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Moments in Monochrome

Welcome to The Intuitive Lens. I hope you enjoy viewing the site as much as I have enjoyed contributing to it.


I‘ve always been both attracted and beguiled by the extra impact and sense of mystery that monochrome lends to an image, so this site is dedicated to my continued efforts to capture some of life’s more intriguing moments and the constantly improving equipment that helps make that task more of a joy than the traditional cameras and darkroom processes of the past with which I began this seemingly never ending journey.


About The Intuitive Lens >


Revisiting DxO Optics – Version 10

My quest for a ‘Holy Grail’ Digital Darkroom workflow that will, eventually one hopes, provide a truly fit for purpose alternative to Photoshop with its infamous and still suspect Subscription Model, goes on, undaunted. Now that Aperture’s development has been stopped and Nikon’s Capture NX2 has no viable replacement, the choice has narrowed somewhat. I’ve looked at this before in a pair of articles on comparisons between various workflows including Lightroom, ACR and Photoshop and also Phase One’s Capture One offerings. At that time my conclusion was that I was getting better RAW conversion with Capture One and Capture NX2 on certain images than when using either Lightroom or ACR/Photoshop, but that Photoshop was still needed for important adjustments of various kinds. I also did a series of tests, some time ago, not published here, using Capture NX2 and achieved results very close to that of ACR/Photoshop even using NX2’s local and global adjustments, but then the news came that it was to be replaced by a successor, but that is no longer a runner. Big mistake Nikon! I had already purchased DxO Optics Pro version 8 and then V9 last year as another possibility, but for this image I decided to try the latest version, V10, and see how far things had come on. The image above was taken some time ago in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and was originally a portrait format image rendered in ACR etc., so I thought I would re-render it in DxO to compare it with previous output. On looking at the RAW file again, I saw the possibility of cropping to... read more

Sony RX100 V3 – Another Pocket Rocket – But Better

I recently passed on my much treasured Sony RX100 Mark 1 to my wife as her Panasonic LX7’s sensor had given up the ghost – or rather had acquired a nasty black ghosting across half of the frame – and she didn’t want to replace it with the much larger LX100. She wanted a high quality, but as small as possible (pocketable or at least handbag sized), replacement that would upgrade the quality of her photos but be as simple for her to operate as the LX7 had been. Enter the RX100. The RX100 Mark 1 version has the 28mm to 100mm zoom lens on it, a range which she much prefers, and because she shoots JPEGs, she can also use the extended ‘digital zoom’ for that extra coverage when necessary. So, it turned out to be a smaller but very acceptable replacement for her now unreliable LX7 – job done! But now, of course, I no longer had my much loved stealth camera! I shoot a number of what used to be known in the 70s as Candid Images, better known today as Street Photography. My RX100 had become my camera of choice for this kind of work and was now very quickly and sorely missed. Lo and behold, the announcement of the very latest model – the Sony RX100 Mark III! Oh dear, the lens, while upgraded to an f1.8 to f2.8 aperture, had a wider but reduced long range – 24mm to 70mm! For some time I sat on the idea, reasoning that the range would not give me the coverage I wanted for Street work.... read more

Sony A7s First Outing

It’s always a challenge to get to grips with a new camera, but the Sony A7s makes it relatively easy. Yes, it has many menu options to learn to navigate, but that’s because it offers so many options. Straight out of the box, coupled with the new 16mm to 35mm zoom lens, set to silent shutter operation and using the flip up ‘waist’ level finder approach it’s pretty easy to grab the sort of candid shot that otherwise would be intrusive. I like street photography – what used to be called ‘candid photography’ in the 70s. Catching an everyday moment with just enough of a ‘story’ to make it an interesting, hopefully provoking image, makes my day. The Sony A7s is one of those cameras that makes that challenge so much easier to achieve – it’s going to be a favourite for a long time! This is a grab shot taken in my local cafe – hand held at 1/20th sec, f4, ISO 100 with the 16mm-35mm Sony zoom lens set at 35mm using less than 50% of the frame. Rendered in ACR/PSCC. First time out, straight ‘out of the box’, I think that’s very... read more

Sony A7s – The Best Mirrorless Camera to Date?

