Gadgets & Gizmos

Capturing Nature – Early Scientific Photography At The Australian Museum 1857-1893 might sound a bit historical to a modern photography world, but flipping through this book’s pages, we were surprised by just how many competition winning images over the past 20 years appear to have been inspired by this type of work.

Originally utilitarian in purpose, like many other genres of photography, time has a tendency of turning record photography into something more; sometimes art, sometimes simply inspiration for other work. So even though we were only mildly interested in the history of photography at the Australian Museum, we were very impressed by not only the photographs, but their style and technique. And yes, it’s given us ideas!

As author Vanessa Finney explains, the photographs of Gerard Krefft and Henry Barnes back in the late 19th century, which feature in the book, were ground-breaking, purely from a technical perspective as new techniques and processes needed to be developed to record in minute detail the Australian Museum’s many specimens.

A photograph of a flower would be simple enough, but the giant flipper of a whale (let alone the whale itself ) was quite another matter.

So, as you flip through the pages of this book, you can see how their practical solutions have pioneered and possibly inspired the work of many other photographers over the decades, from advertising to fashion, documentary to art.

And it’s fascinating to read how the photographers tackled new projects and assignments, especially when you reflect on the limited technology available to them. Certainly makes our lives as digital photographers seem incredibly easy!

The book accompanies a free exhibition of photographs by the same name and it is on display until 21 July, 2019. Head to 1 William Street in Sydney, opposite Hyde Park.

The book has a RRP of $49.99 and can be purchased directly from the Museum. You can see more about the exhibition on its website, but to purchase the book, you’ll have to use email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We're not really writing an anti-Photoshop page here, promise! Photoshop is the top dog with a few idiosyncracies and a monthly payment plan of $14.29 including GST in Australia. It also comes with Lightroom, so it is actually very affordable – the same as a cup of coffee each week. Long live Photoshop!

However, for just $99 you can purchase Skylum's Luminar and it's a one-off purchase. It can also be used in conjunction with Photoshop and Lightroom as a plug-in, so you don't need to transfer across to Luminar completely. And while Luminar offers raw file support, it's not clear what will happen in the medium future as new raw file formats are introduced and whether you may eventually need to purchase a new version of the software to support your new camera's new raw format (which is what you do with Lightroom and Capture One).

However, we're looking at Luminar to replace Photoshop. Can it? Photoshop is highly technical, Luminar is highly accessible. Luminar offers layers and masks like Photoshop, but it's not quite as sophisticated in that, for example, channel masks are not offered (but luminosity masking is).

Luminar appears to offer more than Lightroom, but are we comparing it with plain-vanilla Lightroom, or Lightroom with a series of plug-ins, such as the Nik Software series? Luminar is similar in application to both Capture One and Lightroom, but it has a series of features that are already included.

For instance, Luminar boasts an ‘artificial intelligence’ that enhances your image automatically. Is this a good idea? For photographers learning to edit, it's a great idea because it provides a starting point. However, to leave it at that seems a little boring, so Luminar has a full suite of image enhancement and editing tools, generally applied by a slider control, with the effects easily observed immediately on-screen.

Two features promoted to landscape photographers are the AI Sky Enhancer and the Sun Rays – easy as moving some sliders around.

Luminar also offers a cataloging and file management system, which is important to compete with Lightroom and Capture One, and there are over 60 presets or 'looks' to get you started.

There's a 30-day free trial, so certainly worth investigating.

Find out more at

When it comes to editing our photographs, Photoshop has been the leading program for over two decades. However, in terms of popularity, Lightroom must be making a big impact given you can do 80% of what you need to do, without going into Photoshop. How long will it be before you can do everything in Lightroom?

Or in Capture One? The latest version, Capture One 12, offers yet more capabilities with the introduction of luminosity masking as part of its layers menu.

In comparison to Lightroom's adjustment brush and graduated filters, Capture One's adjustment layers are far more user-friendly – and much more similar to the way layers work in Photoshop. The big benefit is that layers can be turned on and off easily in Capture One, whereas in Lightroom it's much more challenging to isolate one of a number of adjustments to see its individual impact.

While Capture One has had adjustment layers for many years, only in version 12 does it offer luminosity masking. It's not as sophisticated as Photoshop or one of the many luminosity masking plug-ins, but it does make creating accurate masks for clearly defined subjects much easier. For instance, isolating a grey seal against a snowy white background is very straightforward – because the tones (the luminosity) in the subject are so different to the tones in the background.

One of the benefits of masks in Capture One is that they are easy to modify, so once you've used the luminosity menu to mask your subject, you can switch to the brush and eraser tools to modify the mask – perhaps removing other areas that have been picked up by the luminosity mask, but are not required.

Other new features include an improved gradient mask, a new radial mask, inclusion of Fujifilm's film simulations and an upgraded interface.

The reality today is you can use Capture One without Photoshop for 90-95% of your work. However, it's not inexpensive with a monthly plan costing $33 (if you commit to at least 12 months, or $39 per month if you don't), or purchasing it outright for $481.

The best way to work out if Capture One is for you is to download the 30-day trial and compare the same raw file processed in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. If you prefer the way Capture One works, you have your answer!

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