Cloud Valley (The megapixel conundrum)

Cloud Valley – Fujifilm X-T2 XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR at 20mm ISO 200 F8 1/400sec

We’ve been having some intense afternoon and evening cloud buildups. Something to do with living in Florida and it being summer I think. So I shot this as a pano of 5 frames that were overlapped quite a bit and ended up with a 47mb raw (really an Adobe dng file). Problem is why go to all that trouble for display on screens with a low resolution. I did an export to jpeg at 2400 pixels wide and it is reduced to 1mp. The image on this page is only 960 pixels wide so it just only 11% the size of the original image. Not sure if I this image would be a candidate for a large print so I wonder why we get so impressed with large pixel counts. You can see this image in its full size by clicking on the image.

Luminar Neptune To The Rescue?

With Google abandoning it’s Nik Software Collection by Google, there are a lot of people trying to duplicate the things they did in Nik in other plugins suites.  On1 and MacPhun are two plugin developers that have the ability to do the same image manipulation that the Nik does with varying success.

I’ve purchased and  used both suites but have not found that there was much added value to what Nik and especially Color Effects Pro 4.0 did.  And if Nik were to continue to be supported (apparently it is already breaking on some hardware and software platforms) I would probably not be looking for a replacement.

As a long time KelbyOne member I just watched a 2 hour class on a new MacPhun product called Luminar Neptune which seems to do some things like the Nik software. This may be because the MacPhun people were involved with developing the original Nik Collection.

I’ve always had a hard time understanding why Nik, MacPhun and ON1 all had separate plugins for different jobs.  It gets really confusing when the current products all had different version numbers like Color Effects Pro 4 and Define 2 etc.

Luminar Neptune is a single plugin that combines features of multiple plugins in previous suites.  Luminar Neptune can also be run as a stand alone application for developing raw or jpeg images without having to go near Lightroom or Photoshop.

So armed with the recent KelbyOne class and a credit card I purchased Luminar Neptune 1.2.0.  If you are a KelbyOne member or a previous owner of other MacPhun software you may be able to get a discount over the current $69 (US) price.

I bought it because it seems like the right time to transition off of the Nik Suite and because the tie in between MacPhun and the Nik Suite before Google. I was hoping that I might be easy to flip over. And it was. Except I went about it in the wrong way.

What I was hoping to do was set up some presets that basically did the same things I was doing on an ongoing basis with Nik.  So I started out with a cloud image that I had processed very normally in Lightroom applying the Camera ACROS+R filter for conversion to black and white.

Structure – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR 16mm 1/2400 sec F8.0 ISO 200. With Lightroom Processing only.

To apply any filters I always import the image into Photoshop as a Smart Object so I can re-manipulate whichever plugins I use if I feel the need (and I usually do). So first I used a action I created to launch Color Effects Pro 4.0 and apply a preset I created based on settings to Pro Contrast and Tonal Contrast that I picked up from a class by Moose Peterson which is also on KelbyOne.

Structure – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR 16mm 1/2400 sec F8.0 ISO 200. Color Effects Pro 4.0 Pro and Tonal Contrast applied

I then made a virtual copy of the image and again passed to Photoshop as a smart object and this time launched the Luminar Neptune plugin. Now it would just be easy if MacPhun had created a filter called Pro Contrast and one called Tonal Contrast so I could just mimic the settings but 1) That might get a negative reaction out of Google. 2) been no fun at all. So the first thing I tried was to see if I could get Luminar to duplicate what I was doing in Nik. And that, in my opinion, is the wrong thing to do. Instead I went my own way using some suggested filters (thanks to Scott Kelby). I used the filters to make the image look like I wanted it to instead of making the image look like the Nik image. There is a lot more crunch in the image with the Luminar plugin than in the Nik one. In fact I was surprised at how soft the Nik processed image was. Look on the right side of the image at the small dark clouds about 1/3 of the way down. I really like what happens to them with the extra crunch.

