Black & White Landscapes

I know that black and white is not to everyone’s taste but I started photography with rolls of Kodak and Ilford black and white films so its a natural thing for me. So I wasn’t surprised when I woke up yesterday morning and decided I would like to try to produce a video (should I call it a VLOG?) in black and white.

I don’t know about you but I can’t function properly in the morning without at least one mug of black coffee and another of black tea and in order to get started as soon as possible I decided to record the operation .  I filmed the sequence on a tripod-mounted Fuji X-T20 using the Acros film simulation with a yellow filter. That kettle is actually bright red and the mug a nice shade of blue but it was noticeable how close in tones the two were in black and white. It’s that sort of understanding that is one of the keys to successful black and white imagery I think.  After putting together the tea sequence I stayed at the computer and ended up pulling together an entire sequence using an old blog post for inspiration and a hard drive full of unused video clips, time-lapse sequences and finished black and white images.

The Romantic artists and poets of the late 18th century were inspired by the forces of nature to create an art of the sublime. Photographer Michael Freeman described it as ‘how to enjoy a perfect storm’ and that was very apt stood on the beach at Elgol in November 2015 as the rain lashed down and the wind whipped with such fury that I genuinely feared that even someone of my size might just be blown away by the force.

Joseph Addison wrote in 1712 about scenes that were “… at the same time, as Dreadful and Harmless; so that the more frightful Appearance they make, the greater is the Pleasure we receive from the Sense of our own Safety”.  I’ve rarely been as pleased to retreat to the safety of the van that’s for sure.

For me, black and white is a far better medium for portraying this sense of drama, especially when you consider that, digitally at least, the photographer can get away with adding a level of contrast in a black and white image that would destroy the integrity of the individual colours if he wasn’t working in shades of grey.

Modern digital cameras do make black and white photography more accessible I think. Shooting with film requires an understanding of how different colours will render in shades of grey, think back to the red kettle and blue mug. By setting a black and white picture style on the camera the user can instantly see how the scene will reproduce without any colour.  I shoot in RAW which means that whilst I can view a black and white version on the camera, the image file retains all the colour information too so I can make my own conversions later. I prefer to do it myself rather than rely on the cameras algorithms to do the work, although I must confess to a weakness for the Fuji Acros film simulation on my X-T20.

Black and white isn’t just something that can be used for making dramatic landscape photographs though although it is pretty good at it! I use black and white a lot for many different subjects, for portraits, street scenes, urban photography and some days it’s all I shoot.

Of wardrobes and plastic boxes

I had an interesting hour Monday morning which culminated in me sitting in the wife’s wardrobe chatting to myself.

Pause for dramatic effect …

No, I’ve not lost the plot, well no more than usual anyway. I had been recording the voice over for my second video blog (yes a second) and whilst I was able to use the spare bedroom on Sunday, the main road outside on that side of the house is a lot busier in the week and waiting for lulls in the traffic is not an option.

I watched a ton of videos before heading towards the wardrobe mind. And there was method in my madness.  I will try to explain. Many of the videos I watched talked about putting acoustic tiles on the walls, eliminating extraneous sounds etcetera. All well and good for a professional or serious enthusiast but the casual blogger? Nah! Which explained why one vlogger I watched recorded her commentary sat in a cupboard and another under the stairs surrounded by coats and other outdoor items.  Not much good for voice to camera or talking heads style recordings I guess but for voice only it seemed workable.

© Dave WhenhamSo I looked about this house -no cupboard under our stairs, just the steps to the cellar and nor are there any handy cupboards with sufficient floor space for a six-footer like me to squeeze into. I settled on my wife’s walk-in wardrobe (except you can’t walk-in because of all her shoes).

By opening the double doors and draping these with dressing gowns I had a type of acoustic-cubicle when taken with all the clothes behind (sorry, should explain, clothes absorb stray sounds). I placed my microphone in an acoustic foam-lined plastic storage box on a chair, attached the recorder and then knelt as in prayer in front of the microphone.

With the bedroom door closed and draped in even more dressing gowns (how many can one woman wear!) and the floor length curtains pulled at the window I was as acoustically set up as I was going to be I figured.

