720nm Medium Format Film Photography with Rollei IR400 Film
Infrared FILM photography has always been on the difficult side, but not because of lack for film because there are several films on the market. Rather it is due to the poor quality of the available 720nm filters on the market.
Recently Kolari Vision www.kolarivision.com has come out with a new series of infrared filters with their AR (anti reflection) that stop or greatly reduce hot spots in the center of your film or digital sensor. These hot spots are due to the various coatings, paint and other reflective coatings on the glass elements and coatings on inside of your lenses causing the light to bounce back and forth several times then hit the film dead center causing the hot spot.
The main filter on the market has been the Hoya R72 filter which works but gives a low contrast washed out image. Along come the new Kolari filter and now I am getting more contrast and even images with greatly reduced hot spots. AMAZING!
So lets take a look at the image above. This is the Tomotley Plantation about 20 min west of Beaufort, SC and was taken with the Rollei IR400 film rated at 720nm. Without a IR filter the ISO is 400 and the emulsion generates a very good likeness of Kodak TriX 400 film. If you add the 720nm filter the ISO drops down to 12 or 6 but you get the amazing whites on the grass and leaves. You even get the Wood Effect where the green items BLOOM out with an etherial soft white energy on the image!
Few things beat a beautiful sunrise photographed in color when you want to create a dramatic image. The same scene photographed in infrared may be disappointing unless there’s some IR reflective subject matter (we’re talking about deciduous trees here) to add interest. That’s because of the “Wood Effect,” which is the bright, white reproduction of the chlorophyll layer of deciduous plants. The effect is named after infrared photography pioneer Robert W. Wood (1868-1955) and not after the material wood which does not strongly reflect infrared.
Normally the Wood Effect is difficult to achieve at 720nm and is better seen at 800nm and and above. I have been very happy with this new filter from Kolari in combination with the Rollei IR400 film because I am constantly getting the effect plus deep contrasty images. It simply works as expected which is way more than I can say for others on the market!
- Fuji GF 670 Medium Format (120) folding Rangefinder with a Voigtlander 85mm Color Scopar lens.
- Kolari 720nm AR filter
- ISO at 12 and 6, both are close to perfect because they are only 1 stop apart.
- Aperture: f/32
- Tripod mounted
- Ilford Perceptol Stock mixture 1:0, 20c, 14 min with 5 seconds of agitation every min.
- Water Rinse
- Stop Bath
- Ilford Quick Fix for 5 min with 5 seconds of agitation every min.
- Water Rinse
- Clearing Wash
- Water rinse for 10 min
- Distilled Water rinse with 3 drops of wetting solution
- Dried overnight in filtered Mistral Drying Cabinet.
- Wet mount scanned on a Epson 850 pro at 6400dpi.
If you are considering working in 720nm whether in film or digital I highly recommend this new filter from Kolari!
It seems that I am addicted to film…
I still shoot with digital (A7RII) and love the look and capability of it, but FILM is what I go to every time I go out shooting… It is Terrible and exciting at the same time! It is so bad that I am looking for another freezer to store my excess film stock!
This is (again) Stormy Seas in Georgetown, SC (perhaps the most photographed boat in the Low Country). I have hundreds of images of it but I am pulled to photograph her in B&W film each and every time I am in Georgetown. There is something about her lines and textures that inspire me to document her life, and I have for years. Yes I will visit ANY shrimp boat (or grist mill for that matter) and each and every time I visit I see something different and unique… Yep addicted!
The image was taken about 5 days ago on a 6×9 Fuji GW 690 II using medium format Fuji Acros 100 film and a red filter, developed in Perceptol 1:1 and Wet Mount scanned on a Epson 850 pro. The 6×9 format will give me 8 images per roll and I will usually scan 2 or 3 per roll, but I am very critical and selective because the wet scan process takes about 3/4 hour per scan!
The top image is near Stormy Seas in Georgetown, about 2 blocks away at another commercial dock and seafood house. I have shot this a hundred times on both digital and film, but never have I captured such a pleasing image as this. It is to me a more enriching image full of mood, contrasts and tells a story. I pleases me to no end the tell the story on an old FILM camera of an old boat and failing lifestyle just as the shrimp boat is in the background and the Egret in the foreground telling a different yet the same story!
