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Dave Collerton

A Personal View of Street Photography

A Personal View of Street Photography

It;s often difficult to know where to start an article so perhaps the best place to start is at the beginning.

Setting the Scene with some Background Information

When I first picked up a camera many years ago, to put this in perspective this was a 35mm Pentax KM film camera back in the 1980's (which I still own today), my main focus was very much on landscapes, places and people in the way where perhaps many people start. A photo of an interesting statue in the town square, that ruined castle on the hill, an exotic foreign holiday. Looking back on the images from that time that I still have, yes they do provide some great memories and indeed some interesting photos. In the years that followed my love of photography waned somewhat until such time as mobile phones started to emerge with in-built lenses and camera applications. Like many reading this, my re-introduction to photography really started with mobile phones such as the Samsung S4, then the S6 and laterly the Huawei P20 Pro. This prompted me to consider once again being a "serious photographer" so having decided in November 2016 to purchase something more akin to what "real photographers" use, I finally opted to buy a nifty little mirrorless camera called the Panasonic Lumix GX-80. My rational was simple, it had to have a huge range of reasonably priced interchangable lenses, it need to be small and lightweight and it had to do 4K video recording. It also helped that Panasonic were offering a very tempting £200 off the in-shop price making it an absolute steal at £350. The deal was finally done in December 2016 and armed with my new purchase I hit the streets and of course, immediately reverted to type photographing pretty much the same subjects I did back in the 1980's. However, having a lot more time on my hands nowadays I soon realised that working in a vacuum was unlikely to move my photography forward by any great degree and so I decided to join a local photography club, this being Paignton Photography Club (PPC), which I knew from scanning the internet incuded a rich vein of talent amongst it's many members. Indeed, this certainly turned out to be the case and I rapidly turned into a sponge absorbing the very best ideas from the very best photographers around me.

Why Street Photography?

I think that the primary reason for my interest in street photography is that I'm not really very good at landscape, sport or wildlife photography. It was this discovery that really heralded the beginning of a new journey for me, one that led ultimately to my interests in street photography and street portraiture. Besides,  Alex Tehrani hit the nail on the head when he said“Anyone can shoot chaos but the most perceptive photographers can make compelling pictures out of uninteresting moments.” For me this is so true, it is the normality of life that I find the most interesting. 

Another plus point for me as someone with dodgy knees, is that as a genre, street photography is simplicity itself because there is generally no hiking, climbing or indeed, heavy equipment to carry. There is also no real planning required as it really is basically just "point and click". Sure if you want to capture someone's head behind a smiley face balloon then there's likely to be some manipulation of the situation and a prop involved. However, for the most part it's just pure luck. As photographer Matt Stuart says, "buy a good pair of comfortable shoes, have a camera around your neck at all times, keep your elbows in, be patient, optimistic and don’t forget to smile".

And Matt's not the only one with some insight into this genre, others include:

Robert Doisneau - “The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.” 

Joel Meyerowitz - “You fill up the frame with feelings, energy, discovery, and risk, and leave room enough for someone else to get in there.”

Susan Meiselas - “The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.”

William Klein - “Be yourself. I much prefer seeing something, even it is clumsy, that doesn’t look like somebody else’s work.”

Elliott Erwitt - “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

Chase Jarvis - "Allow yourself the freedom to step away from perfection because it is only then that you can find success."

Ernst Haas - "Best wide angle lens? Two steps backward. Look for the ‘ah ha’."

Jay Maisel - "If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it."

 

So, what can be considered as Street Photography?

Since this is an article primarily on Street Photography, let's take a look at the definition as summarised by one well known source.

The Wikipedia definition of Street Photography, also sometimes called candid photography, is photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places. Although there is a difference between street and candid photography, it is usually subtle with most street photography being candid in nature but not all candid photography being classifiable as street photography. Street photography does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. Though people usually feature directly, street photography might be absent of people and can be of an object or environment where the image projects a decidedly human character in facsimile or aesthetic.

In truth, the response you get to this question depends on who you talk to. Some photographers see street photography in it's purest sense, raw, unedited, candid footage that captures something extraordinary in the ordinary. A perfect example of this would be the work of someone who I admire, Rod Fry ARPS who is a published contemporary photographer with interests in street and other social mediums. Rod's images, for me at least, encapsulate the very meaning of street photography in it's purest forms. This was highlighted when I was recently joined for coffee by Ryan Hardman, a young local street photographer here in Torbay. We spent a good hour or so talking about street photography and in particular his experiences and views on the genre. Ryan outlined his many influances, for example Bruce Gilden, Paul Russell and Nick Turpin and it was during this conversation that he mentioned about the current problems between Turpin, who is a well established street photographer, and the In-Public photography group he formed in 2000. This story perhaps best highlights how difficult it can be to label someone as a street photographer. The issue in question, In-Public's picture of the month which is highly stylised and distorted candid shot and which for Turpin at least, is a step outside of his vision for the genre. For Turpin and others, what you see is what you get and while clearly some of Turpin's commercial work is clearly contrived and indeed, post-processed, in his work as a street photographer any editing of the image is a step outside of his purist concept of street photography.

Against this background of turmoil, I looked back at the body of work I had created in the past 12 months or so and decided that I am a street portrait photograher for the most part. In writing this article I flicked through several hundred or so images and the vast majority of them fell into the definition of street portraiture. One of my favourites, and I'll explain why in a moment is the image I chose for the header of this article. Here it is again.

My guess is that many people will give this no more than a cursory glance but for me at least, it is a perfect representation of what street photography is, the capture of an ordinary moment in time that has a hidden depth of meaning. It's this ordinariness that I love and indeed, a quote that I found from Gilles Peress while researching this article yields one explanation as to why I love street photography so much. He says , "I don’t care so much anymore about ‘good photography’; I am gathering evidence for history."

Does street photgraphy imply that every photo you take has to be "street related"? Far from it, if you take this term literally you will be missing a huge opportunity to capture interesting moments in many other situations and locations. If you re-think the term as candid, documentary or even art based photography then additional doors start to open. Although not considered as street photograhy in it's purest form, the image shown below captured my attention. What I found amusing was the individual pose of each person, clearly deep in thought in very different ways. It's a seemingly mundane image with a hint of humour.

Another example is this image which was taken at a 93rd birthday celibration. This is a candid shot which strongly highlights the difference between age and youth.

In a similar photo, this time taken in Amsterdam, kids were clambering all over a huge sign on the bank of the river which spelled out Amsterdam. What captured my attention though was the old man, wheelchair bound, to the left of the sign. It's this contradiction which captures my attention in many instances.

This shot, of an exhibit in the ONIRIS Museum in Rennes, France, caught my eye purely because of the fact that people just stood and stared, sometimes for a few minutes or so. It's there reaction to a simple exhibit that I wanted to capture.

While for some, razor sharp images are everything in photography, for me I don't really care. It can be grainy, B&W, colour, sharp, out of focus, whatever. While I recognise that for most other forms of photography, landscape and portrait for example, image quality is highly prized. In street photography though it's the content itself which is the prize and the style and quality of the image can, in my opinion at least, be somewhat more relaxed. Most often this is when the situation is candid, comedic, out of the ordinary or just plain startling but to my point of view, even a seemingly mundane image can have huge depth if the viewer takes the time to absorb the messages within the image.

This is not to say that image quality is not desirable, it's just for me at least, it is less important than the content. Often candid images are "snatched at" images so what tends to suffer is exposure. Because I pretty much always shoot in manual mode snatched at images are often under or over exposed but where time permits, it's possible to get a bang on image where light, exposure and content are all aligned. 

My thoughts on the Gear required to do Street Photography

In order to practice any form of photography it is necessary to have the right gear. I'm a member of a great many groups and forums where all I hear all day long is about this lens or that lens, this or that camera. It's as if the photographer is paralysed if they don't have the very best wide angle lens available today. Personally, while I do agree that a top quality pro lens will undoubtable make your images better, I don't necessarily think it will make you a better photographer. Street photography relies quite often on capturing a fleeting moment in time, one that will never be repeated. For this reason the best camera you have access to is the one on you. If it's a smartphone, so be it. If it's a Sony A7 with a top notch f2.8 pro lens, so much the better. Which will take the better photo? Who knows. Nowadays, a mobile phone can create as compelling a street image as say a top quality Sony, Nikon or Canon. It's really not about the equipment, it's purely about the opportunity and the person holding the camera. For me, street photography is 80% luck, 20% skill as for the most part, you really don't have a lot of time to get ready for that perfect image. Photographer Harry Callahan sums up the expection of getting outstanding shots when he says, "I guess I’ve shot about 40,000 negatives and of these, I have about 800 pictures I like". Henri Cartier-Bresson nails the lid on the coffin with his remark "Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." I've got a long way to go before I've taken 10,000 shots so pretty much all my stuff should be in the bin!! Nonetheless, the journey is enthralling.

With regards my own kit, my personal favourites for this genre are my pocket sized Canon G7X Mk ii, my Lumix GX-80 mirrorless and laterly, my Huawei P20 Pro smartphone. Compacts such as the excellent Lumix LX100 are really ideal for this genre of photography as they are small, lightweight and descrete yet offer much of the functionality of a full blown dslr. As to using a smartphone, newer phones such as the iPhone X, Samsung S9 and Huawei P20 Pro have exceptional lenses, sensors and firmware and as such are begining to blur the edges of what constitutes acceptable in photographic terms. While tradition dictates that you wouldn't use a smartphone on a commercial shoot, I really don't feel that I'm any less of of photographer because I've used the Huawei rather than say a compact or dslr camera. In general terms, it's often all I have on me so I'm not going to get precious over the fact that I took this or that shot with a smartphone.

This next couple of examples were again captured at the OSIRIS Exhibition in Rennes, this time using the Lumix GX-80. This first exhibit created quite a buzz amongst the audience I suspect mostly because of the subject matter. I was hoping that one of the young boys would get a little closer but eventually had to conceed that this wasn't going to happen, at least while I was standing there. I shot this in manual with a high dynamic contrast because I wanted some grain in the image. My only regret technically was that I never had time to adjust the white balance.

