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Middlehurst Sunrise

Phase One XF 100MP Trichromatic, 80mm Schneider lens, f4.5 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 200

One of the wonderful things about writing a blog is that there are lots of different opinions out there. It works both ways, of course. On occasion when I put up an image I’m really pleased with, I get muffled yawns from some viewers, but on this occasion, I’m not really quite sure if I like this image or not! However, someone will, even if it's my mother-in-law!

The image is taken just above (literally) Middlehurst Station in New Zealand on the recent art photography workshop conducted there with Tony Hewitt. We’re just putting together some images with our students for the book that we produce as part of the project, beautifully printed by Momento.

As I write this, I think the photo will be fine as I get to run around eight images in the book. The photograph won’t have to stand alone, but will be one of many different views and angles from five different photographers.

What I like about it is the split-field view – the scenes above and below the rising mist. I also like the colour differential – but I’m also uncomfortable with the same colour differential. It’s possibly a little strong, even if it is what attracts the eye in the first place.

However, as this is the fourth book I have produced on Middlehurst, it’s time to take a deep breath and try some different angles and ideas. The real test is whether or not I still like it next year when we return!

You can see the 'proof sheet' of neighbouring images taken at the same time below.

Tone's River, Middlehurst Station, New Zealand
Phase One A-Series 100MP Trichromatic with 23mm Alpagon lens.

Just back from Middlehurst Station in New Zealand where regular readers will know that Tony Hewitt and I give an art photography workshop each year. It's become such an enjoyable part of our calendar that we're committed to keep it happening.

The photo above proves to me that no matter how many times you go to a location, there's always something new to find. There had been a lot of snow and rain before we arrived, so the rivers were running much more quickly. I was also smart enough to take a pair of waterproof boots with me, so I wandered out into the river and set up my tripod. I was using my Phase One A-Series with its 23mm ultra wide-angle and the new 100MP TriChromatic back.

The camera and lens are around 30 centimetres above the water level, so very close. In Capture One, I have stretched the image a little to make the mountain peaks tower, plus I've used the distortion slider in the lens correction module to straighten up the horizon, but not because the image was distorted! In reality, the horizon looked unnaturally curved because of the way the river was running through the valley, so I used this tool to 'straighten' it up so it looks more 'normal'.

And interestingly, I did all the adjustments within Capture One. The access to layers (like the adjustment brush in Lightroom, but in my opinion, much better) in Capture One as part of the creative process transforms it from just a raw processor into a really useful post-production tool. There are still times when I take my files into Photoshop afterwards, but there are now fewer reasons for doing so.

As part of our workshop, we take an inkjet printer up to Middlehurst, which is no small feat given we have to jam it into the small plane that flies us into the station from Wellington. Each year, Epson has kindly provided us with a printer and Canson has provided us with some paper - thank you Epson and Canson. And yes, I'm a proud Epson and Canson ambassador and these are the brands I use in my studio on a daily basis.

This year we used the A3+ Epson SureColor SC-P600 printer. It's a photo quality printer that in Australia is currently selling for just under $1000. It features 10 inks, the ability to print on a wide range of papers and, importantly, image quality that matches that of its professional range of printers. Printing with the SC-P600 is a dream come true and our student photographers were super impressed by how printing your own photographs really takes the photography experience to another level.

They used Canson Rag Photographique and Aquarelle matte papers, plus my favourite Platine as a semi-gloss surface that is really a lot like traditional darkroom papers. Again, and at the risk of labouring the point, these are the papers both Tony and I like to use for our own exhibition work.

Tony and I are super keen to promote next year's Middlehurst experience and I have a cool little video in production. I'm learning Davinci Resolve and finding it's a really fun piece of software for video producers - but fear not, stills remain my passion! So if you're interested in Middlehurst, now's a good time to start saving your pennies. It's not a cheap holiday, but it includes so many experiences we know you won't be disappointed. Details will be available shortly or you can email us to reserve you a place!

If you had to choose a position from which to photograph a polar bear, it would be down low (rather than from up high looking down, so you feel the power of the animal), and with an uncluttered background (so the polar bear stands out). So you can imagine my excitement when this polar bear decided to go for a stroll along the edge of Storoya, a tiny island in the Svalbard Archipeligo.

I've recently returned from two trips, the first in Svalbard. I travelled with Kevin Raber from Luminous Landscape and a group of keen photographers, some of who outgunned me with their high end telephotos - 500mm f4 and 400mm f2.8 optics were also trained on the above polar bear, but I did have the advantage of shooting it with two cameras.

This image is shot with the Phase One XF and the 100MP Trichromatic back, using a Schneider Kreuznach 240mm lens. It's not the ultimate wildlife camera outfit because the telephoto isn't long enough and the frame rate is too slow, but the shots that I did get are AMAZING. There is no comparing a Phase One file, especially on the new Trichromatic back and I'm loving the way I only need to caress the colour saturation in Capture One to get a colour palette that I'm in love with! Yes, I'm a convert. And yes, all hand-held from a zodiac (as you can see in the photo at the end of the article).

And the other camera? A much more sensible rig: the new Fujifilm X-H1 with its 100-400mm telephoto. Fast frame rate, 24-megapixels, image stabilisation, long telephoto and lots of bells and whistles. No, the results aren't as sharp as my Phase One files, but if you were comparing images on a website, a little bit of clarity and structure in Capture One creates incredibly crisp and impressive photos from the Fujifilm files. However, what really struck me as being quite amazing was the image stabilisation - I was able to shoot incredibly steady video at 400mm from a moving zodiac. It's not locked off like you'd expect from a tripod, but when the foreground is tracking along with the lumbering polar bear, it looks really cool!

To see my novice video efforts from Svalbard, shot with the Fujifilm X-H1 and a GoPro, search Youtube for 'Eastway' and 'Svalbard' or click this link: https://youtu.be/69rP-qnNHjg

And below, check out the photo of the zodiac with the polar bear in the background! It was a great photo opp!

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