Sleeklens Landscape Plugin Review

I was contacted recently by sleeklens.com who asked me to put one of their plugin packs for Adobe Photoshop through its paces. They make plugins for all types of photography, particularly portraiture and architecture but they also have a pack designed for landscape photographers so it seemed appropriate to give that a try. I opted for the Photoshop version, although they do a Lightroom version of all their plugins too for those who like to keep their workflows just within the Lightroom environment.

Now I have to say at the outset that I am generally wary of pre-sets and plugins. I don’t create my own presets in Lightroom (except print templates which I find very useful for different paper sizes and orientations). I prefer to look at each image as a standalone artwork and decide how I feel it should look. I then start to make changes to move it in that direction. However, I do know other photographers who find it very useful to work with plugins to make basic, repetitive changes to images quickly or who create some ‘looks’ to images and what to save them so they can apply them to future photographs quickly, even though they may then go on to modify these slightly depending on each image. I also understand the needs of commercial photographers who want a consistent look across a range of images, such as wedding photographers. For such uses, presets and plugins are a boon both as time savers and for achieving a uniform feel to a collection of work. This can elevate a set of images and make for a lovely feel to photobooks and albums, rather than having radically different looks through a publication or exhibition set.

I also understand that for some, using plugins, especially those, like the Sleeklens plugins for Photoshop which allow you to then enter the layers and see what and how the changes have been made, are a great way of beginning to understand how a complex program like Photoshop is working. By then going in and making edits to the layers and making manual adjustments to the sliders you can learn from the experts like Sleeklens and grow in confidence as an image editor.

I do use the Nik plugin suite extensively, indeed, I would be lost without it. So I am definitely not anti-plugin, but I do believe in getting to know Lightroom and Photoshop so that we can make our own local and global adjustments with all of the tools at our disposal. This is essential to really get the best from our images. But for many of us time is short, our skills are just growing and so a set of actions like this Sleeklens set could be a real time saver and a great learning tool.

The set of actions loads very quickly and easily on both Windows and Mac machines, in Adobe CC or earlier versions of Lightroom and photoshop (or Adobe Photoshop Elements) and Sleeklens have a great and super easy to follow little video to show us how to do this. You can find it HERE. It is so simple even I could do it 😉 I was up and running in less than 2 minutes.

I had a very quick play with an unchanged raw file I sent from Lightroom over to Photoshop CC. I then decided to record a video as this would be the best way to show you the actions, in ‘action’. Here is the video, I hope you find it helpful and informative.
 

 
If you would like to try the Sleeklens plugins for yourself you can find the Landscape Adventure Pack I tried HERE. You can also find the other Photoshop actions HERE They also offer a photo editing service here.
 
If my video on how to use the Landscape Adventures Photoshop actions set baffled you, you will find a much more polished one here from the good people at Sleeklens HERE
 

 
I hope you find this useful. Enjoy!

Posted in Gear Reviews, News, Photography comment, Photography Tips, Software Tips Tagged , , , , , |

Trying a different approach to rucksacks


 
Ask any photographer and they will tell you, you can never have enough camera bags. Or it might be that we can never find the perfect camera bag. I’m inclined to think that there is no single one bag that meets all our needs. I have different situations I go into with my camera and need a different bag for each. Recently, I found myself frustrated with a limitation placed upon us by camera bag manufacturers and so turned to a conventional rucksack manufacturer, Glasgow based company Trespass, for the solution.

I needed a bag which wasn’t primarily a camera bag. It needed to carry some camera gear, yes, but also needed to hold quite a bit of other stuff too. Camera bag manufacturers seem to focus almost solely on our optical equipment. They give us massive amounts of padding. Endless pockets, sleeves and dividers. Camera bags and rucksacks are generally well made these days, from most manufacturers. But should you wish to carry a first aid kit, some warm clothing, a flask or water bottle, food or other paraphernalia the bags and rucksacks just don’t seem to cater for us.

I have also got a bit tired of the fact that the rucksacks made by the camera bag manufacturers have become so heavy in themselves. I have downsized to the Fuji mirrorless system from my Canon DSLR system to save weight. (I still have one Canon 5D mk3 and some lenses for multiple exposure and macro work but the vast majority of my images are made on the Fuji now). It seems to me crazy to have a rucksack which weighs more than the entire camera system it is designed to accommodate. I know the bag is supposed to keep the gear safe, but I think maybe the manufacturers have got just a bit carried away with this. Lets be honest, the vast majority of us are not extreme photographers. While, if we are outdoor and landscape photographers we do venture into wild places, we do not really push the boundaries of human endurance. Some certainly do and they do need the gear to cope with the conditions. Most of us are rarely mor than an hour from the car, often just a few minutes away. And, if we are being honest, we take good care of ourselves and our gear while we are out. We carefully put our bags down and carry them about. We are not in the habit of slinging them down the sides of mountains.
 