Having used this makeshift sound booth for a few days now I can confirm that it does what it is intended to and I’ve recorded two complete narratives using this makeshift set up. It is also very quick and easy to set up, especially as I keep deciding to record just one bit more shortly after putting it all back to normal.  It wasn’t that comfortable if I’m honest, kneeling is no fun at my age I can tell you! The other problem was the floorboards, every time I shifted even slightly the microphone picked up the squeak of our ancient woodwork.

For now it works, if I end up using it on a regular basis I may have to think of a slightly more permanent arrangement – I can’t spend my life in my wife closet after all!



Something Different – the Sequel

Firstly, my thanks to the Postcard Cafe for pointing out that I had comments turned off on my blog – no wonder I wasn’t getting any feedback from my readers (there’s at least two of you I now know!).  I’m not going to go back retrospectively and change every blog post but I’ve now enabled comments for the last couple and for all new posts thanks.

Anyway, Mr C at the Postcard Cafe took the trouble to get in touch to say “I enjoyed watching today’s ‘Something Different’ and how you are happy to show us a work in progress”,  for which I am very grateful.  I have to be honest I hesitated about letting something so “unfinished” out into the wild but at the end of the day I do not profess to be a videographer; I am just a stills photographer intrigued by a medium that is now much more accessible than ever before.

I’m working on what I might do for another video blog post which in my head I have scheduled for sometime in June but in the meantime thought I’d share the sequel to Something Different which uses material I chose to omit from the first video. Had I used all the material I’d have had a six minute video, something I wasn’t ready for just yet!

I am now going to sit down, rewatch both videos and think about how I improve things for the next video.  As one of the purposes of my blog is to share my experiments and blind stumbling in this creative world I will no doubt share some experiences in the meantime.

I hope that you enjoy this one Mr C, it’s dedicated to you!

Something Different

You have to keep pushing yourself I always think in order to be at your creative best. That means never resting on your laurels and always being prepared to try something different.

I have dabbled in video in the past, but never really achieving the quality I was after and therefore after periodic bursts of activity the interest waxes and then wanes.  It’s an itch that never quite goes away though and so in a moment of weakness  I thought I’d have another try this week.

I can’t imagine I’m gonna trouble any YouTuber or Vlogger out there with my efforts but nothing ventured nothing gained I guess.

I think one of the issues I have is that I think like a stills photographer and not a film maker or videographer. I see the world in stills, sometimes a series of stills, but not necessarily in combinations of movement and sound. However,  this I believe can be learnt through practice and a bit of effort – surely? I watch enough Vlogs etcetera on YouTube every week not to mention other online tutorials and videos. Academically at least some of these ideas must have lodged in my brain somewhere even if they’ve not yet taken shape creatively.

The video footage presented here is not new, it is a compilation from various aborted projects from 2016 – not enthralling but a benchmark of sorts I guess.  For me video is a combination of the moving image, the stills, the audio, ambient sounds and voice-over – a lot of different skills for the average Joe to assimilate.

I read recently that the only way to get better at this medium is to make them! However bad the first they will get better and there is no substitute for practice, practice, practice.  I approached this one with a different mind set to previous efforts and I am already considering a second issue for June.

It remains to be seen if the practice does result in better videos – but at least my reader will be able to judge it with me!

Pixel Peeping

A lot has been written about how Fuji RAW (RAF) files are processed by various software packages. I’ve been processing mine in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) from Day One and never had cause for complaint. However, popular wisdom is that Iridient X-Transformer (IXT) is the way to go, although typically no one can quite agree on the best way to configure this software.

I thought though that I’d give it a try and, again following perceived wisdom, have set the parameters so that there is no sharpening applied. That seems to me to be a fairer test, turning sharpening off in both ACR and IXT and applying equal sharpening using the Unsharp Mask in Photoshop.

Dave Whenham
Side by side, the full image (16%)

In the screenshot above the IXT processed file is on the left and the ACR version on the right. There is very little manual tweaking to be done with IXT – apart from initial set up of the interface everything is automatic. The ACR file however was manually tweaked to get the best image, to my taste, from the RAW file. Both files then had exactly the same degree of Unsharp Mask applied in Photoshop. Looking at the side by side there is little to choose and the most striking thing for me is how close to how I envisaged the file is the IXT conversion.

