Creating Etherial Long Exposures With Breakthrough Photography’s X4 ND Filters


The  Peace Of The Creative…

Slowing down creates peace on multiple levels. 

For you as the photographer and for those who view your work, this has never been more true!

Roanoke Marshes Light. Fuji GFX 50R for 20 seconds with a Breakthrough X4 6 stop ND and the X4 2 stop soft graduated ND

I am going to do a slightly different type of post this time. 

We will discuss the art of Long Exposures a bit but we will focus more on the technical aspects of using ND filters to correct for different types of lighting as well as talk about good ND filter systems verses not so good, and why it is always best to invest your money in good filters!

DefinitionLong Exposure – To create an image in camera with the shutter open for longer than a few seconds in order to smooth out movement over timeThis can be softening the  flow of water over a waterfall, flattening of waves in lakes and oceans or tearing clouds moving across the sky.

Setup:  For camera setup you want a long shutter speed (for me usually from 20 seconds to 60 min), mid range aperture (f/16)  and the base ISO that your camera provides.  You do NOT want to switch on the L ISO in your camera. While it  forces the ISO lower it costs you in reduced dynamic range! You should also verify that your camera has Long Exposure Noise Reduction turned on.  This is a royal pain due to doubling of exposure time and forcing you to wait twice as long for a shot but it removes sensor generated noise as well as sensor hot spots.

Note:  I have added a video to the bottom.  It discusses everything and more that we are talking about in this post but it is quite long!


The top image was taken at the always inspiring Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse across the sound from Nags Head Island in NC. As one of my favorite locations for sunrises over the lighthouse it is also a most worthy location for daytime long exposures! These are usually very easy to create due to the small waves in the sound! This image was done on a Fuji GFX 50R medium format digital with a 32-64mm GF lens, 6 stops of ND (Breakthrough X4 magnetic) and a X4 2 stop soft graduated ND on the sky to balance the difference between the sky and water. The exposure was 20 seconds an hour after sunrise and in the rain.

But by what criteria did I choose the solid ND and the soft edge graduated ND?  This is where a little technical knowledge will really help you in creation of amazing long exposures.

First, there are a few points to consider when thinking about using ND filters:

  • ND filters are simply sunglasses that you put in front of your lens to limit the amount of light that reaches the camera.
  • There are 2 basic styles of ND, Full and Graduated.  Full covers and darkens light passing through the  entire lens, Graduated cover and darken only part of the light passing through the lens with the ability to rotate the edge angle of the start line and moving the line up or down in the scene.
  • In the full family there are several values and styles.
    • Breakthrough Magnetic lens mount with the rotating dial on the back to rotate the filter

      Screw on:  they simply screw onto the end of your lens

    • Magnetic:  these are a new (2018) system from Breakthrough Photography.  They require you to buy a special magnetic mount bracket for the filter threads on your lens.  The adapter has a rotating ring that allows the filters to be actually turned (for use with polarizers) and costs about $20. Currently, Breakthrough is re-designing both the magnetic filters and the magnetic lens adapters to allow for stacked magnetic filters.  This should be completed by summer 2019 and they will replace the older style magnetic filters and adapters. It is important to tell you that when you use the magnetic filter system alone or with the square system there is NO vignetting.
    • Breakthrough Square holder that attaches to the magnetic adapter

      Square:  these use a square holder and in the case of the Breakthrough this holder will attach directly to the magnetic holder allowing use of and stacking of both systems at once. The square holder will hold 3 to 5 filters depending upon how you initially set it up. This is good for difficult lighting situations where you might need two different graduated filters at the same time.  This style  tends to suffer from light leaks around the edges of the square solid ND filters unless you carefully assure  that they are installed exactly right and only in the holder slot closest to the lens.

  • In the graduated family there are several types:
    • Breakthrough Photography X4 soft Graduated 100mm filter system

      Hard edge graduated:  where the dark area of the graduated filter is a sharp line.  This is for use on subjects which have a harsh division between the foreground and background . An example would be shooting on the ocean where the horizon is a sharp line between the horizon and the sky.  This is where you would choose a hard edge graduated ND.  These filters usually come in 1, 2 and 3 stop values where they start light and graduate to the dark.

    • Breakthrough reverse grad

      Soft edge graduated: where the dark edge of the graduated filter starts very soft and  light and darkens as it moves up the filter.  This is for use in areas that you need to balance the foreground from the background but there is no clearly defined edge in the scene.  This is what I used in the image above to darken the sky so there was detail there and still enable the water foreground to be bright and almost a platinum look and feel.  These filters usually come in 1, 2 and 3 stop values where they start light and graduate to the dark.

    • REVERSE graduated:  this is a special graduated ND where it starts DARK and graduates up to lighter values.  If you desire to shoot sunrise/sunset this is a MUST have filter because as the sun approaches the horizon you get a very bright line of colors there that will either be blown out or if exposed correctly cause the rest of the image to be way too dark!  These filters usually come in 1, 2 and 3 stop values where they start dark and graduate to the light.

Breakthrough Photography Magnetic filter system.

So for the Roanoke Marshes Light above, I chose a Breakthrough magnetic X4 (newest technology) 6 stop solid nd to darken the entire image allowing for the 20 second exposure with the camera set to the lowest native ISO value (100),  an aperture of f/16 and a shutter speed of 20 seconds.  the initial results of this exposure was pleasing water in the foreground but the sky was also too light with little to no detail.  So I left the 6 stop magnetic filter on the lens and clipped on the 100mm square filter adapter onto the end of the magnetic adapter and installed a X4 soft edge 2 stop SOFT graduated ND filter.  While watching thru the viewfinder I adjusted the graduated ND up and down making sure that the soft edge came down to the horizon or a little above darkening the sky to allow for more detail there yet allowing the soft white water in the foreground!  It was as simple as that!  The entire process after the first shot took about 30 seconds to setup on the camera lens then shoot!

 

So let’s talk about sunrise/sunset images when the sun is close to the horizon.  We have all been out at sunrise, do you remember the very bright band of intense color that it right at the horizon as the sun approaches?   This is why the reverse grad ND filter was created, to keep the bright colors from destroying the overall exposure!  Here is an example image, amazingly at the same spot!

