Ashwood Nurseries & the Ricoh Theta


Early in 2016 I bought a Ricoh Theta – a 360 degree camera. I’ve had some fun with it at Dudley Museum and Art Gallery, in the houses at the Black Country Living Museum, St Edmund’s Church, and today at Ashwood Nurseries. Since it covers 360 degrees, it’s quite difficult to avoid being in the picture yourself, and if the camera is on a tripod then the tripod ends up in the picture too. But the thing I’m finding most difficult is how to present the results in a reasonably satisfactory way. If I import the photo into Lightroom etc then I get the sort of picture at the top of this blog, which doesn’t do justice to the camera. Ricoh provide a web site which allows the pictures to be displayed in all their glory, and you can see some of the photos from today in the full 360 degree form by clicking on the links below:

These give an animated view of the photo when they are started, or you can drag the mouse over the picture to get other views.

I’d really like to be able to post the pictures direct into a web page (like this one!), or to have easier control of how I can display an automated animation, but it’s quite difficult finding software which allows this.




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Pen Collection


My resolutions to post more often on this web site have not been kept I’m afraid. Just at the moment I’m suffering a bad attack of ‘flu, so as I’m even less mobile than usual I thought I could at least update the site, and the topic is my collections of Pens – the Olympus variety!

The photo above shows the collection – from the top left, clockwise, the first of the digital versions, the E-P1 (with the 17mm lens and the optional optical viewfinder for that lens), the E-P3, the Pen D (film, the first version with a selenium cell meter), the new digital Pen F and the one that started it all, the original Pen film camera. I’ve owned all of these cameras from new, the original Pen dating from 1962 (I think). At that time my main camera was a Pentax S1a, but I loved the Pen for its compact size and superb lens – even though the negative was half-frame, it produced excellent  quality images. The first digital Pen was bought when they were first launched – I had bought a Panasonic G1 when that was launched, the first micro four thirds camera, though I had been using Olympus four thirds cameras for a while before that. I really do MUCH prefer to have a proper viewfinder, so when the E-M5 was launched I moved from the Pen range to that, but the introduction of the new Pen F with a  proper finder prompted we to buy one.

I haven’t had the new Pen F long enough to reach any firm conclusions, but a few early observations follow.

The Pen F is certainly an attractive camera, and it feels right in the hands as well, apart from the absence of a grip. I think they probably left the grip off to retain more of the appearance of the original film Pen F, but from a handling point of view I certainly think the grip is almost essential, even if it does detract from the appearance of the camera, and add over £100 to the cost of the camera, and also adds to the size and weight. Incidentally I think that the very small grips on the OM-D E-M5, both the original and Mk ii versions, are a mistake as well – as with then Pen F you can buy a grip, but this adds considerably to the size and weight (and cost), and actually an OM-D E-M5 (both versions) with the added grip is bigger and heavier that the E-M1, which has a proper grip as standard!

I really like the controls on the Pen F – the extra dial  for exposure compensation means that in the usual aperture priority mode one of the main control dials (I use the rear) can be set to control ISO, and I change ISO very frequently, and using the dial for this is much easier and less confusing than using the mode switch on the back of the OM-Ds, and then forgetting to put it back to the normal position afterwards!

The control on the front for setting ‘film’ modes/art filters etc is a good idea, though as I normally shoot RAW it’s not essential. However, it does allow them to provide 4 custom settings on the main mode dial, and these are very useful. Overall I’ve not found the ability to switch the ‘film’ mode especially useful, though it is interesting to try this and see the results. Personally, since I can do B&W conversion, alter tone curves etc using the RAW files and Lightroom/PS in post anyway, I would rather they had provided a way to modify strength of the more imaginative art filters – I find these can be interesting to play with, and the effects are much less easily recreated in standard editors in post. But those art filters are all too extreme for me in the form supplied, and I actual have a preset stored in LR called ‘Reduce Dramatic Tone’, which I use to try to make that art filter more acceptable (of course it is then working only on a JPEG, so there is loss of quality in the image).

At present none of the standard RAW converters can handle the files from the Pen F, so I’m using RAW+JPEG mode, and I’m processing the JPEGs and keeping the original RAWs until I can conveniently process them. Olympus Viewer can of course process the RAWs, but I really want to continue to use my familiar work flow.

I’ve been more than satisfied with the results from the Pen F so far, even though the ability to use the front mode dial is less useful than I’d hoped, and just at the moment I can’t process the RAW files conveniently. Other features which are perhaps a bit disappointing are the rather high price (not unusual when a camera is first launched) and the lack of weather resistance, though the latter point is not all that critical, and it’s amusing to see such a thing being criticised in the light of the fact that weather resistance used until recently to be something that was only found in more expensive cameras which were classified as Pro or semi-Pro models.



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A new year – looking back on 2015

Happy New Year!

2015 is now history, so it’s time to post a few comments on my photography during last 12 months, and think about 2016.

I don’t want to dwell on it, but 2015 was not all that great for me, as I’ve been quite restricted due to heart problems. At least that may serve as an excuse for my rather feeble photos! I had an enjoyable day in January at Slimbridge with FotoBuzz and Andy Rouse.


But since then I’ve only managed one significant photographic workshop during the year, which was at LPH (Lakeland Photographic Holidays), where I have enjoyed so many holidays in the last 10 years plus – actually, I’ve now lost track of how many times I’ve been there! My 2015 visit was Continue reading

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A week in the Lake District


I had a week in the Lake District from 8th to 14th March, as usual with Lakeland Photographic Holidays, although this time I picked a ‘Limited Walking’ workshop in view of the breathing problems. Two of the days were very cold, wet and windy, but one day was brilliantly sunny and warm, and the other two days weren’t at all bad.

