The AMAZING just got better….Look closely at the image above. It was taken with a Voigtlander M mount 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar lens and the Techart M to FE AUTOFOCUS adapter on a Sony A7rii camera. The cleat on the bottom right is about 6 inches from the front of the lens! The color rendering is amazing and there is very little distortion that is normally found with an ultra wide lens! I can hear you asking how I accomplished this!
I recently picked up the Techart M to FE Sony mount adapter for my Leica and Voigtlander lenses. It has been my desire to use them on the Sony A7rii, A6300 and A6500 cameras.
The Techart auto focus adapter is amazing. I actually moves the lens in and out to get a sharp focus. It has several rules that you must follow to use it and as long as you do it will provide great service. It is quite fast!
- Use a center focus point on the camera
- Set your camera aperture to f/2 and leave. It there
- Set the real aperture directly on the lens.
- Don’t try to focus with the lens set to f/22, keep it around f/8 or f/11
- The Exif data will shot f/2 but the exposure meter will correctly meter the subject.
- Don’t try to use a heavy lens on the adapter unless you support it.
Here is a link to a short video demonstration of the Techart M to FE adapter on my Sony A7rii:
B&W work with this lens as well as my other Voigtlander and Leica M mount lenses are just as sharp weather in color or monochrome!I also have and use a Metabones M to FE adapter which gives the same results but with manual focus only. Sometimes manual focus is necessary depending upon your subject but reguardless of focus type both adapters and all of my M lenses work wonderfully on the A7rii camera system! If you have a selection of M lenses then the cost of a M to FE adapter is well worth the money. But I am VERY impressed with the new autofocus adapter!
Please let me know what you think!
Sometimes we just have to stand there taking it all in!Ahh, have you ever had one of those defining moments in life where you KNOW that you are witnessing something truly special that touches your soul? Well that is exactly what this was for me. We had been on the road for almost 11 days on a trip from Rapid City thru Wyoming and Utah. Our last stop of the trip was supposed to be in Zion National Park but we had to cancel due to terrible rain and flooding in the park. We extended our time in Arches which was really nice but it was not until I stood here in Bryce National Park at the Sunset point looking down into the canyon that I realized that I had made a mistake… I should have added onto the time there. We only had ONE day to explore Bryce and it was very nice there with many great vistas and rock formations, but this image at the Sunset Point was the defining moment for the entire trip for me. Understand, that I am NOT talking about either of the photographs captured and shown above, but rather the moment for me personally standing there taking it all in, becoming one with the scene, no camera, no thoughts of photography only the experience and impact of witnessing the greatness of the scene. I stood there for a good half hour drinking it all in and I will remember the emotional impact upon me for the rest of my life. Yes… it was that powerful.
There is some serious food for thought in this last statement. In these days of rapid fire digital photography don’t you think that we can quickly loose sight of what it is that we are trying to create in our art? Shooting in film slows you down which aids in the creative process. This is not to say that we cannot do this with our digital systems because we can and I do, but rather most of us who practice this art tend to “hurry, capture and move on to the next thing!”It was almost as if it was an afterthought that I actually took my Sony A7rii with me up the trail to the overlook and took a few images which were actually quite nice in color, but after the sensory overload of the scene I could only think of one thing, B&W and FILM. Yes, I could convert the color image above to B&W in post processing and do quite a good job of it but NOTHING can compare to what I can create with film! So, it was a bit of a walk back down to the car where my wife and 7 year old grandson were resting because of the long drive to get here, but down I went with only one task, to trade the digital for a TINY B&W film camera, the Olympus XA. The XA is the worlds smallest 35mm rangefinder camera. It has an amazingly sharp lens with easy focus, but the key is the fact that it is pants pocket (not those bulky cargo pockets but regular ones), it is light and handy.
I took so much camera equipment on this trip that the only space I had for a film system required that it be tiny. Against all of my experience I threw in this tiny camera along with just 5 rolls of Kodak Tmax 100 film and off we flew. I am so glad that I did now but having said this it is only fair to share that this was a colossal mistake. I should have made room for a medium format (120 6×7) camera and taken out a lens or two for the Sony. I have learned my lesson and will never repeat this mistake. Don’t get me wrong, the XA captured an amazingly detailed and sharp image. I love how it turned out. The Kodak Tmax 100 film along with the Perceptol developer generated a image (yes small) with tiny grain and great sharpness. Am I happy with the result? You bet! Would I have been happier with a larger 120 negative, OMG YES!! Can I have a do over please? Yes, I know, not to much of there ever being a chance for that.
So lets sum this up a bit shall we?
- SLOW DOWN, take the time to really look at your subject! If you do this your chances of creating a world class image will greatly improve.
- Look closely at what is in front of you, take the time to feel its emotional impact upon you and only then bring out the camera and with your skill and insight to the scene make the camera (nothing more than a tool) capture what you saw!
- Think in both color and B&W. Remember though that B&W removes the clutter and confusion of normal color work. In my opinion, B&W allows you to capture the soul of the scene! So yes, take color but also take B&W, you might be surprised at how well you can do.
- If you are working in digital only, during post processing work color first completely, save the image THEN process for B&W generating all of the mood that you possibly can!
Ok, this post is done. Get out there, shoot and create, but slow down and think about what and WHY you are doing it!
Polaroid 4×5 conversions
Steven Icanberry’s Alpenhause Kamera Werke Polaroid 110b and 900 camera conversions for 4×5 and select instant filmsYou have to see these wonderful camera systems! They are as functional as beautiful! If you have one of these Polaroid cameras, or a large format lens in the range of 90mm to 150mm (we have a list of what works and what doesn’t). Steven can create a CUSTOM conversion just for you!
For your conversion he will:
- Clean and make any repairs to the rangefinder.
- Clean and test your lens of choice.
- Calibrate the rangefinder within the camera to the lens.
- Modify the frame lines for the lens.
- Change the camera’s clothes and paint colors to make your camera an original that you can be proud of!
- He has many options for the systems also.
I have 2 of his conversions and can tell you that they are amazing camera systems. He has a custom designed machined metal camera back that can hold any standard film holder that is the nicest on the market. You can call me if you would like to visit and see my conversions from Steven to get a “hands on”.
In the meantime here is a LINK to a post I did on Steven several months ago!
You can visit Stevens web site HERE!
