News

Latest Additions
21st June 2010
2010 got off to a great start in the highlands, with the longest-lasting snow-season anyone in the West Highlands can recall. Spring was exceptionally dry, and the light has been excellent.

Made for some great photographic opportunities, and Jim will be adding more to the site as the year goes on - so check back soon for more new work!

Click here to see the latest uploads to LochaberPhoto.co.uk


2009 : Year of the Rangfinder
30th October 2009
Somewhat to my surprise, 2009 has been the year of the Rangefinder here at LochaberPhoto. Starting with a wet afternoon's browsing on eBay, I found my way into a type of photography I'd missed out on back in the days before digital cameras - indeed, way back in the days before the SLR came to be seen as the principal general-purpose tool in the photographer's bag. The start of the story is explained in an earlier post on this site.

That little camera impressed with its compact size, near-silent shutter, robust construction and simplicity of operation, with no compromise in control. On the downside, the Vito CLR is a fixed-lens camera, and more significantly, it is a film camera. The 50mm prime lens is a good optic, and at f2.8 it's faster than most of the zooms that SLR (and DSLR) users aspire to.

I'm now off to South Africa, for a trip which will take me to a major city (Johannesburg), a seaside town (Ballito), and a game park or two. And hopefully to Soweto and Alexandra townships in the Johannesburg area.

And I'll be taking with me a Voigtländer Bessa R film rangefinder and an Epson R-D1 digital rangefinder. I'll be taking some Voigtländer lenses too: a 15mm Super-Wide Heliar; a 25mm Snapshot Skopar, and a 35mm Color Skopar. I'll post some of the pictures I get from this gear on my flickr account here
Gotta *NEW* Camera (Pt. 2)
04th May 2009
Gotta New Camera. A Rangefinder. A Voigtländer. About 45 years old. No sensor dust issues. No battery, w'dyabelieve!

Well- here it is:




A '60's Classic. The sort of camera I used to lust after in the camera shop window back in my schooldays. And a Rangefinder. Never had a Rangefinder before.

But "Wait a minute!" I hear you say. "That's a FILM camera!?!"

That's right. I bought a new camera; but it's an old camera; and it's a film camera!!

Have another look...



c. 1965, and they most certainly do not make them like this any more! Also, notice how this crops down using the "original" (i.e. fixed at 24 x 36) aspect ratio in Lightroom. Any 35 mm camera worth its spats needs to be 36 x 24 ratio!

Even nearly makes it on its back, too...




So where's this going?

Well, I'm not sure. But I can tell you where it's come from. Maybe that'll make things a bit clearer.

A week or so back I won one on Guess Where UK - a Flickr quiz group I like to play in from time to time. I've got 17 points so far this year, but I digress. I posted an old scan as part of my answer. This one:



To my surprise, it looked quite good. Got a plaudit from the question setter on the group too - a photographer whose work I regard with great respect. His Flickr page is here.

Made me think: this is tecnically deeply flawed. My scanner was not a particularly good one. It was a cheap Canon that wouldn't run with SilverFast. Noisy as hell. And I was just learning Photoshop at the time. This is PS juvenilia.
The image, as you can see, is grainy.
And the saturation is a bit extreme.
And it is, as you might say, tack-blunt.
But for all that, it has, I think, some character.
And it's something of the character of the Lomotographer.
And I kind of like that.

But I sold my film SLR a few years back, not long after I got my first DSLR. Never really thought I'd go back to film, but now I'm finding it has some appeal.

And I start to think that maybe Mr. Kobayashi, CEO of Cosina and current owner of the Voigtländer marque, has something right when he says "Look at the short life of digital SLRs and their continuously falling prices, why should I get into that mess?" (Source: Speaking Frankly, by Herbert Keppler)

Cat don't care



But I think there may be some mileage in this. I won't be throwing away the DSLR, but my update strategy might take a turn - for Bessa or for worse.

