A Light Weight 120 Autofocus Travel Camera with a Zoom Lens!
Please note that along the bottom of the frame ALL of the exposure data is recorded! This is a feature that I really like.
Please note that along the bottom of the frame ALL of the exposure data is recorded! This is a feature that I really like.
Infrared FILM photography has always been on the difficult side, but not because of lack for film because there are several films on the market. Rather it is due to the poor quality of the available 720nm filters on the market.
Recently Kolari Vision www.kolarivision.com has come out with a new series of infrared filters with their AR (anti reflection) that stop or greatly reduce hot spots in the center of your film or digital sensor. These hot spots are due to the various coatings, paint and other reflective coatings on the glass elements and coatings on inside of your lenses causing the light to bounce back and forth several times then hit the film dead center causing the hot spot.
The main filter on the market has been the Hoya R72 filter which works but gives a low contrast washed out image. Along come the new Kolari filter and now I am getting more contrast and even images with greatly reduced hot spots. AMAZING!
So lets take a look at the image above. This is the Tomotley Plantation about 20 min west of Beaufort, SC and was taken with the Rollei IR400 film rated at 720nm. Without a IR filter the ISO is 400 and the emulsion generates a very good likeness of Kodak TriX 400 film. If you add the 720nm filter the ISO drops down to 12 or 6 but you get the amazing whites on the grass and leaves. You even get the Wood Effect where the green items BLOOM out with an etherial soft white energy on the image!
Normally the Wood Effect is difficult to achieve at 720nm and is better seen at 800nm and and above. I have been very happy with this new filter from Kolari in combination with the Rollei IR400 film because I am constantly getting the effect plus deep contrasty images. It simply works as expected which is way more than I can say for others on the market!
This is the Pelican Dock on Pawleys Island, SC. It is a 4″ x 5″ FILM image taken on Polaroid Type 55 film from one of my film workshops.
I did this with a Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 format camera and the film was expired (16 years) Type 55 instant 4×5 film that also creates a fragile negative which was scanned Wet Mount on an Epson 850 . This single image costs about $35 to create and process!
But look closely at the image, notice the calm peace of the scene, the amazing clarity and sharpness that is a gift when working with large format film, but more importantly, the edge process markings created when working with this amazing film!
But of greater importance than how I created this image is the why…
We all see amazing scenes as we travel through life, but how many of us actually take the time to really experience and feel on an emotional level what we are actually experiencing as we create our art? I watch so many great photographers skitter from scene to scene like a bee to pollen that it leaves me feeling sad.
Let me ask you, “How can you create art that will appeal to your viewers on an emotional level if you yourself refuse to slow down long enough to feel the emotional impact yourself as you create it?
The key here is to stand before the scene and take it all I. Get a feel for what you desire to share with your viewers before you even pick up your camera! SLOW DOWN, take your time, investigate it from many angles and exposures. Yes this is a single image, in fact the only one I took due to the cost, but I spent a half hour studying the scene, moving around looking for the best impact and knowing that I would get the edge markings and using them to increase overall impact!
This is a hard lesson to learn and harder still to practice. This is one of the the lessons forced upon us who still shoot film as I do. After all, Film = $. We have to slow down and make every shot count so the next logical step is to connect on an emotional level with your subject and thus create art that is charged with mood that will draw your viewer in.
Just because I use FILM as an example here for you do not think that it does not apply to digital! Yes, once you pay back the investment of your digital equipment with image sales (you do sell your work don’t you?) the cost per image is basically paid only in terms of your time. But time also has a value and if by slowing down and imparting emotional impact in your image then you will be on the true path of photographic nirvana!
Take your time, explore your scene, feel it’s emotional impact, SLOW Down!
Do not copy the Bee, rather strive to be a master of photography…
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!
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!
I wish to share some images and thoughts from the Leica M Monochrom B&W ONLY camera system. I know that it is NOT FILM and a very expensive camera system, but it comes as close as you can get in a wonderfully usable B&W only system!
Most people will take a color image then convert it to B&W in post processing but it will never be the same as actually shooting in B&W with a digital or film system! Yes you can get close but you loose the amazing gradations and tonality that is part and parcel to world class B&W images.
The Pier on the top, is in the Outer Banks and is a 4 min exposure using a Leica Elmerit 28mm lens and the creek below is is in the New River Gorge in West Virginia. It is Dunloupe Creek and a 8 second exposure using the AMAZING 50mm Summilux lens. As you can see, the graduations and clarity are simply amazing. The water takes on a distinct Platinum tonality!
