Once more another dawn finds me at Shorncliffe Pier. I love misty shots of pier supports, and with two glorious sunrises having been seen earlier in the week, I was hopeful for something similar this Saturday. I arrived to find a photographer far better than me at early mornings already in the prime spot, so I set up shop nearby and we started chatting. One of his first questions was, "What do you shoot with?". Short question, a long answer from me...
I changed to Sony from Canon late last year. This change was sparked by my growing annoyance with my noisy Canon 7D. Blue sky, iso 100, I'd have noise. I'd had my 7D for not quite 2 years and I wanted to have it for a whole lot longer, but the noise issue was increasingly frustrating. When the Canon 7D Mark II was announced, I looked at the specs and thought, no. I would have jumped at that camera even a year before, but by late 2014 it looked like a dinosaur before it was even released. Modern cameras can be so much smarter, with flip screens, touch screens, wireless, auto face/movement/pet/firework/younameit detection, auto bracketing, phase detection autofocus, focus peaking! I love focus peaking. Anyway, with 7DmII being a disappointment I went on the hunt. After much research and discussion I ended up choosing Sony A6000 as it has great bang for buck value - small size, high quality, high frames per second rate, decent in low-light (although I miss my Fujifilm x100s for that). I supplemented it with a Sony A7R, as I've always wanted a full-frame for landscape work, and it was discounted on sale plus came with a free Metabones adaptor, so I can use my lovely Canon 24-105 lens on it. I hope to be using this system until it wears out. All I'm really missing is a nice wide lens, something I hope to pick up later this year.
I can't say I love my Sonys though. I vowed off Sony after the DRM scandal and they've never struck me as being particularly ethical. Having avoided even considering Sony options for years, I'm not proud of myself for caving. But when cost came into it Sony was the best option, especially being able to use my Canon lenses on them. Did I mention I love focus peaking, making manual focus a breeze and often easier than autofocus (especially on the A7R with the metabones adaptor to the Canon 24-105 - autofocus works most times but it's not snappy). I love the flip screens saving me from having to have my face in the dirt or holding the camera high and praying. I love wireless for sending fun snaps straight to facebook/twitter/instagram, and I love the customisation of almost every button to almost every function (although I still find some missing I'd like). I love the small size and relatively light weight. But I don't feel any emotional connection like I did with my first Canon (a 550D) or my 7D (admittedly the emotion was often frustration). Perhaps that's a good thing. The camera is a tool, nothing more. A good tool can help me realise the frame in my head, but it can't create that frame for me. I should be emotionally attached to creativity, not my tools... Although I do still feel my 24-105 lens is just lovely. Cause it is.
So this day the sunrise wasn't great, and while initially that's disappointing, what it does lead to is more post-processing playing. My default when greeted with a dull sky is to go for longer exposures, to try and wring some colour out of not much, or just to capture a different look. The photographer next to me - a gearhead who had every decent Canon model from the last ten years that he'd "never sell", no wonder the interest in my kit - was dealing with it by taking bracket exposures for HDR. I was sceptical given what I saw in front of me, and I've stopped taking multiple exposures by default due to the sheer volume of photos I end up with, but I figured it's always worth a try.
What I found was incredible detail in the clouds that was missing to the naked eye. I choose to change this image to monochrome so I could push the black and white points even further apart to highlight this detail. So thank you fellow photographer for that.
I also pulled out my "big stopper" filter - not the actual Lee filter, but a circular Tiffen 10-stop ND filter that achieves the same thing. I couldn't really find an image that worked for me with that, until I cropped to just the sky and started playing with colour. I do love me a nice nature abstract.
A little Photoshop reminder for me: I had to remove part of a crane from the cloud abstract. In Photoshop, the content-aware fill brush was leaving streaks. A better way to use content-aware fill for large objects: Lasso loosely around the object. Press "Delete" to bring up the "Fill dialogue". Use content-aware fill. Much better.
Below is the only shot pier support I would have come home with if I didn't try an HDR shot, the super long exposure (291 seconds) cloud abstract, and the HDR monochrome.