Blogposts,  Sweden

Rediscovering forgotten photographs

In this blog post I talk about what happens when you are forced to change your routines and using equipment you aren’t used too, as well as not looking at photographs you’ve taken, until years later.

Sometime back in October 2019, I borrowed a Sony A7 II and took it for a field test in a local wildlife park. This location is beautiful during autumn, and everything was dressed in the lush greens, oranges and reds of the season on this day. The sun peered through the trees and illuminated mushrooms, mossy tree trunks and the water running down the stream. I felt a bit bewildered using the camera, as it was the first time I had ever used a Sony. It is a bit smaller than my Canon eos R, and a tad lighter as well.

As windows 10 at that time wasn´t able to show the ARW (RAW) thumbnails generated, I couldn´t see any of the photos after I had imported them to my computer, when I got back. Only if I opened them in photoshop or Lightroom could i look at them. The same went for the RAW-files from my canon eos R camera. So when using the Canon eos R, I had to use the setting on my camera that generates one RAW and one JPG picture from any exposure, in order to be able to view the photos after transfer. I don´t remember if this function is available in the Sony camera, but If it was, I didn’t know about it.

Now, what´s the problem with not being able to view raw files? Just open them then, right?! Well, normally I do a first cull of my photos by checking the thumbnails and then deleting the ones that are blurry or otherwise unusable. This is part of my post-processing routine, if you like. I do this to quickly get rid of bad photos, so they don´t take up space on the hard drive. It´s possible I could have imported the images into Lightroom for a quick look, but as this wasn’t a part of my work flow at the time, I didn’t. Also, my laptop is slooowwww, so it doesn’t handle imports of many files very well.

Even though I couldn’t follow my process steps at the time, I did open a couple of pictures to have a look at them and get a very general idea of the quality and colour space of them.

The Sony A7II with Sony FE 28-70 f3.5-6.6 OSS lens

My initial feeling from the few photos that I could be bothered to look at was that most of them were blurry and unusable, which maybe was because it was a camera I had not used before, and therefore hadn’t learned enough about how it actually works, before I took it out on a shoot?

You would think I would just apply my “regular” photo skills on to this camera as well, but for some reason that I cant remember, because it was so long ago, I didn’t, ha! But, as you will see further down, many of the images were taken at a shutter speed that is too slow for doing handheld photography. But when you get used to doing things a certain way (i.e. the “Canon way” in this case), it can be pretty hard to get out of your comfort zone. For me anyway. But I don´t really remember what the problem was, so I’m just guessing. In any case, the result was a bunch of crappy woodland images, that I didn’t really fancy using for anything. So I just put it down to a field test gone wrong! Eventually I forgot about the photographs from that day completely.

Looking at old photos after 1.5 years

Most of 2019 & 2020 I was working away from home on non-photography related work projects, so I didn’t really have the time or energy to edit photos. I do try to go on shoots even when I’m away though, as I always bring my camera with me. But I now have a backlog of thousands of photos from the previous two years, including the pictures from the Sony. I´ll see how many I get around to editing and publishing! 

When windows 10 finally updated and I also got a computer that wasn’t as slow as a snail, I was able to view all my RAW and ARW files again. And I was pleasantly surprised! There are some photos in there I actually like. Now, this is not an in depth camera review, or even a camera review at all. Because you cant really do a just review of something after using it once or twice. Not in my personal opinion anyway. Perhaps a light review though?

I was curios as to why I felt happier about the photos from these 1.5 year old photos, than after I initially took them? One reason could be that I don´t like woodland photography that much. This is mostly due to my own lack of skills and eye for this particular type of photography, but for other reasons as well. Have my actual photography skills changed and/or increased during the last 1.5 years? I hope so, but until I decided to write this blog post I hadn´t really thought about it!

During the last few years I have travelled less, even before the covid-19 pandemic, and outside of work related travels. My focus has more and more shifted to landscape photography. Specifically landscapes that are closer to home or to wherever I am staying. I have realised I love landscape photography, and that’s why I finally decided to get a wide angle lens, like I mentioned in my previous post. And so, naturally, landscapes make up a big portion of what I’ve been photographing lately, and my skills have developed accordingly. I have done quite a bit of woodland photography in the past, and some videos about it too, but always found it difficult or non-interesting (and still do). But when I started going through my backlog from the last few years, I realised the pictures I created that day with the Sony A7II, weren’t all that bad. I edited several of them and like the way they turned out.

Pictures from the A7II

The overall sharpness is good where my exposure and focus was correct, the shallow depth of field and bokeh on pictures using aperture f3.5 are pleasing to the eye, although this is primarily on out of focus background on the close ups. On background ”far away”, the bokeh is more grainy and consist of small “blobs” of light and colour. What kind of bokeh you like is personal though. I prefer the creamy kind unless I’m photographing Christmas lights or something like that, where you want the bokeh to accentuate the light shapes.

The Sony system does have, in my opinion, a strange rendition of greens, which I don´t like. Sometimes the foliage looks a bit unnatural, in terms of white balance (Canon cameras have a similar issue with reds). But this was fairly easy to correct to my liking in photoshop, especially on some close up photos of berries and mushrooms that mainly had other colours that dominated the picture. The main issue I have with the photos from this day are the highlights, which very easily blew out completely, even in underexposed situations. This could be due to the lens I used, however (Sony FE 28-70 f3.5-6.6 OSS), or a lack of dynamic range in that particular camera. But, as I said, this is not a comprehensive review of the camera, as I haven’t used it much.

Baby tree mushrooms | 29mm, f3.5, 1/80 sec
Tree fungus | 28mm, f3.5, 1/25 sec
Dried plant | 28mm, f3.5, 1/50
Pond | 37mm, f4, 1/160 sec
Autumn boots | 28mm, f3.5, 1/50

Never to late

I do love the soft bokeh and the warm autumnal feel of some of the above images! And even if I didn’t like all of the photos, I’m still happy I decided not to delete them right away. You never know how you are going to feel about photographs you’ve created in a few weeks, months or even years! Sometimes life, work and lack of inspiration gets in the way of photographs being edited right away, and I think that’s ok! Also, our editing skills and the software technology develops, which also means that how you see a photograph, and what you can do with it in the digital darkroom, will be different. Editing older photos can therefore be a good way to discover how your skills have developed!

Have you gone back to or thought about going back to look at some of your old photos? You never know what gems might be hiding there, in a folder deep down on your drive..

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