Sunday, April 23, 2017

Nothing stays the same

While I may have played around with video cameras in the past, I have always been strict that my working camera was photos only. The trend of having cameras that can shoot photos and video struck me as a compromise; where both "sides" were not optimal.

But as time has passed, I am understanding the appeal more and more. There are times when a still image can't convey the scene to it's maximum and being able to quickly switch over to video would be very advantageous.

Now, as regular readers will know, I currently shoot with a rather aged Nikon DSLR. One that does not have video. I do however have a little pocket sized Sony that does have video on it. Which is all well and good but the image quality is not really there for publishing and/printing. It only shoots in JPG and to me, "overcooks" the image processing. Anyway, I would rather have everything in the one body to keep a consistent look and feel. Plus, the lack of switching between cameras means less to carry, which my shoulders would be very appreciative of.

Of course, this will nescesitate upgrading my primary camera. Which is financially out of reach at the moment, but it does give me a chance to decide on what upgrade path to take. I am currently shooting a DX format camera and am wanting to go "full frame" so whichever route I take will eventually mean all new lenses too. So I am also considering switching brands! (shocked face)

Ever since I really got into photography, and reading photo magazines, I dreamt of owning Nikon gear. And for the last 10 years of so I have. Yet today I am not sure if I want to keep on going down that route. Currently there is only one Nikon body I feel would meet my needs; and even it is starting to age, with no signs of a refresh or redesign. That and the fact Nikon no longer seems to be innovating, plus a slew of quality control issues with several bodies makes me feel like looking elsewhere.

Now I can hear some of you saying go Canon. And while they are good cameras, plus currently​ the number 1 brand with professionals, they are also not really innovating. And yes, I did consider switching to Canon but ultimately decided against it.

In fact, my current train of thought is a little more radical. I'm looking at going "mirrorless" and switching to Sony. The a7 II (a7R II or a7 II) bodies from Sony are looking really interesting and with the latest firmware, they have overcome a lot of the initial issues. And with the release of their new a9 body, they are seriously becoming a contender in the professional arena. Also, they are continuing to expand their lens collection; they already have the the three lenses I would be wanting, covering 16mm through 200mm. And on top of that, the overall costs would be pretty similar to what I would be looking at by sticking with Nikon or switching​ to Canon.

There is also one other reason I'm looking at Sony. They have a great app for my phone and tablet that provides full remote control of their cameras. No more having to purchase or carry separate remote controls is a nice prospect. It also means, if I shoot in JPG format, I can transfer images straight out of the camera and post to Instagram. A interesting proposition to traveling light and not having to pull out my laptop to download, edit and then in turn transfer the images to my phone so that I can share them.

Anyway, this is all a "pipedream" at the moment until I can gather the funds to upgrade. Who knows, Nikon may surprise me and tempt me to stay. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Back to basics

I've been undertaking a lot of introspection lately and revisiting where it all began for me and photography. At times the acquisition of new gear and the pursuit of new styles, techniques and attempts to specialize can distance you from your true, creative spark.

Without belaboring the point, I have been deconstructing my work and working to retrain my creative eye. Examining pattern, color, texture, as well as tone and contrast of black and white images. I'm also not setting any particular genre to what I photograph as I want to not set any artificial restrictions on myself.

Now I know that this is not necessarily going to producing many spectacular images or much to share here or on my website but that's not my intention anyway. This is something that should lead to new work, mainly projects for myself to build my portfolio and website.

The first couple of images in all this came by way of my macro lens. Both were images taken in natural light and utilizing long exposures to achieve the needed depth of field. The first of these is of a maple tree seed where I wanted to capture the texture and subtle coloring.

maple seed


The second image was more for color and shape and to add an extra challenge to the natural light long exposure is that this was a honeysuckle flower outdoors. Took several attempts before the wind was still enough to not affect the image.

honeysuckle flower

And then on a more mundane level, I finally completed setting up SEO on my new website. It was something I kept telling myself I needed to do but kept putting off. Well, I can now report back that it is complete. I even went as far as setting up website analytics so I can see how well it is doing and if I need to fine tune anything.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Changes....complete, or almost.

It's done! My newly created, newly redesigned website is live and hosted by Wix.com; no more trying to make do with a GoDaddy website.

The differences in building a website with each host is like night and day. While I always struggled to make things look good on GoDaddy, Wix made everything simple and easy to do. They even automatically created a mobile version of my site. Now, admittedly I don't have everything complete; images need captioning, SEO needs setting up, and likely several other different little tweaks will get made; but the main thing is the site is now live and much improved.

