digital photography

Friday Image No.92

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Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 14-45 lens. ISO200, 1/200" at f/8.0
Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 14-45 lens. ISO200, 1/200″ at f/8.0

Last week I shared Friday No.91 which was taken on my first outing with the Olympus EM5. Later the same day I shot this image with the EM5. At the time I liked the scene but the conditions were very poor. It’s only now that I recognise I captured the image I wanted to. I definitely have some kind of block which prevents me from seeing a good image until sometime later (usually many months).

I will share some further thoughts about this next week.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Topaz Texture Effects Book Launch

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Before & After Texture Effects
Before & After Topaz Texture Effects

I’m very pleased to be able to announce that my latest book “From Photography to Art with Topaz Texture Effects” has now been published and is available on Amazon. The book covers in detail how to use the Texture Effects software and provides two full length examples for you to follow. In common with my other books you are able to download the starting images for these examples so that you can follow the examples on your own computer.

In addition to the descriptions and examples, the book provides a number of more creative ideas for using the software. For example, did you know that you can use the software to create new Borders and Textures. This information hasn’t been previously shared and isn’t even available on the Topaz website.

If you don’t already have the Texture Effects software, you can use the 30-day demo with the book (available from the Topaz website). The book also includes a 15% discount code should you later decide to make a purchase.

You can find the book using the links below or search for the title on your local amazon store.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Friday Image No.91

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Haweswater. 4 image series on the Olympus EM5 with 14mm prime. ISO200, 1/160" at f/8.0
Haweswater. 4 image series on the Olympus EM5 with 14mm prime. ISO200, 1/160″ at f/8.0

I shot this image almost 3 years ago in June 2013. It was my first outing with the Olympus EM5, a camera that I feel has changed my photography. This is actually 4 images merged in Lightroom. I shot a lot of these panoramic series back then as I found the EM5 was so easy to use. But until the new Lightroom merge feature was introduced, I have left many of these to sit on my hard drive.

The location is Haweswater in the Lake District. It’s actually a reservoir that’s been engineered to look like a lake. There’s even a very pretty manmade island. It’s a shame they had to flood a village to do this. If you have never visited this area, it’s well worth a look. It’s much quieter than the rest of the lakes and the Haweswater hotel makes a great place to stay.

Hope you like the shot and have a great weekend.

The Olympus 12-40 Sweet Spot

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Olympus Em5 with 12-40 lens. See blog text for settings.
Olympus Em5 with 12-40 lens. See blog text for settings.

I have noticed that when shooting with the Olympus EM5 I have become very lazy about setting the aperture. I have fallen into the habit of shooting at f/7.1 when using the 12-40mm lens. Unless there is something that’s very close to the camera I find that I can get away with using this aperture almost all the time. With this lens and aperture combination I find that it gives me an excellent depth of field for Landscapes but also produces sharp images that are well focussed from corner to corner.

But this isn’t to say that it’s the best aperture for the lens.

I have actually found that my lens tends to perform at its best when stopped down to around f/5.6. There is less depth of field at this aperture but you can still achieve a hell of a lot when used with the 12mm wide angle end of the lens. You just have to take care where you place the focus point – but more on that in another blog post.

You might also find a similar setting are also good with other Micro 43 lenses in this focal range. I also used to use a Panasonic 14-45 and this seem to match the performance characteristics of the 12-40.

The image above was taken inside an old kiln in the Royal Mint in Bolivia. It was shot at f/3.5 so that I could keep the ISO low (in this case ISO400) together with reasonably fast shutter speed as I was shooting hand held. Actually the shutter speed was 1/15” but it was sufficiently fast. I had the camera in burst mode and fired of a few shots one after the other to ensure one of these was sharp.

This lens seems to perform very well across most of the aperture range. Take a look at the enlargement of the top left of the image, shown below. This has minimal capture sharpening applied as part of the RAW conversion in Lightroom.

Corner sharpness at f/3.5
Corner sharpness at f/3.5

So whilst I am always keen to use my lenses at the optimum aperture, I don’t mind deviating if it means that I can capture the image.

Lightweight Cameras

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Canon G16 ISO80, f/4.0, 1/320".
Canon G16 ISO80, f/4.0, 1/320″.

There was a comment on my last blog post asking what had happened to the lightweight cameras as I seem to be publishing images from the Sony full frame. I was thinking about this and wanted to present a slightly longer response as it gives rise to an interesting point.

What is a lightweight camera?

The first thing that comes to mind is that size is relative. If your used to shooting with a Large Format camera, Medium Format might seem lightweight. To a Medium Format shooter, a DSLR might seem lightweight. There is a very good You Tube channel from Ben Horne who shoots with an 8×10 large format camera but then takes a Nikon D800 on his trips to use for video. That’s a camera manypeople think is perfect for Landscapes.

Is the Sony A7r lightweight? Perhaps it is as it’s a mirrorless design and smaller than most DSLRs. If I use it with old prime lenses, it’s actually smaller than my EM5 with 12-40 lens. But if we are determining a camera as being lightweight based on sensor size, then it’s not.

But then this raises the question of my Sony RX10. This is a large camera for what is effectively a bridge camera. It’s a little larger than my EM5 but has only a 1” sensor. Personally I consider it to be lightweight as I need only this camera and a couple of filters to shoot landscapes. I can fit everything into a small shoulder bag. If I were to take the equivalent lenses and the EM5, I need a larger bag.

Then there are the compact cameras. Currently I have only the Canon G7X which is a great pocket camera with the same sized (1 inch) sensor as the Sony RX10. This is definitely a lightweight camera with good image quality. Whilst I can produce good results with this camera, commercial reality means I can’t use this all the time. This is more of a carry anywhere camera in case the opportunity for a photo arises.

Finally, there is my latest purchase, the Go Pro Hero 4. This is definitely the smallest camera I have and wasn’t really purchased for photography but rather for filming some of my photo trips. I want to make some on location tutorials and will use the Go Pro to film these.

Back to the question raised, whilst I may not have published many images shot with the EM5 of late, I have been publishing shots taken with other lightweight equipment such as the RX10. I can’t shoot with every camera I own all the time and must vary the use. I like to publish recent material which probably explains the limited EM5 images. But rest assured, the EM5 is alive and well in my camera bag and will be used in the near future.

What I would be interested to understand is what people feel makes a camera lightweight. Feel free to add any thoughts as comments below.

Friday Image No.90

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Sunset view in the Yorkshire Dales from above Malham. Sony A7r + Canon 24-70 lens at 24mm. ISO 100, f/16.0, 1/15" shutter. Tripod mounted with a 0.3 ND graduated filter on the sky.
Sunset view in the Yorkshire Dales from above Malham. Sony A7r + Canon 24-70 lens at 24mm. ISO 100, f/16.0, 1/15″ shutter. Tripod mounted with a 0.3 ND graduated filter on the sky.

I was pulling a late one tonight and was so tied up with getting some urgent work done, I almost forgot to post the Friday Image. This was shot last Saturday in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s hard to believe this was almost a week ago. Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Have a great weekend everyone.

The Secret to Great Landscape Photography

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Dent Viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales. Rare perfect conditions for Landscape Photography. Sony A7r + Canon 24-70mm lens. ISO100, f/16.0, 1/60", Tripod and 0.3 ND Grad filter.
Dent Viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales. Rare perfect conditions for Landscape Photography. Sony A7r + Canon 24-70mm lens. ISO100, f/16.0, 1/60″, Tripod and 0.3 ND Grad filter.

A recent trip to the Yorkshire Dales really drove home the importance of this secret. See if you can guess what it is as you read my outline of the trip. Read closely enough and there are a couple of lessons in there.

The first day was Friday and from the moment we arrived the rain set in. It was the sort of fine, persistent rain that gets everywhere and soaks you through. This continued well into the night, but this wasn’t a wasted day as we spent the time driving around some of the locations we would shoot. Partly in the hope that the weather might break but mainly so we could scout the locations and know what to expect the coming day.

Saturday came and the first sunrise location was a great success. Had we not visited this the day before we would have struggled to get into position in the dark due to the fence that had been placed across the path. It had been predicted to rain later in the day but that didn’t appear and the sky was filled with white fluffy clouds and broken sun. These are perfect conditions for Landscapes and the day was filled with great photo opportunities from sunrise to sunset.

Sunday started with high hopes for a sunrise as the forecast was clear of rain until lunch time. Unfortunately, there was no cloud, only clear blue sky. The sun came up and within a 10 minutes was too harsh to create a good image. Later in the morning clouds appeared and the light began to soften, making appealing images possible. The afternoon did cloud over so we made the switch to a waterfall location.

Monday started with high winds but the sky had well defined with fast moving cloud. There were fleeting rain showers with some shafts of light. Although we had initially planned to visit a ruined Abbey, the light was so good we thought we would landscape again. The conditions were very challenging with rain getting on the camera lens constantly and the high winds made it difficult to capture a steady exposure. We responded to the conditions by shooting a couple of waterfalls in secluded locations where we could find shelter.

In summary, this was a great trip and very productive despite challenging weather conditions. We visited a large number of locations and captured a variety of shots. The secret to this that I mentioned in the title is planning.

What really dictates the quality of your results is not the light but the weather. Weather is the largest influence on the light. Although you can’t control the weather, you respond to it. If you live in a climate with frequently changing and challenging conditions (I would say most of the UK), you will be at the mercy of the weather so you had better prepare.

Different weather produces different lighting conditions, and not all conditions are good for every landscape subject. Weather conditions can also be very challenging such as the high winds we encountered. The trick to making a success of your time is to switch to shooting subjects that make the most of the weather conditions. Whilst the light on the Monday was superb for large landscape shots, the wind made this impossible so we found shelter. Dull, overcast conditions were ideal for waterfalls but not landscapes. Equally, broken sun was ideal for the large landscape view but made shooting waterfalls tricky. I’m sure you get the idea.

You can’t change the weather, only react to it. This is why I say planning is essential. Had we not had plans and options for different locations, we wouldn’t have been able to respond to the conditions. We wouldn’t have known where the waterfalls were so we couldn’t have switched location. We wouldn’t have found the best views. We wouldn’t have known where to go for the best sunset and sunrise locations. If you don’t make plans and have alternatives you could find yourself wasting a lot of time.