Essay : ordinary landscapes

Landscape photography, broadly speaking, is very much about dramatic views, powerful skies, saturated colours. In short, most of the landscape photos I see online look “out of this world” in a literal sense. The views are some that I will never experience with my own eyes because I have neither the time, the inclination, the energy or the patience to go to the remote places that landscape photographers travel to. The colours are surreal too because the photographers go to great lengths to be on location at a time when the weather is interesting, the sun in the correct postition, the clouds, the wind … everything comes together to make a spectacular image. And I admire the craft, I really do.

However, I feel very detached from these images most of the time. I can admire the power of the photo but I have a more emotional connexion to views similar to those I have experienced, in weather conditions that I know. Here for example is a screenshot of a painting by John Constable (1776 – 1837, Wivenhoe Park, Essex, 1816)

If I now post a photo of the Mont Saint Michel (France) that I took last year, the difference is obvious.

Both scenes are familiar to me : the English countryside and the coast of Normandy. I don’t know about you but the colours of the photo, however “pretty” are also tiring to the eyes. It is as if the photo is competing against the painting, trying show that it is better. The painting, with its understated colour palette and mundane subject stands out solidly though and won’t let itself get pushed aside. The eye comes back to it again and again. Painting, however difficult an art (much more than photography) has an advantage in that the composition can be arranged : each element can be placed whether it was really there or not. A photo must come together in time and space… so it is not that easy to take a good landscape photo in the style of a landscape painter.

Very few landscapes photographers try to make this happen. There has been a resurgence of woodland photography in this natural style. I would like to see this happen across all styles : fields, woods and beaches…

Here is a first attempt at a natural looking landscape, there is a surprising amount of postprocessing going on here (using darktable).

From the village of Domme in Dordogne (France)

This is an exercise I will certainly try again. What do you think?

Dabbling with low viewpoints

During this coronavirus pandemic, our photography club is at a standstill. Our yearly exhibition was cancelled in March 2020 and has been pushed back, then cancelled several times. We have set up a Discord channel to stay in contact and to show our photos. We have a weekly live meeting to chat though and to keep a minimum of momentum.
Since last October, we have been giving ourselves a weekly challenge and it has just occurred to me that I could share my photos. I will try to share these photos regularly, giving some technical information about them. Feel free to leave a comment or a question below!

Fujifilm x-pro 3 with 18mm f/2 lens at f/2. I took a short burst in continuous autofocus (af-c) to be sure to get the subject in a nice position. Edited in Fuji Raw Studio with a Kodachrome 64 film sim recipe taken from fuji x weekly.
Fujifilm x-pro 3 with 18mm f/2 lens at f/2. I took a short burst in continuous autofocus (af-c) to be sure to get the subject in a nice position. Edited in Fuji Raw Studio with a Kodachrome 64 film sim recipe taken from fuji x weekly.
Fujifilm x-pro 3 with Samyang 12mm manual focus lens. Set at f/11 at hyperfocal distance. Edited in Darktable.
Fujifilm x-pro 3 with Samyang 12mm manual focus lens. Set at f/11 at hyperfocal distance. Edited in Darktable.
Fujifilm x-pro 3 with Samyang 12mm manual focus lens. Set at f/11 at hyperfocal distance. Edited in Darktable.
Fujifilm x-pro 3 with Samyang 12mm manual focus lens. Set at f/11 at hyperfocal distance. Edited in Darktable.
Fujifilm x-pro 3 with Laowa 65mm macro f/2.8 lens at f/2.8. Edited in Darktable.
Fujifilm x-pro 3 with Laowa 65mm macro f/2.8 lens at f/2.8. Edited in Darktable.
Fujifilm x-pro 3 with Laowa 65mm macro f/2.8 lens at f/2.8. Edited in Darktable.
Fujifilm x-pro 3 with Laowa 65mm macro f/2.8 lens at f/2.8. Edited in Darktable.
Fujifilm x-pro 3 with Laowa 65mm macro f/2.8 lens at f/2.8. Edited in Darktable.
Fujifilm x-pro 3 with Laowa 65mm macro f/2.8 lens at f/2.8. Edited in Darktable.