Roanoke Marshes Light, 3 seconds with the Breakthrough reverse grad placed on the horizon

Breakthrough X4 reverse grad.  See how you might place the dark area on the bright line at the horizon?

Do you see how bright the light is at the horizon?  The ONLY WAY I was able to capture this image was to use the reverse grad ND placing the dark section right on the bright band of light. Because the overall exposure was only 3 seconds no other ND filters were required.  Should I have desired a longer exposure to further soften the water’s surface I would have dropped in the 3 or 6 stop X4 magnetic filter into the adapter already on the camera!

Let’s take a short side trip here and discuss the actual filters.  By now you all have seen that I am a strong user and promoter of the Breakthrough Photography X4 line of magnetic and graduated filters.  There is a reason for that:

  • All dark solid ND filters suffer from some sort of light leaks around the slide in filter holder.  The magnetic mounted X4 Breakthrough filter line has solved this problem.
  • The X4 Breakthrough filters have ZERO COLOR CAST!  This is a really big deal.  I have been a big user of B+W and Lee filters over the years and still have them on hand.  Unfortunately, both of those both have strong color casts that force me deeper into post processing to attempt to correct these color casts.  I had always thought that this was simply the cost of doing long exposure!  Well NO MORE!   I am so pleased to report that those problems are not the case with Breakthrough, ALL BREAKTHROUGH filters!  Cost wise they all cost about the same when you get up into the same quality levels (B+W, Lee, SinghRay and Breakthrough).  So for me it was an easy choice, I have totally converted over to the Breakthrough X4 line of filters. I currently am using the magnetic and square system from them.
  • There is ZERO vignetting with the magnetic system on ANY of my lenses.  I currently and using 72mm, 77mm and 82mm lenses and mounting both the magnetic system and the 100mm system together!
  • Breakthrough filters come with a 25 year guarantee and their customer service is crazy good.  They are currently (Feb 2019) working on an updated magnetic system where the filters can be stacked in the holder!

 

So my advice is this.  Cameras come and go, it is your glass (lenses and filters) where your quality lays.  Invest in the best you can.  You will never go wrong with the Breakthrough system!  (gee I wish they would pay me…)

Ok, back to images.  After sunrise is done and before sunset is anywhere near we can still create AMAZING long exposures!  There only 2 problems that we must overcome!

  1. Slowing down the shutter speed to give the long exposure.  During normal daylight we will likely be using a 10 or 15 stop solid magnetic X4 ND as long as the sky and the foreground are near the same exposure value.
  2. Should the sky be brighter than the foreground we will also use a X4 soft edge graduated ND filter to balance the foreground and sky.

Pawleys Island Pier in dense fog. The foreground and sky are close to the same brightness so I only needed a 15 stop X4 magnetic filter

Here is an example of a scene with little difference between the sky and the foreground. The waves were HUGE this day so I used a X4 14 stop magnetic filter so smooth them down (490 seconds) and give the feel I desired.  The fog in the sky took care of itself and I walked away with a balanced ethereal image that I just loved creating! Another example of this is shown in the image below.  This again was a super foggy day so the need for detail in the fog was unnecessary so the oly ND needed was again the X4 15 stop magnetic filter!

Nags Head Pier in super dense fog.  X4 15 stop solid magnetic filter for 10 min

 

Ok, let’s take a look at a problem image where the sky has detail that you can see but when you only use a solid nd the sky is totally blown out!  What you simply need is a X4 Soft Grad filter to balance the sky and water to give you a bit of detail in the sky!

Duck, NC boardwalk and Tdock (broken) with a X4 6 stop magnetic filter plus a X4 2 stop soft grad ND on the sky down to the horizon.

These last two images show a extreme case of no balance between the water and the sky and more nd was needed on the sky to correct the imbalance.

 

P

Pier, Outer Banks, 12 min exposure, 15 stop X4 magnetic filter and a 3 stop X4 soft graduated filter down to the horizon.  The sun was up to the right and lighting the bottom side of the clouds.

Ok, one last thing… I had a live group hangout last night with some of my online students and we discussed everything in this post but with more info and thoughts on choosing the correct ND filters for a number of scenes.   Here is the link:

I know that this has been a long post but it was necessary to show the technical side of creating pleasing long exposures.    Next time I will discuss how to meter for long exposures.

As always please let me know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The ART of creating MOOD


What Makes Ethereal Moody Images?

Kathy Dean, medium format film

This post is going to be a bit different from my otherwise technical (Geeky) posts of the past.  I am going to share my philosophy of creating MOOD in my art.

I spend a LOT of time studying the fine art photography of the past masters (Ansel and others) and current photographers.  I visit galleries, web sites like 500px scouring  for examples of the creative process that generates images that speak to me.   This takes up a lot of my time but I feel that it is a worthwhile investment to further my understanding of what makes great art that reaches out and grabs my attention!  I do NOT do this in order to copy others, (that is not my way) rather it is to understand what about an image makes it reach out and tweek my artistic desire!  You would think that after 55 years of personal photography that this would not be necessary, but if you think about it you will realize that life is learning and we never stop that process.  Sometimes it is re-learning forgotten lessons, other times it is about learning new lessons.  We all change and our tastes also change as we age, so to me this is a natural progression in our path in artistic endeavor.

I personally tend to work mostly in B&W Film, but do not limit myself to it.  I create as well in color both digitally and on film too, but my real passion is B&W. Here we are going to discuss only B&W and all of my examples are created on various 6×4.5 medium format camera systems because working with flim and the process of film motivates and enhances my creative process.  I am going to leave out the technical details of the images because I want you to really study the images without considering the technical aspects of the creative process.

Let us consider the image above of Kathy Dean, a shrimp boat in Port Royal, SC.    What about this image gives you pause, making you want to really study it?   Sit back and consider the mood of the image and what you are drawn to as you study it.  For me, it is the dark moody sky and reflections contrasted against the bright whites of the boats.  My eyes continuously circle around these details and re-settle on the boats again and again.  The dark sky and water create a moody ethereal frame that traps our attention on the boats themselves yet provides a scene free of the distractions of color

If we were standing there today with camera and tripod wouldn’t we be thinking that we could have a much better image with fluffy clouds?  Let me suggest that if indeed there were clouds the day I created this image that they too would have been a distraction from the mood of the image. 

