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Saturday, 19 May 2012

Norwich Cathedral & the Panasonic 25mm F1.4

The other weekend I was on taxi duty to take my daughter to a party over the border in the centre of Norwich, which left time to fill whilst I waited for her to finish. With rain forecast, this seemed like a great opportunity to use my new Pany 25mm lens in Norwich Cathedral. I love photographing the inside of churches, with the ornate decoration, natural light streaming though the windows, and that familiar musty smell. Being a place of worship I'm always concious of keeping noise to a minimum, and using the Pany GH2 as my camera would also have the benefit of a quieter shutter.

Norwich Cathedral has the largest monastic cloisters of any English cathedral, and walking within them you will notice coats of arms on the walls of the north walk. In 1578 Queen Elizabeth visited Norwich and the cloisters were the scene of a royal banquet. The coats of arms are of the hosts that entertained her. On my visit the cloisters had brightly coloured barriers protecting areas where they were installing floor lighting, so I decided to point the camera upwards and focus on the architecture of the ceiling. Even on a dull day there was sufficient light to use ISO 160 for the cloister and spire images.

The inside of the cathedral continued to impress, with an unusually long nave and a spectacular church organ. The stained glass windows tower up into the heights, and the decoration is incredibly ornate. These images were all taken at ISO 800 apart from the single stained glass window at ISO 160.

The spire on the Norman tower at 315 foot high is the second tallest in England, second only to that of Salisbury. I took this photograph from the cloisters using one of the arches to frame the spire. Half way up the spire on the right you can just make out the nesting platform for the Peregrine Falcons.

I had a great time taking photos in the Cathedral and the Pany GH2 with 25 f1.4 lens performed admirably. I didn't feel I was losing anything by not having the the 5D2 with me. I had a little more noise, but a slight addition of noise reduction in Lightroom 4 dealt with that. For one of the images in my previous post, I mentioned I missed the additional dynamic range of the 5D2 to capture the detail in the sky. I think the GH2 coped well inside the cathedral and I didn't miss the addition dynamic range in this instance.

It was a delight being able to use and carry such light weight photography kit, particularly as my family also wanted to do some shopping in Norwich. I'm now keen to get to a local castle and test the camera/lens combination in that environment, as the early indications are it will be a perfect fit.

My Churches & Cathedrals photos on Flickr

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Sunny Oasis

After what seems likes weeks without a rainless day, last weekend we got a respite. Throughout the day I saw patches of blue sky with beams of light shining through the clouds, and it looked like it could be a great evening for photography. There seemed to be an abundance of yellow Oilseed Rape fields around the Stowmarket area,  and I'd been desperate to get out and take some photos. Sure enough the evening was producing great light, so I jumped in the car and headed out to the fields.

This spot near Old Newton with Dagworth drew my attention immediately. Not only did it offer an expanse of yellow fields, but fresh young barley, and with the light changing fast, I didn't have to spend time walking far as it was right next to the road.

Road and tractor tracks created flowing lines that could be used to draw the eye into the picture, and the clouds created additional impact complementing the fields. The first photo is a little unusual in that neither the sky or the land occupies 2/3rds of the image, but is instead roughly a 60/40% split.  This time I felt it just worked for this image, and the 2/3rds rule is only a guideline.

The two photos below are the same tree taken with both a wide angle and telephoto lens, providing two very different aspects on the same subject. The wide angle was mounted on a Canon 5D2 whilst the telephoto was mounted on a Panasonic GH2. Editing the GH2 image in Lightroom proved problematic, as it became clear the GH2 struggled to capture the tones in the sky. Moreover, it was all too easy to produce a white fringe around the tree where it borders the sky. With hindsight I should have brought a polariser with me.

Surrounded by beautiful yellow fields it's so easy to miss other opportunities, so take a moment to stop and look at the detail around you, there's often close up shots right at your feet, or a lonely figure taking in the view.

My Suffolk Countryside photos on Flickr

Monday, 7 May 2012

Lightroom & Lilies

These days colour processing using funky effects is used way too often in an attempt to enhance a mediocre image. Instagram and other smartphone apps seem to have exacerbated the issue, but used appropriately, colour processing combined with other post processing can enhance an image.The key is to start with a good image, and then depending upon the end goal look to see if it can be improved upon. This might be to make it look more like what you actually saw when you took the photo, or it might be taking an artistic view.

The centre image of the nine images below is my original photo processed for realism. The outer eight photos are different interpretations. My tool of choice is Adobe Lightroom, which comes with a number of processing presets, and it's very easy to select different ones and see the effect. It is immediately obvious that some presets just don't enhance an image, and may degrade it. However, there will be some that do enhance the image, and Lightroom's ability to make virtual copies allows me to make several versions of the image processed in different ways. Below is a selection of these, some made simply by applying presets, others by applying additional effects such as a vignette, and lastly one using the paint brush tool to paint colour back into the stamen (top right).

Which is the best is purely a matter of the viewer's taste. Ironically, I actually like the montage as a whole rather than favouring any individual image over another.

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