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Found 11 results

  1. Two Monday’s ago a fortnight of digital agony began as I set about upgrading the Fotozones software. Usually the software upgrades run smoothly, but in this instance it was anything but smooth. More like a ride on one of those amusement park gravity modifying apparatuses. I am told it is because I didn’t upgrade for such a long time that I ran into problems. Because of previous issues with early upgrades I guess I am averse to major changes, so upgrading software isn’t something I rush into these days. My bad. Anyway, that episode of digital nausea has passed so today I thought I would take some time out for myself to go and play with a new, old camera I got recently, but because of all the software dramas of the past fortnight, has sat on my desk looking expectantly at me like a rescue puppy might. The camera in question is the late 2013 Panasonic GM1 and 12-32mm kit lens. This is a Micro Four Thirds camera. As those of you who follow my writings and videos will already know, I recently sold the Canon 200D I got last year. I don’t have any pressing need to make more videos, but browsing through the classifieds on a local forum I saw an Olympus E-PL5 up for sale at a really keen price. I decided to get it because I actually like the Pen cameras and that model has a flip up selfie screen that would come in quite handy if I wanted to make more videos. So I got it. The cost was less than $100, but it didn’t come with a lens, so I was on the lookout for something I could use for it. I had my eyes open for the Olympus 14-42mm EZ kit lens, which isn’t found used that often. In casual conversation about my lens quest my buddy Peter mentioned to me that he was selling his Panasonic GM1 with the Panasonic 12-32mm kit lens. I wanted the lens only, but Peter made me a really good price on the body too, so I couldn’t pass it up. There went another $180 or so. I should mention that I was still up from the sale of the 200D though. What follows isn’t a review, so don’t expect any in-depth analysis, just some thoughts on cameras in general and how I got along with this particular one on my first outing with it. The GM1 is a really small camera. I mean, it’s ridiculously tiny. If I am out and about on a less than balmy day it will go into a jacket pocket without any issue. Today wasn’t exactly jacket weather, as you will see from the photos, so I put it into a larger bag (the ThinkTank Turn style 10) with some other camera stuff, just in case a Pulitzer Prize winning news moment presented itself to me, you know. I’m of the firm opinion that almost all cameras made since 2013 are good cameras. If you can’t get a great result out of a camera made after that year there can only be one (or more) of 3 factors at play. One, you have a terrible lens; two, you have terrible technique; three, somewhere along the line the camera you bought was dropped and the innards are not operating as they should. The sensors we have been getting in most cameras made after 2013 are brilliant capturing devices. You just need to know what you’re doing with them to get a good result. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the future for camera testing outfits like Dpreview and various others who play in measurement based camera appraisal systems are probably superfluous to all but perhaps a handful of very discerning photographers these days. The attractiveness of cameras is, I think, going to come down to just how well you can integrate yourself with the way they work, not whether or not they have 18 stops of dynamic range or can blast off 100 frames in a second, or shoot at ISO values that exceed the bank balances of the average Monte Carlo resident. So, getting a good result out of your post 2013 camera is highly dependent on coming to know that camera and working with it on a regular basis. Like in my case I have been using the Olympus E-M1’s since I got my first one in late 2013 (about the time the GM1 got announced) and after nearly 5 years of professional and personal use I don’t even have to think much about it’s operation. I switch it on and if I need to make changes I know instantly where to make them. The once confusing Olympus menu system is second nature to me now. The only things I have to think about, settings-wise, are the advanced features that I have used maybe once or twice, such as the Live Time long exposure thing, or anything to do with JPG settings (which I never use). I’ve only ever owned one other Panasonic camera, the GF1, which I liked, but ended up selling because at the time I had 2 Olympus Pen cameras that I thought were just a bit easier for me to work with. Whilst Panasonic and Olympus share the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount, their approach to operating the camera itself is very different. Kind of like the differences you’d find between Windows and macOS. They both do the same thing, just differently. The Panasonic interface is, I think, very intuitive and easy to learn unlike the Olympus, which admittedly took me a while to get used to coming from Nikon. That said, I do find some things on the GM1 a bit of a fiddle. Like this morning I was trying to change the aperture (in A mode), but kept changing the exposure compensation instead. Turns out that you need to press the command dial button for compensation again to toggle it off (there is only one dial on this tiny little camera). On the Olympus Pens it’s a similar process, just slightly different. You have to press the same button, but you can program the camera to move either the aperture value or the exposure compensation when turning the dial after that button is pressed. The GM1 doesn’t have that level of customisability so if you have burned a neural pathway into your brain from using your Olympus MFT camera a certain way, getting used to a Panasonic like the GM1 might test you a little. Fortunately it’s not an insurmountable hurdle. A bit of practice will make new neural pathways. Without an EVF I found using the rear LCD in this morning’s bright conditions not too difficult. The one thing I do struggle with is the amount of icons that Panasonic show on this LCD screen. Unlike the Olympus method of putting them along the side of the LCD screen, Panasonic have most of them along the top, which together with the row on the bottom can make the screen seem very crowded. It is easy to turn the top row off though by toggling the Info button, which leaves you with the bare bones of exposure settings on the bottom. I think I will be getitng along quite nicely with the world's littlest MFT camera, in spite of the differences between it and my Olympus stable. That they use the same lenses makes it a perfect black sheep cousin. Different, but lovable all the same. Here’s some of the shots from this morning's outing. All with the 12-32mm lens, processed in Lr 7.2. I'm usually showing you photos of my city from the piers we have, so today here's a shot from the North looking towards a couple of the many we have. This is the designated fisherman's pier. It's usually inhabited by subsistence fishermen who spend most of the day (and night) with their lines in the water. There is a space between the sand and the promenade that the city is trying to keep healthy with indigenous dune vegetation we get around these parts. The beachcombers are always out there, scouring the sand for buried treasure. The promenade is modeled on Rio's famous Copacabana beach. You are allowed to ride anything on wheels along there (except for motorcycles and cars). There is an outfit that offers Segway tours. Lazy! This is one of many outdoor gyms that have sprung up around the city in the past few years. I don't know how effective those machines are, but they certainly do seem to keep the users happy. After the beachfront I took a slow drive back home, stopping off at the marina. It was low tide, so I walked out a bit. Shooting almost into the sun here, so not the best result. These tug boats appear to be chasing this Greek tanker out of the bay! Four shot panorama of what was once a vibrant watering hole, but is now sadly neglected by the city's denizens. This was where my younger son played at the Durban Blues Festival.
  2. Dallas

    Symptoms Of GAS

    It’s almost like I could hear it’s heart beating from miles away. A slow, steady rhythm drawing me closer and closer. It wanted to seduce me with its svelte outline and cool, irresistible metallic finish. I had no idea it was there, but something inside me (or maybe outside of me) was being pulled towards the electronics goods shop, where a few years ago I had purchased not just one, but three Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lenses for my new little camera system. It must have been a sixth sense of sorts drawing me there this past Saturday. I walked into the shop specifically to ask a question about whether the proprietors were going to be getting the new range of Panasonic MFT lenses in, seeing as Panasonic has decided to start redistributing their photography products in South Africa again and this particular shop has traditionally always carried their stuff. I was particularly interested in the new Leica designed 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 ultra wide angle lens. With the increase in the amount of real estate photography I am doing, it would be nice to have a top end lens to do this sort of work instead of the mid level one I have been using. It’s a confidence thing, you know. Bootie manages the Pavilion branch of Govan Mani (the shop I was in) and he was busy checking his computer for a Panasonic price list when I looked up at the glass cabinet behind him and almost swallowed my tongue on the spot. There on the top shelf were four brand new Panasonic lenses and one of them was the very one I was asking about! Providence for me to enter the store and make such a discovery? More like The Last Temptation Of Dallas, a man crippled with financially debilitating photographic GAS for almost 20 years! The moment I held this 8-18mm lens in my hands the first thing that flashed through my mind was that in spite of its chunky, metal appearance, it was actually very light. It looks way heavier than it feels. The metallic finish is exquisite and very Leica-like. The zoom ring turns as smoothly as pate spreads across a canapé. When you touch the finish there’s no tell-tale sign of finger prints left behind at all. I knew then that resistance of such allure was going to be nigh impossible. Oh Lord. What have I done by coming in here, I thought as I immediately contemplated extended overdrafts and accessing whatever equity I might have in the studio equipment I no longer use and might be able to sell to make up the rather large number required to acquire this beautiful lens? Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you view the situation from a slightly different perspective), the Panasonic camera they had in the store didn’t have a charged battery in it, so I wan’t able to see the lens in action. Bootie invited me to bring my own camera in any time to conduct an examination of this lens’ charms on a working camera. It’s an invitation that has been disturbing my sleep patterns since Saturday. There’s nothing wrong with the Olympus 9-18mm that I have been very happy with since I got it in 2012, but you know us photographers, if there is something even remotely better than what we have, well… the GAS becomes irrepressible. And I have been feeling it building up since the weekend. Something’s got to give! But why do we lust after these things the way we do? Do we somehow believe that by possessing them we will be magically endowed with better photography skills? Experience of my own splurges into gear I couldn’t afford, as well as years spent observing the photos of those who can afford it, seems to suggest that the answer is an obvious no. It certainly doesn’t improve your photography much at all. So why do we do it? Why do we crave upgrades and why do we spend so much time obsessing over the gear we think we absolutely can’t live without? I don’t really know. I wish I did but I don’t. There’s possibly a psychiatrist or two out there who does know the answer but they will likely charge me more than the cost of the gear I lust after to provide an answer, so logically speaking… I suppose it will be cheaper to succumb to the GAS than getting therapy for it. Anyway, getting back to the lens in question; From what I have read online by a variety of reviewers (some of whom are actually photographers), the Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm lens is very good, but it also suffers from the same problem that most ultra-wide angle lenses do, namely flare when pointed in the direction of a bright light source. If there is one thing that prevented me from buying the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO that was it. The flare was something that would cause me a problem in most shooting situations and if you know how much I hate editing photos, you’ll know that anything that causes me to do more editing than is ordinarily required is going to be frowned upon. The 8-18mm apparently has better flare resistance than most other wide angle lenses because of the “nano coating” that it has on the elements. Sounds like snake oil, doesn’t it? That said, if there is any truth to the matter, then the lens becomes something that will actually improve my photography if I don’t have to worry about losing contrast in photos where I have a broad range of brightness in the scene (i.e. real estate interiors) and there are fewer element ghosts to worry about cloning out. The 9-18mm Olympus I have doesn’t do too poorly in this situation, actually it does a lot better than the supposedly superior 7-14mm PRO lens does where flare is concerned, but where it falls short of gaining the all important Fotozones Stamp Of Outright Approval (10/10 in any review I do) is its handling of barrel distortion at 9mm. And I suppose it could be a tiny bit sharper too. It certainly isn’t soft though, don’t get me wrong. Far from it. This is a developing story. Stay close to find out if I am able to resist the GAS or succumb to it! Did I mention that they also have the 45mm 1.2 Nocticron sitting right next to the 8-18mm? Let's not even go there...
