Gradient Overlays for Great Looking Photographs (with Affinity)

Highlight mood and artistic creativity with simple gradients overlays

By Martin KP in Articles and Tips on Jul 11, 2019

In this tutorial I will show you how to enhance black and white photographs using gradient overlays.  I will demonstrate this technique to enhance a portrait using Affinity Photo, but of course the technique can be applied in other mainstream photo editing programs.

Digital post processing offers the photographer a selection of tools to help with creating a pictorial mood. Subtle tonal changes can elevate, heighten or lessen photographic elements to help the viewers eye toward an artistic expression whilst remaining hidden within the photographic structure. Indeed, a graduating tonal shift using a vignette tool when used properly is a good way to enhance your post processing creativity, yet, over use of this tool can lead to mundane predictability across the tonal space in a series of pictures and the tool itself negates your own artistic expression. There is another way to create the same mood effect of a vignette whilst remaining creative to a mood within the frame. This can be done by employing the gradient fill tool.

Pauline Standing
Original image

All good photo editing programs will have a gradient tool. Tones, colors or tints can be altered to serve the intended mood of a photograph. The easiest scale to use is a gray scale but this technique also works well for color scale. Sometimes a color photograph only needs a hint of gray scale but I find I employ gradients to black and white images. Sometimes the same gradient can be used across a picture series. Bare in mind, gradients suffer from the same transgressions as vignettes, their over use can muddy a picture instead of providing a subtle mood change and artistic expression. When carefully considered and combined with selective curves the creative elements fuse to an interesting result. The key here is to experiment and I will show you how to do just that.

Grad

Adapt and Rediscover the Charm of Vintage Lenses

Exploring the creative possibilities opened by legacy glass

By Fenwoodian in Articles and Tips on May 23, 2019

Welcome to the exciting world of adapted lenses: this is where old, manual focus, modestly priced, prime lenses are rediscovered and given a new life on modern digital cameras!  Adapted lenses are being used more and more for producing fine art images, especially when exceptional bokeh, color, and 3D-like depth are required.

There are two ways to adapt a lens. 

  1. Attach a temporary/removable mount to the rear of the lens. These temporary adapters can be “dumb” (having no electrical communications with the camera) or “smart” (having full electrical communications with the camera).  The dumb temporary rear mount adapters are usually inexpensive and of low quality. The smart temporary rear mount adapters are expensive and do enable auto focus.  Both varieties are fast and easy to attach and remove from a lens; but they are not as tight and secure as a permanent mount is.  Temporary mounts by design are loose and bit sloppy.  They can wobble/rotate/shift. 
  2. Attach a new permanent mount to the rear of the lens. These permanent adapters are usually “dumb”. Their prices fall in between the two types of temporary adapters mentioned above.  These permanent adapters at a minimum will require removal of the original lens mount, and will often require significant modification to the lens.  

Various lens adapters

I prefer the permanent adapter option.  Permanent adapters offer a more secure attachment to the camera.  Premium permanent adapters, if installed properly, will result in no loss of image quality when used.  The same cannot be said of the temporary/removable types of adapters.

Editorial note: the genuine Pentax M42 to K-mount adapter is by far the most popular adapter for Pentax users looking to get started with adapting lenses, since M42 lenses are abundant, easy to adapt, and work without any optical limitations.

7 Reasons to Adapt Lenses

There are dozens of reasons why there’s a resurgence in using old adapted lenses.  Below are the seven reasons why I sold my auto focus, modern zoom lenses and replaced them with vintage prime, manual focus glass: 