 
Hence my discussions with the good people at Trespass. I wanted to look at an alternative approach. I wondered if the world would end if I used a conventional hikers rucksack. They very kindly gave me one of their TWINPEAK DLX 45 litre rucksacks When it arrived the first thing that struck me was just how light it was in comparison with conventional camera rucksacks. It was so refreshing to have a rucksack which was so light. It has a large main compartment for the bulk of your gear, with space for a hydration pack if you wish. Then outside you have two large side pockets (I used one for a water bottle and the other for my gloves, hat & snacks etc). On the Front is a large double zipped pocket in which I placed my Lee Filter system, remote shutter release, tripod tool and all those bits and bobs I need while working in the field. On the outside of this is a mesh pouch. I found myself slipping my lens cloth and lens caps in this temporarily while I was working – it came in quite handy. On the main compartment lid are two zipped pockets which are large and spacious. One is accessed from the inside. I put my valuables into the one accessed from the inside of the bag for extra security and in the one accessed from the outside of the bag I put my head torch, cash for parking, my keys, notebook and pencil etc. What I found was, rather than struggling for space as I normally do with most camera bags, this bag ended up with space to spare.

 

Front view of the Trespass Twinpeak DLX 45


 

I found the strap system very comfortable. The bag is held away from the body with a mesh panel to help prevent moisture build up as you toil along. The waist strap puts much of the load onto the hips for longer walks, taking it off the shoulders which is ergonomically much better and far less tiring. There is also a chest strap to stop the shoulder straps spreading and slipping off the shoulders. The bags is made from 420D mini ripstop polyester and is easy to wipe clean. I liked the orange straps and closures as I could see them easily in low light. A downside for us as photographers with a non-specialist bag like this is there is no tripod support built in. It does have the facility to strap on an ice axe or walking poles but these are not suitable for tripods. I use a small, lightweight tripod and mine fitted inside the rucksack with ease, but I recognise this is not going to work for those of you who have larger tripods, although many carry them separately to their rucksacks anyway, so this may not be an issue. I did like the built-in rain cover for heavy downpours. The material is already rain resistant, but when the weather misbehaves it takes just a couple of seconds to pull out the attached all-over cover to protect your kit. (or to protect your kit when you lay the bag down on a wet beach or muddy moorland).

Using it required a change of approach as the design is quite different to a conventional camera rucksack and so I had to re-think how I would load it and how I would store my gear. Whereas camera bags tend to have a large opening on the back or front, conventional rucksacks like this open on the top and you fill from the bottom up. Therefore, you place at the bottom the things you think you won’t need. For me, it is important to carry a first aid kit. I carry a mountain leaders kit and this went in the base of the DLX. I have never had to use it on a workshop, but it is there just in case. I then found I had room for a sweater (which I used as cushioning for my camera bodies and lenses) with my camera bodies (2) and lenses on top giving me easy access to them. I have my lenses in soft fabric pouches and my camera bodies are wrapped in ‘Skye Skyns’ (people who are regular readers of my blog will know about these) and so they are protected individually in the bag.

 

Trespass Twinpeak DLX 45 rear view showing padded support system and mesh panel.


 

All in all, I am delighted with the bag. I am finding it very versatile, extremely comfortable (especially because it is so light) and it is a joy to have so much space and for that space to be free of the infernal padded dividers which hamper what I want to carry and how I want to carry it. It is so much cheaper than camera rucksacks are these days too. I have had to adjust my thinking and the way I pack my gear and it will not be ideal for all trips or situations, but as a photographer with a bag fetish this is a lovely addition to my collection and I would heartily recommend you give it a try, you might like it as much as I do.

You can see the full range of Trespass rucksacks on their website HERE. Disclosure: Trespass provided me with a rucksack for testing purposes but allowed me to say whatever I wanted about the product.

Posted in Gear Reviews, News, Photography comment, Photography Tips Tagged , , , |

An Apology

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I am writing this blog to apologise. I am apologising about not replying.

You see, almost eleven years ago, when I started teaching workshops I used to say to my students, “if you have got any questions after the workshop, just drop me an email” and this was fine. I enjoy helping people overcome problems they have with their photography, helping them select the right gear or giving some help on good locations to try, so it was no problem to get a couple of emails a month with questions and to answer them.

Little did I realise that over the years the just how the volume of questions would grow. I have now taught somewhere between a thousand and two thousand photographers. (I stopped counting at a thousand). I have nearly four thousand followers on Twitter with more on Facebook and Instagram. Writing for magazines such as Outdoor Photography and On Landscape has increased those who follow what I do and I love social media (especially Twitter) and interacting where I can with like-minded photographers. Many of my customers have become good friends who I now know well too. People also find me via Google searches.

However, the difficulty for me over the last two to three years has been the exponential rise in messages I am getting with questions about all aspects of photography. I get asked about gear (asking for my thoughts on the relative merits on one lens over another, which camera body or system to opt for, which travel tripod to buy and whether to get a ball head or a geared head… etc), locations (people wanting in depth instructions on where to park, where to shoot and where the loo’s are, oh, and can I recommend some accomodation too?), requests for critiques on images (sets of images or even whole websites – imagine the work involved in writing image critiques), printing (advice on papers, inks, which printer to buy and why are they getting a particular error message… ) as well as detailled questions about Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, various plugins and back up strategies.

