DSLR vs Mirrorless – Part 2

Before I start, I’d like it to make it clear that these are purely my own thoughts on the subject and could easily prove to be well wide of the mark.

Following on from my blog post on the subject of DSLR vs Mirrorless in November, I’ve been following the Nikon rumour mill with some interest. Back in January, the internet was alive with predictions that Nikon would announce a top end mirrorless camera in February, however that seems to have gone quiet for now.

I’ve also spent some time trying to get my head round the need for the oft rumoured Z-mount. There’s always been plenty of diagrams and maths on the internet, but very little sign of an explanation of why it’s needed. Fortunately, it seems that the new mount will allow Nikon to design some new, more compact lenses, which if correct is great news.

The big negative that some people were citing, is whether Nikon can produce an EVF to rival that of the Sony A7R mk111, from a standing start, but only time will tell.

Sony, Fuji, Sigma and Olympus are all eating into the market share Nikon and Canon have long enjoyed and with Nikon’s shaky financial state at the moment, they need something to revive their fortunes. A mirrorless camera would be cheaper to produce than a DSLR, so Nikon could do like Porsche did with the Cayman vs the Boxster and charge more for a cheaper product!

However, it struck me that announcing a camera that essentially uses D850 technology, would be very bad marketing right now and would compete with the D850 for sales. In my humble opinion, they need to wait for possibly up to a year from the launch of the D850 to allow the D850 to get fully established in the market.

I recently went on an Olympus day to try the EM1 mk2 and their super 12-100 f4 lens and it is very good, but right this moment I’m minded to sit tight and see how the market works out, but a light mirrorless Nikon camera, with a compact lens sounds just the product I’m looking for.

Follow Your Own Path

Follow Your Own Path

Janet kindly bought me a copy of the “Masters of Landscape Photography” book for Christmas and it proved a really interesting read. Marc Adamus did lots of processing on his images while others did very little. Some carried out lots of preparation, prior to a shoot, while others preferred to “freewheel”. Johnathan Critchley shot in black and white, while Tom Mackie preferred highly saturated colours.

It all served to confirm my own opinion that there is no “right way” only “your way”, so always follow your own path, be it in life, or photography. Sometimes I’m happy to just get out there and see what the conditions have to offer, other times I have a specific image in mind and it becomes like an itch, I can’t settle until I’ve scratched it.

So, it was with my latest mono image. I really liked the images we produced at Strensall Common, exactly one year ago. I loved the delicate branches on the birch trees and the fine detail in the frosted grasses, but as a simple soul who loves simple images, I wanted to reduce the image even further. Ideally, I needed a thick layer of snow to smooth the foreground even more, with just a few stalks of grass sticking through, but I was going to have to be patient and wait for some snow to come.

As soon as the snow fell a few weeks ago, we headed straight for Strensall, only to have the snow peter out before we got there! So more patience required. When the snow finally returned last Thursday it was game on, but where to go? When it snows heavily, travelling becomes difficult and parking even harder! Being constrained to stay local by heavy falling snow, we headed for one of our favourite locations and there infront of me was my perfect tree with some vegetation sticking out of the snow! However, driving snow in my face made it impossible to keep the lens dry, so this image would have to wait for another day. 

The following day dawned dull, grey and un-inspiring, but with a thaw forecast overnight, we had to give it one last try, even if it was to only be a recce of the location. As it turned out, the conditions were favourable and I even found a simpler clump of vegetation to add my foreground interest, so job done, I could go home happy and not worry too much about the impending thaw.

A Time To Reflect

As the end of another year approaches, it’s the time when we all relax and sit back and start to reflect on the past year, but also time to ponder where we are heading in the new year, both in our personal lives and also in our photographic journey. We’ve already got a calendar packed with workshops, talks, fairs and trips to interesting places, so we’ve got a lot to look forward to in 2018.

However, I’ve digressed from what I originally sat down to write about. I was sat having a coffee the other day whilst looking through a friend’s website, as you do. And I found my going, oh I like that, and I like that, and I wish I’d taken that and I’ll have to go there. I’m sure we’ve all done it, but then I thought that’s exactly what I don’t want to do. I really don’t want a portfolio full of copies of other people’s work, I want to do my own thing.

Now before anyone points out that I’ve got loads of images of iconic, well known locations, I accept that I need some of these for commercial reasons, but it’s images taken in little, or unknown locations that give me the most satisfaction and I want to follow my own path more this coming year.

I’m happy with the direction of my monochrome work, I just need to figure out how to produce more of it, but the saturated colour work doesn’t please me anymore. My recent image of Kingthorpe didn’t exactly set the social media on fire, but I don’t care, I like it so much it’s going to be printed and hung on the wall and I’m sure there will be more, softer, subtler images to follow this coming year.

Getting to Know Your Own Patch

Constantly photographing the same place may seem like a waste of time at first, but in reality, the light and the conditions are never the same twice, so it can be an interesting and challenging project. By constantly going back to a location, you get to know the place and learn which times of day work and when the light will be favourable. It also allows you to “work” a location to get the most out of it.

