February 16th, 2017

SLEEKLENS – Brushes & Presets

1_russ-outdoor-photoI’m no digital darkroom expert – perhaps deliberately so as I usually prefer a minimalist approach to both capturing & processing landscape images. But that should not imply that I totally spurn the myriad of processing products which proliferate the current market – because I don’t. I shoot exclusively in RAW & as such, some post processing is always a necessity.

Which leads me to the products I do use. My base platform is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom with which I have developed something of a love hate relationship. There are some features I have come to rely on, there are others which cause me angst. But I have put a stake in the ground with Lightroom & will stay with it until something indisputably better comes along.

Recently, I was invited to try & review Sleeklens – collections of presets & brushes which operate on the Lightroom platform & as such, extend functionality. I had not heard of Sleeklens before, even though I am aware of & have ‘played’ with a wide variety of preset products – none of which have made a lasting impression.

But somehow Sleeklens appealed. Maybe it was the detailed recipe guides, maybe it was the logical workflow progression, maybe it was the stackability of the presets, maybe it was the deft touch of the enhancements. Whatever it was, the “Through the Woods Workflow” struck a chord with me – to the extent that I went ahead & purchased 2 more collections – “Brick & Mortar Workflow” & “Out of the Shadows HDR Workflow”.

While it is still very early days in our relationship, I am encouraged, excited & confident that the products I now have will enable me to better produce landscape images with the finesse I want.

To further your knowledge of the Sleeklens product offerings, please click on the following links:





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January 9th, 2017



I’m pretty sure I have ‘squirrel-like’ tendencies. In fact, I know I do especially when it comes to landscape photography.

Every day, my in-box is full of e-mails from people (usually other photographers) trying to sell me something. And over the years many of them have succeeded – admirably. I’ve assembled a whole library of resources covering an extensive range of subject material.

But here’s the rub! While I have been diligent in the collection, I’ve been way less diligent in the assimilation & execution. I’ve assembled resources simply to ‘have’ them & the promises to myself to go back & read when I have time have been systematically broken. The reading, understanding & application aspects have gone missing in action & that is sometime I’m determined cannot continue.

So my resolve is to purchase nothing further in 2017. I’ll say ‘no’ to my urges to acquire & ‘no’ to all the worthy offers that will undoubtedly come my way. Instead, I will address my ‘nuts’, read & evaluate, & if I see that they add to my creative process – I’ll apply.

I look forward to experiencing the difference that will make.



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December 5th, 2016


1_russ-outdoor-photoIt’s been a while since I’ve posted – not through a lack of enthusiasm for my photography, or disinterest in communicating – more the realisation that there are not enough hours in the day or days in the year to do all that I would like. As one’s years advance, the speed at which days pass very definitely accelerates, or that’s how it seems to me.

2016 has been a busy year. My association with Mark Gray’s photographic workshops (www.markgray.com.au) has meant frequent interactions with enthusiasts in the South Island of NZ & Kangaroo Island, Flinders Ranges, Tasmania & Cairns in Australia. Invariably these are wonderful experiences offering up great locations to shoot.

Perhaps my highlight was a ‘doors off’ helicopter shoot over the Great Barrier Reef. I had heard much about it over the years & had briefly visited the periphery of it on previous holidays, but this was the first time I had seen it from the air & I could only marvel at the extent & complexity of it all.

A further highlight was my annual winter pilgrimage to Wedderburn & another Masterlight workshop with the venerable Tony Bridge.(www.thistonybridge.com) Sadly, this year was to be the final workshop as Tony has since relocated his life to the Hokianga. I have always felt privileged to spend time in the Maniototo & enjoy whatever it cared to reveal. This year was no exception.

So, the ‘hunting & gathering’ is over for the year & the focus has now shifted to processing & display. My first priority has been to refresh this website with a new structure & new images. I would like to do more, but the days are only so long.

Soon it will be farewell to 2016 & welcome to 2017. Already there are a number of workshops booked in & projects being prepared. There is so much to do – if only I had time for it all.

