Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Act now! Aurora HDR 2017 72 Hour sale!

Introduction:

Macphun is holding a 72-hour sale of their Aurora HDR 2017 software for Mac. To get the deal before it expires, click on the image above or here.

There are lots of new features and enhancements. Aurora HDR 2017 is now at least 50% faster compared with the previous version. With the Polarize filter, you will now be able to enhance the sky, making colours more vivid, with the ability to easily remove any glare in your photos.

With batch processing, you can save time as Aurora HDR 2017 automatically groups your brackets, applies the effects/settings you choose and produces fantastic results.

Below is a screenshot showing how Aurora HDR 2017 has improved over Aurora HDR 2016. If you already have the earlier version there are discounts available to upgrade.


Offer lasts until 30th June 2017, so act fast!

Pricing:

  • $79 instead of $99 - for all the new users
  • $59 instead of $69 - for Aurora HDR Basic/AppStore users
  • $39 instead of $49 - for Aurora HDR 2016 users

You Get:

  • Aurora HDR 2017 - The most awarded HDR photo editor for Mac 
  • Trey's Expansion Preset Pack - 26 presets from Pro Photographe and HDR guru, Trey Ratcliff
Here is a graphic showing the new features in Aurora HDR 2017:


So, if you want to get one of the best HDR software packages available at the cheapest price ever click here.

How to take fantastic colour images with Fuji Film Simulations

Introduction:

One of the great attractions of going with Fuji cameras such as the Fuji X-T2, is the built-in Film Simulations. Fuji was well-known for its fantastic film emulsions for reversal (slide), colour negative and black and white. In all, Fuji provides 15 film simulations ( 6 color, 1 Sepia simulation, and 2 Black and White simulations with 3 additional ‘filter’ versions for each of them - that is, green filter, yellow filter and red filter - very reminiscent of when we used to keeping changing lens filters, depending on whether we wanted to have really dark skies!).

Here is a breakdown of the film emulsions currently available in the UK from Fuji (with those available as film simulations on Fuji X-series cameras in bold):

Reversal film (slides):

  1. Velvia: a saturated and fine-grained slide films, loved by nature and landscape photographers. It was my favourite film once Kodak had ceased production of the great Kodachrome 25. I personally would use this when taking landscapes when the weather was a little dull, to help boost the greens. Today, it's available in both ISO 50 and ISO 100 variants.
  2. Provia: this slide film gave a more natural look than Velvia and I often used it for editorial work when I freelanced in the early 1990's. Available today as FUJICHROME PROVIA 100F, designed to produce medium color saturation and contrast compared to other films. It has ultrafine grain structure.

Colour negative film (for prints):

  1. Fujicolor Pro: - 160NS and 400H are films targeted at professionals. These are the same as PRO. Neg. Std and PRO. Neg. Hi on Fuji -X-system cameras. The tonality is very soft, and the skin tone appears very soft. Today, it's available in 160NS and 400H film stock. Typically, you would use the 160NS variant in the studio where you had plenty of lighting, and the 400H were you either didn't have lots of lighting or there might be some action, such as in wedding or fashion work on location.
  2. Superia: intended for non-professional use. Currently available as either Fujicolor Superia 200 or Fujicolor Superior X-TRA400. The difference between the two is that the former is suitable for sunlit scenes or where flash is being used, whilst the latter would be used if there was action or in low light situations.
  3. Fujicolor C 200: Fuji describe this as working well outdoors or indoors with flash, and having great colour for natural portraits or group shots.
You can read more about each film stock (that is actual film emulsions, rather than the film simulation modes) on Fuji's site here. You can also read in more depth about all their film simulations on their dedicated X-System site here.

Below is a graphic that Fuji have created, showing where each of their film simulations lie in terms of tonality and saturation. It should prove very helpful when considering which film simulation to sue in any particular scenario.


So, when it comes to actually using any of the film simulations, what can you expect? Well, below I have a series of images with different film simulations applied. Its actually the one image, it's just that I then applied a different film simulation to copies of the image. The great thing about this I did it all in camera! This is what I love about Fuji cameras. You can take any shot on your memory card and without a computer, you can create copies of it (as many as you like - until you applied each of the simulations in turn) and apply different film simulations to them.

