B is for Black

No birds that I noticed today. Sorry. I am still captivated by my look back at our Antarctica trip. Most of my bird shots were taken with DSLRs. However it is fair to say that many times it was incredibly useful to have a pocket camera. Many landscapes / seascapes were taken with what is rather disparagingly called a Point and Shoot. These are nowadays anything but P&S. They have the capacity to produce RAW files, they have good lenses and they are often highly customisable. Indeed one blogger I follow bemoans the end of the ‘simple’ camera, the one without all the bells and whistles. Their failing continues to be poor image quality at higher ISOs. This is gradually changing. My Fuji X100s has excellent high ISO image quality but has a fixed 35mm equivalent lens. But for Antarctica I took a camera that was not new. The thinking being that I was likely to expose it to seawater and sub-zero temperatures. If it packed up, so be it. I took my Lumix DMC LX5. Made my Panasonic but with a very decent Leica lens built in.

I set it to take RAW and jpeg files of each shot so if Mrs. Ha wanted to nip down to Fotomax to get some printed she could do so without waiting 3 years for me to process them. When I looked at the RAW files I decided they were a little grainy. That meant of course they were ideal for the black and white conversion treatment. So to prove that you don’t need super-expensive gear to take half decent scenic shots, here are 4 I chose this afternoon.

BW-landscape Outlook-BW Whaling-station-BW BWseascapeAnd finally, if you got this far……….. drum roll:




Toy Boy

Yes, this boy has a new toy. Give boy Fuji toy. After wavering for several weeks I finally capitulated yesterday and bought a Fuji X100s camera. This may seen like a rather frivolous purchase as I already have the original X100. In fairness to both Fuji and me the two are some way apart. It is like upgrading from a Toyota to a Lexus, or a VW to an Audi (only hopefully with better service in the case of the latter but that rant is for another day).

The biggest improvements in my eyes are those revolving around manual focus. The speed is now super slick and Fuji has given us a choice of focus peaking or split image.  The former means that you get little fairy light effects around the elements of the image that are in focus. With the latter you see the image in three parts and when they come together you are focussed – very similar to a rangefinder or  old SLRs. But this can be done very quickly and just for good measure you can programme the camera to give you a focus check. This enlarges the area you are focussing on in the viewfinder or on the LCD and makes your job even easier.

Any road up, I have been slowly recovering after the adrenaline rush of the wedding stopped. It feels like resurfacing from a deep SCUBA dive, not that I have ever done so. Life is now more or less back to normal. We ventured onto the Island yesterday and did some chores and curiously I found myself in a camera shop and Mrs. Ha found herself in a  clothes boutique. And guess what I WON!!! I spent more than Mrs. Ha. Not by much I hasten to add but enough to give me the warm inner glow of triumph. And of course she looks better in her new outfit than I do in my camera.

This morning I simply had to take the X100s out for a spin. I only had an hour and a half and I wanted to practice the manual focussing. I set the camera to shoot RAW files with a monochrome jpeg on the side (B&W with red filter to be precise). This was not about finding great subjects, although that would have been rewarding, I simply wanted to familiarise myself with the camera. Most of the shots you see below have been taken from the jpegs, Some modest cropping to straighten a few and generally I felt I wanted to add a little punch. That meant boosting contrast and clarity. No additional sharpening was applied. The colour images are converted from RAW and simply saved for web.

I hope its the real thing – you can never tell in China.Coke ClearanceWorking The Chinese Opera House going upUnder-Construction2

Under-Construction Local House – one of my favouritesSK-House I’m in charge – but I may not be sharp!Shrine-God The local catPuss Park pathway – ring my bellPathway OtisOtis G’day sport Gday-sport Follow the leaderFollow-my-leader World’s ApartBench Under the banyan treeBanyan-Roots


Just to be clear I would not post a single on of these to any forum. Not even close. And that brings me on to my second point today. I mentioned a while ago that I was doing less on FB and migrating my photos to Google +. And I am doing so. If you don’t believe me, go and check! I even joined a few ‘Communities’. They are certainly active and I have seen some very nice images indeed. Looking at them I have drawn a few learnings.

Most of the images are effectively reworks of things I have seen before. I am not talking about montages or composites but just plain ordinary photographs. Even though they may be of high technical quality, there is remarkably little that I would consider creative. It may well be tough to find a new angle on “a rose” but if so, don’t post.

The ones that do work for me tend to be minimalist – simple, uncluttered, with a clear focal point / subject. “Busy” photos leave me wondering what it is I am supposed to focus on – no pun intended.

Light and colour are vital components of colour images, whereas monochromes can work more through mood. I have been pleasantly surprised how many people prefer to end up with a monochrome image. On balance I see more quality images (again, a personal interpretation) in the B&W galleries than I do in the colour ones. I especially like the Nature in Monochrome community.

I have also decided that I have overdosed on shallow DoF. Why did I use a F0.95 or F1.2 aperture? Because I can! Oooooh, lovely bokeh! My own conclusion is that in many instances the selective focus (deliberately creating what Rough Seas would call the blurred or out of focus bits) does not add to the aesthetics of the image. I need to think more about why I am choosing the F-stop I am.

I have some other thoughts but I shall save those for when I am feeling more combative. And anyway I am tired now. I have to work tomorrow and must do some prep. So that’s it for another thrilling instalment of “All Downhill”. Do come back for more because if you don’t I’ve wasted a lot of time. TTFN.