Light and Landscape Magazine - Issue 11 (Sketching Landscapes)

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The latest issue (issue 11) of Light and Landscape Magazine is now live! 

Click on the link below to take you through to the website where you can download the latest issue onto your iPad.

http://www.lightandlandscapemagazine.com

This issue contains an article that I wrote called "Sketching Landscapes", where I discuss the value of editing your images as you shoot and retaining and learning from the photographs that you might otherwise decide not to keep.

Please continue to support this excellent magazine. It's time to grab a coffee, sit down and enjoy the latest news and opinion in Landscape photography. 

 

Ethical Considerations - Light and Landscape Magazine

For those of you who didn't get a chance to read my latest article 'Ethical Considerations' for Light and Landscape magazine, issue 8, you can now read it here. You will find screenshots from the magazine below.  

take care and have a Happy Easter weekend!

James

 

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My flirtation with the Sony A7 series

I don't really like doing gear posts, especially when it comes to reviewing a new camera or a lens. I'm not interested enough in the technical aspects of the build and features of a new piece of gear to really write an informed review. I cringe when people start talking about how sharp their lenses are or how many megapixels their camera has. I'll leave that to the DXO enthusiasts. Rest assured this is not going to be one of those type of posts. This is simply just a collection of thoughts about a camera system that I was given to play with a couple of months ago.

As many of my regular subscribers will know I'm a huge fan/user of the Fujifilm X Series cameras and lenses. The Fuji X system has been my choice of camera system since they released the X-E1 a couple of years ago. I even sold all my Full Frame Canon gear after using the Fuji system. It fits for me, it fits what I do and works without fail every single time I need it. But this is not about Fuji, or not entirely anyway. Fujifilm are my benchmark, hence the introduction and as I go through this post I will be using them as my basis for comparison.

So as I said, I was asked to have a look at a body and a couple of lenses and get some thoughts on them. I have spent roughly 3 months with the Sony A7R, the 24-70mm, 70-200mm and the more recently released 16-35mm lens.

Sony A7r with 24-70mm lens

Sony A7r with 24-70mm lens

Sony have produced the world's first full frame mirrorless camera system in the A7 series. It's an impressive feat from Sony who now have 4 camera bodies in this series; the A7, A7ii, A7r and A7s. One of the most notable and heavily promoted features of this system is that the cameras are lightweight but with very high megapixel sensors, even for full frame cameras. This is attractive to a lot of photographers, particular those who do work where large high resolution files are required. For example commercial and landscape photographers like... erm... me! The kind of people who supply large files for big posters/billboards and large format prints.

So without boring you any further, here's my thoughts about the A7 series from Sony.

The Edge of Light - Sony A7r/ 24-70mm lens

First of all what did I like? Well for a full frame camera, high definition system, it's a small camera body with nice controls, beautiful RAW files and overall impressive image quality. My first couple of weeks with the system had me excited about some of the photographs that I was producing, the amazing detail and resolution in my work, but this quickly wore off as I realised that this system was changing the way I work, and not in a good way. 

I started becoming one of the DXO enthusiasts, the pixel peepers, blowing up every individual photograph for hours at a time and admiring the clarity and resolution in my files instead of going out and making photographs. I was becoming everything that I hate about photographers. Let me just say there's nothing wrong with wanting your photographs to be perfect, I want that. What I was doing though was telling other photographers online and in person about how sharp my photographs were etc. In a strange kind of way this seems to be a common theme amongst the Sony A7 series photographers. The online groups dedicated to these cameras on social media and photo sharing websites seem to be flooded with these type of users. Way more than I've ever seen on any of the Fuji equivalent sites.

There were a few things with the camera that I really disliked as time went on. Terribly slow autofocus (almost impossible as the light fades) and a shutter that was so loud that I thought I was launching grenades from the end of the lens barrel.  These are fairly well documented so I won't say any more on them. You can read about those elsewhere. A quick side note about the shutter, a number of users complained about shutter shock on their A7 series bodies. I never noticed it during my time with the A7R.

