Creating Etherial Long Exposures With Breakthrough Photography’s X4 ND Filters


The  Peace Of The Creative…

Slowing down creates peace on multiple levels. 

For you as the photographer and for those who view your work, this has never been more true!

Roanoke Marshes Light. Fuji GFX 50R for 20 seconds with a Breakthrough X4 6 stop ND and the X4 2 stop soft graduated ND

I am going to do a slightly different type of post this time. 

We will discuss the art of Long Exposures a bit but we will focus more on the technical aspects of using ND filters to correct for different types of lighting as well as talk about good ND filter systems verses not so good, and why it is always best to invest your money in good filters!

DefinitionLong Exposure – To create an image in camera with the shutter open for longer than a few seconds in order to smooth out movement over timeThis can be softening the  flow of water over a waterfall, flattening of waves in lakes and oceans or tearing clouds moving across the sky.

Setup:  For camera setup you want a long shutter speed (for me usually from 20 seconds to 60 min), mid range aperture (f/16)  and the base ISO that your camera provides.  You do NOT want to switch on the L ISO in your camera. While it  forces the ISO lower it costs you in reduced dynamic range! You should also verify that your camera has Long Exposure Noise Reduction turned on.  This is a royal pain due to doubling of exposure time and forcing you to wait twice as long for a shot but it removes sensor generated noise as well as sensor hot spots.

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.

First, there are a few points to consider when thinking about using ND filters:

  • ND filters are simply sunglasses that you put in front of your lens to limit the amount of light that reaches the camera.
  • There are 2 basic styles of ND, Full and Graduated.  Full covers and darkens light passing through the  entire lens, Graduated cover and darken only part of the light passing through the lens with the ability to rotate the edge angle of the start line and moving the line up or down in the scene.
  • In the full family there are several values and styles.
    • Breakthrough Magnetic lens mount with the rotating dial on the back to rotate the filter

      Screw on:  they simply screw onto the end of your lens

    • Magnetic:  these are a new (2018) system from Breakthrough Photography.  They require you to buy a special magnetic mount bracket for the filter threads on your lens.  The adapter has a rotating ring that allows the filters to be actually turned (for use with polarizers) and costs about $20. Currently, Breakthrough is re-designing both the magnetic filters and the magnetic lens adapters to allow for stacked magnetic filters.  This should be completed by summer 2019 and they will replace the older style magnetic filters and adapters. It is important to tell you that when you use the magnetic filter system alone or with the square system there is NO vignetting.
    • Breakthrough Square holder that attaches to the magnetic adapter

      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.

  • In the graduated family there are several types:
    • Breakthrough Photography X4 soft Graduated 100mm filter system

      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.

    • Breakthrough reverse grad

      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.

    • REVERSE graduated:  this is a special graduated ND where it starts DARK and graduates up to lighter values.  If you desire to shoot sunrise/sunset this is a MUST have filter because as the sun approaches the horizon you get a very bright line of colors there that will either be blown out or if exposed correctly cause the rest of the image to be way too dark!  These filters usually come in 1, 2 and 3 stop values where they start dark and graduate to the light.

Breakthrough Photography Magnetic filter system.

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!

Roanoke Marshes Light, 3 seconds with the Breakthrough reverse grad placed on the horizon

Breakthrough X4 reverse grad.  See how you might place the dark area on the bright line at the horizon?

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:

  • All dark solid ND filters suffer from some sort of light leaks around the slide in filter holder.  The magnetic mounted X4 Breakthrough filter line has solved this problem.
  • The X4 Breakthrough filters have ZERO COLOR CAST!  This is a really big deal.  I have been a big user of B+W and Lee filters over the years and still have them on hand.  Unfortunately, both of those both have strong color casts that force me deeper into post processing to attempt to correct these color casts.  I had always thought that this was simply the cost of doing long exposure!  Well NO MORE!   I am so pleased to report that those problems are not the case with Breakthrough, ALL BREAKTHROUGH filters!  Cost wise they all cost about the same when you get up into the same quality levels (B+W, Lee, SinghRay and Breakthrough).  So for me it was an easy choice, I have totally converted over to the Breakthrough X4 line of filters. I currently am using the magnetic and square system from them.
  • There is ZERO vignetting with the magnetic system on ANY of my lenses.  I currently and using 72mm, 77mm and 82mm lenses and mounting both the magnetic system and the 100mm system together!
  • Breakthrough filters come with a 25 year guarantee and their customer service is crazy good.  They are currently (Feb 2019) working on an updated magnetic system where the filters can be stacked in the holder!

