Category Archives: Approach

Manmade Fascination

Ogden near to Newhey (North West England). Sony RX10 with 0.6 ND grad filter.

I’m pretty sure most of the regular readers of this blog can see that my passion is the beauty of the natural landscape. What many probably don’t realise is that I have a fascination for manmade objects that have become part of the landscape. Don’t ask me to explain why or how this developed, I just know that some objects in the landscape catch my attention.

The image above is one example. Every time I pass this group of Pylons I spend time trying to capture them with pleasing compositions. I used to think of these as being ugly and a blot on the otherwise perfect landscape. Now I see them and find the interesting. I’m not yet sure I can call these pylons beautiful but they are a challenge to photograph and create interesting shapes.

The wind turbines that now litter our moorland and coastline are similar. I used to think they are ugly but now find them almost majestic. I even included a full-length editing example in one of my books for a wind turbine image.

Does anyone else find these things interesting or is it just me?

Being a Successful Photographer

Infrared tree study using an Olympus EM5 converted to shoot infrared. The weather on this day was painfully difficult. I considered almost all my images to be failures with the exception of a few shots taken of this tree.

Yesterday I published an article on my Lenscraft website titled “How to become a Successful Photographer”. If you have 5 minutes to spare I would encourage you to head over to Lenscraft to read it. In writing the article, something occurred to me which is obvious and yet we often lose sight of. What do we consider being a successful photographer to be?

For some it may be the ability to earn a living from their photography. For some it may be winning competitions or being accepted by a Gallery.

My own definition of being a successful photographer is being able to consistently produce images that are high quality and which engage with my audience. All the other “measures” mentioned above are for me secondary outcomes. What really matters is the quality of my work and how I as the photographer feel about my work.

What I would really be interested to know is what defines success for you? If you have any thoughts, please add them as comments to this post.

Bracketing Limitation Workaround

Fuji XT2 six image HDR
Fuji XT2. Six images at 1 stop intervals blended using HDR processing in Lightroom. The image sequence was shot using the technique discussed.

From time to time I like to shoot multiple sequences of images at different exposures. I then blend these either with HDR software or using luminosity masks in Photoshop. My Olympus EM5 makes this very easy. I call up the bracketing option in the menu, set it to the number of exposures I want and the interval. I also set the shooting mode to continuous which allows me to shoot a sequence by holding down the shooter button. When the sequence is complete there is a slight pause allowing me to release the button. This makes the entire process very easy, allowing me to hand hold.

At the weekend, I came to shoot a bracketed sequence using the Fuji XT2. This also makes shooting the bracketed sequence very easy. There is a dial switch allowing you to change from single shot to bracket. You press the shutter button once and the sequence of three images is captured with no need to keep your finger on the shutter. I found this great, until the scene I wanted to shoot required a five-image sequence at 1 stop intervals. That’s when I found out that the XT2 is limited to shooting only 3 images in a bracket. Come on Fuji, please fix this in your next firmware update. It’s basic stuff.

Now, I should stress that it’s not just Fuji that seem to have overlooked the obvious. When I also came to set up my Sony A7r at the weekend, I found a similar problem. This camera can be set to shoot a bracket sequence of 5 images, providing you don’t want to set the exposure intervals to more than 0.7EV. As soon as you set the exposure interval for a bracket to 1EV or more, you can only shoot a 3 shot sequence. What on earth are they thinking.

If you have been frustrated by this limitation with your camera, there is a simple workaround (other than changing your camera):

  • Set your camera to bracket 3 shots at 2EV intervals in the Av mode (aperture priority) and set your exposure compensation to 0.
  • Shoot the bracket sequence of 3 images.
  • Set the exposure compensation to +1.
  • Shoot a second bracket sequence of 3 images.

This gives you two sequences of three images, but across the two you will have images at 1EV intervals. These will range from -2EV to +3 EV which is what you need for HDR and Luminance blending if you want to ensure maximum flexibility. Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to hand hold using this method but hopefully it will make things a little easier.