There is also the consideration that is tied to the process of working in film. It is slower and much more deliberate, a truer work of love in that you control every single step of the process…
- Film choice (Kodak Tmax 100, Tmax 400, Fuji Acros 100 or Rollei IR400)
- Camera and lens choice (Medium or Large Format)
- Considering the composition and lines.
- Getting the exposure dead on (how many of you do that in digital?)
- Adjusting for contrast and detail in shadows or highlights.
- Film development and processing for highlights or shadows (another complete immersion of self discovery)
- Drying (yep at lest 24 hours in a dust free drying cabinet)
- Choosing the best image for exposure, sharpness, composition, contrasts, lines, dust & hair and so on..)
- Wet scanning (at least a 1/2 to 3/4 hour project per shot)
- Cleaning up on the computer by removing dust and hair and adding a bit of contrast)
All in all, the top image took about a week to complete from end to end! I simply love the process, being immersed in it and becoming one in the creative process. Yes it is slow but when I am done it is a total representation of MY PERSONAL VISION!
Film is making a HUGE come back in the world of photography! So much so that you will be shocked when you visit Ebay and look at the prices of old film cameras and systems! All of the major film makers in the world are increasing their production of films and even Kodak is bringing back discontinued film products! New film companies like New55, Impossible Project, and FILM FERRANIA have opened up and are making emulsions!
Developing has never been easier, there are many mail order labs out there but you can process your own film in your kitchen with very little effort and investment! You will need:
- Dark Tent or changing bag to move your film to a daylight tank.
- Daylight tank (I reccomend a Stainless Steel tank with steel developing reels by Hewes)
- Distilled Water
- Developer ( I recommend Perceptol by Ilford)
- Stop Bath
- Water Rinse
- Distilled water rinse with wetting agent
- Clips to dry your film in your bathroom shower
- A flat bed scanner like Epson 500, 600, 700, 800 or 850)
Total you are looking at about $120 for everything accept the scanner! There are great videos on Youtube that will take you thru every step in the process!
The image above of the Tybee Island Lighthouse was taken last month on Kodak Tmax 100 rated at 50 ISO on the 6×9 format medium format Fuji System. It was hot and the area full of tourists, even up on the top of the lighthouse itself! Still the act of creating this image was both fun and fulfilling and I walked away with exactly what I envisioned as I stood there looking at the scene!
I especially love shooting with Medium Format cameras. They are easier to travel with and the negatives are large enough to give amazing prints. I do have 3 4×5 large format cameras also that are great fun to you but as you can imagine, they are difficult to travel with. Once in a great while I will shoot with a 35mm camera, usually smaller rangefinder that were sold in the 60’s and 70’s!
- Fuji GF 670 (this is my travel camera in 6×7 format with a 85mm lens that folds up into a thin light camera)
- Fuji GW 690II (this is a 6×9 format camera with a 90mm lens and a bit larger and better built than the GF camera)
- Fuji GW 690 III (a newer version of the 690II)
- Shen Hao 4×5 Cherry Field Camera with 5 lenses and film adapters for also using 120 film.
- Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a 150mm Fujinon lens. Think of 4×5 travel camera!
- Polaroid 110B converted to 4×5 with a 90mm Schneider Angulon lens, again travel!
So, while film does indeed require much more effort over digital, the results simply cannot be compared. These medium format negatives have a native resolution to create a 71×53 inch print without upsizing it at all! The amount of detail is simply stunning and more importantly (at least t me) is the fact that the process become a Zen like activity in creation!
I hope that you enjoyed this post but more importantly to me at least that you considered my words on the creative process and taking complete control of it!
This is the Pelican Dock on Pawleys Island, SC. It is a 4″ x 5″ FILM image taken on Polaroid Type 55 film from one of my film workshops.
I did this with a Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 format camera and the film was expired (16 years) Type 55 instant 4×5 film that also creates a fragile negative which was scanned Wet Mount on an Epson 850 . This single image costs about $35 to create and process!