Vari ND Filters in Street photography

A Vari-ND filter is a filter made of two circular polarisers stacked one on top of the other. I bought the K&F Concept varied-nd which is advertised as and ND2-ND32 filter. I bought the 52mm diameter so it fits on my 35mm f/1.4 and 18mm f/2 lenses that I often use in street photography.

Light is an electromagnetic field which is emitted and travels with every angle from 0° to 360°. A polarizer or polariser is an optical filter that lets light waves of a specific polarization pass through while blocking light waves of other polarizations. It can filter a beam of light of undefined or mixed polarization into a beam of well-defined polarization, that is polarized light. (from wikipedia).

When a second polariser is stacked on top and in the same direction, it has little to no effect. However if the second polariser is rotated then it will cut out the light coming from the first polariser. The more it is rotated, the more light it cuts out

Maximum rotation
Somewhere in the middle
Minimum rotation

I can now control with a twist of the filter the amount of light that I let into the lens. I hear that these filters are not of a good enough quality for long exposure landscape photography. The light is too uneven across the frame and these filters do not give a good enough sharpness.

My idea is to put my camera in it’s lowest ISO setting (160 for the Fujifilm x-pro3). I choose quite a small aperture (from f/5.6 to f/11) and I twist the the filter until the shutter speed slows down around 1/6s or 1/3s. This will give me some blur in the photo.

35mm f/8 with 0.7s
35mm f/8 with 1/8s
18mm f/9 with 1/7s
35mm f/8 with 1/3s

The best street camera?

I bought a Sony a7r3 in 2017 and I have been using it exclusively since. It has had the Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 screwed on pretty much all of the time. I can truly say that it has been my main combo for two and a half years. The only other lens I have occasionally used is the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8.

A small camera for street photography

I have previously tried many cameras, bought or borrowed, from big DSLR cameras like the Nikon D700 and D800, the Fujifilm X-E2, X100T, X-T1 and X-T2, the Leica M240 and the Sony A7R more or less in that order. Out of them all, I loved using the Fujifilm cameras and the Leica was very special too.
I purchased the Sony a7r3 for a couple of reasons : the autofocus (including the face detection), the full-frame sensor and the very compact 35mm f/2.8
Another benefit is the battery lasts all day and more…

Face detection is great !

I quickly learned that the best setting for street is continuous auto-focus (AF-C) with the lock-on flexible spot with face detection on. This setting is fabulous. I do not have any more use for AF-S !
The face detection works very well for street photography, the camera picks up faces at quite a long distance and once it it locked on, it is like a pit-bull and doesn’t let go!

The green square is the flexible focus point. Once it locks on, you are good to go.

I have also put the camera in silent shutter mode to ensure perfect discretion and with the screen opened I can frame with the screen and shoot at waist level. People don’t notice me and don’t know I’m taking a photo. Perfect!

Looking at me, not the camera.

As I said, I have had the camera for a couple of years and hardly touched any settings for my street shooting. So where is the catch?
More recently, I have been having less fun taking street photos. I have been under the impression that I cannot create anything new or different. So I looked for another lens : a bit wider (28mm) or a bit longer (50mm). I tried a few vintage manual lenses adapt onto the camera like a Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 but manual focusing is less than ideal with this camera in fast moving situations. I have tried the Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 that has glowing reviews but after trying it a while, I never fell in love with it. I also find it too big.

I looked at the Sony 28mm f/2 but I have never tried it.

Then Fujifilm came out with the x-pro3. What a beautiful camera! I have kept the 35mm f/1.4 (50mm equivalent) and the 56mm f/1.2 (85mm equivalent) from my earlier Fujifilm days. I was very lucky to find a second hand model and after reading the reviews, I decided to buy it. It took me a while to set up but now I have used it for a couple of weeks, I have noticed that this great Sony a7r3 has made me very lazy. I will review the Fujifilm x-pro3 later but I can say that I am enjoying it hugely. I love the size of the lenses, the flip-down screen and obviously the film simulations. I have to put more thought into the way I want to take photos and I find myself doing much more that walking around, snapping off pictures as I walk. More of that later along with all the things it doesn’t do as well as the Sony.

Just walking and shooting.

