About me, Interviews

Interview with Ole Henrik Skjelstad

I’ve known Ole Henrik a few years now, he needs no introduction to anyone in the Landscape Photography world. If you haven’t seen his work, seriously …do look him up. One of my biggest landscape photography inspirations and a genuine human being.

“Jenny’s story is a compelling read about dedication, hardships and overcoming obstacles. She is a true artist whose images stand out as unique, creative and evocative”.

Have a wee read & please let me know.

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Tell us a little about yourself.

Born and raised in the north of England, moved to the Scottish Highlands in my mid 30s with husband and two dogs following our dream to escape the rat race. We live on a farm within a private highland estate in the far north –  I really have never lived anywhere so beautiful in all my life. Always been a bit of a dolly daydreamer. My senior school was set in a rural location with views down a pretty valley and my step father once told a teacher that I’d never get any work done for staring out of the classroom window in my own little world. He was not wrong! I’m a very competitive person but only with myself, I am my own biggest critic, never happy with my images.

 What made you start out with landscape photography?

I’ve always had a passion for the great outdoors and travel, and most of our holidays and free time were either spent long distance backpacking, hiking, climbing or skiing. Unfortunately I was diagnosed with a rare bone disease aged 35 which put an end to our adventures and I spiralled into a dark place. A few years later I found solace taking photos whilst walking my dogs in the beautiful countryside where I was lucky enough to be living, using a basic point/ shoot camera. I finally took the plunge and purchased my first Canon DSLR in October 2015.

What do you want to communicate through your photos?

I try to communicate depth by means of interesting foreground, textures, light, different focal lengths and focus. Emotion is never far from my mind when processing, which I hope is something I manage to convey in my photographs. Oftentimes, I will use more warmer palettes to portray happiness whereas more moody cool tones can show the opposite. I never set out with a plan, I kind of go with the flow wherever my mood takes me. I truly find great pleasure inviting the viewer into the scene and the world through my eyes.

What has photography done for you?

It’s helped me with mental negative demons, and in a way it’s given me back the old part of my life in the great outdoors without debilitating hip pain. Whether I’m on location or post processing, it will take me to another world. I’m not sure if others will relate to this but it’s like I’m able to escape the chaos of life and zone out in my own little world. Not to mention the genuine friendships I’ve made through photography, the generosity I’ve encountered continually astounds me.

How would you describe your work, and how has it evolved since you started out?

As much as I’m known for a lot of post processing, I do feel over the years I’ve learnt to tone it down a wee bit. In the early days I thought saturation and heavy vignettes were the best thing ever, whereas these days I try to be more selective and use it to lead the eye into key areas. Studying light has been a game changer for me, knowing where your light source is and where the light / shadows will fall is a must. I’ve learnt a lot just by spending time in nature – you soon learn what colours work best … you can’t beat nature’s own colour wheel. Also I give myself more time these day on composition, searching for patterns and leading lines, whereas I never use to give it much thought.

I suppose most of us have periods when we seem to lose the fun of photography. Have you developed any strategies to keep the fire burning?

Absolutely! There are most definitely times when this happens, I need time away mostly from my computer and usually spend extra time on family road trips. Especially to the west coast of Scotland – famous for rain but once it stops and the sun comes out there is such amazing light playing on the land that it’s hard not to feel exhilarated and then I can’t get the camera out fast enough! It’s like an itch that needs scratching and I’m back before I know it. I’m very fortunate to have such a supportive husband, he understands when these times happen but will never let me give up when I’m throwing a tantrum (usually in post processing) – he’s always there championing me on which really does help re-igniting the flame.

Have you ever been severely criticized for your work? And in that case how did you handle it?

Oh yes ….!  It sure happens, especially in my early days and I didn’t handle it well emotionally and took it to heart. The purists often criticise my creative licence but I am not here to appease them, my art is selfishly for myself. I’ve learnt over the years to take it with a pinch of salt and move on as photography is subjective and you’ll never satisfy everyone – the world would be a boring place if we all liked the same thing. These days if I see a negative comment on social media I literally ignore it. Gone are the days where I try to reason with them and at the end of the day they are quite entitled to their opinion. After saying that categorically I can say that I’ve never criticise anyone else’s work, even if someone directly asks me for constructive criticism I still struggle, it’s not in my nature. My gran always taught me if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all. 

Have you any hobbies besides photography?

