B&W Camera Systems: Functionality/Creative Power/Affordability/Film/Digital ??


Getting your BEST B&W image!

Outer Banks Pier, Monochrom Camera System

Outer Banks Pier, Monochrom Camera System

I wish to share some images and thoughts from the Leica M Monochrom B&W ONLY camera system. I know that it is NOT FILM and a very expensive camera system, but it comes as close as you can get in a wonderfully usable B&W only system!  

Most people will take a color image then  convert  it to B&W in post processing but it will never be the same as actually shooting in B&W with a digital or film system!  Yes you can get close but you loose the amazing gradations and tonality that is part and parcel to world class B&W images.

Dugger Creek Falls, Linville, NC M Monochrom

Duggers Creek Falls, Linville, NC M Monochrom

The Pier on the top, is in the Outer Banks and is a 4 min exposure using a Leica Elmerit 28mm lens and the creek below is is in the New River Gorge in West Virginia. It is Dunloupe Creek and a 8 second exposure using the AMAZING 50mm Summilux lens. As you can see, the graduations and clarity are simply amazing. The water takes on a distinct Platinum tonality!

Why am I showing you these? Well at the end of the post I will give you a link for 2 videos where a Fuji X100T and a Leica M are compared for street photography and for a discussion on the Leica M B&W. The videos are  quite entertaining and shows why sometimes a more expensive camera can be worth the money…

Sometimes!

Dunloupe Creek, New River Gorge WV, M Monochrome

Dunloupe Creek, New River Gorge WV, M Monochrome

 

It can be very hard balancing the desire between camera systems and affordability, but sometimes, with SPECIAL cameras the money takes a back seat. I own 3 Leica camera systems, and 1 of them I could have done without (Leica M240), another is an amazing film system (Leica M7) and then there is the M Monochrom. The Monochrom is scary amazing with crazy good B&W output to even consider shooting color then converting. I have NEVER considered the money spent on it to be wasted! In fact, I am considering selling/trading the M 240 but will keep the Monochrom and M7 film body along with most of my Leica and Voigtlander glass.

Glade Creek Grist Mill, Babcock State Park, WV, M Monochrome

Glade Creek Grist Mill, Babcock State Park, WV, M Monochrome

For me shooting in B&W is a soul centering event. I take it very seriously and slow. When you consider how working in Monochrome strips away the confusion of color leaving the soul of the image then you can understand why I am looking for the very best way to capture the best possible image.  

  • Shooting in color then converting to B&W works but is a compromise and will only give you a compromise image.
  • Shooting in film generates a purest form of B&W image and by far is the best way to do it but requires extensive time for setup, capture, development, wet scanning then printing! One roll of 120 film in the 6×7 format will generate 10 images.  Processing takes about 45 min then it has to go into a film dryer overnight.  Lastly, comes wet mount scanning which can take 1/2 hour per exposure.  Now, I do not scan every image, I choose the very best images from the roll (usually 3 or 4) and only scan those.  All in all there is about 8 hours of work involved with that single roll!  It is a slow process to be sure but very fulfilling and leaves me with a great sense of inner peace. 
  • Now, along came the M Monochrom camera from Leica, a full frame 19 mega pixel sensor with NO COLOR FILTERS over the image wells. This means that there is no anti-aliasing filter, and no brayer array.   So effectively you get a 19 x 3 megapixel image (no brayer layer means every pixel well generate a true monochrome data value different from its neighbors!)  which is crisp and has film like gradations  that are difficult to differentiate from a film negative!
Roanoke Marsh Light, Outer Banks, M Monochrom

Roanoke Marsh Light, Outer Banks, M Monochrom

Aside from doing all of this in film (which I still work in all of the time) the M Monochrome (or its sisters) is the ONLY GAME IN TOWN! Hence, the cost of the system takes on new meaning since it is such a specialized digital system!

Sometimes I will put the film away and take out the Monochrom system.  It is not quite the same as film in the overall process but it certainly is when the finished products are compared!

This is something to consider…

Here are the video links:

 

 

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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!

My Thoughts on the Art of travel photography…


Or… What I Did On My Summer Vacation!

Warning, LONG post…

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

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


Devils Tower

Devils Tower

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

But is that what travel photography really is? 

 

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

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

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

Jordan, My 7 year old photographer grandson

Jordan, My 7 year old photographer grandson

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

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

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

Devils Tower

Devils Tower

Our Itinerary:

  • Prairie Dog

    Prairie Dog

    Day 1. Rapid City layover and rest.

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

Drugstore of the West, Cody, WY

Drugstore of the West, Cody, WY

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

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

So here is what I brought along:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things to look for on a cross country western trip:

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

Trip Highlights!

Yellowstone

Old Faithfull

Old Faithful

Querimony: To Questionably Moan & Complain!

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

Buffalo on the Yellowstone

Buffalo on the Yellowstone river in the early morning mist

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

 

Blue Pool, Prismatic Spring Yellowstone

Blue Pool, Prismatic Spring Upper Yellowstone

 

Prismatic Spring Yellowstone

Prismatic Spring upper Yellowstone

 

Yellowstone Antelope

Yellowstone Antelope, North Entrance

 

Teal Pool, Upper Yellowstone

Teal Pool, Upper Yellowstone

And last….

 

Lower Yellowstone Falls Detail

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

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

Moab, Arches & Canyonlands National Parks

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

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

Sandstone Arch, Arches

Sandstone Arch, Arches

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

Courthouse Rock, Arches

Courthouse Rock, Arches

 

Whale Tail Arch, Backcountry Tour

Whale Tail Arch, Backcountry Tour

 

Windows Arch on the Back Country Tour, Arches

Windows Arch on the Back Country Tour, Arches

 

Dead Horse Point

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

 

Canyon Lands, Isle in the sky

Canyon Lands, Isle in the sky

 

General Utah

 

High Desart Train Pano

High Desart Train Pano

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

Because

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

Bryce National Park

Whodos in Bryce Canyon

Whodos in Bryce Canyon

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

Natural Bridge Bryce

Natural Bridge Bryce

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

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

Final thoughts on what makes travel photography great!

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

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

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview.

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview.

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

Colophon:  Very Important Lessons Learned:

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

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

 

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon in camera pano

Advanced Work With The Sony A7rii


Using the Sony A7rii for advanced photographic work….

 

Long Exposure In Charleston, SC

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

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

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

Miss Lulu, Georgetown, SC

Miss Lulu, Georgetown, SC

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

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

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

The Purity Of B&W


Going Home To Momma…

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

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

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC.  Leica M Monochrome

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC. Leica M Monochrome

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

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

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

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

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

Continued Work In Van Dyke Brown Alternative Print Process!


Perfection in Brown

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

My CORRECTED Digital Negative for the Van Dyke Process

My CORRECTED Digital Negative for the Van Dyke Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

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

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

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

Van Dyke Brown Printing, 1842


A new (read OLD) way of printing!

8x12" Van Dyke Brown Print

8×12″ Van Dyke Brown Print

Alternative Printing from History!

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

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

Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

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

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

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

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

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

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 2 stops.

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 1.5 stops.

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

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

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

More Leica M Monochrome Magic!


Creating World Class B&W Images With Leica Monochrome

Bodie Island Light, M Monochrome

Bodie Island Light, M Monochrome

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

Leica Tri-Elmar 16 - 18 - 21 mm Lens

Leica Tri-Elmar 16 – 18 – 21 mm Lens

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

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

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

 

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

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrome

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrom

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

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

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

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

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

Fishing Float, M Monochrome

Fishing Float, M Monochrome

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

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

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

Really Right Stuff TF-01 and Ball Head

Really Right Stuff TF-01 and Ball Head

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

Really Right Stuff TF-01

Really Right Stuff TF-01

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

Thanks for taking the time to view these!!

Leica M Monochrome Magic….


A new camera come homes to live!

 

Leica M Monochrome

Leica M Monochrome

 

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

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

Duggars Creek Falls, Linville, NC   32 second exposure

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

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

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

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

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

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

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure

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

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

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

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

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

Leica SF 58 Flash

Leica SF 58 Flash

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

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

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

The system simply amazes me…..

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second exposure.

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

Fuji X100s 830nm Infrared and Long Exposures


It just keeps getting better….

 

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

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

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

B+W 110 10 Stop ND

B+W 110 10 Stop ND

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

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

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

Fuji X100s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ahhh… It Feels So Good!

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

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

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

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

Rodinal One Shot

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

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

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

1962 Custom Petri 7s Film Body

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

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

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

My Custom Olympus 35 RC

My Custom Olympus 35 RC

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

Olympus-XA

Olympus-XA

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

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

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

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

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

My Leica M7 Film Body

My Leica M7 Film Body

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

______________________________________________________

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

Rollei IR400 Film

Rollei IR400 Film

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

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

Eastman Double X 5222

Eastman Double X 5222

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikon 4000 ED system

Nikon 4000 ED system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Please let me know what you think of this post!

Leica M240 Digital..


Oh, No… Another Camera System…

Leica M240 24 mpx Digital

Leica M240 24 mpx Digital

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

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

But first let me highlight the “What”!

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

Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH f/1.4

Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH f/1.4

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

Tulip at f/1.4, Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH

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

 

Leica 28mm Elmarit ASPH

Leica 28mm Elmarit ASPH

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

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

 

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

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

 

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

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

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

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

Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8

Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8

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

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

Green Dots...

Green Dots…

Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Hellar

Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Hellar

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

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

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

Stormy Seas, down low and dirty… Voigtlander 12mm

 

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

M240-BW 59s16ND PI Pier-0148-2014

Pier, Leica M240 60 second exposure

M240 w/ R72 IR Filter

M240 w/ R72 IR Filter

Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit,

Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit

6 Shot HDR, Leica M240

6 Shot HDR, Leica M240

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

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

M240-1109-60 s PI LE-2014

Low Tide, Leica M240, 45 second exposure

 

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

Stay Tuned!

 

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


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

Final B&W Version!

Final B&W Version!

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2 Process the RAW image into Faux Color.

Step 2 Process the RAW image into Faux Color.

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

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

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

Compositional Elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This then is the results of what we just did:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here is how it all works:

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

Here is the finished version of the image above!

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.markhilliardatelier.wordpress.com

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

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

Fuji X-E2 Long Exposures and Wild Sunsets!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, lets talk a little about your exposure metering.  

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

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

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

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

Salt Marsh in the morning fog...

Salt Marsh in the morning fog…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuji X-E2 – Amazing Quality!


My Fuji  X-E2 – Just Perfect!

Shrimper Carolyn Ann, Fuji X-E2

Shrimper Carolyn Ann, Fuji X-E2

I have to tell you that I am REALLY a Fuji fan.  I have the following Fuji bodies:

  1. X-Pro 1 – Color
  2. X-Pro 1 – 720nm Infrared Conversion
  3. X-E1 – Color
  4. X100s – My walk around companion!
  5. X-E2 – Color

I also have ALL of the lenses but 2!

I moved to Fuji after a long search for a small light weight camera system after loosing 80% use of both hands and arms.  I went through ALL of the micro 4/3 systems (and even kept 2!).  I sold $40,000 in Canon bodies and L glass and have NEVER looked back!  

In the Fuji, not only have I found perfections but being a range finder styled system it is like going home to mom!

X-E2

X-E2

I have a X100s that I use for most of my walk around work, it is just so tiny and generates amazing images.  So when Fuji announced the X-E2 with the same sensor and with even more upgrades I ordered one from Amazon.  Much to my amazement it shipped a week later!  I have had it in hand now for about 2 weeks and just yesterday took it out to a local fishing port for a bit of creative work.  I love the upgrades and how fast this camera is.  It even passes the X100s in ability.  I originally purchased the X-E1 in order to take advantage of its electronic remote shutter release.  It enables me to hook it up to devices like a lightning trigger and my water drop collision system.  The X-E1 did a great job with these devices and I expect no less with the X-E2 but that is for another day.

X-E2 Top Panel

X-E2 Top Panel

Yesterday I took it out to shoot shrimp boats in North Carolina and have to tell you that the camera just blew me away.  It is such a major upgrade over the X-E1 that I cannot believe that they came from the same company!  The controls are CRISP, the knobs just snap from position to position with no play and they stay where you put them.  The larger LCD is nice but the faster EVF is a sight to behold. I dressed the camera in a RRS L bracket with grip and put on a nice soft release.  Physically except for new buttons and placement the camera is identical to the X-E1.  One MAJOR improvement is the addition of 3 stops of EV adjustment instead of the normal 2 that Fuji has provided in the past.

All in all I am really happy with this upgrade.  I will keep the X-E1 and convert it to 800nm IR in the near future.  There is no sense in letting that viable and great camera go to waste!

Little Scrapper, X-E2, RAW converted in ACR

Little Scrapper, X-E2, RAW converted in ACR

Next I put the camera into the JPG mode and shot color & B&W images in camera.  The results speak for them selves!

Shrimper Donkey X-E2

Shrimper Donkey X-E2

 

Shrimper Donkey, CAMERA B&W  X-E2

Shrimper Donkey, CAMERA B&W X-E2

Carolyn Ann, Color, X-E2

Carolyn Ann, Color, X-E2

Carolyn Ann, In Camera B&W X-E2

Carolyn Ann, In Camera B&W X-E2

Working Shrimper Deck, X-E2

Working Shrimper Deck, X-E2

Working Shrimper Deck In Camera B&W, X-E2

Working Shrimper Deck In Camera B&W, X-E2

This posting was never meant to be a review, rather a statement of its impact upon me with sample images!

Please let me know what you think…

Fuji X100s: Oh Yea…


You know the feeling, and usually need tissues to clean up afterwords!

A little background is in order…

Fuji X100s

Fuji X100s

Fuji X, what can you say except “Yes Please!”.  I am a LONG time X shooter.  I started out several years ago with the Fuji X100 and loved every moment of it.  I likened shooting with it to going home to Mama…  If you know what I mean then you understand.   I did decide that I really desired to have a camera with interchangeable lenses and when the Fuji X Pro 1 came out I jumped on it and all of the FX lenses that have since arrived plus several CV lenses as well.   The X Pro 1 has become may main goto camera system.  I Then purchased the X-E1 due to its electronic shutter release, thus its ability to connect to my lightning trigger and water drop computer system!  The X-E1 only lives for such things…  When I get it out to play with lightning it is like coming home to a doggy after a long day! I then decided to get another X Pro 1 and have it converted to 720nm Infrared.  This system (my 16th IR conversion) is the BEST IR camera that I have ever used and that is a big statement!

Passion Flower Macro, Fuji X100s hand held in bright sunlight.

Passion Flower Macro, Fuji X100s hand held in bright sunlight.

So, along comes the X100s, and I look it over and think on it for months.  I though that gee, what a neat system to add to my bag.   Finally I decided to get one but let me tell you that they are HARD TO FIND!  I found on at a little online camera store in Oregon and had them ship it to me last month.  I am very glad I made  this decision!  To say that the X100S is a world class camera is really short selling its capability!   I find that I carry it EVERYWHERE I go now.  I still use the X Pro 1 for most of my work but the X100s really gives stunning results and the new XTran 2 sensor is amazing.  I love the split image manual focus system and wish the other Fuji cameras offered it as well.

Adams Mill Wheel, Lafayette, IN, Fuji X100s

Adams Mill Wheel, Lafayette, IN, Fuji X100s

The X100s works very well in macro mode and the sharpness, colors and texture are simply breathtaking!  You could not ask more of a walk around camera than the Fuji delivers.  Even without image stabilization the camera is flawless due to its ability to shoot cleanly at high ISOs!

Abstract, Glass Block Floral, Fuji X100s

Abstract, Glass Block Floral, Fuji X100s

I am going to share a few of the images generated so far with this incredible camera and you be the judge!

The Dingy, Fuji X100s

The Dingy, Fuji X100s

Adams Mill, Lafayette IN, Fuji X100s

Adams Mill, Lafayette IN, Fuji X100s

McHargue Mill, Fuji X100s

McHargue Mill, Fuji X100s

Old Truck, Fuji X100s

Old Truck, Fuji X100s

A Face in the trees, Fuji X100s, you have to figure this one out!

A Face in the trees, Fuji X100s, you have to figure this one out!

Ok thats it for today!  What do you think?

Important Difference Between Film & Digital


What NOT to expect from Digital!

Fuji X-E1 with its 18-55mm lens

Fuji X-E1 with its 18-55mm lens

Recently I had a series of conversations here with a reader who wanted to pick up a Fuji X-E1 camera and have it deliver Velvia results out of the camera.  This conversation did not start well, but moved into meaningful dialog very fast.  I thought that I would share my thoughts as I gave them to him with you as it is important to understand what a digital camera can really deliver…

As a new convert to digital from film you need to understand one MAJOR difference between the two. Images generated from film are/were dependent upon the film emulsion, exposure, chemistry and glass quality/coatings for colors, saturation and white temperature which in combination gave each film its own distinctive look.

Now, along comes digital, where the only real move into the film Look/Feel is with a built in simulation or the proper selection of White Balance and the filters/coatings on the sensor plus the lens glass and its coatings. Some digitals give a more saturated look, some less. Some pump up the reds to the point of problems.

The Fuji’s typically give a more saturated image with a slight bluish feel. But, knowing photographers with experience who understand these issues and the capability of shooting in RAW understand that ALL of the films/sensor character is really defined in post processing! Looking for a Velvia look and feel out of the camera is foolishness and very short sited. You take your pictures, making sure that the WB is correct for the scene and day, you shoot in RAW, you get your exposure correct  then when you get home you do your color/saturation/tint adjustments in the RAW conversion. Then in Photoshop you do your real work where you can move your image into the film looks as you like with simple adjustments like, saturation, levels, color shifts and so on. With the addition of the NIK filter set you then get total control over these adjustments in an easy and fast way.

If you are looking for Fuji (or any camera) to give you a film look right out of the camera then you should just quit now before you have a nervous break down.

My Fuji’s are an incredible tool. But they are just tools, the creative work happens on the computer in post processing. I have used dozens of cameras from simple point and shoots, micro 4/3s, fuji X systems, Canon’s, Leica’s, Nikons and many many others including lots of film systems including (and still in use) a very nice 4×5. NONE of the digitals will give an accurate film simulation, period. Don’t look to  them for that or simply stay with film.

Go out and try different cameras yourself. When with friends try a memory card in their camera. Take the images home and work them over on the computer. Make your own decision and move forward.

My own decision path was simple…

  1. I dumped ALL of my canon system including top pro line bodies and $30,000 in L glass due to medical problems where I lost 80% use of both arms and hands. The DSLR’s are simply too heavy for me to use now!  What was I to do?
  2. I experimented with ALL of the various Micro 4/3 systems. Kept a GH2 as an Infrared system and the OMD as a high speed replacement for my Canon 1DSMK3 and lenses in order to chase birds and other wildlife.
  3. I tried and decided against the Leica system because of lack of longer lenses and lens expense. I could easily spend another $30,000 on the needed lenses and still not have the range I desired.
  4. I Tried the Fuji X100, Cool, nice small camera with great images, but no interchangeable lenses, bummer
  5. I found out that Fuji came out with the X Pro 1, rushed out and got one with EVERY Fuji lens plus 3 Voightlander M mount lenses for the Leica. Fell in love with the camera/lenses and the images generated. But it had no electronic shutter release so it would not work with my lightning trigger and water drop system. Bummer
  6. I found out that Fuji introduced the X-E1 with this functionality built in. Purchased it and have been happy ever since. The Fuji E-X1 is an amazing system for landscapes, long exposures (REALLY GOOD), water drops and lightning photography. Does it look like velvia when that is enabled? Not really, a little close BUT WHO CARES!!!! I can make it look like ANY FILM TYPE in post processing! It creates amazing low noise images at high ISO’s but I rarely use high ISO’s. It is light, easy to use and has GREAT lenses. I love the Leica and Voightlander lenses when used with the Fuji M to X adapter with its corrections built in!

You can read about ALL of these things here on the blog. You can ask questions on the various forums on the net but they are generally filled with camera lover/haters/bashers rather than people who are trying to learn and improve with their equipment (even though they are there but due to the noise of the others are just un-heard!).

Good luck in your search. Please keep in touch and let me know how it goes as you progress!

OK, you get one Fuji X System  image!

Stormy Seas at the dock.  Voigtlander Heliar Ultra Wide-Angle 12mm f/5.6 Lens. Notice the focus from about 3 inches to infinity.

Stormy Seas at the dock. Voigtlander Heliar Ultra Wide-Angle 12mm f/5.6 Lens. Notice the focus from about 3 inches to infinity.

A day in Georgetown with the Fuji X-E1


Travel and the Fuji X Series, a match made in Heaven!

1 camera, 3 lenses and a good filter system and we are good to go!

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8

I spent last Sunday in Georgetown, SC.  I had a gallery change out in a gallery that I am a member of (Co-Op).  The change out only took about an hour so I decided to take the rest of the day to scout new locations and just shoot!

There are several places there that I love to visit.  As you drive North on Front Street out of the Down Town area you start passing several side streets on the right.  Each of these leads to a marina with several Shrimp Boats (and in 1 case many!).  I like walking around the docks and working each group of boats then moving in closer and doing detail images. These vessels are not long to be with us so if you have the chance to visit and photograph them you should youmake it a priority to do so!

The 3 Shrimpers!

The 3 Shrimpers!

The choice between Color and B&W is a tough one for most photographers.  For me, I like B&W much better but I will porcess both for each and every image that I take.  So I will have the choice as to what I eventually use readily on hand!

Sun in the rigging...

Sun in the rigging…

I do not normally shoot intentional lens flair but for this image I composed the image with it in mind! This generated such a perfect series of light beams that they were visible in front of the boats cabin door! Again, the choice between Color and B&W was a no brainer for me!

The 3 Bows...

The 3 Bows…

Voigtlander Heliar Ultra Wide-Angle 12mm f/5.6 Lens

Voigtlander Heliar Ultra Wide-Angle 12mm f/5.6 Lens

In the end I will still offer you a Color Shrimp Boat selection.  These boats are old, and full of color!  Rust, bright paints, bottom paint, lines and life rings can make for a bright and eye catching display if you present it properly with a composition that is pleasing.

At the very end of Front Street you will find several parks along the edge of Winyah Bay with pilings in the fore ground which make idle compositions for long exposures.  Plus there is a boat launch that you should walk out on and look north across a long line of pilings!

Lee Seven5 Filter System

Lee Seven5 Filter System

What fun I had!  I found some really great Shrimp Boat compositions and did some long exposures with the Fuji and the Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens with the new Lee Seven 5 filter system! Consider, that the Lee system is a bulky but light system (look at the image to the left), when you add in the camera and lens the entire combination can become bulky and heavy making it difficult to use.  I also used the Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 12mm f/5.6 Aspherical and the Fuji M to X adapter for several of these Shrimp  Boat images.

This is the main reason that I switched to the Fuji X system (aside from the fact that it generates stunning images!

Ok, as the day go away from me I went further North to the parks looking at long exposure locations for sunset.  After looking at all of the locations there I decided to set up at the boat launch and setup looking to the North across the pilings there.  The sun was setting fast and I setup using the 75mm f/1.8  and the Lee Seven 5 system with a solid 3 stop ND and a soft Graduated ND to darken the sky. The result was this 90 second exposure:

Boat Launch Pilings, Deep Twilight

Boat Launch Pilings, Deep Twilight, 90 second exposure

With the sun totally gone and deep into twilight, I simply turned the camera 90 degrees to the right and looked at the industrial complex across the bay with great columns of smoke spewing into the sky!  I removed the 3 stop solid ND and kept the soft Graduated ND in place to further darken the sky. So the resulting image was a 240 second exposure and full of color, smooth water and blowing smoke:

240 second exposure, deep twilight.

240 second exposure, deep twilight.

Do you see how a light weight high quality camera/lens system like the Fuji works to our benefit when traveling and needing the ability to shoot in all conditions?  With the X-E1 system there is no limit to my shooting styles including Lightning, Water Drops and Long Exposures.

Please let me know what you think!

Getting Better Long Exposures: Fuji X-E1 & Sekonic L758DR, A Detailed Tutorial


All things are fair in Love and War…

and we need every advantage we can get as photographers in long exposure!

Long Exposure Sunrise Abstract

Long Exposure Twilight Abstract with a 3 stop graduated soft ND filter to darken the sky.

The long exposure game, is one of compromises: fighting too little light, balancing the moon and its reflections, cameras and lenses, camera meter or external meter! Long exposures are one of the more difficult photographic styles and one that takes experience and patience to master.  As such, the photographer needs every helpful trick that they can gather into their bag of tricks in order to generate, stunning etherial images!

Equipment tailored to Long Exposures that I like and use:

  • Fuji X-E1 Camera.  Provides both electronic and mechanical remote shutter releasees, Bulb mode with back panel displayed timer, ultra clean low noise long exposure images!
  • Olympus OMD with the Panasonic 14-140mm lens.  Great built in long exposure modes like the Live View Bulb mode where the camera will display an updating image on the LCD panel as the exposure continues to be made.  This gives you a very clear indication of the exposure as it is happening and is like watching a Polaroid develop!  The ISO noise performance is not as good as the Fuji but is indeed acceptable.  I use both camera systems but like the Fuji better!
  • Fuji XF 18-55mm zoom lens.  Sharp images with good range of wide angle to standard lengths!  58mm filter size. ZERO lens flair.
  • Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens. Coupled with the Fuji M to X adapter provides an easy to focus sharp image with a 52mm  filter with a f/1.8 to f/16 aperture.
  • Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 12mm f/5.6 Aspherical M Mount Lens. Ultra wide super sharp and a depth of field that just goes on forever!  This lens takes a 67mm filter and can only take advantage of screw on filters due to its built lens hood.
  • Gitzo & Feisol Carbon Fibre Tripods with Really Right Stuff BH55 Ball head. This is a light weight combination gives solid steady support with ZERO camera creep from the ball head!
  • B+W ND filters, 3, 6 & 10 Stop.  These filters use Schott glass and are the best ND filters out there.  I much prefer fixed ND filters to variable because I KNOW what the filter factor always is for exposure settings and lack of guess work.
  • Lee Seven 5 Micro Filter System.  Simply stated, the Lee series of rectangular ND filters is the best in the world.  The Seven 5 system was designed for small camera systems like the range finder styled Fuji X-E1 camera system.  This provides the ability to use a set ND in the 2, 3 and 10 stop range in conjunction with a graduated ND filter in Hard or Soft edges from 1, 2 & 3 stop ranges to darken the sky for further control!  While expensive (what isn’t?) this system gives the photographer the best opportunity to capture PERFECT long exposures in any situation!
  • Sekonic L758DR Light Meter.  This is my main tool aside from the camera, for long exposures!  It is a 1 degree spot meter that can be calibrated to your camera and gives PERFECT exposures while accounting for what ever ND filter you have installed.  It gives you a choice of where you meter in the scene and then using the ZONE SYSTEM allows you to shift your exposure up or down in order to give you the image you envision!  For me, this is my MUST HAVE MAIN TOOL for exposure control.  It goes way beyond the capability of your in camera metering system.

Must Have Thought Processes to Master Long Exposure Photography

  • You must MASTER the physics of exposure!  But relax, this can be accomplished in about 1/2 hour then a few outing to experiment with your new knowledge set!
  • You must MASTER the ZONE SYSTEM of exposure control. This is simply a different way at looking at exposure where you divide what the camera can see and record into 10 distinct zones from black to white with each zone assigned to a specific stop that can be adjusted with either shutter speed or aperture.  This will make your in head exposure calculations easy and automatic.  When you couple this with the fact that ALL metering systems force the measurement area into the 18% gray area (ZONE 5) then you can see how easy it is to force the camera exposure to give you the envisioned image the first time!  There are several books and videos on Amazon that will be good to read. Here is a nice book on the overall zone system, and here is one dealing with it for digital systems.
  • The ability do look at a scene before you ever pick up a camera and envision what you want to capture and how you want it to look!  Remember, the camera is a tool, you master your tool and make it create your envisioned image!
  • The drive to suffer through long hours in the dark and cold just to capture 3 or 4 images!  Know this, the exposure, say 15 minutes is only 1/2 the time needed by the camera to save the image onto your memory card.  The camera will run a noise reduction cycle the same length as the exposure before you can move onto the next exposure.  So if you take a 15 minute shot your camera will be tied up for 30 minutes!  This then, is why you need to get the exposure dead on each and every time!  You only can get so many shots when it takes 1/2 hour for each 15 minute shot.
  • The ability to post process (I use Photoshop CS6 and the Nik Software filter set) in both Color and B&W.
The Pawleys Island Pier, Fuji X-E1 with the 18-55mm lens, 3 stop Lee Graduated ND for the sky and a 3 stop ND overall.

The Pawleys Island Pier, Fuji X-E1 with the 18-55mm lens, 3 stop Lee Graduated ND for the sky and a 3 stop ND overall.

So let’s put all of this together in a process or recipe (if you will) that will lead us to success in the Long Exposure game (NOT Star Trails which is a slightly different game!

My favorite time to setup and start taking my long exposures is from 1/2 hour before sunset to about 2 hours after (depending upon the moon).

I will usually go to the beach and look for something in the foreground like some rocks, groin, dead trees, pilings or a pier.

680 second exposure, Pawleys Island Pier and Groin.  Fuji X-E1, at the end of twilight going into full darkness

680 second exposure, Pawleys Island Pier and Groin. Fuji X-E1, at the end of twilight going into full darkness


The ocean state only make a difference in that if the waves are large then you will need a much longer exposure to flatten them out. So many of the long exposures you see with bands of dark and light in the ocean are caused by your exposure being too short to totally flatten the surface.  A single band of white in the foreground is caused by the surf crashing down onto the sand and that can also be overcome by extending your exposure past 10 minutes!

  • 1/2 hour prior to sunset: For this time period you will need a 6 to 10 stop ND filter (depending upon the light in the sky) to darken the scene enough to slow the water and clouds down.  By adding a graduated ND filter to cover the sky you can further even the scene and give a moody sky especially if there are colds!

    1/2 hour before Sunset, Fuji X-E1 250 seconds with 10 stop ND, extremely cloudy!

    1/2 hour before Sunset, Fuji X-E1 250 seconds with 10 stop ND, extremely cloudy!

  • Sunset/Sunrise:  keeping the same filters in place you are now getting exposures in the 6 minute range.  The water is very smooth and milky.  Start show up in the sky and leave curved trails. Sky colors explode and you will get your best color saturation.

    Sunrise, Outer Banks Fishing Pier, Fuji X-Pro 156 seconds, 3 stop ND.

    Sunrise, Outer Banks Fishing Pier, Fuji X-Pro 156 seconds, 3 stop ND.

  • Twilight:  The sun is down, and the sky is turning dark blue. The stars are bright.  It is time to remove the fixed ND filter but perhaps leave on the graduated ND for the sky.  Your exposure times should drop down into the 1 to 3 minute range providing the moon is not full.  At this point a full moon will provide way too much light and turn the sky white.  A 1/4 moon will give nice even lighting and a much better image.

    The 2-fer, The pier & groin, Pawleys Island Twilight

    The 2-fer, The pier & groin, Pawleys Island Twilight

  • The DARK:  Ok, there is no light in the sky other than the moon, stars and pollution. Sometimes though, the light pollution from buildings and towns can add a dramatic component to your images like the one shown below!  This is the time now when you are looking at exposure times from 4 to 20 minutes depending upon the light conditions.  I will now remove all filters unless there is a very bright moon.
Full Dark!  Fuji X-E1 with a 3 stop Lee graduated ND filter  covering the sky to the horizon. 125 seconds at f/11. Light pollution from the hotels and pier behind me.

Full Dark! Fuji X-E1 with a 3 stop Lee graduated ND filter covering the sky to the horizon. 125 seconds at f/11. Light pollution from the hotels and pier behind me.

Of all of the times in the list above I like the Sunset and Twilight times for my best images!

Metering:

Metering of all the aspects of long exposures is your most difficult hurdle.  The in camera meters when set to spot, are indeed capable, but they are not totally accurate and more importantly, they are large spots, in the 5 degree  range rather than the 1 degree of the hand held meters.  Yes you can use them but be prepared to have to adjust your exposure for a second shot… And this is WHILE the ambient light is rapidly changing as the sun continues to set!

Time for a talk on exposure..

We have the 3 basic exposure settings to work with, ISO (which should be set on your cameras lowest or native setting), APERTURE, which for a sharp image with proper DOF should be set for f/8 to f/16 and Shutter speed which should be set at least at 30 seconds and around 2 minutes for good smoothing of the ocean surface and clouds. You will lock the ISO and APERTURE while looking for a good shutter value to be generated by the metering system.  So as you can see, you can set the camera in Aperture Priority mode to shoot here.  I find though that I like full manual mode better.

Here is what you can expect for various shutter speeds:

  1. 30 seconds, start to have good smoothing of the waves with some of the bigger waves still showing above the water surface.  Alternating dark and light bands in the waters surface.
  2. 60 seconds, a more profound smoothing in the waters surface, more even lighting and coloring, still with some bands…
  3. 120 seconds, total smoothing of the water, no banding and great even coloring of the water.
  4. 480 seconds and up, totally smooth water, even color and shading, almost a glass like surface of with milk.  Very pleasing and soothing…

Keeping the Depth Of Field (DOF) in mind, you can see that the shutter speeds are the key to your images.

Now, how best to determine your exposure?

Time for the meat of this post, metering…

As discussed earlier, the internal meter of digital camera systems is not the best meter out there.  In the spot mode they provide a very large spot (5 degrees) when what we really need is a 1 degree spot.  The smaller spot gives us a more accurate and isolated reading which can be vital in determining the overall exposure.  If you use this in conjunction with the ZONE system developed by Ansel Adams then we have a really powerful system.  Lets take a look.

Zones

Zones

The ZONE system is very simple.  It divided your total exposure into 10 equal parts or zones.  Each zone is a specific “stop” and the center (zone 5) where where ALL METERS place the exposure of anything it sees!

As you can see from the chart on the left of the zones, they start at black for zone 0 and move to white at zone 10.  Zone 5 being the 18% gray is what the meter sees and will adjust the exposure of the spot metered to be there in the 18% gray!  This explains why so  many photographers snow images come out as gray!  Knowing that the meter will automatically place the measured spot into the gray area it is a simple matter for the photographer to mentally move the zone up or down in adjustment in order to place the metered spot into the desired zone!

It is easy to understand and implement!

Looking at Zones

Looking at Zones

  1. So, let’s take a look at a sample image, not as a photograph but what we would see with our eyes. If you were to look at the top meter spot in the sky you would see that it falls into zone 7!  But if we were to meter on this spot, the meter/camera would move it to zone 5 which would be just too dark for the overall picture.  The fix is to take the meter reading then mentally move it into zone 7 by adding 2 stops of exposure.  Here is what the meter system suggested for this measurement:  Spot reading on the overcast sky at f/8, ISO 200 gives a shutter speed of 15 seconds, but we KNOW that it is in zone 5.  We simply add 2 stops to place it into zone 7 by increasing exposure to 60 seconds, or 2 stops.  The sky now brightens into zone 7.
  2. Lets do another and meter on the horizon water.  The spot meter reads this as f/8, ISO 200 and the shutter speed of 60 seconds which it sees in zone 5 and since it is actually in zone 5 we can just go with the suggested exposure!

See?  Easy to do.

So, hopefully the camera meter has a small enough spot to read these small areas and give you an accurate exposure suggestion.  But, what happens when you add a 3, 6 or 10 stop ND filter into the mix?  Well 3 stops will not affect the meter, but 6 and 10 will destroy any accuracy and your exposures will be all over the place.  We just cannot have that happens so this is where a hand held spot meter comes into play!

There are 3 things that you must keep in mind when you are thinking about hand held meters.

  1. They are more accurate than camera meters
  2. They have a true 1 degree spot
  3. They allow you to tell them of any ND filters installed on the camera and automatically compensate for them!

I suggest 2 meters from Sekonic for you to consider, the L508 and L758DR.

  • The 508 has an adjustable spot from 1 to 5 degrees and allows you to account for an installed ND filter .  It is no longer produced but readily available for around $300.00.
  • The L758DR has a fixed 1 degree spot, allows for filter compensation up to 10 stops and can be calibrated to your camera.  It also has a viewfinder display and much greater functionality than the 508.  It can be found for about $650.oo.

Sekonic L758DR Spot Meter

Sekonic L758DR Spot Meter

Here is the L758DR which is what I am using and will show in the following examples. The meter has 2 modes of measuring light, the lumasphere and the spot which is simply an eye piece that you look thru and shows a target you place on the area of the scene you wish to measure!

How to use the Sekonic L758DR Spot Meter:

  1. You need to use the custom functions on the meter to set WHOLE stops for the shutter speed.  This will simplify you life in a major way!
  2. Set the meter MODE to SPOT with the APERTURE selected which enables you to lock in a specific Aperture.  This will have the F surrounded by a BOX. Then when you take a measurement, the Shutter Speed will be displayed for Zone 5.
  3. You need to set your natural ISO into the meter.  Press and hold the ISO 1 button and simply turn the round dial to select that ISO you desire to work in!
  4. Decide on which ND filter (if any) you are going to use for this shot!  Then hold down BOTH the ISO 1 and ISO 1 buttons while turning the round dial to select between +/- 0 to 9.9 stops.
  5. Then you just press the measure button under  the spot viewfinder  to measure your selected area of the scene and adjust the Zone up or down as in the zone examples above!  It is that simple!

Set Mode to SPOT

Set SPOT Mode

Set SPOT Mode

Setting the ISO

ISO Set

ISO Set

Setting the Filter compensation

Filter Compensation

Filter Compensation

Taking the Measurement

Meter Viewfinder showing the target and measured values. The meter button is just below this.

Meter Viewfinder showing the target and measured values. The meter button is just below this.

That is all of the necessary steps to use this meter. It really is very easy! There are several videos on the Sekonic web site as well as on Utube.  

Understanding ND Filters:

The B+W, well most others as well can be tough to understand!  Here is a break down of all of the filters and how to read the codes!

B+W ND INFO

B+W ND INFO

Knowing how to read the filters is important but understanding how to use them even more so.  Lucky for us in long exposures we are interested in the shutter speed.  If we get a shutter speed of 1/15 second with no ND installed we know that it is simply too fast to slow the water down!  So we realize that a ND filter is needed.

Standard ND Filters effect on a 1/15 second shutter speed with a fixed ISO and Aperture:

  • No filter            1/15 second
  • 1 Stop                1/8 second
  • 2 Stops             1/4 second
  • 3 Stops             1/2 second
  • 6 stops             4 seconds
  • 1o Stops           1 minute

These are the standard ND filters from B+W, other companies offer the same and other values.  Lee offers in the Seven 5 system, 1, 2, 3 and 10 stop values as well.

So now, you take your meter reading and look at the suggested shutter speed, install a ND filter and then tell the meter which one chosen and it will give you the corrected shutter speed. Remember, all camera meters will fail at 6 stops on!

Graduated ND Filters:

Lee Hard Graduated ND

Lee Hard Graduated ND

Lee Soft Graduated ND

Lee Soft Graduated ND

These are filters from Lee (some round ones from B+W but they divide directly in the center) that come in 1, 2 and 3 stops.  They are either a hard transition between dark and clear or a soft transition covering a larger area of the filter.  I use these filters to darken part of the image, usually the sky.  If you have a firmly visible seperation between the sky and water at the horizon, you can use a hard graduated filter.  Otherwise you will use the soft which is the normally used choice. Take a look at the images here of both and you can see their usefulness.

Deciding on which value to choose, 1, 2 or 3 stops is simple.  You simply use your meter to spot read the sky and then again the ocean.  Look at the difference between the shutter speeds given with a fixed Aperture and ISO.  The difference will tell you how much graduated ND you need to use.

These filters are also handy for other landscapes as well.  How often are we plagued with waterfalls or landscapes where the sky is just too bright?  Apply the same metering difference to those images as well for a vastly improved result.

Last minute considerations as you venture out to practice your Long Exposures!

  1. Keep your lens clean, salt spray can and will sneak up on you and spit all over your glass!
  2. Push your tripod legs slightly into the sand for increased stability.
  3. Keep aware of the surf!  Do not let it over take your tripod. it will cause your camera to drop a little lower and ruin a shot.
  4. Keep the Horizon STRAIGHT!!  If you have an in camera level use it!  If not, purchase and attach an external level onto your flash hot shoe and use it!
  5. Use your in camera long exposure noise reduction setting in the custom settings!  This will not only reduce noise in camera (yes photoshop can do this) but it will remove all sensor hot pixels and dark pixels which photoshop will NOT DO!  I understand that your exposure time will double due to this but isn’t the final image quality worth the extra wait?
  6. Take a light weight chair.
  7. Have a light to see the camera setups or a ultra bright light to lighten a subject for focus!  I like a lighted hat for this and a Sure Fire LED 500 Lumen light to reach out and light a subject for focus (not to mention light painting!)
  8. Gloves?
  9. Warm Coat?
480 second exposure, Fuji X-E1 Late Twilight! Metering of the cloud base just above the horizon then moved to Zone 7!

480 second exposure, Fuji X-E1 Late Twilight! Metering of the cloud base just above the horizon then moved to Zone 7!

OK all done, I hope that you both enjoyed and learned from this post!  Please let me know.

Twilights Bitter End…


No Words, just images…

 

The Bigger End, Olympus OMD.

The Bigger End, Olympus OMD.

 

The 2-fer, The pier & groin, Pawleys Island Twilight

The 2-fer, The pier & groin, Pawleys Island Twilight

The 2-fer, The pier & groin, Pawleys Island Twilight

The B&W 2-fer, The pier & groin, Pawleys Island Twilight