If I had to recommend the Sony a7r3 for street photography then I would, without reserve. The autofocus is so great, I can walk and shoot in continuous autofocus without stopping or slowing down. I is the first camera I tried that could do this while locking on to my subject. The 35mm lens is very good, the pictures are sharp and clear. The 42 Mpx files are great with more than enough dynamic range. I have no intention of selling it any time soon and I will continue using it for macro photography and for my telephoto lens. Is it the best camera for street photography? Well, it is the one I have kept the longest!

Back Online … but in lockdown

I haven’t posted anything in the past 12 months, not because I have stopped taking photos but because having a blog is real hard work ! If anything, photography is taking more and more of my time.

2020-04-07 18-21-52 (C,Smoothing5)_dkt
A jumping spider I found in the garden


Keeping focus is a damned hard thing to do. I am often distracted in my photographic pursuits by the rumour sites promising better and more advanced hardware, and by companies promising better and easier post-processing. I get sucked in, but more about that in another post.

Lockdown came upon us three weeks ago, I stopped going out, there is no more street photography. I have been working long hours from home, my children have moved back home from wherever they are studying. We are an organised family cell, living strange times. I feel for the families of the sick, for those who have lost close ones and for all the hospital staff and carers. An invisible, near imaginary, world of pain. From where we are, we see nothing, hear nothing… we stay at home in isolation.  We know it is true, we hear the news … and yet we the sun shines and we live out our ordinary mundane lives in lockdown. What is the nature of reality ? Does it exist outside of my perceptions ? Am I in a cage waiting to be devoured by the beast outside that I cannot see, hear or feel ?

My puppy Padmé.

I have had time to assess what is important in my life. My family comes first of course, then in no particular order : food, reading and photography. I have some time to read, some time to cook but what to photograph ?

The petal of an Iris after the rain.

Some ideas come to mind :
– I could read all my photography books again but I have few, I am very dependant on online sources.
– I could reorganise, look through and tidy my entire photo library of thousands of photos I have since I bought my first digital camera in 2004. Very boring, no ?
– I could learn how to better use the post-processing software I have but in the past year, I have tried them all, spend hours on you tube, and I have realised that I know enough for the kind of photography I do. I can improve of course, but I don’t want to learn compositing or any fancy stuff.
– I can spend time on YouTube, I have subscribed to so many photo channels. Unfortunately, they have all dried up : there is not much new to sell after all.

Lily-of-the-Valley, ready to open.

So what then ? Like many enthusiasts, I belong to a photo club. The weekly meetings have stopped, our yearly exhibition is cancelled. However, I did contact everyone and we have all subscribed to a social media called Discord. There are others. The point is that we are in contact again and that is a great feeling. I have started to publish a photo a day, taken in my confined space (not that shabby really : we have a house with a garden!). Ever heard of the 365 project ? This is like that but only as long as lockdown lasts… and if we miss one ? Well, nobody is counting!

Showing your photos to your friends, family and maybe not-so-close club members is very different from throwing them out on the internet, on Flickr, 500px or Instagram or whatever. I do have an Instagram feed, I am on Flickr as well but sometimes I feel as if I al throwing a photo out of the window, hoping someone will catch it.

OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP.-E-M5-2020-04-08-15h03min33s_dkt
A self-portrait in the eye of my son.

If you are in lockdown too, open your camera bag and keep on shooting. Share with your friends. And if you can resist your camera’s sad look in the bottom of the bag, then maybe you can think about what is important in your life … and stop purchasing extra kit !

The photos in this article are the first few of my lockdown project. I won’t bore you with them all. And if you feel lonely, get in touch.

Why not use colour?

When I first started out in photography, I had my fathers Praktika and a 50mm lens. I shot black and white film mostly but as I was a student, I didn’t do much film photography and after a while stopped photography altogether. When I bought my first digital camera (a Canon EOS 400D), I shot family and holiday snapshots in colour.  I started doing more and more photography in different genres : landscapes, long exposures, macro, portraits, high-speed, street… I think I have tried almost everything! Street photography has been growing on me since 2012, slowly but surely. I haven’t really consciously thought about it really but all my street photography has always been in black and white.

