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

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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!

More Leica M Monochrome Magic!


Creating World Class B&W Images With Leica Monochrome

Bodie Island Light, M Monochrome

Bodie Island Light, M Monochrome

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

Leica Tri-Elmar 16 - 18 - 21 mm Lens

Leica Tri-Elmar 16 – 18 – 21 mm Lens

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

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

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

 

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

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrome

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrom

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

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

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

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

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

Fishing Float, M Monochrome

Fishing Float, M Monochrome

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

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

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

Really Right Stuff TF-01 and Ball Head

Really Right Stuff TF-01 and Ball Head

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

Really Right Stuff TF-01

Really Right Stuff TF-01

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

Thanks for taking the time to view these!!

Going to the Dark Side: 830nm Infrared and the Fuji X100s


830nm Infrared Conversion on the Fuji X100s

 

Oak Reflections, 830nm

Image 1:  Oak Reflections, 830nm

 

Infrared photography with digital camera systems have been around for several years now and a lot of photographers have embraced this different spectrum of photography.  Infrared is wildly popular in photography and fine art galleries now and my workshops are full of lots of talented photographers who desire to learn or expand their infrared skills.

Pawleys Marsh, 830nm X100s

Pawleys Marsh, 830nm X100s

The typical starting point for most infrared shooters is 720nm (standard) or 590nm (Goldie) IR conversions. We have all seen the amazing color images that these two conversions can generate. As previously discussed, we always process not only in Faux Color, but for B&W also. The B&W images are usually more accepted among the arts community though.

Pawleys Marsh, 720nm

Image 3:  Pawleys Marsh, 720nm

 

But did you know that with each increase in the IR Nano Meter band (the frequency goes down as the number goes up) that the contrast levels go up in B&W as well? This increase in the NM band starts to generate the most stunning, contrasty, ethereal images that have to be seen to be believed! The higher you go in the NM range also increases the white “glow” around the leaves and grass and the blue sky takes on a deep black. This effect is named the “Wood Effect” after doctor Robert Wood who discovered it 1910. What happens is that the leaves get a bloom or glow of white around them that generate that wonderful ethereal feel in the image. Take a look at image 1 which was taken at 830nm. Do you see the dark black where the blue sky is? Look at the leaves on the trees and how they take on the pure bright whites! Now compare that to 720nm image above in Image 2. The most striking difference is the gray sky rather than black, plus the leaves are grayer rather than white.

Shrimp Boat at 830nm

Image 3: Shrimp Boat at 830nm

 

I would like to suggest that if you shoot in IR or are interested in doing so then you should consider a deep contrast IR conversion beyond 800nm. There are a lot of benefits to be found in that spectrum. This new spectrum sees ONLY in B&W, which will force you to visualize your scene in B&W.

 

The benefits to a Deep B&W IR conversion are:

  • Extremely sharp images.
  • Wood Effect bloom on plant leaves.
  • Dark moody skies.
  • Only works in B&W
  • Post processing is easy and quick using Nik Viveza and Silver EFX for texturing and contrasts. Photoshop CC, Elements or Lightroom, they all work for Deep B&W IR!
  • White Balance is easy.

 

Mabry Mill, 830nm

Image 4:  Mabry Mill, 830nm

There are several ways to have a camera converted to deep B&W above 800nm.

  1. The easiest is to simply take ANY digital and have it converted by removing the internal UV/IR blocking filter and replacing it with a 800nm, 830nm or a 850nm internal filter. With this type of conversion you can use any digital camera type or style because only the sensor will see the infrared light and you will either see the scene via the optical path or via a live view from the sensor. Typically, this type of conversion should cost around $300 to $350 thru any of the normal conversion companies.
  2. If you are shooting a Full Spectrum or Dual Spectrum conversion then you can purchase and attach a B+W 093 830nm filter to your camera lens! This filter blocks ALL visible light so you MUST have a camera with a live view only to use this otherwise you will never be able to see thru the optical path to focus and compose. The Full Spectrum camera is one that has had the internal UV/IR blocking filter removed and replaced with clear glass and the Dual Spectrum conversion is where the internal UV/IR blocking filter is removed and replaced with a strong UV filter.
Rock Run Mill, 830nm

Image 5:  Rock Run Mill, 830nm

 

With either the full or dual conversions you can shoot every of the following light spectrums:

  • Ultra Violet                                               Full Spectrum *
  • UG1 UV & IR                                            Full Spectrum *
  • 047b In Camera Faux Color                  Full Spectrum *
  • 530nm Faux Color                                  Full & Dual Spectrum
  • 590nm Super Color                                Full & Dual Spectrum
  • 630nm Pinkie Faux Color                     Full & Dual Spectrum
  • 665nm Enhanced Color                        Full & Dual Spectrum
  • 720nm Standard                                    Full & Dual Spectrum *
  • 800nm B&W                                          Full & Dual Spectrum *
  • 830nm Deep B&W                                Full & Dual Spectrum *
  • Normal Visible Color                            Full & Dual Spectrum

* Requires Live View capable camera

 

Now, Normal Visible Color simply means that your camera can take normal color images as it did from the factory! This means that you have a multi purpose camera that can take anything.

The only issue is that if you have a Full Spectrum conversion you need to stack a B+W 486 reflective IR/UV blocking filter on your lens with a LDP CC1 absorption filter to get back to good normal color.

For the Dual Spectrum conversion you only need to put the B+W 486 reflective IR/UV filter on your lens and it is back to normal color!

Disadvantages to the Full or Dual Spectrum Camera Conversion:

  • More expensive to convert.
  • External filters for each of our lens sizes.
  • Color filters (530 – 665nm) are not expensive but the B+W 093, B+W 486 and the LDP CC1 filters are VERY expensive.
  • Your camera MUST have a live view mode to focus and compose.

 

Charlotte Marie, 830nm X100s

Image 6:  Charlotte Marie, 830nm X100s

 I have several cameras converted to above 800nm and several full spectrum and a new dual spectrum converted Fuji X100s. The images that I am getting from the Fuji with a B+W 093 830nm filter are the sharpest and most stunning deep IR images that I have ever produced! But that doesn’t mean that you need to go out and purchase that one. Any camera with live view will work great with the 830nm spectrum. Keep in mind though, that the more modern your camera is the higher the usable ISO will be!

You can contact Mark at his web site at http://www.MarkHilliardAtelier-blog.com for information on his Color & IR workshops, which he teaches with Jamie Davidson, and for his IR Post Processing DVD Tutorials!

Fuga City, 830nm, Georgetown, SC

Fuga City, 830nm, Georgetown, SC

 

Leica M240 Digital..


Oh, No… Another Camera System…

Leica M240 24 mpx Digital

Leica M240 24 mpx Digital

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

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

But first let me highlight the “What”!

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

Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH f/1.4

Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH f/1.4

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

Tulip at f/1.4, Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH

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

 

Leica 28mm Elmarit ASPH

Leica 28mm Elmarit ASPH

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

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

 

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

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

 

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

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

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

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

Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8

Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8

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

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

Green Dots...

Green Dots…

Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Hellar

Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Hellar

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

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

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

Stormy Seas, down low and dirty… Voigtlander 12mm

 

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

M240-BW 59s16ND PI Pier-0148-2014

Pier, Leica M240 60 second exposure

M240 w/ R72 IR Filter

M240 w/ R72 IR Filter

Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit,

Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit

6 Shot HDR, Leica M240

6 Shot HDR, Leica M240

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

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

M240-1109-60 s PI LE-2014

Low Tide, Leica M240, 45 second exposure

 

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

Stay Tuned!

 

Fuji X-E2 Long Exposures and Wild Sunsets!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, lets talk a little about your exposure metering.  

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

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

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

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

Salt Marsh in the morning fog...

Salt Marsh in the morning fog…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Workshop Customer Comments & Feedback!


Customer Comments on the Color & Infrared Post Processing From Beginning To End Video Workshop

IR Post Processing in Color and B&W

IR Post Processing in Color and B&W

I have started getting feedback and comments on the new IR/Color Video Tutorial.  As they arrive I will share them here in this post with you.  I am very excited over these.  So far there are about 100 shipped videos out there!

TO ORDER THE DVD SET:

US  Orders CLICK    HERE

The cost is $29.95 plus shipping which will automatically be added when you order.

___________________________________________

INTERNATIONAL ORDERS:

Pay via Paypal using the payee address:

ellen@thelensworkgallery.com

International Charges

  • England: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • France: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • Hong Kong: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • Canada: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $22.00

All prices are in USD

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I attempted IR several years ago and was totally frustrated when it came to post processing.  Despite enrolling in an online course and spending hundreds of dollars on IR books, it was a hit and miss proposition in getting any decent images. Everyone said the same  thing – “swap your red & blue channels in Photoshop”.  Sorry, that doesn’t work all of the time.
Everything changed after taking Mark’s IR workshop.  Now it’s even easier to learn IR though this wonderful DVD set.  Get your White Balance right in the beginning, watch your red channel in your histogram, then follow Mark’s IR post processing methods.  He makes it that simple.
 Mark is truly a master!

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Mark, I demand my money back on the IR & Color Post Processing Video tutorial ! How dare you sell DVD of that quality for $30 when it is easily worth 3 times that amount!  Mark – this was the best training DVD I ever saw.  You covered everything perfectly.  I watched it twice yesterday and intend to watch it again today.  You covered everything perfectly. You are truly a master!  Thanks

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The DVD arrived today, thank you. The cover, case, packaging all looks great: very professional.  Will delve into it while traveling next week.

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I really like your suggested folder structure, of leaving the original RAW files untouched, then having a separate Develop folder, for work in progress images, and another Archival folder for final, processed images. I’ve spent the past 5 years processing my original RAW files. Goodness know what damage I’ve done. Your system is much smarter. Thank you!

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I have Ingestamatic working reasonably reliably now and am coming to appreciate its utility in naming files and organizing sub-folders. It’s certainly smarter than any other uploading programs I’ve used.

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I love my videos!

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I would like to thank those who have taken the time to send feedback and comments!  It means a lot to me and will help improve on the next Video Tutorial that I put together!  

Please keep them coming!

UPDATED: IR & COLOR POST PROCESSING VIDEO TUTORIAL!! INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING


UPDATED: Color & Infrared Post Processing From Beginning To End INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING!

2 – 1/2 hour video series on two DVDs by

Master Photographer Mark Hilliard

DVD OUTSIDE LABEL

DVD OUTSIDE LABEL

  1. This covers image ingestion using Ingestimatic for both Mac & Windows
  2. Raw conversion using Adobe ACR – Capture 1 Pro and Capture 1 Express
  3. RAW Library Setup
  4. Backup Strategies 
  5. Intelligent IR channel swap using the Khromagraphy PS Plugin Action
  6. Post Processing Color, Infrared and B&W using the Nik filter set in Photoshop. 
  7. Ideas on creating intense high impact images.

The majority of the video is screen capture taking you through the post processing workflow button by button, click by click.  All of the major RAW converters have their own separate video and you will learn about all 3 which will enable you to make intelligent decisions on which one is for you then be able to run it!

This is an in-depth tutorial and will give you the knowledge and recipe to take your own images from one end of the process to the other without pulling your hair out in frustration!

TO ORDER THE DVD SET:

US  Orders CLICK    HERE

The cost of the video for US customers is $29.95 plus $5.95 shipping which will be automatically added when you order.

___________________________________________

INTERNATIONAL ORDERS:

Pay via Paypal using the payee address:

ellen@thelensworkgallery.com

International Charges

  • England: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • France: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • Hong Kong: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • Canada: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $22.00

All Prices are USD

___________________________________________

 

If you would like to read a little feedback from my students please click   HERE  and   HERE.

Video Course Inside

Video Course Inside

Nik Filter Fix for Photoshop CC on Mac & Windows!


To those in the West Virginia Workshop… Here is the FIX for the install issues with the Nik Filters and Photoshop CC!

Thank you for contacting Nik by Google. Since it is a brand new host, the Nik Collection may not have detected Photoshop CC on the computer.  However, you can put it into Photoshop CC with a manual installation. Please follow the steps below to install the Nik Collection to Adobe Photoshop CC:


On a Windows:

If you own a previous version of Photoshop

If you do not have a previous version of Photoshop installed please skip to “only version of photoshop” below.

  1. Make sure all versions of Photoshop are closed.
  2. Navigate to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop xx\Plug-ins\
  3. Copy the Google folder to your Desktop.
  4. Navigate to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CC\Plug-ins\
  5. Move the Google folder from the Desktop into the Plug-ins folder.
  6. Restart Photoshop to confirm the plug-ins are there.

 

If the Creative Cloud is your only version of Photoshop

  1. Make sure all versions of Photoshop are closed.
  2. Run the Nik Collection installer from the file you received via email and downloaded. If you no longer have this file, please email customer support to have the file sent to you again.
  3. During the installation process when you get to the Compatible Host Application window, you will notice a plus sign (+) to add an install location. Click that button and navigate to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop CC\Plug-Ins\. (*See attached screenshot).
  4. Complete the installation, then open Photoshop CC to ensure that the plug-ins have successfully been installed.

These steps will install to Photoshop CC 64-bit. You can check the version of Photoshop by opening Help > System info. The first line will either say x32 or x64 respectively. You can open Photoshop 64-bit directly from C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CC (64-bit)\Photoshop.exe. 


On a Macintosh:

If you own a previous version of Photoshop

If you do not have a previous version of Photoshop installed please skip to “only version of photoshop” below.

  1. Make sure all versions of Photoshop are closed.
  2. Navigate to Applications/Adobe Photoshop xx/Plug-ins/
  3. Copy the Google folder to your Desktop.
  4. Navigate to Applications/Adobe Photoshop CC/Plug-ins/
  5. Move the Google folder from the Desktop into the Plug-ins folder.
  6. Restart Photoshop to confirm the plug-ins are there.

If the Creative Cloud is your only version of Photoshop

  1. Make sure all versions of Photoshop are closed.
  2. Run the Nik Collection installer from the file you received via email and downloaded. If you no longer have this file, please email customer support to have the file sent to you again.
  3. During the installation process when you get to the Compatible Host Application window, you will notice a plus sign (+) to add an install location. Click that button and navigate to Mac HD|Applications|Adobe Photoshop CC|Plug-Ins.  (*See attached screenshot).
  4. Complete the installation, then open Photoshop CC to ensure that the plug-ins have successfully been installed.

If you have any further questions, please reply to this email or visit support.google.com/nikcollection to call our Customer Service Department Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm PST.