It’s that time of year again when I get a chance to catch up and refresh my gear and software. First on the list this December was the Sony A7s, a 12 megapixel sensor-ed camera with outstanding low light capabilities and very high quality HD and UHD video. It arrived today to go with recently acquired Sony 16mm-35mm and 70mm-200mm zoom lenses, all of which round out my lightweight, non-Nikon, mirrorless kit and complement the 35mm prime and 20mm-70mm zoom I’ve been working with so far on the Sony A7 I took to the Ming Thein Havana Workshop earlier this year. This set gives me superb focal length coverage and provides a bag full of f4 lenses to work with. The Sony A7s is an important camera for lots of reasons, which I shall scribble about another time, but its important to me precisely because we have, at the moment, only f4 native lenses to work with, and that, of course, is because Sony is trying to keep the lenses light and easy to work with. f2.8 lenses would be much larger and heavier, working against the advantages won by the mirrorless concept. The low light capability of the Sony A7s gives me many more choices to capture images I might not otherwise get. Then, of course, there is the latest crop of software upgrades that seem potentially to have changed the balance of dependency upon Lightroom and Photoshop for serious image editors. I’ve just this week upgraded to Capture One Version 8 and DxO Optics V10.1 and have been very pleasantly surprised by the fairly major changes that... read more

Monochromes from the Dali Museum in St Petersburg Florida

While in St Petersburg on a first time visit to this part of south west Florida, we had the opportunity to visit the Dali Museum. Now, I’ve seen quite a bit of Mr Dali’s work at various museums around the world over the years, but this venue houses what is probably the most comprehensive collection of his work. I particularity liked the painting of his other half Gala, which at a distance, morphs into a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln! I can’t say I’m that much of a fan of surrealism, being more interested in representational art than this level of abstraction, so forgive me if I gloss over the various other highlights, one of which was a classic vintage Rolls Royce car containing a mermaid – in water! The main attraction for me, I’m sorry to say, was more the architecture of the building and the visitors to the exhibits. Here are some images from that session: All of the images were taken with the new Sony A7 camera, in this case fitted with the Zeiss FE f2.8, 35mm lens. The were processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CC, and all but the last image was converted to monochrome using the DxO Optics FimmPack Agfa Scala 200x preset as a starting position. The final image, above, was converted to monochrome using a black and white adjustment layer in PSCC with modified colour blending and only a single curves adjustment. All of these images were created using the improved techniques I learned at Ming Thein’s Masterclass in Havana, which I recently attended and more on which in a... read more

Sunday Stroll with the Sony RX100

Just happened to turn around at the right moment while I was photographing some Classic Cars at the local Village Green in Croxley. Caught a nice moment with this trio strolling along – well more like ambling across the Green on a rather chilly Sunday afternoon. Shot with the RX100 at f5.6, 1/125sec at ISO 125, then Camera Raw and... read more

Easily Upgrading a MacBook Pro 17″ Laptop with OWC Solid State Drives

How to Upgrade your 17″ MacBook Pro; give it more memory, blindingly quick, solid state drives and three more years of very much faster working life – in three easy steps! When Apple announced, or shall I say sheepishly whispered, it was no longer offering a 17″ model, I was mortified! ‘Twas Upgrade Time and having several times looked at and repeatedly rejected the 15″ retina model, with its smaller, glossy, reflective screen, like many users, I was simply stumped for a solution. Then I discovered OWC, who, it seems, have been very successful in offering surprisingly affordable upgrade paths to all Apple users for most of their machines. So, game on! My laptop is a relatively modern October 2010, 17″, 2.3Mhz Quad Core i7 CPU’d machine equipped with 8Mb of memory running the Mac Snow Leopard OS and, via Bootcamp, Windows 7. It’s my everyday workhorse, so I was desperate to bring it up to date. I discovered that OWC offer several upgrade kits for my model and eventually, after much research, called them to discuss the options. Well, to cut a long story short I bought all three Kits. This provides a 16Mb 1600 Mhz Memory Upgrade, A 480Gb 6Gb/sec Solid State Drive replacement for my 700Mb 5400 rpm standard HDD and a ‘Data Doubler’ 480Gb 3Gb/sec replacement for the internal CD drive, together with two USB2 enclosures – one for the old HDD and one to house the ousted CD drive unit, which allows you to retain the use of all the replaced equipment! It also means you can immediately boot your machine from the original... read more

Nikon Df and Zeiss Lenses – Superb Sensor and Sensational Lens Combination?