Free Book Relaunched

Mastering Your Camera
Mastering Your Camera. Free Book Offer

I have been updating one of my books following feedback from a few readers. The book was called “Beginning Photography the Right Way” which appears to be misleading. Experienced photographers have contacted me to say they found it valuable and a good refresher on many points. I have therefore decided to make a few corrections/updates and re-release the book under the title “Mastering your Camera”. Here is the link to the book on Amazon UK

If you previously purchased this book from Amazon, you can download the revised version for free. Just login to Amazon and navigate to the “Your Account” page. Click the link to “Manage your Content and Devices” then search for the book in the list. You should find an “Update Available” button next to the listing. Click this and it will download the updated book. The book is also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited allowing you to read it for free if you subscribe to this.

Free Book

There’s also good news if you didn’t purchase the original book as I’m giving away free copies to all my subscribers and followers to say thank you. On the 20th 21st and 22nd January the book will be available for free on Amazon. The book can only be downloaded from Amazon and it’s only available on these dates so please don’t ask me to provide copies (this is a contractual arrangement with Amazon).

A Favour

If you’re in a camera club or know someone who might enjoy/benefit from the book, please pass on details of the free download dates. My hope is that more people will learn about and benefit from my work. Perhaps they will be sufficiently impressed to leave a good review.

Don’t Have a Kindle?

If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry. You can still access the book using the free Kindle Readers. Kindle Readers are free software from Amazon that can be downloaded to your computer, tablet device or phone allowing you to read Kindle books. They support all the major platforms (Mac, Windows, Android). I have one on my iPhone for when I get stuck waiting somewhere and it’s excellent.

Here is a link to amazon page where you can download a free Kindle Reader App.

I will be sending out a reminder email to Lenscraft members soon.

Photographic Approach

View from Place Fell, The Lake District. Fuji X-T2.
View from Place Fell, The Lake District. Fuji X-T2.

Recently I have been talking a lot about camera so I want to redress the balance a little. I have been having a couple of email exchanges recently with people who don’t like my photography. I have no issue with this, I just can’t understand why they feel the need to tell me. What I do think is important though is that I’m expected to conform to another person’s view of how an image should look.

The issue in question appears to be that my images are “over processed” because the scenes can’t possibly be captured in camera, the way they appear. The fact that I don’t add or remove items and generally only process my work from a single RAW file is irrelevant. If it can’t be captured with a single shot and without processing, then it’s wrong in their eyes.

I am a landscape photographer. I view the landscape as a thing of beauty and I want my images to reflect the beauty I see. I love to be in the landscape and if ever I could, I would want others to share this experience through my work. If this means I that I need to modify the tones in my image to make it appear as I see with my eyes and mind, then this is acceptable; painters have been doing it for years.

This brings me to the age-old question of should we process our images. My view is that if we shoot Digital and capture in RAW, we must process them. A RAW file without any processing is flat and unappealing. It doesn’t do justice to the subject. If you shoot JPEG then your images will probably look much better initially than the RAW file equivalent. But all you have done in choosing to shoot JPEG is abdicate responsibility for the processing and turned it over to the camera.

As for the “purist” who thinks everything should be done in camera, consider this. If you shoot colour negative film, then the processing of the image and its look has been engineered into the film emulsion. If you shoot colour slide film, again the same is true but you must also modify exposure with graduated filters (in the case of landscapes) due to the limited dynamic range. Is this acceptable as its not in camera? If you shoot black and white negative, then exposure, tone and contrast are controlled not just in camera and when shooting with filters, but also during the developing and printing process. For some reason the same people who criticise image editing see the manipulation of traditional black and white print film as acceptable.

I’m not going to ramble on for much longer other than to make two points:

  1. As photographers, we should strive to develop our own vision of how the images we shoot should look. We also have a responsibility to develop our editing skills to be able to deliver this vision or we are doing our subject a disservice.
  2. We must also learn to appreciate the work of others, even if it differs substantially from our own style and preference. Don’t seek to change others to conform to your vision but ask what can I learn from this other person’s view of the world.

Friday Image No. 110

Cornish sunset. Olympus EM5 processed using Nik Viveza.
Cornish sunset. Olympus EM5 processed using Nik Viveza.

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.





Landscape Photography is Frustrating

Stones at Padley Gorge. Fuji XT1 + 16-55 lens.
Stones at Padley Gorge. Fuji XT1 + 16-55 lens.

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.

Stones at Padley Gorge. B&W conversion.
Stones at Padley Gorge. B&W conversion.

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.