Fuji X Pro 1 for High Speed Water drops Anyone?

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

Ohh, a pretty lead in tease image!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any suggestions for other macro lenses out there??


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

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


Fuji X Pro 1 and the Soligor MC C/D 70-300mm f/3.8 FD Lens

The Need to Reach Out and Touch Something!

These three old shrimp boats were in the boat graveyard in Georgetown, SC. The trouble is that they are just too far away to capture with any of the Fuji Lenses.  I have several other 3rd party lenses like the CV 12mm and 75mm f/1.8 but even the latter is just not long enough.  A friend dropped by my gallery last month and gave me a bunch of old Canon FD/FX lenses and one of them was the Soligor MC C/D 70-300mm f/3.8 FD Lens.  This is a big lens, about 10 inches long closed and 13 inches  zoomed out to 300mm.  It is a push pull design and surprisingly, clean of dust for a lens so old!  It is an amazingly smooth and sharp lens and a real pleasure to use.

One of the problems with the Fuji is that there are currently no long lenses out there.  Normally, this doesn’t bother me too much but once in a while I need the reach!  I am always keeping my eyes open for longer lenses hence the CV 75mm f/1.8 and the Soligor 70-300.  I also have a Canon 70-200 on the way from Roberts Camera which cost me $49.00.

I had to spend the day in Georgetown today so I decided to bring this lens along and give it a try!  This lens was designed to be the Canon L glass killer back in the day of FD/FX lenses. It is amazingly sharp. Now that the  X Pro 1 2.0 firmware is here manual focusing is EASY and SHARP!  When in focus the details just jump out at you.  I had a FD/FX to Fuji adapter on hand and after fussing with it and discovering that you had to adjust the position of the aperture lever inside the lens then mount the adapter I was in business!

As I said, focus is amazingly easy.  The glass is sharp and the combo works very good.  If you can find this lens out there in net land grab it, but I have NEVER seen one and searching online does not even turn them up!

The Three Shrimpers, Fuji X Pro 1 and Soligor 70-300, F/11, 1/2500, 400 ISO


Here is the color version:

The Three Shrimpers, Fuji X Pro 1 and Soligor 70-300, F/11, 1/2500, 400 ISO


I also wished to do some detail images for an upcoming magazine article so I took this camera/lens combination over to Stormy Seas and looked for boots and/or Gloves in the rigging!  Here is what I found:

The Work Gloves… Fuji X Pro 1, Soligor 70-300mm at 200mm, f/8, 1/1000s, 400 ISO


I was quite pleased with this combination.  As stated, the lens is quite large, but that is OK as I will not use it that often.  The new/old Canon 70-200 is only about half the size and hopefully it will work quite well also!

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

WOW, the world sure changes fast if you close your eyes!

OK after one of my readers left a comment suggesting that the new version of Nik’s HDR EFX Pro 2 was likely supported in Lightroom I decided that I should perhaps do a little research!

Here is what I found:

Detailed compatibility specs for NIK HDR EFX PRO 2

So, as you see, as long as you are running a 64 bit OS plus very specific hardware in the graphics department it seems as if you can now run this fine HDR tool in Lightroom and Aperture!

Nice upgrade Nik!

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

Or, Look Mom at  what I made!

A brief overview of the  4 major HDR tools…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3495 Histogram, -1.3 EV


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

3496, -.6 ev


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

3497, -2 EV


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

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

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

Some notes on the software:

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

Photoshop CS6 Merge To HDR Pro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?  Please let me know!

Voigtlander Heliar Ultra Wide-Angle 12mm f/5.6 Lens and the Fuji X Pro 1

Good things that come in small packages!

Voigtlander Heliar Ultra Wide-Angle 12mm f/5.6 Lens

Fuji M Mount Adapter

I have been testing the Voigtlander Heliar Ultra Wide-Angle 12mm f/5.6 Lens with the Fuji M mount adapter on the X Pro 1 for the last week or so and have to admit that I am both impressed and love use and feel of this lens! It is well made and smoooooth to operate!

 I have tested it both on the Kipon adapter and the new Fuji M mount adapter and have to say that the differences between the two are major due to the fuji’s ability to adjust corner color and darkened corners live with version 1.11 firmware!  Pincoushion adjustments still require you to shoot and adjust.

