Finding Myself In The Old Ways…


It seems that I am addicted to film…

Miss Lue & A Hungry Egret

I still shoot with digital (A7RII) and love the look and capability of it, but FILM is what I go to every time I go out shooting… It is Terrible and exciting at the same time! It is so bad that I am looking for another freezer to store my excess film stock!

This is (again) Stormy Seas in Georgetown, SC

This is (again) Stormy Seas in Georgetown, SC (perhaps the most photographed boat in the Low Country). I have hundreds of images of it but I am pulled to photograph her in B&W film each and every time I am in Georgetown. There is something about her lines and textures that inspire me to document her life, and I have for years. Yes I will visit ANY shrimp boat (or grist mill for that matter) and each and every time I visit I see something different and unique… Yep addicted!

DATA:

The image was taken about 5 days ago on a 6×9 Fuji GW 690 II using medium format Fuji Acros 100 film and a red filter, developed in Perceptol 1:1 and Wet Mount scanned on a Epson 850 pro. The 6×9 format will give me 8 images per roll and I will usually scan 2 or 3 per roll, but I am very critical and selective because the wet scan process takes about 3/4 hour per scan!

The top image is near Stormy Seas in Georgetown, about 2 blocks away at another commercial dock and seafood house.  I have shot this a hundred times on both digital and film, but never have I captured such a pleasing image  as this.  It is to me a more enriching image full of mood, contrasts and tells a story.  I pleases me to no end the tell the story on an old FILM camera of an old boat and failing lifestyle just as the shrimp boat is in the background and the Egret in the foreground telling a different yet the same story!

There is also the consideration that is tied to the process of working in film.  It is slower and much more deliberate, a truer work of love in that you control every single step of the process…

  • Film choice (Kodak Tmax 100, Tmax 400, Fuji Acros 100 or Rollei IR400)
  • Camera and lens choice (Medium or Large Format)
  • Considering the composition and lines.  
  • Getting the exposure dead on (how many of you do that in digital?)
  • Adjusting for contrast and detail in shadows or highlights.
  • Film development and processing for highlights or shadows (another complete immersion of self discovery)
  • Drying (yep at lest 24 hours in a dust free drying cabinet)
  • Choosing the best image for exposure, sharpness, composition, contrasts, lines, dust & hair and so on..)
  • Wet scanning (at least a 1/2 to 3/4 hour project per shot)
  • Cleaning up on the computer by removing dust and hair and adding a bit of contrast)

All in all, the top image took about a week to complete from end to end!  I simply love the process, being immersed in it and becoming one in the creative process.   Yes it is slow but when I am done it is a total representation of MY PERSONAL VISION!

Film is making a HUGE come back in the world of photography!  So much so that you will be shocked when you visit Ebay and look at the prices of old film cameras and systems!   All of the major film makers in the world are increasing their production of films and even Kodak is bringing back discontinued film products!   New film companies like New55, Impossible Project, and FILM FERRANIA have opened up and are making emulsions!

Developing has never been easier, there are many mail order labs out there but you can process your own film in your kitchen with very little effort and investment!  You will need:

  • Dark Tent or changing bag to move your film to a daylight tank.
  • Daylight tank (I reccomend a Stainless Steel tank with steel developing reels by Hewes)
  • Distilled Water
  • Developer ( I recommend Perceptol by Ilford)
  • Stop Bath
  • Fixer
  • Wash
  • Water Rinse
  • Distilled water rinse with wetting agent
  • Clips to dry your film in your bathroom shower
  • A flat bed scanner like Epson 500, 600, 700, 800 or 850)

Total you are looking at about $120 for everything accept the scanner!   There are great videos on Youtube that will take you thru every step in the process!

Tybee Island Light, Kodak Tmax 100 FIlm on a Fuji GW 690 II camera.

The image above of the Tybee Island Lighthouse was taken last month on Kodak Tmax 100 rated at 50 ISO  on the 6×9 format medium format Fuji System.  It was hot and the area full of tourists, even up on the top of the lighthouse itself!  Still the act of creating this image was both fun and fulfilling and I walked away with exactly what I envisioned as I stood there looking at the scene!

I especially love shooting with Medium Format cameras.  They are easier to travel with and the negatives are large enough to give amazing prints.  I do have 3 4×5 large format cameras also that are great fun to you but as you can imagine, they are difficult to travel with.  Once in a great while I will shoot with a 35mm camera, usually smaller rangefinder that were sold in the 60’s and 70’s!