One other thing that I am pondering is how best to proceed with this blog. Currently it is still being hosted on Blogger and is "mirrored" on my website via the use of a Blogger app. But the thing is, the app doesn't look that great. If I can't give it a more polished look I may look into setting up my custom domain in the Blogger settings and hosting the blog from my website.

Whatever I choose to do next, I hope you stay tuned and join me as I push forward with my new and improved web presence. I also have plans to offer a storefront to allow the easy purchase of prints. The future is definitely looking better, in many ways.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Change, change, change

I can never make my mind up as to whether change is a good or bad thing. This is not helped any by there seeming to be so many (albeit small) changes I've needed to address lately.

Chief among them is that I have recently overhauled my image editing processes. This has been a somewhat, drawn out process but I'm glad to move on from doing everything in Lightroom. I'd have to say a big contributor to this has been my acquisition of the Nik Collection; and my getting around to fully exploring it. Now instead of making a lot of edits directly in Lightroom, I am using Dfine for noise reduction and Sharpening Pro (output) for final sharpening. These two tools are miles ahead of the adjustments within Lightroom and the resulting images are much improved. And on the subject of Lightroom; it has a weird habit of skewing the colors when importing NEF RAW files from my cameras. Testing out the different Camera Calibration settings certainly pays off and using the Camera Standard setting gives my more vibrant (and red) reds. No more orange tinted reds!

Oh, and while on the subject of the Nik Collection, I have to mention Silver Efex Pro! I am loving the B/W conversions I can do with the software. I've even created my own custom preset so I can quickly replicate the look across any image. In my opinion it is the best B/W convertor available.

The other big change is concerning my online presence, as GoDaddy has completely changed their website building software and "obsoleted" my website. Now I know that I need to redesign and update my website but I do not like their new software, which is clunky and not the most intuitive. Of course, I already have a sore spot where they're concerned and their poor Mac support; hence why this blog is no longer hosted on their domain. So, I'm now looking into alternate hosts and platforms to start fresh and bring my website and blog back together. I'm also no longer considering a free solution as, unsurprisingly, you do get what you pay for.

I can't really talk about image editing and workflow changes without providing some samples, so here are a couple of images from my recent trip to Pikes Peak in Colorado. Regular visitors to my blog will recognize them, as I did post the color image previously; albeit with my "old" image editing workflow settings. Hopefully you can see the changes in the finished image.

train in color

And here 's the same image after running it through Silver Efex Pro and my custom preset.

train in b/w

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Traveling more

While 2016 has been a year of change for most people, for me it has provided me the opportunities to travel more. Regular readers will already know of my recent vehicle change to a Ford F150, which with our 16ft travel trailer, has provided a home base for several camping trips.

June saw us camping for a few days at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Oklahoma.  And while I did not take a lot of photographs, I did enjoy the chance to escape the "rat race" and watch the sunsets over the lake while walking my dogs.
Sunset

August saw us off to Colorado Springs for a long weekend; primarily to visit the Tiny House Jamboree. But it also provided an opportunity to visit the popular attraction of Pikes Peak. The views while driving up (and down) Pikes Peak were amazing and the summit provided some great views . While here I did take a 360 panorama but for some still unknown (to me) reason, I have not been able (yet) to process it successfully and get all the elements to align correctly.
Train

Train

View

December saw us off to spend a long weekend at Beavers Bend near Broken Bow, OK. It was a great change of pace to spend not only my birthday, but also the new year away from the "rat race". And while it may not have been the most photogenic of locations, I still enjoyed wandering around, either walking my dogs, or carrying my camera to see what I could find. Was also great to experience a selection of different visitors to our camp site: crows, squirrels, woodpeckers, raccoons. And to also spot some deer in the distance while hiking one of the trails; although Jax thought he was up to the task of hunting down a full grown deer! And while he wasn't able to go off in pursuit, he did manage to scare them off with his "battle cry".
Woodpecker

Reflection

Reflection

Crow

Squirrel
Hole
Fungus

Stump

Tree

I still need to work more on balancing my personal time and my photography time. Currently I'm still not spending as much time with my camera and photography as I would like but 2017 should see a resurgence of my work, as I make a greater effort to shake off my creative blocks and my technology burn out. Hopefully I can also shake off the carpal tunnel issues I've been suffering lately too.