The methods of contact have proliferated too. I used to just get questions via email. Now, in addition to email, they come via direct message on Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Messenger, Whats App, Text and I even get people ringing me on my mobile (a recent example, is a client who felt it was okay to ring at 7.30pm on an evening with a problem!).

Nearly all of these questions take several minutes to type replies to. Often they can take ten or fifteen minutes or more because of their detailled, technical nature. Many then elicit a reply from the person with further questions. I then find if I answer one question from someone, I seem to become their ‘go-to’ person to ask when they have questions in future. Add to this the sheer volume of them now that I receive. It is not uncommon for me to get several a day. They come, not only from customers, but also from people all over the world just asking for advice. I am often away teaching workshops with no time to respond during the trip and so by the end of a three of four day trip I can have 20, 30 or more questions in various formats waiting for me and this is on top of my actual work which builds up while I am away. To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, I have over 120 unanswered ‘question’ emails in my inbox as of this morning (some are months old) and this is without counting those in other Apps.

This is where the apology comes. I am really sorry, but I just can’t cope anymore. For some time, many have gone unanswered or people have had to wait many days for a response but it has got to the point where it is having a detrimental effect on my personal life. People I love are suffering because I am spending hours on the laptop or mobile phone trying to respond to as many as I can. I am really sad about this as I love helping people and I know they find what little I know to be useful, but I am going to have to stop.

What is most difficult is those of you who I regard as good friends who I have come to know well over the years. Yours are the questions which I always try to bring to the top of the pile because of our relationship and you being such good customers, but even this group has become so large now I am struggling to respond to you all and I feel so guilty about this. I feel even worse when I see you again and I know I remember an unanswered question is lurking on my device somewhere.

So, if you have a question for me of the type I describe, by all means send it. If nothing else, continuing to send me questions will keep me aware of the most useful things I can blog and create PDF’s about. But please don’t expect a reply. If I can I will (please, if the reply is very short with no chit chat – maybe even just a link to the answer I have found for you via Google, understand it is just time that doesn’t allow me to ellaborate etc), but I make no promises. You will have the best chance of an answer if you send it by email. I almost certainly will not respond anymore to questions of this type by Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Whats App, Twitter DM (although if I see a general question in my Twitter stream I can answer in 140 characters, I will), or any other method the Internet comes up with in the future.

What I am going to do is try and identify the most common questions I get asked and then try to find time to write pdf’s with my thoughts on those matters. I will make these available on my website for download. Or I will write blogs on other subjects I get asked about. So you may get an email from my wife, Liz, with a link to these resources to help you, but only if you send the question via my website or to me directly by email. (It is more difficult for me to forward a Whats App, Facebook Messenger or Text to her and then for her to have to find your email to send you the link in answer to your question).

I hope you understand why I feel I have had to take this decision and write this. I have agonised over it for some time but as I stare at an inbox overflowing with unanswered messages (let alone Facebook Messenger or Whats App. I just dare not open them anymore) which I just know I can’t possibly deal with I felt it was the only way I could explain the situation.

Posted in News, Photography Business, Photography comment, Photography Workshops, Social Networking

‘april, may, june and then july’ by Roj Whitelock

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I was felt very privileged some months ago when approached by photographer Roj Whitlock to write a foreword for his photo-essay entitled ‘april, may, june and then july’.

I had seen the images and Roj’s moving writing for the project some months earlier, following the death of his father to cancer, Cyril Henry Whitelock, who lived to be 101 years old. Roa had used walks with his camera in local woodlands as an escape, a diversion, as therapy, as solace during the last months of his fathers life. The images reflect the rollercoaster of emotions and feelings of such a time, which any of us who have supported a friend or loved one through cancer (whatever the outcome) will know all too well. His words add a deep poignancy to the photographs.

Now, Roj, in association with the charity Cancer Research UK, has released his work, both to memorialise his father and to raise some money for a charity which has done and continues to do so much for cancer suffers, survivors as well as in support of hose searching for treatments and cures.

None of us will go through life without either having someone very close to us experience cancer, or without experiencing it ourselves. I feel supporting organisations like Cancer Research UK and individuals like Roj who are raising funds to support such charities is something good for us all to do if we are able, in whatever way we can.

I know you will find the images and the account in Roj’s work both moving and inspiring. If you would like to own a copy and support Cancer Research Uk at the same time, please go to Roj’s website HERE where you can download a copy. Thank you.
 
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Posted in News, Photography comment

‘Fragile’ by Valda Bailey

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Before I start writing my review of ‘Fragile’ by Valda Bailey, I need to declare an interest. Valda is a good friend of mine. We teach workshops on alternative photography techniques for Light & Land and so it is very unlikely this review will be entirely unbiased, but I will try my best.