But look closely at the image, notice the calm peace of the scene, the amazing clarity and sharpness that is a gift when working with large format film, but more importantly, the edge process markings created when working with this amazing film!
But of greater importance than how I created this image is the why…
We all see amazing scenes as we travel through life, but how many of us actually take the time to really experience and feel on an emotional level what we are actually experiencing as we create our art? I watch so many great photographers skitter from scene to scene like a bee to pollen that it leaves me feeling sad.
Let me ask you, “How can you create art that will appeal to your viewers on an emotional level if you yourself refuse to slow down long enough to feel the emotional impact yourself as you create it?
The key here is to stand before the scene and take it all I. Get a feel for what you desire to share with your viewers before you even pick up your camera! SLOW DOWN, take your time, investigate it from many angles and exposures. Yes this is a single image, in fact the only one I took due to the cost, but I spent a half hour studying the scene, moving around looking for the best impact and knowing that I would get the edge markings and using them to increase overall impact!
This is a hard lesson to learn and harder still to practice. This is one of the the lessons forced upon us who still shoot film as I do. After all, Film = $. We have to slow down and make every shot count so the next logical step is to connect on an emotional level with your subject and thus create art that is charged with mood that will draw your viewer in.
Just because I use FILM as an example here for you do not think that it does not apply to digital! Yes, once you pay back the investment of your digital equipment with image sales (you do sell your work don’t you?) the cost per image is basically paid only in terms of your time. But time also has a value and if by slowing down and imparting emotional impact in your image then you will be on the true path of photographic nirvana!
Take your time, explore your scene, feel it’s emotional impact, SLOW Down!
Do not copy the Bee, rather strive to be a master of photography…
The AMAZING just got better….Look closely at the image above. It was taken with a Voigtlander M mount 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar lens and the Techart M to FE AUTOFOCUS adapter on a Sony A7rii camera. The cleat on the bottom right is about 6 inches from the front of the lens! The color rendering is amazing and there is very little distortion that is normally found with an ultra wide lens! I can hear you asking how I accomplished this!
I recently picked up the Techart M to FE Sony mount adapter for my Leica and Voigtlander lenses. It has been my desire to use them on the Sony A7rii, A6300 and A6500 cameras.
The Techart auto focus adapter is amazing. I actually moves the lens in and out to get a sharp focus. It has several rules that you must follow to use it and as long as you do it will provide great service. It is quite fast!
- Use a center focus point on the camera
- Set your camera aperture to f/2 and leave. It there
- Set the real aperture directly on the lens.
- Don’t try to focus with the lens set to f/22, keep it around f/8 or f/11
- The Exif data will shot f/2 but the exposure meter will correctly meter the subject.
- Don’t try to use a heavy lens on the adapter unless you support it.
Here is a link to a short video demonstration of the Techart M to FE adapter on my Sony A7rii:
B&W work with this lens as well as my other Voigtlander and Leica M mount lenses are just as sharp weather in color or monochrome!I also have and use a Metabones M to FE adapter which gives the same results but with manual focus only. Sometimes manual focus is necessary depending upon your subject but reguardless of focus type both adapters and all of my M lenses work wonderfully on the A7rii camera system! If you have a selection of M lenses then the cost of a M to FE adapter is well worth the money. But I am VERY impressed with the new autofocus adapter!
Please let me know what you think!
Sometimes we just have to stand there taking it all in!Ahh, have you ever had one of those defining moments in life where you KNOW that you are witnessing something truly special that touches your soul? Well that is exactly what this was for me. We had been on the road for almost 11 days on a trip from Rapid City thru Wyoming and Utah. Our last stop of the trip was supposed to be in Zion National Park but we had to cancel due to terrible rain and flooding in the park. We extended our time in Arches which was really nice but it was not until I stood here in Bryce National Park at the Sunset point looking down into the canyon that I realized that I had made a mistake… I should have added onto the time there. We only had ONE day to explore Bryce and it was very nice there with many great vistas and rock formations, but this image at the Sunset Point was the defining moment for the entire trip for me. Understand, that I am NOT talking about either of the photographs captured and shown above, but rather the moment for me personally standing there taking it all in, becoming one with the scene, no camera, no thoughts of photography only the experience and impact of witnessing the greatness of the scene. I stood there for a good half hour drinking it all in and I will remember the emotional impact upon me for the rest of my life. Yes… it was that powerful.
