Friday Image No. 100

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Bamburgh beach, Northumberland. Shot about 30 minutes after sunset in Winter. Canon EOS 300D.
Bamburgh beach, Northumberland. Shot about 30 minutes after sunset in Winter. Canon EOS 300D.

When I started publishing a Friday Image I never dreamed that I would reach 100 but here it is. I shot this image almost 10 years ago using a Canon 300D DSLR. This was the first affordable consumer DSLR and cost me around £900 with a kit lens. At the time I was shooting 35mm film with a Canon EOS3 and a Pentax 67 MKII medium format kit. I had considered buying an XPan but decided I wanted to try digital.

Today, I’m going back over the RAW files of the day and reprocessing some. The quality of the image that this camera produced is amazing when you use the latest editing tools. It’s also only now that I am able to produce the image from the RAW file that I envisaged. Previously the colours just didn’t work and the shadows were completely blocked up and black.

The image was converted from RAW in Lightroom and then enhanced in Nik Color Efex. I used it as an example for my latest video on You Tube if you want to see what I did.

Have a great weekend.

I Have to Show You This

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The hills around Haweswater, Cumbria.
The hills around Haweswater, Cumbria.

I find this image very exciting. Now before you think I have lost the plot I need to explain a little about why I’m excited. It’s not the content or the composition, although I do quite like the scene, it’s actually the quality that’s exciting me.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the fine detail viewed at 100% magnification.

Foreground area at 100% maagnification. Click to enlarge
Foreground area at 100% maagnification. Click to enlarge

And from a little further in the distance.

Detail from further back in the image at 100% magnification. Click to enlarge.
Detail from further back in the image at 100% magnification. Click to enlarge.

I’m sure you will agree that the image quality is very good and that the camera has resolved the fine detail in this scene well.

Now the exciting thing for me is the camera I used for this shot. It’s actually a Canon 300D using a Sigma 10-20 lens and was shot in September 2006. But what I find really remarkable is that the reason for the quality is not the camera but today’s software. Somehow the software we have now appears to pull much better image quality from these old RAW files.


Life with Apple

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The beach at Durdle Door, Dorset. Canon 5D MkII. This is an old image that I decided to reprocess using current technology. The results seem much improved.
The beach at Durdle Door, Dorset. Canon 5D MkII. This is an old image that I decided to reprocess using current technology. The results seem much improved.

From the many comments I received, I suspect many of you read my post “Dear Microsoft – I’m Leaving You” with some amusement. As it seemed to be quite a popular subject that evoked a high degree of conversation, I thought I would do an update as I have been living with Apple for some 2 weeks now.

So far I have to say that I’m impressed. The MacBook Pro is incredibly fast and very stable. I lover the flexibility of use and the speed of start up as well as the build quality and batter life. The screen is excellent and I have moved across to using the Mac very easily indeed. I have to admit that I had always avoided trying Apple products thinking that this switch from Windows would be difficult but so far it hasn’t been.

The most difficult thing that I had to contend with so far is not being able to find the right click on the mouse for a popup menu. I use this feature in Windows all the time so not having it on the Mac was quite painful. Then I found the book “Switching to the Mac: The missing manual” on Amazon and everything has just clicked into place for me.

I also decided to check out Affinity Photo which a couple of people have mentioned to me as being great Mac software. I have to admit that they were not wrong. This is a great image editing package and if any of you Mac users are looking for an alternative to Photoshop, this is one package you really do need to check out.

So, now to the big decision. Do I swap the main business computer for a Mac as soon as funds allow? My answer at the moment is a most definite yes.

You Tube Video: Nik Color Efex Essential Landsape Filters

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Boats moored on the banks of Derwent Water at sunset, Keswick. Canon EOS300 + Sigma 10-20mm lens.
Boats moored on the banks of Derwent Water at sunset, Keswick. Canon EOS300 + Sigma 10-20mm lens.

For those of you who are Nik users, you might be interested in a new video I uploaded to You Tube. I’ve had a lot of correspondence in the past where people have struggled with how to use Nik Color Efex and why it’s different from Viveza.

Generally speaking, Color Efex is all about adding special effects to your work. But there are also a few of the filters that I think are essential. These can help you improve your photography or correct problems very quickly and I use them regularly with my own work.

This video looks at the first of these filters, which was used to enhance the image above as well as correct a serious colour cast. Even if you don’t currently use Color Efex you might find the video interesting.

