Contrast and Black and White

I love high contrast Black and White but it can be quite tricky.

I find using the Tone Curve in Lightroom the best way of controlling contrast and then tweaking it with the contrast, highlight and white point sliders. Starting things off with a nice high curve and gently tapering it off seems to give the best results.

These were the initial settings I started with on the original colour image, I then took it to Photoshop to add a gradient on the background and touch up the skin slightly, then back to Lightroom for a BW convert and Orange boost and then I added some more contrast.

Outdoor photography

Leica M10, 50mm Summilux and Ivory Flame modeling

With the year starting in lockdown due to COVID-19, when we could finally get out and shoot I did a lot of outdoor photography.

Nikon D800 with Flash at Hartsholme Park

At first this was essential as few studios were open and working in doors with other people was just not a good idea.

Leica M10 and Cariad Celis

Put post lockdown its something that I have continued to do. Whether your shooting simply with a 50mm fixed focal length lens, or using flash out doors with more equipment.

These outdoor shots have been some of my favourite that I have taken for many years and so once spring arrives next year I’ll be heading out again into the great outdoors.

The end of the SLR?

Canon have announced the current Pro 1 D X Mark III will be their last. So its likely the big manufactures will now concentrate on mirrorless.

There are still a few areas where a pro SLR is better but with cameras like the Canon R3 and Nikon Z9, the gap is now very narrow.

I can see many professionals now transitioning. Many have a high end mirrorless already, often Sony or Fuji, but with the adapters Canon and Nikon have for older glass and these new high end mirrorless cameras from the big two, many are going to transition, Canon SLR users to the Canon mirrorless R system and Nikon SLR users to the Nikon mirrorless Z system.

a Bikers – Night before Christmas

On the Biking Blog “Ride it like you stole it!” which is sadly no more by Dave Dragon, there was a poem “The Biker’s Night Before Christmas”.

Biker Days

I have posted this before but as it is Christmas Eve I thought I was worth posting again.

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the pad,

There was nada happenin’, now that’s pretty bad.

The woodstove was hung up in that stocking routine,

In hopes that the Fat Boy would soon make the scene.

With our stomachs packed with tacos and beer,

My girl and I crashed on the couch for some cheer.

When out in the yard there arose such a racket,

I ran for the door and pulled on my jacket.

I saw a large bro’ on a ’56 Pan

Wearin’ black leathers, a cap, and boots (cool biker, man).

He hauled up the bars on that bikeful of sacks,

And that Pan hit the roof like it was running on tracks.

I couldn’t help gawking, the old guy had class.

But I had to go in — I was freezing my ass.

Down through the stovepipe he fell with a crash,

And out of the stove he came dragging his stash.

With a smile and some glee he passed out the loot,

A new jacket for her and some parts for my scoot.

He patted her fanny and shook my right hand,

Spun on his heel and up the stovepipe he ran.

From up on the roof came a great deal of thunder,

As that massive V-twin ripped the silence asunder.

With beard in the wind, he roared off in the night,

Shouting, “Have a cool Yule, and to all a good ride!”

Camera of the Year

Leica M10, 50mm Summilux-M 1.4 ASPH

I watched a few YouTube videos proclaiming the camera of the year for 2021. Some were serious and some less so.

Sony, Canon and Nikon were the usual ones mentioned, but one reviewer did mention that today you could walk into any camera shop and pick any new camera and if you cannot get good shots its not the camera but the one using the camera.

Different Sensors – same camera

Leica M8 50mm Summilux

Over the years a number of camera manufactures have done two models of the same camera, with different sensors.

Nikon used to do this the most with higher resolution and lower resolution versions of there D2 and D3 professional cameras.

Leica are now doing this with the SL2. With close to 50 megapixels its quite a beast, but for say weddings and wildlife or video, a slightly lower number of megapixels, faster response and smaller files to edit; you could say less is more.

This is where the SL2S comes in. Its basically the same camera but with a 24 megapixel sensor and faster performance and more optimised video.

Please all the people all the time – Lens Manufacture

Jasmine in Red

Sony have been at the mirrorless game longer then anyone. People forget that there was few lens at the start. Nikon have started well and we are starting to see there plan.

Primes, S class f/1.2 second to none.

Primes S class f/1.8 also second to none.

Primes f/2 to f/2.8, not S glass, need to be stopped down a stop or two but still very high quality and very good value.

Then they have a selection of zooms, the f/2.8 trinity, the new f/4 range and a few cheaper options.

They have now released two macro lens, a S glass and a general version.

The big advantage is that all these lens are better them most of the opposition, generally cheaper but the key thing is the FTZ adapter. People are finding that the old Nikon F glass is actually working better on the Z bodies then it does on the F bodies.

Camera Upgrades 2021/2021 – Part 2

When choosing a new camera too many people are led by their hearts and the internet. Instead of thinking about the use case, lens required to do that job and accessaries and system support.

So let us think about lens. When it comes to wildlife and my long lens use, it is likely I will keep my D800 and my Nikon 300mm f/2.8. There is just two much money invested in that combination, I may add a second hand D500 to that mix for my wildlife kit.

Lets look at my professional studio work over the last six months when COVID lockdown finished in the England.

Focal LengthNumber of Photos taken
24mm95
28mm116
35mm696
50mm1991
70-105mm1948
over 105mm25

Interesting, but let us look into this with a little more discernment. Of those let us filter out to just include the portfolio grade material and stunning shots my customers loved.

Focal LengthPortfolio Grade Photos taken
24mm1
28mm0
35mm12
50mm36
70-105mm99
over 105mm0

So this is giving us a better idea of what works for me.

So that wider end while getting reasonable use is not producing stunning shots. So lets not invest too much in that area, maybe purchase a 14-30mm quality zoom and save the money for a top quality 50mm and mid telephoto like a 85mm. Both Canon and Nikon produce stunning 50mm f/1.2 and 85mm f/1.2 lens, and Sony have started to up their game in the 50mm department. Luckily For Sony users unlike Canon and Nikon not fully sharing the secret sauce of their lens communication protocols, there are plenty of third party lens available. Again the L alliance of Leica and Panasonic have some stunning lens in the area I need.

My Rating for Lens:

  1. Leica L Glass
  2. Nikon Z Glass
  3. Canon R Glass
  4. Sony G Glass

For some of these lens we are really nic picking, some of the Sony early glass was not up to scratch compared to what Nikon and Sony are putting out now but recent releases has shown they are trying to catch up with some good releases. While I have put Canon in third place here this is not a criticism, their R f/1.2 releases are stunning and difficult to fault, but the Nikon and Leica glass just, and only just pips them.

Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH-M 6-Bit

A high quality 50mm is a must, if my next camera is mirrorless which is likely then my current 50mm Leica lens will work well on some bodies but lets look at what’s available in the native mounts.

The Leica L mount bodies work well with my M glass but the L mount Summilux 50mm is a stunning lens, the way the focus drops off looks amazing. At £3875 UK inc 20% VAT its not a cheap choice.

The f/1.2 lens from Nikon are real statement pieces of what is possible. Not only optically superb but with virtually zero breathing so they make stunning photography and video lens.

At £2389 including VAT in the UK this is another statement lens that you would not be unpleased with. Lots of videos on YouTube showing what this lens is capable of. If you had this in your bag you would not be wanting more.

Sony have built themselves quite a lead in mirrorless cameras, being a company twice the size of Canon and ten times the size of Nikon, being a major semi conductor manufacturer and owning a major share of Tamron this gives them some major advantages. The old 50mm lens from Sony, even their old f/1.4 50mm did not really cut it. The other companies had leapt ahead in lens design so they had to reply and this their new FE 50mm f/1.2 GM is a great response. While not as good as the others it can hold its head high. Lets hope Sony continue to update their lens. At £2100 in the UK including Vat its good value but the extra few hundred for the Nikon or Canon are worth it. The Leica, well at £1500 extra for a German made lens, its a reasonable price for what you are getting, but at that price I would be tempted by medium format.

Camera Upgrades 2021/2021 – Part 1

Nikon D200

I wend digital in 2007 with the Nikon D200. This was the start of the period where Nikon started their climb back to the top. They followed this with the game changer D3/D3x and D300, and Nikon were truly back to the top of their game and the competition was struggling to keep up.

It’s at points like this where system switches jump brands. Personally I have never seen the point, the lead has always changed. Pick a system you enjoy using, feels good in your hand (ergonomics) and has the lens, accessories and features you need.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 105mm

I like to get at lease five years out of a camera body, close to ten if I can.

When the D800 was released in 2012 I upgraded again, from ten to thirty six megapixels, and stunning colour and dynamic range improvements. It was about as good as any camera gets. Since then we have had the D810, and D850 possibly the best high megapixel SLR camera to date and with the pro autofocus from Nikon’s flagship.

So I feel its now time to move on. Portraits and studio work is my main area, with events, weddings and some wildlife. This may be a two camera solution but hopefully one, I’ll be keeping my D800 as a backup but what to choose?