STILL LIFE 257 – LOOKING DOWN, INTO THE GUTTER

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Walking in the suburbs and looking down, into a gutter.  The plant is growing in the bottom of the gutter, and the pale diagonal from upper left to lower right is the kerb on the edge of the pavement.  The road surface is at upper right.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique:  TG-5 at 25mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Modern 01 profile, and selectively adjusting the saturation and luminance of colours; south Bristol; 1 May 2021.

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ANNIVERSARY – FATMAN PHOTOS IS SIX

 

 

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Another year has passed.  Quite where it has passed I’m not sure.  Retirement and (ever!) increasing age are seeming to make Life roar by at an ever increasing pace – but that’s fine by me!  If that’s how it is, that’s how it is, and I’m certainly not going to waste my time consciously trying to buck the trend!

And so to another year of FATman Photos, six years in all, which I find quite astonishing.  But, I do it and, very much, I enjoy doing it.  On the creative side, I enjoy the photography – and have no doubt that producing this blog acts as a substantial boost to my endeavours.  And I enjoy all of the writing that goes into the posts too.

And, equally so, I very much enjoy the contact with you all – it is so good communicating with like minds all over the planet!  I’m grateful when you Like my images, that’s always encouraging – but most of all its good to receive Comments from you, I very much value hearing your thoughts and views – and please be assured that ALL viewpoints, negative as well as positive, will be entertained.  THANK YOU ALL, VERY MUCH, FOR YOUR INPUT!

(here are portraits, pictures of faces, in black and white; they can be opened in separate windows by clicking into them; and the title links under them will take you to the actual posts)

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Great Grey Owl portrait

Great Grey Owl

These past 12 months have been notable for two photographic initiatives.  First, last May, I followed my heart rather than my wallet and bought a mirrorless camera, the Fujifilm X-T1, and a zoom lens.  I have been, as you may know, an out and out full-frame Nikon user, and so this purchase was quite a step.  And on the back of that, I then needed software to process the X-T1’s Raw files, and so to subscribing to Adobe Lightroom.  Finally, I’ve added another Fuji zoom, and recently their X-T2 camera.  And, in summary, I have to say that all of these (not inexpensive!) moves have worked out very well indeed.  I find the X-T cameras wonderful photographic tools for most situations, and I do think that they have given my photography something of a lift.

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This man is photographing you!

Selfie

And the second initiative has been the taking of early morning buses into Bristol, to photograph morning in the city and, in particular, the morning rush hour.  And this initiative has been significantly helped by the X-Ts’ smaller size and greater portability than the Nikons and, I do think, by people feeling more at ease – less threatened – by being confronted by smaller cameras.  I haven’t really tried to categorise it before, but I suppose this is candid street photography, and certainly a departure for me.  The next thing to think about here, is whether I can summon up the courage to start approaching people in the street, to ask if I can take their picture – most accounts of this hold it to be productive, and far less intimidating than it might initially seem.

HAHAHA!!! >>> and a truly wonderful offshoot of these early morning forays in the city has been the (really quite numerous) visits into various eateries – “to keep my strength up”!  Listen, if you believe that last bit, can I sell you a bridge???  And here I must of course mention Harts Bakery near Temple Meads railway station – the food is extremely tasty, the staff are very pleasant and working their heads off – and I’m simply a total, total fan of the place!

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A young friend

So, to conclude, what has this blog done since 26 April 2011?  Well,  over 2,100 posts, and there have been over 21,200 comments >>> I (virtually always) make it a rule to reply to Comments, even if only to say a simple “Thank you”, so around half of these are my grateful responses.

Thank you again for taking the time to look at my blog.

Adrian

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  Woman from Somalia
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TALKING IMAGES 26 – ADOBE LIGHTROOM: HINTS

 

 

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Rush hour, Victoria Street

I’m sure that many of you have been using Adobe Lightroom (LR) for longer than I have, and know far more about it than I do.  However here are some simple points that may be new (and, hopefully, useful) for some, especially those just starting out with the package.  Some of these points have been prompted by an excellent book on LR, which I certainly recommend to those of you wanting to go into things in more depth – this book is full of useful, practical, well-explained detail –  The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 Book by Lightroom guru Martin Evening  The details are: ISBN-13 978-0-133-92919-5; softback; US $59.99 – in real money I paid about £25 for it from Amazon. 

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But I’m careful not to treat this wonderful book as 100% gospel, I’ve noticed other writers (slightly) contradicting it – see the sections on black and white photography, and on noise, below, with info from Amateur Photographer magazine.

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As it is, I only ever feel the need to use two of LR’s modules – Library and Develop.  I hope these points are of some use.