I will honestly tell you that as I stood before this scene that it was my primary thought that this could be an amazing moody image provided that I set it up as a longer exposure to smooth the water and darken the sky and reflections.   In other words, I studied the scene, pondering what it was that drew me to it and how to use the camera (my tool) to create my vision! 

These are my secrets to successful fine art photography:

Stop, Look and Think about the scene:

  • Why are you attracted to it?
  • How do you compose for a simple yet powerful image free of distractions?
  • How to super charge the image with mood?
  • How to use the camera to create this vision?

Lindale Denim Mill, a study of extreme dynamic range in a single image…

Let’s take a look at another image, this one digital (yet another tool), and the camera on hand when visiting the inside of the Lindale denim mill in Georgia.  This is one of those  location that  will NEVER fail to deliver scenes full of wabi/sabi goodness full of amazing mood providing you approach it with the right motivation and mental tools!

Lindale Denim Dye Tank

I spent 7 hours here over the course of 2 days.  It was a power parade of mood that swamped my senses and at every single turn. I was continually stunned at what lay before me as I moved through the factory!  What more motivation could a fine art photography artist desire?  I slowed down, WAY DOWN and studied each and every hint of mood before me. 

For this scene, (Blue dye tank) I studied the dark moody ceiling and walls behind the pillars, the deep tank with its grungy details, but I particularly paid attention to the play of light coming through the windows and highlighting the entire scene!   I realized that in order to capture this scene with mood that I would need to control the sunlight and keep the dark areas from loosing detail.   I setup the camera to control both and average the entire composition.   This happened quite fast (remember 55 years of experience) and it only took ONE SINGLE EXPOSURE

To me, this scene has amazing flow that draws me in thru the lighted windows, walking around the exterior of the room and moving down the ladder.  My attention never leaves the room.  It has a wonderful dark mood and speaks to me of days long gone.   

What more can a photographer ask for in such a creation?

My path in creating this image:

  • I walked around the entire room several times, studying the elements that the scene contained.
  • I constantly asked myself;  “Mark, why do you like this?”  and “What do you actually like?”  I answered; “The dark mood broken into segments by the light coming thru the window and the LADDER!”
  • Can the camera I had capture the overall mood and range before me?  “YES!”
  • What is the best vantage? “Closer to the ladder!”
  • How best can I control the contrast and range of this image? “Multiple spot meter readings to shift the scenes entire dynamic range into that of the camera!”

After this it was just a simple matter of setting the the composition, exposure and capturing the image!

 

Ok one last example…  Daddy’s Girls…

 

Daddy’s Girls, medium format film

This is one of those scenes that I visit time and time again.  It is only a few hours from home down in Bluffton, SC (a location where my oldest son lives).  There is only one single boat at this commercial dock and processing plant.  There is a boat launch and pier close to the left, but  for for this shot I wanted a more head on view.  I got my son to take me out on his boat so that I could get this angle on a terribly stormy day. Dark and Stormy it was.  Heavy rain and wind, but these were the components that were in my vision so I suffered through it to get this image.  I took several shots of the scene (waves, no tripod and a moving boat) so I invested an entire roll of 16 images knowing that a lot of them would be blurry and out of focus.   Good thing too, I only got this one single sharp image but it was so worth the effort!

Do you see what I am getting at?  I KNEW what I wanted with this image, I knew what tool (camera) I wanted to use so I returned dozens of times here, re-evaluating again and again till I got what my vision demanded!   I have been here a hundred times over the past 4 years and was NEVER satisfied with the scene!

What my vision demanded:

  • Moody, Stormy Sky.
  • Bright light on the boat.
  • Cloud detail.
  • No other boats to clutter the scene at the launch.
  • Medium Format Film only.
  • No workmen on the boat.

So it took years of returning again and again until I got the scene that matched my vision!  But to me it was well worth it!  Will I stop returning?  Heavens no, you NEVER know what nature will provide you with so keep returning!

As always, I hope that you enjoyed this post!   Please consider leaving feedback and comments!

 

 

 

 

Beach Day For Lilly!


Exploring new things can be fun!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan my 9yo grandson film photographer!

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

Dunes behind us!

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

Railroad Day Trip and the Fuji GA645zi


The Art Of Film Photography And Travel

 

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


Day 1

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

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

Roaring Camp Covered Bridge

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train being lubed

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

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

 

Pacific Railroad Yard in Roaring Camp, Felton, CA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Felton Covered Bridge, Tmax 400

Felton Covered Bridge, Tmax 400

 


 

Fuji GA645zi Medium Format Camera

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

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


Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Ellen & Jordan

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

Things learned:

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Become the Master of your craft….


Pelican Dock - Type 55 4x5 Film, Wet Scan

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

 

This is the Pelican Dock on Pawleys Island, SC. It is a 4″ x 5″ FILM image taken  on Polaroid Type 55 film from one of my film workshops.

Polaroid 900 w/ 150mm Fujinon lens converted to 4x5 by Steven Icanberry.

Polaroid 900 w/ 150mm Fujinon lens converted to 4×5 by Steven Icanberry.

I did this with a Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 format camera and the film was expired (16 years) Type 55 instant 4×5 film that also creates a fragile negative which was scanned Wet Mount on an Epson 850 . This single image costs about $35 to create and process!

But look closely at the image, notice the calm peace of the scene, the amazing clarity and sharpness that is a gift when working with large format film, but more importantly, the edge process markings created when working with this amazing film!

But of greater importance than how I created this image is the why

We all see amazing scenes as we travel through life, but how many of us actually take the time to really experience and feel on an emotional level what we are actually experiencing as we create our art? I watch so many great photographers skitter from scene to scene like a bee to pollen that it leaves me feeling sad.

Let me ask you, “How can you create art that will appeal to your viewers on an emotional level if you yourself refuse to slow down long enough to feel the emotional impact yourself as you create it?

