Loading...

Follow José Ramos Photography on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid

Choosing a monitor for photo editing is not easy, but it is an absolutely essential step to ensure the best quality output of your images. Read on to find out what are the most important features in a monitor to me, as well as a detailed review of the BenQ SW2700PT screen.

When one ventures into the world of photography, you just think that a good camera and lens is all that is needed to create great images. Then you start learning about all the steps it takes to reliably create solid images, and then all of a sudden there´s so much more gear you need to think about.

With 36 years of age, I´m not that old, but I still come from a time when there were no LCD screens, monitors were white on the outside, heavy, bulky, and “Trinitron” or “100hz” technology was all the rage. Then those intriguing slim monitors slowly invaded desks around the world, and with them different types of panels no one seemed to care about, except, as usual, designers/photographers and gamers. Now photographers had to worry about new acronyms – TN, VA,IPS and other panels – and this information was not that easy to find.

Fortunately things evolved and changed a lot, and nowadays monitors are clearly segmented for different types of use, with some brands offering monitors specifically created for photographer´s needs.

And what does a photographer need in a monitor? These are the most important features, in my opinion:

  • Panel type – in a very resumed way, choosing the right panel (or one of its variations) is extremely important. IPS panels are usually chosen for good color reproduction and great viewing angles, chosen by creatives. TN panels offer poorer color reproduction but much less lag,being ideal for gamers and budget screens. VA panels stand in the middle between the IPS and TN, offering a compromise between color reproduction and lag.
  • Good color reproduction and brightness when viewed at different angles – I´ve used TN panel laptops in the past where just a slight change in the position of your eyes, in relation to the monitor, would create hue and brightness changes, making editing quite difficult
  • Full reproduction of the needed color space, which means at least 100% sRGB or 100% AdobeRGB – editing on a monitor that does not show you the full range of the color space you are working with turns editing into a hit-or-miss affair, and that is the last thing you want while processing those images that were so incredibly hard to get

  • Size – some people prefer two-screen setups, others love huge screens, and only one thing is for sure: you need quite a bit of screen real estate if you want to have space for the software toolbars, and still be able to view your image with good detail
  • Pixel per inch ratio – the number of pixels per inch on a screen depends on the number of pixels (resolution) and the physical size of the screen. This one is quite controversial, as most creatives are going the high-ppi road, while I still favor lower ppi screens around a sweet spot of 100-120ppi. Very high ppi screens, usually found in 4K and 5K monitors, do definitely show you awesome images, and every image tends to look awesome such screens. This is certainly great when you view your images on your own screen, but there´s always the possibility that what you are seeing will not properly translate to viewing environments with less pixels-per-inch (nowadays the vast majority of screens). Resizing for the web is also not easy in very high ppi screens, as a 1080pixel image for Instagram or a 1280x-1920x image for other websites will look very small on such screens, making it difficult to properly apply sharpening. Even while adjusting high megapixel images, it´s very difficult to discern individual pixels, so many flaws of an image may go unnoticed, until they are viewed on a lower resolution screen. When I discuss this subject with fellow photographers, I usually mention how things works in a audio recording studio, where audio producers always have their pair of favourite reference monitor speakers, usually know for their extremely flat response curve, in an attempt to expose all the flaws of a record, so that the producer can deal with them and ensure that the audio recording will properly translate both to high end audio environments and things like tiny smartphone speakers. Like I said, this is a controversial issue, as one day the majority of screens worldwide will have very high ppis, but meanwhile I prefer lower ppis, as I feel they give me a higher level of control in terms of quality output and good translation to other screens.  

  • Good panel uniformity in terms of brightness and color reproduction – this is not often talked about, but it doesn´t make sense to edit on a screen with a small square in the center which is properly calibrated, but then the rest of the screens shows great deviations in terms of brightness or color reproduction
  • Hardware LUT calibration possibility – every monitor can be calibrated with a proper calibration device, like the X-Rite i1 Display Pro or the Datacolor Spyder. The color management settings are usually managed by the calibration device software, so if you connect the monitor to a different computer/laptop, you will need to calibrate it again, so that changes are implemented at the operating system level of the new computer. Some more advanced monitors have the possibility of writing the color calibration settings directly to the monitor hardware LUT (look-up table), so the calibration will be directly implemented at the monitor itself. This not only allows for more precise calibration, but also helps to avoid any kind of color management conflicts at the software level and, no matter what the monitor is connected too, it will keep it´s calibration.
  • Pulse Width Modulation – some LED monitors employ a dimming technique called PWM, which can sometimes generate flicker which causes eye strain to some users. Unfortunately I have been a victim of eye strain due to a laptop LCD with low frequency PWM, so now I always try to use monitors which have no PWM, as I find them to be much easier on my eyes.
  • Matte-Non glossy monitor – I don´t like editing with glossy monitors as I´m easily distracted with intense reflections

And so, after this quite extensive introduction, we shall move on to the monitor review of the BenQ SW2700PT monitor. My good old Apple Cinema 30, with around 9 years of use, was already showing its age through random disconnects, loss of brightness uniformity and white point shift, so this was the perfect timing to get an invitation from BenQ to test one of their monitors. I could choose any monitor I wanted and, even though I was tempted by their new SW271 4K monitor, I decided I would stay with the same QHD resolution of my Apple and requested the SW2700PT. I had been closely following BenQ, as they have a solid reputation of offering some of the best price/quality ratio monitors in the market for photographers and other creatives, so their monitors would have been a natural candidate for purchase, alongside brands like Dell or Eizo (these two classically more expensive).

BenQ SW2700PT – Taken from the official BenQ website, with my “The Doubt” photo added

BenQ SW2700PT adjustable stand offering great ergonomics

The SW2700PT has been around for a while, and is a favorite of many creatives. I did a thorough research of BenQ´s lineup, and this monitor seemed to ticked all the right boxes, so I was extremely excited to test it and start editing my images with it.

Just like all of my reviews, I only write them after doing extensive use of the product, as flaws will only be noticed after a long period. Considering this, I have already used the SW2700PT for dozens of hours, and edited all my latest photos with it.

In the next images you can see the monitor unpackaging, as well as all the accessories that come with it. Packaging was top notch, and BenQ provides everything the end user might need to start using the monitor, not having to purchase accessory cables.  

BenQ SW2700PT packaging

BenQ SW2700PT unboxing

BenQ SW2700PT unboxing

The BenQ SW2700PT was launched at the end of 2015 and has been a best seller for the brand. Remembering my introduction about which features I look for in a monitor, you can see that the SW2700PT offers:

  • IPS Panel with not only 100% sRGB color space reproduction, but also full 100% coverage of the AdobeRGB Spectrum
  • Good viewing angles
  • Good Pixel-per-inch ratio, namely 108.9 ppi, allowing for good control of detail and sharpening both in web sized and full resolution images
  • 27 inches real estate size, which is, in my opinion, the sweet spot both for single or dual monitor setups
  • Hardware calibration through their proprietary software Palette Master Elements
  • Apparently no PWM for dimming the monitor
  • Matte screen

Besides ticking all the boxes for what I look for in a monitor, the BenQ still offers some additional features:

  • Monitor hood – I had never used one before, but now I understand its importance, as it effectively blocks most light input top and lateral external light sources that could influence color temperature. Quite interestingly, it also creates some sort of psychological effect where you feel fully immersed in the editing process, as there are no distracting elements right by the monitor borders.