There is some serious food for thought in this last statement. In these days of rapid fire digital photography don’t you think that we can quickly loose sight of what it is that we are trying to create in our art? Shooting in film slows you down which aids in the creative process. This is not to say that we cannot do this with our digital systems because we can and I do, but rather most of us who practice this art tend to “hurry, capture and move on to the next thing!”It was almost as if it was an afterthought that I actually took my Sony A7rii with me up the trail to the overlook and took a few images which were actually quite nice in color, but after the sensory overload of the scene I could only think of one thing, B&W and FILM. Yes, I could convert the color image above to B&W in post processing and do quite a good job of it but NOTHING can compare to what I can create with film! So, it was a bit of a walk back down to the car where my wife and 7 year old grandson were resting because of the long drive to get here, but down I went with only one task, to trade the digital for a TINY B&W film camera, the Olympus XA. The XA is the worlds smallest 35mm rangefinder camera. It has an amazingly sharp lens with easy focus, but the key is the fact that it is pants pocket (not those bulky cargo pockets but regular ones), it is light and handy.
I took so much camera equipment on this trip that the only space I had for a film system required that it be tiny. Against all of my experience I threw in this tiny camera along with just 5 rolls of Kodak Tmax 100 film and off we flew. I am so glad that I did now but having said this it is only fair to share that this was a colossal mistake. I should have made room for a medium format (120 6×7) camera and taken out a lens or two for the Sony. I have learned my lesson and will never repeat this mistake. Don’t get me wrong, the XA captured an amazingly detailed and sharp image. I love how it turned out. The Kodak Tmax 100 film along with the Perceptol developer generated a image (yes small) with tiny grain and great sharpness. Am I happy with the result? You bet! Would I have been happier with a larger 120 negative, OMG YES!! Can I have a do over please? Yes, I know, not to much of there ever being a chance for that.
So lets sum this up a bit shall we?
- SLOW DOWN, take the time to really look at your subject! If you do this your chances of creating a world class image will greatly improve.
- Look closely at what is in front of you, take the time to feel its emotional impact upon you and only then bring out the camera and with your skill and insight to the scene make the camera (nothing more than a tool) capture what you saw!
- Think in both color and B&W. Remember though that B&W removes the clutter and confusion of normal color work. In my opinion, B&W allows you to capture the soul of the scene! So yes, take color but also take B&W, you might be surprised at how well you can do.
- If you are working in digital only, during post processing work color first completely, save the image THEN process for B&W generating all of the mood that you possibly can!
Ok, this post is done. Get out there, shoot and create, but slow down and think about what and WHY you are doing it!
The joys of returning to our photographic roots…
Have any of you considered film photography?
There is something about working with film that is very calming which can center one’s soul allowing you to really connect with your art. For me it was like going home to Mama. The feeling of working with your hands as part of creating your art will make it more involved and enable you to to really influence the hidden nuances in your work. It will add a bit more complexity to your workflow but trust me it is worth the effort. The single largest change is forcing you to slow down in your creative process, it forces you to really consider every part of your workflow. It really is not any more difficult than digital photography, but it is a bit more involved.
Take a really close look at the details in this image, click on it and look at it in the full screen mode. Look at the GEARING on the edge of the wheel. The detail there will take your breath away!
I have way too many film cameras to list them all, some really small like the Olympus XA which is the worlds smallest 35mm rangefinder and a joy to use.
I also have an Olympus RC 35 camera that is another fixed lens rangefinder. It is simple and fun to use and can be found for very little money. I have mine rebuild and given a bright blue suite that suites it quite well!
My last 35mm camera system is a Leica M7 system. It has interchangeable lenses and is one of the best built camera systems that I have. Couple it with the world class Leica lenses and you have an unbeatable 35mm system.
