Tag Archives: Landscape Photography

Upgrade Your Camera by Changing RAW Converters

Snow covered mountain on Rannoch Moor. Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24mm lens. ISO200, F/11, 1/420".
Snow covered mountain on Rannoch Moor. Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24mm lens. ISO200, F/11, 1/420″.

This week I feel the urge to highlight something to the readers of this blog. If the image quality from your camera and/or lens is disappointing you, don’t rush to change it. Instead, try a different RAW converter.

I’m seeing more and more that there’s a large variation in image quality produced by different RAW converters. You’re probably thinking there’s nothing surprising there, except it’s not necessarily one converter that comes out better than the others.

The Best RAW Converter Depends on Your Camera

As I investigate this further, what I’m finding is that a RAW converter that excels with one camera can perform poorly with another. And it’s not just the camera that seems to be a factor. Some RAW converters appear to handle some lenses better than others.

This is important. The image quality of some RAW converters with certain camera/lens combinations can fool you into thinking the lens or camera is at fault. Don’t fall into this trap.

A couple of weeks back I demonstrated this using RAW files from a Sony RX10 and RX100. This week I published this video on YouTube. It shows the results from four RAW converters, processing two Fuji X-T2 RAW files.

There are two interesting points to come out of this:

  1. The difference between the best and worst of the four RAW converters tested is significant.
  2. The best RAW converter changed with the RAW file. Although I didn’t highlight it in the video, this difference is down to the lens I used.

So, before you rush out to change that camera or lens that doesn’t quite perform, try using a few different RAW converters. It could save you a lot of money.

Friday Image No.215

I captured this week’s Friday Image in Scotland last week on the famous and Rannoch Moor. I was fortunate enough for my trip to coincide with a light snowfall. Had it been a heavy snowfall I doubt I would have thought I was lucky.

I used the Fuji X-T2 with a Fuji 10-24mm lens handheld. The pool of water you see in the foreground was really very small. It looks a lot larger than it is because I had the lens set to 11mm. To make the foreground loom large, I crouched down low and in close to the pool. I was also careful to avoid distorting the mountain with the super wide lens by keeping the back of the camera vertical. Had I tilted it the image the mountain wouldn’t have looked quite so impressive.

I didn’t use any filters for the capture as the camera could just about cope with the dynamic range of the scene. I processed the converted RAW file using a combination of Nik Color Efex, Nik Viveza and Luminosity Masks created with Lumenzia in Photoshop.

I hope you like the video & image and have a great weekend.

Friday Image No.201

iew from the Hooker Valley trail, New Zealand
View from the Hooker Valley trail, New Zealand. See text for camera settings and processing.

Last week I shared the first image from my New Zealand trip.It was a mountain scene from a trek I did along the Hooker Valley. For today’s Fridayimage I want to share another scene from the same trail. In all honesty, Icould probably share 100 images from that trail. Now that I’m semi recoveredfrom the journey, I’m seeing lots of shots I took that I really like.

This one in particular took me by surprise as I don’t recall taking it. I don’t know about you, but I tend to have a very good memory for each of the shot I take, even over a couple of years. I can’t usually recall them with crystal clarity or recognise them when I see them. That’s not the case with this one so I suspect it was a grab shot.

It’s taken using the Fuji X-T2 and a 55-200mm lens. The lens is set to 55mm and the camera was handheld. With the aperture at f/11.0 and using ISO200, I achieved a shutter speed of 1/680” which is more than fast enough to handhold. I didn’t use any filters either and this isn’t a multiple exposure, just a single RAW file.

In terms of post-capture processing, I did most of the work in Photoshop using curves and luminosity masks. I did take the image into On1Photo RAW 2019 (if you haven’t seen my review, here’s a link) but then applied the adjustments through a luminosity mask to target the mid tones. To finish I applied dodging and burning to lighten the cloud and darken the rocks in the bottom third of the frame.

I hope you like the photo and have a great weekend.

Friday Image No.196

Peak District. Nikon D800, 16-35 Nikon lens, ISO50, f/18.0, 1.3″. Tripod, Polarising filter and 3 stop ND filter.

I do hope you aren’t getting tired of these Peak District and heather images. The season for shooting heather is past us now but I still wanted to share another photo. I captured this in the Peak District, just above the Surprise View car park. I couldn’t resist the clump of heather, trees and bracken all blowing in the wind.

It was quite tricky to find all the elements in a composition that worked where I could place a rock in the foreground. The reason I needed the rock is to emphasise the movement in the other elements and show that the camera is steady. The still rock makes a nice contrast to the foreground heather blowing in the wind.

When I shot this, I had in my mind that I would convert it to black and white. I’m not sure why but I had a black and white image in my head. Now that I’ve seen it I’ve completely changed my mind; it’s a colour image. I did briefly toy with the black and white conversion, but it looked dreadful.

To boost the image colour and exaggerate the movement I used a polarising filter and 3 stop Kase Wolverine filter. I’ve been using Kase filters for almost a year now and I must admit they have exceeded all my expectations. I do still have my Lee 100mm and Lee Seven 5 filters, but I only use the Seven 5 filters. The Seven 5 system is so convenient for the smaller format cameras.

I’m off now to continue working on the Lenscraft Newsletter for tomorrow.

