A brief look back at 2012

While 2012 was not a particularly significant year for me, it was generally reasonably successful. I had 3 holidays in Scotland (Mull, Lewis & Harris, and Assynt), and two in the Lake District. I got some reasonable images (by my standards), and I managed to produce Blurb books from the images for my own records. The weather was particularly good during the Assynt trip, and a bonus was that the group I was with decided to produce a Blurb book based on images contributed by all those who were present.

During 2012 I took part in 2 projects which involved taking one photograph each day of the year to post on web sites – Blipfoto and 365project. I managed to complete these projects, but I found it difficult some days, and quite a lot of the images were very ordinary shots just taken for the sake of having an image for the day. In this respect the projects did become a chore, and I want to enjoy my photography, so I doubt if I will continue with this in 2013, and if I do, then there is a bit of a problem with my Blipfoto Journal, as I chose to call it ‘A journey through 2012’!

Partly because of these daily-photo projects I made even more visits to the Black Country Living Museum than I would have done otherwise – it is a wonderful place, there are so many different photographic opportunities, and it is also within walking distance (weather and the amount of photographic gear I have to carry permitting).

As well as Blipfoto and 365project, I’ve put images on the web using Flickr and, to a lesser extent, Instagram. Of course I’ve also put collections of images from photographic workshops on my own web site, though I haven’t given as much attention to the web site in 2012 as I should have done, perhaps partly because of the amount of time I was spending with the daily photo projects.

There have been quite a lot of new cameras announed during the year. During the first quarter I was continuing to use mainly the Olympus E-P3 and to a lesser extent the Panasonic GH2, in each case mostly with the 14-150mm Olympus lens or the Panasonic 14-140mm – it is just so much more convenient not to be changing lenses all the time, especially if it is raining, and both are adequate performers for most of my needs. Of course when Olympus announced the E-M5 I immediately ordered one, and when it finally arrived it was used for the vast mmajority of the images for the rest of the year. It is a very versatile and flexible camera, and that initially caused me some problems in terms of working out what some of the buttons do – they can behave differently in different modes. I still sometimes have to think quite hard about how to set certain features up on the camera, and this is one respect in which I find it inferior to the GH2, although the image stabilisation, EVF, rear LCD, and sensor are significantly better than those of the GH2. I also wish it had a proper multiple exposure facility, like some of the higher-end Nikons. Another problem is that, like most mirrorless cameras, it is quite heavy on batteries, and this has been compounded by the extreme difficulty of getting hold of batteries for it.

I’ve also used the Sonys for some work during the year – Sony has been quite innovative, but I do find they do also miss some obvious points, which I think stems from them not really being photographers. Just to take one minor example, during the year I’ve found the ‘Art Filters’ of the Olypus cameras quite interesting, and on the Olympus if you set the camra to RAW, with Art Filters, it shoots a JPEG with the filter, but also provides a standard RAW file, so you are not burning you bridges by experimenting with these effects. However, with the Sonys I have tried, if you select an effect, you can only do so in JPEG mode, and you don’t get a RAW file, so you are committed. The Nikon D800 looked an interesting camera, but the price (especially at launch) was quite high, and according to many reports there were some focussing issues originally. The later D600 seemed possibly even more interesting (the 36Mp of the D800 was over the top, and had storage space and image processing speed issues for me as well), but disappointingly it too seems to have early quality issues (oil/dirt on the sensor), and it lacks at least one feature of the more serious Nikons (a decent number of pictures in multiple exposure mode), which, in terms of Nikon’s APS sized sensor cameras puts it in D7000 territory rather than D300 territory. I don’t currently expect to move away from the E-M5, though if Olympus launch something in 2013 which can fully utilise not only my micro four thirds lenses, but also my older four thirds lenses (autofocus of the older lenses is painfully slow using the m4/3 adapter) I could be tempted. I did have a chance during the year to play, briefly, with a Nikon J2, which I found rather better than I expected, though I don’t really think either this or the better V2 are in the same league as the micro fourthirds cameras. Needless to say, the Olympus E-M5 was the outstanding camera of the year for me.

Just before Christmas a neighbour gave me an old Olympus OM10, which they no longer used. The batteries were flat, but after replacing these it seems to be working, but until I have put a film through it (half way though one at present) I can’t be sure. I’m quite enjoying using it, though this particular OM model was handicapped by only working in aperture priority mode, requiring an add-on to give the option of manual operation. On the whole I much prefer the handling of my Pentax MX and ME Super of the same period, but providing it works properly, I anticipate using the OM10 a bit during 2013, even though I don’t have much in the way of lenses for it.

On the computing side I’ve mainly used my MacBook Pro for serious processing of images, though I did add a MacBook Air for greater portability, and USB3 ports and a solid state disc drive (though the drive is really not big enough) mean it is very speedy. Lightroom, now version 4, continues to be the main thing that I use to work with my images, with occasional trips to Photoshop and Silver Efex for additonal processing. I’ve mainly used Final Cut Pro X for video editting, though I haven’t actually shot all that much video during the year. One thing that I have found very useful during the year when starting to use new software is a subscription to Lynda.com – this has been invaluable at times in getting up to speed on software, especially as virtually no software comes with a paper manual nowadays, and trying to read or refer to PDF documentation is a real pain, though for reading other books, which are largely read sequentially from start to finish, I am perfectly happy to use ebooks. Of course the iPad continues to get a lot of use, and probably over 50% of my web browsing, and reading of books, is done on the iPad. Just before Christmas I bought an iPad Mini, and although the smaller screen can make reading some of the fonts on web pages even more of a struggle, the size and weight are a big advantage, and as my iPad is a version 2, the Mini lacks nothing in terms of features.

Mentioning the iPad Mini reminds me that I changed the Smart car for a Mini during 2012, and in most respects I find it a considerable improvement, as it is more comfortable and more effortless to drive on long journeys. The big disadvantage is that it is so big – Minis are no longer small cars, at least by my standards, and it is a tight fit in my drive, and an even tighter fit through the garage door.

So now I’m looking forward to 2013, and I hope there will be lots of photography, even if I don’t continue with the one-photograph-per-day projects. What I do hope to do is post more in my photo diary and update the blog more often.

Best wishes to everyone in 2013.

About Mike Hessey

I'm a BOF (Boring Old Fellow) and MOS (Miserable Old Soul) whose main interests are photography, cycling, walking and computers. Regrettably recent problems with my legs, back and heart have reduced the cycling and walking.
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