FINE ART ATELIER: 11 | Segovia, Spain

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Segovia in Central Spain is a great location for both landscape and architectural photographers. As with so much of Europe, there's a great sense of history, but what I like most about the town is how it sits in the folds of the land, tall mountains behind and expansive plains in front. By driving around the maze of small farm roads outside the town, and taking a walk across some freshly ploughed fields, I found this angle which juxtaposes the farmland with the imposing battlements of Segovia's castle.

What you are seeing in this movie is a series of steps from the basic capture to the final rendering. The steps are not necessarily the quickest way to create the image, rather they follow the thought process of discovering the image through colour, contrast and exposure. Two quite separate processes are involved: that of pre-visualising the image, and that of rendering it in Photoshop.


FINE ART ATELIER: 11 | Wyndham Bedlam

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Aerials are very popular, particularly aerials which can be viewed as abstracts. They seem to have universal appeal, especially when we use our Photoshop skills to enhance the colours and contrast. However, why stop with a single exposure? Why not create a composite image with a selection of aerial frames - after all, we're creating an abstract so there's no need for it to represent reality.

This photograph was presented as a 60-inch print in a Ninety Degrees Five (ND5) group exhibition. It was taken in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, up on the northern coast. The shapes and patterns are formed by tidal movements on the shallow sand flats and mangroves.


KNOWLEDGE: 11 | Archival Landscape Prints

How long will your prints last? It might surprise you to know that many prints produced with conventional film and chemical processing had a relatively limited life, from 15 to 30 years. Even the famous Ilfochrome (originally called Cibachrome) had a pretty short life (17 years according to some experts), despite advertising claiming the prints lasted 100 or even 200 years.

Yet Ilfochrome was once the paper of choice for landscape photographers. It allowed you to print directly from transparencies (a positive to positive process), it had a high gloss finish and it produced rich, luxurious colours and tones.
But it doesn't last a lifetime if it is hung in a home or office for all to see. It fades.
All prints fade and when inkjet printing first arrived, inkjet prints faded in as little as two or three months! However, the original inkjet prints were only designed to be used as 'proofs', not final artworks.
Inkjet printing matured along with digital photography and one unfair expectation placed on inkjet printing was for inkjet prints to last a lifetime, even though the existing chemical prints (in colour, at least) didn't. Today, inkjet prints made with high quality inks and paper can last one hundred to several hundred years. Digital photography and printing now eclipse film and chemical printing in every way. Even black and white prints which are touted as being 'archival' will last longer as inkjet prints.

Your Materials 

There are three main elements to a print, assuming it is framed: the print itself, the matte behind which the print is presented, and the frame.
When producing the print, it's essential to use the best quality materials and processing. If having a chemical print made by a lab (some labs still provide this as a service), you want to ensure it has been processed and washed properly with fresh solutions and sufficient water (depending on the process of course). For an inkjet printer, you should use pigment-based inks on archival quality paper.

Personally, I use the Epson SureColor P-10070 with UltraChrome Pro pigment inks. I mainly print on Canson-Infinity papers – including Platine and Rag Photographique.
Assuming you're selling the matte and frame as well, ensure you use acid-free materials. These will be more expensive, but it means you're less likely to have discolouring as the print gets older – the print can give off chemicals which can react with poor quality matte boards, and atmospheric pollutants and mould can also thrive.
Generally speaking, use a white or a black matte for a simple and elegant presentation. While coloured mattes can work, generally they don't!
Finally, you need a smart, good quality frame. Don't skimp on the frame because this is the packaging that can really give your print a lift. An ornate gold frame with floral corners isn't necessarily a good idea, as you don’t want the frame to overpower the print either! However, rules are made to be broken and we'll leave the fine art of matching frames with prints for another time.

Display Conditions

Ken Duncan is keenly aware of the issues of longevity, some of which are quite surprising.
“Around ten years ago, a client returned a print that was 15 years old. It was a Cibachrome and it had a milky haze all over it. We were perplexed, so we sent the print off to Ciba Geigy and its lab did an analysis. The result? The milky haze was a combination of human skin, cooking oils, salt spray and carbon monoxide. We discovered that the print was hung in a house near a road by the sea – and not too far from the kitchen! The question was, how could this happen when the print was framed and taped behind glass!”
Explained Ken, a framed print creates convection currents inside. The largest cavity in a framed print is the space above the print and it is from here that air is ‘inhaled and exhaled’ – along with a myriad of airborne pollutants. People have been aware of mould and mildew growing on prints in humid conditions, but household factors are equally problematic.
“Surface deposits are the main cause of print degradation. Everyone talks about ‘archival’ life and how long a print will last before fading, but this is just one part of the problem."