BenQ SW2700PT calibrated with the X-Rite i1Display Pro

  • Professional Factory Calibration out of the box – for those who do not have a hardware calibrator, the BenQ comes with certified calibration from factory, including a signed certificate showing that. Even though it´s important to calibrate every now and then, as no monitor can keep it´s calibration stable for months, this was a nice feature to have when you haven´t bought your calibrator yet.
  • Hotkey Puck – placed in the monitor base, it allows for quick change of monitor settings and changing between different color spaces. Unlike many professionals, I usually edit my images in sRGB color space, as the web and most printing facilities work with this color space. Still, there are times when I want to edit in AdobeRGB, and this monitor makes it extremely easy to change between color spaces, without having to fiddle with unstable softwares.
  • 10 bit panel and 14-bit LUT, ensuring smooth transitions in low detail areas like skies, where banding is usually present with lower quality monitors.
  • Ergonomics – after using the Apple Cinema 30 with it´s absolute lack of height adjustments (which actually forced me to buy a different chair with more height), I can´t explain how great it is to have a fully customizable monitor in terms of height, rotation and tilt. These monitor are big and can cause strain on your neck if position isn´t adjusted properly, so the smooth ergonomic adjustments the BenQ comes with create a more comfortable and productive environment for editing.

I´m currently using an X-Rite i1Display Pro calibrator. I think it´s better than Datacolor´s Spyder, and it´s compatible with the proprietary Palette Master Elements from BenQ.  I decided to use the Palette Master Elements software to calibrate the monitor because it is the only way to create an load a profile directly into the 14 bit LUT. Besides that, like I explained at the beginning of this article, it has the added advantage of having the calibration profile directly implemented into the monitor hardware.

BenQ SW2700PT calibrated with the X-Rite i1Display Pro

As you can see, after calibrating with the BenQ Palette Master software, color uniformity is very good across the whole color spectrum, with Delta E lower than “2” for all colors. 

BenQ SW2700PT Calibration Validation with the palette Master Elements Software

Unfortunately it looks like BenQ monitors suffer from some color uniformity issues, which only seem to affect some units. This is something which should not happen if you are looking for a solid editing environment, so always check for uniformity (through X-Rite i1 Display Pro software, for example) when you receive your monitor. Even though much more expensive high-end monitors allow for independent adjustment of specific areas of the screen to ensure uniformity, the Benq (and many other competitor models from brands like Dell) do not have this option, so you should always make sure you have received a good unit.

Regarding my current desktop space, I´m a fan of using a dual display setup, as that allows me to put all my tools, web browser, music player and other programs in one of the screens, with the other screen being fully dedicated to image editing. Right now my desktop looks kind of strange, as I´m using my jurassic and gigantic Apple Cinema 30 as my second screen. It almost makes the Benq look small in comparison, but actually I feel much more comfortable editing with the BenQ. Right now I need to decide between going back to a single screen setup, or possibly get a second Benq SW2700PT to become friends with the first BenQ!

My desktop showing the BenQ SW2700PT and the Apple Cinema 30

Conclusion: assuming you can get a model with good uniformity, this is quite simply one of the monitors with the best quality/price ratio. It has been my editing companion for the last months, and it´s perfect for my needs, so I´ll keep it! Absolutely recommended!

Finally, and because the purpose of getting a good monitor is to be able to create images, here are some photos edited with the new BenQ monitor:

“Rapture” – Sigoldugljufur, Icelandic Highlands

“Equilibrium” – Lago di Braies, Dolomites, Italy

“Worship” – Dolomites, Italy

The Wonders of Awe – Godafoss Waterfall – Iceland

O post

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Sorry for the excessively epic title, but after almost freezing my hands during an Iceland photo trip, a long search for proper winter gloves, that would be both warm and ergonomical for operating a camera, had just begun… :-)

For many years most of my photo career was based on shooting the gorgeous Portuguese seascapes and landscapes. Even though our winters can sometimes be a bit harsh, as long as the shooting sessions were not too long, one could get away with not using proper winter gloves.

Then I found a new love for the arctic and high mountainscapes, and suddenly my hands could no longer handle the intense cold and strong winds. My first 2014 Iceland trip was not easy at all in this respect, as I naively took just a simple pair of fleece gloves with me. I don’t know how, but my hands survived, but that was an experience not to be repeated…

The difficulty in choosing proper photography gloves is something that only photographers who work in harsh conditions for extended periods will understand. Our main problem is that we not only need very warm gloves, but they must also allow us to push extremely tiny buttons of a camera, change batteries, remove and insert SD cards, remove and insert lenses, handle delicate filters, and so many other precision tasks. If you have never tried to operate a camera while using regular gloves, then please stop reading and do it, as you’ll only need 60 seconds to realize it is near impossible.

Considering this, when you read about gloves specially designed for photographers, this is not a gimmick nor a way to make you spend way too much money in a product you will not use. As a matter of fact, using decent photo gloves makes the difference between actually being able to deliver the shots or not.

That special moment when the LCD reveals the scene…

There are different ways to turn a regular glove into a photographer´s glove, and all of these involve creating a way to have as much tactile sensitivity and grip as possible in your thumb and index finger, trying to emulate the use of your bare fingers (and, in some cases, actually allowing you to use your bare fingers).

This can be created through different types of gloves:

  • Thin tactile smartphone compatible gloves
  • Gloves with removable finger caps
  • Fold down mitten gloves

Just like I said before, and because I´ve always been a budget conscious photographer, I decided to start with inexpensive gloves belonging to the first group. I chose to go with thin tactile gloves because the idea of removable finger caps or fold down mittens didn´t sound that appealing at first. Before diving into the complex world of online reviews and Amazon ratings, my first option was to search locally for a pair of fleece gloves, and so I ended up buying a pair of generic Karrimor fleece gloves.

Before I continue, I would just like to make it clear that when I mention “tactile”, I´m referring to the feature of a glove being able to provide enough sensitive feedback that allows you to properly sense small details in the texture of something you are grabbing, like camera buttons. At the same time, some brands use the term “tactile” to describe the feature of a glove being compatible with smartphone operation. To me, both features are absolutely essential, so a glove must be both “tactile” and “smartphone compatible”, as I often use my smartphone during my shooting both to create “B-roll” content and to ask for the rescue team when my life is in danger!

So, going back to the Karrimor gloves, they were definitely smartphone compatible, but their tactile feeling was terrible. There wasn´t any kind of non-slip rubber on the fingers or palm area, so I not only had trouble operating the camera, I didn´t also feel secure at all while changing lenses or delicate glass filters. Insulation wasn´t too bad, but certainly not enough for harsh winters, but it was not even worth to try it with liner gloves for added warmth.

After this first episode of wasted money it was time to move on to online reviews and amazon ratings, searching for another budget friendly thin glove. The next candidates were the GearTop Touchscreen gloves. They seemed to have all the features I needed, and most Amazon reviews were great. I ordered them and they looked quite good. They were properly tight, smartphone compatible, lots of non-slip rubber grip in the palm and fingers, adjustable fist cuff, lifetime warranty, I was happy!

Unfortunately they had one extremely important thing missing: comfort. I bet this has certainly happened to you before, when you have just bought that gorgeous piece of clothing you love at a great price, you just want to use it forever, but after some denial you just need to deal with the fact that it hurts or irritates your skin, ending up abandoned in your closet. The GearTop gloves fist cuff was very uncomfortable, and the stitching inside the inner palm hurt the delicate skin of that area, so after two outings with them I decided they were taking away from the pleasure of shooting in cold conditions, rather than making them nicer and more productive.

