The annual obsession with poppies very nearly passed me by this year, in fact it would have done had I not been asked to join a meeting in Portsmouth on Wednesday.
As I drove west on the A27 from Brighton, I saw the most amazing field of poppies, at least a quarter of a mile square, absolutely wall to wall. Naturally it was on the other side of the dual carriageway and I was already running slightly late. I filed it away for later.
On the way back, the weather started to deteriorate and rather gloomily I started to work out the possibilities of catching this field in the early morning. A few spots of rain duly appeared, as if to mock me as I approached Shoreham.
To cut a long story short, the rain stopped and so did I, right next to the field. Jumped over the fence and followed a well trodden path into the centre of the field. Given the weather and the fact I only had my Canon G1X to hand, I decided to bracket the shots and try to make something of them later in HDR Efex Pro. All of the shots were taken three times at normal exposure and + – 1 compensation. The idea was to get the detail in the sky as well as the texture of the flowers. No tripod, very steady hands!
This is my favourite from that mini-shoot because the inclusion of the green field on the left gives shape to the poppies and a sense of depth. Some of the other shots had more dramatic skies, but it’s a subjective choice.
Tomorrow, I’m off on my travels again. First stop Arles for the photography festival, second stop Spain. Watch this space for a big announcement in three weeks time!
I was a little surprised when Google announced a month or so ago that they had acquired Nik Software, the company that brought us the excellent Silver Efex Pro and HDR Efex Pro photo editing software.
The acquisition made sense on the level that Google had already acquired Piknik the on line editing suite aimed at entry level photographers and that Google + has been more enthusiastically taken up by photographers than perhaps any other sector, but I’m sure I was not alone in fearing for the future of the earthbound applications.
Given the general feeling of trepidation, the announcement last week that Google were making the entire suite available for $149 took everyone by surprise – and the news that they would upgrade existing customers at no cost was as welcome as it was surprising. A couple of forums reported problems with downloads and support for installation, so I waited until yesterday before e-mailing Nik Customer support to see if I was eligible. They responded within minutes, to my surprise and after I had supplied the license key for my installed version of Silver Efex Pro sent me the download link within about five minutes.
The software installs on top of existing Nik software, no complicated uninstalling required and I carried out some preliminary experiments to check that it was all working. Installed easily and seems to work just as well as it always did.
Well done to Google for this – I’d already bought Silver Efex Pro and HDR Efex Pro, now I have Color Efex Pro, Sharpener, DFine and Viveza at no extra cost. Color Efex Pro consists of a set of pre-defined adjustable filters for colour enhancement, Sharpener does what it says on the tin, very effectivley. DFine is a very effective noise reduction application that allows you to choose which areas to reduce noise in. Viveza is the flagship editing application allowing the user to control contrast, luminosity, brightness, saturation etc.
I’ll be using Sharpener and Dfine, probably more than the other extra applications, but there is something here for everyone and at this price point, it represents excellent value for money.
Las Alpajurras is a region of spain I’ve wanted to visit for years. Situated on the edge of the Sierra Nevada national park, it has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. I based myself in Orviga, a small town at the base of the mountains with good access to the white villages of Capileira, Canar and Bubion and the Moorish town of Lanjeron.
I got lucky with the weather, blazing hot sun for five of the seven days I was there. I took a great many photographs without really having a theme, the landscapes came off best, but I have some ideas ready for when I return – this region of spain is teeming with wildlife and the farming methods in the mountains are thankfully not particularly modern. People routinely live over the age of 100 apparently and I’d like to capture the spirit of this wonderful country on camera.
This was the first time I’ve used a Canon 5D Full frame camera, so I can’t really write about this trip without raving about the technology. I got my hands on the new Mk III for the trip and have been frankly blown away. I haven’t begun to scratch the surface of this camera’s abilities, but things that impressed me mightily were the AF point selection – the camera supports 26 AF assist points which gives so much more precision to the business of focussing. The picture above is a radical crop of a shot I took from about 75 metres away from the subject. The focus point was on the head. The combination of the 10.1 megapixel sensor and the extended AF points meant I was able to put the focus precisely where I wanted it and have pixels to spare even after such a radical crop.
I also loved the speed at which this camera focuses – in combination with an “L” series lens I found myself checking a couple of times to see if autofocus was switched on. Very impressive.
This picture is my favourite from the trip – yes, it is an HDR shot, but it is very close to the idea I had when I shot the three pictures it is made up from. I exposed first of all for the Sky and then for the mountains in the middle and finally the foreground. I was after the layers and as a technical challenge, trying to get the dynamic range or richness of a picture shot with film. Don’t know if I succeeded in that, but I do like this image!
I used Nik HDR Pro to do the HDR conversion and then tweaked it in Lightroom. I like Nik software a lot – it works well with Lightroom and is so intuitive to use.
I’ll be returning to Andalucia, hopefully in November for a few days, and will be spending less time on business and more on photography.
So, Las Alpajurras and a Canon 5D – what could possibly go wrong? ! I must admit, I love this part of the world and this trip has fired my imagination with a vengeance. There’s a lot to photograph and a lot to explore, I plan to go back many times in the next few years and see if I can do the place justice. Here’s hoping!