Category Archives: Approach

When Small Changes Make Big Improvements

Snow-covered Silver Brich at Surprise View, Peak District.

Let me start by saying Happy New Year and welcome back and I hope 2020 proves to be a super successful year for your photography.

I had intended to make this first post of the new year all about photography resolutions, but two things got in the way. First, I’ve been out all day shooting landscapes (which I’ve really enjoyed) and have only just arrived home. Second, I haven’t made any resolutions. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I would much rather just look at my work and try to figure out what I would like to improve and how I can do it.

I think Photography should be a continuous and gradual process of improving. I don’t think you can expect to make large and sudden leaps forward; at least now when you’ve been shooting for a long time. Where I do think you can make large gains is in post-processing. Often, it’s the smallest and most insignificant things that can make a big difference.

For example, I recently watched a video where someone was using a Selective Color adjustment layer in Photoshop to “clean” colours in their image. What they were doing was changing the relationship between the different colours. This works differently to the usual Temp and Tint sliders in the RAW converters and whilst watching this, something just clicked. I thought I never really use that technique, so I tried it out on a few images and loved the results.

Since then I’ve been experimenting with more images using Selective Color and HSL. Today’s image is just one example of where I’ve finally achieved a more natural result that I’m happy with (at least for the time being). Previously the image had too much Cyan, Yellow and Magenta and I couldn’t correct it.

I shot the image back in January 2019 in the Peak District. It’s a couple of hundred meters from the Surprise View Car Park and easy to reach, providing the roads open when it snows. This is a single frame shot on a Fuji X-T2 using a Fuji 16-55 lens. The ISO was 200 (base ISO for the X-T2) giving a shutter speed of ¼” at f/11.0. I had the camera mounted on a tripod and didn’t use any filters. I hope you like the result.

And I almost forgot the first Lenscraft in Focus newsletter of 2020 is out tomorrow.

Have a great weekend.

The Colour of Atmosphere

Padley Gorge, the Peak District. Fuji X-T3, 16-80mm lens at 32mm. ISO160, 1.6″ at f/13.0

In last weeks blog post I shared an image together with my thoughts about the direction of landscape photography. I liked the image I shared because it was very natural and could mark a new direction in my work. The post appears to have resonated with a few people who commented positively.

This week I want to share another image that’s a departure from my usual style. As before the colour are strong but not through saturation or strong contrast. In fact, this image doesn’t have a lot of contrast at all because of the mist.

What really struck me when taking this shot is that I was able to clearly imagine the finished image. The conditions were quite dull and there was a lot of blue light from the mist in the trees. But the strongest colour seemed to be the green from all the moss; it was literally glowing. I think it was this combination of blue and green that created the atmosphere which helped fuel my imagination. It feels to have created the perfect atmosphere for these strange and twisted trees.

When I came to process the image, it made me think about how much the colour in an image can affect our perception of the mood. I realise I’m stating the obvious, particularly if you have an artistic background but I think we photographers don’t think about this enough. I for one will be considering the colour palette of my images more in the future. I’ll also be looking for ways to control this during capture and post-processing. It could well be something that I want to develop much more.

The image is a single frame captured two days ago with my Fuji X-T3 and Fuji 16-80 lens. Shot with the camera tripod-mounted at ISO160 with a shutter speed of 1.6” at f/13.0. It was around an hour after sunrise.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Finding Hidden Gems in Your Work

Bamburgh, Northumberland.
Bamburgh, Northumberland. Canon 5D MKII, ISO50, f/18, 1.6″

Back in winter 2013, I visited Bamburgh in Northumberland with a friend. We had both been to the area quite a few times and we had high hopes for our trip. As we made our way down to the beach for what we were sure would be an amazing sunrise, our expectations were sky high. As it turned out, there was some faint colour in the otherwise stormy sky and we found ourselves battered by the wind and rain.

The following day was equally disappointing but for different reasons. We went down to the beach again and readied ourselves for the sunrise. It was already raining hard and the wind was making it very difficult to shoot, even with a sturdy tripod. We sat in the car wondering what to do, waiting for the last moment when, if the sun broke through we would run down and catch the scene.

What happened next was amazing. The sun did break through and lasted only a few minutes, but the sunrise was like nothing I have never seen before. It was as if a weeks’ worth of amazing sunrises were compressed into a few minutes. If I described the scene as nuclear it would not be an understatement. But I’m not going to show the shots from that sunrise. They simply look unreal. The best word I can use to describe the images now is vulgar. Even the unprocessed RAW files look fake.

What I am sharing though is one of the many “failed” images from the first morning. I happened across this image looking for examples to use in my Nik Silver Efex book (I decided the original needs an update).

But here’s the interesting things. There were dozens of great images from that first morning and I had been blind to them. I suspect the disappointment of the trip lingered long in my memory

when it failed to meet expectations. It’s only now when I come to work on the image, having separated myself from the shooting, that I can really see the beauty of the morning.

It’s always worth checking your old archives.

No Friday Image

Water Tower at Spurn Point.
Water Tower at Spurn Point. Nikon D800, 24-120mm Nikon f/4 lens, ISO100, 1/160″ at f/13. Conversion to B&W in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you will have noticed there wasn’t a Friday Image last week. This is because I was in Amsterdam for a short break with my wife where we also met up with our daughter, her husband and our grandson. We returned on Saturday and I headed over to Spurn Point with a friend on Sunday.

