Monday, April 17, 2017




Macphun, developers of Luminar, Creative Kit and Aurora HDR, have a special promotion available at the moment.

You get:

  • Luminar, The Supercharged photo editor for Mac that adapts to your skill level.
  • 12 portrait presets created by Scott Kelby - One of the world's most prolific photography authors and educators
  • 1 Month of access to KelbyOne training where you can learn everything you need to know about photography

All this for only $69. The total value is $99. A Savings of 30%.

Right now, however, by using my code below, pricing is just $49 for Macphun users. or $59 for non-Macphun users. To benefit from this offer, click here. Hurry, because the offer ends Weds 3rd May 2017.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Next camera - which to choose?

There comes a time in every photographer's life that the need to upgrade can no longer be ignored. I am at that point right now. For months I have trawled the net, especially review sites, blogs and YouTube etc. I have read or watched so many reviews that my brain is starting to catch fire from all the electrical activity!

As for the short-list, here it is (in no particular order):
  1. Fuji X-T2
  2. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
  3. Panasonic GH5
Now I did look at other cameras (such as Canon ones with Dual-Pixel system AF, as in the 70D and 5D), but for various reason, I rejected them. Cost, was, of course, a factor, but so was features (or lack of them).

Must-haves, for me, include weather sealing, dual SD slots, 4K video and a means to monitor audio (either direct on camera or via an attached battery grip for example).

Now, the three cameras shortlisted above all have excellent features and, of course, their own strengths and weaknesses.  The first thing to say is that the Fuji has the larger sensor, being APS-C, compared to the OM-D E-M1 and GH5 being Micro-four-thirds. Although sensor technology has improved vastly in the past 5 years or so, the Fuji, for me, still has the edge. However, it's not all about pixels alone, but also noise levels, and here the Sony still has the edge, due in most part, to its larger sensor.

However, feature-wise, the Olympus and Panasonic cameras do have a lot to offer. The OM-D-E-M1 Mark II has a size advantage (it's smaller and lighter) over the Panasonic, whilst the Panasonic GH5 has, of course, the best feature set for video, especially it's internal 4K/30p 10-bit 4:2:2 video capture.

Looking in more depth at the feature set of each one on my short-list:


Fujifilm X-T2 Key Features:


  • 24MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor 
  • 325 AF points (169 of which offer phase detection) 
  • AF point selection joystick 
  • 2.36M-dot OLED EVF with 0.005 sec refresh time (60 fps or 100 fps in boost mode) 
  • 3" 1.04M-dot articulating LCD 
  • 4K UHD video at up to 30 fps for up to 10 min (30 min with booster grip) 
  • F-Log flat profile and 4K out over HDMI 
  • 8 fps continuous shooting with AF (11 fps with booster grip) 
  • 5 fps continuous shooting with live view updates between capture 
  • 14 fps continuous shooting with electronic shutter 
  • Dual SD card slots (UHS-II compatible) 
  • USB 3.0 socket

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Key Features:

  • 20MP Live MOS sensor 
  • 5-axis in-body image stabilisation system 
  • 121-pt hybrid AF system 
  • 60 fps burst shooting (18 fps with continuous AF) 
  • Fully articulating 3" LCD display 
  • High-res electronic viewfinder 
  • Cinema (DCI) and UHD 4K video 
  • 50MP High-Res Shot mode 
  • Weather-sealed body 
  • USB 3 (Type-C) 
  • Dual SD (UHS-II/UHS-I)

Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Key Features:


  • 20MP Four Thirds sensor (no OLPF) 
  • 5-axis in-body image stabilisation system with 'Dual IS 2' support 
  • All 4K footage taken using full width of sensor (oversampled from 5.1K footage) 
  • Internal 4K/30p 10-bit 4:2:2 video capture 
  • 4K/59.94p and 50p shooting with 10-bit 4:2:2 output or 8-bit, 4:2:0 internal recording 
  • 1080 video at up to 180p, enabling 7.5x slow-motion 
  • 9 fps shooting with continuous autofocus 
  • Advanced DFD autofocus 
  • Dual UHS II card slots (V60 ready) 
  • Autofocus point joystick 
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth 
  • Pre-configurable rack focus mode 
  • Waveform and vectorscope monitors 
  • Paid upgrade to enable V-LogL video capture with LUT-based preview display

From this, you can see that either of these cameras would be a fantastic camera for most photographers. Whether you shoot stills or video, any of them (along with the Nikon 500D and the Sony A6500) would fit the bill for most scenarios. However, after looking at features, weight, price, auto-focus performance, lens choice and factors such as how often the manufacturer updates the firmware (important for sorting out any bugs, shortcomings or just adding new features), I decided on the Fuji X-T2.


