Almost Weekly Photo

Back In Bolivia

Cocoi Heron, Rio Yacuma, BoliviaFujifilm X-T3, XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS…

Fashion In Bolivia

Three women, Tiwanaku Ruins, Altiplano, BoliviaPhase One A-series 150MP, 23mm…

A Little Sharpening Still Helps

Glacial Textures, Iceland. Phase One XF IQ150, f3.2 @ 1/2000…

Hilltop monastery, near Haa, Bhutan
Phase One XF 100MP Trichromatic, 240mm Schneider lens, f5.6 @ 1/800 second, ISO 200

One of the limitations of medium format is the lack of a super telephoto lens. In fact, the problem applies to all photographers who don’t own a super telephoto lens. And the solution is the same: crop. We all have more than enough pixels these days to crop our images, sometimes quite severely, and (technically speaking) still come away with a good quality file.

Take a look at the photo above taken near Haa in Bhutan. You’re almost guaranteed one or two days like this on a two week trip, with swirling clouds engulfing towering peaks that in turn dwarf a tiny dwelling or monastery: man’s insignificance in nature.

On this particular day, we were driving up to Chelela from Haa. It seemed every time we turned a corner, there’d be a dzong or a temple partially hidden by clouds. However, the distances were great and I needed to crop, certainly for a small image on social media.

One of the aspects of photography we don’t talk about enough is the size of the photograph when presented for viewing. In the digital world, we have no idea whether our image is going to be looked at on a small, ageing iPhone screen or a brand new EIZO CG318 4K monitor – yet size is important. If you’re looking at these photos on your phone, you might not even notice the temple at first. On the other hand, imagine looking at a one metre tall print on a wall: you’d certainly notice the tiny temple then. So, scale and the physical size of your photograph when viewed is incredibly important.

In this case, for my website and blog, I felt I needed to crop the image quite severely (middle and right) so the small temple is more prominent. On the other hand, the wider crop (left) for a large print would make me very happy!

Come along to Bhutan at the end of this year with David Oliver and me – we have a new itinerary going from west to east Bhutan! For more information, visit the website or click here.

Mountain scenes above the Neumayer Glacier, South Georgia
Phase One XF 100MP Trichromatic, 240mm lens, f4.5 @ 1/800 second, ISO 200.

I’d like to say this simple photo didn’t take me too long to edit, but it did. However, the challenge wasn’t procedural, it was aesthetic. In other words, the physical act of editing the photo hasn’t taken too long, but exploring different colour balances and tonal ranges took quite a bit of time. More than I expected. I think I’m happy with this rendition, but time will tell!

However, with a busy 2019 booked ahead, I am realising that I have a limited capacity for editing my work and so I’m thinking of challenging myself this year: edit everything in Capture One!

This image was done wholly in Capture One 12.

My new year resolution means no Photoshop. Now, before I go too far, there are a few exclusion clauses I’d like to add in. For instance, if I’m working on images for an exhibition or book, then I reserve the right to use Photoshop. But for general purpose work – such as editing images from my trips and posting up shots for the blogs, then I am to keep it quick and simple.

When I analyse the work I do in Photoshop, most of it is broad brush masks. I am not doing much in the way of channel masking, although it will be disappointing not to have access to the blend modes. However, on the plus side, I still have layers in Capture One (which for me personally, are much easier to access than the adjustment brush in Lightroom) and I hope to process more files.

Now, more output isn’t necessarily a good thing. Quality is far more important than quantity, but I am a little frustrated about how few photographs get to see the light of day. I am hoping I can produce portfolios of work that are 95% polished and finished – because that extra 5% of quality might take me an extra 50% in time. I can live with that as an equation – given my ‘get out of jail’ card mentioned before for exhibitions and books.

So, while I still love sitting in Photoshop and I’m very comfortable with the workflow, it’s time to see how far I can push a lowly ‘raw processing’ app!

Patricia Lake, Jasper, Canada
Phase One XF 100MP, 55mm Schneider lens, f11 @ 1/4 second, ISO 50

Is photography changing? I'm currently writing the next issue of Better Photography and I have interviewed New Zealand portrait photographer Tony Carter. Tony has won the New Zealand Professional Photographer of the Year award five or six times now. In the earlier years, he was a digital composite guru, producing the most amazing compositions with fearlessly flawless technique.

In more recent times, he has returned to straight photography. He indicated he even relishes the opportunity to leave a few rough edges in his photographs, rough edges which make the image 'real'. I think I understood him correctly.

The photograph above is of Patricia Lake near Jasper in Canada. It was shot on a PODAS workshop last year (Tony Hewitt and I are leading another tour there next year). When we all bundled out of the bus in the pre-dawn gloaming, we were a little concerned about the low cloud, thinking we might miss the sunrise. We needn't have worried.

As you can see, we got the light. It was picture-postcard perfect - but is it too perfect? Is this just a chocolate box shot? Environmentalists would probably disagree because the evergreen pine trees are being eaten alive by beetles and the 'colourful' reds are not the sign of a healthy forest, unfortunately. And there are rows of houses and hotels behind us, out of sight. So there are some 'untruths' in the beauty, but I'm thinking you at least stopped to have a look exactly because of that beauty.

But too beautiful? I'm not saying this is a perfect photograph, but it's certainly 'pretty'. The question is, where does it sit in modern day photography? Are we over the perfect landscape? Or is there still room?

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