There really is no solution for this situation. Ken used to offer an Archival Gold package, but this seems to have had issues of its own. The best solution may be to have another print made, but this in turn can create other issues around ownership and value.
“If you’re selling inkjet prints, at the very least I believe you should spray them”, said Ken, referring to a protective overcoat spray that can be applied to inkjet prints. “The spray needs to be applied in three directions to ensure proper protection, bonding the ink to the paper and preventing paper fibres from coming off.”
For framing, Ken offers a variety of molds and colours, but instead of glass likes to use Shinkalite, a high quality optical acrylic. It’s not cheap, he says, but it’s light (so he can ship large prints all around the world and they will arrive in one piece) and it’s beautiful to look through.
“The good thing about acrylic is it has 95 percent UV protection, doing the best job possible to ensure a print lasts. I want my prints to be around long after I’m gone.”
In terms of archival mounting, Ken thinks the idea of floating or hinging prints under a window matt is unsuitable for his type – and size – of work. “You simply can’t hinge mount large pictures because you’ll end up with big ripples in the surface which look revolting when hung on a wall. Hinge mounting might be suitable for small black and whites, but it doesn’t work for large prints.
“And hinge mounting doesn’t deal with the problem of surface deposits. Galleries ask for mounts that will survive in museum conditions, but this doesn’t mean they are suitable for real-world displays. It’s interesting to think the valuable Hockney prints made on RA4 paper will only last 20 years. This isn’t particularly archival and I think photographers need to tell the galleries what’s required."


POST PRODUCTION: 11 | Channels for Hue & Saturation

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Colour is so important to our images - either adding colour or removing it. Often we want to add colour in one area, but not in another. For instance, how would you increase the colour saturation in the orange reeds above, but not affect the blue water or the green trees? Using channels in the Hue/Saturation dialog is one answer!



LOCATION SURVEY: 11 | Queenstown, NZ

In my mind, New Zealand is an under-exploited photographic gem. Don’t take this the wrong way – I acknowledge and respect the work of many great New Zealand landscape photographers who have spent a lifetime recording its treasures, yet even after all their work, there is still such variety in the landscape that the possibilities remain endless.

In Town

Queenstown is in the heart of Lord of the Rings territory. Its snow-capped mountains, deep blue lakes and hidden valleys will leave you breathless. In the depths of winter it is full of skiers and snowboarders, but you can choose any time of year to take your camera.
Most people when they visit Queenstown take a trip to the top of the hills behind on the cable car, but you can also walk up several nearby trails if you're fit enough. It does get steep towards the top. When I visited Queenstown, I used to stay with Jackie Rankin and Mike Langford (they have since moved) and they are always wonderful hosts. However, they walked faster than me or perhaps my camera bag was a little heavier because they always beat me to the top of the hill.
The view overlooking Queenstown is fantastic, but I preferred a position back from the edges of the range so the town below is hidden. In the background, the Remarkables tower and I saw no reason not to alter the colour of the lake to make it more other worldly (see photo above).
Back down in town, there's plenty to photograph from the lake's shore, but I confess to preferring more distant locations, and I don't necessarily mean Arrowtown, which is a twenty minute drive away. Arrowtown is a tourist hamlet and great for a cup of tea. In autumn it can be remarkably colourful with the deciduous trees turning gold and yellow, but I think there's much more to the area.


Around an hour in the other direction, back past Queenstown, lies the tiny hamlet of Kinloch. Sitting on the end of the lake, it comprises no more than half a dozen dwellings including the quaint Kinloch Lodge. I spent a weekend there a few years ago with Mike and Jackie on one of their photography workshops.
On arrival, the lakes were mirror smooth, reflecting the sky and surrounding mountain ranges with optical precision. As you can never guarantee the weather will stay the same, we dumped our bags and headed out along the foreshore, tripods and cameras in hand. We had around an hour of late afternoon light to play with and it was amazing how quickly the time passed.
That night, after a couple of glasses of mulled wine, followed by a few more of excellent red, I wasn’t quite sure if I would hear my alarm the following morning. It could be foggy, Mike said, and he was quite right.
As I stumbled out into the brisk morning air, the sky directly above twinkled with stars while a thick band of fog drifted pleasurably across the lake in front. Behind the fog I could see the silhouette of the mountain range and the approaching dawn.
As the landscape lightened, the cold was the last thing on our minds. A small fishing boat chartered the shallows through swirls of mist and a glimmer of pink in the clouds above announced the rising sun. I’m not quite sure how many photos I took, but it was a buzz.
However, as expected in New Zealand's South Island, the weather doesn't stay the same for long. A front came through and the clear skies were quickly changed.
One thing I haven’t done for many years is photograph in the rain, but the following morning I found myself under an umbrella walking down the lake to a small abandoned hut sitting forlornly on a cobblestone point. Low clouds obscured the mountain peaks, but the falling rain produced a wonderful pattern on the lake’s still waters.
I guess it comes from living in the area, but Mike and Jackie always travel with their raincoats and some large umbrellas. They also steal the shower caps from hotel rooms on their travels and use these to cover their cameras when working in inclement weather. And just because it’s raining is no reason to put your cameras away – we returned with some wonderful, moody landscapes.

