Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitude

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Stairs Mountain.

It’s been several years since I spent my first night alone in the wilderness. This is where I slept, high atop the cliff face of Stairs Mountain, deep in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. Peace, quite, solitude, with awe inspiring views in almost any direction.

The last thing I saw before before closing the flap on my tent in the night and the first thing I saw when I emerged in the morning, the beauty of the mountains.

That’s enough.

Should you get the chance, I highly recommend at least one solo wilderness camping trip.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

Happy First Day of Winter Everyone!

Get outside and enjoy the snow and ice.

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For those of you in the southern hemisphere, have a great summer!

(Too bad you’re missing out on all the winter fun) 🙂

Sleeklens, Lightroom Workflow Made Easy(er).

Finish your photos faster.

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About a month ago the good people at Sleeklens asked me if I would be interested in trying out some of their workflow products for Lightroom and Photoshop. I figured anything that could speed up my workflow was worth trying, so I agreed to take a look at their Through the Woods collection of presets and adjustment brushes.

Due to the hectic Holiday Season being upon us this is just a brief overview and my initial impressions. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review.

First a few words of disclosure. I am not in any way affiliated with, nor do I receive any monetary gain from using/reviewing/promoting their products, however I was provided the Through The Woods workflow bundle free of charge.  

Tools to help speed up your landscape workflow.

The Through the Woods bundle consists of 50 landscape presets and 30 adjustment brushes that can greatly speed your image enhancement workflow.

The presets are divided into 7 separate categories, All-In-One, Base, Exposure, Color Correct, Tone/Tint, Polish, and Vignette. The majority of the presets are stackable, allowing you to globally add effects to your photos.

The 30 adjustment brushes ranging from Add Golden Sun to Darken Shadows can be used to further enhance your images in a more selective fashion by controlling the size and opacity.

The results speak for themselves.

Below are a few before and after images, none of which took more than a few minutes to go from the straight out of camera before to the finished after.

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Before

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After

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Before

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After

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After

Even though I haven’t had a chance to really dig into these presets and brushes, so far I’m impressed with the results I was able to get with just a few clicks and a few brush strokes.

For more information on the workflow products offered by Sleeklens you can visit them at the following links.

Through the Woods Workflow  This is the one I used for the above images.

Lightroom Presets Here you’ll find a complete collection of the workflow products offered by Sleeklens.

Image Editing Service If you’re too busy to enhance your own photos, or maybe you’ve got a photo you’re having a problem with, let the experts at Sleeklens handle the task for you with their image editing service.

The last word, for now.

As with any other Lightroom presets the presets offered by Sleeklens don’t all work perfectly on every image. Once applied you may need to go to the adjustment panel and play around with the sliders a bit in order the fine tune the preset to each individual image.

Are they worth it? To that I answer your question with a question, what is less time behind the computer worth to you? The Through the Woods collection sells for $39, and based on the time I can see the presets saving me is quite a deal.

The X Factor.

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I’m done with Canon.

After a long run and many great experiences, I’ve parted ways with my Canon cameras and lenses. This is something that I never thought I would do. I loved the image quality I got from every Canon camera from my first 40D to the 5D MkIII that until recently had been my workhorse camera. There was almost nothing I didn’t like about Canon.

Almost.

The one downside was the size and weight of the camera and lenses. As you know I photograph locations here in New Hampshire that require long hikes on steep terrain miles into the mountains. The big DSLRs and lenses was really starting to weigh me down.

Still, I hadn’t really been considering a change.

It happened on a whim.

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The beginning of the end, the Fujifilm X-Pro1.

It was a spur of the moment purchase that, while I didn’t realize it at the time, was the beginning of the end of my days with Canon.

I just happened to be scrolling through the latest items up for sale in a used photography gear swap/selling group I belong two on Facebook, when I came across a Fujifilm X-Pro1 with the XF18-55 “kit” lens.

Up until this point I had only been vaguely aware of Fujifilm cameras. My good friend Joe had one of their X100 series cameras and was producing great images with it. Other than that I knew nothing about them. With a trip Disney coming up, in the back of my mind I had been thinking a small camera that offered more control than my iPhone that wasn’t as big and heavy as my Canon cameras would be nice to have. The price was right, so thinking this might be a great little camera to carry with me for 10 days in Disney, I contacted the seller and worked out a deal.

Love at first sight.

Up to this point I had never even seen a Fujifilm camera up close, so when the X-Pro1 arrived I was shocked at how tiny it actually was compared to my 5D MkIII. It was almost cute by comparison. I loved the size of it though. The Fuji X-Pro1 with lens attached weighed about the same, maybe even less than my smallest and lightest Canon lens, the EF17-40 F/4L.