Medium Format:

  • Fuji GF 670 (this is my travel camera in 6×7 format with a 85mm lens that folds up into a thin light camera)
  • Fuji GW 690II (this is a 6×9 format camera with a 90mm lens and a bit larger and better built than the GF camera)
  • Fuji GW 690 III (a newer version of the 690II)

Large Format:

  • Shen Hao 4×5 Cherry Field Camera with 5 lenses and film adapters for also using 120 film.
  • Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a 150mm Fujinon lens.  Think of 4×5 travel camera!
  • Polaroid 110B converted to 4×5 with a 90mm Schneider Angulon lens, again travel!

So, while film does indeed require much more effort over digital, the results simply cannot be compared.   These medium format negatives have a native resolution to create a 71×53 inch print without upsizing it at all!  The amount of detail is simply stunning and more importantly (at least t me) is the fact that the process become a Zen like activity in creation!

I hope that you enjoyed this post but more importantly to me at least that you considered my words on the creative process and taking complete control of it!

 

 

 

 

 

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Become the Master of your craft….


Pelican Dock - Type 55 4x5 Film, Wet Scan

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using M mount glass on the Sony A7rii camera


The AMAZING just got better….

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

Look closely at the image above.  It was taken with a Voigtlander M mount 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar lens and the Techart M to FE AUTOFOCUS adapter on a Sony A7rii camera. The cleat on the bottom right is about 6 inches from the front of the lens!  The color rendering is amazing and there is very little distortion that is normally found with an ultra wide lens!   I can hear you asking how I accomplished this!

I recently picked up the Techart M to FE Sony mount adapter for my Leica and Voigtlander lenses.  It has been my desire to use them on the Sony A7rii, A6300 and A6500 cameras.

The Techart auto focus adapter is amazing. I actually moves the lens in and out to get a sharp focus.  It has several rules that you must follow to use it and as long as you do it will provide great service.  It is quite fast!

  • Use a center focus point on the camera
  • Set your camera aperture to f/2 and leave. It there
  • Set the real aperture directly on the lens.  
  • Don’t try to focus with the lens set to f/22, keep it around f/8 or f/11
  • The Exif data will shot f/2 but the exposure meter will correctly meter the subject.
  • Don’t try to use a heavy lens on the adapter unless you support it.

12mm Voigtlander M lens with the Techart autofocus M to FE adapter

12mm Voigtlander M lens with the Techart autofocus M to FE adapter

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!

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

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!

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

Stormy Seas with the Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar M Mount Lens and the Techart Auto Focus Leica to Sony adapter

If you have a selection of M lenses then the cost of a M to FE adapter is well worth the money.  But I am VERY impressed with the new autofocus adapter!

 

Please let me know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


Getting your BEST B&W image!

Outer Banks Pier, Monochrom Camera System

Outer Banks Pier, Monochrom Camera System

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

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

Dugger Creek Falls, Linville, NC M Monochrom

Duggers Creek Falls, Linville, NC M Monochrom

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

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

Sometimes!

Dunloupe Creek, New River Gorge WV, M Monochrome

Dunloupe Creek, New River Gorge WV, M Monochrome

 

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

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

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

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

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

Roanoke Marsh Light, Outer Banks, M Monochrom

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

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

This is something to consider…

Here are the video links:

 

 

Going Home to Mama…. Returning to Film!


The joys of returning to our photographic roots…

Pier

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

Have any of you considered film photography?

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

Polaroid 900, Tmax 100 4x5 @ 64, Perceptol

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

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

Film Cameras

Olympus XA 135mm

Olympus XA 135mm

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

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

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

My Custom Olympus 35 RC 

My Leica M7 Film Body

My Leica M7 Film Body

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

Confusion, Petri 7S 35mm, Eastman XX flim

Confusion, Petri 7S 35mm, Eastman XX flim

Fuji GF670 Medium Format

Fuji GF670

Fuji GF670

Fuji GF670

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

Mamaya RZ Pro II system

Mamaya RZ Pro II system

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

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

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

Beautiful!

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

My 900 converted to 4x5 by Alpenhause Kamera Werke

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

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

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

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

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

Lets start with medium format:

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

Film

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Pelican Dock - Type 55 4x5 Film, Wet Scan

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

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

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

Please let me know what you think of this post!

My Thoughts on the Art of travel photography…


Or… What I Did On My Summer Vacation!

Warning, LONG post…

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

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


Devils Tower

Devils Tower

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

But is that what travel photography really is? 

