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Mixed media collage: is this the Glasgow in Bits eBook cover?
Glasgow+in+Bits+Collage+Mixed+Media

I have been a bit quiet on the photography front recently but I have been trying out loads of ideas for the next edition of the Glasgow in Bits eBook.

Honestly, I have never really been happy with the original covers.  The first two versions of the eBook seem to have been rushed out a bit quicker than they should have been and on both occasions the cover image was a bit ‘splash and dash’ I suppose.  You live and learn.

After a few missteps I have created something I am actually happy with and (at this stage) I am ninety percent sure this will be the cover image for the next edition of the Glasgow in Bits eBook.

The collage its is created using only photographs taken for the Glasgow in Bits project and was entirely analogue until the very last stage where I photographed the design and added a few paint splatters etc in Photoshop.  I have to admit just being away from the computer I creating something using such simple tools was a really enjoyable experience, and one I am sure I will take up again soon.

Break free from the tyranny of perfect sharpness and learn to love vintage lenses: the Auto Chinon 35mm 2.8

I am starting to really enjoy trying out these vintage lenses on the Fujifilm X-T2.  The ability to easily pick up a lot of vintage lenses very cheaply means I can experiment with various focal lengths without forking out a fortune each time I want a new lens.  I managed to pick up the Auto Chinon 35mm 2.8 for about £20, so even if I tried the lens and hated it I could easily sell it on again with minimal loss.  Hopefully.

Abstract photography Science Centre Glasgow.jpg

I actually bought the lens on eBay a few months but just never got round to using it until recently.  It is a pretty decent copy with no obvious marks on the lens elements.  As expected the Chinon is a wee bit heavier than my modern Fujifilm primes but no real issue.  The aperture ring is nice and clicky so it was simple to select whatever aperture I needed.  The focus ring is also very smooth and worked well.

What I love about using vintage lenses is that they free me from the tyranny of perfect sharpness – certainly with cheaper lenses like this I will not achieve that anyway – but I find this means I am more willing to experiment with composition, textures, blur and abstraction.  I have also found myself shooting far more black and white photography (as I am sure you will be able to tell from the sample photos).

Textures on gravestone at Necropolis.jpg

I have only taken this lens out to use on two occasions but what struck me immediately was how awkward it felt using the 35mm focal length.  Most of my photography is taken at 23mm or below so 35mm just felt a bit off.  It took me at least 30 minutes before I felt I was ‘seeing’ properly with the lens.  This another reason I like trying out these lens as I can take myself out of my comfort zone by using focal lengths that I do not normally use.

The Auto Chinon is a nice lens.  For me, it worked especially well as a black and white lens.  The tonal range seemed pretty good to my eyes although it did lack contrast.  It also seemed to work very well in conjunction with Acros film simulations on the X-T2.  Colours were not particularly vibrant, although to be perfectly honest on both occasions the weather was dull and overcast meaning there was a dearth of colour available anyway.  At a price of around £20 the Auto Chinon 35mm 2.8 is a lens that is definitely worth seeking out.

Glasgow Science Centre exterior.jpg

If you any questions or comments regarding this lens please comment below.

For more information about the Auto Chinon 35mm 2.8 click here.

Testing out vintage camera lenses on the Fujifilm X-T2: shooting with Helios 44-2

Photography with classic lenses was never something I have previously considered.  However, since starting to shoot with Fuji mirrorless I have read a lot about using adaptors in order to use these older lenses, how cheap old lenses (generally) are, and how the results can be interesting / inspiring / infuriating / something a bit different… so I decided to give it a go.

Luckily, I actually already had a Helios 44-2, 56mm, f2 lens at home on an old Zenit film camera I bought a few years back, purely as an ornament.  So in order to use the lens, all I had to do was buy an M42 to Fuji X adaptor ring. These are easy to find and reasonably cheap on eBay.

There was a definite blue hue in this shot. Fuji Velvia simulation applied

There was a definite blue hue in this shot. Fuji Velvia simulation applied

Before the adaptor arrived I did a bit of reading online and discovered that the Helios was a very widely produced Russian lens and is probably one of the most popular choices among people starting out with adapted lenses.  It can be bought for around £20 to £30 depending on condition.  My copy is fairly battered, and the lens has a fair bit of surface scratches as well as having dust inside.  It is definitely far from mint condition but there seems to be no effect on the images rendered.

I have to admit I really enjoyed using this lens.  All classic lenses like this must be used in manual focus, so for some people this can take a bit a time to get used too.  However, by turning on focus peaking in your camera you make life so much easier for yourself.  The only awkwardness I experienced was due to lens design: the aperture ring sits too close to the focus ring so it is too easy to move wrong ring.  Also the aperture is fluid so unless I was shooting at f2 or f16 I basically had to rough guess at an aperture setting.

Back and white has a real vintage look here. Really nice aged tones. Fuji Acros applied

Back and white has a real vintage look here. Really nice aged tones. Fuji Acros applied

Despite these minor issues it was great fun to use and the Helios rendered some rather lovely looking images.  The lens is actually fairly sharp considering its age - definitely not as sharp as modern lenses, but sharp enough.  There is something lovely about the images its renders.  Colours are slightly askew (very blue at times) to what I am used to but look very filmic so I can live with that.  For me though, the black and white images are what make the lens worth having.  These images looked very tonal and flat which resulted in a fantastic starting point for post processing in Lightroom.  The Acros film simulation worked really well here.

So what do you think?  Would you use a classic lens like this or stick to the latest in lenses available.  Can you recommend a lens to try out?  Feel free to comment below.

5 tips on how to take good photographs in the harsh midday sun

Sunny days are generally not great for photography.  The harsh light can make it very difficult to create good photographs but we should learn to use whatever conditions are available to our best use.  There are lots of techniques and ideas you can do to help in these conditions.

1 - Use a prime lens - the lack of zoom just gives one less variable to worry about when composing your shots... to be honest I prefer primes at the best of times but when the conditions are not ideal (for my needs) a prime is a definite.

2 - Bung on a polarizer - this will kill a lot of the reflections that ruin shots.

3 - Lower expectations - accept the conditions are not your friend here - I'm hardly going to get beautiful soft light at 2pm when the sun is blazing... this can take an unusually long time for us photographers to accept!

4 - Experiment! - I try and use the conditions to my advantage; try out unusal compositions, or including shadows and reflections.  Strong graphical elements can really stand out if you utilise strong sunlight

5 - Plan for later - It's a lovely day, so if I can't get the shot I want now... I make a note and come back later.  The Tyre Distributor image above is a prime example of this.  I like this shot but I know I can work it better on a cloudier day.  I have a 'Locations' folder in Lightroom where I squirrel away ideas I have to return to at a later date