  1. They don’t make lenses like they used to. In the old days, they used toxic compounds in their optical glass (toxic lead, radioactive thorium oxide).  Due to environmental regulations this type of glass can no longer be made.  Also, older lenses did not use exotic ED glass and aspherical molded elements in their designs.  Modern computer designed lenses put a premium on sharpness at the expense of color fidelity, micro contrast, 3D-like depth and bokeh.
  2. Older manual focus lenses with metal construction last longer than modern lightweight plastic auto-focus zoom lenses.
  3. Vintage lenses use a simpler optical design. Most of my favorite lenses have optical elements numbering in the single digits. I don’t care the rendering produced by high element count lenses.
  4. Older lenses often have “defects” that are designed out of modern lenses. Defects like vignetting and field curvature that create depth in photos. 
  5. Many individual old lenses produce images that have their own look, personality, soul, character, and signature. While images produced by modern lenses look mostly the same.
  6. Manual focus prime lenses are easy to repair and clean.
  7. Vintage lenses are cheaper than modern lenses. I often buy cheap older lenses that are defective (fungus, dust, scratches, oil on blades, stuck aperture, stiff focus) or being sold for parts. Often they are quickly repaired and good as new.

The Evolution of the Pentax M42 Mount

History, Variations, and Techniques for Pentax Digital

By stevebrot in Articles and Tips on Mar 20, 2019

The original Asahi Pentax (informally called the "AP")

With the introduction in 1957 of their first SLR with a pentaprism dubbed the Asahi Pentax (colloquially known as the "AP"), Asahi Optical Co. opted for the M42 screw mount which we shall take a closer look at in this article.

Evolution and Significance

Since the 1936 debut of the Ihagee Kine Exakta, the first 35mm SLR interchangeable lens camera, there have been a multitude of SLR camera models sporting a large variety of different mount designs.  While all satisfied the basic task of mating to compatible lenses, most are no longer being used and only a very few have been used for more that 30 years with only three (M42, Nikon F, and Pentax K) surviving to the present day.  Of those three, the M42 screw mount has been in use the longest and is of particular interest to Pentax camera owners in that it is one of three mounts historically used by Pentax SLR cameras and continues to be popular, in adapted form, with Pentax owners today.

The 5 Lens Autofocus Drive Types Explained

Pentax AF technologoy overview and comparison

By beholder3 in Articles and Tips on Aug 19, 2018

Camera lenses today use many different technologies to facilitate autofocus.  Under the hood, there needs to be some way for the camera to move elements inside the lens, which in turn changes what's in focus.  In this article, we'll be taking a look at the different types of focusing implementations currently in use by Pentax.  In addition, you'll learn more about some of the terminology used by Pentax and other manufacturers.

Pentax users currently have access to both manual focus lenses and lenses with one of 5 different autofocus drive technologies. 

These have evolved over many years, and as almost everything in life, each comes with its pros and cons.  For example, fast focusing in single autofocus mode (AF.S) is not the same as fast continuous autofocus (AF.C).  In-lens motors can fail.  Gears in drive mechanisms can shatter.  Powerful motors take up space.  Modern, larger drives allow more torque.  The list goes on!

It is important to stress from the very beginning that many of the designations given to the drive types (e.g. SDM or DC) are generalizations. Different lens models can have different autofocus implementations even if they go by the same name.  Ultimately, this can mean that a drive type that is commonly known to be fast may actually appear slow in a certain lens and much quicker in another.

Pentax Astrotracer Guide and GPS Feature Comparison

A look at the O-GPS1 versus in-camera GPS

By K David in Articles and Tips on May 10, 2018

Pentax cameras offer GPS functionality in two ways: either through the built-in antenna found in the Pentax K-1, K-1 II, and K-3 II, or through the O-GPS1 accessory, which works with most other DSLRs since 2010.

Sample 78-second star photo taken with the Astrotracer

GPS data unlocks another unique Pentax DSLR feature: the Astrotracer.  With the help of location information and the Shake Reduction system, the camera can track stars by turning the sensor to match the stars' movement.  This allows you to more than double the exposure time of astro photos without introducing star trails— which can result in more detailed starscapes!

While this is great, it gives rise to a number of questions:

  • What are the practical exposure time limits of the Astrotracer?
  • How do you optimize the Astrotracer's performance?
  • What is the difference between in-camera GPS functionality and cameras using the O-GPS1?
  • Can I use the O-GPS1 on GPS-enabled cameras?

We answer these questions and more through a series on hands on tests.  Read on for the answers!

Pentax Astrotracer Guide & O-GPS1 vs In-camera GPS Comparison

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