The key here is to stand before the scene and take it all I. Get a feel for what you desire to share with your viewers before you even pick up your camera! SLOW DOWN, take your time, investigate it from many angles and exposures. Yes this is a single image, in fact the only one I took due to the cost, but I spent a half hour studying the scene, moving around looking for the best impact and knowing that I would get the edge markings and using them to increase overall impact!

This is a hard lesson to learn and harder still to practice. This is one of the the lessons forced upon us who still shoot film as I do. After all, Film = $. We have to slow down and make every shot count so the next logical step is to connect on an emotional level with your subject and thus create art that is charged with mood that will draw your viewer in.

Just because I use FILM as an example here for you do not think that it does not apply to digital!  Yes, once you pay back the investment of your digital equipment with image sales (you do sell your work don’t you?) the cost per image is basically paid only in terms of your time.   But time also has a value and if by slowing down and imparting emotional impact in your image then you will be on the true path of photographic nirvana!

Take your time, explore your scene, feel it’s emotional impact, SLOW Down!

Do not copy the Bee, rather strive to be a master of photography…

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


Getting your BEST B&W image!

Outer Banks Pier, Monochrom Camera System

Outer Banks Pier, Monochrom Camera System

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

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

Dugger Creek Falls, Linville, NC M Monochrom

Duggers Creek Falls, Linville, NC M Monochrom

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

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

Sometimes!

Dunloupe Creek, New River Gorge WV, M Monochrome

Dunloupe Creek, New River Gorge WV, M Monochrome

 

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

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

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

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

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

Roanoke Marsh Light, Outer Banks, M Monochrom

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

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

This is something to consider…

Here are the video links:

 

 

Going Home to Mama…. Returning to Film!


The joys of returning to our photographic roots…

Pier

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

Have any of you considered film photography?

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

Polaroid 900, Tmax 100 4x5 @ 64, Perceptol

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

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

Film Cameras

Olympus XA 135mm

Olympus XA 135mm

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

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

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

My Custom Olympus 35 RC 

My Leica M7 Film Body

My Leica M7 Film Body

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

Confusion, Petri 7S 35mm, Eastman XX flim

Confusion, Petri 7S 35mm, Eastman XX flim

Fuji GF670 Medium Format

Fuji GF670

Fuji GF670

Fuji GF670

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

Mamaya RZ Pro II system

Mamaya RZ Pro II system

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

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

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

Beautiful!

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

My 900 converted to 4x5 by Alpenhause Kamera Werke

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

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

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

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

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

Lets start with medium format:

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

Film

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Pelican Dock - Type 55 4x5 Film, Wet Scan

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

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

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

Please let me know what you think of this post!

My Thoughts on the Art of travel photography…


Or… What I Did On My Summer Vacation!

Warning, LONG post…

Canyon Lands Pano, Sony A7rii with the 24-240 and polarizer

Canyon Lands Pano, Sony A7rii with the 24-240 and polarizer


Devils Tower

Devils Tower

Travel Photography… Say it, let it roll off your tongue, think about it!  I bet that the first thing that comes to mind are images from National Geographic, fine, super saturated color photographs that could take you anywhere in the world by simply looking at them!  You know the kind, they enabled you over the years to travel vicarisly around the world just with the magazine and its images!  

But is that what travel photography really is? 

 

What is the intent of travel photography  to document a place or a trip?  Is it designed to tell a story on an individual level or to the masses?

A6300-3886- S1_500-Whodos Bryce-2016 1 copy

Well for me, it is a combination of the two.  Most importantly, the images are to refresh the memories of the trip.  But there is a real market out there for well done travel photography whether in print publications, web, advertising or fine art prints.  It can be quite profitable if you work at it and can step back and look at your own images in terms of the above markets.  Even the housing deceration market has room for this type of photography provided that you can simplify your work to show colors and contrasts over locations.

Jordan, My 7 year old photographer grandson

Jordan, My 7 year old photographer grandson

For this trip, and pretty much all the time when I am shooting digital, I exclusively use the Sony 42 mpix A7rii camera system and the new Sony A6300 for high speed work with Sony G lenses or Sony Zeiss lenses. They are very well suited to this type of photography and give you enough (42 mix)  resolution to get amazing images yet still have room to crop!

The drive for this post was a recent  two week trip out West with my wife and 7 year old grandson Jordan who I am teaching film photography and darkroom processing to (photographically, I had grand plans for him this trip).  Given time I plan on turning him into a photographic GOD for something fun while making sure he is a Rocket Scientist!

We flew into Rapid City, SD and picked up a one way rental car and our first night in a long string of hotels.

Devils Tower

Devils Tower

Our Itinerary:

  • Prairie Dog

    Prairie Dog

    Day 1. Rapid City layover and rest.

  • Day 2. Pick up rental car and drive to Mt. Rushmore in the morning and then the Devils Tower in the afternoon. Continue on 1/2 way to Codie, WY.
  • Day 3. Famous Hot Springs of Thermopolis, Wyoming then an afternoon visit and guided tour to the most successful dinosaur dig on our continent.
  • Day 4. Codie WY for several stops including the famous old west town and the Codie Rodio.
  • Day 5-7. Yellowstone for 3 days in a park lodge.
  • Day 8. Leave Yellowstone, drive thru and stop along the way in the Tetons finishing in Jackson WY.
  • Day 9. Drive just north of Salt Lake City in the town of Herbor for a 3 hour train ride around the valley.
  • Day 10-12. Drive to Moab for 3 nights and visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks with extra boat and jeep rides thru the park as well as Dead Horse Point State Park.
  • Day 13. Early morning drive to Bryce National park for 2 days of Bryce National Par
  • Day 14. Drive to Salt Lake for flight home on day 15.

Drugstore of the West, Cody, WY

Drugstore of the West, Cody, WY

So as you can see there was a well thought out family plan for travel and location visits!  But, I also had a plan, my photographic plan!

So lets talk first about my TRAVEL photographic equipment plan.  I wanted to travel light (yea right).  No backpack, rather a small rolling camera case that would fit into the over head of a small commuter plane so that I would not have to check it.  I would not have room for a film camera… Dang!