 

Earlier posts  mentioning LR can be found through here.

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EXPANDING THE WIDTH OF THE SLIDERS IN THE DEVELOP MODULE

The various adjustment sliders in LR’s Develop module are laid out in a vertical panel on the right of the Develop screen, to the right of the image being worked on.  This is the panel with the Histogram at the top.  When I first opened this module, the width of this panel of sliders was adequate.

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But the wonderful book referred to above has a useful hint – if you position your mouse’s cursor over the left margin of this panel, i.e. where it comes up against the image widow, your cursor changes to a two-headed arrow which, by holding down your left mouse button, you can drag to the left – and as you do so the width of the slider panel increases.  You can’t increase the width of this panel indefinitely, but you can increase it quite a bit – and the thing is that this panel’s increase in width makes all the sliders just that little bit easier and more accurate to use – you’re able to make finer, more precise adjustments with the now longer sliders.  This technique also works in the Library module.

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RETURNING THE SLIDERS TO THEIR INITIAL VALUES

When you open an image in the Develop module for the first time, i.e. before you have in any way used the module to alter the image, many of the sliders are at their central i.e. zero positions.  But some of the sliders are at non-zero positions – for example the Temp and Tint sliders at the top of the panel, and the Sharpening and Noise sliders further down.

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You then move some of the sliders to adjust the image to your liking.  But, sometimes, your adjustment may not be to your satisfaction, such that you want to return the slider to its initial position.  This is easy if fiddly to do for those sliders initially set at zero – but for the sliders not initially set to zero, you have to remember their initial values, which is awkward.

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For both types of slider, i.e. those initially set at zero and those not, simply double-clicking on the sliders’ names, e.g. Temp and Tint, and (Sharpening’s) Amount, Radius and Detail, return’s them to their initial positions whether they were initially set to zero or not – which is a great time saver, i.e. rather than clicking Reset and starting processing the image all over again.

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Woman on steps, smoking

AVOIDING LR’s INITIAL SPLASH IMAGE

By default, LR displays a splash image when it is opened.  Well, I suppose this appears good and professional, but it doesn’t actually do anything else, so I’ve chosen to bypass it – click onto the Edit command in the toolbar at the top of LR’s screen, and choose Preferences.  Select the General tab (which will probably already be selected), and in the Settings, which are immediately below Language, take the tick out of the check box for “Show splash screen during startup”.  Click OK at the bottom of the screen.  The splash screen can be reinstated at any time.

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AN EASIER WAY OF REVIEWING IMAGES

I find looking through the grids of images in LR’s Library module visually confusing.  And then when I do manage to find an image that I think may show promise, double clicking on it to fill the screen using LR’s FIT option makes it too large – an image’s size dictates the distance from which it should be viewed, if an overall view and understanding of the image is the aim.

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So my solution is to set LR’s Library module to display smaller versions of single images (I use the 1:8 viewing ratio), and then I go through these single images one at a time using the keyboard’s left and right arrow keys.  Reviewing images one at a time allows me to fully concentrate on each one >>> which is also the reason why most of my blog posts contain only a single image.

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And seeing each image at smaller size on the screen, rather than having it filling the screen, allows me to appreciate the whole image without having to move my eyes around it – I find that this gives me a much better idea of its overall appearance and composition.

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Taking flight

LR AND BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY

On occasion, I do use LR to create black and white photographs, but I use the Black & White option in the Basic panel of LR’s Develop module far more often to gain a quick impression of how the image looks in mono, as a guide to whether it might be worth looking at it further in that format.

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Most often, when making mono images, I process them to greater or lesser extents in LR, and then export them as 16-bit TIFFs for further processing in Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2.  I really do recommend this software for creation of black and white images, and the more so if you are looking for creative effects – letting your creative hair down! – rather than straight black and white representations of colour scenes.  Similarly, for creative colour, Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4.

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In a recent issue of AP (18 Feb 2017), David Tipling, a very well known wildlife photographer, reveals that he uses Silver Efex for his black and white conversions too.  Here is what he says:

Once a candidate for black & white treatment has been identified, there are myriad ways to make the conversion.  My mantra has always been to keep it simple.  Where once I fiddled with multi-step conversions in Photoshop, I now use Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.  A free download from the Nik collection, this software is a plug-in to Photoshop and offers the ability to finely an image to give the exact look you desire.  A big attraction is the preset examples provided for each image you open, from very modern to vintage looking results.  They give a fast way of assessing whether the image is worth processing.