Moving up to Medium Format 120 film systems I have three. I have the Voigtlander Bessa IIIw system that is 6×7 format and the Fuji GF670 camera (also sold under the name of Bessa III) with a longer 85mm lens (left & right). The 670 is my medium format travel camera of choice. Not only is it a functional camera with a built in meter but it is attractive and it always will draw a crowd when I get it out to use! Another nice point to the GF670 is that it folds down on itself to a thin easy to store camera in your bag!
And lastly the Mamaya RZ Pro II SLR ( Right) with interchangeable lenses and a world class metering system. This camera is large and heavy but easy to use and a very powerful camera system! I have a f/4 65mm and f/4 180mm lens for it. I also have both the waist level finder and a metering prism with spot and matrix! Like I said, heavy and big, but I use it for ultra long exposures on the coast with the Fuji Acros 100 film which has almost NO RECIPROCITY failure up to 140 seconds then only 1/2 stop after that! The film base is a little on the thin side but still my film of choice for long exposures.
Moving up to 4×5 Large Format cameras, I have three. first I have a Shen Hao cherry field camera. Functional as it is beautiful. I rarely take it out, rather I am using a Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a Fujinon 150mm lens and a Polaroid 110B camera converted to 4×5 with a Schneider Super Angulon 90mm lens. It is a beauty and very wide!
Yes, as you may have noticed, some of these cameras are quite large. This is due to the negative size. Let me give you some idea as to why digital cameras can never come close to the resolution of film.
Lets start with medium format:
- Medium Format 6×7 format makes an image 2 1/4 inches tall and much wider. Scanned at native resolution of 6400 dpi on an Epson 850 Pro scanner gives me a file resolution of 16452 x 19668 dpi or a print size at 300 dpi of 4.5 feet by 5.3 feet! This is huge.
- Large Format of 4″ x 5 ” scanned at 6400 dpi (native) gives a file size of 29107 x 36070 dpi or a print size of 8 feet x 10 feet! There is not a digital camera system in the world that can come more than a small fraction of this!
Film has turned wildly popular again in the past several years and many of the big film manufacturers have started increasing their film production lines again. This is especially true in the medium format lines (120) and 4×5 large format films! Film can be found in single rolls or in bulk almost everywhere again. The big box companies like B&H, Adorama and many others carry almost every type and format that you could ever want!
Processing in B&W has never been easier at home with eco friendly chemistry with no darkroom needed. Only an initial outlay of around $150 will get you started. Cameras can be found anywhere for next to nothing! You will need:
- Dark Bag, a cloth bag that it light proof with arm sleeves that enable you to put your film, developing tank, reel an lid inside with your arms to move the film into a light tight developing tank!
- Developing Tank, I recommend a stainless steel version.
- Film Reels, I like the Hewes stainless steel ones.
- Developer, comes either in a powder or a Liquid. I like Perceptol and/or Rodinal R09.
- Fixer, to remove un-used silver
- Liquid wetting agent to prevent drops to dry on your negative.
- Clips to hang you film up to dry!
You can scan your film into your computer with a good Epson scanner like the 700, 750, 800 or 850. You can also buy an adapter for your camera allowing you to scan by photograph!
While I work in both color and B&W, digital and film I find time after time I pick up a film system and load it up with a good B&W film. The process of developing your film can really help you connect to your work as well.
I like several films, here they are in order of favor:
- Kodak Tmax 100 in 35, 120 and 4×5, very small grain, good dynamic range easy to process
- Fuji Acros 100 in 35, 120 and 4×5, very small grain, good dynamic range NO RECIPROCITY FAILURE, easy to process
- Rollei IR400 in 35, 120 and 4×5, Infrared or normal B&W, good dynamic range, easy to process
- Rollei Retro 80S in 35 and 120, amazing clarity and sharpness, good dynamic range easy to process
- Eastman XX in 35, motion picture film used in B&W movies of the 50’s, smooth gradient transitions.