And this was when I started thinking finding a suitable pair of gloves wouldn´t be as easy as I thought. And so I resumed my online search and then found an interesting pair of Under Armour No Breaks gloves and these were chosen as the next candidates. Even though they were described as being liner gloves (meant to be used under warmer gloves), their description seemed to indicate a good level of warmth, comfort and, unlike every other smartphone compatible gloves I had seen, these ones didn´t use the classical thick layer of fabric on the index and thumb extremity, responsible for the smartphone touch compatibility, but also to a severe loss of sensitivity, making it difficult to operate the camera. In the specific case of Under Armour, they managed to create a non-slip rubber grid pattern whose contact is recognized by the smartphone screen, avoiding the thick fabric problem I mentioned above.  During my first outings with these gloves everything went smoothly, even though the weather was not too cold. The comfort was absolutely top notch, and so were ergonomics. I decided to take them to Iceland and, since warmth wasn´t enough for the Icelandic climate, used them with thinner liner gloves on the inside. I was happy that I had finally found a great pair of gloves to be used for photography, but then all of a sudden the non-slip rubber pieces on the index and thumb started to fall apart after a total of 9-10 days of shooting, rendering the gloves useless! I thought it could be a manufacturing defect, but selecting the negative reviews on Amazon quickly showed up there were lots of people with the same exact problem, which seems to be a “feature” of the Under Armour gloves with this “technology”.

Under Armour No Breaks gloves

Under Armour damaged gloves

Just like it unfortunately happens with some specific pieces of photo gear, sometimes you just get what you pay for, so I decided to do a different search: photographer´s favourite gloves when money is not an issue. This was what finally led me to the Vallerret Markhof Pro Gloves, touted by many as the best photography gloves you could ask for. After getting in touch with Vallerret and clearing some doubts, I got a pair of gloves and expectations were quite high. Initially I resisted the thought of going with finger cap gloves as I thought it would just be a gimmick, the removable caps would not properly work and my index and thumb extremities would quickly freeze in extreme conditions. At the same time, as I read more reviews, it became clear that this was a nice way to keep both the natural full sensitivity of your skin while operating the camera, and create a thicker and warmer glove, as extreme thinness was no longer a concern.

Vallerret Markhof Pro Gloves

When I received the gloves they seemed to be quite high quality, even though their aesthetics were nothing to write home about. Comfort seemed to be quite high, and the merino liner and overall thickness would certainly make them much warmer then my previous gloves. My biggest doubt about these was related with the finger caps use in the real world, as they could possibly get in the way of operating the camera. Fortunately Vallerret implemented a clever small magnet on the tip and back of the index and thumb finger, so that when you pull the cap it sticks through the magnets and stays in its place.

There are other interesting features in these gloves, being the only one I did not like the zip compartment in the back part of the hand, which I did not find much useful, as I´d rather put small accessories in the usual jacket or pants pockets. Removing this compartment would create less bulk on the back of the hand and make the gloves more portable.

Apart from this I´m very glad to say that these gloves are just great! I spent 15 days in November in the Dolomites using them every day for several hours, and they held up admirably. Snow came much earlier to the region, so we had freezing weather during night and day, and it quickly became clear that in this case you get what you pay for. On some specific days temperatures dropped clearly below zero, and my hands got a little bit too cold, even though it was bearable. To avoid this I would have needed extra liner gloves (which would partially defeat the purpose of these gloves) or an upgrade to their thicker “Ipsoot” model, meant for very cold winters, also with removable finger caps. The Markhof Pro model, like the official website states, is meant to be used in mild winters, being suitable until temperatures drop below zero degrees Celsius.

Regarding real life experience with these gloves, and considering that I make extensive use of tripods and glass filters during my photo sessions, I can say that these gloves are the most ergonomic I´ve ever used. Removing the finger caps or putting them back in place quickly became second nature, and in a few days I forgot I was using them. “Forgetting” that you are using something while you shoot is, in my opinion, the most desirable state that reveals a truly ergonomic product. When you are shooting using expensive and delicate gear under harsh conditions, you should not feel like you are fighting against the equipment, but rather that it´s working as a natural extension of your hands, brain and heart. Right now I´ve found my favourite pair of gloves, and had no idea it would take me so long to find them. Totally recommended!

One final note, to drone users. If you fail to press one button while you are shooting landscapes, that´s probably not much of a big deal, but failing to quickly press some buttons while flying your drone might be the difference between crashing it or saving the day. I never felt comfortable operating my Dji Remote Control and tablet with any kind of thin tactile gloves, so the Vallerret are also perfect for drone flying during winter.

These gloves are also great to operate the delicate Dji Mavic Pro Remote Control

And that´s the end of the review. Hope you have enjoyed my quest! Feel free to ask any questions and leave your comments below.

(Special thanks to Adriana Santos, my companion, for having the patience to photograph someone who hates to be on the other side of the lens!)

Important disclaimer:  I liked the Vallerret gloves so much that I´m now collaborating with the brand, testing their products and providing input for future improvements. This happened only after extensive use of the model reviewed here, as well as after testing other competitors. I’m pretty familiar with the current trend of “Ambassadors” who do not even use the products they endorse, doing it just for the sake of self-promotion, and I’m totally against that attitude. I’ve spent way too many years with extremely limited budgets, knowing that badly spent money following bad advice can severely harm a photographer’s productivity or pleasure while taking photos. Following this, before I ever become a collaborator or ambassador of any brand, you can be sure I’ve tested that brand product for extended periods of time, through real time usage, thoroughly comparing it with other alternatives.

Selection of images made during my Dolomites photo trip in November 2017:

Lago Di Braies shot during a freezing sunrise – Dolomites (Italy) – November 2017

The unique San Giovanni church in the Dolomites (Italy), shot during sunrise in November 2017

Sunrise in Alpe di Siusi, with the Sassolungo mountains in the background. Dolomites (Italy)

Image made with the DJI Mavic Pro drone at the Passo Gardena, a 2136 meter high mountain pass in the Italian Dolomites. November 2017

A long exposure made during the night, capturing the frozen Carezza Lake in the Dolomites (Italy). November 2017

The Paneveggio Forest in the Dolomites (Italy), shot with a Dji Mavic Pro drone in November 2017

O post The Quest For The Best Photography Gloves – Vallerret Markhof Pro and competitors aparece primeiro no José Ramos Photography.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Welcome to the review of one of the most long awaited filters from Nisi, the Medium Graduated Neutral Density filter (“Medium Grad” for friends).

First of all a much needed disclaimer. I have been using Neutral Density Filters for more than ten years, which are an absolutely essential piece of kit for me.  I also had the pleasure of being an ambassador for a well known filter brand for about five years, and then for the last two years I’ve partnered with Nisi filters, becoming one of their official ambassadors. I know that many photographers are tired of reading reviews by sponsored photographers, as they are usually regarded as partial and biased. Even though I’m now sitting on the other side of the fence, being sponsored by some photo brands, I’m very well aware of what it feels like to have a terribly limited budget to make the right choices while buying new gear. I will even dare to go as far as saying that I’ve seen my fair share of sponsored photographers recommending products which were not fit for the intended purpose, just for the sake of promoting themselves and the sponsor. Taking all of this into account, I want to make a clear statement that I review gear as impartially as I can, and I would hate to know you had spent your hard earned money on a product after being mislead by a review.

And so let’s move on to the review of the newest Nisi product, the Medium Graduated Neutral Density Filter!

The new Nisium Medium Grad filter

So far I think I must have tried dozens of filters over the years, from at least nine different brands. The optical quality of filters has evolved a lot, with great advances mostly noticeable during the last three years, with the expansion of glass filter line-ups, achieving amazing colour reproduction neutrality. Right now I no longer use resin filters, as they are extremely prone to scratches and terribly difficult to clean in seascapes. Still, even though technology advances, there are some aspects of a Neutral Density Graduated filter that do not depend on technology but rather in design and practicality.

