Shane Baker: Blog en-us (C) Shane M Baker - all rights reserved (Shane Baker) Thu, 01 Jul 2021 08:57:00 GMT Thu, 01 Jul 2021 08:57:00 GMT Shane Baker: Blog 103 120 A photo a day for a month made me think At the beginning of June this year, I was at something of a loose end photographically, and my wife suggested I undertake a project. I decided to make 30 photographs in in 30 days. The plan was to make one image a day, preferably using just a couple of shots - though that wasn't a hard and fast rule. There was no particular theme and no technical criteria - I was to simply try to make an interesting image each day. 

Some days I was enthusiastic and on others, I did it because I "had to". However, in the end I did it and made at least one photo for 29 of the 30  days of June. (I was unwell one day and gave myself dispensation to catch up the following day.) The project certainly made me look at things photographically - and made me think - so that's no bad thing.

I picked out the images that appealed to me the most and compiled them (rather badly) into a single image:

Collage of some of my image a day photos.Collage of some of my image a day photos.

Different images were made for different reasons. Some, like this image of the shadow from a shopping trolley were made because they were there in front of me - and I had my camera and I was looking.

Shopping trolley shadowShopping trolley shadow

Others, such as this image of a wall at the local shopping centre were made because I went out looking for something to photograph (and got some exercise in the process):

Wall, Ellenbrook ShopsWall, Ellenbrook Shops

This self-portrait was made because I wanted to try using my newish Nikon Z6 II with Nikon's SnapBridge app to wirelessly frame and focus the image (always a challenge with a self-portrait) and to refresh my memory of using my Godox flash gear.

Self portraitSelf portrait

I think a project like this has a lot of potential as a development exercise for anyone interested in photography. In this particular case, I left the requirements quite open other than the need for making a shot a day for a month. The lack of criteria produces challenges of its own. (What to photograph, when and how challenged me every day.) 

A similar project could be more closely defined by:

  • defining a location or locations (say within 1km of your home), or
  • gear (e.g.: only use a 50mm focal length), or
  • number of shots allowed (how about only being allowed 36 images (ie: a roll of 35mm film) over the month,
  • or subject. You may only photograph structures.

The sky's the limit.

I don't know what I'll do next. A friend reminded me of a project I did a few years ago where I tried for making 100 individual photographs in an hour. (From memory, I made 94.) The trick is to find a location where that would be possible.

Time will tell.

Stay safe

Shane Baker


]]> (Shane Baker) australia nikon photography photography challenge photography projects western australia Thu, 01 Jul 2021 08:56:55 GMT
Nikon's Z6II, and their Z system in general is better than I expected I've bought a Nikon mirrorless Z mount camera, and the body and lenses are performing better than I expected. In fact, I'm impressed.

At the end of 2020, I bought a mirrorless Nikon Z6 II. I did so for three reasons. I was looking for camera lighter than my beloved Nikon D850 and with even better high ISO performance. The third reason was that I wanted to explore the mirrorless world we’ve all been hearing so much about - and which frankly, I thought was being over-sold by the fan boys.

So I bought a Z6 II together with a Nikon f/4 24 - 70 zoom. Later, during the new year sales I also bought two primes: a Nikon 50 mm and a 85 mm both of which are faster than the zoom being f/1.8. I'm yet to use the primes in any substantial way, but I have made a couple of hundred images with the new body and the 24-70 zoom and have been pleasantly surprised at the results.

A couple of weeks ago, and after looking at the images from the Z6, I had come to the conclusion that the greatest strength of the Z system was the new lenses, which are superb. The images from the 24–70 are beautifully clear, which is in keeping with various reviews I read before buying. However, what has surprised me is the quality of the of the images produced by the Z6 II body. I’d better explain.

My wife and I recently enjoyed a trip to Western Australia’s  south west and I took both the D850 and the Z6 with a view to doing some landscape and bird photography with the D850 while using the smaller, lighter Z6 as a “carrying around” camera. However, a telling experience was when we stopped in the forests, and I made a number of hand-held landscape shots with both cameras. (Simply to save me swapping lenses on the D850 to which I had fitted my 16-35 zoom, I shot some images using the Z6 with the 24–70.) It was fairly dim as as one would expect under the tree canopy and I made the mistake with the D850 of not setting a sufficiently fast shutter speed, meaning I was shooting hand held at around 1/30 second. This resulted in a number of images, which initially appeared okay but which have a degree of camera shake making several unsuitable for printing. 

This wasn’t a problem with the Z6 images. Using shutter speeds as low as 1/25 second and thanks to the camera’s in body stabilisation (IBIS), the images are crisp, the colours are clean and vibrant. Further, with the lens tolerating a tiny aperture of f/13, the outfit produced images that are sharp from immediately in front of me to close to infinity. 

This is an example.

Image of a Western Australian forest made with the Nikon Z6 II and the Nikon f/4 24 - 70.Image made with the Nikon Z6 II and the Nikon f/4 24 - 70.


This came as a complete surprise. I had not thought of the Z6 with its 24 megapixel sensor as being an alternative to the 46 megapixel D850 for landscapes, but it appears that the camera is more capable than I had expected. I had made the assumption that because of its sensor, the D850 would exceed the Z6 in landscape work. Indeed, I am confident that with both cameras on tripods, meaning that the Z6’s IBIS wasn’t an advantage that this would be the case. However the IBIS of the Z6 has proven itself in the low light conditions, and in effect compensated for its relatively low pixel count by having no discernible camera shake and hence super sharp images.

This is a cropped version of the same image at 100%.

Copy of the forest image above cropped and displayed at 100%Copy of the forest image above cropped and displayed at 100%© Shane Baker All rights reserved

Another advantage of the Z mount system, if you are already a Nikon user, is that with Nikon’s FTZ adapter, it can accept F-mount Nikon lenses. I have tried several of my Nikon lenses including my 500 mm pf prime, my f/2.8 70 - 200 mm zoom, and my 16 - 35mm zoom. All have performed as if they were made for the Z6. This means that I can continue to use my better f-mount lenses on this body for the indefinite future.

Finally, another point favouring the Z system lenses comes not from my direct experience but from reviews on the Internet. This is that the Z mount lenses are able to be used wide open. Let me explain. In the past, lenses have required that uses “stop down” a lens a little for really sharp images. This means that while an expensive f/1.4 lens could be used at f/1.4, the sharpest images would be obtained by stopping down a couple of stops to say f/2.8. Similarly the expensive “trinity” lenses such as an f/2.8 24 - 70 were really only sharp at say f/5.6 or f/8, but not so much at f/2.8. This doesn't seem to be the case with the Z mount Nikon lenses which reviews repeatedly state can be used wide open. This means that my f/4 zoom will be sharp from f/4, while the primes I have bought can be used wide open at f/1.8, with the resulting advantages of shallow depth of field and lower ISO.

So what do I conclude from this? It seems that the Z6 II (and presumably the Z7 II) are very capable camera bodies and when combined with the new Z mount lenses produce outstanding clean, crisp, pleasing images, even in low light conditions. They can also use f-mount lenses with the adaptor as if they were made for the body. 

If you are looking for a new camera system or you have Nikon lenses and are looking to buy a new camera body, I suggest you look at the Z6 II and/or Z7 II. Furthermore, Nikon is making an announcement early in March, and this may signal the coming of the mirrorless replacements for the D850 and top of the line, D6. If so, potential owners will have that little bit more choice.

Time will tell. 

In the meanwhile stay safe, stay well - and good shooting.

Shane Baker

]]> (Shane Baker) Australia mirrorless Nikon photographer photography Z mount Z6 Z6II Sun, 28 Feb 2021 04:19:06 GMT
Our digital cameras are awfully good For the first time in about a year, I've been able to print one of my images on my Epson P800.

For those interested, the reason for the printing hiatus is that about a year ago, my iMac suddenly refused to allow the Epson drivers to install. (Of course Apple blamed Epson and Epson blamed Apple.) In the end, I took my metaphorical life in my hands, re-formatted my hard drive, re-installed MacOS, recovered my documents from Apple's Time Machine and then downloaded and installed my apps. I could then install the Epson driver and print an image my wife wanted framed.

And no, I have no idea what the problem was.

The image in question was made in our yard and it's of a Brown Honeyeater sitting in a hakea shrub.

Brown Honeyeater in hakea, Perth, Western AustraliaBrown Honeyeater in hakea, Perth, Western Australia

The print is close to A2 size. It was only as I put it in the photo frame that I realised that the bird is larger than life size.

To illustrate, I clipped a leaf from the hakea and lay it on the print. Then I photographed it (very badly) and circled the actual leaf in red:

Closeup of bird photograph showing actual leafCloseup of bird photograph showing actual leaf


You can see that the printed leaf is about twice the area of the actual leaf. What you can't see is how good the image is. Were you here, you could get up close and see the detail of the bird's feathers. Yet even that close, you won't see noise!

Hard crop of Honeyeater image

Amazing technology, we have these days.

For those interested, the image was made with a Nikon D850 with the Nikon 200 - 500 at 500mm, f/8 at 1/500 sec and ISO 1100. Processing was done in Capture One Pro.

Good shooting - and stay safe.

Shane Baker



]]> (Shane Baker) bird photography camera Capture One D850 digital photography DSLR Epson image quality nature Nikon P800 photography printing processing Mon, 28 Sep 2020 07:31:04 GMT
Do you need a photo editing application? Do you need photo editing software? Well, you will be shocked to learn that I think you do.  You need to be able to edit your images.

I suppose I should justify that statement. To my mind, there are three benefits of having photo editing software:

  • making it possible to shoot raw,
  • allowing you to tidy and and generally improve your photos, and
  • providing a keywording and search capacity so you can find particular images

Let’s look at each in turn.

Firstly, shooting raw will give you much greater capacity to photograph contrasty or otherwise difficult images. There are many articles and videos on this subject, and apart from a handful of authors arguing for JPEGs as a bit of click bait (in my humble opinion), I doubt if you will find many photographers advocating the use of JPEGs.

I’ve written a blog myself on this subject, but if you quickly want to see the difference between a raw shot and JPEG shot before and after processing, then I’ve made this table.

The two images were made simultaneously using my DJI Mavic 2 drone, and processed in Capture One Pro. Apart from the crop which was copied from the raw to the JPEG, the rest of the processing was done according to the needs of each image - albeit in about 90 seconds in each case. I hope you’ll share my view that while the two unprocessed images at the top are more or less equal (if different), the final processed raw image on the bottom left is superior to the processed JPEG on the bottom right - especially in the difficult areas around the setting sun.

The second advantage is that you can tidy up images out of camera. This might mean a crop, or straightening of an horizon or maybe a little localised lightening and darkening.

As an example, compare these two images.  The first image is more or less straight out of the camera. It’s a candid made in the British Museum in London, and as is always the way in those cases, I had to grab what I could get.

Candid image straight out of cameraImage straight out of camera

That left me with someone’s head looming in on my right, a bag on the left, and a fair bit of clutter in the background. Apart from that, it’s not bad - but it needed tidying up, so I initially cropped and straightened it and then decided to convert to black and white, with this result:

Candid image after cropping and other processingImage after processing The nett result is a better image. The frame is now filled with the two women deep in conversation and by taking out the colour, I’ve also removed that red coke can which will always draw the eye away from the subjects.

Another more involved and more subtle edit (which I hope you will be able to see when this is placed on the web) is this image at Notre Dame in Paris in happier days: pre-fire and pre-COVID.

Notre Dame The bright areas on the right were a little distracting so I darkened it down a tad, the woman was conversely brightened just a little, and the overall image was warmed up a little as the colour in the original was slightly blue - or cool.

Was all this necessary? Maybe not, but I prefer the processed image - and the process only took two or three minutes.

Anyway … let’s move on to the third advantage: cataloguing your images. Or let me put that another way: being able to find your images after you’ve made them.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a bit of thing about protecting images, which I guess comes in part from my interest in family history. I’ve blogged about this in the past, so I’ll say this quickly: we don’t know the value of an image when we make it. Any image, even your snaps, may be of value in the future - either to your family or the wider community. Some of the photos in my possession that come to mind include:

  • slides (yes, 35mm Kodachrome slides) of Canberra in 1976 showing the National Gallery of Australia under construction and the Royal Canberra Hospital which has since been demolished.
  • a photograph made around 1950 of my grandmother with an expression which is so much like one of my sisters that it’s frightening.
  • an image of a greatly loved dog made a few hours before she died.
  • many images of my daughter.

All these image files are stored on my Mac and backed up three times, so they’re safe. But they’re only useful if they can be found - which brings me to keywording your images. Those of us of a certain vintage can remember the days of boxes of prints in the bottom of the linen press or wardrobe. They were kept, often with the negatives, but the only way to find a particular image was to plough through all the photos. This rarely happened.

This is where software can come in. Every time I load image files onto my computer, I keyword them. This may sound intimidating, but with applications like Capture One, Lightroom, On1 and Apple Photos, a whole batch of photos can be keyworded in three to five minutes. And once done, they’re done for good. If you need to find the image of Aunt Florence outside the Sydney Opera House, shot with your Canon 5D in 2018 then it’s a matter of moments to find it.

Which software you chose is a matter of choice and of budget. At the time of writing Affinity Photo is ridiculously cheap - but doesn’t have a cataloguing capacity. (It is an effective substitute for PhotoShop for most of us, so I'd suggest you grab a copy before 30 June 2020.) Capture One is my preferred application, but is expensive, while Adobe will only rent Lightroom to users, which is why I stopped using it. Apple Photos is the right price (free!) but only available if you have a Mac.

For those people using Fuji, Nikon or Sony cameras, there are now free “Express” versions of Capture One which will suit many people’s needs - but each will only open raw files from their particular brand, and are essentially “lite” versions of Capture One Pro.

So there you have it. A suitable photo editing application will not only allow you to shoot high quality images using your camera’s raw files, enable tweaking of images whether by cropping, darkening, lightening, changing the white balance or converting to black and white, but through its keyboarding and search facilities, make to possible to find a particular image.

If you value your photographs and want to keep them, improve them and find them when you need them, it’s the only way to go!

Happy shooting.

Shane Baker


]]> (Shane Baker) affinity Capture One catalog catalogue image edit lightroom photo editing photography photoshop searching Wed, 24 Jun 2020 09:09:12 GMT
In cameras, there may be arising a third option This is a short and highly speculative blog post. With the single exception of comments about the new Nikon D780, it's all guesswork - and I may be completely off the mark.
Recently, I've been in contact with two friends asking what they plan to do when their current gear needs replacing. We comprise two users of the Nikon D850 and a Canon 5D mark IV owner. To summarise: all three of us have no immediate plans to upgrade/change and are each taking a wait and see approach to technology/format changes. We all expect to go mirrorless one day, but none of us sees this transition as urgent.
However, this week Nikon has released a camera which may be a pointer to another option for those not committed to mirrorless: the D780. On the face of Nikon D780 rear viewNikon D780 it, the 780 is simply a replacement for the D750; one of Nikon's older DSLRs. However, Nikon's gone in a slightly direction, with the D780 combining parts from the D750, D5, D850 and Z6 bins. Essentially, the D780 behaves like a good, enthusiast's DSLR, but when you go into live view mode and start operating the camera from the monitor on the camera's back rather than the optical viewfinder, it starts behaving rather like a Z6 mirrorless. This has led some to describe it as a "hybrid" camera.
This brings to my mind rumours that were running a year or so back that a Nikon DSLR was coming out with a hybrid viewfinder. This hasn't been seen and probably is the result of wishful thinking or a misheard remark, but surely a hybrid viewfinder, combining the advantages of both optical and electronic viewfinders isn't impossible? If it is a real thing, maybe it will appear in the Nikon's soon to be announced flagship, the D6.
Along with my two friends, I'm in no hurry, so we each have the luxury of watching and waiting - but maybe, just maybe, a third category of camera may be appearing for our consideration: the genuine hybrid camera. 
It also occurs to me that like many enthusiast photographers, I have a massive investment in Nikon lenses - but so does Nikon. Dropping those lenses would mean dropping a lot of tooling and IP, and potentially Nikon having to sell existing glass at "remained" prices. (BTW, all this applies to Canon as well!) Furthermore, dropping DSLR bodies would leave Nikon with a large user base who would have to buy not only a new body, but new lenses. Now those of us with large investments in a lens system don't have a lot of choice when selecting a new body, but if you're buying a whole new system, you can look at other brands - with Fujifilm and Sony waiting in the wings for the massive Nikon/Canon user base to look around at other offerings. Nikon's F mount and canon's EF mount keep us all more loyal than we might otherwise be and this gives Canon and Nikon an incentive to keep their existing lens mounts in their mirrored cameras going as long as possible. A hybrid system would do that.
I have no doubt that at some time cameras will transition to being all-electronic in much the same way that glass plates gave way to sheet film and eventually, roll film. I may be wrong (I probably am), but it just may not happen as quickly as some "influencers" are predicting!
Shane Baker
PS: Joseph Cristina is having similar thoughts.
]]> (Shane Baker) cameras DSLR hybrid cameras mirrorless photography SLR Fri, 10 Jan 2020 01:17:01 GMT
A better tripod mount ring for my 200 - 500 Last year, I wrote about my purchase of my first really big lens: a Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens I called The Beast. While it has its weaknesses, it's a very good lens and extremely good value. (While not being exactly cheap, it's much less expensive than you would expect.) And it gives me the results I've hoped for:

Australian Pelican resting on a timber pylon, Denmark, Western AustraliaAustralian Pelican, Denmark, Western AustraliaAustralian Pelican, Denmark, Western Australia

Australian Pelican, Denmark, Western Australia
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens at 500mm
1/1000 sec, f/6.3 and ISO 320. Hand held.

However, a problem using this lens (and a few other large lens, I gather) is mounting it on a tripod. The issue is that the mounting plate (in my case, an Arca-Swiss plate) moves about on the lens' "foot" because it has only a single threaded hole to screw on the plate:

Lens mount for Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens and Arca-Swiss plate.Lens mount for Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens and Arca-Swiss plate.Lens mount for Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens and Arca-Swiss plate. The Arca-Swiss plate could clearly take a second mounting screw, but the foot would need a hole drilled and tapped - and I don't have the necessary tools. So, I started looking around - and came across a replacement foot with a built-in Arca-Swiss "dovetail": the Haoge LMR-N25 Tripod Mount Ring. No mounting plate required!

It fits on the 200 - 500 like it was made for it (my pathetic attempt at a joke - it's made specifically for the lens) and feels very, very secure on the Sirui Arca-Swiss compatible clamp I've tried it on. How robust it is remains to be seen, but it looks and feels well made - especially given the price of AUD$87.98. My lens now feels part of the tripod mount - which is the way it should be. What's more, it also has 1/4" and 3/8" tapped holes should I ever need to mount it directly.

Haoge makes other mounts for other lenses, so if you're experiencing similar problems, use Google. I'd like to include a link, but if Haoge has a web site, I can't find it. You can however find their extensive range of photographic accessories on Amazon and eBay.

Good shooting

Shane Baker





]]> (Shane Baker) accessories Arca-Swiss bird photography Haoge lens mount long lens nature photography photography telephoto tripod Sun, 10 Nov 2019 03:07:15 GMT
My portraiture project Those of you who read my irregular blogs will have noted that I have invested in new Godox flash gear of late. Has this been a classic case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) I hear you ask, or have I been acquiring with a purpose? Well (as I could be expected to respond): it has been with a purpose. It's all about me wanting to do more portraiture.

I've been fascinated by portrait photography for as long as I can remember, but as I've also been intimidated by the challenges both technical and interpersonal, I've tended not to do much. Buying the flash gear was intended to overcome genuine technical barriers to making more portraits, and to effectively blackmail myself into getting off my backside and doing it.

So ... what have I done? I've created a project, and I have now completed the first step. I've also decided to extend the project as far as I'm able.

The project has been to photograph mature aged men at the local Men's Shed. What's a men's shed? It's a community-based organisation "... whose primary activity is the provision of a safe and friendly environment where men are able to work on meaningful projects".

My project has been to make environmental portraits of those members who wish to sit for me. Sitters can chose an image after I have "curated" them - which is a pretentious way of saying that I pick my preferred images before letting anyone else see them. After processing, I put up my picks and they can then chose an image to keep as a print. In doing so, they can veto any image they are unhappy about (and none have to date). They also have access to the images as JPEGs if they wish, and I have also promised the Men's Shed committee digital copies of the images for their advertising, reporting and the like.

So, how has it gone so far?

Well I'm glad you asked.  Earlier I would have replied "so, so" but as a result of my latest work, I'd say pretty good. I consider this image of Dave my best of the project to date.


Which is not to say that others aren't meeting my criteria. For example, I like these:

For the technically minded, each image was made with my Nikon D850 and either my Sigma 50mm ART f/1.4 prime or my 85mm Nikon f/1.8 prime. I decided on using my primes if at all possible because firstly, I rarely use them and secondly, because I love the images they produce: crisp and clean, yet with a buttery bokeh. The building I'm working in has much less light than you'd expect, so to avoid high ISOs (and "noisy" images), I'm using my Godox AD400 Pro flash. The camera is in manual mode, at ISO 64 (the lowest natural sensitivity for the Nikon) and flash set manually using my light meter. I considered using TTL for exposure as I've been happy with trials at home, but for reasons I now can't recall, I decided to go all manual.

I could have gone half way on this and used TTL to find exposure and then use the Godox TCM (TTL Convert to Manual) button to lock the flash to a manual setting, but I didn't ...

The Nikon has been hand-held and tethered to my Macbook running Capture One. This allowed me to have a better idea of the outcome than I could get from chimping the back of my D850 and also, to show my sitters what we had. The system has worked well.

So given this is a development project for me, what have a learned so far?

Firstly, and on the technical front: manual mode is your friend, and a light meter makes going manual so much easier (but it's not essential). My process has been to set up the AD400 on a stand, get my "sitter" positioned in an appropriate place in the workshop, and while standing with them, firing the flash with the radio trigger while measuring the flash with my light meter. Given that I can adjust flash output with the Godox trigger, I have been able to try two or three exposures if needed without having to go back and forth from sitter to gear. Then, for safety, I have been making one actual test shot with the Nikon and then - away I go!

Secondly, be flexible. When I set out with this project, I had a very particular format in mind but it became clear with my first sitter that it wouldn't work. I put it aside and moved on.

Thirdly, trust your sitters and work with them. Relax - and let them relax and they will find the right pose and expression nine times out of ten.

Fourthly, trust your own knowledge. Getting uptight just stops you using your knowledge - and if you're anything like me, you know more than you think!

Fifthly - an oldie but a goody: check the foreground, background and boundaries of your image before pressing the shutter! (This is one I've missed several times - and it's particularly important in the workshop setting I'm in.)

Finally, I've been surprised at some of the images people have chosen as their preferred photo. As photographers, we tend to look at images in a particular (or maybe, peculiar) way. People don't necessarily see the images the way you see them - and their choices may surprise.

So all in all, the project is proving challenging, interesting and informative. My skills are improving by the process of applying knowledge that has been largely theoretical until now. "Book learnin'" can't beat the practical in a craft like photography - although a good grounding in theory is essential to solve problems along the way!

My next steps are really to do more of the same. I will continue to photograph interested members at the local men's shed, but have also begun to put feelers out to other sheds. The nice thing is that my local shed is willing to vouch for me - so I haven't messed up too badly!

So, if you're at a loose end and looking for a challenge, a community-based portrait project (or maybe a community-based documentary project) may be the answer. It could challenge you, get you applying your knowledge, problem solving and extending your skill set.

Go for it!

Shane Baker


]]> (Shane Baker) Australia flash photography men personal project photography photography project portrait portraiture Fri, 04 Oct 2019 04:55:23 GMT
An affordable desktop publishing app from Affinity Serif, who publish the well-regarded Affinity Photo have released their latest app called Publisher. As the name implies, it's a desktop publishing application and is available for Mac or Windows.