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July 8th, 2015


Russ McLeanPortrait of the Maniototo through the Window of my Soul.

“Even from a distance I hear the Maniototo call out to me – soft but insistent in my ear.
I am unable to resist, so set out again on my annual pilgrimage.

I return to the familiar places & revisit the familiar scenes. They are always the same, yet always different.

The Maniototo is not my home but I feel an inner peace here, a sense of identity & even perhaps of belonging. It is like live theatre to me. When the curtain goes up & the stage lights shine, the players take their places & act out their roles:

sometimes playful & teasing
sometimes moody & dramatic
sometimes warm & inviting
sometimes chilling & cold.

Add in the seasonal costume changes & the orchestrated lighting sequences & the stage is set. Doubtless there is a script, but that often is closely guarded until the ultimate reveal.

But beneath the stage make-up lies what to me is the essence of the Maniototo;

complex simplicity
an uncompromising reality
an unsophisticated honesty

And beyond that is the natural beauty – always the beauty.

As I strive to unravel the many layers of the Maniototo, I have become very conscious that it is doing the same to me. Perhaps, for the very first time in my life, I’m actually OK with that.
After all, there are so many places to escape, but really no place to hide!”


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May 8th, 2014


Russ McLean“2014 Series”, Russ McLean
(Arrowtown Art Gallery, Arrowtown)

“The most successful works of art are those that provoke a genuine response in their viewer: be it positive, negative, emotional or intellectual. As long as the eyes of the audience don’t merely slide across the surface and move on without making any connection at all, the artist has achieved something of their purpose in its creation, and that is as applicable to the photographer as it is to the painter. Landscape photographer Russ McLean was educated as a geographer but has an abiding love for the land that goes well beyond the facts and figures of academia. With every photograph, he attempts to express the way in which he sees his surroundings, his personal response and interpretation of it, and, in presenting the viewers with his impressions, force them to recognise and feel their own.

McLean has a particular love for black-and-white photography, which strips away one level of reality from the image. By its very nature, it is no longer an apparently exact reproduction of what the eye sees, but introduces an element of storytelling and encourages a closer examination of shape and shadow. Images such as ‘Old Truck’ might have been pulled straight from the historical archives, while ‘Early Snow’ chillingly conveys the isolation, the cold, and the sense of fear in a struggle for survival. The colour photographs are perhaps even more striking, however, with works ‘Forest Remnant’ and ‘Tolaga Bay Sunrise’ so beautiful that they catch at the throat as well as the imagination.”

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April 28th, 2014


Russ McLeanI am very pleased to welcome a second guest to my site – Michael Greer.

Michael has had a camera (of one sort or another) in his hand for most of his life. He is very familiar with both film & digital & has covered the photographic spectrum from weddings to landscapes. But whatever the format or his subject material, Michael’s real love is black & white.

The images he has shared with us can be loosely grouped under 4 general headings: architecture, human interest, landscape & comic. Although many different subjects have caught his attention, the unifying theme is his keen eye for composition & expert technical execution of each shot. While he may give the impression of seeing the world in black & white, his real contribution comes from his appreciation of the shades of grey.

On a personal level, I am very grateful to Michael for the assistance he has given me as I have struggled with my own photographic interests. His technical knowledge has proved invaluable & his willingness to constructively critique much appreciated. He has helped me when I have most needed it.

So welcome Michael & thank you for sharing your unique view of the world as expressed through your camera. You have given us a valuable opportunity to view, to appreciate & to learn.

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April 22nd, 2014


Russ McLeanFine art landscape photography is not about ‘rocking-up, setting-up, pointing & clicking & considering the job done. There is way, way more to it than that as I found out by watching a true professional go about his craft.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to observe Mark Gray at work. Although a young man, Mark is now an established landscape photographer with a rapidly growing profile & international reputation. (www.markgray.com.au) He was in New Zealand this month & together we visited McLean Falls in The Catlins – twice.