There were also a few niggly things in the menus that I didn't like though, for example having to navigate to an option to enable the camera to use a cable shutter release. My Fuji's just allow me to do it automatically when you plug the cable in. The menu and settings don't feel very intuitive and it can be quite tricky and time consuming to locate a specific function or setting which is no good if you're working under time pressures.

One thing that bothered me the most was the lack of support or interest from Sony in terms of listening to their customers. Let me compare with Fuji again for a moment. Any flaws in a camera or new feature requests to Fuji are corrected and added regularly through firmware updates. For example, the X-Pro1 camera is now over 2 years old but has just recently been updated with new features (The ability to finely tune your autofocus with the manual focus ring), making it feel like a new camera again. Sony doesn't appear to be listening, or really attempting to fix things and add new updates in a way that Fuji does. The Sony user base are screaming at a brick wall as far as I can tell. The firmware updates do come with Sony however they are incredibly difficult and temperamental to install and never really seem to address the issues fully (see any Sony forum for scores of complaints). The process involves downloading an installer on your computer and connecting the camera via a usb cable. The process is laborious and finicky and many Mac users have been unable to run the installer or ended up bricking their camera. I had the pleasure of updating the firmware twice via someone else's windows machine and the only slight improvement in the camera was a slightly faster boot up time, that's all. Fuji in contrast make it very easy to update via a file that you simply upload onto an SD card and install directly onto the camera body.

Other things that I didn't like included the Sony FE lens collection being very limited too. There's only a limited selection of lenses, admittedly for a fairly new system. There are now however almost as many camera bodies available as lenses. Sony needs to focus on getting more lenses out there instead of a new body every 5 minutes. The few lenses they have are very well built but are a bit on the large and heavy side for a compact system. One of the arguments that I've heard against the limited lens selection is that you can get adapters which allow you to use lenses from Canon, Nikon and also legacy glass via the M-mount adaptors. But really you're adding to the bulk again, thus defeating one of the major benefits of the smaller mirrorless systems, not to mention it looks really weird and bulky. In some cases the autofocus doesn't work with these lenses either leaving you to focus manually. Fuji by comparison have an ever growing lens selection and they listen to what lenses their users want too. This is how to please your customers! Fuji do have a head start on Sony in this sphere so it's only fair to cut them a little slack.

Fallen Skies - Sony A7r/24-70mm lens

As I spent more time with the Sony, the little things started frustrating me even more. I loved the photographs that I could produce on the A7r but the other things that I described above were weighing heavily on my mind. I missed my X system. I have more fun with my Fuji's in a way that's difficult to explain. I guess it's like people and cars. They find their brand and then stick to them. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that there's much more to your camera gear than image quality and optics. You have to feel comfortable with it, it has to fit your needs.

Looking back I can get everything I need and more from my Fuji files. In terms of latitude with the RAW files I felt that I could get just as good an end product with my Fuji camera. The dynamic range of the Sony files was impressive but I like to get it right in camera anyway so it's not something that really bothers me. To be honest there's really so little difference between the image quality on the A7R and my Fuji X-T1 when you look at large format prints like a normal person, side by side at a sensible viewing distance. Sure if you want to look at them with a magnifying glass you might find something but who does that? My clients don't. 

I never felt comfortable with the Sony, not like I do with Fujifilm. Sony have a habit of dropping support for camera systems and creating a new system. Have a look at their range of camera systems and mounts. It gets confusing and not to mention disconcerting if you were to fully buy into one of their systems and have that thought hanging over you. 

When I'm photographing with my X system cameras, they don't get in the way, they're fun to work with, they let me get on with making photographs. I don't notice the camera stopping me when I use my Fuji setup. Too many times the I found myself cursing the Sony due to the menu layout or trying to activate a certain function. I never felt completely comfortable with the Sony A7 system due to the factors described above. You could say that may be due to inexperience with the system but it certainly wasn't for the lack of trying, it just kept stopping both me both physically to change a setting and mentally with my train of thought. The A7r is a beast of a camera and many people absolutely love it but the feel and experience of the Alpha system just doesn't work for my style of shooting and for that reason alone I'll be sticking with my Fujifilm X System.

Slow down, Light and Landscape (issue 6)

During the week I received a request from one of my readers to publish a copy of the article 'Slow Down' that I wrote for Light and Landscape magazine (issue 6). I realise not all of you have an iPad so for those of you who were unable to view the article, I've posted some screenshots of the article below for you all to read.

Best wishes,

James

 

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Creative constraints

As any photographer will know, planning what gear to take for a trip or holiday can be a bit of a headache. We like to travel but we also like to have all of our gear to hand. The problem with this is that we end up with too much gear, weighing us down to the point that it tires us and becomes a burden.

I'm very much that photographer. I like to have everything I could possibly need with me at all times. I'm also like this in my everyday life. This is why I can mostly be seen wearing cargo style shorts. Big pockets = more room for stuff that I might need!

I'm about to go away on holiday to New Zealand so choosing and packing my gear is very much on my mind. I've spent the last couple of weeks making a list of all my lenses and filters and other stuff that I will more than likely want and need for the work that I'm planning to produce. There's a lot there and even though I have a fairly small and light mirrorless system now, it's still going to be heavy by the time I carry everything on the list.

When I plan a trip or a shoot, I like to set myself a creative constraint in order to help me think differently about how to approach the work and also to flex my photographic creativity and skill. This trip is going to be no different. After a lot of thought and consideration I've decided to travel light this time, really light. I will be travelling with only my Fuji x100t and a couple of filters. The fuji x100t* is an extraordinary camera that every photographer should own. It's a small, fixed focal length (35mm equivalent) camera that you can fit in your pocket. It's perfect for travel, for portraits, for all different types of work. Many pro's swear by them, for example Zack Arias who recently said if all of his gear was to be taken from him then all he would want left would be his x100 cameras. It produces gorgeous photographs, aided by fuji's film simulation modes which were designed based on the film rolls that fuji used to make.

By using a single camera with a single focal length it will force me to be more aware of my composition, my proximity to my subject. It will force me to think outside the box and think creatively about how I photograph. Also it's such a lightweight kit that it won't be hard work or tiring to carry it around all day, thus allowing me to stay fresher and be more receptive to my surroundings. It's going to be quite different from my usual kit that I carry and a challenge for sure but I'm very excited about it. I think the results will be facinating and I'm looking forward to sharing them with you on my return. My kit list, for the nerds among you is as follows:

 

Think Tank Retrospective 7 Bag

Glanz 110cm 5 in 1 reflector

Fuji x100t camera

Fuji WCL-x100 wide angle lens converter

Binoculars

X-rite Color Checker Passport

Lens pen and blower

Gorillapod mini tripod

49mm Kenko circular polarising filter

A couple of spare batteries and charger

Lee Seven5 Soft Grad ND filters (0.3/0.6/0.9)

Lee Filter holder

Think Tank memory card holder with 6 16GB SDHC cards

 A couple of lens cloths

iPod

Notebook and pen

 

Finally it's time for me to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year celebration. I may post the occaisional photograph from my trip as we go, depending on the wifi situation. Apart from that I've nothing more to say other than I'll see you in 2015!

Best wishes,

James

My travel kit, ready to pack.

My travel kit, ready to pack.

* There are actually now 3 cameras in the x100 series, the first generation x100, the x100s and the most recently released x100t.

REVIEW - Permajet Photo paper (PART II)

Hi,

I recently had the pleasure of testing and reviewing some fine art printing paper from Permajet. After my last review, which had a very positive response from a number of circles, I've been sent some more samples to test out from the wonderful people at Adeal/Permajet. I was very impressed with the first batch of samples that I saw, not only with the feel and quality of the paper in my hands but the all important print quality to. Given how happy I was with the first batch, I was pretty excited to receive the second, this time with different paper types and sizes. This has now allowed me to get a good idea of how each of the papers respond to printing in the larger format that I usually offer to my customers. 

 If you haven't read my original review then I urge you to check it out before continuing as this review picks up where I left off before. You can find it here: http://www.theotherjamespartridge.com/new-blog/review-permajet-photographic-inkjet-paper-20140914

UPDATES

As you may have previously read in the last review, or remembered, you will have noted that during printing I discovered an issue with regards to matching the Permajet paper with the Epson paper types in the print dialogue. I received an email from Permajet's MD Robin Whetton (via John at Adeal) shortly after publishing the post which cleared this issue up. 

“In every ICC profile the name shows, Printer Name, Paper Name Ink type and Media Setting, these media settings are set out in initials ie. Archival Matt Paper = AMP or Water Colour Radiant White = WCRW take a look at the profile attached, the last four letters are PGPP = Premium Glossy Photo Paper in the driver.”
— Robin Whetton, Permajet MD

I'm actually not sure how I didn't figure this out but thanks Robin for providing that info! I'm sure you'll agree that it's great that Permajet's MD took the time to read through the review and help clarify issues such as that. Little things like this make a huge difference in a companies image and perception so kudos to Permajet!

PRINTING

For this round of prints I used almost exactly the same setup as described in the last review. I like to print through Lightroom using my custom templates as it makes for a quick and painless workflow. This time all prints were made on A3 paper. Again I used the ICC profiles which I downloaded from the Permajet website. 

For the record, I actually created my own ICC profiles for each paper type with my X-Rite calibration device to see if there would be any difference in print quality as often every individual printer is slightly different and generic profiles can sometimes not provide the best results. However when I compared these with Permajet's official profiles, there was basically no difference at all. This is why I chose to continue using their profiles for this review.

Another slight deviation from last time around was the temperature and humidity. I chose to print on the hottest day of the spring so far in Brisbane! Great idea James... It topped 39oC with 90% humidity which, for those of you who don't know, can cause havoc with fine art paper and printing. I'm happy to say that I had no issues at all and both the prints and I survived with no damage at all. 

Again for my printing session I was ably assisted by Wolf, my dog!

Printing is hard work for Wolf

Printing is hard work for Wolf

RESULTS

SMOOTH PEARL - 'The Edge of Light'

The Edge of Light

Smooth Pearl is a paper that feels quite thin but a strong paper at the same time. I was impressed by the luxurious satin finish and the beautiful clear detail that could be seen on the print. The colour reproduction was stunning throughout the dynamic range of the print. I liked the nice bright, reflective surface. Sometimes reflective papers can be troublesome when mounted and framed but I put this one under some glass and it looked excellent. 

The reflective surface on the print

The reflective surface on the print

ULTRA PEARL - 'Under the Bay'

Under the Bay

Ultra Pearl is probably my least favourite of the Permajet range so far. The tone and dynamic range of the paper is great, no issues there. The photograph looks very sharp and handles the fine detail on the horizon perfectly. It’s a thin paper but feels really tough, tearing it would be difficult. I don’t like the finish though. It feels to me like vinyl and has a very slight texture that reminds me too much of vinyl floor coverings. That’s just me though, for the record my wife liked it!  

EDIT: 

The Ultra Pearl paper is actually designed with a specific coating that ensures it is scratch and scuff resistant but more importantly the coating surface is special in that it does not allow the printed image to copied by a scanner or phone , the image pixelates as you can see in the photograph below. The beauty of this paper is that it offers copyright protection to pro photographers handing their work around to customer(s) for review etc. With this in mind I think it's a very cleverly designed product from Permajet and certainly will be useful to many photographers out there. Thanks to John for the correction here!

The vinyl like surface of Ultra Pearl

The vinyl like surface of Ultra Pearl

FB GOLD SILK - 'The road to nowhere'

The road to nowhere

FB Gold Silk paper is a heavy, glossy stock with a slightly smooth texture and a beautiful shine across the page. It has excellent reproduction of detail with lovely sharp blacks in particular. FB Gold Silk also has a slightly warm white base which I feel really enhances the darker tones. Those blacks are so deep you could lose yourself in them! The smooth texture of this paper feels and looks lovely. It's exactly what you would expect in a high end paper type.

The lovely surface of this paper can be seen here

The lovely surface of this paper can be seen here

FB DISTINCTION - 'Fallen Skies'

Fallen Skies

One of my new favourite papers, FB Distinction has a very thick stock with a really nice sheen across the page. It feels like a high quality paper should. There is a slight texture, almost like a leather effect that I really love. The detail is excellent and tonal range is absolutely superb. It’s beautiful; it has a bright white base and makes a real statement when you hold the print in your hand. Simply beautiful! 'Fallen Skies' is one of my most recent photographs and one that I really love, especially with this combination of paper. I'll be framing this print and hanging it in my office for sure.