Not sure if it’s a hobby but it sure takes up time! This past year I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spending time with seven horses on our farm whom I’ve become very attached to and seem to connect with on an emotional level, it’s really quite bizarre in a heartwarming and calming way. Also I enjoy reading and watching far too many films.

In which direction do you believe landscape photography is heading? 

In all honesty reflecting on the past 20 years in the mountains of Scotland I’ve witnessed huge environmental damages. I feel social media is like a virus to landscape photography. So many people travel the globe to iconic places just to post on social media to gain more likes and/or followers, it’s really very sad what’s happening to these beauty spots. Don’t get me wrong-  I accept wholeheartedly that anyone has the right to go where they wish, we’re all guilty of that up to a point. For me travel is about adventure and fun, not letting Google direct you to a location you’ve seen on Instagram. For example 20-30 years ago the famous Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye only had a few daily hill walkers, there wasn’t even a car park, not many people knew about it, people would simply park on the roadside and for the odd few cars doing this it really didn’t matter. Unlike the past 10 years where it’s snowballed to craziness on a whole new level with endless streams of tour buses all year round. It really hurts me seeing the erosion caused not only to the roads but footpaths too and literally scarring the vistas. I don’t know if people are plain selfish or just don’t realise this damage is permanent! Even if everyone stopped going from today it would take many hundreds of years to return to its former glory. I honestly don’t know where it’ll all end.

What is the most amazing place you have visited? Is it possible for you to articulate why it made such a huge impression on you?

In 1994 my husband and I rented our house out to fund a road trip for a year travelling fourteen countries in Europe and Scandinavia. There was one very special country we never wanted to leave which was Norway, it left a huge impression especially the enormity of the turquoise waterfalls and Troll Wall, such a beautiful country in so many ways. We were able to take our watches off and mostly didn’t know if it was day or night as it was summer time and never went totally dark. 

What inspires you?

It’s got to be the moody Scottish weather. Some say it’s not great due to all the rain but for me there’s nothing better than after heavy rain fall when the sun pops out often revealing great light rays. Also foggy mornings make my heart swell when the mist slowly lifts from a river or loch, it really does make for interesting photography.

You have been severely ill. How has that affected you as a person and your photography?

March 2018 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, and my world came crashing down. Photography definitely inspired me to overcome my fears for the biggest fight of my life. My consultant told me I’d be out of action for a year with surgery and treatments. Luckily a few weeks after diagnosis a fine art gallery south of Glasgow approached me to display some of my work. This gave me mental balance, something positive to focus on and true hope. It took a few weeks after surgery to get back to doing some post processing, and I was only able to use one hand. Sadly I wasn’t able to hold my camera, let alone use it as I was so weak and sore. Cancer might have put my life on hold but there was no way it was controlling my love of photography. Within this time I wrote a full post processing tutorial of one of my images from start to finish for a photography magazine and also had a selection of my work published in a hardback coffee table style book.

 Photography helped to shut out the reality of the outside world, and took me to another world full of magic, with a sense of calmness and happiness. It gave me the confidence to hold my head up high, I was alive! No matter what I had to face my escape was always my art, I buried my head in my own little world where anything was possible. Eventually I got through surgery, 5 months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and albeit a little battered and bruised, I survived! It’s the old cliche that you often hear after a life-changing diagnosis –  “the world looks different now”. It’s so true. Before my diagnosis I would shy away from certain opportunities but now I want to grab life and live it to the fullest. I received many messages of support from fellow photographers who told me their stories of how cancer had touched their families. Photography has been my saviour and still continues to help rebuild “me”.

Do you have a piece of advice for young aspiring landscape photographers?

Be true to yourself, do what makes you happy and don’t worry what others may think. Don’t follow the crowds or chase the followers – it will become stressful and dull your creativity. Take inspiration from others but don’t copy. Try to find your own unique style which in return will give you more abundance. Never compare yourself to others, it’s a slippery slope of despair. Social media can of course be inspirational but at the same time can leave you with a feeling of lacklustre and loneliness and can quickly lead to unhelpful comparisons. If this happens take some time away even if just a couple of hours and do something completely different – for it can suck the life from your creative flow. And finally, practice, practice and more practice, it’s the only way. Oh… and don’t be too hard on yourself –  it’s about having fun!


 

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© Jenny Cameron 2019.

