If you go down to the woods today

Well I was in for not so much of a surprise to be honest.

After a domestic day on Saturday, I was keen to get out even for just a short while to get some fresh air and a change of scene.  When I woke up on Sunday morning it was grey and dismal as any average British winter day, but there was just a hint of a glow in the sky, so I decided an early morning drive around the South Circular to Richmond Park was in order – hoping to find some of the deer that have thrived there since the reign of Charles I.

I’ve never been at this time of the year before; the autumn time is the most popular, because that is the rutting season – and the colours are lovely.  Sadly that is also the season when every camera enthusiast with a huge lens (and bright red kagoule, just to make sure they are doubly irritating) seemingly turns up to surround the poor animals and machine gun a few hundred shots at the highest continuous rate their dSLRs can manage, in the hope that one or two of them will turn out good.  So, no rutting for me on this occasion.  No dSLR with huge lens either (and no continuous shooting).  I did have to frame one or two shots carefully though, to avoid the one other photographer I came across…..who had come complete with the red kagoule!

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These images were all taken with a Fuji X-T1 and 55-200 lens and the combination performed admirably.  Using the electronic shutter is nice too, because the camera is utterly silent in this mode – no noise to disturb the early Sunday morning bird song (and distant thunder of aircraft heading towards Heathrow).

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The images were all shot in raw and processed with Iridient Developer, which seems to do a really nice job now I’m starting to get used to it.  It’s not a complete solution because there are some things that still need to be done in a package like Lightroom (vignetting, for example, if you choose to use it), but it definitely does a great job with demosaicing the Fuji’s X Trans files.

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I don’t actually use the 55-200 lens all that much; as I get older I appear to get wider, sadly in more way than one, but I really should use this telephoto more often; it’s quite a step up from the consumer level zooms I’ve used in other systems in the past, both in terms of build and image quality – I’m always pleasantly surprised when I do give it a try.  I’ve saved probably my favourite image ’til last – I spent quite some time just watching this handsome young stag who really didn’t seem to care terribly much about my presence. What beautiful creatures!  This short wander into the park was a real tonic and highlight of the weekend – a moment to escape the hustle and bustle and just be.

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Cheers,

Jon

 

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Random stuff and some weirdness!

Well I can’t remember ever seeing graffiti inspired by ageing and let’s be honest slightly unfashionable rock band Supertramp before… and then I came across this plastered on the side of a local building on my way to Brixton tube station this week.  The lyrics are from ‘The Logical Song’, a protest against the education system which hit the record players (not ‘turntables’ in those days) all of 35+ years ago.  Funny how the lyrics seem quite appropriate in a different modern context too.

Little did I know that my journey was, however, about to get a whole lot worse…. this was the sight that greeted me once I’d reached the tube – it took nearly 10 minutes to get to the platform.  It was a good service.  Alternative facts.  Reminder to self: need to start cycling to work again soon.

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On a much more pleasant note, however, I recently visited Bristol, where I went to college many decades ago (not so long after The Logical Song had charted, actually) and had a wonderful weekend with a group of friends some of whom I’d barely seen since the  mid-1980s.  It was amazing how, despite so many experiences we’d all variously had over the intervening years, we just clicked, picked up where we’d left off and the time just dissolved.  I think we even convinced ourselves that we’d barely aged… well, until someone rather unhelpfully dug out some old photos from the time and posted a reminder on Facebook.  Reminder to self: don’t read Facebook.

Despite being quite keen on the whole photography thing, I only took a few shots during the trip because catching up with each other was a bigger priority.  We spent a lovely afternoon in and around Clifton and here are a few images around the famous suspension bridge built by Brunel to cross the Avon Gorge:

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And a last thought from Clifton Village before I sign off – couldn’t agree more….

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Cheers,

Jon

Iridient developer

I’m very late to this party.

For a while now, I’ve been using Fuji X Trans cameras but struggling to get the best out of their files when using Lightroom – there’s detail in there which Adobe just doesn’t quite manage to extract, a topic which has been done to death in the photography forums.

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X100S images on the way to Brixton tube station at the start of the first work day after the New Year holiday – processed in Iridient Developer (ProNegHi setting) with a bit of vignetting added afterwards in LR

I waited a while, hoping that the new OnOne Raw product might be the answer – and over time perhaps it will; however the feedback from the first release has been mixed at best, with early users talking about far too many glitches and crashes, and speed of operation which hasn’t lived up to the initial hype.  Some of the X Trans images I’ve seen converted with OnOne Raw look massively over-sharpened to me too, even at default settings.

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I decided to give Iridient Developer a try.  So many people, especially on the Fuji forums, talk about it very highly and the more I read, the more convinced I became.  The sale price until 31 December helped too – an important help given how the Pound has sunk against the Dollar over recent months!  I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface so far, but when I’ve compared the detail in images processed using Iridient with what I can get out of LR, there is a difference – perhaps not one you’d see at normal viewing sizes or on web sized images, but it would certainly impact on larger prints.

