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, Reviews

Test review of Haida Red-diamond soft GND 1.2 & Haida M10 round “drop-in” CPL+ND 1.8 combi

Introduction

Welcome to my test review of the Haida round “drop-in” Circular Polariser and Neutral Density 1.8 (6 stop) combination filter and Haida Red-diamond soft graduated neutral density 1.2 (4 stops).

If you enjoy landscape photography I cannot stress the importance of investing in a good quality set of filters. Im well aware of what it feels like having a restrictive budget and fears of making the wrong decisions buying new gear. This is where I hope I can help by providing my hand on heart honest opinion. Haida are not the cheapest filters on the market but by no means the most expensive for the optical quality achieved, you really do get a lot of bang for your buck! We all strive to buy the best lenses so why scrimp on a cheap filter and ruin optical quality, it makes no sense to me.

Haida M10 round “drop-in” CPL+ND 1.8 (6 stop)

When Haida offered me the opportunity to test their M10 combination-filter with built in light barrier I was intrigued to say the least, questioning myself what the downfalls if any would be. Whilst stacking filters can work and something I do regular, however this practice is not optimal for a couple of reasons;

  1. Forcing light to traverse through more elements, therefore more likely to get slightly refracted, possibly resulting in softness or even chromatic aberration.
  2. Increased risk of light flares.

The more I thought about it the more I couldn’t wait. Initially I planned waterfalls for this particular test. Although I could see it being very useful after a midday rainstorm which happens a lot here in Scotland when the sun bursts out it’s great to slow down the exposure a wee bit and allow the filter to do the work. Rainfall hasn’t been great the past few days so I headed to the beach at sunrise instead.

Inserting the filter into the Haida M10 filter holder is incredibly fast, it simply drops between the holder and lens creating a perfect seal from any stray light. 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 unlike any of the Haida M10 round “drop-in” filters such as this combi filter which have a built in light-barrier.

from vid 2
Inserting filter into the rear of M10 filter holder

This is a ND 1.8 filter meaning it will lose six stops of light. But don’t forget it has the added CPL which generally loose between 1-2 stops of light, collectively this will provide a total of almost eight stops. For me personally, I like a six stop ND for moving water as it doesn’t blur everything to oblivion like say a ten stop would. A six stop shows slight movement which I prefer to portray. A neutral density filter should be exactly what the name suggests “neutral” in every which way and let me tell you all the Haida NDs I’ve ever tested are all neutral, no crazy coloured undertones, no vignetting and no loss of sharpness from corner to corner. What you see is what you get.

If your not wanting the polarising effect you can simply rotate the small dial (three gear linkage design ) on the mount independently, very smoothly to reduce or completely remove depending on the scenario of the scene. Once you start turning, you’ll instantly see the polarisation intensify 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. The choice is all yours and easily very adjustable.

Image of raw file with filter on, zoomed in 100% in Lightroom to demonstrate maximum sharpness of the rocks. Its clear to see the quality is second to none, excellent detail even in the darkest of shadows at blue hour.

zoomed 100 percent )jpeg)

For this very demanding scene above with the bright sunrise and dark foreground you need the best support from your gear. Let me tell you this filter made my job very easy, provided excellent control over the whole dynamic range, ultimate sharpness, no color cast or vignette, and really made me smile. 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.

The M10 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) @19mm -With-without-M10 round “drop-in” CPL+ND 1.8 combi. No post processing on either, other than lens correction in Lightroom.

raw-without-(1-of-1)
Without filter = ISO 100, F14, 0.6 sec – With Haida M10 round “drop-in” CPL+ND 1.8 combination. = ISO 100, F14, 30 seconds @19mm

Finally post processed in Adobe Creative Cloud

Fragil rock (jpeg for web)

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Haida Red-diamond soft GND 1.2 (4 stops)

Earlier this year I tested the Haida Red-diamond medium 0.9 (3 stops) read review which totally stole my heart, since then it’s rarely been off my lens and I can’t wait to tell everyone how thrilled I am in using it. My love affair with this series only intensified, I had to try the Red-diamond soft graduated neutral density 1.2 (GND 4 stops) filter. Packed my kit and off I went to Aberdeen for sunrise to see how the soft grad stood up to the medium and let me tell you I was not disappointed.