A Neutral Density Graduated filter should have some important features, namely be “neutral”, which means not affecting colours, and have a properly designed transition from the clear/transparent part of the filter towards the dark part of the filter. So far most filter brands carried a line of Soft Graduated ND filters and a line of Hard Graduated ND Filters. The former had a progressive transition from clear to dark, and the latter an abrupt/immediate transition.

To understand how a transition design affects an image, it’s important to know that the main purpose of a Graduated Filter is to selectively darken the brightest areas of an image, which usually correspond to the sky on top and, in some cases, the water. As you can guess, when shooting landscapes, a soft graduated filter would make sense to properly darken the sky on a scene where there are relevant elements located above the horizon, so that the darkening doesn’t occur to abruptly, underexposing these elements. In case you have a clear line of horizon, like it usually happens on a classic seascape, then you can freely use a hard transition filter, without having to worry with under-exposing elements above the horizon.

As you may guess, even though most Hard Graduated filter are quite similar, Soft Graduated filters are very different from brand to brand, with different transition sizes, and different progression rates from clear to dark. As soon as I started shooting I quickly learned that a properly designed Soft Graduated filter will be adequate for most of the scenes I shoot, even including scenes where you do not have elements above the horizon. The exception is when you have an extremely strong sunset on the scene, with no elements above the horizon, where you need a very strong dark filtering which is usually only achievable through a Hard Grad.

So, considering my big fondness for Soft Graduated filters, I’ve been on a constant pursuit for the best filters of this kind, knowing that this is my most used graduated filter by far. So the question is: what makes a great Soft Grad filter? First of all it’s important to know that, for a 150 x 100mm filter, if you are using a ultra-wide angle on a full frame sensor, shooting in horizontal orientation, you are only using 6.5cm of the filter in front of the lens (for a 16mm lens), or 7.5cm with a 12mm lens. If you consider that most landscape compositions are only using the top half or top 1/3rd of the image for the sky, it’s quite easy to understand that you are at most just using 2-3.5 cm of a filter for the sky area. Following this, if you are shooting a scene where you have medium sized elements that protrude above the horizon line, you’ll probably need a short soft transition of around 2-4 centimeters, so that it can progressively darken an image from below to the horizon, being a bit more intense above the horizon while not darkening excessively the elements above the horizon, and then fully darkening the very bright top of the sky.

You must be wondering why am I going into so much trouble describing the perfect Soft Graduated filter. Well, the reason for that is because I know that a properly designed filter is CRUCIAL to achieve good images and not waste too much time in Photoshop, sometimes making the difference between a great or an unusable image. Another reason for my concerns is that you can find in the market all kinds of Soft Grads, with transitions ranging from very large sizes  to smaller transition filters.

When Nisi launched its Graduated Neutral Density Filters line, it went for an approach in their Soft Grad filter where they decided to make a very large transition, with about 6-7 cm. Even though these filters can be quite useful when you are shooting scenes where there are extremely large elements above the horizon line, almost touching the top of the image, I always wanted Nisi to release a Graduated filter with a smaller transition. Even though I know that Ray Wang, the lovely Nisi Ambassadors Program Manager, is probably traumatized from my constant requests to launch such filter, I’m very glad to see that it has finally been released! Thanks to a meeting between the UK Nisi Ambassadors and part of the Nisi team, the final draft for this filter was created and now we can purchase it in any Nisi distributor.

So, here you have it, the Nisi Medium Grad filter, with a 3 centimeters transition, available from 2 to 4 stops of light reduction at the top. It’s perfectly suitable for landscapes where you have elements above the horizon line, and it’s much easier to use than a hard grad. With a Hard Grad you always need to perfectly position the filter on the horizon line every time you recompose the shot, while with the Medium Graf you don’t need perfect positioning due to the progressive transition.

NiSi 100x150mm Nano IR Medium GND Filter - YouTube

Besides that, as usual with Nisi, you can count on it having an extremely neutral colour reproduction, oleophobic and water repellent coating and well as anti-reflective properties.

Nisi glass is oleophobic and hydrophobic, making cleaning much easier

For this review I used the 3 stops Medium Grad. I mostly use a 4 stops graduated filter, as I usually work with intense skies, so I can’t wait to receive the 4 stops version.

Many people ask me this and, even though I think Nisi has the best 100mm holder system in the market, you can use this filter with any holder from another brand, as long as it’s made for 100mm filters.

So, to sum it up, now you have the following graduated filters in the Nisi lineup:

Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter – for scenes where there are no elements above the horizon and you need to get a strong reduction of light in the sky

Medium Graduated Neutral Density Filter – the most versatile filter, which is the best option when there are some elements above the horizon. This filter is similar to other brand’s soft filters

Soft Graduated Neutral Density Filters – filter with a large soft transition, suitable for scenes where there are very large elements above the horizon

Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filters – filter with a hard transition at the horizon, becoming progressively less dark at the top

And finally let’s move on to the most important part of a review: the images made with the new Nisi Medium Grad filter! (click on the images for higher resolution and quality/sharpness)

Comparison of two images, one made with no Graduated ND Filters, the other with the new Nisi Medium Grad filter (3 stops)

As you can see by the example above, the Medium Grad filter is perfect to control the exposure of the sky, and avoid underexposing the elements above the horizon.

Image shot in Ferragudo, Portugal, with no ND Grad Filter

Image shot in Ferragudo, Portugal, with the Nisi Medium Grad filter (3 stops)

For this very demanding scene above, the Nisi Medium grad also allowed for excellent control of the sky, while still controlling some potential overexposure in the horizon area. As usual, color reproduction of the filter is spot on, sharpness is not affected and the glass is incredibly easy to clean when there’s sea spray on the filter.

Finally, last but not least, two more images made possible with the Medium Grad filter. These are perfect examples of scenes where you have elements above the horizon which you need to properly filter, to avoid under-exposing them:

Image shot in Peniche, Portugal, with the new Nisi Medium Grad filter (3 stops)

Image shot in Pego do Altar, Portugal, with the Nisi Medium Grad filter (3 stops)

Hope you have enjoyed the images! If you are located in Europe and would like to order Nisi filters, you can use my Coupon Code “JOSERAMOS” on the Nisi Spanish Official Distributor, to get a 10% discount! 

O post Nisi Medium Grad Filter Review – one of the best graduated filters on the market? aparece primeiro no José Ramos Photography.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

I’m pleased to announce that I recently started a collaboration with the great editing software company Macphun! They are a California based company, and they are currently Apple’s most-awarded photography software developer.

Macphun has finally launched their Luminar Neptune photo editor and, as you can see, an image I made right before sunrise in Vestrahorn (Iceland), is featured on the main page of this software, showing its potential!

Macphun had invited me long ago to collaborate with them, but since their software was Mac only, and I’m a Windows user, I had to decline the offer. Now that they have finally launched the Windows version of Photolemur (an automatic artificial-intelligence enhanced editing software), and the Windows beta release of Luminar, an incredible suite of photo editing tools, I finally got on board!

I’ll write more about Luminar as soon as possible. I’ve already tried it, and it’s a step ahead of the almighty famous Nik Color Effex, which I use often. Google is currently the owner of Nik, and recently decided to shut down updates on Nik Color Effex, so Luminar is now the best option if you want to save lots of time while editing, and still get great images. Not everybody has the much needed time for Photoshop and its infinitely steep learning curve, so applications like Luminar are much welcome for many photographers.

If you are interested in purchasing any of Macphun products, you can use the code “RAMOS10” for a 10 EUR/USD discount!

You can download the beta release of Luminar here!

O post New Collaboration with Macphun and Windows Beta of Luminar available! aparece primeiro no José Ramos Photography.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Welcome to the review of one of the most long awaited filters from Nisi, the Medium Graduated Neutral Density filter (“Medium Grad” for friends).

