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


Getting your BEST B&W image!

Outer Banks Pier, Monochrom Camera System

Outer Banks Pier, Monochrom Camera System

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

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

Dugger Creek Falls, Linville, NC M Monochrom

Duggers Creek Falls, Linville, NC M Monochrom

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

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

Sometimes!

Dunloupe Creek, New River Gorge WV, M Monochrome

Dunloupe Creek, New River Gorge WV, M Monochrome

 

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

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

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

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

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

Roanoke Marsh Light, Outer Banks, M Monochrom

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

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

This is something to consider…

Here are the video links:

 

 

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Going Home to Mama…. Returning to Film!


The joys of returning to our photographic roots…

Pier

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

Have any of you considered film photography?

There is something about working with film that is very calming which can center one’s soul allowing you to really connect with your art. For me it was like going home to Mama.  The feeling of working with your hands as part of creating your art will make it more involved and enable you to to really influence the hidden nuances in your work. It will add a bit more complexity to your workflow but trust me it is worth the effort.  The single largest change is forcing you to slow down in your creative process, it forces you to really consider every part of your workflow. It really is not any more difficult than digital photography, but it is a bit more involved.

Polaroid 900, Tmax 100 4x5 @ 64, Perceptol

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

Take a really close look at the details in this image, click on it and look at it in the full screen mode.  Look at the GEARING on the edge of the wheel.  The detail there will take your breath away!

Film Cameras

Olympus XA 135mm

Olympus XA 135mm

I have way too many film cameras to list them all, some really small like the Olympus XA which is the worlds smallest 35mm rangefinder and a joy to use.

I also have an Olympus RC 35 camera that is another fixed lens rangefinder. It is simple and fun to use and can be found for very little money.  I have mine rebuild and given a bright blue suite that suites it quite well!

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

My Custom Olympus 35 RC 

My Leica M7 Film Body

My Leica M7 Film Body

My last 35mm camera system is a Leica M7 system. It has interchangeable lenses and is one of the best built camera systems that I have.  Couple it with the world class Leica lenses and you have an unbeatable 35mm system.

Confusion, Petri 7S 35mm, Eastman XX flim

Confusion, Petri 7S 35mm, Eastman XX flim

Fuji GF670 Medium Format

Fuji GF670

Fuji GF670

Fuji GF670

Moving up to Medium Format 120 film systems I have three.  I have the Voigtlander Bessa IIIw system that is 6×7 format and the Fuji GF670 camera (also sold under the name of Bessa III) with a longer 85mm lens (left & right). The 670 is my medium format travel camera of choice.  Not only is it a functional camera with a built in meter but it is attractive and it always will draw a crowd when I get it out to use! Another nice point to the GF670 is that it folds down on itself to a thin easy to store camera in your bag!

Mamaya RZ Pro II system

Mamaya RZ Pro II system

And lastly the Mamaya RZ Pro II SLR ( Right) with interchangeable lenses and a world class metering system. This camera is large and heavy but easy to use and a very powerful camera system! I have a f/4 65mm and f/4 180mm lens for it.  I also have both the waist level finder and a metering prism with spot and matrix!  Like I said, heavy and big, but I use it for ultra long exposures on the coast with the Fuji Acros 100 film which has almost NO RECIPROCITY failure up to 140 seconds then only 1/2 stop after that!   The film base is a little on the thin side but still my film of choice for long exposures.

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

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

Beautiful!

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

My 900 converted to 4x5 by Alpenhause Kamera Werke

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

Moving up to 4×5 Large Format cameras, I have three. first I have a Shen Hao cherry field camera.  Functional as it is beautiful.  I rarely take it out, rather I am using a Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a Fujinon 150mm lens and a Polaroid 110B camera converted to 4×5 with a Schneider Super Angulon 90mm lens.  It is a beauty and very wide!

Yes, as you may have noticed, some of these cameras are quite large.  This is due to the negative size.   Let me give you some idea as to why digital cameras can never come close to the resolution of film.

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

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

Lets start with medium format:

  • Medium Format 6×7 format makes an image 2 1/4 inches tall and much wider.  Scanned at native resolution of 6400 dpi on an Epson 850 Pro scanner gives me a file resolution of 16452 x 19668 dpi or a print size at 300 dpi of 4.5 feet by 5.3 feet!  This is huge.
  • Large Format of 4″ x 5 ” scanned at 6400 dpi (native) gives a file size of 29107 x 36070 dpi or a print size of 8 feet x 10 feet!  There is not a digital camera system in the world that can come more than a small fraction of this!

Film

Film has turned wildly popular again in the past several years and many of the big film manufacturers have started increasing their film production lines again. This is especially true in the medium format lines (120) and 4×5 large format films! Film can be found in single rolls or in bulk almost everywhere again.  The big box companies like B&H, Adorama and many others carry almost every type and format that you could ever want!

Processing in B&W has never been easier at home with eco friendly chemistry with no darkroom needed. Only an initial outlay of around $150 will get you started. Cameras can be found anywhere for next to nothing!  You will need:

  • Dark Bag, a cloth bag that it light proof with arm sleeves that enable you to put your film, developing tank, reel an lid inside with your arms to move the film into a light tight developing tank!
  • Developing Tank, I recommend a stainless steel version.
  • Film Reels, I like the Hewes stainless steel ones.
  • Developer, comes either in a powder or a Liquid.  I like Perceptol and/or Rodinal R09.
  • Fixer, to remove un-used silver
  • Liquid wetting agent to prevent drops to dry on your negative.
  • Clips to hang you film up to dry!

You can scan your film into your computer with a good Epson scanner like the 700, 750, 800 or 850.  You can also buy an adapter for your camera allowing you to scan by photograph!

While I work in both color and B&W, digital and film I find time after time I pick up a film system and load it up with a good B&W film. The process of developing your film can really help you connect to your work as well.

I like several films, here they are in order of favor:

 

  1. Kodak Tmax 100 in 35, 120 and 4×5, very small grain, good dynamic range easy to process
  2. Fuji Acros 100 in 35, 120 and 4×5, very small grain, good dynamic range NO RECIPROCITY FAILURE, easy to process
  3. Rollei IR400 in 35, 120 and 4×5, Infrared or normal B&W, good dynamic range, easy to process
  4. Rollei Retro 80S in 35 and 120, amazing clarity and sharpness, good dynamic range easy to process
  5. Eastman XX in 35, motion picture film used in B&W movies of the 50’s, smooth gradient transitions.

 

As an example here is the top image from last week of the fishing fleet taken on 20 year out of date Polaroid Type 55 monochrome instant film. The camera is also a Polaroid 900 that my daughter sent me years ago from a garage sale that I had converted to 4×5 with a Fujinon 150mm lens. A MOST beautiful camera in a bright new blue suite that is just fun to use. It is both rangefinder and ground glass focusing that forces you to slow down and really consider each and every image you capture!

The Type 55 film, even outdated, works flawlessly and generates amazing images where the edge markings add to the artistic impact of your subject

Pelican Dock - Type 55 4x5 Film, Wet Scan

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

So what do you think?  Are you tempted to try this out?  It is easy.  For starters, you can look at the continuing education departments at a local college or hight school.  Most offer B&W film photography with darkroom work.  This will teach you enough to allow you to determine if you would like to further investigate this wonderful medium!

You can also contact me and request info on one of my film workshops held in Pawleys Island SC.  I would love to have you and share this amazing link to our past!

Please let me know what you think of this post!

The Purity Of B&W


Going Home To Momma…

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

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

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC.  Leica M Monochrome

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC. Leica M Monochrome

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

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

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

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

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

Van Dyke Brown Printing, 1842


A new (read OLD) way of printing!

8x12" Van Dyke Brown Print

8×12″ Van Dyke Brown Print

Alternative Printing from History!

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

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

Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

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

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

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

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

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

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 2 stops.

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 1.5 stops.

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

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

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

More Leica M Monochrome Magic!


Creating World Class B&W Images With Leica Monochrome

Bodie Island Light, M Monochrome

Bodie Island Light, M Monochrome

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

Leica Tri-Elmar 16 - 18 - 21 mm Lens

Leica Tri-Elmar 16 – 18 – 21 mm Lens

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

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

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

 

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

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrome

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrom

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

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

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

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

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

Fishing Float, M Monochrome

Fishing Float, M Monochrome

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

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

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

Really Right Stuff TF-01 and Ball Head

Really Right Stuff TF-01 and Ball Head

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

Really Right Stuff TF-01

Really Right Stuff TF-01

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

Thanks for taking the time to view these!!

Leica M Monochrome Magic….


A new camera come homes to live!

 

Leica M Monochrome

Leica M Monochrome

 

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

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

Duggars Creek Falls, Linville, NC   32 second exposure

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

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

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

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

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

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

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure

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

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

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

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

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

Leica SF 58 Flash

Leica SF 58 Flash

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

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

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

The system simply amazes me…..

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second exposure.

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

Fuji X100s 830nm Infrared and Long Exposures


It just keeps getting better….

 

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

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

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

B+W 110 10 Stop ND

B+W 110 10 Stop ND

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

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

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

Fuji X100s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ahhh… It Feels So Good!

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

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

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

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

Rodinal One Shot

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

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

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

1962 Custom Petri 7s Film Body

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

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

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

My Custom Olympus 35 RC

My Custom Olympus 35 RC

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

Olympus-XA

Olympus-XA

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

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

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

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

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

My Leica M7 Film Body

My Leica M7 Film Body

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

______________________________________________________

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

Rollei IR400 Film

Rollei IR400 Film

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

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

Eastman Double X 5222

Eastman Double X 5222

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikon 4000 ED system

Nikon 4000 ED system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Please let me know what you think of this post!

Leica M240 Digital..


Oh, No… Another Camera System…

Leica M240 24 mpx Digital

Leica M240 24 mpx Digital

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

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

But first let me highlight the “What”!

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

Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH f/1.4

Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH f/1.4

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

Tulip at f/1.4, Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH

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

 

Leica 28mm Elmarit ASPH

Leica 28mm Elmarit ASPH

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

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

 

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

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

 

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

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

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

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

Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8

Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8

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

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

Green Dots...

Green Dots…

Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Hellar

Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Hellar

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

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

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

Stormy Seas, down low and dirty… Voigtlander 12mm

 

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

M240-BW 59s16ND PI Pier-0148-2014

Pier, Leica M240 60 second exposure

M240 w/ R72 IR Filter

M240 w/ R72 IR Filter

Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit,

Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit

6 Shot HDR, Leica M240

6 Shot HDR, Leica M240

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

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

M240-1109-60 s PI LE-2014

Low Tide, Leica M240, 45 second exposure

 

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

Stay Tuned!

 

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!

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

 

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.

Further X-E1 Long Exposure Work


Fuji X-E1 280 second exposure at f/8

Fuji X-E1 280 second exposure at f/8

 

Or, if your are thrown off the horse, climb back on!

 

I went out tonight at sunset to the Pawleys Island Pier to try some more very long exposures with the Fuji X-E1.  I used the new 18-55mm lens with a B+W 6 stop ND filter until it got really dark then I shifted to just the lens.

It was just perfect out tonight.  A few clouds in the sky, medium wind and very little blowing sand in the air.  I setup with an angle on the pier with the moon behind my back.  I got there early enough to setup and pre-focus.

I used my Sekonic L758DR light meter with 6 stops of exposure compensation dialed in for the ND filter and started shooting.  In failing light, the hand held spot meter makes exposures easy, fast and perfect!  I simply aimed the 1 degree spot at the gray/purple band of clouds right next to the horizon and took my meter reading from that. Then I moved it from Zone 5 to Zone 6 or 1 stop brighter.  The meter gave me 15 seconds of shutter speed and f/22 so I simply added 1 more stop by changing the shutter speed to 30 seconds!  Very easy and by using the Zone system when thinking about exposure it can fast become second nature.

Fuji X-E1 30 second exposure at f/22

Fuji X-E1 30 second exposure at f/22

The first 10 min or so I was only able to get 30 second exposures but only at f/22.  I did have a 10 stop ND filter in the bag but I decided to just stay with the 6 stop. Even at 30 seconds, they were still quite pleasing!  I really like the Time mode on the X-E1 as it makes setup easy, but the Bulb mode is very well thought out. It gives a nice count up timer on the LCD screen and makes for perfect exposure!

Even checking the focus after it gets too dark to see is easy with the X-E1. Place the camera into manual focus mode place one of the pier lights into the middle of the focus square and push the jog dial straight in. This will cause the camera to magnify what is inside of the cameras focus box. You then go back and forth with the lens focus ring till you get the smallest sharpest light!  All done.

As it got darker I was forced to re meter the scene again and again. For this next shot the light had faded another entire stop and forced me to again double the shutter speed to compensate for the changing conditions and still allow me to capture the clouds on the horizon at Zone 6!

60 second shutter speed at f/8

60 second shutter speed at f/8

 

Things start to get very complicated and fast as the sun falls below the horizon.  The next image was metered at 140 seconds but during that exposure, the light dropped another 2 stops!  so I split the difference and increased the exposure by keeping the shutter open another stop or 280 seconds.  this worked quite well and gave a very pleasing exposure!  Please keep in mind that this image was taken after the sun was totally gone and it was quite dark out but with enough light left to give a good exposure of the clouds and pier. You can tell that this image was taken in very low light because the pier lamp reflections are prominent in the picture.  Here is that image:

280 second exposure, f/8

280 second exposure, f/8

Remember, for every minute of exposure the camera requires a minute of noise reduction. So for the above exposure the total time of forced waiting was 560 seconds!  So for this last image a lot of time passed while I waited and it was TOTALLY dark out now.  The moon gave very little light but the lights on the pier worked very well and put some interesting colors on the waters surface!

Ok for this last image there is ZERO light left in the sky.  The stars are very bright and fill the sky with a wonderful pattern.  But, the pier lights are so bright that they pollute the image and wash out the sky blocking the stars in the image.  Another complication is that it is just too dark out now to need the ND filter.  So I removed it and adjusted the meter so that the compensation is now set to zero.  The reading suggested was 425 seconds at f/8.  Why f/8?  Well I desired the sharpest image possible so I locked the meter to that.  I still needed to move the lower sky 1 stop brighter, you know from Zone 5 to Zone 6.  This made it necessary to move the shutter speed from 425 seconds to 850 seconds (14 minutes) and now I am ready to shoot.  So lets look at this last shot, 850 seconds of exposure then 850 seconds of in camera noise reduction.  So I have to wait for 28 minutes from the start of the exposure until the image popped up on the LCD panel!

Here is the final image of the evening, a 14 minute exposure at f/8.  Yes the pier light reflections close to the pier/water intersection is a little harsh but still, this demonstrates exactly what you can achieve by thing long exposure, but more importantly, it shows what the Fuji X-E1 is capable of capturing with a little bit of creative thinking!

850 second (14 min) exposure at f/8

850 second (14 min) exposure at f/8

Did you find any of this post helpful?  Please let me know!

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