Friday, 31 May 2013

The one to start it all ..... the Panasonic LX3

Back in January 2008 I bought what I considered to be my first serious digital camera. I had owned small compact cameras with tiny screens and hardly any megapixels at all but tempted by photography as a hobby, I wanted something which might just stretch me a little further. Something which had manual controls, a decent lens, and had the potential to shoot RAW. I might set it to full auto and jpeg to begin with and then experiment as time went on. I also wanted a camera that was small and that I could take anywhere. The idea of any sort of DSLR at that stage just didn't appeal. I remember researching what was available and I finally settled for the Panasonic Lumix LX3. I considered it to be expensive compared to what I had used before but it ticked all the boxes. It even had a 10 mega pixel sensor which at the time was large for what was really just a top of the range compact camera.

The Panasonic LX3 - the one that started it all

With a Leica lens the LX3 had a 2.5x zoom with a wide angle full frame equivalent of 24mm to 60mm, at f2 to f2.8. A switch on the lens gave the option to very quickly change the aspect ratio from 4:3, to 3:2 and finally 16:9. The 'Q' menu also worked very well to change the in camera settings without having to go into the main menu. I was delighted with the performance and one of the very first shots I took was the image below of Bognor Regis Pier. I have only just rediscovered this photo so that I could write this blog entry. To my surprise it was shot in black and white and not converted at a later stage. Perhaps my desire to shoot in mono and my love of black and white goes right back to my very first outing with the LX3!

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'Bognor Regis Pier'
One of the very first images I took with the LX3

To demonstrate the camera's capability I took the shot below in the confectionary department of the famous London store, Fortnum and Mason, in April 2009. Shot as a jpeg with a few minor corrections in Lightroom, it was hand held at f2.0, 1/30th of a second at ISO 200. I was able to print this image onto A3 paper and then using a 50cm x 40cm mount, which is the standard size required by most camera clubs, it was entered into a 'Set Subject' competition called 'Temptation' and awarded 10 out 10. One of my very early club successes.

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'All sorts Sir?
Taken in Fortnum and Mason, April 2009 with the Panasonic LX3

I still have the LX3 and I doubt if I will ever sell it. It's a great little camera capable of really excellent results. I should take it out with me more's very discreet and produces good sharp images. It has been superceded by the LX5 and now the LX7, but for me the LX3 is the camera which started my love of this totally absorbing hobby called photography.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Paper and settings for Epson 3880

When I went on my 'One to One' with Paul Gallagher in the Lake District back in February I was keen to find out more about digital printing. A dark art in photography circles but an absolutely essential skill to learn and understand to produce a well made image on paper.

I really take pleasure in printing my photographs. Yes it can be expensive with printer cartridges costing an arm and a leg but there is nothing quite like seeing a printed photo, mounted, framed and hanging on the wall for others to see. The photo paper is not cheap either, particularly if you choose a 'fine art' paper. There is also a huge choice from gloss to matt, from a smooth finish to a textured one and so the list goes on. The weight or thickness can also vary and is another factor when choosing the right paper. Different images or styles of photography also suit different papers so it can really get quite complicated.

Until today I have almost exclusively been using Ilford Galerie smooth pearl. A 290gsm paper with a lustre finish. My printer, a Canon Pixma Pro 9000 MkII is an excellent printer; it can print up to A3+, but it has one major problem as far as I am concerned. It only has one black ink cartridge and as I almost exclusively print in black and white it cannot produce the quality of print I would like. The reason why this is the case is that in order to print the full range of tones, it simply lays down less black ink to reproduce all the mid tones. Consequently the ink coverage is not as great, which can sometimes lead to a 'blotchy' appearance.

The other issue I had with the Canon was that I couldn't produce a true black and white print, probably because of the single black ink or possibly a driver issue. It always had a slight, almost sepia colour cast. It was fine until you held it against the Epson print using the same paper. There really was quite a difference. If I was going to continue my passion for black and white, then I wanted black and white prints, not something which was very good but in all honesty was second best.

The image I chose for the test of different papers using the Epson 3880

In a desire to improve the quality of my printed work I was naturally interested to see what printer and paper Paul Gallagher used. When I arrived at his studio it didn't take me long to discover that he used an Epson Stylus Pro 3880 and Epson Traditional Photo Paper. I had already read a number of good reviews of this particular printer. It uses four separate inks cartridges to print a black and white image. Photo black, matt black, light black and lastly light, light black. They are 80ml cartridges, so although expensive to purchase initially they work out much cheaper per print than say my existing printer, plus you don't need to replace them so often. As well as being able to print on A2 size paper, it also has a dedicated driver for monochrome printing called Advanced Black and White or ABW for short.

After Paul and I printed a few images using this printer and the ABW settings, I was convinced that if I wanted to take my work to the next level then an upgrade to the Epson 3880 was going to be desirable.

So here we are a few months later and the Epson 3880 is out of its box, set up in my home and a few test prints later and all I can say is - 'what a printer, it's fantastic!' Easy to install, I was printing my first images in no time at all, with I think great results.

Although I like the Ilford Smooth Pearl paper I was keen to try others, so I bought a couple of  test packs from Fotospeed and I started printing. I wanted to ensure I used the same settings for every type of paper, so by way of a record here they are.

The first screen grab is taken from the print settings tab in Lightroom 4. It is of course possible to use Photoshop for printing but I have always found Lightroom an easier program for this purpose. Although I have installed ICC print profiles from Fotospeed these are not required as the Epson driver manages the whole process really well.

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Click on 'print' in Lightroom and the Epson window opens. The screen grab below shows the 'basic' print settings.

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Click on 'Advanced colour settings' and it opens another window specifically for black and white printing. Here are the settings I chose for the test run of different Fotospeed papers. The preview image gives an indication as to how the image will print if any of the settings are changed.

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I chose three matt papers for this initial test to see how they would compare with the Epson Traditional Photo paper used by Paul on his 3880. Firstly Platinum Matt (280gsm), secondly High White Smooth (315gsm) and lastly Natural Smooth Textured Bright White (315gsm). There are others but I wanted to start with these. My first impressions of printing on a Matt paper was very good. In my view they retain excellent tones and detail but do not have the distraction of the 'lustre' finish which has a slightly reflective sheen. I don't think the matt paper will work for every image but for this particular landscape I was delighted with the results.

Of the three papares I did not warm to the High white smooth paper. Despite its name the paper has a 'cream or yellow' tint which is particularly noticeable in the lighter areas of the image. This comment does not apply to the other two papers. Both the Platinum Matt and NTS Bright White produce excellent 'whites and blacks', the main difference being a little more texture in the NTS Bright White, together with the fact that its a slightly thicker paper - 315gsm against 280gsm. There is of course the question of price. For 25 sheets of A3+ paper the Platinum Matt works out at £2.00 per sheet whereas the  NTS Bright White is £2.40 per sheet. Both papers are 100% acid free and have an image life of 85 years.

I will test some more papers as I would like to find two or maybe three fine art papers that would suit the work I am likely to produce in the months ahead. But for now all I can say is how happy I am with the print quality of the Epson 3880 and the ease with which I have been able to print something which is more than acceptable to me.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

And the winner is......?

Not me!

Unfortunately I did not repeat my successes of last year and went home empty handed from the final camera club meeting of the season, apart from a 'highly commended' certificate for 'Remains of the Jetty' and two of my other entries were short listed.

Far from being disheartened I am delighted with my results this season. I may not have carried away any trophies but I did finish second in the Print League and third in the Projected Image League. Given that I was only promoted to the 'A' division this time last year, I am surprised to have done this well.

The new season will start again in September and I shall continue to do what I most enjoy in the meantime. Being outdoors and making the images which give me so much pleasure.

Yesterday was a good example of how I like to spend my time. I needed to go down to Dorset, so having completed all the jobs I had to do, I pointed the car in the direction of Lulworth  and in particular headed for Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast. This 'iconic' spot is much photographed but I have only visited this location once before a number of years ago when a) I was not very well and b) I had not caught the photo bug. I recovered from my illness but I can't shake off the other bug I am pleased to say!

Durdle Door
Durdle Door

The weather was very mixed, one minute clouds, the next minute blue sky and some much needed sunshine of early summer. It was cold for the time of year as well but this was a distinct advantage to me, as it discouraged people from being on the beach.

On the eastern side of Durdle Door is a lovely cove which forms part of St Oswald's Bay. From here you can look down the coastline towards Lulworth and another famous beauty spot in this part of the world - namely Lulworth Cove.

As the shower clouds passed through the light caught the cliff face which resulted in the image below.

St Oswalds Bay
St Oswald's Bay

Dorset has so many wonderful areas to explore with a camera, so I am sure it will not be long before I re-visit this very special part of the world.

Whether or not these two images go forward for as competition entries next season remains to be seen, for now I am just happy to have added them to my collection.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Last club meeting tonight.......