Structure – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR 16mm 1/2400 sec F8.0 ISO 200. Photoshop with the Luminar Neptune plugin

The Nik software needs to be replaced, it’s not going anywhere and will soon be no more than a boat anchor. If you are using image enhancing software you need to try the different Suites and settle on one that makes sense for you.  And don’t just try to duplicate things from the old dead plugin, experiment and see what you can do with the latest and greatest. Both MacPhun and ON1 have trial periods so you can test both of them.  I liked the Nik plugins and because of the link to MacPhun1 thru common developers I went that path. Your path may be different and don’t get bogged down in how to exactly duplicate old tech, it’s time to experiment and maybe get something a bit more you.

1I still have an issue with company names that are misspellings but that is again a personal issue.

Image shot with:

Expanded Exposure Bracketing with the Fujifilm X-T2

I had all but given up on using exposure bracketing on my Fujifilm cameras. I would shoot the standard three frames, regular exposure, +1 and -1 and then use Lightroom’s merge to HDR to build a “High Def” image. Problem was that I could get the same result just taking the normal exposure and by moving the highlight and shadow sliders along with moving the white an black point sliders and get a result that was very similar to the HDR output. The dynamic range of the X-Trans sensors is pretty wide in raw. So why bother?

With newly released version 2.0 of the X-T2 firmware, you can set the camera to take up to 9 exposures to really build a much more “dynamic” image.

Kings Cross Station

This is the final image I developed using the Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 16-55mm F/2.8 R LM WR while waiting to take the train from London to Hogsmead somewhere near Hogwarts School.

Here is how I had my camera set up to shoot the bracketed images.

On the Shooting menu, select drive settings.

Then select BKT Setting

Then BKT Select (Hard to see in my excellent screen captures…)

Once you select AE BKT you can go back one screen and set up the AE Bracket steps

Click on AE BKT

Then Frame/Step Settings. Note below you can set for continuous frames or 1 frame per click. You can also determine the order in which the exposures are made.  I have it set to O normal exposure then plus exposures then minus exposures.

You can then select the number of frames to shoot.

And finally the number of steps between exposure. Note on the graphic below that the middle step is not right on 0 as the camera also takes into account any EV adjustments you have made. In my case I have (and usually have) a 2/3 minus EV dialed in.

And here you have the resulting 5 exposures. I think we start to have some captures that we can work with for building interesting HDR images.

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 16-55mm F/2.8 R LM WR


It’s Full of Stars – Night Shots With The Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Earlier this month the Moon and Jupiter were having a chariot race across the night sky. I got out my Fujifilm X-T2 and the XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR to see if I could capture both the Moon and Jupiter in the same image. I added the XF 1.4x TC WR teleconverter with the idea of capturing just the moon as large as I could. And then backed off a bit to see if I could get both objects into the same frame.

Moon Fujifilm X-T2 X-T2 XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR XF 1.4x TC WR F8 1/125sec ISO 400 560mm.

To shoot a full or nearly full moon you need to use manual mode as any exposure meter will more than likely try to over expose all that black space surrounding the Moon.  Getting the exposure right for the Moon, in this case F8 1/125sec ISO 400, means that any other objects are just too dim to be picked up.

Moon and Jupiter Fujifilm X-T2 X-T2 XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR XF 1.4x TC WR F8 1/125sec ISO 400 173.3mm.

Luckily for me Jupiter was bright enough to just be seen in the image if I backed off from full zoom. The distance between the Moon and Jupiter looked very close but as you zoom in the gap got pretty big. You may need to click on the image to make it larger enough to see Jupiter but it is there.

I was pretty happy that I was able to get both objects into the view but the image held a surprise.

Full of Stars Fujifilm X-T2 X-T2 XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR XF 1.4x TC WR F8 1/125sec ISO 400 173.3mm.

If you look at this image you will see that there are a lot of stars (and maybe a little noise) in the image. I moved the exposure up by 3.5 stops in lightroom and discovered that the image was full of stars. I did have to do an adjustment brush on the moon to bring down the exposure by the 3.5 stops so it wasn’t completely blown out.  The XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens picked up a lot of starlight!

Pushing my luck I took a shot just of Jupiter then with a crop to 1600×1600 and another overexposure by 3.5 stops brought in not only starlight but the light of three of Jupiter’s moons.