  3. It’s Saturday morning as I sit here typing this run-down of the past week or so in my world of photography. I’ve taken a break from shooting some product here in the studio, which is a nice change from all the real estate I have done this month. So far this month I have photographed 27 homes and I have a small queue of about 5 that I still have to do before the billing cycle ends. More will probably come in next week. I’m not complaining! This work is ideal for me as it gets me out of the house and I get to interact with other living, breathing humans, which is a real pleasure that you can’t explain to people who don’t experience the kind of loneliness that comes with working at home on your own. The properties I have done this month range from dilapidated and neglected to spectacular and aspirational. Yesterday I had two homes on polar opposites of that spectrum. One was so bad I almost walked off site. The stink from the bathroom nearly had me retching. The other was an 80’s architecturally designed space that was immaculate and had me longing for a similar space to live and work in. The basement would have made the perfect home office and studio for me. Alas… Depending on the size of the property it takes me between 20-60 minutes to shoot a listing. The editing takes a similar amount of time and if I could only find a way of automating the Lightroom HDR process I’d probably not have to break much of a sweat when it comes to editing. I did try using the Olympus in-camera HDR features which produce a JPG and .ORF file from about 4 or 5 exposures but they’re not a match for the way Lightroom does it. They tend to come out very flat and look weird. 3 frames taken stop apart and then blended in Lightroom seems to work just fine, but unfortunately I have to tell the program which 3 it has to blend together, so that forms the bulk of my “editing” time. I also apply a few presets, such as correcting verticals and distortion of the Olympus 9-18mm lens. It’s weird that the built in profile doesn’t seem to be able to do this. So my typical morning involves photographing up to 3 properties in the same general area, then coming home, having something to eat and commencing the digital output of between 15-40 shots per listing. The rest of the day is spent contacting home-owners and making appointments to do the shoots. Kind of like herding cats. During the course of the week I was pointed in the direction of Lumenzia which is a Photoshop panel developed by a photographer named Greg Benz and is offered by him for free. Basically it’s a thing Photoshop experts call “luminosity masking” which sounds frightfully intimidating, but after watching a few of his introductory videos I might just give this a go should I find the time and inspiration to enhance some of the landscape (and property) work I have done in the past. The trouble with editing in Photoshop, for me at least, is that I don’t find the interface very intuitive at all and there are so many concepts and hidden shortcuts that are quite daunting. For instance, if you hold down ALT when you click on certain tools or masks, an entirely different set of editing parameters can be activated. Remembering what all this stuff does is difficult for me, but I suppose it will come with practice. But that in itself is another discussion. Do I want to be spending an inordinate amount of time and energy on editing in Photoshop, or do I want to be out and about with my cameras? I think that if I am shooting for myself then yes, I can certainly see the rewards in spending the time and effort learning Photoshop properly, but for cheaply commissioned jobs like real estate and some pack shot work like I am doing today, working with Lightroom is perfectly adequate. I like the simplicity of Lightroom. If I could make an analogy between working with the two pieces of software, it would be to say that Lightroom is the smooth highway and Photoshop is the 4x4 track that lead to the same destination. Yes, you can do much more with Photoshop, but getting to your end result requires a lot more technical expertise than that of Lightroom. Just like tackling a 4x4 route. Regular readers will be quite familiar with this space. This is what it looks like when I am shooting pack shots. I don't do too much of that these days - it seems that most online entrepreneurs are quite content to do it themselves even if they don't get quite the result they really want. It does have me thinking that I might very well develop a short course for this group of people showing them how to get a better than cellphone pack shot. Typically I am using my two Olympus FL-600R flashes, one fired into the ceiling at full power (it's the one attached to the orange clamp on the backdrop stand) and the other through an umbrella (which you can see just beyond my camera closest to the desk). In the past I had the huge a/c strobes set up but in this space it's just too much to trip over. This shot is taken with the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye and then straightened with one click in Lightroom using a lens profile I downloaded from somewhere. If I get more pack shot work I am probably going to invest in a long active USB cable so that I can shoot this tethered, which will make it a lot easier to do. This is the outcome of that setup above, deep etched in the dreaded Photoshop. It's not a finished shot yet. View full article
  4. It’s Saturday morning as I sit here typing this run-down of the past week or so in my world of photography. I’ve taken a break from shooting some product here in the studio, which is a nice change from all the real estate I have done this month. So far this month I have photographed 27 homes and I have a small queue of about 5 that I still have to do before the billing cycle ends. More will probably come in next week. I’m not complaining! This work is ideal for me as it gets me out of the house and I get to interact with other living, breathing humans, which is a real pleasure that you can’t explain to people who don’t experience the kind of loneliness that comes with working at home on your own. The properties I have done this month range from dilapidated and neglected to spectacular and aspirational. Yesterday I had two homes on polar opposites of that spectrum. One was so bad I almost walked off site. The stink from the bathroom nearly had me retching. The other was an 80’s architecturally designed space that was immaculate and had me longing for a similar space to live and work in. The basement would have made the perfect home office and studio for me. Alas… Depending on the size of the property it takes me between 20-60 minutes to shoot a listing. The editing takes a similar amount of time and if I could only find a way of automating the Lightroom HDR process I’d probably not have to break much of a sweat when it comes to editing. I did try using the Olympus in-camera HDR features which produce a JPG and .ORF file from about 4 or 5 exposures but they’re not a match for the way Lightroom does it. They tend to come out very flat and look weird. 3 frames taken stop apart and then blended in Lightroom seems to work just fine, but unfortunately I have to tell the program which 3 it has to blend together, so that forms the bulk of my “editing” time. I also apply a few presets, such as correcting verticals and distortion of the Olympus 9-18mm lens. It’s weird that the built in profile doesn’t seem to be able to do this. So my typical morning involves photographing up to 3 properties in the same general area, then coming home, having something to eat and commencing the digital output of between 15-40 shots per listing. The rest of the day is spent contacting home-owners and making appointments to do the shoots. Kind of like herding cats. During the course of the week I was pointed in the direction of Lumenzia which is a Photoshop panel developed by a photographer named Greg Benz and is offered by him for free. Basically it’s a thing Photoshop experts call “luminosity masking” which sounds frightfully intimidating, but after watching a few of his introductory videos I might just give this a go should I find the time and inspiration to enhance some of the landscape (and property) work I have done in the past. The trouble with editing in Photoshop, for me at least, is that I don’t find the interface very intuitive at all and there are so many concepts and hidden shortcuts that are quite daunting. For instance, if you hold down ALT when you click on certain tools or masks, an entirely different set of editing parameters can be activated. Remembering what all this stuff does is difficult for me, but I suppose it will come with practice. But that in itself is another discussion. Do I want to be spending an inordinate amount of time and energy on editing in Photoshop, or do I want to be out and about with my cameras? I think that if I am shooting for myself then yes, I can certainly see the rewards in spending the time and effort learning Photoshop properly, but for cheaply commissioned jobs like real estate and some pack shot work like I am doing today, working with Lightroom is perfectly adequate. I like the simplicity of Lightroom. If I could make an analogy between working with the two pieces of software, it would be to say that Lightroom is the smooth highway and Photoshop is the 4x4 track that lead to the same destination. Yes, you can do much more with Photoshop, but getting to your end result requires a lot more technical expertise than that of Lightroom. Just like tackling a 4x4 route. Regular readers will be quite familiar with this space. This is what it looks like when I am shooting pack shots. I don't do too much of that these days - it seems that most online entrepreneurs are quite content to do it themselves even if they don't get quite the result they really want. It does have me thinking that I might very well develop a short course for this group of people showing them how to get a better than cellphone pack shot. Typically I am using my two Olympus FL-600R flashes, one fired into the ceiling at full power (it's the one attached to the orange clamp on the backdrop stand) and the other through an umbrella (which you can see just beyond my camera closest to the desk). In the past I had the huge a/c strobes set up but in this space it's just too much to trip over. This shot is taken with the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye and then straightened with one click in Lightroom using a lens profile I downloaded from somewhere. If I get more pack shot work I am probably going to invest in a long active USB cable so that I can shoot this tethered, which will make it a lot easier to do. This is the outcome of that setup above, deep etched in the dreaded Photoshop. It's not a finished shot yet.