Why am I showing you these? Well at the end of the post I will give you a link for 2 videos where a Fuji X100T and a Leica M are compared for street photography and for a discussion on the Leica M B&W. The videos are quite entertaining and shows why sometimes a more expensive camera can be worth the money…
It can be very hard balancing the desire between camera systems and affordability, but sometimes, with SPECIAL cameras the money takes a back seat. I own 3 Leica camera systems, and 1 of them I could have done without (Leica M240), another is an amazing film system (Leica M7) and then there is the M Monochrom. The Monochrom is scary amazing with crazy good B&W output to even consider shooting color then converting. I have NEVER considered the money spent on it to be wasted! In fact, I am considering selling/trading the M 240 but will keep the Monochrom and M7 film body along with most of my Leica and Voigtlander glass.
For me shooting in B&W is a soul centering event. I take it very seriously and slow. When you consider how working in Monochrome strips away the confusion of color leaving the soul of the image then you can understand why I am looking for the very best way to capture the best possible image.
Aside from doing all of this in film (which I still work in all of the time) the M Monochrome (or its sisters) is the ONLY GAME IN TOWN! Hence, the cost of the system takes on new meaning since it is such a specialized digital system!
Sometimes I will put the film away and take out the Monochrom system. It is not quite the same as film in the overall process but it certainly is when the finished products are compared!
This is something to consider…
Here are the video links:
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?
Have any of you considered film photography?
There is something about working with film that is very calming which can center one’s soul allowing you to really connect with your art. For me it was like going home to Mama. The feeling of working with your hands as part of creating your art will make it more involved and enable you to to really influence the hidden nuances in your work. It will add a bit more complexity to your workflow but trust me it is worth the effort. The single largest change is forcing you to slow down in your creative process, it forces you to really consider every part of your workflow. It really is not any more difficult than digital photography, but it is a bit more involved.
Take a really close look at the details in this image, click on it and look at it in the full screen mode. Look at the GEARING on the edge of the wheel. The detail there will take your breath away!
I have way too many film cameras to list them all, some really small like the Olympus XA which is the worlds smallest 35mm rangefinder and a joy to use.
I also have an Olympus RC 35 camera that is another fixed lens rangefinder. It is simple and fun to use and can be found for very little money. I have mine rebuild and given a bright blue suite that suites it quite well!
My last 35mm camera system is a Leica M7 system. It has interchangeable lenses and is one of the best built camera systems that I have. Couple it with the world class Leica lenses and you have an unbeatable 35mm system.
Moving up to Medium Format 120 film systems I have three. I have the Voigtlander Bessa IIIw system that is 6×7 format and the Fuji GF670 camera (also sold under the name of Bessa III) with a longer 85mm lens (left & right). The 670 is my medium format travel camera of choice. Not only is it a functional camera with a built in meter but it is attractive and it always will draw a crowd when I get it out to use! Another nice point to the GF670 is that it folds down on itself to a thin easy to store camera in your bag!
And lastly the Mamaya RZ Pro II SLR ( Right) with interchangeable lenses and a world class metering system. This camera is large and heavy but easy to use and a very powerful camera system! I have a f/4 65mm and f/4 180mm lens for it. I also have both the waist level finder and a metering prism with spot and matrix! Like I said, heavy and big, but I use it for ultra long exposures on the coast with the Fuji Acros 100 film which has almost NO RECIPROCITY failure up to 140 seconds then only 1/2 stop after that! The film base is a little on the thin side but still my film of choice for long exposures.
Moving up to 4×5 Large Format cameras, I have three. first I have a Shen Hao cherry field camera. Functional as it is beautiful. I rarely take it out, rather I am using a Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a Fujinon 150mm lens and a Polaroid 110B camera converted to 4×5 with a Schneider Super Angulon 90mm lens. It is a beauty and very wide!
Yes, as you may have noticed, some of these cameras are quite large. This is due to the negative size. Let me give you some idea as to why digital cameras can never come close to the resolution of film.
Lets start with medium format:
Film has turned wildly popular again in the past several years and many of the big film manufacturers have started increasing their film production lines again. This is especially true in the medium format lines (120) and 4×5 large format films! Film can be found in single rolls or in bulk almost everywhere again. The big box companies like B&H, Adorama and many others carry almost every type and format that you could ever want!