I adjusted the pincushion by taking a picture of the pattern of 2×4’s on the surface of a deck. This allows you to maintain straight lines. I found for the 12mm that an adjustment of +4 was perfect.

I took the  12mm out to two locations for testing, Shem Creek in the Charleston, SC area and the waterfront in Georgetown SC.  Both locations provides nice vistas and shrimp boats full of color and character.

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

As you can see, the DOF of the 12mm is simply amazing.  The cleat was about 3 inches from the camera.

Here is a monochrome of the same image.

Shem Creek with approaching storm, Voigtlander Heliar Ultra Wide-Angle 12mm f/5.6 Lens

Shem Creek Shrimpers, Voigtlander Heliar Ultra Wide-Angle 12mm f/5.6 Lens

Notice the light rays coming down from right to left thru the clouds!  The lens is VERY sharp and a real pleasure to use!

Let me know what you think!

True Macro With The X Pro 1

Being Small in a Large World..

Zebra Longwing Butterfly Caterpillar, 1/4 inch long, Fuji X Pro 1 and the 60mm f/2.4

In another creative fervor with the Fuji X Pro 1, I decided to attend a formal CNPA (Carolinas Nature Photography Assn.) outing yesterday at Cyprus Gardens in Moncks Corner, SC.  The park is full of flowers, swamp and a nice butterfly house.  I had decided to leave all of my other camera equipment at home (it seems that this is becoming the rule now with the X Pro 1!) and concentrate on macro/closeup work with the Fuji system.  In truth, I spent all day with the 60mm f/2.4 macro lens.  The lens can shoot in the macro mode at .5x which is 1:2.  The closest focus range on this lens is a little over 10 inches.  With these limitations in mind I setup on a sturdy tripod and got about the business of creating images!

This post is NOT intended as a macro or flash tutorial. I will post images that I consider are the best at macro and closeup that this camera system is capable of creating.  Anyone can create this type of macro images with just a little forethought and a full understanding of the physics of exposure and how to use your camera as a tool! I intend to show you what this camera system is capable of creating with thought out setups, exposure and lighting!  I am going to share with you my experiences in using the camera system with the following accessories, modes and shooting supports:

  • Fuji X Pro 1, aperture priority, spot metering
  • Fuji 60mm f/2.4 lens
  • Fuji EF-20 flash
  • EF-X20 flash
  • Fuji EF-42 flash
  • Surefire 6PX Pro LED flashlight
  • Tripod and hand held
  • 40″ remote shutter release

Fuji EF-20 Flash

The Zebra Longwing caterpillar  above was about 1/4 inch in length and was taken with the Fuji X Pro 1 with the 60mm f/2.4 lens on a tripod.  Lighting was the Fuji EF-20 flash unit on camera but tilted down and set at -1ev.  As you can see, the overall setup gave a very nice image with reasonable lighting given only 1 flash!  The overall image ratio is about 1:3 which puts this squarely in the macro range.  I kept the aperture set to f/9 in order to get the entire insect in sharp focus and have a little bit of detail in the background.  Now, the real surprise:  the focus was auto with the selected focus point being the middle of the curve on the insect!  Normally, we expect to manually focus when working in macro, but I intended to test the focus capabilities of the system as well.

  • TIP: I added a slight lens vingyette in post processing   to darken the top and sides of the image to further accent the main subject.

Given that the flash uses two AA batteries, the re-charge time should be considered quite slow, but it was actually quite fast.  I enjoyed using this flash because the tilting head enabled me to shoot past the end of the the longer 60mm lens and keep the subject in nice light with no lens shading even with the lens hood installed at the 10 inch focus distance!  I did find that using the button on the back of the flash to set the EV value to be a bit tedious but since I usually set it to some negative value and leave it there it was not a very large negative!

Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar, Fuji X Pro 1, 60mm f/2.4, 10 inch focus, 1:2 ratio, Fuji EF-42 at -.5ev

Fuji EF-42 Flash

This next image of the Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar was taken using the Fuji EF-42 flash set at -.5ev and an aperture of f/8 on the tripod.  Here I intended to have more of a blurred background (remember in the macro range the DOF is very narrow and even a a mid aperture you will get a very blurry background) yet again keep the insect in sharp focus across its entire focus plain.

