Photo of the Month – June

Phone X
iPhone 4mm f/1.8
4mm, 1/17 Sec at f/1.8,  ISO40
Post Processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic

With the Covid-19 lockdown still very much in force, I have not been out this month or taken any shots. I did snap this with my iPhone, a celebration of home grown produce from our garden. Apart from the cheese and pork pie everything came from our garden, pickles from last years veg, eggs from our chickens and salad straight from the garden.

People say grown your own is the way forward. In practice its not possible to complete with the local markets and shops but being out in the garden is good for your mental health and its feels good eating things you grew and made yourself.

Olympus to sell its camera division

Camera manufactures are really struggling, the camera phone has become the camera for most people.

Minolta sold there camera division to Sony, the medium format sector is consolidating with really only PhaseOne and the now Chinese owned Hasselblad the big high end players left.

Nikon have been struggling for a long time but the new Z range is now the go to mirrorless camera. With their lower end Z range having better performance and lower price to Olympus, Micro Four Thirds is now really on the back foot.

The investment company buying Olympus is part owned by the Japanese government so Olympus may yet carry on. Certainly it would not stop be buying an Olympus camera today, but there is a real question on the future.

Olympus has been around for eighty four years and have been an icon in the small camera field.

So what of the future for Micro Four Thirds. Only Panasonic and Olympus have really been players in this area. Panasonic seem to be moving to full frame with the Leica L mount; but as full frame has advantages over Micro Four Thirds, so Micro Four Thirds has advantages over full frame, and no where is this advantage bigger than in the area of video.

Olympus may continue in name, whether they can carve a niche is to be seen, but I hope the mount and format survives.

Apple WWDC2020 – wow I was wrong

I always enjoy the Apple keynote speeches. The one everyone always remembers is where Steve Jobs introduces the first iPhone, but I feel this one may also go down in history.

The best thing about the Mac operating system is that is was always designed to be portable, ie could be recompiled to run on different architecture.

This has enabled the Mac to move from one system architecture to another.

PowerBook G4 12 inch

I started with a PowerMac, a lovely little 12 inch laptop for my portable photography needs. So I have lived with the transition from IBM to intel and the improvements that brought.

When Apple released the iPhone it was with an off the shelf ARM processor. Then over the years Apple has been buying up small ARM design companies, then became a full ARM licensee to enable them to start producing there own ARM designs. This has seen the iPhone and the iPad gradually pull away from the others in respect to battery performance, cpu performance and gpu performance. For nearly two years now there have been rumours that Apple would transition their laptops away from Intel to their own silicon but I have always thought the idea ridiculous.

Well I was wrong. I can certainly see the draw of something like a ARM powered MacBook Air. You could increase performance a little and greatly increase battery life, it would be the ultimate small laptop.

For the higher end laptops like what I am typing this article on, one I picked for its Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom Classic performance, I am not sure if ARM can match what Intel can do. The other issue is will Adobe port over Lightroom Classic or use this to force us to move to the new Lightroom. For photographers like me with large libraries the new version still does not quite cut it.

Its going to be an interesting couple of years a head of us.

Leica SL2 updates – 187 MP anyone

Leica SL2 being assembled – from Leica

As I have mentioned in the past, many of the smaller companies like Fuji, Olympus are much better at support, releasing new firmware for their new and old cameras.

Leica just released a new update for the SL2.

Multishot has come to many cameras, with Olympus leading the way. I do it the old manual way in Photoshop and have produced many fine images.

Manual stitch of several Leica M10 images

For landscape photographers multi shot is a boon, giving you hi-re images from smaller lighter cameras.

Bug fixes and a few new features, these are always welcome.

How has COVID-19 lock down affected your photography

The biggest impact to me has been on my studio photography and my casual street photography.

I am normally in Lincoln most week days, and at least twice a week I get into the centre of town to snap some street photographs. This is often my mainstay of my personal photography.

So my photography has been limited to the local walks around my village and shooting flowers in the garden.

One thing I was intending to do while stuck at home so much was to try some still life photography, but being stuck at home does not mean not having to work so its still something I have not gotten round to yet.

Apple True Tone and Night Shift

All new Mac’s for a while now have had True Tone and Night Shift, but what does this mean for photographers.

For my main office MacPro and NEC Pro Reference monitor I have it all turned off, I have the screen calibrated with an X-rite i1 Display and I monitor the light in the room and have the profiler device adjust my monitor as I work.

My old laptop had no True Tone or Night Shift but now my new MacBook Pro 16 inch has all these new features.

First can I say that you should definitely switch off Night Shift, it definitely colours the screen and makes it warmer and more pleasing at night.

When it comes to True Tone then it is a little more complex. True Tone attempts to keep the colours neutral no matter what the colour conditions around you.

For general editing and producing pictures for my blog or for customer edit reviews then True Tone is not going to make a lot of difference. For my final edits that are going to be published or I’ll print then the edit should be done with True Tone switched off; but then I should not be making those final edits on my laptop but in my office where I have the tools to edit properly.

COVID-19 and Studio’s

Get the Light Close – edit completed

At the moment here in the UK things are still very bad but are getting better.

Now many studios are starting to plan on getting back up and running, with social distancing rules and lots of cleaning between shoots.