This second image is a nod to pure street photography in that it captures a snatched moment in time with no particular focus uther than the image itself. Here I have tried hard to meet the rock solid tenants of street photography in that what I saw when I took it is exactly what you are seeing now. Normally I would be chomping at the bit to edit out the feet bottom left but no, this one shot has to be true to the genre. In truth, I love it for what it is rather than for what it could have been.

With regards using flash, although this is popular with some photogrphers, for example Bruce Gilden and even closer to home, Ryan Hardman, my flash generally stays at home unless it's already a feature of the camera. While flash photography does create some startling images, this image provided by Ryan Hardman for example (https://www.ryanhardman.photography/), for me flash photography is perhaps a step too far at this moment in time. By definition, Street Photography is already invasive and so I don't want to shake the tree too much. People tend to react in different ways when you stick a lens in front of them let alone a flash. Bravo to Ryan for being gutsy enough to use flash.

Image courtesy of Ryan Hardman. Visit https://www.ryanhardman.photography/ for more information and additional photos. 

Here's a couple of my own photos based on a similar situation but without flash. Most people are used to having their photos taken nowadays, God knows how many images we all appear in on a daily basis, so they tend to be quite relaxed if you are not being agressive or pushy. 

In Conclusion

For me, Street Photography opens up a world of opportunity that doesn't require lots of expensive equipment, or indeed, vast amounts of planning. While I recognise the value of good hardware, and in particular good lenses, it's amazing what you can capture with a kit lens and a good bridge camera. Armed with even the most basic of equipment, everyday a myriad of opportunites exist to capture something interesting, funny, suprising or just plain different. Given that there are no barriers to entry into this arena, it's a golden opportunity for you to try something new and to explore the naive and the raw as opposed to the extraordinary and the sublime. 

And finally, this image is perhaps a fitting place to end my take on what has been a very personal voyage into street photography.

To conclude, here are some of my personal favourites from the last year.

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Dave Collerton

Silverstone Classic 2018

Silverstone Classic 2018

Well, what a weekend that was....

Not only did I manage to pack in 36 hours at the Silverstone Classic 2018 (a huge thanks go to Don Hands for getting me there), I also just managed to get back to catch some of the horse racing at Newton Abbot on Sunday and host my brother in law who was over from the US!!

The Silverstone Classic, for those that don't know, is a major event hosted each year at the Silverstone Racing Circuit in Northamptonshire. The event attracts close to 100,000 people over 2 days and is a major attraction for racing enthusiasts as well as families. Inside the circuit is everything from childrens attractions, market stalls, car parts sellers, car auctions, food and drink and much more plus you get unfettered access to the pits where cars are being worked on and prepared for racing. With 21 races across the two days with everything from vintage F1 to classic cars from every era, there is definately something for everyone. The races generally run every half hour from 9am through to 8pm on the Saturday with a slightly shorter card on the Sunday. In the evenings, there are bands and entertainment enough to keep everyone happy.

Here are just a few photos from the event - click any image for a larger photo.

With an incredible eight decades of retro machinery on show, both on and off- track, the Silverstone Classic is regarded as the zenith of historic motor racing meetings in the world, regardless of genre. From FIA Masters Historic Formula One machinery and Masters Endurance Legends to the JET Super Touring Trophy plus much more, the Silverstone Classic features oversubscribed grids harking back to yesteryear across three days of thrilling track action. 

Qualifying got underway for all classes on the Friday ahead of what was a packed programme of 21 races run across Saturday and Sunday. In preparation of the weekend’s racing action, many of this year’s competitors had the final chance to put finishing touches to their machines during testing around the famous Silverstone Grand Prix circuit.  Among them was six-time Olympic gold medallist and 11-time cycling World Champion Chris Hoy. The Scottish sporting legend got his first taste of a 2007 Courage LC75 LMP2 first seen tackling the Mulsanne Straight at 200mph in the Le Mans 24 Hours. A seasoned racer himself having swapped his cycle helmet for a racer’s one in more recent years, Hoy – who competed in the 2016 edition of the round-the-clock French classic – drove an open-top sportscar in the exciting new Masters Endurance Legends category and was delighted to add another credential to his illustrious sporting repertoire. 

With numerous highlights to keep visitors of all ages entertained, the weekend tipped a nod to where it all began with celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the first Royal Automobile Club International Grand Prix in 1948, held at Silverstone.  A number of the cars that competed in the historic inaugural race were involved in a very special display for us to admire and they also hit the track for a not-to-be-missed parade ahead of the race featuring the machines these beautiful racing showpieces would go onto inspire, the Adrian Flux Trophy for Pre-1966 Grand Prix Cars (HGPCA). 

The Silverstone Classic also set the scene for a particularly special tribute to the British Touring Car Championship, which itself celebrates the milestone of 60 years in 2018. In what was hailed Tin-top Sunday, the packed itinerary includes the Transatlantic Trophy, Historic Touring Car Challenge, Gallet Trophy for under 2-Litre Touring Cars (U2TC) and the JET Super Touring Trophy, starring legends of the discipline over the decades. In honour of the special celebrations, Rickard Rydell was reunited with the Volvo S40 he drove to BTCC title glory in 1998. He also participated in a special 60 car parade at the wheel of the truly iconic Volvo 850 Estate that made headlines around the world when it debuted in 1994. 

With more than 10,000 stunning classic cars on display amidst the racing action, a plethora of entertainment for the entire family to enjoy and terrific weather conditions throughout the weekend, Silverstone hosted yet another memorable extravaganza for the 100,000+ visitors who attended, myself included.

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Dave Collerton

Camera Lens Adapters - Worth the money?

Camera Lens Adapters - Worth the money?

As we all know, camera lenses can be incredibly expensive so if you have more than one camera system, e.g. Sony, Nikon, Canon, Panasonic etc then you often forced to lay out a lot of money to have the latest and greatest. Of course there is always the option of buying second hand lenses, for example through Wex and other main dealers, as well as through Ebay and Amazon. There is however another option. A cheap and practical way of overcoming the issue of lens incompatability between systems is to consider using a lens adapter. For example, you could mount your expensive Nikon lenses to say Fuji, Olympus or Panasonic camera bodies simply by using a lens adapter. These adapters come in many forms, some providing full auto-focus and aperture control between the different camera / lens types, others only providing manual focus and aperture control. With this difference in function comes the obvious difference in price and unsurprisingly, fully automatic adapters are generally much more expensive than those that provide only manual functionality. C'est la vie!

Being a relative cheap-skate, and having some old legacy glass from my Pentax film days, buying and owning a Panasonic GX-80 and a Nikon D600 means that I have a multitude of lenses sitting around which fit only the systems they were designed for. Well, at least in theory because I also own a couple of inexpensive lens adapters which allow me to use my old legacy glass and my newer Nikkor / Tamron lenses, on my Lumix GX-80. Personally, I haven't gone overboard on these devices as I am more than happy to fly manual in my photography and to be honest, I'll flip to manual even when the lens is capable of fast auto-focus. 

Having had a Pentax KM to Micro Four Thirds (MFT / M43) adapter for some time, I was keen to see whether I could get the same brilliant performance from a Nikon FX to MFT adapter. This would then allow me to use every lens I own, on my lightweight walkabout Lumix GX-80. Here's an example of the performance of an old Vivitar 35 - 70mm (f2.8 - 3.8) with a Pentax KM fitting when attached via an inexpensive Beschoi PK-MFT adapter. Not a bad result for a lens costing under £30. One thing to remember though is that when using lenses designed for a particular sensor size, for example 35mm film cameras, is that when used on non 35mm camera bodies such as an Micro Four Thirds system, there is a crop factor to apply. Because the Lumix GX-80, has a micro four thirds sensor, any lens designed for use with 35mm sensors / cameras will give me a 2x crop factor, effectively a doubling of its focal length. So, for the old Vivitar above, the new focal length becomes 70 - 140mm. Also, because you are making it a little harder for the light to reach the sensor, the aperture of the lens won't be quite as efficient so you may have to increase exposure by a few EV to even things out. Overall though, a simple adapter should have no real effect on aperture value so using vintage pro glass now becomes of significant interest.

As an example of what a 200mm Pentax lens can achieve on the Lumix GX-80 with an adapter (this now becomes 400mm) take a look at this photo from the recent airshow at Paignton, Devon. Not perfect of course, but not bad for a hand held shot at max focal length and manually focused. Best of all, this lens cost just £5 on Ebay and while I am not saying don't spend big bucks on quality lenses, what I am saying is that your old legacy glass still has a role to play in your current photography.

As mentioned above, one of the Nikon lenses I own is a Tamron 28-300 AF Aspherical XR Di LR If lens which although not the best ever, is a great walkabout lens with a decent focal length. When coupled to the Lumix GX-80 via the KAF Concept Nikon G - MFT lens adapter, this focal length becomes 56 - 600mm in basically the same package size as the Nikon D600 when fitted with this lens. These next couple of images is this lens at maximum range (f=600mm) and f8 with an effective distance of around 300m from camera to subjects. Without doubt this is stretching the lens to its limits and this can be seen in the results.

So, a good quality lens adapter can handle long distance shots with relative ease. What about closer in, does an adapter create problems at lower focal lengths. The answer is no, not really. In this next couple of images, the subjects are no more than 30 - 50m from the camera and again, the results are pretty good for inexpensive glass.

With the relative cost of a manual lens adapter being around the £20 mark, these offer photographers the opportunity to use lenses from other brands on their newer cameras. The KAF I used with the Tamron was £18 from Amazon. It allows me to use any Nikon lens with an F fitting, even Gelded (G) lenses that don't have an aperture ring, on my Lumix GX-80. You can see the control for this in the photo below, the silver knurled ring provides aperture control for Nikon G type lenses. Since practically every lens ever made by Nikon has an F coupling there is a startling range of legacy glass available. For example, athough I have yet to try it, I have a 50mm f1.4 G Nikkor which would be great for portraiture when fitted to the Lumix GX-80. A similar lens for the MFT system would cost towards £300 with the only disadvantage being I have to work in manual mode. Since I spend most of my time in this mode, and with manual focusing I personally don't see this as a big issue.

As I was writing this, an old Vivitar (Kiron made) 75-205 f3.8 arrived so I shot a couple of quick photos with it fitted to the Lumix GX-80 using the Beschoi PK-MFT adapter mentioned earlier. Other than the fact it weighs a ton, the fact that it is wide open at all focal lengths bodes well for future shooting opportunities.