On our first visit, Mark spent time scoping the location & settling on his preferred composition. He worked hard to capture it but couldn’t settle on anything that conformed to his exacting standards. So, two days later, having carefully researched hour by hour weather forecasts, sun trajectory & likely cloud cover, we returned, driving eight hours & over 600 kms to repeat the shot.

Standing in the middle of the stream (chest waders especially purchased) waiting for the light, image capture took over two hours of precise compositional adjustments, varying filter combinations, debris removal & even judicious rock throwing before Mark had the one shot he wanted.

I don’t often see photographers indulge in such meticulous planning & execution but when I do, I can only admire & learn.

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March 15th, 2014


Russ McLeanWhen I think Dusky Sound, I think ’majestic, moody & mysterious’. Majestic in terms of the volume & shape of the land mass, moody under its climatic cloak & mysterious in refracted light.

Dusky Sound is located on the south-west coast of New Zealand. It is a remote & climatically volatile region. Rapidly changing weather patterns blanket the landforms in a variety of guises, presenting the photographer with abundant opportunities. Visitation here is relatively rare, so when the chance arose recently, I eagerly accepted.

Our group boarded the MV Tutoko in Doubtful Sound & motored down the coast to first Breaksea Sound, then Dusky. We quickly learned that this was an environment not to be underestimated & those without sea legs experienced times of acute discomfort. But while the elements are more than capable of challenging normal human comfort levels, they do combine to construct compelling vistas.

Making photos in this environment is challenging, in that seldom, (almost never) do you have a stable platform to shoot from. But I came away with images which portray the layers, the moods & the majesty as I experienced them, while realising that this is a place that you might never really lay bare.

One could visit Dusky Sound frequently & experience something different on each occasion, something to wonder at, something to enjoy. Natural beauty is, in itself compelling & in Dusky Sound there is such abundance. I am impatient to return.

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February 10th, 2014


Russ McLeanIt is easy to get comfortable with the familiar – perhaps far too easy.

I have frequently been asked why there are no people in my images. My pat answer is that the challenge of trying to encourage a waterfall or a landform or a sunrise, to ‘smile’ is more than enough for me. The real answer is that I have developed an affinity with landscape photography & because all my efforts have been focused there, have become relatively comfortable with it.

But am I really satisfied with this self-imposed limitation? The simple answer is ‘no’.

So to start the process of addressing this situation, we formed a small group of enthusiasts & gave each, in turn, the task of selecting a topic, theme or challenge for a given time period. By completion date, we have the opportunity to present our individual interpretations & share our experiences.

To date, our topics have been:

*    Patterns in Nature
*    Fifty Shades of Grey
*    Abandoned Places
*    Abstract
*    After Dark

Now, there is nothing new in what we have done – nothing earth-shattering or ground-breaking, nothing that hasn’t done before. So what? For me the variety of topics has already helped to strip away my levels of established comfort & encourage me to explore new thinking & develop new techniques.

In my book, that can’t be all bad.

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February 1st, 2014


Russ McLeanIts been a busy January.

Early in the month I hosted Tony Bridge, the notable NZ landscape photographer as he completed an assignment for a corporate client. He invited me to accompany him in the field, which afforded me a valuable opportunity to learn from one of the best. (www.thistonybridge.com)

I am now a month into my action plan for the year (see previous blog post) & am encouraged by the results to date. 5 images for January were released on time to the Arrowtown Gallery (www.arrowtowngallery.com) & sales to date would suggest that my decision to offer exclusivity (1 print only from a photo file) has been well accepted. Four images for February have been prepared – two will be available through The Arrowtown Gallery & two directly from me. Email address is russ@insyncphotography.co.nz

A social media platform administrator has been engaged & work has commenced to promote my website to a wider audience. Facebook has been the initial target, but Pinterest & Twitter will come on stream in the near future.

For February, I’m very much looking forward to a shoot in Doubtful Sound at the end of the month & am delighted that 2 fine photographers have accepted my invitation to exhibit as guests on this site. Their work will appear a little later in the year.

So, a quick but satisfying start to 2014.

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