It is with a sense of pride that I opened this book when it arrived in the post from Triplekite Publishing. You see, I first met Valda on the 15th of August 2011. I can be very precise about that because she had booked me for a one to one – to learn about ICM (intentional camera movement) techniques, and in showing her some of those techniques that day I made an image which has become very popular for me – hence my ease of knowing the date, I just have to look at the raw file metadata. So, here we are, almost five years on, and Valda has gone from student of mine to co-workshop leader and has far surpassed me in her abilities with the camera in creating wonderful images. Indeed, here she has had a book published long before I am even considering such a thing.

I think there can be no more satisfying day for a teacher, than when we see someone we have had a small hand in helping excel and achieve great things. Valda’s creative abilities are nothing to do with me – I could tell from that first day that she was a gifted photographer and artist – but to perhaps have helped in some very small way in showing her techniques and pointing her in the right direction gives a nice feeling.

I had known for a long time the book was in preparation and had even seen some of the images she was planning to include, but I was still very keen to see the final book. When planning and putting something like this together there are so many variables involved, all who have a part in in its creation are never really sure what it will look like until the book is delivered and the ‘wraps taken off’.
 
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‘Fragile’ is part of Triplekites ‘Discovery’ series of books. This series, sold in two editions, is designed to introduce new and emerging photographers or to show new collections from established photographers. All take the same format, so they sit well together on the book shelf, being 240 x 240mm square, printed hardcover with 48 pages and around 24 plates, on a nice high quality lustre paper. The editions come in standard, which is just for those who wish to own the book alone priced at £18.50. The luxury edition comes with a signed print of the cover image for £55 and is limited to an edition of 75 only. A lovely feature of all of Triplekites books is that those who order a copy in advance of printing and publication get to have their names printed in the book. I think this is a great idea. It allows us as supporters of art, photography and publishers to help them make more books like this and it is a way for us to have a part in the book and show your appreciation for the photographer. I love looking down the list of names and seeing many friends listed there who obviously feel as I do.

‘Fragile’ is a perfect title for this body of work. Valda in her artists foreword, describes how “fragility can be conveyed in many ways. It can be expressed with light or shape or colour or movement… it is the embodiment of these characteristics I have tried to portray’. As she says, the book is ‘an investigation into how the most fragile elements seem to have their very existence challenged and their vulnerability magnified when set against the strength and solidity of their surroundings.’
 
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Valda uses multiple exposures and some measure of camera movement to create her art, but the technique is not the important thing. The images are what are important. In this collection we see a breadth of landscapes, abstracts and still life images which allow us to immerse ourselves in colour, shape, form, texture and contrasts. Our minds are allowed to decide for themselves what is going on, to make your own decisions about the locations, the aromas, the wind, the warmth, the cold, the events captured by her camera. The images really move away from being photographs, despite the fact that a camera was used to create them, to being art. The images are not literal representations of things on the whole (although we can often see what literal things were photographed to help create them), rather they are representations, imaginations, dreamscapes – whatever you want to call them. I am always refreshed to see work which allows me to make my own mind up, to allow me to interpret my own stories, images I can lose myself in. So much photography today is about the sharp, detailed representation of absolute reality. It has become about precision, perfection and is so equipment and technique driven. It leaves nothing for the imagination, no where for the brain and soul to explore and relax. Valda’s work provides an oasis from all of this.
 
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Any negatives (in the interests of trying to be even a little unbiased)? Certainly. There are one or two images I would have replaced with others I know of in Valda’s catalogue that I like even more – but then that is just my taste. I am sure many of you would look at those same images and say they must stay and perhaps swap out ones which are my favourites. No author or artist can win when making the final edit as to what should be included or excluded. I always want the books to be bigger, both physically and in number of pages/plates, but I recognise that at this price point and with the high production values of the ‘Discovery’ series that this just isn’t possible. The whole idea of this range is to offer a relatively low cost book to us as collectors while still maintaining quality and showing off a breath of work from the photographer. Other than that, I really find ‘Fragile’ hard to fault.
 
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If you love Valda’s work then this is a ‘must buy’. If you don’t already have it, buy it now – you can BUY IT HERE direct from Triplekite. I would also, while there are still just a few available, recommend you treat yourself to the luxury edition. I can’t imagine a better opportunity to own a genuine, signed print from Valda at, effectively, £36.50 for an A3. I am privileged to print Valda’s work here in the UK and her A3 prints sell for, including P&P, £350.00. Frankly, its a no-brainer.

Incidentally, you can buy prints of Valda’s work, including many images from the book, from THIS PAGE ON MY WEBSITE, FROM A4 to A2 in size.

At the same time as Valda’s book was released, two other books in the ‘Discovery’ series were published. These are ‘Yosemite’ by famous American photographer, Charles Cramer, which you can BUY HERE and ‘Mud | Sand’ by James Osmond which you can BUY HERE. I haven’t seen either book yet but I am sure, looking at the images on the Triplekite website that they are both fantastic.

Posted in Gear Reviews, News, Photography comment

New Dropbox Style Cloud Service I Am Trying – Sync

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I have been looking for a more flexible and better priced service than Dropbox for a while. I think I have found it. It is called Sync. They give you 5GB of free cloud storage, which I am currently testing (and if you USE THIS LINK I think you will get an extra GB, so 6GB in total, and I will get 1GB for referring you – https://www.sync.com/?_sync_refer=de5f7b0 )

The paid service gives you 500GB for $49 a year and 2TB for $98 a year, which is very competitive and will allow me to store virtually all of my data, including all of my images on the service.