The main purpose of a GND filter is to balance exposure in an image that contains a bright sky and darker foreground. As you can see from the photos below this filter is rectangle in shape and sized 100mm x 150mm, providing flexibility to move the filter up or down within the filter holder for ultimate control. Providing such a beautiful soft progression from dark at the top where you would place over the sky to clear at the bottom in a neutral manner and achieving endless creative possibilities.

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) @35mm with no filter and with Haida Red-diamond soft GND 1.2 (4 stops). No post processing on either other than lens correction in Lightroom. As you can see the soft GND significantly transforms the quality of the image.

with-without-filter-(-gif)-May-2019-Dunnottar
Without filter = ISO 100, F10, 1/20 – With Haida Red-diamond soft GND filter 1.3 = ISO 100, F10, 0.8 seconds @35mm.

Finally post processed in Adobe Creative Cloud

final edit (jpeg)
Sunrise over Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

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All Haida filters are assembled in their own optical workshop located in the beautiful Port City of Ningbo, China.

Conclusion

My overall conclusion is both filters are superiorly optically and I have absolutely no hesitation is recommending to anyone whether beginners or advanced and using for my own portfolio.

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

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Reviews

Haida 100 Filter Series Review by Jenny Cameron 

My first review of the Haida 100 Series ND 3.6, ND 4.5, Pro Round Circular Polariser (CPL), Adapter Ring and Pro Holder as their UK Official Photographer. Using my Canon 5d mark iv with Canon 16-35mm USM Lens in the Northern Scottish Highlands.

When I first started my Landscape photography journey I bought a budget range of filters, but couldn’t understand how my images actually looked worse than without any filter, but other photographers who I looked up to were producing great work. The only difference I found were different brands, eventually I upped my game, bite the bullet, bought a better quality set of filters. It’s like the old saying goes, “buy cheap buy twice”, which is very true! Never skimp on anything Optical, you’ll never be happy.

Adapter Ring

The Haida adapter ring is made from good quality Aluminium with no rough edges and very sturdy. This easily screws onto the filter holder where they can stay together permanently if your using the same lens. I particularly found this a great innovation as my previous filter holder and adapter ring were separate which meant more time screwing together which isn’t always easy in freezing temperatures with gloves on, or needing to move quick as the light changes. The particular size I used was 77mm for my Canon 16-35mm USM Lens, but they come in an array of different sizes ( 49mm – 82mm) to suit most popular lenses.

100 Pro Holder
The Haida 100 Pro Holder  feels solid in your hand, very fast and easy to mount. Made from the highest quality Aluminum,making it extremely robust and strong unlike some other filter companies who tend to rattle around loosely. It easily screws together with the Adapter Ring and comes with two filter slots. If you need more Haida who think of everything kindly provide spare brackets and thumbscrews so you can add more if you so wish. Not forgetting the lovely fabric pouch it comes in to keep your holder secure.

Pro Filter Holder
Showing Haida 100 Pro Filter Holder

Circular Polariser (CPL) 
The Haida Round CPL, a vital piece of kit every landscape photographer should have, I rarely shoot without.

I found from my testings it lost roughly two stops of light. Its very slim and made from the highest quality glass to provide great optical clarity. Not to mention the fabulous Nano Coating on both sides which gives not only protection but also improves light quality.

Comes in a very neat plastic box with padding internally for extra protection whilst on your travels. Also available in a selection of sizes ranging from 49mm – 82mm.

There was no vignetting at all even at my widest 16mm on a full frame camera, which you can clearly see from the image below. Your able to rotate the edges of the filter with the metal dial at any time and instantly see the effected light changing.

I should also mention how it gave amazing contrast, cutting through some of the haze especially on the clouds and foliage. Removed almost all the glare from the water, added some beautiful saturation and gave an overall instant pop to the image. Without using a CPL it would be virtually impossible to replicate this effect in post processing.

What do CPL’s do? 
It works by blocking certain light wavelengths from entering the camera sensor. To achieve a maximum effect I’ve found it best to make sure your line of sight is perpendicular to the direction of the sun.They are ideal for anything with non-metallic surfaces such as glass and cutting through reflections on water. You know when you see images where you can see the rocks/stones on the river bed through the water. If a polariser wasn’t used then you can end up with one huge mess of blown out highlights. The only downside with a CPL is being careful not to take it too far, you end up not even seeing the water, I’ve had this happen in the past, not a great look.

The image below, taken without a filter and with the Haida CPL at the distinctively curved Kylesku Bridge that crosses Loch a`Chairn Bhain in Sutherland, Scotland. Canon 5d mark iv, 16-35mm USM. No CPL, ISO 100, F11, 1/10 @16mm and with Haida CPL, ISO 100, F11, 1/4 second.

Before-CPL-(jpeg-for-web)
Showing Without Haida CPL and With Haida CPL
©Jenny Cameron 2017
Post Processed in Adobe Photoshop
CPL
Showing the Haida CPL in the 100 Pro Filter Holder

Haida ND 3.6 (12 stop) and ND 4.5 (15 stop) 
The Haida ND filters come in beautiful individual chunky Silver metal boxes with padding internally for protection. You may be thinking come on Jenny it doesn’t matter what the filter comes in, it’s the actual glass that matters. And, yes to be fair you’re quite right, but don’t you think attention to detail should follow through from the packaging to the actual Filter? I sure do, it gives me faith in the product that the company has taken into consideration every minor detail.

Made from quality Optical Glass, sized 100mm x 100mm and approximately 2 mm in thickness. I experienced no vignetting and very low colour cast.

I expected some slight lack of sharpness with using both these ND Filters, but as you can see from my findings there really is none at all, they gave an impressive definition.

They also come with a spare gasket if you should ever need it, this can also help with light leaks. See I told you, Haida really do think of everything! I left the gasket off as the filter slotted into the holder very snug and there was no sign of light leakage as you can see from the images below.

From past experience I’ve found it best to always insert the ND Filter in the first groove as close to the lens as possible, this really helps with the possibility of any light leaks. Not forgetting to close your viewfinder, as I do with the rubber piece attached to the Canon neck strap. I believe Nikons have a little blind you can pull down, or simply use some black electrical tape.

What do NDs do?
They allow you to lengthen your exposures in both light and dark conditions. Adds motion blur to moving subject such as water to give a smooth silky look and streaky effects to clouds. It works by reducing the amount of light from reaching the camera sensor. Therefore your able to leave the camera with a higher aperture for a longer amount of time. The results give the photographer more artistic control.

Please see the image below taken without a filter and with the Haida ND Filter 4.5 (15 stop) at Ardvreck Castle in Sutherland. Canon 5d mark iv, 16-35mm USM. No Filter @32mm, ISO 100, F11, 1/100 .With 4.5 Haida ND Filter ( 15 stop) ISO 100, F11,
226 seconds.

With-15-stop-filter-4-Gif
Without Filter and With Haida ND 4.5 (15 stop)
©Jenny Cameron 2017
Post Processed in Adobe Photoshop
arvreck 4.5 nd
Showing Haida ND 4.5 (15 stop) Filter

The following images were taken from the beautiful banks of Loch Assynt, looking across to what we locals call Pine Tree Island. Canon 5d mark iv, 16-35mm USM. No Filter @34mm, ISO 100, F11, 1/125 .With 3.6 Haida ND Filter ( 12 stop) ISO 100, F11, 131 seconds.

With-Filter-Sunday-Gif
Without Filter and With Haida ND 3.6 (12 Stop)
©Jenny Cameron 2017
Post Processed in Adobe Photoshop
3.6 ND Tree island
Showing Haida ND 3.6 (12 Stop) Filter

NanoPro Coating 
Another admirable feature is the NanoPro coating. Whilst conducting this test the weather was harsh and against me with rain, strong winds and water splashing up from the Loch. What amazed me was the way the glass repelled the water, it simply beaded up and rolled off. Unlike other glass filters Ive used in the past which take forever to clean and smear when you try to wipe away any excess water. This is due to the NanoPro coating which gives great waterproofness, scratch resistant and super easy cleaning.

In a nutshell
Genuinely, hand on heart Id highly recommend Haida Filters, the quality and sharpness truly are outstanding. Well done Haida, great work!

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