Thursday, June 22, 2017

Behind the scenes at Harewood Speed Hillclimb


If you have read some of my earlier posts, you will have no doubt picked up on the fact that I recently attended an event at Harewood Speed Hillclimb, near Leeds, Yorkshire. I enjoyed a great day out with my daughter (who also enjoys photography) and the weather was as it should be: dry, sunny with a gentle breeze to help keep one cool. It did look like rain early on but thankfully the day was without rain.

One of the great attractions of Harewood Speed Hillclimb is that it's big enough for there to be plenty to see (and photograph... that is if you like to see cars of all types racing up a hill against the clock! It's also small enough to be a friendly place, with lots of access to the vehicles and their drivers, along with their mechanics etc (often family members). You can walk around the paddock and get up close to the vehicles and if you so desire, say 'hello' and be rewarded with a friendly smile. If you time things right, usually during the breaks between runs, or after the driver has completed their final run, you can chat about the cars and get to know a bit more about their history. It also helps if you ask how the day went for the driver and car. Certainly, I can highly recommend a visit if you are at all interested in motor sport or even if you just want plenty of opportunities to get up close to the vehicles and get some photos.

Here is a selection of some of the 'behind the scenes' images I took on the day. All of them were taken on my Fuji X-T2, with the FUJINON LENS XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR and the FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF1.4X TC WR.

I edited the images in Raw File Converter EX 2.0 (powered by Silkypix), but didn't do any major editing other than tweaking exposure (usually just + 1/2 EV), white balance (5500k), some sharpening and choosing Provia/Standard Film style.

Bill Stevenson in his Westfield SE 
Waiting to move up to the start: Bill Stevenson again.



Final checks before the start of the timed run.

Stewards keep a watchful eye over proceedings

Daniel Hollis in his Caterham 7 waits for the signal from Steward


A chance to relax as the day is almost over

Pre-war Morgan 4/4 belonging to 
George Proudfoot 

Time to go home - 
Speedwell Sprite of Peter Fletcher 


Almost ready for the off - Ginetta G4 of 
Matthew Eady 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fuji X-T2 and FUJINON LENS XF 50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR handheld sequence.

Fuji X-T2 and FUJINON LENS XF 50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR handheld sequence.

Check out my latest post on my portfolio site. I share a sequence of images taken recently and take at luck at how the AF-Tracking performed.

Bear in mind that I had only had the camera a few days and was still getting used to how it handled. Also, I was hand-holding the camera and lens (together with added weight of the booster grip and the 1.4 x teleconverter). I reckon over 60% of the images are sharp with a few more almost there.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Software choices for photo editing on Mac (and Windows too) Part 2

In my first post in this series, I looked at Photolemur and Luminar. These are two programs that are relatively easy to use and inexpensive too. Both are already or soon will be, available for Windows.

In this post, I am going to look at other alternatives for editing your photos. First up is the Google Nik Collection.


You can download the software for free, for both Mac and Windows. However, Google has decided to no longer develop the software, so I'd recommend downloading it soon, just in case it no longer becomes available. I have used it over several years, and in the past, you had to pay quite a hefty amount to purchase it. It used to cost about $500! I think I bought it originally for quite a bit less than that, as part of some bundle (I think when I bought a flatbed scanner). Not so long ago, after Google took it over, they were charging $149 for it. I do remember that following a change of computers I somehow lost my install disc and needed to reinstall it. I contacted Google (who had only just taken it over and were still charging a fee for it) and they sent me a free copy! Well, I was of course, very happy. Great thing is, now everyone can get it for free.

If you do download the software, another great aspect about it is that you don't just get one program, you get a whole bunch of them; seven in fact! They are Analog Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, VivezaSharpener Pro and Dfine. Taking a brief look at each, in turn, let's explore some of the features available to you in this comprehensive toolbox for the digital photographer looking to get the best out of their images.

