PhotoLab 5, using a Leica M10 and a random collection of lenses

I spent the past two months in India, editing images (mostly from my Nikon D750) in PhotoLab 5. My laptop was a 13" MacBook Pro, meaning I no longer had my big-screen monitors where I could so easily see what I was doing with PL5. I wasn’t working the same way as when I’m home either - at home, I work on one or two images, spend a lot of time on them, and when I think I’ve done as much as I know how to do, I publish them. In India, I found myself editing groups of 40-60 photos, trimming them down to the best 20 or so, then doing a reasonably fast edit to each of them so I could mail them off. I probably wasn’t that good a “salesman” for DxO PhotoLab, as the cost in India was more than people wanted to consider. I also found that most of my friends in India have switched to using a mobile phone for their photography.

I flew home a week ago, deciding to make some changes in my photography. One D750 is sold, and the other should be sold in a week or two. I bought a D780 for the hospital in India to use, for capturing 4K videos of eye surgery, and while using the D780 myself I started to fall in love with it. Be that as it may, I eventually decided that when I got home, I would concentrate exclusively on my Leica M10 camera for most everything, and my M8.2 for infrared photography.

Since so many people in this forum convinced me to turn off all the “auto” features of the Nikon, starting up now with the M10 is quite easy, as I’m now used to using manual control for just about everything. I read stories from some experts overseas in how to get the most out of the M10, and I watched quite a few “Q&A” sessions with the folks at “Red Dot Forums” on how they suggest using an M10. I learned quite a few new things, including that using ISO 10,000 on the M10 captures much better images than I imagined. My current thoughts are to set the ISO to something reasonable, set the aperture to get the depth of field I want, then set the shutter speed to get an appropriate exposure. I’m resisting the temptation to use auto-ISO, and also resisting the temptation to use the camera in “Aperture priority mode” where I set the aperture, and the camera selects a shutter speed. I guess I’ll be using the M10 the way I used to use my film cameras.

I need to re-learn how to configure PhotoLab 5 for my new photography ideas and goals. PL5 does understand the M10, but does not seem to recognize most of my Leica lenses, many from decades ago. I don’t see that as a problem, just something to work around.

My new goal is to create ONE good photo every day, that I work at as if it was really important to me. I’ll probably mail them out each day to friends and family, and maybe post some here. Every time I do post something here, it results in a crash course on how to do things better, which is good for me. I’m sure I’ll find problems where I’m stuck, not sure what to do. That happens quite often, in which case I do my best, and look for feedback.

Most everyone here has been so helpful in the past, first with learning the basics of PL5, and then how to use the more exotic tools. I know it’s going to take me a while to catch up with what I knew two months ago.

I woke up this morning to find a beautiful sunny day, and a blue sailboat anchored in place, with the water so flat it looked like a mirror. I liked what I saw, and put my 135mm Tele Elmar on the M10, on a tripod of course, to capture a view of the sailboat. I wasn’t fast enough - by the time I was ready, the water was anything but flat, but I took the photo anyway. On my screen, it doesn’t look at all like what I expected to see, a pretty blue sailboat floating on water that looked more like a mirror. The “pretty” sailboat now looks like a derelict, the water is nothing like what I wanted - but in a way, the color patterns make me like this photo anyway. I didn’t get to use most of the fancy tools in PL5, just the basic tools. Every time I cropped it, I changed my mind. I’m happy with what I ended up with.

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Mirrorless, not DSLR:

As the sun was setting late today, it started to rain, and everything in my field of vision as I looked out from my balcony across Biscayne Bay turned into a brilliant yellow fog, back-lit by the sun which was way out in the distance. I saw a few boats and the island, with the monument, and grabbed my M10 with the 135mm lens still mounted. I couldn’t use the tripod, as out on my balcony it was still raining, so I propped my camera against the corner of the wall on my right, tried to hold it steady, and took six photos. In the first photo, the buildings in the city couldn’t be seen at all. In the last photo, the fog had lifted, and the lovely effect I was trying to capture had gone. I had maybe five seconds to get two acceptable photos, and of them this is my favorite. It’s cropped, a lot, to show what I was concentrating on.

Doing this with the M10 was almost easy, despite the tiny size of the image in my viewfinder window - the frame-lines for the 135mm lens are small. Maybe I could have used “live view”, but I was concentrating too hard on what I was already doing.

Seeing it now, on my computer screen, reminds me of exactly what it looked like through my viewfinder, and/or my bare eyes. I tried to use the ‘vibrance’ and ‘saturation’ settings in PL5 to make the fog look brighter, because of the back-lighting, but it didn’t look real. The brownish/tan/yellowish fog is pretty close in this image to what I remember seeing. I didn’t really do very much editing with PL5.

The more I use my M10, the less I miss my Nikon DSLR.

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@Joanna suggested some changes, making the buildings a little more prominent, with the sun’s reflections on them. This is a photo taken only a few moments after the one I thought I liked. Cropping is a little different, and the buildings (and reflections) were slowly becoming more visible.

There is a discrepancy though - what I saw, was this golden color in the fog, because it was being lit up from behind by the sun. In the image below, I did some color correction to make the image appear more natural, even though it’s not what I saw. I guess it does look more plausible though, and it allowed me to make the changes Joanna suggested, or at least what I think she suggested.

Now I’m torn. Yesterday I liked the golden view of what I saw looking out at the city. This version looks far more natural though. but it’s not what I saw.

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Decisions… Monet painted what he saw. Had he painted naturalistically, no one would remember him.

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It’s now going on 6pm, and an hour or so ago it started raining, with the same “fog” as two days before, except the golden glow was gone. Everything today is a dull gray. Boring.

