A Lockdown Walk In Pictures

So, we’re still on lockdown here in Wales, and we’re told we can go out for exercise, and we try to do it whenever we can. Usually it’s just myself and the boys, but we managed to get the wife along with us as she was off work for once. We walked around the block, through a local park called Vivian Park, and went through the children’s play area as it was empty and no-one around, where the boys let off some steam and played to their hearts content.

I took my Fujifilm X-T3 with me, and took photos of the boys. Mostly in burst mode to capture the moment I wanted. Burst mode is an ideal trick to capture everything, and one you should be doing with family or when taking portraits.

All images converted to black and white in Snapseed, with a border added, and then resized in Photoscape X Pro. Please click on them to see them in correct crop and full screen.

For a bit of fun, I also took a couple of double exposures. I know they can be done in software, but the real fun is doing it in camera and just experimenting. Here is Sam, taking a photo of the local cenotaph. I hope you like it. It’s one generation, capturing am almost forgotten generation.

Captured in camera, and contrast adjusted in Snapseed.

Hopefully, this was a bit different. And if there’s one this I learned from the day, it’s don’t forget your spare battery when you haven’t used your camera in a while and its freezing outside!

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Why Darktable is perfect for Fujifilm users.

There’s an editing package that stands head and shoulders amongst the paid for and subscription editing package services out there, and it’s called Darktable. Many people would have heard of it, but presume because it is free, it is no good or not suitable. However, things couldn’t be further from the truth, as Darktable isn’t only amazingly powerful, but has a lot of useful features, especially (but not exclusively) for Fujifilm users.

What does Darktable generally offer?

Before we delve into what Darktable offers Fujifilm camera users, you need to know what Darktable offers in the way of it’s general features.

Think of Darktable as Lightroom, but on steroids. It offers a full library/Lighttable organisation section which allows you to view and tag multiple images, arrange them by various forms of ranking and much more, on a similar way to Lightroom. However you’ll have none of that importing inconvenience of Lightroom , as you can point directly to the directory your images are stored, or even just edit single images very simply.

In the editing portion of Darktable you can of course start the process of non-destructive editing. Darktable 3.4 has a wealth of options, many more than Lightroom offers for total control over the processing of your images.

Darktable has some very powerful and unique features for masking, which once used, you’ll wonder how you managed without them. Being able to curve the gradient line is something so simple, yet missing from every other editing package. There are also the parametric masks, which give you instant and full control over the areas you want with the tweak of some sliders (very much like colour or luminosity masks, but more advanced). In fact, there are a ton of masking options, something for every conceivable operation you may need to perform.

What’s in it for Fujifilm users?

Firstly it handles Fuji raw files with ease, avoiding so called artefact issues that allegedly plague some software. Noise and sharpening is handled extremely well, and you’ll always get clean looking images.

And then we have the built in colour science. Using the Colour Lookup Table module, you can instantly choose from a selection of Fujifilm film simulations. When added to your image they can be very accurate, especially when you can the exposure correct. You can fine tune them to by changing the opacity of the modules mask, perfect for getting things just right.

The standard Color Look Up Table Options

There is also a Velvia module, which, as the name suggests, adds colour and contrast to your image in a way that using the Velvia film simulation looks and feels. A great module for making your images pop.

Finally, you have Darktable Styles (dtStyles) which can result be downloaded. There is a huge repository for Fujifilm styles, covering dozens of film stock variants and X-Trans III sensor styles. It’s a great resource to get your image looking “Fuji”, and styles can be adjusted easily, as they are usually base curves with often other adjustments which are added to your history stack for tweaking.

dtStyles (First half)
dtStyles (Second half)

Of course, Darktable can use LUT files too, so as an added bonus, you can add any Fujifilm (or other cameras) LUT files to help you achieve what your aiming for, especially if you’ve used those LUTs in other programs. Check out my good friend Marc’s website here for accurate Fujifilm LUTs.

Conclusion

Darktable has a bit of a learning curve, but in its latest update to 3.4, it’s easier to use that it ever was. If you’re coming from Lightroom, Darktable should generally be more accessable.

For a free and open source program, you can tell a lot of love has gone into making Darktable. Written by photographers, for photographers, and it shows, plus it is updated on a regular basis and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux computer systems.

Visit Darktable here, and give it a download, as it’s free!

Get your dyStyles here.

Visit here for many more LUTs etc

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Creating a successful photography website

You’ll be surprised at the amount of people who think once you create a personal photography website, that’s all you need to do and the world will see your photographs. In reality, things couldn’t be further from the truth, and taking that approach you’ll have a very limited number of visits to your website, regardless of how good you think your work is.

If you want people to visit your site, situated your photos and other with, you need to set up a long term plan to get your money’s worth from your domain. What I’ve tried to do here is take a look at his to achieve success, based on my latest website and change of approach compared to other websites I’ve run.

One: Have branding or a name that stands out.

So many photographers have their websites as just their names. In a world of “JoeBlogsPhotograpy.com” type websites being one million to the dozen, try and be a bit more creative so people remember you. Think about what you do most, what you want people to remember you for! The possibilities are endless, and people will remember it more!

Two: Content.

It’s an obvious one, but an important one to think about. Do you have enough contact to be interesting? Most people will just click through your images in seconds, do you have enough to keep them interested? If you do, does the image to a story? Do you tell the story to go with it?

What is in context and a memorable photograph for you, will be totally irrelevant for other people, so even if it’s just a title, give meaning to your photographs.

Three: More content.

In this day and age, simply having a couple of pretty pictures doesn’t work anymore. People like to discover new things. If you’ve got the time dedicate your time to writing a blog update as often as you can, it can be about anything that interests you, but more importantly it will need to be something that others may be interested.

Four: Set aside a section for a specialist subject.

Sometimes you need to attract people to your website by offering something you specialise in. It can be anything, for me it’s my Fujifilm Film Simulations section. I have a huge interest in film after shooting all sorts since the late 1970s, and there’s a community of Fujifilm users that enjoy using their advanced capabilities to emulate film.

Whatever it is, it will draw people to your website, and if it’s done good enough, these people will explore the rest of your website. The one thing you don’t want is the same amount of visitors as views of your website, as that will show that people are not looking around.

Five: Metadata and tags

Make sure every bit of writing you do has words or sentences that can be picked up by search engines. Make sure your blogs are still tagged, your web pages full of metadata and make sure everything is relevant.

The importance of this feature cannot be understated. With burning to search for, no one will discover your site.

Six: Collaborate

Don’t be afraid to build up relationships with other content providers who you admire. You’ll mutually benefit from working together in more ways than one. It can push you to better understand audiences, improve your workflow and build up great friendships

Seven: Constant work and plugging.

The single most important point is this final point. You need to be updating your content almost daily, you need to be plugging your website daily, you need to be linking to your blog at every opportunity and you need to be refreshing everything as often as you can.

It’s hard work making a website successful, but it’s also very important if you want to be recognised for what you do. If you fail in any of the things mentioned above, your website will just be another website that your friends and family will enjoy when your remind them about it

Beach Life At Aberavon

I live next to the beach, and it’s a beautiful place to live. We have so much to offer at Aberavon, and sometimes it’s nice to just photograph the people as well as the landscape around us. This blog I’ve titled “Beach Life At Aberavon”, and is a slice of life during lockdown in Wales in 2021. Usually the beach, at this time of year is nowhere near as busy as this, however, with lockdown, people are exercising more than ever.

I’ve gone for a slight cinematic tone with the editing tonight. I just felt like playing a little with my usual look. As such, all images have added a cinematic look to them using Photoscape X Pro. As usual, the photographs were taken using my Fujifilm X-T3, however tonight I used my Fujifilm 50-230mm lens for a change.

Here are the images from the evening. As usual, all EXIF data is included, and they are best viewed full screen.

Hopefully you have enjoyed these photos. Comments are welcome, as are likes for the blog, and of course subscribe so you don’t miss out on future blogs!

While you are here, take a look around all my other blogs! There’s loads to see!!!

New Years Day Sunset Shoot

January 1st 2021 was like a breath of fresh air in so many ways. The end of 2020, a quiet day and to top it off, a beautiful, if short lived sunset. I decided to during the day, that I would go out for the sunset, and take my son Samuel out for the evening. Samuel had a new camera for Christmas, and needed to try it out. It’s only a 5mp children’s camera, but it hopefully be the start of a new love for him.

Armed with my Fujifilm X-T3 and Viltrox 23mm F/1.4, along with my new 60″ strap from Cordweaver (which is amazing in every way!), Samuel and myself headed a couple of hundred yards up the road and started to take some photographs of the evening.

What I have here are the straight out of camera images, shot in the MGA Colour Chrome film simulation recipe from my website. Images were cropped in Photoscape X Pro. All the EXIF data is in the images, and I was set to auto ISO (Maxium ISO6400 and minimum shutter 1/100).

Due to current Covid-19 restrictions, we cannot travel to get anywhere, so we have to stay local. I am lucky enough to have this on our doorstep. It was the first time out for a while in challenging conditions, where we had a super bright sunset, followed by swift darkness. Over the month’s I’ve not really had chance to push the camera in the ways I wanted, so on New Years Day evening, I decided to try out the eye/face detection to it’s fullest, and was mighty surprised that the X-T3 found faces and eyes even with the sun directly behind the subject (usually Samuel!).

I was worried that the auto ISO might hit the top end of ISO6400 on a regular basis, but it didn’t, thankfully the Viltrox 23mm F/1.4 is a steller performer in low light. All this combined with my favourite base film simulation, I was happy with the results straight from camera.

As you know though, I like to take HDR images (three photographs EV-2/0/+2), just in case I am missing some dynamic range. I usually just upload my images to Google Photos (where I store my jpegs) and let Google Photos produce the HDR images. Here are the results for some of these!

As you can see, the HDR images are much more vibrant. They were resized in Photoscape X Pro and there was some tweaks to the highlights and shadows. I love the flexibility of shooting multiple exposure bracketed images for HDR as they give you so many options for editing.

Overall, it was a great evening, and bumping into my friend Thomas, just made it a special night. Hopefully there will be more to come soon (lockdown restrictions permitted!).