So, that is what I intend to buy in the next few weeks and trade in my Sony A6000 two-lens kit at the same time. I do have to point out that I was very attracted to the other two (plus the Nikon and Sony offerings) but, in the end, the Fuji won me over. maybe it is because I am a bit long in the tooth (celebrating my 60th this summer) and am a sucker for the retro looks and handling of the Fuji. Maybe it's because of price-wise it's the cheaper option, especially when you take into account the Fuji offer of an extra £200 trade-in value when part-exchanging my Sony kit. Who knows? At the end of the day, choices like this are down to the heart as much as the mind (and the pocket)!

Once I have made my purchase and tested out the camera and lensesI do buy, I will post images and a review here, so be sure to bookmark my blog. In July I go to my very first F1 Grand Prix (to celebrate my birthday). I will be taking my new camera kit with me and hope to get some amazing images over the weekend.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Aurora HDR 2017 offer

ight

Macphun produce a range of creative software products for the Mac such as Luminar, Noiseless, Tonality and Aurora. The latest version of the latter, Aurora HDR 2017 is now available. At the moment you can get it along with Trey Ratcliff's Complete HDR Tutorial 3.0 with 55% off. For UK buyers that's just £84.

Trey Ratcliff is a respected travel photographer who is well-known for his HDR images. You can read more about him here. It's worth visiting his site has he has free HDR tutorials and plenty of reviews and tips. He has also created several presets for Aurora and now Aurora HDR 2017.

So, what can you do with Aurora HDR 2017? Well, we have all taken photographs and felt somewhat disappointed with the results. Somehow they don't seem as real what we saw through our own eyes at the time. Often our reaction is to reach for Photoshop (or any other image editing software) and try and improve the digital file. Now, how that goes depends on our level of expertise with the software in question. However, even if we are very competent at image editing, it can be very time consuming to get even close to what we feel is the right image. Software like Aurora HDR 2017 helps to make the whole process simpler and more importantly, faster.

You can use just one image and let the software does its magic or give it additional images of the same scene at different exposures to arrive at HDR version of your image. If you are not sure what an HDR image is, here is an example of the difference it makes:

Some people don't like HDR images because they seem, well a bit too realistic. However, you can adjust the settings easily to have a more subtle result. Bear in mind too that the software has over 100 different tools you can use to get just the effect you want, from either a single image or multiple bracketed images. You can use the software alone or as a plugin for Photoshop or Lightroom.

Also, if you purchase now, you will get Trey Ratcliff's tutorials fro free. Included is over ten hours of instruction, some of Trey's RAW images and 5 bonus videos.


Affiliate declaration: I am an affiliate of the developers. If you click on the link above and purchase Aurora HDR 2017, you won't be charged anything extra but you will be supporting this blog. I only choose to be an affiliate of those products I actually use and when reviewing products I always give my own experience and honest opinion.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Photolemur 2.0 coming!




Photolemur is a photo editor with a difference. It uses artificial intelligence and, say it's developers,  a bit of magic! You load the photos, Photolemur does the rest. After 15 months of development and with the help of more than 40 000 beta testers, Photolemur 2.0 is about to go live. Photolemur 2.0 will be available at the end of March but the new website will be available from the 25th of March. Join the revolution! Visit the website now.

You can purchase Photolemur 1.0 (Mac) now for just $39 (about £31.15 or 36.17 EUR). If you are a Windows user or wish to wait for version 2.0, visit the site now and register for news and updates. The new version will be only available via a subscription model. Photolemur 2.0 will work on a subscription model. During the first month, it will be available on an annual subscription only, at a discounted price. The price with the discount will be about $2.99/month.