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David is talking about Photoshop here, and I think the same factors apply to generating black and white images in Lightroom too.  I use Silver Efex as a plug-in to Photoshop Elements but, other than that, don’t use Elements at all.  I could use Silver Efex as a Lightroom plug-in.

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And – boy, oh boy!!! – do I agree with David’s advice to keep things simple!!!

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USING LR TO REDUCE IMAGE NOISE

I’ve been doing quite a bit of high ISO photography recently – before sunrise in both the city and countryside.  And so, good as the Nikons and the newer Fujifilm cameras are at controlling noise at high sensitivities, my images still have it to high degrees.  A recent issue of Amateur Photographer magazine (AP) (4 Feb 2017) thought a combination of LR’s noise reduction tools and shooting in Raw as the best solution for most photographers – although DxO OpticsPro11 Elite was considered the top noise control software overall, if you don’t mind the extra time and expense involved.

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Another issue of AP (7 Jan 2017) described a simple way of using LR’s noise reduction tools, which I find effective.  Once in LR’s Develop module, change the view of your image to 1:1, rather than FIT, so that all image noise is clearly visible.  Then find the noise reduction tools in the panel on the right of LD’s Develop screen.

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You will find the Noise Reduction Color slider set to a default of 25.  Drag it left to zero, and then move it right until the colour noise – visible as coloured speckles in the image – disappears.  This disappearance of the speckling ought to occur somewhere in the 10 to 20 range on the slider, but sometimes may require higher degrees of noise reduction.

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You will find the Luminance slider set to a default of zero.  Drag it to the right, and a value of 20 to 40 ought to reduce luminance noise substantially – beware higher values, which can affect overall image appearance.  Increasing the Detail slider can restore some detail, and use of the Contrast slider can restore contrast in areas of continuous tone.

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Finally, ALWAYS sharpen your images AFTER noise reduction has been applied!

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Going to work 9

 

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BRISTOL 116 – SKYLINE AT SUNRISE, AND A #LIGHTROOM TECHNIQUE

 

 

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Dawn, a cold dawn, with sunrise starting up behind the city centre’s skyline; 20 Jan 2017.

Well, first, what’s in the image?  The tall structure – which to me looks for all the world like a medieval knight’s helmet with a visor covering his (blazing?) eyes – was built to manufacture lead shot by dropping molten lead from a height into water.  Those days are gone, and its now an up market office space called Vertigo.  Out of shot, the sun is just edging above the horizon and blazing through Vertigo’s windows, while the façade on the left remains in shadow.  The bird, a gull, passed through the shot as I was composing it in the viewfinder and was very luckily caught by a frantic stab on the X-T1’s shutter button!

Second, post-capture processing technique.  I didn’t want this in full colour, and so thought about converting it to black and white via Silver Efex Pro 2, my favourite software, and then using SEP2 to selectively restore the blazing windows’ colour.  But this didn’t really work – and then I remembered a Lightroom technique described in last week’s Amateur Photographer magazine (AP) for generating black and white images via LR’s HSL (Hue Saturation Luminance) panel – and here is the result.  I’ve learned so much from AP over the years its just not true, and here us yet another instance – I very strongly recommend this weekly magazine to you.  Martin Evening, a LR guru often writes for AP on LR techniques, and is extremely informative – and my main source of reference for LR is his vast book, the details of which can be found here.

So, technique.  I simply went into LR’s HSL panel and reduced the saturation of every colour to zero, to produce a grey image, and then increased the saturation of yellow and orange again, until the colour in those blazing windows matched what I recall seeing when I took the shot.  And, although the rest of the image is still nearly mono, doing this has also brought a faint sunrise flush to the sky, which is also getting towards the tints of the original scene.  Other adjustments (brightness, sharpening, etc) were also made in Lightroom, after the conversion to grey. 

And, having changed colour saturation as described in the previous paragraph, you are of course also free to change the luminance (brightness) and hue of any colours you restore, via those sliders in LR’s HSL panel – although this was not done in this instance.

Many of you will know far more about Lightroom than I do, but I hope these points will be useful to those less experienced with the software, and those thinking about using it.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom.
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PEOPLE 240 – GOING TO WORK 8

 

 

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I’d arrived in the city centre by bus at 0700 – at this time of year well before sunrise.  It was night time still in the city, empty, echoing and with garish lighting, dark corners and certain cold.  And so to the plan – I had a plan!  Hart’s Bakery, nestling under a Victorian railway arch next to the railway station, opens at 0700 (I don’t even like to think about the hour that the bakers must get in there to start work), and at 0705 I barrelled in through its rather plain and unobtrusive door – only to find myself already seventh in the queue!