  5. Last week I was pretty busy with photographing Real Estate listings. I think I ended up doing 8 for the week. Some were great, some were just awful, so I am thinking of changing my official title from “Property Photographer” to “Turd Polisher”, because that is a very appropriate description of what I am doing when editing some of my work. Anyway, today I didn’t have anything on, so to get out of the house for a little while I took a drive down to the beachfront. For those of you who don’t know, May is the very best time of the year to visit Durban. The weather is quite stunning nearly every day. The sky is blue, there is never any wind and the ambient temperature averages about 23-25˚C. Usually this time of year we see lots of people heading to the beaches to enjoy the warm Indian Ocean water and this magnificent weather. However, this year there is a problem. Some of the main central beaches are closed while the city tries valiantly to replenish the fast eroding sand. Due to it’s position at the mouth of several rivers, large portions of the city are essentially reclaimed land and in the current age of global warming we are seeing some unusually high spring tides on a more frequent basis than has been the case historically. These events wreak havoc on the promenade as the ocean tries to reclaim its dominance over the shoreline. Google Earth 3D view of the city, looking south west. The harbour mouth was once an estuary and the entire point area is actually a giant sandbar. On the horizon you can see the Drakensberg mountains. Since I’ve been alive and living here (50 years now), it’s been an ongoing battle. Sometime in the early 1980’s the city engaged the services of an overseas company who came up with the brilliant idea of taking the sand normally dredged from the harbor mouth and pumping it onto the beaches with water via massive 2m diameter pipes. As kids we watched this operation unfold with fascination and were astonished to see the beach grow from it’s usual width of (roughly) 50-100m to more than triple that in places. It was a huge success and the city then built its own, somewhat smaller, but permanent sand pumping system to maintain the shoreline. Sadly, as with most infrastructural systems that had been put in place by the previous regime, it fell into disrepair after the transition to democracy and only the southernmost central beaches were having their sand replenished a few times a year, while the more central and northern beaches were literally disappearing from the coastal scour that affects them. This year it reached crisis point and finally lit a fire under the new city management’s collective behinds to take emergency action. The structure you see being eroded was actually once a pump house for the original reclamation scheme. Ironic that it is now becoming a casualty of the thing it was designed to protect us from. On my walk this morning I see that they are doing it slightly differently this time around. Instead of pumping it from the harbor mouth and spraying it towards the ocean, the sand appears to be getting pumped from a point about 300m from the shore directly onto the beach into huge mounds which are then being bulldozed flat. Honestly, I don’t think this is going to work very well and it certainly doesn’t make much sense from an economic point of view to have these big diggers and dozers running all day, taking sand from where it is being deposited and manually moving it across the beach when all they have to do is point the outlet towards the sea, pump the sand in that direction and just leave it there. That’s how they did it in the 80’s and it worked perfectly for a long time. Bulldozers in action. Not a great pic, but this is the floating connection point for where the dredger drops off the sand to be pumped onto the main beach. These are all iPhone pics of the current operation, taken using the Lightroom CC app. On the subject of this Lr app, I am now a bit perplexed to have discovered that all the photos I took were seriously underexposed (by around 3 stops) when I opened up the Lightroom CC app on my iMac. I don’t use the app a lot but obviously the last time I did I must have reduced the exposure quite a lot and then not bothered to reset it to normal. The problem with using the Lr phone app in bright daylight is that the phone will adjust its screen brightness automatically to compensate for the ambient light, in this case boosting itself significantly, so unless you have got a really good memory on where you last left the exposure compensation, you’re likely to make the same mistake. That’s a bit of a design flaw in the Adobe app if you ask me (something they seem to be getting very good at doing lately). That said, I am quite impressed that the files were rescuable by lifting the exposure and shadows by a couple of stops and then applying a 50% noise reduction to them. View full article
  6. Last week I was pretty busy with photographing Real Estate listings. I think I ended up doing 8 for the week. Some were great, some were just awful, so I am thinking of changing my official title from “Property Photographer” to “Turd Polisher”, because that is a very appropriate description of what I am doing when editing some of my work. Anyway, today I didn’t have anything on, so to get out of the house for a little while I took a drive down to the beachfront. For those of you who don’t know, May is the very best time of the year to visit Durban. The weather is quite stunning nearly every day. The sky is blue, there is never any wind and the ambient temperature averages about 23-25˚C. Usually this time of year we see lots of people heading to the beaches to enjoy the warm Indian Ocean water and this magnificent weather. However, this year there is a problem. Some of the main central beaches are closed while the city tries valiantly to replenish the fast eroding sand. Due to it’s position at the mouth of several rivers, large portions of the city are essentially reclaimed land and in the current age of global warming we are seeing some unusually high spring tides on a more frequent basis than has been the case historically. These events wreak havoc on the promenade as the ocean tries to reclaim its dominance over the shoreline. Google Earth 3D view of the city, looking south west. The harbour mouth was once an estuary and the entire point area is actually a giant sandbar. On the horizon you can see the Drakensberg mountains. Since I’ve been alive and living here (50 years now), it’s been an ongoing battle. Sometime in the early 1980’s the city engaged the services of an overseas company who came up with the brilliant idea of taking the sand normally dredged from the harbor mouth and pumping it onto the beaches with water via massive 2m diameter pipes. As kids we watched this operation unfold with fascination and were astonished to see the beach grow from it’s usual width of (roughly) 50-100m to more than triple that in places. It was a huge success and the city then built its own, somewhat smaller, but permanent sand pumping system to maintain the shoreline. Sadly, as with most infrastructural systems that had been put in place by the previous regime, it fell into disrepair after the transition to democracy and only the southernmost central beaches were having their sand replenished a few times a year, while the more central and northern beaches were literally disappearing from the coastal scour that affects them. This year it reached crisis point and finally lit a fire under the new city management’s collective behinds to take emergency action. The structure you see being eroded was actually once a pump house for the original reclamation scheme. Ironic that it is now becoming a casualty of the thing it was designed to protect us from. On my walk this morning I see that they are doing it slightly differently this time around. Instead of pumping it from the harbor mouth and spraying it towards the ocean, the sand appears to be getting pumped from a point about 300m from the shore directly onto the beach into huge mounds which are then being bulldozed flat. Honestly, I don’t think this is going to work very well and it certainly doesn’t make much sense from an economic point of view to have these big diggers and dozers running all day, taking sand from where it is being deposited and manually moving it across the beach when all they have to do is point the outlet towards the sea, pump the sand in that direction and just leave it there. That’s how they did it in the 80’s and it worked perfectly for a long time. Bulldozers in action. Not a great pic, but this is the floating connection point for where the dredger drops off the sand to be pumped onto the main beach. These are all iPhone pics of the current operation, taken using the Lightroom CC app. On the subject of this Lr app, I am now a bit perplexed to have discovered that all the photos I took were seriously underexposed (by around 3 stops) when I opened up the Lightroom CC app on my iMac. I don’t use the app a lot but obviously the last time I did I must have reduced the exposure quite a lot and then not bothered to reset it to normal. The problem with using the Lr phone app in bright daylight is that the phone will adjust its screen brightness automatically to compensate for the ambient light, in this case boosting itself significantly, so unless you have got a really good memory on where you last left the exposure compensation, you’re likely to make the same mistake. That’s a bit of a design flaw in the Adobe app if you ask me (something they seem to be getting very good at doing lately). That said, I am quite impressed that the files were rescuable by lifting the exposure and shadows by a couple of stops and then applying a 50% noise reduction to them.
  7. Dallas

    Symptoms Of GAS

    It’s almost like I could hear it’s heart beating from miles away. A slow, steady rhythm drawing me closer and closer. It wanted to seduce me with its svelte outline and cool, irresistible metallic finish. I had no idea it was there, but something inside me (or maybe outside of me) was being pulled towards the electronics goods shop, where a few years ago I had purchased not just one, but three Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lenses for my new little camera system. It must have been a sixth sense of sorts drawing me there this past Saturday. I walked into the shop specifically to ask a question about whether the proprietors were going to be getting the new range of Panasonic MFT lenses in, seeing as Panasonic has decided to start redistributing their photography products in South Africa again and this particular shop has traditionally always carried their stuff. I was particularly interested in the new Leica designed 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 ultra wide angle lens. With the increase in the amount of real estate photography I am doing, it would be nice to have a top end lens to do this sort of work instead of the mid level one I have been using. It’s a confidence thing, you know. Bootie manages the Pavilion branch of Govan Mani (the shop I was in) and he was busy checking his computer for a Panasonic price list when I looked up at the glass cabinet behind him and almost swallowed my tongue on the spot. There on the top shelf were four brand new Panasonic lenses and one of them was the very one I was asking about! Providence for me to enter the store and make such a discovery? More like The Last Temptation Of Dallas, a man crippled with financially debilitating photographic GAS for almost 20 years! The moment I held this 8-18mm lens in my hands the first thing that flashed through my mind was that in spite of its chunky, metal appearance, it was actually very light. It looks way heavier than it feels. The metallic finish is exquisite and very Leica-like. The zoom ring turns as smoothly as pate spreads across a canapé. When you touch the finish there’s no tell-tale sign of finger prints left behind at all. I knew then that resistance of such allure was going to be nigh impossible. Oh Lord. What have I done by coming in here, I thought as I immediately contemplated extended overdrafts and accessing whatever equity I might have in the studio equipment I no longer use and might be able to sell to make up the rather large number required to acquire this beautiful lens? Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you view the situation from a slightly different perspective), the Panasonic camera they had in the store didn’t have a charged battery in it, so I wan’t able to see the lens in action. Bootie invited me to bring my own camera in any time to conduct an examination of this lens’ charms on a working camera. It’s an invitation that has been disturbing my sleep patterns since Saturday. There’s nothing wrong with the Olympus 9-18mm that I have been very happy with since I got it in 2012, but you know us photographers, if there is something even remotely better than what we have, well… the GAS becomes irrepressible. And I have been feeling it building up since the weekend. Something’s got to give! But why do we lust after these things the way we do? Do we somehow believe that by possessing them we will be magically endowed with better photography skills? Experience of my own splurges into gear I couldn’t afford, as well as years spent observing the photos of those who can afford it, seems to suggest that the answer is an obvious no. It certainly doesn’t improve your photography much at all. So why do we do it? Why do we crave upgrades and why do we spend so much time obsessing over the gear we think we absolutely can’t live without? I don’t really know. I wish I did but I don’t. There’s possibly a psychiatrist or two out there who does know the answer but they will likely charge me more than the cost of the gear I lust after to provide an answer, so logically speaking… I suppose it will be cheaper to succumb to the GAS than getting therapy for it. Anyway, getting back to the lens in question; From what I have read online by a variety of reviewers (some of whom are actually photographers), the Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm lens is very good, but it also suffers from the same problem that most ultra-wide angle lenses do, namely flare when pointed in the direction of a bright light source. If there is one thing that prevented me from buying the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO that was it. The flare was something that would cause me a problem in most shooting situations and if you know how much I hate editing photos, you’ll know that anything that causes me to do more editing than is ordinarily required is going to be frowned upon. The 8-18mm apparently has better flare resistance than most other wide angle lenses because of the “nano coating” that it has on the elements. Sounds like snake oil, doesn’t it? That said, if there is any truth to the matter, then the lens becomes something that will actually improve my photography if I don’t have to worry about losing contrast in photos where I have a broad range of brightness in the scene (i.e. real estate interiors) and there are fewer element ghosts to worry about cloning out. The 9-18mm Olympus I have doesn’t do too poorly in this situation, actually it does a lot better than the supposedly superior 7-14mm PRO lens does where flare is concerned, but where it falls short of gaining the all important Fotozones Stamp Of Outright Approval (10/10 in any review I do) is its handling of barrel distortion at 9mm. And I suppose it could be a tiny bit sharper too. It certainly isn’t soft though, don’t get me wrong. Far from it. This is a developing story. Stay close to find out if I am able to resist the GAS or succumb to it! Did I mention that they also have the 45mm 1.2 Nocticron sitting right next to the 8-18mm? Let's not even go there... View full article
  8. Dallas

    The Design Of Things

    I thought I would start sharing my week in professional photography with you fine folks. This (hopefully) weekly column will give you an insight into what I am busy with in photography and related matters, things I have discovered and things I am hoping to do. Maybe some opinions too. They won’t be in-depth pieces, but I hope you will enjoy them. So, at the beginning of April a new chapter opened for me. I am now doing real estate photography for a new realtor that has set up shop in my city. They charge a flat rate of sales commission regardless of the property value, which when compared to traditional agencies is way, way less than the normal 5-8%. They send in a professional photographer (like yours truly), upload the resulting photos and description to their website, advertise on other sites and facilitate both appointments to view the property as well as negotiate any offers received for the seller. They also arrange conveyancing, bank loans and everything in-between. When a shoot is required I get given the client’s contact details via email. I must make an appointment to do the shoot and then take no fewer than 20 photos of the property, showing all it’s main features. The money from each individual shoot isn’t a lot, but because there are potentially going to be a large number of people opting to sell via these guys the volume will make up for it. I’ve done 8 properties in the first 3 weeks since they opened, but there has also been Easter holidays to contend with, so it’s bound to improve. This past Friday I did 3 in one day! Truth be told I love this kind of photography. I have always loved residential architecture and interior design and you’ll find me visiting Houzz and Apartment Therapy every day to look at the house tours they do. For me getting this work is kind of like winning a jackpot. Property photography can be challenging though. Some of the houses I have been to photograph have been nothing short of magnificent, while others have been truly abysmal. On the workflow side of things, I have been using the HDR Merge feature in Lightroom made from 3 - 5 exposures, a stop apart. They do need further tweaking once the merge has run, but not that much. The agency only wants images that are 1000px on the long edge, so I have lots of latitude to work with as far as processing goes. So it didn’t help this week that my iMac is still in for repairs to the hinge mechanism that snapped (a common issue with 27” iMacs). I have been doing my editing on my 13” MacBook Pro using that infernal Dell monitor. It hasn’t been calibrated for ages and I am not sure if the colors are correct, so I dare not fiddle too much with things like white balance in my process. Another thing currently working against me is that I decided to upgrade Lightroom so that I could see the new Adobe profiles on offer. They’re very nice, but Adobe has also done something incredibly stupid in this latest version. When you hover your cursor over a preset you get an almost immediate rendering of the effect on the main image window. Great if you want to see what the preset will look like on your shot, but terrible if you have a lot of presets and happen to run your cursor across a few of them on your way to the one you want to use. The computer will engage the preview process for each of them and of course the net result is a spinning computer fan and beachball on my MacBook Pro. Also, the way I have been working for the past heaven knows how many years, is I click the presets I want to use sequentially and assess their effect on the image as I go. For instance, I have Dehaze presets for 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 which makes it a lot faster to chose one than it is to go find the slider and play with that. If I chose one of these and accidentally happen to hover over another one, I am not seeing the effect of the preset I just applied to my image. I have to basically re-wire my brain to use this new edition. But wait, it gets worse! In their infinite wisdom Adobe have not offered the user any way of switching this preview loader off! Nowhere in the preferences will you find it. Unbelievable! Honestly, sometimes I get the feeling that they are trying to force us away from their own product by introducing poor logic to it. Needless to say when my iMac eventually gets returned to me there is no way I will be running the update to that version of Lightroom Classic CC until they sort this preview business out. Anyway, back to the business of photographing houses. As any photographer will discover when they undertake a new project, the question of whether you have the right gear for the task comes up. My widest lens for the micro four thirds system is the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, which is OK, but in my opinion, it’s just not quite wide enough for small rooms like bathrooms and some other places in small houses. The options I have to remedy this are either I get myself an Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO, or the newer Panasonic-Leica 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0. If you’ve read my review of the Olympus 7-14mm you’ll know I never warmed to that lens. To my eye it looks a bit “off” with the way it renders the extreme wide angle of 114˚ at 7mm. It doesn’t look right to me, so I am not giving it much consideration as a lens for real estate photography. This new Pan-Leica 8-18mm lens however, does look very interesting as an alternative. Not quite as wide, but definitely more versatile than the Olympus as it can accept threaded filters whereas the Olympus can’t. Price wise though, it isn’t looking great as it will cost me a whack to import one via B&H. And then I have no local support or warranty. Just not quite wide enough However, there is the option of doing this type of work with my little Canon 200D (SL2 for you American folks) and getting the very cheap but highly rated Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 STM EF-S lens for it. Everything I have read about that lens indicates that it is more than up for real estate work and it costs about $250 here, less than a quarter of the price of either the Pan-Leica or Olympus wide angle options. However…. while I find working with the Canon 200D in pseudo mirrorless mode using live view and the touch screen pretty easy to do, there is a serious feature limitation with it that might scupper this plan. The AE bracketing feature only allows for 3 frames to be shot at a time. There are some instances, as I mentioned earlier, when I need to bracket up to 5 frames to get a decent spread of exposure range. I’d have to do that manually and while it isn’t difficult to do, it will add a significant amount of time to the job. If I do this I’ll then be reliant on two different camera systems again, which is not something I enjoy because I’ll have to get more batteries and might be tempted into buying other things too. Decisions, decisions… Micro Four Thirds definitely needs to look at offering some cheaper wide angle lenses for their system. I wish the likes of Rokinon would bring out a manual focus rectilinear 8mm lens. OK, so that was last week in photography for me. I look forward to seeing what this week brings and also hearing from you folks. View full article