As a lot of readers won’t be familiar with the area I should explain. On the North East coast of the UK we have the large city and port of Hull. If you travel through Hull and out to the end of the Humber Estuary you will come to Spurn Point, which is a tidal sand island. There isn’t much there except a lighthouse, Lifeboat Station and this old water tower.

Our intention had been to shoot some of the sea defences there. The weather had forecast cloudy and we thought it sounded promising. Unfortunately, the forecast was wrong. The sky was clear blue with the exception of a few wispy clouds on the horizon. The sea defences will be worth shooting in the future but not in the conditions we had.

When I spotted this water tower I could immediately see the potential for converting it to mono. What surprised me thought was that the colour version is quite nice.

Colour image prior to conversion with Nik Silver Efex Pro.

I also need to admit to something as a few of you will spot this and ask questions. I have bought another Nikon D800. The camera was an absolute bargain; it looks like new and has only a few thousand on the shutter count.

The last time I bought a D800 I hated it and sold it 4 months later. This time, I’m really enjoying it. The difference seems to be the lenses I bought. One of the lenses is a 24-120mm f/4.0 which this image was captured with. With this on the camera, I’m finding it a pleasure to use. It also has VR which allows me to shoot at surprisingly slow shutter speeds. This is never going to be my main camera (I like the Fuji X-T2 too much) but it’s very impressive and the results are excellent.

Heading Out With A Purpose

View across Dovestones, Saddleworth. Fuji X-T2 10-24mm lens, ISO200, f/10.0, 1/55″, 0.9 ND Grad filter

At the weekend, I did something I haven’t done before. I headed up into the hills behind Dovestones reservoir for photography. Now I need to qualify that statement as I have taken plenty of photographs in the area. The difference this time is that I was heading out for the purpose of photography and nothing else. Usually when I take photos here, I’m out walking and happen to have a camera with me.

The problem when you’re out walking is that you have a different primary purpose. You may pause for a few seconds or even minutes to grab a shot, but it can’t compare to dedicated photography. The most noticeable difference for me this weekend was that I would leave the path regularly to find the right viewpoint as well as the best angles and composition. This probably seems obvious but I hadn’t previously realised how wedded to the path I was when walking.

The image above, which is one from the weekend is a good example. To reach this you need to leave the path and scramble over some rocks. You would never achieve this view or vantage point by keeping to the path, even though it’s only around 100m from the path. What it’s made me realise is that whilst I have always maintained that this is a difficult area to photograph, the problem was my approach. I’m now wondering how many other good locations I have missed because I had the wrong primary purpose.

I should also say a big thanks to Dave who was the reason I ventured up to this location in the first place. He had wanted to photograph the Trinnacle rock for a long time (that image is still to come). Although I was never keen to photograph in the area (because I thought it was difficult and I live here) I said I would take him as it can be tricky to find. If it hadn’t been for this I would possibly never have opened my mind to the possibility.

I now can’t wait to get back up there.

No Friday Image

The Trinnacle, Saddleworth. Sony RX10, ISO80, f/6.3, 1/125″. 0.6 ND Graduated filter. B&W conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you may have noticed I didn’t publish the usual Friday Image last week. Instead, I was at a used car dealership picking up a new car. I decided after more than 6 years of excellent service, it was time to change my trusty Honda Civic for a newer car.

The Honda was now 9 years old and had 108,000 on the clock (90,000 of which is my mileage). The replacement car is a 3 year old Volvo, which I hope to run for a similar period and also hope is just as reliable. You see, I like to buy good quality used cars with low mileage, then run these until they start to wear out. This way, the bulk of the depreciation has already been suffered by someone else.

Taking the Honda as an example, the engine was running amazingly well and had plenty of miles left. But there were a few niggling problems starting to surface. The windscreen washer motor had sprung a leak and had to be replaced. Then the air conditioning had packed up a few weeks back. Then most worrying there was an odd mechanical clunk from the engine when setting off or slowing down which could be felt through the peddles. Time to change.

Whilst thinking about buying a low mileage quality used cars, I realised that my camera buying habits were quite different. Most of my cameras tend to be purchased new and I am the one suffering the depreciation. What I should be doing is looking for good examples of excellent used equipment that’s been well maintained. I could probably have saved myself a small fortune by now.

Changing the subject almost entirely, the image you see at the top of the screen is the one that I would have published if I had been able to shoot it in time. It’s a rock formation called The Trinnacle, found at Dovestone near to where I live. It’s one that I have tried to find a number of times in the past but often the path has been blocked by various natural and man made features. This time I was able to reach it and captured the image using my Sony RX10.

Since I had the RX10 repaired (the lens unit was replaced as it had a fungus problem – so much for being sealed) it’s performed brilliantly. The image quality definitely exceeds the previous lens and this continues to be my go to camera for walking. I wonder at what stage I will decide it needs to be traded in for a newer model.

Back to Work

Porth Kidney Beach Cornwall
Porth Kidney Beach. Olympus EM5 + 12-40mm lens.

You might have noticed that there was no Friday Image or posts this week. If you were wondering why, it’s because I took a much needed holiday. But despite the holiday I still took a couple of cameras along with me to capture the landscape. Here is one from the beach near to where I was staying.

If you’re wondering where this exotic tropical scene is, it’s Porth Kidney Beach in Cornwall, near to St Ives. The sea there is so blue and clear. It’s a wonderful place to take a holiday and get away from everything.

But now I’m back and starting to work through all the emails.