mould growing on the inside and given the front element is part of a sealed unit ,the entire unit had to be replaced. Rather than use a Sony repair centre I opted to use The Real Camera Company in Manchester. These guys really know their stuff; I purchased my Bronica SQAi kit from them about a year ago.

Having received my repaired RX10, I have been unable to test it properly due to a combination of the weather, a trip to Madeira and having too much work on. At the weekend though I decided to take a walk in the Peak District and took the RX10 along in the hope of giving it a try. As it turned out, the weather wasn’t that good, clouding over quite heavily, and I didn’t shoot any great images. The image at the top of this page is probably the best.

What the trip did allow me to do was evaluate the replaced lens. In short, I’m very pleased. It’s as sharp as my previous lens and I’m confident that the results are much better. The corners are still a little soft, but the central part of the image appears excellent. The other point that I noticed is that more distant detail is now being retained better than with the old lens. Previously, you could see the finer details such as grass and rock turn soft. Now this isn’t noticeable.

I’m feeling very happy about my decision to have the camera repaired – it was certainly cheaper than replacing it. Could I do without the RX10? Yes. Do I want to? No way, it’s a brilliant camera and perfect for a walk in the countryside.