Or… What I Did On My Summer Vacation!
Warning, LONG post…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Sony A7rii camera body
- Sony a6300 camera body for Jordan
- Sony 24-240mm one lens does it all for Jordan
- Sony 24-70 Zeiss f/4
- Sony 70-200 G f/4
- Tamron 150-600 for those exotic animals I expected to see
- And yes… A Olympus XA 35mm film camera (but it is the worlds smallest rangefinder) with 6 rolls of Tmax 100
- Filters, ND for long water falls and polarizers for all of the rest in 67mm and 72mm.
- 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:
- Landscapes & Vistas
- Unique rock formations
- Wild colors
- Unique photographic visions
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.
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!
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 ParksThe 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. 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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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:
- 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!
- 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!)
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- Be flexible, very flexible. This will leave you happy in the hotel at night!
- Take your pain drugs! (See #7)
- 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!
- 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)
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
Let me introduce you to Steven Icanberry!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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?
Have a plan to work different compositions with in your scene!
You know how it is when you walk up to a scene and notice it for the very first time? Usually we are amazed at what we have discovered! We setup take the image and walk away congratulating ourselves as to the amazing luck at finding such a perfect subject!
But wait! You have all heard that you should work a scene, right? Just look at all of the cool parts that make up the whole. I am also sure that you have heard the phrase, “WORK THE SCENE”! Well that actually means what it says. Start wide and work in and around getting closer and more details! When you are as close as you can stand, then work your way back out again!
This is powerful advice…
This is also the secret of all those world class images you see posted or published around the world. Do you actually think that the professional photographer working and Nat Geo only took the one image? Really??? They are just like the rest of us, a 30% keep rate and a 90% garbage rate!
So, knowing that it only make sense to take the time to work the scene. Looking at the top image you see that I could the shrimp boat Stormy Seas with a long liner Charlotte Marie under the strong clouds of tropical storm Bonnie. The scene is full of mood, color and contrasts. I was specifically looking to work the shrimper so I did not pay any attention the the long liner. Here they are a dime a dozen but there are likely a lot of detail shots there also…
So as you can see, I have now walked around to the dock the shrimper is on and take a bow shot composing to keep the other boats, docks and other muck out of the image. I still set it up to get the great storm clouds. A much better shot than the first, no?
Next I move further in, closer to the bow, looking at the painted boat name and the great structure and contrasts hidden the the hull of the boat. As I stand here I think to myself that having the anchor cut off is a bit distracting but then decide that it adds a hint, or suggesting more out of scene that adds a bit is mystery to the image. Again, in post, I have added a bit of mood to the clouds also!
Now I am walking down the boats side, paying attention to the colors and patterns around the wheel house. There is a lot here and the images continue to improve. Having the walkway moving up and away from me give a sense of infinity and curiosity as to what is at the bow above!
Moving further back towards the boat’s stern (back for you folks who live in Idaho!) I come upon the life ring with assorted fishing accessories hanging from it. This scene is the most promising so far. Look at the textures in the wall of the wheel house, the deep rich red tones and the crisp writing of the boats name! It gives me shivers overtime I look at it!
But wait! Just below the life ring hanging on the gunnels of the boat is a coil of heavily textured rope. The rusty bold and chipped and rotting rail add so much texture, mood and stories that I am drawn to create an image just of this one detail!
This is exactly what will happen if you take the time to explore your scene totally working inwards getting more and more details as you go! If the scene is worthy of taking, it demands that you explore it in great depth and detail. Give it the time to do a good job and document all of it’s glory!
Do not forget to work in B&W as well, each and every image you take might have magic wonder hidden within its detail if you look at in in monochrome! Look closely at the image above. The hull has MUCH MORE DETAIL in its structure than the one in color did yet they are the same exposure! The clouds have more depth. Monochrome images discard the distractions caused by color… But that is the subject for another post….
Remember, this has NOTHING to do with the type of scene you shoot, nature, landscape or shrimpers, it is all the same!
What do you think?
Using the Sony A7rii for advanced photographic work….
I was in Charleston, SC last weekend with the a7rii camera system to see how far I could push it! I find the Sony system to be refreshingly powerful and very capable of any style of photography I desire to shoot. The Image above of the boat house (Sunrise) was just another example of the power of this system. I was looking for some long exposure and the water of Charleston Harbor was very smooth to start, with only 6 to 12 inch waves. The sunrise was blocked by a tremendous super cell thunderstorm system so I just concentrated on the boathouse and smoothing out the water. I was using the Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS lens at 150mm with a 6 stop B+W ND filter attached which was giving a 30 second exposure. I was sure that 30 seconds would give me a very smooth water (which it did). I also desired to capture detail in the stormy clouds but keep the white water. I metered the waters surface and placed it in Zone 7.5 (what! You do not know the zone system? Shame…. We will have to fix this!). This at ISO 50 and f/16 gave me a 30 second exposure and allowed the 14 stop dynamic range of the camera to capture both the withe of the water as well as cloud details!
Granted, the Sony has a LARGE menu system but the provide you so many programmable custom buttons AND several system setup memories that you can with the turn of a control knob chance the camera functions over to the specific style of shooting you desire! In my case, I have the M2 memory setup for long exposures, and by simply turning the command dial to M2 the camera is ready for long exposures!
Here is another example of the amazing capture ability of the Sony. This is the shrimper Miss Lulu on the dock in Georgetown, SC last Monday morning. The water of the bay was at slack tide, super high and mirror smooth. I decided that for this image I wanted B&W but still captured it in color since a color starting image gives the best B&W conversion. I was using the Sony/Zeiss FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS lens at ISO 100 at f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/320 second. I waited till a Pelican flew into the scene from behind the boat for the capture. The clouds were slight but still stunning but the boat and its reflection really made the image.
As I said, During my pre-visualitlation of this image I decides upon monochrom with a flying bird. I setup the boa further into the image space to allow for a bird to fly into the scene and balancing the overall image with the boat centered with the trees on the right. This is not a simple snap shot, a lot of thought went into its setup!
Shrimp Boats are one of my favorite subjects and each and every time I happen by them they always present something new and different!
A personal trip to the West Coast to chase Hummingbirds, Rough Shorelines, Fishing Boats, Light Houses & Elephant Seals!
Yes, it has been a busy year with the start of our workshop schedule! Add into that a knee operation, taxes and other such negative aspects to life we decided that it was time to take a break! So, for 2 perfect weeks we ventured out to the San Fransisco area to explore the rough West Coast!
I know that it has been a long time since I did a post here but the workshop and teaching schedule has been brutal. It seems as quick as one year ends that another begins and we are busy again! The good news is that the photo schools are moving along and this years workshops are moving forward. I have had NOT had any time to work in the darkroom this year yet but hope to fix that soon as well. Plus the knee repair is finished and I am starting to feel a little better after that!
So, we decided to take a break from it all and flee to the West Coast to get lost in the rough shore, wildlife and the continued search for old fishing boats! It was a wonderful trip and I am sorry to say that it is all over and done with but with great photographic results!
This trip was centered on the new Sony A7rii 42 mpex camera body. As you know I am a dedicated mirrorless shooter and in my quest for the perfect camera I have settled on this system. It has amazing functionality, SUPER wide dynamic range (14) and a review from DXO as the best and most advanced image sensor ever tested! I also added the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4, the Sony 70-200 G f/4 and the Tamron 150-600 A lens with the Sony adapter which allows full lens control and auto focus. I also have adapter for all of my Leica and Contax glass as well but for this trip it is the 3 lenses listed above!
We based our home plate in San Jose and then traveled around for the 2 weeks. Spend most of our time in Santa Cruz because the hummingbirds were there in vast numbers building nests and laying eggs, but more on that later. We also went north to Point Reyes specifically to photograph the wrecked fishing boat Point Reyes. But while there spent time with the lighthouse and Elephant Seals!
We also went south to Monterey for whale watching and a trip along the 17 mile drive! The image above is from the Lone Cyprus along the drive. The drive costs $10 per car but is very much worth the cost. It is full of wildlife such as birds, deer and seals. The rugged coast has to be seen to be believed!
So then this image I am sharing above is the Point Reyes, a boat washed ashore a while ago. This boat was suggested to me by my friend Jennifer Hunter who lives in Santa Cruz and was one of my main location visit requirements. This is in a National Sea Shore North of San Fransisco and was about a 3 hour drive from San Jose.
The WEEK we arrived this boat was burned on its stern by a STUPIDLY UNCARING PHOTOGRAPHER who put his own agenda above the preservation of the scene. He was doing spark photography with flaming steel wool and destroyed the back. I hope that the Federal Government (National Park) throws the book at him for this. I feel very lucky to have walked away with this wonderful shot of this local landmark…
Also visited was the Point Reyes Lighthouse! What a wonderful subject and location. It is high on a cliff over looking the Pacific Ocean. It is full of color, depth and wonder!
So as you can see, I have LOTS of time to relax and shoot with the new Sony system. To say that it is an amazing system is an understatement of Biblical proportion! All of the lenses are flawless and gave great results!
But Wait! I have not shared my several trips to the Arboretum at the University of Santa Cruz! There were hundreds of Allen’s and Anna’s humming birds there deep into the fury of mating season! They were amazing subjects and since I did NOT bring along my hummingbird flash setup I was forced to shoot the “bird on a stick” portraits. Still, the results were stunning. ALL of these shots were taken on the Tamron 150-600mm A mount lens with the Sony A to E adapter. Yes, it did and would auto focus, but with the birds against the green vegetation it had a difficult time picking them out to focus on.
So I shifted to manual focus (yes I said manual…) with white focus peaking. To say that I was stunned at the ease of focusing with this at high speed still leaves me breathless with wonder!
The Sony manual focus with peaking is simply the BEST manual focus system that I have EVER used! It was fast and DEAD ON…
I will let the results speak for them selves…
I hope that you enjoyed this update and info on the new Sony system. Please let me know what you think!
Another good post from my friend, colleague and student, Rhonda Griscti. Her post this time is on understanding White Balance. A good read to be sure!
Why should you care about White Balance? Because a proper white balance is how we get the colors in our images to be as accurate as possible. Why would you need to get the color right in your shots? You might have noticed when examining shots after taking them that at times images can come out with an orange, blue, yellow etc look to them – despite the fact that when you were taking them the scene looked quite normal. The reason for this is that images different sources of light have a different ‘color’ (or temperature) to them. Fluorescent lighting adds a bluish cast to photos whereas tungsten (incandescent/bulbs) lights add a yellowish tinge to photos.
We don’t generally notice this difference in temperature because our eyes adjust automatically for it. So unless the temperature of the light is very extreme a white sheet of paper will generally look…
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Yes, HOW could such a high quality Leica Lens be so problematic….
In todays world of modern digital camera systems, the Leica M 240 really stands out above the others. One of the reason for this is the duality of an electronic viewfinder with a robust peaking focus system coupled with a real range finder focus as well! This makes this camera IDEAL for mounting any lens that can be manually focused with reasonable expectations of good focus!
But what happens if you have some of the older Leica systems like the M9, Monochrom, M8 or a film body like the M7? Should we not be able to expect the same focus quality of the M 240 using the built in rangefinder?
Well for ALL of my Leica and Voigtlander glass this has been a truism until I met the famously hard to focus 135mm lens. Now understand that this lens has been through 5 (FIVE!!) versions and each and every one has had the same bad press on their inability to sharply focus! If you ask Leica about them you are told to set your aperture to f/11, focus and shoot hoping that the DOF will overcome the shortcomings of the focus cam system inside of the lens!
Now, I badly desired a longer reach lens with a M mount but was convinced that I could not overcome the focus issues with these lenses. So one of my students from the Arcanum (a online photograph school) had one of the 135s and sent it to me to experiment with. It was one of the older models, looked kind of funky but had a tripod mount on the lens! Reviews of ALL the 135s said that this model was the best one for the money!
So with the lens on camera (M 240) I set out to test the rangefinder focus vs. Electronic focus with peaking…
Suffice it to say that the lens BACK FOCUSES so badly that unless you are shooting at f/11 or f/16 you have very little chance of a sharp image! I focused the lens using the range finder then again with the electronic peaking system and discovered the following failure:
- 7 meter subject. The lens needed to be adjusted to 6 meters to be in focus!
- 50 meter subject. The lens needed to adjusted to 20 meters to be in focus!
- Infinity subject. The lens needed to be adjusted between Infiniti and 50 meters!
