My Thoughts on the Art of travel photography…

Or… What I Did On My Summer Vacation!

Warning, LONG post…

Canyon Lands Pano, Sony A7rii with the 24-240 and polarizer

Canyon Lands Pano, Sony A7rii with the 24-240 and polarizer

Devils Tower

Devils Tower

Travel Photography… Say it, let it roll off your tongue, think about it!  I bet that the first thing that comes to mind are images from National Geographic, fine, super saturated color photographs that could take you anywhere in the world by simply looking at them!  You know the kind, they enabled you over the years to travel vicarisly around the world just with the magazine and its images!  

But is that what travel photography really is? 


What is the intent of travel photography  to document a place or a trip?  Is it designed to tell a story on an individual level or to the masses?

A6300-3886- S1_500-Whodos Bryce-2016 1 copy

Well for me, it is a combination of the two.  Most importantly, the images are to refresh the memories of the trip.  But there is a real market out there for well done travel photography whether in print publications, web, advertising or fine art prints.  It can be quite profitable if you work at it and can step back and look at your own images in terms of the above markets.  Even the housing deceration market has room for this type of photography provided that you can simplify your work to show colors and contrasts over locations.

Jordan, My 7 year old photographer grandson

Jordan, My 7 year old photographer grandson

For this trip, and pretty much all the time when I am shooting digital, I exclusively use the Sony 42 mpix A7rii camera system and the new Sony A6300 for high speed work with Sony G lenses or Sony Zeiss lenses. They are very well suited to this type of photography and give you enough (42 mix)  resolution to get amazing images yet still have room to crop!

The drive for this post was a recent  two week trip out West with my wife and 7 year old grandson Jordan who I am teaching film photography and darkroom processing to (photographically, I had grand plans for him this trip).  Given time I plan on turning him into a photographic GOD for something fun while making sure he is a Rocket Scientist!

We flew into Rapid City, SD and picked up a one way rental car and our first night in a long string of hotels.

Devils Tower

Devils Tower

Our Itinerary:

  • Prairie Dog

    Prairie Dog

    Day 1. Rapid City layover and rest.

  • Day 2. Pick up rental car and drive to Mt. Rushmore in the morning and then the Devils Tower in the afternoon. Continue on 1/2 way to Codie, WY.
  • Day 3. Famous Hot Springs of Thermopolis, Wyoming then an afternoon visit and guided tour to the most successful dinosaur dig on our continent.
  • Day 4. Codie WY for several stops including the famous old west town and the Codie Rodio.
  • Day 5-7. Yellowstone for 3 days in a park lodge.
  • Day 8. Leave Yellowstone, drive thru and stop along the way in the Tetons finishing in Jackson WY.
  • Day 9. Drive just north of Salt Lake City in the town of Herbor for a 3 hour train ride around the valley.
  • Day 10-12. Drive to Moab for 3 nights and visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks with extra boat and jeep rides thru the park as well as Dead Horse Point State Park.
  • Day 13. Early morning drive to Bryce National park for 2 days of Bryce National Par
  • Day 14. Drive to Salt Lake for flight home on day 15.

Drugstore of the West, Cody, WY

Drugstore of the West, Cody, WY

So as you can see there was a well thought out family plan for travel and location visits!  But, I also had a plan, my photographic plan!

So lets talk first about my TRAVEL photographic equipment plan.  I wanted to travel light (yea right).  No backpack, rather a small rolling camera case that would fit into the over head of a small commuter plane so that I would not have to check it.  I would not have room for a film camera… Dang!

So here is what I brought along:

  1. Sony A7rii camera body
  2. Sony a6300 camera body for Jordan
  3. Sony 24-240mm one lens does it all for Jordan
  4. Sony 24-70 Zeiss f/4
  5. Sony 70-200 G f/4
  6. Tamron 150-600 for those exotic animals I expected to see
  7. And yes… A Olympus XA 35mm film camera (but it is the worlds smallest rangefinder) with 6 rolls of Tmax 100
  8. Filters, ND for long water falls and polarizers for all of the rest in 67mm and 72mm.
  9. Batteries an chargers (both cameras used the same)

This was a good plan (or so I thought) until our very first stop at Mt. Rushmore where Jordan informed me that the 24-240 was too long and heavy.  Oh well, I took that and gave him the 24-70.

RULE ONE:   No camera plan survives first contact with a 7 year old!

Ok, so at least the part of the photographic plan of me being able to NOT check my camera equipment worked! (I did put all of my insulin and supplies in the camera case just to prove my need to have the case with me but did not need it).

RULE TWO: A super  zoom really works best when you have to carry lots of glass around while traveling.  See Rule One, Jordan did me a favor here!

Yes, I know that one would not normally trade a light 24-70 Sony/Zeiss f/4 lens for a 24-240 f/3.5-5.6 Sony super zoom but I have to be honest, I was VERY impressed with the super zoom!  It was not really that much heaver but it was longer. I NEVER put on the 24-70 after that.

Things to look for on a cross country western trip:

  1. Wildlife
  2. Landscapes & Vistas
  3. Unique rock formations
  4. Waterfalls
  5. Wild colors
  6. Unique photographic visions

Trip Highlights!


Old Faithfull

Old Faithful

Querimony: To Questionably Moan & Complain!