So here is what I brought along:

  1. Sony A7rii camera body
  2. Sony a6300 camera body for Jordan
  3. Sony 24-240mm one lens does it all for Jordan
  4. Sony 24-70 Zeiss f/4
  5. Sony 70-200 G f/4
  6. Tamron 150-600 for those exotic animals I expected to see
  7. And yes… A Olympus XA 35mm film camera (but it is the worlds smallest rangefinder) with 6 rolls of Tmax 100
  8. Filters, ND for long water falls and polarizers for all of the rest in 67mm and 72mm.
  9. Batteries an chargers (both cameras used the same)

This was a good plan (or so I thought) until our very first stop at Mt. Rushmore where Jordan informed me that the 24-240 was too long and heavy.  Oh well, I took that and gave him the 24-70.

RULE ONE:   No camera plan survives first contact with a 7 year old!

Ok, so at least the part of the photographic plan of me being able to NOT check my camera equipment worked! (I did put all of my insulin and supplies in the camera case just to prove my need to have the case with me but did not need it).

RULE TWO: A super  zoom really works best when you have to carry lots of glass around while traveling.  See Rule One, Jordan did me a favor here!

Yes, I know that one would not normally trade a light 24-70 Sony/Zeiss f/4 lens for a 24-240 f/3.5-5.6 Sony super zoom but I have to be honest, I was VERY impressed with the super zoom!  It was not really that much heaver but it was longer. I NEVER put on the 24-70 after that.

Things to look for on a cross country western trip:

  1. Wildlife
  2. Landscapes & Vistas
  3. Unique rock formations
  4. Waterfalls
  5. Wild colors
  6. Unique photographic visions

Trip Highlights!

Yellowstone

Old Faithfull

Old Faithful

Querimony: To Questionably Moan & Complain!

I expected great things of Yellowstone and that showed in the number of days there as well as staying in the park.  Yellowstone is HUGE, so much so that you have to allow for HOURS of driving time from location to location.  The roads are all good, 2 lanes with adequate pull offs.  BUT having said that there are rules of behavior in pulling off and rules for how you treat the wildlife.   I cannot tell you how many people (especially foreign visitors) who would jump out of the car (still in the road) and run off into the fields right up to the wildlife.  To say that this is bad behavior is an understatement.  It for one, keeps others from being able to photograph the wildlife and two puts the peoples lives in grave danger that approach the wildlife!  Yet this happened almost every time wildlife was near the road.  The park rangers had simply given up on trying to educate people who would not listen. They spend most of their time dealing with the MANY dreadful traffic accidents that happened every day.  The traffic jams were terrible whenever an animal was near.  Sometimes this was due to the animal being on the road but most of the time it was because people parked right in the middle of the road who left their cars. 

Buffalo on the Yellowstone

Buffalo on the Yellowstone river in the early morning mist

I am going to share a few of my favorite images from Yellowstone with you.   It is a good cross section of what you can expect to see while visiting!

 

Blue Pool, Prismatic Spring Yellowstone

Blue Pool, Prismatic Spring Upper Yellowstone

 

Prismatic Spring Yellowstone

Prismatic Spring upper Yellowstone

 

Yellowstone Antelope

Yellowstone Antelope, North Entrance

 

Teal Pool, Upper Yellowstone

Teal Pool, Upper Yellowstone

And last….

 

Lower Yellowstone Falls Detail

Lower Yellowstone Falls Detail 1 second  Exposure with 10 stops of ND

I would travel again to Yellowstone but in the spring or fall in order to see more of the wildlife there.  I realize that in the heat of August even the animals would move to higher locations in order to reduce the heat.  The only wildlife I really saw in abundance on this trip were Buffalo, Elk and Antelope.  

Moab, Arches & Canyonlands National Parks

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

The Moab area offered some of the most amazing locations of our trip.  I had thought that nothing could beat Yellowstone, but Moab came very close.   

Sandstone Arch, Arches

Sandstone Arch, Arches

There are 3 offerings here, the Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and the Dead Horse Point State Park.  ALL three are must see locations.  For me Arches was the best, but honestly, we spent time exploring all three in detail (well sort walk detail).  We also paid extra for a boat trip on the Colorado River thru Canyonlands for a low view and a back country jeep tour to see area and arches not available to the general public in Arches!  If you get here I advise that you do both side trips.

Courthouse Rock, Arches

Courthouse Rock, Arches

 

Whale Tail Arch, Backcountry Tour

Whale Tail Arch, Backcountry Tour

 

Windows Arch on the Back Country Tour, Arches

Windows Arch on the Back Country Tour, Arches

 

Dead Horse Point

Dead Horse Point. Look at the lower left corner 1/3 up to see the dead horse outline.

 

Canyon Lands, Isle in the sky

Canyon Lands, Isle in the sky

 

General Utah

 

High Desart Train Pano

High Desart Train Pano

So…. I had this vision stuck in my head of a parked line of freight train box cars parked in the high desert with a mesa behind them.  I found myself looking to the sides of the car as we traveled endless miles through Wyoming and Utah.  Finally my wife asked me what I was looking for and when I told her she made a point to help me look and stop me when we came upon them.  I know that out West there are ultra long stretched of road.  Most are 4 lanes with lots of traffic.  If you see that special scene make sure that you safely stop so as not to irritate the 7 year old in the back seat, pull safely off to the side of the road as you watch for the perfect compositional setup and get out and shoot it!  DO IT!  

Because

RULE THREE:   There are NO GO BACKS!  If you see a subject or scene on the side of the road immediately stop and shoot it!

Bryce National Park

Whodos in Bryce Canyon

Whodos in Bryce Canyon

To say that Bryce National Park is anything less that amazing is an understatement.  It was right up there with Arches and Yellowstone in amazing views, colors and the wow factor!  This is the location that I would choose to visit again to try some different styles of photography.  The colors of the Hodoos are simply amazing and full of wild colors and contrasts.  

Natural Bridge Bryce

Natural Bridge Bryce

RULE FOUR:   Revisit those scenes and compositions as many times a possible!

While in Arches, my 7 year old grandson decided that he had enough nature and vistas after driving Arches all day long.  I took them (at my wife insistence) back to the hotel and went back out to Arches and drove it again in different light conditions and the 2nd time there were clouds in the sky.  This made for much better images that I would not have gotten if I did not go back out again!