The adjustments were the difference between the rangefinder focus and the peaking focus!
If you were to turn over and look into the mounting flange on it you will notice that there is a focus cam that moves up and down as you focus the lens. This is NOT adjustable! But… I had an idea!
Enter High Tac Copper Tape…
What if I were to tape one or two layers of this really sticky copper tape onto the end of the focus cam? Could I at least get the infiniti focus point dialed in?
YES! It can be done!
So, I ordered a very thin roll (1/2 inch) from Amazon, cleaned the cam and cut 1 thin sliver of the tape and applied it to the end of the cam and redid my focus tests!
After cleaning the cam with Alcohol I applied the tape, smoothing it down with a wooden dowel and allow it to sit for an hour giving the adhesive a chance to cure.
Mounting the lens again onto my M 240 I re-ran my range finder and electronic peaking focus tests on the same subjects and distances! I carefully (on a piece of tape attached to the lens marked the two focus marks for each test on the lens so that I could visualize both the size of the focus error as well as where it was on the overall focus scale.
Here are my results with only ONE layer of copper tape. I knew that my target was to get my infinity focus dead on and that the closer distance focus points would still be off but hopefully by smaller amounts.
Test data is marked on the lens showing both RF focus/Electronic Peaking focus points. The peaking points are dead on and hopefully we could bring the two closer together!
If you look at these points you will see the non cam taped focus dat on the bottom and the corrected cam data on the top. The V stands for Electronic Peaking and the M for Range Finder focus.
7 Meter Focus Tests…
So for the non corrected cam we see a subject at 7 meters as focused with the rangefinder, but with the Peaking focus it is moved down to 6 meters to be sharp! This is a 1 meter difference and unless you are shooting with a small aperture you will get a very soft focus! When we do the test after the cam change the difference between the range finder and peaking is actually a bit wider. This was expected…
Now, The 50 meter tests…
As you can see on the uncorrected cam side focusing at 50 meters on the rangefinder we needed to adjust down to 20 meters… That is WAY OUT OF RANGE! Yet at f/11 we can get it into focus!
With the corrected cam the difference between the range finder focus and the peaking focus gets closer together at about 30 meters which is a 10 meter reduction of focus error! Better and better!
Infinity Focus Test
Ahh, the pre cam measurement using the rangefinder sets the lens to the infinity as expected but the peaking focus sets it down about 1/3 of the way towards 50 meters. Way off to be sure but small than before.
The corrected cam BOTH THE RANGEFINDER AND THE PEAKING focus match at infinity!! We are now dead on on the far end of the lens!
What this means is that knowing the differences between the rangefinder and peaking that we can adjust the 135mm lend down about 1/3 of the way between the major distance measurements to get much closer to being dead on. As long as we shoot at a reasonable aperture (f/8) we can be reasonably assured of a sharp focus!
I have found that these measurements are the same with the current Leica 135mm as well!
So there you have it. The online posts of issues with these lenses have been endless over the years. They are known as very difficult lenses to get a sharp focus with and now we know why and more importantly how to overcome it!
I hope that you enjoyed this discussion on what could be a very nice and powerful lens to have in your bag!
How I make my Image Stack for Digital Negatives…
This post is about how I create my Digital Negatives for printing in Van Dyke Brown. Before I get into the meat of the subject I need to tell you that I am a follower of Peter Mrhar’s gradient maps for creating my negatives rather than using curves. The maps will allow you to create a much more controlled negative without the issues normally seen in curves like wild spikes and twists which can really mess up your image. Peter has written a book on the subject called Easy Digital Negatives which can be purchased on Amazon for a small fee. The entire book leads up to the last chapter where he gives you an automated script that plugs into Photoshop that will create the gradient map. Read the entire book first to understand how to develop a exposure test strip and a 245 step print that his script need in order to build the map.
The basic recipe that Peter gives is:
- Create a exposure test strip to get the correct exposure under your UV lights for perfectly exposed dark tones (black/Brown). You do this with a piece of sensitized paper with a strip of un printed negative material covering 1/2 of the paper. You then place a total UV blocking material leaving 1 inch of uncovered space, and expose for 1 min. Then move the UV blocking material to uncover another inch of open paper/film for another min. Repeat this procedure for about 10 min to create your test chart. Annotate each exposure with pencil on the paper prior to developing to know what the exposure time was for each movement of the blocking material. Process and completely dry. Where the darkest tone that was under the unprinted negative material matches the darkest tone next to it on the paper only side you get your max exposure time. This then becomes your base exposure for the paper/emulsion comes from. You will need to do any paper treatments to your paper first like acid washing or applying Fumed Alumina.
Now print your 256 step chart that Peter provides on a piece of paper treated the same as in step 1, with a UV blocking color which you will learn about below. Process and dry. Scan the resulting image according to Peter’s instructions and feed it to his script in Photoshop and it will pop out a Gradient Map for you to place in your image stack (example below).
That is all there is to it to create your gradient map (his script will also create a curve if you so desire).
Ok, lets talk about how you put together your file to create your digital negative once your have your gradient map in hand! Below is a copy of my adjustment layers in my digital negative file.
Starting at the bottom and working up, take a look at each layer:
- Background, default layer in every PS file.
- White Background, if you select this the non image area of your negative will print black (green) and leave the emulsion unexposed and white.
- Transparent Background, basically the same as layer 2. I have this here so that I can select it and be able to read my text layer above on the negative.
- Black Background, if you select this layer then you will get a negative with the non image area printing white which will force expose the paper black.
- 256 step tablet. You can select this layer to print a test chart.
- Picture Goes Here. Place your image to be printed above this layer.
- Picture, REMEMBER even though we are printing a B&W image it MUST be in RGB mode because we are going to print the negative in COLOR to have a UV blocking layer on the top of the stack!
- Text layer with data to be printed on the paper but separated from the image. This is the bottom of a grouped set of layers that are all selected by simply selecting the group name, read on…
- Gradient Map for Lana Paper, acid washed and exposed for 2.5 min. This is the meat of the layer stack. This one layer will correct your MID TONES while the 2.5min exposure will correct for the dark tones. This layer is what make your negative work.
- Lana paper group name. Select this and the next 2 will automatically be selected. I have expanded them so that you can see them here for explanation.
