Landscape Photography

Preparing for an Overseas Trip

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Death Valley Sand Dune. Panasonix GX1 with 45-150mm lens. f/8.0, ISO 160, 1/200".
Death Valley Sand Dune. Panasonix GX1 with 45-150mm lens. f/8.0, ISO 160, 1/200″.

I am planning to take a trip a little later in the year and intend to be travelling light. At the same time, I want to be sure that I produce high quality images so I have been spending a little time today working out what my kit list is likely to be.

Olympus OMD EM5 will be the camera of choice given the quality of the images produced together with the image resolution.

To support the EM5 I will be taking the Olympus 12-40mm lens which gives a full frame equivalent of 24-80mm. I will also take the Olympus 9-18mm (18-36mm full frame equivalent) and Panasonic 45-150mm (90mm – 300mm full frame equivalent). All of these lenses produce very good image quality and with the exception of the 12-24 are small and light.

Accessory wise I will only need a few memory cards (I will actually have 6) ranging between 32Mb and 64Mb as well as 5 spare batteries. I hate running out of batteries so carrying 5 spares will allow for a couple of days shooting. My other essential accessory is the Lee Seven 5 filter system. Here I will be taking the 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 ND Grad filters as well as a 6 stop and 10 stop ND filter.

All of this will fit into a small LowPro shoulder bag.

EM5 with 12-40 lens and small shoulder case.
EM5 with 12-40 lens and small shoulder case.

As I am going to use the 6 stop and 10 stop ND filters I will also need a tripod and camera remote. I want to travel light so I am in two minds over taking the Velbon tripod. The Velbon is very light but feels a little bulky at times given how light the rest of the equipment is. I did purchase a Rollei Travelling Tripod a couple of years back and which I am also considering for the trip.

I have never used the Rollei (how bad is that) and it feels a little small and light despite being very well made. If anyone has any experience with this tripod I would be interested to know what you think and what its short comings are.

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.

Normal Service Will Resume Shortly

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Limestone above Malham just after sunrise. Sony A7r + Canon 24-70 lens. Set to 24mm, ISO100, F/16.0, shutter speed 0.4".
Limestone above Malham just after sunrise. Sony A7r + Canon 24-70 lens. Set to 24mm, ISO100, F/16.0, shutter speed 0.4″.

This is a quick note to say sorry to everyone waiting on a reply to email. I have been away for a Landscape shoot and without internet access. Normal service will resume shortly and here is one of the images from the shoot in the interim.

Friday Image No.89

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The Langdales in the Lake District. Olympus EM5, 45-150 lens. Handheld.
The Langdales in the Lake District. Olympus EM5, 45-150 lens. Handheld.

I shot this one a few weeks back when I was in the Lake District playing around with my new (old) Bronica SQ film camera. This one however was shot on the Olympus EM5. The difference between using these two cameras was amazing. The Bronica forced you to be very slow and check everything twice whilst with the Olympus I could just point and shoot almost.

The weather conditions at the time weren’t perfect but the location shows a lot of promise. I hadn’t seen this viewpoint photographed previously although I’m sure it has been. Hopefully I will return under better conditions in the future.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Impressive Printing Service

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Image captured on Kodak Ektar 100 35mm film. Shot on a Hasselblad XPan with 45mm lens.
Image captured on Kodak Ektar 100 35mm film. Shot on a Hasselblad XPan with 45mm lens.

I recently showed the above image as part of my posting about film photography. At the time I made the point that my wife loved the image and picked it out from a selection of prints (all the others digital) as the one that stood out. My wife by the way is someone who doesn’t really bother about photography and bases her choice on what she likes. A couple of days later she asked me to get the same image printed large for our bathroom. In the past I have had a large print made by Whitewall so I decided to use them again.

I started by re-scanning the image on my Epson V700 using VueScan software. The V700 is OK for a flatbed scanner but it won’t produce super sharp images. The original image itself was shot on Kodak Ektar 100 35mm film using a Hasselblad XPan and my intention was to produce a print of around 30” wide. In the end the print was 31.5” x 11.4” as this was the best size for the intended wall. Once I had uploaded the processed image to the Whitewall website I was able to select the custom size option and set the longest side of the print – all very easy.

With the image uploaded I needed to select the print product to be produced. What I decided on was a print onto Fuji Crystal glossy photo paper which is then bonded onto an aluminium backing plate. This is then sandwiched with clear acrylic glass, in this case 6mm thick. The back of the aluminium plate also has a hanging rail attached which is very neat. In short, this is a high quality product.

In terms of printing, I decided to do my own soft proofing of the image prior to uploading. For this I downloaded and installed the printer profile from the Whitewall website. This was for a Lightjet print onto Fuji Crystal (a true photographic print is produced). When I compared the soft proof with the original, the soft proof was quite dark and needed to be lightened. Both the soft proofing and adjustment was carried out in Lightroom.

Looking at the print I received, it’s identical to the soft proof. Given the difference between the original and the soft proof, be sure to take the time to do this or you may be disappointed. Whitewall do have an option on the site to allow them to optimise the image. Personally I would rather take control over this step and I haven’t tried their service. If you don’t feel confident with soft proofing, it may be worth trying the service or at least contacting them for advice.

The total cost of this little lot was just over £100 including shipping and a discount code.

If you’re now wondering what the quality of the finished product is like, my view is that it’s superb. The colours and tones are spot on with the soft proof. The product itself is of a very high quality and the print is excellent. The image appears sharp (but not unnatural), despite being scanned on a flatbed and then enlarged slightly (the enlargement was carried out automatically on the Whitewall website. I do have a professional gallery print which is also a Lightjet photo mounted on aluminium and bonded with acrylic. This print from Whitewall is definitely of a similar standard.

If you’re in the market for a large print, I would certainly recommend Whitewall. I also want to make it clear that I am in no way connected to Whitewall and don’t receive any benefit from this review/recommendation. I have written this piece because I’m impressed and others may find it helpful.