 

Fuji 55-200 mm on a 720nm IR converted X Pro 1


Finally, a LONG X Lens for the Fuji Family!

Pawleys Marsh, Fuji X Pro 1 720nm IR conversion w/ the new 55-200mm lens.

Pawleys Marsh, Fuji X Pro 1 720nm IR conversion w/ the new 55-200mm lens.

Fuji X 55-200mm

Fuji X 55-200mm

Yes, the new Fuji 55-200mm lens arrived for my fuji camera systems!  I am currently shooting with a color X-E1, a color X Pro 1 and a IR converted (720nm) X Pro 1.   I know how well the 55-200 works on the color bodies but what I really needed to know how did it work with the IR system!  Would it give hot spots as so many of the Fuji lenses do?  This post is the report of my findings.  The final verdict is that it works very well and as long as you do not go higher than f/16 there are no hot spots to worry about at any zoom range! To me this is a really big deal.  

So far only the 14mm and 35mm Fuji lenses are usable in infrared. So the addition of another lens really helps.  

I am going to give you some examples of how this lens actually does at both the wide and long ends of the zoom range wide open and closed down so that you can get a feel of the usable Infrared range that you can use.  Next week I will do a posting using the lens for color work only.

Pawleys Marsh, Fuji X Pro 1 720nm IR conversion w/ the new 55-200mm lens.

Pawleys Marsh, Fuji X Pro 1 720nm IR conversion w/ the new 55-200mm lens.

OK, let’s take a look at the good and bad of the 55-200 in IR, the Wide end:

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/23.5 No hot spot

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/23.5 No hot spot

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/11  Small hot spot

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/11 Small hot spot

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/22 Bad hot spot

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/22 Bad hot spot

As you can see as you get to f/11 we start to develop a small hot spot, but nothing that cannot be fixed.  Above f/11 the lens becomes unusable at the wide end.

 

Now, let’s take a look at the long end of the zoom range:

 

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/11 Bad hot spot, NO HOT SPOT

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/11 Bad hot spot, NO HOT SPOT

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/4.8 Bad hot spot, NO HOT SPOT

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/4.8 Bad hot spot, NO HOT SPOT

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/22 Bad hot spot, SMALL HOT SPOT

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/22 Bad hot spot, SMALL HOT SPOT

The difference at the long end of the zoom is amazing and is usable over the entire range of the aperture!  This is great news for us IR shooters.

Pawleys Island Marsh, 200mm B&W Post Processing

Pawleys Island Marsh, 200mm B&W Post Processing

 

There is starting to be a large number of IR photographers out there who are using converted Fuji X Pro 1 camera systems.  There are currently 2 conversion companies out there who can do the conversion.  I HIGHLY recommend the X Pro 1 as an Infrared platform and with the addition of the 55-200mm lens to our shooting arsenal we are way ahead of the game!

 

 

Moody Images in Infrared & Color! Fuji X Pro 1 and X-E1


Grabbing your viewers by the throat and not letting go…

A dark and stormy night

A dark and stormy night, Fuji X Pro 1 w/ 14mm fuji lens at 720nm Infrared.

Images that are dark and moody tend to grab our attention.  It is as though there is something hidden and dark that demands our attention.  We stare at them and analyze the image for a deeper hidden meaning.  This creates emotional impact that allows our viewers to share what we felt as we created the images!

Look for dark, stormy skies, moody clouds, dark trees or water.  Work in Infrared and you will find that you have a much better chance to capture these kinds of images more often than when working in color.  It is still possible to do so in color but you have to work harder at it!

Paradise Island Light, Nassau

Paradise Island Light, Nassau

 

As you can see in the image above, it is moody and draws the viewer into the scene, but it does not have that “dark and stormy” look and feel!  As I stated before, it is much easier to capture these types of image when working in Infrared!

A dark and stormy night

A dark and stormy night

Work in both Faux Color and B&W.  You never really know what you are going to get unless you take the time to post process both ways.  You should even look seriously at the properly white balanced raw image right out of the camera!  Sometime you can get a really stunning image there.

Lady Katheran

Lady Katheran, 720nm Infrared, Fuji X Pro 1 with Fuji 14mm lens.

Here is the same image processed in B&W.

Lady Katheran

Lady Katheran

 

The workflow to getting great images in post processing is to ALWAYS process in the 3 main ways:

  • RAW:  Check how the images looks right out of the camera.  In 720nm and 590nm you can get some stunning images with beautiful bronze skies!
  • Faux Color:  If your camera captures any color data at all (720nm and lower) then you should ALWAYS take the time to process in this mode.
  • B&W: You just done know what you are going to get unless you try!

 

Try adding a lens vignette to your images to darken the corners.  This will give more mood!

Here are some examples of RAW and B&W post processing!

McClellanville Shrimper

McClellanville Shrimper, RAW right out of the camera!

 

McClellanville Shrimper

McClellanville Shrimper, B&W

 

As you can see both versions give stunning results.  The most important thing for you to remember is that to get the best results from all of your images it is necessary to take the time to post process in all three modes.  Do not short change yourself by cutting corners.  Take the time to give each image your best try!  

 

You will be rewarded for you work!

 

Fuji X Pro 1 – 720nm Infrared Faux Color and B&W Post Processing


A Simple Tutorial on Infrared Post Processing…

Murrells Inlet Marsh, X Pro 1 720nm IR Faux Color

Murrells Inlet Marsh, X Pro 1 720nm IR Faux Color

The Fuji X Pro 1 has turned out to be one of the best Infrared camera systems that I have ever used… period!  The only good Fuji lenses for Infrared have proved to be the 35mm f/1.4, the 18mm f/2 and the new 14mm.  The Viogtlander 75mm f/1.8 has also proved to be a STUNNING lens also!  So, the camera has proven its infrared capability, now it is time to discuss in detail the recipe for post processing!  It is all quite simple but there are a few requirements that you must understand in order to follow my workflow with understanding.

Needed:

  • Photoshop CS5 or CS6
  • Nik Filters, Viveza, Define Silver EFX Pro plugins for Photoshop, NOT LIGHTROOM.  (You can now purchase the entire library of Nik filters for $149)
  • Kromography False Color Action which can be downloaded here from the right menu bar under the box menu.  You can simply  click on it to download to your computer then drag it to photoshop to install.
  • A converted Infrared camera system capable of generating enough color data to make Faux Color images.  This means 720nm, 665nm, 630nm and 590nm conversions.
  • The ability and desire to experiment!

As you move your RAW (shoot only RAW for IR because of the ability to shift the white balance easily) onto your computer you should automatically tell yourself that you are going to process each selected image in Faux color and B&W.  Sometimes you will notice that the un processed image looks great also (wonderful bronze tones) and decide to do a version like this as well!

Lets talk about the RAW conversion process a little bit.  Photoshops ACR built in RAW converter will NOT apply the white balance correctly and your images will appear deep red.  For this reason I use Capture One version 7 from Phase One.  It is simply the BEST RAW converter that I have ever used.  You can download a trial version and decide for yourself if what I am telling you is true!

My Initial Editing Steps:

  1. Move images from my camera to my computer with an intelligent download tool that renames them with a meaningful name and create an intelligent directory tree for my RAW Library.  For this I have tested dozens of tools and found that Ingestimatic is the best and lowest cost one out there! You can find them here.
  2. Visually edit the RAW files by deleting the images that are simply no good.  Do not clutter up your computer with these useless files.
  3. Batch process my RAW conversion choices and adjust the exposure, contrast and angles.  Capture One will allow this and place the converted image files into a storage directory for later editing.
  4. Within Photoshop, open  each converted image one at a time for post processing
  5. Run Nik Define 2.0 in its default mode on the image for noise reduction, Save.
  6. Run Nik Viveza and without using any selection points increase the structure around 10% and the contrast about 5%, Save.
  7. Having installed the channel swap action that you downloaded here, run it on your image.  The last thing it will do is to open a Hue/Saturation window with the Master channel selected.  Simply select the CYAN channel  and vary the HUE a little bit to bring the sky to a normal blue rather than a blue/green.  Then select the RED channel and adjust the saturation up to a value you like, and repeat with the YELLOW and MAGENTA channels.  When you are happy with the results click on DONE to move on.  REMEMBER:  This is to only get the colors of the FAUX COLOR IR image into the ball park!  The real adjustment will happen next.
  8. Run Nik Viveza again.  Here is where you will use your control points to slightly adjust the colors and contrasts of various image elements to bring out a stunning, etherial work of art!  LOOK closely at your image, decide what you wish to adjust (Hue, saturation, contrasts and de-saturation). MORE ON THIS LATER!
  9. Run Nik Define one more time.
  10. Flatten the image, crop to taste, correct any imperfections (healing tool and content aware fill).
  11. Save the image with a meaningful name in a planned and thought out master image library.
  12. With the finished Faux Color image still open in Photoshop, now run Nik Silver EFX Pro to do your B&W conversion.  There are several built in recipes in this filter that can be used as a starting point.  My favorites are:
  • High Structure Harsh
  • High Structure Smooth
  • Full Dynamic Range Harsh
  • Full Dynamic Range Smooth
  • Fine Art Process
  • Wet Rocks (once in a while)

Save your image again with a NEW file name that reflects the difference in your master image library tree!

Murrells Inlet Salt Marsh, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Murrells Inlet Salt Marsh, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Remember:  Process ALL IMAGES as both Faux Color and B&W.  You really do not know what you are going to get till you do so.

All of this really is VERY SIMPLE and once you have done it a few times it will become second nature to you.  Soon you will be a post processing Infrared God or Goddess!  Congratulations

No, let’s take a look at the image below.  Notice the areas that I have circled as places where I desire to change the colors, contrasts and saturations (both plus and minus). Also consider that this is a 720nm converted camera and as such has a very limited color range (light pinks and warm tones and blues).

Annotated Faux Color, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Annotated Faux Color, X Pro 1 720nm IR

It is in this area and others like them (similar color values that are the same) that we are going to place control points on and change these values!  If you notice that the areas around them also change a little you can place what we call anchor points which are simply control points with no adjustments to bring those areas back to where you wanted them!

You will find this ENTIRE process from the initial loading into photoshop to finish will just take 4 or 5 minutes or less as you become more practiced!

Here are a few more images for you to consider that were taken on the 720nm Fuji X Pro 1 camera system:

Stormy Seas Faux Color, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Stormy Seas Faux Color, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Stormy Seas B&W, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Stormy Seas B&W, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Sometimes Faux Color images simply do not work, then you still have the great B&W ones to work with!

SC School Bus Boat, X Pro 1 720nm IR

SC School Bus Boat, X Pro 1 720nm IR

SC School Bus Boat, X Pro 1 720nm IR

SC School Bus Boat, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Was this information helpful?  Please let me know one way or the other!

A day in Georgetown with the Fuji X-E1


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

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

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8

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

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

The 3 Shrimpers!

The 3 Shrimpers!

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

Sun in the rigging...

Sun in the rigging…

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

The 3 Bows...

The 3 Bows…

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

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

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

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

Lee Seven5 Filter System

Lee Seven5 Filter System

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

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

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

Boat Launch Pilings, Deep Twilight

Boat Launch Pilings, Deep Twilight, 90 second exposure

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

240 second exposure, deep twilight.

240 second exposure, deep twilight.

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

Please let me know what you think!

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


All things are fair in Love and War…

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

Long Exposure Sunrise Abstract

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

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

Equipment tailored to Long Exposures that I like and use:

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

Must Have Thought Processes to Master Long Exposure Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metering:

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

Time for a talk on exposure..

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

Here is what you can expect for various shutter speeds:

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

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

Now, how best to determine your exposure?

Time for the meat of this post, metering…

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

Zones

Zones

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

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

It is easy to understand and implement!

Looking at Zones

Looking at Zones

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

See?  Easy to do.

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

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

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

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

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

Sekonic L758DR Spot Meter

Sekonic L758DR Spot Meter

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

How to use the Sekonic L758DR Spot Meter:

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

Set Mode to SPOT

Set SPOT Mode

Set SPOT Mode

Setting the ISO

ISO Set

ISO Set

Setting the Filter compensation

Filter Compensation

Filter Compensation

Taking the Measurement

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

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

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

Understanding ND Filters:

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

B+W ND INFO

B+W ND INFO

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

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

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

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

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

Graduated ND Filters:

Lee Hard Graduated ND

Lee Hard Graduated ND

Lee Soft Graduated ND

Lee Soft Graduated ND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twilights Bitter End…


No Words, just images…

 

The Bigger End, Olympus OMD.

The Bigger End, Olympus OMD.

 

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

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

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

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

 

Dang, “DID I REALLY DO THAT? REALLY!!!”


Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you…

Long day today at the gallery.  The electrician was in all day installing 22 new high intensity lights with floods to better light the co-op walls.  But the place has a lot of dry wall dust around and a simple sweeping will not be enough.

I needed to get away…

Skittles & me.

Skittles & me.

So at 5 I went home and took the doggy out.  She was happy to see me to say the least.  I really do not pay enough attention to her.   But after a half hour there with her I grabbed:

  • Fuji X-Pro 1 camera
  • Fuji 18-55mm lens
  • 3 stop ND
  • 6 stop ND
  • 10 stop ND
  • Sekonic L758DR spot meter
  • Remote shutter release

Please notice that I did not grab my camera bag…

So off we go to the island.  I did the Pawleys Island Pier the other night so I headed to the south end and the groin there to shoot some long exposures.

It was nice out, warm and empty of people.  Perfect.  Got out the Sekonic, dialed in 6 stops of EV to correct for the B+W 6 stop ND, set the meter to ISO 200 and started taking reading off the sky just above the watery horizon.  Got several changing values but it was fast getting dark.  The first few image captures went very well and I was starting to warm up to the evening on the beach.

Feel guilty being out here tonight, Ellen (my wonderful wife) loves the beach and has been deprived of this for the entire year and to add insult to injury she is working all night at the local hospital.  I suppose that i will just have to enjoy this for her.

Pawleys Island south groin.  30 seconds @ 30 seconds.  Fuji X-Pro 1 with the 15-55mm lens.

Pawleys Island south groin. 30 seconds @ 30 seconds. Fuji X-Pro 1 with the 15-55mm lens.

I got some very nice 30 second shots at f/11 but I was aching for something more meaningful, you know around 20 minutes!  So it is time to change things around and go after the really long exposure.  I get out the meter again, set it and the camera to f/8 for the best sharpness, check the shutter speed… hmm f/8 @ 8 minutes but this is a metered spot on the horizon and I simply do not want it in Zone 5, so I add in 2 more stops to move it into Zone 7, set the camera and shoot!