I expected great things of Yellowstone and that showed in the number of days there as well as staying in the park.  Yellowstone is HUGE, so much so that you have to allow for HOURS of driving time from location to location.  The roads are all good, 2 lanes with adequate pull offs.  BUT having said that there are rules of behavior in pulling off and rules for how you treat the wildlife.   I cannot tell you how many people (especially foreign visitors) who would jump out of the car (still in the road) and run off into the fields right up to the wildlife.  To say that this is bad behavior is an understatement.  It for one, keeps others from being able to photograph the wildlife and two puts the peoples lives in grave danger that approach the wildlife!  Yet this happened almost every time wildlife was near the road.  The park rangers had simply given up on trying to educate people who would not listen. They spend most of their time dealing with the MANY dreadful traffic accidents that happened every day.  The traffic jams were terrible whenever an animal was near.  Sometimes this was due to the animal being on the road but most of the time it was because people parked right in the middle of the road who left their cars. 

Buffalo on the Yellowstone

Buffalo on the Yellowstone river in the early morning mist

I am going to share a few of my favorite images from Yellowstone with you.   It is a good cross section of what you can expect to see while visiting!


Blue Pool, Prismatic Spring Yellowstone

Blue Pool, Prismatic Spring Upper Yellowstone


Prismatic Spring Yellowstone

Prismatic Spring upper Yellowstone


Yellowstone Antelope

Yellowstone Antelope, North Entrance


Teal Pool, Upper Yellowstone

Teal Pool, Upper Yellowstone

And last….


Lower Yellowstone Falls Detail

Lower Yellowstone Falls Detail 1 second  Exposure with 10 stops of ND

I would travel again to Yellowstone but in the spring or fall in order to see more of the wildlife there.  I realize that in the heat of August even the animals would move to higher locations in order to reduce the heat.  The only wildlife I really saw in abundance on this trip were Buffalo, Elk and Antelope.  

Moab, Arches & Canyonlands National Parks

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

The Moab area offered some of the most amazing locations of our trip.  I had thought that nothing could beat Yellowstone, but Moab came very close.   

Sandstone Arch, Arches

Sandstone Arch, Arches

There are 3 offerings here, the Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and the Dead Horse Point State Park.  ALL three are must see locations.  For me Arches was the best, but honestly, we spent time exploring all three in detail (well sort walk detail).  We also paid extra for a boat trip on the Colorado River thru Canyonlands for a low view and a back country jeep tour to see area and arches not available to the general public in Arches!  If you get here I advise that you do both side trips.

Courthouse Rock, Arches

Courthouse Rock, Arches


Whale Tail Arch, Backcountry Tour

Whale Tail Arch, Backcountry Tour


Windows Arch on the Back Country Tour, Arches

Windows Arch on the Back Country Tour, Arches


Dead Horse Point

Dead Horse Point. Look at the lower left corner 1/3 up to see the dead horse outline.


Canyon Lands, Isle in the sky

Canyon Lands, Isle in the sky


General Utah


High Desart Train Pano

High Desart Train Pano

So…. I had this vision stuck in my head of a parked line of freight train box cars parked in the high desert with a mesa behind them.  I found myself looking to the sides of the car as we traveled endless miles through Wyoming and Utah.  Finally my wife asked me what I was looking for and when I told her she made a point to help me look and stop me when we came upon them.  I know that out West there are ultra long stretched of road.  Most are 4 lanes with lots of traffic.  If you see that special scene make sure that you safely stop so as not to irritate the 7 year old in the back seat, pull safely off to the side of the road as you watch for the perfect compositional setup and get out and shoot it!  DO IT!  


RULE THREE:   There are NO GO BACKS!  If you see a subject or scene on the side of the road immediately stop and shoot it!

Bryce National Park

Whodos in Bryce Canyon

Whodos in Bryce Canyon

To say that Bryce National Park is anything less that amazing is an understatement.  It was right up there with Arches and Yellowstone in amazing views, colors and the wow factor!  This is the location that I would choose to visit again to try some different styles of photography.  The colors of the Hodoos are simply amazing and full of wild colors and contrasts.  

Natural Bridge Bryce

Natural Bridge Bryce

RULE FOUR:   Revisit those scenes and compositions as many times a possible!

While in Arches, my 7 year old grandson decided that he had enough nature and vistas after driving Arches all day long.  I took them (at my wife insistence) back to the hotel and went back out to Arches and drove it again in different light conditions and the 2nd time there were clouds in the sky.  This made for much better images that I would not have gotten if I did not go back out again!

Final thoughts on what makes travel photography great!

Now as you have seen here, I presented this trip as a travel log.  Attempting to document the many wonders of the high plains in the west. For images that have the possibility of selling you need to:

  • Pay more attention to your editing, scene selection and composition.  
  • You must re-visit local scenes several times in order to get the best light and clouds.  
  • You MUST shoot with your best equipment in order to produce high resolution images for future publication.
  • In your post processing you must choose only your best images and throw the non used images out.
  • Be your WORST critique and select only what you would consider to be world class images.  Case in point, the image above of the Court House Rocks in Arches.  Yes it is a nice image but the lack of clouds in the sky reduce its impact to the point of it being a weak image!

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview.

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview.

This type of travel photography is more difficult that personal travel images traditionally done by the millions of photographers who roam the country.   These types of images are still travel photography but basically serve to show and remember your great trips!  They will include more family member in the scenes, less care about the total compositional elements because those are simply not as important to the memory of the trip and locations! They are just as important, but will not generally generate income from sales and publication. 

Colophon:  Very Important Lessons Learned:

  1. NEVER, and I do mean NEVER plan a 14 day photographic trip with a 7 year old and expect him to be excited beyond the first week.   I would have been better off leaving the A6300 and 24-70 f/4 at home thus lightening my load and giving him MY camera when he desired to take a photograph!
  2. Make SURE that you explain to the said 7 year old that “NO!  There are places that not only will there be no TV but also no internet!  (I was able to get around this most of the time with my iPhone as a hot spot for his iPad!)
  3. Build in several fun days (as viewed by a 7 year old) that includes things like movies, water parks and so on!  This is a small price to pay for 7 year old mental health and will refresh his young mind and keep it open for those wonderful scenes you travel to!
  4. How can you get those great travel shots when your walking is limited?  As a cranky 63 year old man, make sure that you plan photographic stops THAT YOU CAN DRIVE TO!  We (actually my thoughtful wife) did this ahead of time thus insuring my mental health and happiness at the stops we made!
  5. Take the time to occasionally stop at nice restaurants  that actually serve wine and beer (this will assist with the mental healty of said wife!)  Happy marriages are NOT built and fast food places in a rush!
  6. If you desire to shoot medium format film, you damn well better plan on space for the camera and film!  Regrets upon your return will leave a sour taste in your mouth!
  7. Be flexible, very flexible.  This will leave you happy in the hotel at night!
  8. Take your pain drugs! (See #7)
  9. If you see a photo subject on the side of the road STOP!  There are no go backs! (see RULE THREE about this very thing and really your wife know this and will support your urges to stop in the middle of nowhere!
  10. Wildlife… What wildlife?  How did I miss all the great shots of wolves, coyotes, and bears?  I was in Yellowstone for heavens sake!  The lesson here is to make sure you check the season for high animal activity.  I have listened to my photographer Son talk about so much wildlife in Yellowstone that it was not safe to drive!   I guess he should have mentioned when he was there!  Oh well.  I AM happy with what I actually did see (Buffalo, Antelopes, Elk and Prairie Dogs)
  11. Stop at EVERY overlook in every park.  You will be happier having done so (and vicariously so will your wife).  You will hate yourself when you return home only to have a photographer friend tell you that the one overlook you skipped was the only one you should have stopped at!
  12. If you find a scene that is magical for you revisit at a different time of day.  This is VERY IMPORTANT and promote photographic health for those who have heeded these magic words.
  13. Would I do it all over again with a 7 year old?  YOU BET!!  But I would plan differently.  If I take any of my grandkids I need to remember that it is their vacation as well.  This means that you build in days doing fun stuff for their age also!

Please let me know what you think of this long post!  I welcome all feedback.


Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon in camera pano

Amazing Polaroid 4×5 Camera Conversions: Alpenhause Kamera Werke

Let me introduce you to Steven Icanberry!



My 900 converted to 4x5 by Alpenhause Kamera Werke

My 900 converted to 4×5 by Alpenhause Kamera Werke

The story begins…

Several years ago my oldest daughter and her husband gave me a complete Polaroid 900 Camera system for fathers day.  I like old cameras and this one sat in a glass display case in my studio for years.  It was a beautiful camera but with film no longer being made it was living its life as a hanger queen only.

My Polaroid 900 Camera Set

My Polaroid 900 Camera Set

Steven Icanberry at Alpenhause Kamera Werke

Steven Icanberry at
Alpenhause Kamera Werke

One day while exploring one of the 4×5 Facebook groups I came across a post from  Alpenhause Kamera Werke and Steven Icanberry,  He was advertising a conversion on the older Polaroid  Land Cameras like my 900 to 4×5 film with a film back and a coupled rangefinder calibrated to the new 4×5 lens he would install!  Steven is a disabled veteran who makes his living from converting these cameras!

This was simply too good to be true and after calling him and with his advice for options and lens selection I sent off my camera to him to be converted.

About the film holder!

About the film holder!

Now, a little bit of info on his designs and options.  His 4×5 film back is of his own design and is small and lighter than any other on the market.  He has them made by a local machine shop and I can attest to the quality of it!  He removes the old lens and makes a new lens plate mounting your choice of lenses.  

I choose a Fujicon 150mm lens.  He couples the lens to the rangefinder system in the camera and calibrates it to be perfect. (This was the big draw for me as I was looking for a simple 4×5 carry around camera).  

He also cleaned all of the rangefinder optics assuring sharp clear viewing.  

I was offered a large selection of colors and new clothes for my camera, I choose bright blue and a silver top along with a built in shutter release cable.   Look at the top image above and tell me that the camera doesn’t look stunning!

His camera conversions are simply stunning in their beauty and functionality!  For those of you who like and desire to shoot film I strongly suggest picking up one of his cameras.  You will not be disappointed at all and you will be helping a disabled US Veteran make a living.  But more importantly you will have a camera system that is as beautiful as it is functional.   I am going to close this with a few images of some of Stevens cameras and the first shot I took with mine.  

He advertises starting pricing at around $500 for a converted camera in stock and also does custom conversions (like mine).  I paid $900 for mine, but I chose a new custom lens and several other options!   

Am I satisfied?  YOU BET!!

Please consider having Steven Icanberry and Alpenhause Kamera Werke do a conversion or sell you a stock conversion!  It is my wish to spread the camera goodness around and this is one good company!

Handheld Converted 900 image with TMX 100

Hand held image from my Converted 900 image with TMX 100

Colors colors colors

Colors colors colors



Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 7.51.07 AM


4x5 Film Back

Stevens custom designed 4×5 Film Back


My converted 900

My converted 900

Testing The Sony A6300

Smaller, Faster and able to leap over tall buildings!