Nevis Valley and Beyond

The Nevis Valley is east of Queenstown and up behind the Remarkables. It's reached by a rough dirt road which climbs vertically into the ranges, switching back regularly and providing some wonderful views over the hills below. A four wheel drive is essential and in winter you might only get half way along the valley before turning back due to snow.
Mike and Jackie have photographed the small huts or 'batches' spotted along the sides of the valleys, weekenders for the locals and I love the way they fit into the landscape so well. The valley is also home to a national park and a sheep station, a wonderful river winds its way between narrow cliffs and the road takes a higher path alongside. It's an amazing drive, but don't tell anyone about it! It's easily accessible, but if you don't have a 4WD, then you can probably hire Mike and Jackie to take you through. You'll find them under listings for the Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography.
North east of Queenstown, back towards Christchurch, is the Lindas Pass which seems to attract some wonderful weather patterns and light shows. The hills at the top of the pass are spotted with grasses. To date I haven't found the perfect angle because we're usually on our way to somewhere else, but this is definitely on the return list.
The whole Central Otago region is pocketed with amazing photography locations. The trick is to turn off the major highways. Bitumen turns to dirt and the roads seem to wind their way into forgotten valleys. Soon every turn in the road presents another photographic opportunity.
Queenstown is a great base for so many different types of landscape, but make sure you time your forays. Some of the locations can be an hour or two away, which means a late dinner and missing breakfast if you stay in a hotel. Fortunately, Queenstown is cosmopolitan enough to have some late night outlets, or you can stay in an apartment and self-cater. In summer you can camp closer to your locations as the sunrises are earlier and the sunsets later – there are lots of campers available for hire and they make great bases for the roving landscape photographer.


PHOTO ADVICE: 11 | Critique Session

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During the production of the Landscape Photography MasterClass, some of our early subscribers kindly provided some images for critique and review. This has turned into a very popular part of each MasterClass and we have received many complimentary comments about how useful the Critique Session is.

Of course, there are no absolutes in photography and so what you view in this movie is really just one photographer's opinion about another photographer's work. However, hopefully the advice and observations can be helpful in improving your own photography.


BUSINESS ACUMEN: 11 | Computer Power

Do you buy an Apple or a PC? A desktop or a laptop? Photoshop or Lightroom? And does it really matter?
As landscape photographers reading this MasterClass on the internet, we're all reasonably computer savvy, so much of this article will be revision. Current models of both Apple and the plethora of Windows-based computers have more than enough power and storage for most digital photography, although if you're finding your current configuration is running a little slowly, then considering the following issues may suggest an upgrade is in order.

Why Do Computers Need To Be So Powerful?