Time goes by…

Still going by…

Slowly…

10 minutes have gone by… Why didn’t I bring a flash light?  It is so dark that I can hardly see!  Gee Mark YOU KNOW BETTER THAT THAT!  So I give myself a smack on the head, then shake it in minor annoyance of myself and … HEY WHAT THE HECK!! MY FEET ARE WET!!  THE TRIPOD IS SINKING INTO THE SAND!  DANG!  DARN CRAP!!

Stop the exposure at 11 minutes and move the tripod up the beach to dry sand  and wait….

Still waiting…

Dang, the in camera long exposure noise reduction takes sooooo looooonnnnggg… Didn’t I tell you that what ever you long exposure is the camera takes the same time after it to do a noise reduction???

I QUIT!  I carry the tripod/camera to the truck  with it still doing the noise reduction when it happens… you know, the REALLY BAD THING!

The camera quit the noise processing and the image pops up into the LCD panel  and it is….

WHITE!   WHAT HAPPENED?  

I got wet for white? I stood here for 22 minutes for white?

THE EXPOSURE WAS PERFECTLY METERED AND ENTERED INTO THE CAMERA! THIS CANNOT BE MY FAULT…

Ohhh…

I am SO STUPID!  Look at that, the ISO has been set to 1600 instead of 200.  How did that happen?  I only shoot at high ISO’s when I am with the grandkids at Disney World! Now I recently got back from Disney and I took this camera and haven’t  used it since then…. No, that can not be it, the first 30 second images came out properly as metered…

Hmm, lets see, ISO 200 to 1600, and the image had already been shifted from Zone 5 to Zone 7!

DANG AGAIN!  That is an additional 3 stops of brightness..  ZONE 10!

!*:$@!)&$ DANG, (*!#&(^!(@&) DARN )(*&$&#@)$&

Ok, I am calm now, it didn’t cost any film, wet feet can dry and I can go out and shoot it again on another night.  ZONE 10!!!  No wonder the image was white! !#)*(#*@&(E*Q&R

22 minutes W A S T E D and no ultra long exposure.

_____________________________________________

OK, what did I/WE learn here?

  1. BRING A FLASHLIGHT!
  2. Be aware of the changing tide!
  3. If you are going to take super long exposures DOUBLE CHECK YOUR EXPOSURE VALUES and do NOT forget to check the ISO!  I think someone walked up to the camera in the dark and changed it on me while my back was turned!
  4. Bring a change in socks!

See, we all make mistakes, even photographers with 48 years of experience!

Got it?  I hope so, because I would be so embarrassed to hear that you made so many beginner  mistakes,  After all we do have appearances to keep up!

Smile, life goes on… and we occasionally get lucky.  In the parking lot packing up to leave I see this across the tidal creek…

Moon over the Marsh.. 4 second exposure

Moon over the Marsh.. 4 second exposure

So the bear won this time but there is always tomorrow night…

Update:

I have had a lot of questions about this creek image.  Mostly folks want to know how I got a dark blue sky in the deep night!  And it was totally black out when I took this image.  There was supposed to be NO moon this night.  But for some strange reason there was the smallest sliver of it showing under its bottom.  I mean so small that it was almost cut with a knife!  The clouds below the moon were barely there because for what ever the reason the moon was getting a little light it reflected down and highlighted the clouds.  Above the moon the sky took on the deep blue cast (again due the to the strange lighting on the moon).  This only lasted about 5 minutes then the moon disappeared totally, the sky turned black and the clouds lost their light and faded from view.

The exposure data:

  • ISO 200 (yes I double checked this time)
  • 4 second shutter
  • f/4

Ultra Long Fuji X-E1 Exposure Tutorial


Slower can be better…

Pawleys Per, Fuji X-E1, 480 seconds, f/22, 6 stop ND

Pawleys Pier at night, Fuji X-E1, 480 seconds, f/22, 6 stop ND

Ultra long exposure photography can be a very fulfilling pursuit and generate etherial images that draw your viewer into them leaving them week in the knees! As a photography master generalist I can tell you that there are a few speciality areas that can really excite me and force my juices to flow!  Specifically they are:

  • Ultra High Speed photography: Water Drop Collision Photography, Daytime Lightning Photography & Hummingbird Photography
  • Infrared Photography
  • Grist Mill Photography
  • Ultra Long Exposure Photography.

This post is a tutorial on Ultra Long Exposure photography using the Fuji X-E1 camera with its 18-55mm lens, a 6 stop B+W ND filter and a Sekonic L758DR spot meter.

Fuji X-E1 with its 18-55mm lens

Fuji X-E1 with its 18-55mm lens

The Fuji X-E1 is my 3rd in the Fuji line. I started with the X100 and moved to the X Pro 1 in order to have interchangeable lenses, then to the X-E1 to take advantage of its Electronic Shutter Release. I have always been a Canon shooter with closets full of L lenses.  But due to a spinal operation that went dreadfully wrong I lost 80% use of both hands and arms.  No longer able to hold heavy camera equipment I started on a long journey searching for high quality camera system that was small and light weight and produce world class images.  A long story shortened, I settled on the Fuji X lineup and their fine quality lenses along with a few CV and Leica M mount lenses.

Now, the Fuji X-E1 with its electronic shutter allows me to hook it up to my water drop machine, Lightning Trigger and Hummingbird control system!  The only lacking item is its short lens lineup.  With the introduction of the new 55-210mm lens this spring even that will no longer be a problem for me!

Long exposure has several issues that you must overcome to successfully create the etherial, emotionally charged image.

  • Long Shutter Speed: Even in low light you will find it difficult to get a shutter speed at f/8 (sharpest).
  • Difficulty Focusing:  Darkness you know…
  • Unreliable Metering: Especially with an installed ND filter.
  • Camera Shake:  Requires a STURDY tripod and REMOTE SHUTTER RELEASE.

The Long shutter speeds generally can range from 15 seconds to 20 minutes. These are difficult to reach unless you shoot at night with light from the moon.  What I find that I do is shoot at dusk on or just before sunrise to overcome this issue.  Usually I will add a Neutral Density Filter (ND) to reduce the total amount of light reaching the image sensor. This will allow you to shoot with more ambient light and generally make this style of photography easier!

Heliopan Variable ND Filter

Heliopan Variable ND Filter

Shutter Speeds in Full Stops

Shutter Speeds in Full Stops

I like the B+W line of ND filters and keep 3 on hand for each of my lenses I use:  3 Stop, 6 Stop and 10 Stop.  There are also some really good variable ND filters as well.  But be warned: You get what you pay for with these!  If you get one of the Fader filters on Ebay for $30 then you are sure  to be disappointed.  But on the other hand if you get the Singh Ray Vari ND (~$450) or the Heliopan Digital Vari ND (~$350). The trouble with the variable ND filters is that they are generally limited to 6 stops before they start to generate artifacts into your images.

If you take a look at your standard 1 stop shutter speeds you can see what adding 6 stops of ND filter will do… If you have a metered exposure say, f/8 at 1 second, adding a 6 stop ND filter will give you a 1 minute exposure!

Aperture in Full Stops

Aperture in Full Stops

If you desire a longer shutter speed you can also increase your aperture value up to a higher number forcing the shutter speed down to allow more light to strike the sensor.

We started at f/8, but by moving it 3 full stops to f/22 (see chart on the right) we can then move our shutter speed 3 more stops slower to 8 minutes!

You can move the aperture and shutter speeds up and down to get the balance you need for your artistic interpretation you desire for your image.  Remember though, the sharpest that most lenses are capable of is at f/8!

Ok, lets talk about the issues in focusing!

It is dark out, you can see very little detail in your viewfinder!  How can we accurately focus?  Here are some ideas for you to consider!

Use a Light as a focus point

Use a Light as a focus point

  • If shooting a subject like a pier or a lighthouse, set your camera on manual focus and adjust the focus to create a sharp round ball of one of the pier lights. These lights are a great focus point. You can also look between pilings for areas of dark/light.

 

Surefire E2D

Surefire E2D

  • If there are no lights to focus on then you can use a high power flashlight to high light the part of the scene you wish to focus on. There are several high power LED tactical lights that you can get and are a good idea to have in your case.  Look at the Surefire E2D LED light.
  • Get someone to go stand at your selected focus point if possible with a light, then focus on the light!
  • You can manually set your focus distance to the hyper focal value if you have previously determined it for your camera/lens combination.
  • Remember, manual focus is the best and easiest way to get the focus that you desire.

Unreliable Metering…

Ok, this is a biggie.  You will find that when using a 10 stop ND and on some cameras, the 6 stop ND that the in camera metering system does not work reliably.  Plus to make this even more interesting consider a very long exposure, say 10 min where the light is changing and getting a stop or 2 darker during the exposure!  These are not small matters to overcome. There are several work arounds for this from a simple pain in the but to advanced hand held meters!

Here is a list of suggestions for you to consider..

  • Try shooting in Aperture mode:  Allow the camera to attempt to set the shutter speed.  If shooting at dusk or in the dark with a ND filter installed you have about a 50/50 chance on getting the correct exposure.  But… this is DIGITAL, and you will have a histogram with your exposure which will give you a baseline on which to adjust the exposure up or down! This is a good low cost way to get it spot on for the 2nd shot.  There is a down side to this though, if the shutter speed is long, then you have to wait the same amount of time after the exposure for the in camera noise reduction software to run.  This means that a 8 min shot becomes a 16 min wait!  Workable but time consuming.
  • Leave your ND filter OFF the camera, in manual exposure mode: Compose, focus and meter, then screw in the ND filter and adjust the exposure manually to account for the addition of the ND filter.  You must be careful to  NOT change the focus by screwing on the filter. The exposure adjustment must of course be correct.  Leave the aperture sat at a standard value like f/8 and do your adjustment via the shutter speed.  So for a exposure of f/8 at 15 seconds with no ND, the addition of  a 6 stop ND will change the exposure to f/8 at 15 minutes!  you need to be able to do this in your head.
  • Use a hand held meter like the Sekonic L758DR spot meter.  This meter allows you to set in a filter based exposure compensation of +/- 10 stops.  You decide upon the ND filter you wish to use, dial in the exposure compensation into the 758 and meter on a spot in the scene that you desire to be 18% gray and the meter will give you the proper exposure settings!

Using the Sekonic L758DR Spot Meter with the Fuji X-E1 Camera system for Long Exposures…

Now, it is time to go through exactly how I created these images using the spot meter and the Fuji!

The scene as seen...

The scene as seen from my eyes at the time I was setting up…

Above is how the scene looked like at 7:30 pm (dark) when the image was taken.  As you can see it was so dark that the only way to focus was to use the bright spots of light on the pier  to manually focus, then pot meter on the sky with the L758DR meter.  This gave an initial meter reading of f/22 @ 2 seconds thus making the sky 18% gray (too dark for me) with ZERO exposure compensation dialed into the meter (not yet adjusting for the 6 stop ND)!  Now, adjusting the meter for the 6 stop ND filter by entering 6 stops of exposure compensation, the reading became f/22 @ 2 minutes but with the sky still at 18% gray.  My imagined, finished image was one with the sky 2 stops brighter, or moving the spot metered point from Zone 5 to Zone 7 which is 2 stops!  So I simply added 2 more stops and moved the shutter speed to 8 minutes (2 stops brighter) and shot the image.

Normally, I would have the 6 stops of compensation dialed into the meter ahead of time and make this a 1 step process.

So here is the resulting image…

f/22 @ 8 minutes with a 6 stop ND and moved to Zone 7

f/22 @ 8 minutes with a 6 stop ND and moved to Zone 7

I am showing you the images in B&W so that you can better visualize the shades of gray to see the 18% moved from Zone 5 to Zone 7!  The Sekonic is very easy to use and is a true 1degree spot meter.  To dial in the 6 stops of exposure compensation I held down the  ISO1 and ISO2 buttons and turned the control dial.  The meter reading adjusted for the ND filter and gave a perfect exposure the first time!

71M770oi3RL._AA1500_

Sekonic L758DR Spot Meter

The exposure compensation shows up on  the LCD screen so that you know what you are actually measuring.  You could have easily set it to 4 instead of 6 and that would have taken the move from zone 5 to zone 7 for you but I prefer to do that adjustment in my head!

Zones…

Simply stated the Zone System (Ansel Adams), assigned a series of stepped gray changes, 1 stop apart and across a valued scale of 10 stops with Zone 5 being 18% gray which is where ALL camera and handheld meters place the exposure.  By looking at the chart below you can see the change between Zone 5 & 7 (2 stops) and what difference it will make on the brightness of the sky!  I use the Zone System in ALL of my exposure calculations and it is how I see contrast changes across my image!

The Zones...

The Zones…

There are plenty of great books out there that will teach you the Zone System of exposure control and adjustments! Here are 2 on Amazon:

Here is how you would apply actual Zone values to an image.  Then you can shift the exposure to move the metered Zone up or down to adjust the overall brightness of the image!

Using Zones to understand what your meter sees...

Using Zones to understand what your meter sees…

Now given the meter reading for Zone 5 you can change the exposure up or down to brighten/darken the overall image!  Combine Zone Exposure techniques with Long Exposure photography then  you can see how easy it is to control your final image.  Plus if you use a handheld spot meter that allows for +/- 10 stops of compensation  then you can see how easy it becomes to get a good exposure that is measured in seconds  or minutes!

Here is a simple explanation of what each Zone looks like:

The Zone System explained.

The Zone System explained.

Here are a few more images taken this night on the beach!  I hope you enjoyed both the article as well as the images!  Please let me know!

250 second exposure, Fuji X-E1

250 second exposure, Fuji X-E1

30 second exposure just before sunset

30 second exposure just before sunset, Fuji X-E1 shifted to zone 7

The Olympus OMD E-M5 and Long Exposure Water Images…


Wonder of Wonders…  Emotionally Charged Slow Water Images with the E-M5!

Etymology of the word ‘photography’:


From the Greek words phos (“light”), and graphis (“stylus”, “paintbrush”) or graphí, together meaning “drawing or painting with light” – allwords.com

Painting with light… Really this is just the perfect description of what I do with my photography!  I rarely take snap shots.  I will walk up to a subject and study it, allow it to wash over me and evaluate its emotional impact upon my sense of self, then I will take my my camera and use it as the tool of creation and force it to capture the scene as I visualize it!