It's been a good club season as far as I am concerned and I do feel my photography has improved as the year has progressed. Tonight is the last meeting of the year and it's the evening when a judge chooses the Print and Projected Image of the year. Last year I was fortunate enough to win the PI of the year. I doubt I will be so lucky tonight - but who knows?

Its been a tough choice deciding which two images to put forward in each category. As long as they were submitted for club competitions this season, then how many marks they scored is immaterial. After all one judge can give a photograph 10 out of 10 one evening, whilst another judge might give the same image 8 out of 10 the next. It's that subjective and whatever the score, I don't think I or others should be discouraged by  a poor mark, any more than we should be too elated when awarded the highest score. It's only natural that we would all prefer 10 marks and not 8 - just don't lose too much sleep over it though.

What's more important is taking or making an image which pleases you, the photographer. If it gives pleasure to others and scores well in club competitions, then all well and good. If you like the image and enjoyed all that went in to producing the finished result, then I think that is the best result of all.

So here is my selection.

Firstly the two Projected Images.

Sand dunes at East Head - version 2 'flipped'


.....and secondly the two prints.

Arches in Reflection - Salisbury Cathedral

An Artist drawing one of the Silver Arrows

And the winner is? ....... the results will be posted in the next blog entry.

PS - Did anyone mention that of course I would like to win!!!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Hooksway Round

The weather so far this year has been quite poor and as a consequence Spring has been delayed. It's also quite often the case that when a Bank Holiday appears on the calendar, the forecast is for wet and windy weather, just when most people are looking forward to a long weekend or extended break. Fortunately this was not the case at the beginning of May. The skies cleared, the sun shone and the temperature rose. An ideal time to explore the beautiful countryside near where we live.

So I headed out with my camera and trusty walking stick which is made from twisted hazel with an antler handle, sourced from Islay in Scotland.

Walking stick
My trusty stick and the path ahead

I decided to follow a walk I had done many times in the past but for one reason or another had not undertaken recently. The walk starts in Hooksway just north of Chilgrove and after about a 3/4 mile joins the South Downs Way. As I walked along the Way I could clearly see Buriton Farm to the left with Pen Hill in the distance.

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Buriton Farm with Pen Hill on the horizon

Towards Pen Hill
The approach to Pen Hill

The Way leads to the top of Pen Hill and I was instantly drawn to the three trees which are on the path, with chalk and flint fields on either side.

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Pen Hill and three trees

After about two miles into the walk, I left the Way and took the bridleway through a delightful avenue lined with beech trees before returning to Hooksway.

Avenue of Beech Trees
Beech lined avenue near Telegraph House

Four and a quarter miles in total and a really lovely way to combine two of my pleasures in life - walking in glorious countryside with a stick in one hand and a camera in the other..... for my photography of course!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Now for sale on Getty Images

Just over a week ago I received a very unexpected email. It was from Getty Images via Flickr and it simply said that they had identified twenty of my images which they would like to licence for sale through their Getty Images site.

My initial reaction was one of surprise, then I felt flattered after which I started to think about the implications. I had obviously heard of Getty Images, it's world famous, but the number of images for sale must run into millions, so the chances of one of my images being selected by a buyer or publisher must be very slim.

Then the questions started. Did I want to enter into a legal agreement with Getty? What would be the benefit? How much might I earn from a single sale? Would it be worth all the bother for little or more likely, no return? Were there better photo stock libraries I should consider using before making a commitment? Would I need a model release for any of the images which included people?

I talked to a few people I knew and read the pros and cons on one or two forums on the internet. In the end I decided that I had nothing to lose and that I would register as a Getty Contributor and in effect 'go for it!' After all, photography is not my profession, I am simply a very enthusiastic amateur and if I receive any royalties, at least it would help fund what is turning into a rather expensive hobby. Given how much commission they pay the photographer, it will definitely not make rich.

I also established that if I wanted to publish a book of my own work in the future, that providing the numbers sold didn't exceed 500, then I could include images which were licensed to Getty. Chance would be a fine thing I thought! I could also enter a 'Getty image' into a competition,  - LPOTY for example - without it contravening the agreement.

So today I started the process of uploading the first few images of the twenty they had selected. This proved to be a quite straight forward process and now the first of my images is for sale on their site......and just to prove it, here is a screen grab of a Gardener at West Dean Gardens which I shot lost year.

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I shall continue uploading some more images, and keep my eyes open for the first sale.......I will not be holding my breath though, nor giving up the day job!

I have of course been wondering how they came to notice my Photostream on Flickr. Well it has to be the 'Lone Sheep' image on the Flickr Blog which appeared a week of so ago and I wrote about in my last blog entry.