Analog Efex Pro

This program allows you to create images with the look of classic cameras, filters and lenses. Altogether, there are 14 tools available to help you achieve your desired look. Through the use of what are called 'control points,' you can selectively tweak your image using Basic Adjustments, Dirt & Scratches, Light Leaks, and Photo Plate Tools. In my experience, you can spend hours endlessly trying out the various tools and adjustments to create a unique result. You have been warned, if you get addicted, don't blame me!

Silver Efex Pro

If you haven't guessed already, this one is for creating monochromatic effects (black and white). The software emulates almost 20 classic film types and you can tweak these even further using a variety of styles and effects. Again, the options are comprehensive and allow endless combinations. There is also a History Browser so you easily revert your image back to an earlier stage in the editing process.

HDR Efex Pro

Depending on your point of view, HDR images may or may not be your thing. Certainly, some folk seem to go for what I regard as 'over the top' effects that, to my eyes at least, look nothing like reality. However, like the rest of the collection, HDR Efex Pro offers several options and tools for tweaking your image. You are able to bring back lost highlights, open up shadows, and adjust tonality to achieve your desired result.There also a bunch of presets you can choose from as your starting point.

Color Efex Pro

Color Efex Pro come with 55 filters, allowing you to create a unique look. Again, with the use of control points, you can selectively tweak parts of your image, applying different filters to different parts. This part of the collection is the one to go to if you want to retouch your image, do colour correction or just apply some creative effects.

Viveza

Viveza is described as offering "Selectively adjust the colour and tonality of your images without complicated masks or selections" and it certainly offers plenty of options to do just that. You can adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, shadows, red, green, blue, hue, and warmth. As with the other parts of the collection, you can also tweak your image selectively, offering almost endless possibilities.

Sharpener Pro

Sharpener Pro is, of course, the part of the collection that offers options for sharpening your image. Using its various tools you can fine tune the sharpness of your image both globally and selectively. The Output Sharpener allows you to even fine tune your image for your printer or screen.

Dfine

Last but not least, we come to Dfine. Dfine offers plenty of options to reduce noise in your image. You can apply noise reduction selectively to your image using, yes you guessed it, control points. this is probably an easier method than using layers and selective masks as you do in Photoshop. Many users will find it easier and that's probably why Nik chooses this method.

So, why not go ahead and download the software from here. Do it sooner rather than later as it may not be available forever.

In future posts, I will show you how to use each of these programs, with example images.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Panning with the X-T2 and FUJINON LENS XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR.

My recent visit to Harewood Speed Hillclimb presented me with the ideal opportunity to try out panning. Now for those of you unfamiliar with the term, 'panning' is a technique for photographing moving objects in such a way that you are able to capture a sense of movement in the image. The technique involves following your subject (in my case that would be cars) and using a shutter speed that is slow enough to blur the background and parts of your subject but still allows you to retain enough elements in focus so that the viewer can still identify your subject.

Now, as you may imagine, certain subjects can be more difficult than others to successfully get usable images with whilst using panning. I can certainly testify that cars travelling across your field of view at a distance of a few yards at speeds of up to 100 mph are one of the more difficult subjects!

On the day, although the combination of the FUJINON LENS XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR and the FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF1.4X TC WR was great, it's not easy to pan with. I did, however, manage some degree of success. here a couple of images I took on the day that works. They may not be the best ever examples you will see but for a novice at this sort of thing, I am fairly pleased with the end result. Certainly, practice will help me improve over time.

ISO 800, 1/640 sec, F13, 70mm (105mm equiv).

ISO 640, 1/640 SEC, F13, 70mm (105mm equiv).

If you look closely at the two images, you will see that the vehicles are not completely sharp. The wheels have some blurring and the backgrounds more so. However, the overall sense is one of movement. You can easily make out the numbers etc on the vehicles and the drivers' helmets. I think you will agree that they are fairly decent examples of panning.

You will see in both images that the background exhibits what is called the 'rolling shutter' effect, something that all digital cameras suffer from, some more than others. Panning tends to exacerbate the phenomenon and it also commonly crops up in a video too when panning. The faster you pan, the more pronounced the effect will be.

