A photographic exercise

Shooting old skoole style

Due to a conversation on the Dpreview forums, it got me thinking about the ever increasing quest for the next best gimmick or “new feature” for the next camera model being released by our favourite manufacturer. Whom ever that may be.

In reply to the conversation I wrote this:

“Initially I had the same reaction, but then the term purist got me thinking. What is a purist?

For me at least that would be someone who eschews all the technical bells and whistles and wants something far more simplistic. For me this would be from my days using the Practika L2 and my venerable Pentax k1000.

Simple effective cameras whose only technical help was an inbuilt light meter, all the rest you as the photographer had to figure out as you went along. So for me a purist would be someone who uses aperture and shutter settings only ( remember fixed ISO or ASA for film ) is limited to natural lighting conditions and who needs to have some sort of plan or approach to what they set out to achieve in a photographic session.

Looked at this way modern mirrorless and DSLR’s are overkill for achieving the results looked for by our purist…. maybe there something in this, however I do like my bells and whistles.”

Now this got me further thinking, we used to get great photos with these manual film cameras, no image stabilisation, no ISO settings ( other than what your film was rated at), or any of the extra bits we love about our digital photos.

Check out some of the K1000 imagery here at the Pentax Forums 

So try this exercise, it doesn’t matter what lens you use:

  • Set your ISO at 400
  • Set camera to manual mode
  • Turn off Image stabilisation
  • Set your Metering to average (or similar such as evaluative)
  • Turn off auto focus and focus peaking.
  • If no inbuilt light meter use histogram
  • Turn off LCD and image checking ( no chimping allowed )

The object of the exercise here it to use only aperture and shutter to get your images. If your camera doesn’t come with a built in light meter option use your histogram, and remember to expose to the right.

Of course you will be manually focusing as well as our old film cameras never had AF.

You may want to brush up on your histogram knowledge and heres one of many places to see whats going on Photographylife

You may wonder why I mentioned turning off the LCD review mode, well thats simply because the old cameras never had visual feedback of any sort and we are trying to go as purist as we can get. For those of you who have cameras without a view finder use the screen to focus and compose your shots and if the option is available turn of the LCD when the shot is taken. Depending upon model this may not be an option.

So whats the point of this exercise?

The point is to have a better understanding of our photographic process. Modern cameras and indeed cellphones make it so easy to snap away without much in the way of conscious thought.

When the camera is doing the focusing, doing the metering, setting the ISO ( especially Auto ISO ) and the many other auto functions a modern camera is capable of we tend to be more removed from the process. We see a scene and go “gosh I want to photograph that” and using a camera that you have set or preset means you can literally snap away. But are you really obtaining exactly what you see? I’m as guilty of this as the best of us and often fall prey to that instant snap type of reaction, and on reflection often find I didnt get exactly want I wanted to remember or portray.

Often this is something as simple as missing the fine tones in a subject, or being too quick and missing a clear detail, this is especially easy to do when shooting macros of insects.

Sometimes you just need to slow down and think things through a little bit to get a better shot, whether it be to capture really fine detail or a subtle colour shift in your image.

Have a go at this exercise and see how you get on. You maybe surprised, and if you want to share a photo or two with us that would be great. Have fun.





Forums … enter at your peril

A friendly reminder of the perils of photographic forums and forums in general.

Recently I have been watching and in some cases participating in certain threads of the DPreview astrophotography forum.

In particular I have been watching a certain individual express his outcomes and reasoning behind the results he is seeing when taking nights-capes. In this particular case I am referring to night photography that incorporates the night sky and stars and land based elements as well.

The results can be quite spectacular if everything comes together the way you would like it too. The thread poster has detailed some of his observations in relation to his endeavours. It is apparent that he has a good grasp of the subject matter as witness by links he has posted to his Flickr account. The images are available here Astro-landscapes

In detailing his processes he has fallen foul of what I will euphemistically call the “Empirical Brigade” We are all able to share our views as we wish, and our understanding of what may be happening.

The individuals involved in the conversation range from amateur to professional astrophotographers, with the latter leading the charge in affronting the posters thought processes.

They may well be right to a point, but the lack of consideration shown the Poster even if the Poster is technically wrong is insufficient reason to brow beat and belittle an individual for having a differing viewpoint or understanding of the process. If not being allowed a different perspective I have no doubt the the Earth would indeed be flat and that the Sun revolved around the Earth, after-all thats what the anecdotal evidence would suggest.

Or to put it another way do we really need to know precisely how our washing machine works to be able to program it to achieve a set result. No we do not.

Rightly or wrongly the interpretation shown by the thread poster is his or her interpretation, and while it may be technically or even procedurally incorrect or only partially correct, it does not warrant the type of abuse that is seen here in this forum because a individual expressed a different option.