Just as Photo can be compared with PhotoShop, so Publisher will be seen as a challenge to Adobe's InDesign - not the least because you buy it outright. No monthly rental!

A feature which Affinity kept close to their chest until the release of Publisher is that it's closely integrated with Photo and Affinity's graphics application Designer. This means that if say, you own both Publisher and Photo, you can make edits to images using the full power of Photo from within Publisher - and access is instantaneous.

If you're thinking of publishing your work either in printed form or as pdf, Affinity Publisher is worth a look.

More details can be found here.


]]> (Shane Baker) applications desktop publishing DTP graphics Mac photography Windows Fri, 21 Jun 2019 04:48:49 GMT
A reasonably priced, battery-powered strobe system from Godox I’ve never been a huge user of flash, but sometimes you need it. (Try covering a wedding or significant birthday without flash.) My previous Nikon cameras have had a built-in flash, and while you would only use it as a last resort (the flash isn’t particularly strong, and because it’s part of the pentaprism housing, you’ll get a lot of red eye and the lens hood will tend to cast a shadow), it was useful for triggering Nikon flashes off-camera.

This all came to a halt when I bought my D850. Firstly, the 850 doesn’t have a built-in flash, so it can’t act as a master for my Nikon SB600 flash. Secondly, the SB600 was getting a bit long in the tooth and didn’t work as well as it did with earlier bodies.

Clearly, I would need a new flash.

The obvious choice was the Nikon SB5000, but at a price of more than AUD600, I was keen on a cheaper option - provided it would play nicely with the new D850. I Googled (as you do) and “discovered” Godox, a Chinese manufacturer of flashes which has been making a bit of a name for itself in good value-for-money flash gear. It also had a reputation for having a radio triggering system which works.

Godox V860ii speedlight - with rechargeable batteryGodox V860ii speedlight - with rechargeable battery
I took the plunge and bought a radio trigger which would work with a Nikon (the Xpro-N TTL Wireless Flash Trigger) and a V860iiN flash - which because it can be used on or off-camera is also dedicated to the Nikon. (Godox also makes versions of these for Canon, Sony, Fujifilm and Olympus). The cost? AUD319 for the flash, trigger, a small softbox and an “S-type Speedlite Bracket” which enables the flash to be mounted on a flash stand and has a Bowens’ type mount ring so accessories can be used with it.


I was impressed. The on-camera trigger has a large, clear screen, and lots of buttons to quickly adjust the associated flashes (which can be controlled in a number of groups, I might add). Similarly, the back of the V860 has a large screen, a heap of buttons, a simple, sliding, on-off button (Nikon et al, please note), a rechargeable lithium ion battery which can do an entire wedding with room to spare and glory be … a screen which is green when it’s in commander or stand-alone mode and amber when it’s in slave  Xpro radio triggerXpro radio trigger mode, so you can tell literally at a glance what it’s trying to do.

Everything worked, it was quite well made and was at a price you couldn’t beat. It got me thinking.













I’ve always been interested in portraiture, and although I haven’t done much, I’ve had some success - and I’d like to do more. Now retired, I could devote more time to portraiture and it would be a nice change from snaps of grandkids, trying to capture birds which either hide or fly at supersonic speed (a slight exaggeration, bit you know what I mean), or landscapes where you have a 15 minute window for suitable light. I just needed a portable light system.

Enter Godox - again.

Godox AD200 showing the interchangeable heads provided.
Godox AD200 showing the interchangeable heads provided.

The Godox system includes conventional mains power-based strobes, but also battery powered units in 200 watt-second, 400ws and 600ws sizes. I don’t need the 600ws unit and in any case, it’s not all that cheap, and neither is the 400ws version, but the 200ws flash (called the AD200) looked good. It’s a little bigger than a speedlight, provides roughly three times the power output of the V860ii, has a big, rechargeable battery and it is compatible with the Godox radio trigger system.  It ships with two heads - one rather like a conventional speedlight head and a “bare bulb” unit which is suitable for use with softboxes and the like. What’s more, for a little extra you can buy a third type of head which is round and which takes accessories which attach magnetically!









The optional round head for the AD200 - which takes magnetic accessories.The optional round head for the AD200 - which takes magnetic accessories. I splashed out and bought the AD200, the extra round head and associated light modifiers, a light stand and a big folding softbox. 

Will it produce as much light as my Elinchrom outfit with two 400ws heads? No, but the whole kit weighs a faction of the Elinchrom set, doesn’t need mains power, and can be controlled from the little widget sitting on top of my Nikon.

My next step is to arrange some portraiture sessions. I have two projects in mind, and I’ll report back when I’ve completed my first.

Wish me luck.

Shane Baker


]]> (Shane Baker) flash Godox photography studio flash Sun, 05 May 2019 11:22:11 GMT
Preserve your photographs This will be the briefest of blogs.

A tragedy in Paris reminds us all: Preserve your photographs. You cannot know their future value.

Notre Dame cathedral, Paris. 2017Notre Dame cathedral, Paris. 2017 Notre Dame cathedral, Paris. 2017 Notre Dame cathedral, Paris. 2017

Shane Baker



]]> (Shane Baker) backups photographs photography preservation Tue, 16 Apr 2019 00:43:34 GMT
One soccer ball and two lessons This morning, I went along to watch my grandson play soccer. Naturally, I took my Nikon with my 200 - 500 lens.

I was standing at the fence looking through my camera when something hit me - hard. I was a soccer ball that had been kicked from about four metres away. Then I noticed the lens hood:

My broken Nikon HB-71 lens hoodMy broken Nikon HB-71 lens hoodall rights reserved It had clearly acted as a  "crumple zone" for the lens - which mercifully seemed to have only suffered a few scrapes.

I've always been aware of the usefulness of the lens hood as a means of keeping sticks, leaves and fingers away from my glass, but had never thought of one protecting me from projectiles. Lesson 1: use your lens hood.

The second lesson came from searching for a replacement. The recommended retail price of the lens hood in Australia is AUD69, and some retailers sell it for around AUD59.00. However, I checked on eBay (just in case - after all, it's a bit of black plastic) and was astounded at some of the prices:

It's always been unwise to assume eBay is cheap, but AUD157.70 (plus postage) for a AUD69 lens hood?

You've been warned!

Happy shooting

Shane Baker





]]> (Shane Baker) lens hood Nikon photography prices protection Sun, 10 Mar 2019 06:29:11 GMT
Modern cameras are insanely good - and so is the software. I went out with group from Birdlife Australia this week for the first time in 2019. We went to a place in Perth called the Baigup Wetlands - a first visit for me.

I came away with a couple of good images - the best of which is probably this Yellow-billed Spoonbill:

Yellow-billed SpoonbillYellow-billed Spoonbill

And I was quite happy with this Mistletoe Bird - even if a branch got in the way.

Some of my other images weren't so great, and some were just bad - either I didn't have the lens, or I messed up the exposure.

But all was not lost. Let me show some examples of images as they came out of my D850 and after processing in Capture One Pro.

Before and after images
Raw Image Processed Image
all rights reserved

Am I happy with or proud of these images? Certainly not. The image of the too far-away osprey was really just to see how hard I could crop and I must say that the bird is identifiable - even if Australian Geographic won't be beating on my door seeking rights to use the image. It's at best an image that can can used for ID of the bird that was probably a kilometre away.

As to the second image of the Warbler, I have only myself to blame for that. These little sods hide in the reeds and sing (loudly) to lift my frustration, so when I saw the bird in almost plain sight, rather than adjust my exposure, I just went for it. As a result, with that extreme backlight, at first I had only a silhouette. I processed it in Capture One mainly to see what the latest version, with its new luminosity masking could do. I must say that the camera and software impressed, even if I didn't!

Neither image is worth publishing, or even talking about except in this context. That said, if they were say, shots of a Night Parrot or something similarly rare, I'd happily publish.

I'm glad I got the Spoonbill (and a couple of others, I'd add). It reminds me that when I show some discipline, I can come away with reasonable images.

All the best

Shane Baker




]]> (Shane Baker) camera Capture One D850 digital image recovery photography processing Mon, 21 Jan 2019 01:55:29 GMT
Sirui delivers - but in big boxes! [With a postscript] This will be the shortest blog in history. It's 22:04 on New Years Eve and I realise I haven't blogged for six months!

So ... apart from wishing everyone a happy, productive and creative 2019, I thought I would mention the service I received from Sirui, here in Australia.

Last week, I realised that one of the rubber feet on my tripod was missing. I toyed with the idea of trying to get one locally, then on Friday, tried the Sirui web site. They had feet (in packs of three) at a reasonable price, so I ordered a set - which arrived today. One side of Australia to the other in 2½ days is good.

One observation worthy of comment is the packaging. 

The little white envelope is the packet of feet, and the box next to it is what it came in.

No complaints about the speed or the condition of the product, but I would have thought a DL envelope would have done the job!

Anyway - happy 2019 to one and all. May the sunsets be beautiful, the animals slow moving and your human subjects photogenic and cooperative.

All the best.

Shane Baker


Post Script

It's almost a law of nature for me that when I've decided I've lost something and buy a replacement, the "missing" item turns up. So it is it seems with tripod feet!

Before ordering the replacement feet from Sirui, I checked every camera bag (yes, I have a few), searched any room the foot could be lost in and checked both of our cars (twice). Since I'd obviously lost it outdoors on a shoot somewhere, I ordered the feet.

Today (January 3) I took some stuff to the local rubbish tip. As I was cleaning a few leaves and things from the back of the car, what should appear? Yep, the "missing" tripod foot!

Well, I now have a replacement foot for each tripod leg!




]]> (Shane Baker) Australia parts photography service Sirui tripod Mon, 31 Dec 2018 14:17:51 GMT
A good product and good service - Peak Design As photographers, we are told often enough that gear isn't everything - and rightly so. I think that almost all of us know that despite "needing" that new lens or body or whatever, its about the art and craft of photography: a great photographer will come back with great images using ordinary gear. (I was about to write "mediocre gear" and then corrected myself. These days, very, very little gear is less than good.)

Anyway ... although we know this, we keep buying stuff and two things most of us buy all too regularly are bags and straps.

To be fair, it's hard to know whether either will work for you without actually living with it - which is why most of us have a cupboard somewhere with a killer bag (or two) that we had to have - which wasn't so killer when used.

I've done this with bags and I've also bought a few straps over the years. You'd reasonably expect Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony et al to provide a useable strap with their multi-thousand dollar cameras, but as we all know, your typical "genuine" camera strap is a billboard for the manufacturer with all the comfort of a length of rope. Walk around for a day with a full frame SLR and a zoom, and you'll be in real pain. Hence the need for straps.

When I bought my Nikon D800 a few years back which as my first full frame camera was also the heaviest I'd owned, I quickly started looking for a strap. The one I bought was a neoprene unit, moderately priced, which seemed on paper to be comfortable. What it turned out to be was quite uncomfortable - not the least because it was elastic and bounced the camera. What I thought would be a positive was not so at all. So when I lashed out and bought my D850, I looked for a better strap and in the end, ordered a Peak Design Slide

A "what's in the box" view of the Peak Design Slide

The Slide seemed to have two things going for it. Firstly, it appeared to be easily adjustable - and it is. For those new to the game, you would expect that a strap would be "set and forget" - but they're not. The Slide can be adjusted in seconds to fit the body/lens you're carrying and the conditions. The other thing going for the Slide, and indeed, Peak Design straps in general is that they can easily be removed using little thingies they call "Anchors".

Peak Design Anchor attached to a camera.Peak Design Anchor attached to a camera.

This may seem unnecessary, but when you're walking around in the bush with a long lens, looking for wildlife, the camera is in your hand - not around your neck, so a strap gets in the way. Ditto for studio work.

These two reasons were valid, but in addition, the Slide is comfortable. It's hard to know why, but it is. It flexes but doesn't bounce, it seems to be just the right width, and one side of the strap grips your shoulder while the other is slippy - so you can move your camera around at will, while it stays put when you want it to. 

So I was a happy camper. Then on June 6, an email arrived from Peak Design. It seemed that some of the Anchors (they've now put out four generations of these apparently simple little things) are wearing rather too quickly, which doesn't bode well for the gear they're carrying, and Peak Design wanted to know if I had some of the faulty version. I did, and so PD advised they would send me replacements. They arrived today (June 19), less than a fortnight after I answered PD's email.

So that's it. Something went wrong, they told me without making excuses and got replacements to me well before the faulty Anchors could fail - if indeed they were going to fail.

The bottom line is that the Slide remains the best strap I've used - and now I have a great deal of confidence in Peak Design as a company. They actually believe in concepts like service and customer support - a rarity these days.

If you're looking for a strap, check out the Slide. They come in two colours (black or grey) and two weights - for SLR and mirrorless.

Shane Baker



]]> (Shane Baker) Tue, 19 Jun 2018 09:49:42 GMT
A new tripod - the Sirui W2204 I've been looking around for a new tripod for a while now. The fact is that I already had three: an old Manfrotto, a relatively newer Manfrotto and an Induro. The Induro was definitely the most rigid of the three and also has the twist locks I prefer, but with the Acratech ball head, it was heavy. It also can gunk up a bit with dirt on occasions and was just a little short.

So, having convinced myself that it was not GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), but a genuine need, I'd been scanning reviews and come across the Chinese Sirui brand. A few months back I needed (there's that word again) a ball head to replace a Manfrotto unit which didn't really handle the weight of my Nikon gear. I bought a Sirui, and I've been impressed with its design and quality. One more tick for Sirui.

I was also interested in carbon fibre, rather than aluminium. Those in the know said that apart from being a little lighter than metal, it was also more rigid and less prone to vibration. Further googling turned up several reviews speaking highly of Sirui and some singing the praises of the waterproof W-2204. It looked good but wasn't cheap, so the plan stayed on hold.

Sirui W-2204 in various modes.

Then, a few weeks back, Perth retailer Camera Electronic had a Sirui 30% off sale, and I decided to take the plunge.

I'm happy I did.

Firstly, it's taller than my other tripods – too tall for me on the flat (even with the centre column retracted), but that will work on downhill slopes. It feels lighter than it actually is, the legs slide in and out very smoothly, and it's very, very stable. Other plusses are that is folds down very small, it comes with a tool kit (four more allen keys!), replaceable feet or spikes and a proper bag. I haven't tried its waterproofness yet, but it seems to cope well with Perth's ever-present sand.

Oh, and due to cunning design, one of the legs screws off and can be used as a monopod!

The bottom line? I like the design and the quality of the Sirui. The Induro is now my back-up tripod and the Manfrottos will go on the market.

If you need a new tripod, check out the Sirui line.

Shane Baker


]]> (Shane Baker) photography sirui tripod w2204 Thu, 14 Jun 2018 02:51:24 GMT
Controlling depth of field One of the steps in changing from someone who "takes snaps" to one who makes photographs is to create images which guide the viewer to the subject.  There are a number of things you can do in this regard, but one is to learn to control depth of field (DoF).

Depth of field (also sometimes called depth of focus) is the depth of the area in focus. For example, while you would typically want deep depth of field in a landscape shot (just about from your toes to the horizon), in a portrait, you may want the background to be pleasantly blurry, and you can achieve that with a shallow DoF.


Of course, this isn't always the case. For environmental portraits, where you may wish the subject's location or workplace to be clearly in view, you would set up for deep depth of field. 

Claude in his workshop

Four factors generally dictate depth of field, and ordinarily, only three of these can be controlled by you:

  • Aperture - the size of the opening in the lens which lets in light. The smaller the aperture (and the higher the f number) then the greater the depth of field. So f/16 will give a greater DoF than f/2.8.
  • Focal length of the lens - whether the lens is "long", say 200mm or "wide", say 24mm or somewhere in the middle.
  • The distance to the item. Generally, the closer the object, the more shallow is the DoF.
  • Sensor size - which cannot be controlled. The smaller the size of sensor, the deeper the DoF. So (for example) with all other things being equal, due to its tiny sensor size, the depth of field on your phone's camera will be deeper than say a full-frame DSLR.

So let's look at some examples - and this is a simple exercise which you could do at home.

Firstly, let's look at the effects of aperture. In these two shots, both the focus point and the focal length of the lens is unchanged. The top image was shot at f/4, while the second image was shot at f/16. You will see that the DoF is much deeper in the second image than the first, which is as one would expect as the smaller the aperture (ie: the higher the f-number), then the deeper the DoF.

Image shot at 50mm and f/4Image shot at 50mm and f/4

Image shot at 50mm and f/16Image shot at 50mm and f/16

Now lets look at the effect of focal length. The second pair of shots was made with the aperture set at f/8. In the first, the lens was zoomed out to 120mm, while in the second, it was set to a wide 24mm.

Image shot at f/8 and a focal length of 120mm.Image shot at f/8 and a focal length of 120mm.

Image shot at f/8 and a focal length of 24mm.Image shot at f/8 and a focal length of 24mm. Note that the shot made with the long 120mm has much more shallow DoF than the image made at 24mm. This is despite the camera being much closer to the subject in the second shot, where you would expect DoF to be more shallow!

So, choosing an appropriate aperture or focal length or carefully choosing where to focus (or all three) will help control depth of field, and guide your viewer's eyes to the key parts of the image.

Ok, so much for test shots. Let's look at some actual photographs and examine how they were created. First, this image of a street in Cambridge:

Cambridge street.Cambridge street. f/11 at 38mm focal length. This was shot with a fairly wide 38mm focal length and with an aperture of f/11. The focus point would have been around that black object on the right, to ensure the maximum area in focus.

Both the focal length and the aperture contributed to its deep DoF.

Next, let's look at this image of terns on Montague Island. The settings were f/16 at 200mm:

Terns with chick on Montague Island.Terns with chick on Montague Island. f/16 and 200mm. I used a small aperture (f/16), so why was the DoF so shallow? Two reasons: the long focal length of 200mm had a lot to do with it, and the fairly close focus also reduced DoF. If I'd got up close and shot this at say 50mm, that grass and those birds would be quite sharp - but that's not what I wanted.

Finally, let's look at this image of dry grass. I wanted the grass at the front to be sharp, but with a rapid fall-off of sharpness so that the background was quite blurry.

Dry grass seeds, Australian Capital Territory.Dry grass seeds, Australian Capital Territory. f/5.6 at 36mm In this image, and despite the focal length being shortish at 36mm, the combination of a reasonably wide f/5.6 and more importantly, the lens being close to the focal point on the nearest grass created the pleasingly shallow depth of field I was looking for.

So that's it - control the aperture of your lens, select where you wish to focus and chose the right focal length of your lens, and you can decide what's in focus - and hence, what viewer looks at in your photographs.

If this isn't all that clear, you can google for other examples, or even better - try different combinations with your own camera. Practice makes perfect!

Happy shooting

Shane Baker




]]> (Shane Baker) depth of field depth of focus dof focal length focus photography Sun, 22 Apr 2018 06:54:43 GMT
A new camera body, "The Beast" and bird photography It's been a while since I posted a blog (November 2017 in fact), so I thought I might tell you what I've been doing photographically speaking.

Back in August, I shared my gear lust about the then-recently announced Nikon D850. I wanted one - but not at any price, and given the combination of little discounting due to demand for the camera and the "Australia tax" prices we Antipodeans are required to pay, I couldn't justify buying one then. Between Christmas and New Year, Camera Pro in Brisbane offered the D850 at a price I haven't seen before (or since). I stumped up the cash and waited - and waited and waited.

Finally, Camera Pro (who had kept me in the loop all through the process) sent an email: it was on the way - and the next day, the courier handed me a big package.

What to do with it? Of course, the first shot I made was one of my wife - as is now traditional with new cameras in our house. But what next? Well, last year I bought The Beast - a Nikkor 200 - 500mm f/5.6 lens with the particular intention of trying my hand at bird photography. I'd tried using my extremely good Nikkor 70 - 200, but even with the 1.7x extender, I wasn't getting close enough. A 500mm lens would do the trick! (New gear solves all your problems, doesn't it???)

Of course, every solution has its downsides. The Beast weighs 2090g, which with the body, gets the kit up to around 3kgs. Doesn't sound much does it - say, three litres of milk. But try holding that out in front of your face for a couple of minutes and see how you you go.

Then there was the question of whether to stalk birds or sit quietly and wait. I'm not a "sit quietly" type of 'tog, but more experienced bird photographers than me seemed to think it was the way.

Anyway ... by trying to photograph birds at home, in nearby parks and occasionally, travelling to bush areas around Perth, my technique improved a little. In fact, I had a couple of successes - like this image of a Nankeen Night Heron.

Nankeen Night-Heron, Lake Joondalup, Western Australia.Nankeen Night-Heron, Lake Joondalup, Western Australia.
To be fair to the bird, in much the same way that Lee Marvin attributed half of his Academy Award to a horse, had I won a prize with this shot, at least half would be due to an unusually cooperative bird!

What's this got to do with the D850, I hear you ask? Well my point is that the heron shot was made with the long lens and my old faithful D800. As I noted last year, there's nothing wrong with a five year old body.

So why did I buy the D850? A few reasons. Firstly, it's a new sensor and while that in the D800 is brilliant, technology has moved on over five years. Not only do they have lower noise at high ISO, and greater latitude (the ability to deal with bright highlights and dark, dark shadows), but Nikon had stopped putting antialiasing filters (AA) on their SLRs. Taking away a filter which is there to fuzz up your images has to produce sharper images.

What's more, Nikon had put their top of the range 151 point focussing system into the D850, which would help - especially when photographing fast moving objects like birds - and grand children.

What was the potential downside? Well ... cost. I've never spent that amount on a camera body, although I suspect that my first digital SLR, the Nikon D70 may have cost that much in real terms. The camera sports an even bigger sensor than the 36M D800: nearly 46 megapixels. That requires a lot of storage - especially when you're trying to back up to the cloud using Australia's third world internet connections.

Finally. I've always said the D800 was a great camera - but unforgiving. When I first moved from my 12M crop frame D300 to the D800, I thought there was a problem with the camera. After analysis, I realised the problem wasn't with the camera, but with my technique. As good as the D300 was (and is), it was allowing me to get away with some sloppy technique whereas the much higher resolution of the 800 didn't. The D850 takes that a step further and with 46M and no AA filter, I could expect to need to refine my process further.

I was correct on all counts. The D850 is a great, great camera; an instant classic in fact, but it's not for everyone. It's expensive, heavy and demanding.

But if you're willing to persevere, it can produce images like this.

The Brown Honeyeater is a small, incredibly active little bird - and with the D850, I was able to nail that image. The focussing system also helps with objects moving in the sky:

Australian Pelicans in formation at Penguin island, Western Australia.Australian Pelicans in formation at Penguin island, Western Australia. However, today I saw a spider in my garden. I wondered what my ordinary, every day, non-macro Nikkor 24 - 120 lens could do on the D850 with such a small object - especially one that was moving back and forth in a strongish breeze. This is the initial image.

Full frame image of spider made with Nikon D850 and the Nikkor 24 - 120mm lens.Full frame image of spider made with Nikon D850 and the Nikkor 24 - 120mm lens.

Pretty good. Then I zoomed in - and to give you an idea of how much detail is in that image, this is the area showing just the spider. Look at that detail!

Crop in to spider on the earlier image.Crop in to spider on the earlier image.


I stress that this was made with a lens that has no claim to doing close-up work, but it's a good honest piece of glass. Combined with the resolution of the D850, I can do ultra-crops like this.

Does that mean I don't need my macro lens? Of course not - but it does show the incredible resolving power of this camera.

I'm very happy with my purchase and I honestly believe the D850 is helping me be a better photographer and make better images. But it's a camera that demands respect.

Happy shooting.

Shane Baker


]]> (Shane Baker) bird photography camera d850 nikon photographer photography resolution technique Thu, 22 Mar 2018 00:47:29 GMT
RAW provides you with more options in your photography There's a minor debate on YouTube at the moment (mid November 2017) about RAW versus JPEG, so naturally, I feel the need to "have my two bob's worth".