You can place the app on all of your devices, desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones. This allows you to access your files anywhere. On desktops and laptops the files are also stored on the computer so you don’t need to have internet access to work on the files. On tablets and smartphones the files are stored on the cloud to save space on your device or you can keep a local copy.

The great thing is, as you work on a file or add a file on any device it is automatically available on all devices. As I am on the road so much it is great being able to work on my files the laptop knowing when I get home the same files will be there up to date on my desktop. No manually copying files backwards and forwards between devices trying to keep things synchronised. What you see is simply a folder on your device called ‘Sync’ You place inside it all the folders and files you want to se across your devices and they will automatically be shared and kept up to date. It really is super simple.

You can also share folders or files with others – emailing them download links, which is ideal for sending large files which are too big to email. (For me, I anticipate this is going to save me my annual subscription to We Transfer, which costs me about the same as the 2TB service on Sync – giving me masses more space and a LOT more functionality).

For people who collaborate on files and folders, this is also possible too, so ideal for team working.

On the security side it is nice to know that Sync cannot see or access your files. They are stored securely, encrypted to a very high level and no one can see them but you or anyone you share specific files or folders with.

I would recommend you at least use the 5GB of free space for some cloud storage and back up of your most important files, especially those you might need when away from home etc. There is no need to pay for extra space unless you decide the service is really useful to you and you want to extend it. If you want to try it, PLEASE USE THIS LINK and get an extra 1GB of free space on top of the standard 5GB

Enjoy!

Posted in Gear Reviews, News, Photography Business, Photography comment, Photography Tips, Software Tips Tagged , , , , , , |

Edgelands – The Floods by Joseph Wright

Every now and then a photo book comes along which is a bit different, a bit special. Today was one of those days. I received my copy of Joseph Wrights ‘Edgelands – The Floods’.

The book is different in several ways. Yes, the images are beautiful, but not in a classic landscape photography way. Joe has chosen o venture into those areas that surround the places we live, the edges and margins of our towns, cities and villages, which most of us tend to ignore or dismiss as ugly, unkempt. The abandoned scrublands, the borderlands or neglect. Some were once used, now left to their own devices. Others are places which have never quite fitted the needs of developers, being the wrong shape, in the wrong place, too wet or perhaps difficult to build on. Nature has no such qualms about these places. Nature quietly gets on with colonising them, plants growing, animals living quiet lives while we rush by.

Joseph has ventured in and started to make sense of the chaos. He has discovered beauty in the confusion and documented this with his 10 x 8 large format camera. Then, he has taken the project in an interesting direction, printing the images at pretty much the same size as his film (8 x 10 inches) for this book. Imagine having a sensor in your camera that is 10 x 8 inches in size. Can you grasp the resolution and detail that would resolve? A 10 x 8 negative has to be seen to be believed and here they produce glorious prints. Joe has then gone on to learn, from none other than grand master John Blakemore, how to sequence the images and hand make them into a book. Joe has individually crafted and bound these books with his own hands. This is truly a craft process. Along the way he has had extensive mentoring from Eddie Ephramus who specialising in helping photographers who want to achieve their creative vision in print and it includes a foreword by Robbie Cowan which is an extract from a work of his based on these ‘edgelands’. The results are stunning.

I invested right at the beginning of the project (Joe ran this as a ‘Kickstarter’ style project to help raise the not inconsiderable funds required), in one of the very limited Collectors Editions, limited to just 30 copies. These came with a signed limited edition print from the project and the book itself enclosed in a beautiful linen covered hand made clam case with another inset image from the project. This inset image is unique to each clam case, so each collectors book becomes a unique item in itself. The collectors editions will never be released again. It is a beautiful thing to own. Seventy copies of the book alone are being made as a standard edition and some of these are still available (I am not sure at this time if any collectors editions are still available – if they are they will be in very short supply). You can read full details and purchase your copy HERE ON JOES WEBSITE.

I think the approach Joe has taken here, making a short run of a hand crafted photo book is a very interesting approach to self publishing. he had the pages produced commercially but hand crafted and assembled the book himself. I like the idea of the book being more of a craft object. It has a nice tactile feel and the hand made element ties in with the analogue approach of large format film photography. It provides another alternative to volume publishing for those looking to get their work before an audience, albeit a smaller one. I am drawn to the intimacy of it, to the deep involvement of the photographer, to the breadth of skills needed. I feel a greater engagement with the artist and the book becomes more of a treasure, an art object rather than being ‘just a book’ (although, never would I want to downplay just how valuable I feel books are). This becomes an object which bridges the gap between a fine wall print or painting and a volume run book. It takes a great investment of time, learning and passion from the photographer (and the team who has supported him) and this shows in the finished artefact. I am a big believer that art must have an artefact.

I have produced a brief video of my Collectors Edition to give you an idea of just how beautiful it is – please take a look.(and please forgive my very amateurish iPhone video skills).

Posted in Gear Reviews, News, Photography comment

How to Travel Light With Your Fuji Camera Gear

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Airlines seem to be making it increasingly difficult for us to travel with our camera gear these days, especially on budget flights. Most of us want to keep our precious cameras and lenses with us in our carry-on bags and yet the size permitted for those bags continues to decrease, as does the amount of weight we are allowed to pack into them.

I have been packing today in readiness to co-lead a workshop tour with David Ward to the Hebridean island of Harris and Lewis. The carry on bag size for the flight to Stornorway is a paltry 40cm x 35cm x 18cm, not exceeding 6kg. Imagine packing a bag that size with a pro-DSLR and a set of lenses. Even if they would fit physically, I’m sure they would exceed the weight restriction.

Enter the Fuji X system. When I need to travel light I can carry all I really need and stay well within even the meanest of baggage restrictions. So what does my ultra-light kit consist of?

I take an X-Pro 1 body as my main camera. If I have space I also carry an X-E2 body as a backup, but if space is limited I risk travelling with just the X-Pro 1. On the X-Pro 1 I have the 18-55mm f/2.8 lens and on the X-E2 the 55-200mm. By travelling with just these two lenses I can shoot almost any type of image I want and have the added advantage of not even having to have to switch lenses – I just grab whichever body has the right lens from my bag. It means I can work at speed in the field. I carry the cameras wrapped in SkyeSkyns chamois leathers for protection. The chamois also have loads of other uses including acting as rain covers, cleaning my gear and so on.

The cropped sensor of the X series cameras means 18mm end of the 18-55mm lens is equivalent to a 27mm on a full frame sensor. Ideally, I would like something just a little wider with me, perhaps closer to 24mm equivalent, but traveling light is all about compromises and so I have learned to work with what I have with me.
 

Here is my light carry on kit

Here is my light carry on kit


 

I put my tripod in my hold luggage (if I am travelling with hold luggage – if I am only taking a carry on bag, I forego the tripod and handhold). My tripod for the Fuji is a small lightweight MeFoto unit with a ball head I loath. (The head, not the tripod. Another compromise I have to accept) I also tend to put my Lee 5evern Filter system and my Hoodman Loupe into my hold luggage to reduce weight and bulk in my carry on. The Lee kit comprises of filter holder and adaptor rings, sets of soft and hard grads along with 2, 3, 6 and 10 stop ND filters and a polariser. Spare batteries and memory cards come with me in the hand luggage, along with my head torch, another multi-purpose essential for travel and landscape photography.

My choice of carry on luggage bag is probably a bit unusual for a landscape/outdoor photographer too. I know most like to use modern high-tech rucksacks and the like. I understand why, waterproof fabrics, strong webbing straps, lots of pockets, hydration tanks, oodles of padding, body shaped ergonomics, Kevlar, – these things could go into space and survive. I find myself being a bit old fashioned. I use a leather bag from ONA (a rather lovely gift from my wife, the ONA ‘BRIXTON’). As soon as it arrived I removed most of the padding and dividers and it suits me just fine. Although ONA say it doesn’t, it actually takes my 15″ MacBook Pro. I can also get my full Fuji kit in, or, when travelling light, my cut down Fuji Kit along with chargers and a few other travel essentials I want on the flight.
 

My beloved ONA bag

My beloved ONA bag


 

I like the thick leather. I like how simple it is and that it doesn’t look like a camera bag. I like the way every time I go on a trip it gets scratched and distressed a bit more and this adds to the patina of the leather. I hope to grow very old with this bag (with my own personal patina aging in harmony;) ) The size is ideal for these restrictive airlines. When loaded with my MacBook, cut down Fuji kit and other flight essentials the outside dimensions are 37 x 27 x 18cm and thats without doing the ‘luggage rack squeeze’ 😉 Because it is small it stops me trying to take too much stuff. It makes me work hard to rationalise between what really is essential and what I just think is essential. (Like Twitters 140 character limit – its amazing how much you can say in 140 characters when you are forced to). So it suits me. Yes, its not as waterproof as modern fabrics. It won’t stop a bullet and on a long schlep into a location my shoulder aches. But I don’t care. I love my bag and it stays.

So, in a couple of hours I set off for Manchester on the first leg of my trip (for a glamorous night in a Premier Inn near the airport – its just a high rolling life for us photographers). I plan to head via Hathersage and see if some colour is lingering in the heather for a few pictures before I settle for the night and my early start in the morning. I just hope I have remembered everything…

Posted in Gear Reviews, Photography comment, Photography Tips Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Triplekite Books New Discovery Series

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Its always a good day when a photography book is delivered at home. Today, three were delivered, making it a very good day. Triplekite Publishing have been hard at work producing the first three in what is planned to be an ongoing series of books under the ‘Discovery’ series.

The stated aim of this series from Triplekite is to produce a ‘cohesive representation of landscape photography’. The plan is to release three books a year, identical in size (240 x 240mm) and page count (48), each with 25 plates which, despite being smaller than Triplekite’s other photography books, will still be made to the same exacting production standards. The plan is to release a further three or four books in the series in 2016.