Final thoughts on what makes travel photography great!

Now as you have seen here, I presented this trip as a travel log.  Attempting to document the many wonders of the high plains in the west. For images that have the possibility of selling you need to:

  • Pay more attention to your editing, scene selection and composition.  
  • You must re-visit local scenes several times in order to get the best light and clouds.  
  • You MUST shoot with your best equipment in order to produce high resolution images for future publication.
  • In your post processing you must choose only your best images and throw the non used images out.
  • Be your WORST critique and select only what you would consider to be world class images.  Case in point, the image above of the Court House Rocks in Arches.  Yes it is a nice image but the lack of clouds in the sky reduce its impact to the point of it being a weak image!

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview.

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview.

This type of travel photography is more difficult that personal travel images traditionally done by the millions of photographers who roam the country.   These types of images are still travel photography but basically serve to show and remember your great trips!  They will include more family member in the scenes, less care about the total compositional elements because those are simply not as important to the memory of the trip and locations! They are just as important, but will not generally generate income from sales and publication. 

Colophon:  Very Important Lessons Learned:

  1. NEVER, and I do mean NEVER plan a 14 day photographic trip with a 7 year old and expect him to be excited beyond the first week.   I would have been better off leaving the A6300 and 24-70 f/4 at home thus lightening my load and giving him MY camera when he desired to take a photograph!
  2. Make SURE that you explain to the said 7 year old that “NO!  There are places that not only will there be no TV but also no internet!  (I was able to get around this most of the time with my iPhone as a hot spot for his iPad!)
  3. Build in several fun days (as viewed by a 7 year old) that includes things like movies, water parks and so on!  This is a small price to pay for 7 year old mental health and will refresh his young mind and keep it open for those wonderful scenes you travel to!
  4. How can you get those great travel shots when your walking is limited?  As a cranky 63 year old man, make sure that you plan photographic stops THAT YOU CAN DRIVE TO!  We (actually my thoughtful wife) did this ahead of time thus insuring my mental health and happiness at the stops we made!
  5. Take the time to occasionally stop at nice restaurants  that actually serve wine and beer (this will assist with the mental healty of said wife!)  Happy marriages are NOT built and fast food places in a rush!
  6. If you desire to shoot medium format film, you damn well better plan on space for the camera and film!  Regrets upon your return will leave a sour taste in your mouth!
  7. Be flexible, very flexible.  This will leave you happy in the hotel at night!
  8. Take your pain drugs! (See #7)
  9. If you see a photo subject on the side of the road STOP!  There are no go backs! (see RULE THREE about this very thing and really your wife know this and will support your urges to stop in the middle of nowhere!
  10. Wildlife… What wildlife?  How did I miss all the great shots of wolves, coyotes, and bears?  I was in Yellowstone for heavens sake!  The lesson here is to make sure you check the season for high animal activity.  I have listened to my photographer Son talk about so much wildlife in Yellowstone that it was not safe to drive!   I guess he should have mentioned when he was there!  Oh well.  I AM happy with what I actually did see (Buffalo, Antelopes, Elk and Prairie Dogs)
  11. Stop at EVERY overlook in every park.  You will be happier having done so (and vicariously so will your wife).  You will hate yourself when you return home only to have a photographer friend tell you that the one overlook you skipped was the only one you should have stopped at!
  12. If you find a scene that is magical for you revisit at a different time of day.  This is VERY IMPORTANT and promote photographic health for those who have heeded these magic words.
  13. Would I do it all over again with a 7 year old?  YOU BET!!  But I would plan differently.  If I take any of my grandkids I need to remember that it is their vacation as well.  This means that you build in days doing fun stuff for their age also!

Please let me know what you think of this long post!  I welcome all feedback.

 

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon in camera pano

Amazing Polaroid 4×5 Camera Conversions: Alpenhause Kamera Werke


Let me introduce you to Steven Icanberry!

 

 

My 900 converted to 4x5 by Alpenhause Kamera Werke

My 900 converted to 4×5 by Alpenhause Kamera Werke

The story begins…

Several years ago my oldest daughter and her husband gave me a complete Polaroid 900 Camera system for fathers day.  I like old cameras and this one sat in a glass display case in my studio for years.  It was a beautiful camera but with film no longer being made it was living its life as a hanger queen only.

My Polaroid 900 Camera Set

My Polaroid 900 Camera Set

Steven Icanberry at Alpenhause Kamera Werke

Steven Icanberry at
Alpenhause Kamera Werke

One day while exploring one of the 4×5 Facebook groups I came across a post from  Alpenhause Kamera Werke and Steven Icanberry,  He was advertising a conversion on the older Polaroid  Land Cameras like my 900 to 4×5 film with a film back and a coupled rangefinder calibrated to the new 4×5 lens he would install!  Steven is a disabled veteran who makes his living from converting these cameras!

This was simply too good to be true and after calling him and with his advice for options and lens selection I sent off my camera to him to be converted.

About the film holder!

About the film holder!

Now, a little bit of info on his designs and options.  His 4×5 film back is of his own design and is small and lighter than any other on the market.  He has them made by a local machine shop and I can attest to the quality of it!  He removes the old lens and makes a new lens plate mounting your choice of lenses.  

I choose a Fujicon 150mm lens.  He couples the lens to the rangefinder system in the camera and calibrates it to be perfect. (This was the big draw for me as I was looking for a simple 4×5 carry around camera).  

He also cleaned all of the rangefinder optics assuring sharp clear viewing.  

I was offered a large selection of colors and new clothes for my camera, I choose bright blue and a silver top along with a built in shutter release cable.   Look at the top image above and tell me that the camera doesn’t look stunning!

His camera conversions are simply stunning in their beauty and functionality!  For those of you who like and desire to shoot film I strongly suggest picking up one of his cameras.  You will not be disappointed at all and you will be helping a disabled US Veteran make a living.  But more importantly you will have a camera system that is as beautiful as it is functional.   I am going to close this with a few images of some of Stevens cameras and the first shot I took with mine.  

