Full disclosure. A little while back the awesome people over at Mastin Labs set me up with their all new Portra Pushed pack to let me put it through it’s paces. I’m not being paid to say nice things about them, I’m going to give my honest opinions about the Portra Pushed Pack from the viewpoint of a landscape photographer. But be warned, I don’t really have much bad to say about them!
Portra Pushed. First why not a little history for you because this isn’t going to be a traditional review as much as it will be just a journal entry, mind dump of my thoughts about Mastin Labs Portra Pushed Pack. But to get there I feel like I should explain.
I’m one of those photographers that enjoys shooting a little bit of everything, from portraits and weddings to real estate, but in my heart I always find myself back in nature. Growing up and living in North Eastern Minnesota, being outdoors and just exploring is literally my happy place. A place I can go to just center myself and find balance in life when things get hectic.
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time out exploring with my cameras and in the last couple of years have started to notice a more focused shift in my photography (no pun intended) and a desire towards the simplified, clean and classic photograph. Don’t get me wrong, over the years I have experimented with HDR/ToneMapping, Orton Effect, and all other crazy post processing techniques, but I always found that after a short time they just weren’t satisfying, they felt gimmicky. But what never felt like a gimmick was a classic and clean edit with a focus on clean colors that help bring back a feeling and soul to the my photos. By stripping away the extravagant and over the top post processing I felt I was able to enjoy the true image again instead of just seeing the post processing effects.
That shift started to happen for me when I made the switch from Nikon to Fujifilm X cameras a couple years ago, but then I found Mastin Labs. There was just something so refreshing about the way their presets made me feel about my own work. It was a beautiful mix of terrific color and toning that didn’t LOOK like it had been processed. Now I realize that Mastin Labs presets were created to help hybrid film and digital shooters give a consistent feel to their photos, but I don’t really shoot a lot of film. I like to play with it a bit here and there, but it’s just for fun. I really do love my Fujifilm X gear though and that’s where I’m happy to stay.
While I’ve loved the presets Mastin Labs had previously put out in their Fujicolor, Ilford and Portra packs the one thing I always found was that I was needing to adjust a bit on each image for the contrast and punchiness in the image. I suspect that is just due to the fact that I like a bit more moody image, even when it’s light and airy. Also that I shoot mostly landscape and nature work in which the shadows play an equally important character to me as the light. So when the Portra Pushed Pack was released I couldn’t help but feel like this was right up my alley.
In their own words:
With increased contrast and subtle color shifts in the shadows, the Portra Pushed pack emulates the beauty of pushed film. This pack is ideal for clean and moody street photography, portraits, weddings, and fashion photography.
But still nowhere did it mention landscape photography, so I reached out to the awesome people at Mastin Labs and asked if they were interested in having a landscape photographer put Portra Pushed through it’s paces for that style of photography. Thankfully they must have thought I was slightly ok as a photographer and my work was decent enough that they agreed and hooked me up. So let’s dive in and see how it worked out, shall we?
Here in North Eastern Minnesota we don’t have the big scenic vistas, the mountains or the ocean coastal regions. What we have are thick forests. We also have a winter that holds on late into spring most years so the first few photos took us through spring and I loved how the colors and pushed look helped to solidify that lingering winter quietness that our wilderness brings.
As Spring progressed I was able to get a better feeling for how Portra Pushed would work with the sea of green that would soon engulf us here as everything began to grow for the year. What I really like is how I can shoot in mid-day light with a light airy feel but still maintain a good solid and clean contrast without the colors shifting all over the place.
I wanted to see how Portra Pushed would treat some of my favorite little waterfall spots here in the northland and I wasn’t disappointed. Though in the last image it did tend to crush and kill the dark rocks in the lower left of the frame. In fairness though, this was shot mid-day and it’s mostly bad light and poor timing on my part as the photographer that caused that issue. As I mentioned, I’m not a fan of HDR and bracketing multiple exposures and that is one of the only post processing techniques that could have fixed that issue. So it’s not so much a fault of Portra Pushed as it is me as a photographer not choosing the best time of day to make that particular long exposure. But lets jump into one of my favorite scenarios to shoot and see how Portra Pushed handles it. Shooting right into the sun during sunrise/sunset hours.
This is where I feel that Portra Pushed really shines for landscapes. Mid-day harsh lighting is tricky with this set of presets because those are already contrasty situations and the Portra Pushed pack only amplifies that. Depending on your shooting style that may or may not work for you.
But, if you love shooting into the sun and chasing that light and airy look during sunset or sunrise, the Portra Pushed pack is absolutely perfect. It allows me to keep that light and ethereal feeling while also keeping really good contrast that retains a good solid punch. But it does so feeling very natural and clean. If there is one drawback to Portra Pushed is that they tend to really push the saturation of the orange tones, not a huge deal but something to be aware of as you use them. Even though during sunset/sunrise in my landscapes I love to feel that warmth, sometimes it can ramp it up a little too much so I have to go in and make a few adjustments to bring it back in line so it stays feeling clean and natural.
Again, they aren’t paying me to say this and I was told to give my honest opinions about the Portra Pushed preset pack. I just honestly have nothing really negative to say about them because they work so extremely well with the way that I shoot and the way I like my final images to appear. I do not treat these as simply 1 click presets, but they give me a terrific base to start from and allow me to cut my post processing time down immensely. If you are on the fence, just take take the plunge because I’m sure you’ll be happy with them! If I had to put a number to it, Mastin Labs with all of their preset packs so far in the Fujicolor, Portra, Portra Pushed and Ilford make up probably about 90% of my post processing workflow. I do use one other set of presets in certain situations but Mastin Labs is used the majority of the time.
I know that they just announced on the Facebook Community that Fuji Pushed is now coming and I can’t wait! So to Kirk and the rest of the Mastin Labs crew, first I want to say a heartfelt thank you for giving me this opportunity to test out the Portra Pushed Pack with my landscape photography work. I hope you enjoy the write up. Second, if you want me to take a look at the upcoming Fuji Pushed pack and test it out on some landscape work, just let me know! I’m more than willing to help out!
Bottom line- All of the Mastin Labs packs are fantastic and they tend to get showcased by the amazing portrait photographers out there that create such beautiful work. But remember that all of those same packs are terrific additions to your post processing arsenal if you are a landscape or nature photographer as well. Especially if you want that clean and classic look in your work without the over the top crazy post processing that is so rampant out there today! Portra Pushed, it’s not just for portraits!
For more information on Mastin Labs and all of their preset packs head over to www.mastinlabs.com . As already mentioned, I am not being paid by Mastin Labs nor do I receive any sort of commission or payment for referring you over to their website, including if you decide to purchase.
**All photographs made using Fujifilm X Series cameras and lenses including Fuji X-T1, Fuji X-T10, Fujifilm XF10-24mm f/4 R OIS, Fujifilm XF35mm f/1.4 R, Fujifilm XF56mm f/1.2 R and Fujifilm XF55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS
Also mounted on a Vanguard AltaPro263AT tripod for rock solid stability.