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Photo of the Month – April

Nikon D800
Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8
50mm, 1/200 Sec at f/8,  ISO100
Post Processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic V10.2

Photo of the Month – March

Watch Macro with Profoto A10

Nikon D800
Nikkor 105mm f/2.8
105mm, 1/60 Sec at f/22,  ISO400
Post Processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic V10

Photo of the Month – December

Nikon D800
Nikkor 105mm f/2.8
105mm, 1/200 Sec at f/8,  ISO100
Post Processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic V10

The lovely Alaria who I was supposed to photograph in November but with lock down 2 I cancelled my December shoots and moved the November shoots to December.

Focus Stacking

Fountain Pens

When shooting still life or macro, depth of field is limited. This was shot with daylight, and a little bit of fill flash from a low power studio flash head and a shoot through umbrella.

I wanted to shoot at f/8 which would give me reasonable quality, depth of field and not have the shutter speed drop too much. But even f/8 would not give me enough depth of field. so I decided to have a go at a technique that I had read about and see a landscape photographer user on a Youtube video but never tried my self.

A technique I do use is to merge several images together to create large panoramic. The technique I chose to use this time was to create more depth of field. Its called photostacking and is automated now in Photoshop.

I took several images in succession but focused at different points in the image. After a quick edit for colour, contrast and exposure. I imported these as separate layers into Photoshop.

Once in Photoshop, the first step is to make sure they are all aligned correctly. Now I was shooting on a tripod, but sometimes even the best lens do something called ‘focus breathing’ and the field of view changes ever so slightly.

With each layer selected go, Edit , Auto-Align Layers and I chose Auto. This will then line up everything to the best of its ability.

Now you are ready to merge the layers into a single image layer taking the parts that are in focus from each layer. Its quite easy and automated.

Again with all layers selected, go to Edit and select Auto-Blend Layers.

Select Stack Image and ensure that the Seamless and Content Aware tick boxes are selected.

It will now generate a new layer based on the parts in focus. It will do a reasonable job but will not be perfect, you may have to tweak the layer masks it generates slightly. Save it and go back into Lightroom for a final edit.

Fountain Pens, writing with style

Waterman Hemisphere Fountain Pen

Whilst most people reach for biro when needed to take a note, while I reach for a fountain pen.

Most people would consider a fountain pen and out dated piece of technology. I did not enjoy writing while at school, and it was only in my final years I discovered the enjoyment of writing with a fountain pen.

Watch Macro with Profoto A10

My handwriting has never been good, but I found that using a fountain pen slowed me down, I think more as I write and concentrate more, so my handwriting improved.

I will say if you think a fountain pen will improve your handwriting then you may be in for a shock, it takes care and practice, but for me its been worthwhile.

In the picture at the top is a simple Waterman Hemisphere with a medium steel nib. A simple pen to carry with a notebook, hardy and sturdy.

Still Life – Macro Photography

Macro with Elinchrom Flash

While we were in lockdown due to COVID-19 and I could not shoot at all, not even outdoor shoots, I have been shooting a few still-lifes.

Watch Macro with Profoto A10

With macro photography getting the focus and having enough depth of field are all big issues. These shots were taken handheld, the top shot with one of my Elinchrom flash heads and a small brolly, the second a little hotshoe flash on a light stand and a shoot through brolly.

They could all be better, I should have used a tripod, and the objects I chose to photograph were not perfectly clean, but I encourage you to have a go.

Location Shoots – Wind and Weather

Sophie in Hartsholme Park – Snow included.

Last week was warm and sunny. I had a free day to shoot this week, so booked a model and took them to Hartsholme Park for a sunny days shooting.

After this was all arranged the weather forecast came in; -1 C wind chill with snow showers. Bang goes the idea of a model in a summer dress by the lake. Instead I need to borrow my wife’s long warm wool coat.

For outdoor shoots it always pays to have alternative ideas.

The day was also a learning experience. I was using a small light weight light stand, with a small high powered hotshot flash, and a radio trigger. The light modifier was a 90 cm shoot through umbrella. With the wind and weather this proved tricky, I should have brought a heavy lightstand, sandbags and switched out the umbrella for a small soft box.

Modular Camera – Sigma fp L

Modular cameras have always been a big part of professional gear. Large and Medium format cameras were always highly modular as was the film based Canon F and Nikon F ranges.

Recently Sigma produced their very exciting fp modular camera. With the L mount from the L alliance you have access to the best Leica glass and more affordable glass from other manufactures. It is an interesting concept that deserves to succeed. This new model at 60 MP is quite a beast, and I can see if attracting landscape photographers and maybe a few product and studio cameras.

Nikon Doomed / On the way Up!

There is so much press over the last year that Nikon is doomed. Finally their recent results has resulted in their share price increasing and it was nice to see Nikon sweeping the board in the German Foto Community & Colour Foto awards.

Nikon D200 10 MP DSLR

Its difficult for large companies like Canon and Nikon who are market leaders in digital SLR’s switch to mirrorless, and many would say they are too late to catch Sony, but for existing Canon and Nikon users there is much to temp them with the current mirrorless bodies available from these two big brands.

For myself with a big investment in Nikkor glass, knowing it works well on the mirrorless Z system is something I’ll consider if I jump from the DSLR world.

Coffee Ratios

Classic Coffee and a Leica

With COVID-19 lockdown continuing I have been using the time to improve my coffee brewing.

Mainly espresso and pour over, but even the odd French press (cafetière).

Coffee recipes are often expressed in various terms, scoops of coffee to cups of water, or fluid ounces (often not explaining whether American or imperial). Oh and what is a cup. In Europe a cup of coffee can be anything from a 4 Oz to a 6 Oz cup. In America in fact the west in general it just seems to keep getting bigger. The biggest issue with measuring volume is the fact that different coffee can have more volume than other, plus it depends on grind size.

Most common now is a ratio by weight, for espresso 1:2, one part coffee to two parts output. So for example 14 grams of coffee (an Italian double), and have 28 grams of espresso.

For pour over 1:15 is often the starting place. So one part of coffee to fifteen parts of water.

So ratio by weight is better but who wants to do maths before making coffee, I much prefer grams of coffee per litre of water, a litre of water being 1000 grams.

As a general rule I start at around 60 g per litre for a pour over and maybe a little more for a French press depending on how I am feeling. It makes the calculations easy, a large mug is generally 250 ml so four mugs is a litre, 30 g for two mugs, 15 g for one mug. Also I grind a little finer for a V60 when making amounts up to 250 ml, a little courser for my Kalita Wave, and courser still for my Chemex when brewing over 400 ml.

Knowing that 1 g equals 1 ml of water you can figure out the size of your favourite coffee cup and using the grams per litre measure quickly make yourself a cup of quality coffee first thing in the morning.

Nikon Z9 – Nikon’s first Professional Mirrorless Camera

Its been rumoured for a while and Nikon this week confirmed that it is coming this year.

I expect it tested fully at the Olympics. A lot of people seem to be expecting a D850 type replacement around the £3000 – £4000 mark. While I fully expect a D850 type mirrorless camera to appear this is not it.

I expect this to be similar to the D6 and a similar price, £6000 – £7000; this is going to shock a lot of people but I expect the tech in this will trickle down to cheaper models. I also do not expect it to be a megapixel monster, I suspect 40MP at the most if its going to have the kind of performance News, Sports and Wildlife Photographers need.