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HASSELBLAD X1D II 50C Medium format magic – does the new 50MP model earn its pro price tag?

Practical advice for enthusiasts and pros

Issue 222








Travel portraits


Focus stacking


Rock-steady tripods

Shooting with


LOW LIGHT Creative image ideas and advice


DRONES Take amazing aerial images

© Gunther WIllinger



Below right

Bothriechis schlegelii

Rainforest, Cota Rica

Tamandua mexicana

This eyelash viper lies in wait for prey in the Costa Rican rainforest. The snake appears in colours ranging from green to brown and yellow

Dense montane rainforest in the Cerro de la Muerte region of Costa Rica. In many of my images, I wanted to convey the fascination of forests

An anteater roams the dry forest on the lookout for ants and termites. Usually, it moves by climbing through the trees

When did you first get into photography? I was about ten years old when I got my first camera, an Agfa Pocket. Even then nature and animals were already my favourite motifs, at that time in the zoo. Since then technology has changed a lot, but photography is still an important medium for me to experience and perceive the world through. Was it always nature that you were interested in photographing? Yes, nature photography has always been my main interest, whether that’s plants, small or big animals, landscapes… I’m not just interested in the pictures, photography is a way for me to connect with nature. Tell us about the first really successful image that you shot. If successful means it was financially worthwhile, then I don’t have much to show. That’s not my motivation for photography, otherwise I would’ve given up a long time ago. What was the first lesson you learnt about photography that you still use today? In 1995, I did a semester in photojournalism with Jeff Vendsel at the San Francisco State University. It was a great course that really motivated me. Although it wasn’t about nature photography and we stood in the darkroom every day, I learned a lot about how to deal with light, shadow and movement, how to create pictures and look at them critically – all things that you can use in nature photography as well. Tell us more about your upcoming book, Forests In Our World. It’s a mixture of non-fiction, based on science, and a picture book. It presents an overview 26

of the different forests of the Earth and how the climate has formed or shaped them, and still does. The book contains chapters on five forest types: boreal coniferous forests, deciduous and mixed forests of temperate latitudes, Mediterranean hardwood forests, tropical dry forests, and tropical rainforests. The characteristics, typical tree and animal species, as well as ecological relationships, status and threat are introduced and explained for each type of forest. Many of the 150 images in the book are printed on full pages or on double spreads, often with longer captions. In addition to the introduction to forests in general, there is also a concluding chapter on the impact of humans and climate change on the forests. You can just leaf through the book, enjoy the pictures and incidentally discover useful information through the captions. Or you can read it chapter by chapter or all the way through from front to back to get more details. It was also important to mention the scientific sources via footnotes. Forests are a highly political topic these days, and I think it’s important that everything is understandable and transparent. In order to not disturb the readability, there’s a full bibliography at the end of the book. References like this should actually be standard for any publication – photography included – but often people don’t make the effort or think the reader wouldn’t be interested, or that it would disturb the flow. What was your favourite location to photograph for the book, and why? One of my favourite places in recent years has been the mountain rainforests of Costa Rica, for example at the Cerro de la Muerte, where the trees are densely covered with epiphytes at a height of 2,000 to 3,000 metres, quetzals

© Gunther WIllinger


and hummingbirds are swirling around and you can just discover so much. In the end, none of my pictures from there made it into the book, but you could easily make a whole separate book about these forests. How did you approach the book, and how long did it take to create? At the beginning of 2019, Roman Schmid, editor of teNeues, approached me to ask if I would like to make a book about the world’s forests with them. I’ve written several scientific journalistic articles about forests, climate and wood usage before, and that’s how he came across me. Since I’ve always wanted to work with images and text and the way they interact with each other, I was immediately on fire. However, it wasn’t until spring that we were ready and I could really get started. The first version then needed to be ready by the end of

© Forests In Our World by Gunther WIllinger, published by teNeues, www.teneues.