 

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!

  1. Slowing down the shutter speed to give the long exposure.  During normal daylight we will likely be using a 10 or 15 stop solid magnetic X4 ND as long as the sky and the foreground are near the same exposure value.
  2. Should the sky be brighter than the foreground we will also use a X4 soft edge graduated ND filter to balance the foreground and sky.

Pawleys Island Pier in dense fog. The foreground and sky are close to the same brightness so I only needed a 15 stop X4 magnetic filter

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!

Nags Head Pier in super dense fog.  X4 15 stop solid magnetic filter for 10 min

 

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!

Duck, NC boardwalk and Tdock (broken) with a X4 6 stop magnetic filter plus a X4 2 stop soft grad ND on the sky down to the horizon.

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.

 

P

Pier, Outer Banks, 12 min exposure, 15 stop X4 magnetic filter and a 3 stop X4 soft graduated filter down to the horizon.  The sun was up to the right and lighting the bottom side of the clouds.

Ok, one last thing… I had a live group hangout last night with some of my online students and we discussed everything in this post but with more info and thoughts on choosing the correct ND filters for a number of scenes.   Here is the link:

I know that this has been a long post but it was necessary to show the technical side of creating pleasing long exposures.    Next time I will discuss how to meter for long exposures.

As always please let me know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Using B&W To Grab Your Viewers By The Throat…


Yes, deep moody B&W can capture and hold your attention!

Pawleys Island Marsh, North Causeway

I am always curious as to what people like and dislike about my images and make a point of posting them online to see what people think and how they respond.  Sometimes the result of this practice really surprises me.  The funny thing is that most of my personal favorites in B&W are not well received by the public!  Yet those that I consider not as good get better reviews…

It does not matter what camera I choose to create with, Medium Format FIlm (Mamiya 645 AFDii) or digital (Fuji GFX 50r medium format), the output results are difficult to tell apart. I love working in film, its process from end to end defines art to me.  But I also love working in medium format digital as well.  It is a much shortened and simpler  process and only takes a fraction of the time when compared to film.  I think most of you will be hard pressed to pick the film/digital images that I am going to place in this post! So the source of the images make little difference to me.

Approaching Storm at Pawleys Island

Have you ever considered what it is about B&W photography that you are attracted to?  What about it grabs you?   For me, it is simple, the removal of color strips the scene to it soul allowing you to really become one with it.  It removes the confusion and gives a pure view of the scene!

Consider the image of the approaching storm above.  The clarity of the image draws me into the scene, the sharpness captures my interest and holds it.   The dark moody tones make me feel like I am still standing right there!

Pawleys Island Beach Crossover in the fog.

I am not saying color work is bad, rather that I personally enjoy working in monochrome and enjoying the finished images processed in B&W much more that color work.   I suppose that is why working in film is so addicting to me, everything about the process from working behind the camera, film processing, scanning and printing I find very enjoyable.  But with the introduction of the Fuji GFX 50R camera system I am equally thrilled!  You can shoot in both color and B&W on the fuji system. The real difference is that you can set it up with film emulation profiles in camera and generate and output true B&W RAW images!  I find that I like using the Acros/red profile in camera because it matches my film work with actual Acros film!   This gives me another entire workflow that matches my B&W film work 1:1! The fog image above in a good example of the ethereal nature that you can achieve when working in B&W.