After all, Cosina made cameras and lenses that sold as Canon, Nikon and Olympus. And Mr. Kobayashi's approach is a good one, I think:" "Usually we first design the very best possible lens, regardless of glass price," explains Kobayashi. "Then we try to substitute less expensive elements wherever possible without noticeably affecting quality. We stop when we have lowered production costs sufficiently, but have retained quality, and where the difference from our original lens will be negligible to the user."" (Keppler))

So it's: Onward! into the past future!
Gotta *NEW* Camera
02nd May 2009
Pictures'll follow tomorrow. Too busy playing with it just now
West Highland Winter Sunlight
11th March 2009
There's a light in the afternoons, which can last much longer than the "golden hour" photographers elsewhere revel in, which makes photography such a compulsion in the west highlands of Scotland.

Passing along the shores of Loch Creagan yesterday afternoon just before 6pm, the impulse was irresistible. And it's the light in the trees, especially on the fine branches of the birches and the bark of the Scots pines, that demands the camera's attention, and yields shots like this one:

Now at Photium
07th March 2009
With effect from today, LochaberPhoto.co.uk is now running on Photium

The transfer was quite straightforward, and didn't mean severing the ties from my long-term webhosts at 3dpixelnet


So I don't lose out on what's quite likely the world's finest spam filtering service, as run by the elves at 3dpixelnet. See more on that here.

I don't pretend to understand how they do it, but my spam count has fallen to near-zero levels since they did the work on it. (Hugely recommended to anyone bothered by spammers bombarding through a website-based email address!!)


Will at Photium support gave me all the info needed to make the switch, and it's all systems go now to get lochaberphoto.co.uk up to speed as a fast-response location where visitors will be able to see my recent work in record time after shooting...


Jim Stewart
Soft Proofing and the Epson Stylus Pro 3800
01st March 2009
A new printer means a new set of profiles and a new round of soft-proofing, of old image files as well as new. The vastly greater paper-handling capability of the 3800 over my old A4 Epson R800 adds to the scale of the task, as do the inconsistencies of quality between different canned profiles - and this first step really has to be made using canned profiles, as I need to get a "feel" for the different papers on the market before bulk-purchasing stocks of particular papers. Only at that point will I think about getting custom profiles made for my chosen papers.

So it's once more into the breach of soft-proofing images in Photoshop - the only app I know that you can do this in...

Here's a short collation of different aspects of soft proofing. All use the same basic procedure, as follows:

With your image open in Photoshop, go View>Proof Setup>Custom and select the icc profile for the paper you want to proof for. Try out Perceptual and Relative Colorimetric, with "Preserve RGB Numbers" UN-checked, and "Simulate Paper Color" (SPC) checked.

Here's the thing: checking SPC will wreck the appearance of your image on your screen, and this is where the work of soft-proofing starts. How to retrieve the quality of the image you worked so hard to capture and to render in your photo-processing software, and which the soft-proofing has just submerged beneath a milky wash, blurring its detail - in extreme cases to a pure mush? That's what soft-proofing is all about. Sadly, but with today's technology inevitably, all the work you've put into rendering your image more exquisitely, ravishingly beautiful on your computer's monitor screen has produced just that - a ravishing image optimised for viewing on your monitor. To get that image to the printed page, will require more work. While this can seem like a pain to do, I sometimes find that when I've done the soft-proofing, I consider the end result preferable to the starting point. Which makes it all worthwhile.

1. In the Luminous Landscape video series "From Camera to Print" Jeff Schewe outlines this approach:

Step 1: Do a "Select>Color Range' with foreground colour set to Black. Set Fuzziness to 25 and click OK. Hit Command+J to get this selection as a Layer, and set its Blend Mode to Multiply.
Step 2: Curves - just a minor tweak to add some contrast
Step 3: H&S - In a new Hue & Sat Adjustment Layer boost Saturation in Master and, if necessary do a Hue tweak on primary channels (R,G,B) as required

2. These steps will enable you to get back the coloration of your image. But it is still likely to appear a bit washed out. To get it back to full strength, you'll need to restore some of the mid-tone contrast that SPC destroyed for you. Also included as Easter eggs with "From Camera to Print" are two Photoshop Actions for mid-tone contrast adjustment/ enhancement.
These tools provide excellent means of returning the "punch" to your image, and making it burst out through that milky film the "Simulate Paper Color" command drenched it in. An alternative is to use Image>Adjustments>Shadow/ Highlight, and if you have Photoshop CS3 or later you can do this on a Smart Object rather than on the Background layer of your image. Then you have the option to reduce the Opacity of the Smart Object to attenuate the strength of the adjustment, and of course will be able to re-open the Shadow/ Highlight dialogue box to refine or re-work the adjustment (e.g. for a different paper-type).