Such was the case during my last workshop where Jamie Davidson and I took a group of students deep into the New  River Gorge in West Virginal to photograph Grist Mills, Water Falls and Vistas.  Usually I used my Fuji X Pro 1 (my main creative tool) but at one location I was forced to use a longer lens in order to overcome intense, harsh mid day lighting on a small set of water falls.  So I choose to try my new Olympus OMD E-M5 camera system with the Panasonic 14-140mm f/4 – 5.8 lens and a 10 stop B+W ND filter (110) and of course on the tripod.

These waterfalls images were very difficult to capture in the fashion that I visualized them in my mind.  I was looking for dark, forbidding images of the water and dark rocks surrounding it with a little  highlight detail on either side on the rocks. I ended up spot metering on the water then placing its exposure into Zone 7 on the 10 zone scale (yes I DO use the Zone system for exposure as you should!  This will be the subject of a future post!).  After setting the proper exposure for the Zone 7 water and very dark rocks  I then used a 900 lumen tactical LED flashlight to light paint the rocks around the water to bring out some slight detail there.   The exposures were long, 3.5 seconds for one and 1/5 second for the larger falls. The longer exposures allowed me to repeatably repaint the rocks with the very, very bright tactical light.  Take a look at the results below and decide if the effort was worth it or not!

Water Falls, New River Gorge, 3.5 second exposure, f/22, 10 stop ND with high intensity light painting around the falls area.

As you can see in this first image, I have created an etherial image with slight edge detail which was generated by the small high power tactical flashlight.  The image worked much better in B&W so I did not really work at the color version of it at all.  My intention was to create a dark moody image that would wash over me emotionally…

Water Falls, New River Gorge, Color, .5 second exposure, f/22, 10 stop ND with high intensity light painting around the falls area.

This second image in color was my 2nd attempt on a different location at the same series of falls.  I really like this one in color.  The exposure time was much shorter due to an increased amount of ambient light falling on the water and I did not have enough time to paint both sides of the falls with the light.  Still, all in all the image is quite pleasing and the colors brought out during the long exposure are quite stunning.

Water Falls, New River Gorge, B&W, 3.5 second exposure, f/22, 10 stop ND with high intensity light painting around the falls area.

This last image I chose to process in B&W with a little darkening of the image corners to make it slightly more moody.  I think that I like the Color image a bit more than the B&W version.  What do you think?

All in all, I have to say that I am very impressed with the functionality of the OMD camera body.  It worked perfectly for these difficult images and allowed me to capture the images as I envisioned them in my mind and that is the best that one can hope for  when you are out in the world creating art…  I will also admit that if I had a longer lens for my Fuji X Pro 1 at the time that I would have used it instead, but at the time the Fuji 60mm macro was the longest I had.  I have since purchased the CV 75mm f/1.8 for the Fuji!

LED Tactical Light

Now, as to the tactical light, Surfire makes lights for the police and military but will sell to you directly or at Amazon or even in a local gun store.  They are used in 2 ways, mounted on the weapon or hand held and are used during a gunfight to see the target and half blind them.  They can be VERY powerful and VERY costly.  Being LED, they will not burn out.  All of them have multiple  output powers and the one I used here had 2, 20 lumens and 900 lumens.  You must be very careful with the high power mode as you can damage peoples eyes with it but being so bright, you can use it during a bright sunny day.  These lights use lithium batteries and they will last about 30 hours on low power and 2 hours on high power.  I keep this light in my camera kit at all times as you never know when you will need to add some detail light on a scene!

UPDATE: Fuji X Pro 1 and Advanced HDR Photography with NIK, Photomatix & Merge


WOW, the world sure changes fast if you close your eyes!

OK after one of my readers left a comment suggesting that the new version of Nik’s HDR EFX Pro 2 was likely supported in Lightroom I decided that I should perhaps do a little research!

Here is what I found:

Detailed compatibility specs for NIK HDR EFX PRO 2

So, as you see, as long as you are running a 64 bit OS plus very specific hardware in the graphics department it seems as if you can now run this fine HDR tool in Lightroom and Aperture!

Nice upgrade Nik!

Fuji X Pro 1 and Advanced HDR Photography with NIK, Photomatix & Merge


Or, Look Mom at  what I made!

A brief overview of the  4 major HDR tools…

The Glade Creek Mill, Fuji X Pro 1 w/ 60mm lens, 10 stop ND and Nik HDR EFX Pro 2 with 3 source files

I just got back from a major workshop that Jamie Davidison and I led to the New River Gorge in West Virginia where to took our students on a hectic 4 day workshop/excursion.  We explored waterfalls, grist mills, trains and vistas while studying Infrared and Color post processing back in the classroom each night till about midnight.  This was EXHAUSTING to say the least but never the less, a great workshop full of great photographers who gave as much as they took!  My days started every morning at 5am and ended about 1am.  I am still recovering!

The Glade Creek Mill, Fuji X Pro 1 with the VC 12mm lens

While the main focus was shooting in Infrared and its associated post processing, I needed to provide loaner IR camera systems to those who did not yet own one, so even though I own three IR systems I was forced to shoot color!  The sky each day was free of clouds and very bright, so if I wished to photograph in color I was forced most of the time to shoot HDR images in order to overcome the dynamic range of the day!  A lot of the time I was able to successfully capture an image with The X Pro 1 in a single shot like the one shown here on the right of the Glade Creek Mill.  But the norm was indeed HDR. The X Pro 1 camera has an unfair advantage over most other camera systems, it has a wider dynamic range and can capture more image data!

Notice that the mill did have some running water which forced me to use very long exposures in the range of 10 to 5 seconds in order to slow the water down.  While there was not a lot of water flow there was enough to make the images very nice.  I used the 60mm lens on the camera along with a 10 stop ND filter in order to slow it down!

OK so let’s get to it!  From this point on, we are going to be working with the same three source files.  I will take you through the post processing for the following HDR tools:

  • Nik HDR EFX Pro
  • Nik HDR EFX Pro 2 (new)
  • Merge To HDR Pro (Photoshop CS6)
  • Fotomatix Pro 4.2.3

I also will be using Nik’s Color EFX Pro 4 and Viveza 2 for post processing (fine tuning) after the HDR conversions are finished!

Overview:

OK, what is HDR?  HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  Think of it this way… You are out taking pictures during the brightest part of the day.  You can get a good image of the foreground subject, but the sky is totally blown out, you know pure white.  The total range of the light from black to white in your image exceeds what your camera is capable of recording, but our eyes can still see and understand the complete range.  So, in the world of photography, we have developed the ability to take several photographs, say three to six, each one with a different exposure from way too dark to really blown out.  With these pictures in hand you can now run one of several software programs available that will combine the best of each of these differently exposed image into one that can display the entire range of of the image from black to white!

Now this requires a image with more data than you can store in a 8 bit JPG image, and even more than your 16 bit RAW, TIFF or PSD image!  Now we move into the world of 32 bit images that can hold and display  a far greater range of black to white data.  Now, 32 bit images are all but useless to us in the real world so the HDR software will compress it down to 16 bits by removing select bits of brightness data without really negatively affecting the view of the image and making it possible to view and print the image!   Pretty neat technology don’t you think?