 

 

On Location

The Buccal

Buachaille
Glencoe

“The Buccal” …also known as Buachaille Etive Mor. It’s been my playground the past thirty odd years, I know these mountains very well having climbed, back-packed & skied. There will always be something very special deep in my heart that draws me back. For those who have never visited Glencoe/ Rannoch Moor area, let me tell you it’s one of those places your forever looking over your shoulder, not because it’s unsafe but your constantly thinking someone is behind you. Kinda spooky which is of no surprise when you think of the Glencoe massacre 1692 when Clan MacDonald were slaughtered in their sleep!

Glen Etive portrait style waterfall re edit

Reviews

Haida M10 and Red Diamond test review

Introduction

I’m excited to introduce the new Haida M10 adapter ring, M10 filter holder, M10 round “drop-in” circular polariser, M10 “drop-in” light barrier,  M10 round “drop-in” neutral density 3.0 (10 stop) and Red Diamond medium 0.9 (3 stops).

This test review was based on a shoot around Assynt, a remote area of the Northern Scottish Highlands using my Canon 5d mark iv ( full frame camera). Tested at the widest focal length I use, 16mm with my Canon 16-35 mm USM L lens. Gitzo tripod and ball head.

As a landscape photographer I have learnt how invaluable a great filter system is to my arsenal of tools. It’s something you can buy a bit at a time to build up your collection, but choosing the correct brand is the tricky part. Thankfully for you I’ve made the mistakes and now ready to reveal the latest from Haida filters, the only brand for me.

I started using Haida filters in January 2018 with their Pro 100 series. As much as I regard them highly, I can’t stress enough how Haida’s design team have really upped their game and left their competitors way behind with their latest generation M10 filter holder system for the 100 mm series filters, including a selection of round “drop-in” filters (CPL, NDs and Clear-night)  also their Red Diamond series ND’s (soft, medium), hard GND, reverse GND and horizon GND. These were all launched in October 2018 at Photokina and are now readily available. Haida have really listened to their customers and actually done something about it.

They kindly sent me their M10 filter holder and a selection of filters early in January 2018. So far, they have travelled almost two thousand miles with me on a road trip from the North Coast of Scotland to Southern England and a couple of local photo shoots. I wanted to really spend time in the field conducting this review and putting everything through its paces to give my most honest opinion. I can proudly say I now know them so well I could use them blindfolded. The whole set up – from screwing on the adapter ring to sliding in your first filter – can be done in less than 10 seconds!

All Haida filters are assembled in their own optical workshop located in the beautiful Port City of Ningbo, China. Haida’s new generation are such a genius method and design.

Haida M10 filter holder kit for the 100mm series filters includes the filter holder, CPL, light-barrier, adapter ring and leather case.

HaidaM10
M10 Filter Holder System

Haida M10 adapter ring

Works solely with the Haida M10 filter holder which is part of Haida’s new generation. Constructed entirely from aluminium for strength and light-weight, and also slim in design. From my experience this helps with any unnecessary vignettes when shooting at wide angles. You simply screw it easily onto the front of your Lens. This is the foundation for the M10 filter holder: it’s a bit like building a house – without a solid foundation there’s no point installing the windows.

These can be purchased to fit most popular lenses in sizes 49, 52, 55, 58, 62, 67, 72, 77 and 82mm.

Haida M10 filter holder

This is Haida’s successor to their 100 Pro filter holder. The new M10 filter holder is made from aviation grade aluminium and PC materials for super strength and is lighter in weight than its predecessor. Its genius design makes it exceptionally user-friendly, with super fast set up, and effortless to change and remove filters. Simply clip the M10 filter holder onto the M10 adapter ring by using the red push-and-release (spring clip) locking lever (see photo below). The innovative design gives a very secure and solid connection, and at the same time the ability to rotate 360 degrees – which I found especially useful when using the Red Diamond medium 0.9 ( 3 stop) graduated neutral density filter. The non-slip spongued coating on the bottom of the filter holder provides more of a grip when rotating which I think is a nice touch.