In summary, successful panning shots require plenty of practice and experimentation. I did some shots at slower speeds than in the shots above and will post examples in another post soon. Suffice to say that shutter speeds above 1000/sec will rarely work. Try experimenting with shutter speeds of 1/250 sec and 1/125 secs and even lower in some situations. Remember that practice makes perfect! If you would like to support this blog please shop for the equipment I used using the links below.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Software choices for photo editing on Mac (and Windows too)

Apologies if you are a Windows user, as this post will focus on software options for the Mac user. Don't despair though, as there are plenty of choices for you out there and I will do another post soon on what's available for the Windows user. Also, some of the software I will cover in this post will soon be available on Windows too.

Also, I am writing this post from the perspective of the average photographer, rather than the professional photographer. If you make most of your living from your photography then your needs will be somewhat different from those of the photographer who doesn't depend on photography to provide them with a living. I am an experienced photographer and I have, in the past, earned money from my photography, so I understand that professional photographers have different needs.

So, let's begin. Now, many photographers are better at taking photographs than they are at editing, and that's ok. After all, most of us would rather take better photographs that require little or no editing than being rubbish at taking photographs in the first place and then spending hours trying to make the resulting images into something that we would want to share with the world! So, I am going to focus on the ease of use of the software, rather than the advanced features that we are used to seeing in software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

First up is Photolemur. 


Note: There is now a Windows version available!


Photolemur is described as:
 'the world’s first fully automated solution for creating perfect photos. It works on Mac and PC, automatically analyses and perfects your images, and doesn’t require any manual involvement. Photolemur is designed for anyone who takes photos. Just drag, drop and leave the rest to Photolemur, which will enhance them beautifully using artificial intelligence, smart tech and a bit of magic."
After using the software for a while, the software is probably one of the easiest photo editors to use. After you open your image in Photolemur, the software gets to work straight away. Whilst it's working away in the background, an animation plays (with music) until its finished processing your image. Once finished, you are presented with your image with a slider to show Before and After.


You can choose to export the processed image to your hard drive and that's it! As you can see, there are no options to manually tweak the final image. Now, this could be a problem if you like to tweak your image but for most people, it's a great time saver and that's why I think Photolemur has a lot going for it. The software is quick and the results are better than the original 100% of the time in my experience. Could I achieve better results than Photolemur myself? Yes I could, but it would take me a lot longer and for most images, the results are more than acceptable.

In summary, if you are looking for software that is user-friendly, produces great results in the shortest possible time then go for Photolemur. It's now available for both Mac and Windows. The original version was available as a one-off purchase, which you downloaded to your Mac. Now, the software is available as a subscription, costing $3 per month (paid annually, otherwise $4 per month). There is a premium service available for $5 per month, but currently, there is a special offer running and you can get this for $3 per month (paid annually). The difference between the standard and premium is that you can process up to 100 photos on the standard plan, whilst the premium plan allows unlimited photos. To try Photolemur for free before you decide click here.

Note: I use affiliate links on my blog (unless stated). This means simply that if you do make a purchase or sign up for a paid subscription, that I eventually get paid a small amount by the developers. It doesn't cost you anything but it will help me continue to write this blog! Thanks in advance.
If you do try out Photolemur please let me know what you think in the comments below. BTW the developers are a friendly bunch and if you have any issues or suggestions I am sure they would love to hear from you.

Next up is Luminar.

Luminar is, like Luminar, a recent addition to the plethora of photo editors available. Its developers are Macphun, who are well known for their Mac products such as Aurora HDR 2017Tonality app for Mac and FX Photo Studio.

Luminar is completely different from Photolemur. It is more like a traditional photo editor in that it offers the user more options for tweaking your image. However, it still remains user-friendly and offers plenty of presets to achieve excellent results easily, without you needing to know what a tonal curve is!