Jupiter (Last Night)

While most suggest using a wide angled lens at F2.8 with an 1600 ISO and a 30 second exposure for night photography, you sure can pick up a lot of stars with a telephoto lens and a short exposure time. Note: all images were shot hand held which is pretty impressive but with the 1/125 exposure with the VR turned on the images were sharp. The XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR is a spectacular lens.

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and the Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Post Processing Tools And Fuji X-Trans

A recent update to Capture One Pro (10.1.1) has enhanced processing for Fujifilm X-Trans sensors. And if you are on Adobe Lightroom CC (15.10) image processing for the X-Trans sensor seems to be pretty stable.  Since I have both I thought it might be interesting to see if there is any difference or distinctions for using one over the other.

I choose the image “Basket (Details)” as a test of how each one works. The image was taken with the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR on my Fujifilm X-T2. It was shot at 1/125 sec. at F5.6 with ISO at 1000 and auto white balance. In Lightroom I used the Camera Profile  Provia/Standard. I used an imported ICC Fujifilm Provia/Standard profile in Capture One.  So both images had the same starting point.

Basket (Details) Lightroom Processing
Basket Details Capture One Processing

The two end results were very similar. I think the Lightroom edit is a bit brighter but the Capture One noise processing is a bit nicer. I did do the processing for the Capture One version first and was pretty happy with the result. I then tried to match the Capture One output in Lightroom, it was hard to get the two images to match. Click on the images to see full size peep your pixels images. Really thing that Capture One did a better job on noise processing.

The Print

When it all comes down to it, a physical print of your image is what matters most. Something tactile that you hold in your hand, or view on a wall is really what photography is all about. I used to do all my printing out of Photoshop and while the printing was good it required several hoops to jump thru. If you wanted to print several sized prints or prints on different papers, you really needed to duplicate you image before making an image adjustment to the proper size of the print. If you didn’t you had no way of making sure that each print would be the same. As I processed each size image I would save the image off as a separate PSD or TIFF file named with the size so that I could go back and reprint as needed. This meant that for each image I would have one or more duplicates at the size of a PSD (big).

That all changes with Lightroom. Lightroom is a much better engine for printing photographs than Photoshop. And it takes up much less space because you don’t need to make duplicates of an image for different sizes and papers. I’ve developed a straight forward work flow for printing from Lightroom. I create virtual copies of the image for each of my prints. Selecting the paper size and orientation and making any adjustments for borders and strokes. Here is how it looks with an image called Lioness.

I usually print in full 2×3 aspect ratio that my Fujifilm cameras capture in. On an 8 1/2 x 11 page I usually set up for a 6 x 9 inch print. If you have a different paper size use the page setup to adjust to your paper. Note: Lightroom does all resizing of the image in the background so you don’t have to do much more than tell it how big is the paper and how big is the print area.

Click on the page Setup to tell Lightroom what size of paper and what orientation you want.  I then use the print settings to choose the printer,  media type, and resolution. Depending on the print you may be able to print in 16 bit mode or not.  I save each paper type as a preset which just makes it easier for the next time I print.

High Speed is just bi-directional printing. Once the print settings are saved, I go on to telling Lightroom how I want the print managed.

For color prints I let Lightroom manage the printing and assign the correct ICC profile for the paper being used. I let the printer manage the printer, for black and white I let the printer manage the print the profile list box allows you to the Lightroom if you want the printer to manage the colors or black and white printing. The sharpening list seems rather simple but the logic behind how the image is sharpened is very good. This final sharpening is available as an attachment for Photoshop but is build right in to Lightroom. The final adjustments I make is to brightness and contrast (sliders at bottom right). You will have to experiment with these as you will find without the adjustments you prints will be too dark. It has to do with how your monitor is calibrated as most monitors are brighter than suggested.

At that point you are ready to print. Before you do it’s time to save off a virtual copy of the image that will freeze the print settings you have chosen.

Just above the image on the left top board is a button to create the virtual copy.

Click on the Create Saved Print button and name your print.

In this case I use the title, the size and initials for the paper type (PL Photo Luster). I tell it save it in the Print collection. Virtual copies of an image take up very little space on the hard drive.