In general terms, camera lens adapters offer a low cost alternative to buying expensive new lenses when and if you change your camera system. Performance is excellent, with little degredation in image quality plus, if your camera has a smaller sensor than the one designed for the lens, you will see a benefit in terms of extra focal length. For the Micro Four Thirds camera systems, this is a 2x crop factor meaning that a lens with an original focal length of 200mm on a 35mm camera becomes 400mm on the MFT system. With this increase in effective focal length comes a reduction in light reaching the sensor but this can be easily adjusted for in normal usage by opening up the aperture or compensating using EV. Finally, with prices for manual lens adapters being around £20, the opportunity to purchase high quality legacy glass from a host of manufactures means that you can own the very best lenses, albeit in manual mode, for just a few pounds. Of course, should you prefer to retain automatic control of focus and aperture there are more expensive options available, for example Metabones systems, which will provide you with those functions.

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Dave Collerton

Free Photo Editing Software for the PC

Free Photo Editing Software for the PC

I have wriiten before regarding the many photo editing tools available to photographers looking to edit their photos in a professional, cost effective way, be that Mac or PC. While there are some truly free applications, PhotoscapeX Pro and GIMP for example, unlike for Android and IOS mobile operating systems, once you move to a non mobile platform eg PC or Mac, free tends to become a mute point. Often free can just mean, free trial or free with limitations. This article then looks at some of the very capable, truly free photo editing applications that currently exist for the PC, and MAC. As always when reading my blogs, please remember that my preferred weapon of choice for editing, thanks to the fact that I have the ASUS Zenbook with a powerful Nvidia GTX1050, 4K graphics card, is the PC when it comes to videography and photo editing.

The two applications I want to focus on in this article are Nik Collection, previously owned by Google, and DxO Optics Pro 11. Both of these products now fall under the DxO brand, perhaps better known for their camera / lens correlation database. While the latest versions of Nik Collection have now become plugins to Photoshop, costing you £39.95 with discount, the original version of Nik Collection applications is still available for free download from the DxO website. While I have only recently started to use Nik Collection, I have used all the products and I am blown away by it's abilities and range of editing tools. My particualr favourites are Silver Efex Pro 2 and Color Efex Pro 4 but all have their uses. If it has a downside it is that many of the applications only work on JPEG / TIFF images which is a little strange as you do lose some dynamic range once you move away from RAW. However, this limitation does not seem to detract from its ability to create stunning, dynamic images with a little effort.

Let's start with Nik Collection.

Basically, Nik Collection is a collection of applications designed to enhance your photographs. The best known of these, and one of my personal favourites, is Silver Efex Pro 2 which creates inspiring B&W images from existing B&W and colour photos. Importantly, what I outline here with regards using Silver Efex Pro 2 works pretty much for all the applications in the Nik Collection. The only three exceptions, and this is basically with regards the way you open them for editing, is Sharper Pro 3, Dfine 2 and Viveza 2. Unlike the other applications, which have a file option for opening an image on the application main menu, these three applications require you to right click on the image and open the applications using "Open With". If you have used the application before it will appear in the list of available applications. If not, you'll have to associate it by searching for the application and then choosing it. For example, Sharpener Pro 3 can be found, on a PC at least, in C:/program files/dxo/nik collection/sharpener pro 3. There are 32 and 64 bit applications available so choose the one suitable for your hardware. I use the 64 bit version which is in a subdirectory. There are two types of sharpening, one before post processing and one for output. Choose the one most appropriate for your task. Here's a dramatic landscape image processed with both Dfine2 (noise reduction) and Sharpener Pro 3.

Teignmouth Pier in Storm Conditions

As wth most things, the best way to understand what something can do is to look at examples. Here, I have taken a photo of the childrens carousel currenly on Princess Gardens in Torquay. This colourful image in itself is quite attractive but it lends itself well to processing in Silver Efex Pro 2. 

Original Photo Processed using Luminar 2018 Win version

Processed image using Silver Efex Pro 2 software as a Kodak Tri-X 400TX Pro Film Emulation

Because we have started with a colour image, Silver Efex Pro 2 provides us with the ability to adjust the primary colours in the image ie red, blue, green etc to make selective changes to the final B&W rendition. We can also change the whole image by selecting various filters such as an orange, red or green filter which works on the image as a whole. Other adjustment tools include global effects such as brightness, contrast and structure plus you can drop control points on selected parts of the image to control highlights, structure, contrast etc. This is similar to the brush effect in other applications and allows for enormous flexibility when editing. Let's take a look at the Silver Efex Pro 2 interface on the PC.

Here we can see everything of importance to the you as you navigate the user interface. In the left hand panel you have various presets which give you a typical look, for example Neutral, High Contrast, Low Contrast and High Key as well as presets which emulate vintage effects such as pin-hole camera, film noir and many more. Every preset can be edited to modify the overall effect on the image and these editing tools can be seen on the RHS panel. The central panel shows the edited image and just above this are comparison controls to enable you to see the effects your edits have on the image. You also have the ability to open images (which must be in a jpeg format) and save / save as. On the RHS, you can't see these since they are off screen, you can select various classic film emulations, add and sutract grain, vignette and apply borders and burn edges. There also some tone controls, for example curves, which enable you to quickly develop the look you want. The ability to zoom into key regions to see the effect of your modifications is also very useful.

Other components included in Nik Collection include Analog Efex Pro, Dfine 2, Color Efex Pro 4, Sharpener Pro 3, HDR Efex Pro and Viveza 2. Each of these tools, other than the exceptions I have mentioned above, operate in a similar way to Silver Efex Pro 2 albeit that some are less fully featured. Here for example is the user interface for Analog Efex Pro 2.

As can be seen, the RHS panel has far less options and is therefore a little easier to get to grips with. As in Silver Efex Pro 2 there are options for B&W as well as many other anaog effects such as Toy Camera, Vintage Camera, Wet Plate, Double Exposure and a whole host of effects such as light leaks, dirt and scratches. If you are looking to recreate old, long forgotten images, Analog Efex Pro 2 is the application for you.

Another gem from the Nik Collection is Color Efex Pro 4, a tool box of image colouring tools to match anything on the market today. Again, this application has a similar looking interface to the others in the Nik Collection except that on the LHS this time you simply have a list of presets rather than an image. This is quite helpful as most of the effects are easily recognisable. 

Again in the RHS panel you have the option to edit the various effects to fine tune your image. To download the FREE version of Nik Collection simply visit https://nikcollection.dxo.com/nik-collection-2012/ and provide them with your email address. They will then send you a link to download the old (Google) version, which works perfectly, to your PC.

OK, let's take a look DXO Optics Pro 11.

DXO Optics Pro 11 is another free application fron DXO. Again, to access it you must visit https://www.dxo.com/us/digitalcamerauk and provide them with your email address. After 31/07/2018, you may not be able to access this amazing editor so if you are interested, download it now.

As you can see, the user interface is an awful lot busier than even the Silver Efex Pro 2 interface. This is because not only is DXO Optics Pro 11 an editor, it is also a Digital Asset Management system (DAM) which enables you to have some control over your projects and what they contain. Where it is similar to Nik Collection is in the provision of presets, for example film emulations, and a whole host of editing tools. Another important feature of this software is that it corrects images based on the camera / lens combination used to capture the image. This is because one of DXO's strengths is in it's huge database of camera / lens correlation data. If your camera and lens combination is included in their database, the software automatically applies corrections to the base image. This can have a significant effect on images, for example when captured by lenses known to have serious barreling, chromatic abberation and other issues.

DXO Optics Pro 11 is not as easy to get to grips with as say Analog Efex Pro 2 or Color Efex Pro 4. If you want simplicity and you don't mind going in and out of different applications, Nik Collection is probably ideal for your editing needs. On the other hand, if you are looking for the equivelent of the Swiss Army knife for photo editing, and you are prepared to spend the time needed to get to grips with it's intricaces, then DXO Optics Pro 11 is the editor for you. Let's take a deeper look at what 's included.

If you look at the image above you will see the basic layout for editing. This is after you have created your project (under the ORGANISE TAB) and set up the basic parameters that you want associated with that project. For example this can include user information, copyright information etc. The best workflow is to associate images that form part of a particular image set with a project. This means that in future it is really easy to locate your images for additional editing processes. This doesn't move the image, it just sets up a relative link to the original file location. Of course if you then delete the image from it's original folder, it disappears from your project.

Under the CUSTOMISE TAB you will find all of the features you need for editing. For example, in the left hand panel you will find basic information relating to the EXIF info for the camera used including focal length, shutter speed, aperture etc. You can also see a set of presets which you can choose as the basis for your edited image. These include a number of useful presets for B&W, portrait, landscape etc. Choosing a preset is just the start point, and as for Silver Efex Pro 2 etc, any of the preset parameters can be easily modified to control the look of your image. Editing controls are provided in the right hand panel. if you prefer to see what effect the presets will have before making a decision, you can choose to see all of the presets as images simply by clicking on the APPLY PRESETS in the top right hand corner. Again, once selected, you can edit any of the parameters associated with the preset. Finally, you can save your work by choosing to export your image as a TIFF or JPEG or to send it directly to applications such as Facebook, Flickr and indeed Lightroom should you wish to.

The results from DXO Optics Pro 11 are of course, superb and it's a simple task to take the resulting JPEG and push this to Dfine 2 or Sharpener Pro 3 as here with this finshed image of the famous milk bottle from the ruins behind Lupton House. 

DXO Opics Pro 11 and Nik Collection are probably now considered to be previous generation editing tools. DXO wants you to spend money upgrading to the latest and greatest software tools in its collection including the latest versions of Nik Collection, which are now provided as plugins to Photoshop. Also available are upgrades to DXO Optics Pro 11 inthe form of DXO PhotoLab and DXO FilmPack, both of which I have trialed. DXO PhotoLab is very similar to DXO Optics Pro 11 but DXO FilmPack5 does offer some wonderful 35mm film emulations fo restyling your images. If you are interested in film emulation, it's well worth a look.

In summary, and today at least, with the availability of the tools outlined in this blog there is currently little reason to spend hundreds of pounds on advanced photo editing software. Everything you need for professional editing for free is available to download and use today.