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X-T1 plus 55-200 handheld images in Sydenham Hill Woods, mostly taken at lower shutter speeds and higher ISOs than I would have liked

I do like the ability to emulate Fuji’s ‘film simulations’ in Lightroom, and was delighted to see that it is possible to download a similar series of emulations to use in Iridient too – in fact until I’d done that, I wasn’t so happy as I didn’t like the somewhat drab colours that were coming out of the developer by default, as it was then impossible to apply the Adobe profiles to the processed image.  Thankfully the problem wasn’t a problem once I’d done more research.

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And the best source of advice was a superb eBook by Thomas Fitzgerald – a straightforward and invaluable guide which explains how Iridient works in a way that even I could understand, and provides brilliant advice on how to set it up, and how to use it as a Plugin from Lightroom – important as I still want to use the latter for DAM and also for further tweaks (there are some things it does that Iridient cannot – for example vignetting).  The link to the eBook, which is worth every penny of its modest price, is here:

Thomas Fitzgerald Iridient Book

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I’m not going to post comparison images here to show how Iridient measures up with LR or any other convertor (I don’t use any other convertor) because people more capable than me have already done that and they’re easy enough to find via Dr Google.  However, if you are struggling to get the best out of your Fuji X Trans images, then I’d suggest you give it a go – there’s a free demo download to try and I reckon it’s worth spending an hour or two on a winter’s evening to give it a whirl.  I know that I will be using it regularly for my Fuji images from now on.

Cheers,

Jon

 

Do all those years make a difference?

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Every now and again I see posts on the gearhead sites (and some others) harking nostalgically to earlier times in the digital era when cameras were rather less capable than they are now, and asking whether in fact those old models do all most of us actually need.

My posts when I first started this blog did exactly the same thing (Link), and I still regularly extol the virtues of my Olympus E-1, aka the ‘Digital Dinosaur’.  After all, it was originally marketed as a (semi) professional camera and there are many wedding photographers who used them successfully for years.  So yesterday I decided I ought to take it out of recent hibernation and take it for a little drive – into a rather foggy London – to prove to myself that it is still relevant and worth using.

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Positives first – I loved using the camera again; it still fits me like a glove, the build quality is like nothing I’ve used since and it was a very agreeable companion for the afternoon.  If I’m honest, it’s probably the handling and user experience that is really the main thing this old beauty still has going for it.

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The camera still churns out nice colours and has an impressive dynamic range given its age.  Mind you, a foggy day doesn’t really challenge DR all that much.  The fog did, however, really challenge the autofocus system and this was one of the first areas where the age of the E-1 really showed – it’s simply much slower to focus and the small (by current standards) viewfinder doesn’t really help you to know whether it’s got it nailed.  The tiny rear LCD is next to useless too for anything other than giving you an indication of whether the framing of the image is correct.

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So my ‘keeper rate’ wasn’t quite as high as I’d hoped or expected.  Then we get to the issue of how the ‘keeper’ shots stack up with more modern cameras.  Well, at web sizes they’re lovely and when the lighting is good there is no reason why you can’t churn out an excellent A4 print (or larger with some good interpolation software) from the E-1.

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It helps that even the standard 14-54 kit lens that came with the camera is a decent performer too – and you need its relatively fast aperture (f2.8-3.5) to keep the ISO low.  Even at ISO200, noise becomes quite noticeable; at ISO400 it is starting to become destructive, and from ISO800, well, Sir Humphrey would be saying something along the lines of ‘a very courageous decision, Minister…..’.

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I think that may be why – despite its very appealing handling of colour – quite a few of us E-1 aficianados often like to use the camera for monochrome shots; they’re rather more forgiving of its noise characteristics.  Although modern post processing software packages offer much better noise reduction than the equivalents that were around when the E-1 was introduced, they’re not capable of miracles.

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A few years ago, I would have had no hesitation in taking the E-1 as my sole camera for a serious trip of a lifetime – and of course it’s as good as it ever was so if you were heading for a shoot in the sun (erm, to take picture of static or slowish moving subjects) then it would be a fabulous companion.  However, I’ve become accustomed to the capabilities of my newer cameras (none of which are the latest generation and so already heading inevitably towards dinosaur-dom themselves).

For me, I couldn’t bare to part with the E-1 for reasons that are entirely illogical – it’s a lovely Sunday drive and will be brought out for a spin on occasion when the light is good.  But what my experience yesterday showed was that when the going gets tough, newer cameras do make life a lot easier – better viewfinders, vastly improved autofocus, much better noise performance and more resolution mean they can help get excellent results when you really hit the limitations of the early generation of digital cameras.

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So, not quite a swan song for the E-1, but a reluctant acceptance that I don’t think I’d use it as a primary camera any more if I really wanted to depend on the results.  It’s amazing what a few years means in the development of new technologies and the capabilities of digital sensors and cameras have improved astonishingly – the past 15 years or so really have made a difference, and who would have thought it, then?