Yes, you are correct, I shoot with the Sony A7rii 42 mega pixel full frame mirrorless camera!  What you cry am I doing with the A6300 which is only 24 mega pixel and an APS-C sensor?  Well friends, the answer to that is simple, well perhaps not…   I envision the A6300 as a 720nm Infrared camera.  

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer. B&W conversion

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer. B&W conversion Look at the detail in the gate and grass.  This has a 3 dimensional effect! 

But it has several very interesting and powerful functions that have engaged my curiosity.  Those are:

  • 11 fps shooting speed.
  • Faster and more accurate focus than the A7rii
  • More focus and metering points.
  • Half the weight of the A7rii
  • Much brighter and accurate focus peaking system.
  • Ability to work macro at 1:1 with live view and not have an over pixelated display.
  • The ability to turn my 600mm lens into a 900mm lens!
Sony A6300 Front View

Sony A6300 Front View

The 4 test images I took today were shot hand held at 1/250s and in RAW with Zone Focusing.  I also had the LIVE VEIW DISPLAY: Setting Effect: ON.  This enabled the camera to simulate the exposure effects during composition to give me an idea of what I am actually seeing. 

The A6300 is a TINY camera system.  It is so light (even with a L Bracket installed) that I had to be very careful when carrying it around.  I worried over dropping it and not knowing!

Sony A6300 Back View

Sony A6300 Back View

The camera does NOT have a built in Stabilizing system, rather it relies on the fact that most Sony lenses have that built in.   I has 3 custom WB memories for those of you who are considering the camera for Infrared and it also has 2 custom setup memories that I have found to be very helpful with my A7rii camera!

I found the camera very easy to use and control.  I setup all of the custom functions and buttons to make my life easier when shooting it.   

As I said, this camera was meant to be converted by into a 720nm infrared system and it may actually meet that end, but I really like the ability of the APS system to give me 900mm from a 600mm lens!



Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer.

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer.

Here is the color version (with polarizer) of the image above.  The colors are nicely saturated and the overall image is sharp and offers enough detail and sharpness to draw the viewer into the image!

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer.

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer.

Here is another view of the salt marsh.  I have to say that the camera with the 24-70 Zeiss lens is easy to hold and control.  The camera control buttons are easy to reach and control without using them by accident.

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer. B&W conversion.

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer. B&W conversion.

Lastly, a B&W conversion of the same image.  

I am really excited with the functionality of this little system.  I am pleased with the results and will use it for a few months as a color system for my long lens. Ultimately it will be converted to IR but for now I will play with it.  

There are several issues with its firmware (same as when the A7rii came out).  Overheating during hight speed continuous shots is the big one but Sony assures me that a fix is in work as it was when the A7rii camera came out!

I will be experimenting with the system for a few months and see what it can offer me in terms of images and use.  Later this week it is going to the beach for some ultra long exposures to see if it has any body light leaks!

What do your think?



Learning To See The SOUL Of Your Image: Black & White


Do you enjoy the purity of a finely crafted B&W image?  


Look closely at the image below of the neither regions of the Folley Beach Pier.  This was taken with a B&W only DEEP CONTRAST Infrared camera converted by with their new AR coating.  Look at the detail and depth captured here.  Do you think that if the sand was actually in color that you would even notice the pier going off into the distance past the initial structure? This is what the power and purity of B&W gives to us!

Fuji X100s 850nm Deep Contrast B&W Infrared: Under The Folley Beach Pier

Fuji X100s 850nm Deep Contrast B&W Infrared by with their new AR coating: Under The Folley Beach Pier

I love working in B&W,  so that I would only create them if the market would support such endeavor.   There is something about a well crafted monochrome image, having the distraction of color removed leaves you with the soul of the image.  

I find that it is so powerful for me that I look at EVERY scene I approach with B&W in mind.  Yes, I can visualize in B&W.  So can you!  It only takes a little practice… OK, a LOT of practice really, but it is well worth the investment in time and energy!

I am so into fine art B&W that I even have a Leica Monochrom digital camera that is dedicated to it in that it only takes B&W images!   Not to mention digital B&W infrared cameras!  

But DON’T forget film…. Which really is a post for another day.

The baby blue is a Olympus 35RC rangefinder  that I had rebuilt, cleaned and given a nice new set of baby blue clothes!  The second is a Polaroid 900 that my daughter found at a garage sale and sent to me.  I kept it in a display case for a year or 2 then sent it off to where Steven Icanberry took it apart, cleaned, re-gasket, replaced the lens with a Fujicon 150mm lens and added a 4×5 film back.  He also calibrated the internal rangefinder to the new 150mm lens and gave it an adult blue suite!  It is a dream camera come true! 


My Custom Olympus 35 RC Film Camera, one of dozens of film systems I shoot.

My Custom Antique Olympus 35 RC Film Camera, one of dozens of film systems I shoot.

Polaroid 900 converted to 4x5 with a Fujicon 150mm lens.

Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a Fujicon 150mm lens converted by Steven Icanberry

I shoot 35mm, 120mm and 4×5 film systems.  Usually, I will expose about a dozen rolls a week in 120, Develop, Dry and Scan then treat them as I would a digital image except for the fact that I will never be starting with a color image!

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

Rollei IR400 Film – M7 28mm Elmarit – Rodinal 1-50 processing, scanned and printed

I mainly  shoot with my Sony A7rii camera and a selection of 4 lenses in my normal day to day work.   I shoot in COLOR but always process both color and B&W in post processing.   I can just hear you say “why not just shoot in B&W in camera?”   Well the easy answer is while you can do so, you will get much better B&W images by shooting in color then post processing to get the best possible color image, THEN convert to B&W.  I use The NIK filter Silver EFX Pro for my B&W conversions, and by feeding it a finished color image it will have enough data to generate a wonderful B&W image!

Here is an example of just what I mean:

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.  Daddy’s Girls, Bluffton, SC

First an image of Daddys Girls, a shrimp boat out of Bluffton, SC.   The image is a great one, full of colors and textures with an interesting sky!  I feel that in color this makes a wonderful image and think that there is a market out there for it.  I spent the time with the image during post processing to bring out the colors, textures and contrasts to make the image pleasing.

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens. Daddy’s Girls, Bluffton, SC

Then, and ONLY THEN I ran the image through Nik’s Silver EFX Pro B&W converter.   I Chose a deeply sepia tinted output with a slightly scratched texture and a minor border.  This to me is a pure image with which you can witness and feel the soul of the scene!

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.  Stormy Seas, Head On with the clouds of tropical storm Colin.

Another example from the Sony that I took and post processed today is this image of the shrimper Stormy Seas, likely the MOST PHOTOGRAPHED shrimp boat in South Carolina, IN COLOR.  

Again, I shot in COLOR in order to have as much data as possible for the B&W conversion. Again I found myself in a sepia mood and processed it as the examples above!  As you can see, it has a totally different look, feel and emotional impact from its color version above!

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens.

Sony A7rii w/ Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens. Stormy Seas, Head On with the clouds of tropical storm Colin.

B&W images can be really powerful in their emotional impact.   There was a time when B&W was all you could have, then color became popular because of the fact that it was different!  But guess what?  B&W is again VERY POPULAR to the point of actually out selling color in fine art shows and to collectors!  This should give you pause if you are concentrating in color only.  You are missing have of the scene, the most important half!

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrome

Roanoke River Lighthouse, Leica M Monochrome Camera system, B&W only!


Learning to work the scene!

Have a plan to work different compositions with in your scene!

Stormy Seas Side Shot

Stormy Seas Side Shot  Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

You know how it is when you walk up to a scene and notice it for the very first time?  Usually we are amazed at what we have discovered!  We setup take the image and walk away congratulating   ourselves as to the amazing luck at finding such a perfect subject!

But wait!  You have all heard that you should work a scene, right?  Just look at all of the cool parts that make up the whole.  I am also sure that you have heard the phrase, “WORK THE SCENE”!  Well that actually means what it says.  Start wide and work in and around getting closer and more details!   When you are as close as you can stand, then work your way back out again!

This is powerful advice…

This is also the secret of all those world class images you see posted or published around the world.  Do you actually think that the professional photographer working and Nat Geo only took the one image?  Really???  They are just like the rest of us, a 30% keep rate and a 90% garbage rate!

So, knowing that it only make sense to take the time to work the scene.  Looking at the top image you see that I could the shrimp boat Stormy Seas with a long liner Charlotte Marie under the strong clouds of tropical storm Bonnie.  The scene is full of mood, color and contrasts.  I was specifically looking to work the shrimper so I did not pay any attention the the long liner.   Here they are a dime a dozen but there are likely a lot of detail shots there also…

Stormy Seas

Stormy Seas, from the bow, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

So as you can see, I have now walked around to the dock the shrimper is on and take a bow shot composing to keep the other boats, docks and other muck out of the image.  I still set it up to get the great storm clouds.  A much better shot than the first, no?

Stormy Seas

Stormy Seas, closer but  from the bow, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

Next I move further in, closer to the bow, looking at the painted boat name and the great structure and contrasts hidden the the hull of the boat.  As I stand here I think to myself that having the anchor cut off is a bit distracting but then decide that it adds a hint, or suggesting more out of scene that adds a bit is mystery to the image.  Again, in post, I have added a bit of mood to the clouds also!

Stormy Seas Side Detail

Stormy Seas Side Detail, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

Now I am walking down the boats side, paying attention to the colors and patterns around the wheel house.  There is a lot here and the images continue to improve. Having the walkway moving up and away from me give a sense of infinity and curiosity as to what is at the bow above!

Stormy Seas Life Ring

Stormy Seas Life Ring, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

Moving further back towards the boat’s stern (back for you folks who live in Idaho!) I come upon the life ring with assorted fishing accessories hanging from it.  This scene is the most promising so far.  Look at the textures in the wall of the wheel house, the deep rich red tones and the crisp writing of the boats name!  It gives me shivers overtime I look at it!

Stormy Seas Line

Stormy Seas Line, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

But wait!  Just below the life ring hanging on the gunnels of the boat is a coil of heavily textured rope.  The rusty bold and chipped and rotting rail add so much texture, mood and stories that I am drawn to create an image just of this one detail!

This is exactly what will happen if you take the time to explore your scene totally working inwards getting more and more details as you go!  If the scene is worthy of taking, it demands that you explore it in great depth and detail.  Give it the time to do a good job and document all of it’s glory!