This is just what I did. I was sitting outside a cafe in Harrogate, Yorkshire recently and just took the shot with this little project in mind. At first, I was thinking of taking several images with the film simulation applied when I took the shot. However, I realised that it was simpler to take just one shot and then create copies later in camera and apply the film simulations then. Such a time-saver. Thank you Fuji!


ASTIA
Now, you may find it hard to distinguish the ASTIA one from the CLASSIC CHROME below. However, if look closely you will see that the ASTIA has slightly more saturation in the green leaves than the CLASSIC CHROME image below.If you look back at the chart created by Fuji you will see that ASTIA lies further to the right on the saturation scale than CLASSIC CHROME (listed as just CLASSIC on the chart).

CLASSIC CHROME



Moving onto the PRO. NEG. HI you may see that it's ever so slightly more saturated than CLASSIC, but not as much so as the ASTIA image. Again, this si what one would expect from the chart.
PRO. NEG. HI

PROVIA
In examining the PROVIA we can see it is similar in saturation to the ASTIA image but the tonality is slightly harder. It might not be as clear with this particular subject matter (and the day was somewhat overcast) but if you open each image in another browser tab and view them enlarged, I think you will agree with me.


PRO. NEG. STD


VELVIA
VELVIA is the most saturated of the images, which isn't surprising when we examine where it lies on the chart! This is why it's great for landscapes on a dull day, when you need a boost to the saturation and tones in your image.

I have barely scratched the surface about what Fuji film simulations can mean for your photography. I have only covered the colour ones for now, but will cover the black and white ones in another post soon. I will also find some more examples of each of the colour ones 'in action' so to speak.

Also, as well as film simulations, Fuji has a host of other settings that can alter how your final image looks. We will also, look at these in more depth in a subsequent post. For now, thank you for reading and do leave your comments below. 


Friday, June 23, 2017

How to take Powerful and Breathtaking portraits!

I bet you are wondering what exactly I am talking about - photographs taken with a drop of water? Well, it's not about portrait photographs of a drop of water. No. It is in fact portraits that were taken using a drop of water as the lens. But 'how' you might be thinking. For instance, how do you focus the image with only a lens made out of a drop of water?

Well, the fascinating story starts with a photographer and a bottled water company. Then add some weird science, some willing subjects and a bit of electricity and bingo!

No, I am serious. If you don't believe me then just watch the fascinating video below. It's enough to drive you to drink!

Isn't it amazing how creative people can be with just a drop of water and some inspiration? Personally, I think the portraits are beautiful. There is an ethereal quality to them and they almost look like paintings.

What do you think? BTW the photographer was Robin de Puy and it's worth checking out her website. I think you will find her work not only interesting but also challenging.


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. 

If you would like to donate please visit the official donation page here.



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.


Thursday, June 15, 2017


Macphun have released their update to Luminar, their photo editor software for the Mac (soon to be avaialble for Windows). Called Neptune, it is faster, more powerful and now features Accent, the world's first AI-powered photo filter.

You can purchase Luminar as part of a special bundle for just £55, instead of the usual bundle price of £287! One of the things I love about Macphun is that each licence gives the right to install on up to 5 computers (as long as they are in the same household).


Here is an example of what your workspace looks like when editing images in Luminar:


I often use Luminar for editing my photos and rarely use Photoshop or Lightroom, to be honest. I find that for most of my needs the two programmes I use most are Luminar and Photolemur.

Fuji X-T2 continues to impress!

If you have read my earlier posts, you will know that I recently purchased a Fuji X-T2, together with the 50-140mm F2.8 lens and 1.4x T/C.

As always, with digital, it's easy to end up with literally thousands of images. All of which take a long time to go through, rejecting the unsatisfactory ones and decide how to post-process the keepers.

Well, right now I am looking at 2,276 images from just one 64GB SD Card! Don't worry, I am not going to force you took at all of them!

However, I will share one image with you. It's nothing special and would not win any awards. I am sharing it with you to illustrate a point about the X-T2 and the 50-140mm and T/C combination.

