Last week I took a much-needed holiday, but I still couldn’t leave my camera behind. I visited St Ives in Cornwall and the weather was glorious. Surprisingly, even the mid-day sun didn’t stop the photography opportunities. Here is a very simple shot of a field from a walk I was on.
Now I need to admit to being a little lazy when I took this shot. I didn’t use an ND Grad on the sky. I reasoned that as the sun was behind me and there was blue sky visible, I didn’t need it (that’s my simple rule of thumb by the way). When I now look at the image, I really would have benefited from using a 0.3 (1-stop) ND Grad. Here’s the image with the original unadjusted sky.
To fix the problem I added a Curves layer to the image in Photoshop, with a mask to hide the ground. I then set the blend mode of the Curves layer to Multiple and this is the result. It also gave me a great idea for a book about mastering the various techniques for masking in Photoshop. It’s too easy to forget these things when you get used to using plug in’s.
You might have noticed that there was no Friday Image or posts this week. If you were wondering why, it’s because I took a much needed holiday. But despite the holiday I still took a couple of cameras along with me to capture the landscape. Here is one from the beach near to where I was staying.
If you’re wondering where this exotic tropical scene is, it’s Porth Kidney Beach in Cornwall, near to St Ives. The sea there is so blue and clear. It’s a wonderful place to take a holiday and get away from everything.
But now I’m back and starting to work through all the emails.
I can hardly believe it. This time last week I was in the Lake District, sat in a pub enjoying a nice meal. The weather was turning very cold and the next day I was greeted by a very thick frost. I was staying near to the iconic hill known as Catbells with the intention of walking the Newlands Horseshoe. This image was shot near to the summit of Catbells and is a three-image stich using the Olympus EM5.
In the end, we didn’t make it around the horseshoe. We reached High Spy which is a little short of half way when we turned back. It looked like we would run short of daylight and the conditions underfoot were poor. The big mistake was forgetting my crampons. There was a lot of ice and snow about so walking in just boots was slow going and a little tricky at times. I didn’t mind turning back though as the walk (which I have done several times) gave great views in the first half.
This week I would like to share another infrared image. This was captured using an Olympus EM5 which I had converted to shoot Infrared. It was shot in the Lake District at a location called Place Fell and it’s the first time I have been thee. I intend to return in the future as I think there is a lot of material in the right conditions.
I’m not sure why but the day was far better than expected for Infrared. Everything just seemed to be glowing. The EM5 also makes a superb Infrared conversion. The image was then converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro.
I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.
Over the past week I have received at least four emails asking what Micro 43 lenses I would recommend for Landscape Photography. I can also see quite a few people reading a related post I created back in 2012. Given my advice has changed since I wrote the original post, I thought it was time to revisit the subject. If you would like to know more about the image above, check out the video at the end of this blog post.
Before I share my own recommendations, I believe there are a few points that need to be taken into consideration. These are:
You should consider these points carefully in order to come to your own conclusions. These points will also help you to understand my answers.
Micro 43 is an extremely flexible format with a large range of available lenses. Unfortunately, not every micro 43 lens will suit every camera in the micro 43 range. The lenses may fit the camera and operate correctly, but are the two well matched. For example, the Olympus 12-40mm may feel great when used on the Olympus EM1. But place the same lens on the tiny Panasonic GM1 and it would feel completely out of place. If the lens makes your camera difficult to work with, it doesn’t matter how good a landscape lens it is.
Flexibility & Shooting Style
It’s a little difficult to cleanly separate these two areas so let’s cover them together.
Consider if you would prefer to work with prime lenses or zoom lenses. My own preference is for zoom lenses as sometimes you can’t get into position with a prime lens. I would much rather have the flexibility of using zoom lenses.
Consider the focal ranges you want to cover with your lenses. My kit covers 9mm to 150mm (or 18mm to 300mm in full frame equivalent). Would this suit your needs for Landscape? Do you need greater coverage of focal lengths or is such a large range unnecessary?
How will you carry your equipment? I use a small shoulder bag in which I carry the camera and main lens as well as two additional lenses.
The price of some lenses may be restrictive, especially if you are purchasing them new. Some lenses are quite difficult to obtain second hand so you might not have any option but to purchase them new.
Lens quality is of paramount importance to me. I want to render images that are superbly sharp and which contain lots of detail. This might not suit our style of photography or you might place other features ahead of image quality. A further example of this is lens distortion (Barrel and Pincushion). Although I say lens quality is paramount, I don’t really mind some level of distortion. If this becomes too obvious, it can usually be corrected by software during post processing.
Are there any features that you need in a lens? For example, you may require the lens to be water resistant. One feature that I find important is the ability to mount filters to the front of the lens. Personally, in common with many landscape photographers, like to mount graduated ND filters on my lenses to help control exposure. Some ultra-wide angle lenses such as the Panasonic 7-14mm won’t accept such filters. The 7-14mm lens is a super performer but the frustration it caused me when trying to use filters resulted in me selling the lens.
Do you need image stabilisation in your lenses? I shoot with an Olympus EM5 which has in camera stabilisation so having a stabilised lens is not important to me. If your shooting with a Panasonic Micro 43 camera, this might not be the case. Equally, if you work exclusively on a tripod, you won’t need this feature.
How about having a constant fast aperture or close focus range? You need to think about these.
Based on everything I have said, my current recommendation for the best Micro 43 lenses for landscape photography are:
These lenses are in my core kit and the ones that I take with me when travelling. All of these perform excellently, producing very sharp images and resolving fine detail. Of the three, only the 12-40mm is large. The other two are tiny for their focal range. I am prepared to accept the additional size and weight given the lens is weather sealed and has amazing optics. It also has a very close focus distance even at the 40mm end which makes it a pseudo macro lens if I don’t have room for one. In fact, the 12-40mm is such a great lens for my style of photography, it remains on the camera probably 90% of the time.
In the past I have worked with a Panasonic 14-45mm kit lens from a GF1. These are excellent lenses and available at a good price second hand. This is a good option if you don’t want the size, weight or cost of the 12-40mm lens. It’s sharp and versatile but lacks a little on the wide end of the focal range (for my preference).
If your confused by the multitude of lenses available in the Micro 43 range, consider the areas mentioned carefully before committing to a purchase. Whilst my lens choice is perfect for my needs, they may not be suitable for you.
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It’s the end of another week and I’m preparing for an early morning start. I’m going to try some shots over in the Peak District but as is often the case, the weather forecast doesn’t look too good. Hopefully things won’t look quite as bad when I get on location.
I have also been busy trying to find an image to share but I wasn’t coming up with much. In the end I selected the image above. I have shared other images from this shoot in the past but I really like these.
This is a single RAW image processed in Lightroom and then enhanced with Nik Viveza. I have tried to keep the adjustments looking natural and I hope you like the treatment.
I’m a little late today having been working solidly since around 07:30 this morning (it’s now 21:30). I have a backlog of work that seems to be getting longer every day and I have a full weekend and following week ahead of me. I need to cheer myself up and not just by dreaming of the Fuji XT2.
To make me feel better, here is one of the images from my recent volcano trekking trip to Italy. Here’s one from the rim of the volcano on the island of Vulcano. It’s actually a three image stich shot with the Olympus EM5 using the 9-18mm Olympus lens. The stitching was done in Lightroom.