The New CLiR Infrared Processing System and Photoshop panel!
I will be presenting at this years NECCC Photographic Conference from July 12 to the 14 at the University of Massachusetts. Please consider attending if you are in the area!
I have posted a short video on what the session will be covering that my dog and I made today (she says to watch it to the very end)!
Note: I have added a video to the bottom. It discusses everything and more that we are talking about in this post but it is quite long!
The top image was taken at the always inspiring Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse across the sound from Nags Head Island in NC. As one of my favorite locations for sunrises over the lighthouse it is also a most worthy location for daytime long exposures! These are usually very easy to create due to the small waves in the sound! This image was done on a Fuji GFX 50R medium format digital with a 32-64mm GF lens, 6 stops of ND (Breakthrough X4 magnetic) and a X4 2 stop soft graduated ND on the sky to balance the difference between the sky and water. The exposure was 20 seconds an hour after sunrise and in the rain.
But by what criteria did I choose the solid ND and the soft edge graduated ND? This is where a little technical knowledge will really help you in creation of amazing long exposures.
Screw on: they simply screw onto the end of your lens
Square: these use a square holder and in the case of the Breakthrough this holder will attach directly to the magnetic holder allowing use of and stacking of both systems at once. The square holder will hold 3 to 5 filters depending upon how you initially set it up. This is good for difficult lighting situations where you might need two different graduated filters at the same time. This style tends to suffer from light leaks around the edges of the square solid ND filters unless you carefully assure that they are installed exactly right and only in the holder slot closest to the lens.
Hard edge graduated: where the dark area of the graduated filter is a sharp line. This is for use on subjects which have a harsh division between the foreground and background . An example would be shooting on the ocean where the horizon is a sharp line between the horizon and the sky. This is where you would choose a hard edge graduated ND. These filters usually come in 1, 2 and 3 stop values where they start light and graduate to the dark.
Soft edge graduated: where the dark edge of the graduated filter starts very soft and light and darkens as it moves up the filter. This is for use in areas that you need to balance the foreground from the background but there is no clearly defined edge in the scene. This is what I used in the image above to darken the sky so there was detail there and still enable the water foreground to be bright and almost a platinum look and feel. These filters usually come in 1, 2 and 3 stop values where they start light and graduate to the dark.
So for the Roanoke Marshes Light above, I chose a Breakthrough magnetic X4 (newest technology) 6 stop solid nd to darken the entire image allowing for the 20 second exposure with the camera set to the lowest native ISO value (100), an aperture of f/16 and a shutter speed of 20 seconds. the initial results of this exposure was pleasing water in the foreground but the sky was also too light with little to no detail. So I left the 6 stop magnetic filter on the lens and clipped on the 100mm square filter adapter onto the end of the magnetic adapter and installed a X4 soft edge 2 stop SOFT graduated ND filter. While watching thru the viewfinder I adjusted the graduated ND up and down making sure that the soft edge came down to the horizon or a little above darkening the sky to allow for more detail there yet allowing the soft white water in the foreground! It was as simple as that! The entire process after the first shot took about 30 seconds to setup on the camera lens then shoot!
So let’s talk about sunrise/sunset images when the sun is close to the horizon. We have all been out at sunrise, do you remember the very bright band of intense color that it right at the horizon as the sun approaches? This is why the reverse grad ND filter was created, to keep the bright colors from destroying the overall exposure! Here is an example image, amazingly at the same spot!
Do you see how bright the light is at the horizon? The ONLY WAY I was able to capture this image was to use the reverse grad ND placing the dark section right on the bright band of light. Because the overall exposure was only 3 seconds no other ND filters were required. Should I have desired a longer exposure to further soften the water’s surface I would have dropped in the 3 or 6 stop X4 magnetic filter into the adapter already on the camera!
Let’s take a short side trip here and discuss the actual filters. By now you all have seen that I am a strong user and promoter of the Breakthrough Photography X4 line of magnetic and graduated filters. There is a reason for that:
So my advice is this. Cameras come and go, it is your glass (lenses and filters) where your quality lays. Invest in the best you can. You will never go wrong with the Breakthrough system! (gee I wish they would pay me…)
Ok, back to images. After sunrise is done and before sunset is anywhere near we can still create AMAZING long exposures! There only 2 problems that we must overcome!
Here is an example of a scene with little difference between the sky and the foreground. The waves were HUGE this day so I used a X4 14 stop magnetic filter so smooth them down (490 seconds) and give the feel I desired. The fog in the sky took care of itself and I walked away with a balanced ethereal image that I just loved creating! Another example of this is shown in the image below. This again was a super foggy day so the need for detail in the fog was unnecessary so the oly ND needed was again the X4 15 stop magnetic filter!
Ok, let’s take a look at a problem image where the sky has detail that you can see but when you only use a solid nd the sky is totally blown out! What you simply need is a X4 Soft Grad filter to balance the sky and water to give you a bit of detail in the sky!
These last two images show a extreme case of no balance between the water and the sky and more nd was needed on the sky to correct the imbalance.
I LOVE working with long exposures…
There is so much peace in the long exposure process. At the scene, behind the camera and the results after processing simply takes my breath away. It does not matter what you decide to shoot with, Color, B&W, IR or Film because It simply does not matter, It all works. The processes of working with LE is that as we slow down the shutter of the camera we too are forced to slow down our mental process and be drawn into the scene! This works for boneyard shots at the beach, moving clouds over a building or simple rocks in the surf, It is an amazing journey in one single shot!
That is the thing about coastal Georgia. there are so many amazing photographic opportunities. Aside from the biggies, You all know how I love working in film and wabi/sabi, but creating long exposures is the one single photographic technique for me that always brings me peace…
This is your chance to learn the process, from artistic vision, choosing the correct filters and camera settings to post processing! Come along and learn all of these and more with Jamie and I. You will not be disappointed.
What exactly is needed in terms of equipment?
There are some equipment requirements for long exposures and as you find your self drawn into the process you will likely expand your catalog of gear, especially filters!
My solid set includes:
My square (75mm and 100mm) set includes:
There are many makers of ND filters, I have always gone with B+W and Lee but the Breakthrough are much higher quality with a much higher cost. Because I have recently added a Fuji Medium Format digital system I am building a set of the Breakthrough filters in both solid and graduated using both their new magnetic system and the 100mm square filters for the graduated.
To start, you do NOT need all of these and the basic set will allow you to get started but you will run into trouble as the sun approaches the horizon on sunrise/sunset.
Learning how to use all of these filters is not difficult but you will be miles ahead of everyone if you consider a workshop that covers all of it PLUS the art of post processing your long exposures after capture. The Georgia Coast is a great place to do just this. We will be out all day learning behind the camera as Jamie and I wander around with you helping along the way, sharing our secrets for in camera, as well as the art of post processing in evening classes at the hotel! This is a great workshop to learn the technique of long exposure but not limited to that! We will spend time at a lighthouse, a old broken down building, piers, beaches and of course AMAZING SHRIMP BOATS!
You can download a PDF info link here:
This is HOME, I came from Kodak Park in Rochester, NY! I worked and designed on both film and paper manufacturing lines so this is special for me! So this is short and sweet, just click on the 2 boxes below for the full story!
A WONDERFUL audio cast with the FULL story:
And this video:
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…
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!
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!
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?
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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:
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?
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!
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!
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….
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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 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…
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!
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!
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.
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!
The Sony manual focus with peaking is simply the BEST manual focus system that I have EVER used! It was fast and DEAD ON…
I will let the results speak for them selves…
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…
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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:
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Well, in a wild turn of events I have picked up some new camera equipment… This is a really no surprise as it is a sickness or rather addiction! But onward and upward!
I do have to tell you that I am REALLY excited over acquiring these new systems though. And unfortunately, one thing has let to another and thus a long journey has also been started into the realm of film again!
But first let me highlight the “What”!
As you can see in the top image, the newest body is the new Leica M240 24 full frame 24 mega pixel body. It also has a true “live view” which allows use of all sorts of other lenses like the Leica R series that you would NOT normally be able to focus. This means everything from long telephotos to true macro (subject of the next post!). After a few months of use I can tell you that this is the BEST digital system that I have ever used! Along with it I also picked up several lenses.
First, the main lens is the Leica M 50mm f/1.4 Summalux ASPH lens in silver. This is a HEAVY lens. If attacked by a bear I could use it to beat him half to death. The lens itself has turned into my main lens that I use 60% of the time. It has a built in leans hood and takes 46mm filters. The Bokah that this lens can generate is amazing beyond description. It is extremely smooth and easy to use and generates images that are truly amazing!
The next lens is the Leica M mount 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit ASPH. This is a TINY light lens that takes 39mm filters. These smaller filters sized considerably cut the cost of purchasing top of the line B+W filters. Since the M240 camera is a full frame sensor the 28mm really is 28mm! The lens is sharp beyond words and quick to focus. I am really please with this lens and use it for landscapes and lightning photography when mounted on my Fuji X-T1 camera.
The example image for this lens below is a texture overlay. The main image was an Infrared image taken by placing a R72 (720nm) infrared filter on the lens giving a white IR image of a palm leaf, then doing a texture overlay of colored flowers.
The next lens is the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4 and its macro adapter with split image view. This is a very unique lens in that it collapses for storage. By itself it is a great 90mm lens and has proven useful for mid range subjects as well as for Infrared work with the addition of a R72 IR filter. When you add its macro adapter (extension tube coupled to a viewfinder modifier) it will then give you macro capabilities down to a 1:3 image ratio! Below is an example of a macro image shot with this lens last week at Moore Farms in Lake City .