As always, any questions please feel free to contact me.

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Hello Huawei P20 Pro - Goodbye DSLR's - Part II

Hello Huawei P20 Pro - Goodbye DSLR's - Part II

In part I of this overview of the Huawei P20 Pro I examined the basic functionalty with respect to it's fundamental abilities as a pro level camera. Clearly, it isn't what is typically classed as a professional camera and nor will it ever be. Turn up with one of these for a wedding and you'll likely be lynched. However, the truth is that it is a professional camera for many purposes and, with some care, it can take amazingly good photos especially in low light and close up. No expensive add on glass required here, simply point and shoot for the most part. 

One of the things I most wanted to test on the Huawei P20 Pro was it's low light capabilities. I alluded to this is in my earlier article. These can be found under the NIGHT and PRO menu options on the supplied camera application. What Night mode does is effectively, and very effectively at that, take a number of bracketed exposures which it then combines in camera to create the final image. This process can take upto 6 seconds to complete where the image is very dark but in general, the time is around 3 seconds or less in reasonable light. Now 3 seconds is a long time when you are hand holding a camera so of course, you'd expect the results to be less than perfect. Think again!! The Huawei P20 Pro uses advanced AI technology to compensate for camera shake, slight movements etc and when stitched together, I swear you'll be hard pushed to know that it was a long exposure shot. Let's take a look at a couple of examples.

This example was taken in a darkened room with the subject lit by a light box situated below it. No other light source was used. This is a hand held photograph and the shutter time for this shot was about 3 seconds. In this time the Huawei P20 Pro took 5 exposures, each at slightly diffent EV values. It then stitched these together to create the final image. This stiching process was prety much instantaneous, perhaps a second or two at most. I have processed the final image using Silver Efex Pro 2 because I wanted to create a lithograph look and feel to the shot. No other processing was undertaken. I think that the result speak for itself.

In the next two shots, this time in colour, again I used NIGHT mode to create the images. As before, the shots were hand held, approximately 3 seconds to complete the exposures. For these two images I performed some light processing using Luminar 2018 Windows just to enhance colouration. The sharpness obtained was straight out of camera. Again, quite remarkable for hand held shots in a darkened room.

So, what about low light photography in an ambient situation. This next image was taken in my living room where the only light source was a small lamp. Again, hand held, this time the image capture time was closer to 5 or 6 seconds yet the Huawei P20 Pro excelled with regards handling ambient spot lighting in what was, for all intent and purpose, a completely dark room.

Without doubt, the Huawei P20 Pro excels in low light situations, or indeed, in any situation where long exposures are required or desirable. Camera shake is barely visable and the colours obtained are rich and vibrant. The in-camera IBIS does a remarkable job of stablising your shots and the bracketed EV approach creates vivid photographs of exceptional quality.

Does the Huawei P20 Pro negate the need for all of my camera gear? No, far from it. The other day I passed a Jaguar car rally and despite having the Huawei P20 Pro in my pocket, I instinctively reached for my go to Canon G7X ii which I carry almost everywhere. This was not because I have concerns about the Huawei, far from it, it was purely because I still feel a little more comfortable with a compact, mirrorless or DSLR in my hands at this moment in time. Also, and this is where I think camera phones do lose out, the experience of using a camera phone just isn't the same as using my compact G7X ii. I still like to feel like I am holding a "real camera", despite the fact that the images both take are very much of similar quality. Would I use the Canon G7X ii for low light, hand held shots? Absolutely not!! The Huawei P20 Pro is very possibly unmatched at this moment in time for low light, hand held situations.

In the next article I will introduce PRO settings as well as look at some of the settings under the MORE menu. As always, contact me if you have any questions about the Huawei P20 Pro or this article.

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Hello Huawei P20 Pro - Goodbye DSLR's?

Hello Huawei P20 Pro - Goodbye DSLR's?

Perhaps the title is a little tounge in cheek but the new Huawei P20 Pro packs a lot of photographic power under an amazingly accessible hood. We may still be some way off mobile phones dominating the camera market but boy, with this device and others like it, they are getting awfully close. 

When I first heard about the Huawei P20 Pro I was a little star struck. Triple Leica lenses!! Really. The reviews were great, awesome even. The camera at least could seem to do little wrong. Was the phone itself up to the job? In a word, yes. As a mobile communications device, the Huawei P20 Pro delivers. Great sound, a clear and bright screen, even in daylight (Samsung take note) and, given it's phenominal power, amazing battery performance. To be fair, I would have assumed that the battery would be seriously lacklustre but far from it, it's amazing. I really don't know how they've done it but I have yet to run out of battery power irrespective of usage. The lowest I've managed to get on a full days usage is just under 20% and that was with some serious usage. OK then, the screen must be crap? Sorry, but it's a great screen. Perhaps not up to Apple iphone X or Samsung S9 standard but way good enough for serious, long term use. What about the UI? After all, it is Chinese. Again, sorry to dissapoint, the UI is really good and I much prefer it to my old Samsungs UI. It's not hugely different of course, just subtedly better. All in all, I think this phone is a keeper.

So, how does the camera stack up, after all, that's the primary reason I chose the Huawei P20 Pro over the Samsung S9 and indeed, even the mega expensive Apple iphone X. Well, I'm not going to bore you with specs because you can get those anywhere. Suffice to say, the optics are simply amazing and even the supplied camera app does exactly what it says on the tin. Combined, this camera is a joy to use. Enough simplicity to make it a point and shoot for those that want it, advanced enough to provide photographers with pro features.

In order to do justice to the Huawei P20 Pro I am going to break this blog post down into two, maybe three seperate articles. The reason for this is simple. Firstly, I am still getting to know the phone / camera and as such I need to spend more time with it. Secondly, there's a huge amount of capability here and I doubt very much if one article will cover everything. Thirdly, opinions tend to change with time and usage so I may have a different perspecive on this device in say a couple of weeks time. Anyway, let's kick Part 1 off.

The first image I took with the Huawei P20 Pro was of the local church just down the road from here. The sky was a lovely blue and I thought this would allow the camera to shine with regards clarity and structure. I wasn't dissapointed, the results were really good for what was a simple point and click image. 

The mode I chose here was PHOTO mode, the standard mode when you start up the camera application. Other options are APERTURE, NIGHT, PORTRAIT, VIDEO, PRO and MORE. This photo was not designed to be anything fancy, I was just keen to find out what I had in my pocket. The first things I tend to look for in camera optics is clarity and structure and whether there is any chromatic abberation. Here there is plenty of structure and detail in the image with no apparent artifacts or chromatic abberation. On first glance, it's as good as any image I might take with my Lumix GX80 or Canon G7X mkIII. The colours are really accurate, it's nicely focused and the aperture is wide enough to capture a really good sized image. There's also no barralling or distortion, verticals are vertical. All in all, a very nice job.

All very good, but I was now wondering how the Huawei P20 Pro would cope with indoor portraits. The opportunity to test the camera presented itself a few days later when I was having coffee with a friend at our favourite cafe, The Noble Tree in Torquay. This provided the perfect opportunity to test out another of the modes, NIGHT, which basically takes several bracketed shots (at different exposures) and then combines them to create a HDR image of the subject. The only problem is that this process, depending on the available light, can take up to 6 seconds to complete. That's no problem of course if you are photographing a static subject but a human being, that's not so easy! As it was, Paul did remarkably well to keep still and because there was a good amount of light available, the process took ony about 3 seconds or so. Nonetheless, it's still remarkably difficult to keep still for 3 seconds. The resulting image, which I have cropped, is show below. There's no additional processing applied to this image, it's straight out of camera.

The results were, quite frankly, amazing. My Lumix GX80 has IBIS (in body stabalisation) and 3 seconds exposures are certainly possible. Nonetheless, to get such an outstanding image from a hand held moble phone just blew me away. The colour and sharpness are pretty much spot on and the bracketed exposures really give you a lovely depth of tone. All in all, a big tick in the box for Night mode.

Moving on, I was keen to see what the Huawei P20 Pro could do in a studio environment with only natural lighting. Here, the only light source was a single window (facing north) which lit the subject directly face on. The Huawei P20 Pro was set to NIGHT mode again for this photo. While I have cropped it to a square format and done a little light processing, I have done nothing major as the results really didn't require it.

Again, the Huawei P20 Pro excelled in the low light of the studio environment. But what about a true night shot? Well, the only one I have taken that counts as a true night shot is shown below, this is of the shops up at Walnut Road in Chelston. I'll do a few more soon so that you can really see how it really handles night shots as this one was well lit.

Moving on, another setting on the phone is PORTRAIT and I was therefore keen to see how this handled a close up where lighting was reasonable, for example in a well lit room. This image, of good friend Luis from Le Club Franglais held at Le Bistro Pierre each Wednesday morning, is in B&W processed using Snapseed directly from the colour image taken that morning. The level of detail in this image is truly amazing.

Rather than make this review the longest in history, I'll prepare and publish a Part 2 soon where I will look at some of the other camera functionality under the headings APERTURE, VIDEO, PRO & MORE. I'll also take a look at it's optical / digital zoom capabilities in a little more detail. In the meantime, I hope that this short, hands on review has opened your eyes to what today's camera phones, andin particular, the Huawei P20 Pro, are capable of.

As usual, all comments welcome. If you'd like to get in touch please register with us (no SPAM here) and add your comments, photos and articles. I'd love you to join our community and share your experiences. 

 

 

 

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Photo Editing on a Budget - Luminar 2018 Windows

Photo Editing on a Budget - Luminar 2018 Windows

Luminar 2018 from Skylum is a new photo editor offering big promises. Although many will argue that at the moment at least. it doesn't really compete favourably with Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, others, myself included, have been getting into the software and using it to good effect.

Now, before I go on let me get a couple of key pieces of information out of the way. Today, Luminar costs just £64 to buy outright and this does include a number of useful extras. Luminar 2018 is also available for Mac where it has a slightly longer presence in the market place. For this reason, some key features available on the Mac version are not currently available on the Windows version. Originally preferring to use Facebook as a support mechanism, Skylum have now moved support to their website with forums split into Mac and Windows usage. This is because some of the issues experienced by users don't necessarily overlap. After a fairly rocky start for the Windows version its capabilities have improved dramatically in recent months.