I’m lucky as I live close to two streams. Ten minutes’ walk in either direction and I can be on the river bank and it’s a place that is good for the soul. Life feels as though it slows down, keeping pace with the slow-moving river. I see deer and rabbits, kingfishers and egrets and never tire of the peace and tranquillity and this puts me in a good frame of mind for photography.

I took my first successful image of Costa Beck way back in 2008 and it has always been the benchmark for me as an image I’ve never bettered.









As the seasons roll by, the vegetation at the side of the beck constantly changes, bringing new challenges, but also offering new images. Summer 2011 brought a wonderful display of rose bay willow herb that gave a colourful display that is such a contrast to the frosty images I regularly take.

The banks of the river are often overgrown, but in 2015 the banks had been mown giving me un-rivalled access to shoot reflections in the water.









Whereas today the banks are very overgrown, bringing its own challenge and giving me an image that I’m not happy with.

However I’m sure I’ll be back along the banks of Costa beck again one day soon and who knows I might just better the 2008 image!

SLR versus Mirrorless

I’ve been following the SLR versus mirrorless camera debate with interest for some time and thought I ought to add my four peneth to the debate.

I’ve used Nikon SLR’s since going for autofocus in 1994 and always been happy with the quality and the handling of these cameras. I’m very happy with my current D800 which gives excellent picture quality, but it does have one large drawback………….. With a lens fitted, it’s the size and weight of two house bricks and I’d really love to lose some of that weight.

I’m also the proud owner of a mint Olympus OM1 which is half the size and weight of a DSLR, yet is still full frame. Plus an Olympus OMD – EM1 mk1 which I use as a “walk about” camera when I get sick of carrying the Nikon kit about. The OMD is literally half the size and weight of the D800, but whilst the picture quality is quite good, it falls a long way short of the D800, particularly in low light. Added to that, anything above ISO 200 and it’s quite noisy, so it’s not on my list as a possible replacement for the D800. The OMD EM1 mk2 reckons to be a big improvement (At three times the cost of my mk1!), but I’ll wait and try an EM1 mk3 before I consider a change of system. The Sony A7R looks to be a fine camera, but I really don’t want to change systems if I can avoid it.

Travelling to Greenland earlier this year and suffering from the mirror freezing up on my SLR on several occasions, really brought it home to me that it’s high time the mirror was declared obsolete. After all, the SLR with a flappy mirror has been around for something like a hundred years, so surely, we have the technology to replace it by now!

Back in 2004, many people said that digital cameras would not catch on, but that was the tipping point, DSLR’s had reached the main stream and took off from that point. I believe that we have almost reached that tipping point with mirrorless, we only need one more major manufacturer to bring out a top level camera to rival the Sony and we’ll see the demise of the SLR.

I’m certain the Nikon D850 is a very fine camera, but I for one have no inclination to buy another brick. In my opinion, if Nikon and Canon don’t come out with mirrorless cameras to rival the Sony A7 and A9 very soon, then they are destined to lose their places as markets leaders.

The Art of Printing

“The negative is the score; the print is the performance” Ansel Adams

It’s a sad fact that these days fewer and fewer of us print our work. Digital files on the internet have an impact for a few seconds, then most are totally forgotten. Yet to see a well-crafted print is always a draw as it’s something tangible and tactile to look at long after the computer or phone has been turned off.

A few of us take immense pride in teasing out the best in an image file and printing it to the best of our abilities and interpretation. There is no doubt in my mind that more care is taken with a file for printing, rather than one that only exists as a digital image.

If you look at the work of Ansel Adams, a master printer whose work we can only aspire to, his before and after prints are well thought out and executed. Remember he was using film and doing his post processing work in the darkroom. We have it much easier these days as we have real control on our computers, dodging, burning, levels and curves should be tools to be embraced, not avoided.

Below is an example of my Hartsop image. I deliberately overexposed the image in camera as the lighting was very bright in the light areas, but the tones in the dark areas were threatening to go black. Using the histogram, I could be sure the light areas retained detail without burning out. 

Most of the processing was done in Lightroom to bring punch back into the image; the exposure was reduced in the central light areas which brought out the lovely warm greens. I consciously decided that the darker areas needed to be quite dark to give drama to the scene, but still retain a little detail.

A little dodging and burning here and there to bring out detail or darken areas finished the image off.

Next step, printing. Greens can be a problem with some printers, so the printing stage had to be carefully handled. We use a fully calibrated system, which means what we see on the monitor will also be correct at the printing stage. Before calibration devices were around you could waste a lot of paper and ink and get more than a few grey hairs trying to match monitor and printer.

If you do nothing else, we would recommend at least calibrating your monitor. Most modern monitors are pretty good and very close to showing true colour, but sometimes can be a bit bright. If you have sent prints to a trade printer and are disappointed with the results it may mean you need to calibrate your monitor.

I’m by no means a master printer but with the right tools we can all be better.

As I said in the intro, it’s a sad fact of life that the moment an image disappears off the screen, most of them are forgotten about, but seeing and studying a print makes a lasting impression and can go a long way towards to giving people ideas and driving the standard of your photography. Take pride in your work and print more often, as its clear that people are still very keen to see and own prints.