Charlee Marie

The image above if Charlee Marie highlights this relationship between working with medium format Acros film and the medium format Fuji GFX 50r camera system.   The amazing tonality of the boat and sky capture my attention and will not let it go.  The subtle tonality of the wheel house is flawless.  Overall this is one of my favorite images produced by the 50R, capturing the heart and soul of the shrimp boat in a non cluttered fashion usually associated with them on the easy to use medium format digital 50R!  This particular image is one of my favorites from the 50R that has not been well received by the public, yet I cannot let it go…

Port Royal Shrimpers

The Port Royal Shrimpers is an example of everything coming together for a powerful image; Good Light, Clouds, Boats and reflective water plus being there!  Of all the images captured with the 50R this one has the highest number of likes and comments online.  Yes it is a powerful moody image but I am not sure if I personally like it more than the image above!

Daddys Girls, medium format Acros film

OK, on last image of Daddys Girls was taken last week on Acros Film on my 645 AFDII  using a deep red contrast filter so the sky is a little darker.  To me this is a powerful image and different from the digital work above it due to the deep red filter.  Yet all other aspects of the image match equally to the work generated on the 50R system.   

To me, this illustrates how well the film and digital systems can work together.  There are times when working in film is just not possible or practical during travel where the 50R would work much better and easier.

I am happy that each camera system can complement each other so closely!  It will make my life much easier and allow me to concentrate on creating art rather than on how I capture it!

 

As always please let me know what you think, I value your input!

 

 

 

 

The ART of creating MOOD


What Makes Ethereal Moody Images?

Kathy Dean, medium format film

This post is going to be a bit different from my otherwise technical (Geeky) posts of the past.  I am going to share my philosophy of creating MOOD in my art.

I spend a LOT of time studying the fine art photography of the past masters (Ansel and others) and current photographers.  I visit galleries, web sites like 500px scouring  for examples of the creative process that generates images that speak to me.   This takes up a lot of my time but I feel that it is a worthwhile investment to further my understanding of what makes great art that reaches out and grabs my attention!  I do NOT do this in order to copy others, (that is not my way) rather it is to understand what about an image makes it reach out and tweek my artistic desire!  You would think that after 55 years of personal photography that this would not be necessary, but if you think about it you will realize that life is learning and we never stop that process.  Sometimes it is re-learning forgotten lessons, other times it is about learning new lessons.  We all change and our tastes also change as we age, so to me this is a natural progression in our path in artistic endeavor.

I personally tend to work mostly in B&W Film, but do not limit myself to it.  I create as well in color both digitally and on film too, but my real passion is B&W. Here we are going to discuss only B&W and all of my examples are created on various 6×4.5 medium format camera systems because working with flim and the process of film motivates and enhances my creative process.  I am going to leave out the technical details of the images because I want you to really study the images without considering the technical aspects of the creative process.

Let us consider the image above of Kathy Dean, a shrimp boat in Port Royal, SC.    What about this image gives you pause, making you want to really study it?   Sit back and consider the mood of the image and what you are drawn to as you study it.  For me, it is the dark moody sky and reflections contrasted against the bright whites of the boats.  My eyes continuously circle around these details and re-settle on the boats again and again.  The dark sky and water create a moody ethereal frame that traps our attention on the boats themselves yet provides a scene free of the distractions of color

If we were standing there today with camera and tripod wouldn’t we be thinking that we could have a much better image with fluffy clouds?  Let me suggest that if indeed there were clouds the day I created this image that they too would have been a distraction from the mood of the image. 

I will honestly tell you that as I stood before this scene that it was my primary thought that this could be an amazing moody image provided that I set it up as a longer exposure to smooth the water and darken the sky and reflections.   In other words, I studied the scene, pondering what it was that drew me to it and how to use the camera (my tool) to create my vision! 

These are my secrets to successful fine art photography:

Stop, Look and Think about the scene:

  • Why are you attracted to it?
  • How do you compose for a simple yet powerful image free of distractions?
  • How to super charge the image with mood?
  • How to use the camera to create this vision?