What I normally do when shooting HDR is to take a test image and evaluate the histogram.  I will look to see what areas are out range, or totally black or totally white.  Usually, the blacks will be fine but the whites will be blown out.  I will then retake the same image with a negative EV dialed in and re evaluate the image again looking to see if the blown out white areas of the image are now in the proper range.  This gives me an idea of just how wide the range of the image needs to be.  If the blown out areas take two or three stops of adjustment to bring them back into range then I will then  decide upon how many HDR images are needed to be taken to get the total range covered in 1/2 stop increments.  You will need to set your camera on a tripod and have it locked down to assure that you get the same exact composition in each shot.  You can either use the auto bracket mode on your camera to generate your shots or do it manually.   Weather or not you change the ISO or shutter speed is dependent upon the scene or your artistic intent.  Some cameras will bracket at most three shots, some 5 and some even 7 or more!  You can usually choose to bracket with Aperture, Shutter Speed or ISO.  It is important to keep the Aperture constant as to not change the depth of field.

For these shots, as long as I kept the shutter speed longer than 3 seconds I would not have any issues with keeping sharply defined slow moving water to generate the HDR.  So I chose a 3 stop bracket using the Shutter Speed, leaving the Aperture and ISO steady.

Here are the 3 component images that make up the final HDR image:

  • In the first, 3495, the trees and mill look good, the water is overexposed about a stop and has lost detail and the rocks are a little under exposed.
  • The second, 3496, the rocks are perfect but the water is very over exposed. There is some detail in the black area under the top of the falls.
  • The last, 3497, the water is perfect but everything else is just to dark.
  • The water was always the key to this shot, getting it so that it was not blown out is the reason to use HDR.  These three images generated by the camera without any processing other than raw conversion and bracketed .7 ev apart with -1.3 ev being one of them, -.6 ev and lastly –2 ev.  If you decide to try this, keep in mind that the closer together the exposures are, say 1/2ev the more data you will have to generate your final image.  You can also add more data with more images. Every HDR you setup and shoot will be different and you must evaluate how many shots to take at what exposure.
  • The very dark black under hang below the top of the waterfall was another consideration when deciding the exposure values of the component images.  I needed a brighter image to bring out some detail here as well.

3495, -1.3 ev, f/8 8 seconds, I chose this value to get the correct exposure on the trees

3495 Histogram, -1.3 EV

________________________________________________

3496, -.6 ev, f/8, 13 seconds. I chose this value to get the rocks and mill exposure correct knowing that the water would be blown out

3496, -.6 ev

________________________________________________

3497, -2 ev, f/8, 5 seconds,  I chose this exposure for the correct falling water exposure

3497, -2 EV

________________________________________________

These three images are the only ones that I will use to explore the various HDR processing software.

Final considerations on component images that make up the HDR image:

  • You MUST shoot on a tripod to control camera movement (prevent ghosting) and to lock the composition.
  • Use a remote shutter release.
  • Wind will cause plant and tree movement which will cause a ghosting effect (bad).
  • Keep the aperture constant to force the depth of field the same between shots.
  • ISO bracketing is ok as long as you keep the jumps in ISO below the level where noise is introduced by your camera.
  • Exposures closer together will allow you to generate better HDR’s as long as the subject matter doesn’t move.
  • More component images mean more data to  build a better HDR image.
  • Take notes in the field as you shoot so that you can remember what your intentions were at that point in time!  This will help you when you build the HDR.

Some notes on the software:

  • HDR conversions require image editing software that can process in 32 bits.  This means that unless you purchase HDR stand alone software like Photomatrix Pro you MUST use Photoshop CS5 or CS6. Elements and Lightroom simply will not work.
  • I do not like over cooked HDR images.  I process them to a natural look and feel, close to what I can see with my eyes!
  • CS5 & CS6 both include an internal HDR conversion filter called Merge to HDR Pro for free.
  • The NIK HDR software, HDR EFX Pro and HDR EFX Pro 2 require a 64 bit operating system and the appropriate 64 bit CS5 or 6
  • Photomatix Pro is a stand alone filter that does NOT run inside of Photoshop and will allow you to save a 16 bit HDR converted image that can be opened in Elements.
  • All of the conversion software will cost between $100 and $200.
  • I am not going to take you step by step through each of the HDR conversion packages.  This is HIGHLY SUBJECTIVE and no two photographers will get to the end results via the same path!  There a quite a few good books out there on this!

Photoshop CS6 Merge To HDR Pro

This HDR program comes built into Photoshop CS6.  It is quite powerful and gives you a lot of options.  I found it very easy to use and it gives very nice results.  You will find it under the FILE > Automate menu and it  will ask you to locate and open your component images or add images already open!

Once your images have been chosen, it will open them and drop you into a full screen dialog where you can make any image adjustments.  Once done the software will drop the finished image into Photoshop where you can then do your final tuning with Nik’s Color EFX Pro 4.  I like to use the Tonal Contrast filter due to the ability to adjust color contrast in the Highlights, Midtones and Shadows separately from each other.  This one tool will really bring out the full potential of your images.

Here is my version of the three component images processed in Photoshop’s Merge To HDR Pro:

X-Pro1-3495 3496 3497 -Glade Creek Mill -2012 -M to HDR Pro

Here is my version of the three component images processed in Nik’s HDR EFX Pro:

OK, onto Nik Softwares HDR EFX Pro.  This is the first version that Nik offered earlier this spring (2012)  It has a great interface and does a pretty good job, but requires a little more fine tuning after the HDR conversion is finished.  The tuning process was again done using Color EFX Pro 4 and Viveza 2.  This is a plugin filter for the Photoshop family and requires that you run a 64 bit operating system in Windows or OSX.  It will NOT run on Elements and Lightroom.

I found that the images to be a little flat and lifeless until I applied the Color EFX Pro 4 in the after process tuning steps, then the images started looking pretty good.

X-Pro1-3495 3496 3497 -Glade Creek Mill -2012_NIK HDR EFX Pro

Here is my version of the three component images processed in Nik’s HDR EFX Pro 2:

OK, now, this is a MAJOR upgrade to Nik’s HDR software.  This one revision corrected all of my complaints about flat and lifeless images!  There is VERY LITTLE fine tuning needed at all.  I think that Nik’s HDR EFX Pro 2 is my favorite conversion tool out there.  But I will let the images speak for themselves!

X-Pro1-3495 3496 3497 -Glade Creek Mill-2012 NIK HDR Pro 2

Here is my version of the three component images processed in Photomatix Pro ver : 4.2.3

Photomatix is likely the most popular HDR conversion package on the market.  It cost around $150 and does NOT require CS5 or CS6 to run.  It is a standalone system and when it finishes it will directly save a 16 bit version of your HDR image on your computer that you can then open for further editing.  It has many recipes and adjustments and you can do great work with it. I highly recommend it even if you are already running a 64 bit operating system and CS6. You will not be sorry!

X-Pro1-3495 3496 3497 -Glade Creek Mill -2012 -Photomatix Pro HDR

As you can see, the 4 converted HDR images are not at all the same.  That would be difficult if not impossible to achieve.  Each software package has its own adjustments and none of them are exact.  I like Nik’s HDR EFX Pro 2 and Photomatix 4.2.3 the best.  They are all easy to use and as long as you properly evaluate the scene that you are trying to photograph and properly choose the exposure values of the component images you will get really nice HDR shots!

What do you think?  Please let me know!