The first image is a screenshot of the whole image. I took this photo in a local park and I had to be several feet away due to closest focusing distance being 1m (without the 1.4x T/C). The lens was at maximum zoom (140mm) so with the T/C. the focal length was equivalent to 294mm (34mm equivalent).



























The next image is a screenshot of the image at 100% on screen.



What amazed me when I saw this on screen for the first time, was how much detail is resolved. Remember that this shot was hand-held and the camera alone weighs 507g with battery and memory cards. Add to that the weight of the booster grip (@ 225g plus two batteries) and the lens weigh in at 995g. Add in the two batteries in the grip and the weight of the 1.4x T/C (@ 130g) and you are looking at a total weight in the region of almost 1.9kgs!

Now, this is heavy, but, it's less than the weight of similar kits from Canon and Nikon. Don't have the figures but looking at the weights of a Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Body (910g) and Nikon D500 Body (860g), you can see the Fuji X-T2 is lighter by 353 - 403g before you add booster grip and equivalent lens.

BTW I choose the EOS 7D and the D500 for the comparison as these would have been the cameras I would have chosen from if I had gone with Fuji. Of course, I could have gone with something much lighter, such as the Sony A6500 (453g) but although I enjoyed my A6000 kit, the A6500 doesn't come with two card slots.

Note: The images in the screenshots above has had no processing done. I simply opened up the image in Silkypix Raw File Converter 2.0.

Here is a post-processed image (cropped). I used Silkypix to process the image.


If you would like to know more about the 50-140mm F2.8 lens then visit Fuji's site here. You can read a good review of the Fujifilm VPB-XT2 Vertical Power Booster Grip on the Nerd Techy Blog here.

If you would like to support this blog please shop using the links below.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fuji X-T2 in action!

If you have read my recent posts you will know I recently part-exchanged my A6000 kit for a Fuji X-T2, 50-140mm F2.8 lens, 1.4x Teleconverter and booster grip. I have posted some of my initial experiences and shots in my recent posts. I have certainly been impressed with the performance of the camera and lens, especially with the booster grip.

One of the reasons I bought the combination of kit that I did was so I could shoot motorsport. Recently, I went with my daughter to Harewood Speed Hillclimb, a hill climb near the village of Harewood, West Yorkshire, England. Basically, cars compete against the clock, racing around the course as fast as they can. They compete in classes so that it's fair, as obviously, classic cars won't perform the same as high-performance modern cars.

It was a great experience and everyone we met was very friendly. The weather was typical for an English summer, a mix of sunny and hot, with the odd spell of rain clouds threatening to unload on us at any time. Thankfully it didn't rain and it also didn't get too hot.

I managed to fill two 64GB SD cards so I am still sorting through my images. However, here are some examples from the day. Enjoy.

The first one is an example of my first attempt at panning. I edited the image is Luminar, though to be honest, I think I overdid the colour correction a bit and will probably re-edit it soon.

The second image was taken from a different viewpoint, further up the track. In the end, we moved to a spot further down the hill as we found it difficult to pan and also we were a bit too far away from the cars as they came out of the last but one bend. The image isn't as heavily post-processed. Again I used Luminar (Pluto edition) to improve contrast and tweak sharpness etc.


I can certainly recommend the track for getting up close to the cars as they race up the hill. You can also wander around the paddock, talking to drivers, mechanics and officials, all of whom are very friendly. It's a great way to get some behind the scenes shots and learn more about the vehicles etc. In my next post, I will post some images from the paddock area.

Friday, June 09, 2017

More images from Fuji X-T2

The first image is taken of a relative leaping into the air. The screenshot is at 100% in Camera Raw with no post-processing (other than Camera Raw conversion from native Fuji .RAW format). Taken on the 501-40mm F2.8 lens at F4, 1/500s, ISO 400 and @ 105 mm focal length. I had the camera set on tracking with eye/face detection on.

As you can see, the image is sharp and is an example of how fantastic the X-T2 is at tracking and image stabilisation, even when hand-holding the lens. It's not the heaviest zoom but neither is it lightweight, due to the solid build.