This initial launch series of three books demonstrates the range of photographers and styles of photography we might see in future publications. We have a landscape ‘mega-star’, Hans Strand, with his book, ‘Intimate I’. Contrasting diametrically with this in image style we have Chris Friel and his collection, ‘Framed’. Finally, we have an emerging talent, Greg Whitton, and his classic mountain landscapes in ‘Mountainscape’.

This willingness to showcase a breadth of photography styles and photographers is refreshing. Too many major publishers cling to commercially safer projects founded on the big names in photography making images in classic styles. The small, independent publishing houses like Triplekite are breathing life into photography by bringing to our attention up and coming photographers with alternative styles of work for us to consider and be inspired by. If we see the value in this it is vital we enable this to continue by supporting these publishers and photographers by buying their books.

I immediately like the concept of a collectable series of books, sized so that they will sit together on the bookshelf. It appeals to the collector in me, as well as satisfying my inner need for tidiness. A while back, Triplekite release a softcover publication entitled ‘Land|Sea’, which was designed to showcase the work of emerging photographers. The concept was good, the production values very high and as a result I suspect the price point was a little too high for the format. Perhaps, also, mixing several photography styles in one volume didn’t sit well with everyone. Some like to choose whose work they collect while others like to own every volume in a series. I have a feeling that approaching the challenge in the way this ‘Discovery’ series does will be far more successful. The production values are very good indeed – the paper used is beautiful, bringing out the rich depth of colour in the images. Triplekite have established a strong relationship and rapport with their printer in Malta and continue to take the trouble (and invest the time and money) to go out to sign off the initial prints. The hard back binding is of excellent quality and I am a fan of printing on the hard cover rather than having a dust jacket.

In each of the brief reviews below I have included a short video flick through of some of the pages from the books to just give you a flavour of what to expect when you receive your copy. I hope you find this helpful. (I sometimes have to refresh my web page to make them appear)

Hans Strand – Intimate I

Hans has published three previous books on landscape photography, one of these which has been hugely successful with Triplekite called ‘Iceland | Above & Beyond’. This new book, the first of a series of three, reveals a different side to his work, shifting the focus from the grand vistas and wider landscape to more intimate details.

In this volume you can feast on images made by a master at work. Hans talks in his introduction about how important the corners of the image are to him and how, by concentrating on getting the composition to sit well in the corners the rest of the composition often falls into place. Sitting down and really studying these images can teach us a lot in how to improve our own compositions, especially of these more intimate studies where there is no horizon line and no sky.

Hans here, using images from the early 1990’s to the present, shows a mastery, not only over light and composition but also over colour, shape and form – all bought together in his images to produce quiet beauty, a tranquility and calmness that makes this a soothing book to study.

I will pick ‘Intimate I’ up regularly to drink in these images and hope one day to be able to take something approaching this good.
 

 

Greg Whitton – Moutainscape

Greg is an emerging photographer, winner of Outdoor Photography magazines the ’Outdoor Photographer of the Year’ title in 2014. His speciality is the high mountains of the UK and he has recently moved to the Midlands to be based centrally in order to reach them more easily.

His approach is not just to visit mountainous areas and photograph them. After all, countless outdoor photographers do that. No, it soon becomes clear when you open ‘Mountainscapes’ that Greg is one of the rare breeds of photographers who is prepared to suffer for his art. He clearly carries his gear high into remote areas, high into the mountains in order to capture views seldom seen. There are relatively few who are prepared to do this to the extent Greg does this, but the rewards can be great as you will see from his images.

Greg must climb in foul weather, many images show it receding (or approaching). He climbs in the cold, most of the images have snow on the hills. Yet, it is clear why he does this as the light and drama this gives to already dramatic scenes is extraordinary. He is clearly privileged to see wonderful moments that most of us mere mortals can only enjoy because he is prepared to endure the deprivations he does.

It is so refreshing to see mountains photographed from high up. I have to confess, almost all of my mountain images are shot from low down (unless, of course, a road happens to go up one). From the heights we get a real sense of the majesty of Snowdonia, Cumbria and Scotland.

For me, the motivation to be out with my camera in changeable weather increased on seeing Gregs work. Surely the images that might be yielded are worth the soaking and the freezing? Just for that glimpse of breathtaking light? This is a book to settle down with on a winters evening in front of the fire, pour a favourite tipple, and think of Greg, because in all likelihood he will be up a mountain somewhere waiting for tomorrows light.
 

 
Chris Friel – Framed

Before I start, I have to declare an interest in this book by Chris Friel. Firstly, in addition to being able to call Chris a good friend, I was privileged to have been asked by Chris to write the foreword for this book. So I have been involved in its production. However, I will try and give you an impartial feel for what to expect from the book.

‘Framed’ is a great example of what the ‘Discovery’ series is designed for, namely, to promote thought provoking projects and work from photographers and artists. Chris has been described as ‘one of the finest contemporary landscape photographers in the UK today’. His work bridges the gap between photography and art, with a distinctly abstract and painterly feel.