  9. Dallas

    The Design Of Things

    I thought I would start sharing my week in professional photography with you fine folks. This (hopefully) weekly column will give you an insight into what I am busy with in photography and related matters, things I have discovered and things I am hoping to do. Maybe some opinions too. They won’t be in-depth pieces, but I hope you will enjoy them. So, at the beginning of April a new chapter opened for me. I am now doing real estate photography for a new realtor that has set up shop in my city. They charge a flat rate of sales commission regardless of the property value, which when compared to traditional agencies is way, way less than the normal 5-8%. They send in a professional photographer (like yours truly), upload the resulting photos and description to their website, advertise on other sites and facilitate both appointments to view the property as well as negotiate any offers received for the seller. They also arrange conveyancing, bank loans and everything in-between. When a shoot is required I get given the client’s contact details via email. I must make an appointment to do the shoot and then take no fewer than 20 photos of the property, showing all it’s main features. The money from each individual shoot isn’t a lot, but because there are potentially going to be a large number of people opting to sell via these guys the volume will make up for it. I’ve done 8 properties in the first 3 weeks since they opened, but there has also been Easter holidays to contend with, so it’s bound to improve. This past Friday I did 3 in one day! Truth be told I love this kind of photography. I have always loved residential architecture and interior design and you’ll find me visiting Houzz and Apartment Therapy every day to look at the house tours they do. For me getting this work is kind of like winning a jackpot. Property photography can be challenging though. Some of the houses I have been to photograph have been nothing short of magnificent, while others have been truly abysmal. On the workflow side of things, I have been using the HDR Merge feature in Lightroom made from 3 - 5 exposures, a stop apart. They do need further tweaking once the merge has run, but not that much. The agency only wants images that are 1000px on the long edge, so I have lots of latitude to work with as far as processing goes. So it didn’t help this week that my iMac is still in for repairs to the hinge mechanism that snapped (a common issue with 27” iMacs). I have been doing my editing on my 13” MacBook Pro using that infernal Dell monitor. It hasn’t been calibrated for ages and I am not sure if the colors are correct, so I dare not fiddle too much with things like white balance in my process. Another thing currently working against me is that I decided to upgrade Lightroom so that I could see the new Adobe profiles on offer. They’re very nice, but Adobe has also done something incredibly stupid in this latest version. When you hover your cursor over a preset you get an almost immediate rendering of the effect on the main image window. Great if you want to see what the preset will look like on your shot, but terrible if you have a lot of presets and happen to run your cursor across a few of them on your way to the one you want to use. The computer will engage the preview process for each of them and of course the net result is a spinning computer fan and beachball on my MacBook Pro. Also, the way I have been working for the past heaven knows how many years, is I click the presets I want to use sequentially and assess their effect on the image as I go. For instance, I have Dehaze presets for 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 which makes it a lot faster to chose one than it is to go find the slider and play with that. If I chose one of these and accidentally happen to hover over another one, I am not seeing the effect of the preset I just applied to my image. I have to basically re-wire my brain to use this new edition. But wait, it gets worse! In their infinite wisdom Adobe have not offered the user any way of switching this preview loader off! Nowhere in the preferences will you find it. Unbelievable! Honestly, sometimes I get the feeling that they are trying to force us away from their own product by introducing poor logic to it. Needless to say when my iMac eventually gets returned to me there is no way I will be running the update to that version of Lightroom Classic CC until they sort this preview business out. Anyway, back to the business of photographing houses. As any photographer will discover when they undertake a new project, the question of whether you have the right gear for the task comes up. My widest lens for the micro four thirds system is the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, which is OK, but in my opinion, it’s just not quite wide enough for small rooms like bathrooms and some other places in small houses. The options I have to remedy this are either I get myself an Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO, or the newer Panasonic-Leica 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0. If you’ve read my review of the Olympus 7-14mm you’ll know I never warmed to that lens. To my eye it looks a bit “off” with the way it renders the extreme wide angle of 114˚ at 7mm. It doesn’t look right to me, so I am not giving it much consideration as a lens for real estate photography. This new Pan-Leica 8-18mm lens however, does look very interesting as an alternative. Not quite as wide, but definitely more versatile than the Olympus as it can accept threaded filters whereas the Olympus can’t. Price wise though, it isn’t looking great as it will cost me a whack to import one via B&H. And then I have no local support or warranty. Just not quite wide enough However, there is the option of doing this type of work with my little Canon 200D (SL2 for you American folks) and getting the very cheap but highly rated Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 STM EF-S lens for it. Everything I have read about that lens indicates that it is more than up for real estate work and it costs about $250 here, less than a quarter of the price of either the Pan-Leica or Olympus wide angle options. However…. while I find working with the Canon 200D in pseudo mirrorless mode using live view and the touch screen pretty easy to do, there is a serious feature limitation with it that might scupper this plan. The AE bracketing feature only allows for 3 frames to be shot at a time. There are some instances, as I mentioned earlier, when I need to bracket up to 5 frames to get a decent spread of exposure range. I’d have to do that manually and while it isn’t difficult to do, it will add a significant amount of time to the job. If I do this I’ll then be reliant on two different camera systems again, which is not something I enjoy because I’ll have to get more batteries and might be tempted into buying other things too. Decisions, decisions… Micro Four Thirds definitely needs to look at offering some cheaper wide angle lenses for their system. I wish the likes of Rokinon would bring out a manual focus rectilinear 8mm lens. OK, so that was last week in photography for me. I look forward to seeing what this week brings and also hearing from you folks.