First of all a much needed disclaimer. I have been using Neutral Density Filters for more than ten years, which are an absolutely essential piece of kit for me.  I also had the pleasure of being an ambassador for a well known filter brand for about five years, and then for the last two years I’ve partnered with Nisi filters, becoming one of their official ambassadors. I know that many photographers are tired of reading reviews by sponsored photographers, as they are usually regarded as partial and biased. Even though I’m now sitting on the other side of the fence, being sponsored by some photo brands, I’m very well aware of what it feels like to have a terribly limited budget to make the right choices while buying new gear. I will even dare to go as far as saying that I’ve seen my fair share of sponsored photographers recommending products which were not fit for the intended purpose, just for the sake of promoting themselves and the sponsor. Taking all of this into account, I want to make a clear statement that I review gear as impartially as I can, and I would hate to know you had spent your hard earned money on a product after being mislead by a review.

And so let’s move on to the review of the newest Nisi product, the Medium Graduated Neutral Density Filter!

The new Nisium Medium Grad filter

So far I think I must have tried dozens of filters over the years, from at least nine different brands. The optical quality of filters has evolved a lot, with great advances mostly noticeable during the last three years, with the expansion of glass filter line-ups, achieving amazing colour reproduction neutrality. Right now I no longer use resin filters, as they are extremely prone to scratches and terribly difficult to clean in seascapes. Still, even though technology advances, there are some aspects of a Neutral Density Graduated filter that do not depend on technology but rather in design and practicality.

A Neutral Density Graduated filter should have some important features, namely be “neutral”, which means not affecting colours, and have a properly designed transition from the clear/transparent part of the filter towards the dark part of the filter. So far most filter brands carried a line of Soft Graduated ND filters and a line of Hard Graduated ND Filters. The former had a progressive transition from clear to dark, and the latter an abrupt/immediate transition.

To understand how a transition design affects an image, it’s important to know that the main purpose of a Graduated Filter is to selectively darken the brightest areas of an image, which usually correspond to the sky on top and, in some cases, the water. As you can guess, when shooting landscapes, a soft graduated filter would make sense to properly darken the sky on a scene where there are relevant elements located above the horizon, so that the darkening doesn’t occur to abruptly, underexposing these elements. In case you have a clear line of horizon, like it usually happens on a classic seascape, then you can freely use a hard transition filter, without having to worry with under-exposing elements above the horizon.

As you may guess, even though most Hard Graduated filter are quite similar, Soft Graduated filters are very different from brand to brand, with different transition sizes, and different progression rates from clear to dark. As soon as I started shooting I quickly learned that a properly designed Soft Graduated filter will be adequate for most of the scenes I shoot, even including scenes where you do not have elements above the horizon. The exception is when you have an extremely strong sunset on the scene, with no elements above the horizon, where you need a very strong dark filtering which is usually only achievable through a Hard Grad.

So, considering my big fondness for Soft Graduated filters, I’ve been on a constant pursuit for the best filters of this kind, knowing that this is my most used graduated filter by far. So the question is: what makes a great Soft Grad filter? First of all it’s important to know that, for a 150 x 100mm filter, if you are using a ultra-wide angle on a full frame sensor, shooting in horizontal orientation, you are only using 6.5cm of the filter in front of the lens (for a 16mm lens), or 7.5cm with a 12mm lens. If you consider that most landscape compositions are only using the top half or top 1/3rd of the image for the sky, it’s quite easy to understand that you are at most just using 2-3.5 cm of a filter for the sky area. Following this, if you are shooting a scene where you have medium sized elements that protrude above the horizon line, you’ll probably need a short soft transition of around 2-4 centimeters, so that it can progressively darken an image from below to the horizon, being a bit more intense above the horizon while not darkening excessively the elements above the horizon, and then fully darkening the very bright top of the sky.

You must be wondering why am I going into so much trouble describing the perfect Soft Graduated filter. Well, the reason for that is because I know that a properly designed filter is CRUCIAL to achieve good images and not waste too much time in Photoshop, sometimes making the difference between a great or an unusable image. Another reason for my concerns is that you can find in the market all kinds of Soft Grads, with transitions ranging from very large sizes  to smaller transition filters.

When Nisi launched its Graduated Neutral Density Filters line, it went for an approach in their Soft Grad filter where they decided to make a very large transition, with about 6-7 cm. Even though these filters can be quite useful when you are shooting scenes where there are extremely large elements above the horizon line, almost touching the top of the image, I always wanted Nisi to release a Graduated filter with a smaller transition. Even though I know that Ray Wang, the lovely Nisi Ambassadors Program Manager, is probably traumatized from my constant requests to launch such filter, I’m very glad to see that it has finally been released! Thanks to a meeting between the UK Nisi Ambassadors and part of the Nisi team, the final draft for this filter was created and now we can purchase it in any Nisi distributor.

So, here you have it, the Nisi Medium Grad filter, with a 3 centimeters transition, available from 2 to 4 stops of light reduction at the top. It’s perfectly suitable for landscapes where you have elements above the horizon line, and it’s much easier to use than a hard grad. With a Hard Grad you always need to perfectly position the filter on the horizon line every time you recompose the shot, while with the Medium Graf you don’t need perfect positioning due to the progressive transition.

NiSi 100x150mm Nano IR Medium GND Filter - YouTube

Besides that, as usual with Nisi, you can count on it having an extremely neutral colour reproduction, oleophobic and water repellent coating and well as anti-reflective properties.

Nisi glass is oleophobic and hydrophobic, making cleaning much easier

For this review I used the 3 stops Medium Grad. I mostly use a 4 stops graduated filter, as I usually work with intense skies, so I can’t wait to receive the 4 stops version.

Many people ask me this and, even though I think Nisi has the best 100mm holder system in the market, you can use this filter with any holder from another brand, as long as it’s made for 100mm filters.

So, to sum it up, now you have the following graduated filters in the Nisi lineup:

Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter – for scenes where there are no elements above the horizon and you need to get a strong reduction of light in the sky

Medium Graduated Neutral Density Filter – the most versatile filter, which is the best option when there are some elements above the horizon. This filter is similar to other brand’s soft filters

Soft Graduated Neutral Density Filters – filter with a large soft transition, suitable for scenes where there are very large elements above the horizon

Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filters – filter with a hard transition at the horizon, becoming progressively less dark at the top

And finally let’s move on to the most important part of a review: the images made with the new Nisi Medium Grad filter! (click on the images for higher resolution and quality/sharpness)

Comparison of two images, one made with no Graduated ND Filters, the other with the new Nisi Medium Grad filter (3 stops)

As you can see by the example above, the Medium Grad filter is perfect to control the exposure of the sky, and avoid underexposing the elements above the horizon.

Image shot in Ferragudo, Portugal, with no ND Grad Filter

Image shot in Ferragudo, Portugal, with the Nisi Medium Grad filter (3 stops)

For this very demanding scene above, the Nisi Medium grad also allowed for excellent control of the sky, while still controlling some potential overexposure in the horizon area. As usual, color reproduction of the filter is spot on, sharpness is not affected and the glass is incredibly easy to clean when there’s sea spray on the filter.

Finally, last but not least, two more images made possible with the Medium Grad filter. These are perfect examples of scenes where you have elements above the horizon which you need to properly filter, to avoid under-exposing them:

Image shot in Peniche, Portugal, with the new Nisi Medium Grad filter (3 stops)

Image shot in Pego do Altar, Portugal, with the Nisi Medium Grad filter (3 stops)

Hope you have enjoyed the images! If you are located in Europe and would like to order Nisi filters, you can use my Coupon Code “JOSERAMOS” on the Nisi Spanish Official Distributor, to get a 10% discount! 

O post Nisi Medium Grad Filter Review – one of the best graduated filters on the market? aparece primeiro no José Ramos Photography.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

I’m pleased to announce that I recently started a collaboration with the great editing software company Macphun! They are a California based company, and they are currently Apple’s most-awarded photography software developer.

Macphun has finally launched their Luminar Neptune photo editor and, as you can see, an image I made right before sunrise in Vestrahorn (Iceland), is featured on the main page of this software, showing its potential!

Macphun had invited me long ago to collaborate with them, but since their software was Mac only, and I’m a Windows user, I had to decline the offer. Now that they have finally launched the Windows version of Photolemur (an automatic artificial-intelligence enhanced editing software), and the Windows beta release of Luminar, an incredible suite of photo editing tools, I finally got on board!

I’ll write more about Luminar as soon as possible. I’ve already tried it, and it’s a step ahead of the almighty famous Nik Color Effex, which I use often. Google is currently the owner of Nik, and recently decided to shut down updates on Nik Color Effex, so Luminar is now the best option if you want to save lots of time while editing, and still get great images. Not everybody has the much needed time for Photoshop and its infinitely steep learning curve, so applications like Luminar are much welcome for many photographers.

If you are interested in purchasing any of Macphun products, you can use the code “RAMOS10″ for a 10 EUR/USD discount!

You can download the beta release of Luminar here!

O post New Collaboration with Macphun and Windows Beta of Luminar available! aparece primeiro no José Ramos Photography.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

This is great news!

I got a notification saying that my website entered into the 25th spot of the Feedspot Top 75 Landscape Photography Blogs on the web.
According to their website, this index comprises “The Best Landscape Photography blogs from thousands of top Landscape Photography blogs in our index using search and social metrics. Data will be refreshed once a week.These blogs are ranked based on following criteria: Google reputation and Google search ranking; Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites: Quality and consistency of posts; Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review.”

I hope this can take my landscape photos of Portugal, Iceland and many other places to more viewers.

José Ramos Landscape Photography website and blog featured on the Top 75 Landscape Website/Blogs of Feedspot

You can check the whole list here

Nowadays everyone’s absolutely focused on social media and, even though it’s true that social media brings many customers, having a solid website and blog is also extremely important, so it’s great to see it distinguished among so many high profile pages.

O post My page entered the Feedspot 75 best Landscape Photography blogs ranking! aparece primeiro no José Ramos Photography.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Many years ago I used a camera I was in love with. It was called Konica Minolta A2, and I’m sure some people still remember it with fond memories. It was a revolutionary camera at the time, and it actually made me think I would never need another camera in the future. Well, that was obviously a naive thought, as I soon found out I wanted to go wider than its 28-200mm lens in many circumstances. Many landscape shooters become quickly addicted to ultra-wide angles lenses, and I’m one of them, as the one thing that inspires me the most while shooting landscapes is to be able to capture something that resembles the vastness that the human eye can see, and this is only possible with wide angle lenses.

You wouldn’t be able to shoots this one without an ultra-wide angle lens…

Besides using a ultra-wide angle lens, I  also quickly became addicted to using Neutral Density (ND) Filters on the field. When I’m shooting, I need to see an accurate in-camera preview of how the final image will look like, and this is only made possible by creating single exposures of high dynamic range scenes, through selective control of light with ND Filters. Being able to use the amazing live view of my Sony camera, which can show me accurate previews in real time even with the darkest full ND filters (including the 10 stops) in front of the lens, transforms the act of shooting into a much more intuitive and rewarding process, when compared with having to make different exposures and then do exposure blending in Photoshop, having to guess on the field how the image will look like in the end.

Other two aspects of shooting which are very important to me are “ergonomics” and weight. I want each hike and photo session to be a pleasant moment, rather than a back torture exercise, so I try to carry the minimum amount of gear on my backpack Besides that, I want my gear to work as an almost natural extension of me, allowing to work with the gear and not against the gear. Regarding filters this is why, from the different sizes of ND Filters available, I tend to avoid the extremely large 150mm wide filters, and go for the 100mm ND filters, as these are lighter, less intrusive, easier to remove and position, less prone to breakage and easier to clean.

Fortunately many wide angle lenses offer 100mm compatibility, unless you want to venture into ultra-uber-wide angle realms! I used a Sigma 10-20mm lens for many years, and then switched to a full frame setup with the Zeiss 16-35mm f4 lens. Both lenses had the same widest focal length but,  as I said above, ultra wide angle shooting can become an addiction, and very often I would find myself willing to go even wider, to achieve greater composition freedom in specific places. That was when the quest for an even wider rectilinear lens began, but every hour spent researching quickly turned into the sad acknowledgement that it was impossible to use 100mm filters with lenses wider than 16mm, as virtually all of them have a convex front glass element, with the need for special adapters and huge 150mm wide filters. The only exception I found was using the Sony 10-18mm APS-C lens in full frame mode on the Sony a7R, at 13mm. This APS-C lens wasn’t meant to be used in full frame mode, but it looks like it can cover the whole full frame sensor at 13mm, with acceptable vignetting. I bought this lens and used it a few times, mostly in Iceland last year, and I actually liked it a lot. Center sharpness was awesome, but the corners suffered a lot. Besides that, vignetting was occasionally a problem, and the lens would often move from its 13mm position to a different focal length, while adjusting filters, and I often found myself shooting at the wrong focal length, with unacceptably high levels of vignetting. Even though the experience wasn’t perfect, being able to go this wide opened up a new windows of composition opportunities, resulting in photos that would have never been possible at less wide settings.

“The Unexpected” – image made in Iceland, with the Sony 10-18mm lens at 13mm, in full frame mode (Sony a7R camera)

That was until all of a sudden a Kickstarter project announced an exquisite lens, called Venus Laowa 12mm f2.8. The Kickstarter page not only announced a ultra wide angle lens with an incredible maximum aperture, but it also announced it would be compatible with 100mm filters, through a special holder. It didn’t take long until I decided I had to buy this lens and, if everything went well, I would finally be a very happy user of the 12mm + 100mm filters combo!

I bought the lens through Kickstarter and, soon after the crowdfunding project ended, I finally received the lens. The online reviews of the lens looked promising, but but I still had no filter holder, because it was under development. I contacted Laowa about this and they agreed to send me one of their prototype holders for testing purposes. It was a cumbersome and heavy piece of metal, that could only be placed in horizontal position, with something much worse than vignetting, namely showing the corners of the holder in the image frame, and showing the foam gaskets of the full ND filters in the frame too! I can only say that I missed my Nisi V5 filter holder + Zeiss 16-35mm setup during those days… With some cropping at the sides I was still able to create some interesting landscape images, like the one below, but shooting with 100mm filters had become something very distant from what Laowa had promised its users.

“Remembering The Oath” – Image made with the Venus Laowa 12m lens

I gave thorough feedback to Venus about this, and they seemed quite receptive to my suggestions, even though they also admitted they were struggling with the holder development. At the same time, as a Nisi Ambassador, I directly contacted Nisi and told them that perhaps they should start thinking about developing their own holder for the Laowa 12mm. After a long wait, I finally received the final holder from Laowa and thought that they had corrected all the issues, so that from now on I would have a perfectly useful holder. As you can guess, that didn’t happen… The holder was quite similar to the prototype, but this one at least allowed me to easily put the holder in vertical position, which was a bonus. Unfortunately, after I inserted one of my full NDs in the holder, I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that the foam gasket was still fully visible on the image! The Laowa holder also included two yet-to-be-glued foam gaskets inside the holder kit, which were meant to be glued to the holder base, showing that this holder was possibly designed to be used with filters with no foam gaskets, probably to avoid the foam being visible in the frame. Unfortunately this was a problem, as most manufacturers put the foam gaskets in their filters, not on the holder, and I wanted to continue using the regular Nisi holder with other lenses, which needs foam gaskets on the filters to avoid light leaks. To further complicate things, with the Laowa holder the holder corners were slightly visible on the image, even with no filters slotted in, and if the holder was just slightly rotated, the holder would be even more noticeable on the image.

With great disappointment, I realized I couldn’t use this holder, and the dream of using 100mm filters with an ultra wide angle became a bit more distant. Until finally Nisi came to the rescue…

A few days after receiving the final holder I received the info that another Nisi Ambassador had sent a Laowa lens to Nisi, so that their engineers could try to develop a 100mm filter holder, and it looks like they were able to do it in record time! After finishing development, Nisi promised it worked perfectly, much better than the original holder, and would be fully compatible with their circular polariser and two 100mm filters! I thought this would be physicially impossible, because the polariser mount in the Laowa holder is probably the biggest culprit for excessive thickness and image problems, but I fully believed in Nisi’s word. Since the brand had already created very interesting innovations in the past, I made sure I would receive a Nisi holder for the Laowa as soon as possible, and it just arrived two days ago!

Nisi Holder for Venus Laowa 12mm lens – front

Nisi Holder for Venus Laowa 12mm lens – back

Nisi holder for Laowa 12mm detail

Comparison of the front side of the Nisi holder versus the Laowa holder, for the Venus Laowa 12mm lens

Comparison of the rear side of the Nisi holder versus the Laowa holder, for the Venus Laowa 12mm lens

Laowa Holder vs Nisi Holder Width Comparison

Nisi Holder for the Laowa 12mm lens – Width Measurement

Laowa Original Holder for the Laowa 12mm lens – Width Measurement

Laowa holder vs Nisi holder size comparison

Laowa 12mm lens with the Laowa Original Holder and the 10 stops Nisi full ND filter, with the foam gasket on the opposite side, so that the filter can be slotted in the holder

Laowa 12mm lens with the Nisi Holder and the 10 stops Nisi full ND filter correctly positioned

I know I have already written a lot, but from now on I think an image is worth a thousand words. You can see some photo examples showing different setups. The photos were made in sequence, and no RAW processing was applied. White balance was set to “Cloudy”.

Laowa 12mm with Laowa Holder Rotated 45 degrees (no filters)

Laowa 12mm with Nisi Holder Rotated 45 degrees (no filters)

Laowa 12mm with Laowa holder and Nisi filters

Laowa 12mm with Nisi holder and Nisi Filters

As you can see the bottom line is that the Nisi Holder for the Laowa 12mm is absolutely incredible, allowing the use of ND filters with foam gasket and avoiding excessive vignetting in long exposures.

Quite curiously, the Nisi holder isn’t that thinner than the Laowa holder, so there must be some kind of magic in its build, because there’s a huge difference between the holders. I’m very impressed with how fast they have developed such a flawless product, and I’m very thankful for that.

Right now, the Nisi Holder for the Laowa 12mm f2.8 will be sold as a kit, which included the ring adapter, the holder (similar to the new V5-pro holder) with two slots, and their awesome circular polariser!

Nisi Holder Box for The Laowa 12mm lens

Nisi Holder kit for The Laowa 12mm lens

In case you are interested, you can buy the Nisi holder for the Laowa  HERE

José Ramos ©

O post Nisi 100mm Filter Holder for Laowa 12mm lens – Review – They Got It Right! aparece primeiro no José Ramos Photography.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
1- Don’t worry too much about the “Fine Art” concept

There are endless online discussions about the true concept of Fine Art, many of them related with Photography. As soon as you say that your photographs are “Fine Art” you are bound to hear negative criticism, mostly centered around the thought that you are being elitist and vain by using such term. Paintings or sculptures do not usually need to be labeled as “Fine Art”, as they are intuitively recognized as such, but in the middle of millions of snapshots, what should you call to the images you have put so much effort into? There is no right answer, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the label, rather choosing to focus on the fact that if you are putting your soul and vision in your works, trying to show the landscapes you witness with the greatest impact and/or emotion, then you are most certainly creating “art”, probably “art” which is clearly “fine”…

 

Landscape photography image shot in Ribeira da Janela, Madeira Island, Portugal

2- It will always be about the light…

You should have seen this tip being mentioned quite often, but it is still as true as on the first time it was written. Unless you have the talent of a landscape painter like Turner (and if you do, then why are you doing photography?), you will always need to get the best possible light to turn mundane scenes into remarkable images. Special light creates special images, and this is absolutely true in landscape photography. Shooting a gorgeous scenery under harsh light and clear skies will create a good photo, but certainly not a remarkable and unique image, as it will lack contrast, depth, tonal range and “emotion”. Creating “art” requires the presence of an “Artisan” who is also an “Artist”, meaning that he is both skilled in his craft and passionate about his subject. One of the most important raw materials a photographer should work with is light, so you should always spend as much time as needed to find the perfect light conditions to shoot a scene. Even though every now and then you might be lucky and find stunning light by chance, this is a chase that invariably needs many hours of preparation and scouting.

 

Image shot in the Palafite Pier of Carrasqueira, Portugal

3- Never forget to check the weather.

Following the previous tip, finding great light depends on being able to account for a large number of weather-related variables. Weather forecast websites like Weather Underground will be one of your best friends when you are choosing a location for shooting on a certain day, not only to avoid getting soaked by heavy rain, but also to look for places with partial of fully covered cloudy skies, which will usually create the most dramatic and captivating light.

Northern Lights in the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

4- Listen to the Oracle about the Sun Position

Nowadays we have very interesting smartphone apps with tools to predict sunrise and sunset locations, like Photo Pills or The Photographer’s Ephemeris, or desktop websites like Suncalc.net. These will be extremely useful to know in advance where the sun will be located on a certain timeframe. For a more detailed virtual reality simulation of the sun movement during the day you can also use the freeware program Stellarium on your desktop computer. For specific landscapes you will want to know the exact specific place where the sun will rise or set, to use it as a way to enhance your composition, increasing the chances of getting remarkable images.

Long exposure landscape photography in Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, in Iceland, shot during sunset by landscape photographer José Ramos from Portugal

5- Patience and persistence will always pay off

Landscape photographers work with the most stubborn and unpredictable light assistant ever, so you should be ready to cope with frustration, cold, stress and physical pain. People always think about landscape photography as a very zen-like activity, but if you want to get the job done, then be ready for a delicious adrenaline rush when you are trying to deal with temperamental gear, harsh environment, physical obstacles and quickly changing light, where the famous golden hour should unfortunately be called “golden minutes”. You will need to return to the same place quite often, and frequently return home with no interesting images. You will be the first person arriving or the last one leaving your location, and meals will probably be skipped or made during odd hours. It’s not romantic or easy most of the times, but when all elements combine and you capture a great image, there’s nothing that comes close to that feeling of oneness and meaningful purpose!

Long exposure landscape photo showing the Vestrahorn Mountains in Iceland, during sunrise, shot by José Ramos

 

6 – Yes, you do really need to edit your images!