The EF-42 flash is a much higher power unit compared to the EF-20 and it uses four AA batteries for a faster recharge time.  The controls are easier to use BUT the flash head will NOT angle down beyond the level plain.  This can be overcome by pulling out the wide angle lens on the top and using it as s bounce surface to angle some light down.  As you can see in the image I created the exact image I envisioned.  The main subject (insect) is in perfect focus and the exposure is dead on with no blow out of the whites.  The background is nicely indistinct and blurry with only slight detail thus taking nothing away from the subject!  Focus was again in auto with the spot set on the top hump of the insect as it was getting ready to move forward up the branch.   Again, I added a slight lens vingyette in post processing to darken the top and sides of the image to further accent the main subject.  As stated, this was all pre-planned before I ever looked at the camera!

The Red Flower, Fuji X Pro 1, 60mm f/2.4 lens, 1:4 ratio, Ef-42 at -1ev.

OK this image of the small red flower (sorry, I have not yet identified it yet…) was again done with the X Pro 1 with the 60mm lens and the EF-42 flash at -1 ev.  The big difference here was that this was hand held.  I just could not get the camera into a position on the tripod in order to capture it.  Plus I was setting up to switch over to shooting butterflies on the move which you just cannot do on the tripod.  The flower was about1 inch in length so the image ratio here is about 1:4 which puts this image in the closeup range.  Depth of field is much better in this range so in order to have a un-defined background I set the aperture down to f/4 which gave me a sharp focus on the entire flower in its plain of focus yet blurred the background nicely.

  • TIP: The flash was setup using the wide angle adapter pulled partly out in order to reflect some of the light down towards the flower.

All in all  I think that this is a nicely done image considering it was hand held!

Zebra Longwing Butterfly. Fuji X Pro 1, 60mm f/2.4 lens, EF-20 flash at -1ev 1:8 range

Ok, moving up further into the closeup range, I created this image of a Zebra Longwing butterfly.  This was again handheld but using the EF-20 flash set level at -1ev.  Focus was auto with the focus point set silghtly off center to the top in the portrait mode.

  • TIP: When shooting macro/closeup, I always set the focus point for each and every shot.  This gives me far greater control during the setup and composition phase of my process.

Purple Orchid, X Pro 1, 60mm f/2.4, EF-20 at -1ev, 6PX Pro LED Tactical light.

Fuji EF-X20

OK, almost done!  This last image of a purple orchid was shot on the tripod  in shadow was one of the more difficult images of the day.  I had to use a 40 inch remote shutter release and hunch below the flower and tripod with a 5000 degree kelvin LED flashlight angled up into the flower.  I also used the EF-X20 flash set at -1ev to give the purple of the flower even lighting and a sparkle.  The EF-X20 is the easiest of all the Fuji flash units to control due to its top mounted mode dial.

Surefire 6PX Pro

The LED flashlight is a 6PX Pro Tactical light with variable output and is perfect for macro work.  Its light is bright white and since you can control the power level it makes for very easy control!  This light and many others can be found at  www.Surefire.com but be advised, they are expensive!  I keep several versions of these tactical lights on hand.  They are all useful and a positive addition to a macro kit!

OK, that is it for today.  But consider this last point, Macro work can be done with any lens, you do not need to have a dedicated macro lens.  With the simple addition of a closeup adapter (I recommend the Canon 500D series of adapters) you can convert ANY lens to macro/closeup!

What did you think of this post?  Please feel free to leave feedback and comments!  I value your input.

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

Interesting Things Come To Those Who Wait….

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

Heliopan Variable ND w/ Stops

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

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

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

Suggested Equipment:

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

Subject Considerations

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

Zone System Metering & Exposure:

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

The Zone System for exposure control in this image

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

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

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

Detailed Fuji X Pro 1 Infrared Tutorial: Part 1, Equipment & Shooting!

Creating Emotional IR Images From Your Heart

Using the Fuji X Pro 1 for Infrared

Infrared photography means so many things to me… I have a popular Infrared Educational Blog at http://infraredatelier.wordpress.com/ where I have shared all of my secrets surrounding Infrared photography for several years, I have a book in work on Infrared photography, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, I have practiced the art of creating emotionally charged Infrared images for longer than I can remember, even as long as 45 years ago with film.  Here, today, I will disscuss with you the technical details of using your Fuji X Pro 1 camera system to create these emotionally powerful images as well.