In March 2016, I wrote a blog in praise of raw, in which I said:

Put simply (very simply in fact), a raw file is an unprocessed record of the light falling on your sensor. It carries information about what your camera thought the exposure and colour balance should be, but because all the data are still there, you can adjust as far as the file will allow. A JPEG on the other hand is produced when your camera looks at the raw data, decides things like exposure and colour balance - and then writes what's needed to the file - and disposes of the rest. That's why formats like JPEG (and GIF) are called "lossy". And that's why raw files are big (in this case, 35 meg) and JPEGs are relatively small (2 meg): the raw file still has all the original information. (There are other differences like bit depth, but we needn't worry about that.)

JPEGs have their place. You wouldn't want to send a photo of your kid's party to your family in raw format. What's more, some cameras (like Fuji for example) do a brilliant job of producing JPEG images. But if you make a mess of your exposure as I did, or you are shooting difficult subjects such as sunsets (high contrast) or in low light, you want all the data your camera can give you to make adjustments.

There are two main reasons to shoot JPEG. Firstly, they're smaller than RAW. The following table will illustrate what I mean. I created JPEGs two different ways. I took an existing RAW file, opened it in Affinity Photo and exported it as highest and second highest quality. Next, I shot four images with with my Nikon D800 using the same settings, but saving as RAW, "fine JPEG", "normal" and "basic". This is what happened:

File sizes for RAW and JPEG (in megabytes)

Source RAW Fine JPEG Normal JPEG Basic JPEG Affinity Photo
JPEG Conversion
Highest Quality
Affinity Photo
JPEG Conversion
High Quality
Nikon D800 51.7 15.0 8.5 4.2 - -
Affinity Photo Conversion 50.2 - - - 38.0 7.5
JPEG size saving - 71% 84% 92% 24% 85%

As you can see, there are substantial savings in file size by using JPEGs instead of RAW, but that comes at a price. I'll come back to that.

The other reason is convenience. Just as in the days of film, when we took our colour film to the local lab rather than spending an evening (or two) in our darkroom, JPEGs offer a "ready to use" image file. And just like those postcard prints from the minilab, most will be useable - but some won't.

Which brings me back to my point. A week ago, I wandered into an old (by Western Australian measures) churchyard near Perth and made this image. This is a JPEG (yes, we use JPEGs for this sort of thing) of my unprocessed RAW file:

The image before processing.The image before processing. Not very exciting is it? Added to which, there are areas in the top left and middle right that are over-exposed and rather distracting.

This is what it looked like after processing in Capture One:

The image of the graveyard after processing and converting to monochrome in Capture One.
The image of the graveyard after processing and converting to monochrome in Capture One. ​I'm happy with that image. I think the black and white works for the subject material, there's a good balance, and the image is quite sharp from foreground to background.

For the record, these are the steps I took:

  • Levels - with Capture One's "Auto" setting
  • Highlights adjusted to 50
  • Clarity: 30
  • Sharpening: 200 (from the default 180)
  • Vignette: -1 stop
  • Local adjustments for those bright areas - done by eye
  • Conversion to B&W using the "Panchromatic 4" setting
  • A sight S-curve adjustment
  • Contrast at 9

This is the result when I tried almost identical steps on the highest quality JPEG:

Adjusted JPEG image Adjusted JPEG image Not so good. I would go so far as to say that the edited JPEG file is unusable, whereas I'm happy for people to see the RAW conversion.

While editing, it was noticeable that I simply didn't have the same latitude when brushing in local adjustments in those overly bright areas. The results were lumpy and the image tended to go grey, looking like fog, rather than simply darkening as happened when working with the RAW image. This is hardly surprising as (getting geeky) JPEG files are 8-bit, whereas my RAW files are 14-bit. What does that mean? Well, every point in the JPEG has 256 levels of colour, whereas the RAW file has 16,384 levels. More detail, more information in every pixel increases your options when editing!

It's true that the JPEG file is smaller than the RAW, but it gets that way by losing data - and we need that data for adjustments and fine tuning. 

On the other hand, how big a deal is file size these days? 64G SD cards, good for over 1,000 images on most cameras, can be bought for as little as AUD45. Faster cards are more expensive, but whether you even need that depends on your camera and how you shoot. External hard drives that can store 20,000 or more RAW files can be had for less than AUD100. 

Size just isn't an issue any more!

Processing might be. The fact is that a RAW file needs processing; a JPEG doesn't. That said, I likened RAW and JPEG to darkroom and minilab earlier, but it's not really like that, is it? We can do in software in a few moments what would have taken hours in a wet darkroom. A few days ago, I played with Apple's Photos app and tried its auto function. The results were surprisingly good - and I still had the option to tweak the settings. The same is true of Capture One, which is hardly a consumer product. Its auto button does a good job, if you're in a hurry or just can't be bothered. I imagine it's true of your software as well.

So if you're not using RAW, give it a try. If you're on a Mac, you already have a very good photo editor and if you're not, try one of the 30 day trials offered by most photo editing software developers.

You even have a safety option: I think you'll find that if you're nervous about RAW, your camera will allow you to capture RAW and JPEGs at the same time! There you go: a plan with no flaws!

Give it a try. Once you've sampled the flexibility and latitude provide by RAW, I'll be surprised if you go back to JPEGs.



]]> (Shane Baker) blown out contrast ratios file format format highlights images jpeg photography raw shade shadows Fri, 17 Nov 2017 01:57:33 GMT
Cropping changes photographs more than you may think In some photography circles cropping is a no-no. Some photographers take the view that a photo is made in the camera and it's the whole frame or nothing. I understand Henri Cartier-Bresson didn't crop, or maybe that's just photography folk law. 

Those of you who've read my blog know I passionately believe photographs are made in the camera, not in PhotoShop, but I'm no purist. In much the same way that Ansel Adams would meticulously work with light, shadow and contrast in his images to achieve the effect he wanted in the mind of the viewer, I (without his talent, skill or dedication) will work my images with cropping and manipulation of exposure and contrast to get the results I'm looking for. It's a tradition going back to the very beginnings of photography.

The view of the Eiffel Tower from our Parisian hotel room.The view of the Eiffel Tower from our Parisian hotel room. Why, I hear you ask, am I writing this? Well, a few weeks back my wife and I were in Paris. (Yes, I know. It's a hard life, but someone has to do it.) Our room even had a view of the Eiffel Tower!

While in our typically tiny Parisian hotel room, I spent a fair amount of time looking out our window. We were literally 50 metres from a train station - which isn't as bad as it sounds, by the way. The elevated train ran on rubber tyres and of course, the Métro is underground, so no noise from there. Anyway - the station, the intersection and the local restaurants meant there were a lot of people, and they were interesting to watch (even if I failed to get a single interesting photograph of the street scene).

So, I was looking out the window and saw that the low angled light was casting interesting shadows on the wrought ironwork outside the apartments opposite, and  naturally, I made some photographs.

The result is shown below.

Quite nice, but I felt that the partial windows on the floor below were a bit of a distraction, so I cropped the image - also shown below.





Full frame of my image of shadows in Paris.
Paris shadowsFull frame of my image of shadows in Paris.


The result, I was surprised to discover was a dramatically different photograph - in my opinion at least.

Cropped version of my Paris shadows in Photograph.
Paris shadows. Cropped version of my Paris shadows in Photograph.

The first photograph is about those shadows, with the roofs above in a darker part of the image. The second cropped image became a photograph of those roofs and that collection of chimney pots, with the shadows also there for those who looked at the image longer.

Yes, I know this is all terribly subjective, but assuming you share my perception, I guess the next question is: why? I suspect it's more complicated than one factor, but I think that part of the reason is our old friend, the "rule" of thirds.

This is the cropped image with vertical and horizontal "rule" lines included:

Cropped image shows "rule of thirds" lines. You will see that the roof and chimney pots are crossed by the upper horizontal line, whereas the lower line barely touches the shadows. In contrast, the full image looks thus:

Full image with "rule of thirds" lines

In the second image, the lower line lies across the ironwork, which incidentally is also the lightest part of the image. It's not surprising therefore that our eyes are down there. By contrast, the upper horizontal line skirts the roof ridge - which is in the darkest part of the image.

Ok, so what's the take away from this? It's this: in much the same way that zooming your lens does much more than just making something seem closer (or further away), cropping does more than just removing unwanted pixels. By changing the proportions of the image, we can change the subject of the image.

It's worth reviewing a cropped image before finalising it to ensure you haven't changed the nature of the image. Conversely, if you're using the whole frame, maybe a crop is what's needed to make an average shot better. (Just make sure that if you are cropping, you do it non-destructively so you can revert if the result isn't what was intended.)

Have fun.



]]> (Shane Baker) cropping photography proportions ratios rule of thirds Sun, 05 Nov 2017 02:37:43 GMT
One lens to do it all I recently did a five week trip to Britain and Europe. As always, luggage is a problem and so on this trip I decided to take my Nikon D800 with a single lens: my 24 - 120 f/4 Nikon zoom.

In the past, I've tended to travel "heavy" on such trips: carrying most of my gear in a Kata backpack that runs to 8 or 9 kilos. The problem has been that firstly, that's a lot of weight - especially for someone in his late 60s. Secondly, the backpack is bulky and while it conforms to airline carry on dimensions (just), it's a problem when travelling on crowded public transport. (One time, it got caught in a closing Tube door in London.) Thirdly, I only used some of the gear on any trip.

My first big trip involved my Nikon D300 DX crop frame camera and because of its crop factor, I found I made about 90% of my shots using the brilliant Nikon 14 - 24 f/2.8 lens. Of course, with the D300's APS-C sensor and hence a 1.5 crop factor, that lens was effectively a 21 - 36mm lens. That's great for shooting landscapes and in cities, although it's a little short for some shots, which is why the other 10% of images were made with other lenses.

Canary Wharf station, LondonCanary Wharf station, LondonCanary Wharf station, London Nikon 300 with Nikkor 14-24 at 14mm (21mm effective)

On the full frame D800, that lens is too short for most photography - at 14mm you can get your toes in a shot if you're not careful. The 24 - 70 f/2.8 is a better option on an FX camera, but 70mm is a little short for some situations.

Cambridge streetCambridge streetCambridge street Nikon D800 with Nikkor 24 - 70 at 38mm

Enter the Nikkor 24 - 120 f/4, which is in the right focal length range for a trip, and is also stabilised - which can be helpful in low light situations. At f/4, it's a full stop slower than the 24 - 70, but since I tend to shoot at f/8 or smaller (to provide some depth of field) this wasn't an issue.

By the Seine, ParisBy the Seine, ParisBy the Seine, Paris Nikon D800 with Nikkor 24-120 at 70mm

Glen Coe, ScotlandGlen Coe, ScotlandGlen Coe, Scotland Nikon D800 with 24-120 at 24mm















So I took away the one lens, and I'm happy to report that the combination worked well. Very well in fact. The focal lengths available covered almost every situation I wanted to photograph, the aperture was fine, and the stabilisation system worked very well. If you're looking for a "walking around" lens for your Nikon and you have a full-frame (FX) body, I suggest you look at the 24 - 120, which is a bargain compared with their f/2.8 range. If you're shooting Nikon crop frame, the venerable 18 - 200mm works well - I know.

Canon shooters would do well to check out the 24 - 105 Canon lens. Like the Nikon 24 - 120, it seems to be a ridiculously good lens, especially for the price. No doubt, Sony and the micro four-thirds manufacturers have equivalent lenses.

The bottom line is that one lens can do it all - or nearly all. If you're travelling for photography, obviously you'll want more than one lens. My advice would be to take a wide lens for landscapes, streetscapes and close-in work, and if you can accomodate it, a longer lens - maybe a 70 -200. You could also carry a "nifty 50" 50mm lens which weighs practically nothing, or if you have a crop frame, a 35mm might be the go. 

One thing I missed on this trip is a  tripod. Something like the Sirui T-025X would be useful, but at a pinch, even a good tabletop tripod such as a Sirui 3T-35K Table Top Tripod would be useful. (I had meant to take my Manfrotto tabletop this time but forgot!)

Mind you, a little innovation goes a long way. This image was made with the Nikon more or less level on a park bench and the lens lifted by resting the lens hood on my reading glasses' case. You do what you have to do.

Dresden.Dresden.Dresden Nikon D800 with 24-120 at 24mm ISO 5000, f/10 at 1/10 sec


One area where the D800 was caught out a little was ISO. The fact is that in Australia, we're used to lots of light and as such, the D800's maximum ISO 6400 isn't really needed. I usually have auto ISO engaged and limit it to 3200 to avoid noise, but on this trip, due to small apertures (for more depth of field) and limited light indoors, I had to crank the camera up to the full 6400. The fact is that the noise was quite acceptable - unless I planned to print large (which happily I don't). That said, I don't normally concern myself too much with maximum ISO performance, but this trip brought it to mind. The additional couple of stops provided by the delectable Nikon D850 raised my level of gear lust.

Mind you, I could have simply taken my flash, but I'm (a) not a fan of flash and (b) didn't expect to need it.

So there you have it. Next trip - if there is a next trip - I'll take my current Nikon body, the 24 - 120 and some kind of tripod. That will cover me for around 90% of shots and for the others? Well, I'll just have to think.



]]> (Shane Baker) choices lens choice nikon photography travel travel photography Sat, 21 Oct 2017 02:22:11 GMT
There's life in "old" cameras yet! Ok, I'll admit it. I want the new Nikon D850 so much I can taste it. This goes beyond gear lust - I'm in love. If the D850 delivers (and no-one outside Nikon knows that for sure) then this is close to the perfect camera.

I want one.

Have I placed my deposit? Well no, and for some good reasons. Firstly, I'm travelling overseas the day the camera is released. It would be an act of blind faith to take a literally brand new camera on a trip. Secondly, I want someone (or preferably several people) I respect to tell me this is a camera which does what it says on the tin. Thirdly, there's the price - in Australia at least.

From what I can see, Nikon USA is asking about 17% more for the D850 than the D810. Frankly, I consider that a bargain, and if I lived in the US of A, I'd probably have my deposit on the shop counter by now. But in Australia, we have this thing many of us call the Australia Tax. What is this, I hear you ask? Well, we Aussies are asked to pay more than many other consumers for the same thing. In this case, it seems we're being asked for a 40% premium for the D850 over the D810.

So, until prices in Australia get more reasonable, I'll limp along with my 2012 vintage Nikon D800.

But what does my "limping along" mean in practice? Well, I went out yesterday to try some bird photography, and came up with something I like - this image of a male Splendid fairy-wren in full plumage. 

Splendid fairy-wrenSplendid fairy-wrenMale Splendid fairy-wren un full adult plumage at Caversham, Western Australia But before the birds got used to me and came out of the bushes, I made this test shot. It's an Acacia (wattle):

Acacia in flowerAcacia in flowerAcacia in flower, Caversham, Western Australia As I say, it's a test shot made with my "poor old" D800 and my new 200 - 500 zoom. (Not your classic flower photography lens!)

I opened the image in Capture One and zoomed in to 100% to check my focus, and saw this:

Crop of Acacia in flower photoCrop of Acacia in flower photoCrop of Acacia in flower photo

The cropped image is about 10 - 15% of the full image taken from the centre, and as you can see, there is a clear, well-defined ant and a bug hanging onto a leaf.

I reiterate: this was simply a test shot, using my "crappy old" Nikon D800 and a birding lens - and it's crisp and clear. Back in the film days, we would have been in seventh heaven making such a shot.

So my take away from all this? The D850 will almost certainly blow most other cameras out of the water. It's arguably the best SLR Nikon has ever made (which is saying something) and I still want one. But I will wait until tests prove it delivers, and until pricing in Australia gets to a realistic level.

In the meanwhile, in my five year-old Nikon D800, I have a great camera!

Happy shooting

Shane Baker



]]> (Shane Baker) australia bird photography d800 d850 digital cameras gear lust nikon photography splendid fairy-wren Sun, 27 Aug 2017 03:22:14 GMT
The zoom ring does more than you think In my previous blog, I described my recent excursion to photograph the sunrise over the Swan River in Perth. After I'd finished that shoot, I set out to photograph what seems to have become a bit of an icon among the selfie fraternity in Perth: the Crawley boat shed.

When I was a kid, the shore along Mounts Bay Road had a number of such sheds, not to mention the "Crawley Baths", where you could swim safe from bull sharks – if not jelly fish. Now, the baths are long gone, and the boat shed is the only survivor from that era.

Anyway, pretty much from dawn till dusk, you'll see people on the walkway to the shed with or without selfie sticks, photographing themselves or their friends. I had hoped that by being there at 07:30 on a Saturday morning, I'd avoid that demographic. I was wrong, but I didn't have to wait too long before I had my chance.

I arrived with my 24-120mm f/4 lens fitted to my D800, but decided as soon as I arrived to go wider: my Nikon 14-24 f/2.8. This is a beautiful lens, although you have to be careful at 14mm to keep your toes out of the shot. (No, that's not hyperbole.)

There was plenty of light, so there was no need for a tripod and I got right into it. One of my first shots, made at 14mm was this image, which I consider the pick of the morning.

Boatshed on the Swan River at Crawley, Western Australia.Boatshed on the Swan River at Crawley, Western Australia.Boatshed on the Swan River at Crawley, near the University of Western Australia.


I then decided to go "long" (everything's relative) and zoomed to 24mm and made this image:

The Crawley boat shed on the Swan River, photographed at 24mm focal length.Crawley boat shed - at 24mmThe Crawley boat shed on the Swan River, photographed at 24mm focal length.


Not bad, but not as good as the first image, in my opinion.

Hopefully, you're now thinking what a talented photographer I am (that's a joke, by the way) – but that's not why I'm showing you these images. Compare the two images. They were made within a few seconds of each other from the same spot, with the same lens and settings. What's different is the focal length – and now I'm getting to my point.

When I've been teaching photography to people new to the craft, I've always stressed that zooming does more than make the object seem closer or further away – it changes the perspective. Most people with cameras with zoom lenses (and some zooms have huge zoom ratios) stay glued to the spot and just zoom. I've done it myself. Sometimes, you have no choice. Getting close to that tiger at the zoo is best done with focal length, rather than jumping the rail. Similarly, if you're trying to photograph a bird, it's easier on the bird and you if you twist that zoom ring.

Inquisitive rainbow lorikeet, South Durras, NSW.Inquisitive rainbow lorikeet, South Durras, NSW.Inquisitive rainbow lorikeet, South Durras, NSW.


A long lens can be used to "compress" the image and change the whole look of the shot. This image of mine brings the waves and the headland much closer together for a more dramatic shot than would be achieved with say, a 50mm lens.

Sunrise at South DurrasSunrise at South Durras


While this shot made with a wide angle emphasises the sky.

Cloudscape, near Canberra.Cloudscape, near Canberra.


My point is that zooming does a lot more than just changing the apparent distance to your subject – it changes the perspective. You may not always have a choice, but if you do, consider "zooming with your feet", rather than twisting the zoom ring.

Good shooting.

Shane Baker

]]> (Shane Baker) australia d800 focal length lens nikon perspective photography zoom Tue, 18 Jul 2017 22:14:42 GMT
With sunrises, it ain't over until the sun's completely up Yesterday, I did something I hadn't done for a while: I got out of bed in the dark, and headed out to photograph a sunrise. It was worth it.

If you haven't done this, it has its challenges. Firstly, by definition, it's dark. I doubt if as the saying goes, "it's darkest just before the dawn", but it is dark. It's also cold - in winter, at least.

The other thing is that sunrise (and sunset) photography requires lots of adjustments and quick thinking. I've heard it described as being like photographing sports. While I'm not sure I would go that far, things happen fast - and are unpredictable. So you need to keep your wits about you, and it helps to do whatever setting up you can in advance.

So … I went to Point Walter on Perth's Swan River as I'd heard it was a good place to shoot the sunrise. I arrived in good time, set up my tripod, and decided to use my Nikon 24-120 f/4 lens on my D800. It's not my fastest lens, but I knew I'd be shooting be shooting at a high f-number to achieve the maximum depth of field, so that wasn't an issue. It's a good lens, and gave me the option to move from wide to medium telephoto as required. (I also remembered to turn off the lens's stabilisation as it would be on the tripod due to low light.)

Because the light changes rapidly, I chose my preferred aperture priority mode (where the camera sets the shutter speed according to my choice of aperture) and I selected ISO 100 with auto ISO off. Shutter speed seemed unlikely to be an issue as I was using the tripod, and I wanted the lowest possible noise in my images.

I was ready for the sunrise. I waited, and soon, there was enough pre-dawn light to make some exposures. The problem is, of course that you can only see lights at that time of day, so there was some guessing about the river bank and such.

The cloud was good, and after about 30 shots, which included changing the focal length and lowering the tripod to try for better reflection, I came up with this.

Sunrise over the Swan River from Point Walter, Perth Western Australia.Sunrise over the Swan River.Sunrise over the Swan River from Point Walter, Perth Western Australia.

Quite nice, but as the light increased, I knew that was it. I was disappointed. I'd wanted more colour in the sky, but it clearly wasn't coming, so I packed up. In the next 10 minutes, I folded the tripod, put my camera back in its bag and put the gear in the car. I had a brief chat with a local dog and his people, and started the car – then I saw the sky. That colour that wasn't going to happen was happening!


Hoping I'd have time, I grabbed my stuff and double-timed back to the beach, stuck the camera on the tripod and started shooting.

The light kept changing, so I had to keep agile.

Then I noticed that the slowish shutter speed I was using was blurring the waves, so I decided to trade a little noise for speed and upped the ISO to 400 – and was able to get this.

Sunrise over the Swan River from Point WalterSunrise over the Swan River from Point WalterSunrise over the Swan River made at Point Walter, in the Perth suburb of Bicton.

I wasn't disappointed any more. Surely this time I had what I'd climbed out of bed to get?

Back home, I loaded the files into Capture One and held my breath. Sunrises and sunsets very tough on cameras. They have very high contrast ratios ranging from really, really bright bits where the sun is, and pure black areas. I was glad I'd shot in raw format, rather than JPEG because that gave me a few more options in "post". I was also hoping I'd got my focus right. A blurry landscape is not a good thing!

The files didn't need much processing actually. The D800 may be an old camera in terms of digital, but it's still a great camera. I made tiny adjustments to levels, and almost imperceptible adjustments in clarity, curves and vignetting and I was done.

As I said: it was worth getting out of my nice warm bed. I'll do it again soon-ish.

Lessons? Really only one: don't stop shooting a sunrise or sunset until it's full daylight/dark. As I proved, your opinion of what's going to happen isn't worth much – you have to wait until it's well and truly over.

Or maybe I'm just a bit impatient – which sounds about right.

If you're considering trying sunrise photography, this check list may help. You will need:

  • your camera with a freshly charged battery.
  • a good tripod – meaning it's stable and with a quick and reliable method of attaching your camera.
  • a suitable lens or lenses. A medium zoom is a good choice as while you'll probably need a wide lens, sometimes you may need a medium telephoto (believe it or not).
  • warm clothing - in winter at least, including fingerless gloves.
  • a light. I suggest a headlight torch as these point where you're looking and keep your hands free.
  • be awake – and be patient!

Good shooting.

Shane Baker

]]> (Shane Baker) Australia D800 Nikon landscape photographer sunrise sunset Mon, 10 Jul 2017 03:14:34 GMT
Nailing those informal portraits I was recently contacted by a friend with a common problem. She needed to get some good photos of her son, who was all dressed up for a senior high school ball. She has a good Nikon SLR and a good eye, but needed some tips on how to get the best from the camera.


It's approaching winter here, so the shots would be inside, so my first point was: don't use the built-in flash. The flash on cameras should be used as a last resort (your child being born as there's a power failure or aliens landing at night come to mind). If you have a flash unit (one you slip into the hot shoe on the top of the camera), it could be used with a suitable reflector or by being bounced off a white wall or ceiling, but the built-in flash is too small, and more importantly, too close to the axis of the lens. Built-in flash results in red eye and that "deer in the headlights" look. Don't use it.