© Dave Whenham
Pixel-peeping at 100%

I’m not sure how well it shows up here but pixel peeping at 100% the ACR conversion has the smallest of edges but to be honest the difference is so small that it is not going to register when uploaded to Instagram or even printed and viewed at an appropriate distance for the size of the print.

For my part I will probably continue manually processing RAW files in ACR, saving IXT for those “tricky” files where I can’t seem to get quite what I want. However, if I wanted to quickly batch process a lot of RAF files I wouldn’t hesitate to put them through IXT and then applying basic sharpening through a batch process in Photoshop should I feel the need to sharpen the converted files. However, as I only use DNG files from IXT I can be safe in the knowledge that any DNG file on my hard drive will be unsharpened so I doubt if this second step will be required that often.

Nikkor 50mm f1.8 E … Fuji X-T1

Another post from my overworked desktop this week! My reader must be getting fed up with me popping up in their Inbox at the moment. Fear not, this level of activity rarely lasts for too long.

© Dave Whenham
Shooting into a low and very bright sun outside the window – metered for skin and blew the highlights

© Dave WhenhamI had the K&F Concept Nikon G – Fuji X converter out yesterday and earlier today playing with the Nikon fit Sigma macro lens on both the Fuji X-T20 and X-T1. Whilst I had it in my bag I decided to try another Nikon-fit lens, this an old Nikkor 50mm f1.8 Series E lens (later silver version). This great little lens hails from the 1980s (1981-1985 to be exact) and I picked mine up very cheaply a while back now.
With the adapter I was focusing manually, but the lens has a well-damped focusing ring which makes this a pleasure. The adapter does have a stop down facility and with the aperture ring on the lens too this means I can focus wide open and then stop down to meter and take the shot.

© Dave Whenham
These first two colour shots are taken at f2.8

I was trying to photograph Zac, a bundle of energy who is never still requiring fast focusing and quick reactions from me. Shooting into the sun I was blown away by the quality of these two colour images, there is certainly “something” about the overall rendition that screams “film!” at me.

© Dave Whenham

These two are both f2.8 using the Fuji B&W with yellow filter film simulation

All four of these images are in-camera JPEGs incidentally, minor post production using Snapseed on my phone … Zac had the iPad!. The two mono images are in-camera mon conversions using the B&W(Ye) film simulation which I like in the X-T1 for portraits as the yellow plays nicely with skin tones.

I did try some images of plants in the garden but the magic was only evident went shooting into the light wide open or almost wide open. The focus peaking in the camera was a godsend too and I had a thoroughly satisfying half an hour – unexpected, unlooked for even but welcome nonetheless.

In-Camera Crop Mode

Gimmick or useful feature?

© Dave Whenham
Fuji X-T1 SOOC JPEG with no post-shoot crop required

To be honest, gimmick would have been my initial response, at least that was until this morning when I actually tried it out. I’ve shot RAW for many, many years and like having the maximum data available for later use if required. However, I’ve also started to use the SOOC JPEG files from the Fuji cameras recently, particularly for online use.  Even if I do nothing else to the image though I still need to bring it into software to crop especially as I habitually shoot with a square crop in mind and sometimes a panoramic 16×9 format.

© Dave Whenham
Fuji X-T1 with 18-55 lens

So, what I pondered if I shot in-camera at the required format (1×1 or 16×9) and didn’t need to take the JPEG into any software? As I’d finished what I’d set out to photograph and was walking back to the car with no time pressures I decided to have a play. It was just as well that there were no time pressures because I spent another 45 minutes trying it out!

Long story short, I found it so much easier to “see” the compositions with the camera already displaying the desired format in the EVF. I was also able to frame up accurately thus avoiding that sometimes painful choice back at the computer when you have to crop out something on the edge of the frame because you’d not quite composed properly in the field.