© Gunther WIllinger


TECHNIQUES Sunrise on Bow Lake Tread lightly across winter scenes, as you may walk over beautiful details that can become incredible foreground details Š Mike Mezeul II


Mike Mezeul II reveals the best ways to use the cold weather for stunning shots

landsca 32


Currently living in north Texas, Mike is a selftaught photographer and has been shooting professionally for ten years. Mike is, by his own admission, addicted to photography and adventure. He’s shot everything from landscapes to professional sports, natural disasters, concerts and aerial photography, and runs workshops throughout the year. For more on Mike’s photography, visit



he winter season, with its snow, ice and brutal temperatures, is really my thing. I relish every moment of it. Sure, I have to dress in multiple layers, deal with frozen eyelashes and the occasional snowfall down the back, but I am a lover of winter. Shooting in winter conditions can be extremely challenging, but also very rewarding. Sparkling snow drifts, unique ice formations, steaming lakes and so much more make shooting during the winter season such an attraction. If you’re a fan of the beach and warm weather, I challenge you to trade your shorts and T-shirts for a jacket, thick socks and gloves, get out there and start exploring!

Now before you get rolling, I never said this was going to be easy. Winter can be an extremely brutal season and there are definitely some tips and tricks you can utilise to stay warm, keep your camera and yourself safe, and create compelling photos. Shooting in situations that are not the most comfortable push you to see the landscape differently. Much of the detail and foreground that we get during other seasons is now buried under snow, so we have to get creative. I like the challenge of focusing in on the subjects a frozen landscape can produce. You are capturing an image of something temporary and fragile. Here are some ways to make the most of the season. 33


The best drone for you As a photographer, your reasons for selecting a specific drone will most likely come down to two main factors: portability and image quality. The smallest drones are, of course, the most portable and can be almost unnoticeable next to your regular camera kit. But this small and compact size means that the camera and the image sensor will be small – in many cases mobile phone size. Just like with most photographic kit there’s often a trade-off, and it comes down to what’s most important to you. To make a huge leap in image quality, and to enjoy a one-inch sensor, you need to consider investing in mid-sized foldable drones. The image quality won’t be as good as your stills camera, but it will be the best you can currently get with a drone that balances decent image quality with portability. Unfortunately, the only way to get an APS-C or Micro Four Thirds camera onto a drone is to invest in a professional model, and these can cost close to and even well above £10,000. In addition, they’re not anywhere near as lightweight and portable as consumer and prosumer models. Right

A drone for every need

Drones come in a range of prices, sizes and offer varying levels of image quality. Choose the one that offers the right balance of these factors

Most consumer and prosumer models offer a range of automated flight modes that can be used to create eye-catching videos with ease. And depending on the model you choose to buy, you can enjoy video formats ranging from 1080p up to 4K, with some models offering RAW video capabilities. For stills, look for features like the ability to shoot manually and in semi-automatic shooting modes, such as aperture priority and shutter priority, as well as the ability to shoot in RAW to get the most out of your shots. Here we’ll show you three of the best drones available today from market leader DJI, covering every budget, and a selection of accessories to enhance your drone photography and video.

Above right

Good for stills and video

A high-quality drone can enable you to capture quality RAW photos, as well as the option to shoot in RAW video

Useful drone accessories 75cm landing pad Manfrotto Advanced Website: 2 Shoulder Bag M Price: £15 / $20 Landing pads are inexpensive and a great accessory to use when your take-off and landing site is in long grass, mud or any other surface you don’t really want to land your drone on. Pads come with three ground pegs and fold up like reflectors for easy transportation.



Choosing the right drone and accessories is just as important as any decision on buying a camera

Website: Price: £45 / $50

This shoulder bag features a customisable interior and is large enough for a Mavic 2, controller and a spare battery, with three external pockets for carrying additional items. The outer material is weather‑treated, and there’s also a rain cover included.

Polar Pro Filters

Website: Price: £219 / $250 Polar Pro makes filter kits for drones ranging from basic sets to more comprehensive kits. The Cinematographers Collection has ten ND and ND polarising filters. It’s made up of the Cinema Series 6-Pack Filters and Cinema Series Limited Filters kits.


Three of the best DJI Mavic Mini Website: Price: £369 / $399

DJI Mavic 2 Pro Website: Price: £1,349 / $1,729

This is DJI’s latest drone and has been designed to be exempt from drone registration laws, due to being just 1g below the weight threshold. This palmsized drone offers a 12MP resolution and up to 2.7K video. It has an impressive flight time of up to 30 minutes per battery.

The Mavic 2 Pro is a small and light drone with a 20MP, one-inch sensor and an adjustable aperture offering f/2.8 to f/11, and has a lens with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 28mm. This advanced drone has intelligent flight modes, as well as sensors to help it avoid collisions.

Sensor: 1/2.3in 12MP CMOS Image files: JPEG & DNG Video format: 2.7K MP4 (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC) Gimbal: 3-axis Flight time: Up to 30 mins Folded dimensions: 140×82×57mm Weight: 249g

Sensor: 1in 20MP CMOS Image files: JPEG & DNG Video format: 4K MP4 & MOV, 10-bit D-Log M & 10-bit HDR Gimbal: 3-axis Flight time: Up to 31 mins Folded dimensions: 214×91×84mm Weight: 907g

DJI Inspire 2 & Zenmuse X7

Website: Price: £6,099 / $6,600 (no lens) A pro drone with a 24MP APS-C sensor and changeable lenses, with a selection of Zenmuse cameras available. The Zenmuse X7 camera costs around £2,600/$3,100 on top of the drone, plus lenses.

Sensor: Zenmuse X7: 24MP APS-C Image files: JPEG & DNG Video format: CinemaDNG, ProRes, MOV & MP4 Gimbal: 3-axis Flight time: Up to 23min (with Zenmuse X7) Folded dimensions: N/A Weight: 4.027kg (drone, camera & lens)



Shooting steps




Compose the shot A tripod is essential for this technique, to capture various photos without changing the composition. Looking for some super-close foreground interest is also highly recommended, as it’ll enable you to make the most of the focus-stacking technique.


Go manual It’s important to keep the camera set to its Manual mode, as you don’t want the exposure changing between shots. Set an aperture of f/8 and an ISO of 200. If you’re shooting around sunset, this should also give you a fairly slow shutter speed.




Adjust your focus settings Set the camera to AF-S (or Single Area AF), as this will focus just once when you half-press the shutter button. You should also adjust your settings to Single-Point AF, as this will give you one singlefocus point to move around and place in your scene.


Focus on your foreground Switch the camera to Live View and use the D-pad to place the focus point on the closest part of your foreground interest. Set the camera to Self Timer mode to prevent camera shake. Half-press the shutter button to focus and then fully press it down to take the photo.


Adjust your focus Repeat the process for step 4 by placing the focus point at different points throughout your scene. Here we took three shots; the first was the closest stone, the second was the furthest stone and the last was the hill in the background. However, you can take up to five or six shots if needed for your scene.


Review your shots Zoom into each of your images to ensure that your shot is sharp in the desired area and that there isn’t any camera shake. If you want to try shooting a fresh set, take a photo of your hand to help you differentiate between stacks when you’re editing.






A wide piece of glass is essential for this technique, as you may struggle to capture close foreground interest without it. Try using a 20mm lens (or a 12mm focal length on an APS-C camera) to achieve the desired wide angle of view.


Depending on the lens, you may encounter some focus breathing when adjusting the focus. This means you’ll likely need to slightly crop your final image when merging the layers. While not essential, using a full-frame camera means that you can crop your shot without risking the image quality.