My inspiration has come from the French photographers Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis,  Jacques Henri Lartigue, Sabine Weiss… all who photographed in black and white and often for a good reason!


As I spend time on the internet, I realise that a lot of street photographers use colour for their work but at the same time, that the colour of my own photographs isn’t as compelling or as powerful.

I have put a lot of time and effort into pre-visualising my photos, trying to see the light and the contrasts at the same time as imagining the photo I am about to take, looking at the people around me and trying to predict where they will be and what they will do… Phew! Exhausting!


I need to add to all that to be aware of the colours :  contrasts between colours, complimentary colours…  Even so, when I get in front of my computer and I look at my images, the colours are flat and rather lifeless. Raw files tend to be that way, but I have enough practice now to get a decent black and white image. I know where to go in the software, what to do. I have used Lightroom and now use ON1 photo raw quite a lot and in all honesty, the adjustments are the same, the methods are the same.


To come back to colour, a good starting point seems to be colour grading. There are a lot of useful videos on YouTube that explain what it is and how to do it. Any decent software with a curves adjustment is enough. By shifting separately the red, green and blue curves, it is possible to make subtle changes to the hues in the shadows and highlights that completely change the way the photo looks. I’m not saying that it is enough but it is a start. I have tried and consequently excluded using presets or LUTs to change the colours because I don’t feel I have much control on what I am doing and I don’t think I will learn much.

Queue for luxury

In the photos in this post, I have followed this method. I have also masked out sometimes parts of the photos to keep the original colours and this can make some areas pop!

Queue for luxury

So which do you prefer : the colour version or the b&w version?


It is a path to explore … the only way is forwards!


In these winter months the sun is often hidden behind a thick layer of clouds and the light is ofter soft and cold. This can be great light for portraits, but it is a very difficult light in street photography. Flat light doesn’t create shadows or highlights, the foreground is lit as evenly as the background. The sky is boring, things just don’t stand out very well.

sony-a7r3-2018-12-14-10h47min10s copy

But when the sun comes out, street photography can be fun! Even in the middle of the day, the sun is quite low on the horizon and the shadows are long. This gives great opportunities to catch a great scene or two.

sony-a7r3-2018-12-14-10h04min16s copy

In this series, I found a good spot on the tram lines at around 10am in our town centre. I  took a 35mm lens in aperture mode (set at f/4) and set the exposure compensation to -0.7ev. Then I waited for people to pass.

sony-a7r3-2018-12-14-10h47min29s copy

I then found another spot a bit further on.


The post processing is done in On1 photo raw 2019 which I have been using a lot lately. It is much much better than the 2018 version which is sooo slow. The black and white conversion is fast and easy, I set different values to the colour responses. I also added a bit of glow.


Why ON1 Photo Raw may be for me.

In the list of photo management and editors, ON1 Photo Raw has been under my radar for a while. Although I disregarded it for years when it was still called Perfect photo suite because it lacked any kind of photo management (DAM) and raw processing, in 2017 the company released its first version of the Photo Raw software. There has been (and still is) a lot of publicity around the software, many reviewers criticised the bugs, the slow speed and the lack of features that left it clearly behind the industries standard editor which is Lightroom.

Fast forward a year and a half, I read that the Photo Raw 2018.5 was a usable piece of software so I gave it a try.

Testing these new programs has enabled me to think about was I need and expect from my photo editor. I have used Lightroom/Photoshop for years and have a nice workflow in place. I still can’t use photoshop very well, and to be honest I have very few ideas on what to do to transform my photos. I watch videos on youtube from time to time to learn and I see people take a drab landscape to a 500px winner in what seems to be a lot of time and a lot of steps… I couldn’t do that, I lack the imagination I think and anyway, all the landscapes on 500px look the same…

So what photography do I do and what do I need? I encourage you to think about this as well, it can help to simplify and streamline the processing and save time as well.

  •  I take street photography mainly but on my memory card I will also have some family photos and some other genres depending on my mood and the places I go to (architecture, macro, travel photography…). I want to import all my raw files and keep them together but export my family photos in a separate place from my personal photography.
  • My street photography is in black and white. The software I use needs to do that properly : I want to modify the colour response and contrast globally, manage the structure, dodge and burn locally, add a vignette and odd little things.
  • I need little for my family photos, some quick adjustments, straighten and crop.
  • I used the Nik Software/Google plugins from photoshop for a long period and that covered anything I needed for my landscapes, portraits and architecture : some precise contrast adjustments, adjusting colour contrast is fabulous etc… I never really learned how to do this in photoshop without plugins so I need to have some kind of equivalent if I want to replace photoshop/lightroom.
  • My street photos go on Flickr, Instagram and google+, I sometime publish to 500px as well.

That is it .
I don’t need much from my software then.
Lightroom/Photoshop with plugins cover my needs.
Photo raw 2018.5 is the first piece of software that can do this on its own.

Let’s edit a photo and I’ll make a few comments on my workflow, the things I like and the things that are missing in Photo Raw. All the images here are screenshots so the definition will not be that of the real files.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.19.11

The importing is simple enough and I can do the same as in Lightroom : I put all my photos in subfolders classed by year/month/date. I rename the files starting by the name of the camera then the capture date and time. Lightroom uses a more flexible editor and I can get a name like : Sony-A7r3-2018-08-16-10h01min51s.arw
The same file in ON1 will look like Sony-A7R3-20180816-100151.arw
The extra hyphens, min, h, s are missing and I don’t see that I can add them in.

Once the photos are imported, you can get to work pretty fast. Here is the original file I’m working on. The raw conversion is very good. Highlight and shadow recovery work very well.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.21.44

The picture was taken quickly as I was walking past, it is not straight. Lightroom will have an auto correct that works really well. In the develop module of Photo Raw, there is a transform module. I used the keystone feature.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.24.44

I clicked apply and cropped the result a little.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.30.02The result is pretty convincing. The niggle I have is on the crop tool. By default it is in “Freeform” but I like to keep a 3:2 ratio for 99% of my pictures. You have to select the “original” mode to keep the crop aspect.

In the develop panel there is lens correction module that recognises my FE 35mm f/2.8 lens (one of the first lenses ever created for the sony a7 line) but it does not have a profile to correct for the vignette, distortion and aberrations.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.43.01

How bizarre… lets carry on then. I did very little in the develop module : a slight boost in exposure, a small adjustment in the white/black points and a bit of sharpening.
The adjustments in the black and white points in Lightroom are great. Stay pressed on the option/alt key and the screen goes black to let you adjust with precision. In Photo Raw, you press option/alt J to see the underexposed pixels in blue and the overexposed pixels in red. Not fancy but it works.

The magic happens in the Effects panel, which for me replaces the round trip to Photoshop and its plugins.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.57.31

The black and white conversion tool is very good, you can control the colour response, add grain, control the overall exposure, shadows, highlights and contrast without going back to the develop module. You can also do split toning to change to sepia, cyanotype…

I added a vignette and a bit of contrast with the dynamic contrast tool.

There are local adjustments possible too like in Lightroom with very good masking tools and what they call a “perfect brush” which is the same as edge detection in LR. You can make gradients, ovals, and a luminosity mask.
In this photo, I just added a bit of exposure to the faces. It was quickly done.

The last thing to do is to export. I make a jpg copy of my edited pictures in the same folder as the raw files and a copy to another drive. There are lots of options for the export (file type,size, location, sharpening…) which you can save into a preset like LR.
I’d like to export quickly using the right mouse button but it doesn’t work.  Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 13.05.40

I can export to Flickr from Photo Raw which is cool but there is nothing for google+, 500px or Instagram. I now use the website (If this then that) to publish from flickr to 500px and Googe photos but I need to upload to instagram manually.
LR manages the publishing better because you can see all the photos you have already uploaded and you can put them in the appropriate service but publish them later.

The effects panel has quite a few additions. I haven’t used them all yet. To each his own!

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 13.11.01

There is one last Panel I’d like to mention. There is a layers panel where you can add layers that have different processing and merge them with masks. You can also merge different photos (like sky replacement). If my understanding is correct though the process is done in a tiff or psd format and you lose the non-destructive workflow. I think I need to watch a few tutorials before I try.

Conclusion : likes and niggles.

I could use this software!

  • It is fast enough (comparable to editing in Lightroom).
  • It is being improved regularly so features are being added and niggles are being improved.
  • The image quality is very good.
  • Using a single application is very comfortable and the effects added to the photos are in the non-destructive workflow. This is a big improvement on using photoshop plugins. No more tiff files hanging around!
  • I’d like a better import module that gives more flexible file renaming.
  • I’d like a better export module that gives a one-click export using several recipes (like in Capture one) and that keeps track of what photo I have uploaded to what service… and I need more social media services.
  • The masking features are very good, and complex enough to make me want to learn more to use them better.
  • There are blending options like in Photoshop for each effect and local adjustment. I feel I can learn how to use this software whereas photoshop seems too complex.
  • I don’t understand the pricing. I have seen offers at 49.99€ up to 129.99€ for a pro plus plan with free updates. On the site, they say it is a non subscription program but it is only written “perpetual licence” on the the pro plus plan. Yearly updates seem to cost about 70€. Adobe LR/Photoshop costs 11.48€ per month that is 137.76€ per year.
  • I have had a few crashes, it is annoying. LR has not crashed on me for a very long time.
  • I don’t understand the advantage of cataloging a folder under photo raw. I used the browser to edit my first photos then I catalogued my raw files folder. I can’t see the difference. If I take a photo in b&w on the camera, the embedded jpg is b&w. It therefore appears in b&w in Photo Raw. When I open the develop module, it turns into colour because it is reading the raw file. This takes about 5-10s (quite long then). I’d like an option to render my raw files when catalogued for them to open faster in the develop module. I could launch this at night maybe if it need to take a long time.

The Covered Passages of Paris.

The covered passages of Paris are a early form of shopping centres. They were built in the early part of the 19th and at one point Paris boasted over 150 of these passages. The architecture generally consists of a steel and glass ceiling, beautiful geometric floor tiles and shops one either side. These passages were pierced through other buildings and connect the streets on either side of a block. It would have been possible in the 1850’s to cross a great part of the right bank of the Seine through these passages.
Nowadays few remain, some are in a state of disrepair, others have been taken over by cafés and tea rooms or antique shops. One of the passages, Passage Brady, has quite a few Indian, Pakistani and other wonderfully exotic shops.

The challenge for a street photographer is finding an interesting spot, a street scene and good light. I spent a day walking through all the covered galleries but unfortunately the sky was overcast. In most of the galleries however, the light is diffused at best or quite dark if the glass roof doesn’t cover all the passage. Some passages don’t have a glass roof and are lit by lamps.

Here are some of my better shots from that day, all taken with a sony a7r3 and the sony 35mm f/2.8 lens. Edited in Lightroom and Skylum Tonality.


In a café

A stationary shop

Le Gardien

The passage

Walking past.
Walking past.


Pigs and books
Pigs and books

Phone call
Phone call

Quick break
Quick break




Installing Skylum Tonality plugin in Lightroom Classic

I recently added Skylum’s Creative Kit Tonality to my workflow. It is an excellent tool to create black and white photos. I had been using the Nik Software Silver Efex Pro but Tonality is so much cleaner. The Photoshop plugin  installed without a hitch but I couldn’t get the Lightroom classic plugin to install. The option was greyed out. I contacted the customer service and I got a very quick answer from a guy called Konstantin. He sent me some links and the instructions to install the plugin manually. I’d like to share the method with you here.

First of all, close Lightroom.

The first file to download is the .lrtemplate file: here or here 

The second file is the .lrplugin file : here or here


Open two instances of the finder (right click : new finder window). Go to the downloads folder on one and in the other, click on Command+Shift+G and enter ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/External Editor Presets/ and hit Go.
Copy the Tonality.lrtemplate file from the download folder to the new one.


In the same manner, with the two instances of the Finder application open, leave one pointing to the downloads folder and in the other, click on Command+Shift+G and enter ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Modules/  and hit Go.
Copy the Tonality.lrplugin  file from the download folder to the new one.

Now launch Lightroom classic and it should be possible to edit photos in Tonality straight from Lightroom using the Files/Plug-in Extras menu.


The method on Windows must be similar if the plugin doesn’t install, you just need to find the correct path to place the two downloaded files.