It’s about time I picked things back up…

Cameras, Digital, Film, Gear, Lenses, Music, News, Out & About, Photo walk abouts, Photography Discussion, Ramblings, Software, Videos

Wow, looking at my last post about getting my A7r being from November 2013, I feel almost ashamed knowing it is now early/mid October 2014 as I sit down to write this. Saying that, admittedly I was already starting to fall behind last year… I still have many great shots from a trip to Melbourne in October last year and a second lot from our trip to Margaret river last year amongst others from Nick and Kaylene’s wedding which we shot the video for etc. etc.. haha
I will have to get around to doing belated posts for some of these, I intend to make an effort to get back to more regular content on here.
(as usual click on images to see larger and sharper)

...old man walking;melbourne trip 2013

…old man walking;Melbourne trip 2013 – Nex5n w/voigtlander 35mm f1.4

Nick and Keylene's wedding nov 2013 - Sony A7r w/spiratone 17mm f3.2

Nick and Keylene’s wedding nov 2013 – Sony A7r w/spiratone 17mm f3.2

Winding out 2013 was a turbulent time I remember thinking as I was going through it.

Virtual Photographer: A handy little plug-in


After having gotten back into shooting film again lately, I had actually begun to enjoy the unique grain and character it gives to images. I had also seen some great b&w white shots recently and was even fooled by a few great conversions people had done. It seemed many people were very impressed by ‘Silver Effex pro’ for doing just this. After looking into it, I found this was just not viable for me just yet at 300euros when inquiring on the net. So I kept searching, determined to find a tool that could help me achieve true b&w feel, not just the grey on grey Photoshop gives you through desaturated/grey-scale.

Then I stumbled upon a plug-in called ‘Virtual Photographer’ by optik verve labs. This is a free plug-in which was touted to give you unique film replications of film grain, b&w etc. So I thought what the heck, lets give it a go.

So I downloaded and installed it, fired up Photoshop and loaded a pic to test on. I was immediately blown away by the amount of presets that were pre-loaded and how much variation each gave. These are lain out in 5 categories, ‘Built in’ which contains an array of presets reminiscent of  ‘filters’ of other photography processing ‘apps.’ that are being popularized lately. Quite good for someone wanting to select a preset for quick bold effect. Colour, which only contains colour presets aimed at replicating popular film styles and I guess lomography styles too. The presets are quite fantastic, sure there are some shockers, as there are in all factory presets, however there are some great ones emulating some great styles that can serve as a good base for you to tweak to your liking. Finally ‘extra’ presets which contains a few of their more, I guess you could say “out there” presets. There is also a slider for film exposure on this front tab, which is nice for quick tweaking of a preset if that is what is desired.

I had a quick play with the presets before moving to the second tab and starting to customise settings. This tab contains settings options for Film1 & Film 2 and Slide 1 & Slide 2. These seem to be basic film characteristic options. Below these selectable options are 2 sliders one for controlling film brightness and the other for film contrast. Below these is another set of selectable radio boxes for film speed, 25 asa – 1600 asa and below these a slider giving you control of the amount of film grain, from none to tonnes. This is great as you can make you image look like you’ve shot it through the crummiest old film, or keep it nice and clean and just go through and add the character you desire.

Flicking to the final tab you again find radio boxes, this time for photographic style, Original, which keeps your photos general tonality from the image. Warm, which of course warms the images general tone. Cool, which makes the image take on that cooler feel. Green Punch, which gives a real kick to the greens, and Subtle, which I found helped to accentuate some shadows in some bright images. Below these is another slider for ‘Emulsion Adjust’ , which is a kind of push/pull developing simulation I am guessing. Below this you come to a drop down menu marked ‘Effect’ which contains a whole array of effects such as colour filters, soft filters, polarizors etc. etc. this then has it’s own slider, below the drop down menu, that controls the amount of this effect which is applied. Below this you come to yet another drop down menu marked ‘B/W’, this of course contains a selection of black and white styles from traditional to aged, to cool to warm. It also has it’s own slider to control the amount of effect. Finally below all of this you come to the ‘Save’ button which allowes you to save your own presets. This is my favourite button.

As you can see there is endless amounts of customisation possible using this plug-in and thus I have found it quite handy for attaining the looks I want. I have already used the save preset button to make few of my own presets for quick selection of my desired settings again. I have one for that great aged film look, more brown and white than b&w. I have also made one that is what I call my ‘true b&w’, and most recently I have made one I call my ‘slide film’ preset. It gives that saturated feel of ‘velvia’ or ‘elite chrome’.

I have included some samples of images I have edited with virtual photographer. You can download a copy for yourself to try here: Virtual Photographer Download
(Click on images to see larger & sharper)

This was me playing around with trying to get my desired black and white.

This was my first attempt at a true B&W personalised preset that I have saved away, I like not having the grain, but having that slight aged film colouration.

This is me playing around with trying to get a desirable colour film setting.

Again having a play with trying to achieve my desired colour film effect.

This is the result of me having a play around with the ‘Tea’ preset.

This is after applying my personal slide film settings. This is my favourite colour preset that I have created so far.

Again having a play with my ‘Crispy Aged’ film look. Trying to push the shadows a bit here, and played with a few settings, maybe a bit off.

This is the result of me trying to create a ‘Soft B&W’ for our good friends wedding.

This is my more ‘true b&w’ looking preset that I created after having a play.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experienced with this nifty little plug-in.

Microsoft ICE: Stitching your photo’s just got a hell of a lot easier!

Photography Discussion, Software

I spied a fantastic sunset the last week, so I packed up my cameras and headed out in search of a good vantage point to capture it. I came across this spectacular spot in Mindarie. I was originally out testing my Minolta 500si and 700si, but since I found such a perfect vantage point it occurred to me to try some panoramas, as I had not done many of these in the past. So I set my Nex to panorama mode and gave it a whirl. Now any who have tried in camera panorama will know what a pain this can be, you have to move not too fast and not too slow or your camera will get angry at you and out of every 5 you manage to complete only one will actually be stitched properly. I think I took about 8 and this is the only one that worked, nice though it is. (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Minolta W.Rokkor-SG 28mm 3.5 manual lens

After all that struggle I remembered I had seen other photographers talking about ‘stitching’ their photos together in Photoshop. I took a seven snap series right across the horizon, with the hope of trying this ‘stitching’ method later at home. Once home I loaded up my 7 images and went about trying to line them up, now that wasn’t too hard, however getting the lighting right was a whole other kettle of fish. So I looked around for tips on the net and came across a few guys that did a lot of stitches and they suggested using a stitching software to aid with these problems. I tried looking for some of the ones they suggested, however they were paid software that were quite expensive and since this was just a fun project not really worth it for this application. I continued searching when I came across this product offered by Microsoft called Image Composite Editor or ICE for short. The official description is:

Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. Given a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location, the application creates a high-resolution panorama that seamlessly combines the original images. The stitched panorama can be shared with friends and viewed in 3D by uploading it to the Photosynth web site. Or the panorama can be saved in a wide variety of image formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to the multiresolution tiled format used by Silverlight’s Deep Zoom and by the HD View and HD View SL panorama viewers.
(This is how the software looks with after a stitch has just been processed. Though this is one that did not work properly due to my framing being wrong.)

This sounded like just the trick, so I quickly downloaded it, eager to give it a try. I was unsure exactly how it would work, so I loaded my 7 photos I had taken and set it to auto stitch, off it went calculating. It did not take too long and I have to say did an amazing job for being fed freehand shot images. Here is the stitch: (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Minolta W.Rokkor-SG 28mm 3.5 manual lens

I love how this captures from coast right around to coast, with an amazing ray of sunset protruding through the clouds and if you look close there is a luxury cruiser and a sail boat in there too. Of course this had now totally captured my imagination, I had to go out and try shooting more stitches. Lisa and I decided to head into Joondalup to grab coffee and search for some more scenes to try shooting to stitch later. The first thing we came across was this old mural on this wall that was fantastic. For this I wanted to try shooting a grid as opposed to just a line of photos, I shot 4 across the top and 4 across this bottom, in the hope of creating this really wide angle feeling shot. Again this image processed perfectly in auto mode and gave me the exact desired effect. Here is the stitch: (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Jupiter 8 50mm f2 manual lens

Excellent, now I wanted to try some more complex, larger stitches and this of course is where I came unstuck. Not far away from this mural, there is another one on a wall down an alleyway. This one is really long and due to the alley it is in you cannot get far enough back to get the shot, so I wanted to try and get a perspective stitch. I took 31 photos of this to try to stitch.

This would have worked fine however as you can see I stupidly followed the way the mural tapered off, so when I crop down the edges to get the final image, I had lost a lot of the closer section of mural. Here is the stitch: (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Jupiter 8 50mm f2 manual lens

As the sun was now going down we could see a fantastic sunset, so we raced to the coast so I could try and get a nice large stitch of this fantastic view. I took 33 photos in the hope of stitching this together. Yet again I did not visualize my grid properly, so I believe after reviewing I realised I stupidly took about 10 pics on the top row, 8 on the next, 6 on the next and 9 on the bottom. The software now really struggled to combine these in auto mode, it would just give me the horizontal panorama, about 7 images across. This was not what I wanted, I realise it was my own short comings when taking the shots, however I was sure I could overcome it. So I switched the software to manual mode where I could set the columns and rows and overlaps of images etc. and I got very close to achieving something, though it looks a little alien world’ish. Here is the stitch: (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Jupiter 8 50mm f2 manual lens

I have tried many attempts but I just cannot salvage this set yet, which is unfortunate. However this is not a short coming of the software, more a short coming of me not visualising my ‘grid’ properly before shooting the images for the stitch. All in all I am very happy with this Microsoft ICE software, not only is it free, it is very powerful, stitches well and matches your lighting for you. I recommend everyone give it a try,as even when you don’t get them to work, you can create these unique looking worlds.

This was about the best I could get it in the end. Here is the stitch: (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Jupiter 8 50mm f2 manual lens

For anyone wanting to learn more about stitching, there is a fantastic tutorial on Manual Lens Forum here:,highlight,%2Bstitching.html

You can grab the Microsoft ICE software here:
32 bit version:
64 bit version: