Learn the art of long exposure at our Georgia Coast Photo Workshop!


Georgia Coast Photo Workshop

March 7 – 10, 2019

Boneyard on Jekyll Island at sunrise

I LOVE working with long exposures…

There is so much peace in the long exposure process. At the scene, behind the camera and the results after processing simply takes my breath away. It does not matter what you decide to shoot with, Color, B&W, IR or Film because It simply does not matter, It all works. The processes of working with LE is that as we slow down the shutter of the camera we too are forced to slow down our mental process and be drawn into the scene! This works for boneyard shots at the beach, moving clouds over a building or simple rocks in the surf, It is an amazing journey in one single shot!

THE AMAZING IS POSSIBLE!

That is the thing about coastal Georgia. there are so many amazing photographic opportunities. Aside from the biggies, You all know how I love working in film and wabi/sabi, but creating long exposures is the one single photographic technique for me that always brings me peace…

This is your chance to learn the process, from artistic vision, choosing the correct filters and camera settings to post processing! Come along and learn all of these and more with Jamie and I. You will not be disappointed.

What exactly is needed in terms of equipment?

There are some equipment requirements for long exposures and as you find your self drawn into the process you will likely expand your catalog of gear, especially filters!

  • Good steady tripod.
  • Remote shutter release (wireless allows you to move around while working)
  • Fresh full battery.
  • Camera that allows a T or B mode
  • Low ISO capability
  • A basic set of screw on solid ND filters.  These will work during the day time when the sky and foreground are the same brightness level.  For times around sunrise/sunset you will need to add  2 basic graduated filters as well. ND filters are like sunglasses for your camera that come in different densities (darkness values).

My solid set includes: 

  1. 3 Stop X4 solid magnetic Breakthrough
  2. 6 Stop X4 solid magnetic Breakthrough
  3. 15 Stop X4 solid magnetic Breakthrough
  4. Polarizer X4 filter magnetic Breakthrough
  5. Night Sky X4 filter magnetic Breakthrough

 

My square (75mm and 100mm) set includes:

  1. 10 Stop 100mm X4 solid Breakthrough 2.5 Stop 100mm  soft edge graduated Lee
  2. 3 Stop 100mm X4 Reverse graduated Breakthrough
  3. 2 Stop 100mm X4 Soft Graduated Breakthrough

There are many makers of ND filters, I have always gone with B+W  and Lee but the Breakthrough  are much higher quality with a much higher cost. Because I have recently added a Fuji Medium Format digital system I am building a set of the Breakthrough filters in both solid and graduated using both their new magnetic system and the 100mm square filters for the graduated.

To start, you do NOT need all of these and the basic set will allow you to get started but you will run into trouble as the sun approaches the horizon on sunrise/sunset.

Learning how to use all of these filters is not difficult but you will be miles ahead of everyone if you consider a workshop that covers all of it PLUS the art of post processing your long exposures after capture.  The Georgia Coast is a great place to do just this.  We will be out all day learning behind the camera as Jamie and I wander around with you helping along the way, sharing our secrets for in camera, as well as the art of post processing in evening classes at the hotel!  This is a great workshop to learn the technique of long exposure but not limited to that!  We will spend time at a lighthouse, a old broken down building, piers, beaches and of course AMAZING SHRIMP BOATS!

Another view of the boneyard after sunrise!

You can download a PDF info link here:

https://app.box.com/s/qcw6ekysxgbe8tm8hb1l7a6nfytinly0

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!

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!

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.

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


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

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

I needed to get away…

Skittles & me.

Skittles & me.

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

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

Please notice that I did not grab my camera bag…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time goes by…

Still going by…

Slowly…

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

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

Still waiting…

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

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

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

WHITE!   WHAT HAPPENED?  

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

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

Ohhh…

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____________________________________________

OK, what did I/WE learn here?

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

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

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

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

Moon over the Marsh.. 4 second exposure

Moon over the Marsh.. 4 second exposure

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

Update:

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

The exposure data:

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

Ultra Long Fuji X-E1 Exposure Tutorial


Slower can be better…

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

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

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

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

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

Fuji X-E1 with its 18-55mm lens

Fuji X-E1 with its 18-55mm lens

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

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

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

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

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

Heliopan Variable ND Filter

Heliopan Variable ND Filter

Shutter Speeds in Full Stops

Shutter Speeds in Full Stops

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

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

Aperture in Full Stops

Aperture in Full Stops

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

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

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

Ok, lets talk about the issues in focusing!

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

Use a Light as a focus point

Use a Light as a focus point

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

 

Surefire E2D

Surefire E2D

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

Unreliable Metering…

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

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

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

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

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

The scene as seen...

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

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

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

So here is the resulting image…

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

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

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

71M770oi3RL._AA1500_

Sekonic L758DR Spot Meter

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

Zones…

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

The Zones...

The Zones…

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

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

Using Zones to understand what your meter sees...

Using Zones to understand what your meter sees…

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

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

The Zone System explained.

The Zone System explained.

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

250 second exposure, Fuji X-E1

250 second exposure, Fuji X-E1

30 second exposure just before sunset

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

A DETAILED look at X Pro 1 long exposures….


The Fuji X Pro 1 camera system is VERY WELL suited to this style of photography!

Outer Banks FIshing Pier Sunrise, Fuji X Pro 1 + 10 stop ND filter

Avalon Pier Sunrise, 30 second exposure

I just got back from leading an advanced photo workshop & excursion to the outer banks on Nags Head Island in the Outer Banks!  The subject was HDR and Long Exposure Photography.  It was an amazing workshop filled with great students and we visited amazing locations.  What was so special about this was the sunrise locations at the Avalon Pier (which was broken into 3 parts) and the Outer Banks Fishing Pier.  The wave conditions were a little high due the the North Easter having just passed and made for tough long exposures due the the required shutter speeds!

As you can see with the image on the left, the waters surface was still a little bit misty even with a 30 second exposure.  The light was simply too bright and the waves too large to get a slower shutter speed.  Still, the image is pleasing and as you can see from the blue sky it is just after the sunrise was finished.

Ok, some discussion on equipment is in order here.

  • A sturdy tripod is a must.  It must be able to hold the camera steady even if the water washes over the tripod legs.  I use a large Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripod with the Really Right Stuff large ball head on top.  The X Pro 1 has the Really Right Stuff L bracket installed.  This system works very well.
  • A remote shutter release is also a must.  The X Pro 1 can only use a mechanical one so I have two in my bag, a 14 inch and a 40 inch.  Both have a BULB lock which enables you to lock the shutter open.
  • A 10 stop and 6 stop ND filter.  I like the B+W versions due to their German Schott Glass construction.  BUT, be aware, the X Pro 1 (in fact most camera systems) cannot meter through the 10 stop ND filter.  If you have a hand held spot meter you can get accurate exposures even with the ND filter!
  • A lens hood is an absolute must for long exposures.  This will keep light from striking the objective element of your lens and reducing contrast and causing lens flare.
  • Know where the sun is going to rise!  There are several great apps for smart phones out there that will tell you this right on the spot!

For rough seas, the longer you can get the exposure the smoother the water will become.  The X Pro 1 will allow up to a 30 second exposure in the T mode. You simply use the arrow keys to change the exposure up or down, but 30 seconds is the max.  For longer, you must use the BULB mode.  The Fuji has a very well designed  BULB mode!  When you trip the shutter, a counter will start on the back LCD screen counting up!  This makes for very easy timing control.  Here then is an example of a 90 second exposure in both Black & White and color.

Outer Banks FIshing Pier Sunrise, 90 second exposure with the 35mm lens. Exposure: 90 seconds, f/16, ISO 200, 10 stop ND filter.

Outer Banks FIshing Pier Sunrise, 90 second exposure with the 35mm lens. Exposure: 90 seconds, f/16, ISO 200, 10 stop ND filter.

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens

Not all long exposures require such a long shutter speed.  For some a shorter speed can generate a nice image as well.  Here are two for your consideration.  The first is simply a daylight shot of a creek mouth into the bay but with the exposure slow enough to smooth out the water and show a little pattern there! This was a 15 second exposure using the incredible Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens with the Fuji M mount adapter shot at f/16 and ISO 200.

Mid Day Creek Mouth, CV 75mm f/1.8 lens.

You can see patterns in the water just at the point on the right side.

The second image is of the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse at sunrise. This was a .3 second exposure at f/3.2.  This image was a bit challenging as I wanted detail in the front of the lighthouse.  I used a Sekonic 758 DR hand held spot meter to measure the building and set the exposure accordingly. This is a very easy to use metering system and will NEVER fail you in use.  Sometimes you simply cannot use the cameras metering system to get the proper exposure.  This is always a factor when you are using ND filter attached to the lens!

For this shot I used the Fuji 35mm lens with a lens hood attached to keep incident light from striking the objective element at an angle.

X-Pro1-Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse Sunrise

Here are a few more sample images for you to think about.  I hope that you enjoy them!

Avalon Pier Sunrise

Outer Banks Fishing Pier Sunrise, 60 second exposure

Sunrise

60 second exposure, Outer Banks FIshing Pier Sunrise

So, take heart, get a ND filter and go out and try some long exposures at sunrise or sunset. If you do not have access to the ocean then use the exposures to slow the motion of the Clouds!  There are all sorts of possibilities out there for you to experiment with!

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


Or, Look Mom at  what I made!

A brief overview of the  4 major HDR tools…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3495 Histogram, -1.3 EV

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

3496, -.6 ev

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

3497, -2 EV

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

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

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

Some notes on the software:

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

Photoshop CS6 Merge To HDR Pro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?  Please let me know!

Ultra Long Exposures with Fuji X Pro 1 using the Zone System and a Heliopan Variable ND Filter


Interesting Things Come To Those Who Wait….

Pawleys Island Surf, X Pro 1, 2 1/2 min exposure

Heliopan Variable ND w/ Stops

This variable ND filter from Heliopan comes in a 52mm size which works on both the Fuji 35mm and 18mm lenses.  It is touted as being totally color transparent with no color shifts!  Online reviews have stated that it is by far the best variable  ND on the market.  My own testing has shown that it adds ZERO color cast to my images and that the physical stops on the filter work very well while the settings are quite repeatable.  The only negatives found are:

  • The fit of the ring components are very sloppy.  They are loose and easily moved.  I like a little tension between the moving rings on any adjustable filter and this one fails in that regard!
  • The base of the filter is wider than the top.  You cannot attach any lens hood because of this.  Since there are no filter threads on the front if the filter you cannot attach a screw on hood.  This bothers me quite a bit, but the fact that the filter adds no color shift allows me to overlook this.

Its stops on the filter that keeps you in the 2 to 6.2 stop range and generates no banding at all.  So far I have been very impressed with the images created with this filter in all way.  Yes you can do the same job with a fixed ND filter but even the high quality B+W ND filters add a slight color cast to your images!

Suggested Equipment:

  • Sturdy Tripod
  • Remote Shutter release cable ( I found a 40″ model online ) You can typically find many choices here for the X Pro 1 at Adorama, BH Photo and Amazon.  I have 2 in my kit, a 12 inch and a 40 inch model which allows me to back away from the tripod a little..
  • Bubble level. ( for some reason the internal built in level is not accurate ) You can always fix a tilted horizon in post processing, but you will loose part of your image in doing so.  As with all things photographic, the better the image created in the camera the better the final image will be!  The level really helps in this and you can find them for next to nothing on Amazon!
  • Charged camera battery ( long exposures chew up batteries), there is nothing worse than having to walk back to the truck for another battery!  Keep an extra in your pocket.
  • Lens cleaning kit ( beach shots in the wind cover everything in salt spray )
  •  ND filter (variable or fixed, Heliopan or B+W 6 or 10 stop)
  • External Spot meter like the Seikonic 508 (not necessary but make exposure a little easier!), more on this on later in the post!

Subject Considerations

  1. Foreground, Mid Ground & Background:  As with any photography, it is very important to have easily recognized areas within the images.  The best images contain three.  Foreground, mid ground and backgrounds that are clearly defined will draw you viewer into your image and make a longer lasting impression!  This is the same in long exposures.  I like to find objects in or that project into the ocean to achieve  this effect.  In the images here I have the rock groin, the ocean and the sky/horizon that cover these three areas.  You should consider these important compositional areas as you pick your image.
  2. Size and timing of the waves: When photographing the surf, and attempting to soften or smooth  the waters surface you need to consider the distance and timing of the waves.  A long period between the waves will require a longer exposure to even them out.  This is just as true with larger waves as well!  A good starting point for the normal surf is a 30 second shutter speed.  This should give you 3 or 4 waves coming ashore with which to average the waters movement.  The B&W image shown here in the post was a 2  min 30 sec exposure.  The reason for the difference is because to flatten the waters surface I needed a much longer exposure due the the size of the waves (12 feet).
  3. The Sky: The sky is a funny thing in long exposures.  Normally we hope for some structure in the sky, especially with color.  But the ultra white sky can also add a striking compositional element to our images as long as there are other darker areas within the composition to balance against.  The addition of clouds, especially clouds that are moving will add another etherial component to your long exposure image.  The clouds will be tearing across the image, trying to flatten themselves with movement.  Usually, this effect is very subdued due to the slower movement of the clouds as compared to the waves!  Some photographers make the moving clouds their main compositional components, something to think about…
  4. B&W or Color: For me this is an easy choice… I prefer B&W to almost any other type of image!  There is just something striking about a well done B&W image.  Don’t get me wrong, I do shoot in color and like it very much, but the B&W image is universal in the way it tends to draw viewers into the image.  The complexity of the colors having been removed seem to show the soul of the image in all of its splendor!  This is an area in which the Fuji X Pro 1 really shines!  The various built in art filters with their various options (red, green and so on) gives splendid B&W internal conversions within the camera.  I am always amazed by the clarity and quality of the Fuji B&W images that I get out of the camera! The B&W image shown here is one such example of an in camera conversion.  I used the B&W with Red filter choice in the Fuji X Pro 1’s film type selections!

Zone System Metering & Exposure:

Zone Exposure System
The ZONE system is an old exposure evaluation tool developed by Ansel Adams.  While old, it has a real place in modern digital photography as well.  There are many books and videos on the subject and I STRONGLY suggest that you take the time to learn about the tool.
Simply, by taking a spot meter measurement on a particular part of the subject, you can place it in the 18% gray area or Zone 5.  Then you simply adjust the exposure up or down to place it in its proper zone!
It is a very easy to understand exposure evaluation system that can save you important time and thinking when you are evaluating your exposure setup.
Here is an example on how I use the Zone System to evaluate exposure:
  • Take a SPOT meter reading on the sky.
  • The meter in the camera or hand held meter will place the tone of the spot it measured into 18% Gray or Zone 5.
  • Knowing that I wanted the sky to be in Zone 8, I will lighten it by adjusting my exposure lighter by 3 stops by opening the aperture 3 stops wider!
  • The entire image is shifted by the decision I made above.  I could have chosen ANY OTHER SPOT to measure and adjust according knowing that the camera spot meter would force that tone area under the spot meter to 18% gray!

The Zone System for exposure control in this image

So, looking at the sample image above, you can see that a spot meter reading on the sky which I want to place in Zone 8, is forced into Zone 5 by the camera metering system.  If I left it here then end sky would be a dark gray and the overall image way underexposed.  So, knowing this I simply adjust the exposure lighter by 3 stops, shifting the sky into Zone 8 and brightening the entire image properly!  Look at the image above, notice that I have shown spot meter readings for several areas of the image?  You could also choose ANY of these, knowing that the camera would force the area chosen into Zone 5 and then make adjustment up or down via the aperture to place it in the Zone that YOU wish it to be in.  Perfect control!
One last thought on this for you.  When using a fixed or variable ND filter, you simply take the meter reading through the filter then make your zone adjustments.  The LCD preview of the X Pro 1 works VERY well in low light and allows you to do so easily and accurately!
The Zone system is a very easy way to understand and control your cameras exposure for perfect pictures.

Pawleys Surf, Long Exposure, 25 seconds, Fuji X Pro 1

So, what do you think?  The Heliopan Variable ND Filter is a VERY good tool to have in the camera bag.  But, it is VERY expensive ($300/52mm).   Optically, it is pure with no color poisoning at all.  I have not check out how it works in the IR spectrum yet but I will in the future.  The only real complaint for me is the lose fitting elements!

Using Light Painting with Very Long Exposures!


Bringing Out Foreground Details..

A few months ago Jamie Davidson and I led a photo workshop and excursion to Charleston, SC. The workshop was in both Infrared and Color photography and we had several sunrise shoots in various locations.  One of my favorites was on Foley Beach looking out at the Morris Island Lighthouse.  There was a groin  (rock break wall) there as well as a boneyard (driftwood forest).

Morris Island Lighthouse Sunrise

My Vision:

What I had in mind was to photograph the  Morris Island lighthouse in silhouette  with the sun rising behind it with driftwood in the foreground as a very long exposure to flatten the ocean surf.  I also wanted to have some surface detail in the driftwood and beach in front of the camera so I knew that I would have to use a very high power flashlight to paint those items during the exposure. Long exposure photography will generate very etherial images that will draw the viewer into the image.  Learning how to generate these types of images is a very worth while endeavor and I hope that you are interested enough to experiment with it as well!

My Equipment:

  • I wanted to shoot this with my Fuji X Pro 1, but at that point I was still waiting for its delivery.
  • Canon 7d camera body.
  • Canon 17-40L lens.
  • Remote shutter release cable.
  • A very stable carbon fiber tripod!
  • Sure Fire U2 variable LED tactical 100 lumen flashlight.
  • Fortitude to get up very early and drive/walk out to the beach (no small task!).

Singh Ray Variable ND

After arriving on site, I looked  for a suitable piece of driftwood to place in the foreground and have it frame the lighthouse.  I setup back about 20 feet so that I could get enough depth of field to have both the tree and the lighthouse both in focus. Setting up the tripod well back from the surf to keep the water from under cutting its legs I framed the shot above.  It looks bright enough but it was so dark that I could not even see the tree!  Please keep in mind here that I also wanted to slow down the movement of the water, so I have installed a variable 8 stop neutral density filter from Singh Ray on the lens.  Even at its minimum setting there is still a 2 stop darkening of the image throughout he viewfinder.  What I am looking for is an exposure time of at least 30 seconds  but longer if possible. What I do is to set the ND at 2 stops then use the flashlight to provide a bright spot for focus. After focusing, I setup the camera in manual mode by adjusting the aperture to f/11 to f/16 and the shutter speed to a starting point of 30 seconds.  I then adjust the variable ND filter to give me a 0 ev exposure in the metering system!

It is this special filter that allows me to really slow down the shutter speed  enough to smooth out the ocean surface!  You do not have to use a variable ND, a set filter like a 6 or 10 stop ND from B+W filters will work fine, but you have to setup the composition and focus before you attach the filter because you will not be able to see through the viewfinder once it is installed.  All of these ND filters are expensive, the B+W ND’s will be over $100 and the Singh Ray will be just at $400!  But EVERY photographer needs some sort of ND filter in order to slow down the shutter speed to smooth out water or cloud movement for a soft etherial image.

The viewfinder must also be covered up once everything is set and before the exposure is made in order to not effect the camera meter.

Ultra Bright Tactical Light

Trip the shutter and step away from the camera/tripod.  Now taking the ultra high power flashlight I use it to paint the surface of the tree and sand around it.  This is a continuous movement of the flashlight over the tree and sand again and again.  I do not want them brightly lit, rather I am looking for just enough light to ensure that the tree is  not a silhouette and that the sand has some detail and structure in its surface.  This can be difficult and you might have to walk closer to the tree in order to have more light from the flashlight fall on it.  But being digital we can take several images before the sky becomes too bright to work!

You can use any light source but you do need to be careful not to use a light that is yellow in color.  The tactical lights are expensive but do not fail due to the bulb and will last a lifetime.  At high power the batteries will only last for an hour or two, but most of these lights have several power levels and can stretch the battery life up to 20 hours!  They are great for photography but they can also save your life in an emergency as well.

Here is a Black & White version of the image above.  This was converted in Photoshop CS6 with Nik Filters Silver EFX Pro 2.

Morris Island Lighthouse Sunrise

If you look up at the very TOP of this page you will see my Blog Banner Image, which was also taken at this location within moments of the Lighthouse image!  This type of photography (long exposure can be very pleasing in it process and is certainly easy on the eyes!

Below is one further image, this time taken by the Fuji X Pro 1 without light painting in the mid morning.  For this image I did use a 52mm B+W 10 stop ND filter, but no light painting as it was already too bright out and was not necessary.

Ultra Long Exposure with the Fuji X Pro 1

Please let me know what you think!