It’s designed to take up to three filters ( 100 x 100mm or 100 x 150mm @ 2mm thickness, compatible with other brands at the same size ) on the front of the holder if you wish to stack, and one filter slot at the rear closest to your camera lens where the new round “drop in” M10 filters are used. Boasting a choice of neutral density filters ( 3, 6, 10 and 15 stops), circular polariser (included in the kit), clear-night (light pollution filter), graduated neutral density filters ( 3 and 4 stops) and ND + CPL ( 3 and 6 stops). But only using one at a time which is the only downside if you like using several ND/s and a CPL as I often did with its predecessor. If you don’t wish to use any of the round “drop- in” filters, you must use the M10 “drop in” light barrier (see photo below) which is a simple and easy to use sealing ring to prevent any light leakage (also provided in the kit).

Stack of 3 100mm x 100mm Haida NDs in front compartment and CPL in rear compartment of M10 filter holder.

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Housed in a smart black eco-leather zipped storage case, with a handy carabiner attached to the top which can be neatly clipped onto your tripod or belt for ease of access. Internally lined with a lovely grey velvety fabric with a net pocket for storage. Also included: screwdriver, extra pair of filter holder slots and gaskets to provide a third slot on the front of the Holder )which I’ve left on permanently).

Video of me using the M10 adapter ring, M10 filter holder, M10 round “drop-in” circular polariser filter together with Red Diamond medium 0.9 filter.

Haida M10 round “drop-in” circular polariser filter

My favourite of all the filters has always been the CPL. A vital piece of kit every landscape photographer should have and something which cannot be replicated in post processing. I rarely shoot without – it’s the perfect light manager. And let me tell you, Haida`s new M10 round “drop-in” CPL will never be off my lens.

I was curious to test if any slight vignette was present, and I can happily confirm that there is none at all, even pushing it through a tough test at my widest 16mm on a full frame camera. It gives amazing contrast, and cuts through some of the haze, especially on the clouds and the polarisation is visible in the sky producing some great detail. Removed almost all the unwanted glare and the see-through effect is well achieved on the water. Added some beautiful saturation which gives an overall instant pop to the image. Always remember with any filter – it brings into the equation a fourth dimension to the exposure triangle. With a CPL you will generally lose between 1-2 stops of light. As you can see in the comparison exif data below, I have lost around 1.5 stops.

Inserting the round “drop in” CPL into the M10 filter holder is the fastest I’ve ever used, never mind witnessed. It simply drops between the holder and lens creating a perfect seal from any stray light. It’s almost like gravity does the work for you –  once you hear the click it’s locked in place. There is a three gear linkage design on the mount which rotates independently and very smoothly. Once you start turning the adjustable black dial which is centrally placed on the top of the filter, you’ll instantly see the polarisation intensity on your live view screen. I tend to always rotate a CPL 360 degrees first to check the availability of contrast, saturation, and reflection. The strongest effect takes place at an angle of 90 degrees from the sun, ie make sure your line of sight is perpendicular to the direction of the sun. The filter is easily removed or exchanged by gently squeezing the red plastic tabs on the top and lifting it out without disturbing your composition.

sliding in M10 round CPL into M10 filter holder
Inserting M10 round “drop-in” Circular Polariser (cpl) filter into M10 filter holder.

Constructed from high quality optical glass, each filter has ten layers of anti-reflective coatings, scratch-proof, provides the best clarity, includes the famous nano multi-coating to reduce reflection, waterproof (meaning any droplets of water literally roll off like beads, no ugly smears) and the dreaded fingerprints wipe off easily with a soft microfibre cloth.

I have to say how solid it feels, plus it’s very fast and easy to use. In the past, CPLs I’ve used can be fiddly, hard to screw on especially when it’s freezing cold, you’re up at silly o’clock waiting for sunrise and half asleep. Haida have really listened to their customers and produced this truly clever design making our life so much easier. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with.

The round “drop in” filters are available in a selection of: ND 0.9, 1.8 3.0, 4; CPL; Clear-night; GND-0.9 1.2; ND+CPL 0.9 and 1.8.

Images below showing straight-out-of-camera (Canon 5d mark iv and Canon 16-35mm USM L Lens) @16mm with no filter and with Haida M10 “drop-in” CPL filter. No post processing on either other than lens correction in Lightroom. Demonstrating how the CPL has retained every bit of sharpness.

without-cpl-(1-of-1)
Without filter = ISO 100, F18, 1/13 – With Circular Polariser filter = ISO 100, F18, 1/8 second

Finally post processed in Adobe Creative Cloud.

edited version (jpeg)
Location – Loch Assynt, Sutherland. Scotland.