The other day, I glanced outside, and told myself I HAD TO get a photo of what I was seeing. To me, it was beautiful. I don’t know much about weather, but apparently there’s a lot more to what I see than just whether or not it’s raining. The height of the sun, the weather beyond Miami, controlling how much the sun is lighting up the fog, how heavily it is raining - all these things play a part in what I get to see.

I think I need to learn how to play around with colors in PL5. Maybe I should just try to make something beautiful, even if it’s not what I remember seeing?

I guess it’s sometimes better to not even take the photo. I was thinking that it might be nice to take a photo of the blue sailboat in my earlier photo, but capture it “head on”, not from the side. It is anchored just outside my balcony, and by checking the tide charts for Miami, I knew when the tide would change from “incoming” to “outgoing”.

Armed with that information, I went out on my balcony early, put in a fresh battery, and started taking photos of the sailboat from the side. Sure enough, as the tide switched from “rising” (incoming) to “falling” (outgoing) the sailboat started to pivot on its anchor chain, until it was aligned the way I wanted. I captured several photos as this was going on.

Bottom line - ugh! I was able to do what I set out to do, but what an ugly boat, and a useless photo. I think this boat is what’s called a “live aboard”, meaning the people on it can live there, rent free, no expenses, in relative safety and security - other than that Miami has a hurricane heading this way just as I’m writing this.

Having gone to all this trouble, I’ll post the image here anyway, but as a reminder to myself that my imagined final photo looks nothing like the real thing. The old 135mm lens did OK I think, but my cropping the image so much more didn’t help any. That the sailboat was half in sunlight and half in the shade makes the image even worse.

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If I was going to send this photo to anyone, I’d say the heck with my original idea, and go with an angle shot. The boat is just as ugly and ragged, but the photo is less annoying. Next time, I need to pick something a bit more photogenic.

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Lessons learned… PL5 did fine, but using my very old 135mm Tele Elmar, and then cropping the photo so much, wasn’t a good idea. I guess I need to be more selective in what I want to photograph, but at the time I should have realized this boat is not going to make for a nice photo. On the positive side, figuring out the tide charts, and the lighting, and setting up early meant I did capture the image the way I wanted, but my imagination was showing me a much prettier end result.

I guess I’m too stubborn for my own good. I don’t like yesterday’s photos, for lots of reasons, mostly that the boat looks too ugly, the lighting is horrible, and maybe a view from the end of the boat just isn’t going to get me what I want.

I checked the tide chart, and today the tide would be changing direction almost a half-hour later than yesterday, meaning the sunlight should be better. I started capturing photos from “too early” until “too late”. BUT… The only image that looked decent to me was the “too early” photo, where the boat hadn’t yet moved to the position I thought I wanted it in.

So, back to PL5, cropping more and more and more. I like that I can now see into the boat, showing the steering wheel. It may still be an ugly boat, but in this view the “ugly” doesn’t show up so much.

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Last Friday I took a photo of a white work-boat and barge tied up near my home. I thought of trying to get a better photo of it, but I couldn’t think of anywhere I could get to, to capture a better image unless I could get a boat and go out on the water. I gave up, thinking that on the following Monday (today) the workboat would probably be going back to wherever it was being used.

Sure enough, around 7am this morning, I looked out my window and saw a few guys moving around on the workboat. By 7:30 or so, I had my camera ready, and was out on my balcony waiting for them to get started. The boat and barge moved out into Biscayne Bay, and they started to navigate between all the small boats at anchor, moving out towards Biscayne Bay. I probably took about 40 images, continually trying to get a better shot than what I had already done. I got several photos I was sure I would like, and then they pulled out into the open area of Biscayne Bay, so I now had the city of Miami behind them as a backdrop. I got one photo after another that I liked more than the one before, and then they turned right, heading off towards Miami, which was the end of my photo-shoot.

That I was using my M10 rather than my DSLR was good and bad - the Nikon would have had a zoom, meaning I could easily fill the frame with what I wanted. Most of my shots were taken with my Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO-LANTHAR that I read was “almost” as good as the comparable Leica lens, but $4,000 less expensive. If I was still working, by now I’d probably have the real lens from Leica, and an M11 to put it on, but I’m not. Anyway, I got the photo I wanted, somewhere in the middle of my frame, and after half an hour editing the image in DxO PhotoLab, I got the photo I had dreamed of taking, only better.

PhotoLab 5 has stopped feeling “overwhelming”, and has become a useful tool. I’m maybe in the third grade by now - I know what I want to do, and know how to accomplish it. Apparently my Leica M10 is supported, but not my 50mm f/2 APO-LANTHAR Voigtlander lens. I filled out the request form for DxO to look into this.

I’ve been reading about the new Leica Monochrom cameras, that shoot only in b&w. Something I want to start doing this week is capturing images in b&w, but getting them to look as good as if I had shot them on a Monochrom camera. I’m not sure if that’s even possible, but I’m wondering how close I can get. I know I’ve got a lot of “PreSets” to select from, but none of them stand out the way @Joanna’s b&w photos do.

After watching hours and hours of “Red Dot Forum” videos, while I’m satisfied with my existing lenses, I feel the urge to update my M10 camera into one of the two possibilities with updates currently available - but despite my reservations, I think it would make more sense if I did anything, to buy the new Leica M11. It’s not an easy decision, and there are things I prefer about the M10 to the M11 which makes the choice even harder. (I want the brass top, but I also want black (which means the brass is replaced with aluminum), I like the shutter sound from the M10 more than the shutter sounds from the M11, I’m not convinced I need so many more megapixels, I’m not a fan of touch-screen, and the menu complexity of the M11 is getting more and more like my Nikons, rather than the simplicity of a Leica. I’ll probably continue to think about this, but I don’t think I will buy anything new.

…none of which matters - what I have and use right now is my M10. Here’s today’s photo:

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