The good news is that modern digital cameras can produce good results at quite low light levels. Perhaps as important, they can cope with the mixed light temperatures (meaning the colour of the light) coming from the variety of light sources we see in most houses. So, set your ISO on "auto", turn on all the lights in the room, and you'll probably get away with it.

Next, keep away from walls. Standing too close will probably mean your subject will cast a shadow and you'll end out with that weird "outline" around your subject. (That goes double if you use flash.) Get them to take a generous step away and all will be well.

Next, chose a good lens focal length. If you're using a full frame camera (e.g.: Canon 6D or the Nikon D750), then you will want a lens in the focal range 50 to 80mm (or thereabouts). Any shorter, and people will have those big noses and door frames will be curved. Longer than around 80mm and you probably just won't have the space needed - inside at least. If you don't have a full frame, you'll have an "crop frame" camera, which means your sensor is smaller than full frame and this will change your effective focal length. In practice, this means:

Focal length equivalents
Sensor Size Indicated focal length  Effective focal length
Full size 50mm 50mm
  85mm 85mm
Preferred portrait focal length.
APS-C 35mm 50mm
  50mm 75mm
Great choice for portraits
Micro Four-thirds 25mm 50mm
  40mm 80mm
A great portrait focal length

By the way: a "prime" lens (that is, a lens which doesn't focus) will almost always be better than a zoom, and particularly on the APS-C cameras, the "nifty fifty" 50mm lenses are ridiculously good for their price. As you can see, a 50mm on a crop frame is really a 75mm, which makes it a great portrait lens. If you're interested in portraiture, the nifty fifty is definitely worth consideration.

Getting exposure correct

The next point is about exposure. I've already mentioned keeping ISO on auto. Switch your camera to aperture priority and then select a big aperture, like f/4 LesLes and you will have a nice shallow depth of field or focus. Your foreground and background will be nice and blurry, and if you've focussed on your subject's face, they will be nice and sharp. In this image, I didn't want any detail in the background, so I chose a big aperture.

If you want the background in focus, go the other way and choose f/8 or f/11. Your camera will do the maths and work out the optimum shutter speed and ISO. In this environmental portrait, I wanted to emphasise Claude's deep interest in wood working and wood working tools, so I kept the depth of field as deep as a I could.



If all that's a bit much, use Program mode - but please don't select the green setting. Under that setting, you're turning your expensive camera into a basic point and shoot, and among other things, the camera will probably trigger flash.


Posing your subject

I guess that just leaves how to pose your subject. That depends on the style of the portrait, the personality of the subject and the circumstances, but you can get some hints on the web. You might like to check out these suggestions from the Digital Photography School for women and these for men. There's quite a difference between posing men and women - best poses are diametrically opposed for the most part.

So that's it. Not rocket science, and as you become more familiar with photography and your camera, you will come up with your own ways of doing informal portraits. But this is a good start.

Shane Baker




]]> (Shane Baker) ISO aperture flash informal portraits photography portraits Sun, 11 Jun 2017 10:35:06 GMT
The sun isn't always the photographer's friend Back in the dark ages when I was young, people with cameras would love bright, sunny days. It's not surprising; lenses were slow and so was the film emulsion. You had to take what you could get, especially in the higher latitudes. Family snaps from that period usually show people squinting into the sun, but with reasonably well-exposed faces.

I think many people have carried this behaviour into today's world - despite the faster sensors and better lenses. They shoot in bright conditions - but don't always get the results they're hoping for. The reason is the nature of the light on bright, sunny days.

Check out these two images from the Perth Zoo.

Elephants at Perth Zoo.Elephants at Perth Zoo.Elephants at Perth Zoo - photographed in harsh light.    Tricia the elephant at Perth Zoo in soft light.Tricia the elephant at Perth Zoo.Tricia the elephant at Perth Zoo in soft light. Ok, neither will win the Wildlife Photographer of the Year; they're just snaps, but they show the effects of shooting in bright light. The first image has completely blown-out highlights and deep shadows; and it was shot with my Nikon D800 using raw. (Had a been shooting JPEGs and/or a less capable camera, it would have been worse.) The second shot is quite nice. It has a good tonal range because everything is within the capacity of the Nikon to record the light.

What's the difference? The first was shot on a typically hot, clear, bright day in Perth. The second was made on an overcast day. In one, the sun is creating contrast ratios beyond the capacity of the camera's sensor (which has a very good capacity in that regard). In the second, the cloud is producing softer light and lower contrast ratios which are well-within the camera's ability. What do I mean by "contrast  ratio"? It's the range of light levels from the brightest to the dullest part of an image. Modern sensors are good, but they still can't match our eyes in this regard.

If this is an issue when photographing an elephant, it's much more so when photographing family and friends?

So, what do we do? We can't dial-up cloud on demand. 

We have a few options. Time of day can help. Early or late in the day provides a softer (and warmer) light which is kinder on the skin and won't throw deep shadows under eyes and noses. Getting technical, the lower light levels also make it easier to produce a show depth of field and a nice soft, creamy bokeh in the background.

Orangutan at Perth Zoo.Orangutan at Perth Zoo.Orangutan at Perth Zoo.

This image of one of the Orangutans at Perth Zoo was made under very heavy cloud. Note the nice even light on his face, and the bokeh produced by a combination of the wide aperture and long lens needed to get this close-up.

Even if you have no choice but to make a portrait or group shot around midday, you can still do a few things.

Stand people in shade. They will feel better (especially if it's hot), will be less likely to squint into the light, and you will get a softer (if somewhat "cooler") light with better skin and few if any deep shadows.

If you're really keen and are prepared, you can use a diffuser. These can be anything from a purpose made unit [link] to a white bed sheet or curtain and are held between the sun and your subject to give a softer, diffused light.

Take a lead from the animals at the Perth Zoo. They move around when the sun's soft. But when the sun's blazing and throwing hot and hard light, they get in the shade and take it easy. Do the same with your subjects, whether they be family, friends or animals or plants. They (and your images) will do better on overcast days, or in some gentle shade.

Keep shooting.


]]> (Shane Baker) Australia blown out cloud cover contrast ratios highlights light photography shade shadows zoo Tue, 31 Jan 2017 04:19:22 GMT
A new year's resolution - of sorts I haven't done all that much photography (or blogging) in the past year. It's not through conscious choice; I just don't seem to have "got around to it". 

This is not a good thing. Making photographs clears my head, allows me the rare experience of actually creating something, and gets some use out of my substantial investment in gear. So my failure to get out and do photography hasn't been positive.

Actually, it's not quite true that I did no photography. I have had some success over past 12 months. I was happy with a couple of shots made mid year at The Pinnacles north of Perth. 

Sand dune, Nambung National Park, Western AustraliaSand dunesSand dune, Nambung National Park, Western Australia Sand dune, Nambung National Park, Western Australia

Even more to the point, I fulfilled a commission from my wife made while we were still living in Canberra: to make family portraits of her kids. 

The deal I made with them was simple: they come around for lunch, and before we feed them, they give me 10 minutes to make the photographs I wanted. I would then do anything else they requested, and then we'd eat. After processing, I would print any image (of the images I approved) in any size they required. 

It worked well. In each case, they chose images they liked, and my wife chose an image she wanted. Each household now has images they like which are framed and on the wall. I'm pleased. I'm particularly pleased that in each case, my wife chose one of the images I had purposefully made. 

Let me explain.

In each case, I thought long and hard about the characters of these people (who I know quite well) and the dynamics within each family. As you would have expected, this resulted in three completely different images. (For privacy reasons, I'm not going to publish them here, but while each was a group shot, they were very different in tone and posing.) After I'd loaded them into Capture One, I was pleasantly surprised how well they'd worked: the personalities and the relationships had come across. My wife agreed and in each case, she chose one of the images I'd pre-visualised.

Her kids didn't select my "picks", I might add. We got the "why did you chose that?" (with varying degrees of vehemence) in each case, but they themselves are happy with their choices - and that's good.

So, what are the take-ways from this exercise? In no particular order, they are:

  • I tend towards low key images (as opposed to high key) and hence the the black backdrop worked best.
  • On the other hand, the black backdrop is a pain in terms of dirt showing where people have stood. There must be a solution for this, but I don't have it as yet. (All suggestions welcome.)
  • My long (3m x 6m) backdrop (bought on eBay) worked best as I didn't have to spend time in post covering up the concrete floor. Using a shorter backdrop left me with some work.
  • Taking charge worked. Not for the first time, I learnt that when having their portrait made, even strong-willed people seem happiest when being told what to do - probably because they're a bit nervous. After a while, each relaxed, got into the swing of it and made suggestions and requests - which I was happy to work with.
  • Don't be afraid to make a few photographs. Across the three shoots, I made 180 images, although half of these were made with one of the three families. Having multiple shots gave me choices and options for my subjects.
  • In each shoot, I used a couple of Elinchrom flash units. Each shoot was an experiment, and therefore different, but they were all a variation of "butterfly lighting" (where the light source is above and behind the photographer). Results were all quite good.
  • My Nikon D800 continues to perform and the large, detailed files give lots of latitude in processing - although it's merciless in picking up skin detail in portraits!

So I did do photography in 2016 and had some good results. But I didn't do enough. I must get my camera out more in 2017!

I hope you do too.



]]> (Shane Baker) D800 Nikon benefits of photography new years resolution photography photography projects portraiture Mon, 16 Jan 2017 03:37:53 GMT
I'm a collector! Well, I'm officially a photo collector! Admittedly, I already hold the definitive collection of work by that undiscovered genius of Australian photography, Shane Baker, but I now own a photograph by an acknowledged master of photography: Werner Bischof.

Werner Bischof - Famine in India, 1951Werner Bischof - Famine in India, 1951INDIA. State of Bihar. Famine stricken area. Due to flooding and drought, in 1951 the province of Bihar was heavily stricken by famine. The US sent 136 million tons of wheat and a 190 million dollar loan, while the USSR sent 50,000 tons of wheat. April 1951.

Most people would recognise this famous photograph of famine in India, made by Bischof, but I wonder how many know the photographer?

Bischof was in the first tranche of photographers recruited to Magnum after its founding. He had an at times, difficult relationship with founder Robert Capa, so there was some irony in the fact that Magnum received the news of the deaths of the two men within hours of each other. Capa had been killed by a land mine covering the French war in Indo China, while Bischof's vehicle had gone over a cliff in Peru nine days earlier. Due to communications, the news arrived from South America the same day that Capa's death was reported.

Bischof did sensitive, passionate, insightful work and I've always hoped that one day, I could have one of his prints. I do now - albeit in postcard size!

Shane Baker with Werner Bischof printShane Baker with Werner Bischof print








Shane Baker


]]> (Shane Baker) Sun, 04 Sep 2016 03:18:20 GMT
More people are shifting to Capture One! Back in February 2016, I wrote Capture One is a mixed bag ... but I'm sticking with it about my initial experience with the Capture One image processing software. 

I'm still using it and it continues to please with its ability to get the best out of my image files.

Looks like I'm not the only one. Derrick Story of The Digital Story fame has moved to Capture One and is even producing training videos. He's obviously happy with his move.

Now in his latest blog/podcast Jumping Ship From Lightroom To Capture One Pro 9, Martin Bailey has announced a move to Capture One. As usual, Martin has provided a detailed and reasoned explanation of why he's made the considerable investment of time to change processing software.

He's also promising tutorials and the like - and I for one am looking forward to reading them.

Happy shooting


PS: Martin's site has a link offering a 10% discount. If you've tried the 30 day free trial and want to make the move, you might as well take that offer! 






]]> (Shane Baker) Capture One alternative photography processing software Mon, 01 Aug 2016 10:19:31 GMT
Consumer magazines are not the place for keen photographers to compare cameras Let me begin by saying that I'm a card-carrying fan of the consumer magazine, Choice. I've been a subscriber for years and whether buying a new toaster, dishwasher or solar panels for my house, Choice is the only authority I trust to give me informed, unbiased recommendations.

But it isn't the place I'd look if I were looking to buy a new SLR.

I'm not suggesting they're biased or uninformed, but I am asserting that they use the wrong criteria when assessing higher-end cameras.

Choice recently tested cameras. The strange thing is that while they tend to test things like vacuum cleaners in tranches by price, they tested cameras ranging from simple little point-and-shoots to high end SLRs like the Canon 5D and the Nikon D810 in a single test. It's not fair to the P&S cameras because they could hardly produce images comparable with SLRs.

It's also not fair to the SLRs because criteria included ease of use and face recognition. Now I consider my D800 to be easy to use, but someone not familiar with an SLR would be baffled by it, so the D810 could not rate well on this. (In fact, Choice criticised it because the "Shutter button is hard to use".) On the other hand, I neither need not want face recognition in my camera, so the fact that the D810 had "poor face detection" (non-existent, I would have said) is definitely irrelevant.

Another peculiarity of the review was comments such as the 5DIII and the D810 having "wide angle (24mm)". Surely, the whole point of an SLR is that the lenses are interchangeable??? So these cameras are rated up if a lens like the 24 - 70 or 14 - 24 is fitted, but presumably rated down if I fit an 800mm prime?

Anyway, this brings us to the overall ratings. I've done a quick and dirty compilation of some of Choice's ratings compared with those produced by the highly respected DxO organisation in the following table. For some cameras such as the Samsung NX1 and oddly, the Canon 5D Mark III, there's quite a strong correlation. But for others, (and yes, I mention the D810 yet again) there's a huge disparity: 97 from DxO versus 77 from Choice


Choice Rating

DXO Rating

Panasonic DMC-GX8



Samsung NX1



Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 M2



Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4H



Olympus OM-D E-M1



Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II



Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II



Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ 1000



Sony Alpha 7S



Canon EOS 5D Mark III



Canon PowerShot G7 X



Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7K



Canon PowerShot G3 X



Nikon D810



Canon PowerShot G9X



Canon EOS M10



So there you go. If you're looking for a camera for someone who's not really into photography, the Choice review might be a good starting point. If you're looking for  comprehensive, qualified and unbiased tests of an oven or a solar panels or tyres and you're in Australia, I wouldn't hesitate to advise you to consult Choice. But if you're planning to buy a good SLR, I suggest you look elsewhere for advice.

Happy shooting




]]> (Shane Baker) camera photography reviews tests Fri, 13 May 2016 09:47:14 GMT
A really short blog about a video you must watch I just stumbled across a really worthwhile video entitled Composition Tips: How to Capture that ‘National Geographic Style’ featuring photographer Bob Holmes.

Some of the points Bob makes are:

  • Know your equipment inside out so the camera doesn’t become a barrier.
  • Develop and educate your eye through other visual media. Holmes has done it through a passionate interest in 20th century painting.
  • Look for and capture a “punctuation” point—a critical detail that puts the image in proper context.
  • Look for strong colors and geometry.
  • The rules of photography—rule of thirds, golden mean, so on—will make pleasing looking photographs, but they’re very often boring. Try to “inject some excitement and interest into your photographs.”
  • Be very aware of what’s in your whole frame, it’s your fault if there’s something in there that shouldn’t be.
  • Become fully involved with your subject; give it 100% of your concentration.
  • Put in the time. “You spend a long time just hanging around, waiting for the perfect shot.”

These will make more sense if you watch the video - which is only 10 minutes.






]]> (Shane Baker) Fri, 06 May 2016 03:50:43 GMT
Shooting in raw format gives you more options than JPEG. Shooting your photography in raw format is really is worth the trouble.

When making photographs many, maybe a majority of cameras offer the choice of saving the image as a JPEG or a raw image - or both. When saved, JPEGs generally have the extension .JPG, whereas raw files will have different extensions like .CR2 from Canon, .NEF from Nikon, .RAF from Fuji, and in some cases, .DNG for those manufacturers using Adobe's generic format.

The confusion doesn't end there, though. While a JPEG is a JPEG is a JPEG (more or less), a Nikon raw file from my D300 is different from one from my D800, and they share little if anything with a CR2 file from say, a Canon 5DIII.

Happily, it doesn't matter. Companies such as Adobe, Apple, Capture One and Serif wade through the specs and their software can generally work out what's what.

The "problem" with raw is this: it's a bit like shooting negative film instead of Polaroid instant film. In the same way that Polaroids were there in a minute or so, but film required processing and printing, raw files need processing in software like PhotoShop or Photos. (Chances are you have something that can do such processing already on your computer. If you have a Nikon or a Mac, I can guarantee this.) JPEGs on the other hand, are pretty much ready to go as they come out of the camera. And just like Polaroid versus say Fuji Superia, choosing JPEG instead of raw trades convenience for flexibility.

With a Polaroid image, you had an image (almost) instantly, but that was that. You couldn't adjust the image; it was as it came out of the camera. Film on the other hand required processing, but you could do things: crop, change exposure, dodge and burn, etc.

Ok, let's move on from the analogy and compare two grossly over-exposed images made in my D800 as a result of classic brain fade. One is a raw file and the other, a JPEG - as they came out of the camera:

Unprocessed raw fileUnprocessed raw fileUnprocessed raw file

Unprocessed RAW file


Unprocessed JPEG fileUnprocessed JPEG fileUnprocessed JPEG file

Unprocessed JPEG file

It's probably fair to say that the JPEG is a little better than the raw file, but neither is useable. But what if we run these two files through our "electronic darkroom", which in this case is Capture One 9:

Process RAW fileProcess RAW fileProcess RAW file

Processed RAW file


Process JPEG fileProcess JPEG fileProcess JPEG file

Processed JPEG file

I think you'd agree that the processed raw file leaves the processed JPEG for dead.

So why is this? Put simply (very simply in fact), a raw file is an unprocessed record of the light falling on your sensor. It carries information about what your camera thought the exposure and colour balance should be, but because all the data are still there, you can adjust as far as the file will allow. A JPEG on the other hand is produced when your camera looks at the raw data, decides things like exposure and colour balance - and then writes what's needed to the file - and disposes of the rest. That's why formats like JPEG (and GIF) are called "lossy". And that's why raw files are big (in this case, 35 meg) and JPEGs are relatively small (2 meg): the raw file still has all the original information. (There are other differences like bit depth, but we needn't worry about that.)

JPEGs have their place. You wouldn't want to send a photo of your kid's party to your family in raw format. What's more, some cameras (like Fuji for example) do a brilliant job of producing JPEG images. But if you make a mess of your exposure as I did, or you are shooting difficult subjects such as sunsets (high contrast) or in low light, you want all the data your camera can give you to make adjustments.

So, if you haven't tried raw, give it a go. Many cameras can shoot both raw and JPEG simultaneously and if yours can, there's really no risk in giving it a try.

You'll just have to be prepared to delve into the new (and creative) world of the digital darkroom!

Happy shooting

Shane Baker

]]> (Shane Baker) .CR2 .NEF .RAF JPEG format lossy photograph photography processing raw Fri, 25 Mar 2016 00:00:00 GMT
Not everyone appreciates feedback! I listen to a few podcasts (not all about photography, I might add) and have done so for years. So a few weeks back, I was listening to one of the well-established, heavyweight podcasts which in my opinion, has slipped into an advocacy role of late. They consistently push a particular line in gear and either denigrate or ignore anything that doesn't fit their particular preference - even when those manufacturers implement a feature they've been demanding.

Anyway ... it all became too much when the panel started a classic comparing the prices of apples and oranges exercise to "prove" the value proposition of their preferred format. They then waxed lyrical about the actions of a particular manufacturer for doing what they had been condemning Nikon and Canon for a few minutes earlier. I put finger to keyboard and made some comments on their web page. I was good (you would have been proud of me) and in objective language simply pointed out the fallacy and inconsistency in their position. There wasn't an abusive or sarcastic word in sight.

A few days later, I went back to see how their fanboys had flamed me. There wasn't a flame in sight! Why? My comments had been removed.

Now this podcast isn't renown for holding back – if they have an opinion, they "share" it. But the quid pro quo is surely that they must be willing to accept criticism.

Clearly, these people aren't.

I unsubscribed.

What happened has been coming for some time. In the past year, it's become less a podcast comprising equal proportions of valuable information and balanced debate, and more a monologue about a particular format. I'm over it – and if they can't accept honest, temperate and considered feedback, I have better things to do with my time.

It's all rather disappointing. Ah well.

Happily, there are a number of absolutely first class podcasts still worth listening to – such as Martin Bailey's.

​On the other side of the coin, I have joined a camera club here in Perth which has a monthly competition, with an independent judge providing feedback on every image submitted. Like most people, I can take any amount of praise. When a judge says nice things, I consider them an intelligent and perceptive individual who can appreciate fine photography. On the other hand, when they don't like my image, I tend to go a bit quiet.

​So putting my delicate ego aside, I find this is having an interesting effect on my image selection: I'm starting to be more critical and hence, more selective about my images.

I sincerely hope I don't become someone who choses an image based not on what's best in my work, but what's likely to win. I've encountered photographers who do that and I don't want to go there. But if having my images critiqued results in my being more selective, then that can only be a good thing for my photography.

In my humble opinion, of course!

Shane Baker




]]> (Shane Baker) criticism feedback photography podcast Fri, 18 Mar 2016 08:34:15 GMT
A recommended podcast: Martin Bailey & David duChemin Hi

A really quick blog to recommend one of Martin Bailey's "blogcasts": After the Camera - a conversation with David duChemin.

It's great to hear two photographers talking with such passion about photography - and their quest for better and more relevant photographs. It's definitely worth a listen.

Shane Baker

PS: Actually, it's worth subscribing to Martin's podcast. I do!





]]> (Shane Baker) David duChemin Martin Bailey podcast recommendation Mon, 29 Feb 2016 12:16:09 GMT
Capture One is a mixed bag ... but I'm sticking with it Back in December 2015, I wrote a blog piece entitled Yes Virginia - there IS an alternative to Lightroom. In it, I mentioned several alternatives to Adobe's Lightroom - particularly Phase One's Capture One. I mentioned that I liked Capture One, but thought its price was too high.

Well, I still think it's overpriced (about twice that of Lightroom outright), but I bought it anyway.

What do I think? It's a mixed bag. Like LR, C1 has both cataloging and editing capacity, and in that sense it's a full replacement. It also seems to play quite well with other products such as Google's Silver Efex Pro or PhotoShop by passing files to and from the other editor. It's better than Adobe's Camera Raw as a raw convertor (even pulling greater detail from shadows, which is something about LR that always impressed), which means that I'm actually less likely to need to use external editors.

It's also impressively easy to import LR or Aperture catalogues into C1.

Let's see what I mean. These are examples of the same Nikon raw file processed (minimally) in LR and C1. 

Remains of the Lithgow, NSW blast furnace processed in Lightroom.Image processed in Adobe Lightroom.Remains of the Lithgow, NSW blast furnace processed in Lightroom.

Remains of the Lithgow, NSW blast furnace processed in Lightroom.


Remains of the Lithgow, NSW blast furnace processed in Capture One.Lithgow, NSW blast furnace processed in Capture One.Remains of the Lithgow, NSW blast furnace processed in Capture One.

Remains of the Lithgow, NSW blast furnace processed in Capture One.

Put simply, I prefer the C1 version. It's sharper and more vivid in its colours - and I think, truer to the colours on the day. (I could be wrong on that - it relies on my dodgy memory after all.) To put it another way, in his recent podcast Going from Lightroom or Aperture to Capture One, Derrick Story said words to the effect that C1 produced images that were more like photographs than other applications. That might sound a little weird, but I think I agree with him.

Capture One is also not made by Adobe which is a plus from my perspective at least because I'm increasingly unimpressed with Adobe's attitude towards those of us who want to own software rather than rent it. (I never used Apple's Aperture, but I was glad it was around as it had the effect of keeping Adobe fair and reasonable.)

That's the good news. The bad news is that C1 is slow, and a little flakey - and that's running on a new, top of the range iMac. I often get the spinning ball, which is frustrating and time consuming, and surprising on a desktop computer with the power of  super computer from just a few years back. It also occasionally crashes - which isn't a common experience on Macs. The catalogue isn't as good as that in LR. It should be -  it seems to have the same feature set, but somehow it's just not as smooth or intuitive as LR.