And so to a second breakfast – as proof against the cold – well, that was my story anyway.  None of their absolutely wonderful sausage rolls (the best I’ve ever tasted) being available at this early hour, I ordered a toasted cheese sandwich and was confronted by four slices of  sourdough bread made into two whopping toasted sandwiches filled with molten cheese – and a large black coffee too.  I never thought I’d manage it all, but when food tastes that good its easier to be resolute with oneself …

And so, brimming with warmth, back out onto the cold streets (and slowed down a bit from the weight of food …), I very soon had the realisation that, since I almost never use a tripod – they get in the way far, far too much – the D700 was going to have to be firing at 25,600 ISO – and so to a test shot, to try things out.

These three are standing at a bus stop on the main road going southwards out of the city, staring back down the road, waiting for their bus to appear.  The actual bus shelter is between them and the camera – you can see its scratched, transparent perspex on the left.  And the bright red object in the lower left corner is the shelter’s seat – you can sit on this bench ok, but homeless people are not able to bed down on it for the night – which says much for our caring society.

The D700 is now over eight years old and, speaking in terms of the digital era, not far from being a museum piece.  When it appeared in 2008, the world was astounded at the 25,600 ISO it (and its “parent” D3) could provide – but of course such high sensitivities are commonplace today – Nikon’s current flagship DSLR can get up to over 3 million ISO.

Working at 25,600 ISO, the D700 does produce grainy, noisy images but it still does the job and – maybe this goes without saying – it is an absolute joy to handle and use.  So, grainy and noisy it may be but, as always – and this is a fundamental article of personal faith – I’d far, far rather have a noisy image than no image at all. 

And back in the “old days”, i.e. pre-Lightroom, I’d have either gone with the image as it was, or tried to reduce its noise via Nik Software.  But now, following the explanations in my great big, wonderful Lightroom book (The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC/Lightroom 6 Book; Martin Evening; ISBN 978-0-133-92919), I’ve attacked the noise with Lightroom and am certainly impressed.  I’ve most likely not done as good a job as I might have but I can certainly live with that – and, anyway >>> here’s the (cropped) image.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

There are other images from this Going To Work series here, here, herehere, here, here and here.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 165mm; 25,600 ISO; 1/60th, f5; Temple Gate, central Bristol, sometime around dawn on 2 Dec 2016.

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TALKING IMAGES 24 – THE FUJIFILM X-T1, AND ADOBE LIGHTROOM: FINAL THOUGHTS #X-T1 #Lightroom

 

 

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I’ve already posted twice (here and here) about this new camera of mine and my first encounter with Lightroom, and certainly don’t want to ramble on much further along these lines.  So here are a few, brief, final thoughts – which must be read in the knowledge that the X-T1 has already been superseded by the apparently improved X-T2.  All images were captured using the X-T1, and processed with Lightroom and/or Capture NX2.
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I’M QUITE EXCITED BY THIS CAMERA! … BUT WON’T BE USING IT FOR RAPIDLY MOVING SUBJECTS

Although its quite unlike me to say this, I am actually quite excited by the X-T1.  Combined with the excellent 55-200 Fujinon zoom the X-T1 feels like a beautifully balanced extension of me.  The 10-24 wide angle zoom is not too bulky or heavy, and the X-T1’s tilting screen allows it to be easily used near ground level, which is very useful.  Carrying these two zooms for long walks is fine – the weight of the camera + 55-200 on my front is largely balanced by the 10-24 + small (non-photographic) rucksack on my back.  Using these two lenses, I have in 35mm terms the equivalent of 15mm-36mm and 85mm-305mm, image stabilised lenses, which covers the great majority of my needs.  The only other addition might be a f1.4 50mm or 60mm equivalent lens, but this is nowhere near vital.  Because the X-T1 body is so light (440g), another option would be to avoid lens changes by having a body for each of my two lenses.

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The X-T1 captures gorgeous images.  It is a wonderful creative tool which gives me up to 6400 ISO in Raw capture, and as long as I’m not photographing anything that is moving about a lot, this is the camera I’d use.  My Nikons really do have the edge when it comes to speed and precision of autofocus, and their optical viewfinders are not at all phased by speed of movement.  I fetched up next to a field of moving sheep on the Somerset Levels recently, and was so glad to have the D800 with me.  There might be a case for taking a Nikon and my cherished 70-300 zoom as well as the Fujifilm gear when I’m out in the car, just in case highly mobile situations arise.  Another (partial) aid here might be to always use the X-T1 in its battery draining High Performance mode, while carrying a spare battery.