Lindale Denim Mill, a study of extreme dynamic range in a single image…

Let’s take a look at another image, this one digital (yet another tool), and the camera on hand when visiting the inside of the Lindale denim mill in Georgia.  This is one of those  location that  will NEVER fail to deliver scenes full of wabi/sabi goodness full of amazing mood providing you approach it with the right motivation and mental tools!

Lindale Denim Dye Tank

I spent 7 hours here over the course of 2 days.  It was a power parade of mood that swamped my senses and at every single turn. I was continually stunned at what lay before me as I moved through the factory!  What more motivation could a fine art photography artist desire?  I slowed down, WAY DOWN and studied each and every hint of mood before me. 

For this scene, (Blue dye tank) I studied the dark moody ceiling and walls behind the pillars, the deep tank with its grungy details, but I particularly paid attention to the play of light coming through the windows and highlighting the entire scene!   I realized that in order to capture this scene with mood that I would need to control the sunlight and keep the dark areas from loosing detail.   I setup the camera to control both and average the entire composition.   This happened quite fast (remember 55 years of experience) and it only took ONE SINGLE EXPOSURE

To me, this scene has amazing flow that draws me in thru the lighted windows, walking around the exterior of the room and moving down the ladder.  My attention never leaves the room.  It has a wonderful dark mood and speaks to me of days long gone.   

What more can a photographer ask for in such a creation?

My path in creating this image:

  • I walked around the entire room several times, studying the elements that the scene contained.
  • I constantly asked myself;  “Mark, why do you like this?”  and “What do you actually like?”  I answered; “The dark mood broken into segments by the light coming thru the window and the LADDER!”
  • Can the camera I had capture the overall mood and range before me?  “YES!”
  • What is the best vantage? “Closer to the ladder!”
  • How best can I control the contrast and range of this image? “Multiple spot meter readings to shift the scenes entire dynamic range into that of the camera!”

After this it was just a simple matter of setting the the composition, exposure and capturing the image!

 

Ok one last example…  Daddy’s Girls…

 

Daddy’s Girls, medium format film

This is one of those scenes that I visit time and time again.  It is only a few hours from home down in Bluffton, SC (a location where my oldest son lives).  There is only one single boat at this commercial dock and processing plant.  There is a boat launch and pier close to the left, but  for for this shot I wanted a more head on view.  I got my son to take me out on his boat so that I could get this angle on a terribly stormy day. Dark and Stormy it was.  Heavy rain and wind, but these were the components that were in my vision so I suffered through it to get this image.  I took several shots of the scene (waves, no tripod and a moving boat) so I invested an entire roll of 16 images knowing that a lot of them would be blurry and out of focus.   Good thing too, I only got this one single sharp image but it was so worth the effort!

Do you see what I am getting at?  I KNEW what I wanted with this image, I knew what tool (camera) I wanted to use so I returned dozens of times here, re-evaluating again and again till I got what my vision demanded!   I have been here a hundred times over the past 4 years and was NEVER satisfied with the scene!

What my vision demanded:

  • Moody, Stormy Sky.
  • Bright light on the boat.
  • Cloud detail.
  • No other boats to clutter the scene at the launch.
  • Medium Format Film only.
  • No workmen on the boat.

So it took years of returning again and again until I got the scene that matched my vision!  But to me it was well worth it!  Will I stop returning?  Heavens no, you NEVER know what nature will provide you with so keep returning!

As always, I hope that you enjoyed this post!   Please consider leaving feedback and comments!

 

 

 

 

Testing the new Fuji GA645zi Medium Format Camera


A Light Weight 120 Autofocus Travel Camera with a Zoom Lens!

Fuji GA645zi

Fuji GA645zi

Well…. I have been waiting to test out my new Fuji GA645zi camera for about a week now but due to family issues I have been unable to do so.
I finally made it out to visit the shrimp boats just west of Tybee Island and the light house there! The sky was very plain with no clouds but I really needed to test this camera out. I put on a yellow filter to slightly darken the sky and used Fuji Acros 100 film.
 