I couldn’t leave this one out, even though I’m quite tired of the good old debate about post-processing in the modern age. I will avoid stating my personal opinion on this subject, but I can tell you for sure that editing is an absolutely essential tool to create remarkable images. Everyone who spends a lot of time on the field, constantly looking to his LCD to review images, knows right from the start that as soon as the light enters the lens and hits the sensor, everything changes, and one of the most reality-altering processes as already taken place: light transduction into a digital form. Then you come home with what we should call a digital negative (and yes, you need to use RAW to get the most out of your images), where contrast is low, shadows are dark and some highlights might be blown, among other aspects needing correction like white balance, vibrance, and others. This is the time where you need to keep feeding your creation with love and tweak the image to your liking, turning it from raw to deliciously cooked. There are endless ways to edit an image, and everyone will find his own path to do it, from simple Lightroom tweaking to complex Photoshop editing, so you should keep in mind that you need to make the most out of your image to maximize its visual and emotional potential.

Image shot in the palafite pier of Carrasqueira, located in the Alentejo region, Portugal

 7 – Think about why you do it.

There is one crucial aspect about landscape photography as art, related with “meaning”. When you choose to pursue artistic photography, you can either use mechanical imitation as a foundation to what you do, or you can rather try to put some meaning behind your actions as an artist. The path of imitation might even be filled with success, as long as you are talented at copying others, and many people certainly are! I could actually even go as far as to say this has its own merit, as most people wouldn’t be able to emulate accomplished artists, but the real problem with choosing to do this is that it will always lead to either stagnation and dissatisfaction or to the classical never ending ego-bloating vicious circle. So, if you are really trying to bring something to the world through your images, then you should start thinking about the powerful concept of “meaning”. I think this is a much more important term than “innovation” or “originality”, as it provides a much more solid emotional and mental framework to accomplish your vision. Many landscape photographers are obsessed with originality, about capturing that never-seen-before location or approaching well known places through odd angles, instead of worrying about creating powerful, captivating and meaningful images. Others are quite clearly too self-absorbed with success, fully centered around capturing the same places over and over with minor differences between shots, as long as it gets them the needed “likes” and “favorites”. The question here is: if you are honest with yourself (or should I say, with your Self), can your inner complexity and uniqueness be genuinely compatible with such limiting creative paths? Probably not, so I think no one should go for either the imitation or the obsessive originality road, as none of them will probably be genuine. Creating art with meaning will always be based on you being honest about what you are trying to show the viewer, and that will mostly depend on your mood and emotions at all stages of the image making process,  as well as on your personal goals. This will always be a dynamic process, and it can either be something as simple as sharing the beauty of nature to the world, or as complex as using nature images to enter into the conceptual existential philosophy realms. In the end what matters is that as long as you channel your inner constructive drives into the creation of art, then you are certainly headed for great things!

Long exposure waterscape photography in Ferragudo, located in the Algarve region, made by landscape photographer José Ramos from Portugal

 

José Ramos ©

O post Seven Tips For Fine Art Landscape Photography aparece primeiro no José Ramos Photography.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

After many requests, I’m finally writing a guide for landscape photographers who are trying to make the best of their trip to Iceland. This guide is based on my experience and choices while visiting this wonderful country. I’ve decided to divide it in the chapters outlined below, each one being a separate blog article.

Chapters:

1- Introduction
2 – Gear
3- Flying to Iceland
4- Choosing a transportation
4.1- Speeding Tickets – Beware
5- Surviving off the grid
6- Accommodation
7- Searching for the light
8- Security
9- Famous Spots
10- Shooting the Northern Lights
11- Seasons and weather
12- Are these places real or is this photoshop?
13- 7 Myths about Iceland
14- 7 Truths about Iceland which are actually Myths
15- Where to eat
16 – General Survival tips

1. Introduction

It was June 2014, and I can still remember it as if it was yesterday… I was sitting at my computer, planning a photo trip to the Azores islands, when I suddenly thought of “Iceland”, as if the idea erupted right out of my unconscious. The famous land of fire and ice was a constant presence in so many online photo communities, feeding my dreams every time I saw images of its landscapes. Unfortunately I had always thought such a trip was totally outside my budget, until I suddenly found myself searching for plane ticket prices and car rental companies…

After some research, I found out that Iceland had suffered a great economic crisis, just like many other european countries (including mine), and tourism prices were considerably lower than I expected (although still expensive for portuguese budgets). I was instantly hooked, and couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of finally visiting this place. To be able to make it I wouldn’t be able to afford for accommodation, and restaurants were incredible expensive, so it quickly became a question of deciding between a two week hotel-fancy-meal-everything-included trip to Azores or a one week sleep-in-the-car-sandwich-meals to Iceland. I guess you know which one I chose…

Vestrahorn Mountain sunrise in Iceland

Since my first trip, I’ve visited this wonderful country twice, and will visit it once more this year. I don’t quite know how to explain this, but it feels as if a part of me belongs to this exquisite dreamlike place, compelling me to return over and over, as a way to once more feel the most intense nature connection I’ve ever felt in my life.

It’s quite incredible to think that one day I was sitting quietly at home and then, a few weeks later, those enlightened places which only existed inside the oniric landscapes of imagination materialized right in front of me. During both trips to Iceland something too profound and primitive happened on that infinite piece of land, inhabiting an excessively large room inside of me. Sometimes I wipe off its dust and open its windows to let the air flow, but when I glance at it I can only find memories and shadows, longing for a new encounter.

Northern Lights in Hveragerði, Iceland

After shooting many incredible spots in Iceland, I can confirm that some kind of divine creature must have participated in sculpting this place. There is just too much unique beauty there, making it impossible to imagine it as a byproduct of chaos and randomness.

The landscapes in Iceland are not only majestic, but also extremely volatile. After being on so many unstable places, which would never look the same on a second visit, I found the king of pure buddhist impermanence: the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and it’s endless floating delicate sculptures of ice, right in front of my eyes. There was an absolute, almost mystical silence in this place, interspersed with one of the most amazing natural sounds I ever heard: the frequent crackling of ice. absolutely three dimensional, coming from multiple spots. As senses were sharpened by the extreme cold in the area, the global sensory overload felt like absolute pleasure. Sometimes the omnipresent blue tones would give place to intense skies fiery red skies, making it all look even more surreal. This place is quite simply the most beautiful work of moving art I’ve ever seen in my short life.

Long exposure landscape photography in Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, in Iceland, shot during sunset by landscape photographer José Ramos from Portugal

Other experiences followed, similarly incredible and remarkable. Doing a longer exposure image right behind the Seljalandfoss waterfall impact zone was an almost mystical experience. Witnessing the thunderous sound of water crushing the earth, as it is converted into a serene landscape, reminded me about why I love this craft so much. Places like these teach me about patience and the sacred value of contemplation, while offering me the gift of ecstasy at the same time.

In a different location, Dettifoss, massive amounts of extremely turbulent waters suddenly met an endless abyss, with liquid chaos ensuing right after the fall. The Universe seems to have its strange ways of always creating order out of chaos, and witnessing such water apocalypse giving birth to a steady and serene undulating river, made me wonder if we, as humans, are right now steady streams or rather turbulent waters, headed to somewhere less chaotic.

I could mention so many other places, ranging from the majestic mountains of Vestrahorn to the erupting geothermal lands of Hverir, but I should leave that to the chapter dedicated to photo spots.

As you have certainly understood by my words, I’m absolutely passionate about this place, and I’ve been building a portfolio of this incredible country for the last two years. Since I published my first Iceland photo, many people have asked me for all kinds of advices and tips about this place, so I have been planning on writing a series of articles with practical info that will answer many of these doubts. This is my way of giving back for all the incredible feedback I’ve been getting for the last two years, as well as trying to help other passionate souls in making the most out of their visit.

I would like to remind you that these articles reflect my personal opinion, and I’ll be glad to see you share your disagreement with some of these advices, as constructive debate creates solid knowledge. Hope this guide will be helpful for your trip!

O post Shooting Iceland’s Landscapes – A Survival Guide for Landscape Photographers aparece primeiro no José Ramos Photography.

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview