Jun 26, 2010


Last Thursday brought me into the heart of Brussels, for an fun teambuilding afternoon and a nice evening with a great team. The Grand Place looked already invaded with the usual flow of visiting tourists, partying youngsters and other typical summer species.

Brussels is truly Europe’s capital, and enjoys many visitors from beyond as well. But I could hardly miss this clear and bold statement of Belgian enthusiasm!


Not to dismiss Brussels’ thriving cosmopolitan atmosphere, we ended our day with a plentiful (over)dose of Basque pinxtos.


For me, it doesn’t need to get better than that… Thanks Anja, Jo and the whole wild bunch!

Gear notes: D300, 18-70DX

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Jun 22, 2010

Get it straight

One the most anticipated new features in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.0 is the Lens Correction capability. I am reasonably impressed by what we got so far. Not all that many lens profiles are available at this time, but the ease of use of a built-in facility alone will be more than enough reason to make this a ‘standard’ step in my workflow. So much for my trusted PTLens plug-in…

While waiting for more of my favorite lenses to be covered, I decided to do some tests with fish-eye corrections. Most of the time I will go to that lens for its specific distortion: when applied carefully I consider it a valuable creative element. But how good would Lightroom be at turning a fish-eye into an ultra wide angle?

Not too bad, it turns out. The de-fishing doesn’t always work as well as one could hope: even software cannot perform miracles all the time. But with a proper subject, like landscapes, the outcome is surprisingly acceptable.

Next: architecture. That’s where manual corrections beyond the lens profile come into play, for perspective compensation. Things do get a little tricky of course when starting with such an extreme distortion at the start, but nevertheless… Other than the expected loss of sharpness in the corners, the results are not bad at all. Judge for yourself!

There’s one PTLens feature I miss here, one that will make me turn occasionally to the ‘external’ option: the ability to move the corrected image left/right and up/down within the frame for more control over the parts that will have to be cropped. But other than that – and certainly for non-fishy shots – LR3’s Lens Correction is a straight winner!

Gear notes: D700, 16/2.8D – D300, 10.5/2.8G

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Jun 17, 2010

Mild frustration

I know, it has been quiet on this blog for a while… Business has been, well, busy (thank you!) and other duties as well have claimed time and attention. So not much recent photography to enjoy and share.

The past few days took me, once again, to the East Coast of the United States, for a short stint of back-to-back meetings. No room for wandering around at nice locations, no opportunity to explore fresh sights. Just a look outside through the (dusty) hotel window in the evening and early morning hours.

See the faint skyline all the way back at the horizon? That‘s New York City, just across the Hudson river. One of the most inspiring areas to cover as a photographer, full with life, power and color. So nearby and yet so much out of reach with a busy agenda.

I could only stare at the Manhattan high-risers with no time to spare, no (good) gear at hand, and thus no chance to satisfy
my urge to turn impressions into pixels. Maybe better next time?

At least I had brought a small compact so I could throw in the above images to accompany my futile ramblings…

Gear notes: Panasonic TZ1

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Jun 5, 2010

A dash of ash

Remember Eyjafjallajokull? Yep, that’s the volcano in Iceland that messed up air traffic just a few weeks ago. And then turned quieter and fell out of our attention. I too ended up a victim of this travel disruption, albeit in a modest and eventually even photographically rewarding way.

In the middle of the air travel disruption, I was scheduled to fly from Belgium to the US East Coast. Our departure got delayed by roughly five hours, and once in the air we were told to enjoy an extra one hour and forty minutes of flight time.

Now for the good news: our route took us way north of Iceland,  skimming along Greenland. That’s quite unusual, and thanks to excellent weather (and an alert captain) I could take some iPhone snapshots from Greenland’s coastline and its beautiful pack ice.

A good week later, business called me to Birmingham. The d*** volcano was still acting up and as the UK was pretty sensitive to its activity, I decided to play safe. I planned my trip by train: first the Eurostar to London, and then Virgin Trains onwards.

I was very happy to discover once again how pleasant (and productive!) long distance rail travel can be. And given another very sunny day, I had ample occasion to enjoy the vibrating rapeseed fields passing by at high speed.

P1030042w P1030043w 
See: even the most annoying events can bring along unexpected moments of pleasure.

Gear notes: iPhone 3Gs, Panasonic TZ1

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Jun 2, 2010

Hello birdie!

Last Saturday’s shooting trip took me to a nearby castle ruins (for the locals: Ter Elst in Duffel). In the basement I found a setting that looked promising: the broad dynamic range of the light would be perfect for another HDR trial. I set up the camera on a tripod, moved some pieces of litter out of the frame, and shot the usual –2EV, 0EV, +2EV exposure sequence to later feed into Photomatix Pro.

Already while shooting, I realized that the lighting of this scene was lacking ‘something’. I decided to try adding interest to the pile of branches below right. Not entirely by coincidence, I had packed a hotshoe flash. I put a full CTO gel on it (to simulate fire), added a radio trigger, and slid it inbetween the branches.
As I was busy going back and forth, firing some test shots and adjusting the position of the flash, this curious visitor stopped by.

At first, I did not want to move much. All I could do was zoom in to the maximum and grab a couple of ‘closer-up’ frames… But the dove seemed unperturbed by whatever I was doing in there, so I got back to business and continued my experimenting.

And then in one of the shots in a bracketing series, it happened!

This is the kind of fortunate situation you cannot plan for: you only hit it when you’re really lucky (and try often enough). It also meant the end of my shooting in the basement: rather difficult to beat the magic of that moment!

Gear notes: D700, 24-70/2.8

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