X Pro 1 Faux Color IR Image with only the channel swap

Understand this, you can create Infrared images several different ways:

  1. Film:  Rolli makes a great 720nm IR film in many different formats that with the addition of a 720nm filter on your lens will create great IR images at 100 ISO, and with no filter great B&W images at 400 ISO!
  2. Hoya R72

    Standard Digital COLOR Camera:  With the addition of a 720nm or 850nm IR filter on your camera lens your camera can capture Infrared images.  There is a tradeoff to this way though because each camera manufacturer places some sort of UV/IR blocking filter over the image sensor that allows only visible light to pass through.  Some of these filters are weaker than others and these cameras make for a system that will do well in Color and OK in Infrared with reasonable IR exposure times around a second or two.  Others have a strong filter allowing only a small amount of IR energy to pass.  These require VERY LONG exposure time in order to overcome this filter.  The Fuji X Pro 1 is one of the cameras with a weaker filter! This is exciting because it enables you to easily create IR images with an unmodified camera system!

  3. Converted Infrared Camera:  This type of system is the most popular by far.  There are 2 types:
    • Full Spectrum conversion: The internal UV/IR blocking filter is removed and replaced with a clear glass filter. You can then program the camera with an external IR filter in any range from UV to Color to Infrared!  This is the most adaptable IR system but costly because IR filters for your different lens sizes are expensive!
    • Dedicated Infrared Conversion:  This type has the internal UV/IR blocking filter removed and replaced with a specific IR pass filter and will create IR images in that band only.

What your camera sees!

So with regard for the Fuji X Pro 1 system we are going to discuss option #2, the standard color camera with an external IR filter attached to its lens.  But you ask: “What filter can I use?”. Well since we are not modifying the internal UV/IR blocking filter you must understand that the camera will pass normal visible colors as well as IR if the external filter allows it.  This is both good and bad!  If you were to install a 590nm IR filter on your lens the camera, it would see everything from 590nm up to 1000nm.  But because the internal UV/IR blocking filter allows much more visible light than IR through, it will poison the exposure metering system.  It is going to see the vast majority of the light as color (red) and expose for that rather than the IR portion.  So attempting to do this will cause very unreliable exposure and great frustration on the part of the photographer.

What we need is to attach an IR filter that blocks ALL of the visible light and only passes IR to the sensor!  So it is best to choose a 720nm IR pass filter to your lens like the Hoya R72 or a 800nm B&W IR only filter like the B+W 093.  The higher you go in nm the longer the exposure time will be…

Now, knowing that we are going to use the 720nm filter which will only pass IR energy from 720nm and up while blocking ALL of the visible light our metering system will now function as it should!

Considerations of problems that must be overcome within the X Pro 1 to get good IR images

  • Even though the Fuji X Pro 1 has a weak UV/IR blocking filter there is still one there.  Exposure time at a normal low noise ISO of 800 and below will still require an exposure time too long to hand hold and still get sharp images.  Most of mine were at 1/30s and longer.
  • Yes, the X Pro 1 works well at high ISO settings, but in IR the camera will still create noise in the dark areas of the image.
  • Fuji X Pro 1 with a custom WB right out of the camera. This is as close as you can get but will still generate a great image.

    White Balance is IMPORTANT when shooting in IR!  The X Pro 1 will NOT reliably do a custom white balance with the 720nm IR filter installed.  But it does have a manual Kelvin White Balance option, so when shooting IR you need to go to this sub menu in the WB settings and set it to 2500K.  I have talked to others doing this and have heard that they also take away green as well in the menu.  I personally think that this is unnecessary and by leaving the green neutral you will get more pleasing Faux Color images.  A properly white balanced image taken on your camera has s slight reddish cast, the sky should be bronze and the green leaves should have a monochromatic feel with a bluish cast. (more on this later) An improperly white balanced camera image will be pure dark red.  While you can still use this image in post processing the lack of a good white balance will throw off your exposure system. Read your camera manual on white balance and understand it!

  • Longer shutter speeds need a tripod to get sharp images!
  • Remote shutter cable to cut down on camera shake!
  • The Hoya R72 720nm IR filter will generate good Faux Color infrared images some of the time, but good B&W images all of the time.  Keep this in mind while shooting and plan to always explore both options in post processing!
  • Faux Color IR images require a channel swap in post processing.  ONLY the Photoshop family (CS through CS6) has this function built in!  Photoshop Elements has an optional plugin called Elements Plus that you can purchase to do this.  Lightroom and Aperture DO NOT have this function!