View You Tube Channel

Realistic HDR

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Derwent Water, Keswick. Canon 5D MKII. 4 Image sequence merged to HDR with Nik HDR Efex Pro 2.
Derwent Water, Keswick. Canon 5D MKII. 4 Image sequence merged to HDR with Nik HDR Efex Pro 2.

If you read my newsletter on Lenscraft you will know that I’m working on a new book about HDR. You might find this odd if you know me well; following a brief fling with HDR back in 2007 I decided I didn’t like the technique and have been quite vocal about it. As a Landscape Photographer, I find unrealistic techniques make me cringe.

So what’s changed? In short, my understanding and skill with some of the software tools.

The image above which is from one of the worked examples in the book is a case in point. These images were shot on a Canon 5D and at the time I couldn’t tame the dynamic range with filters. I shot the sequence in the hope that one day I would be able to produce a realistic looking HDR image from them.

Well I think that time may be getting closer. The image isn’t yet quite as I would like it but it’s certainly appealing and doesn’t suffer from some of the obvious HDR signs that make me cringe.

And the software used for this? Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 – best of all it’s free.

The trick to making this approach work is to keep the Detail setting to “Realistic” when Tone Mapping. Also set the Depth to “Normal” and Drama to “Deep”. As you process the image be sure to increase contrast selectively as well as darken shadows. Once you have completed the Tone Mapping step it’s worth the image into Viveza where you close the shadows down and apply additional contrast if necessary.

It takes a little practice and feels as though you are engineering the HDR look out of the image. It’s time consuming but I think it’s worth the effort.

Friday Image No.99

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London by night. Canon 400D, ISO200, 8" at f/6.3
London by night. Canon 400D, ISO200, 8″ at f/6.3

This week’s Friday image is something a little different. My main Drobo storage unit (4TB) is full. I could buy more storage but given that all 4 drive bays are in use and the existing disk drives are all quite large, it would be a costly exercise. It’s much cheaper if I go and clean out some of the images I have cluttering it up that I just won’t use.

Whilst doing this I started coming across all sorts of shots. This one is from London, just below the Millennium Footbridge. I shot it with the camera on a Gorillapod wrapped around the railings of the footpath. Whilst I would have liked the footbridge not to have cut into the dome of St Pauls, I was more focussed on timing the shot. The bright patch of light you see just behind the central column of the bridge is a passing boat and I needed to judge the exposure just right.

Looking at this image now, what surprises me is how good a camera the Canon 400D was when the RAW files are processed with today’s software. If you haven’t processed any old RAW files in the latest software, you should give it a try.

Have a great weekend.

The Future of the Blog and Website

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The Hall of Mosses Trail, Hoh Rainforest
The Hall of Mosses Trail, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington

Last week I posted a blog entry with a suggested mission statement and questions. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I want to be sure that I am meeting the needs and expectations of you my readers. Secondly, it can be a struggle at times finding interesting material to write about.

Following publication, the post has drawn a lot of very useful feedback both as post comments and direct email. I would like to say a huge thank you to all those people who went to the trouble of contacting me to share your thoughts. This post is my attempt to put some structure around how I will use the blog and website in the future, based on your feedback. I should point out that I may deviate from this at times, but generally you can expect the following:

The Blog

  • The Lightweight Photographer blog will be used to answer the question “what am I doing at the moment”. This can include things that have caught my interest such as a new piece of software or new things I am experimenting with.
  • There will be a mix of equipment based the cameras I am using, probably in the ratio I use them. This means coverage will be skewed to Micro 43 but other equipment will also be featured from time to time. I will include thoughts about accessories such as tripods, filters as well as film, scanning, medium format, compact cameras and full frame. In short, you will hear about what I have been doing with my equipment and what my thoughts are.
  • If there is important news I will share it through the blog.
  • I will cover image processing, especially where I am frustrated with something, where I learn something new or I simply just want to experiment.
  • I will share any tips that cross my mind as I work.
  • I will continue to share examples of my images.

The Website

  • This is where longer tutorials and articles will appear. Material will be both written and video based with a definite emphasis on education/how to. This material is likely to be skewed towards image editing.
  • I will continue to develop Lenscraft as a free resource for photographers.
  • The Lenscraft Creative Store will continue and feature both free and paid products. More products will be added as time allows and this is where I will share my annual Christmas gift for members.

You Tube

  • This is a new channel I would like to develop. It will feature image editing videos as well as “out in the field” video footage.

I hope this sets out the future of the blog and website, providing reassurance of what to expect. My intention now is to focus on some of the answers to the questions I raised.

Once again, thank you.