Cheers,

Jon

The one you have with you

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Many of my phone-photographer friends and work colleagues think I’m just a little bit eccentric for nearly always having an ‘old fashioned’ camera with me on most days.  At my age I think it’s probably OK and possibly compulsory to be eccentric so not a problem…..

Here’s a grab shot from my journey home the other night.  We were walking across Waterloo Bridge when I looked East and saw this scene (actually I saw it a few minutes earlier when the moon was rising behind St Paul’s Cathedral but this was the best of my images).  I wasn’t the only one there by any means… there were several tripods around and lots of what can only have been professional kit (the kind of lenses you normally only see around football pitches or on safari….which come with the kind of prices you make sure are paid by somebody else).  And of course I wasn’t in the slightest bit envious given the camera I normally carry is a fixed wide-angle lens Fuji X100S (OK, maybe a little).  I gave it a bit of extra reach with the TCL convertor which gets it all the way to a standard 50mm field of view in 35mm terms, leant against the railings and gave it my best shot….

I really enjoyed spending about 10 minutes here, trying to get the best composition I could (there’s almost no crop here, it’s pretty much the whole image) and making sure it was as sharp as I could get it.  After a bit of experimentation, I ended up using a low ISO (400) to keep the noise down, a faster aperture than I’d originally planned (f2.8) and an exposure time of 1/4 second.  I’m quite pleased with the end result.

The guy next to me with the kind of lens that comes in its own suitcase got a superb image of the cross on the top of St Paul’s silhouetted against the moon, and was busy sending that to some agency across the Interweb.  But I captured one of my favourite views of London – the city lit up by the river – which I never tire from.  I’ve no doubt I’ll be taking future photographs of this view too, using whatever camera that’s with me at the time – after all as the saying goes, it’s the best one I’ll have.

Hooray – a project!

Been spending rather a lot of spare time decorating recently – I need to get my spare room finished before the Christmas break and family visits.  So, combined with life in general, time for photography has been rare.

Thank goodness for daughters!

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Especially when they have started to study for a graphic design degree, and especially when they have just attended a photography class, and especially when they have a project and thought it would be nice if dad came along too.

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These photographs were all taken around Paddington (above) and Paternoster Square (below), and feature various functional architecture designed by Knight Architects and by Thomas Heatherwick. The photo above is of his ‘rolling bridge’ across Paddington Basin, and is preceded by a photo of the Knight Architects’ Fan Bridge just around the corner.  For further details of these amazing pieces of design see the following links:

Fan Bridge video

Rolling Bridge video

Nearby was the HQ of a well known British department store with Heatherwick designed vents.  Sadly as soon as I took a photo of those, a security guard popped out and asked me to delete them from my memory card because of the ‘Data Protection Act’.  Absolutely bonkers and clearly nothing to do with data protection at all, but we had too much to do to spend ages arguing with him; besides, he didn’t ask my daughter to delete the photos she’d taken and he hadn’t noticed.

At this time of the year it gets dark quickly, so the light had mostly gone by the time we got to our final destination – the Paternoster Vents (also known as Angel’s Wings) close to St Paul’s Cathedral.

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I could have spent a long time here but I was running late for a colleague’s leaving-do from work so grabbed a few quick shots before heading off as it was beer o’clock.  I’ll be back though – it’s walking distance from the hospital where I work and with time and patience I think there are some great images to be made here.

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This little set was also a nice ‘one camera one lens’ project – I was using a Fuji X100S so it only has one focal length and I had to zoom with my feet accordingly.  It’s a lovely camera to use in the city.

Hopefully there’ll be more daughter-inspired projects to come…including some involving film as she has a darkroom at her University and I have my Yashica TL Electro and a load of film from Poundland that needs to be used.  Watch this space.

Cheers,

Jon

I hate Mondays

In my previous post I mentioned the gentrification of Brixton and the way in which many local traders are being evicted from their long-standing shops around the railway arches. Despite a campaign with much local support, the evictions by Network Rail, with support from Lambeth Council, have continued.  Not so long ago, the arch below contained a fishmongers that had been trading for decades.  There are only four family owned businesses left in these arches, and they’re taking Network Rail to court; I only hope they win otherwise another bit of local London history will have disappeared as the place becomes an identikit row of coffee shops, estate agents and mobile phone dealers like so much of the rest of the UK.

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Still, no time for hanging around – I needed to get to work.  In the end that involved some hanging around after all; I couldn’t get on to the tube!  See below.  This is why I should cycle to work more often…..

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Perhaps the week will get better – although as my boiler broke today so there’s no heating or hot water, I might just write this one off!  Just love cold showers at this time of year.  In desperation, it’s getting close to whisky o’clock (in the interest of keeping warm).

(for those interested, both photos from D Lux typ 109 and processed using SilverEfex Pro).

Cheers,

Jon