He advertises starting pricing at around $500 for a converted camera in stock and also does custom conversions (like mine).  I paid $900 for mine, but I chose a new custom lens and several other options!   

Am I satisfied?  YOU BET!!

Please consider having Steven Icanberry and Alpenhause Kamera Werke do a conversion or sell you a stock conversion!  It is my wish to spread the camera goodness around and this is one good company!

Handheld Converted 900 image with TMX 100

Hand held image from my Converted 900 image with TMX 100

Colors colors colors

Colors colors colors

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 7.51.07 AM

 

4x5 Film Back

Stevens custom designed 4×5 Film Back

 

My converted 900

My converted 900

Testing The Sony A6300


Smaller, Faster and able to leap over tall buildings!

Yes, you are correct, I shoot with the Sony A7rii 42 mega pixel full frame mirrorless camera!  What you cry am I doing with the A6300 which is only 24 mega pixel and an APS-C sensor?  Well friends, the answer to that is simple, well perhaps not…   I envision the A6300 as a 720nm Infrared camera.  

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer. B&W conversion

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer. B&W conversion Look at the detail in the gate and grass.  This has a 3 dimensional effect! 

But it has several very interesting and powerful functions that have engaged my curiosity.  Those are:

  • 11 fps shooting speed.
  • Faster and more accurate focus than the A7rii
  • More focus and metering points.
  • Half the weight of the A7rii
  • Much brighter and accurate focus peaking system.
  • Ability to work macro at 1:1 with live view and not have an over pixelated display.
  • The ability to turn my 600mm lens into a 900mm lens!
Sony A6300 Front View

Sony A6300 Front View

The 4 test images I took today were shot hand held at 1/250s and in RAW with Zone Focusing.  I also had the LIVE VEIW DISPLAY: Setting Effect: ON.  This enabled the camera to simulate the exposure effects during composition to give me an idea of what I am actually seeing. 

The A6300 is a TINY camera system.  It is so light (even with a L Bracket installed) that I had to be very careful when carrying it around.  I worried over dropping it and not knowing!

Sony A6300 Back View

Sony A6300 Back View

The camera does NOT have a built in Stabilizing system, rather it relies on the fact that most Sony lenses have that built in.   I has 3 custom WB memories for those of you who are considering the camera for Infrared and it also has 2 custom setup memories that I have found to be very helpful with my A7rii camera!

I found the camera very easy to use and control.  I setup all of the custom functions and buttons to make my life easier when shooting it.   

As I said, this camera was meant to be converted by http://www.kolarivision.com into a 720nm infrared system and it may actually meet that end, but I really like the ability of the APS system to give me 900mm from a 600mm lens!

 

 

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer.

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer.

Here is the color version (with polarizer) of the image above.  The colors are nicely saturated and the overall image is sharp and offers enough detail and sharpness to draw the viewer into the image!

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer.

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer.

Here is another view of the salt marsh.  I have to say that the camera with the 24-70 Zeiss lens is easy to hold and control.  The camera control buttons are easy to reach and control without using them by accident.

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer. B&W conversion.

Pawleys Island Marsh, Sony A6300 with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and a polarizer. B&W conversion.

Lastly, a B&W conversion of the same image.  

I am really excited with the functionality of this little system.  I am pleased with the results and will use it for a few months as a color system for my long lens. Ultimately it will be converted to IR but for now I will play with it.  

There are several issues with its firmware (same as when the A7rii came out).  Overheating during hight speed continuous shots is the big one but Sony assures me that a fix is in work as it was when the A7rii camera came out!

I will be experimenting with the system for a few months and see what it can offer me in terms of images and use.  Later this week it is going to the beach for some ultra long exposures to see if it has any body light leaks!

What do your think?

 

 

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


Removing The DISTRACTION of COLOR!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is an example of just what I mean:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrome

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

 

Amazing New AR Coated IR Filters from KolariVision.com


Kolari Vision introduces a NEW Anti Reflective IR coating for their conversion filters!

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion - Under Foley Pier

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion – Under Foley Pier

I LOVE shooting IR and have a long history with it in both Film and Digital.   I have had over 25 conversions from ALL of the big conversion companies around the country!   But, once in a while I would get a camera that no mater how hard I tried, I will get a hot spot with it or the lenses I used.   You learn how to deal with this by selective use of the aperture but once in a while you would just not be able to get around the problem and loose the shot….  

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion - Shrimp Boat

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion – Shrimp Boat

Well about 3 weeks ago Ilija from Kolari (http://www.kolarivision.com ) sent me a note telling me about a new coating process for his conversion filters.   I have a long history with Kolari, LDP and Lifepixel but I have never heard of this till now.  Ilija offered to do a free conversion with this newl IR AR coating for me in return for evaluating it in the real shooting world! So I told him that I would send the X100s off as a test camera and that I needed it back fast in order to allow others to play with the camera also!   Off it went on Tuesday.  Imagine my surprise when I got it back in hand the following Wednesday!

Here is what Kolari says about this new AR IR coating:

  • Uncoated glass has a reflection of around 4-5% at all wavelengths, and we found that this reflection off the sensor filter was bouncing off the glass and reflecting back from the lens housing and aperture blades to cause the hotspots.  We developed this anti-reflective coating that is centered around the IR wavelengths that cause hotspots, and reduced the 5% reflection down to <0.5% (see the attached graph for reflection % by wavelength scan, and the picture of the IR filters for the visual difference of IR reflection).
Unknown

  • The coating does not reduce visible light reflections as much, and does not reduce blue reflections at all. This gives the glass we use a blue shine, since that is the only range that is fully reflected still (see picture of black filters). 
AR coating test on Visible Light

AR coating test on Visible Light

AR coating tests on BLUE light

AR coating tests on BLUE light

  • I am getting ready with a new website which I hope to launch in 1-2 weeks, so I have not put the coated version of the conversions online yet, but they will be offered on our Full spectrum, two spectrum, 590, 665, 720, 850, and Blue IR/NDVI conversions. There will be a $50 optional upgrade on all of our conversions at this point.

