Fuji X-E2 – Amazing Quality!


My Fuji  X-E2 – Just Perfect!

Shrimper Carolyn Ann, Fuji X-E2

Shrimper Carolyn Ann, Fuji X-E2

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

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

I also have ALL of the lenses but 2!

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

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

X-E2

X-E2

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

X-E2 Top Panel

X-E2 Top Panel

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

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

Little Scrapper, X-E2, RAW converted in ACR

Little Scrapper, X-E2, RAW converted in ACR

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

Shrimper Donkey X-E2

Shrimper Donkey X-E2

 

Shrimper Donkey, CAMERA B&W  X-E2

Shrimper Donkey, CAMERA B&W X-E2

Carolyn Ann, Color, X-E2

Carolyn Ann, Color, X-E2

Carolyn Ann, In Camera B&W X-E2

Carolyn Ann, In Camera B&W X-E2

Working Shrimper Deck, X-E2

Working Shrimper Deck, X-E2

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

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

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

Please let me know what you think…

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Wabi/Sabi: Exploring decay in man made objects


All things Old are Beautiful again..

This morning at 9:30 at Georgetown, SC. I decided to get out my cameras and shoot some Shrimp Boat images before I had to open a Co-Op gallery that I am a partial owner of.  The Shrimp  Boats are a subject that are very dear to me and I visit them every chance that I have.

They are for the most part all falling into decay.  The market for local salt water shrimp is almost not enough to support the boats.  With the import of fresh water farm shrimp the local fisherman are being forced out of business and the result is the condition of the boat and companies… A very sad state of affairs.

The Boat Graveyard and the 3 Wheel Houses...

The Boat Graveyard and the 3 Wheel Houses…

The image above illustrates the wabi-sabi concept:  There is beauty in decay  It sounds very counter to the way we think as artists, but with a little thought I think that you will be able to agree with the concept.

Wabi-Sabi

The Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, as described in Brainpickings, “connotes a way of living that finds beauty in imperfection and accepts the natural cycle of growth and decay.”

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.
From an engineering or design point of view, “wabi” may be interpreted as the imperfect quality of any object, due to inevitable limitations in design and construction/manufacture especially with respect to unpredictable or changing usage conditions; then “sabi” could be interpreted as the aspect of imperfect reliability, or limited mortality of any object, hence the etymological connection with the Japanese word sabi, to rust.[citation needed]The Japanese kanji characters:

 


(sabi, meaning rust)

and


(sabi, as above)

are different, as are their applied meanings, yet the original word (pre-kanji, yamato-kotoba) is believed to be one and the same.
“Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty and it occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West.”  “if an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.” “[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”
The words wabi and sabi do not translate easily. Wabi originally referred to the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society; sabi meant “chill”, “lean” or “withered”. Around the 14th century these meanings began to change, taking on more positive connotations.[1] Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.

For me and what I consider to be “Fine Art Photography”, the concept of Wabi-Sabi fits like a glove in regards to the shrimp fleets.  I watch them over the span of time, capturing them again and again.  The one thing that stands out above all is the fact that they like everything else will fall into decay… both physically and financially, but faster.

The 3 Wheel Houses in B&W. Stepping back into an older time of photography, fitting don't you think?

The 3 Wheel Houses in B&W. Stepping back into an older time of photography, fitting don’t you think?

I am going to dedicate a photography project to this concept.  I would think that it will take me several years to finish or perhaps unto my death which in a strange twist of logic fits into the project/concept quite well.

So I hope that you enjoy these images and that you intellectually chew on the concept of Wabi-Sabi and to how it will fit into your own artistic visions….

Normally, detailed closeups would be better suited for wabi/sabi studies, but look at these following 2 images and notice how the rust and corrosion feed into the concept.  Do you see the detail in the flat areas of the boat and how it is rolling and pitted?  These imperfections take on an artistic perfection on their own!

Stormy Seas, Georgetown, SC.

Stormy Seas, Georgetown, SC.

B&W, stepping back into an "older" time and place.

B&W, stepping back into an “older” time and place.

The Wheel House Door

The Wheel House Door

The Working Boat, 630nm Infrared

The Working Boat, 630nm Infrared

The Battered Bow...

The Battered Bow…

I hope that you enjoyed the image and the concept…

Important Difference Between Film & Digital


What NOT to expect from Digital!

Fuji X-E1 with its 18-55mm lens

Fuji X-E1 with its 18-55mm lens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My own decision path was simple…

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

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

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

OK, you get one Fuji X System  image!

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

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

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

 

Olympus OMD EM5 and Ultra Long Exposures!


And now for something different!

Pawleys Pier, Twilight. 847 Second Exposure, Olympus OMD with the 12-60mm lens.  Iso 200, f/22

Pawleys Pier, Twilight. 847 Second Exposure, Olympus OMD with the 12-60mm lens. Iso 200, f/22

I know, most of my recent posts have been about the new Fuji X-E1, but tonight I decided to take out the OMD and test it out for ultra long exposures.  I have the OMD as a high speed replacement for my Canon DSLR (currently a 7D) in order to reduce weight and ease of use.  Overall the camera performs very well and generates impressive, sharp images up into very high ISO’s! But a friend recently purchased one to use and wanted to do some long exposures.  So I got mine out, looked over the in camera options and was VERY surprised to learn of several very nice long exposure benefits built into this camera!

  • Live View Bulb Mode: This is an amazing feature (are you listening Fuji?)!  With this mode, you must first set the max shutter speed length, then the update times.  What this means is that you can set an exact exposure or some ultra long one.  Then you can let the camera time the shutter or you can use a remote shutter release to start and stop the exposure as one would normally see in a BULB mode.  What the added value here is that the camera turns on the live view screen and updates the LCD panel with the  image displayed with the CURRENT exposure during the BULB exposure!  The timing of the update is the value you set when you set the update times!  You can have up to 24 updates.  In simple terms, this allows you to SEE the image developing on the LCD panel during the exposure!  Way cool and very valuable.  The only change I could wish for is for the histogram to also be displayed for each updated image.  A remote shutter release with a lock is required for this mode.
  • Live View Timer Mode:  This works just the same as the BULB mode except that you press the shutter release once to start and once to end!  If you forget your remote shutter release you can still get the picture!
  • Onscreen Level:  This allows you to get the horizon straight!  Simple thing but important for any image and critical for long exposures.
  • Programmable Function Keys:  Makes long exposures in the dark easier but setting Function Button 1 to Manual Focus.  This means that you can switch back and forth from manual to auto focus modes without having to go through the menu system.
  • On Screen Focus Point Touch Select: With the camera in auto focus mode you can touch the area of the image that you wish to focus on and then do a focus.  By using this in conjunction with the function key as described above you can easily change your focus. In the dark, this makes it very easy to select a point of light on a long pier and have the camera focus, then hit the function key to select the manual focus mode to lock it in! If there is not a point of light, having an ULTRA BRIGHT flashlight and lighting something in the scene to focus on works well also!

The OMD worked tonight flawlessly for these long exposures!  The longest was over 14 minutes and generated a clean low noise image!  But most importantly, I was able to take this image with NO metering at all. I simply chose the Live View Bulb mode and watched the image develop on the LCD screen during the exposure and when it was where I liked it I simply stopped the exposure!  Understand, this is not exact as the LCD does not give an exact true image display, but it was always within 1 stop!

Here is a B&W version as well but I think you will agree that this entire outing was easy and fun and gave superb results!

The B&W version processed in Nik's Silver EFX.

The B&W version processed in Nik’s Silver EFX.

Fuji X Pro 1 for High Speed Water drops Anyone?


Or how to succeed without really trying with a world class camera system!

Ohh, a pretty lead in tease image!

Today was gallery day for me.  I really wanted to go out and shoot but decided that I needed to sit and be open.  So… I dug out my high speed water drop kit and setup on my work table and decided that today I would test out my Fuji X Pro 1 and my Olympus OMD for water drops.  This then is the X Pro 1 post!

First, I can hear you asking, “How can you possibly use the X Pro 1 for water drops?”, well the answer is both frightening and simple at the same time!  I do several types of photography where the camera in use must have an electronic shutter release so that I can hook the camera up to a remote controller, like a Lightning Trigger or a Time Machine for water drops.  But water drops really do not need to be triggered by the Time Machine since the exposure is about a second long to enable the machine to trigger the timed water drops generated for the collision, the size of the drops, the distance between them, the shutter release and lastly the strobes!  This is all done in the following order:

  1. User pushes fire button.
  2. Camera opens the shutter for around 1 second.
  3. Time machine drops the first drop at XXX size.
  4. Time machine Drops the second drop at XXX size.
  5. Time Machine waits a programmed delay.
  6. Time Machine fires two external Canon 580 EX2 strobes set at 1/64 power.

Thats it!  So, while sitting there taking about 600 OMD images of water drops and cursing the fact that the only macro lens I currently have is the 12mm to 50mm macro, I asked myself: “Hey Mark! Why dont you get out the X Pro 1 and put on the 60mm macro and set it up for water drops and simply push your mechanical shutter release at the same time you push the Time Machines fire button?”.  WOW, I was amazed by the simplicity of this thought and immediately got out the X and setup!  The rest is history!

Fuji X Pro 1 with the 35mm w/Canon 500D. Egg cup with green water and the time machine dripper with red water. Black backdrop.

Boat Drinks! Fuji X Pro 1 with the 35mm w/Canon 500D. Egg cup with green water and the time machine dripper with red water. Black backdrop.

Fuji X Pro 1 with the with 35mm w/Canon 500D. Egg cup with green water and the time machine dripper with red water. Black backdrop.

“Lizardo” Fuji X Pro 1 with the Fuji 60mm macro lens attached.

Now, I do have to tell you that I encountered a MAJOR issue with the Fuji 60mm Macro.  Since this technique uses multiple flashes to light and freeze the water drops, I discovered that the lens is VERY PRONE to LENS FLAIR!  ANY light that makes it into the objective from ANY angle reguardless of the placement of the flashes, even room lights will cause a flair in the direct center of the image EACH AND EVERY TIME!  This was VERY FRUSTRATING and took about an hour to overcome with CAREFUL flash placement, darkening of the room and shading the back of the camera to keep stray light from even coming into the gallery windows in the front!  I have to tell you that this was a major pain in the butt!  I can see another lens in my future to shoot macro with.  I even tried my CV 75mm f/1.8 but couldnt get close enough to the water drop to get a full frame image with a Canon 500d attached. So as you can see, the first 3 images were taken with the Fuji 35mm with a Canon 500D +2 diopter filter attached.  Even so this is as close as I could get.  The last image is with the 60mm macro.

Any suggestions for other macro lenses out there??

PLEASE??

Please let me know what you think!  The lens aside, you can see that the camera worked great for the images and I will be using it for this again provided that I find a more macro/flash friendly lens!

OK, so many emails!  Here is info on the time machine!

http://www.bmumford.com/photo/waterdrops/index.html

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!