Stormy Seas, side detail, B&W

Stormy Seas, side detail, B&W, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

Do not forget to work in B&W as well, each and every image you take might have magic wonder hidden within its detail if you look at in in monochrome!  Look closely at the image above.  The hull has MUCH MORE DETAIL in its structure than the one in color did yet they are the same exposure!  The clouds have more depth.   Monochrome images discard the distractions caused by color… But that is the subject for another post….

Remember, this has NOTHING to do with the type of scene you shoot, nature, landscape or shrimpers, it is all the same!

What do you think?





Out And About With Film….

Wandering the shrimp fleets of Georgetown with my Voigtlander Bessa III 120 film camera….

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw 120mm camera system

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw 120mm camera system

Yep, early this morning I grabbed the bag with my wide angle 120mm camera system and headed out to Georgetown where I was going to spend a bit of time with the shrimp fleets and some film….  I chose the Voigtlander Bessa IIIw system.  It has a 55mm lens on it which at 6x6mm equates to around 35mm and at 6x7mm to 30mm.  This is pretty wide and allowed me to capture several very wide angle shots of various shrimp boats around the water front.

One of the other things that I do when shooting film is to keep a accurate written record of the exposure data for each and every frame.  This assists in keeping my process the same once I get the proper exposure, contrast and desired grain for each of the film types I use.

I enjoy this camera system very much.  It has a lot going for it specifically its 6x7mm negative size which makes for some pretty big scanned files when all is said and done.  I also like the fact that it is a rangefinder which pretty much defines my youth and what I had learned to use when very young!  It is not too heavy, has a leaf shutter which is totally silent and goes up the 1/500 second for exposures. This could be a little faster but I can work with it.  A 120 roll of B&W film gives me 10 exposures at 6×7 which is the format I like the most. 

Rodinal One Shot

Rodinal One Shot

I normally use stand film processing with Rodinal at 1:100 ratio with water, a water bath then the 1 hour processing and normal fixing and a wash, but for these rolls I am going to use Ilford Perceptol ultra fine grain developer in hope of a sharper  image with greater contrast.  So, we will see next week how this new combination works for my finished film!

Stand processing is not dependent upon chemistry temperature, ISO or even Film type!  You put the film in its can, give it a 5 min water wash, then pour the developer in, gently agitating for 1 min then letting it sit for another 60 min!, Water Stop, since and done!     But there are trade offs with Stand processing, namely Bromide Drag which is shown as the slightly darker vertical streaks in the image below.  These come from the developer chemistry being exhausted.

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw with Rollei IR400 120

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw with Rollei IR400 120

Jordan and his film camera

Jordan and his film camera

So with the Perceptual chemistry (6 min develop time) I will not see Bromide Drag and it is supposed to give sharper smaller grain and higher contrast.   So instead of a 1 hour develop time we are looking at 6 min now, sharper negatives with higher contrast!  We will see….

I will hold of processing these images till the first weekend in May so that my 7 year old grand son come come with me to the studio and process his own 35mm film at the same time!  Yes, I am teaching him how to photograph and process film! You gotta start them young so that they catch the film bug!

Cooking the film!

Cooking the film!

Come on back in a few weeks to see the results of todays outing!



Amazing New AR Coated IR Filters from

Kolari Vision introduces a NEW Anti Reflective IR coating for their conversion filters!

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion - Under Foley Pier

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion – Under Foley Pier

I LOVE shooting IR and have a long history with it in both Film and Digital.   I have had over 25 conversions from ALL of the big conversion companies around the country!   But, once in a while I would get a camera that no mater how hard I tried, I will get a hot spot with it or the lenses I used.   You learn how to deal with this by selective use of the aperture but once in a while you would just not be able to get around the problem and loose the shot….  

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion - Shrimp Boat

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion – Shrimp Boat

Well about 3 weeks ago Ilija from Kolari ( ) sent me a note telling me about a new coating process for his conversion filters.   I have a long history with Kolari, LDP and Lifepixel but I have never heard of this till now.  Ilija offered to do a free conversion with this newl IR AR coating for me in return for evaluating it in the real shooting world! So I told him that I would send the X100s off as a test camera and that I needed it back fast in order to allow others to play with the camera also!   Off it went on Tuesday.  Imagine my surprise when I got it back in hand the following Wednesday!

Here is what Kolari says about this new AR IR coating:

  • Uncoated glass has a reflection of around 4-5% at all wavelengths, and we found that this reflection off the sensor filter was bouncing off the glass and reflecting back from the lens housing and aperture blades to cause the hotspots.  We developed this anti-reflective coating that is centered around the IR wavelengths that cause hotspots, and reduced the 5% reflection down to <0.5% (see the attached graph for reflection % by wavelength scan, and the picture of the IR filters for the visual difference of IR reflection).

  • The coating does not reduce visible light reflections as much, and does not reduce blue reflections at all. This gives the glass we use a blue shine, since that is the only range that is fully reflected still (see picture of black filters). 
AR coating test on Visible Light

AR coating test on Visible Light

AR coating tests on BLUE light

AR coating tests on BLUE light

  • I am getting ready with a new website which I hope to launch in 1-2 weeks, so I have not put the coated version of the conversions online yet, but they will be offered on our Full spectrum, two spectrum, 590, 665, 720, 850, and Blue IR/NDVI conversions. There will be a $50 optional upgrade on all of our conversions at this point.


  • I plan on offering only the coated version eventually, but the batch runs are expensive and I cannot coat our full inventory at once. I’m not sure if you are aware, but we stock custom made custom thickness filters for all our camera/filter combinations so that each conversion gets a piece of glass that maintains the original optical distance (refractive index x physical thickness) as closely as possible, which changes for each filter material. Other companies use a few general size pieces of glass, glue them directly to each sensor, and calibrate the focus for an arbitrary lens, which reduces what they have in inventory. Our design choice means that we have around 200 unique pieces of glass in inventory for DSLR and mirrorless cameras, and another 200 for point and shoot models, so you can imagine the challenge in getting them all coated. – Ilija

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion - Thru The Door

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion – Thru The Door

So as you can see they are up and almost ready to start filling orders for these new filters.   

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion - McClellanville Fleet

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion – McClellanville Fleet

I have to tell you that with my test conversion on the Fuji X100s to AR 850nm that ALL of my hot spot issues simply went away.  This camera has always had a tendency for IR hot spots.   I have converted, tried and sold so many IR systems in the past that I have lost count.  I could not, would not sell this one as it is one of my most prized IR systems.  To say that I am pleased with the results of the Kolari IR AR Coating is the understatement of the year!

Remember, if you decide to order from Kolari, give them my name for a $15 discount!


Advanced Work With The Sony A7rii

Using the Sony A7rii for advanced photographic work….


Long Exposure In Charleston, SC

Long Exposure In Charleston, SC, 30 seconds with a 6 stop B+W ND

I was in Charleston, SC last weekend with the a7rii camera system to see how far I could push it!   I find the Sony system to be refreshingly powerful and very capable of any style of photography I desire to shoot.   The Image above of the boat house (Sunrise) was just another example of the power of this system.  I was looking for some long exposure and the water of Charleston Harbor was very smooth to start, with only 6 to 12 inch waves.  The sunrise was blocked by a tremendous super cell thunderstorm system so I just concentrated on the boathouse and smoothing out the water.   I was using the Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS lens at 150mm with a 6 stop B+W ND filter attached which was giving a 30 second exposure.  I was sure that 30 seconds would give me a very smooth water (which it did).  I also desired to capture detail in the stormy clouds but keep the white water.  I metered the waters surface and placed it in Zone 7.5 (what!  You do not know the zone system?  Shame…. We will have to fix this!).  This at ISO 50 and f/16 gave me a 30 second exposure and allowed the 14 stop dynamic range of the camera to capture both the withe of the water as well as cloud details!

Granted, the Sony has a LARGE menu system but the provide you so many programmable custom buttons AND several system setup memories that you can with the turn of a control knob chance the camera functions over to the specific style of shooting you desire!  In my case, I have the M2 memory setup for long exposures, and by simply turning the command dial to M2 the camera is ready for long exposures!

Miss Lulu, Georgetown, SC

Miss Lulu, Georgetown, SC

Here is another example of the amazing capture ability of the Sony.  This is the shrimper Miss Lulu on the dock in Georgetown, SC last Monday morning.   The water of the bay was at slack tide, super high and mirror smooth.   I decided that for this image I wanted B&W but still captured it in color since a color starting image gives the best B&W conversion.   I was using the Sony/Zeiss FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS lens at ISO 100 at f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/320 second.  I waited till a Pelican flew into the scene from behind the boat for the capture.  The clouds were slight but still stunning but the boat and its reflection really made the image.   

As I said, During my pre-visualitlation of this image I decides upon monochrom with a flying bird.  I setup the boa further into the image space to allow for a bird to fly into the scene and balancing the overall image with the boat centered with the trees on the right.   This is not a simple snap  shot, a lot of thought went into its setup!

Shrimp Boats are one of my favorite subjects and each and every time I happen by them they always present something new and different!

A Little Time Off With The New Sony A7rii Camera System

A personal trip to the West Coast to chase Hummingbirds, Rough Shorelines, Fishing Boats, Light Houses & Elephant Seals!

Light at Santa Cruz at Sunrise. Sony A7rii

Light at Santa Cruz at Sunrise. Sony A7rii 15 second exposure

Yes, it has been a busy year with the start of our workshop schedule!  Add into that a knee operation, taxes and other such negative aspects to life we decided that it was time to take a break!   So, for 2 perfect weeks we ventured out to the San Fransisco area to explore the rough West Coast!

Looking North along Rt. 1. Sony A7rii

Looking North along Rt. 1. Sony A7rii

I know that it has been a long time since I did a post here but the workshop and teaching schedule has been brutal.  It seems as quick as one year ends that another begins and we are busy again!  The good news is that the photo schools are moving along and this years workshops are moving forward.  I have had NOT had any time to work in the darkroom this year yet but hope to fix that soon as well.    Plus the knee repair is finished and I am starting to feel a little better after that!

Sea Lion on a Float. Sony A7rii

Sea Lion on a Float in Monterey. Sony A7rii

So, we decided to take a break from it all and flee to the West Coast to get lost in the rough shore, wildlife and the continued search for old fishing boats!  It was a wonderful trip and I am sorry to say that it is all over and done with but with great photographic results!

Sea Lions at rest... Sony A7rii in Monterey

Sea Lions at rest… Sony A7rii in Monterey, 70-200mm G f/4

This trip was centered on the new Sony A7rii 42 mpex camera body.  As you know I am a dedicated mirrorless shooter and in my quest for the perfect camera I have settled on this system.  It has amazing functionality, SUPER wide dynamic range (14) and a review from DXO as the best and most advanced image sensor ever tested!  I also added the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4, the Sony 70-200 G f/4 and the Tamron 150-600 A lens with the Sony adapter which allows full lens control and auto focus.  I also have adapter for all of my Leica and Contax glass as well but for this trip it is the 3 lenses listed above!