The gorgeous texture surface of FB Gold Distinction

The gorgeous texture surface of FB Gold Distinction

PORTRAIT WHITE - 'The last kiss of light'

The last kiss of light

Portrait White has a warm yellowish white base but provides excellent colour clarity and detail. I pushed the sharpening on this photograph purposely to see how the paper would respond and it looks really impressive. The colours are really bright without being offensive and the dynamic range displayed looks as good, if not better, than any paper that I’ve used in the past. This is exactly the type of paper that I would compare directly with "Pura Smooth" by Breathing Color and it doesn't disappoint! I've found yet another favourite to add to my growing collection of paper stock.

The beautiful crisp detail looks great on this print

The beautiful crisp detail looks great on this print

FINAL THOUGHTS

Again I've been truly impressed by what I've seen and experienced with Permajet paper. I'm not surprised though given the paper types that I saw in the first review. This round of printing was something I'd been looking forward to for a while. The first papers that I tested impressed me so much that I didn't think I would be feeling the same after reviewing this round of papers but yet again I've been blown away with what I've seen. So much so that I've added Permajet to my preferred paper stock and you can also see them recommended under the 'My Gear" section here on my website.

Permajet offers real quality, great customer service and feedback. If you print your own work then I urge you to give them a try. If you use external print labs then please get them to check out the Permajet range as I really don't think they will be disappointed with what they find.

It was excellent to see how my photographs looked in print on Permajet's paper, especially at sizes that I provide to my clients. In fact some of my most recent shipped prints have been made with Permajet paper so I look forward to hearing the thoughts of those of you that receive those prints in the post.

Thanks for your time and attention yet again. I hope you have enjoyed what you've read and as always, I’m very appreciative of any feedback that so many of you submit via my social media and website.

Take care,

James

It's been a little while since my last post!

Hi,

I hope you're all well?

It has been a little while since my last post but that's a good thing, for me anyway. I've been pretty busy, pretty hectic working on some new things and balancing some other work at the same time. This is just a little catch up and a chance for you guys to see what I'm doing and what's coming up.

So first of all, my previous blog post with the review of the paper from Permajet was a resounding success. I've had a lot of very positive feedback from different people, including some nice comments from Permajet's Managing Director, over in the UK. They have since sent me a stack more paper (I mean a stack too! Check out the photo on my facebook page) so that I can get a better feel for their products and review some more of their paper. This is coming up probably towards the end of the next week.

I was recently asked to submit some work to 'In Focus' magazine. In Focus is a digital magazine produced exclusively for the iPad and features a variety of work, reviews and news from the professional photography industry. Unfortunately due to some timing constraints it didn't make this month's edition but I'm hopeful it will be in next month's issue.

I've been creating some new work and I'm currently figuring out a way for it to fit into a nice, coherent project. At the moment it's a collection of separate photographs but I've got some ideas on linking them together so it's just a case of deciding where I want to go with that work.

Next up I'm heading over to New Zealand at the end of the year where I intend to create a new personal project, the details of which I'll let you know a little closer the time. It will be a landscape/nature based project but I have to do a bit more research before I have a direction and intention for where I'm going with it.

Slightly further away I'm hoping to finalise a booking for a gallery exhibition next year, probably around May and it will be held locally in the Sandgate/Shorncliffe area. There's one or two little things I have to tie up with the gallery before it's finalised but it's an exciting prospect that I'm very much looking forward to. Of course there will be invites for each and every one of you that are able to come and view my work. I'll be sure to let you know once we're set for dates.

Right now I'm busy with other work and jobs that are keeping me from posting a little more than I'd like to but I'm hoping that you won't begrudge me that!

The next few posts are likely to be reviews as I've had some in the pipeline for a while and I'm keen to get them finished. I'll show you some more new work soon too. In fact I'll share a little something from my current working project at the bottom of this blog post.

That's really all I have time for now. I'll be in touch soon.

Take care, 

Best wishes,

James

The edge of light

The edge of light