  10. Last week Adobe introduced the latest version of their popular Lightroom Classic CC software and at first it seemed like a pretty good upgrade. They introduced several new colour profiles in addition to the old Adobe Standard one and while they weren’t things I could see myself using on a regular basis, it’s always good to see new features coming out for the software. I was happy right up until I had to do my usual editing for another property shoot I had done last week and discovered that all is not well with the new version. Let me explain. Over the years I have developed an efficiency in my workflow that depends on a number of presets that I have added to the develop module. Basically I have presets to do things like straighten vertical lines, remove distortion from my Olympus 9-18mm lens, apply Dehaze in increments of 10, apply a “vanity” filter (which is a value of -20 on the clarity filter), recover 50% highlights and shadows, and so on. What I normally do when editing a shoot is I open an image and I apply each of the usual presets and depending on how things look on the main preview I will either undo what I applied and select the next preset increment, or if I can’t get my preset to produce the look I want I will then move to the sliders and manually adjust them. The manual adjustments are a last resort because this is a real time sapper when you’re editing through a lot of images. It’s just very handy to be able to do these adjustments with a single click. Once I’m happy with the way the image looks I flag it as a pick (P) and move on to the next one. At the end of the editing session I filter in all the flagged images, select them all and export with (you guessed it) one of a large number of saved exporting presets. I’ve been working this way for several years. So, when I was editing my property shoot, I was clicking on a preset then moving my cursor over another unrelated preset. I couldn’t understand why suddenly my image was looking horrendous and also that the preset I had just applied didn’t appear to be working (it was the correct verticals one). I also noticed that the fan on my Mac was spinning like crazy and every now and then I would get the spinning beachball too, both things that have not happened in the recent past when doing the same kind of editing. What could be going on? It turns out that in Lightroom 7.3 when you move the cursor over a preset in the develop module, it applies that preset as a “preview” over the image you see in that module. In other words, it doesn’t appear in your editing history but you will see the effect that preset has in the main image window instead of just in the smaller preview window on the top left corner of the module. If you happen to slide the cursor over a whole lot of presets on the way to finding one of your regular ones you are in effect causing the computer to activate every one of them and display what they are going to do to the image you’re busy editing. Ok, I’ll just turn that behaviour off in the preferences, I thought. Except when I went into the preferences there was no option for that to be found. The coders at Adobe have neglected to provide that as an option. Are you kidding me? Nope. That’s the way it works now. Well, needless to say it has a lot of photographers up in arms and if the responses to a request to have this changed on the Adobe community forum are anything to go by, hopefully soon they will see the error of their ways and provide an option to turn this off. Or if they were smart, don’t make the user have to go into the prefs to turn it on again, rather allow us to activate the large preview by holding down the CMD key while hovering over a preset. That would be an efficient solution. For now I have reverted to the previous version on my iMac (finally returned to me after 3.5 weeks of waiting for the hinge to be repaired - a story for another column). At least I can get on with my work now and not be left wondering what on earth is going on with my images. If this change is also annoying or interfering with your workflow please follow this link to add your voice to the chorus calling for this to be turned off or at least provided as an option (it's currently "under consideration" by Adobe). View full article
  11. Last week Adobe introduced the latest version of their popular Lightroom Classic CC software and at first it seemed like a pretty good upgrade. They introduced several new colour profiles in addition to the old Adobe Standard one and while they weren’t things I could see myself using on a regular basis, it’s always good to see new features coming out for the software. I was happy right up until I had to do my usual editing for another property shoot I had done last week and discovered that all is not well with the new version. Let me explain. Over the years I have developed an efficiency in my workflow that depends on a number of presets that I have added to the develop module. Basically I have presets to do things like straighten vertical lines, remove distortion from my Olympus 9-18mm lens, apply Dehaze in increments of 10, apply a “vanity” filter (which is a value of -20 on the clarity filter), recover 50% highlights and shadows, and so on. What I normally do when editing a shoot is I open an image and I apply each of the usual presets and depending on how things look on the main preview I will either undo what I applied and select the next preset increment, or if I can’t get my preset to produce the look I want I will then move to the sliders and manually adjust them. The manual adjustments are a last resort because this is a real time sapper when you’re editing through a lot of images. It’s just very handy to be able to do these adjustments with a single click. Once I’m happy with the way the image looks I flag it as a pick (P) and move on to the next one. At the end of the editing session I filter in all the flagged images, select them all and export with (you guessed it) one of a large number of saved exporting presets. I’ve been working this way for several years. So, when I was editing my property shoot, I was clicking on a preset then moving my cursor over another unrelated preset. I couldn’t understand why suddenly my image was looking horrendous and also that the preset I had just applied didn’t appear to be working (it was the correct verticals one). I also noticed that the fan on my Mac was spinning like crazy and every now and then I would get the spinning beachball too, both things that have not happened in the recent past when doing the same kind of editing. What could be going on? It turns out that in Lightroom 7.3 when you move the cursor over a preset in the develop module, it applies that preset as a “preview” over the image you see in that module. In other words, it doesn’t appear in your editing history but you will see the effect that preset has in the main image window instead of just in the smaller preview window on the top left corner of the module. If you happen to slide the cursor over a whole lot of presets on the way to finding one of your regular ones you are in effect causing the computer to activate every one of them and display what they are going to do to the image you’re busy editing. Ok, I’ll just turn that behaviour off in the preferences, I thought. Except when I went into the preferences there was no option for that to be found. The coders at Adobe have neglected to provide that as an option. Are you kidding me? Nope. That’s the way it works now. Well, needless to say it has a lot of photographers up in arms and if the responses to a request to have this changed on the Adobe community forum are anything to go by, hopefully soon they will see the error of their ways and provide an option to turn this off. Or if they were smart, don’t make the user have to go into the prefs to turn it on again, rather allow us to activate the large preview by holding down the CMD key while hovering over a preset. That would be an efficient solution. For now I have reverted to the previous version on my iMac (finally returned to me after 3.5 weeks of waiting for the hinge to be repaired - a story for another column). At least I can get on with my work now and not be left wondering what on earth is going on with my images. If this change is also annoying or interfering with your workflow please follow this link to add your voice to the chorus calling for this to be turned off or at least provided as an option (it's currently "under consideration" by Adobe).
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