Category Archives: Digital Photography

Masters of Landscape Photography

Dovestones Reservoir, Saddleworth. Fuji X-T2, 18-135 lens at 32mm, ISO100 f/11.0 1.5 seconds. 2 Stop Kase ND graduate filter on the sky. Tripod mounted.

Over the Christmas break I bought a new book “Masters of Landscape Photography”. I would love to say I was featured, but alas I have been overlooked once more. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have bothered with a book such as this, but Amazon was offering a heavy discount. I took a chance and I think I have been well rewarded.

The book covers sixteen photographers, so you only see a small sample of work by each. The images that are presented though are very good. Someone has put a lot of effort into selecting a diverse range of interesting and beautiful work. Yes, there are a few of the usual names (at least for those of us in the UK) but there are others who are less well known.

One of the photographers you should probably look up if you don’t know him is Marc Adamus. Whilst I wasn’t familiar with his name, I have seen his work in galleries and his images are simply stunning. They may be a little too far from traditional landscapes for some readers, but you can’t deny they’re impressive.

I have added a short book review to Lenscraft covering this title. I’m quite impressed.

This Blog is at a Crossroads

The Peak District in mist. Fuji X-T2, 16-55 Lens, ISO200, f/11.0, 2″

Happy New Year.

Like most at New Year, I sat back and assess a few things. One of these was the success of this blog. When I started almost 6 years ago I had a clear vision. I wanted to help people create better photography using lightweight cameras, equipment and image editing. After 627 posts (this is 628), I’m not sure the blog is achieving its purpose. It certainly doesn’t get much traffic and costs me much more to run than it generates (not that money is everything).

When I started the blog, I switched from using a full frame Canon outfit to Micro 43 as my main camera. I was achieving good results using Micro 43 and was keen to help others do the same. Whilst I still have a couple of Micro 43 cameras, I now do most of my photography using a Fuji X-T2. It’s lightweight compared to some but it’s still quite a big outfit.

Now add to this a change in my personal circumstances.

Until now I have been trying to run two businesses. One was as a freelance Project/Programme Manager and the other running Lenscraft Photography. The demands of trying to do two full time jobs was starting to take a heavy toll on me. I had to make a change and decided now was the time to build Lenscraft Photography. Part of this means doing more “how to” tutorials and videos on the Lenscraft website.

The question this raises is what to do with The Lightweight Photographer blog.

  • I could close the blog down. But then I like sharing my images here.
  • I could use the platform to share my thoughts, news and image experimentation. This is my favourite, but I’m not sure people would read it.
  • Possibly many other things that I haven’t thought about.

I’m at a crossroads and don’t know which way to turn next. All ideas gratefully received.

It Snowed

Sheep in Saddleworth, Fuji X-T2, 18-135mm, ISO100, f/10.0, 1/100″

The weather forecasters managed to get it right (almost) and it snowed at the weekend. What they didn’t quite get right was the volume of snow. The 10-20cm of predicted was more like 5cm. And if your reading this from Buffalo or NYC, 5cm is sufficient to bring the UK to a halt.

Despite the shallow snowfall, it was enough to transform the landscape. I headed up onto the hills at the top of our village and found this group of sheep sheltering together from the weather.

Hope you had a good weekend.

Will Fuji Image Quality Make the Grade

Hardknott Pass in the Lake District. It’s single track and has a gradient of 1:3 (33%). This is one of the submitted images.

Some years back, I posted a work to Stock Libraries quite regularly. It’s always been my intention to return to this activity when time allowed. Most of the work I posted at that time was shot using a Canon 5D MkII with L series lenses and I hardly ever had a problem with images being rejected.

Then came my switch to Micro 43 cameras, which was a turning point. For some reason the reject rate started to rise. Looking at the image submissions and problems logged, I couldn’t understand what was happening. Even now, looking back at some of the examples I still can’t see the problems that were reported. Ultimately this has made me nervous about restarting submissions, especially using the Fuji X-T2. Now before my Fuji readers begin to complain and defend the camera, I need to explain why I’m concerned.

Firstly, I always shoot in RAW format and then process my files to images in Lightroom. When I first started using a Fuji camera, Lightroom wasn’t a great converter for the X-Trans files. In fact, if you search the internet you will find lots of comments about the “watercolour effect” and “wiggly worm pattern”. Whilst there has been a distinct improvement in Lightroom performance, the resulting image files “look different”. In some cases, the difference may even cause you to call into question the sharpness of the image. This concerns me as it could cause the images to be rejected.

Secondly, whilst Fuji has some great lenses in its line-up, the 18-135 isn’t known as one of them. In fact, its come in for a lot of criticism in the photography press. It was also one of the first lenses I used with the X-T1 and guess what, that lens was poor and I ultimately returned it. I now have another of these lenses and I love it. It’s a great lens when out walking and whilst not as sharp as my other lenses, I think it performs well. It certainly gets full marks for versatility. Despite all the positives, making stock library submissions with images shot using this lens makes me nervous.

Finally, I have switched from processing images on a PC using a 23” HD resolution monitor to using a 27” 5K Retina screen on a Mac. Virtually every image viewed on the Mac looks great, even at 100% magnification. I now find myself needing to view images at 200% magnification to determine if they are critically sharp. Now when I look at images on my PC, I find even the smallest flaw looks awful and terrible and most images look grainy/noisy (but not the Fuji which look almost falsely smooth). I’m now finding it difficult to judge image quality using the Mac and it’s making me nervous.

Having considered and fretted over these points for a while now, I decided to do what’s probably obvious to most of you. I decided to submit some images to see if they make it through quality checking. The images were captured on the Fuji X-T2 using the 18-135 lens. I will report back the results soon.

Mastering Photoshop Masks

I’m very excited to announce the launch today of my latest book, Mastering Photoshop Masking”. Initially I was going to write a book dedicated to Luminosity Masking. This is a subject often overcomplicated by people who, I’m sure would like to keep the secrets to themselves. On starting to develop the book, it quickly became apparent that I needed to cover other forms of masking as well. The book therefore details Painted Masks, Channel Masking, Luminosity Masking, Selection Techniques and Mask Refinement Techniques.

The book is aimed at Photographers who would like to adjust their images in Photoshop but who have little or no knowledge of masking. Whilst a familiarity with Photoshop is assumed, everything you need to know to understand mask creation is explained in full.

Mastering Photoshop Masks Book Cover
Mastering Photoshop Masks Book Cover

In addition to lots of examples throughout the text, there are several worked examples at the end of the book. These include a full-length example showing how the cover image of the book was created. You can download the starting files to follow the examples on your own computer. I have also included the many of the finished images in Photoshop PSD format, with the masks in place for you to examine.

The book is available now on Amazon priced £4.99, $5.99 or similar in your country. Next task on my list is to develop a video course for those who prefer video to reading.

I Just Realised it’s Thursday

View from Higger Tor in the Peak District. Fuji X-T2 with 18-135 lens. ISO200, f/14.0, 1/45″.

I just realised it’s Thursday and I haven’t posted anything all week. Where has the week gone. I have been so busy trying to finish writing my Photoshop Masking book that I have overlooked everything else I need to do. I even have a couple of photography presentations at clubs next week and I’m not prepared.

Here then is a quick image that I shot a couple of weeks back in the Peak District. This is the view from Higger Tor (thanks for introducing me to the location Dave) down the Hope Valley. You can just make out the cement works I the distance on the large image.

I didn’t really get much as the storms kept rolling in but the Fuji X-T2 with 18-135 lens was perfect for quick shots between the showers.

Camera Colour Profiles

Olympus EM5, Olympus 12-40mm. ISO200, f/2.8, 1/2500″

Over the past few months, I’ve been contacted with increasing regularity by people looking for Camera Colour Profiles. In case you’re not familiar, these are the profiles that allow Lightroom to convert RAW files into colour images with accurate colour. Although Lightroom comes with a default colour profile (Adobe Standard), this can be improved upon.

Once you create and install a custom colour profile to Lightroom, you can select it when processing RAW files. The option is found under the Camera Calibration tab at the bottom of the interface in the Develop Module. Here you will find a dropdown list with all the available profiles installed to your computer that relate to the RAW file being processed.

A common problem people seem to experience is that the profile they installed isn’t available in the dropdown list. This can often be explained by one of the following:

  • It’s not a RAW file that’s been selected for editing. When a RAW file is converted to an image, the colour profile information is embedded in the image. If you see the words “Embedded” in the dropdown and this can’t be changed, you’re not working on a RAW file.
  • You don’t see the installed profile in the dropdown list. Only the profiles that match the RAW file are displayed. If the RAW file was taken using a Canon 5DMKII, it only displays profiles for that camera. The profiles are specific to the camera model and version.
  • The profiles aren’t installed in the correct location. I have produced a You Tube tutorial showing how to install the profiles to both Mac and Windows computers.

I share a number of camera colour profiles on my Lenscraft Website (Olympus EM5 MKI, Olympus EM5 MKI Infrared, Panasonic GX1, Panasonic GX1 Infrared, Panasonic GM1, Sony RX10 MKI, Sony RX100MKI, Panasonic LX5). If you own one of these cameras, you can install and use these profiles as they may give you an edge over the default “Adobe Standard” profile. If you don’t have one of these cameras you will either need to search the web or create your own.

If you’re interested in creating your own, I suggest the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport which is the system I use. The downside to this is the price; if you only have one or two cameras, it may not be worth your while. If you are a member of a camera club, it may be worth the club buying the ColorChecker and the members sharing it.

I would also like to make an offer. If anyone has, or does create colour profiles for other cameras, would you be willing to share them? If you are, please contact me via Lenscraft and I will add them to the library on my website along with a note of thanks and a link to your website (if you have one). This arrangement would hopefully benefit everyone.