Processing in B&W has never been easier at home with eco friendly chemistry with no darkroom needed. Only an initial outlay of around $150 will get you started. Cameras can be found anywhere for next to nothing! You will need:
You can scan your film into your computer with a good Epson scanner like the 700, 750, 800 or 850. You can also buy an adapter for your camera allowing you to scan by photograph!
While I work in both color and B&W, digital and film I find time after time I pick up a film system and load it up with a good B&W film. The process of developing your film can really help you connect to your work as well.
I like several films, here they are in order of favor:
As an example here is the top image from last week of the fishing fleet taken on 20 year out of date Polaroid Type 55 monochrome instant film. The camera is also a Polaroid 900 that my daughter sent me years ago from a garage sale that I had converted to 4×5 with a Fujinon 150mm lens. A MOST beautiful camera in a bright new blue suite that is just fun to use. It is both rangefinder and ground glass focusing that forces you to slow down and really consider each and every image you capture!
The Type 55 film, even outdated, works flawlessly and generates amazing images where the edge markings add to the artistic impact of your subject
So what do you think? Are you tempted to try this out? It is easy. For starters, you can look at the continuing education departments at a local college or hight school. Most offer B&W film photography with darkroom work. This will teach you enough to allow you to determine if you would like to further investigate this wonderful medium!
You can also contact me and request info on one of my film workshops held in Pawleys Island SC. I would love to have you and share this amazing link to our past!
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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!
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!
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:
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?
Yep, early this morning I grabbed the bag with my wide angle 120mm camera system and headed out to Georgetown where I was going to spend a bit of time with the shrimp fleets and some film…. I chose the Voigtlander Bessa IIIw system. It has a 55mm lens on it which at 6x6mm equates to around 35mm and at 6x7mm to 30mm. This is pretty wide and allowed me to capture several very wide angle shots of various shrimp boats around the water front.
One of the other things that I do when shooting film is to keep a accurate written record of the exposure data for each and every frame. This assists in keeping my process the same once I get the proper exposure, contrast and desired grain for each of the film types I use.
I enjoy this camera system very much. It has a lot going for it specifically its 6x7mm negative size which makes for some pretty big scanned files when all is said and done. I also like the fact that it is a rangefinder which pretty much defines my youth and what I had learned to use when very young! It is not too heavy, has a leaf shutter which is totally silent and goes up the 1/500 second for exposures. This could be a little faster but I can work with it. A 120 roll of B&W film gives me 10 exposures at 6×7 which is the format I like the most.
I normally use stand film processing with Rodinal at 1:100 ratio with water, a water bath then the 1 hour processing and normal fixing and a wash, but for these rolls I am going to use Ilford Perceptol ultra fine grain developer in hope of a sharper image with greater contrast. So, we will see next week how this new combination works for my finished film!
Stand processing is not dependent upon chemistry temperature, ISO or even Film type! You put the film in its can, give it a 5 min water wash, then pour the developer in, gently agitating for 1 min then letting it sit for another 60 min!, Water Stop, since and done! But there are trade offs with Stand processing, namely Bromide Drag which is shown as the slightly darker vertical streaks in the image below. These come from the developer chemistry being exhausted.
So with the Perceptual chemistry (6 min develop time) I will not see Bromide Drag and it is supposed to give sharper smaller grain and higher contrast. So instead of a 1 hour develop time we are looking at 6 min now, sharper negatives with higher contrast! We will see….
I will hold of processing these images till the first weekend in May so that my 7 year old grand son come come with me to the studio and process his own 35mm film at the same time! Yes, I am teaching him how to photograph and process film! You gotta start them young so that they catch the film bug!
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!
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…
Don’t you have the feeling sometimes of not reaching that creative high so that when you return home you are almost like an empty husk?
Well me too, and sometimes I really need to stretch my artistic legs. Going out with a Color Camera will just not get the job done and leaves me feeling empty. Working in Film is a lot better and scratches an itch that I just cannot reach otherwise… But when I am really feeling creatively down and mentally cramped I usually turn to my Leica M Monochrom system.
Working directly in B&W is a soul expanding exercise that will re-inflate my creative side quickly and effectively. I am the type of photographer who can actually think and see in B&W. Actually generating those images in the field with a capable B&W rangefinder system really is like going home to Momma. It leaves me with that ohhhh feeling, or is it OHHHHH… Yep, that is the feeling that I am talking about!
First, I LOVE shooting with a rangefinder camera system. ALL of my cameras are rangefinders except for one little Fuji XT1 that sits in my camera bag rarely used unless I take it out for lightning shots. I just love the feeling of using a rangefinder! I am not kidding about the feeling of going home to momma! They take me back to my early days of photography when a rangefinder was all that I had and used. They were and still are a nitch camera system. You generally will not find someone out shooting birds in flight images with one, but that is OK with me because after 50 years of shooting, I am soooo TIRED OF BIRDS (well except for hummingbirds but I can do those just fine with a rangefinder).
So what makes me smile about the M Monochrom? The ease of use, the CRISP release of the shutter, the incredible functionality of the camera and its wide dynamic range! I love the way it feels in my hands and responds to my control! I even love the sound of it. It is almost sensual in nature! Now, couple that with the amazing images that a pure B&W 18 mega pixel sensor with NO Brayer filter and no anti-aliasing filter can create you will be left breathless with the results.
So for this simple and short post about achieving emotional nirvana, I will keep it to just 2 images that make me feel good. Now that I am creatively re-inspired I can go out again with my color camera (rangefinder of course) and while looking at my scenes in B&W create color images again!
Thank you for stopping by for a visit to the blog…
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:
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.
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!
Testing Fumed Alumina…
Van Dyke Brown emulsion is basically on the acidic side of things chemically and as a result of this I have been forced to wash most of my papers with a acid bath. This caused a increase in my process by 2 days. So I am testing Fumed Alumina which is acidic unlike Fumed Silica which is neutral. I decided to go with the Alumina test first and will do a followup post down the line with the Fumed Silica.
Initial results were quite pleasing with both Revere Platinum and Lana Aquarelle papers. I got a MAJOR increase in Dmax with both the Lana and Revere papers, but upon completion of my final wash the Revere was VERY EASY to damage with finger smudges until it dried. The Revere had a tendency for the Alumina to easily rub off the Alumina while wet whereas the Lana was strongly attached.
The Alumina did fix ALL of the spotting issues that I had when using the Revere Platinum paper but the fact that it will rub off when wet causes some concern but it is easily overcome with careful handling.
All in all this was a VERY easy fix to the acid washing step and only added about 30 seconds to roll on the Alumina. The Fumed Alumina can be purchased at Bostick & Sullivan for $15/500g which will do about 100 sheets of 8×12 paper.
The increase in Dmax with the Fumed Alumina is amazing and the resulting images are stunning.
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:
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!
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!
In my recent printing of the 1840 Van Dyke Brown prints, I have experienced a lot of dark spots on my prints. I ordered several types of papers to try to see if it was a paper problem… I have been using Revere Platinum paper which is easy to coat (provided you use Tween 20 in the emulsion) and gives great tonality but seems to ALWAYS have dark spots all through the print!
Look closely at the image to the right. You will notice dark spots (look above the light) that go completely through the paper! This has been driving me nuts and nothing that I did to try and fix the issue ever helped.
I ordered several new papers plus tried several others that I had on hand:
Lets first talk about the Lana Aquarelle paper. This paper is simply amazing! It coats very well with both the brush and a glass rod as long as you add a little Tween at 25%
For a 8×12 print:
Once coated, I let it AIR DRY for 30 min then expose in a 12 bulb UV box in a vacuum frame for 2 to 4 min depending on the paper and negative. Usually the base exposure time is 3 min.
As I said the results from this paper is a nice warm print with great density in the black areas and the edges.
I coated four pieces of paper yesterday, two with a glass coating rod and two with a synthetic Sable brush. Both methods worked very well and gave nice even coatings. The image above was a applied with the Sable brush and the one below was coated with a glass rod.
Notice in the image above if the lone dinghy that there are NO spots at all. The paper was clean on the front and back and gave a nice density in the dark areas! This paper is very heavy and after coating it will want to curl a little but will flatten in about 5 min. Let it dry for the full 30 min in the air and do not use a hair drier.
For a 8×12 print:
Rising Stonehenge Paper is another good paper for the Van Dyke Brown process. It is a MUCH lighter weight paper than the Lana paper but it really does not cost any less! You can find it on Amazon which means free shipping. The shipping charges from B&S are going to kill me, with the average cost for paper being around $20 per order! This is what makes Amazon so great, but they just don’t carry all of the papers that I like to keep on hand…
So far, my work with Rising Stonehenge has been very good. It coats evenly and the emulsion soaks into the paper fibers nicely. The print is very dense and nice dark areas. The paper is quite thin and I discovered that the surface is easily damaged during coating. Since the surface requires much less VDB emulsion I will reduce it the next time I coat (I used 36 drops of VDB and 2 drops of Tween for this test coating) and the surface damage will likely go away due to the glass rod not going across the paper surface more than 4 times ( for 36 drops the coating rod required 8 trips across the paper surface) thus reducing working the papers surface too much and causing damage.
One small problem with the paper that I discovered was that the emulsion has a tendency to migrate from the coated areas to the uncoated areas giving a grey shadow around the image. If you look closely you can see actual small spots of it surrounding the coating. This is really no big deal but I am unsure as to why this is happening.
I will continue to use this paper because it generates VERY WARM BROWN in the print and I just love the look of it!
Now, it has been suggested that I soak or pre coat the paper with an acid bath of 10% citric acid for a 1 or 2 min, then wash the paper and allow it to dry before coating. I am told that this will vastly increase the papers Dmax! I am going to test this next time I print!
The image at the top of this post was also printed on Rising Stonehenge paper!
The Cot 320 paper is a very nice, smooth paper. I love the look and feel of it. BUT, for Van Dyke Brown it has a problem in that it will not readily absorb the VDB emulsion into the paper fibers. Even with Tween added to the emulsion, it is not enough. What happens is that in the first water bath after exposure the majority of the emulsion washes off in thick tendrils of brown goo. Unlike the Arches paper, enough is left on the paper to still make for a good (not great) image.
There is enough promise from this paper that I am going to experiment further with this paper by washing the paper with an acidic solution of citric acid and distilled water, brushing it on and letting it soak in for a few seconds then washing the paper again with distilled water. Once it dries and I will flatten it in a low temp heat press and coat the VDB on it. I think that this will break down the surface coatings enough for it to accept the emulsion better and increase the papers Dmax.
I will report on this more in the future.
OK that is all for this post. I am not going to report on the Arches and Revere papers as I have discussed them in the previous two posts.
After another 2 weeks working on the negative density, I have finally gotten to the point of good negatives, not great yet but I will get there. I have to master the use of UV blocking color in the negative for them to be perfect and that is a project for the future. To date though I have reached perfection using normal B&W negatives.
Here is the corrected negative that I used in the image of the Oak trees above. It is much dense and has been corrected for the mid tones as printed in the Van Dyke Brown Process! It has much greater contrast and required only a 3 min exposure in my UV unit.
One thing that you have to remember when making your UV exposures is to place the ink side of your negative down on the paper surface. If you reverse this the picture will be backwards, but more importantly, the UV light will burn the ink surface and ruin both the negative and the print.
Compare it to the negative on the right. This negative was used in the previous post here where the image printed much darker and with less mid tone data. Take a close look at the difference between the two negatives, the first has much brighter areas for increased black contrast and more detail in the trees. The difference is amazing and was easily achieved by the process discussed below…
Here is a small copy of the print generated by the 2nd negative from the previous post. Notice how much darker it is and that there is no detail in the mid tones of the image! It only took me a short while to create the Gradient Map from the process that I learned in Peter Mrhar’s book below.
Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar that I use in the creation of my negatives. It enables you to easily create Gradient Maps to adjust the mid tone values of your negative tailored to the alternative process that you are printing with! I highly recommend this text over all of the others!
There are several good books on Digital Negatives out there but As I said the is the easiest that I have read and used plus the results of using a Gradient Map over a Custom Curve. I suggest that you purchase several texts and try them in your workflow to see what works best for you!
I had to sit in the Georgetown gallery today. On my way there I stopped at Stormy Seas, my favorite shrimp boat in the area. I had the Leica M Monochrom with me and the Tri-Elmar 16-18-21 mm lens on it as well as the FRANKEN-VIEWER which enables me to compose the image with ultra-wide lenses on the Monochrom. Did I mention that the Leica M Monochrome is a B&W ONLY camera system? The sky had this amazing gradient across it going from dark gray to bright silvery light on the horizon and the water that you could slide across… Oh My, the water was so perfectly smooth and mirror-like that I stood there stunned with camera in hand just hypnotized at the magic and taking it all in. But alas, I only had a minute to spare so I took 3 differently composed images at -1ev, f/11 and 1/1500s. This is the result: a simple, well balanced image, so full of tonality that it is dripping from the bottom all over my feet….
Enjoy while I clean my shoes…