With this workflow I can go back to a specific image in the Prints collect and reprint without worrying about changes having been made for the specific print. And the finished print. 


As the number of images printed increases you may want to make a separate catalog just for the images you have ready to print.

Time to Update Your Camera

Twice a year you should, in theory, change all the clocks, ahead in the Spring and back in the Fall. Most of our electronic devices are smart enough to make the adjustment for us. Not my Fuji cameras. So twice a year we have to remember how to reset the time which is always buried somewhere on the camera’s menu system. Getting the time correct may come in handy if you are going back to a particular location several years later in hopes of duplicating the lighting you had way back then. If you know the actual time you got the great sunset by the beach is saves you from going back at the wrong time.

Here is a handy cheat sheet for the Fujifilm X-T1 and X-T2. This should be good until they decide to update the menu systems on these cameras.

On the Fujifilm XT-1
Move the cursor down to the first icon on the left with a wrench (or setup 1).
Use the dpad right key to enter the date/time setup.
Now use the dpad to move left and right and then up and down to adjust each field.  Push the OK button in the center of the dpad to lock save the changes.

Now on the Fujifilm X-T2 the same thing except the menus are slightly different.


From the Wrench icon go into user settings into Date/Time

From there changing the time is basically the same as the change time on the X-T1.

Or you can just leave the time the same all year and just mentally adjust for the time changes as needed.

ACROS To The Rescue

Light is everything and some times it is just too much. This statue in the China Store at Epcot presented some real color balance challenges. There was enough light it just was of several different color temperatures.

Calm Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mmf2.8 R LM WR f8 1/125 seconds ISO 3200 31.5mm

The original capture was quite warm with the statue being almost orange. After sampling several different areas this was about the best I could do.  I think there was incandescent lights, probably some hot halogen spots and from behind me an open doorway bringing in daylight. As you can see there a a blue cast to most of the statue while the midsection is orange. And then there is the magenta cast on the shoulders. There wasn’t one color temperature that covered all the lights.  But is this a throw away image? Nope, time for black and white.

Calm Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mmf2.8 R LM WR f8 1/125 seconds ISO 3200 31.5mm

Because this raw file came from a Fujifilm X-T2 I had access to the all the Fujifilm ACROS2 Film Simulation profiles from within Lightroom.  For the conversion I used the Acros+G filter simulation.

I have to admit I love color images but sometimes I just have to surrender to the black and white muse. The Fujifilm ACROS simulations are just stunning. The tonal ranges are so mellow. Images you can eat off of.

I applied the ACROS+G simulation right over the above image.  I then moved the image into Photoshop as a smart object where I applied Google’s Nik Color Effects Pro 4 to the image for Pro and Tonal Contrast1. Just works.

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 16-55mm F/2.8 R LM WR


1 I got the Pro and Tonal Contrast Recipe from a KelbyOne class on processing aviation images by Moose Peterson. While Moose uses the recipe for bringing out detail on aircraft, it seems to work on just about any image.
2I couldn’t decide if ACROS was supposed to be all caps or not. In lightroom it is so I updated the post to ACROS.

That Rule Against Bald Skies

Lots of landscape photographers will tell you not to shoot when the sky is bare.  Cloudless skies make for boring images. Moose Peterson calls them bald skies.   And most of the time the rule holds up.  Still that rule like all the others are meant to be broken.  If I followed the rules I probably should have just left my camera at home last Saturday. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky ( Florida in February, 83 degrees and lots of sun ).

Still my eye caught the completely still water of the pond at Epcot. When you see something of interest you shoot now and ask questions later. Later like when you have the image open in Lightroom.

Still Life – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm F/2.8 R LM WR

For me this image works because there are no clouds in the sky. Several reasons why. I think the dark blue at the top and bottom of the image holds the eye in the image where you then have time to see all the colorful things going on between the Monorail track and it’s reflection. Also Spaceship Earth, the big dome, might have gotten lost in the clouds had the been there.

Don’t try to stick to much to the rules. Shoot the shots.

Although I like the color image with no clouds, converting it to black and white does not work at all for me. Since the center section has no color the eye doesn’t go there. So the rule works, or it doesn’t.

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 16-55mm F/2.8 R LM WR