MacPhun Luminar 2018

MacPhun soon to be Skylum have just launched an update to their excellent Luminar software. MacPhun are giving Adobe some sleepless nights recently and are promising to add Digital Asset Management capability in the comming months.

Luminar makes editing intuitive and fun. They offer a number of excellent pre-sets that give a good starting off point before you get to go crazy with any of a huge number of filters.

MacPhun added a Sun ray filter with this release for example that can be used to generate some realistic light rays in a scene. I'm not saying I have done it justice here but you get the idea

MacPhun Luminar 2018 Sun ray example

It's interesting that the filter has identified areas of the photo to cast shadows. The radar on the boat and the cables on Tower Bridge. 

Luminar 2018 Sun Rays Example

MacPhun Luminar 2018 - Sunrays Example

MacPhun Luminar 2018 - Sunrays Example

Side by side examples

You can alter a number of elements of the rays including number, opacity, warmth, length etc and as a filter you can reduce the effect or mask it out with either a brush or gradient.

Original Image

Original Image

Luminar 2018 Sunrays

Luminar 2018 Sunrays

Fuji X-T2 - A Face in the crowd

Digital Photography Challenge (DPC) 

DPChallenge (DPC) run regular photography competitions on-line. They have a good community of photographers and the photography challenges are not only good fun to enter but also add that extra incentive to go out and shoot. I highly recommend checking them out here

A Face in the crowd

One of the challenges last week was to shoot a photograph that represented a Tom Petty song title or lyric. This is quite an open brief but I decided on a photograph representing the Song 'A Face in the Crowd. I spent some time walking through Spitalfields Market looking for candid street style photo opportunities.

Click on images for a larger view

Fuji X-T2 - Fuji 56mm f1.2n - Candid Street Photography, London
A Face in the Crowd

Spitalfields Market

Fuji X-T2 Fuji 56mm f1.2
Candid Photograph, Browsing in Spitalfields Market

I work near to the famous Spitalfields Market in Brick Lane, London. I figured that I could head out during my lunch break and try and capture a face in the crowd for my entry.

Candid Photography

I had an idea of the type of photograph that I wanted but obviously it's a challenge open as much to luck as to technique to find and shoot a decent shot in a 30 minute window. I must admit that I felt a little creepy trying to find and candidly capture a suitable subject that fitted the song. 


The Fuji X-T2 is perfect for candid street photography in crowded places such as Spitalfields Market. The 56mm f1.2 is not the smallest lens in the Fuji range but taking off the lens hood helps to make the set up a little more subtle.

Shoot from the hip

I tend to flip the LCD screen and shoot from waist height when trying to capture candids in situations like these. I set the focus to central focusing point and frame using the LCD. I set the camera to continuous low to capture a sequence of frames. This gives a better chance of capturing the right look. 


I spent some of my break practicing and trying to capture images around the market. It really is a treasure trove of characters and there is seldom a shortage of subjects to capture.

Fuji X-T2 Fuji 56mm f1.2
Candid Photograph, Food Stall in Spitalfields Market

Fuji X-T2 Fuji 56mm f1.2
Candid Photograph, Making a sale in Spitalfields Market

Aurora HDR 2018 - Example HDR

I have been playing around with the excellent Aurora HDR 2018 and recently tried it out on a set of three bracketed photos of the classic Watchman view in Zion National Park.

Three Bracketed Exposures Blended into HDR image in Aurora HDR 2018
Click on Image for Larger View

The Photos were on a Nikon D3 with 1 stop exposure variations (-1,0,+1) - Click on the images in the gallery for larger view.

Aurora HDR 2018 - Settings

While I have enjoyed testing out the large selection of pre-sets supplied with Aurora HDR 2018 I find that I usually cycle back to the 'Basic' Presets collection and the 'Realistic' and Realistic Vivid' presets specifically. Aurora HDR 2018 (and 2017!) allows for the applied pre-sets to be toned down by dragging back a percentage slider. I find that the 'Realistic Vivid' preset at about 70-75% is a good starting point.

Aurora HDR 2018 is a full featured and powerful application and encourage you to take some time to view the various tutorial videos to help you get some idea of the functionality available.

Fuji X-T2 - Dunstanburgh Castle (Part II)

Return Trip

I revisited Embleton Bay later in the week and experienced very different conditions. The morning was bright and clear and the wind had dropped. In some ways I had too much cloud on the first visit and not enough on the return.

I took the Fuji 10-24mm f4 on this morning to capture wider angle view of the castle with the magnificent boulders in the foreground

Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24 f4
Dunstanburgh Castle at dawn

Right Place, Right Time, Best Conditions

It's not easy to capture the best possible conditions at your chosen location. I'm usually able to manage a couple of early starts on a weeks vacation. My wife is not that interested in photography and expects to be out and about during the day.. so early starts mean a long day with no chance to catch up on sleep.

Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24 f4
Dunstanburgh Castle dawn in Black and White

Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24 f4
Dunstanburgh Castle before dawn

Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24 f4
Dunstanburgh Castle in early morning light

Embleton Bay

The Sandy beach North of Dunstanburgh Castle is beautiful. It was worth stopping on the way back to the car to capture the early morning light and handful of dog walkers crossing the sands.

Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24 f4
Embleton Bay in the early morning







Fuji X-T2 - Dunstanburgh Castle (Part I)

I recently visited Northumberland in the North East of the UK and took the opportunity to visit Embleton Beach before dawn to capture the iconic Dunstanburgh Castle in the morning light.

Dark, Wet and Windy

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm
Dunstanburgh Castle just after dawn

I planned to drive towards Dunstan Steads where I knew there was some space to park by the side of the road with access to Embleton Bay.

I didn't have an opportunity to visit this spot before heading out at dawn and so was ready for some challenges in finding compositions. I arrived early (around 1 hour before sunrise) and getting out of my car it was very dark with a strong, gusting wind and light rain in the air. Often at this point (standing on a dark beach in the rain at 5:15am in the morning) thoughts of going back to bed inevitably arise.

Persistence and luck

I have been caught out by these thoughts before but I have more often than not been rewarded for persistence in the face of un-promising looking conditions.

Yosemite National Park in the Snow

Yosemite National Park

I remember an occasion back in 2011 when I was up before dawn on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park, California.

It was dark and very wet and I was more than tempted to return to bed and call it quits but I had travelled 1000's of miles to get to Yosemite and decided to drive into the park.

As I drove in, I found that the rain was falling as snow in the park and that the weather was clearing to a bright, misty morning. 

Slippery Rocks

To say that the boulders that litter the South of Embleton Bay are slippery is an extreme understatement. I would warn those attempting to gain access to the waterline at this location to take care. I almost gave up after losing my balance within about 30 seconds of starting my scramble towards the water. Stay low and test the stability of each rock that you step to.

Bracketed Panoramic

I ended up fairly close to the Castle and decided to try a panoramic composition to capture the castle and the cliffs.

I set the X-T2 to take 5 bracketed shots 1 stop apart. I wanted to capture the dynamic range of tones for merging to HDR in Lightroom.

It is often useful to have multiple exposures of a scene, especially when the lighting conditions are challenging. I often use Lightrooms merge to HDR feature as it results in a RAW file with very high range but I also use Aurora HDR 2018 for creative HDRs

I balanced my tripod legs across three rounded boulders while standing on a fourth. The wind was whipping up the waves and the sea was washing over my boots and in and around the boulders. It was tricky making the camera level and I was juggling Lee Filters while trying not to get blown over.

I could see that the thick clouds were starting to break up and took the chance to get some shots. I was hoping for some drama in the sky and although the morning started badly with thick cloud and rain it cleared enough to give me the shots I had hoped for.

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm
Dunstanburgh Castle just after dawn

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm
Dunstanburgh Castle just after dawn

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm
Dunstanburgh Castle silhouette

Looking Back

I find it difficult to judge the time to head back home after a dawn shoot. It is arguably easier in the evening because the sun sets and it gets dark and the colour drains from the scenes. In the morning the early light can stay interesting for hours.

I usually pack up on a deadline. I promise to be back at the cottage for breakfast with my wife by 8:30am for example. This forces me (often reluctantly) to leave the location. 

It is always worth a sneaky look back as you head to the car though. There are some worthwhile shots about in the early hours (Just don't take too long about it) :)

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm
Dunstanburgh Castle and wheat Field

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm
Dunstanburgh Castle over the dunes

Return to Dunstanburgh

I decided to return to this location at dawn later in the week. 




Fuji X-T2 - Northumberland Coast

I recently visited the beautiful Northumberland Coast in the North East of the United Kingdom. I took the opportunity to grab some landscape and seascape photos with my Fuji X-T2.

I took the Fuji 18-135mm for versatility and weather proofing (It was late September after all!) along with the Fuji 10-24mm f4 for wide angle vistas and the 16mm f1.4

I found the book 'The Photographer's Guide to Northumberland' by Ellen Bowness to be a very useful guide to plan some of my photography. 

Ellen features photographs, tips and directions to a large number of photogenic locations along the Northumberland Coast.

I stayed in Alnwick which is fairly centrally located and around 20-25 minutes drive to the coast. Alnwick has become quite famous in the last decade due to the use of it's castle in the filming of the first two Harry Potter movies. You can spend a happy afternoon touring the castle and hearing all about it's appearances in various movies and TV shows.

Embleton Bay

Dunstanburgh Castly from Embleton Bay
Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135mm

25 minutes drive from Alnwick is the sandy beach of Embleton Bay. There is car parking space at the side of the road at Dunstan Steads which is convenient for the beach and located within sight of the iconic Dunstanburgh Castly ruins.


Holy Island

A visit to Northumberland is not complete without a visit to Holy Island. This island is beautiful but access (by car or foot) is subject to Tide Times. The tide cuts off the island appx every 5 hours or so.

The Lindisfarne Castle on the Island is very photogenic generally although currently (until April 2018) it is surrounded in very un-sightly scaffolding :)

The only practical day to visit was a wash out for us but I can highly recommend a visit. There is something magical about the place especially if you plan to stay there. The Tide results in the Island deserting every 5 hours which would result in some very tranquil moments.

Lindisfarne Castle and Harbour
Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 16mm f1.4

Bamburgh Castle
FUJI X-T2 and Fuji 16mm f1.4

Bamburgh Castle

Northumberland has a very large number of castles and they all have photographic appeal from the ruins of Dunstanburgh to the majesty of Alnwick.

Bamburgh Castle is large and majestic and sits above the sand dunes of an expansive beach. This is a great location for both sun rise and sun set and well worth your time to visit.

Aurora HDR 2018

Aurora HDR 2018 is here and I thought I'd give it a try with a particularly challenging 5 shot HDR from Yosemite National Park in May 2011.

I arrived at tunnel view around dawn and the light was very challenging with an extremely bright sky deep shadows in the valley with a mist hanging over the Merced river.

I've edited these shots many times over the years using luminosity masks, Photomatix, Lightroom merge to HDR and all methods have struggled to resolve the shots into a realistic scene.

Aurora HDR 2018 did a pretty decent job, especially as I have not had a chance to learn any of the tools and features. This is a basic HDR with some small tweaks to masking.

Great stuff macphun.

Macphun Aurora HDR 2018
Five shot HDR example - Tunnel View at Dawn - Yosemite National Park, CA

Lensbaby Trio 28 - Velvet

The Lensbaby Trio 28 continues to remain firmly attached to my Fuji X-T2. This week I have been looking at photographs with the Trio 28 set to the Velvet Setting.

Velvet introduces a dreamy look to your photos. It features an area of sharp focus in the middle of the frame with progressively blurrier edges similar to the 'Sweet' lens but the whole photo features a soft glamour glow effect.

I found it harder to find subjects that suited the velvet as I usually shoot landscapes and street which seemed to suite the 'Sweet' effect better. 

Commuters at London Waterloo

The glamour glow effect of the Lensbaby Trio Velvet has given a dreamy feel to this shot of the hussle and bussle of a morning in London's busiest Railway Stations. I tried to keep the shutter speed low to give some motion blur to the commuters.

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
Lensbaby Trio 28 - Velvet


The Velvet effect comes in to its own on subjects such as this backlit Sunflower. The haze and lens flare as well as the softness in the flower help make this shot work. This is an HDR or bracketed shots merged in Adobe Lightroom

Fuji X-T2 - HDR
Lensbaby Trio 28 - Velvet


I was drawn to the soft light and shadows on this wooden bench on London's South Bank.. The Velvet lens has rendered the bench quite sharp and the passers by are rendered softly.. this helps highlight the focus on the simple bench and lines.

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation Lensbaby Trio 28 - Velvet

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
Lensbaby Trio 28 - Velvet

St Pauls

This is a sample landscape with the Velvet Option. I have taken similar shots with the Sweet option and think that would be my first option for this type of composition.

Fuji X-T2
Lensbaby Trio 28 - Velvet


I enjoyed using the Lensbaby Trio 28 in Velvet mode but on the whole for my type of Photography I prefer the effects of the 'Sweet' lens. The Sunflower shot is the stand out of the examples for me as it plays to the strengths of the subtle glow generated by the lens. Haze caused by the sun is interesting.


I downloaded the Plotagraph App for iPad this week and tried my hand at creating a couple of animations from two of my images. The software is pretty intuitive to use and creates some interesting animations

Lensbaby Trio 28 - Sweet


Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
Lensbaby Trio 28 - Sweet

I hooked up my Fuji X-T2 to a Lensbaby Trio 28 lens and took it on my daily commute into London.

The Lensbaby Trio 28 is an interesting product that consists of a small lens with a rotating front element that features three seperate lenses. These lenses are designed to create image effects across the most popular of Lensbabys lens offerings.

The Aperture is fixed at f3.5 and the lens is manual focus... 

Lensbaby Trio 28 - Sweet

For my initial outing I set the X-T2 to shoot ACROS film Simulation JPG's and switched the Trio 28 to 'Sweet'  - Sweet creates a sharp central sweet spot of focus surrounded by gradually increasing blur.

London South Bank

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
Lensbaby Trio 28 - SWEET

Street Scene

I found this scene near Shoreditch in East London. I asked before taking some shots. The blur from the centre is an interesting effect but not sure it makes this type of composition stronger.

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
Lensbaby Trio 28 - SWEET


The Lensbaby works well for symmetrical compositins although a stronger focal point might have helped in this example from London Southbank

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
Lensbaby Trio 28 - SWEET

Off Center Focus

In this simple composition of a chain on the banks of the River Thames I attempted to bring focus away from the centre of the fame. Interesting effect

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
Lensbaby Trio 28 - SWEET


I think that the symmetrical composition works well with the Lensbaby Sweet effect. I think on the whole I'd have liked the dome of St Pauls not to blur out. The effect when used like this gives a miniature world effect. This is reminisent of the effect from the original Lensbaby Composer

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
Lensbaby Trio 28 - SWEET

The Shard

I quite like the shot of the  Shard from London Bridge. The softness top and bottom is strong enough not to look accidental.

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
Lensbaby Trio 28 - SWEET


In summary I enjoyed using the Lensbaby Trio 28 on this days commuting. I didn't have a lot of time to explore too many opportunities but I am seeing some potential creative opportunities. I like the ACROS Film Simulation in combination with the lensbaby.

I'll be adding more real world examples with this lens in the coming weeks. Including hopefully some shots of St Pauls interior at night.




Fuji X-T2 - Lensbaby Trio 28

Lensbaby Trio 28

My good friends at Lensbaby recently sent me a Lensbaby Trio 28 to try out on my Fuji X-T2.

The Lensbaby Trio 28 is a neat little lens with a revolving front element featuring a selection of three lenses which give the effects of some classic lensbaby optics, Sweet, Velvet and Twist.

Fuji X-T2 and Lensbaby Trio 28

Fuji X-T2 and Lensbaby Trio 28

Lensbaby Composer

I've had a selection of Lensbaby optics over the years and have enjoyed the creative incentive that they give.

Not every subject benefits from the optical qualities of Lensbaby but its fun to try different subjects to see the effects that can be achieved.

The Lensbaby Composer range of lenses was capable of some quite strong effects especially when the moveable front element was tilted to the more extreme angles.

The Lensbaby Trio 28 is light and compact, almost like a pancake lens. It probably won't win any design awards as it's looks are a little reminiscent of a Lomo type camera. The quality and the sharpness of the results tell a different story.

The lens is focused manually using the large marked focus ring. I suggest setting up the Fuji with a focus selection assist such as focus highlight to aid focus especially when using the 'Sweet' lens setting where critical focus is more important.

While the Trio 28 replicates the looks of Lensbaby optics of the past the effects are more subtle than the original lenses. The Sweet Mode is the easiest to jump straight into and the Bokeh is quite pleasing

Rotating the front element between the three lenses is a little awkward (at least it was for my large fingers!)

Fuji X-T2 ACROS Film Simulation JPG - Lensbaby Trio 28 'Sweet' Example

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
Straight from camera example of Lensbaby Trio 28

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
100% Crop example of Lensbaby Trio 28 using 'Sweet' lens

Lensbaby Trio 28 - Sweet

I decided to start out with the Lensbaby Trio 28 set to sweet mode as I figured that this might be the easier of the effects to get used to. Sweet creates a sharp central sweet spot of focus surrounded by gradually increasing blur.

I thought I'd shoot on my daily commute in London, UK with the Fuji X-T2 and ACROS Film Simulation mode and see if I could capture some 'keepers' - I plan to write a seperate post for each of the three lenses available on the Trio and write a full review after a month of real world usage. 

Commuters on the Millennium Bridge, London

Fuji X-T2 - ACROS Film Simulation
Lensbaby Trio 28 with 'Sweet' Optic setting






Lensbaby Trio 28 - Fuji

Lensbaby make a dedicated mirrorless 28mm lens by the name of Lensbaby Trio 28. The 'Trio' title comes from the three effect types that this lens is capable of rendering- Twist, Velvet and Sweet. I plan to evaluate this promising product in the coming weeks and will publish a number of articles with example images from some real world photography in London.