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I never took a side by side photo of the X-Pro1 and my Canon, so here’s a side by side comparison of my Fujifilm X-T2(which is actually a little bigger than the X-Pro1) and the camera it replaced, the Canon 5D MkIII.

 

The only thing that concerned me about this little camera was the fact that it’s a rangefinder style camera. Instead of looking through the lens like on a DSLR style camera the X-Pro1 has an optical viewfinder to to the left of the lens that when you look through you actually see the side of the lens in the viewfinder. That was definitely weird at first and took some getting used to.

Thank goodness for the internet, because while waiting for the camera to arrive I was able to do a lot of reading up on how to use a camera style quite different from my DSLR made by a company who’s gear I have never used before. Good thing too since the camera didn’t arrive until the day before we left for our Disney vacation!

Hints of things to come, and things to go.

On our fist day in the Magic Kingdom I decided to bring the Fuji and leave the Canon back at the hotel. After having lugged around a big heavy DSLR for the last 8+ years I have to say carrying the X-Pro1 was an absolute joy. It was so small and light that I almost forgot I was carrying it.

Over the next 10 days I only reached for my Canon twice. Both times I was wishing I had left it back in the hotel and took the Fuji.

Sensor size and image quality.

Yes, I did “downgrade” from a full frame sensor size in the 5D MkIII to an APS-C, or crop sensor, camera. To be perfectly honest I never have and still don’t feel I needed a full frame camera. Not once have I ever looked at any of my earlier photos and thought, “Gee, that would have been so much better had it been shot on a full frame.”

What about noise? What about it? Noise doesn’t concern me in the least. As Rick Sammon likes to say, “If a picture’s so boring you notice the noise, you’ve got a boring picture!” One thing I will say regarding noise, from my totally non-scientific comparisons I feel the going on 5 year old X-Pro1 handles noise better than the 5D MkIII. And the X-T2 that is now my main camera body is lightyears ahead of the X-Pro1 in technology so I expect even better high ISO performance.

Below is a slideshow of a random sample of images I captured using the Fujifilm X-Pro1. I shot everything and nothing in particular, but I was very pleased with the results I got. Enough so that as soon as I got home I ordered the X-T2 and sold off all of my Canon gear.

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Magical Chaos.

Main Street USA, Magic KingdomThe Sights. 

The Sounds.

The Magic.

The Crowds. 

Chaos in the Magic Kingdom(and other Disney Parks too!). 

 

Water Wet

H2O

For this week the Weekly Photo Challenge theme is good old H2O. As a landscape photographer water is the prevailing theme in many of my photographs. When looking through my photos trying to decide which photos to include in this post it appears that roughly three quarters of my photos contain water in one form or another.

Here are a few wet examples, followed by a few tips for making your own watery photos.

 

Tips for photographing the wet stuff.

1 ~ First and foremost, use a good quality circular polarizing filter, or CPL. If you only ever buy one filter make sure the CPL is it. It’s the one filter that cannot be duplicated digitally. They’re great for reducing or eliminating unwanted glare and reflections from wet rocks, leaves, and the surface of the water, thus allowing you to see through the surface of the water to what’s on the bottom.

2 ~ Don’t be afraid of a little rain. Most camera, whether they are listed as “weather sealed” or not are quite capable of withstanding a sprinkle or two. I always carry a small pack towel in my camera bag on the days I venture out when theres wain in the forecast.

Speaking of towels, dab don’t wipe the water off of your camera. Wiping could force the water into places that won’t make the camera happy.

3 ~ If it’s raining out use a lens hood to help keep raindrops from landing on the front element of your lens. Even when using a lens hood you should check the front element often and carry a clean microfiber lens cloth to wipe away any raindrops.

4 ~ When photographing water in its frozen form be sure to acclimate your camera slowly when you bring it inside after being out in the cold. The condensation that can form on, even worse in your camera again won’t make your camera very happy. I use two methods to deal with this. One is to put your camera in a large ziplock bag. Force as much air as possible out of the bag before sealing it. This way condensation will form on the outside of the bag, not your camera. The second is to simply put your camera in your camera bag and close it up, this is the method I use most. The padding on the camera bags act as insulation allowing the camera to slowly acclimate. Of course take your memory card out before hand so you do’t have to wait to upload your masterpieces.

Note: Tip #4 also applies to taking your camera from an air conditioned space out into hot humid weather.