 

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

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

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

Jordan, My 7 year old photographer grandson

Jordan, My 7 year old photographer grandson

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

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

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

Devils Tower

Devils Tower

Our Itinerary:

  • Prairie Dog

    Prairie Dog

    Day 1. Rapid City layover and rest.

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

Drugstore of the West, Cody, WY

Drugstore of the West, Cody, WY

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

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

So here is what I brought along:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things to look for on a cross country western trip:

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

Trip Highlights!

Yellowstone

Old Faithfull

Old Faithful

Querimony: To Questionably Moan & Complain!

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

Buffalo on the Yellowstone

Buffalo on the Yellowstone river in the early morning mist

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

 

Blue Pool, Prismatic Spring Yellowstone

Blue Pool, Prismatic Spring Upper Yellowstone

 

Prismatic Spring Yellowstone

Prismatic Spring upper Yellowstone

 

Yellowstone Antelope

Yellowstone Antelope, North Entrance

 

Teal Pool, Upper Yellowstone

Teal Pool, Upper Yellowstone

And last….

 

Lower Yellowstone Falls Detail

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

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

Moab, Arches & Canyonlands National Parks

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

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

Sandstone Arch, Arches

Sandstone Arch, Arches

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

Courthouse Rock, Arches

Courthouse Rock, Arches

 

Whale Tail Arch, Backcountry Tour

Whale Tail Arch, Backcountry Tour

 

Windows Arch on the Back Country Tour, Arches

Windows Arch on the Back Country Tour, Arches

 

Dead Horse Point

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

 

Canyon Lands, Isle in the sky

Canyon Lands, Isle in the sky

 

General Utah

 

High Desart Train Pano

High Desart Train Pano

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

Because

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

Bryce National Park

Whodos in Bryce Canyon

Whodos in Bryce Canyon

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

Natural Bridge Bryce

Natural Bridge Bryce

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

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

Final thoughts on what makes travel photography great!

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

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

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview.

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview.

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

Colophon:  Very Important Lessons Learned:

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

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

 

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon in camera pano

Testing The Sony A6300


Smaller, Faster and able to leap over tall buildings!

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

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

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

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

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

Sony A6300 Front View

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

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

Sony A6300 Back View

Sony A6300 Back View

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do your think?

 

 

Learning to work the scene!


Have a plan to work different compositions with in your scene!

Stormy Seas Side Shot

Stormy Seas Side Shot  Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

You know how it is when you walk up to a scene and notice it for the very first time?  Usually we are amazed at what we have discovered!  We setup take the image and walk away congratulating   ourselves as to the amazing luck at finding such a perfect subject!

But wait!  You have all heard that you should work a scene, right?  Just look at all of the cool parts that make up the whole.  I am also sure that you have heard the phrase, “WORK THE SCENE”!  Well that actually means what it says.  Start wide and work in and around getting closer and more details!   When you are as close as you can stand, then work your way back out again!

This is powerful advice…

This is also the secret of all those world class images you see posted or published around the world.  Do you actually think that the professional photographer working and Nat Geo only took the one image?  Really???  They are just like the rest of us, a 30% keep rate and a 90% garbage rate!

So, knowing that it only make sense to take the time to work the scene.  Looking at the top image you see that I could the shrimp boat Stormy Seas with a long liner Charlotte Marie under the strong clouds of tropical storm Bonnie.  The scene is full of mood, color and contrasts.  I was specifically looking to work the shrimper so I did not pay any attention the the long liner.   Here they are a dime a dozen but there are likely a lot of detail shots there also…

Stormy Seas

Stormy Seas, from the bow, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

So as you can see, I have now walked around to the dock the shrimper is on and take a bow shot composing to keep the other boats, docks and other muck out of the image.  I still set it up to get the great storm clouds.  A much better shot than the first, no?

Stormy Seas

Stormy Seas, closer but  from the bow, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

Next I move further in, closer to the bow, looking at the painted boat name and the great structure and contrasts hidden the the hull of the boat.  As I stand here I think to myself that having the anchor cut off is a bit distracting but then decide that it adds a hint, or suggesting more out of scene that adds a bit is mystery to the image.  Again, in post, I have added a bit of mood to the clouds also!

Stormy Seas Side Detail

Stormy Seas Side Detail, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

Now I am walking down the boats side, paying attention to the colors and patterns around the wheel house.  There is a lot here and the images continue to improve. Having the walkway moving up and away from me give a sense of infinity and curiosity as to what is at the bow above!