Affiliate declaration: I am an affiliate of the developers. If you click on the link above and purchase Photolemur, you won't be charged anything extra but you will be supporting this blog. I only choose to be an affiliate of those products I actually use and when reviewing products I always give my own experience and honest opinion.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The war-weary British Tommy



This is an interpretation, of sorts, of the sculpture at Seaham, of a British Tommy, by local artist Ray Lonsdale. It sits on the seafront at Seaham in Country Durham to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War. It was erected in 2014 and was, I believe, meant to be a temporary installation. However, it was still there in 2016 when I took some photos of it. As it weighs 1.2 tonnes and is made of metal I can't see it ever being moved!

Its meant to represent the weariness of war, or even post-traumatic stress (combat stress) and is inspired by the story of a local man who served in the Great War. 

On the day I tool my photos it was a very windy and cloudy day, somewhat bleak. I was quite moved by the sculpture on that windswept seafront and it brought back memories of my two grandfathers, who both fought in and were wounded, in the Great War. Both had traumatic experiences of the war, though they spoke little of it, it nevertheless had left visible and mental scars on them which even I as a young child could perceive.

The photo is a composite of two images taken on the same day in the same general location. I combined them by removing the original sky and replacing it with another one taken just up the coast. I then edited them in Photoshop before finishing things off in Luminar. If you would like to know more about combat stress and support the work of an excellent charity supporting those who have served and suffer from combat stress, why not check out http://combatstress.org.uk.

Note: The link to Macphun, creators of Luminar and other great software, is an affiliate link. By clicking on it, you will be helping me in a small way to cover the costs of this blog.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

My Behance page

A lot of creative types, of which I suppose I am one, use Adobe Creative Cloud. As a user, you get a free Behance account and a free site as part of Adobe Portfolio. As I am not a working professional (such as designer, photographer or artist) I have tended to neglect my Adobe Portfolio site and Behance account. However, in an effort to be more focused I have decided to pay more time and attention to both. As a result of this process, I have decided to make my Adobe Portfolio (and Behance page) my primary repository for my photography. Likewise, I have decided to make my blog here on Blogger my sole blog on all things related to photography. I will also be doing some archiving of my other blogs on Blogger too as I don't have the time to maintain lots of separate blogs.

My current site at www.newbeltane.net will become a business site for my soon to be launched web design and hosting agency.

Behance is a great way to discover the creative works of so many artists and I have started to use it much more than I did previously. I have been a member since 4th May 2010, so it will soon be 7 years! What have been doing in all that time? Good question but maybe I'll reflect on that in another post around the anniversary.

So, if you are interested in discovering what other artists are doing, why not visit my Behance page and use it as a starting-off point for your explorations. Check out the artists I follow (mainly photographers) as I think you might like their work too.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Protecting your work on social media

At some point in your life, you will become victim to someone stealing your work. This first happened to me many years ago in the early days of the web. A magazine used an image of mine without my permission. At the time I couldn't do much about. Yes, I could have taken them to court for compensation but I knew they were a small publisher and the whole process could have cost me up-front and I may not have got much compensation if I had won the case.

These days, it seems that theft of copyright material is endemic. So, what can you do to protect your work? Well, one of the most common problems is when you post your work on social media (Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook etc).  The method most folks recommend is to watermark your work. However, this isn't easy to do when using apps, for example, on your smartphone. Let's be honest, many photographers use their smartphones to take pictures, if only for the reason that it's the camera we carry around the most. If uploading via your computer then it's easier, but still something of a nuisance adding watermarks before you upload.

Somewhat easier is to reduce the size and quality of any images you upload to the web. After all, in most cases, they don't to be full resolution and maximum quality if being viewed on the web. There are plenty of applications for doing batch resizing of your images. You can also do it in most photo editors.

In my experience, I find resizing my images to 1280 pixels in the longest dimension and at 80% quality is sufficient. The image still looks great in a web browser but it's not the highest quality for printing. Yes, folk will still steal it on occasions, but it won't be appearing in a glossy book or advertising campaign. If you choose the option to retain the EXIF information embedded in the file, it will help if you do end up taking legal action against the thief. Yes, they can strip it out but most thieves don't even bother and I am not sure if most of them even know what EXIF means!

If you an artist who draws (rather than being a photographer) there are steps you can take when posting your material online. Redbubble (a photographic community) have a very good article here. I am a member of Redbubble and its a great community for artists of all kinds. You can view my portfolio here.




Macphun, developers of Luminar, Creative Kit and Aurora HDR, have a special promotion available at the moment. You get: Luminar,...