Ok, enough of this for now. Lets talk images…

 The Hoya R72 IR filter is almost black.  You can see very little through it but don’t worry, the camera can see through it just fine!  You can find these filters on Amazon for about $58.00 in 52mm.  There are a lot of other filter companies out there that make these, some good some not so good… I trust the Hoya!

Mount the filter on your lens, set the ISO to around 1000 and put the camera on a tripod.  Make sure that you have properly set the WB either as a custom on or as a Kelvin entry.  If you choose custom, the camera will require a lot of light to due this properly.  Use green grass to generate the custom white balance.

I like to use the optical viewfinder rather then the LCD or EVF for shooting in IR.  Choose and frame your subject carefully.  Hmm, a word about composition…

There are three items that can make IR images really powerful and full of emotional impact:

  • Sky with clouds!
  • Water reflections!
  • Green Leaves!

The more of these items you can get in your images the better they will be!  Here is an example…

Clouds, Water and Leaves! What more could you ask for? While not done on a X Pro 1, this image could just have well been so!

 As you can see, the sky, reflections and leaves create an emotionally packed, etherial image that draws your viewer into it!  Keep these three compositional elements in mind as you go forth and create your images!

Exposure Issues…

OK, last part of this post!  There are a few small exposure issues that you need to be aware of while doing IR work.  They are:

  • Red Channel over exposure: The RED channel will aways expose a stop or more higher than the blue and green.  After you have taken the image and see the preview on the LCD panel look at the histogram.  It only displays the combination monochrome histogram and if it is close to being overexposed you will get better results by dialing in -1ev exposure compensation and re-take the image.  This is due to the red channel being more sensitive to infrared and causing the overexposure.  You can really see this during the RAW conversion or in photoshop during post processing by looking at the RGB histogram there.
  • Hot Spots:  Some people have reported hot spots in the center of their images when using the 18mm lens.  I have NOT personally  seen any evidence of this with my system as of yet.  Hot spots are areas in the center of each picture that is usually a stop brighter.  They are caused by light bouncing back and forth between the sensor and the lens elements.  These are lens specific and very little can be done while taking the picture to stop or reduce them.  BUT, the aperture can have a drastic effect on them!  If you see these then try adjusting the aperture and review the results, you just might be surprised!  You MUST ALWAYS use a lens hood when shooting in IR.  This will also help stop hot spots by stopping light from striking the objective lens at extreme angles then bouncing around inside the lens between elements.  If you do notice the hot spot you can remove it in post processing very easily by using Nik Filters Viveza.  You use the selection point by placing it in the center of the spot and then reduce the brightness!

OK, this is enough for today.  The next post will be a detailed Post Processing tutorial that will take you through both Faux Color and B&W processing.  I even have a photoshop action that you can download to semi automate the channel swap and cut down your post processing time!

Updated Grist Mill & Covered Bridge Gallery…

Major Image Gallery Update

I have just updated the images in my Grist Mill & Covered Bridge gallery in the menu on the top of the page under galleries!  I added about 25 new mills and bridges plus provided name and state data under each image!  I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did in creating them!

There is something especially pleasing about mills and bridges that can transport me back to a different time and age!  I will literally  travel hundreds of miles out of my way to visit them!  In 2011 I spent 3 weeks visiting 19 states on the eastern seaboard doing just so, plus this year in May, I spent several days exploring the mills and bridges of south central Georgia!

You can visit the updated gallery by clicking on the drop down under Galleries in the top menu or if visiting from off site click on the link below:


Going Back To Momma…

Falling In Love With The Fuji X Pro 1 Camera system..

Or, what does a camera system have in common with a good doggie?

Fuji X Pro 1 System

A little history:

I started in photography over 45 years ago (yes I am an old fart)… A long time for sure!  I started using and learning on an Argus C3 35mm rangefinder camera then just started working up through many many more rangefinders.  Along came SLR camera systems and like  most other photographers of the time I decided that I too must have one of these so that I could actually see through the lens to see what I  am going to get.  Many years passed and every time I would pass a camera store I found myself looking with lust  at rangefinders of all things.  At first I thought that there must be something wrong with me, why else would I be drawn to an older technology after the many thousands of dollars I had invested in the best Canon bodies and lenses over the years?