The setup

You’ll want to invest in a tripod with multi-angle leg locks, as this will enable you to spread the tripod legs wide to get closer to the ground. Being so low will help you capture the extreme foreground interest that will bring the focus stacking technique to life.

Using autofocus Autofocus and Live View mode are essential functions that you can use to your advantage for this project One of the most important aspects of this technique is ensuring that you’ve achieved a sharp focus in each of your shots. If you’ve missed the focus in one of your key areas, such as your extreme foreground, then no amount of stacking in Photoshop will be able to disguise that. However, combining autofocus and the Live View mode is the key to success. When using an optical (DSLR) viewfinder, you won’t have the freedom to move your AF point outside of a set field. However, Live View mode means you can move it anywhere within the scene. This enables you to easily place it directly on the foreground interest.


REVIEWS PRICE: £286 / $389 + £119 / $184

Manfrotto MT055CXPRO4 + XPRO ball head Top Lock Probably the biggest name in tripods, Manfrotto has something for everyone. Here’s a sturdy yet portable option for getting out and about Manfrotto has a rich heritage, stretching back to the 1960s when Italian journalist Lino Manfrotto started selling telescopic stands and booms. The acclaimed 055 range of tripods has earned a reputation for dependability, performance and versatility over the years, culminating in the latest XPRO models. There are three sets of legs to choose from, with aluminium and carbon fibre versions of the threesection models, and the four-section carbon fibre edition that we’ve chosen here. All three have the same maximum operating height of 170cm, but the four-section carbon edition folds down to 54cm (legs only) compared with 63cm and 61cm for the carbon and aluminium three-section legs respectively. Manfrotto’s XPRO ball head is the perfect partner for 055-series legs and is available in two options. One uses Manfrotto’s proprietary 200PL quickrelease plate, while the ‘Top Lock’ edition that we’ve chosen has a more universal Arca-Swiss type quickrelease plate. Compared to the others on test, the Manfrotto has a relatively meagre maximum load rating of 9kg for the legs and 10kg for the head. But the Manfrotto remains perfectly rigid and reliable under the weight of a pro-grade SLR and monster telephoto lens, although its 16mm diameter bottom leg sections are a bit more spindly than other tripods on test. A unique feature among the contenders in this group is that the Manfrotto’s centre column can act as a horizontal boom. The conversion is very quick and easy, and the boom action can be a bonus for macro shooting or when using ultra-wide-angle or fisheye lenses. It also enables low-level shooting, down to a height of just 15cm. The downside is that support for the camera becomes much more prone to vibrations in this configuration. Instead of the usual twist-action leg section clamps, the Manfrotto features ‘Quick Power Lock’ flip locks. The operating surface extends either side of the hinge, enabling a slick push-pull action, but many might still prefer twist-action clamps.

Ball head

Easy Link There’s a further bubble level on the spider of the legs, and an Easy Link socket for attaching accessories like an LED lamp.

There are three spirit levels built into the Top Lock edition of the ball head, which is a stellar performer in all respects.

Pivot Unique in this group, the Manfrotto has a pivoting centre column, which quickly and easily converts into a horizontal boom.

Four angles The legs can be locked at four alternative angles to the centre column, rather than the more usual three.