Given my introduction, is Luminar worth the cost? Personally yes, especially if you are looking for an intuitive photo editor that will grow as you do. Will it suit everyone? Not necessarily today. Undoubtadly some Adobe users will take some shifting although the recent move to a subscription model has resulted in a lot of dissatisfaction with the direction Adobe has chosen to take. Not everyone want to spend £10+ each  month on their editing software irrespective of how good it is. With Luminar, and other products of a similar type including ON1 Photo Raw and DxO PhotoLab, the "buy it now" approach means that it's simply a one off hit. Minor upgrades are provided free and you only really need to pay the upgrade cost as and when you feel you need it. At the moment, all Luminar 2018 Windows upgrades are maintenance upgrades so are free, primarily because of some glaring ommissions from the software on release. The next major maintenance upgrade is at the end of this month (April 2018) when some significant improvements are expected. In the meantime, Luminar is a very useable and capable editor in the right hands and I tend to hear less and less negative issues as users become more proficient. We'll cover more of the pros and cons as we move forward with this review.

Luminar 2018 Windows version

So, let's take a first look at the Luminar interface. As shown in the above image, this consists of 3 panels, the central panel housing the image you are working on, the lower panel contains a number of presets in one of the many catagories you can select from, and the final panel on the right contains some information on the image e.g. focal length, aperture and ISO plus a histogram. Also in the right hand panel are a list of filters that can be individually selected and grouped plus a workspace where you can stack and layer filters to create your final image. Above the central image are some additional controls such as zoom, image comparison preview, undo, history and some basic editing tools which currently include Crop, Clone & Stamp and Erase. The main menu top left provides the ability to open, save and export your image. Export allows you to choose variants such as TIFF, PNG or JPG. There is currently no ability to export to applications such as Facebook but this might come in future.

While it is possible to load images in JPEG format in Luminar you are most likely to load RAW files such as CR2, RW2 or NEF depending on the cameras you own. I have cameras from Canon, Panasonic and Nikon so all three RAW formats are handy for me. Working with RAW format means that you have access to a lot more information to work with than JPEG so is a better place to start working with your images. This is demonstrated by the fact that if you open a JPEG one of the key development tools, RAW Develop, is not available to you. At the moment this is perhaps not hugely detrimental but as time goes on we do expect this filter to be greatly improved with the inclusion of automatic lens / camera corrections and some intelligent manipulation of parameters such as exposure, contrast, highlights, midtones and shadows. There is also a transform feature which is designed to improve horizontals and verticles. At the moment it is necessary to manually adjust these parameters but we all hope to see big improvement to RAW Develop in the late April release due soon.

With regards a start point for your edits, many people will jump straight in and begin to apply filters manually that they have good experience with. While this is for some as quick as any other approach, new users often prefer to choose from the many presets available to them. Presets, for those not familiar with the term, are basically a group of filters which work together to produce a particular look. For example, some presets convert colour to B&W, some soften the image, some harden the image, some enhance colours and some desaturate. There are already some 100 different presets to choose from and more become available almost weekly thanks to the development team at Skylum, and to a highly competent team of 3rd party developers and Skylum Ambassaders.

Presets from the Travel Catagory with Dull No More selected

In the image above I have applied the preset Dull No More from the Travel Category. This automatically lifts various parameters such as clarity, structure and tone whilst removing any colour cast on the image due to the lighting and conditions on the day. In addition, I rotated the image so that the horizon, in this case seashore, was horizontal and I also applied some highlights to her hair using Dodge & Burn, one of my favourite editing tools. Finally, I applied the Accent Ai-Filter to lift brightness and slightly enhance the colour. For an image such as this one, over saturation would be disasterous so I have taken great care to try to maintain hue, saturation and luminosity and I think that the final result is a simple yet effective representation of what I saw and recorded on that day.

Another nice although not unique feature of Luminar are LUTs. LUTs or Look Up Tables as they are more correctly known, allow you to apply a new look to your photo in seconds. A LUT is essentially a digital file that transforms and exports the color and tone of your image in your source file to a new destination state.  For example, you can use a LUT to convert a modern digital photo to the color and tone of an older film stock.  Or perhaps to convert between a color image to an aged black and white treatment. So, a LUT essentially transforms tone and color based upon settings chosen by the creator of the LUT. Using a LUT is essentially the same as using a preset, you simply load your photo, ideally in a flat RAW format, and apply your desired LUT. This results in an immediate change to your photo. As an example, in the image below I have applied a LUT to the image of the guy playing with the click balls in the top image.

RAW image from Panasonic GX-80 converted using LUT Candelight from Skylum. No other processing applied

If you compare this image to the one at the top of this article you can see that there have been some significant changes in colour and tone. This is a one-click modification. I haven't applied any additional filters to the image. The use of LUTs and Presets allows practically anyone to create stunning, creative images in minutes rather than hours. And by applying additional filters, you can take your image anywhere you want.

With all of this creative capability, is Luminar 2018 the perfect low cost alternative to Photoshop? Well, there are some issues at present with the basic functionalty which will have you pulling your hair out. For example, basic functions such as Clone & Stamp and Erase don't yet function perfectly. There are issues with both. That's not to say that they don't work, just that they don't work 100% of the time.For the most part, yes, if the edit is relatively simple such as removing blemishes from a photo, for example a tiny bird in the background, or even blemishes on the camers sensor that have made it on to the photo, yes, it works really well. However, try to remove something more sizeable and it is likely that you will hit a problem. In an earlier article I showed how to remove a power line from a photo and I did this using Luminar so perhaps take a look there for more information. Clone & Stamp is equally hit and miss. What does work well are the cropping and rotate functions. These work as expected. Another area for compromise is the aplication of backgrounds. If you have green screened your subject in a studio then fine, using a luminosity mask will produce pretty much flawless results but for anything else, let's say a complex landscape with trees or non solid edges where you'd like to replace the sky, you are going to need your wits about you. It is possible to achieve a good result with patience but products such as Photoshop and ON1 Photo Raw are more advanced in this area. While Luminar 2018 does struggle in some basic areas, I haven't found this to be insurmountable. 

With regards general usage, Luminar 2018 is very easy to get to grips with. Since the last maintenance release the developers have added Layers which are extremely useful for grouping filters, especially where the global strength of the filters applied are the same or very similar. I tend to seperate groups of filters just to make it easy to go back and edit something. You can turn off the effects of each layer to help you understand whether what you done is an improvement or detrimental to your image. Another useful feature is the ability to add a second image layer and the ability to add textures. When combined with a luminosity mask, this makes it reasonably easy to change the background, albeit with the concerns outlined in previous paragraphs. Nonetheless, it does allow you to create some stunning images such as the one shown below. This image, taken during a recent photo shoot at Paignton Photography Club, was first processed using PortraitPro 17 Studio, which is an excellent application when working on faces, and then taken into Luminar for final processing where the background image and various other filters were applied. 

Model Lianne taken during a recent night at PPC.

I hope that the information provided above interests you enough to give Luminar 2018 a try. For those that wish to do so, there is a free to try version of Luminar 2018 at https://skylum.com/blog/preorder-luminar-2018-today - just choose the TRY option. If you have any questions about Luminar 2018, bearing on mind I am only using the Windows version, don't hesitate to get in contact.

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Photo Editing - Lightroom Alternatives

Photo Editing - Lightroom Alternatives

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are two of the stand-out photo editing software products of our generation. But what if you don't want to pay monthly for the privilidge of using Lightroom, what's available today that provide worthy competition?

Recently I have looked at a number of usable and reasonably priced photo editing products, all hoping to take on Lightroom and Photoshop and indeed, beat them at their own game. These include Photoscape X Pro from Microsoft, ON1 Photo Raw from ON1, DxO PhotoLab (and DxO Film Pack 5) from DxO, PhotoDirector from Cyberlink and Luminar 2018 Win from Skylum. While not an exhaustive list, these all represent affordable alternatives to Adobe and are all in themselves, quite capable photo editors. In looking at the various editors available I have also come into contact with and used Silkypix, which is mostly associated with the Panasonic RAW format (although strangly it also works on Canon CR2 RAW format) and PortraitPro 17, which is best suited to portraiture.

Where most of these editors break down, and I'll tackle this issue first, is that none really include any useable form of digital asset management or DAM as it is more usefully referred to. A DAM catalogues your photos and enables you to fully track every change to a photograph making it possible to go back to any point and branch off from there with a different perspective or variant. For professional photographers a DAM is often considered a "must have" when considering the purchase and use of a photo editor. Adobe include a DAM in it's most popular editor, Lightroom and there is also a stand alone DAM in Adobe Bridge, which can be also used with other 3rd party products.

If a DAM is vitally important to you, and you need it today, then Adobe Lightroom is for you at this point in time unless you are happy to compromise and use a 3rd party product such as Adobe Bridge or XNviewMP, both of which offer good functionality and the ability to work reasonably seamlessly with other products. I have used XNviewMP with Luminar 2018 Windows and Photoscape X Pro and it handles RAW files from all the cameras I own without issue. This includes RW2, CR2 and NEF RAW files.

Another negative for many is lack of colour management. This can be a major problem if your primary output is in print rather than say for digital consumption. Again if this is a key factor in your selection process then Lightroom and Photoshop are going to be your best options today. Few other products, and certinly those I've mentioned above, don't really have the same level of functionality in this area as do Adobe products. This means it can be a bit of a lottery when printing your photos as it is almost impossible to match what you see on the screen with what you see when printed. 

Moving on, with these key factors out of the way, how do these other products stack up to the functionality of Lightroom and Photoshop? The truth is really well. None of the products I have mentioned require significant learning curves, in fact, they all work in a similar way and apart from having to learn the layouts of each editor, most use a similar subset of tools to help you create the look you desire for any photograph. Of these tools, perhaps the most important of these are presets which we will talk about next.

A preset is basically a combination of individual filters and effects designed to creat a specific look. For example, you can use a preset to turn a colour image into a B&W image, to add highlights or lowlights, to make an image softer or sharper, or perhaps more dramatic. These, together with Look Up Tables (LUT's) provide you with many fully customisable combinations to play around with. You can either just choose a preset and have done, or change the parameters of any of the filters to fine tune the look you are aiming for. You can also add additional filters of course. Presets are without doubt a fantastic start point for many projects. And since presets are common to almost every photo editor on the market today, you can pretty much use any editor that you feel comfortable with.

For those that prefer manual editing, all of the software products mentioned allow complete manual control over your image. Luminar for example provides two useful tools, a RAW developer and what's called Accent Ai-Filter, which basically is like a magic wand that enhances many aspects of a photo prior to further editing. RAW development is also a key feature of DxO PhotoLab but here it's taken to a completely new level in that DxO, best known perhaps for it's optics database, is able to provide fully autmatic corrections for many camera and lens combinations. This removes lens distortions and chromatic abberations without any human intervention and means that you are starting with the best possible image for final editing. Like Luminar, ON1, Photo Director and DxO include a number of useful presets as starting points for development of your image. Although not alone in this feature, Luminar in particular appears to have access to a vast range of presets due to many 3rd party developers working on the product. If you are into LUT's, again Luminar is up to the mark here as any .cube LUT can be added quickly and easily to the core product. I have added many free preset packs and LUT's to Luminar to increase it's functionality. Be aware though, like on Sky TV, you can spend an inordinate amount of time searching for the right look rather than just getting on with the job. Sometimes it is simply better to work manually.

Of all of the above, I found Photoscape X Pro perhaps the easiest product to use and get around. It's a really good photo editor with a lot of useful and intuitive tools. With a free to use version, and a pro version at under £30 to buy outright, it's without doubt the cheapest of all of the products i have tried out. To be fair, the free version is really good but it was so cheap and usable that I did buy the Pro version. It's a quick and easy "go to editor" for getting stuff done and there are a lot of features I really like. Included with Photoscape X Pro are a number of film emulations (presets by any other name) and some interesting backgrounds and overlays. Many more are available when you buy the Pro version.

PhotoScape X Pro - An excellent sub £30 photo editor. Here i've applied an overlay to create an abstract image
Fully edited with PhotoScape X Pro with background removed and cross processing applied

I'll review Luminar 2018 Windows soon as I have a lot of experience with this product and with the new version due at the end of this month, it's hoped that some of the areas it struggles with will have been rectified. As it is, it's a really good editor that's improving with each minor release. Again, at under £70 to purchase, it's a very cost effective alternative to Adobe Photoshop (it also works as a plugin to Photoshop) and once the DAM is released at the end of this year, it could be a lightroom killer.

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A Pictorial Approach to Photography

A Pictorial Approach to Photography

The more I get into photography the more I learn and the more I realise that I have a lot to learn. For example, I now realise that the majority of photographs that will endure the effects of time, are those which in someway, capture a life or time lost, that document society, that makes us ask questions, even somethig as basic as why? These types of images have long legs, and those that depict society, seem to call out to us more.

Here I am trying to create a timeless image. It's not pretty, it's not colourful, you won't want to save it for your screensaver. It's simply a statement. If you saw this photo in 20 years time I'd hope that you'd have a problem deciding whether it's it from 1950, 1970 or 2017? It actually doesn't matter of course, it's simply documenting something that happens everyday here on the coast. A preditory seagull eyeing up a tasty meal, just waiting for the guy to drop his guard. For me the most important thing is that I managed to capture an image that says something about life today, albeit it's a pretty timeless image. It's not particulalry unique although the action of the old man is, for example, he is unlikely to eat that hamburger in exactly the same way in the future and that seagull will have long moved on to other victims. What it is is a pictorial representation of life, simple and stark.

Does this mean that landscapes have no purpose as time progresses. The members of Group f/64, which included a number of celebrated photographers, will beg to differ on my perspective. These photographers, which included 

Imogen Cunningham for example, was a notable botanical photographer but look through the body of her work and I guarantee that the photos that will stop you dead, will be her portraits. They are incredibly powerful, moving and evocative. Examples can be found by visiting this link. 

I can hear you saying that hey, wait up, every landscape is different. Yes, it is, you're right, and in a hundred years time photos of all the beautiful places that surround us will be just as facinating as they are today. But my argument is that when you look at archives from 50,100, 150 years ago, are they littered with landscapes or of people. In my opinion, and this is a personal perpsective, enduring images capture life, people, a time lost. They encompass a social commentary far beyond the most beautiful landscapes, sunsets and sunrises. The best photography asks questions and indeed, illicit different answers from different viewers. That's not to say that some landscapes won't endure, undoubtadly some will and quite rightly. My guess is though that these, for the most part, will include us, because people are interesting. 

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Dave Collerton

Reflections

Reflections

To many, photography simply captures an event, be that a selfie, a family gathering, sports or similar activity. Here, the camera is used to capture a true representation of that moment in time. Some photographers like to take photos that make our world look like a fantasy, or another world, one which we wouldn't necessarily recognise from our every day life. These ultra colourful images abound on FaceBook, we see them everyday. And then there are photographers which capture the social events that surround us, people, places, moments. These images can be engaging, frightning, emotive and even bland. They seek recognition purely through their content, they ask questions, seek answers and engage us on a level beyond the majority of images that pervade our everyday lives. You can see such images as these in archives such as Magnum Photos (https://www.magnumphotos.com/) and in our own Royal Photographic Society archives (http://www.rps.org/). The point is that a photograph is whatever you, the viewer want it to be. It can be the best photo you've ever seen, or the worst. It can ask questions, or say nothing. It can be beautiful, ugly, plain or extravagant, colourful, dark, moody or expressive, content rich or evasive. It really doesn't matter because what you like is probably going to be different to what I like or find interesting.

The original title of this blog was "Photography as an art form" but this overly arty name has been changed to Reflections as this better explains this post.

The header photo here is a photograph of Shirley Towers in Torquay reflected in the water of the inner harbour. I chose pastel colours when post-processing this image purely to make it more like a watercolour than a photograph as this reflected, excuse the pun, what I wanted to achieve from the photo. To me a striking image of a what many consider is an eyesore and perhaps one of the first times someone has attempted a sympathetic handling of these 1960's tower blocks. 

Perhaps a more attractive view depending on your perspective, in the next photo again I have tried to capture the scene but as a reflection rather than the image itself. To me this results in a dream-like photograph full of colour that is easily recognisable yet uneasily different.

 

 

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Dave Collerton

Life Study - A portrait in the making

Life Study - A portrait in the making

The PPG meeting last night allowed us to hone our skills working with model Lianne under near studio conditions. During the shoot I was able to experiment with various lenses in various manual shooting modes as well as utilising the dual lighting setup provided by Clive Figes. This latter setup allowed for optimal shooting conditions of F11 @ 125ms and ISO 200. Irrespective of the lighting conditions, ie ambient light, camera flash or dual lighting setup, each shot had it's merits and even though some were not pixel perfect, especially the low speed shots, many captured something relevent or of interest. Photography is not always about image quality but it's always about content. Sometimes you get lucky and get both!

The first thing to notice in a studio shoot is that, unlike the "shooting from the hip" photography I'm normally into, there's an awful lot to do. For example, the setting up of the equipment. Lighting for example can take a considerable amount of time to get right, especially systems linked to the camera. Then there's the environment. This needs to be sympathetic to the nature of the shoot. Finally the model. He or she needs to be managed so they know exactly what's expected of them. They may be wearing different costumes for example, or be required to take up particular postures etc. It's quite clear that whereas a field trip is an ideal single person activity, a studio shoot may require two or more people to achieve best results. 

With everything in place it's a different story. Models are by nature compliant so ask them to do something and bang, it's done. Capturing a range of expressions or poses is childs play as the model seems to know exactly what's required. Capturing the unguarded moments is not alwas as easy but it's simply a matter of taking photos between the poses that often creates the best images, well, for me anyway.

 

Ultimately, the images you take are going to be defined by your clients needs, whether that client is a model, a modelling agency, a bride, mother, family or couple. You are trully lucky if you get to choose the final photos as often, this is out of your control. 

 

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Dave Collerton

Removing Unwanted Artifacts and Objects in your Photos

Removing Unwanted Artifacts and Objects in your Photos

You know the feeling. You've taken what looks to be the perfect photo but when you get home and load it onto your PC / Mac you notice the power or telephone line cutting it in half as plain as day. How did you miss it? Who knows. The fact is that you did and now you either have to live with it or do something clever.

Well, assuming that doing nothing isn't a real option, let's have a look at removing the object or objects and making your photo the masterpiece you wanted.

If you are new to photography and need a good photo editor, you might want to take a look at Photoscape X Pro, a free professional editor for Windows and Mac platforms from the Microsoft Store. Although advertised at about £29 or so to buy, you can download and use completely free, a full version of the software with only a few exceptions. I've been using it as my "go to" editor now for about a month and it is pretty complete in every way. I may yet decide to pay the £29 as there are some features I could certainly use but so far, that hasn't been necessary.

Moving on, let's take a look at the photo in question. Before looking at this issue I have already lightened the image so we can see what we are dealing with. I actually love the dark and moody example BUT I want to demostrate the approach and that's best done on something we can all see.

Having carefully compossed this photo I was horrified to see the power / telephone cable in the background when I loaded the full size image onto my PC. Given the whispy clouds surely this was a throw away image, unusable? Perhaps not, after all, magazine and photo editors have been tackling these type of issues for years surely. So, despite the difficult background I'm pretty sure that the healing function provided in practically all of the major editors will do this job well so I was keen to give it a go. Fortunately, Photoscape X Pro has this feature, it's called Healing, so was an obvious opportunity to give this feature a go. The really nice thing about Photoscape X Pro is that it is so easy to use. Every feature also has a Compare feature so you can quickly access if your modifications are having a positive or negative effect. 

So, let's take a quick look at the Photoscape X Pro healing function. The screen shot here show the basic layout of the Photoscape X Pro editing screen with the Healing function highlighted. 

Selecting this feature takes you to a simple editing screen which allows you to set the brush size to something appropriate for your image. Here I have chosen to keep the brush pretty small to reduce the impact on the background clouds. Having decided on and created a suitable sized brush, the next job, which can be a little tricky, is to carefully drag it across the power line as shown below. Photoscape X Pro does all of the necessary modifications in background so depending on the speed of  your PC, this can take a few seconds.

Once completed, you can make a decision as to whether the modification has done what you wanted or not. If yes, you can save your image and get on with your life, if not, you can undo this action and have another go. In my case, keeping the brush small meant that the affect on the clouds was minimal and in truth, very difficult to notice especially if you didn't know what the original photo was like. Anyway, the proof of the pudding is in the eating so here is the final image with the power line removed.

If you want to check out Photoscape X Pro, visit http://x.photoscape.org/. There is also a version for Mac.

David

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Dave Collerton

AQUA Adrenaline / OCRDA Power Boat Event, Torquay

AQUA Adrenaline / OCRDA Power Boat Event, Torquay

Well, what a blast! Those great guys from Aqua Adrenaline and OCRDA visited Torbay again this weekend for the last of this seasons OCRDA Power Boat Racing program. Matt Palms (of Aqua Adrenaline) yet again did a splendid job of organinising this years events (April and October) with hundreds of drivers and support staff, and huge numbers of spectators enjoying two days of blistering racing, fabulous super cars and lovely sunshine. I'm not sure Matt had much to do with the latter but everything else was amazing as always.

As in previous years, racing covered both days with additional attractions including the 30 minute ski race - what's that all about - jet skiing and power air-boarding all entertaining the public during the day. Because of the popularity of the event, not only with the sporty brigade, 1000's of people attended over the two days. No doubt the local coffee shops and related businesses all enjoyed the benefits of so many people visiting the harbourside so late in the season. 

If you want to learn more about the OCRDA, visit their website at http://ocrda.co.uk/. You can see more photos for the various events they have held throughout 2017. For more information about Aqua Adrenaline, visit http://www.aquaadrenaline.co.uk/

 

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Dave Collerton

Making a good photo great

One of the things I find most satifying is to take a good photo and make it better by some deft editing. Almost any picture can be enhanced so before you discard your images, take a deeper look at what you've got. Here's an example of a photo that normally I would discard for any number of reasons.

Although I quite like it as it has captured my subject really well, and I think the use of B&W is right for this image, I have so many fantastic images of Kate that I've become conditioned to expect every photo to be perfect. It's not that this is a bad photo by any means, it's not. However, there are problems as it was taken very close up, and because I used a good quality manual macro / portrait lens in really tight, Kate quite rightly says it shows every blemish. Normally, I'd probably delete in favour of more flattering shots but here I thought I'd see what some editing of the image brings.

Now, the wonderful thing about photo editors is there's practically nothing that can't be done. The other wonderful thing is that they make great editors for every platform including smartphones. For example, here I thought I'd use an application called TooWiz Photos which I downloaded free to my Samsung S6 smartphone. I also use Snapseed, Google Photos and one or two others and all will keep you amused for hours. ToolWiz has four pages of editing features and yes, you've guessed it, each of those features has lot's of editing options. In practice it's all a little daunting but it's unlikely that you are going to use every feature so eventually you settle on the editing features you really like. The feature I prefer to use the Pro Editing feature as this provides lots of opportunity to modify any photo exactly how you want it.

Before I start discussing the editing of photos let me explain about my workflow. To store and access my photos I use Google Photos as this makes it possible for me to access any photo from any application, whether that's an application on my smartphone, e.g. ToolWiz, or on my desktop PC. It also allows me to showcase any photo on this website in any location I choose. For example, all of the images here are in a directory on Google Photo's called Content and the images stored in that album on Google Photos can be added to any article or any gallery instantly. Nothing is stored on my web-server, it's all hosted by Google. If you'd like more information about using this type of workflow then please let me know.

Often, when you start out editing you may have an idea of what you are trying to achieve. Other times, the editing process can open up some new ideas. One of the first things to look at is softening of the image. InToolWiz there's a section of portrait tools ideal for manipulating images such as the one shown above. For most pictures, colour, brightness, exposure and contrast will for the most part resolve any issues that you may want to improve. The other key tool you might employ is cropping. Sometimes there's an image within an image that just cries out to be isolated - more on this in a later blog. 

Here, the problem really is the closeness of the lens to the subject and the harshness of the lighting on the face. Changing exposure or contrast won't have any real effect here as the subject is well exposed and the contrast is good. There are two processes which will however help and these are smooting of the facial contours and brightness. Both for example will help to smooth the natural lines on the face while retaining the integrity of the image. As an example of this process, this next image is the effect of using the blemish removal tool to help remove some of the facial lines disliked so much by Kate. 

The other technique I mentioned was to increase brightness and this is easily achieved inToolWiz, and for that matter, any other photo editing program. The goal here is to retain as much as possible the integrity of the original photo whilst trying to smooth out any remaining features which detract from the beauty of the subject. Here's an example of increasing brightless by around 20%.

  

As I mentioned at the top of this article, where you eventually end up is down to you as the artist. You can wash out as much definition as you like or, in situations where definition is what you are trying to achieve, add in contrast to make your features pop. Here, for my last photo I wanted to go for a really high key image so far from the original that it unless you see the journey, as outlined above, the start and end points wouldn't necessarily be that obvious.

A big thanks to Kate for being my beautiful subject for this article.

 

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Dave Collerton

Photo Re-touching | Lifting Detail

Light can be tricky to deal with. Too dark and everything looks flat and detail is hard to make out, too light and everything looks washed out and colourless. Even in perfect light conditions, photographing into a strong light source such as the sun can often result in a less than pleasing image. The problem is that the camera's sensor is fooled into thinking that that the whole image is very bright so it reduces the overall exposure to compensate. This means that any parts of the scene that are in shadow or close to you will appear much darker than they were in reality. Overcoming this is tricky but with a good quality light meter you can often compensate sufficiently to achieve a good photo without any need for post-processing. Without one, and if you have a good quality DSLR, you can often use the camera's histogram feature to help compensate as this gives you an indication of what effect changing aperture and speed will have on the image. Failing this, you'll probably have to deal with the effects of light in post-processing.

The photo below is an example of how a strong light in front of the lens, in this case the sun, has darkened the whole scene by reducing the exposure sufficiently to make sure that the very bright parts are not overly dominant.  

To overcome this problem, we need to establish what we would like the photograph to deliver in terms of colour, light and dark, content etc. Because this photograph was taken with a full-frame camera, the Nikon D600, we have a lot of information to work with and despite the problems of under exposure of the foreground, we can be pretty sure that a lot of detail has been captured and just needs to be teased out.

The first job then is to try some global enhancements e.g. to play with exposure, contrast and light. Because the sun and clouds are dominating the overall scene it's difficult to push any of these too far without starting to lose the definition in the clouds which in this scene, are a nice aspect of the photograph. This forces us to look at using a mask on the under-exposed areas of the photograph which here is about the lower 1/3rd of the image. By applying a mask to this area we now have the opportunity to modify the light, exposure and contrast, as well as the colours of the areas that currently look dark in the top image, ie the bottom 1/3rd. Again I used Cyberlink PhotoDirector 8 for this job although any good photo editor will have the exact same tools.

How much detail, light and colour you wish to add is a personal thing. Personally, I like the concept of a moody, brooding sky with subdued colours throughout but by using a mask, you can really achieve almost anything as you can control exposure, contrast, saturation, light, hue, clarity, enhance shadows, blacks, whites and even pull up or subdue the midtones in the image. 

Once the mask has been used to attack the areas most needing work, you can then look at some final global corrections to further enhance the image. For example, you might want to increase the aqua saturation or lightness of the pool water or the make the blue parts of the sky a little darker or lighter. This is also a good time to look at cropping the image to just include those parts of the scene you want included. There's no right or wrong with regards editing , it's all about what you as the photographer want to achieve. Here's my take on the same image with a little post-processing.

David

 

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Dave Collerton

Photo Re-Touching | Image Enhancement

I wrote a short blog yesterday which discussed my take on photo editing and in particular "the less is more" approach to editing. Here I thought I would take a particular photo and look at how this could be enhanced / improved without losing the integrity of the photo I took while improving it enough to make a difference to the viewer.

Here's the photo I have in mind.

The most notible thing about this image is that it's dark. There are several reasons for this but I suspect that on the day, I shot it using a manual mode rather than automatic or better still, P mode, and this resulted in the flat, under exposed image I created. The first job then is to lift the exposure, light, shadows etc to deliver a more pleasing image while retaining as much as possible the colours embedded in the image. Using Cyberlink PhotoDirector 8, for no other reason than I know how to use this software reasonably well, I set about doing just this and here's the resulting image after some basic lighting, exposure and contrast modification.

Other than the fact that Kevin has managed to look remarkably like "Man at C&A", the other interesting thing about this photo is that by modifying light, exposure etc, we imediately become aware of imperfections in the photo such the blooms and dark spots floating in the water. While these did of course exist, they tend to drag the eye to them rather than let it settle on the person as was the primary aim / focus of the photo. Stage two then was to look through the photo and to remove any "imperfections" that would detract from the image.

This last photo is the final edited photo, cropped a little to remove unwanted peripheral space on the top and side and with the floating debris removed.

Overall, a far better image than what I started with but not overly edited as to reduce it's truthfulness as the photo I originally took. 

David

Footnote: Kevin is the CEO of The Academy of Music & Sound, Exeter, one of the UK's leading music tuition colleges and an amazing local musician in his own right. You can learn more about Kevin's music by visiting his website at http://www.cellotones.com/

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Dave Collerton

Fast Start Media Service | 4 Hours FREE Support

Fast Start Media Service | 4 Hours FREE Support

Would your business benefit from an image makeover? Most would so you aren't alone. The problem is, taking those first steps. Even though you think you'd benefit from some help, advice and support, I'm pretty sure that the hardest thing for you to do right now is to pick up the phone. Am I right?

Look, I want all businesses in the bay to be successful. I live here and I use a lot of local businesses and services myself so selfishly, I want them to be around for many years to come. However, I know that there isn't a level playing field when it comes to having the money to throw at advertising. I also know that just having a website deosn't automatically create new business or customers. With this in mind, I have the time, energy and ideas to sit down with you and to talk through your needs as a local business. It doesn't matter to me if you sell widgets, paint ceilings, rent rooms or make dresses, capturing the spirit of your business is a challange I am well up for.

My offer to you is simple!

  1. Give me two hours of your time and together, we can map out a cost effective, effective media update plan
  2. I'm so convinced I can help you that I'm willing to give you another 2 hours of my time, for free, getting your project started. 
  3. If you like what you see, for every 1/2 day of support you buy I'll give you the rest of the day completly free. And no, I won't be doubling my hourly rate!

What things can I help you with?

  • Media makeovers including updating web photos, photo shoots, location shoots etc
  • Product photos and videos for e-commerce / catalog use
  • Story-boarding so that your web designer can create your website based on a strong story or coherent ideas
  • 60 second video marketing of your product or service
  • Need a website developer? I can help you locate and manage the perfect website developer for your product or service
  • Need social media support? I can introduce you to great marketeers who can help you create brand awareness and traction for your product or service

As a bonus you'll get lot's of exposure in #BoostTorbay and inclusion in our innovative new website for Torbay. Ask for more details when you call.

So, pick up the phone right now and give me a call on 07791 299 611. I promise you there's no hard sell, no promises of things I can't do and no hidden costs if you decide to proceed. Everything wil be agreed up front and I'll work tirelessly to deliver a new look you'll be proud of.

Call now, I'm waiting to talk with you.

David

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Dave Collerton

Playing with Photos

Playing with Photos

One of things I enjoy most is editing photos. It's not that I'm the best editor in the world - I wish - it's just that it's a real opportunity to turn a dull, lifeless photo into something eye catching, creative and truly interesting. Having said this, I am not a big fan of HDR effects. I don't really like the over-saturated look that this type of photography or editing results in. The world really isn't always gorgeous or hyper-colourful so why make out it is. You see these types of images everywhere, especially on facebook in photography groups. Personally, I'd rather have a grainy, dark and sombre image if this is what the photographer really saw. True, the ability to turn a dowdy, lifeless photo into a work of art is pretty cool but every photo!!

My take on editing is simple. Tweek the various settings to achieve what you really saw rather than what you wish you had seen. As an example, this photo of Annie, one of my dearest friends, taken recently in Dartmouth just captured the moment. I've hardly tweaked this because I don't really think it needs it. This image is about the person, about the location and about the moment. It achieves all three things effortlessly and for this, it's one of my favourite photos.

Here's another favourite, this time a candid shot taken in the moment over a cup of coffee. I was actually framing the harbour when the waitress delievered coffee to another table. I just focused and hit the shutter button and it wasn't until I looked at all my photos later that I realised what a good photo it was. 

Finally, sometimes you get a so so shot that you simply have to play around with. This photo, taken using the Vivitar Macro Lens I mentioned in the previous blog, captured a good image of my wife which to be fair, lacked the quality of other images I have taken of her. Not detered, I decided to play around with the image to see what I could do with it. The result is shown below. It's not everyone's cup of tea but I really like it and yes, it is more abstract than photo but photography is an art form, and just like marmite, you either love it or you hate it. 

And for those wondering about the image at the top!! I simply took a photo of some action on the TV. I was playing around with shutter speeds and being lazy, I needed a moving image to practice on and since I was watching a re-run of Sharpe (from the 1980's I'd guess), I captured this frame during an on-screen battle. I think the shutter speed was about 1/4 second. I took it using my trusty Lumix GX-80. 

David

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Dave Collerton

Nikon D600 - First Impressions

Nikon D600 - First Impressions

I think it's really difficult to do justice to any camera, especially with regards it's technical abilities and performance. Besides, there are a 1000 reviews on YouTube about the Nikon D600 and no end of technical comparisons with this, that and other cameras. There is then, little point in re-inventing the wheel as they say!

I recently bought the Nikon D600 on eBay, to some a risky thing to do given the price tag of £630 for what is after all, a secondhand camera. Nonetheless, Kevin, the previous owner rang me on the Saturday morning to congratulate me on my purchase and to tell me he'd shipped the camera that very morning. Bear in mind I'd only bought it the evening previously. Kevin rang me again on the Tuesday to ask if it had arrived and if I was happy with it. It had and I was. As a secondhand camera goes, it was like new. No scuffs, marks, dings or dents. It was immaculate and with only 4000 shutter actuations, to all intent and purpose, it was "as new". Kevin, a professional photographer in his day, had migrated to the Nikon D800 and having two "similar" cameras was not ideal for his current situation. The D800 is a mighty camera so the D600 had to go. Kevin's loss so to speak was my gain. The Nikon D600 is a fantastic camera on all counts.

Why did I buy the Nikon D600? If you have read my earlier blogs you will have noticed that I have an interest in Art Noir or low light filming. There's something magical about low light or a night time view which to be honest, in the daytime might be ordinary and even boring. While I had already tested my trusty Lumix GX-80 at night with some better than expected results, see my earlier blog, I have been lusting after a full-frame camera designed to excel in low light filming. In fairness, the Nikon D600 can't touch the GX-80 for in-body stabilisation, high quality video (whether 1080p or 4K), or general portability and ease of use, for example, the LCD touch screen and WIFI connection really excels. However, the full-frame capability of the D600 coupled with an excellent sensor and brilliant firmware and software do make up for it's short comings in other areas. Indeed, add a fast lens to the D600 and it leaves the GX-80 way behind when it comes to a lot of shooting situations including low light and sports. 

Having made some mistakes when buying lenses for the GX-80 I decided here not to follow the same course. Interestingly, of all the low cost lenses I bought for the GX-80, my secondhand manual Pentax lenses are easily the best in terms of image quality and sharpness. The Pentax 50mm F1.8 from an old Pentax KM SLR is still amazing after 35 years. The used Pentax I bought for just £12 on eBay, the 80‑200mm f4.7‑5.6 SMC‑FA, is far superior to the Sigma 80 - 200 and fully automatic Olympus zoom lenses I bought around the same time. In fact, I can manually focus any of my Pentax lenses faster than the fully automatic Olympus lenses can do for themselves. So, quality isn't always about price or brand, often it's about looking for older lenses, even old SLR lenses, that are renowned for their performance, albeit that may have been 30 years ago.

Anyway, I detract. The Nikon D600 hasn't had too many outings yet. The weather here in the southwest is somewhat variable and it seems recently that it's always raining. Nonetheless, one thing I have noticed when using the D600 is the clarity of the image when cropped as compared to images produced by the GX-80. That's not to say that the GX-80 doesn't produce good, clear, sharp images. With the right lens it does and indeed, once i've sold off my duff lenses and invested in some additional fast, quality Panasonic glass, I'm pretty sure that difference will decrease further. Nonetheless, the D600, with Nikon 28 - 70mm F3.3 - 5.6 G, does produce some really sharp images even when cropped. I've yet to try the Nikon 50mm F1.4 AF-S lens I also have but this is reported to be even better so I am expecting great things from this combination. Overall, I have no worries about the D600 performing in exactly the way I want it to.

Putting aside image quality, the Nikon D600 is actually really easy to get around. Before arrival I had downloaded and browsed through the 300 page manual so was aware of the various controls, button function etc etc. Unlike the GX-80, which has a touch LCD screen, the D600 relies on buttons and curser control to get around the various menus. I thought this would be difficult to get used to but actually, it's a breeze. Nothing takes too much effort and the ability to crop and modify images in camera is really useful. There's lots I haven't yet tried but everything I have, works really well. In fact, I find the Nikon menus a little quicker to navigate through than those on the GX-80.

The proof of the pudding so they say is in the eating so really I need to get out and take some photos with the "new" D600 and let you all see the results. If you are a regular visitor to this site then you can see everything I take in the photo gallery section as well as in this blog and indeed, in the community area. You can even post your own photos and blogs if you wish. Just keep on topic and I'll be glad to publish them. In the meantime, here's a few images from both the Lumix GX-80 and Nikon D600 to compare. The latter two are taken using the Lumix GX-80 with an old Vivitar 28-70mm 1:3.5-4.8 Macro Zoom lens with a Pentax P/K fitting. It's a versatile SLR / DSLR lens that seems to produce crisp, sharp images. If you are viewing on a mobile device, just click or touch the image to get a better aspect ratio.

I'll add more soon.

David

 

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Dave Collerton

Low Light Filming

Low Light Filming

According to the DXOMARK database, my Lumix GX-80 is 4th top in the list of Panasonic cameras. no doubt due to it's excellent 4K photo and video capability, yet only 139th in the list of all cameras. Worse still, for low light shooting, it's only 186th. Of course, it's a very big list so perhaps i shouldn't be too dispondant. Nonetheless, this means that there are 138 DSLR's, compacts and possibly smartphones, ranked above it. To be fair, I haven't needed to shoot in very low light and therefore it wasn't why I chose the GX-80 in the first place. I chose it because it did 4K well and that's an area I am particulalry interested in. However, things change and as I have become more and more interested in street photography and in particular, low light, I have started to think more and more about this area of functionality and which camera's are best suited to this style of photography.

Shooting photos at night is without doubt more difficult than during the day, it's certainly harder to use your equipment, change lenses, find filters etc. It's also very difficult to use a manual lens, as I was here for many of these photos, as you are relying on the LCD screen to help discern the focus in quite tricky circumstances. However, I thought I'd try going down to Torquay Harbour to see just how the Lumix performs against all of the distraction and the very high contrast between pitch black and bright lights. One of the things I was particularly interested in was movement. People, cars, buses etc. Here, long exposures are needed to capture movement and of course, this differs for people and for cars. The photo above is a good example of this. In this photo, the long exposure captures the car lights really well but it's a little too long to be able to capture the people who are overly blurred. This is pretty much a function of car speed because the faster the cars are going, the less exposure time required for the same effect and capturing people becomes a little easier. Two other things that I hadn't considered was the swaying of the lights in the wind, given the long exposure times, resulted in a colour wash effect nor that at high aperture values, e.g. f11, f16 and f22 that these points of light would look like stars due to the small aperture size. The photo below perhaps illustrates this more clearly.

To some these effects migh not be too displeasing - my wife loved it. However, the lesson learnt is to keep apperture size up to around f8 (for max clarity), reduce exposure time to just enough to capure the event your after e.g. car lights etc and keep ISO as low as possible (to avoid noise). It's quite a juggling act. Having said all this, here's perhaps my favourite shot taken on the night - hand held, noisy as hell but for me, enigmatic.

I'll update this post over time and as I play more with low light photography.

 

 

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