It could be that I have all 35k of my images in a single catalogue. I do that because I need to be able to search across all my images. Given that LR handles that with no apparent effort, I don't think it's too much to expect CO to do the same. Clearly something for Phase One to work on.

However ... on balance, it's all about the image quality and on that basis, I'll persist with C1 for the reasons outlined above. But I hope there's a 9.1 on the horizon which addresses its problems. 

If you're interested in trying it, Phase One offers a free 30 trial. Give it a go and see how it works for you. You may become a convert - or it might drive you mad! You may also like it, but not enough to invest the considerable time and money needed to convert from LR or Aperture.

As an aside: if you're relying on a "destructive" editor such as PhotoShop (i.e.: an editor which changes the file you're editing), I strongly suggest you try LR or C1 (for free). With either, you always have your original file, which means that if you mess up, you can revert, and since you're not "saving as" to big, lumpy TIF or PSD files, you'll save a lot of disc space on your local drive, and in your backup.

I'll stop now ...

Good shooting.

Shane Baker



]]> (Shane Baker) Capture One Lightroom Phase One adobe photograph photography processing raw Thu, 18 Feb 2016 04:30:34 GMT
Maybe plastic IS fantastic? Like a lot of people, I've tended to assume that metal is better than plastic. I think most of us have dismissed something for being made of plastic, and I've tended to rate camera bodies to some degree on the amount of metal they contain.

But I'm having to reconsider my position. I recently had the awful experience of hitting a half-grown kangaroo with my Subaru. I was travelling at 80 kph when I hit him - there was nothing I could do about it: the silly little sod just bounded out in front of my car and I'd only just hit my brakes before I hit him. He got up and bounded away, and I continue to hope he had no more than cuts and bruises. My plastic bumper looked a bit knocked around, but when I took it to the panel beaters, they had it back to me in 25 hours. The reason the roo was able to get up and the reason the panel beaters could fix the car in a day? Plastic bumper! Had the car been the EH Holden I got my licence in back in 1967, the roo would be dead and some serious metal bashing would be needed to repair the chrome bumper.

Plastic has its place, it seems.

What's this got to do with cameras? Well, I stumbled across the phrase Sereebo monocoque the other day in relationship to Nikon. I know what monocoque The Nikon D750 body - showing the combination of metal and composite components.The Nikon D750 body.The Nikon D750 body - showing the combination of metal and composite components. means: most planes and cars have been built using this technique for decades. (For those uninitiated, according to Wikipedia, monocoque is "a structural approach whereby loads are supported through an object's external skin, similar to an egg shell. "

So, what's that got to do with cameras - and what's Sereebo? Well, it turns out that recent Nikons such as the D5500 and the D750 are being built using monocoque techniques. This from a Nikon blurb about the D750:

The D750 is the first Nikon FX-format camera for which a monocoque structure, which serves as the exterior frame that protects the internal structure with great strength, has been adopted. A carbon fiber composite material (new material), has been adopted for the front body, where important mechanisms such as the imaging unit are incorporated, and the front cover, and a magnesium alloy has been adopted for the rear and top covers.
Use of these materials not only helps to make the camera lighter, but also ensure superior strength and rigidity. 

(Sorry about the spelling!)

It turns out that Nikon is forming the box around which the D750 is built from a composite plastic carton fibre called Sereebo. This produces a product which is light, strong and even shields the internals from electromagnetism. (The D750 still has magnesium alloys, but on the back where there's so much wear and tear.) In heading in this direction, Nikon is joining the aircraft and auto industries in moving away from metals to composites.

So, the bottom line is that with at least some of the higher end cameras, "plastic" isn't inferior to metal. In fact, it may be better: lighter,but just as strong as the magnesium alloys we all know, love and trust.

It looks like it's time for me to start reading the specs on new cameras with better informed eyes!

Keep shooting.

Shane Baker



]]> (Shane Baker) SLR alloy camera carbon construction fiber fibre magnesium monocoque photography plastic Thu, 04 Feb 2016 01:37:12 GMT
Trying to photograph owls Everyone likes owls, right? So when my step daughter announced that a family of owls had started roosting in the trees at her house in the Darling Ranges near Perth, I had to have a look - and try to photograph them.

The problem was (actually, one of several problems) that I chose the one day this Perth summer when it was heavily overcast. (The default Perth sky in summer is cloudless and bright.) So when I arrived in the evening, it was actually quite dark in the tree in which the owls were waiting to go hunting. Southern Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae)Southern Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae)This little owl, photographed in the Darling Ranges behind Perth may be a Southern Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae).

So, armed with my Nikon D800, my 70-200 zoom and my 1.7x extender (which reduced the maximum aperture from f/2.8 to around f/4.8) I started looking for owls. They were there - right up high in the tree surrounded by quite thick branches, which meant they were really in the dark.

I tried a couple of shots and to be fair to the D800, it was actually pulling focus in a really dark situation. However, between my waving the lens around (my monopod needed to be much longer to allow me to shoot at about 45 degrees into the tree) and the number of twigs getting in the way, the owl itself was generally just a blur. So I went old fashioned and used manual focus.

Next, exposure. With that little light and with an effective 340mm focal length, I needed more aperture and more shutter speed than I could get with normal ISO settings, so after a couple of shots, I settled on ISO 2500. (Remember: this is on a 36 meg SLR intended basically for portrait and landscape work. It was never intended to be king of the twitching fraternity.)

Anyway, I had a go - with the camera on full manual and me trying to hold the thing steady. Had a thought a little longer, my tripod with its ball head would have been useful in this specific birding situation - but I didn't (think).

So, I reeled off half a dozen shots, promised myself I'd return on a brighter day and headed home - with not a lot of hope for a useable image. Once home, I loaded the files into Capture One and slid the shadows slider to the right - and was surprised to see an image emerging!

In the end, I played a little more with overall exposure, applied a little noise reduction, tried to lighten the eyes a little (which were really in total shadow) and put in a gentle vignette. 

Will it make the cover of National Geographic? I fear not, but I like this image of what is admittedly, a charismatic bird. (By the way, I think its a Southern Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae), but what I don't know about ornithology would fill a library.)

The image itself is more a tribute to the clever people at Nikon and Phase One than yours truly, but I'm happy to post it on this web site.

Have a good one.

Shane Baker



]]> (Shane Baker) Australia Capture One D800 Nikon WA native bird owl photography processing southern boobook Tue, 12 Jan 2016 00:34:05 GMT
A recommended book: The Unseen Anzac I've just finished the book, The Unseen Anzac by Jeff Maynard, and whether you're interested in photography, military history or war photography, this is a fascinating read. The book tells the story of George Hubert Wilkins, explorer, aviator and photographer.  Captain George Hubert Wilkins, MC,  with Staff Sergeant William Joyce, standing with tripod and camera on a British Mark V tank , as the pair record the advance of Australian troops through the Hindenburg Line.Australian Official Photographer, Captain George Hubert Wilkins, MC, (right) with Staff Sergeant William Joyce (left), standing with tripod and camera on a British Mark V tank , as the pair record theAustralian Official Photographer, Captain George Hubert Wilkins, MC, (right) with Staff Sergeant William Joyce (left), standing with tripod and camera on a British Mark V tank , as the pair record the advance of Australian troops through the Hindenburg Line.

If I may be forgiven this rather lengthy summary from the book's blurb:

Cameras were banned at the Western Front when the Anzacs arrived in 1916. Only official photographers were permitted to take propaganda pictures. Fearing the Anzacs would be ignored, correspondent Charles Bean continually argued for Australia to have a dedicated photographer. He was eventually assigned an enigmatic polar explorer — George Hubert Wilkins. 

Within weeks of arriving at the front, Wilkins’ exploits were legendary. He did what no photographer had previously dared to do. He went ‘over the top’ with the troops and ran forward to photograph the actual fighting. He led soldiers into battle, captured German prisoners, was wounded repeatedly and twice awarded the Military Cross — all while he refused to carry a gun and only armed himself with a bulky glass-plate camera. Wilkins ultimately produced the most detailed and accurate collection of World War I photographs in the world, which is now held at the Australian War Memorial. 

After the war Wilkins returned to exploring and, during the next forty years, his life became shrouded in secrecy. His work at the Western Front was forgotten and others claimed credit for his photographs.

Throughout his life Wilkins wrote detailed diaries and letters, but when he died in 1958 these documents were locked away. Jeff Maynard follows a trail of myth and misinformation to locate Wilkins’ lost records and reveal the remarkable true story of Australia’s greatest war photographer. 

I admit that I knew nothing of Wilkins until I heard  about Maynard's book, and I'm grateful to him for raising this extraordinary man's profile, as well as the vast amount of research which must have undertaken to produce the book. Even with this biography, it's frustrating how much we don't know about Wilkins. In fact, it's a classic "we don't know what we don't know" situation. Hopefully this book will flush out more material and maybe at some time, there will be a second edition.

There is one area in which I'd possibly disagree with Maynard: whether Wilkins was, as asserted by the author Australia's greatest war photographer. While what he produced was exceptional and beyond price as a record of World War I and Australians in that conflict in particular, I personally place Damien Parer at the very pinnacle of war photographers. (At the end of the day, this is just my opinion and many may disagree with me.)

Interestingly, Parer seems to have shared with Wilkins extreme modesty, the best manifestation of high moral standards and exceptional physical courage.

Not for the first time, I'm inclined to think that if Wilkins wasn't an Aussie, he would be world-famous. Maybe Jeff Maynard's book will remedy this.

Shane Baker

]]> (Shane Baker) ANZAC Australia Australian WWI biography photographer war photographer Mon, 04 Jan 2016 03:45:00 GMT
Controlled depth of field covers many an issue Most serious photographers, whether they be professional of enthusiast, like to control depth of field.

For the uninitiated, depth of field is the area in front of the camera which is acceptably in focus. A large aperture (e.g.: f/2.8) will produce a shallow depth of Glencoe © Linda PearsonGlencoe © Linda PearsonGlencoe - overcast. field, whereas a small aperture (e.g.: f/16) will produce a deep depth of field.

Why (and more importantly: when) does this matter? Well, it allows the photographer to control what the viewer looks at in the image. Want someone to just look at the model in front of Notre Dame and not the cathedral? Use a shallow depth of field and the church will be out of focus. On the other hand, if you want people to be able to see the whole vista of Glencoe? Use a high f-number!

So, what's my point? Well, yesterday I visited the Perth Zoo for the first time in years - and naturally, I lugged along my D800. 

I got nothing earth-shattering - but I was quite pleased with this image of a numbat: Numbat at the Perth Zoo.NumbatNumbat at the Perth Zoo.


The image was made with my D800 and Nikkor 70 - 200 at 200mm and f/6.3. While that's not a particularly small aperture, when used with a long focal length, depth of field is quite shallow. (The opposite is also true: use a short lens like a 14mm and depth of field will be huge.)

The effect of this shallow DoF is two fold. Firstly, the numbat is sharp whereas virtually everything else is out of focus - so what does the viewer concentrate on? The numbat - where I want you to look. The second benefit is that with the background in nice soft bokeh, the little numbat could be anywhere. I wouldn't be so dishonest as to suggest the numbat was out in the wild, but the soft background gives the impression of being in the bush. 

And soft backgrounds are after all, how we perceive things we look at, isn't it? When we concentrate on something, our brains do a lot of processing, which seems to include (in my brain at least) a lot of soft focus around the object itself.

Win, win, win - and all it takes is control of the aperture on your camera!

So, if you're not doing it already, try shooting in either aperture priority or manual. In either mode, you control the depth of field of your images - and where your admirers look when they view your work. (Just don't do it for the first time when you're trying to capture your child's big concert, or your niece's wedding. It takes a little practice!)

Happy 2016 to you all - and good photography.

Shane Baker



]]> (Shane Baker) DoF aperture priority depth of field manual photography Thu, 31 Dec 2015 10:51:53 GMT
A great complement about my photography - and a reminder of the value of photographs A few days ago, I was saddened to learn that the husband of one of my camera club friends had passed away. I contacted my friend to express my condolences and I mentioned the time he had patiently sat for me to make a portrait.

Her response was to remind me that I had provided them with a "thank you" print of that portrait. She said it was a treasured photograph which was still on display in their house, and she had used that image in the booklet used at her husband's service.

I was quite overwhelmed. What a complement that my image was chosen to remind family and friends of the nature of that man. What an honour.

It's also a reminder of the value of photographs. We never know the future value of any image we make. They are worth preserving.



]]> (Shane Baker) emotional loved ones photography value Mon, 14 Dec 2015 13:55:15 GMT
Yes Virginia - there IS an alternative to Lightroom A glance back at my blog will reveal that I've been a fan of Adobe's Lightroom and use it almost exclusively for "post". I even fancy myself as pretty proficient in using it, although nowhere near Julieanne Kost proficient - but I can get things done in LR.

My problem is Adobe. I don't wish to follow their "CC" path and rent my software; I'd sooner own it outright. However, ever since Apple announced the demise of Aperture, Adobe has started treating those of us who prefer to buy LR as second-class users - and I suspect that sooner or later, we simply won't have that choice. So, I'm open to alternatives.

In terms of photo editing software, there's plenty of choice. Mac users have Affinity and Pixelmator, and everyone has offerings from Google's NikTopaz and DxO. These are all great products, but they don't do what LR (and Aperture) does: solid cataloguing and powerful photo editing in one package. 

Enter Phase One. Google them and you'll find that like their friends across the Baltic in Sweden, this Danish company offers seriously expensive medium format cameras. However, they also produce a contender for LR: Capture One Pro

Like LR, Capture One is both an editor and a cataloguing system. And they seem to be serious about its dual function because their latest version has enhanced keywording capacity. Is it as good as LR in this regard? Frankly, I don't know. I suspect not - but they seem to be trying to improve the this function, so I guess it's a matter of time before they catch up.

Capture One does seem to be a better editor. I've only played with a 30 day trial (for a few days), but even without knowing what I'm doing, the results are impressive. Compare these two samples from a Nikon D800 raw file. The top image is from Lightroom. The lower image was processed in Capture One:

Image processed with Lightroom 6.2

Part of a Nikon D800 raw file processed in Lightroom 6.2

Part of an image processed in Capture One Pro 9 Part of a Nikon D800 raw file processed in Capture One Pro 9

Depending on the resolution of your screen, there may or may not be a huge difference in these files. Looking at the whole images on my iMac, the Capture One image is much more clear, and the colours closer to the actual scene. (I should add that this image was shot at the wrong time of day and had a huge contrast ratio. The cliffs were in deep shadow, so I was asking a lot of my Nikon and my software. (When you're driving across the Nullarbor Plain, unless it's a photo trip, you take what you can get!)

There are other features of Capture One which I like. The control over colour that it offers is industrial strength and its implementation of adjustment layers is impressive. (I don't know enough about it to do a review, but if you are interested, the web has many tutorials and reviews on Capture One.)

So, why aren't I using Capture One? In a word: cost.

Capture One costs €279 to buy or €12 per month to rent. For Aussies that translates to about AUD455 (or thereabouts) for Capture One, whereas LR (which I already own) costs AUD186 outright or AUD10 to rent (with PhotoShop). For someone without a revenue stream from their photography, that's a big gap.

To summarise: My impression is that Capture One is a better product than Lightroom, but at something like two and a half times the price (in Aussie dollars at least), it's just too expensive for an amateur. If Phase One were to drop the price to around the Lightroom price, I'd jump ship - and I think quite a few others would as well.





]]> (Shane Baker) Capture One Pro lightroom photography post processing Tue, 08 Dec 2015 06:48:13 GMT
Should we stop shooting after a few images? A few of mornings ago, I noticed a nicely backlit kangaroo paw flower in my garden. So I put my Tamron 90mm macro on my Nikon D800 and made some images.

The best of them was quite nice.  Kangaroo paw flower, Perth.Kangaroo paw flower, Perth.A Kangaroo paw flower in my garden in Perth, Western Australia. In my humble opinion, it's not bad - and as a photographer, it was a good fit to my pre-visualisation, which appeals to the craftsman in me. Of course, I didn't know this for sure as the image on the back of even the best cameras is at best an approximation of the true image (for a start, it's a JPEG, with all that implies), so I kept shooting.

At the end of the shoot, I'd made 15 images. When I loaded them into Lightroom, the best were ... the first two. And this brings me to my point. This is highly subjective, but it seems to me that many of my best images are those that are made very early in a shoot.

Have I been back into Lightroom to check this out? Nope, but I can recall a number of times looking at a roll (real or virtual) and wondering why I'd kept shooting when I already had what I needed.

At the end of the day, I don't suppose it matters. In the days of digital, the only real cost of continuing to shot is my time. I just wonder whether others have had the same experience?

And I have to say, it's not a universal truth. In his outstanding book The Moment it Clicks : Photography Secrets from One of the World's Top Shooters, Joe McNally tells the story of how he captured a terrific photograph of Linus Pauling. The point of his story was that he wasn't really happy with anything he had made so far, and as he was leaving, the opportunity presented itself - and as he hadn't put his camera away, he was able to capture that shot.

So, dragging myself back to my point: I suspect that quite a few of my best shots are those made in the first minutes of a shoot. 

But not all - so I'll keep shooting.




]]> (Shane Baker) best images order photography Mon, 02 Nov 2015 00:00:04 GMT
The Salt of the Earth - a film about Sebastião Salgado. There don't seem to be all that many films made about photography and photographers - and those that are made are generally in the "arthouse" category. The film Finding Vivian Maier was a rare example of a film which seemed to have been widely distributed.

I've come across a film which should have broad appeal, but typically, doesn't seem to be widely available. The Salt of the Earth is about the life and work of UN feeding station, sub-Saharan Africa by Sebastião Salgado.UN feeding station, sub-Saharan Africa.Sebastião Salgado's image of a child being weighed at a UN feeding station. the great, great Brazilian photographer, Sebastião Salgado. Made by noted Wim Wenders and Sebastião's son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, it tells of the photographer's life, moving from economist to a documentary photographer with a mission and conscious to practical environmentalist to a documenter of our planet.

I'm not intending to go into Salgado's life and work; the film does that - as do any number of web articles. However, briefly he left economics to travel the world and photograph what he saw. A lot of his early work was in recording the tragedies of 20th century Africa: famine and war. He came back with images which were at once beautiful and horrifying. A starving child being weighed at a UN feeding station, refugee camps, he recorded it all. Furthermore, he didn't roll up in his Landcruiser after spending a comfortable night in the nearest five star hotel, he stayed with these people - which allowed him to understand them - and they him.

His next major project was Workers - an archeology of the industrial age, in which he set out to pay tribute the manual workers. Arthur Miller put it best "This is a collection of deep devotion and impressive skill."

I've got the book and I've seen the exhibition. If you get the chance to see either, have a look.

From an interview with Salgado which I read (which is also mentions in this Ted Talk), all this exposure to the worst we've done to each other started to take its toll. He was told by his doctor that he would die if he continued with his life as it was. So he and his wife returned to Brazil and to the family farm - to discover that it too was dying.

The two of them then undertook an epic project to rehabilitate the land. They succeeded and 7,000 hectares (17,000 acres) of Brazil is now returning to health - and with it, the birds and animals that had once lived there. In the process, they formed the Instituto Terra, which is devoted to furthering this work elsewhere.

Replenishing the land seemed to have a similar effect on Salgado and he took up his camera again - this time to record the natural world. The result was his Genesis project:

Genesis is an attempt to portray the beauty and the majesty of regions that are still in a pristine condition, areas where landscapes and wildlife are still unspoiled, places where human communities continue to live according to their ancient culture and traditions. 
Genesis is about seeing and marvelling, about understanding the necessity for the protection of all this; and finally it is about inspiring action for this preservation.

Whale tailWhale tailA whale's tail, captured in black and white by Sebastião Salgado. In this project, Salgado brought all his skills to documenting, not man's inhumanity to man, but the natural world - including people who have chosen to live traditional lives.

The same skills that produced those beautiful/terrible images of war, famine and hard labour are now used to record birds, animals, landscapes and the dignity of traditional people. It's a great work of art, and an important document of the plant at the beginning of the third millennium.

I fear I have digressed!

About The Salt of the Earth is about a man who is both a great artist and someone who cares about the important things. In my opinion, Genesis proves he is our greatest living photographer.

If you care about photography, or the environment, or justice - or if you simply enjoy beautiful photographs, this is a film for you.

It's distributed in Australia on DVD by Madman, and seems to be widely available on disc.

Find a copy. You won't be disappointed.


Shane Baker




]]> (Shane Baker) Genesis Sebastião Salgado Workers documentary film photographer photography review Tue, 13 Oct 2015 01:39:46 GMT
Another way to archive your images? Any one whose known me any time, or who has suffered through this blog would know I’m big on preserving and cataloging images. In my humble opinion, a photograph that is lost needn't have been made in the first place. 

In the film days, we tried to store negatives in a variety of ways, and to protect them from light, moisture, fungus and insects, prints were kept in anything from acid-free albums to shoe boxes – with varying degrees of success.

Then digital came along, and we all gave a sigh of relief. That was, until we realised how many files we were producing – and then understood that hard drives don't actually last forever. We needed backup! 

My solution is a local "Time Machine" drive connected to my Mac plus backup in the cloud, but depending on where you live, cloud storage may not be an option. (Australia’s internet speeds are on average, 44th in the world, so uploading a session, especially with recent high resolution SLRs isn’t quick!)

Until now, those who relied on CDs and DVDs for backup were pityingly told that they were wasting their time. Depending on quality, an optical disc would last for months or perhaps a few years. And that was true. That is, until now.

US firm Millenniata Inc has produced a technology, which under ideal circumstances will last 1,000 years. According to their web site:
… the M-DISC™ DVD … is the world’s first archival disc to last up to 1,000 years. The M-DISC engraves data into a patented rock-like layer that is resistant to extreme conditions of light, temperature and humidity – outlasting all other archival optical discs on the market.

Sounds good, so what are the catches? Well, I suspect there are some:

  • Only drives with the M-Disc logo can burn these discs, although these are readily available and most if not all drives should be able to read them.
  • In Australia at least, the discs aren't available everywhere, but they're readily available on-line.
  • Discs are more expensive than conventional discs: In Australia, DVDs are around AUD4.00 each and blu-rays about AUD7.00. (CDs aren't available.)
  • As with anything man-made, there's no guarantee against manufacturing errors. Though as always, you get what you pay for, and in this regard, I would imagine that the companies licensing this technology would be serious about their manufacturing processes. Hence, I think we can expect very few dud M-Discs.
  • Clumsy handling could lead to scratches and wrecked discs, although Verbatim discs claim to have "hardcoat scratch guard protection against scratches, fingerprints, dust, oil and water”. Other manufacturers may offer something similar.
  • As with any technology (other than an archive-quality print), there's no protection against technological obsolescence. One day, our optical drives will go the way of the 5.25 inch floppy!
  • It's not much protection against theft, fire or absent-mindedness, which is one of the reasons I have backup in the cloud.

So we may have an easy solution for backups for a decade or so, but only time will tell. 

In the meanwhile, M-Discs seem to have some useful applications. They may be a godsend for those of us wanting to share family history photos reliably – or needing to get a set of wedding images to the happy couple which should last beyond their second anniversary.

Shane Baker

]]> (Shane Baker) DVD archive disc photograph photography preservation Fri, 18 Sep 2015 10:15:00 GMT
Always look behind I recently did something I rarely do: I entered a competition. I guess that part of my motivation was the fact that for a variety of reasons (some of which I don't The finished image of ClaudeClaude in his workshop understand), I'm literally not "doing" photography. This is something I have to rectify - but that's another matter for another blog.

It's a portraiture competition, and I chose two of my favourite photographs- of my friend Claude. One was processed in black and white and the other in colour. The colour image (as submitted) is not bad. It's a good clear image and says a lot about Claude and his love of making things.

The image took a lot of work though, because I hadn't looked behind my subject before pressing the shutter.

Let me explain.

