This isn’t a deliberate ploy to post the same image as last week. This image was taken at the same time as last week’s Friday image but the lighting is stronger. The reason it looks stronger is that the image is processed using Nik Viveza. When I did this, I employed a few adjustment tricks that people might not realise to try. I decided to share these “Secrets of Viveza” using a video which is posted on my you tube channel. I also embedded the clip below.
I hope you find it useful and have a great weekend.
I mentioned on Friday’s blog post that I was heading out for an early morning shoot the following day. At the time the weather forecast appeared to be little hit or miss. The intention was to shoot Winnats Pass in the Peak District. I was meeting a couple of friends there and to be honest the weather conditions on the drive over had me feeling hopeful. Unfortunately, within 2 miles of my destination I hit a fog bank but I wasn’t to be deterred.
Meeting up we decided to press on as the pass is high and the Hope Valley often fills with fog at this time of year. This can give rise to a cloud inversion where you find yourself looking out across a sea of cloud. The first challenge though was finding our way. I had never been to this location and my friends had only been once before. If you add to this the dark and thick fog, you should be able to guess that we got lost trying to cross a field. Eventually we did find the path and emerged onto the head of the pass. The view that greeted us was dull and foggy.
Rather than share one of my images with you, here’s a link to another photographer’s website. This is what it should have looked like.
If the sun did come up on that morning, we missed it.
Eventually we cut our losses. Regrouping we gathered our thoughts with a cup a tea and cooked breakfast. This is when we decided to try Padley Gorge in the Peaks. The water and trees might prove quite evocative in the mist. Again, luck was against us as the fog cleared by the time we arrived, leaving us with a dull and overcast sky.
The image you see at the top of the post was taken in the gorge where there’s an old quarry. For those of you who don’t know, the round stones in the image are millstones. The gritstone in the area was perfect for making these and you can find millstones in many locations throughout the Peak District. They are a sort of icon of the area. My intention had been to shoot the image for B&W conversion given it was still too early for autumn colour. Having now seen the colour and B&W together, I do prefer the colour image, I think. Here’s the B&W version in case you’re interested.
In the end we gave up at around 13:00 and by the time I had driven home (about 50 minutes), the weather was glorious. As I said, landscape photography is frustrating.
If you shoot with a small sensor camera and use Lightroom for RAW conversion, then it’s a good idea to take care when sharpening. Noise can be a particular problem when at low ISO settings but there are steps you can take. This video demonstrates how to avoid the ugly sharpening artefacts that can result and which tend to become exaggerated in later processing.
I hope you find this useful.
Here’s one for all you fans of Black and White. If you’re wondering what the colour image looked like at the start or the processing I used, it’s all covered in a short You Tube video.
You might find it rather surprising if you haven’t seen it before.
Have a great weekend everyone.
At one time I didn’t understand the relationship between aperture & image sharpness. I read many magazine articles and books where Landscape Photographers would commonly say they stopped the lens down to the smallest aperture to ensure the image was sharp from front to back. What I hadn’t realised is that they weren’t discussing image sharpness but depth of field. I also hadn’t realised that many of these photographers were using medium format cameras where depth of field could be a real issue. Fortunately, I now understand this relationship but there continues to be misinformation published on the subject.
Here then are the key points you need to be aware of in relation to depth of field:
- Depth of field is how much of your image appears to be in focus from the nearest point to the most distant.
- Depth of field is determined by the aperture you use. If all other variables remain the same, as you make the aperture smaller (larger f/ stop number), you will increase the depth of field.
- Other factors affecting the depth of field include:
- Where you place the point of focus – the nearer the camera the shallower the depth of field. It’s also worth remembering that the depth of field will extend twice as far beyond the point of focus as in front of it.
- The size of the film or the image sensor – the smaller this is, the greater the depth of field at the same aperture.
- The focal length of the lens can also make the depth of field appear greater – a wide angle lens makes the depth of field appear greater than a long telephoto lens.
When I first started in photography, what I failed to grasp is that the factors determining how sharp an image is are different to depth of field. Let’s take an example where you shoot three images using a typical lens; the first image with the aperture as wide as it will go, the second with the aperture as small as possible and the third with the aperture between the two extremes. If you then review the images looking at the point of focus, you would find that the third image with the aperture at mid-value is the sharpest image. This is because lenses are design to perform at their best when aperture is closed down by a couple of stops. Once you go to the smallest aperture though, the performance and sharpness is compromised by something called diffraction, which makes the image appear soft.
One benefit of using a Micro 43 camera for Landscape work is that you can typically achieve front to back sharpness (depth of field) without needing to stop the lens down to the smallest apertures. In my own work I tend to shoot Landscapes with the lens set to 12mm (24mm equivalent on a full frame camera). The aperture I tend to use is f/7.1 or sometimes f/8.0. Providing you place the point of focus correctly you will have all the depth of field you typically need and the lens will be near to its optimum performance.
Where I use the Sony RX10 which has a smaller 1-inch sensor, I tend to shoot with an aperture of around f/5.6 for full depth of field at 24mm. And when I was shooting with the LX5 compact camera I was using f/3.5 to f/5.0 for full depth of field at 24mm.
I hope this helps all you small sensor Landscaper photographers.
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.
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.