Like many photographers of late I’ve been reviewing the most recent crop of cameras. I’ve been using the Leica M9 for three years now, on and off, and love it for what it is, but the fact remains that, while I love the images I can create with it, the sensor is now somewhat behind the curve. So, I’ve been looking at the Sony A7, not the A7R, until Sony have fixed its shutter vibration issues – and also at Nikon’s latest product – the Nikon Df. The Df has been splitting opinion for the past few months. OK, it’s an odd combination of marketing inspired nonsense and genuine qualities. I agree. I can happily see through all the hype though, so that doesn’t concern me. Is it a good camera? Yes – without doubt! I like, for example, some of the ‘retro’ controls, but hate the front rotation button with a passion – what numbskull thought of that one!? Under pressure, in aperture priority mode, concentrating on focusing, that front button is practically useless for all intents and purposes. Aperture control has to be reassigned to the command rotator on the rear of the camera – of course it would – and so the problem is solved. Up to now, two weeks in, that is about the only thing that has really managed to frustrate me. Everything else about the Nikon Df seems pretty much, well, OK, so far. Any other ‘niggles’ are really fairly easy to adjust to and I’ve been genuinely impressed by what I think is the Df’s best feature of all – the full... read more

Sony A7R Shutter Vibration Issues

If, like me, you’ve been contemplating the latest full frame sensor cameras from Sony, you might just be interested in Lloyd Chambers’ (and others) work testing the performance of the A7R. He has produced evidence that the A7R has a problem with its shutter mechanism design which, under certain shooting conditions with longer focal length lenses, appears to result in the significant downgrading of image quality through excessive shutter vibration. This, he persuasively argues, supported by clear visual evidence, causes a ‘smearing’ of  images at the pixel level, such that it reduces the effective ‘resolution’ of the resulting images to approximately that of the A7R’s 24 megapixel A7 sibling – thereby negating the value of the higher resolution sensor. This is obviously not a trivial issue. Sony, however, appears to be denying his findings – even though they are very obvious and easily repeatable. I think such a denial very shortsighted of Sony, if they are serious about winning over new customers from Nikon and Canon with this new series of flagship cameras and lenses. So, if this is of interest I suggest you read his blog posts and articles on the subject before committing your funds. The most recent post starts here. There are also other opinions to review:- The Camera Forum Article Joseph Holmes Article To complete your review, there is a growing body of posts and forum comments available on the internet, but there’s a particularly thorough article by Ferrell McCollough at Before the Coffee, which refutes the claim that 35mm and 55mm native lenses show shutter vibration. However he does show it to be detectable with... read more
Images from the Isle of Skye


The Isle of Skye, Scotland

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Towersey Folk Festival Dancers

Images from The Isles of Harris and Lewis


The Harris & Lewis Islands



It’s wonderful to see how photography has changed over the years since I first began ‘snapping’ my first serious images with a newly acquired Canon FTb-N in 1973. In those days one could not have dreamed how photography would evolve into what it is today


In the early seventies I had the good fortune to stumble upon my local Photographic Society. Far from a stuffy ‘old boys’ club it was run by very dynamic and genuinely helpful experts, many of whom were highly respected members of the Royal Photographic Society. I dreamed of becoming a decent photographer, being fascinated by the cameras of the day, the somewhat mystical darkroom process and most importantly, the wonderful images that these experts were creating.

It has been a long and exciting journey. So many aspects of the art and craft of photography have changed radically in that time. My first efforts in the darkroom showed me how painstaking you have to be, nay obsessive, if you want to improve and ‘develop’ – no pun intended!

Leaving the technical changes to one side, astounding though they are, the abiding theme, over all that time, has been my constant love of image making, my search for personal improvement and the never ending pursuit of photographic excellence. Hard task masters. So I have applied myself, with cyclic obsessiveness, to this infinitely rewarding journey and I wish you the greatest success on yours.


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