This needs to serve as a warning to others that taking part in some forums, and I cite Dpreview forums here, has a tendency to be very combative and in some cases downright abusive. So enter at your own risk. I have on a number of occasions experienced this behaviour in the past on forums, so you need to know there are people who only believe their view is the only correct one even when shown they are wrong.

Conversely there is a good deal to be gained by participating, you need however to vet everything you read and take from it what you will.

Sony Cameras and the ” Star Eater ” issue.

Over the last 6 months or so I have been watching the development of a potential  flaw in Sony cameras when it comes to astrophotography and long period low-light exposure.

PetaPixel a well known photography site has now made the call to publish the article listed here  PetaPixel StarEater . If you have updated your firmware lately you need to be aware of this issue.

Read about how it affects Sony cameras in this article a more in depth feature from Ian Norman at Lonely Speck & The Star Eater  article.

This incorporates a model by model summation of the Sony cameras.

For those of you who follow the astrophotography forum at DPreview you are probably aware of the issue, and like Ian,  I wont steer anyone towards a Sony ( for general astrophotography only ) until we have a fix from Sony on this subject. This could be a long time coming or it could be a simple as a menu switch to turn the “new improved algorithm ” on and off as required.

I will post any changes to this situation a things progress.

A comparison of an unaffected exposure with a “Star Eater” exposure at 100% crop from PetaPixel


Canon EF-S 18-55 lens for astrophotos

Canon 1000d & astrophotography

With the 18-55 mm lens mounted on the camera, running at 18 mm the results are somewhat varied. The images were all post processed using Raw Therapee and stacked using Siril. You can find a step by step process in the tutorial section.

One of the limiting factors is the low ISO performance of the 1000d at only ISO 1600. To mitigate this I will likely add a EOS 1100d or 1200d  body to the collection, as the increase in ISO performance and improved pixel density of the newer bodes will definitely help.

Summer is never the best time to image the night sky here in New Zealand as most of the areas of interest lie very near to the south and western horizons. Add to this the sky darkness is not really at maximum until well after midnight, just adds to the problems. The summer evening skies here retain sky-glow well after sunset set. To our east is the city of Hamilton and light pollution is now becoming severe in the eastern sky which at present holds Orion and Canis Major rising above the horizon.

In this first series of images the most prominent subject was the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The first image is a tiff image saved as a Jpeg to reduce the file size. This is how a single Raw file looks after processing prior to stacking.


The following image is  the jpeg output from Siril after stacking.

large magellanic.jpg

The image doesn’t look a great deal different from the original but is a stack of 8 images, run with rejection in the stacking to eliminate any image too different from the others. Noticeable too is the borders which are black as no information is available as the stack slightly rotates each image. In the post processing these will be cropped.

large magellanic crop.jpg

The above image is a crop and further processing of the stacked image. One thing that is quickly evident is how colour is not well recorded at these light levels, this is due to several things, primarily how the Canon sensor isn’t overly colour sensitive at high ISO with very low light levels. The lens itself isn’t as critically sharp in this environment and the 230,000 dot LCD screen isn’t refined enough to determine really fine focus. That being said for a 10 year old sensor with  low ISO ability it did pretty well despite its limitations and no doubt had I bought this camera new at the time I would have been reasonably pleased with the results. Of course a much better lens would change a good amount of the issues currently experienced.

Better results would also be yielded in winter with much darker skies and the subjects in better positions above the horizon.

In case you thought that there was a lack of details in the image heres a somewhat over processed image  showing just what is hidden in the sky glow and low latitude of the subject.


Again this is a crop, but in this image the excessive sky glow hasn’t been eliminated, but rather slightly reduced. Had this image been taken closer to winter it would reveal much darker skies and more detail.

The other issue that is seen with the images is a certain amount of false colour artifacting which wasn’t present in the XA2, and again shows the progress being made in sensor technology.

As a comparison the next image was taken with the XA2 and the 16-50 mm kit lens at 50 mm and shows both the large and small Magellanic clouds. ISO 3200 @ 8 seconds. Note some star trailing ( or distortion ) upper left and the Large Magellanic cloud is bracketed by a pair of meteors. This image is a good example of how good the Fuji lens is and how noise free at ISO 3200 the sensor is as well. Colour in the image is  better handled than in the older Canon. This image was taken  11 May 2016 in late Autumn when we get some of the nicest nights for astro work.

All that said the cropped Canon image above isn’t to far removed from the Fuji results and as I get better with t he Canon  hopefully so will the images.

DSCF4742 XA2.jpg
Fujis XA2, ISO 3200  @ 50 mm fl, 8 second exposure.

More to come…. Orion rising and the Southern Cross almost at lowest point.