Ghosts in the Machines…

Austin-A50-Left-for-Dead

There hasn’t been a lot of work going on in this blog for the last couple of months mostly due to the work that’s been going into Shards Of Arcadia. It’s been taking some time to get some of the back end processes for the online shop running smoothly and additionally picking up a couple of sales. That doesn’t mean this blog is forgotten but as I mentioned in the last post there will be a change of direction for this blog.

Some time ago I was out at a friend’s property taking some shots and came across a few abandoned cars, as seems to be the case quite often on farms. Anyway I was fascinated with the way that the shrubs & bushes had begun to absorb the wrecks and create Car Wraiths. I will print at least a couple of these during my next print session. They make very interesting pieces.

One thing I’ve been doing a lot more of in recent months is printing my photographs. There’s definitely something pleasing about seeing your own work up on a wall in a frame. It gives the photograph another layer of existence. Yes, you can have hundreds up on the internet on a site, but there’s something really satisfying about having done the work in Lightroom and whatever additional post-processing you’ve done to help the original image shine to it’s full potential, then seeing it take a very tangible presence on a wall in a frame that helps it but doesn’t over power it. Also there’s the interesting possibilities when you decided to place a number of prints together in a frame and need to arrange images to give the whole a balance just as important as it is for the composition within a single image.


Trips being Planned…

I’ve been putting together some plans for the next few trips to do some shooting.

Mallacoota
Located on the far east “point” of Victoria, it’s about as far on road as you can go in this State. This seems like to be comprised of two components: a short 4 day trip to scout about and the second part a week long trip staying on a hired Houseboat with a friend. There are apparently plenty of jetties to tie up to at different points about the river & inlet.

Grampians
It doesn’t matter where in the Grampians you go, there’s nothing but awesome scenery to shoot, along with beautiful wildflowers and in particular Orchids.

Otways
Located in the south of Victoria, there is some absolutely amazing Forest & Wildlife to be seen. In particular I’m looking forward to walking out to Sabine Waterfall. It’s an hour’s walk from the road, but approximately 130 metres high, so should be a treat! Apparently there’s a Black Carnivorous Snail that’s rare, apparently endangered, but a real treat if you get to shoot one.

Werribee Gorge
Apparently this is a area abounding with great scenery & walks for all skill levels. Walks go from the easy right through to tough!


“Tying” It All Together…

Amanita-Muscaria

I’ve finally worked out the trick to getting the Stackshot to work as expected with the Camranger. I was concerned that somehow I’d misread of misinterpreted the capability of the Camranger to work with the Stackshot with complete compatibility. I’d been having trouble with trying to discern how to enable the Stackshot to use it’s stepping so I could break out of using the autofocus Focus Stacking function available within the Camranger software and use the Stackshot to it’s full effect. I had been using the Stackshot via its own controller, and getting the desired functionality, but that wasn’t the way I necessarily wanted to be using it. I was wondering if I’d missed an additional component that I would need to purchase. Yet my original research indicated it would work with the equipment I already had, that being the Camranger & the Camranger Pan & Tilt Head.

It appears I’ve missed (up until now) connecting up the Stackshot Controller to the Pan & Tilt Control. Once I realised this, it’s obvious that there was no way for the Stackshot Controller to be talking to the Camranger software on the iPad without such a connection but the Documentation hadn’t really made that connection obvious. Once I’d pondered this little issue of communication for a period of time with a clear head, I began to question the use of the empty port on the Pan & Tilt Control. Once connecting up via a relatively short USB to Mini-USB cable the Stackshot Controller & the Camranger Pan & Tilt Control everything fell into place.

Now the iPad Camranger Software showed a new option available, and I could configure the Stackshot steps, repetitions and distance. This is fantastic coupling of technology and a boon to Macro and Close-up photography.


Tools of the Trade…

Over the next few months I’ll be adding further entries about my use of certain software in my workflow, but for now I’ll just provide a summary below. As the weeks proceed, I’ll add posts about each discussing in detail how they fit into what I am trying to present.

Lightroom 6
I’ve been hooked on Lightroom since Version 3. This is my first port of call in my workflow. RAW files are imported into Lightroom before anything else happens.

Photoshop Elements 13
I have to confess that I don’t use Photoshop at all in my current workflow process.

DXO Optics Pro
I do use this reasonably regularly having bought the Suite at a promotion which saved me 50% on the total price for all three complimentary applications. I have it as an alternative to Lightroom 6 and mainly because in Lightroom I still don’t use a lot of presets in my current workflow. However I do appreciate the presets from DXO Optics Pro, and particularly like to use it when exploring Black & White renditions of particular shots.

DXO Filmpack 5
I don’t use this very often at this stage, although I do often experiment with the various looks on certain shots. I suppose at this stage the majority of my subject matter doesn’t lend itself particularly to benefiting from a film-like quality.

DXO Viewpoint 2
I’ve not really explored the use of this software yet in any of my shots. Haven’t felt the need for it yet.

Photomatrix Pro 5
Although I had an early fling with HDR photography, I’ve not yet returned to exploring that further. My research has indicated that this software would be the best for my particular interests in this area when I get back to experimenting with it.

Helicon Focus
I use this constantly with my regular sorties into Focus-stacking my Macro work.

Helicon 3DViewer
I can’t really comment on this particular bit of software and its uses yet as I don’t use it. It came bundled with my Helicon Focus Pro purchase so I didn’t complain at the time.

Adobe Premier Elements 13
I don’t use this software at this stage as I don’t generally shoot video at this stage. I once again bought it as a package deal with Photoshop Elements 13. Saved me 50% on the price.


Adobe Listens to Feedback…

Well it seems that Adobe has listened to the backlash from consumers over their last update that changed the import process and considerably impacted on a large or at least vocal number of users’ workflow. They’ve rolled back the change so to speak and the import process is now as it used to flow. I’d have to say I’m pleased.


Making Use of Unproductive Downtime…

So further on this 365 Day plan. Having thought about it a bit more, I’ve decided that the Goal should be to spend no more than an hour on the shot each day. That doesn’t include any post production afterwards. Normally that is 5 to 10 minutes maximum. However on Friday (which is the day of the work week scheduled for work on Shards of Arcadia business I will then spruce up the previous week’s collection of shots and post up on Alamy.

This is both an exercise in skill development as well as discipline. I hope, as time goes on that this practice will develop my ability to pull up stock art shots quickly and provide a quality shot in a minimum amount of time in comparison to my more “art focussed” work. Additionally during that period where I’m working on the stock in the Post Production Session, after uploading I shall spend a bit of time researching forums & blogs for what seems to be in demand (or lacking) at the moment. If I can develop some work around those themes, it’s likely something will be in a better position to sell.

Additionally I’m starting another exercise, building a collection of oddities that will serve as inspiration for shots when I’m struggling for an idea. So as I find interesting things that I think that could make an interesting shot, if it’s small enough it will go in the “Rainy Day Shot Box” for inspiration. If it’s too big to go in the box obviously I need to make a note about it in my “Inspiration Journal”. So if I don’t have a project on, or it’s not feasible to be working on one of the Projects, I can reach into either the “RD Shot Box” or the “IJ” for something to work on. Not sure my life can afford many more wasted moments.


365 Day Plan…

I’ve decided that as of next week, starting Monday the 16th November, I’m going to initiate a 365 day plan. It will involve taking a stock art photo every day and putting it up on my Alamy site. The purpose obviously is to get that stock up on that site to start complementing my Shards of Arcadia site. If I follow this plan, that will mean I’ll have close to 400 stock photos up on Alamy within a year. Giving me a much better chance of generating income there.


Using the Camranger

I have to say that I looked at this device a while ago when I realised that Nikon just wasn’t going to put wireless on a lot of it’s cameras for a while yet. It also offered way more possibilities than the Eye-Fi devices did, even though they were handy. I still use them on occasion, for a quick transmission of photos to show someone. The Nikon Wifi units such as the WU-1B or WU-1A themselves seem of little use to me in their current incarnations, and better units cost significantly more but with no better functionality until you reach the $1000 price range.

The best feature for me is of course the iPad application. It allows me to stop cramping myself into some ridiculously tight spots.


Using the Stackshot

Stackshot-with-Nikon-D600-AF-MICRO-NIKKOR-200MM-F4D-IF-ED

This has been a boon to my Macro Shooting. It allows for absolutely startling Focus Stacking. Given that manual focus is the best option for macro shooting most of the time and even if it wasn’t necessarily the best way to go, I’d rather not use the auto focus with my Nikon 200mm F4 Micro. My one criticism of the lens is that the toggle for the manual / autofocus is fragile and the only real plastic on the lens. Others have commented that over time this is a potential failure point. I’d prefer to not use this particular component of the lens at all. I like to leave it set on Manual and not change it at all. There’s really no need given that the Lens was bought specifically because it’s the best Macro Lens Nikon offer at this stage short of Microscopic Technology.


Using the Fujifilm X-T1

General

After having the X-T1 for a few weeks now I’m starting to get the hang of it. I’m still trying to work out one peculiarity of the way it operates when it comes to the shutter speed, but outside of that I’m very happy with it for a *pick up and run, take anywhere* camera.

One of the many features that I appreciate about the X-T1 is the viewfinder. That said, I’m taking a little bit of time to get used to the appearance inside the viewfinder. Being Electronic, it’s got that *digital* appearance that a DSLR viewfinder doesn’t. Sort of like that difference between film vs digital when watching a movie with regard to the original recording medium.

I love the *feel* too. Weighty, comfortable, some dial controls so you can see what’s going on without having to look through the view finder.

Quirks

I suppose it takes a bit of getting used to after getting caught up with the digital camera what are you doing things. But going back to the control dials on the top yet still having control wheels on the front and rear would lead you to think that in manual you can just keep increasing or decreasing the settings at will. This however seems not to be the case.

The more I think about this the more since it makes. Clearly if you were expecting to be setting the shutter speed by the control dial on the top, you don’t really want the control wheel at the front or rear excessively adjusting it after you set it. Hence, the ability to only change the shutter speed by thirds of a stop. So you can increase the shutter speed for one third of a stop, or reduce shutter speed by up to 2/3 of a stop.

Software Compatibility

Interestingly there seems to be some difficulties with Major Software such as Lightroom & DXO.

Lightroom

Lightroom doens’t have profiles for the Lenses as such, apparently they use a built in profile that’s picked up by Lightroom and adjusts accordingly. So apparently it registers a built in profile. ++need to chase up why and how this works asap++ It seems to do it’s job. Whether this will change down the track remains to be seen.

DXO Suite
DXO currently doesn’t have any inbuilt support for these Fujifilm cameras. They cite technical reasons, that at this stage won’t be dealt with by DXO. Their slant seems to be that Fujifilm needs to come up with some solution in partnership with them.