The first thing we all discovered when using a computer to store and edit our photographs was that it should be fast, powerful and have lots of storage space.
Speed and power come from the computer’s processor (the computer chip) and its memory (RAM or random access memory). However, when you turn the computer off, all the information in memory is lost, so you first have to save this information to a hard disk – the storage area in the computer.
Let’s begin with storage space. A camera saves its files in a compressed format (raw or JPEG) to the storage card. These files will be from 10 to 100 MB when saved as raw files (depending on your camera), and they are currently filling up your memory cards up to 32, 64 or even 256 GB at a time.
However, these are only the compressed files. As soon as you open the files in Photoshop and save working files, you need lots more storage space. Add in the space required for your computer software and a 2 TB hard disk is probably the smallest you should consider when buying a computer. 
As photographic files are quite large when opened, especially when you add layers in Photoshop, the computer has to process a lot of information all at the one time. To do this effectively, you need a fast processor and lots of memory (RAM). Most computers you purchase today will be fast enough to process your photographs and will include at least 8 GB RAM. However, for working quickly in Photoshop, Lightroom and Capture One I'd recommend 16 GB, 32 GB or even 64 GB RAM.
Having 64 GB of RAM probably doesn’t mean your computer will process photos more quickly than one with, say, 16 GB RAM. Rather, 64 GB means you can have more photos and more programs open at the same time. If your computer runs out of RAM, this needn't be a problem as the computer can use the hard disk to store data while it works, but using the hard disk is much slower than using RAM.
Is a fast computer important? It’s not essential if you only edit a few photographs here and there, but if you’re a power user, a faster computer can save you literally hours of work. For instance, if an editing job on a fast computer takes 2 seconds compared to 8 seconds on a slower computer, that’s a saving of 6 seconds. This is insignificant if you’re processing half a dozen shots, but if you’re running through 600 shots, that’s the equivalent of one hour!
Two more thoughts on computers. Get a fast, good quality graphics card, especially if you're using a high resolution monitor. 
The second thought has to do with the speed of the hard drives. I use an SSD (solid state drive) for my operating system and all my programs. I estimate it opens Photoshop in around one third of the time it did on my old desktop machine with a standard hard drive. It's quicker to write to and read from, speeding up all aspects of my work.
My approach to a desktop computer is to have a solid state drive for my system and programs (I think it is 500 GB), and a separate hard drive storage device, like LaCie's 6big for all my photos and other projects. The 6big has 60 TB capacity and with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, it is just as fast as if the hard drivers were inside the computer.
Finally, you don’t have to purchase the latest, fastest computer. Often the previous model with plenty of RAM and hard disk storage is all you’ll need.

Desktop or Laptop?

With our modern lifestyles, it’s great to be able to travel around or visit friends and take our photos with us. In terms of power and storage space, there really isn’t any reason why a laptop can’t be used to process, store and display your photographs.
There is one caveat: you might not be happy with the accuracy of the LCD monitor on a laptop computer, so you may need to also purchase a high quality monitor which can be used at home or in the studio for critical colour work.
Apart from this, laptops are a great way to work. If you travel a lot, consider a light weight unit for obvious reasons.
However, if you’re happy to work at home, a powerful desktop unit will probably be cheaper and a bit faster, plus you can fit more storage inside (if that's what you do). Most readers will probably have both a desktop and a laptop computer.

Extra Hard Drives

No matter what type of computer you have or how large its hard disk, you will need more storage space for two reasons. First, you must have copies of your photo files on a separate hard disk.
There are two types of people in the world: those who have had a hard disk fail on them and those who are going to have a hard disk fail! Often images can be rescued from a failed hard disk, but don’t count on it. Multiple copies of your files is the best insurance.
You can fit multiple hard disks inside your desktop computer (but generally there isn’t sufficient space inside a laptop) and these are cheaper than external hard drives (because they don’t need a case). However, if you change computers or there is a problem with your computer, having extra storage in the form of a separate ‘external’ hard drive makes a lot of sense.
External hard drives are usually connected by a USB or TB3 and come in sizes up to 84 terrabytes (and more, of course). One or two drives are relatively inexpensive and a good place to start.
To ensure your images are really safe, keep one external drive next to your computer (for ease of use), and a second external drive (with exactly the same files) at a different location (so in the case of fire or burglary, you don’t lose both computer and back-up drive).


The monitor is some ways is the most important component in a computer system for landscape photographers. It is the main way you see what your photos look like.
Next time you’re in an electronics store, take a look at all the televisions lined up in a row and notice how they are all slightly different – even though they are playing the same program. Some are lighter, some darker, some have different colours, others are more contrasty.
Now, when you’re looking at your computer monitor, is its colour correct, is it the right brightness and is the contrast okay? We’ll cover this in a little more detail later, but the most important point to note is that a good quality monitor is essential to show you what your photographs really look like.
Some photographers spend thousands of dollars on their cameras and lenses, but skimp on their computer monitor. Be warned. A cheap computer monitor is not going to show you the full range of colours and brightness values in your photographs. In fact, it can be very misleading and this in turn means you will produce sub-standard results. If there’s one piece of advice you take away from this article, it should be that a good quality monitor is essential.
Who makes good quality monitors? EIZO is a brand that is probably not well known outside of professional circles. Apple monitors are also very good, but not available for many Windows-based computers, so stick to the major brands if you can.

Mouse or Stylus?

When editing your photos in a program like Photoshop, it can be easier to use a stylus than a mouse, especially for brush work.
A stylus is like a pen which is used on a palette, replacing the mouse. It can be easier to handle and direct than a mouse, but it can take some getting used to. Wacom makes a range of Intuos and Cintiq palettes and the smaller sizes are often just as useful for photographic editing as the larger sizes. Prices start from around $100, so this is one of the less expensive peripherals that can help make photographic editing that much more enjoyable.