The image was made in Claude's rather dark workshop, which means I had to add light, which I did with my club's Elinchrom studio flash units. Using a single flash unit meant I got that high contrast look I was chasing, but I couldn't see much. In fact, didn't really see what I was shooting until I got home and loaded the image onto my Mac. It was too late then, and I needed a fair bit of "post" to get it right.

This is the image as shot.

The image of Claude before processing.The original shot of Claude There are no less than three things behind my subject which shouldn't have been there: an orange crate, the Elinchrom box and his name (which I've removed for obvious reasons).

Had I looked behind him with a torch, or even switched on the light, then I would have seen these intrusions and removed them. I didn't, and I spent some time trying to subtly remove them from the image.

So the message is: in all situations, look at the background.

It's easy to be so concentrating on your subject, that you miss that awful yellow, orange or red object in the background which will distract any viewer from where you want them to look. (If you're really dumb, you may have left some of your gear in shot!)

And while we're on the general subject, always look behind you too. It's oh so easy to step into a passer-by - or traffic - or off the rock you're standing on - and you can't fix those things in PhotoShop! So be careful out there.

(If you want to know how bad things can get, check out David duChemin's horrific story.)

As always, do what I say and not what I do - and keep making photographs!

All the best




]]> (Shane Baker) background distractions photography Sat, 05 Sep 2015 01:01:52 GMT
I couldn't have put it better myself I'm no photography purist. I manipulate my images as I can illustrate with these before and after shots of the Imperial War Museum in London:

Imperial War Museum, London - unprocessed image._D3H5116The image as it came out of my Nikon.






The original image is flat and boring. By converting to black and white and cranking up the contrast, I produced a "frameable" image. And for all that, every pixel is where it should be.

In doing this, I'm in good company.





Imperial War Museum, London - with some manipulation._D3H5116-Edit-EditImperial War Museum, London - with some manipulation.


However, there's a point where the manipulation becomes the content itself and at that point (in my humble opinion) the art ceases to be photography. I'm not saying to those practitioners "don't do it", I'm just asking that they not call the results "photography".

Anyway ... this micro-rant was prompted by an excellent opinion piece by New Zealand landscape photographer Declan O’Neill. He is writing about the awarding of the Landscape Photographer of The Year award due to excessive manipulation. His final paragraph is succinct and completely "on the money":

What is extraordinary is that Mr. Byrne should have won such a prestigious title as Landscape Photographer of the Year. Luckily, his alterations were brought to the attention of the judges who had been unable to detect them for themselves. But for the ‘purists’ his accolade would have reinforced the idea that we can alter images in the name of ‘art’ and still claim they are photographs. If something good can come out of this sorry debacle it is the lesson that landscape does not need our interference. The true joy of landscape photography lies in capturing its pristine beauty. Painting it in the crude lipstick of Photoshop is both unnecessary and an admission that we cannot leave it to speak for itself through our lenses.

I'm with you, Declan!






]]> (Shane Baker) Photoshop landscape manipulation photography Tue, 14 Jul 2015 00:57:17 GMT
Photography IS art On my morning walk, I often listen to podcasts, including This Week in Photo. TWiP 393 was entitled Is Photography Art? and was prompted by a piece by Jonathan Jones published in The Guardian: The $6.5m canyon: it's the most expensive photograph ever – but it's like a hackneyed poster in a posh hotel.

As it happens, I largely agree with the title of the piece - but I can't agree with Jones on much else.

He begins with the following:

Photography is not an art. It is a technology. We have no excuse to ignore this obvious fact in the age of digital cameras, when the most beguiling high-definition images and effects are available to millions. My iPad can take panoramic views that are gorgeous to look at. Does that make me an artist? No, it just makes my tablet one hell of a device.

What a load of rubbish!

David MooreSisters of Charity, Washington DC If photography is not art because it's "technology", then no art is "art". The fact is that all art, from the earliest petroglyphs to the latest work has been dependent on technology. Our ancestors could not have engraved their images on rock without the technology to work rock. Leonardo could not have produced the Mona Lisa without the pigments and poplar panel with which it was created. Rodin's great works could not be realised without industrial-levels of technology.

Of course, much of this ridiculous debate hangs on the question of "what is art"? For my part, for an object to qualify as art, it must meet at least three of the following criteria:

  • It must be aesthetically pleasing.
  • It must rely on a degree of skill to be produced.
  • It must evoke strong emotions in the viewer.
  • It is done with intent.

On that basis, great photography is art.

On the other hand, a good deal of the "art" over which the likes of Jonathan Jones wet themselves at regular intervals is not art. It requires no skill, it lacks aesthetics - and the only emotion that arises in this viewer is rage.

The story of the emperor's new clothes is something that we should all bear constantly in mind - particularly those pretentious individuals writing in newspapers and running art galleries, who deign to tell we lesser mortals what is art.

Have a good one.




]]> (Shane Baker) art critic opinion photography technology Wed, 14 Jan 2015 04:11:50 GMT
There's good stuff on the inter web There's a lot of dross on the internet, but there's a lot of good material, too. Some of it is for free and other stuff requires payment and unfortunately, there's no guarantee that paying gets you something worth having.

A pay site I think is worth looking at is The site provides training videos on an incredible range of subjects, and in my experience, the presenters know what they're talking about. It's a subscription service, but you can sign up for as little as a month. The cost per month is less than a decent book.

They offer a brief (7 days, I think) free trial, so if there's something you've wanted to learn, try them out.

Anyway ... they do actually offer stuff for free. One such offering, and one I can thoroughly recommend is The Practicing Photographer presented by the excellent Ben Long.

The individual videos aren't very long; I'd say 15 minutes is the average, and they cover a huge range of topics. I'm not quite sure how long they remain free on Lynda, but I think it's a couple of weeks before they drop back to subscription only. The current video (as I write) is one he did with Steve Simon on the value of photography books.

Check it out!





]]> (Shane Baker) Tue, 09 Dec 2014 01:30:00 GMT
A big photo walk I'm embarrassed (once again) to note that it's been a while since I blogged. Quite a while in fact: it was 1 October when I shared the risks of walking around Hobart's Mount Wellington in a high wind with a large Kata backpack!

For what it's worth, my wound has healed nicely - thanks to the team at the Royal Hobart Hospital's Emergency Department who stitched me up, and  a lovely nurse at Geelong Hospital who checked me out and removed my stitch. (I had thought my wife could do it, but I followed medical advice and got a pro to do it. It's just as well as it turned out to be tricky.)

Anyway ... we've arrived in Perth, Western Australia without further mishap, and are now doing the things one does to settle into a new place: housing, jobs - you know, the little things!

In the process of driving from Canberra to Perth, we did a bit of a trip. 6,600 kms to be precise, driving down the Hume Highway to Melbourne, then across the Bass Strait on the ferry to Devonport and Hobart in Tasmania. After crossing back to the mainland, we turned west and drove along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria to South Australia, spent a few days on Kangaroo Island, and then did the big leg across the Eyre Highway and parts of the Nullarbor Plain to Perth.

I didn't do a lot of photography. It was, after all a trip to move from one side of Australia to another. According to Lightroom I made 400 images on the D800 and 100 on the Fuji X100s. The Fuji's a fixed lens, of course, but I used all three of my f/2.8 lens on the Nikon - mostly the 24 - 70, as you would expect.

I thought I'd make a few suggestions about places to check out if you did the trip. Snow on Mount Wellington, Tasmania.Snow on Mount Wellington, Tasmania.Snow on Mount Wellington, Tasmania.

Firstly, there's a lot to see in Tasmania. It's only a little place, but like Britain, it packs a lot into a small space. Locations like Mount Wellington and the Walls of Jerusalem are spectacular, but the man-made environment in Hobart, Richmond, Port Arthur and the like have much to offer. I was very happy with my shots on Mount Wellington - which were cut short by my face plant.

The Great Ocean Road in Victoria is justifiably famous for its scenery, although it wasn't quite what I expected. We see images of spectacular sea cliffs - and they're there, alright. But at times, the road heads inland into quite beautiful temperate rainforest, while on other occasions, the road is almost on the beach, where small rivers come down from the hinterland to the sea. It's quite lovely.

If you're into lighthouses (as Linda and I seem to have become), then the Cape Otway lighthouse is worth a visit. It's on a spectacular bit of coast (as lighthouses tend to be), and has quite a good cafe. You can stay there as well, which would be fun.

Cape Otway Lighthouse fresnel lens.Cape Otway Lighthouse fresnel lens.Cape Otway Lighthouse fresnel lens.

Further along, there's the Twelve Apostles. The best way to see these is to dig deep and take the The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria from a helicopter.The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria.The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria. helicopter ride. Not cheap - an indulgence in fact, but we enjoyed it - and in riding in a chopper, we both ticked something on our bucket lists.

Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia is an interesting place. Firstly, it's a lot bigger than you probably think: it's the third largest of Australia's islands after Tasmania and Melville Island. If you go there, take two or three days to give yourself a chance to see the sights.

It's a funny place. In two or three kms you can go from dry scrub to quite lush forest. The national park which comprises the western third of the island is definitely worth a visit, if only for the seals.We spent maybe two hours watching them, but could have spent all day. 

There aren't that many places where you can watch seals being wild seals just 100 metres from where you stand! We loved it.


After KI, we headed north west, through Port August and onto the Eyre Highway, which goes across Australia to Norseman in Western Australia. 

Some people find the drive boring - but we didn't find it so.

Nullarbor cliffs - and the Great Australian Bight.Nullarbor cliffs - and the Great Australian Bight.Nullarbor cliffs - and the Great Australian Bight.

Probably the highlight for us was standing at the Nullarbor cliffs - on the edge of the continent - and knowing that all that's out there is the Great Australian Bight, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica. It's quite feeling.

And there are things to photograph. I'm quite pleased with this sunrise at Cocklebiddy, in WA:

The sun rises over the grasses growing at Cocklebiddy in Western Australia.Sunrise at Cocklebiddy.Sunrise at Cocklebiddy.















It would be an interesting drive to do purely as a photography trip. No doubt a challenge, but one which could result in some wonderful images.

Why don't you give it a try?






]]> (Shane Baker) Australia D800 Nikon blog photographer photography Fri, 05 Dec 2014 09:13:45 GMT
Don't walk in high winds with a backpack Photography can be risky.

Snow on Mount Wellington, Tasmania.Snow on Mount Wellington, Tasmania.Snow on Mount Wellington, Tasmania.

I'm in Hobart, Tasmania at the moment, and today I went up to the summit of Mount Wellington. It was cold and extremely windy at the peak, but itoffered some real photo opportunities. The peak is over 1,200 metres and subject to wind, rain and snow throughout the year - which makes its landscape pretty impressive.

​Anyway ... I was up there this morning, complete with my substantial camera back pack, with the wind so strong that I noticed that the wind pressure on the backpack was twisting me.

Not a problem, I thought - just be careful.

And then it happened: a gust of wind so strong that it blew me over - and a rock broke my fall.

My interpretation is that the backpack both raised my centre of gravity, and increased the area that the wind could cat upon. Result: crash!

A couple of hours in the excellent Emergency Department of the Royal Hobart Hospital, some expert stitching from a doctor (who trained at the Australian National University in Canberra!) and I'm no-longer bleeding - though I bet I'll have an impressive lump on my forehead tomorrow!

Shane Baker - waiting to see the doctor.Shane Baker - waiting to see the doctor.Shane Baker - waiting to see the doctor. So, the lesson learned: don't wear a heavy backpack in extreme winds. In future, I'll be putting my pack down if I feel the wind pressure as I did today.





]]> (Shane Baker) hazards photography winds Wed, 01 Oct 2014 07:45:52 GMT
Review: Capturing the Light We live in a world awash with cameras. I’m amazed to realise that between us, my wife and I have nine digital cameras. Today, photography is ubiquitous - but it wasn't always so. In fact, it was 175 years ago this year that two men, one in Britain and one in France invented photography - and I’ve just read a fascinating book about it.

Capturing the Light by Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport tells the story of how Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot simultaneously developed processes for photography.

And a fascinating story it is too.

The two men were very different in background and temperament, as is revealed by the names of their inventions. Daguerre, the self-made man, Louis DaguerreLouis DaguerreLouis Daguerre entrepreneur and self-promoter named his process the Daguerrotype. Talbot, the introspective scientist and “gentleman”, eventually named his process the Calotype, from the Greek “kalos” meaning beautiful.

Differences between the two go further. Talbot was one of those remarkable nineteen century polymaths. A member of the Royal Society, he left vast quantities of notebooks and letters, so that we know how he developed his process. By comparison, Daguerre left virtually nothing, meaning that the authors had to piece together the process of invention.

In reading this book, I was struck both by how different the world of 1839 was to our era - and how they are much the same. One extraordinary difference was the value of the negative. The Calotype produced a negative, whereas the Daguerrotype produced a positive image. To our minds, the advantage of the Calotype over its rival is obvious, but in 1839, the negative was seen as a serious drawback. People wanted positive images as provided by the Daguerrotype - and it was the preferred form of photography for a couple of decades.

William Henry Fox TalbotWilliam Henry Fox TalbotWilliam Henry Fox Talbot Some of the differences between then and now reflect the technology. For instance, the earliest images were of landscapes and buildings, rather than people. The reason? A 15 minute exposure doesn’t lend itself to photographing people. As technology advanced, so did portraiture and for the first time in history, ordinary people could have images of loved ones.

And speaking of technology: I was delighted to see that the “fixer” used by both men to remove excess silver halide (and thus prevent the images going black) was hyposulphite of soda or “hypo” (sodium thiosulphate). Those of you who have experienced the magic of an image emerging from a sheet of paper in a darkroom will remember hypo well, as the fixer used to this day.

But I digress …

In 1839, the advent of photography was a game changer. In some ways it could have been described (as was the LASER) as a solution in search of a problem. People found novel and unexpected uses for this new technology - such as in law enforcement. We expect to see images of an escaped criminal; but this use had to be invented.

But the book also illustrates how little some things have changed. To this day, Talbot is criticised in some circles for patenting the Calotype. Yet he was forced to do this to prevent others patenting his process - and locking him out of his own technology. As it was, he was very generous with his patents: amateurs could use his process for free. By comparison, Daguerre the entrepreneur patented his process - and was treated as a hero of France.

There’s much too much in this book to cover in this review. It’s a great read - whether you are interested in photography, or simply in the similarities and differences of a society 175 years in the past.

Shane Baker

Capturing the Light by Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport. Pan Books 2014.


]]> (Shane Baker) Daguerre Talbot book invention photography review Mon, 18 Aug 2014 04:45:19 GMT
Sometimes it's better to zoom with your feet Almost all cameras have zoom lenses these days. There are exceptions: the Fuji X100s has a fixed 35mm equivalent lens. And of course, "prime" lenses (lenses which have a fixed focal length) are valued by many photographers for their clarity and great bokeh.

For many photographers, zooms provide a lens kit in a single barrel. "Kit lens" zooms in the range 18 - 55mm are often sold with consumer-level SLRs, and prosumer-level lenses in the 18 - 200mm class are great all purpose lenses.

So zooms are there to use - but you should be aware that zooming does more than provide a wider field of view or bring something closer together. Changing the focal length on your camera changes the perspective.

Need proof? Look at these two images:

Image shot at 200mm focal length.Image shot at 200mm focal length.

Image shot at 18mm focal length.Image shot at 18mm focal length.Image shot at 18mm focal length.

Dramatically different, you say? Actually, they were shot from pretty much the same direction and were focussed on the same point. But notice how much closer the background appears to be to the playground in the first shot, compared with the second. Notice also, how the swings frame seems to be at a much greater angle in the second shot, compared with the first.

The first image was made on a Nikon D800 at 200mm ("long" or telephoto) focal length, while the second was made with a focal length of 18mm, which is a "wide" lens. Both images were made with the same exposure, and were pretty much at the same angle to the playground. I simply moved closer in the second shot to ensure the frame was filled by the swing.

The fact is that by using a "short" lens, as with the 18mm shot, we do more than simply get a wider angle in our shot. It also makes things seem further away - and deepens the depth of field of the image too. Great for landscapes, but it will make distances seem greater than they really are.

"Long" lenses, such as the 200mm shot, do the opposite. Objects seem closer together - as you can see with the first shot. Long lenses compress the image. And long lenses produce a shallower depth of field than short lenses.

Some times, we don't have any choice. When photographing a lion, it's a better to use a long lens than to get out of the car and walk up within ClaudeClaude striking range for a nice close up. Conversely, using a wide angle lens when capturing a landscape makes more sense than backing up a kilometre of two to get the whole scene in the shot. 

Portraits are usually (but not always) made with a lens with a longer than standard focal length. Classic portrait lenses are in the 85 - 105mm range because this generally provides a natural look. 

But these "rules" don't always apply. (This is probably the rule of photography: the rules may not necessarily apply.)

This portrait of my friend Claude was made with a 38mm lens, and I'm very pleased with the result! He doesn't look weird - largely because I didn't get too close. (If you want to see how a short lens will distort a portrait, check out Arnold Newman's famous portrait of Alfried Krupp. It's a classic example of the deliberate use of a short lens.)

On the other hand, long lenses can be used in landscape work. I've been complimented on the landscape below, which was captured with a 200mm lens on a Nikon D300. (The body is significant because it has an APS-C (or crop frame) sensor meaning that the focal length of the lens was effectively 300mm - an actual telephoto lens. The kind of focal length used for wildlife work.)

I chose that lens to pull the headland in closer - and to "compress" the image to provide that sense of immediacy and closeness to both the headland and the surf.

I think it works.

So there you are. Use the zoom on your camera by all means. Sometimes you have no choice, but it's important to understand that using a particular focal length will affect your image.

It's important to know how your choices change your images - and the best way is to experiment.

And sometimes, it's better to zoom with your feet!

Happy shooting 

Shane Baker

Sunrise at South DurrasSunrise at South Durras




]]> (Shane Baker) Australia blog focal landscape length lens photographer photography portrait zoom Tue, 15 Jul 2014 22:59:06 GMT
Adding to Lightroom collections Like most people of my generation, I took a lot of photographs during my teens and into adulthood. I'd process the black and white shots myself, although since colour was fiddly and tricky, I'd get the prints or slides processed commercially. And of course, I'd careful store my negatives and slides in suitable sleeves.

My problem was that since that's all I did, I wound up with boxes of preserved photographic material - and I couldn't find anything. There's not much point in storing images if you can't find them!

Enter Adobe's Lightroom. Not only is it an increasingly powerful photo editor, but it is a practical and very useful cataloguing system for your images. 

Lightroom offers many, many ways to list and find images. You can list by name, date, focal length, ISO ... you name it. And if you do as I literally always do and keyword your images when you load them (which takes as long as 4 or 5 minutes for a big batch), finding that image of Aunt Maisie in Sydney's a breeze.

 But sometimes, you want to look at images as a group. Shots from a big trip, or all images of tulips, or as I do prior to the monthly Southside Camera Club meeting: find my best shots from the past month, collections are the way to go.

I love collections!

A collection in Lightroom is a virtual grouping of images. They come in two flavours:

  • Smart collections, which are dynamic collections which can change depending on the rule I've concocted. 
  • Ordinary collections. These contain images I've manually placed in them and remain unchanged until I do something to change them.

Because collections are virtual, I can add or delete images in the collections without either duplicating or deleting the actual images. I can't lose!

So how does this work? Easy. Let's begin with a straight collection. In the Library module, click on the "+" symbol next to collections. This opens a simple dialogue box like this. Give the collection a name, select where you want it to be (I've created a few sets of collections to keep things tidy: books, competitions - you get the idea) and if you plan to put images in the collection immediately, select the Set as target collection option. You can then browse your images, and by using the keyboard shortcut B (trust me, it's "B") when on a particular image, it will be added to your collection.

Or - you can drag and drop your images into a collection.

And a collection can always be made the target collection later. Just right click and tick the box.

You can add or delete images from the collection, and always find your photos of say, your trip to Fiji at literally the click of a mouse button.

Smart collections are only slightly more complicated. Use these when things are likely to change. For example, it makes more sense to let Lightroom find all your images made in the past month, or images you've rated four stars and above than doing the drag and drop.

In the case I'm showing here, I have three criteria which must be met for the image to be added to the smart collection: it must have the key word "kangaroo", I must have rated it three stars or better, and it must be colour coded green (which is my system for indicating it's one of my shots and it's been processed). If the image meets those criteria, it goes into the collection.

And because the collection is dynamic, if I make more images that meet those criteria, they will be added. Similarly, if I have one of those "what was I thinking moments" and downgrade an image to two stars, it will drop out.

And the criteria for smart collections can be changed, too. By right clicking on the smart collection, I can edit the criteria. In this case, I might raise the bar by requiring four stars. Alternately, I could add another criterion by requiring that only images made with my D800 are included.

We have many, many options!

If you're using Lightroom and not using collections of either type, you're missing out on one of the great features of LR. Give them a try. It will only take a few moments, and if they're not working for you, just delete them. 

Happy collecting!

Shane Baker





]]> (Shane Baker) Lightroom collections image search photography search Wed, 18 Jun 2014 00:10:11 GMT
Even boring images can be made more interesting I went on a morning photo walk with a friend this week, and came back with some (being charitable to myself) average images. One was this - which to be honest, was never more than a snap. The original image.The original image.The original image.

Anyway - I was fiddling around in Adobe Lightroom, and I thought I would have a little play with the image - just to see if it could be made more interesting.

After creating a virtual copy (command-' command - apostrophe) on the Mac; control-' on a Windows machine), I adjusted the black and white points for the image. This is easily done by using the black and white sliders in the Develop Module while holding down the option key (alt key in Windows). With that, a crop and a with little Clarity, the image looked quite a bit better.

Oh, I also removed some dust. There seemed to be enough gravel on my sensor to pave a garden path! (Yes, I'm exaggerating - just.)

I then started wondering about how it would look in monochrome. Yes, there's colour in the image, but it's not a major factor. So I went into the Black and White panel and converted it to black and white. To add a little interest, I added a sepia effect.

The image at the third stage: converted to black and white and with a little sepia for good measure.Stage 3: converted to black and white and with a little sepia for good measure.Stage 3: converted to black and white and with a little sepia for good measure.

It didn't look too bad, but I thought a touch of a vignette would help.

The slider on the Effects panel was ok, but I really wanted something different, so I created another virtual copy and used the Radial Filter to create a vignette effect. I slid it down the image, so that the bottom of the filter's oval was actually off the base of the image. I thought it looked pretty good.

The final version, after use of the Radial Filter.The final version.The final version. Don't get me wrong. This isn't my photo of the year, and normally, I wouldn't bother to show it to anyone. But I think it illustrates that with good editing software, an image can be made more interesting fairly easily and quickly. In this case, I'd say I spent less than 5 minutes getting to this point.

It's also worth bearing this in mind if you're flicking through your catalogue of past images. I think we've all "discovered" gems that we've overlooked in the past. Sometimes, all they need is a little polishing in "post" to let them shine.

Happy shooting.

Shane Baker







]]> (Shane Baker) Australia Lightroom blog boring development photographer photography processing Fri, 30 May 2014 01:15:43 GMT
It's worth taking another look at your camera's menus I spent last weekend with some friends in Canberra's Southside Camera Club. Despite some not-so-great weather, we had a good time. I even made a Rainbow Lorikeet in a eucalyptus tree looking directly at the camera, South Durras, NSW.Rainbow Lorikeet, South Durras, NSW.Rainbow Lorikeet, South Durras, NSW. couple of decent photographs!

Of course, whenever two or more photographers gather, their thoughts and conversation turn to camera settings. During one of these chats, I was surprised to hear a fellow Nikon user say that he didn't know he could set his ISO (sensitivity) to Auto. (For those of you new to this, by digging into your camera's menus, you can set up a base ISO, maximum ISO you will allow the camera to use, and then instruct the camera to boost its sensitivity when it's needed.)

This facility is key to my so-called fifth mode - about which I happen to have written a blog.

Anyway ... this surprised me as the photographer in question is no mug. But it did raise in my mind the question of what we all know about our cameras. They're incredibly powerful computers, and those menus aren't the most user friendly.

So as fate would have it, a couple of days later, I'm home and for reasons I now can't remember, I was in the menu of my D800. I discovered a function - a useful function that I didn't know the Nikon had!

When I shoot low shutter speeds, I employ a tripod (naturally). To minimise camera shake I either use a cable release, or if timing isn't critical, use the timer release on my camera. The timer release is intended to allow the camera time to settle after I ham-fistedly press the shutter release button.

What I stumbled across in the D800's menu is a facility specifically designed to minimise camera shake - and I didn't know it was there.

I now know that I can select a delay in releasing the actual shutter, to allow time for the camera to settle after the shutter is pressed and the mirror flips up. It's better than using timer delay - and I didn't know it was there.

So there you go. My level of hubris is not so high that I thought I knew my camera's menu - but I did think I knew about the stuff that was really useful to me. I was wrong!

Serves me right. I will continue to browse my camera's menus from time to find. Who knows what I'll find!



]]> (Shane Baker) D800 Nikon camera menu photography settings shake Sat, 10 May 2014 02:06:42 GMT
Miscellaneous thoughts of a photographer has a new home Hi

After gratefully using for some time now, I've decided to try setting up my own web page, and hosting my blog there.

The site (which is very much under construction as I learn WordPress) is at

My first blog post on my site is titled Fixing your geodata in Lightroom.

I hope you'll find the blog useful, and visit my site from time to time.

Happy shooting.


]]> (Shane Baker) Australia blog photographer photography Wed, 07 May 2014 09:57:04 GMT
Fixing your geodata in Lightroom I guess we’ve all done it. With autumn approaching, we recently reverted to standard time from daylight saving time, and I forget to change the cameras back one hour. This is a little annoying, but can make a mess if you’re using capture time for geotagging.

Geotagging is available (and easy) in both Lightroom and Aperture. For my part, I use an iOS app called Trails to track my movements. I then transfer the tracklog file to my Mac, open it in Lightroom, and in the Mapping module load the tracklog and auto-tag the images.



Screen capture of Lightroom tracklog menu

Screen capture of Lightroom tracklog menu


Easy – and if your camera is one of the newer models with GPS built in – easier still, as your images as loaded will have the GPS data embedded already.

The way Lightroom handles this is to compare the times in the tracklog with the times images were captured. Provided your tracking device (in my case, my iPhone) and your camera’s clock are within a second or so of each other, it works very well. However, if you didn’t change the camera’s clock, loaded your images and geotagged them, your results will be way off. In my case, images were being tagged kilometres from where they were made.

If you’re a dumb as me, it’s not really a problem – well, in this case anyway. I did the following:

Firstly, I selected the incorrectly tagged images and then went into Lightroom’s metadata panel:


The location tag in Lightroom

The location tag in Lightroom’s metadata panel.


“Mixed’ simply indicates a range of locations – as you would expect. I selected the GPS field and hit the delete button. The images were no-longer tagged.

Next, I corrected the capture time for the images. This was easy, as my camera’s clock was one hour fast, I selected the range of images, went into Metadata > Edit capture time, and shifted the capture time one hour back.


Edit capture time screen in Lightroom.

Edit capture time screen in Lightroom.


Now all I had to do was recall the tracklog and re-geotag my images.

All a bit messy, I will agree, but not as bad as having my images tagged kilometres away from their actual location.

And the message from all this? Come spring, I’ll change the cameras when I change the (many) other clocks in the house – and save myself some unnecessary work!



The post Fixing your geodata in Lightroom appeared first on Shane Baker - Photographer.

]]> (Shane Baker) Lightroom Photography Tue, 22 Apr 2014 18:44:01 GMT
Shooting in the dark Recently, I’ve done some shooting after dark. Two sessions produced work with which I’m reasonably, and one was a disaster. (Well … kind of!)

And let me say right now – this isn’t a tutorial of any kind. We have the wonderful gift of the internet, and I guess that you, like me, hit Google if you have a question on photography.

Anyway … the first of these nocturnal exercises was photographing fireworks. It came as a surprise to me when I realised that I hadn’t photographed fireworks in the digital era. (Strange but true!) So, I trundled down to Lake Burley Griffin here in Canberra on 26 January (Australia Day) to record the show.


The first thing I decided was that I wouldn’t go with the crowds. I chose a spot a little further away than average, with relatively few people and with a clear view of the show. This allowed me to use a normal focal length and my 24 – 70mm zoom. Fireworks are by definition, long exposures, so I took a good solid tripod with a reliable ball head.

Apart from those decisions, it was going to be a “suck it and see” exercise. I only had a vague idea of the sort of settings I might use – and I also knew that fireworks photography is manual photography.

So I set the Nikon on manual everything: manual focus, manual exposure mode and switched off auto ISO. Why? Because fireworks will confuse the exposure systems on even the best cameras.

The thing to remember is that fireworks are incredibly bright – and they’re pushing out all that light against a dark, even black sky. Your camera simply won’t know what’s going on, and you’re likely to get a very over-exposed image if you let the camera off the leash. Also, no-one knows how long a firework will take to do whatever it does.

So what were my settings? They were:

  • Aperture: f/8.0
  • Shutter: set to bulb – meaning that the shutter is open as long as the shutter is depressed
  • ISO: 200
  • Manual focus. I focussed on the appropriate spot while it was still light.
  • Raw (of course)
  • High ISO settings were engaged – more on that in a moment.

I put the camera on the tripod, framed the shot – and waited.

The show started at 21:00, and I exposed a first frame by guess work. The exposure (using the bulb setting, remember) was 6.7 seconds (which seemed about right), but the highlights were burnt out. I dropped the aperture to f/9.0, and the exposure looked better. A third shot was at f/10 and that was better still.

The ISO and aperture settings were right – but as I was using “bulb”, the actual exposure remained a guess! (Shades of

8 second exposure

the 19th century!!) Let me provide two examples.

The first was with the shutter open for about 8 seconds. I was happy with that.

The second image didn’t work.

In an attempt to get the whole explosion, I kept the shutter open for 10 seconds, without reducing the aperture or ISO – and the result was a terribly over-exposed image.

We live and learn – not the least because fireworks photography is an inexact science!

10 second exposure – with blown-out highlights

If you’ve not tried this form of photography, give it a go.

One thing: don’t engage the high ISO compensation setting. It slows the rate at which you can get shots, and especially towards the end, when they have that final all-out display, you won’t keep up.

The second session I had was doing some star photography.

A group of us from the Southside Camera Club hired a hut in the Kosciuszko National Park. Apart from the peace, the views and the wildlife, Currango also offered fairly clear skies – so a few of us tried some star photography.

How did we do it?

Well, like fireworks, it’s all manual photography. However, unlike fireworks, the stars are very dim. So while my fireworks shots above could be made at f/10 and ISO 200, the milky way image to the right was made in 30 seconds at f/2.8 at ISO 3200. Focus was manual, of course, and file format was again, raw.

Why 30 seconds? Two reasons. Firstly, that’s the longest exposure I can dial into the Nikon – which appeals to my lazy side. Secondly, that’s the longest exposure I could make with a 15mm focal length without obvious star trails. (Dividing your lens’ effective focal length into 500 will indicate the maximum exposure. Hence 500 / 15mm = 33 seconds.)

So, I’ve described my successes … now for the “disaster”.

I was out in the Melbourne CBD, when I made the image below.


Classic camera shake – because it was exposed at 1/4 second. Maybe, I could have pulled it off had I been leaning against a power pole – maybe – but at that shutter speed, it’s really tripod stuff.

The reason the camera was shooting at a quarter of a second? Because I had it set at f/8 in aperture priority. The camera was just following orders.

Why had a made those settings? I haven’t a clue! On a crop frame camera, f/2.8 or thereabouts would have been fine – and in any case, depth of field was hardly an issue. I simply messed up.

Had I set the camera on shutter priority at say 1/30 second with auto ISO, I’d have a usable and interesting shot.

But I didn’t.

Ah well … I won’t do that again – even if it’s simply to avoid embarrassment.


The post Shooting in the dark appeared first on Shane Baker - Photographer.

]]> (Shane Baker) Photography Mon, 10 Mar 2014 23:06:00 GMT
A fifth mode on your DSLR? We're all familiar with the usual four modes on our digital cameras: program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual. Different manufacturers use slight different terms, but that's what they mean. Of course, some cameras also have "helping" modes like landscape, portrait and so on.

I do most of my shooting in aperture priority. I want to control depth of field, and to a large extent, that involves controlling the aperture. And usually, I'm happy for the Nikon to work out what what shutter speed works.

Not a great shot - but sharp and correctly exposed.

Recently, I was trying to photograph a baby bird in a tree in my yard. It was tricky because I was using a
long lens (so a highish shutter speed was needed), but I also wanted a reasonable depth of field, since focussing was occasionally tricky.  So - I needed a smaller aperture.

This sounded like a job for manual exposure!

But to add to my problems, I was moving around, so as the angle to the sun varied, so did the amount of light hitting the camera. Manual was becoming ... inconvenient.

Then it occurred to me that I had another option: I switched ISO to auto, and let the camera work it out while I stuck with my preferred aperture and shutter speed.

It worked! As the light varied, I still had my preferred aperture (hence depth of field), and camera shake was minimised with a fairly high shutter speed - and the camera changed its sensitivity to ensure it got the right exposure.

So, I reckon we have now five modes on our DSLRs now: program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual - and "semi-manual".

Try it next time you're in a demanding situation. It just might help.

Shane Baker

]]> (Shane Baker) Photography Fri, 17 Jan 2014 22:16:00 GMT
Arranging keywords in Lightroom - a quick tip If you're like me, your keywords in Lightroom are in a mess.

For instance, I have a "France" keyword. Then, under that, I have some France keywords under "France", while others are at the top level in the hierarchy. Not good - especially if your keywords are in the hundreds or more.

Of course, you can just drag and drop: drag "Amiens" over "France" and LR will move Amiens into the France hierarchy.


But what if you want to drag "Aardvark" under Zoo? That's no so easy if you have more than 40 or so keywords.

I've finally come up with a solution.

Let's say you have the keyword "Black Swan" and you want it under "Native bird".

In the search field under Keyword List, type "swan, native". LR (bless its heart) then lists all keywords containing "swan" and "native" - and no others. You can now simply drag and drop "Black Swan" under "Native bird".

It's not a quick process, but it's do-able!

I'm acutely aware that many/most readers will be quietly muttering something to the effect that everyone knows this. Either that - or why didn't this idiot arrange his keywords correctly in the first place?

Good points - but I'm sure a few people out there have painted themselves into the same corner that I've managed to do. Now I have a solution!

Guess what I'm doing for the next hour?

Have a good one.


PS: As soon as I'd hit publish, I stumbled across an excellent article by Scot Bastion entitled A further look at Keywords within Lightroom.

I think my technique still has its place, but I strongly suggest you read Scot's article before using the Baker Method!



]]> (Shane Baker) Lightroom keywords Sat, 04 Jan 2014 14:43:00 GMT
On the value of photographs (again) I know I've written about this before (and probably will again), but we must never underestimate the value of our photographs.

Most people do - and I think this is why they don't preserve them.

It's long been my view that any photograph can have value, for any or all of the following reasons:

  • it's a great photograph - well exposed, composed, etc. Photographs by Ansel Adams or Josef Karsh are classic examples; or
  • it's a photograph made in time - of an event or thing that's no-longer there. This could be a news event, or an image of a landscape or cityscape; or
  • it's of value to you. Photographs of kids or a beloved relative fit this category.

And I must stress, an image can have one, two or even all three of these attributes. 
I recently spent a day in Sydney, and I went to two exhibitions featuring photographs. One was the exhibition of David Moore's photographs of the Sydney Opera House under construction.
Moore was a genuinely great photographer, who was able to turn his hand to pretty much any genre. And his work ticked at least two of those boxes above.

Sisters of Charity Washington
Sisters of Charity Washington

Moore was brilliant at what I would broadly describe as "industrial photography". He could find art in pretty uninspiring opportunities:
Sydney Opera House under construction 2
Sydney Opera House under construction 2

Yes, he had time and yes he had access - but the images he produced are wonderful.

Sydney Opera House steel reinforcing – c.1962
Sydney Opera House steel reinforcing – c.1962
These photographs are important for a number of reasons including that they are beautiful in their own right, they record the creation of one of the iconic buildings of the world, and because they record a moment in time. 

For instance: the exhibition has images of the men on the construction site balanced precariously on huge assemblies of steel and concrete as they're lifted into place. They're wearing hard hats, shorts and tee shirts - and some at least have safety boots. No doubt, at the time this was normal practice. However these days, I expect (and hope) that there would be a greater focus on safety!

And look what else is in the image: the 1962 Sydney skyline, a ship tied up at the passenger terminal, The Rocks - and the old ferry.

Important stuff - and worth recording!

The other exhibition is Suburban Noir at the Sydney Museum. This is a commentated slide show of forensic photography. Yup - photographs taken by the Police at various scenes covering theft, accidents, murder and suicide. And I was mesmerised!

No, it wasn't the gore (of which there wasn't much, by the way). Neither was it the photographs. They were workmanlike shots, but made for coroners and courts - not for exhibition.

The fascination was the recording of a place that's gone forever: Sydney in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

It's a place that's as exotic as any third world country today - and unlike Nepal or Amazonia, it's not on any airline's route map. It's gone forever - except in these images - and many others surviving in photo albums around Australia.

So - treat your photographs with respect. They are a repository of people, places, things and events that will one day be gone - except in your preserved images.

Have a happy and productive 2014.

Shane Baker

PS:  If you're still not convinced, invest 15 minutes to watch Kevin Gilbert's Ted Talk: The Lost Generation.




]]> (Shane Baker) archive photographs photography preservation value Fri, 03 Jan 2014 15:05:00 GMT
My wife's making some good photographs - and we have proof
a. listened to me as I banged on about the technology and aesthetics of photography; and

b. taken the line that she just took snaps - leaving the photography to me.

However, in the past few months, she's started using a Fuji X10, and is getting some very good results. She's applying what she knows started to pay attention to her own photography and apply what she knows. She's .

F'rinstance, she got this shot at Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire - which I conspicuously failed to capture:

Birds and the moon over Whitby Abbey.
Birds and the moon over Whitby Abbey.

And I like this one (of me) from our recent trip to Britain.

Shane at Hampton Court
Shane at Hampton Court

Nice shots, huh?

Not just snaps, but well-composed photographs!

But it's not just my opinion. A few days back, she experienced that comment that each of us who make photographs, rather than take snaps eventually receive. A colleague commenting on her photography said

 ... you must have a really good camera!

Yep!  Linda's a photographer now!

Season's greetings, everyone.


]]> (Shane Baker) Thu, 19 Dec 2013 19:51:00 GMT
Rubbish on my drive
Anyway ... I started with star ratings, and then rediscovered that I'd never had a really consistent way of rating my work. In fact, most of my images have no rating whatsoever, meaning I would be thrown back on that least reliable device in my arsenal: my memory.


So started trawling through my images - and found in incredible amount of rubbish. Three, four or more copies of the same image in various formats and sizes; most of which is the legacy of my pre-Lightroom days

BLR (before Lightroom), I'd load my raw file onto my computer and open it in Photoshop. Then I'd tweak it a bit and because I wanted my "negative" file for the future, I'd save it as a TIF. TIFs have the advantage that they aren't lossey - but they're big.

I did an experiment, to demonstrate file sizes - based on a file from my 16.3 Meg Fuji X100s:

A 34 Meg raw file becomes a 64 Meg TIF to protect the data after processing - or I could have saved it as a .PSD file to allow for more processing, which would be the same size. Alternately, I can save space with a JPEG or one quality or another - but only by throwing away much of my data. Oddly enough, the smallest non-lossy format was Adobe's DNG format. Maybe there's a lesson in that.

But the point is that I did this for several years: creating TIF and JPEG versions of files - often with a smaller "web" version of the JPEG - and cluttering up my drives, and thoroughly confusing myself in the process.

Then Lightroom appeared - and I saw it was good.

Now, my workflow is to load the image files onto my computer using LR - which places it in my catalogue. I then always (and for once, "always" means always) keyword the images, and can process them.

Processing in this case means making adjustments which are stored by LR with my raw file at a cost of around 10k per file. The raw file remains pristine, and I can make virtual versions of any image, which allows me to have multiple versions of my images - at a cost of about 10k per version.

And because all these files are key worded - as well as having all their metadata - I can find a particular image in moments.

Yes, I'm a fan of LR and no, I don't get a spotter's fee from Adobe. In fact, due to their introducing their ridiculous subscription model for most of their products, Adobe's off my Christmas card list this year - but Lightroom is a great product.

As for my back catalogue, I find that 84% of the 29,500 images in LR have no rating - and most of the rest are rated in an idiosyncratic manner (to say the least!). So, if I rate 100 a day, say six days a week ... that will only take 11 months to complete.

What I really need is a 100% reliable script which will rate my images for me.

Christmas is coming up, so if Father Christmas and the Birthday Fairy work together, maybe I can have my wish.

Or ... I can suck it up and just do it ...

Season's greetings!


]]> (Shane Baker) Wed, 18 Dec 2013 16:35:00 GMT
Oil on my sensor - my D800 sensor
I went out for a quick shoot earlier in the week. (You will not see any of these images as they were sharp, perfectly exposed, incredibly boring images. (But I digress.)

When I loaded them into Lightroom, I saw this stuff in the sky:

Weird, huh?

It had to be dust, so I tried blowing it away with my trusty rocket blower and did a test exposure (an f/20 shot of a blue sky). Nope, still there!

So I went to my Plan B: using a specialised electrostatically-charged brush which in the past, removed all but the most stuck-on muck. The streaks were made worse!

So I had to resort to Plan C: wet cleaning using some preprepared sensor swabs that I just happened to have ordered a few days previously. They just seemed to move the mess around.

I was stumped. It wasn't behaving like any dust, or any fibres I'd seen before (which in retrospect should have been a clue!) - so I fired up Google.

After quite a bit of trawling, I found a (very) few posts about oil on D800 sensors! Argh!! We've all heard about the problems with oil on the D600, but on an 800? This is a pro camera!!

The problem was that oil, wherever it had come from, made sense. The "smears" could have been a fluid. It also explained why the blower did nothing, a swipe with a swab didn't do much, and the brush made it worse. However, it didn't explain why a high-end, made in Japan Nikon had oil on its sensor.

So, I began by visiting  my local pharmacy and asking them for a high purity solvent. They sold me a tiny bottle of 99% pure isopropyl alcohol, which I was tempted to use on the sensor, but which I only used the wash my electrostatic brush.

After the brush dried, I used another swab on the sensor. The sensor looked better, but not great. So I used the brush - which actually improved the situation! The isopropyl alcohol had done the trick and the brush wasn't moving oil around.

With a few bits still on the sensor, I used the blower - and the sensor is now almost perfect. Good enough at least that hopefully, the camera's cleaning mode will shake off the last bits. If not, I can handle it in post.

I'm not thrilled - but at least I can use my camera.

It will be interesting to see what Nikon says about this.

in Canberra

]]> (Shane Baker) Tue, 10 Dec 2013 21:07:00 GMT
On using the Nikon D800 It's been a while, hasn't it? This was supposed to be a fortnightly (or thereabouts) blog, but I've never achieved anything like that.

I have no excuses - so to the kind or bored souls who read my ramblings: my apologies.

Nearly a year ago, I bought a Nikon D800. It's a superb camera, but it does have its drawbacks. Firstly, in a world hankering for small and light, it's neither.

This doesn't mean that it can't be used for street photography, though!

At the British Museum

But I digress.

Also, due to its staggering 36 M sensor, it's a camera which doesn't tolerate errors. Unless my focus is pin sharp, images from it are almost useless.

This creates problems. Due to it being full frame, the depth of field compared with my old and much-beloved crop frame D300 is very shallow. This means I need small apertures / high f-numbers for anything that isn't stationary - which can be a problem as, unless I'm using a tripod, I need a high enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake.

Of course, sometimes a tripod isn't an option. This is the result of a 30 second exposure:

Shine Dome, Canberra

I've got to say that I'm in awe of modern digital cameras. Look at the contrast ratio in that shot and the colour balance. Somehow, the D800 has handled at least five different light sources and still produced a great image.

The red streak is the tail lights of a passing car. It also left a "ghost" of its roof near under the street light on the right!

Anyway - the bottom line is that every photographer needs a tripod - and a good tripod at that. I'd suggest that you go for a ball head. Just make sure it can handle the weight of any camera-lens combination you're likely to use in the future.

The other result of going full frame is the loss of focal length. Using a crop frame sensor means that the focal length of every lens is effectively changed. On a Nikon APS-C camera such as the D300, my 70-200 is effectively a 105 - 300, which is handy when trying to photograph birds. (It's not so good when going wide. My 14 - 24 was a 21 - 36 on the D300.)

Anyway ... I decided to get myself a teleconverter to try to get some "reach". I bought the Nikon x1.7 unit, which as you would expect, increases the focal length of a lens by a factor of 1.7, at a cost of losing 1.5 f-stops.

So far, I'm happy with the results. This little chap was up in a small tree and using my 70 - 200 would

Baby magpie lark

have meant either a tiny image, or the need for me to crop very hard indeed. Using my lens effectively as a 340mm telephoto,  got what is for me, an effective image.

The loss of speed due to the teleconverter isn't an issue, as I have to stop the lens down to achieve a good depth of field.

I actually worked "semi-manually" with this. I had the camera on auto ISO and manual. I selected the appropriate aperture, went for a high, 1/500 sec shutter speed and dialled in centre-weighted metering. The Nikon did the rest.

I'm no bird photographer - so I'm happy with the result.

Keep making those photographs!

Shane Baker



]]> (Shane Baker) D-SLR D800 Nikon SLR Fri, 06 Dec 2013 14:27:00 GMT
Hopes in the retro camera trend Df and its retro look.

The good news about the Df (in my opinion) includes:
  • sensor and processor apparently from the top of the line Nikon D4.
  • major controls accessible through good old-fashioned knobs, which are not only easy to use, but which show at a glance where they're set. Great!
  • it's smaller and lighter than many new SLRs, despite having a proper, metal body.
  • it can conveniently use old Nikkor lenses.
The bad news isn't great. In Australia at least, the Df will sell for more than the 36 meg, pro body D800. And this is for a camera with fewer autofocus points than the D800, one card slot, no built-in flash and no video capability.


Of course, as with all things, the proof of the camera will be in the actual images produced in real situations. For this, we must wait. 

Joe McNally has posted some nice shots already - but Joe could produce great images with a box Brownie. He's no indication of how a photographer of modest (even very modest) attainment such as myself will go armed with a Df.

Time will tell - as it will also tell regarding whether this "retro" look with mechanical dials is a marketing gimmick, or a trend. Fujifilm seems to have started this with their X series cameras and they've justifiably received high praise for these cameras. Pick one an X100s for example, and you'll note metal analogue dials controlling aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation - in a metal body. They even take an old-fashioned cable release!

I hope it's a trend. I love my D800, as I did my D300 that preceded it. Great cameras - reliable, ergonomic tools which produce great images. It's just that I'd like to be able to see what's what by glancing at a dial - as we could in the stone age.

Maybe Nikon and Fuji have realised that the film cameras they made for all those years had something going for them in the digital age: analogue controls.

Let's hope so.

Shane Baker

]]> (Shane Baker) Wed, 06 Nov 2013 21:06:00 GMT
Gear for travelling
In 2011, we did a similar trip, where I took my Nikon D300 (a crop frame SLR) with my 24-70 f/2.8 and my then-new 14-24 f/2.8. I was surprised to discover that 90% of my images were made with the 14-24 on that trip - but bearing in mind that with the crop frame APS-C sensor, the lens is a 21-36mm equivalent lens, in retrospect that's not so surprising.

On this trip, I took my monster D800 with those two lenses, plus a few odds and sods, including a light meter, a 50mm f/1.8 and ND and polarising filters.

I also took my new Fujifilm X100s - and seriously considered taking this alone. A friend of mine who is a mirrorless convert pushed me in that direction, and photographer Valérie Jardin had recently demonstrated it was possible to take the Fuji alone on a four week holiday. In the end, I compromised by also taking the Fuji - which is tiny by SLR standards. I also undertook to "do" Paris with the Fuji only.

So - how did it go?

Well, with the greatest respect, unless you are like Ms Jardin, a street photographer, I can't see the X100s as a replacement for an SLR. It's a brilliant camera, but the fixed focal length lens places some limitations.

Take the shot of Notre Dame to the right. A pleasant enough shot, and the camera handled to demanding light well, but the fixed 35mm equivalent lens means that I didn't get the whole edifice.

"Zoom with your feet", I hear you cry, and in many cases, that's valid. However - in places like Paris, which are awash with @#$%^*! tourists (why can't they leave people like you and mean alone?) getting back will mean including endless people - many wearing distracting colours.

The Nikon, with its wider lens would have been better in that case.

On the other hand, the Fuji came into its own capturing this candid shot in the Louvre.

Could I have got it with the D800? Probably - but I think this young woman might have noticed the big, black, intimidating camera and possibly been distracted by having it pointed at her. (The man in the image below was - and he wasn't even the subject of the shot.)

Clearly, it's horses for courses. The beauty of the Fuji is that weighs almost nothing and takes little space. It's easy to carry in your bag, or even a (capacious) jacket pocket - and it looks like your grandad's old film rangefinder, so no-one cares.

What about the D800?

Well, I'm glad I took it, but it's not a snapshot camera. With its 36 megapixel sensor, it's a demanding, unforgiving camera, and you blaze away with it at your peril.

The man on the right has noticed my D800!
On the other hand, it can produce luscious colours and detail. The images below, shot in early light in Yorkshire have a detail and depth of colour for which the D800 and its SLR kin were made.

What about lenses? Well, with the full frame D800, the 24mm setting on the 24-70 was wide enough for almost all occasions, and I only used the 14-24 once. It probably could have stayed at home.

And the other gear could have stayed as well. I didn't have time to use the filters - although the polarising filter would have been useful once or twice. I also used the light meter only once - again due to time pressures.

At times, I could have used a tripod. The weather wasn't great for much of the trip, and the need to use small apertures on the full frame D800 for necessary depth of field created problems. It's an occupational hazard. This wasn't an issue on the X100s, of course.

So, was the D800 worth it? Did I need my Kata bag (described by one friend as a "lifeboat")?

I think I did.

I could have taken the X100s only and come away with great results - if I were willing to accept the limitations of that package. The camera is more than capable of producing brilliant images in a wide range of conditions. If, like Valérie, my main interest were street photography, I would have been mad to lump along 2.5kgs of SLR - or my lifeboat.

If, on the other hand, like me, you wished to make a range of images from a wide range of subjects, the SLR remains the best option - unless you go the mirrorless, interchangeable lens route.

Maybe, I'll go that way in the future - but not yet.

Shane Baker


]]> (Shane Baker) equipment gear selection photographic photography travel travelling trip Thu, 10 Oct 2013 12:13:00 GMT
I was at the British museum yesterday ...
There were the usual types with their smart phones and point and shoots, using flash on everything. This was not only distracting for the rest of us, but they were also using flash while shooting through glass.

No doubt, they will get home and curse their cameras for producing fuzzy, wildly over-exposed images - not realising that they would get better results (and longer battery life) with the flash OFF. The green setting is NOT our friend.

Unfortunately like the poor, or politicians, the flash brigade is always out in force, but there was another group: people photographing everything - and I mean that quite literally.

I watched one man with a moderately good point and shoot. He saw nothing there except the back of his camera. He would stand in front of an exhibit for as long as it took to pull focus, shoot, then do the same to the next object. He wasn't experiencing the Museum - he was making a visual collection to look at later.

Now I'd be the last person to object to photography. I'm the one carting my D800 and two heavy lenses in my Kata backpack, and I like to photograph things. But photography isn't a substitute for experience - it's a means to help preserve our memories.

While I was there, I made three photographs. Others were making hundreds.

I'll bet I had the better experience.

Good (and appropriate) shooting.


]]> (Shane Baker) Sat, 07 Sep 2013 00:34:00 GMT
It's worth looking back on your images Last Saturday, I went out for a dawn shoot with my friend Rod Burgess.

We weren't quite sure where we were going, but were looking for a spot with the rolling hills typical of parts of the ACT - bathed with dawn's golden light.

We stopped at a spot, and got out our gear.
Sunrise over the paddocks near Canberra.
Canberra sunrise - looking towards the Murrumbidgee River.

I recently heard a photographer describe landscape as being like sports shooting - and it's certainly true that at dawn and dusk, the light changes so fast that one can't relax for a moment. The light's changing, meaning that exposure changes and so do opportunities.  You've gotta keep ducking and weaving!!

I'd chosen not to use any filters was was relying on the D800's raw files and Lightroom to get the details I wanted.

I was also deliberately "exposing to the right". (I remain to be convinced on the advantages of that strategy - but that's another issue.)

During the shoot, looking at the 3" display on my Nikon, the shots had looked pretty ordinary.

Anyway, I got home and loaded the images into Lightroom - and was pleasantly surprised.
There were a few that made me feel it had been worth getting out of bed at 05:45 on a Saturday morning when there was frost on the ground! The shot here is a case in point. Nice range of colours, textures. Yeah, I was happy with that.

I put this and several other shots up on Smugmug, and relaxed.

Later that day, after tic tacking with Rod, I went back into Lightroom - and was surprised to find this:

Canberra sky at sunrise.
Canberra sky at sunrise.
That's typical of the great clouds we often get in Canberra - usually when far from a camera, I might add. I was glad I was able to capture it - and more pleased that I'd gone back to look again.

Mind you, this process of revision works both ways. I had this on my Smugmug site for quite a while:

No, I don't know what I was thinking, either!

And this was posted for two or three days. Yes, it's a photograph of a platypus - but it doesn't make it worthy of inflicting on visitors to my web site.

I take slight comfort from the fact that some very well known, and very good photographers post duds too. I guess the advantage of the web is that when such a blunder is realised, we can make it go away.

So ... the lesson is to look again at your shots, hours or days later. You'll probably have more pleasant surprises than nasty shocks.

Keep shooting.


]]> (Shane Baker) Tue, 30 Jul 2013 18:25:00 GMT
In praise of the nifty 50 Southside Camera Club here in Canberra for a "Murrumbidgee River Ramble".

I came away with some acceptable images - and more importantly, neither my camera nor me fell in the drink! (If you miss the significance of this statement, please read my past couple of blogs.)

Gum trees at sunrise. Canberra.
Eucalypts at sunrise, Canberra.

Anyway, after some landscapes, we repaired to the home of the Club members who had arranged the photo walk, where they provided us with a scrumptious breakfast. (Yes, life can be tough in a camera club!)

Not only did they go above and beyond in the catering department, but they allowed those of us who were interested to use their home studio gear for a little impromptu portraiture and still life work. I wandered in to see Len, the generous and patient husband of one of our members, being photographed.

Well, I couldn't let this pass - but as my semi-aquatic 24-70 is in transit from Nikon, I plonked my "nifty 50" (Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens) on my D800 and had a try.

I'm delighted with my results.

The images are sharp, have true colour and good contrast - and were made with a Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.8D, a lens that sells in Australia for  $A127. Even its up-market brother, the AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G sells for $A250 - which is a fraction of the price of my admittedly wonderful 24-70 f/2.8.


The message is clear. As much as I like three or four of my landscapes from yesterday, I love a couple of the portraits of the long-siffering Len. I hope he does too.

Clearly, I have to get off my backside and do more portraiture. And I've got to use my cheap, light and unobtrusive little nifty 50 more often, as well.

If you haven't got a 50, think about getting one. They're a steal!


]]> (Shane Baker) Sun, 16 Jun 2013 00:57:00 GMT
To buy a point and shoot - or not?
One of my wok colleagues asked what camera she should buy in the $100 - $200 range. My reaction? Don't.


She has a good quality mobile phone - which means she has a good basic camera already. Apart from a zoom lens, I can't see what a $150 compact would offer that her "camera" doesn't already offer.

What I suggested she do is spend her lazy $100 - 200 on software. She's not running a Mac at home so she doesn't have iPhoto - meaning she needs something like PhotoShop Elements or Lightroom to:
  • do "post" on here images - crop, contrast and maybe some colour correction, and
  • more importantly ... catalogue her images.
People are generating images all over the place, and then what? They sit on the device until it fails or they're deleted. If they're downloaded to the computer, they sit there without keywords or meaningful names until the disc fails.

Either way, they're not accessible. And if you can't find the image, it's just a waste of disc space.

My advice to anyone without suitable software is to get either Elements or when it's released: Lightroom 5 or start using your copy of iPhoto. Then, catalogue your existing images - which is, I will admit, a horrible job.

However! Once that's done, your work flow could be something like mine: First, download the images from the camera, using just a basic preset - to add a little contrast - or whatever your camera needs.

Then - keyword your images. Right away! Then and there. Before you do anything else. Pronto.

Seriously, it will take maybe 5 minutes to do a heap of images and once done, they're done forever - and they can be found!

After that, you can do your "post":
  1. Crop and straighten
  2. Remove stuff that shouldn't be there - rubbish, idiots, that kind of thing.
  3. Do any more tweaking of brightness, colour balance, contrast - that kind of thing.
It amazes me how few people look after their images. Almost everyone over 12 has a camera these days and they use them to capture images. Then, for most people, it stops there. At least in the film days, the film would be printed at the local lab. Now? Who knows?

Photographs augment and even preserve our images. They are precious and deserve to be looked after.

Here endeth the lesson.

Have a good one.


]]> (Shane Baker) Fri, 07 Jun 2013 20:25:00 GMT
A week after I dropped my D800 And a week after I dropped my D800 - with disasterous results, the reason is starting to show.
Image of Shane
When I fell, I obviously made first contact with my left elbow - which was the arm holding the camera!
It could have been worse - but I keep thinking about and missing my knackered Nikon.
My wife tells me that I'm a bit dangerous with a camera, because I tend to become focussed (no pun intended) on the shot and oblivious to my surroundings. She's probably right.
Mind you, I'm not exactly alone in that respect. Look at the horrific casualty rates among war photographers. 
And my friend Claude was telling me about stopping in the middle of a street on his recent trip to Vancouver when he saw a shot. He's standing there surrounded by traffic and shooting with his new Fuji X-E1, when he suddenly realises what he's doing.
Still, we've all done stuff like that. It's part of the magic of photography, I guess - and we usually survive!

]]> (Shane Baker) awareness danger falls injuries photography Sat, 01 Jun 2013 17:39:00 GMT
To to follow-up on my sad tale of the aquatic D800 ...
The bad news is that my beloved D800 was already showing signs of corrosion. It wasn't economic to fix.

Sob ...

Back to the trusty D300 for the time being.

So the lesson learned from this - at a price - is that when you carry camera gear in a situation where it could get damaged, put it in your bag.

And by the way, the people I work with have pointed out (rather forcefully I might add) that things could have been worse. I was alone, out of sight and had a heavy fall onto rocks in a river. I could have been injured - or even drowned. I certainly have the bruises to prove that point, although they're nothing that won't heal.

All true, of course - but my D800 is no more!

Sob ...

]]> (Shane Baker) Fri, 31 May 2013 14:05:00 GMT
A tale of disaster
The reason? I hadn't made a photograph in weeks and I was feeling withdrawal. And it was foggy and I thought there might be something in it. I got some shots at the National Arboretum here in Canberra - and a couple weren't bad, either.
Trees in fog - National Arboretum Canberra. © Shane Baker
Trees in fog, National Arboretum Canberra.
© Shane Baker

Anyway, I was heading home, and I thought it might be worth making a diversion to the Murrumbidgee River to see if there was anything to shoot. The sun was up and something might be there, right?

There was. A nice flat surface on a pool in the river with reflections. I just had to get down there.

So, I picked up the Nikon and the tripod and my camera bag and headed down towards some rocks. Slippery rocks.

Next thing I know, it's like someone has kicked my legs out from under me. I hit the rocks like a safe, get back on my feet - and can't see the Nikon. Some frantic looking around and I see it - my D800 with 24 - 70 lens attached literally submerged in the river!

The lens was full of water, so I let it drain and headed home. Once home, I separated the body and lens and placed them into a home-made dehumidifier - where they remain until I can send them to Nikon Service in Sydney tomorrow!

I feel sick just thinking about this beautiful gear submerged in a river. God knows what the service bill will be.

The take away from this? If you've got a bag or a case or whatever, use it if there's the slightest chance of something going wrong - like walking on rocks in a river.

The tale of the repairs waits for another day.

Sigh ...


]]> (Shane Baker) Sun, 26 May 2013 01:01:00 GMT
Kids and photography.
I have to say that despite the patronising comments coming from more than a few adults, they've produced some very good images.

I love digital for kids - or anyone learning photography. The marginal cost of any image is almost nothing, and they get immediate feedback when they try something new. Perfect!

And, of cause, I can give them a set of images on a USB stick that they can print or show to family and friends.

So the message is: don't underestimate kids. Give them a useable camera and they'll deliver.

]]> (Shane Baker) Wed, 24 Apr 2013 15:11:00 GMT
A portraiture master class with Greg Weight. Greg Weight.

I enjoyed the session, and especially Greg's practical, unaffected view of photography and portraiture.  (The fact that he is a Nikon shooter didn't hurt either (Joke!!).

When she picked me up, my wife Linda asked me what I'd learned.

Good question.

I'd certainly learned stuff - but more importantly, I'd gained a few things. Firstly, I realised I knew stuff. I recognised the photographers Greg talked about and often, the images to which he referred. I also understood a fair amount of the technical stuff too.

That means thatI gained confidence in my ability.

But I also came to the conclusion that I don't have to be an expert on portraiture to shoot portraits.

What I did learn / decide / conclude is that I've got to get off my arse and join in. To be an effective portrait photographer ... I've got to shoot portraits.

Yep - I'm nothing if not quick!

I've lined up friends who have agreed to be photographed, I have the photo kit and I've ordered a backdrop - which I'll use some of the time.

Time to stop talking and start doing - or as Frederick Van Johnson says: Time to take off that lens cap and shoot!

]]> (Shane Baker) Fri, 12 Apr 2013 03:26:00 GMT
I've always admired portrait photography.
That said, from my armchair (or basement, for my North American readers) I'm going to "have a go" at some recent examples of portraiture.

I should begin by saying that I'm not aware of any all-encompassing definition of photographic portraiture. Wikipedia defines it as:
Portrait photography or portraiture is photography of a person or group of people that displays the expression, personality, and mood of the subject. Like other types of portraiture, the focus of the photograph is usually the person's face, although the entire body and the background or context may be included.
That gives a lot of options and covers a lot of ground. There have been and continue to be glorious formal portraits such as these:
 Norman Lindsay by Max Dupain
 Norman Lindsay by Max Dupain

And Karsh, like Shakespeare or Beethoven is arguably part of our culture ...

Then there's the less formal school. I love environmental portraits.Check out Irving Penn's Igor Stravinsky:

So, given this latitude ... I was disappointed when I visited the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra to see the 2013 National Photographic Portrait Prize.

I'm not so egocentric that I expect to like everything shown. I expect a full range of reactions from gobsmacked to angry - but not to be disappointed.  There's some damn fine work in this year's exhibition, but there's a lot of rubbish too (in my humble opinion!).

What do I mean by rubbish?  Images that could only be described as "snaps". Yes, I know there's a fine line between photojournalistic or even environmental portraiture - but quite a few were well over the line.

Also, I would expect any portrait to be sharp. Many were not. One in particular was simply out of focus. No doubt the cognoscenti would patiently explain to me that this "artistic", but I consider it shows a lack of craft. Similarly, eyes should be in focus, but noses can be a tad blurry. Several images were the other way around.

There also appeared to be a hefty dollop of political correctness in the selections. I can't believe the selections (from over 1,200 entries, I believe) really had that many "land rights for gay whales" images.

Many of the PC selections also had another characteristic that I find unforgivable: they only made any sense with a written explanation. Photography and portraiture are visual art forms. The image should speak for itself. If an image only has meaning with a hefty panel of explanatory text next to it, then the artist has failed.

To be fair to the Portrait Gallery, they're not alone in all this. I followed a link from a tweet earlier today which prompted me to write this little rant - because the piece on portraiture seemed to be advocating the very kind of "portraiture" I dislike so much!

I'll get off my soap box now.

Have a good Easter.

]]> (Shane Baker) Fri, 29 Mar 2013 20:34:00 GMT
The value of photographs - and why they're worth preserving I want to write about the value of photographs - and why they're worth preserving. (Those of you who know me and have heard this already may like to browse Wikipedia now or make a cup of tea.)

The poor souls who attend my Digital Photography classes at Erindale are told with some apparent authority by yours truly that a photograph has value if it was one or more of the following characteristics:

  • it's fine art. Not many of us produce a lot of this, unfortunately;
  • it's of value to you. The grandparent's shot of a grandchild (or vise versa) is a classic example; or
  • it's a record of something of value that has been lost.

It's this third point that was reinforced for me recently.

It's Canberra's 100th birthday on 12 March 2013 and for those of you not familiar with the history of our wide brown land, it had a troubled beginning. While it was proclaimed in 1913, due to two world wars, the Great Depression and indifference from much of Australia, it wasn't really developed until the 1960s.

I recently saw some photographs made from the 1910s through to the 1970s showing Canberra "before". These images were accompanied by very good attempts to make the same image from the same vantage point - using landmarks to try to orientated the photographer. The whole show was quite fascinating.

Now these images were workman-like shots, but they were made for a purpose - and that purpose wasn't great art. They were intended as a record only. And it's well that they were made because they are a record of places and indeed, people who are gone forever. Nothing will bring that place back. Even if the unthinkable (and highly improbable) were to take place and mankind were to be wiped out by some catastrophe, the place where Canberra now sits will never look as it did in 1913 - or in 1960.

So my point is that even the most mundane snaps have value as they will inevitably record - and in a sense, preserve - someone or something that is no-longer with us.

And this brings me to another of my hobby horses: an image is only useful if it's preserved and can be found.

These images were preserved because they had been made by a government agency and carefully stored and catalogued. If they had been treated as are so many images made today, I'm sure they would be lost - and so would their value.

When attending big public events, I wonder at the number of people using their phones as cameras. Don't get me wrong - most of the smart phones these days have very capable photographic capability - but what happens then? Are these images stored, or are they uploaded (and down sampled) on Facebook, perhaps? Maybe they're sent by email or SMS - but are they kept? We are told that more photography is taking place now than ever before, but where will the images of the people and places that are gone forever be found in 10, 20 or 100 years?

So my thought for the day is: whatever means you use to capture those "snaps" of family, friends and places: save and protect them for the future!

Thanks for reading this through to the end.  I'll have a little lie down now ...


]]> (Shane Baker) Sun, 03 Mar 2013 00:08:00 GMT
And where are my images from the Multicultural Festival, I hear you ask?
Despite my great love of street photography, I don't find t easy and have to get into a certain mind set. This weekend past - I didn't.

Maybe next year?

Shane "promises" Baker

]]> (Shane Baker) Tue, 12 Feb 2013 01:18:00 GMT
Giving street photography another try It's the Canberra Multicultural Festival this weekend, and I'm going to give street photography another try.Although I admire street photography at its best - the likes of Elliott Erwitt come to mind - I haven't done much of it.

A few years back, I went to teh Festival armed with an SLR and a zoom and came away with one of my best ever images:

Man in conversation at the Canberra Multicultural Festival. Image © Shane Baker

I love this shot. This man with his interesting face is deep in conversion with two friends who are conveniently framing his image. In my perhaps not very humble opinion, it's a genuiely good shot.

But I haven't done anything as good since.

So this year, I'm giving it a try with an innocuous little camera - one that looks like I'm using my grandad's old film rangefinder: my Fuji X10.

As you can see, it doesn't look like much. It's not likely that people will feel confronted by it. The alternative is for me to use my D800. Even with the "nifty 50", it looks a bit intimidating - though nowhere near as scary as an SLR mounting a 70-200 zoom!

Nikon D800 and Fuji X10 cameras together

Nevertheless, I may try the D800 - just as an experiment.

So with gear decided, the other issue is tactics. Apart from street portraiture, where the photographer literally asks permission to photograph people, there are basically two tactics. One can stalk one's subject with a relatively short lens, shoot from a distance with a long lens - or stake out a space and wait for them to come to you.

I'm going to try the latter - with the X10 and maybe with the D800.

I'll let you know how I go!

Shane Baker

]]> (Shane Baker) Thu, 07 Feb 2013 20:59:00 GMT
I want to talk about how we assess photographs. And I apologise in advance, because I’m probably about to offend someone. 

But first, I must tell you about dog show judging - because I find parallels with the photography world. 

In the Australian dog show scene, and I suspect in the rest of the world, there’s a thing called “face judging”. Who is holding the lead in the ring is at least as important as the dog at the end for some judges. I’ve seen some horrible examples put up by dog judges, and in every case, at the end of the lead, you’ll find a “face”; someone with status in the dog world.

More on that in a minute.

The other feature of dog judging is the phenomenon called “fault judging”. Basically, when you look at a dog in the ring you can judge it two ways. One way is to look at all the dogs (with a full understanding of the standard for that breed) and pick the best example in the ring. The winner may have faults (although no major faults) but overall, it will be the one that is closest to the ideal Pug or Great Dane or Labrador or whatever.

Fault judging is when the judge looks at a line of dogs, finds their faults - and then picks the dog with the fewest faults. It may look horrible, but hey - it’s the dog with the fewest faults! (No-one can fault that! (Boom, boom!)

So to come back to my heresy: there’s a lot of fault judging and face judging in the photography world.

The internet has given all of us an unprecedented opportunity to show our work. (More power to the World Wide Web!) But it has inevitably led to a lot of images being shown that should never have seen the light of day. At the extreme are those people who simply upload the entire contents of their camera’s card to the web site of their choice, and wait for the plaudits to flow.

Others of us try to be a bit more discriminating. I place images on my web site ( - check it out!) either because I think they’re good shots or simply because people may find them interesting. (Hopefully, they’re both, BTW.) I also post snaps for family and friends, but these are generally in folders that aren’t inflicted on the unsuspecting public.

Unfortunately, some well-known photographers who should know better (and can do better) sometimes place pretty average images on the internet - and they’re generally greeted with rapturous applause by their followers.

That’s face judging folks. 

To be fair, I’ve had plenty of “what was I thinking?” moments, after which I’ve quietly deleted an image from my web site. Clearly, so do photographers who are better and more highly regarded than me. That’s part of being human. What I can’t understand is when a famous photographer posts a snap - and the internet explodes with praise.

We all have to do better - both as artist and audience.

And now to fault judging. In photography, I’ve seen it in the flesh and I’ve seen it on line: someone puts up an image,and armchair experts immediately work it over for faults. It may not be sharp, composition could be better, too much/not enough contrast, blown-out highlights.

You know the drill.

Check this out:
Robert Capa - D-Day landing.
Horrible? Not level, not sharp, print includes sprocket holes. The fault judges would put that on the reject pile in a heartbeat.

Or what about this? Badly composed, huh? What's the subject; surely not the doves??

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Henri Matisse

Both photographs work - despite their faults. Maybe even because of them?

So my thought for the day? We need to 
  1. Be rationally critical of our own work.
  2. Recognise that even the best of us don't always get it right. No need to criticise, but let's not applaud by reflex, either.
  3. Assess an image, either it's one of ours, one by friends or one by the famous simply by asking whether it works. 
My apologies to those I have offended. I didn't mean to.

Shane Baker

]]> (Shane Baker) Thu, 31 Jan 2013 00:28:00 GMT