Among the Dunes

Two versions of the same image processed for colour and then into black and white. The black and white was deliberately processed to leave the shadows much darker than the plant itself. Software: ON1 Photo RAW 2017.

Cliff Grass and Black Rock

The original.

There are so many creative possibilities in software it’s hard to know where to draw the line, and it’s all to easy to over-process. It’s very subjective, and rightly so. What works for one person can leave others distinctly unimpressed.

Making localised tonal adjustments with Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush.

There are some things that are usually best avoided: over-sharpening, over-saturation, awkward cropping, muddy tonal processing, unrealistic skies, and so on. Some global adjustments can harm the tonal balance of an image so it’s typically best to use tools to target specific areas, as the image above illustrates.

Just a few steps back from the cliff the rocks had been turned black by the sea.

Cave

A dark opening in a cliff face by the sea turned out to be a cave running into the rock 40ft or so. So in the dark, cramped, and spider-infested far end of the damp cave I ambitiously attempted to capture at 24mm as much of the tonal range as I could. At first I tried manually editing the 5 images, painting in and painting out and so on, but it was too much of a challenge — for me anyway.

In the end I used a combination of editing programs. To start with I threw everything I could at the project in SNS-HDR. Along the way I also used On1 Photo RAW, Lightroom, Corel PHOTO-PAINT, Silver Efex Pro 2 and Viveza 2. What a rigmarole.

Was it all worth the time and the range of images needed to create the final versions you see below? The HDR software and Viveza were particularly flexible and Silver Efex Pro 2 did great job with the black and white processing and toning.

But it was all good experience. Regular practice in the field and at the computer is very important. I’m reasonably pleased with the black and white version. And now I know where to hide at the end of the world, if gun-toting preppers don’t get there first.

 

Sea Space

With visibility no more than a quarter of a mile the morning sun was doing its best to cut through the heavy fog. It was a grey day. In fact it looks black and white, but this is a coloured image. It really was that dreary.

Later that day the fog had been burned back. Standing at the roadside in a buffeting wind I took a quick series of 300mm shots of a lone yacht sailing off the west Antrim coast not far from Cushendun.

A shot taken the year before at Murlough Bay.

 

 

 

Retro Camera Design

Old school or just more sensible?

For several years now we’ve been getting used to camera designs that have have shifted to a more compact retro look. And it’s not just because they don’t have mirrors and prisms. It seems to me SLR camera design was hampered in the first instance by the 80s and 90s preference for LCD screens and menus.

Perhaps manufacturers are learning it makes practical sense to have physical dials and knobs on a camera body. For one thing cameras can be operated very conveniently often without taking your eye from the viewfinder. ISO, exposure compensation, manual control, drive modes and so on, can be adjusted by finger and thumb.

But arguably the downside of this retro revolution has been overenthusiastic manufacturers’ determination to keep body sizes too small. Emphasising lightweight bodies became an advertising obsession. So things became a bit fiddly to say the least. This was my main disappointment and only frustration when I first used the Fujifilm X-E1 (focussing performance isn’t an issue for me).

Hopefully cameras like the X-T2 are an indication that typical mirrorless designs are now being rethought. Or maybe bodies have to grow simply because there’s so much technology crammed inside. It’s astonishing when you see a modern camera without its shell.

The top picture was taken with the 2005 EOS 5D (see below), a camera that is almost as far removed as you can get from today’s more popular mirrorless designs. Pronounced size differences will suggest to some photographers the balance is somewhere between the two.

Personally I’d favour slightly larger mirrorless designs, even if there’s no actual need for them to be manufactured that way. The weight would stay roughly the same while cameras would remain more user-friendly than those that are partly designed around screens and menus.

The brick-like Canon EOS 5D, still a pleasure to use.

Top plate comparison between the Fujifilm X-T2 and the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. It’s worth pointing out that including battery and card the 2017 6D is 258g heavier than the X-T2. Using an overall lighter kit can offer significant advantages for some photographers. See HERE for some thoughts on this.

Margaret Gallagher and Her Cottage

Click on the picture to watch the film, All I’ve Ever Known.

Early one morning in July 2017 while travelling through County Fermanagh in Ireland I stopped off just a few miles outside Belcoo to photograph Margaret Gallagher’s cottage. Unexpectedly the lady herself was already up and about attending to chores. I hope she didn’t mind the scruffy stranger in the distance waving his camera about running off a few shots of her charming home. Had it been later in the day I’d have said hello.

I’d recently seen Miss Gallagher in an excellent BBC film produced by John Callister around 25 years ago. To watch it yourself click on the smaller image above.