- Group of 3 layers for Stonehenge papers with the same basic steps as 8, 9 & 10 with the only difference being a GRADIENT MAP created for Stonehenge paper rather than Lana paper! you can have groups for each of your papers used in the stack and simply check the boxes you need for the paper you are going to print on!
- Invert, you MUST click on this prior to printing the create your negative image, switching your blacks & whites.
- Red UV blocking color, click to choose, be careful to not select both Red and Green.
- Green UV blocking color, click to choose, be careful not to select both Green and Red.
- Select ONE and ONLY ONE gradient map group or your picture will not print properly!!
- Select ONE and ONLY ONE color UV blocking color or you picture will not print properly!!
Let’s talk a little about the UV blocking colors. It seem a little strange to use a COLOR layer when printing B&W but you need to realize that some colors are better than B&W for controlling your UV exposures! I have 2 color layers included in my image stack but there can be many others depending upon your printer, ink set and choice in negative film. For my system (Epson 7900 24 inch printer using the Image Print V9 RIP) I have found that the Green layer works much better. I am going to show you the difference below between using a B&W negative vs. the GREEN negative. Pay close attention to the density of the grasses next to the sky in both prints.
First using a B&W negative with the same gradient map…
As you can see the density of the negative especially in the grasses looks great, but when you look at the output print you can see that the grasses all turn white at the horizon and get lost!
Now let’s take a look at the negative with the GREEN UV blocking layer…
The first thing that you should notice is that the density of both the sky and the grass seems much less dense but when you look at the output print the difference is amazing!
The grasses are now full of texture and you do not loose any detail at the horizon. The exposure on both images are the same thus you have the same amount of dark areas of shade and in the tree, but the mid tones now are full of greater details. This was simply achieved by adding the color UV blocking layer.
As I talk about these technical details they may seem simple, but it did take a while for me to master them in all of their glory. The image used as an example for you is not yet to my liking. The sky is a little too dark and the shadows are too black. I have just this week created a new negative with corrections for those specific areas and will be printing this image again tomorrow!
Nothing comes easy with alternative printing. Our printing lives are full of trial and error, but once we master the basics of the digital negative the trial and error period will drop down considerably.
You can download a copy of my PSD negative stack files both here in my download link on the bottom of the right hand menu and on Facebook in the Van Dyke Brown Printing group or in the Digital Negatives for Contact Printing group. There is a download file button on the top of each group page that will take you to these files.
I hope that this has been helpful for you. If you have any questions on this process please leave a comment here or join the FB groups above and you will find a great group of people on each group who can and will assist you in your process!
Who knew Gold would be so cool?
After experimenting quite a bit with washing my un coated Lana paper with a 2.5% wash of Citric acid and distilled water and discovering that ALL of my paper issues fell away that the Dmax of my paper/print would so radically improve! Though I do have to admit that pre washing the paper adds 2 entire days to my workflow and is a LOT of work. I recently ordered some Fumed Alumina powder from Bostick & Sullivan as an alternative to acid washing. B&S says of Fumed Lumina:
A small quantity of fumed Alumina is rolled on to a piece of paper with a dry high density foam paint roller. It spreads evenly on to the paper leaving a velvety surface to the touch. The paper can then be coated with a platinum/palladium solution, dried, exposed and developed in the standard method. It is suspected that the Alumina can be used for other hand coated photographic processes like cyanotype, van dyke, Kallitype, and similar processes. It has already been tested with great success with albumen prints. The coating acts as a sizing enhancer and appears to protect the emulsion from alkali buffers. Contrast increases but appears largely to be due to enhancement of the blacks.
So, this then is the great experiment of March! I will report back on the measured effect as it applies to my process in the next post!
Now, onto the reason for this posting, Gold Toning of Van Dyke Brown prints! Now that I am getting consistent prints from my acid washed Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP and Stonehenge papers I wanted to explore increasing the Dmax further by Gold toning. Rather than mixing my own gold toning solution (basically I am very lazy) I decided to purchase Bostick & Sullivans Gold Toning liquid solution. This is simply 2 bottles of a chemicals, solution A is 2% Ammonium Thiocyanate and solution B is .2% Gold Chloride. You mix 50ml each of A and B with enough distilled water to make 500ml of working gold toner. Easy peasy, no powders to measure and mix. B&S says that you can replenish the solution by adding 5ml of the Gold Chloride for each 8×10 print you tone. I do this in the toning bath but when finished I am thinking that I need to throw it away and treat it more like a 1 shot toner. Since the cost of the Gold Toning kit is so reasonable from B&S ($45) and will make such a large amount of working toning bath 10 bottles of 500ml working bath I am inclined to do so.
The reason for this is simple. It has to do with the processing sequence:
- Expose your coated paper.
- 1st water bath with 2000ml of distilled water and 1 tsp of Citric Acid for 2 min to remove excess sensitizer (yellow Stain) from the paper and to help prevent emulsion wash off.
- Gold toning bath, watching for toning in the mid tones and highlights to indicate finish.
- 2nd water bath with 2000ml of distilled water and 1tsp of Citric Acid.
- Rinse in tap water for 30 min.
The issue for me with replenishment of the gold toner solution is that even the TINIEST amount of citric acid will destroy the toning solution. So this means that between step 1 and 2 I have to insert:
1b. Plain tap water bath for 1 min to remove Citric Acid.
Since the Citric Acid will destroy the gold toner and that there is very little chance for me to remove most of it prior to toning then there is the very likely chance that it will be ruined even with a plain water bath prior to toning!
The acid problem with the gold toner is the only real issue to its use. I really do not want to have to put the print into my print washer for 5 min to clear all of the acid so a 1 shot toning bath for about 3 images seem a good trade off to me. Time will tell!
I hope that you have been paying attention to the images spaced through out the post. All of them have gone thru the gold going process and with the exception to the last one I did not add any more Good Chloride to the bath. Because of this you can notice that with the exception of the 1st and last print each print after the 1st look more brown as we progress down the line! With the last one I added 25ml of the gold to bring the bath back up to strength and you can see the difference. You can tell that it is run down by how long it takes for the toning process to complete to the point where you like the results. I have been told by friends online that I could have taken the toning process a bit further. The thing about gold toning is that the gold replaces all of the silver in the print which shifts the print colors from dark brown to a very platinum looking black. You can even get a bluish tint in the dark tones of your print!
I think that the toning process is VERY worth while and highly recommend that you give it a try.
The next post should be on using the Fumed Alumina as an agent to overcome a non-acidic paper coating as well as increasing the prints Dmax!
A new (read OLD) way of printing!
Alternative Printing from History!
The Vandyke brown print is based on the first iron-silver process, the argentotype, invented in 1842 by the English astronomer, Sir John Herschel. Both processes utilize the action of light on ferric salts and their chemistry is very similar. The Vandyke process gets its name from its similarity in color to the deep brown pigment used by the Flemish painter Van Dyck. Vandyke brown prints are very simple and economical to make, with the sensitizer consisting of three readily available chemicals. Clearing is carried out in water and fixing is done in a weak solution of hypo.
As you can see, this is a very early way of printing developed a long time before our current Silver Salt paper process. The images are a deep brown instead of the normal black and white that we are used to seeing. They are somewhat easy to create provided that you have done your homework and created the proper calibration images to create a calibration Gradient Map or Curve to apply to your negatives which adjust them for loss of mid tones in the printing process.
This is strictly a CONTACT PRINTING technique that requires a true negative that is placed on top of paper that YOU as the artist coat yourself with the Van Dyke Brown emulsion that you mix from simple chemistry! The coating process is done with a special brush that requires a very light touch or a glass coating rod that you use to push a line of liquid emulsion across the paper.
The liquid emulsion is measured by the number of drops from a glass eye dropper into a small glass then with a drop of two of a wetting agent like Tween 20 to help the coating process. The paper/emulsion is allowed to dry then the negative which was created using my Epson 7900 printing on transparency material is placed on top of the coated paper. This sandwich is then placed in a printing box filled with 12 Fluorescent Black Light tubes which then expose the paper with UV light. The exposure for the current paper I am using (Revere Platinum) has been calibrated to 3 or 4 min based upon the test chart above.
This process is a POP process in which the image after being exposed can be seen on the paper once removed from the UV box. It is orange and yellow in color. It is placed in 2 consecutive distilled water baths that remove the yellow and darken the orange. Then it is placed in the fixer solution (Sodium thiosulfate) for 2 min. When the image is placed in the fix, it IMMEDIATELY changes from orange to a very dark brown and white picture. Finally the print is placed in a live water wash for 30 min then dried!
This is a simple process that creates beautiful images that will leave you breathless as you view them! I am going to further develop and learn the process over the next month or two before I start on mastering the Platinum/Palladium printing process as well!
Look forward to many more posts on the processes as I master them!
Oh, No… Another Camera System…
Well, in a wild turn of events I have picked up some new camera equipment… This is a really no surprise as it is a sickness or rather addiction! But onward and upward!
I do have to tell you that I am REALLY excited over acquiring these new systems though. And unfortunately, one thing has let to another and thus a long journey has also been started into the realm of film again!
But first let me highlight the “What”!
As you can see in the top image, the newest body is the new Leica M240 24 full frame 24 mega pixel body. It also has a true “live view” which allows use of all sorts of other lenses like the Leica R series that you would NOT normally be able to focus. This means everything from long telephotos to true macro (subject of the next post!). After a few months of use I can tell you that this is the BEST digital system that I have ever used! Along with it I also picked up several lenses.
First, the main lens is the Leica M 50mm f/1.4 Summalux ASPH lens in silver. This is a HEAVY lens. If attacked by a bear I could use it to beat him half to death. The lens itself has turned into my main lens that I use 60% of the time. It has a built in leans hood and takes 46mm filters. The Bokah that this lens can generate is amazing beyond description. It is extremely smooth and easy to use and generates images that are truly amazing!
The next lens is the Leica M mount 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit ASPH. This is a TINY light lens that takes 39mm filters. These smaller filters sized considerably cut the cost of purchasing top of the line B+W filters. Since the M240 camera is a full frame sensor the 28mm really is 28mm! The lens is sharp beyond words and quick to focus. I am really please with this lens and use it for landscapes and lightning photography when mounted on my Fuji X-T1 camera.
The example image for this lens below is a texture overlay. The main image was an Infrared image taken by placing a R72 (720nm) infrared filter on the lens giving a white IR image of a palm leaf, then doing a texture overlay of colored flowers.
The next lens is the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4 and its macro adapter with split image view. This is a very unique lens in that it collapses for storage. By itself it is a great 90mm lens and has proven useful for mid range subjects as well as for Infrared work with the addition of a R72 IR filter. When you add its macro adapter (extension tube coupled to a viewfinder modifier) it will then give you macro capabilities down to a 1:3 image ratio! Below is an example of a macro image shot with this lens last week at Moore Farms in Lake City .
Now, I already had my two Voigtlander M mount lenses that I was using with the Fuji systems, but they are M mount!
First is the Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens. This is an amazing lens that is very fast at f/1.8. The focus is smooth and long and it works very well with M mount extension tubes for true macro work (1:1 image ratio). I do have 3 of the 10mm extension tubes for it as well as a Canon 500D closeup lens. For my really small stuff this is my goto lens. It is a little long but has a very nice clam on lens hood. While it is NOT a Leica lens it is very close in terms of quality and ease and the f/1.8 aperture gives lovely bokah!
Here then is an example of a 1:1 life-size macro shot with it!
The last lens that I am going to talk about here is the Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 12mm f/5.6 Aspherical M Mount lens. Another heavy all metal lens with remarkable focus and DOF. Since it is so wide you can almost have a DOF from right in front of the lens out to infinity! Plus 12mm is really 12mm on the camera! Given that the camera is both full frame and has a live view you can see the power of using this lens and the ease of composition and focus!
In the example image below please notice the extreme range of the depth of field!
As you can see, all of the system components are extremely high quality and easy to use giving stunning results. I like to create Long Exposure and Infrared images as well so I thought that I would share some of them with you below.
I hope that you enjoyed this post. I will have several more shortly in the future highlighting more of this system as well as some new FILM work!!
How to get the BEST B&W images out of your Infrared camera!
I am VERY particular in how I process my images, either color or IR it doesn’t make any difference! This comes from years of visualization, photography, a career at Eastman Kodak, endless hours of post processing and just plain being old and cranky! I look for specific compositional elements in each and every image I create then look to create a stepped series of varying contrast levels to draw the viewer into the image. This is important in my color work, but CRITICAL in my B&W images.
This post though, is specifically about B&W IR post processing. But before we actually get to that point I wish to share with you my workflow that I go through up to the point of processing it for B&W.
Assuming that our images have been edited for choice and artistic content and been processed from RAW to 16 bit TIFF…
- I evaluate each image to see if it is viable as a processed RAW image. This means that it has been converted to TIFF, then evaluated as is. If it looks good (nice bronze skies and monochromatic leaves), I will then post process it according to the the same workflow below that I use for B&W and save it. Then…
- Convert the image to Faux Color IR but running the Faux Process (channels swap and color saturation & hue adjustments) and save.
Only when these steps are completed do I start my B&W conversion and processing. The reason for this is that the best B&W conversions are generated when we have gotten the best possible color adjustments done! The better the colors the better the B&W! This is true of both color camera or an IR camera.
As you can see from the B&W image above of the bone yard at Cape Romain here in South Carolina, the image is full of alternating contrast areas that draw the viewers eyes into the image from the bottom left corner up to the center. This was a choice made in post processing.
So remember, you will get a much better B&W image if you first post process the color version! This will give the software (Nik’s Silver EFX Pro) a greater latitude of colors and contrasts to work from rather than just converting the RAW version directly into B&W.
In Infrared photography, there are 3 main elements that we need to get an emotionally charged image:
- Sky with moody cloud structure.
- Green plants.
If you can get all 3 you will get a much more powerful image, but as long as you can get at least 1 you will have more to work with to get a good image. If you find yourself in a location where none of the 3 desired elements can be found then look for repeating patterns! Look at the example below. This image is of old Rt. 66 through the west taken at the height of a world class snow storm a few years ago in 720nm IR. There is no water, clouds or plants to work with. But we have a vanishing perspective due to the repeating telephone poles plus great structure in the snow cover scrub! There is also just a hint of the sun behind the top of the first telephone pole which adds interest and change of contrast.
Now, as easy as all of this sounds, it really does take some planning and simple photoshop skills. Plus the more you practice it the better and faster you will get!
So lets take a look at our sample B&W converted per post processed B&W image below. To get to this point, you take your color image and open it in Niks Silver EFX software filter. You would then choose the recipe that you like the best from the left hand menu watching the effect on the preview image on the screen. When you find the version you like the best you would then adjust the contrast, structure and highlights/shadows to get your starting image, then accept it and drop it back into Photoshop!
This then is the results of what we just did:
This is a very nice image to be sure! But, it can be drastically improved with very little work. By selecting areas of alternating contrasts we can enhance the emotional impact of this image and draw the viewers eyes into the image giving it an almost 3 dimensional feel! Lets take a look at these areas!
Take a close look at the image. Look for ways to give alternating areas of light and dark, low contrast and high contrast. Use these areas to create steps into your image. For the image above of the Adams Mill un processed this is how I approach it:
Looks like a puzzle doesn’t it! But is is really easy once you decide HOW you want to approach the image. We are going to use the Nik plugin filter called Viveza to accomplish all of these changes. Simply start on one edge of the image and work your way across. Nik gives you a very powerful selection and masking tool call selection points. These points pick out areas of similar color or shading.
So here is how it all works:
- Start Nik Viveza in your editor.
- Start from one edge and work across the image.
- Using a selection point, place it on the first area to be edited.
- Adjust the size if the selection point as necessary.
- Adjust the brightness slider to set the light/black point you desire.
- Adjust the structure (sharpness) with the structure slider.
- Adjust the contrast with the contrast slider.
- If you find that your edits affect areas outside of your desired area simply add another (or several) adjustment points with no editing in those affected areas to bring them back to where they were. This is called an anchor point. You will find that you will add anchor points all over your image to bring areas back to their un edited version.
- Simply work your way across the image editing as you go. Create areas of alternating contrasts and you will generate a powerful B&W image in very little time!
Here is the finished version of the image above!
Go back and forth, look at the differences between the 2 images. In the 2nd image, there is a tonal range of complete black to complete white. The un-edited version has a little contrast but lacks punch and it does NOT have a complete tonal range!
This looks very simple doesn’t it! Well it is!! It just requires that you pre visualize what you desire in your finished image then simply make it so.
I hope that you enjoyed this simple tutorial. If you would like an enhanced version with complete step by step instructions and screen captures please visit my BLOG at:
and look at the post on my Color & Infrared Video Post Processing Tutorial on a 2 DVD set.
Please let me know what you think of all this!!
Every Time I take the X-E2 out I am amazed…
We have been having amazingly turbulent weather here in Pawleys Island for the last week or so. The sky has been moody and dark. Mornings filled with dense fog and the ocean surf rough… Perfect for long exposures and wild sunsets!
What better excuse then to take the Fuji X-E2 out and capture these wild and moody scenes? With my full kit of the Lee Seven 5 filters and B+W ND filters in hand I grabbed the X-E2 and the XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 Zoom Lens (which has kind of turned into my main carry around lens) and headed out to the beach.
The X-E2 (in fact, the entire line of Fuji X cameras) is exceptionally adept at long exposure photography. It generates low noise exposures and has NEVER let me down. I usually shoot in the 2 to 4 minute range but once in a while will go up to 10 to 15 minutes depending upon the subject.
In todays post I am shooting between 30 seconds and 4 minutes and one of the sunset images was just a short exposure (1/13).
The setup for all of the long exposure water images was either a 6 or 10 stop B+W ND filter and the sunset had an added 3 stop soft graduated Lee filter (Seven 5 system). The sky was just too bright with the wild colors to give anything but a black foreground otherwise! I also used the Fuji RR-90 remote shutter release (but you can also use a mechanical release or a Canon RS60 E3 release).
One of the big benefits of the Fuji X system is the fact that when in the BULB mode Fuji gives you a count up timer on the LCD screen so that you can easily time your exposure. This doesn’t sound like much but when you are out in the cold and dark shooting it is a BIG DEAL! Try doing this with a Nikon 300 and you will understand!
Now, lets talk a little about your exposure metering.
- You can (and I sometimes do) use the cameras metering system, but I do find that when metering through the 10 stop ND that it will sometimes confuse the meter.
- You can also meter without the ND attached then attach it and adjust the exposure for whatever value the ND is but there is NO guarantee that the filter is actually what it is advertised to be!
- What I like to do is to use the Seikonic 758DR spot meter which can factor in the ND filter automatically for you and give you an accurate exposure. You can also meter through the filter with the 758 to see what the real value of the filter is!.
- You can also just get close with your first exposure then evaluate your histogram and adjust the exposure as desired.
Which ever way you choose you will be surprised how quickly you can get “on target” by taking just 1 exposure then adjusting! But remember. when we are spot metering either in camera or in an external meter whatever spot you are metering on will give an exposure for Zone 5 or 18% grey. It is up to you to adjust the exposure up or down to place it into the proper Zone! What I like to meter on is the sky just above the horizon then adjust it up about 1 stop (move from Zone 5 to Zone 6).
I ALWAYS have the Long Exposure Noise Reduction turned on in my cameras. This means that you will double your exposure time. After you take your image, the camera will close the shutter and take a 2nd one with the same shutter speed. This is called Dark Frame Noise Reduction and the camera will look for bright pixels in the 2nd shot and subtract them from the first. This is very worthwhile and will allow you to create much better output images but cut down the amount of time you have to stand there and shoot!
As I said earlier, the mornings have been very foggy so lets start off with several examples of this type of photography. Of course, you must remember to increase the exposure so that the fog is not a DARK GREY, these have been adjusted from Zone 5 to Zone 6.5 or 1 1/2 stops!
Ok, lets move on to the evening. The intent here was simple long exposures to smooth out the surf and remove the surfers (yes I hate surfers as they are always in your shot and don’t care!). For these type of images you really need to start at 30 seconds and move up. If the sky is within 3 stops of the foreground then you do not need to add a graduated ND on the sky.
There is something very soothing about well done long exposures of the ocean. They really are not difficult to do and the results are worth the investment in time and discomfort (did I mention that it is winter here and I was standing on the beach in the wind?).
As you can see, the Fuji X-E2 excels in all areas of photography. It has proven itself to be a serious tool to photographers who understand its capabilities and master it functionality!
I hope that you enjoyed this post. Please let me know what you think!
My Fuji X-E2 – Just Perfect!
I have to tell you that I am REALLY a Fuji fan. I have the following Fuji bodies:
- X-Pro 1 – Color
- X-Pro 1 – 720nm Infrared Conversion
- X-E1 – Color
- X100s – My walk around companion!
- X-E2 – Color
I also have ALL of the lenses but 2!
I moved to Fuji after a long search for a small light weight camera system after loosing 80% use of both hands and arms. I went through ALL of the micro 4/3 systems (and even kept 2!). I sold $40,000 in Canon bodies and L glass and have NEVER looked back!
In the Fuji, not only have I found perfections but being a range finder styled system it is like going home to mom!
I have a X100s that I use for most of my walk around work, it is just so tiny and generates amazing images. So when Fuji announced the X-E2 with the same sensor and with even more upgrades I ordered one from Amazon. Much to my amazement it shipped a week later! I have had it in hand now for about 2 weeks and just yesterday took it out to a local fishing port for a bit of creative work. I love the upgrades and how fast this camera is. It even passes the X100s in ability. I originally purchased the X-E1 in order to take advantage of its electronic remote shutter release. It enables me to hook it up to devices like a lightning trigger and my water drop collision system. The X-E1 did a great job with these devices and I expect no less with the X-E2 but that is for another day.
Yesterday I took it out to shoot shrimp boats in North Carolina and have to tell you that the camera just blew me away. It is such a major upgrade over the X-E1 that I cannot believe that they came from the same company! The controls are CRISP, the knobs just snap from position to position with no play and they stay where you put them. The larger LCD is nice but the faster EVF is a sight to behold. I dressed the camera in a RRS L bracket with grip and put on a nice soft release. Physically except for new buttons and placement the camera is identical to the X-E1. One MAJOR improvement is the addition of 3 stops of EV adjustment instead of the normal 2 that Fuji has provided in the past.
All in all I am really happy with this upgrade. I will keep the X-E1 and convert it to 800nm IR in the near future. There is no sense in letting that viable and great camera go to waste!
Next I put the camera into the JPG mode and shot color & B&W images in camera. The results speak for them selves!
This posting was never meant to be a review, rather a statement of its impact upon me with sample images!
Please let me know what you think…
Customer Comments on the Color & Infrared Post Processing From Beginning To End Video Workshop
I have started getting feedback and comments on the new IR/Color Video Tutorial. As they arrive I will share them here in this post with you. I am very excited over these. So far there are about 100 shipped videos out there!
TO ORDER THE DVD SET:
US Orders CLICK HERE
The cost is $29.95 plus shipping which will automatically be added when you order.
Pay via Paypal using the payee address:
- England: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
- France: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
- Hong Kong: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
- Canada: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $22.00
All prices are in USD
I attempted IR several years ago and was totally frustrated when it came to post processing. Despite enrolling in an online course and spending hundreds of dollars on IR books, it was a hit and miss proposition in getting any decent images. Everyone said the same thing – “swap your red & blue channels in Photoshop”. Sorry, that doesn’t work all of the time.
Everything changed after taking Mark’s IR workshop. Now it’s even easier to learn IR though this wonderful DVD set. Get your White Balance right in the beginning, watch your red channel in your histogram, then follow Mark’s IR post processing methods. He makes it that simple.
Mark is truly a master!
Mark, I demand my money back on the IR & Color Post Processing Video tutorial ! How dare you sell DVD of that quality for $30 when it is easily worth 3 times that amount! Mark – this was the best training DVD I ever saw. You covered everything perfectly. I watched it twice yesterday and intend to watch it again today. You covered everything perfectly. You are truly a master! Thanks
The DVD arrived today, thank you. The cover, case, packaging all looks great: very professional. Will delve into it while traveling next week.
I really like your suggested folder structure, of leaving the original RAW files untouched, then having a separate Develop folder, for work in progress images, and another Archival folder for final, processed images. I’ve spent the past 5 years processing my original RAW files. Goodness know what damage I’ve done. Your system is much smarter. Thank you!
I have Ingestamatic working reasonably reliably now and am coming to appreciate its utility in naming files and organizing sub-folders. It’s certainly smarter than any other uploading programs I’ve used.
I love my videos!
I would like to thank those who have taken the time to send feedback and comments! It means a lot to me and will help improve on the next Video Tutorial that I put together!