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ANOTHER NIKON PHOTOGRAPHER, WHO HAS USED FUJIFILM CAMERAS BUT WHO IS STAYING … WITH HIS NIKONS …

And here’s a link – to another WordPress blog actually – to a photographer who, like me, has used Fujifilm cameras but is NOT losing his Nikons.  OK, this photographer is a professional and so he has far more invested in his gear than I do, but this is an interesting read – find it here.

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USING THE X-T1

The lock on the X-T1’s ISO adjustment dial is badly designed, but I’ve got used to it, its no bother now.  And the exposure compensation dial, which has no lock, works fabulously.

One of the things that I really like about the X-T1 is the ability to see all of the main settings that are set without diving into the menus – shutter speed,  ISO, drive mode, metering mode.  And another thing that I really like is that all of these settings – along with aperture, virtual horizon and (albeit small) live histogram – can be seen in the large and excellent electronic viewfinder.

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Its clear that I’m going to have to think more about using the Focus Mode Selector dial on the front of the camera more than I do with the Nikons, where its always set to C (shutter fires whether image is focused or not).  On the X-T1, S is for stationary subjects, C for those moving, and M for manual of course.  Its no problem to remember this.

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The X-T1 has recently been upgraded to the X-T2 which, amongst other things, has improved autofocus.  I’m not sure I want the extra cost of the new camera (£1300), and where I know that I’m going to be shooting faster moving subjects, the Nikons will handle them.

So, am I a fan of the X-T1?  Yes I definitely am – and every time I pick up the Nikons now I’m struck by just how big and heavy they are!

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ADOBE LIGHTROOM

I’m much more acquainted with Lightroom now and am enjoying using it.  Its obviously a powerful tool for professional photographers and other photographers with large numbers of images, but its overkill for me, and I find myself using only the Library and Develop modules, and not tagging any of my images.  I’m using Lightroom via Adobe’s Creative Cloud, for about £7/month.

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Lightroom is a non-destructive editor, which means that it uses of a Catalogue file to record all of the changes made to my files.  The files themselves remain pristine and untouched.  This system works well, but I’m conscious of the Catalogue file’s increasing size, and the insecurity of having all my work stored in this way in a single file.  Although having said that, Lightroom regularly reminds me to back up the Catalogue file (and I keep in mind that a back up OFF MY COMPUTER must be kept too, in case my PC goes into catastrophic meltdown) – but in any case I mostly work on an image and then save it as a .tiff file, which would be unaffected by any Catalogue file malfunction.

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There is far more complexity here than is found in Nikon’s (now long discontinued) Capture NX2 software, but of course that only works in its entirety for Nikon Raw files, although it will also edit jpegs and tiffs. Nikon’s Control Points, which facilitate very targeted editing of images with great ease, (and which are also available in Nik software – see below) are just so effective and easy  to use as not to be true.

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I’m also left with the impression that the myriad sliders in Lightroom’s Develop module are an open invitation to over-editing – over egging, if you like – of images.  Most often, restraint is the name of the game (except in black and white!).

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LIGHTROOM FOR BLACK AND WHITE?  >>>>>DEFINITELY NOT!!!

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Lightroom can of course produce black and white images, and complex processing of these can be achieved.  But I have not the slightest doubt that Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2 leaves Lightroom standing in this respect.  There’s simply no contest.  If you’re into black and white, then get SEP2 – and maybe you’d better hurry while Google (who now own it) are giving it away for free – they may discontinue it soon!  I read Amateur Photographer magazine every week, and keep finding highly competent, published photographers who rely on SEP2 for their black and white output.  I’ve also encountered many photographers via this blog who do the same – the numbers of people relying on SEP2 must be vast!

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LIGHTROOM: AN INCREDIBLY USEFUL BOOK

I’m an ex-academic and researcher, and whenever I’m faced with something at all complex, one of my first responses is to see if I can find a book on it, to better get to grips with it.  With Lightroom, I at first relied on Essential Guide to Adobe Lightroom, a slim booklet published gratis sometime back by Amateur Photographer magazine, and this did serve to help me a little bit along the road – but only a little bit.

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So instead, and again in response to a info in Amateur Photographer, I’ve ended up with The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 Book by Lightroom guru Martin Evening, a 722 page tome that is absolutely brilliant – and which I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone wanting a comprehensive reference about what Lightroom can do and how to use Lightroom to do it.  The details are: ISBN-13 978-0-133-92919-5; softback; US $59.99 – in real money I paid about £25 for it from Amazon.  Absolutely wonderful and enthralling, and it has already more than made up for the pennies I’ve laid out on it..

I hope these thoughts are of some use.  Any queries – please do ask!

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