 

  • I plan on offering only the coated version eventually, but the batch runs are expensive and I cannot coat our full inventory at once. I’m not sure if you are aware, but we stock custom made custom thickness filters for all our camera/filter combinations so that each conversion gets a piece of glass that maintains the original optical distance (refractive index x physical thickness) as closely as possible, which changes for each filter material. Other companies use a few general size pieces of glass, glue them directly to each sensor, and calibrate the focus for an arbitrary lens, which reduces what they have in inventory. Our design choice means that we have around 200 unique pieces of glass in inventory for DSLR and mirrorless cameras, and another 200 for point and shoot models, so you can imagine the challenge in getting them all coated. – Ilija

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion - Thru The Door

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion – Thru The Door

So as you can see they are up and almost ready to start filling orders for these new filters.   

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion - McClellanville Fleet

Fuji X100s, 850nm Kolari AR conversion – McClellanville Fleet

I have to tell you that with my test conversion on the Fuji X100s to AR 850nm that ALL of my hot spot issues simply went away.  This camera has always had a tendency for IR hot spots.   I have converted, tried and sold so many IR systems in the past that I have lost count.  I could not, would not sell this one as it is one of my most prized IR systems.  To say that I am pleased with the results of the Kolari IR AR Coating is the understatement of the year!

Remember, if you decide to order from Kolari, give them my name for a $15 discount!

 

The Purity Of B&W


Going Home To Momma…

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

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

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC.  Leica M Monochrome

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC. Leica M Monochrome

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

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

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

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

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

Using Fumed Alumina To Fix Paper Issues in Van Dyke Brown


An Easy & Cost Effective Way To Fix Paper Issues!

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

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

Testing Fumed Alumina…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Process:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued Work In Van Dyke Brown Alternative Print Process!


Perfection in Brown

 

Glade Creek Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Revere Platinum Paper exposed for 5 Min

Glade Creek Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Revere Platinum Paper exposed for 5 Min

 

Oak Reflections in Infrared, Van Dyke Brown, Revere Platinum Paper, 3 Min Exposure

Oak Reflections in Infrared, Van Dyke Brown, Revere Platinum Paper, 3 Min Exposure

After another 2 weeks working on the negative density, I have finally gotten to the point of good negatives, not great yet but I will get there.  I have to master the use of UV blocking color in the negative for them to be perfect and that is a project for the future. To date though I have reached perfection using normal B&W negatives.  

My CORRECTED Digital Negative for the Van Dyke Process

My CORRECTED Digital Negative for the Van Dyke Process

Here is the corrected negative that I used in the image of the Oak trees above.  It is much dense and has been corrected for the mid tones as printed in the Van Dyke Brown Process!  It has much greater contrast and required only a 3 min exposure in my UV unit. 

One thing that you have to remember when making your UV exposures is to place the ink side of your negative down on the paper surface.  If you reverse this the picture will be backwards, but more importantly, the UV light will burn the ink surface and ruin both the negative and the print.

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

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

Compare it to the negative on the right.  This negative was used in the previous post here where the image printed much darker and with less mid tone data.  Take a close look at the difference between the two negatives, the first has much brighter areas for increased black contrast and more detail in the trees. The difference is amazing and was easily achieved by the process discussed below…

Here is a small copy of the print generated by the 2nd negative from the previous post.  Notice how much darker it is and that there is no detail in the mid tones of the image!  It only took me a short while to create the Gradient Map from the process that I learned in Peter Mrhar’s book below.

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 2 stops due to the uncorrected negative

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 2 stops due to the uncorrected negative

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar that I use in the creation of my negatives.  It enables you to easily create Gradient Maps to adjust the mid tone values of your negative tailored to the alternative process that you are printing with!  I highly recommend this text over all of the others!

There are several good books on Digital Negatives out there but As I said the is the easiest that I have read and used plus the results of using a Gradient Map over a Custom Curve.  I suggest that you purchase several texts and try them in your workflow to see what works best for you!

I hope that you enjoyed this short post on the Van Dyke Brown Process.  You can look for more about it in the future!

More Leica M Monochrome Magic!


Creating World Class B&W Images With Leica Monochrome

Bodie Island Light, M Monochrome

Bodie Island Light, M Monochrome

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

Leica Tri-Elmar 16 - 18 - 21 mm Lens

Leica Tri-Elmar 16 – 18 – 21 mm Lens

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

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

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

 

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

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrome

Roanoke River Lighthouse, M Monochrom

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

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

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

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

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

Fishing Float, M Monochrome

Fishing Float, M Monochrome

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

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

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

Really Right Stuff TF-01 and Ball Head

Really Right Stuff TF-01 and Ball Head

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

Really Right Stuff TF-01

Really Right Stuff TF-01

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

Thanks for taking the time to view these!!

Leica M Monochrome Magic….


A new camera come homes to live!

 

Leica M Monochrome

Leica M Monochrome

 

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

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

Duggars Creek Falls, Linville, NC   32 second exposure

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

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

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

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

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

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

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure

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

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

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

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

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

Leica SF 58 Flash

Leica SF 58 Flash

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

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

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

The system simply amazes me…..

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second exposure.

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

Fuji X100s 830nm Infrared and Long Exposures


It just keeps getting better….

 

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

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

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

B+W 110 10 Stop ND

B+W 110 10 Stop ND

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

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

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

Fuji X100s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


830nm Infrared Conversion on the Fuji X100s

 

Oak Reflections, 830nm

Image 1:  Oak Reflections, 830nm

 

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

Pawleys Marsh, 830nm X100s

Pawleys Marsh, 830nm X100s

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

Pawleys Marsh, 720nm

Image 3:  Pawleys Marsh, 720nm

 

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

Shrimp Boat at 830nm

Image 3: Shrimp Boat at 830nm

 

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

 

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

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

 

Mabry Mill, 830nm

Image 4:  Mabry Mill, 830nm

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

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

Image 5:  Rock Run Mill, 830nm

 

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

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

* Requires Live View capable camera

 

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

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

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

Disadvantages to the Full or Dual Spectrum Camera Conversion:

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

 

Charlotte Marie, 830nm X100s

Image 6:  Charlotte Marie, 830nm X100s

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

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

Fuga City, 830nm, Georgetown, SC

Fuga City, 830nm, Georgetown, SC