On three of the days I used the Nikon 1 V3 with the 10-100mm zoom lens, and the 6.7-16mm lens for a few photos inside a church on one of the very wet days. The other two days I used the Fuji X-T1 with the 18-135mm zoom. I hadn’t taken much else in the way of cameras, but I could easily have left several lenses behind macros, other zooms and several prime lenses) and travelled lighter still. When the weather is difficult it is a real advantage not needing to change lenses, and as few if any of the photos will be used other than on a computer screen, or a maximum of an A3+ print, the optical quality of the lens isn’t really an issue, nor is the image quality of the sensor.


I enjoyed using both cameras, though of course the controls of the Fuji are much more convenient than those on the Nikon, not just because they are larger, but there are so many more control dials and buttons, and less need to go into menus. Actually the boons of the rear D-control dial of the Fuji are exceptionally difficult to operate – the are too small, too recessed, and don’t have a positive action – almost the only shortcoming of the camera, and one which many others have noted too. I’d be interested to try a newer X-T1 (mine was a very early example) to see if they have made any improvements in this respect, but although another of the people on the workshop also had an X-T1, his was of a similar age to mine.

Of 609 photos from the week, 345 were taken with the Nikon 1 and 264 with the Fuji – though the Fuji was only used on two days, but in better weather, so there isn’t really any significance in the figures.


There wasn’t a lot of time to work on the images during the week, so they were loaded into Lightroom for picking a few out to project in the evening, a few quick edits were done for cropping, exposure, colour, clarity and sharpening and noise, and a few were converted to black and white using Silver Efex Pro. I’m now settling down to spend more time working on some of the pictures, and I may try using DxO Pro to process the Nikon RAW images and Capture One to process the Fuji ones before moving them into Photoshop for the final tweaks.

This was a very enjoyable week, as always at LPH, for which I must thank John and Gail Gravett of LPH.

I should be posting some pictures from the week in the Photo Gallery section of the web site, so take a look in there (menu on the right of this page) to see them soon.


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Off Topic (F1)

The testing sessions before the F1 season begins do not really mean all that much, but here’s my take on it now.

Mercedes have been sandbagging for a lot of the time, but look way ahead of the rest.

Williams look strong again, though they have probably worked quite hard to get the times.

Ferrari and Sauber look stronger this year – as they share the same engine, perhaps this indicates that the engine is better this year than last (not just a question of power, but how it delivers it, and absolutely nothing to do with the very recent firings and hirings at Ferrari).

McLaren have a lot to do, but to put this in perspective, Red Bull looked in the same position this time last year, and they subsequently won races!

Rosberg will beat Hamilton, Hamilton second. Any one’s guess about the next 3 places, but at this stage I’d go for Ricciardo, then Bottas and then Massa. YMMV, but I think these will be the top contenders, with perhaps Kimi and Vettel if the Ferrari is really much improved.

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RAW processing

I used to think that there wasn’t much difference between different RAW processors, and I used Lightroom most for convenience, and its quick support of new cameras. However, over the last few weeks I have been experimenting, and I’ve some to the conclusion that there are some differences, and although they may not be major, they are significant. Lightroom is still for me by far the most convenient way of previewing, rating and selecting images, and it is also a convenient way of processing images quickly. However, I have to say that I don’t always get the best results from LR compared with two other RAW processors I’ve been trying. I believe that the team at Adobe almost all use Canon cameras, so perhaps it is the fact that I don’t use Canon that explains this.

The trouble is that when looking for the ‘best’ processing of RAW images, those from some cameras work best for me with one RAW processor, and those from other cameras work best with another RAW processor! DXOptics Pro seems outstanding with Nikon 1 images, but has the significant drawback that it won’t process Fuji X images, while CaptureOne works rather well with Fuji and several other RAW formats.

This is perhaps another case of horses for courses (and perhaps jockeys/the photographer). I shall certainly stay with LR for the rating and selection of images (I find it much more convenient for this that any alternatives I’ve tried), but for processing the images I like most, I may well use other RAW programs in future.

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2015 progress – and is Lightroom REALLY non-destructive

I’m happy to say that the Photo Diary section of the web site (see the link in the list on the right) is now nearly up to date, and I hope to keep it that way!

I’ve been a Lightroom user since the first public beta, which was originally Mac only. It certainly does not change the original RAW image, but I think that in some respects the description of it as a non-destructive image editor is misleading. True, the original image is unchanged, BUT all the subsequent changes take place in a linear fashion – you can go back to previous stages of the edit, but ALL the subsequent edits are lost. Layers in Photoshop allow you to remove LAYER edits without affecting other layers (though if you are not careful, PS will sometimes apply destructive edits). Apple’s Aperture (now discontinued, but on sale before LR, and arguably it provoked Adobe to release something that might never otherwise have been launched) did allow really non-destructive edits, and used ‘layers’ (blocks/bricks as I recall?) to modify a RAW image, so that if there was one stage of your edit you wanted to delete or modify, without affecting other later edits, you could do this just by removing the ‘offending’ block/brick. Capture One seems to allow this too. Personally I really value the ability to remove or edit a previous edit without removing other edits that have been done later chronologically, and much as I have used LR, and like its image management facilities, I’m less a bit less than happy with how it handles image manipulation.  I don’t expect any change in this respect to LR, as it would be a ***HUGE*** change in the organisation/structure/operation of the program.

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