This is the shrimper Agnes Marie.
Shrimp Boat Agnes Marie

Shrimp Boat Agnes Marie

Data:
Fuji GA645zi – Acros 100 – f19 1-30 Plus 1 EV, Yellow Filter 9-18-17 – Wet Mount scanned – Agnes Marie – 2017-10-27. Processed in Xtol 1:1.
Fuji GA645zi

Fuji GA645zi

Please note that along the bottom of the frame ALL of the exposure data is recorded!  This is a feature that I really like.

 
The auto focus system is very robust, fast and dead on! It is not as loud as people claimed and I really enjoyed using it! I had an issue with my first roll in that it did not clear the take up reel and bulged out fogging most of the roll. Bad me, I used the one that came with the camera, so I then used the reel that the Acros came on and all is well there now. 
 
I know that the sky is plain but I am still happy with the results!
 
I am looking at this camera as a small light 120 travel camera. I know that the 6×4.5 negative is smaller than my 6x7and 6×9 systems but it still gives a large enough negative for sizable prints.  An other nice feature is that the camera has a 7 position zoom quasi zoom lens which again makes it attractive for travel!   
I only had time to wet mount scan 1 image today but I put 4 rolls of film thru it so there will be more on the way including the Tybee Lighthouse!
 

Finding Myself In The Old Ways…


It seems that I am addicted to film…

Miss Lue & A Hungry Egret

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

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!

DATA:

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
  • Fixer
  • Wash
  • 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!

Tybee Island Light, Kodak Tmax 100 FIlm on a Fuji GW 690 II camera.

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!

Medium Format:

  • 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)

Large Format:

  • 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!

 

 

 

 

 

Going Home to Mama…. Returning to Film!


The joys of returning to our photographic roots…

Pier

Murrells Inlet Fleet, Polaroid Type 55 4×5 film, Wet Mount Scan

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.

Polaroid 900, Tmax 100 4x5 @ 64, Perceptol

Polaroid 900 with a Fujinon 150mm lens, Tmax 100 4×5 @ 64, Perceptol 1:1 developing

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!

Film Cameras

Olympus XA 135mm

Olympus XA 135mm

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

My Custom Olympus 35 RC 

My Leica M7 Film Body

My Leica M7 Film Body

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.

Confusion, Petri 7S 35mm, Eastman XX flim

Confusion, Petri 7S 35mm, Eastman XX flim

Fuji GF670 Medium Format

Fuji GF670

Fuji GF670

Fuji GF670

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!

Mamaya RZ Pro II system

Mamaya RZ Pro II system

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.

Stormy Seas, Fuji GF670, Tmax 100, Perceptol 1:1, Wet Mount Scan

Stormy Seas, Fuji GF670, Tmax 100, Perceptol 1:1, Wet Mount Scan

Beautiful!

Polaroid 110 with 90mm lens converted to 4×5!

My 900 converted to 4x5 by Alpenhause Kamera Werke

Polaroid 900with 150mm Fujinon lens converted to 4×5

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.

Focus Test - Epson Wet Adapter Across 100 Perceptol 1:2 Springmaid Pi

Montreat Cascades, 4×5 Tmax 100 developed in Perceptol and wet mount scanned.

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

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:

 

  1. Kodak Tmax 100 in 35, 120 and 4×5, very small grain, good dynamic range easy to process
  2. Fuji Acros 100 in 35, 120 and 4×5, very small grain, good dynamic range NO RECIPROCITY FAILURE, easy to process
  3. Rollei IR400 in 35, 120 and 4×5, Infrared or normal B&W, good dynamic range, easy to process
  4. Rollei Retro 80S in 35 and 120, amazing clarity and sharpness, good dynamic range easy to process
  5. 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

Pelican Dock - Type 55 4x5 Film, Wet Scan

Pelican Dock – Type 55 4×5 Film, Wet Scan

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!