If you don't want to buy the videos from here, you can read how to replicate one of the Actions here, or see another way of doing mid-tone contrast adjustments here.

Another tool in Photoshop (CS and later) that you can use to boost mid-tone contrast is the "Shadows/ Hightlights" adjustments. I stumbled on this one day some years back, while wrestling with the "Green Mush" that often shows up when you try soft-proofing work for the Epson R800 printer using the early Epson canned profiles that shipped with that printer (the later R1-series profiles are much improved). The phenomenon was widely discussed on the web, and I'd just about given up on getting a print of the particular image I was working on that morning, when I thought maybe it would benefit overall and anyway from a dose of "Image> Adjustments> Shadows/ Highlights". I think I'd just forgotten to switch off the soft-proofing, and I was astonished to see that the default settings for this cut right through the green mush to reveal the leafs of grass bending and blowing in the wind in my picture!

Now you can't always - or even often - get what you want from its default settings, but the "Shadows/ Hightlights" adjustment command, with a bit of tweaking, will often help rescue your image from the curse of the SPC. And if you need to localise the effect, you can always apply "Shadows/ Hightlights" to a Smart Object (typically a duplicate of your Background layer) and use the layer mask to paint in the bits you want.

A good tip when you've finished adding adjustment layers in the soft-proofing process is to collect them all up into a new Group folder, and rename it something like "SoftProof - Epson Trad Photo Percep", or whatever. You may find you'll need one Group for all matt papers and another for all gloss or lustre papers, or you may find that some individual papers need tehir own, individual groups of soft-proofing layers. These decisions will need to be made on an image-by-image and paper-by-paper basis.


Jim Stewart
Moving to Photium?
31st January 2009
After several years of building websites from scratch, for the last six years using Softpress Freeway, I'm close to a watershed moment.

Freeway is a powerful site-building application, and I've built a number of sites for myself and for clients, using its ability to generate high quality CSS-based sites. But I've never found Freeway quite as easy and straightforward to use as to keep my photo site regularly updated. So I looked around for something that might be a bit more down'n'dirty, fast'n'easy to do the 2009 rebuild of lochaberphoto.co.uk

My first stop was RapidWeaver, which had been on my radar for some time. Not as boundless in its possiblities as Freeway, RapidWeaver is a template-based web design app, and I liked the look and feel of some of the templates. So a trade-off of the flexibility of a ground-up site-builder like Freeway has to offer, but for a photographer who likes to be out there shooting, the speed and ease of RapidWeaver had a lot to offer. The templates are easily edited/ customised, and it provided almost all I wanted, but with one major omission: no viable e-commerce template for the display of my photographic prints.

Next up was the discovery of a burgeoning segment of the web dedicated to providing photographers in particular with customisable, template-based sites built directly in the browser. I'm trying ClikPic and Photium. This is the Photium iteration of my site. In six hours or so - ok, I'm just slow! - I've set up a rudimentary site comprising homepage, blog and a gallery with e-commerce capability, as well as a Contact page and an "About Me" bit.

Is this the way forward?

I'm going to sleep on that, but this does seem the most hopeful prospect at present.

Downside? Yes, there is one. Templates are less customisable than RapidWeaver's, and in particular I think the page width - which is fixed and common to all the (limited range of 4) templates available - is a bit to narrow. Also the large images in the gallery could be a bit bigger, I think...

However, it feels like a day of a bit more accomplishment than some I've spent when involved in the annual site-updating throes. So like I said, I'll sleep on this, and see how it looks tomorrow!


Jim Stewart
Hot News : gotta new printer
31st January 2009
LochaberPhoto.co.uk now has an Epson Stylus Pro 3800 A2 Printer, with Ultrachrome K3 inkset, and can provide a fully colour-manged print-on-demand service for photographers.



Go to our "Print Services" page for more information or use the "Contact" page to request a quotation for print work