I hope you have a great weekend.

Friday Image No.195

The Peak District, Nikon D800, Nikon 16-35 at 30mm, 1/3″ at f/18.0. Kase Wolverine 0.9 Soft ND Grad, Tripod.

I’ll start with an apology that I haven’t posted to the blog this week. I’ve been out taking photos (that’s what I’m supposed to do after all) and working on the Lenscraft website.

If you follow my YouTube Channel you will already have seen todays Friday Image. I won’t make any apologies for this though as I really like the shot. I’ve wanted to photograph this scene with heather for some years, but I never seem to time it quite right. This year is probably the best I’ve managed, but the heather isn’t brilliant, probably because of all the dry weather we had earlier in the year.

If you haven’t seen my video showing the processing of this shot and you’re a Nik Collection user, it’s worth watching (but I would say that). I do everything in Color Efex Pro, just to demonstrate the potential of the filters.

Now that I think about it, I probably need to reprocess the photo using more tools.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Image No.194

Bamford Edge, The Peak District.
Bamford Edge, The Peak District. Complete with flowering heather and rainbow. Nikon D800, 24-120mm lens, ISO100, 1/50″ at f/11.0. Handheld.

I was out at Bamford Edge last night with a friend. It’s somewhere that I have wanted to photograph for a long time. Despite living only 50 minutes away and walking regularly in the area, I have never been. But with the heather being out, I couldn’t miss the opportunity.

In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting much. I’ve only ever seen one shot from the area which is usually at sunset looking over to Ladybower Reservoir. But what a surprise and what a great location this is. I could have spent many more hours up there except that it went dark. I’m definitely going to be returning.

On reviewing my images, I decided I’m not going to share the usual view. Instead I have this one looking in the opposite direction.

I hope you have a great weekend. I’m off to photograph more heather.

Finding Hidden Gems in Your Work

Bamburgh, Northumberland.
Bamburgh, Northumberland. Canon 5D MKII, ISO50, f/18, 1.6″

Back in winter 2013, I visited Bamburgh in Northumberland with a friend. We had both been to the area quite a few times and we had high hopes for our trip. As we made our way down to the beach for what we were sure would be an amazing sunrise, our expectations were sky high. As it turned out, there was some faint colour in the otherwise stormy sky and we found ourselves battered by the wind and rain.

The following day was equally disappointing but for different reasons. We went down to the beach again and readied ourselves for the sunrise. It was already raining hard and the wind was making it very difficult to shoot, even with a sturdy tripod. We sat in the car wondering what to do, waiting for the last moment when, if the sun broke through we would run down and catch the scene.

What happened next was amazing. The sun did break through and lasted only a few minutes, but the sunrise was like nothing I have never seen before. It was as if a weeks’ worth of amazing sunrises were compressed into a few minutes. If I described the scene as nuclear it would not be an understatement. But I’m not going to show the shots from that sunrise. They simply look unreal. The best word I can use to describe the images now is vulgar. Even the unprocessed RAW files look fake.

What I am sharing though is one of the many “failed” images from the first morning. I happened across this image looking for examples to use in my Nik Silver Efex book (I decided the original needs an update).

But here’s the interesting things. There were dozens of great images from that first morning and I had been blind to them. I suspect the disappointment of the trip lingered long in my memory

when it failed to meet expectations. It’s only now when I come to work on the image, having separated myself from the shooting, that I can really see the beauty of the morning.

It’s always worth checking your old archives.

No Friday Image

Water Tower at Spurn Point.
Water Tower at Spurn Point. Nikon D800, 24-120mm Nikon f/4 lens, ISO100, 1/160″ at f/13. Conversion to B&W in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you will have noticed there wasn’t a Friday Image last week. This is because I was in Amsterdam for a short break with my wife where we also met up with our daughter, her husband and our grandson. We returned on Saturday and I headed over to Spurn Point with a friend on Sunday.

As a lot of readers won’t be familiar with the area I should explain. On the North East coast of the UK we have the large city and port of Hull. If you travel through Hull and out to the end of the Humber Estuary you will come to Spurn Point, which is a tidal sand island. There isn’t much there except a lighthouse, Lifeboat Station and this old water tower.

Our intention had been to shoot some of the sea defences there. The weather had forecast cloudy and we thought it sounded promising. Unfortunately, the forecast was wrong. The sky was clear blue with the exception of a few wispy clouds on the horizon. The sea defences will be worth shooting in the future but not in the conditions we had.

When I spotted this water tower I could immediately see the potential for converting it to mono. What surprised me thought was that the colour version is quite nice.

Colour image prior to conversion with Nik Silver Efex Pro.

I also need to admit to something as a few of you will spot this and ask questions. I have bought another Nikon D800. The camera was an absolute bargain; it looks like new and has only a few thousand on the shutter count.

The last time I bought a D800 I hated it and sold it 4 months later. This time, I’m really enjoying it. The difference seems to be the lenses I bought. One of the lenses is a 24-120mm f/4.0 which this image was captured with. With this on the camera, I’m finding it a pleasure to use. It also has VR which allows me to shoot at surprisingly slow shutter speeds. This is never going to be my main camera (I like the Fuji X-T2 too much) but it’s very impressive and the results are excellent.