Few people could fail to appreciate a beautiful landscape image on the wall, and fine art specialists such as Rachael Talibart are meeting the demand by offering high quality original prints that not only have the ability to vastly enrich a space but also come with the potential to rise in value over time and so serve as a canny investment as well.
However, the recent trend from collectors, particularly those in America who are amongst Rachael’s best customers, has been towards prints that are large in scale – one-and-a-half metres on the longest edge is not unknown – meaning that the digital files have to be correspondingly huge. With this in mind the need for a camera that can deliver a high pixel count as a matter of course is obvious, which should put the 47MP Panasonic Lumix S1R on the radar of anyone looking to produce fine art from a professional perspective.
Panasonic’s current offer to loan qualifying professionals an S-Series camera and lens for a free loan period of up to two weeks provides the perfect opportunity to undertake personal projects, and Rachael signed up for the S1R plus two zoom lenses, a 24-105mm f/4 Macro and a 70-200mm f/4. “For me it makes much more sense to work with zooms rather than primes,” she says. “I’m often working around water, and will quite possibly be standing in it next to my partially submerged tripod, and the less I have to change lenses the less chance there will be of dust or moisture getting into the camera.”
A former lawyer turned professional photographer specialising in the coast, Rachael’s inspiration comes from a childhood spent at sea. She’s best known for her Sirens portfolio, a critically acclaimed photographic series that depicts stormy seas, and the portfolio has won numerous awards and been published globally and is also the subject of a fine art photobook published by Triplekite.
Rachael has exhibited in major galleries around the world and her limited edition prints appear in private collections in the UK and USA. She owns f11 Workshops through which she runs photography workshops in the South East of England and she also leads tours for Ocean Capture, an international fine art photography business. She was described as one of ‘the best outdoor photographers working in the UK today’ by Outdoor Photography Magazine and she’s won award categories in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016/17 and was named Black and White Photographer of the Year in 2018.
LEFT: Seascape, 24mm, 0.6secs at f/16
One of Rachael’s favourite approaches is to partially submerge her tripod in the sea and the flip out viewfinder of the S1R came in useful here since it meant that she could look down on the camera from above.
First impressions of the kit were good. “I’m totally at ease with the size of the camera, which is bigger and bulkier than some other mirrorless models,” says Rachael. “My usual camera is a pro-spec DSLR and it’s not as deep as the S1R so it’s a little smaller, but for me this was outweighed by the Panasonic’s obvious build quality, and it felt like a very high quality, professional piece of kit. I don’t normally walk long distances with my cameras in any case and so I didn’t have any issues with carrying the gear and it was great to work with.”
Although not a regular user of Panasonic cameras, Rachael found the S1R very intuitive to work with and she particularly appreciated the numbers of controls, such as ISO, Exposure Compensation and White Balance, that were located on the camera body rather than being buried in a menu somewhere.
“That made it very easy to get to grips with and ergonomically it felt good and well balanced in the hands,” she says. “The three-way tiltable LCD screen was another big plus, since this meant that I could stand up and look down on the camera rather than having to get down to its level to look at the back of the camera.
“Of particular interest to me was the high resolution mode, where several images are taken and then combined to create one massive file. You can only really do this with a static subject and so the moving waves that are one of my favourite subjects weren’t suitable, but this would be something that could be extremely useful for times when I might be producing close
ups of texture, for example, where detail is key. I didn’t have time to fully explore this option, but the one shot I did produce using this facility gave me a file of 16,736×11.168, which would have been enough for a huge print, so that’s definitely a feature that would be of interest.”
Alongside her celebrated Sirens series, where Rachael focused on sections of waves and shot at 1/1000sec to retain full detail, there are more abstract and dreamy shots where a shutter speed of 1/4sec has been selected and the camera is hand held to accentuate the motion. This is an approach that delegates on her workshops might be encouraged to take, but while blur within the subject itself is perfectly acceptable and part of the abstract feel, excessive camera shake – difficult to avoid when a gale might be blowing – can ruin the image.
“I tried out this approach while making use of the S1R’s 5-axis image stabilising facility,” says Rachael, “while working with my zoom set to its 200mm setting. And the results were really impressive, mainly sharp and very acceptable. I also tried working with a shutter speed of a full second and even then the pictures still looked good, slightly blurry but still acceptable given the conditions I was working in.”
Another big tick in the box is the S1R’s hybrid qualities, manifested in its ability to shoot 4K video. For Rachael this is a massive plus point since she increasingly has a requirement to shoot snippets of moving imagery, which is then sent out via her Instagram feed to accompany her still images. “At the moment I’m working with a DSLR that can output HD but not 4K footage,” she says. “This means that I have to have a second camera that does have this capability, while not offering high enough resolution stills to use in fine art. So it’s a faff, having to work with two cameras, and it would be great to have something like the S1R that can do both things well.”
One final feature that really endeared itself to Rachael were the various looks that could be achieved in-camera, which helped to give her inspiration and an approximation of what her final image might look like. “I always work with Raw files,” she says, “but it was still helpful to me to be able to see on the spot what a black and white image, for example, might look like and I could then work on the Raw File in Lightroom and very quickly achieve a look that was similar that I could then work on. I could see these looks giving me lots of ideas and, besides, they were fun to work with and photography should be fun!”
With so many positives there was really only one relatively small gripe that Rachael had, which concerned battery life. The S1R is rated for 340 shots when using the EVF and 360 shots when using the LCD, but considering that when working on her Sirens project Rachael managed to shoot around 3000 exposures in a six-hour session it’s clear that back-up batteries would be required for the longer sessions. “It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but in future I’ll have more batteries with me.”
So, what’s the overall verdict? “I was very impressed,” says Rachael. “This is definitely a camera that’s on my horizon now and I could very well consider it very seriously when the time comes to renew my current camera. For me resolution is everything and my ideal would be a 100MP sensor, so if a Lumix mirrorless model were to come out with one of these on board I have to say that I could definitely be tempted!”
More information: www.rachaeltalibart.com
Try it Yourself!
Panasonic is offering professional photographers and videographers the opportunity to try out the S-Series cameras and lenses for themselves for up to a two-week period free of charge, so perfect to use on a professional job or a personal project.
The LUMIX S1 and S1R will be available to loan on the scheme, as well as a choice of S Series lenses: 24-105mm standard zoom lens, 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens or 50mm fixed focal length lens. LUMIX S1 samples will contain the new SFU2 firmware programme, unlocking the full video capabilities of the camera for testing. The SIGMA MC21 converter will also be available as part of the scheme.
To sign up for a loan, visit here. Terms and conditions apply.
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