Skittles the Dashound, #9

After much reflection I decided that it must be like dogs!  You know… your parents purchase you your first dog which you fall in love with,  and you are forever imprinted with love for the dog and the type of dog.  Then for the rest of your life you desire only that type of dog!  I am on my 9th dashound now and wouldn’t dream of any other type!  So, back to the point, cameras, like dogs are imprinted upon us at an early age and we tend to gravitate back to momma so to speak!  After coming to grips with this fact I went out and spent another $2500 on the Hasselblad XPan II rangefinder and was forever re-hooked.  Yes, I still have and shoot Canon bodies and L glass, but my true passion is for rangefinders and dashounds!  I have accepted this fact as part of who I am. I find that I even occasionally purchase an old rangefinder camera to display in a glass case in my studio!

Ok, enter Fuji!  Last year, Fuji introduced the X100, which is a digital rangefinder styled camera, not a rangefinder focusing camera.  It looked great and got great press. I wanted one from the very first but held off for a year.  Last fall I actually purchased one and was instantly in love with the thing!  It was small and light and SILENT…  It has a fixed 23mm lens and did I mention that it is totally silent in operation!!  Oh yea, in love to be sure.  This February (2012) my wife and I went to Italy for 11 days of photographic heaven and the only cameras I took were a small Infrared camera (Panasonic GH2) and the Fuji X100.  It was a match made in heaven for travel.  Light,  small and no work to lug around!  I got amazing images with the Fuji even though it had a wide fixed lens.  I simply had to rely upon my sneaker zoom to get close!

I found that I was not totally satisfied with the X100 because it was limited to a single lens.  So I ordered the new digital Fuji X Pro 1 interchangeable lens system with the 35mm f/1.4 and the 60mm f/2.4 lenses, and I have the 18mm f/2 lens currently on order.  It arrived at the end March and I was amazed by its light weight but enhanced functionality that the camera system provided!  now after a month of shooting with it I feel like I have returned to momma and have again found myself through my roots in photography!  God, please help me.. I am so locked onto this camera system that I can not  see any way to ever break away, hooked, addicted with a big fuji monkey on my back!  Fuji also says that  later this year they are offering a 14mm and a 18mm to 72mm zoom!  Then 3 more new lenses next year!  I can feel the dollars slipping away now.. I hope that my wife can forgive me for these future purchases.  I WILL keep the X100, it is after all a rangefinder styled camera and it is silent in operation!  I will purchase new lenses for the X Pro 1 and look to the future for the Pro 2 and Pro 3 bodies…

It seems as though I have found yet another addiction…

X Pro 1, 30 second exposure, 35mm f/1.4 lens, B&W Seascape of Pawleys Island Groin

This post is not a review of the X Pro 1, there are a ton of those out there on the web. It is simply a short series of statements and facts about the camera and why I love it so!

It will NOT replace my Canon 7d for (5%):

  • Lightning Photography, because it does not have a electronic shutter.
  • Water Drop Collision Photography, because it does not have an electronic shutter.
  • Macro Photography, well, it might actually work out for this one.
  • Birds in flight, focus is not fast enough.
  • Sports Photography, I simply don’t do this anyways.
  • Movies, has HD movies but no external mic hookup.

I will use this camera for(95%):

  • Landscapes
  • Seascapes
  • Hummingbirds in flight, works great.
  • Grist Mills & Covered Bridges
  • Long Exposures, works great.
  • Travel, light with many lens choices.
  • My MAIN every day camera system!

Leica Pin Hole pancake

I was considering the Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f/4.5 M Mount Lens instead of the Fuji 18mm but there have been so many web posts on how bad this lens is on the Fuji that I have decided against it.  I instead will use a Leica M mount Pin Hole plate from Skink on the Leica to Fuji adapter!   I love Pin Hole photography and have them for ALL of my camera bodies!  There is just something very peaceful and satisfying about using technology for the early 1800’s and the resulting images are very etherial!

Ok, more to come on this great new camera system in the future, I have to have a chance to actually go out and shoot the thing!

Antique Gas Pump, Fuji X Pro 1


Returning to the love of our roots can mean:

Camera Love <= Really does equal => Doggy Love

Told you I was a sic person…