Now, I already had my two Voigtlander M mount lenses that I was using with the Fuji systems, but they are M mount!
First is the Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens. This is an amazing lens that is very fast at f/1.8. The focus is smooth and long and it works very well with M mount extension tubes for true macro work (1:1 image ratio). I do have 3 of the 10mm extension tubes for it as well as a Canon 500D closeup lens. For my really small stuff this is my goto lens. It is a little long but has a very nice clam on lens hood. While it is NOT a Leica lens it is very close in terms of quality and ease and the f/1.8 aperture gives lovely bokah!
Here then is an example of a 1:1 life-size macro shot with it!
The last lens that I am going to talk about here is the Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 12mm f/5.6 Aspherical M Mount lens. Another heavy all metal lens with remarkable focus and DOF. Since it is so wide you can almost have a DOF from right in front of the lens out to infinity! Plus 12mm is really 12mm on the camera! Given that the camera is both full frame and has a live view you can see the power of using this lens and the ease of composition and focus!
In the example image below please notice the extreme range of the depth of field!
As you can see, all of the system components are extremely high quality and easy to use giving stunning results. I like to create Long Exposure and Infrared images as well so I thought that I would share some of them with you below.
I am VERY particular in how I process my images, either color or IR it doesn’t make any difference! This comes from years of visualization, photography, a career at Eastman Kodak, endless hours of post processing and just plain being old and cranky! I look for specific compositional elements in each and every image I create then look to create a stepped series of varying contrast levels to draw the viewer into the image. This is important in my color work, but CRITICAL in my B&W images.
This post though, is specifically about B&W IR post processing. But before we actually get to that point I wish to share with you my workflow that I go through up to the point of processing it for B&W.
Assuming that our images have been edited for choice and artistic content and been processed from RAW to 16 bit TIFF…
Only when these steps are completed do I start my B&W conversion and processing. The reason for this is that the best B&W conversions are generated when we have gotten the best possible color adjustments done! The better the colors the better the B&W! This is true of both color camera or an IR camera.
As you can see from the B&W image above of the bone yard at Cape Romain here in South Carolina, the image is full of alternating contrast areas that draw the viewers eyes into the image from the bottom left corner up to the center. This was a choice made in post processing.
So remember, you will get a much better B&W image if you first post process the color version! This will give the software (Nik’s Silver EFX Pro) a greater latitude of colors and contrasts to work from rather than just converting the RAW version directly into B&W.
In Infrared photography, there are 3 main elements that we need to get an emotionally charged image:
If you can get all 3 you will get a much more powerful image, but as long as you can get at least 1 you will have more to work with to get a good image. If you find yourself in a location where none of the 3 desired elements can be found then look for repeating patterns! Look at the example below. This image is of old Rt. 66 through the west taken at the height of a world class snow storm a few years ago in 720nm IR. There is no water, clouds or plants to work with. But we have a vanishing perspective due to the repeating telephone poles plus great structure in the snow cover scrub! There is also just a hint of the sun behind the top of the first telephone pole which adds interest and change of contrast.
Now, as easy as all of this sounds, it really does take some planning and simple photoshop skills. Plus the more you practice it the better and faster you will get!
So lets take a look at our sample B&W converted per post processed B&W image below. To get to this point, you take your color image and open it in Niks Silver EFX software filter. You would then choose the recipe that you like the best from the left hand menu watching the effect on the preview image on the screen. When you find the version you like the best you would then adjust the contrast, structure and highlights/shadows to get your starting image, then accept it and drop it back into Photoshop!
This is a very nice image to be sure! But, it can be drastically improved with very little work. By selecting areas of alternating contrasts we can enhance the emotional impact of this image and draw the viewers eyes into the image giving it an almost 3 dimensional feel! Lets take a look at these areas!
Take a close look at the image. Look for ways to give alternating areas of light and dark, low contrast and high contrast. Use these areas to create steps into your image. For the image above of the Adams Mill un processed this is how I approach it:
Looks like a puzzle doesn’t it! But is is really easy once you decide HOW you want to approach the image. We are going to use the Nik plugin filter called Viveza to accomplish all of these changes. Simply start on one edge of the image and work your way across. Nik gives you a very powerful selection and masking tool call selection points. These points pick out areas of similar color or shading.
Go back and forth, look at the differences between the 2 images. In the 2nd image, there is a tonal range of complete black to complete white. The un-edited version has a little contrast but lacks punch and it does NOT have a complete tonal range!
This looks very simple doesn’t it! Well it is!! It just requires that you pre visualize what you desire in your finished image then simply make it so.
I hope that you enjoyed this simple tutorial. If you would like an enhanced version with complete step by step instructions and screen captures please visit my BLOG at: