Controlling your Dynamic Range in B&W Film photography


Stormy Seas in a approaching storm!

Stormy Seas a the dock… 6×12 medium format Tmax 100 film

Dayi 6×12 showing the ground glass and shade and my custom dark cloth attached.

This Super Pano was taken on my Dayi 6×12 medium format view camera. Lens is a Rodenstock 90mm f/6.8 Super Grangdagon N and while it is a bit slow it is VERY sharp and quite beautiful!  This is a very different style of camera and will take 5 images per roll of 120 film. 

 

Dayi 6×12 Grand Glass Back

This is an amazing combination of a ground glass focus and calibrated distance focus system.

 

Dayi 6×12 with the Rodinstock 90mm f/8.6 installed showing the alternative, calibrated focusing system

Shrimp boats are one of several subjects that I will drive hundreds of miles away to photograph! I am very lucky to live so close to a lot of them locally! Because of the continuing loss of our shrimp fleets here I am both driven and inspired to document them every chance I have. You have to admit that they are very beautiful when done in B&W and what better way to document them if not film?

This was a very difficult shot to achieve! To get it I had to overcome the super bright sun coming over my shoulder highting the boat and buildings to the point that they were totally burned out. The storm in the background was dark and foreboding…
The lesson here is to learn and realize that you can control all aspects of your image’s exposure along with taming the dynamic range of the scene through use of thoughtful developing and scanning.
I used a Sekonic 758 to get these results by using  a combination of exposure averaging  with 6  one degree spot metered measurements, saving each reading in the meters memory then telling the meter to give me the zone 5 average which then became my base exposure.  The 758  then showed me the the exposure with a chart of any data over or under exposed thus out of the film’s dynamic range.
Knowing this, I then used a technique where you can either compress the the dynamic range of the image into a smaller space thus allowing the film to compensate for a wider dynamic range that it was designed for!  This is called +/-1N developing. You can change developing time down to compress the dynamic range of the image by squeezing the image down from the whites towards the blacks which compresses the highlights  into range!   The opposite is also true by going +N.   But for this image the -1N was enough.   I then then used another creative process during the wet mount film scanning by expanding the dynamic range to fit into the wider print profile by  +1 to the highlights in Viewscan to put them where I desired for a powerful and moody print.  There are a lot of books out there that will teach this technique, but my favorite is Creative Exposure Control by Les Meehan which will teach you the development side of the process.   The scanning side is easily done in Viewscan and there is a good book on that on Amazon. 
I will also expand upon this in future posts as well!

Rodenstock 90mm f/6.9 Grandagon N, while a slow lens it is super sharp and beautiful!

The wet mount scanning technique will be taught in a future post here along with a video on Youtube!  But to do it you will need an Epson 700, 750, 800 or 850 scanner as those are the only ones that the wet mount kit will fit!

 
Data: Dayi 6×12 – f32 .4s – Roll 4 F3- Avg Metering 6 measurements – Yellow Filter – Stormy Seas- Tmax 100 – Perceptol 1:1 at -1n  – 2018

As always please let me know what you think!

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Beach Day For Lilly!


Exploring new things can be fun!

 

Let’s Get To It, Fuji GA645zi with FP4+ processed in Xtol Stock and Wet Mount Scanned

Well, we went last week (Ellen and I, Megan and the 2 grandkids Lilly and Jordan) for a beach day here in Pawleys Island South Carolina.   Meg asked for some images of Lilly’s reaction to the ocean!  I am really not one for hours on the beach but who can turn down a 17 month old babies reaction on B&W film?

I grabbed my Fuji GA645zi camera (auto focus, 4 position zoom, great meter and built in flash) with a roll of Ilford FP4+ film and we headed out!  Not a long trip since we live in Pawleys  so soon we were there.

Data: Fuji GA645zi using a yellow/green filter to bring out the skin tones and a bit of the sky and clouds with Ilford FP4+ film processed in Xtol stock and wet mount scanned today.

Lilly did not know what to think of it all but went into the water and quickly backed up.  Meg sat down with her and helped ease her into the concept of big water.  Pretty soon she was running around having great fun.   Normally I do not do a lot of posts of people or family but hey, you know film?  You got to honor the challenge!

Meg easing Lilly into the water! Fuji GA645zi with FP4+ processed in Xtol Stock and Wet Mount Scanned

Of course Jordan, my 9yo film photographer grandson is an old hand at this and just looked good at anything he did there!

Jordan my 9yo grandson film photographer!

I took only the one roll but saved one shot for  the local beach landscape!  Hey your there so you gotta do it right!

Dunes behind us!

As always, comments are welcome!  Let me know what you think.

Railroad Day Trip and the Fuji GA645zi


The Art Of Film Photography And Travel

 

Jordan standing on part of a giant Redwood tree on the top of the mountain


Day 1

Earlier this month Ellen and I took our 9yo grandson Jordan on a week long trip to the San Francisco area.  We did many things and visited some great sights! One of the most memorable was a 2 day visit to the Roaring Camp where the Big Trees and Pacific Railroad is!  They offered several train trips around the mountains and through the giant Redwoods. 

There also were two covered bridges in Felton, one in Roaring Camp itself and another a short distance away in the town. Here is the Roaring Camp bridge.

Roaring Camp Covered Bridge

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train being lubed

Our first trip was on the Dixiann a 160 year old narrow gauge steam train designed to move ore down the mountains from the mines.  It was special in that it had geared drives to all of its wheels and while it could not move fast it could pull loads up and down the mountains and take as much as an 8% grade!.

The rail yard was full of amazing trains that were in various stages of repair or being torn down for parts. It was a photographers dream!  There was so many different parts, trains and cars around the yard that I could have spent hours and many rolls of 120 film there.   The film I did choose was Kodak Tmax 400.  The reason for this was the fact that I was in the mountains covered in giant Redwoods and there was not too much light!

 

Pacific Railroad Yard in Roaring Camp, Felton, CA

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train arriving at the station to pick us up

Once it was time to board the train Jordan and I went down beside the tracks trying to get some good angles on the steam engine with its puffing smoke and steam. 

As it approached we were physically pushed aside by an foreign  woman and her daughter who then stood directly in front of us taking phone pictures. 

We were already setup with our film systems when they did this.  It was the only black mark on the day for us and caused enough anger for me to yell at them for being so rude but they simply did not care.  So this next image had to be majorly cropped to remove them from it. Some people are totally clueless and without a shred of common sense or decency.

If you take a look at the engine you will notice that there is really no dark smoke.  This is due to the fact that it has been converted to burn used motor oil!  There was a water town that it pulled up to and topped off its water level too.

The engine  had a central drive shaft that powered the gear drives to all of the wheels.  Next is another image of it getting ready to leave the top of the mountain on the ride back down to the station.

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train getting ready to head down the mountain

There was another interesting covered bridge in Felton as well.  It was the tallest covered bridge that I have ever seen!   The town built a nice park around it.

Felton Covered Bridge, Tmax 400

Felton Covered Bridge, Tmax 400

 


 

Fuji GA645zi Medium Format Camera

Let’s take a bit of time to talk about the photography a bit…  On these two train trips, light was an issue as well as not being able to use a tripod.  As this was a week long trip and not photography based I chose the Fuji GA645zi medium format camera because of its light weight, 55mm to 90mm 4 position f/4.5 zoom lens, fast autofocus, accurate built in meter, Aperture, Shutter and Manual modes, internal flash and lightweight as the only camera I would take and carry. It is also tough with a solid titanium body!  In other places around California I was able to use a small carbon fiber travel tripod from Really RIght Stuff and then shutter speed became a non issue.

As I said earlier, ALL shots in this post were done on Tmax 400 due to it being difficult using a tripod as well as lower light levels in the Redwoods.   Normally in a situation where I have enough light or am able to use a tripod I will always choose Ilford FP4+ 125 ISO  film for its amazing sharpness, small grain and great contrasts.  I also shot with an orange filter whenever I could but sometime even that had to come off in order to keep a decent shutter speed.   Processing was done in Kodak Xtol stock in my FIlmomat automated table top film processor.   Once dried I used a wet mount scan process.  I find the Tmax films very easy to use and they give consistent results are easy to load on the reels due to their thick film base.  I also brought along some Velvia 100 film and managed to shoot a few rolls of that at the covered bridges and ocean scenes.


Day 2

TIme for the Beach train ride!  This was a 3 hour trip from the mountains down to the boardwalk along the beach in Santa Cruz! Of course Jordan liked this trip also because the boardwalk held a huge amusement park!   We had an hour to play there once we arrived but he was having so much fun that we decided to wait 4 extra hours for the last train back to Felton.  The train this time was a diesel, Gene O”lague #2641 that took us and we actually rode on tracks thru Santa Cruz proper!  I was pretty interesting and sad at the same time due to the VAST numbers of homeless people who had setup permanent camps along the tracks in the low mountains outside of town.

Gene O”Lague, the diesel that took us down the mountain to Santa Cruz for the beach trip

The train is shown here arriving to pick us up at the station.  It was huge and I managed to capture this one image of it arriving before a mob of people again ran out in front of me, oh well…  

The trip done out of the Redwoods was very interesting and we even went through a long tunnel as we came into Santa Cruz.  The tracks are actually down the center of the streets and was very slow do the traffic!  ALL of the people on the streets, in the cars and trucks waved continuously as we would pass.

After we arrived at the boardwalk the train powered down and sat there for an hour waiting for the first trip back to Felton.  This gave me ample time to do some detail shots of the train which I found very interesting.  This is my favorite of the roll!

Gene O”Lague, the diesel that took us down the mountain to Santa Cruz for the beach trip stopped at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz

 

Of course we were now at the boardwalk amusement park.  We were there a few days earlier (the park) but could not spend much time there for Jordan.  So as I said earlier we decided to add 4 extra hours here for him to ride and play.  It was time well spent and he enjoyed the day.

Sky RIding on the boardwalk in Santa Cruz during the Beach train ride

Ellen & Jordan

All in all the train rides and park were a nice time on the trip for us all.  It was both fun and very tiring but I managed to capture 14 rolls of B&W 120 film and 4 of color slides.  I continue to evolve in my technique for travel photography with the inclusion of more capable travel medium format camera systems which makes me VERY happy.   I hope to travel much more with Ellen in the future and once in a while I will take my larger Mamiya 645AFDii camera and lenses there is good reason to stick to the lighter Fuji GA645zi system with its single zoom lens!

Things learned:

  • While a wider range of interchangeable lenses would be nice, the camera/lenses are just too heavy to travel with and carry…
  • I love rangefinders but an auto focus made my photography much more fun and faster with my family in tow…
  • Take more film…
  • Split the B&W film evenly between slow and fast.  Stick with Tmax 400 and Ilford TF4+ 125…
  • Take along a faster slide film…
  • Get a bigger dark bag to hold exposed film…
  • Did I say take more film?  Yep, but it is a biggie!

 

Thanks for bearing with me thru this ultra long post.  While it does come across as more of a family vacation (which it is) post it really does go into ways to make such a easier and funner experience!

 

As always, please let me know what you think of it all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Accidental Photograph!


Sometimes even the best of us get surprised!

 

The Carson Elizabeth

Fuji GF670 Medium Format

Fuji GF670

Now, here is one image that I REALLY like! This is a 6×7 negative from my Fuji GF670, a folding rangefinder camera with a really bright rangefinder and a fixed 80mm Voigtlander lens shot on Rollei IR400 film and processed yesterday in Xtol stock and wet mount scanned today… 

Sounds normal right?   Well this was a VERY OLD roll of film, and has been sitting in my shop for over a year marked “Stand Develop” ( a special developing process where you use Rodinal 1:100 in the tank for an hour with no agitation that works on all B&W films of different ISO values) because I forgot what ISO I shot it at!  I actually got tired of seeing it in my to do can in the fridge and yesterday threw it onto a 2 film reel with a roll of  Ilford FP4+ film and set up my Filmomat for the FP4! The FP4+ turned out as expected,  but the IR400  was a complete surprise.   

Carson Elizabeth, Shrimper in Georgetown, SC on 120 film

There was only one good image from the IR400 but OMG was it ever good! Just looking at it gives me the hot sweats!! As I looked at the processed roll of IR400 I realize that I had changed ISO mid roll and that is why I marked it stand. The other images on the IR400 were not worthy of scanning  but this single image still made it a  big win for me!

Oh, for the curious, my FIlmomat is a computerized film developing machine that is the tabletop sized and will do 35mm, 120, 4×5 and 5×7 films.  For the 120 it will do 2 rolls at a time.    Here is a video that shows it in action…

 

Data: GF670 with 80mm lens and Rollei IR400 with no filter processed as FP4+ yesterday and wet mount scanned today.

Goodness, I had forgotten how difficult the film is to handle with its very thin film base!

For those of you who are interested in the fine art of FILM PHOTOGRAPHY AND SELF PROCESSING, join me on my new G+ page HERE and learn and share!

Testing the New Kolari Vision AR 720nm Screw On Filter


720nm Medium Format Film Photography with Rollei IR400 Film

 

Tomotley Plantation in 720nm Infrared with Rollei IR400 film and the Kolari Vision 720nm Filter

Infrared FILM photography has always been on the difficult side, but not because of lack for film because there are several films on the market.  Rather it is due to the poor quality of the available 720nm filters on the market.   

Kolari 720nm FIlter

Recently Kolari Vision www.kolarivision.com has come out with a new series of infrared filters with their AR (anti reflection) that stop or greatly reduce hot spots in the center of your film or digital sensor.  These hot spots are due to the various coatings, paint and other reflective coatings on the glass elements and coatings on inside of your lenses causing the light to bounce back and forth several times then hit the film dead center causing the hot spot.    

The main filter on the market has been the Hoya R72 filter which works but gives a low contrast washed out image.   Along come the new Kolari filter and now I am getting more contrast and even images with greatly reduced hot spots.  AMAZING!


So lets take a look at the image above.  This is the Tomotley Plantation about 20 min west of Beaufort, SC and  was taken with the Rollei IR400 film rated at 720nm.  Without a IR filter the ISO is 400 and the emulsion generates a very good likeness of Kodak TriX 400 film.  If you add the 720nm filter the ISO drops down to 12 or 6  but you get the amazing whites on the grass and leaves.  You even get the Wood Effect where the green items BLOOM  out with an etherial soft white energy on the image!

Few things beat a beautiful sunrise photographed in color when you want to create a dramatic image. The same scene photographed in infrared may be disappointing unless there’s some  IR reflective subject matter (we’re talking about deciduous trees here) to add interest. That’s because of the “Wood Effect,” which is the bright, white reproduction of the chlorophyll layer of deciduous plants. The effect is named after infrared photography pioneer Robert W. Wood (1868-1955) and not after the material wood which does not strongly reflect infrared.

Normally the Wood Effect is difficult to achieve at 720nm and is better seen at 800nm and and above.  I have been very happy with this new filter from Kolari in combination with the Rollei IR400 film because I am constantly getting the effect plus deep contrasty images.  It simply works as expected which is way more than I can say for others on the market!


Technical Data:

  • Fuji GF 670 Medium Format (120) folding Rangefinder with a Voigtlander 85mm Color Scopar lens.  
  • Kolari 720nm AR filter
  • ISO at 12 and 6, both are close to perfect because they are only 1 stop apart.
  • Aperture: f/32
  • Tripod mounted

Development:

  • Ilford Perceptol Stock mixture 1:0, 20c, 14 min with 5 seconds of agitation every min.
  • Water Rinse
  • Stop Bath
  • Ilford Quick Fix for 5 min with 5 seconds of agitation every min.
  • Water Rinse
  • Clearing Wash
  • Water rinse for 10 min
  • Distilled Water rinse with 3 drops of wetting solution
  • Dried overnight in filtered Mistral Drying Cabinet.
  • Wet mount scanned on a Epson 850 pro at 6400dpi.

If you are considering working in 720nm whether in film or digital I highly recommend this new filter from Kolari!

 

Finding Myself In The Old Ways…


It seems that I am addicted to film…

Miss Lue & A Hungry Egret

I still shoot with digital (A7RII) and love the look and capability of it, but FILM is what I go to every time I go out shooting… It is Terrible and exciting at the same time! It is so bad that I am looking for another freezer to store my excess film stock!

This is (again) Stormy Seas in Georgetown, SC

This is (again) Stormy Seas in Georgetown, SC (perhaps the most photographed boat in the Low Country). I have hundreds of images of it but I am pulled to photograph her in B&W film each and every time I am in Georgetown. There is something about her lines and textures that inspire me to document her life, and I have for years. Yes I will visit ANY shrimp boat (or grist mill for that matter) and each and every time I visit I see something different and unique… Yep addicted!

DATA:

The image was taken about 5 days ago on a 6×9 Fuji GW 690 II using medium format Fuji Acros 100 film and a red filter, developed in Perceptol 1:1 and Wet Mount scanned on a Epson 850 pro. The 6×9 format will give me 8 images per roll and I will usually scan 2 or 3 per roll, but I am very critical and selective because the wet scan process takes about 3/4 hour per scan!

The top image is near Stormy Seas in Georgetown, about 2 blocks away at another commercial dock and seafood house.  I have shot this a hundred times on both digital and film, but never have I captured such a pleasing image  as this.  It is to me a more enriching image full of mood, contrasts and tells a story.  I pleases me to no end the tell the story on an old FILM camera of an old boat and failing lifestyle just as the shrimp boat is in the background and the Egret in the foreground telling a different yet the same story!

There is also the consideration that is tied to the process of working in film.  It is slower and much more deliberate, a truer work of love in that you control every single step of the process…

  • Film choice (Kodak Tmax 100, Tmax 400, Fuji Acros 100 or Rollei IR400)
  • Camera and lens choice (Medium or Large Format)
  • Considering the composition and lines.  
  • Getting the exposure dead on (how many of you do that in digital?)
  • Adjusting for contrast and detail in shadows or highlights.
  • Film development and processing for highlights or shadows (another complete immersion of self discovery)
  • Drying (yep at lest 24 hours in a dust free drying cabinet)
  • Choosing the best image for exposure, sharpness, composition, contrasts, lines, dust & hair and so on..)
  • Wet scanning (at least a 1/2 to 3/4 hour project per shot)
  • Cleaning up on the computer by removing dust and hair and adding a bit of contrast)

All in all, the top image took about a week to complete from end to end!  I simply love the process, being immersed in it and becoming one in the creative process.   Yes it is slow but when I am done it is a total representation of MY PERSONAL VISION!

Film is making a HUGE come back in the world of photography!  So much so that you will be shocked when you visit Ebay and look at the prices of old film cameras and systems!   All of the major film makers in the world are increasing their production of films and even Kodak is bringing back discontinued film products!   New film companies like New55, Impossible Project, and FILM FERRANIA have opened up and are making emulsions!

Developing has never been easier, there are many mail order labs out there but you can process your own film in your kitchen with very little effort and investment!  You will need:

  • Dark Tent or changing bag to move your film to a daylight tank.
  • Daylight tank (I reccomend a Stainless Steel tank with steel developing reels by Hewes)
  • Distilled Water
  • Developer ( I recommend Perceptol by Ilford)
  • Stop Bath
  • Fixer
  • Wash
  • Water Rinse
  • Distilled water rinse with wetting agent
  • Clips to dry your film in your bathroom shower
  • A flat bed scanner like Epson 500, 600, 700, 800 or 850)

Total you are looking at about $120 for everything accept the scanner!   There are great videos on Youtube that will take you thru every step in the process!

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

The image above of the Tybee Island Lighthouse was taken last month on Kodak Tmax 100 rated at 50 ISO  on the 6×9 format medium format Fuji System.  It was hot and the area full of tourists, even up on the top of the lighthouse itself!  Still the act of creating this image was both fun and fulfilling and I walked away with exactly what I envisioned as I stood there looking at the scene!

I especially love shooting with Medium Format cameras.  They are easier to travel with and the negatives are large enough to give amazing prints.  I do have 3 4×5 large format cameras also that are great fun to you but as you can imagine, they are difficult to travel with.  Once in a great while I will shoot with a 35mm camera, usually smaller rangefinder that were sold in the 60’s and 70’s!

Medium Format:

  • Fuji GF 670 (this is my travel camera in 6×7 format with a 85mm lens that folds up into a thin light camera)
  • Fuji GW 690II (this is a 6×9 format camera with a 90mm lens and a bit larger and better built than the GF camera)
  • Fuji GW 690 III (a newer version of the 690II)

Large Format:

  • Shen Hao 4×5 Cherry Field Camera with 5 lenses and film adapters for also using 120 film.
  • Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a 150mm Fujinon lens.  Think of 4×5 travel camera!
  • Polaroid 110B converted to 4×5 with a 90mm Schneider Angulon lens, again travel!

So, while film does indeed require much more effort over digital, the results simply cannot be compared.   These medium format negatives have a native resolution to create a 71×53 inch print without upsizing it at all!  The amount of detail is simply stunning and more importantly (at least t me) is the fact that the process become a Zen like activity in creation!

I hope that you enjoyed this post but more importantly to me at least that you considered my words on the creative process and taking complete control of it!

 

 

 

 

 

Using M mount glass on the Sony A7rii camera


The AMAZING just got better….

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

Look closely at the image above.  It was taken with a Voigtlander M mount 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar lens and the Techart M to FE AUTOFOCUS adapter on a Sony A7rii camera. The cleat on the bottom right is about 6 inches from the front of the lens!  The color rendering is amazing and there is very little distortion that is normally found with an ultra wide lens!   I can hear you asking how I accomplished this!

I recently picked up the Techart M to FE Sony mount adapter for my Leica and Voigtlander lenses.  It has been my desire to use them on the Sony A7rii, A6300 and A6500 cameras.

The Techart auto focus adapter is amazing. I actually moves the lens in and out to get a sharp focus.  It has several rules that you must follow to use it and as long as you do it will provide great service.  It is quite fast!

  • Use a center focus point on the camera
  • Set your camera aperture to f/2 and leave. It there
  • Set the real aperture directly on the lens.  
  • Don’t try to focus with the lens set to f/22, keep it around f/8 or f/11
  • The Exif data will shot f/2 but the exposure meter will correctly meter the subject.
  • Don’t try to use a heavy lens on the adapter unless you support it.

12mm Voigtlander M lens with the Techart autofocus M to FE adapter

12mm Voigtlander M lens with the Techart autofocus M to FE adapter

Here is a link to a short video demonstration of the Techart M to FE adapter on my Sony A7rii:

 

B&W work with this lens as well as my other Voigtlander and Leica M mount lenses are just as sharp weather in color or monochrome!

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

I also have and use a Metabones M to FE adapter which gives the same results but with manual focus only.   Sometimes manual focus is necessary depending upon your subject but reguardless of focus type both adapters and all of my M lenses work wonderfully on the A7rii camera system!

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

If you have a selection of M lenses then the cost of a M to FE adapter is well worth the money.  But I am VERY impressed with the new autofocus adapter!

 

Please let me know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

 

 

One Perfect Image…


Sometimes we just have to stand there taking it all in!

Hoodoos in Bryce National Park at the Sunset Point Overlook. Olympus XA with Kodak Tmax 100 film. This is MY defining image for my entire trip!

Hoodoos in Bryce National Park at the Sunset Point Overlook. Olympus XA with Kodak Tmax 100 film. This is MY defining image for my entire trip!

Ahh, have you ever had one of those defining moments in life where you KNOW that you are witnessing something truly special that touches your soul?   Well that is exactly what this was for me.  We had been on the road for almost 11 days on a trip from Rapid City thru Wyoming and Utah.  Our last stop of the trip was supposed to be in  Zion National Park but we had to cancel due to terrible rain and flooding in the park.  We extended our time in Arches which was really nice but it was not until I stood here in Bryce National Park at the Sunset point looking down into the canyon that I realized that I had made a mistake… I should have added onto the time there.   We only had ONE day to explore Bryce and it was very nice there with many great vistas and rock formations, but this image at the Sunset Point was the defining moment for the entire trip for me.  

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview.

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview, Sony A7rii

Understand, that I am NOT talking about either of the  photographs captured and shown above, but rather the moment for me personally standing there taking it all in, becoming one with the scene, no camera, no thoughts of photography only the experience and impact of witnessing the greatness of the scene.   I stood there for a good half hour drinking it all in and I will remember the emotional impact upon me for the rest of my life.   Yes… it was that powerful.  

There is some serious food for thought in this last statement.  In these days of rapid fire digital photography don’t you think that we can quickly loose sight of what it is that we are trying to create in our art?  Shooting in film slows you down which aids in the creative process.  This is not to say that we cannot do this with our digital systems because we can and I do, but rather most of us who practice this art tend to “hurry, capture and move on to the next thing!”   

Olympus XA 135mm

Olympus XA 135mm

It was almost as if it was an afterthought that I actually took my Sony A7rii with me up the trail to the overlook and took a few images which were actually quite nice in color, but after the sensory overload of the scene I could only think of one thing, B&W and FILM.  Yes, I could convert the color image above to B&W in post processing and do quite a good job of it but NOTHING can compare to what I can create with film!  So, it was a bit of a walk back down to the car where my wife and 7 year old grandson were resting because of the long drive to get here, but down I went with only one task, to trade the digital for a TINY B&W film camera, the Olympus XA.  The XA is the worlds smallest 35mm rangefinder camera. It has an amazingly sharp lens with easy focus, but the key is the fact that it is pants pocket (not those bulky cargo pockets but regular ones), it is light and handy.

I took so much camera equipment on this trip that the only space I had for a film system required that it be tiny.   Against all of my experience I threw in this tiny camera along with just 5 rolls of Kodak Tmax 100 film and off we flew.  I am so glad that I did now but having said this it is only fair to share that this was a colossal mistake.  I should have made room for a medium format (120 6×7) camera and taken out a lens or two for the Sony.   I have learned my lesson and will never repeat this mistake.  Don’t get me wrong, the XA captured an amazingly detailed and  sharp image. I love how it turned out.  The Kodak Tmax 100 film along with the Perceptol developer generated a image (yes small) with tiny grain and great sharpness.  Am I happy with the result?  You bet!  Would I have been happier with a larger 120 negative, OMG YES!!  Can I have a do over please?  Yes, I know, not to much of there ever being a chance for that.

So lets sum this up a bit shall we?  

  • SLOW DOWN,  take the time to really look at your subject!  If you do this your chances of creating a world class image will greatly improve.
  • Look closely at what is in front of you, take the time to feel its emotional impact upon you and only then bring out the camera and with your skill and insight to the scene make the camera (nothing more than a tool) capture what you saw!
  • Think in both color and B&W.  Remember though that B&W removes the clutter and confusion of normal color work.  In my opinion, B&W allows you to capture the soul of the scene! So yes, take color but also take B&W, you might be surprised at how well you can do.
  • If you are working in digital only, during post processing work color first completely, save the image THEN process for B&W generating all of the mood that you possibly can!

Ok, this post is done.  Get out there, shoot and create, but slow down and think about what and WHY you are doing it!

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

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


Removing The DISTRACTION of COLOR!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is an example of just what I mean:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrome

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

 

Learning to work the scene!


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

Stormy Seas Side Shot

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

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

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

This is powerful advice…

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

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

Stormy Seas

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

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

Stormy Seas

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

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

Stormy Seas Side Detail

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

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

Stormy Seas Life Ring

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

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

Stormy Seas Line

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

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

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

Stormy Seas, side detail, B&W

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

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

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

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Out And About With Film….


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

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw 120mm camera system

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw 120mm camera system

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

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

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

Rodinal One Shot

Rodinal One Shot

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

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

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw with Rollei IR400 120

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw with Rollei IR400 120

Jordan and his film camera

Jordan and his film camera

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

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

Cooking the film!

Cooking the film!

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

 

 

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!

Overcoming the Back Focus issues of the Leica 135mm M mount lens…


Yes, HOW could such a high quality Leica Lens be so problematic….

 

Leica 135mm

Leica 135mm

Leica 135mm

Leica 135mm

In todays world of modern digital camera systems, the Leica M 240 really stands out above the others.  One of the reason for this is the duality of an electronic viewfinder with a robust peaking focus system coupled with a real range finder focus as well!  This makes this camera IDEAL for mounting any lens that can be manually focused with reasonable expectations of good focus!

But what happens if you have some of the older Leica systems like the M9, Monochrom, M8 or a film body like the M7?  Should we not be able to expect the same focus quality of the M 240 using the built in rangefinder?

Well for ALL of my Leica and Voigtlander glass this has been a truism until I met the famously hard to focus 135mm lens.  Now understand that this lens has been through 5 (FIVE!!) versions and each and every one has had the same bad press on their inability to sharply focus!  If you ask Leica about them you are told to set your aperture to f/11, focus and shoot hoping that the DOF will overcome the shortcomings of the focus cam system inside of the lens!

Now, I badly desired a longer reach lens with a M mount but was convinced that I could not overcome the focus issues with these lenses.  So one of my students from the Arcanum (a online photograph school) had one of the 135s and sent it to me to experiment with.  It was one of the older models, looked kind of funky but had a tripod mount on the lens!  Reviews of ALL the 135s said that this model was the best one for the money!

So with the lens on camera (M 240) I set out to test the rangefinder focus vs. Electronic focus with peaking…

Suffice it to say that the lens BACK FOCUSES so badly that unless you are shooting at f/11 or f/16 you have very little chance of a sharp image!  I focused the lens using the range finder then again with the electronic peaking system and discovered the following failure:

  • 7 meter subject.  The lens needed to be adjusted to 6 meters to be in focus!
  • 50 meter subject.  The lens needed to adjusted to 20 meters to be in focus!
  • Infinity subject.  The lens needed to be adjusted between Infiniti and 50 meters!

The adjustments were the difference between the rangefinder focus and the peaking focus!

Well….

If you were to turn over and look into the mounting flange on it you will notice that there is a focus cam that moves up and down as you focus the lens.  This is NOT adjustable!  But… I had an idea!

Enter High Tac Copper Tape…

High tack copper tape

High tack copper tape

Tape Application Leica 135mm

Tape Application Leica 135mm

What if…

What if I were to tape one or two layers of this really sticky copper tape onto the end of the focus cam?  Could I at least get the infiniti focus point dialed in? 

YES!  It can be done!

So, I ordered a very thin roll (1/2 inch) from Amazon, cleaned the cam and cut 1 thin sliver of the tape and applied it to the end of the cam and redid my focus tests!

After cleaning the cam with Alcohol  I applied the tape, smoothing it down with a wooden dowel and allow it to sit for an hour giving the adhesive a chance to cure.

Mounting the lens again onto my M 240 I re-ran my range finder and electronic peaking focus tests on the same subjects and distances! I carefully (on a piece of tape attached to the lens marked the two focus marks for each test on the lens so that I could visualize both the size of the focus error as well as where it was on the overall focus scale.

Here are my results with only ONE layer of copper tape.  I knew that my target was to get my infinity focus dead on and that the closer distance focus points would still be off but hopefully by smaller amounts.

Test data is marked on the lens showing both RF focus/Electronic Peaking focus points.  The peaking points are dead on and hopefully we could bring the two closer together!

If you look at these points you will see the non cam taped focus dat on the bottom and the corrected cam data on the top.  The V stands for Electronic Peaking and the M for Range Finder focus.

7 Meter Focus Tests…

7 Meter Focus Test Leica 135mm

7 Meter Focus Test Leica 135mm

So for the non corrected cam we see a subject at 7 meters as focused with the rangefinder, but with the Peaking focus it is moved down to 6 meters to be sharp!  This is a 1 meter difference and unless you are shooting with a small aperture you will get a very soft focus!  When we do the test after the cam change the difference between the range finder and peaking is actually a bit wider.  This was expected…

Now, The 50 meter tests…

100 foot focus test on Leica 135mm

100 foot focus test on Leica 135mm

As you can see on the uncorrected cam side focusing at 50 meters on the rangefinder we needed to adjust down to 20 meters… That is WAY OUT OF RANGE!  Yet at f/11 we can get it into focus!  

With the corrected cam the difference between the range finder focus and the peaking focus gets closer together at about 30 meters which is a 10 meter reduction of focus error!  Better and better!

Infinity Focus Test

Infiniti Focus tests on the Leica 135mm

Infiniti Focus tests on the Leica 135mm

Ahh, the pre cam measurement using the rangefinder sets the lens to the infinity as expected but the peaking focus sets it down about 1/3 of the way towards 50 meters.  Way off to be sure but small than before.    

BUT…

The corrected cam BOTH THE RANGEFINDER AND THE PEAKING focus match at infinity!!  We are now dead on on the far end of the lens!

What this means is that knowing the differences between the rangefinder and peaking that we can adjust the 135mm lend down about 1/3 of the way between the major distance measurements to get much closer to being dead on.  As long as we shoot at a reasonable aperture (f/8) we can be reasonably assured of a sharp focus!

I have found that these measurements are the same with the current Leica 135mm as well!

 

So there you have it.  The online posts of issues with these lenses have been endless over the years.  They are known as very difficult lenses to get a sharp focus with and now we know why and more importantly how to overcome it!

 

I hope that you enjoyed this discussion on what could be a very nice and powerful lens to have in your bag!

 

 

 

 

The Purity Of B&W


Going Home To Momma…

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

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

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC.  Leica M Monochrome

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC. Leica M Monochrome

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

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

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

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

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

Using Fumed Alumina To Fix Paper Issues in Van Dyke Brown


An Easy & Cost Effective Way To Fix Paper Issues!

Stormy Seas, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Stormy Seas, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, 720nm Infrared

Testing Fumed Alumina…

Van Dyke Brown emulsion is basically on the acidic side of things chemically and as a result of this I have been forced to wash most of my papers with a acid bath. This caused a increase in my process by 2 days. So I am testing Fumed Alumina which is acidic unlike Fumed Silica which is neutral. I decided to go with the Alumina test first and will do a followup post down the line with the Fumed Silica.

Bent Tree, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Bent Tree, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, IR400 120 Film

Initial results were quite pleasing with both Revere Platinum and Lana Aquarelle papers. I got a MAJOR increase in Dmax with both the Lana and Revere papers, but upon completion of my final wash the Revere was VERY EASY to damage with finger smudges until it dried. The Revere had a tendency for the Alumina to easily rub off the Alumina while wet whereas the Lana was strongly attached.

Anderson Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Anderson Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

The Alumina did fix ALL of the spotting issues that I had when using the Revere Platinum paper but the fact that it will rub off when wet causes some concern but it is easily overcome with careful handling.

Magnolia, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Magnolia, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

The Process:

  1. Dry roll on the Fumed Alumina in 2 directions and rap the paper edge on the table to remove the excess.  Make sure that you use a good mask to filter out this dust as it might irritate your lungs.  DO NOT OVER COAT or you will get streaks when you coat the emulsion.  The rolling step only takes about 30 seconds! You will need to put about 1 TSP of the Alumina into a small paint tray then pre load a small (3″) HARD foam roller with it.
  2. Coat as normal after you roll on the Alumina. You will need about 12 extra drops of VDB emulsion due to it absorbing more. My basic quantity of VDB emulsion for a 8×12 sheet of paper coated with Alumina is 48 Drops of emulsion and 2 drops of Tween 20 at 25% (you will need to dilute the Tween from 50%) solution.  For this post I brushed on the emulsion.  In the past I would normally use a glass rod for coating but the Alumina creates a very rough surface and I was afraid of damaging the paper.
  3. Dry and Expose. Here you will find that the addition of the Alumina will DECREASE your exposure about 1.5 stops!
  4. 1st water bath with distilled water and a pinch of citric acid, 2 min.  This bath will remove any extra ferric ammonium citrate which will cause a yellow paper stain. This bath will darken the print.  Do not worry as the FIX will balance contrasts and bring out the highlights!
  5. Fresh water bath to remove citric acid. 2 min. If you are Gold Toning, this step is VERY important as any Citric Acid will destroy the toner bath!  
  6.  Gold toning bath 2 to 5 min to taste.  The toning process requires CONSTANT AGITATION! After 2 or 3 prints toned add 5ml/print of Gold Chloride to bring the bath back up to strength. This  toning bath will further darken the print.  Do not worry as the FIX will balance contrasts and bring out the highlights!
  7. Fix for 2 min with Sodium Thiosulfate for 2 min. 30g/L. I do not believe that any further time will help the process.
  8. Final moving fresh water bath for 30 min.
  9. Air dry,  I spread out old towels on a table top and place the print on it for about 10 min to absorb most of the water thru the back of the print.  I will then hang the prints to dry by a corner.  
  10. Use a  heat press to flatten your prints at 170deg for 20 seconds. The heat press step is to make the paper flat again.
  11. Hand rub in SOFT custom wax coating for protection then heat to force the wax to be absorbed into the paper fiber with a hair drier (more about this in a future post).
Dinghy, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Dinghy, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

All in all this was a VERY easy fix to the acid washing step  and only added about 30 seconds to roll on the Alumina. The Fumed Alumina can be purchased at Bostick & Sullivan for $15/500g which will do about 100 sheets of 8×12 paper.

2 Dinghys, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

2 Dinghys, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

The increase in Dmax with the Fumed Alumina is amazing and the resulting images are stunning.

Please let me know what you think of this post and with suggestions for future posts!

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!