At the moment, studios near me are planning to reopen at the end of June, beginning of July, as long as we do not have to completely shutdown again.

If you are planning on simple portraits and the model will be doing her own hair and makeup this sounds like it may work. For professional work it is still too early. Having a model, hair/make artist, photographer and art directory all working together in a hot enclosed studio is not going to work.

Light – Part 6 of 6

What flash to buy – Recommendations

Small flashes; well you cannot go wrong with your camera manufactures flash units. The Nikon units are particular good if expensive, which is the general problem with camera manufacturer’s lights.

For third party units I would recommend Metz or Quantum, there are a lot of new companies doing units now but I have no personal experience of them.

Studio flash units; low end I have no real experience but I will add that I had a cheap unit lighting the background on a studio shoot. It was struggling to keep up and caught fire! Midrange I use Elinchrom, high end the latest Profoto is hard to beat but you do pay a high price, I have heard some wonderful stories about how good their customer service is and assisting when there are issues.

Again like small flash, there are a lot of new companies doing studio flash like GoDox/PiXAPRO. The above shot was taken at a local location using some loaned PiXAPRO studio heads.

What ever you pick think about the accessaries you may need later and if its easy to get the unit repaired locally.

Mixing units; if you are doing anything that is colour critical then having all the units from the same manufacture help for consistent colour.

If your slowly building a system, may be a low-end light from the system you choose first, then add a second when you can afford it. This will last you a while, then maybe add a more expensive light as your main light and the others become background and hair lights.

Light – Part 5 of 6

What to buy

Well what do we need to consider?

  • Budget
  • Mount type
  • Colour consistent
  • Exposure accurate
  • Flash duration
  • Support
  • Power
  • Mains or Battery
  • TTL Support
  • High Speed Sync

Budget: well in many ways this is linked to the other points so we will skip this for now but, more money means more features, more support etc. Budget, midrange and high end all have their pros and cons.

Mount type: many systems have the Bowens S mount, the other common ones are the Elinchrom EL and the Profoto. Soft attachments like soft boxes can generally. be adapted or you can get third party adapter rings to fix your Profoto soft box on to say an Elinchrom flash head. It gets more difficult with hard accessories like beauty dishes. Think long and hard about where you want to go too.

Colour Consistent: This is one of those things linked to budget. The midrange and higher end flashes tend to drift no more then 300k in use. If your only taking a few pictures not too much of an issue, if your taking a lot of pictures with a lower end flash unit, keep taking a custom white balance as you go along. Taking a white balance reading and shooting for a couple of hours and then in post production noticing your colours are off after an hour in the session can cause issues when your editing and will slow down your work flow. Be aware or buy better lights.

Exposure accurate: There are two aspects to this. Consistent amount of power while you work, which is essential, and consistent when you turn up the power turn the power down, this is less important but can cause a bit of frustration if your wanting to go down one stop, set the flash one stop less and its only half a stop down in power. It slows you down a little, but is not really and issue if you meter well after each change, remember as well some of the cheaper lights may change colour temperature if you change power output, so white balance reading after a power change may be required.

Flash duration: Do you shoot sport, want to freeze water droplets, the flash duration is what freezes the action. For general use most flash is fast enough. For some specialised use then you can get special flash heads with very short duration to freeze action.

Support: Cheap and even some midrange flash units do not have good manufacture support, the units are considered consumables, if they die after three years then buy a new unit. Some high end flash companies support their old heads that are now over thirty years old and will cost-effectively repair and turn it around quickly. They have dealers locally that can lend you loan units and give quick turn around.

Power: Generally in small studio’s you do not need a lot of power, 250ws or 500ws (watt/seconds) is enough. The issue with cheaper flash units is often too much power, some high end 1000ws units will turn down 1ws, cheaper 250ws will only turn down to 30-50ws. This makes them less flexible. You may need to buy a 250ws and a 500/1000ws head as well to give you options. Also look at some reviews on YouTube. Some higher end flashes that are rated at 250ws when tested could nearly reach output of cheaper 500ws lights due to the more efficient head design and better reflectors.

Mains or Battery: This is linked to power. On location, wedding receptions, event photography then battery is the way to go, in the studio then go for mains. Depending on the amount of power I have needed on location I have either used small speed lights or my more powerful Elinchrom Quadra units. With newer technology and better batteries you can make the case for using battery in the studio. There are some units. now that are battery powered but can run on mains as well.

TTL Support: Studio flash scares a lot of photographers, in fact flash period scares people. TTL flash is generally what you get with small speed lights, but more and more studio flashes are supporting TTL. TTL – Through the Lens metering means your camera and lights work together to try and make the correct exposure. As long as the scene is not too dramatic it generally works well.

High Speed Sync: If you are mixing daylight and flash then you often find your flash sync speed in your camera becomes a limiting factor. This is why high end medium format cameras for fashion photographers can sync up to 1/2000 and some 1/4000 or 1/8000 of a second. To over come the the limits of typical cameras slow sync speed the camera and light manufactures came up with HSS. The flash blasts lots of little flashes in the hope that some of the flashes correspond with the high shutter speed in use. It uses up a lot of power but can really help if you need it. If your looking at HSS then mains power or very powerful battery lights is the way to go.