As an example here is the top image from last week of the fishing fleet taken on 20 year out of date Polaroid Type 55 monochrome instant film. The camera is also a Polaroid 900 that my daughter sent me years ago from a garage sale that I had converted to 4×5 with a Fujinon 150mm lens. A MOST beautiful camera in a bright new blue suite that is just fun to use. It is both rangefinder and ground glass focusing that forces you to slow down and really consider each and every image you capture!
The Type 55 film, even outdated, works flawlessly and generates amazing images where the edge markings add to the artistic impact of your subject
So what do you think? Are you tempted to try this out? It is easy. For starters, you can look at the continuing education departments at a local college or hight school. Most offer B&W film photography with darkroom work. This will teach you enough to allow you to determine if you would like to further investigate this wonderful medium!
You can also contact me and request info on one of my film workshops held in Pawleys Island SC. I would love to have you and share this amazing link to our past!
Please let me know what you think of this post!
Or… What I Did On My Summer Vacation!
Warning, LONG post…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Sony A7rii camera body
- Sony a6300 camera body for Jordan
- Sony 24-240mm one lens does it all for Jordan
- Sony 24-70 Zeiss f/4
- Sony 70-200 G f/4
- Tamron 150-600 for those exotic animals I expected to see
- And yes… A Olympus XA 35mm film camera (but it is the worlds smallest rangefinder) with 6 rolls of Tmax 100
- Filters, ND for long water falls and polarizers for all of the rest in 67mm and 72mm.
- 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:
- Landscapes & Vistas
- Unique rock formations
- Wild colors
- Unique photographic visions
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.
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!
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 ParksThe 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. 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.
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
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.
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!
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:
- 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!
- 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!)
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- Be flexible, very flexible. This will leave you happy in the hotel at night!
- Take your pain drugs! (See #7)
- 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!
- 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)
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
Let me introduce you to Steven Icanberry!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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 http://www.kolarivision.com 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!
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!
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.
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?
Removing The DISTRACTION of COLOR!
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 KolariVision.com 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!
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 WWW.Alpenhause.com 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!
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!
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:
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.
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!
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!
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!
Have a plan to work different compositions with in your scene!
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…
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?
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!
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!
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!
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!
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?
Kolari Vision introduces a NEW Anti Reflective IR coating for their conversion filters!
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….
Well about 3 weeks ago Ilija from Kolari (http://www.kolarivision.com ) 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).
- 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
So as you can see they are up and almost ready to start filling orders for these new filters.
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!
Using the Sony A7rii for advanced photographic work….
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!
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!
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!
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…
View original post 305 more words
Yes, HOW could such a high quality Leica Lens be so problematic….
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…
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…
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…
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
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!
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.
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).
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…
How I make my Image Stack for Digital Negatives…
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:
- 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.
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.
Starting at the bottom and working up, take a look at each layer:
- Background, default layer in every PS file.
- White Background, if you select this the non image area of your negative will print black (green) and leave the emulsion unexposed and white.
- 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.
- 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.
- 256 step tablet. You can select this layer to print a test chart.
- Picture Goes Here. Place your image to be printed above this layer.
- 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!
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Invert, you MUST click on this prior to printing the create your negative image, switching your blacks & whites.
- Red UV blocking color, click to choose, be careful to not select both Red and Green.
- 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…
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!
Now let’s take a look at the negative with the GREEN UV blocking layer…
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!
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!
An Easy & Cost Effective Way To Fix Paper Issues!
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dry and Expose. Here you will find that the addition of the Alumina will DECREASE your exposure about 1.5 stops!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- Fix for 2 min with Sodium Thiosulfate for 2 min. 30g/L. I do not believe that any further time will help the process.
- Final moving fresh water bath for 30 min.
- 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.
- Use a heat press to flatten your prints at 170deg for 20 seconds. The heat press step is to make the paper flat again.
- 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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
The reason for this is simple. It has to do with the processing sequence:
- Expose your coated paper.
- 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.
- Gold toning bath, watching for toning in the mid tones and highlights to indicate finish.
- 2nd water bath with 2000ml of distilled water and 1tsp of Citric Acid.
- Rinse in tap water for 30 min.
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!