SleekLens Workflow Review

I spend on average between one to two hours editing a landscape photograph, due to the nature of landscape photography, it is very difficult to produce a perfectly exposed image throughout the scene in camera without the use of a graduated neutral density filter. This therefore means that a large amount of post processing must be done to achieve the same result.

I shoot using a Nikon D800, a camera perfectly suited to landscapes because of its vast dynamic range and superior megapixel count meaning each raw image captures a large amount of detail. The following image I took in Cornwall last year during a storm:

© Oliver Spier. Nikon D800 w/ Nikon 24-70mm f.2.8 @ 24mm. 6 Secs. f/11.

This is the raw file straight from the camera, I took the photograph with the camera on a tripod using a circular polarising filter to enhance the water and the sky. I was happy with the image straight away, however, I knew I could get more detail out of the image with a little post production. After some work, here was my result:

© Oliver Spier

© Oliver Spier

As you can see from the image, I brought out the shadows and corrected the white balance, adding a graduated filter to the sky to make it blend better with the water. I was very happy with the shot, and have been using it on my portfolio and as a background to my business card since I took the picture.

I was intrigued by SleekLens, as it uses photoshop actions in order to process the images. I usually try to avoid actions as I find they limit the amount of control I have over editing the photographs, and I was skeptical as to how much it could make my editing process more efficient. I downloaded the software, and once it installed, I opened up the file in photoshop, and was greeted with a myriad of actions to choose from, all conveniently labeled and easy to find. After some trial and error, I ran the action "ENHANCE Dramatic Sky" and let the software do its magic. After a few seconds, the loading wheel disappeared and my edited image was complete. I played around with a camera raw filter, just to tweak the exposure where the action had overcompensated slightly, and came to this result:

 © Oliver Spier/SleekLens

 © Oliver Spier/SleekLens

As you can see, the image has a greater amount of depth to it, with the vibrancy of the pebbles contrasting very nicely with the cloudy sky. The whole process cut down my editing time from around two hours a photograph, to not even twenty minutes. Of course, I could have spent much longer tweaking this, correcting that, however, I feel that the image I have is completely useable and I would be more than comfortable using this photograph on my portfolio.

Overall, I am very impressed with SleekLens, and I feel that it would be a fantastic addition to any photographers workflow system, from hobbyists to professionals alike.

To find out more about the workflow system I used, and to see what other great systems SleekLens provide, follow the links below:


Fun with Flowers

Lately I've been lacking inspiration for a new concept, so I decided to do what I always do in that situation; flick through one of my many photography books. In this case, my inspiration came from a book called, funnily enough, "The Photography Book". 

As I was going through, one shot stood out as one that seemed achievable to do at home, it was "Oriental Poppy" by Karl Blossfeldt. Also being passionate about design, this image, taken c.1920, intrigued me; it appeared reminiscent of the Art Nouveau movement of the time the image was taken. I really like the fine detail that the monochrome brings out, creating a seemingly minimalist composition that draws the eye to the tip of the poppy. 

© Karl Blossfeldt c.1920

After doing some research into Blossfeldt, I found out that he shot most of his images using a home made camera that magnifies its subject up to thirty times. Perhaps it was this idea of being able to take such beautiful photographs from something you could put together at home that motivated me to create my response to his work.

I soon found a flower which I thought would make a good subject to photograph, I then had to decide which medium to photograph it with, would it be medium format? This would give me the best image quality, but I had no film for it at the moment and it would restrict me to square format. Perhaps 35mm film then? This could work, I had film with me, but then I would have to get it developed and make prints - too slow. Digital it was then.

Using my Nikon D800 with a 24-70 f/2.8 lens on a tripod, I set my subject up, mounted to a lighting stand and placed it against a pale blue wall where I could get lots of natural light - I wanted to recreate the look Blossfeldt achieved, which seemed to be shot in a daylight studio. - and I began shooting.

I experimented with different focal lengths combined with different aperture values, in order to achieve my most favoured shot. After around half an hour of shooting, I packed up my gear and downloaded my images to photoshop.

From here, I slightly tweaked the contrast and clarity levels, converted the shot to monochrome and added a slight vignette.

© Oliver Spier 2015

© Oliver Spier 2015

Okay, so I've managed what I set out to do, I have created a shot reminiscent to Blossfeldt. But I still wasn't satisfied. The whole process felt too automated, I wanted to do something hands on. So I inverted my finished shots, flipped them horizontally and printed them onto some acetate at a 10x8 size; it was time to make a cyanotype.

I sensitised some A4 art paper with a solution of potassium ferrycyanide and ferric ammonium citrate, placed the digital negative on top sandwiched between two planes of glass and exposed each image under a UV lamp for around twenty minutes before washing them in a water bath and hanging them out to dry on the washing line.

© Oliver Spier 2015

© Oliver Spier 2015

Overall, I am very happy with the outcome of this first shoot, I think that by making a cyanotype, I have also created an archival product that I can enjoy, as opposed to something that would just sit on my hard drive and be forgotten.