Overcoming the Back Focus issues of the Leica 135mm M mount lens…

Yes, HOW could such a high quality Leica Lens be so problematic….


Leica 135mm

Leica 135mm

Leica 135mm

Leica 135mm

In todays world of modern digital camera systems, the Leica M 240 really stands out above the others.  One of the reason for this is the duality of an electronic viewfinder with a robust peaking focus system coupled with a real range finder focus as well!  This makes this camera IDEAL for mounting any lens that can be manually focused with reasonable expectations of good focus!

But what happens if you have some of the older Leica systems like the M9, Monochrom, M8 or a film body like the M7?  Should we not be able to expect the same focus quality of the M 240 using the built in rangefinder?

Well for ALL of my Leica and Voigtlander glass this has been a truism until I met the famously hard to focus 135mm lens.  Now understand that this lens has been through 5 (FIVE!!) versions and each and every one has had the same bad press on their inability to sharply focus!  If you ask Leica about them you are told to set your aperture to f/11, focus and shoot hoping that the DOF will overcome the shortcomings of the focus cam system inside of the lens!

Now, I badly desired a longer reach lens with a M mount but was convinced that I could not overcome the focus issues with these lenses.  So one of my students from the Arcanum (a online photograph school) had one of the 135s and sent it to me to experiment with.  It was one of the older models, looked kind of funky but had a tripod mount on the lens!  Reviews of ALL the 135s said that this model was the best one for the money!

So with the lens on camera (M 240) I set out to test the rangefinder focus vs. Electronic focus with peaking…

Suffice it to say that the lens BACK FOCUSES so badly that unless you are shooting at f/11 or f/16 you have very little chance of a sharp image!  I focused the lens using the range finder then again with the electronic peaking system and discovered the following failure:

  • 7 meter subject.  The lens needed to be adjusted to 6 meters to be in focus!
  • 50 meter subject.  The lens needed to adjusted to 20 meters to be in focus!
  • Infinity subject.  The lens needed to be adjusted between Infiniti and 50 meters!

The adjustments were the difference between the rangefinder focus and the peaking focus!


If you were to turn over and look into the mounting flange on it you will notice that there is a focus cam that moves up and down as you focus the lens.  This is NOT adjustable!  But… I had an idea!

Enter High Tac Copper Tape…

High tack copper tape

High tack copper tape

Tape Application Leica 135mm

Tape Application Leica 135mm

What if…

What if I were to tape one or two layers of this really sticky copper tape onto the end of the focus cam?  Could I at least get the infiniti focus point dialed in? 

YES!  It can be done!

So, I ordered a very thin roll (1/2 inch) from Amazon, cleaned the cam and cut 1 thin sliver of the tape and applied it to the end of the cam and redid my focus tests!

After cleaning the cam with Alcohol  I applied the tape, smoothing it down with a wooden dowel and allow it to sit for an hour giving the adhesive a chance to cure.

Mounting the lens again onto my M 240 I re-ran my range finder and electronic peaking focus tests on the same subjects and distances! I carefully (on a piece of tape attached to the lens marked the two focus marks for each test on the lens so that I could visualize both the size of the focus error as well as where it was on the overall focus scale.

Here are my results with only ONE layer of copper tape.  I knew that my target was to get my infinity focus dead on and that the closer distance focus points would still be off but hopefully by smaller amounts.

Test data is marked on the lens showing both RF focus/Electronic Peaking focus points.  The peaking points are dead on and hopefully we could bring the two closer together!

If you look at these points you will see the non cam taped focus dat on the bottom and the corrected cam data on the top.  The V stands for Electronic Peaking and the M for Range Finder focus.

7 Meter Focus Tests…

7 Meter Focus Test Leica 135mm

7 Meter Focus Test Leica 135mm

So for the non corrected cam we see a subject at 7 meters as focused with the rangefinder, but with the Peaking focus it is moved down to 6 meters to be sharp!  This is a 1 meter difference and unless you are shooting with a small aperture you will get a very soft focus!  When we do the test after the cam change the difference between the range finder and peaking is actually a bit wider.  This was expected…

Now, The 50 meter tests…

100 foot focus test on Leica 135mm

100 foot focus test on Leica 135mm

As you can see on the uncorrected cam side focusing at 50 meters on the rangefinder we needed to adjust down to 20 meters… That is WAY OUT OF RANGE!  Yet at f/11 we can get it into focus!  

With the corrected cam the difference between the range finder focus and the peaking focus gets closer together at about 30 meters which is a 10 meter reduction of focus error!  Better and better!

Infinity Focus Test

Infiniti Focus tests on the Leica 135mm

Infiniti Focus tests on the Leica 135mm

Ahh, the pre cam measurement using the rangefinder sets the lens to the infinity as expected but the peaking focus sets it down about 1/3 of the way towards 50 meters.  Way off to be sure but small than before.    


The corrected cam BOTH THE RANGEFINDER AND THE PEAKING focus match at infinity!!  We are now dead on on the far end of the lens!

What this means is that knowing the differences between the rangefinder and peaking that we can adjust the 135mm lend down about 1/3 of the way between the major distance measurements to get much closer to being dead on.  As long as we shoot at a reasonable aperture (f/8) we can be reasonably assured of a sharp focus!

I have found that these measurements are the same with the current Leica 135mm as well!


So there you have it.  The online posts of issues with these lenses have been endless over the years.  They are known as very difficult lenses to get a sharp focus with and now we know why and more importantly how to overcome it!


I hope that you enjoyed this discussion on what could be a very nice and powerful lens to have in your bag!





The Purity Of B&W

Going Home To Momma…

Don’t you have the feeling sometimes of not reaching that creative high so that when you return home you are almost like an empty husk?

Well me too, and sometimes I really need to stretch my artistic legs.  Going out with a Color Camera will just not get the job done and leaves me feeling empty.  Working in Film is a lot better and scratches an itch that I just cannot reach otherwise… But when I am really feeling creatively down and mentally cramped I usually turn to my Leica M Monochrom system.

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC.  Leica M Monochrome

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC. Leica M Monochrome

Working directly in B&W is a soul expanding exercise that will re-inflate my creative side quickly and effectively.  I am the type of photographer who can actually think and see in B&W. Actually generating those images in the field with a capable B&W rangefinder system really is like going home to Momma.  It leaves me with that ohhhh feeling, or is it OHHHHH… Yep, that is the feeling that I am talking about!

First, I LOVE shooting with a rangefinder camera system.   ALL of my cameras are rangefinders except for one little Fuji XT1 that sits in my camera bag rarely used unless I take it out for lightning shots.  I just love the feeling of using a rangefinder!  I am not kidding about the feeling of going home to momma!  They take me back to my early days of photography when a rangefinder was all that I had and used.  They were and still are a nitch camera system.  You generally will not find someone out shooting birds in flight images with one, but that is OK  with me because after 50 years of shooting, I am soooo TIRED OF BIRDS (well except for hummingbirds but I can do those just fine with a rangefinder).

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

So what makes me smile about the M Monochrom?  The ease of use, the CRISP release of the shutter, the incredible functionality of the camera and its wide dynamic range!  I love the way it feels in my hands and responds to my control!  I even love the sound of it. It is almost sensual in nature!  Now, couple that with the amazing images that a pure B&W 18 mega pixel sensor with NO Brayer filter and no anti-aliasing filter can create you will be left breathless with the results.  

So for this simple and short post about achieving emotional nirvana, I will keep it to just 2 images that make me feel good. Now that I am creatively re-inspired I can go out again with my color camera (rangefinder of course) and while looking at my scenes in B&W create color images again!

Thank you for stopping by for a visit to the blog…

Creating Digital Negatives For Van Dyke Brown Printing

How I make my Image Stack for Digital Negatives…

Green Negative for UV blocking.

Green Negative for UV blocking.

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

This post is about how I create my Digital Negatives for printing in Van Dyke Brown.  Before I get into the meat of the subject I need to tell you that I am a follower of Peter Mrhar’s gradient maps for creating my negatives rather than using curves.  The maps will allow you to create a much more controlled negative without the issues normally seen in curves like wild spikes and twists which can really mess up your image.  Peter has written a book on the subject called Easy Digital Negatives which can be purchased on Amazon for a small fee.  The entire book leads up to the last chapter where he gives you an automated script that plugs into Photoshop that will create the gradient map.   Read the entire book first to understand how to develop a exposure test strip and a 245 step print that his script need in order to build the map.  

The basic recipe that Peter gives is:

  1. Create a exposure test strip to get the correct exposure under your UV lights for perfectly exposed dark tones (black/Brown).  You do this with a piece of sensitized paper with a strip of un printed negative material covering 1/2 of the paper.  You then place a total UV blocking material leaving 1 inch of uncovered space, and expose for 1 min.  Then move the UV blocking material to uncover another inch of open paper/film for another min.  Repeat this procedure for about 10 min to create your test chart.   Annotate each exposure with pencil on the paper prior to developing to know what the exposure time was for each movement of the blocking material.  Process and completely dry.  Where the darkest tone that was under the unprinted negative material matches the darkest tone next to it on the paper only side you get your max exposure time.  This then becomes your base exposure for the paper/emulsion comes from.  You will need to do any paper treatments to your paper first like acid washing or applying Fumed Alumina.
  2. Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

    Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

    Now print your 256 step chart that Peter provides on a piece of paper treated the same as in step 1, with a UV blocking color which you will learn about below.  Process and dry.  Scan the resulting image according to Peter’s instructions and feed it to his script in Photoshop and it will pop out a Gradient Map for you to place in your image stack (example below).   

That is all there is to it to create your gradient map (his script will also create a curve if you so desire).

Ok, lets talk about how you put together your file to create your digital negative once your have your gradient map in hand! Below is a copy of my adjustment layers in my digital negative file.

Image Stack in Photoshop for Digital Negative

Image Stack in Photoshop for Digital Negative

Starting at the bottom and working up, take a look at each layer:

  1. Background, default layer in every PS file.
  2. White Background, if you select this the non image area of your negative will print black (green) and leave the emulsion unexposed and white.
  3. Transparent Background, basically the same as layer 2.  I have this here so that I can select it and be able to read my text layer above on the negative.
  4. Black Background, if you select this layer then you will get a negative with the non image area printing white which will force expose the paper black.
  5. 256 step tablet.  You can select this layer to print a test chart.
  6. Picture Goes Here.  Place your image to be printed above this layer.
  7. Picture, REMEMBER even though we are printing a B&W image it MUST be in RGB mode because we are going to print the negative in COLOR to have a UV blocking layer on the top of the stack!
  8. Text layer  with data to be printed on the paper but separated from the image.  This is the bottom of a grouped set of layers that are all selected by simply selecting the group name, read on…
  9. Gradient Map for Lana Paper, acid washed and exposed for 2.5 min.  This is the meat of the layer stack.  This one layer will correct your MID TONES while the 2.5min exposure will correct for the dark tones.  This layer is what make your negative work.
  10. Lana paper group name.  Select this and the next 2 will automatically be selected. I have expanded them so that you can see them here for explanation.
  11. Group of 3 layers for Stonehenge papers with the same basic steps as 8, 9 & 10 with the only difference being a GRADIENT MAP created for Stonehenge paper rather than Lana paper!  you can have groups for each of your papers used in the stack and simply check the boxes you need for the paper you are going to print on!
  12. Invert, you MUST click on this prior to printing the create your negative image, switching your blacks & whites.
  13. Red UV blocking color, click to choose, be careful to not select both Red and Green.
  14. Green UV blocking color, click to choose, be careful not to select both Green and Red.