This volume showcases a recent project Chris has been pursuing based on a collection of his Intentional Camera Movement Images (ICM) where he moves the camera during the exposure to give a painterly, dreamlike effect to the image. This he has presented with a deep, again, almost painted, frame.

I have loved his work since I first saw it years ago and these images make a fascinating introduction to an alternative approach to landscape photography, in contrast to the other two books in the series. Here you will find a much greater opportunity to find your own story in the images. The lack of sharpness and depth of field, the obscurity and the glimpse of a world beyond the frame all allow us to dream of a world beyond – to use our imaginations, which so much of landscape photography today doesn’t let us do. For me, this is an important book, and the first of many from Chris, I hope, that will show us the world as he sees it.

All of these books are available from the Triplekite website. You can purchase them in three editions. Firstly as a standard edition for £18.50, secondly as a special edition (limited to 50 – book signed, numbered) for £45 which includes a signed A3 limited edition print (#80) or the luxury edition (limited to 30 – book signed, numbered) which includes two signed A3 prints (one #80 and one #30). Just click this link to go to the Triplekite website for more information and to buy books.
 

 

In the interests of full disclosure. I am not paid to write these reviews. I receive a press copy from Triplekite but they do not see my review in advance of publication not do they have any control over what I write. The above link to their website is NOT an affiliate link. I get no commission for sales made on any books sold through the link. In all my reviews of books, gear or companies I always try to be open and honest in everything I say. I will not recommend and publication or product I do not believe in myself.

Posted in Gear Reviews, News, Photography comment

Printing With Fotospeed’s Panoramic Papers & Creating Custom Paper Templates in Lightroom

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Fotospeed are the only fine art paper company I am aware of who provide us with custom made panoramic papers. I shoot a lot of panoramas in my work, both combining exposures in software (now a feature of Lightroom CC as well as Photoshop, a welcome development) and by cropping into a single image to a ratio which yields an image with the characteristic panoramic ‘letterbox’ format. I am not a lover of really wide angle lenses having grown tired of the distortion they produce. I prefer, when I want to show the wide sweep of the landscape, to reveal it in a panorama. (I know wide angle lenses can be used to inject drama into images, but again, I am finding myself moving towards quieter, less dramatic images in my work and so I have sold on my super wide lenses now due to lack of use.

Fotospeeds Panoramic paper range is available in most of its paper types, so you can choose a pack in your favourite paper, or, if you want to experiment, you can buy a test pack which will have four sheets of each of the following papers for you to test. PF Lustre 275, PF Gloss 270, Photo Smooth Pearl 290, Platinum Baryta 300, Platinum Etching 285 and Smooth Cotton 300. They also include, thoughtfully, in the test packs, a single A4 sheet of each paper so that you can print off their pdf test chart to post to them to create a custom ICC profile for your system. I really recommend you take advantage of this free service from Fotospeed rather than just downloading the generic ICC profiles from their website as the custom profiles will save you ink and make proofing much, much easier. The cost of the A4 print and the stamp is well worth it and will be recovered very quickly in ink savings (as well as the stress reduction when you have a tricky image to print!).
 
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I already have custom profiles for the papers I was testing this morning, Platinum Etching and Smooth Cotton 300, two of my favourite Fotospeed papers, and so I was able to get started straight away.
 
The first thing you have to do in Lightroom is set up a custom paper size template. Rather than type the instructions for that, I have created a short video for you to watch here where I talk you through the process and also give you a few other tips. I hope you find it useful. (Please remember to click the cog icon in the bottom right corner of the YouTube video and set the resolution to 1080HD to get the highest quality video)
 

 
My first print, a monochrome panorama on Smooth Cotton 300, came out beautifully. The print quality was exactly as I would expect from my combination of the Epson R2880 and the Fotospeed SC300 paper. The great thing is not having to print on a full sheet of A3 and then having to cut it down after printing. I often found myself either printing two images on one sheet to use up the paper, the second image not really one I needed but printing it just to feel I was using the paper wisely or just printing one image and then having this odd sized bit of paper left that never really got used in the future. The panoramic paper now gives me a quality option, which saves time, and enables me to just get on and print my panoramas without fuss.
 
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By making the paper 210 x 594mm in size it means you can print panoramas without having to use a roll of paper and the 210mm width means they can be printed even if you only have an A4 printer.
 
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You can see the panoramic papers on Fotospeeds website HERE On this page they also have a downloadable guide on how to use the panoramic papers with Photoshop.

If you want to learn more about hard and soft proofing you will find some helpful tips and tricks on THIS BLOG POST of mine.

I have also produced three 90 minute webinar videos on the whole subject of colour management, calibration, sharpening, soft and hard proofing, paper choice and printing. You can DOWNLOAD THEM FROM MY WEBSITE HERE in both low and high resolution videos, entitled ‘Printing & Colour Management parts 1 to 3’.
 

Doug Chinnery is supported by Fotospeed - www.fotospeed.com

Doug Chinnery is supported by Fotospeed – www.fotospeed.com

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