Photo of the Month – March

Cathedral ViewLeica M8.2
Leica Summilux -M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH
50mm, 1/60 Sec at f/2, ISO640
Post Processed in Adobe Lightroom V5.7.1
On a MacBook Pro, OS-X 10.10.2

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Natures Photoshop

Crossing the Ford

Crossing the Ford

Last night while riding the BMW home in the late afternoon sun, I saw a view that really made me appreciate living in the English countryside.  There was a hint of rain in the distance so black dark clouds were in the distance but in the foreground was the brightly lit rapeseed fields and fresh green of the up coming crops.  The colours and contrast against the dark sky with the sun streaming through gaps in the cloud to form columns of light against the dark was simply stunning.

If I had stopped to take a photograph and submitted it for criticism then photo editors and critics would have complained about my heavy handed and unrealistic use of Photoshop and HDR techniques, but this was real and in front of me.  Inspiring stuff.

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Family Update – Gardening

D800 Tests Birds on the ArchSpring now seems to be in overdrive.  I managed to prune a few bushes and trees but all that has to stop now, not only are the trees full of blossom but the bushes seem to be full of Blackbirds and Thrushes making their nests.  A pair of house sparrows has even figured out, how to get under the corner end tile on the roof and make a nest there.

This weekend we took the opportunity because of the fine sunny weather to plant out the peas, beans, and cabbage, as well as the lettuce we have been raising in the cold frame.  The pigeons were looking interested so it will be interesting to see if they last the week.

Monday morning we had a frost again despite the improving weather so we need to get some more seed trays planted up just in case what we have planted out does not survive.

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Lightroom CC not launching

On Tuesday night as I mentioned yesterday, I installed Adobe Lightroom CC.

Unfortunately I could not get it to launch on one of my computers.  A quick reboot, uninstall and re-install. I even tried a permission repair on the boot drive.

Then I remembered the last time I had an issue with an Adobe CC app. Log out of Adobe Creative Cloud and the log back in. Voila it now works.

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Lightroom CC & Lightroom V6

Lightroom V5The big news for photographers on Tuesday was the release of Lightroom CC, also known as Lightroom V6.

Biggest update for me is support for off loading processor intensive tasks to the graphics card.  I’ll be interested in how MacPro’s now run Lightroom.

The big updates that are photo related are HDR and panoramic support built into Lightroom. No more round trips to Photoshop or third party plugins.

Facial recognition and tagging is now built in, so their Pro app now has a feature that most amateur editing apps have had to a couple of years now.

The other two things I was very pleased to see was an erase blush for the grad filter so you can selectively remove its effect and a simple thing but something that could get me using Lightroom Mobile more is the ability to add photographs into collections during import.

I have created a little test library and have started using it for testing but for now my real work is being done on V5.

I had a few issues, first it would not run on one of my machines and I have also managed to make it crash when using the crop tool.   I may wait for the first point release before updating my Master library and using it for real.

Oh, and the difference between Lightroom CC & Lightroom V6, well if your a creative cloud user then you get Lightroom CC, if you purchase the standalone version you get Lightroom V6, apart from the Lightroom Mobile features being missing the two are at the moment the same, but apart from bug fixes and camera RAW updates, Lightroom V6 may not get feature enhancements like Lightroom CC will.


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Memory Card sizes

D4 Card SlotsAt first it was rare for memory cards to be bigger then 4 GB.  In fact my Leica says that cards bigger then 4 GB will not work.  I now have a selection of cameras and digital backs from about 2006 to today.  With cameras like the Nikon D800 at 36 MP a 32 or 64 GB card is essential.

So recently I decided to buy some new cards, and went for some 64 GB CF and 64 GB SD cards, but what would they work in?

Well I was quite surprised.  Since V2.0 firmware I knew my Leica would word with the new SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) as I already had some of the new 16 GB SDHC cards, but what about SDXC (Secure Digital eXtended Capacity).

Well the old Leica M8 with the latest firmware 2.024 worked fine with the 64 GB SDXC cards.  The 64 GB Compact Flash cards and SDXC both worked fine in the Nikon D800, and the CF cards worked fine in my digital back.  So far so good, everything was working fine, but then I tried my Nikon D200’s, these did not recognise the 64 GB CF cards, which surprised me.  I have a look to see if there is a newer firmware update for them.

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White Balance and Exposure

As we are now in Spring I have noticed the contrast levels have been really ramping up.  I did a little photowalk on Saturday and was very disappointed with some of my high contrast shots.  My metering technique seems to have gotten a little sloppy, so with that through I deliberately went out today to shoot some high contrast test shots.

WhiteBalanceThe first few shots were taken in a coffee shop, this was dark and had mixed lighting so I took out the grey card and did a manual white balance.  Its quick and easy and I have to admit did make the photographs look a lot better.

ReadingI took the grey card measurement in the shadow, I tend to like the shadows to be correct and its less of an issue if the sunlight is a little warm.  If you take the grey card measurement in the sun then the shadows can go a little blue and cold looking, though it does depend on the affect your after.

Above is one of the high contrast shots I took, a mix of bright sunshine on white paper and dark deep shadows.  I exposed to the right and recovered the white of the book in camera RAW with exposure and highlight recovery, a bit of shadow fill, but not too much has made the scene realistic but you can still see there is writing on the white paper and its not blown out.

TalkingonStairsGetting the white balance correct may seem unimportant for Black & White work but it still is important to get it right.  It gives you a common starting place and makes getting the tones you want easier.  Again the level of contrast in this picture is far to high to get the whites and blacks both correct.  I took a couple of test shots then set the camera to manual exposure to get the result I thought was best.  Then it was just a matter of waiting until the scene developed.  With low light, high ISO and low shutter speeds, blur and noise is unavoidable but I think its a pleasing scene.

Too many people take technically perfect shots of boring subjects instead of interesting shots.  I believe it may have been Henri Cartier-Bresson who said that “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”.  Fashion and advertising photographers want sharpness and perfection, for the rest of us, interesting photographs should be are goal.

StreetAfter the coffee shop, I had a quick walk round Lincoln, looking for to quote Jay Maisel, “Light Gesture and Colour”.  It was more a miss then a hit, so I think I need to practice some more.





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Plus Size Models

Alice In WonderlandWhat size would you say is a Plus Sized model.

British size 16, maybe 18?

Well you will be shocked to discover its 12 or over according to the fashion industry.

With the average woman being a size 16 what planet are they on. There is far too much pressure on women, especially young women about their size and appearance and this kind of thing does not help.  Most models I shoot are size 10 to size 14 and tend to look quite skinny, size 12 is not a plus size, especially when the average size is 16!

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Nikon Series 1 – J5

Nikon J5


Mirrorless cameras have come a long way over the last few years.  The Nikon One series does not get a lot of love but with its small 1 inch sensor it does have a lot going for it.

The J5 has now been released and while interesting its still more of the same.  At least they have learnt from the first models and put some decent controls on the camera, something my Nikon V1 lacks.

Tintern Abbey

Still for a 1 inch sensor the image quality can be surprising.

The disappointing thing which I did not realise but which Chris Bennet pointed out to me today was that the camera takes micro SD instead of standard.  Why?  It just makes life harder and gives no advantage.

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Camera Bag

Tamrac Apache 2 Messenger BagA woman can never have enough handbags. Whoever said that had never met a photographer.

The perfect camera bag does not existing and I have to admit to owning several. This week I was at it again and bought another.

I was after something to just hold a Leica M with lens attached. A very small pouch just big enough to hold the camera when I was traveling light. Basically this pouch would protect it if I threw it into a small ruck sack or motorcycle tank back. Once at my destination the camera would come out and be carried over my shoulder.

Well it seems such small pouches are hard to find. Most are designed for compacts. My Leica is more a large mirrorless.

I did find one online actually designed for the M but at over £100 for a basic pouch it was a lot to spend.

After a good try out session at my local London Camera Exchange I decided to change track slightly.  I found a pouch that finally did fit but after comparing it to a small bag that would take the camera, spare battery’s and an additional lens; this larger bag was in fact not much bigger then the pouch and was in fact slimmer.

So I bought another camera bag and tried it out. It works well and I can throw it in the bottom of tank bag and still get all my other bits and pieces in so it was a win all round.

In case you wondered this is now camera bag number 10!   That’s bags and cases I actually use.

The bag I bought in case you wondered was the Tamrac Apache 2 Massager Bag in Brown.



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CCD and CMOS – The Leica Debate


M8 CCD under poor artificial light

For the big names, they can never win.  Just look at the things Apple get critiqued for.

I have two CCD cameras, a Leica and a CCD PhaseOne back for my Hasselblad.  I like the muted subtle look of the colours.  The sharpness of the image and the more film like dynamic range.  Out of camera the images can look more pleasing, plus the noise is far more organic.

LEICA M (Typ 240)

LEICA M (Typ 240)

CMOS though is winning as a technology and has many advantages, not least the high ISO performance, high dynamic range allowing you to post process the images in more directions.

I have heard many people say they will refuse to upgrade to the latest Leica rangefinder because its CMOS, so was very interested to find the article I have linked to about comparing a Leica M9 (CCD) and a Leica M (240-CMOS).

I think the article finally puts to rest the CCD/CMOS is better then CMOS/CCD and that the firmware and post processing is more important.

One of the big complaints about the latest Leica and its something true about Leica in general is that when it first came out the white balance was poor and skin tones and red was not right.  After the camera had been out about a year in the field Leica finally got it right with a new firmware release.  Its something that is quite common for Leica.  I think it was this colour issue that put more people off the new camera then its new CMOS sensor.

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