  • Select ONE and ONLY ONE gradient map group or your picture will not print properly!!
  • Select ONE and ONLY ONE color UV blocking color or you picture will not print properly!! 

Let’s talk a little about the UV blocking colors.  It seem a little strange to use a COLOR layer when printing B&W but you need to realize that some colors are better than B&W for controlling your UV exposures!  I have 2 color layers included in my image stack but there can be many others depending upon your printer, ink set and choice in negative film.  For my system (Epson 7900 24 inch printer using the Image Print V9 RIP) I have found that the Green layer works much better.  I am going to show you the difference below between using a B&W negative vs. the GREEN negative.  Pay close attention to the density of the grasses next to the sky in both prints. 

First using a B&W negative with the same gradient map…

B&W negative

B&W negative

As you can see the density of the negative especially in the grasses looks great, but when you look at the output print you can see that the grasses all turn white at the horizon and get lost!

Bent Tree, B&W Negative

Bent Tree, B&W Negative

Now let’s take a look at the negative with the GREEN UV blocking layer…

Green Negative for UV blocking.

Green Negative for UV blocking.

The first thing that you should notice is that the density of both the sky and the grass seems much less dense but when you look at the output print the difference is amazing!

Bent Tree, VDB, w/ green negative

Bent Tree, VDB, w/ green negative

The grasses are now full of texture and you do not loose any detail at the horizon.  The exposure on both images are the same thus you have the same amount of dark areas of shade and in the tree, but the mid tones now are full of greater details.  This was simply achieved by adding the color UV blocking layer.

As I talk about these technical details they may seem simple, but it did take a while for me to master them in all of their glory.  The image used as an example for you is not yet to my liking.  The sky is a little too dark and the shadows are too black.  I have just this week created a new negative with corrections for those specific areas and will be printing this image again tomorrow!

Nothing comes easy with alternative printing. Our printing lives are full of trial and error, but once we master the basics of the digital negative the trial and error period will drop down considerably.   

You can download a copy of my PSD negative stack files both here in my download link on the bottom of the right hand menu and on Facebook in the Van Dyke Brown Printing group or in the Digital Negatives for Contact Printing group.  There is a download file button on the top of each group page that will take you to these files.

I hope that this has been helpful for you. If you have any questions on this process please leave a comment here or join the FB groups above and you will find a great group of people on each group who can and will assist you in your process!

Using Fumed Alumina To Fix Paper Issues in Van Dyke Brown

An Easy & Cost Effective Way To Fix Paper Issues!

Stormy Seas, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Stormy Seas, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, 720nm Infrared

Testing Fumed Alumina…

Van Dyke Brown emulsion is basically on the acidic side of things chemically and as a result of this I have been forced to wash most of my papers with a acid bath. This caused a increase in my process by 2 days. So I am testing Fumed Alumina which is acidic unlike Fumed Silica which is neutral. I decided to go with the Alumina test first and will do a followup post down the line with the Fumed Silica.

Bent Tree, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Bent Tree, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, IR400 120 Film

Initial results were quite pleasing with both Revere Platinum and Lana Aquarelle papers. I got a MAJOR increase in Dmax with both the Lana and Revere papers, but upon completion of my final wash the Revere was VERY EASY to damage with finger smudges until it dried. The Revere had a tendency for the Alumina to easily rub off the Alumina while wet whereas the Lana was strongly attached.

Anderson Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Anderson Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

The Alumina did fix ALL of the spotting issues that I had when using the Revere Platinum paper but the fact that it will rub off when wet causes some concern but it is easily overcome with careful handling.

Magnolia, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Magnolia, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

The Process:

  1. Dry roll on the Fumed Alumina in 2 directions and rap the paper edge on the table to remove the excess.  Make sure that you use a good mask to filter out this dust as it might irritate your lungs.  DO NOT OVER COAT or you will get streaks when you coat the emulsion.  The rolling step only takes about 30 seconds! You will need to put about 1 TSP of the Alumina into a small paint tray then pre load a small (3″) HARD foam roller with it.
  2. Coat as normal after you roll on the Alumina. You will need about 12 extra drops of VDB emulsion due to it absorbing more. My basic quantity of VDB emulsion for a 8×12 sheet of paper coated with Alumina is 48 Drops of emulsion and 2 drops of Tween 20 at 25% (you will need to dilute the Tween from 50%) solution.  For this post I brushed on the emulsion.  In the past I would normally use a glass rod for coating but the Alumina creates a very rough surface and I was afraid of damaging the paper.
  3. Dry and Expose. Here you will find that the addition of the Alumina will DECREASE your exposure about 1.5 stops!
  4. 1st water bath with distilled water and a pinch of citric acid, 2 min.  This bath will remove any extra ferric ammonium citrate which will cause a yellow paper stain. This bath will darken the print.  Do not worry as the FIX will balance contrasts and bring out the highlights!
  5. Fresh water bath to remove citric acid. 2 min. If you are Gold Toning, this step is VERY important as any Citric Acid will destroy the toner bath!  
  6.  Gold toning bath 2 to 5 min to taste.  The toning process requires CONSTANT AGITATION! After 2 or 3 prints toned add 5ml/print of Gold Chloride to bring the bath back up to strength. This  toning bath will further darken the print.  Do not worry as the FIX will balance contrasts and bring out the highlights!
  7. Fix for 2 min with Sodium Thiosulfate for 2 min. 30g/L. I do not believe that any further time will help the process.
  8. Final moving fresh water bath for 30 min.
  9. Air dry,  I spread out old towels on a table top and place the print on it for about 10 min to absorb most of the water thru the back of the print.  I will then hang the prints to dry by a corner.  
  10. Use a  heat press to flatten your prints at 170deg for 20 seconds. The heat press step is to make the paper flat again.
  11. Hand rub in SOFT custom wax coating for protection then heat to force the wax to be absorbed into the paper fiber with a hair drier (more about this in a future post).
Dinghy, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Dinghy, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

All in all this was a VERY easy fix to the acid washing step  and only added about 30 seconds to roll on the Alumina. The Fumed Alumina can be purchased at Bostick & Sullivan for $15/500g which will do about 100 sheets of 8×12 paper.

2 Dinghys, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

2 Dinghys, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

The increase in Dmax with the Fumed Alumina is amazing and the resulting images are stunning.

Please let me know what you think of this post and with suggestions for future posts!

Gold Toning Van Dyke Brown Prints

Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on  Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP  paper

“Oak Reflections in Infrared” Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP paper

Who knew Gold would be so cool?

After experimenting quite a bit with washing my un coated Lana paper with a 2.5% wash of Citric acid and distilled water and discovering that ALL of my paper issues fell away that the Dmax of my paper/print would so radically improve!  Though I do have to admit that pre washing the paper adds 2 entire days to my workflow and is a LOT of work.  I recently ordered some Fumed Alumina powder from Bostick & Sullivan as an alternative to acid washing.  B&S says of Fumed Lumina:

A small quantity of fumed Alumina is rolled on to a piece of paper with a dry high density foam paint roller. It spreads evenly on to the paper leaving a velvety surface to the touch. The paper can then be coated with a platinum/palladium solution, dried, exposed and developed in the standard method. It is suspected that the Alumina can be used for other hand coated photographic processes like cyanotype, van dyke, Kallitype, and similar processes. It has already been tested with great success with albumen prints. The coating acts as a sizing enhancer and appears to protect the emulsion from alkali buffers. Contrast increases but appears largely to be due to enhancement of the blacks. 

Anderson Mill, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on  Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP  paper

Anderson Mill, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP paper

So, this then is the great experiment of March!  I will report back on the measured effect as it applies to my process in the next post!

Now, onto the reason for this posting, Gold Toning of Van Dyke Brown prints! Now that I am getting consistent prints from my acid washed Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP  and Stonehenge papers I wanted to explore increasing the Dmax further by Gold toning.  Rather than mixing my own gold toning solution (basically I am very lazy) I decided to purchase Bostick & Sullivans Gold Toning liquid solution.   This is simply 2 bottles of a chemicals, solution A is 2% Ammonium Thiocyanate and solution B is .2% Gold Chloride.  You mix 50ml each of A and B  with enough distilled water to make 500ml of working gold toner.  Easy peasy, no powders to measure and mix.  B&S says that you can replenish the solution by adding 5ml of the Gold Chloride for each 8×10 print you tone.  I do this in the toning bath but when finished I am thinking that I need to throw it away and treat it more like a 1 shot toner.  Since the cost of the Gold Toning kit is so reasonable from B&S ($45) and will make such a large amount of working toning bath 10 bottles of 500ml working bath I am inclined to do so. 

Magnolia Blossom, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on  Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP  paper

Magnolia Blossom, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP paper

The reason for this is simple.  It has to do with the processing sequence:

  1. Expose your coated paper.
  2. 1st water bath with 2000ml of distilled water and 1 tsp of Citric Acid for 2 min to remove excess sensitizer (yellow Stain) from the paper and to help prevent emulsion wash off.
  3. Gold toning bath, watching for toning in the mid tones and highlights to indicate finish.
  4. 2nd water bath with 2000ml of distilled water and 1tsp of Citric Acid.
  5. Fix.
  6. Rinse in tap water for 30 min.
Stormy Seas on the dock, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on  Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP  paper

Stormy Seas on the dock, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP paper

The issue for me with replenishment of the gold toner solution is that even the TINIEST amount of citric acid will destroy the toning solution.   So this means that between step 1 and 2 I have to insert:

    1b. Plain tap water bath for 1 min to remove Citric Acid.

Since the Citric Acid will destroy the gold toner and that there is very little chance for me to remove most of it prior to toning then there is the very likely chance that it will be ruined even with a plain water bath prior to toning!

The acid problem with the gold toner is the only real issue to its use.  I really do not want to have to put the print into my print washer for 5 min to clear all of the acid so a 1 shot toning bath for about 3 images seem a good trade off to me.  Time will tell!

I hope that you have been paying attention to the images spaced through out the post.  All of them have gone thru the gold going process and with the exception to the last one I did not add any more Good Chloride to the bath.  Because of this you can notice that with the exception of the 1st and last print each print after the 1st look more brown as we progress down the line! With the last one I added 25ml of the gold to bring the bath back up to strength and you can see the difference.  You can tell that it is run down by how long it takes for the toning process to complete to the point where you like the results.   I have been told by friends online that I could have taken the toning process a bit further.  The thing about gold toning is that the gold replaces all of the silver in the print which shifts the print colors from dark brown to a very platinum looking black.  You can even get a bluish tint in the dark tones of your print!  

I think that the toning process is VERY worth while and highly recommend that you give it a try.

The next post should be on using the Fumed Alumina as an agent to overcome a non-acidic paper coating as well as increasing the prints Dmax!


Van Dyke Brown Paper Experiments…

Fixing Paper Problems For Van Dyke Brown Printing


Van Dyke Brown, Dinghys, Rising Stonehenge Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Dinghys, Rising Stonehenge Paper

VDB, Revere Platinum Paper & Spots

VDB, Revere Platinum Paper & Spots

In my recent printing of the 1840 Van Dyke Brown prints, I have experienced a lot of dark spots on my prints.  I ordered several types of papers to try to see if it was a paper problem… I have been using Revere Platinum paper which is easy to coat (provided you use Tween 20 in the emulsion) and gives great tonality but seems to ALWAYS have dark spots all through the print!

Look closely at the image to the right. You will notice dark spots (look above the light) that go completely through the paper!  This has been driving me nuts and nothing that I did to try and fix the issue ever helped.

I ordered several new papers plus tried several others that I had on hand:

  • Arches Platine (on hand) I have issues coating this paper even with Tween added to the mixture.  It tends to sit on the surface with no absorption into the fibers which causes it to wash off instantly in in the first water bath in long stringy tendrils of emulsion.  Very little is left on the paper so it has a light chalky appearance.  This paper just does not work for me in Van Dyke Brown.  I keep hearing online about how much other Van Dyke Brown printers like this paper but I just do not see it…
  • Cot 320 (on hand) This paper is a little better than the Arches paper in that it holds the emulsion a little better but is still washes off the surface in the 1st water bath!  It is usable for Van Dyke Brown printing though…  It has been recently suggested to me that I soak this paper in a 10% citric acid bath, wash it and dry it in order to get better surface adhesion and a higher Dmax.  I will try this in a week or two.
  • Heavy Kozo 90 gsm (on hand) Bostick & Sullivan states that this paper will work great with Van Dyke Brown.  The paper is made from 50% kozo and 50% abaca. Kozo is the inner bark of mulberry tree seedlings, producing a naturally white paper fiber which is very strong and long lasting. The paper looks very promising and fun to work with especially the ultra thin version that I chose to NOT work  with due to it being extremely thin and the requirement of special tools to handle it.  I have seen videos of artists using it which is why I decided to purchase a few sheets to experiment with.  But I have not had time to work with it yet.  So look for a post specific to this wonderous paper in the future!
  • Revere Platinum (on hand).  This paper coats wonderfully with the addition of Tween and the emulsion does NOT wash off in the first water bath!  It gives wonderful deep tones and color.  The only (MAJOR ISSUE) problem with it is that it gets white and brown spots all over the paper that goes completely through the paper from front to back.  These spots can totally ruin the print…  I have tried everything that I can think of to fix this issue as I really like the paper but I am at a total loss.
  • Rising Stonehenge (new)  This paper coats great with Tween and does not wash off.  There are no spots and the adjustment curve matches the one for Revere!  It is a thinner paper and seems easy to damage during coating.  It takes less emulsion to coat the same size as the other papers.  I did find that the emulsion migrates from the coated areas to the white around the edges.  I have no idea as to why but I think that if I lower the number of drops that I use for coating that it might take care of the problem.  It generates a fantastic deep brown warm tone across the image and I love the final prints on it. This paper is readily available on Amazon as well as many other locations.
  • Lana Aquarelle (new) All that I can say about this paper is WOW!  It coats and prints the Van Dyke Brown images with amazing density and tone.  It coats easily with Tween and is a heavy paper with not spotting or migration issues.  This is going to be my main paper as long as I can get it.  So far the only place that I have found it is at Bostic & Sullivan. The curves for the Revere paper work perfectly with the Lana!


Lana Aquarelle Paper Notes

Lets first talk about the Lana Aquarelle paper.  This paper is simply amazing!  It coats very well with both the brush and a glass rod as long as you add a little Tween at 25%

For a 8×12 print:

  • Using a glass coating rod for a 8×12 print it takes 36 drops of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.
  • Using a Synthetic Sable brush it takes 72 doors of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.

Once coated, I let it AIR DRY for 30 min then expose in a 12 bulb UV box in a vacuum frame for 2 to 4 min depending on the paper and negative.  Usually the base exposure time is 3 min.

Van Dyke Brown, Berry Mill, Lana Aquarelle Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Berry Mill, Lana Aquarelle Paper brush coated

As I said the results from this paper is a nice warm print with great density in the black areas and the edges.

I coated four pieces of paper yesterday, two with a glass coating rod and two with a synthetic Sable brush.  Both methods worked very well and gave nice even coatings. The image above was a applied with the Sable brush  and the one below was coated with a glass rod.

Van Dyke Brown, Lana Aquarelle Paper Glass coated

Van Dyke Brown, Lana Aquarelle Paper Glass coated

Notice in the image above if the lone dinghy  that there are NO spots at all.  The paper was clean on the front and back and gave a nice density in the dark areas!  This paper is very heavy and after coating it will want to curl a little but will flatten in about 5 min. Let it dry for the full 30 min in the air and do not use a hair drier.


Rising Stonehenge Paper

For a 8×12 print:

  • Using a glass coating rod for a 8×12 print it takes 26 drops of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.
  • Using a Synthetic Sable brush it takes 65 doors of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.


Rising Stonehenge Paper is another good paper for the Van Dyke Brown process.  It is a MUCH lighter weight paper than the Lana paper but it really does not cost any less!  You can find it on Amazon which means free shipping.  The shipping charges from B&S are going to kill me, with the average cost for paper being around $20 per order!  This is what makes Amazon so great, but they just don’t carry all of the papers that I like to keep on hand…

Van Dyke Brown, The Old Truck, Rising Stonehenge Paper

Van Dyke Brown, The Old Truck, Rising Stonehenge Paper

So far, my work with Rising Stonehenge has been very good.  It coats evenly and the emulsion soaks into the paper fibers nicely. The print is very dense and nice dark areas.   The paper is quite thin and I discovered that the surface is easily damaged during coating.  Since the surface requires much less VDB emulsion I will reduce it the next time I coat (I used 36 drops of VDB and 2 drops of Tween for this test coating) and the surface damage will likely go away due to the glass rod not going across the paper surface  more than 4 times ( for 36 drops the coating rod required 8 trips across the paper surface) thus reducing working the papers surface too much and causing damage.  

One small problem with the paper that I discovered was that the emulsion has a tendency to migrate from the coated areas to the uncoated areas giving a grey shadow around the image.  If you look closely you can see actual small spots of it surrounding the coating.  This is really no big deal but I am unsure as to why this is happening.  

I will continue to use this paper because it generates VERY WARM BROWN in the print and I just love the look of it!

Now, it has been suggested that I soak or pre coat the paper with an acid bath of 10% citric acid for a 1 or 2 min, then wash the paper and allow it to dry before coating.  I am told that this will vastly increase the papers Dmax!  I am going to test this next time I print!

 The image at the top of this post was also printed on Rising Stonehenge paper!

 Bergger Cot 320 Paper

 The Cot 320 paper is a very nice, smooth paper.  I love the look and feel of it.  BUT, for Van Dyke Brown it has a problem in that it will not readily absorb the VDB emulsion into the paper fibers.  Even with Tween added to the emulsion, it is not enough.  What happens is that in the first water bath after exposure the majority of the emulsion washes off in thick tendrils of brown goo.  Unlike the Arches paper, enough is left on the paper to still make for a good (not great) image.  

Van Dyke Brown, Das Boots, Cot 320 Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Das Boots, Cot 320 Paper

There is enough promise from this paper that I am going to experiment further with this paper by washing the paper with an acidic solution of citric acid and distilled water, brushing it on and letting it soak in for a few seconds then washing the paper again with distilled water.  Once it dries and I will flatten it in a low temp heat press and coat the VDB on it.  I think that this will break down the surface coatings enough for it to accept the emulsion better and increase the papers Dmax.

Van Dyke Brown, Stormy Sky, Cot 320 Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Stormy Sky, Cot 320 Paper

I will report on this more in the future.  

OK that is all for this post. I am not going to report on the Arches and Revere papers as I have discussed them in the previous two posts.

I hope that you got something out of the info here!  Let me know…


Continued Work In Van Dyke Brown Alternative Print Process!

Perfection in Brown


Glade Creek Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Revere Platinum Paper exposed for 5 Min

Glade Creek Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Revere Platinum Paper exposed for 5 Min


Oak Reflections in Infrared, Van Dyke Brown, Revere Platinum Paper, 3 Min Exposure

Oak Reflections in Infrared, Van Dyke Brown, Revere Platinum Paper, 3 Min Exposure

After another 2 weeks working on the negative density, I have finally gotten to the point of good negatives, not great yet but I will get there.  I have to master the use of UV blocking color in the negative for them to be perfect and that is a project for the future. To date though I have reached perfection using normal B&W negatives.  

My CORRECTED Digital Negative for the Van Dyke Process

My CORRECTED Digital Negative for the Van Dyke Process

Here is the corrected negative that I used in the image of the Oak trees above.  It is much dense and has been corrected for the mid tones as printed in the Van Dyke Brown Process!  It has much greater contrast and required only a 3 min exposure in my UV unit. 

One thing that you have to remember when making your UV exposures is to place the ink side of your negative down on the paper surface.  If you reverse this the picture will be backwards, but more importantly, the UV light will burn the ink surface and ruin both the negative and the print.

B&W Negative for Van Dyke Brown Print exposure calculated for 3 Min.

B&W Negative for Van Dyke Brown Print exposure calculated for 3 Min.

Compare it to the negative on the right.  This negative was used in the previous post here where the image printed much darker and with less mid tone data.  Take a close look at the difference between the two negatives, the first has much brighter areas for increased black contrast and more detail in the trees. The difference is amazing and was easily achieved by the process discussed below…

Here is a small copy of the print generated by the 2nd negative from the previous post.  Notice how much darker it is and that there is no detail in the mid tones of the image!  It only took me a short while to create the Gradient Map from the process that I learned in Peter Mrhar’s book below.

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 2 stops due to the uncorrected negative

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 2 stops due to the uncorrected negative

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar that I use in the creation of my negatives.  It enables you to easily create Gradient Maps to adjust the mid tone values of your negative tailored to the alternative process that you are printing with!  I highly recommend this text over all of the others!

There are several good books on Digital Negatives out there but As I said the is the easiest that I have read and used plus the results of using a Gradient Map over a Custom Curve.  I suggest that you purchase several texts and try them in your workflow to see what works best for you!

I hope that you enjoyed this short post on the Van Dyke Brown Process.  You can look for more about it in the future!

One Image, One Paragraph…

My favorite image from my visit to Georgetown today…

Stormy Seas… Calm Dock…

Stormy Seas... Calm Dock...

Stormy Seas… Calm Dock…

I had to sit in the Georgetown gallery today. On my way there I stopped at Stormy Seas, my favorite shrimp boat in the area.  I had the Leica M Monochrom with me and the Tri-Elmar 16-18-21 mm lens on it as well as the FRANKEN-VIEWER which enables me to compose the image with ultra-wide lenses on the Monochrom. Did I mention that the Leica M Monochrome is a B&W ONLY camera system? The sky had this amazing gradient across it going from dark gray to bright silvery light on the horizon and the water that you could slide across… Oh My, the water was so perfectly smooth and mirror-like that I stood there stunned with camera in hand just hypnotized at the magic and taking it all in.  But alas, I only had a minute to spare so I took 3 differently composed images at -1ev, f/11 and 1/1500s.  This is the result: a simple, well balanced image, so full of tonality that it is dripping from the bottom all over my feet….

Enjoy while I clean my shoes…

Van Dyke Brown Printing, 1842

A new (read OLD) way of printing!

8x12" Van Dyke Brown Print

8×12″ Van Dyke Brown Print

Alternative Printing from History!

Van Dyke Brown is an early photographic printing process. The process was so named due to the similarity of the print color to that of a brown oil paint named for Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck.

The Vandyke brown print is based on the first iron-silver process, the argentotype, invented in 1842 by the English astronomer, Sir John Herschel. Both processes utilize the action of light on ferric salts and their chemistry is very similar. The Vandyke process gets its name from its similarity in color to the deep brown pigment used by the Flemish painter Van Dyck. Vandyke brown prints are very simple and economical to make, with the sensitizer consisting of three readily available chemicals. Clearing is carried out in water and fixing is done in a weak solution of hypo.

Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

As you can see, this is a very early way of printing developed a long time before our current Silver Salt paper process.  The images are a deep brown instead of the normal black and white that we are used to seeing.  They are somewhat easy to create provided that you have done your homework and created the proper calibration images to create a calibration Gradient Map or Curve to apply to your negatives which adjust them for loss of mid tones in the printing process.

This is strictly a CONTACT PRINTING technique that requires a true negative that is placed on top of paper that YOU as the artist coat yourself with the Van Dyke Brown emulsion that you mix from simple chemistry!   The coating process is done with a special brush that requires a very light touch or a glass coating rod that you use to push a line of liquid emulsion across the paper.

B&W Negative for Van Dyke Brown Print exposure calculated for 3 Min.

B&W Negative for Van Dyke Brown Print exposure calculated for 3 Min with the calibration applied.

The liquid emulsion is measured by the number of drops from a glass eye dropper into a small glass then with a drop of two of a wetting agent like Tween 20 to help the coating process.  The paper/emulsion is allowed to dry then the negative which was created using my Epson 7900 printing on transparency material is placed on top of the coated paper.  This sandwich is then placed in a printing box filled with 12 Fluorescent Black Light tubes which then expose the paper with UV light.  The exposure for the current paper I am using (Revere Platinum) has been calibrated to 3 or 4 min based upon the test chart above.

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 2 stops.

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 1.5 stops.

This process is a POP process in which the image after being exposed can be seen on the paper once removed from the UV box.  It is orange and yellow in color.  It is placed in 2 consecutive distilled water baths that remove the yellow and darken the orange.  Then it is placed in the fixer solution (Sodium thiosulfate) for 2 min.  When the image is placed in the fix, it IMMEDIATELY changes from orange to a very dark brown and white picture. Finally the print is placed in a live water wash for 30 min then dried!  

This is a simple process that creates beautiful images that will leave you breathless as you view them!  I am going to further develop and learn the process over the next month or two before I start on mastering the Platinum/Palladium printing process as well!

Look forward to many more posts on the processes as I master them!

More Leica M Monochrome Magic!

Creating World Class B&W Images With Leica Monochrome

Bodie Island Light, M Monochrome

Bodie Island Light, M Monochrome

In my continuing love affair with the Leica M Monochrome camera system I have learned more each day towards creating amazing etherial B&W art…  Keep in mind that I have been shooting B&W film (35mm, 6×7 and 4×5) for several decades and know and understand the process very well. But using the Monochrome is such an easy progression that it seams as though the camera is leading me down this path on its own. Yes there is some small post processing to be done using Nik Filters Silver EFX and once in a while I will add some Viveza as well, but for the most part it is almost perfect out of the camera as long as you get the exposure correct in the shooting!

Leica Tri-Elmar 16 - 18 - 21 mm Lens

Leica Tri-Elmar 16 – 18 – 21 mm Lens

In the image below of the shrimper Stormy Seas, I used the Leica Tri-Elmar set in 16mm.  There is no image distortion from such a wide angle and it is sharp with good depth of field.  When using this lens on the Monochrome you are forced to use the frankenstein viewfinder that you purchase with the lens but that is a small price to pay for such a useful lens.  I also have a Voigtlander Hellar 12mm lens in the camera bag and it works very well on the Monochrome and uses an external 12mm viewfinder, but it does distort the image slightly due it its wideness but you can correct for that in Photoshop.  The thing about the Tri-Elmar is that it replaced 3 separate lenses that were stolen with one small lens!

Stormy Seas Shrimper, M Monochrome with Tri-Elmar at 16mm

Stormy Seas Shrimper, M Monochrome with Tri-Elmar at 16mm


Using a fast lens like the 50mm Summilux ASPH for the image below of the Roanoke River Lighthouse allows you to hand hold on dark or stormy days and still get crisp images that jump out at you! For this image I also had a yellow filter attached to bring out the structure of the clouds.  This is one of the HUGE pluses of the Monochrome in that it reacts to the standard B&W filters the same way as film does!

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrome

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrom

But as always my main use for the camera is long exposures which is where my true love lives!  Being able to take ocean shots and smooth out the waves is exciting beyond words and the Monochrome does a great job of it with its 4 min bulb limit.  Look at the image below of the (another version) Roanoke Marshes Light House.  I was there when the light was on and each time it circled  it created another slightly offset star effect.  It allows me to create images full of wonder and depth!

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse with operating Light, 16 second exposure, M Monochrome

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse with operating Light, 16 second exposure, M Monochrome

The implied stillness of the water with the graduated reflections create an image full of mood and depth.  This is one of my favorite images of this Light House and the fact that during the 16 second exposure the light revolved around 3 times to generate 3 slightly offset star patterns just add more mood to it.  This particular shot was done with a B+W 103 3 stop ND filter to allow the longer shutter speed at f/8 for sharpness with the 50mm Summilux ASPH lens!

Now let me share a detail shot of a fishing boat just up the island from the Light House.  It is simple yet tells a complex story of the boat and job.  

Fishing Float, M Monochrome

Fishing Float, M Monochrome

I love the textures of the image and the sharpness. The texture on the surface of the individual floats are great and perhaps would have been better served by a closer shot. It was taken with the Macro Elmar 90mm lens (a great lens to invest in) and was done on the tripod!

Mushroom, Macro, M Monochrome with Macro Elmar 90mm plus macro adapter

Mushroom, Macro, M Monochrome with Macro Elmar 90mm plus macro adapter

Really Right Stuff TF-01 and Ball Head

Really Right Stuff TF-01 and Ball Head

Continuing with the 90mm Macro Elmar I give you a closeup image taken just as I left the Outer Banks.  This mushroom is only about 2 inches tall and I had to lay down under a log to get it.  Yes a tripod was used but it was the Really Right Stuff table pod which is an amazing tool to have in your kit for just this sort of work  Look at the textures on the bottom and stalk of the mushroom.  This 90mm lens is the only 90 that I will ever buy for my Leica cameras!

Really Right Stuff TF-01

Really Right Stuff TF-01

I hope that you enjoyed this last dedicated post on the Leica M Monochrome camera.  I will have many more images to share from it in the future but I think that you are likely getting tired of dedicated posts!

Thanks for taking the time to view these!!

Leica M Monochrome Magic….

A new camera come homes to live!


Leica M Monochrome

Leica M Monochrome


About a month ago, my truck was broken into and a camera bag was stolen with several Leica lenses, cameras and accessories.  After the insurance was paid, I purchased the amazing Leica M Monochrome and the Tri-Elmar 16 – 18  – 21 mm lens to replace 3 missing lenses and 1 camera.  

The M Monochrome is truly an amazing camera and the images are beyond stunning! I have found that I actually enjoy using it more that the M 240.  So far, I have used it for ultra long exposures in the Outer Banks, family pictures of my grand children during Christmas and on a just completed trip to Boone, NC for the New Year.  I am NOT going to do a review here rather I will just show the capabilities of this camera system while photographing my favorite subject matter!  

Duggars Creek Falls, Linville, NC   32 second exposure

Duggars Creek Falls, Linville, NC 32 second exposure, 6 stops of ND

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

The water fall image above was taken on 1 Jan 2015 at Duggars Creek Falls in the parking lot of the Linville Falls visitor center where I sat on a bridge centered over the stream (I cannot get down to the water level due to a recent operation which limited me to just basic views). Notice the sharpness of the image and the tonality of the rocks drawing the viewer into the scene.  There was very little post processing on this image which shows the real power of the Monochrome! For this shot I used the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens which is an amazingly tiny yet sharp lens! This image simply takes my breath away with it sharpness, tonality and the way it draws the viewer into the image.  This is one of my planned images for a Platinum/Palladium print in a few weeks!

This camera is going to be the cornerstone of a old (new for me) printing process where I will be making LARGE contact negatives on an Epson 7900 printer to use in the making of chemical based Platinum/Palladium metallic prints exposed with a high intensity UV lamp set and chemically developed.  All of the images are B&W so the high resolution images generated with the Monochrome will work perfectly with this printing process.

When used with a high quality ND filter set from B+W the most amazing Long Exposures are possible and this camera simply delivers!

The set of ND filters that I keep in my kit for in sizes for each of my Leica lenses  from B+W are:

  • 103  –  3 stop ND
  • 106  –  6 stop ND
  • 110  –  10 stop ND
Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure

Here is an example taken on the Outer Banks of North Carolina prior to sunrise with 6 stops of ND filter and a 250 second exposure!  I used the 50mm Summilux ASPH lens for this image. Look at the tones and graduations of the grays.  Simply amazing…

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

Another example is this image of the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse taken about a month ago at sunrise. The detail in the clouds and water prove the ultra wide dynamic range that this camera is capable of!

Jordan, my grandson on his new Christmas drum set taken with the Monochrome and the  Leica SF 58

Jordan, my grandson on his new Christmas drum set taken with the Monochrome and the Leica SF 58

Leica SF 58 Flash

Leica SF 58 Flash

For people, I have been coupling the M Monochrome with the Leica SF 58 flash which is simply a pleasure to use and is fully integrated with the M electronics! The camera and flash are so well functionally  balanced that it will blow your mind when you pick them up to shoot!  Audio indications from the flash for performance and a dual flash head that allows a straight on light plus a bounced light!

As you can see from the image of Jordan, it is exceptionally well balanced and the tonality is perfect yet there is no overt indication of flash in use!

I have used a Sekonic DR750 spot meter along with special software and target to measure the dynamic range of this camera when shooting in RAW (DNG) and get 11 to 13 stops dependent upon the ISO setting being used.  Who says that paying big dollars for a camera system doesn’t guarantee big performance!   

The system simply amazes me…..

If you have any comments or questions on this post please send me some feedback and I will answer to the best of my ability!

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second exposure.

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second exposure. Note the moving clouds!

Leica M 240 and HDR Processing with NIK HDR EFX Pro & Photomatix Pro 5

Getting more BANG for your buck!


Greshams Mill, Photomatix Pro 5 Photo Real

Greshams Mill, Photomatix Pro 5 Photo Real


I have been having several issues recently with HDR post processing with my Leica M 240 files in both Nik and Photomatix where the output files are monochromatic with soft or mushy details rather than the colors that they should contain.  I decided to update the Photomatix from V4 to V5 today and to call NIK support to see if I could resolve the issues.

As you can see from the HDR image above that the update to Photomatix V5 fixed all of the issues with the Leica files.  For the life of me I cannot figure out what the issue was but it is now working properly.  

Greshams Mill -1ev

Greshams Mill -1ev

Greshams Mill  0ev

Greshams Mill 0ev

Here are the 3 files that I fed into the HDR software to get these results.  I do like how the Photomatix software works, and it generates very nice photo realistic out put.  My chief complaint with it is that it runs separately from Photoshop and as such requires that you save the output files only to re-open them with in Photoshop again! Surly in this day and age of Photoshop filter plugins you would think that Photomatix could design a better product that would dove tail closer to Photoshop.

Greshams Mill +1ev

Greshams Mill +1ev

I think that the images are well balanced and I processed for a more realistic image rather than the grunge look you so often see in HDR work!

Nik HDR EFX Pro 2

Berry College Mill... Nik HDR EFX Pro Layered

Berry College Mill…
Nik HDR EFX Pro Layered

Now the REAL issue for me with HDR processing with the Leica comes from Nik’s HDR EFX Pro 2.  If I provide the plugin with 3 images 1/2 stop apart (after conversion from DNG to TIFF) it works fine and generates images that I enjoy very much!  BUT, should I provide more than 3 of the Leica files OR files greater than 1 stop apart the software looses ALL of the color data and generates a sick monochrome images that is soft and muddy.  I spend about an hour on the phone with Google support today and they had me un install all of the NIK software and re install an upgrade.  It worked and started turning out great HRD images but I discovered that additional bug of more than 3 Leica files and the same output happened.  

Berry College Mill... Nik HDR EFX Pro as Smart Object

Berry College Mill…
Nik HDR EFX Pro as Smart Object

This last image is again of the Berry Mill but processed with a little more saturation and structure.  

The strange this is that if I use ANY OTHER CAMERA this does not happen!  What gives?  So I see another long conversation in the future with Nik support to try and resolve what I am now thinking is a true bug.

I like ALL of the images posted here today both in Nik and Photomatix but I really like the functionality and control menus that Nik provides much better than that of Photomatix.  I will do some more in depth posts on the Nik work and issues in a week or so when I get the bug resolved.

Leica M 240 with Artsy Fartsy Filters…

Creative Playtime

Fins to the Left.... Leica M 240 w/ Macro Elmar M 90mm f/4  lens

Fins to the Left….
Leica M 240 w/ Macro Elmar M 90mm f/4 lens, Topaz Impressions: Cracked Fresco

During my last workshop (Grills & Mills) around Atlanta, I had a lot of time to photograph subject that I love, Grist Mills and rusty cars and trucks.  It was a great time and I shot exclusively with my Leica M 240 and my various Leica prime lenses.  It was a time of renal for me and I was in the creative zone.  

Greshams Mill stone... Leica M 240 w/ Summilux 50mm f/1.4 lens

Gresham’s Mill stone…
Leica M 240 w/ Summilux 50mm f/1.4 lens with Nik Analog EFEX Pro 2: Subtle Bokeh 2, for this image I desired a more realistic representation with slight blurring at the near and far edges.


Now back and having processed most of my images I decided to play a little bit with some creative post processing.  Yes I still used the Nik filter set to get the images where I wanted them to be, but then I decided to do a little work with the new Topaz Impressions.  

Topaz Impressions is a very good art filter that will generate effects that were made famous by several painters thru history.  It was difficult choosing which filters that I liked the most and I spent a very long time playing with them all! 

Topaz says of Impressions:

Impression helps make your photos more expressive by authentically turning them into art, the way a real painter would. Rigidly realistic photos sometimes leave less room for emotion, personal feeling, and story. Instead of just showing reality, take your viewers on a story by using Impression to capture emotion and feeling rather than details. This can make your work both more powerful and more personal.

Now, understand… I do NOT desire to copy the old masters, rather I wish to create something a little different from what I normally do with my images! Don’t you find that once in a while that you just get tired of doing the same thing over and over again with your work?  I have found if you delve into artistic post processing once in a while that it leaves me refreshed and that I can more easily look at my work in a different light…

Oily... Leica M 240 w/ Macro Elmar M f/4 90mm lens, Cave Dweller 2

Leica M 240 w/ Macro Elmar M f/4 90mm lens, Topaz Impressions:  Cave Dweller 2

If you haven’t had a chance to play with this new filter I strongly suggest that you download the free trial and give it a try.  You will NOT be disappointed with it!

Greshams Mill w/ Topaz Impressions. Leica M 240 w/ Summilux 50mm f/1.2 lens, Topaz Impressions: Van Gogh 2

Gresham’s Mill w/ Topaz Impressions.
Leica M 240 w/ Summilux 50mm f/1.2 lens, Topaz Impressions: Van Gogh 2

If you look at the image of Gresham’s Mill above, pay attention to the leaves of the trees an the rock under the flume.  I was looking for a very impressionistic interpretation of them and the Van Gogh filter provided just enough to please me!

The Gas Cap... Leica M 240 w/ Macro Elmar M f/4 lens, Topaz Impressions:  Pointillism 1

The Gas Cap…
Leica M 240 w/ Macro Elmar M f/4 lens, Topaz Impressions: Pointillism 1

This last image above was done in a fashion with the Pointillism filter to bring out a lot of harsh grain and structure.  I wanted to enhance the effect of aging and rust.  As you can see, the Topaz filter worked very well for this!

I hope that you enjoyed this post.  It was way more funky that I normally do in both posts and image work!  Let me know what you think!

The AMAZING Berry College Mill

One of the most beautiful Mills I have EVER visited!


 This amazing and beautiful mill is on the campus of Berry College in Rome GA.  It is breathtaking on its own, but rarely, very rarely the folks at the college will send a crew of mill repair specialists over to work on the mill then actually run it testing both the water drive system but also the milling equipment!  

Berry Mill.  Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit ASPH lens

Berry Mill. Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit ASPH f/2.8 lens

We were visiting the mill last month during our Grills & Mills workshop.  Upon arrival I noticed that there was a crew there working on the mill with tall ladders all over the place.  I was just sure that the photo opportunity was finished before it ever had a chance to start!  I asked one of the workman when they thought that they would be done and was told simply “when we are done!”  Great, a perfect location ruined!  As I started back to the truck to tell the others the bad news the crew removed the ladders and screamed “clear out before she starts up”!  Amazed, I turned around and sure enough, the water started flowing over the top.  

Stone wheel corn mill

Stone wheel corn mill

I quickly shooed all of the workshop participants out to set up and grabbed my own gear and jumped to a good location.  After a minute or so they unlocked the wheel and it started to turn.  I watched them carry large bags of corn into the building and smiled as I realized that they planned to actually grind some corn mill also.   All in all we spend about 2 hours there while the mill spilled water and churned out corn.  To the right is an example of a small mill setup for grinding corn or wheat.  This is not from the Berry Mill as it was much too dark and crowded for me to actually get a image of the mill grinding corn.  I did however purchase a bag of the ground corn which I have at home in my pantry right now!

If you have never visited one of these mills you are really missing something….

 It was an amazing day and one that I will remember the rest of my life.  Later on I was told that the mill might be started and ran 1 day a year for testing and we were very lucky to be there to partake in its glory!

Berry Mill.  Leica M240 w/ 90mm Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4  lens

Berry Mill. Leica M240 w/ 90mm Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4 lens

The Mill has a 46 foot wheel that is the tallest in the country.  It has a gear ring inside to the outer wheel surface that engages with a shaft/gear at the bottom of the wheel to run the mill inside of the building!

Berry Mill.  Leica M240 w/ 50mm Summalux f/1.2 lens

Berry Mill. Leica M240 w/ 50mm Summilux f/1.2 lens

As you can see the location of the mill is in a small beautiful valley filled to overflowing with majestic lush trees.  This made photography very easy in the mid day sunlight but more importantly, allowed me to generate etherial, almost spooky images that are full of feeling!  I was totally captivated!!  I could have spent ALL day at this mill and been very happy about it!

Berry College Mill, Fuji X100s 6 shot HDR at 830nm Infrared

Berry College Mill, Fuji X100s 6 shot HDR at 830nm Infrared

For this location, except for the last image, I shot totally with my Leica M 240 system on the tripod using the following lenses:

  • Leica Wide Angle 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH

  • Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

  • Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH f/1.4

The last image above is a 6 image Infrared HDR shot with the amazing Fuji X100s with the Kolari Vision Dual Spectrum Conversion with the B+W 093 830 nm filter installed.

You could not have a better set of lenses for the subject matter and as you can see, they rendered the subject matter beautifully!

If you would like to visit this and many other mills, I have a GPX file here that you can download to your computer filled with GPS locations for over 300 mills in Eastern United States.  It is on the right side menu in a box called DOWNLOADS.  Simply click on the GPX directory there, then the mill file.  It will prompt you for a destination.  Once on your computer you can download software for your GPS unit which will put all of these destinations into your saved destinations allowing you to find them anytime you desire!

Fuji X100s 830nm Infrared and Long Exposures

It just keeps getting better….


Pawleys Pier, 830nm 300 seconds, f/16, ISO 200

Pawleys Pier, 830nm 300 seconds, f/16, ISO 200, 8 stops of ND with the 10 stop B+W 110 ND filter

 Normally you do not see much in the way of Long Exposure  photography in the Infrared world.  The reason is that it is necessary to use Neutral Density filters (ND) to cut down the amount of light reaching the sensor to enable very long shutter speeds.  The infrared spectrum will reduce the the effective value of any ND filter that you attach to your lens from between 20% to 30%.  Have you ever taken a photograph of a person wearing a pair of sunglasses in infrared and noticed that they are totally clear?  This is the effect that I am talking about.   The general rule is that the cheaper filters suffer much greater loss in infrared and the variable ND filters do not work well at all (yes, even the expensive Singh Ray).  

B+W 110 10 Stop ND

B+W 110 10 Stop ND

Should you desire to pursue this style of photography I strongly suggest that you purchase and use B+W ND filters which loose around 20%.  I am also told that Lee filters do not loose too much effect as well but I have not yet tested them even though I own them all.

The B+W ND filters display the ND values on the side of the ring, but the easiest way to understand them is to simply look at the 3 digit number.

  • 110 equals 10 stops
  • 106 equals 6 stops
  • 103 equals 3 stops
  • 102 equals 2 stops
  • 101 equals 1 stop
Fuji X100s

Fuji X100s

I am using the Fuji X100s for the images in this post.  It is a 16 mpix camera that is a rangefinder styled system.  I includes an internal, drop down 3 stop nd filter that actually gives about 2 stops of reduction when used in the infrared spectrum.  I had the camera recently converted via Kolari Vision, http://www.kolarivision.com to what they call the Dual Spectrum conversion.  This is where the internal UV/IR blocking filter is removed and a strong UV filter is put in its place.  This gives you the same capabilities as any Full Spectrum conversion except that it will not work with any IR or UV filter that combines multiple spectrums that include UV.  This means that the 047b in camera Faux Color or Super Blue filter and the UG1 UV/IR dual band filter will Not work.  All of the others work fine from 590nm up!

Plus you can convert the camera back to normal visible color with the addition of a filter on the lens to block UV and IR.  With the Full Spectrum filter you need to stack the B+W 486 reflective UV/IR blocking filter with the LDP http://maxmax.com  CC1 absorption filter.   With the Dual Spectrum conversion you need only add the B+W 486!

So, I have ALL of the normal IR filters sized for 49mm which is what the X100s uses including the B+W 486.  I am using the B+W 093 820nm IR filter for this camera almost 100% of the time though.

Another nice thing about the X100s is the fact that it has aperture priority mode with a shutter speed up to 30 seconds and a BULB MODE that goes up to 60 minutes!   Where the X100 really excels is the fact that is gives a count up timer in the viewfinder or on the back LCD panel for timing your bulb exposure!

The camera is so small and easy to handle that it is a pleasure to work with and as you can see, the images are stunningly sharp!

I will be posting more long exposure images here in the future and discussing the various post processing recipes with you.  Now, one last image.  Here is the same shot with only the 3 stop internal filter engaged in the X100s.  The shutter speed at ISO 200 and f/16 was 1/6 second.  Not nearly long enough to slow the water down or blur the cloud movement but it would likely work for slowing down the moving water in waterfalls!

Pawleys Pier, 830nm IR, 3 stop internal ND, 1 second, f/16, ISO 200

Pawleys Pier, 830nm IR, 3 stop internal ND, 1 second, f/16, ISO 200

If any of you all out there shooting in Infrared work in long exposures please drop me a line or comment and we can share data about the various ND failures and successes!

You can also consider signing up for one of my (along with  Jamie Davidson) Infrared/Color Workshops.  We take you to amazing locations in the South East Coastal area for world class photography and INTENSE post processing classroom training!  You will find posts here talking about each workshop as it approaches!

Going to the Dark Side: 830nm Infrared and the Fuji X100s

830nm Infrared Conversion on the Fuji X100s


Oak Reflections, 830nm

Image 1:  Oak Reflections, 830nm


Infrared photography with digital camera systems have been around for several years now and a lot of photographers have embraced this different spectrum of photography.  Infrared is wildly popular in photography and fine art galleries now and my workshops are full of lots of talented photographers who desire to learn or expand their infrared skills.

Pawleys Marsh, 830nm X100s

Pawleys Marsh, 830nm X100s

The typical starting point for most infrared shooters is 720nm (standard) or 590nm (Goldie) IR conversions. We have all seen the amazing color images that these two conversions can generate. As previously discussed, we always process not only in Faux Color, but for B&W also. The B&W images are usually more accepted among the arts community though.

Pawleys Marsh, 720nm

Image 3:  Pawleys Marsh, 720nm


But did you know that with each increase in the IR Nano Meter band (the frequency goes down as the number goes up) that the contrast levels go up in B&W as well? This increase in the NM band starts to generate the most stunning, contrasty, ethereal images that have to be seen to be believed! The higher you go in the NM range also increases the white “glow” around the leaves and grass and the blue sky takes on a deep black. This effect is named the “Wood Effect” after doctor Robert Wood who discovered it 1910. What happens is that the leaves get a bloom or glow of white around them that generate that wonderful ethereal feel in the image. Take a look at image 1 which was taken at 830nm. Do you see the dark black where the blue sky is? Look at the leaves on the trees and how they take on the pure bright whites! Now compare that to 720nm image above in Image 2. The most striking difference is the gray sky rather than black, plus the leaves are grayer rather than white.

Shrimp Boat at 830nm

Image 3: Shrimp Boat at 830nm


I would like to suggest that if you shoot in IR or are interested in doing so then you should consider a deep contrast IR conversion beyond 800nm. There are a lot of benefits to be found in that spectrum. This new spectrum sees ONLY in B&W, which will force you to visualize your scene in B&W.


The benefits to a Deep B&W IR conversion are:

  • Extremely sharp images.
  • Wood Effect bloom on plant leaves.
  • Dark moody skies.
  • Only works in B&W
  • Post processing is easy and quick using Nik Viveza and Silver EFX for texturing and contrasts. Photoshop CC, Elements or Lightroom, they all work for Deep B&W IR!
  • White Balance is easy.


Mabry Mill, 830nm

Image 4:  Mabry Mill, 830nm

There are several ways to have a camera converted to deep B&W above 800nm.

  1. The easiest is to simply take ANY digital and have it converted by removing the internal UV/IR blocking filter and replacing it with a 800nm, 830nm or a 850nm internal filter. With this type of conversion you can use any digital camera type or style because only the sensor will see the infrared light and you will either see the scene via the optical path or via a live view from the sensor. Typically, this type of conversion should cost around $300 to $350 thru any of the normal conversion companies.
  2. If you are shooting a Full Spectrum or Dual Spectrum conversion then you can purchase and attach a B+W 093 830nm filter to your camera lens! This filter blocks ALL visible light so you MUST have a camera with a live view only to use this otherwise you will never be able to see thru the optical path to focus and compose. The Full Spectrum camera is one that has had the internal UV/IR blocking filter removed and replaced with clear glass and the Dual Spectrum conversion is where the internal UV/IR blocking filter is removed and replaced with a strong UV filter.
Rock Run Mill, 830nm

Image 5:  Rock Run Mill, 830nm


With either the full or dual conversions you can shoot every of the following light spectrums:

  • Ultra Violet                                               Full Spectrum *
  • UG1 UV & IR                                            Full Spectrum *
  • 047b In Camera Faux Color                  Full Spectrum *
  • 530nm Faux Color                                  Full & Dual Spectrum
  • 590nm Super Color                                Full & Dual Spectrum
  • 630nm Pinkie Faux Color                     Full & Dual Spectrum
  • 665nm Enhanced Color                        Full & Dual Spectrum
  • 720nm Standard                                    Full & Dual Spectrum *
  • 800nm B&W                                          Full & Dual Spectrum *
  • 830nm Deep B&W                                Full & Dual Spectrum *
  • Normal Visible Color                            Full & Dual Spectrum

* Requires Live View capable camera


Now, Normal Visible Color simply means that your camera can take normal color images as it did from the factory! This means that you have a multi purpose camera that can take anything.

The only issue is that if you have a Full Spectrum conversion you need to stack a B+W 486 reflective IR/UV blocking filter on your lens with a LDP CC1 absorption filter to get back to good normal color.

For the Dual Spectrum conversion you only need to put the B+W 486 reflective IR/UV filter on your lens and it is back to normal color!

Disadvantages to the Full or Dual Spectrum Camera Conversion:

  • More expensive to convert.
  • External filters for each of our lens sizes.
  • Color filters (530 – 665nm) are not expensive but the B+W 093, B+W 486 and the LDP CC1 filters are VERY expensive.
  • Your camera MUST have a live view mode to focus and compose.


Charlotte Marie, 830nm X100s

Image 6:  Charlotte Marie, 830nm X100s

 I have several cameras converted to above 800nm and several full spectrum and a new dual spectrum converted Fuji X100s. The images that I am getting from the Fuji with a B+W 093 830nm filter are the sharpest and most stunning deep IR images that I have ever produced! But that doesn’t mean that you need to go out and purchase that one. Any camera with live view will work great with the 830nm spectrum. Keep in mind though, that the more modern your camera is the higher the usable ISO will be!

You can contact Mark at his web site at http://www.MarkHilliardAtelier-blog.com for information on his Color & IR workshops, which he teaches with Jamie Davidson, and for his IR Post Processing DVD Tutorials!

Fuga City, 830nm, Georgetown, SC

Fuga City, 830nm, Georgetown, SC


Going Home to Momma with the Leica M7…. Film Photography Returns!

Ahhh… It Feels So Good!

Rollei IR400 Film - Leica M7 50mm Lux - Rodinal 1-50

Spring in the South…  Rollei IR400 Film – Leica M7 50mm Lux – Rodinal 1-50

Oh my, I do NOT know where it came from but I got the BUG again for more film photography!  I have a cabinet here in the Gallery just full of old film cameras plus a Leica M7 film body that works with ALL OF MY M MOUNT LENSES!  (see the last post HERE for more info on the lenses).  I decided to purchase a new stock of several films:

  • Kodak Tri-X 400, Ohh
  • Eastman Double X 200, Ahh
  • Rollei IR400  400, WOW!
  • Kodak Tmax, Ho hum…
  • Ilford HP5+ 400
Rodinal One Shot

Rodinal One Shot

I picked up some stainless 2 roll developing tanks with a bunch of Hewes (don’t skimp on your reels, buy the best!) Stainless Steel 35mm Reels.  For developing I like Rodinal One Shot due to its ease of use and a life span of around 40 years.  I simply mix it one tank at a time usually at a 1:50 ratio with water using a small syringe. It allows a very wide latitude of contrast and iso control.  I have used several other developers but I keep coming back to Rodinal!

Now, I am playing with several cameras. As I said my main and BEST camera is my Leica M7.  But here is a current list of those cameras I am using:

  • Leica M7 with Leica & Voigtlander Lenses
  • Petri 7s, 1962 
  • Olympus XA
  • Olympus 35 RC 
  • Shen Hao 4×5 Field Camera (about 12 years old)
1962 Custom Petri 7s Film Body

1962 Custom Petri 7s Film Body

The Petri 7S has been in my hands since 1962 and still shoots great ( I did send it off to have the light seals replaced and a new leather covering ). The Petri has no batteries but rather a solar cell around the lens that drives a needle exposure meter that you simply place into its center notch for a good image!

All of the cameras in my list above have proven reliable  but with the Petri you get a link to the past, specifically MY past as this was my 2nd camera I owed when I was young!

The Olympus 35 RC is an amazing small rangefinder with very nice controls.  It is smaller then the Petri 7s and actually has better control functionality.  It does require a battery to run its metering system though which is a step down from the Petri 7S in my opinion.  The nice thing other than the size is the fact that EVERYTHING is displayed inside of the viewfinder.   Unlike a refurbished Petri 7S which can be found for around $100 used on Ebay, the Olympus 35 RC camera refurbished is demanding around $250!  This is a big difference in price and tells you a lot about its quality and demand! I was lucky to find one from a collectors inventory that he sent off to be totally refurbished and re-skinned for much less than $200.00!  For you film shooters out there on a budget this is the camera that I recommend if you find yourself desiring a rangefinder.

My Custom Olympus 35 RC

My Custom Olympus 35 RC

The Olympus XA was a 35mm rangefinder camera built by Olympus of Japan. It was one of the smallest rangefinder cameras ever made, together with the Contax T.



It was designed by Yoshihisa Maitani who had joined Olympus Optical Co Ltd in 1956. He was the chief camera designer and managing director of Olympus Optical Co Ltd., having developed a number of legendary cameras during his career. These included the Pen series, the OM series, the XA series, the IS series and the [mju:] series of cameras.

The original model, the XA, was sold from 1979 to 1985. The original XA features true rangefinder focusing, a fast 35mm f/2.8 lens, and aperture prioritymetering. The lens was protected by a sliding dust cover.

This is the smallest 35mm rangefinder ever made.  It will fit in the palm of my hand and will make a great system to have with me everywhere I go!

The Leica M7 uses batteries and sports a center weighted spot meter measured either off the film or off the shutter.  I find that it meters very reliable. It is the top of the heap when it comes to 35mm film cameras.  There are a lot of high end rangefinder cameras on the market but the Leica is the top.  I really excels in the area of long exposures with either a count down timer  in the viewfinder for images metered and controlled in the aperture priority mode or a count up timer for exposures done in the bulb mode.  In bulb, it will count up to 16 min then stops counting for battery conservation, but will continue exposing until you release the remote shutter release.  It will use NO battery power after the 16 min count up timer turns off until you release the shutter then it requires a pulse of electricity to close the shutter.   NO other rangefinder can say this unless you use a pure mechanical camera like a Leica M2 which has no metering system at all.

The Leica M7 is surprisingly heavy but easy to handle.  I keep reading about other high end rangefinder bodies out there but when you do the comparison of features I always come back to the M7.

My Leica M7 Film Body

My Leica M7 Film Body

All of my cameras are fun to use and reliable.  With the Leica M7 you get the world class glass but with the Petri 7S you get a link to the past, specifically MY past as this was my 2nd camera I owed when I was young!  The Olympus 35 RC is an advanced rangefinder from the 1970 era and is slick and fun to shoot. You will see examples from these cameras towards the end of this post!


I usually develop my negatives on Sundays.  I have a film drying cabinet that I use to dry the film without dust spots overnight.  I then will scan the negatives on Monday or Tuesday using a Nikon 4000 ED film scanner at 4000 dpi into the DNG format for editing and cleaning later in the week.  I usually shoot 2 or 3 rolls a week.

Rollei IR400 Film

Rollei IR400 Film

My favorite film is Rollei IR400.  This is available at the big camera stores like Digitaltruth, Freestyle and B&H.  What makes this film so special is the fact that is very much like Kodak Tri-X 400 as shot.  It has a VERY THIN film base which really makes scanning easy.  BUT the most amazing thing about this film is that it is sensitive to INFRARED!  If you place a Hoya R72 IR filter on the camera lens the film will record 720nm IR images!  There is an ISO hit due to the filter being so dark down to 12 ISO but it is worth it being able to shoot in both normal B&W and IR B&W!

Next I like the Kodak Tri-X 400 film.  It gives great contrasts and has a very wide latitude in development.  It is well known and tested and for ultra long exposures.

Eastman Double X 5222

Eastman Double X 5222

Then comes Eastman Double X Cinema film.  This is a GREAT B&W film that gives a very smooth gradation and lovely warm tonality with slightly increased contrasts.  This is motion picture film so unless you are going to buy a 400 foot reel you will need to purchase it from the store at Film Photography Project. They will sell it in either 24 exposure rolls or a 100 foot bulk loader roll.  It develops nicely in Rodinal at 1:60 for ISO 200 but there are ratios for 100 up to 800 ISO!  This film is very much worth experimenting with.

I need to say a few words about the folks at Film Photography Project.  They offer  an amazing wide selection of films and old cameras!  This includes Polaroid cameras and film also!  Their Podcast is amazing and I find that it is so good that I now have it running all day while I am working at my gallery in Pawleys Island.  Good Stuff, check them out here:  Film Photography Project.

Whatever film you decide to use you will be pleased with the results. Processing is easy to do with a VERY small investment. You will need:

  • Film Camera
  • Film
  • Chemestry:  Developer, Stop (you can use water), Fixer and water bath with a Wetting Agent.  $40 to get started
  • Film drying hanger clips $3 for a bag of 2
  • Film tank, either stainless steel or a Peterson. Peterson tank and reel is about $40
  • Film tank reels (if stainless do not skimp on these).  Hewes Steel are about $25 each
  • Dark changing bag to move the film from the canister to the developing tank.   $40
  • You will also need some way to scan your film into a digital image or pay someone to do it for you.

That is it.  It normally takes me about an hour to develop 2 rolls.  I will let them dry for several hours then cut them into strips of 6 and put them into plastic storage sheets.

For scanning, as I said above, I use a Nikon 4000ED film scanner.  As you can guess from the name it will scan at 4000 dpi and has a lot of adapters for different types of film scan feeders.  It has slide auto feeders, single slide feeders, a 6 position film rail for troublesome film and an automatic roll feeder to scan entire rolls automatically.  If you couple this with VIEWSCAN software you have an amazing scanning system that rivals those that pro labs use!

Nikon 4000 ED system

Nikon 4000 ED system

Ok, lets take a look at the results of 3 types of film in 2 cameras!

Pawleys Pier  M7 Elmarit 28  Rollei IR400 film in Rodinal at 1:50

Pawleys Pier M7 Elmarit 28 Rollei IR400 film in Rodinal at 1:50 240 second exposure

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

Eastman Double X Film - 1962 Petri 7S  - Rodinal 1-50

Eastman Double X Film – 1962 Petri 7S – Rodinal 1-50

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

Rollei IR400 Film - Leica M7 50mm Lux - Rodinal 1-50

Rollei IR400 Film – Leica M7 50mm Lux – Rodinal 1-50

Rollei IR400 Film - M7 28mm Elmarit - Rodinal 1-50

Rollei IR400 Film – M7 28mm Elmarit – Rodinal 1-50

Rollei IR400 Film - M7 50mm Lux - Rodinal 1-50 240 second exposure

Rollei IR400 Film – M7 50mm Lux – Rodinal 1-50 240 second exposure

Rollei IR400 Film with R72 IR Filter - M7 50mm Lux - Rodinal 1-50

Rollei IR400 Film with R72 IR Filter – M7 50mm Lux – Rodinal 1-50


Rollei IR400 Film - M7 50mm Lux - Rodinal 1-50

Rollei IR400 Film – M7 50mm Lux – Rodinal 1-50

I hope that you enjoyed this post and its associated images.  I have been using film since I was 9 years old.  At 13 I had my first darkroom at home.  I worked in film in my own darkroom until I was 18 when that period of my life can to an end.  42 years later I re-engaged film photography again and cannot help but ask “Why did I wait so long?”  I have been shooting digital since my career at Eastman Kodak when you could ONLY get B&W digital camera systems!  I have spent fortunes on digital and have loved every moment of it.  Film will NOT take any of that away, I still have digital and continue to use it.  But I have to be honest and admit that working in film again fills me with a sense of peace that I have not experiences in a very long time….

Please let me know what you think of this post!

Leica M240 Digital..

Oh, No… Another Camera System…

Leica M240 24 mpx Digital

Leica M240 24 mpx Digital

Well, in a wild turn of events I have picked up some new camera equipment… This is a really no surprise as it is a sickness or rather addiction!   But onward and upward!  

I do have to tell you that I am REALLY excited over acquiring these new systems though.   And unfortunately, one thing has let to another and thus a long journey has also been started into the realm of film again!

But first let me highlight the “What”!

As you can see in the top image, the newest body is the new Leica M240 24 full frame 24 mega pixel body.  It also has a true “live view” which allows use of all sorts of other lenses like the Leica R series that you would NOT normally be able to focus.  This means everything from long telephotos to true macro (subject of the next post!). After a few months of use I can tell you that this is the BEST digital system that I have ever used!  Along with it I also picked up several lenses.

Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH f/1.4

Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH f/1.4

First, the main lens is the Leica M 50mm f/1.4 Summalux ASPH lens in silver.  This is a HEAVY lens.  If attacked by a bear I could use it to beat him half to death.  The lens itself has turned into my main lens that I use 60% of the time. It has a built in leans hood and takes 46mm filters.  The Bokah that this lens can generate is amazing beyond description. It is extremely smooth and easy to use and generates images that are truly amazing!

Tulip at f/1.4, Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH

Tulip at f/1.4, Leica M240 w/ Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH


Leica 28mm Elmarit ASPH

Leica 28mm Elmarit ASPH

The next lens is the Leica M mount 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit ASPH.  This is a TINY light lens that takes 39mm filters.  These smaller filters sized considerably cut the cost of purchasing top of the line B+W filters.  Since the M240 camera is a full frame sensor the 28mm really is 28mm! The lens is sharp beyond words and quick to focus.  I am really please with this lens and use it for landscapes and lightning photography when mounted on my Fuji X-T1 camera.

The example image for this lens below is a texture overlay.  The main image was an Infrared image taken by placing a R72 (720nm) infrared filter on the lens giving a white IR image of a palm leaf, then doing a texture overlay of colored flowers.


M240-1916-Palm Overlay-2014 in both 720nm Infrared and Color

M240-1916-Palm Overlay-2014 in both 720nm Infrared and Color


Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

The next lens is the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4 and its macro adapter with split image view.  This is a very unique lens in that it collapses for storage.  By itself it is a great 90mm lens and has proven useful for mid range subjects as well as for Infrared work with the addition of a R72 IR filter.  When you add its macro adapter (extension tube coupled to a viewfinder modifier) it will then give you macro capabilities down to a 1:3 image ratio!  Below is an example of a macro image shot with this lens last week at Moore Farms in Lake City .

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Now, I already had my two Voigtlander M mount lenses that I was using with the Fuji systems, but they are M mount!

Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8

Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8

First is the Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens.  This is an amazing lens that is very fast at f/1.8. The focus is smooth and long and it works very well with M mount extension tubes for true macro work (1:1 image ratio).  I do have 3 of the 10mm extension tubes for it as well as a Canon 500D closeup lens.  For my really small stuff this is my goto lens.  It is a little long but has a very nice clam on lens hood.  While it is NOT a Leica lens it is very close in terms of quality and ease and the f/1.8 aperture gives lovely bokah!

Here then is an example of a 1:1 life-size macro shot with it!

Green Dots...

Green Dots…

Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Hellar

Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Hellar

The last lens that I am going to talk about here is the Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 12mm f/5.6 Aspherical M Mount lens.  Another heavy all metal lens with remarkable focus and DOF.  Since it is so wide you can almost have a DOF from right in front of the lens out to infinity!  Plus 12mm is really 12mm on the camera!  Given that the camera is both full frame and has a live view you can see the power of using this lens and the ease of composition and focus!

In the example image below please notice the extreme range of the depth of field!

Stormy Seas, down low and dirty... Voigtlander 12mm

Stormy Seas, down low and dirty… Voigtlander 12mm


As you can see, all of the system components are extremely high quality and easy to use giving stunning results.  I like to create Long Exposure and Infrared images as well so I thought that I would share some of them with you below.  

M240-BW 59s16ND PI Pier-0148-2014

Pier, Leica M240 60 second exposure

M240 w/ R72 IR Filter

M240 w/ R72 IR Filter

Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit,

Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit

6 Shot HDR, Leica M240

6 Shot HDR, Leica M240

Blue Hour in B&W, Leica M240, 60 second exposure

Blue Hour in B&W, Leica M240, 60 second exposure

M240-1109-60 s PI LE-2014

Low Tide, Leica M240, 45 second exposure


I hope that you enjoyed this post.  I will have several more shortly in the future highlighting more of this system as well as some new FILM work!! 

Stay Tuned!


How to get the BEST B&W images out of your Infrared camera!

How to get the BEST B&W images out of your Infrared camera!

Final B&W Version!

Final B&W Version!

I am VERY particular in how I process my images, either color or IR it doesn’t make any difference!  This comes from years of visualization,   photography, a career at Eastman Kodak, endless hours of post processing and just plain being old and cranky!  I look for specific compositional elements in each and every image I create then look to create a stepped series of varying  contrast levels to draw the viewer into the image.  This is important in my color work, but CRITICAL in my B&W images.

This post though, is specifically about B&W IR post processing.   But before we actually get to that point I wish to share with you my workflow that I go through up to the point of processing it for B&W.

Assuming that our images have been edited for choice and artistic content and been processed from RAW to 16 bit TIFF…

  1. I evaluate each image to see if it is viable as a processed RAW image.  This means that it has been converted to TIFF, then evaluated as is.  If it looks good (nice bronze skies and monochromatic leaves), I will then post process it according to the the same workflow below that I use for B&W and save it.  Then…
  2. Convert the image to Faux Color IR but running the Faux Process (channels swap and color saturation & hue adjustments) and save.
Step 1  Evaluate the RAW image to see it it stands on its own!

Step 1 Evaluate the RAW image to see it it stands on its own!

Step 2 Process the RAW image into Faux Color.

Step 2 Process the RAW image into Faux Color.

Only when these steps are completed do I start my B&W conversion and processing.  The reason for this is that the best B&W conversions are generated when we have gotten the best possible color adjustments done!  The better the colors the better the B&W!  This is true of both color camera or an IR camera.

As you can see from the B&W image above of the bone yard at Cape Romain here in South Carolina, the image is full of alternating contrast areas that draw the viewers eyes into the image from the bottom left corner up to the center.  This was a choice made in post processing.  

So remember, you will get a much better B&W image if you first post process the color version!  This will give the software (Nik’s Silver EFX Pro) a greater latitude of colors and contrasts to work from rather than just converting the RAW version directly into B&W.

Compositional Elements

In Infrared photography, there are 3 main elements that we need to get an emotionally charged image:

  1. Sky with moody cloud structure.
  2. Water
  3. Green plants.

If you can get all 3 you will get a much more powerful image, but as long as you can get at least 1 you will have more to work with to get a good image. If you find yourself in a location where none of the 3 desired elements can be found then look for repeating patterns! Look at the example below.  This image is of old Rt. 66 through the west taken at the height of a world class snow storm a few years ago in 720nm IR.  There is no water, clouds or plants to work with.  But we have a vanishing perspective due to the repeating telephone poles plus great structure in the snow cover scrub!  There is also just a hint of the sun behind the top of the first telephone pole which adds interest and change of contrast.

Old Rt. 66.  A hint of sun behind the top of the first telephone pole.  720nm IR

Old Rt. 66. A hint of sun behind the top of the first telephone pole. 720nm IR

Now, as easy as all of this sounds, it really does take some planning and simple photoshop skills.  Plus the more you practice it the better and faster you will get!

So lets take a look at our sample B&W converted per post processed B&W image below.  To get to this point, you take your color image and open it in Niks Silver EFX software filter.  You would then choose the recipe that you like the best from the left hand menu watching the effect on the preview image on the screen.  When you find the version you like the best  you would then adjust the contrast, structure and highlights/shadows to get your starting image, then accept it and drop it back into Photoshop!  

This then is the results of what we just did:

Adams Mill Bridge, IN, B&W Converted NO Post Processing!

Adams Mill Bridge, IN, B&W Converted NO Post Processing!

This is a very nice image to be sure!  But, it can be drastically improved with very little work.  By selecting areas of alternating contrasts we can enhance the emotional impact of this image and draw the viewers eyes into the image giving it an almost 3 dimensional feel!  Lets take a look at these areas!

Take a close look at the image.  Look for ways to give alternating areas of light and dark, low contrast and high contrast.  Use these areas to create steps into your image.  For the image above of the Adams Mill un processed this is how I approach it:

Visualizing areas of light/dark, low/high contrasts to step your viewer through the image!

Visualizing areas of light/dark, low/high contrasts to step your viewer through the image!

Looks like a puzzle doesn’t it!  But is is really easy once you decide HOW you want to approach the image.  We are going to use the Nik plugin filter called Viveza to accomplish all of these changes.  Simply start on one edge of the image and work your way across. Nik gives you a very powerful selection and masking tool call selection points.  These points pick out areas of similar color or shading.  

So here is how it all works:

  1. Start Nik Viveza in your editor.
  2. Start from one edge and work across the image.
  3. Using a selection point, place it on the first area to be edited.
  4. Adjust the size if the selection point as necessary.
  5. Adjust the brightness slider to set the light/black point you desire.
  6. Adjust the structure (sharpness) with the structure slider.
  7. Adjust the contrast with the contrast slider.
  8. If you find that your edits affect areas outside of your desired area simply add another (or several) adjustment points with no editing in those affected areas to bring them back to where they were. This is called an anchor point. You will find that you will add anchor points all over your image to bring areas back to their un edited version.  
  9. Simply work your way across the image editing as you go.  Create areas of alternating contrasts and you will generate a powerful B&W image in very little time!  

Here is the finished version of the image above!

Adams Mill Bridge, IN, B&W Converted Post Processed

Adams Mill Bridge, IN, B&W Converted Post Processed

Go back and forth, look at the differences between the 2 images.  In the 2nd image, there is a tonal range of complete black to complete white. The un-edited version has a little contrast but lacks punch and it does NOT have a complete tonal range!

This looks very simple doesn’t it!  Well it is!!  It just requires that you pre visualize what you desire in your finished image then simply make it so.

I hope that you enjoyed this simple tutorial.  If you would like an enhanced version with complete step by step instructions and screen captures please visit my BLOG at:


and look at the post on my Color & Infrared Video Post Processing Tutorial on a 2 DVD set.  

Please let me know what you think of all this!!

Fuji X-E2 Long Exposures and Wild Sunsets!

Every Time I take the X-E2 out I am amazed…

Fire In The Sky, X-E2 w/ 18-55 and 3 stop soft grad ND on the sky.

Fire In The Sky, X-E2 w/ 18-55 and 3 stop soft grad ND on the sky.

We have been having amazingly turbulent weather here in Pawleys Island for the last week or so.  The sky has been moody and dark.  Mornings filled with dense fog and the ocean surf rough…   Perfect for long exposures and wild sunsets

What better excuse then to take the Fuji X-E2 out and capture these wild and moody scenes?  With my full kit of the Lee Seven 5 filters and B+W ND filters in hand I grabbed the X-E2 and the XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 Zoom Lens (which has kind of turned into my main carry around lens) and headed out to the beach.  

The X-E2 (in fact, the entire line of Fuji X cameras) is exceptionally adept at long exposure photography.  It generates low noise exposures and has NEVER let me down.  I usually shoot in the 2 to 4 minute range but once in a while will go up to 10 to 15 minutes depending upon the subject.  

In todays post I am shooting between 30 seconds and 4 minutes and one of the sunset images was just a short exposure (1/13).  

The setup for all of the long exposure water images was either a 6 or 10 stop B+W ND filter and the sunset had an added 3 stop soft graduated Lee filter (Seven 5 system).  The sky was just too bright with the wild colors to give anything but a black foreground otherwise! I also used the Fuji RR-90 remote shutter release (but you can also use a mechanical release or a Canon RS60 E3 release).

One of the big benefits of the Fuji X system is the fact that when in the  BULB mode Fuji gives you a count up timer on the LCD screen so that you can easily time your exposure.  This doesn’t sound like much but when you are out in the cold and dark shooting it is a BIG DEAL!  Try doing this with a Nikon 300 and you will understand!

Now, lets talk a little about your exposure metering.  

  • You can (and I sometimes do) use the cameras metering system, but I do find that when metering through the 10 stop ND that it will sometimes confuse the meter.  
  • You can also meter without the ND attached then attach it and adjust the exposure for whatever value the ND is but there is NO guarantee that the filter is actually what it is advertised to be!  
  • What I like to do is to use the Seikonic  758DR spot meter which can factor in the ND filter automatically for you and give you an accurate exposure.  You can also meter through the filter with the 758 to see what the real value of the filter is!.
  • You can also just get close with your first exposure then evaluate your histogram and adjust the exposure as desired.

Which ever way you choose you will be surprised how quickly you can get “on target” by taking just 1 exposure then adjusting! But remember. when we are spot metering either in camera or in an external meter whatever spot you  are metering on will give an exposure for Zone 5 or 18% grey. It is up to you to adjust the exposure up or down to place it into the proper Zone!  What I like to meter on is the sky just above the horizon then adjust it up about 1 stop (move from Zone 5 to Zone 6).  

I ALWAYS have the Long Exposure Noise Reduction turned on in my cameras.  This means that you will double your exposure time.  After you take your image, the camera will close the shutter and take a 2nd one with the same shutter speed.  This is called Dark Frame Noise Reduction and the camera will look for bright pixels in the 2nd shot and subtract them from the first.  This is very worthwhile and will allow you to create much better output images but cut down the amount of time you have to stand there and shoot!

As I said earlier, the mornings have been very foggy so lets start off with several examples of this type of photography.  Of course, you must remember to increase the exposure so that the fog is not a DARK GREY, these have been adjusted from Zone 5 to Zone 6.5 or 1 1/2 stops!

Salt Marsh in the morning fog...

Salt Marsh in the morning fog…

Pawleys Island Pier, Foggy Morning.  X-E2 with 10 stops of ND, 30 seconds.

Pawleys Island Pier, Foggy Morning. X-E2 with 10 stops of ND, 30 seconds.

Foggy Feast, X-E2. Sometimes simple is best!

Foggy Feast, X-E2. Sometimes simple is best!

Ok, lets move on to the evening.  The intent here was simple long exposures to smooth out the surf and remove the surfers (yes I hate surfers as they are always in your shot and don’t care!).  For these type of images you really need to start at 30 seconds and move up.  If the sky is within 3 stops of the foreground then you do not need to add a graduated ND on the sky.

Fire In The Sky,  90 second exposure with 3 stops of grad ND on the sky and 6 stops of ND overall.  X-E2

Fire In The Sky, 90 second exposure with 3 stops of grad ND on the sky and 6 stops of ND overall. X-E2. Notice the cloud movement in the sky and the smooth surf!

X-E2-240s BW LE Pawleys Pier-0255-2013

B&W Pier & Groin, Pawleys Island, SC 240 second exposure, 10 stop ND X-E2

X-E2-240s LE Pawleys Pier-0255-2013

Color version of above image. Notice how the sky and water are close to the same density? 240 seconds.

X-E2-BW LE Pawleys Pier-0246-2013

B&W version of “Fire in the sky”. Yes you should evaluate ALL of your images for B&W.

There is something very soothing about well done long exposures of the ocean.  They really are not difficult to do and the results are worth the investment in time and discomfort (did I mention that it is winter here and I was standing on the beach in the wind?).

As you can see, the Fuji X-E2 excels in all areas of photography.  It has proven itself to be a serious tool to photographers who understand its capabilities and master it functionality!

I hope that you enjoyed this post. Please let me know what you think!