The screenshot above shows the Before and After interface (similar to the one in Photolemur). You access this by clicking on the 'compare' icon on the top toolbar (it looks like an opened book). On the right-hand side of the screenshot, you can see other tool options. These are the Move (looks like a hand and keyboard shortcut is H), Masking Brush (B),  Gradient Mask Mode (G), Radial Mask Mode (R), Transform Tool (CMD + T), Clone & Stamp Tool (CMD + J), Erase Tool (CMD + E), DeNosie Tool (CMD + D), Crop Tool (C) and Plugins.

However, these are not the only options. Returning to the top toolbar you will see there are other icons we haven't yet mentioned. Starting with the three icons at the top left, we have Open Image (CMD + O), Batch Processing (CMD + B) and Share Image. The latter one allows you to share your image on various social media sites and via email.

Moving to the middle of the top toolbar, as well as the Compare feature we mentioned above, you also have icons for Zoom In (CMD plus +) and Zoom Out (CMD plus - ) and view at Original Size (CMD + 1). Finally, in the centre, there is an icon that looks like an eye. This is the Quick Preview (\) which shows your image before you made any changes to it. It's similar to the Compare tool but instead of showing just part of the image in it's 'before' state, it shows all of the image.

To the right of these icons, there are a few more. The first two are the Undo (CMD + Z) and History tools. Moving further to the right we find the Histogram and Layers buttons. The final two on the far right, are the Preset Panel and Side Panel buttons. Clicking on these hides or reveals each of the panels.

This brings us nicely onto the Presets Panel. Luminar comes with several sets of Presets: Basic, Street, Outdoor, Portrait, Travel and Dramatic, each of which has several ready-made options. There are also other presets you can download from Macphun's website. Many are free and there are some paid ones available, created by professional photographers and other users.

However, there are other options you can choose if you so wish. These come in the form of Filters and include recognisable one such as Brightness / Contrast, Sharpening and Cross Processing.


As you can see in the screenshot above, there are numerous filters you can choose from and you can use more than one at once. Luminar also has Layers and so you have access to blending modes, just as you would in Photoshop and Lightroom. In all, Luminar has more than 300 tools and features!

Well, that;s just a basic introduction to Luminar. Its offers a fair degree of automatic control (you can just choose one of the many presets and then export your image) as well as offering almost unlimited manual options. In this way, if you wish to learn as you go, Luminar offers more than Photolemur in the way of options. It's possible, with practice, to get quite sophisticated in your editing and achieve remarkable results that rival any produced in more expensive and complex programmes.

If you would like to try Luminar then click here. Currently, as write this post, there is a very good deal on offer. You can get Luminar, together with presets, training video, overlays, e-books and more, all for the reduced price of £64 (reduced from £287)!

So, that's two covered so far. Originally for Mac only, Photolemur is now available for Windows too. Luminar will be available on Windows later this year. To be informed of when it is available, follow this link here.

In my next post, I will look at some more options for editing your photographs. In the meantime, why don't you try the trial versions of Photolemur and Luminar and see if they fit your needs.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Street Photography with the X-T2

Street photography is one of my favourite genres of photography. Lots of great photographers who were great at street photography include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Vivian Maier, Josef Koudelka, Robert Doisneau, Jill Freedman, Walker Evans, Elliott Erwitt, William Eugene Smith, Joel Meyerowitz,  Lee Friedlander, Bill Brandt and one of my personal favourites, André Kertész.

My list is by no means exhaustive and I am sure some will wish to include others or even disagree with who is on my list! The truth is, it doesn't mean I am right and they are wrong. Feel free to comment and nominate your own personal choices.

So, street photography, what is it exactly? Well, without seeming to state the obvious, it's photography of the streets. I don't mean the physical street in the sense of pictures of roads, pavements, walls, buildings etc. I mean of people in the street. This is what most folks understand by the term, though I am sure there are photographers out there who just take photographs of empty streets and no doubt they may describe themselves as a 'street photographer'. I am not judging them.

Wikipedia defines street photography as: 
Street photography is photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents[1] within public places. 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.

I think that's a pretty good definition and I will run with that. They even include photographing scenes that have no people in them!