The second image is taken of Oldham town hall, in Greater Manchester. Despite aerial haze, you can clearly make out plenty of details. Amazing for a shot taken some 4.3 km (2.68 miles) away! Again hand-held with image stabilisation on. Again, taken with 50-140mm with 1.4x T/C. Taken at F10, 1/320 secs, ISO 200 and taken at @ 295mm equivalent. Again, no post-processing other than Camera Raw conversion.


The third image was a grabbed shot of a magpie flying low across a field. It was quite a distance away but I was impressed that the camera was able to lock on and track the bird, despite it being a fast mover! Once again, I am very happy with the performance of the 50-140mm and 1.4x T/C combination.



Fuji X-T2 and FUJINON LENS XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR with FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF1.4X TC WR

I recently made the decision to switch from Sony to Fuji, trading in my Sony A6000 and two kit lenses. I replaced them with the Fuji X-T2 and FUJINON LENS XF 50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR with FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF1.4X TC WR.

There were several reasons for this, one of them being the favorable reviews the X-T2 has received, another being its 2 SD card slots (compared to the A6500). I also love the retro-styling and quality glass that Fuji are known for.

My choice of lens was dictated by my desire to get more into wildlife photography and motorsport (I am off to the British Grand Prix this summer!).

The first day I had the camera I had a bit hit and miss experience, mainly due to not spending enough time reading the manual. However, I was very pleased with the camera and lens performance. To be honest, I was astonished how good they are! Here is an example of a grab shot, hand-held, of a passenger jet flying overhead.


The screenshot is of the image at 100% in Camera Raw. The file was a RAW one and has had no sharpening or post-processing done (other than what Camera Raw does when converting the native .RAF file). I think you will agree that the sharpness is amazing for a hand-held shot with a hefty lens. Bear in mind I had the added weight too of the booster grip.

I am very happy with my switch and I will be adding more images in forthcoming posts, including 4K video.


Friday, June 02, 2017

MACPHUN CREATIVITY & AURORA HDR + PLOTAGRAPH PRO OFFERS END SOON!



LUMINAR MAY CREATIVITY OFFER:  NOW EXTENDED FOR A FEW DAYS!
Luminar + Creativity Mega Preset Pack, Essential Pro Secrets for Unleashing your Creativity eBook, Ultimate Posing Card Collection, Overlays Variety Pack and first 3,000 customers will also receive a collection of Light and Bokeh Overlays for $69. The total value of $250.

Pricing as low as s $49 for Macphun users when they use YOUR coupon code. or $59 for non Macphun users that use YOUR coupon code. (This is the same coupon code you already have setup, if you need a reminder of what your code is, or a new one set up, just send me an email)

OFFER ENDS Tuesday, June 6th

You Get:
  • Luminar, The Supercharged photo editor for Mac that adapts to your skill level.
  • Creativity Mega Preset Pack - 26 beautiful presets from Presetpro to create stunning looks in Luminar
  • Essential Pro Secrets for Unleashing your Creativity ebook by Ian Plant - Creative lessons and techniques for how to make your photos match the depth of your passion
  • Ultimate Posing Card Collection - Hundreds of ideas for boudoir, family, indoor, newborn, wedding photography and more
  • Overlays Variety Pack - Sky, snow, rainbow, leaf, and fireworks overlays to create a unique look in your images
  • ADDITIONAL BONUS FOR FIRST 3,000 CUSTOMERS - 145 Fireworks Overlays

To take advantage of this offer Luminar May Creativity Offer before it disappears, click here!


AURORA HDR + PLOTAGRAPH PRO OFFER: ENDS 4TH JUNE! 
Aurora HDR 2017 + 3 Month Plotagraph Pro+ Membership for as low as $89. Total value of $186

Pricing as low as s $89 when they use YOUR coupon code. or $99 if they do not. (This is the same coupon code you already have setup, if you need a reminder of what your code is, or a new one setup, just send me an email)

OFFER ENDS - Sunday June 4th

You Get:
  • Aurora HDR 2017, The world's most powerful HDR image editor for the Mac.
  • Plotagraph Pro+ Membership (3 months) - Bring your photos to life, animate from a single JPEG.

To take advantage of this offer, click here.

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