© Dave Whenham
The scene that started it all – my first in-camera cropped image.
© Dave Whenham
The RAW file is full-sized, the as-shot crop though is remembered

The final surprise came when I got home and found the RAW files had the full scene captured (see screen grab from ACR) thus meaning that any small mis-framing in the field can be tweaked back at base.


I did remember to put the camera back to the native 3×2 format before I put it back into my bag but I can see me using this feature quite a bit in future.

© Dave Whenham
It was great to see the composition in the EVF, especially with very busy scenes where the absence of distractions helped considerably.

So, to answer my own question – it’s a very useful feature especially for those of us who usually shoot with a pre-determined image format in mind. The safety net of having the full-sized RAW file was an unexpected bonus (perhaps if I’d read the manual it wouldn’t have been a surprise, but I’m a man and how many men read manuals first?) and makes it an even more useful feature for the dedicated RAW shooter. In fact it might be said that this feature is reason enough to shoot RAW+JPEG on a permanent basis (something I do anyway given how cheap memory is these days).

Some Sigma Fun

The Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens has been a permanent fixture on the Nikon D7100 body for the last week. At this time of year I often leave the macro lens attached and the camera ready to hand. One day, one day, I will get that elusive insect in flight image I’ve been after for several years but until I do there’s always the flowers in the garden.


After a “straight” shot of the backlit poppies I started looking for opportunities to use the poppies as a backdrop to other, smaller flowers in the raised bed.


With a few of those captured I looked to open the lens up nice and wide and look to shoot through the other plants. The placement of flowers in the bed meant that the natural subject was these poppies with other flowers out of focus in the foreground to shoot through and more colour beyond as a background.

© Dave WhenhamD7100_Sigma105_Flowers_10052017_DSC_0929

Finally, my favourite from the session. Red, green, blue, yellow and a touch of white.


All images Nikon D7100, Sigma 105mm macro lens and a low wall to steady my arms!


“There’s no such thing as the wrong light, just the wrong attitude.”

As a landscape photographer I’ve heard such homilies ad nauseam over the years. Another variation is “There’s no such thing as the wrong weather just the wrong clothes”. The fact that in general terms I actually agree with these sentiments doesn’t lessen the irritation I feel whenever one of these phrases gets trotted out, however well-meant.

(C) Dave Whenham

As it happens, I’ve been thinking about attitude recently.  Looking at Lightroom, I took more photographs in April than in the first three months of the year combined. With just a third of May gone I’m currently matching Aprils daily average too. But apart from one trip, which ironically produced very few images, everything these last six weeks has been shot locally. Much of it in my small back yard as the last couple of blog posts will attest.

What has been different in the last six weeks compared to the first thirteen weeks of the year? Well, I hate to admit it but “attitude” springs to mind. My attitude in general.

Attitude: the way you feel about something
synonyms: point of view, view, viewpoint, vantage point, frame of mind, way of thinking, way of looking at things, outlook

(C) Dave Whenham

So, in case there’s any doubt, your attitude is down to YOU. No one else. In the same way that MY attitude is down to ME. So no excuses then. No use saying that someone else prevented me from taking photos. Unless they physically restrained me (which they didn’t). What kept me indoors and reduced my creative output in the first quarter of the year was me.  Me. Period.

We all go through creative ruts, it’s normal and there’s no point fretting about it. However, when you chose to sit and watch another YouTube video rather than jump in the car and drive just fifteen minutes to take some images in the local woods then you can’t blame a creative rut. It’s down to you (and of course all these “you” references should  actually be “me”).

So, next time I see “there’s no such thing as the wrong light, just the wrong attitude”, or one of the variants I will still cringe slightly inside but I will also say “yes – and that means ME too”.

Backlit – 2 photos

© Dave Whenham

We only have a tiny front garden and a small back yard but my wife has managed to cram a lot of colour into these two small spaces. First thing in the morning at this time of the year the plants in the small raised bed opposite the back door receive the morning sun as it peeps above the houses opposite creating lovely backlit images. There’s usually a few of these in my files come the end of the year!

© Dave Whenham
No flash, both images simply backlit and exposed accordingly. That’s actually our shed in the background of both these images!