Well, as you should know by now if you read my earlier posts, I only have one Fuji lens for my X-T2 and that is the FUJINON LENS XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR partnered with the FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF1.4X TC WR. This is not the equipment normally thought of as 'street photography kit'! Usually, a wide angle prime lens or zoom would be the equipment of choice, such as the  FUJINON LENS XF 14mm F2.8 R or the FUJINON LENS XF10-24mm F4 R OIS.

To be honest, I will buy either one of these lenses in the near future, I just don't have the funds to do so at the moment. So, like all good photographers, I worked with the equipment I had at the time. I took these images in my hometown of Royton, whilst visiting family. Now for those of you who don't know Royton, it's a small town in Greater Manchester and is part of the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham. My visit took place soon after the Manchester bombing. On 22 May 2017, 22-year-old British Muslim Salman Ramadan Abedi detonated a shrapnel-laden homemade bomb at the exit of Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, following a concert by American singer Ariana Grande.

Sadly, two of the victims were from my hometown and in fact, one of them was a former school-friend of my youngest sister. You can feel the grief in the air and folk were still reeling emotionally from the whole thing. It was still raw for everyone and you could see it in folks' faces.


This second image is of the flowers, balloons and other items left in memory of the two victims from Royton. The two people in the foreground looking at them are my mum and my youngest sister.


Both images were converted from the RAW format to jpegs. The top one is ACROS + Green filter, the second one is just ACROS. Fuji picture styles are fantastic and I especially love the ACROS monochrome conversion. 

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Camera Equipment: Fuji X-T2, Fujifilm VPB-XT2 Vertical Power Booster, FUJINON LENS XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR and FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF1.4X TC WR.


Horse & bird images taken with X-T2

Not long after purchasing the X-T2 I visited my family 'up north' as we say. By 'north' I am, of course, referring to the North-West of England; in this particular case, Lancashire and more specifically, Oldham. The main reason for the trip was to help our daughter pack up her belongings and find a flat in Harrogate, as she will be working there for a year.

So, for a week, I found myself commuting between Oldham and Harrogate, via Leeds. I enjoy driving but it can be a bit repetitive at times. However, as the M62 between Oldham and Leeds is the highest motorway in England, you do get some interesting weather!

During my time 'up north', I stayed at my sister's house (whilst she and her husband took their grandchildren on holiday). My other sister has a horse and so it was that I found myself visiting the stables with her one day. It presented an opportunity to try and get some shots of the swallows and great tits that were nesting in the stable buildings, as well as of the horses.

Here is a close-up head shot of one of the horses:


The image was taken with the 50-140mm F2.8 lens combined with the 1.4x T/C. Horses are pretty jittery animals at best of times but this one decided I was intrigued enough to remain still long enough for me to get some shots off. Settings were: Focal length 70mm (135mm equivalent), ISO 250, Shutter speed 1/500, Aperture F4.0, Exp. Compensation + 0.3 EV, Classic Chrome picture style.

The camera has had no post-processing done (other than RAW conversion in Silkypix). Despite hand-holding the camera (almost 2kgs with the lens, T/C and booster grip attached) the OIS has managed to keep things sharp. You can even make out the pattern on the fly's wings as well as individual hairs on the horse.

Here is the complete image, again with no post-processing:


Now for the birds! These proved to be a much more difficult subject to capture, even with the excellent tracking abilities of the X-T2. However, once I had identified where they were entering and leaving the stables, it was just a case of being patient.

Here is a screenshot of a Great Tit taking a meal into the nest:


The image has had some minor post-processing done in Silkypix 2.0 (+ 0.3 EV exposure compensation, Natural Fine sharpening and Velvia Picture Style).

Well, that's all for now folks. I will post more images and thoughts later today so make sure you revisit.


If you would like to support this blog please shop for the equipment I used using the links below.


Behind the scenes at Harewood Speed Hillclimb

If you have read some of my earlier posts, you will have no doubt picked up on the fact that I recently attended an event at Harewood Spe...