Haida Red Diamond Medium

take wording for blog post & pic

The Red Diamond filter I am testing is a medium 0.9 equaling 3 Stops. Rectangle in shape and sized 100mm x 150mm, providing more flexibility to move the filter up or down within the holder for ultimate control, homogeneous graduated blending from light to dark and endless creative possibilities. I really enjoyed using this filter in combination with the M10 filter holder. It’s fun the way you can rotate the holder if you want to darken the sky on one side or turn it upside down if you’re looking over bright highlighted water.

sliding in red diamond medium with M10 round CPL in back. Feb 2019
Inserting Red Diamond medium 0.9 into M10 filter holder with M10 round “drop-in” cpl filter in the rear compartment

I predict this latest series from Haida becoming “The big daddy” of them all for landscape photographers the world over. Haida named this new series “Red Diamond” as they’re amongst the strongest diamonds in the world, therefore being the strongest of all Haida filters.

What makes this series stand out from its predecessor and other brand filters are listed as follows:

  • Shock resistant, low risk to any accidental damage.
  • Scratch resistant, the perfect partner in demanding weather.
  • Zero colour cast.
  • Waterproof, oil and fingerprint proof Nanopro coated surface.
  • Improved optical glass.
  • R5 rounded corners – makes it easier to slide in and out of the filter holder, no sharp corners.
  • K9 optical glass.
  • True colour.
  • Ultra-thin nano multi coating.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Double the strength of other glass filters whilst at the same time retaining ultimate sharpness.
  • Still retaining 2 mm in thickness making it compatible with the Haida 100-Pro filter holder and other brands the same size.
  • The Red Diamond series is double the strength of a normal glass filter. You may have seen online the Haida Red Diamond drop test video? Where it’s thrown onto a concrete floor and no sign of damage to the filter. If you are accident prone this would be the perfect filter series for you.

Images below showing straight-out-of-camera (Canon 5d mark iv and Canon 16-35mm USM L Lens) @16mm -With-without-Red Diamond medium 0.9 (3 stops). No post processing on either, other than lens correction in Lightroom.

With-Red-Diamond-Medium-Filter-base-edit
Without filter = ISO 100, F14, 1.1 sec – With Red Diamond medium 0.9 = ISO 100, F14, 3.1 sec

Finally post processed in Adobe Creative Cloud

red diamond medium across strath (jpeg for web) edited version
Location – Lochen on a private Highland estate.

M10 round “drop-in” 3.0 ND (10 Stop) Filter

The round “drop in” 3.0 ND, equalling 10 stops of light with its built in light barrier, is particularly useful for any super long exposures. Oftentimes in the past I’ve struggled with the issue of light leakage and had to resort to putting hats or cloths over the gap between filter and lens, not an ideal situation at all.

Before I started my love affair with Haida filters over a year ago, I was using Lee filters. My go-to neutral density filter was always the Big Stopper but more times out of ten the images produced had a slight purple tint and vignettes at wide angles. Although it’s easy enough to change in post processing, it is another job. All these wee jobs can mount up a lot, meaning less creative time and enjoyment in the great outdoors with your camera – and surely they’re the best parts?!

I was curious to test if any vignette were present, and I can happily confirm none at all was found. You would think attaching any filter over your lens would affect the level of sharpness, but it’s clear to see from my findings below that there is no loss of sharpness from corner to corner – it’s pin sharp. Absolutely no colour tint was found, making this one of the most neutral NDs I’ve ever come across. I particularly liked the design of the plastic holder that the round glass sits in, making it ultra easy to drop in and remove the filter holder without any disturbance to the composition. The M10 round “drop-in” series of filters feature the same nanopro coatings, producing excellent image quality. It’s clear to see that Haida have really thought through every single part of the process and know the issues that can be caused in the field.

Images below showing straight-out-of-camera (Canon 5d mark iv and Canon 16-35mm USM L Lens) @16mm -With-without-M10 round “drop-in” N.D 3.0 (10-stop). No post processing on either other than lens correction in Lightroom.

with-without-nd3.0-(10-stop)
Without filter = ISO 100, F14, 0.4 sec – With M10 “drop-in” ND 3.0 filter = ISO 100, F14, 130 sec

Finally post processed in Adobe Creative Cloud

across strath (jpeg for web) 10 stop m10
Location – Lochen on a private Highland estate

Collection of images taken during my field test

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I hope this provides you some useful information. Please feel free to ask me any questions.

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