 Rt. 1. Sony A7rii

Rt. 1. Sony A7rii, 87 sec exposure, 70-200mm G f/4

We based our home plate in San Jose and then traveled around for the 2 weeks.   Spend most of our time in Santa Cruz because the hummingbirds were there in vast numbers building nests and laying eggs, but more on that later.   We also went north to Point Reyes specifically to photograph the wrecked fishing boat Point Reyes.  But while there spent time with the lighthouse and Elephant Seals!

Lone Cyprus, 17 mile drive, Peeble Beach. Sony a7rii

Lone Cyprus, 17 mile drive, Peeble Beach. Sony a7rii, 70-200mm G f/4

We also went south to Monterey for whale watching and a trip along the 17 mile drive!  The image above is from the Lone Cyprus along the drive.  The drive costs $10 per car but is very much worth the cost.  It is full of wildlife such as birds, deer and seals.  The rugged coast has to be seen to be believed!

The Point Reyes, High and Dry. Sony A7rii system.

The Point Reyes, High and Dry. Sony A7rii system. 24-70 Sony/Zeiss f/4

So then this image I am sharing above is the Point Reyes, a boat washed ashore a while ago.  This boat was suggested to me by my friend Jennifer Hunter who lives in Santa Cruz and was one of my main location visit requirements.  This is in a National Sea Shore North of San Fransisco and was about a 3 hour drive from San Jose.   

The Wave.... Sony A7rii. This wave was over 80 feet high.

The Wave…. Sony A7rii. This wave was over 80 feet high.

The WEEK we arrived this boat was burned on its stern by a STUPIDLY UNCARING PHOTOGRAPHER who put his own agenda above the preservation of the scene.  He was doing spark photography with flaming steel wool and destroyed the back.   I hope that the Federal Government (National Park) throws the book at him for this.   I feel very lucky to have walked away with this wonderful shot of this local landmark…

Point Reyes Light. Sony A7rii

Point Reyes Light. Sony A7rii, 70-200 G f/4

Also visited was the Point Reyes Lighthouse!   What a wonderful subject and location.  It is high on a cliff over looking the Pacific Ocean.  It is full of color, depth and wonder!   

Elephant Seals, Sony A7rii with 150-600mm Tamron A mount.

Elephant Seals, Sony A7rii with 150-600mm Tamron A mount.

So as you can see, I have LOTS of time to relax and shoot with the new Sony system.  To say that it is an amazing system is an understatement of Biblical proportion! All of the lenses are flawless and gave great results!   

Bright Allen's Hummingbird

Bright Allen’s Hummingbird

But Wait!  I have not shared my several trips to the Arboretum at the University of Santa Cruz!  There were hundreds of Allen’s and Anna’s humming birds there deep into the fury of mating season!  They were amazing subjects and since I did NOT bring along my hummingbird flash setup I was forced to shoot the “bird on a stick” portraits.  Still, the results were stunning.  ALL of these shots were taken on the Tamron 150-600mm A mount lens with the Sony A to E adapter.  Yes, it did and would auto focus, but with the birds against the green vegetation it had a difficult time picking them out to focus on.  

Allen's Hummingbird

Allen’s Hummingbird

So I shifted to manual focus (yes I said manual…) with white focus peaking.   To say that I was stunned at the ease of focusing with this at high speed still leaves me breathless with wonder!  

Super Bokeh: Allen's Hummingbird

Super Bokeh: Allen’s Hummingbird

The Sony manual focus with peaking is simply the BEST manual focus system that I have EVER used!  It was fast and DEAD ON…

Allen's Hummingbird

Allen’s Hummingbird

I will let the results speak for them selves…


I hope that you enjoyed this update and info on the new Sony system.  Please let me know what you think!



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How to Adjust White Balance In Lightroom

Another good post from my friend, colleague and student, Rhonda Griscti. Her post this time is on understanding White Balance. A good read to be sure!

My Leica Travels

Why should you care about White Balance? Because a proper white balance is how we get the colors in our images to be as accurate as possible. Why would you need to get the color right in your shots?  You might have noticed when examining shots after taking them that at times images can come out with an orange, blue, yellow etc look to them – despite the fact that when you were taking them the scene looked quite normal. The reason for this is that images different sources of light have a different ‘color’ (or temperature) to them. Fluorescent lighting adds a bluish cast to photos whereas tungsten (incandescent/bulbs) lights add a yellowish tinge to photos.

We don’t generally notice this difference in temperature because our eyes adjust automatically for it. So unless the temperature of the light is very extreme a white sheet of paper will generally look…

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Intimate Landscapes

A insightful look into the study of Wabi/Sabi by one of my photographer friends and student! Rhonda is someone that you should also follow as her work will keep you enthralled!

My Leica Travels

Sometimes its the little things that make the difference. As a landscape photographer I am always on the search for the BIG image the WOW image the right light in the right location to make a big impact. But sometimes we need to take a moment to look for the small stories within the BIG image. Those intimate landscapes can create a more personal connection with the location. They have their own stories to tell and are just waiting for the photographer to see them.

I love new locations and rarely turn down an opportunity to shoot something new. But every new location can be both exciting and overwhelming. There s so much to see and what to photograph first? I want to jump in and shoot it all! In that moment I don’t see the details I see the BIG scene and to move from overwhelmed to creating images I…

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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!