GROUP TEST PRICE: £649 / $699 + £349 / $449

Gitzo Mountaineer Series 2 GT2542 + GH3382QD ball head Gitzo has long been a renowned manufacturer of premium-quality tripods, and the Mountaineer Series 2 builds on an illustrious heritage Gitzo has been making tripods since the 1940s, earning a first-class reputation in the process. Highlights include launching the world’s first prograde carbon fibre tripod back in 1994, two years after becoming part of the Vitec group, which also owns Manfrotto. Since 2005, production of both Gitzo and Manfrotto tripods has been based in Italy. The current line-up includes Traveler, Mountaineer and Systematic tripods. The Mountaineer range is the most general-purpose, aiming to combine extreme rigidity with lightweight portability and robustness. Series O, 1, 2 and 3 Mountaineer tripods have a progressively beefier build and higher maximum load rating. We opted for a Series 2 model, which has an 18kg load rating, similar to that of the Benro and Novo tripods on test. The four-section GT2542 legs and GH3382QD head on test are available as a complete kit at £729 in the UK, whereas it’s actually cheaper to buy them separately in the US, at $1,148. The Gitzo outfit is much pricier than competing tripods in the group. The big question is whether it’s worth the extra outlay. The legs are based on Carbon eXact tubing and are claimed to have enhanced stiffness for their size, while the relatively narrowdiameter lowest sections have a thicker build to resist flexing. There are three locking angles for the legs, and twist clamps for each section. Up on top, the ball head is simple but effective, with an adjustable friction damper built into the main locking knob. A standout feature is that the top of the centre column can be quickly and easily removed by twisting a locking disc. It can then be plugged directly into the spider in place of the centre column, enabling low-level shooting down to a height of 27cm. The maximum operating height of 179cm is a little less generous than in the other tripods on test. Although solid and dependable, our review sample lacked smoothness in two areas: the height adjustment of the centre column was quite jerky, and the rotation of the ball head had stiff areas when using the pan-only release.

Adjustments Even after extensively loosening the centre column clamp, height adjustment proved jerky in our tests.

Ball head The ball head has a bubble level and panrelease knob, but the panning action lacks uniform smoothness.

Shoot low A locking disc just below the main mounting disc for the head enables quick removal of the centre column for low‑level shooting.

Leg clamps Unlike the centre column, minimal rotation of the leg-section clamps enables smooth extension and retraction.






WB modes

High dynamic range scenes need careful exposure to ensure you get the most detail

The AF system is fast and accurate, even in very poor light as well as with moving subjects

Using a Shade white balance setting helps enhance the warmer tones of sunset



Price: £869 / $850

Canon EOS M6 Mark II

Canon’s latest mirrorless camera is enticing, with the same 32.5MP sensor and processing engine as the EOS 90D. Angela Nicholson takes it for a spin



Picture styles

Low angles

The Standard Picture Style and Auto White Balance settings usually deliver natural-looking images

The tilt screen is useful for low-level landscape shots but can’t help with portrait orientation


Canon launched the EOS M6 Mark II at the same time as the EOS 90D, and internally the two cameras have a lot in common. For a start, they have the same 32.5MP APS-C format sensor and DIGIC 8 processing engine. In the M6 Mark II, this combination enables a shooting rate of up to 14fps for as many as 54 JPEGs, 23 RAW files or 36 CRAW files. That’s an impressive rate for a camera of this level, but even better news is that it’s available in single or continuous autofocus mode. Of course, as a mirrorless camera the M6 Mark II operates in Live View mode full time and relies on the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system for phase-detection focusing. The AF points cover 88% of the horizontal area of the sensor and 100% of the vertical area. The M6 Mark II is quite small for an APS-C format camera, but it feels well made. Photographers with large hands may find it a

bit on the fiddly side, but it’s a very good size for travel. Despite its petite dimensions, the front of the M6 Mark II has a nicely shaped grip, and there’s a decent thumb rest on the back. A textured coating also adds a sense of security when it’s in your hand. Unlike the original M6, the Mark II doesn’t have an exposure compensation dial. However, Canon has given it a dial with a central function button (as seen on the EOS M5) on its top plate. This is a great way of changing key settings quickly – including adjusting the exposure compensation. While there’s no viewfinder built in, the M6 II’s hotshoe is compatible with the Canon EVFDC2 electronic viewfinder, which is available in some kits or can be bought separately. This has a 0.39-inch type display with 2.36 million dots, and it makes an excellent addition to the package. For example, it’s easier to follow

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Digital Photographer 222 (Sampler)  

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Digital Photographer 222 (Sampler)  

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