Stormy Seas Life Ring

Stormy Seas Life Ring, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

Moving further back towards the boat’s stern (back for you folks who live in Idaho!) I come upon the life ring with assorted fishing accessories hanging from it.  This scene is the most promising so far.  Look at the textures in the wall of the wheel house, the deep rich red tones and the crisp writing of the boats name!  It gives me shivers overtime I look at it!

Stormy Seas Line

Stormy Seas Line, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

But wait!  Just below the life ring hanging on the gunnels of the boat is a coil of heavily textured rope.  The rusty bold and chipped and rotting rail add so much texture, mood and stories that I am drawn to create an image just of this one detail!

This is exactly what will happen if you take the time to explore your scene totally working inwards getting more and more details as you go!  If the scene is worthy of taking, it demands that you explore it in great depth and detail.  Give it the time to do a good job and document all of it’s glory!

Stormy Seas, side detail, B&W

Stormy Seas, side detail, B&W, Sony A7rii with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens and polarizer.

Do not forget to work in B&W as well, each and every image you take might have magic wonder hidden within its detail if you look at in in monochrome!  Look closely at the image above.  The hull has MUCH MORE DETAIL in its structure than the one in color did yet they are the same exposure!  The clouds have more depth.   Monochrome images discard the distractions caused by color… But that is the subject for another post….

Remember, this has NOTHING to do with the type of scene you shoot, nature, landscape or shrimpers, it is all the same!

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Out And About With Film….


Wandering the shrimp fleets of Georgetown with my Voigtlander Bessa III 120 film camera….

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw 120mm camera system

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw 120mm camera system

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. 

Rodinal One Shot

Rodinal One Shot

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.

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw with Rollei IR400 120

Voigtlander Bessa IIIw with Rollei IR400 120

Jordan and his film camera

Jordan and his film camera

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!

Cooking the film!

Cooking the film!

Come on back in a few weeks to see the results of todays outing!

 

 

Advanced Work With The Sony A7rii


Using the Sony A7rii for advanced photographic work….

 

Long Exposure In Charleston, SC

Long Exposure In Charleston, SC, 30 seconds with a 6 stop B+W ND

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!

Miss Lulu, Georgetown, SC

Miss Lulu, Georgetown, SC

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!

The Purity Of B&W


Going Home To Momma…

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

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

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC.  Leica M Monochrome

Duggars Creek Falls, Boone, NC. Leica M Monochrome

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

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure Leica M Monochrom

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

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

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

Using Fumed Alumina To Fix Paper Issues in Van Dyke Brown


An Easy & Cost Effective Way To Fix Paper Issues!

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

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

Testing Fumed Alumina…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Process:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Van Dyke Brown Paper Experiments…


Fixing Paper Problems For Van Dyke Brown Printing

 

Van Dyke Brown, Dinghys, Rising Stonehenge Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Dinghys, Rising Stonehenge Paper

VDB, Revere Platinum Paper & Spots

VDB, Revere Platinum Paper & Spots

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:

  • Arches Platine (on hand) I have issues coating this paper even with Tween added to the mixture.  It tends to sit on the surface with no absorption into the fibers which causes it to wash off instantly in in the first water bath in long stringy tendrils of emulsion.  Very little is left on the paper so it has a light chalky appearance.  This paper just does not work for me in Van Dyke Brown.  I keep hearing online about how much other Van Dyke Brown printers like this paper but I just do not see it…
  • Cot 320 (on hand) This paper is a little better than the Arches paper in that it holds the emulsion a little better but is still washes off the surface in the 1st water bath!  It is usable for Van Dyke Brown printing though…  It has been recently suggested to me that I soak this paper in a 10% citric acid bath, wash it and dry it in order to get better surface adhesion and a higher Dmax.  I will try this in a week or two.
  • Heavy Kozo 90 gsm (on hand) Bostick & Sullivan states that this paper will work great with Van Dyke Brown.  The paper is made from 50% kozo and 50% abaca. Kozo is the inner bark of mulberry tree seedlings, producing a naturally white paper fiber which is very strong and long lasting. The paper looks very promising and fun to work with especially the ultra thin version that I chose to NOT work  with due to it being extremely thin and the requirement of special tools to handle it.  I have seen videos of artists using it which is why I decided to purchase a few sheets to experiment with.  But I have not had time to work with it yet.  So look for a post specific to this wonderous paper in the future!
  • Revere Platinum (on hand).  This paper coats wonderfully with the addition of Tween and the emulsion does NOT wash off in the first water bath!  It gives wonderful deep tones and color.  The only (MAJOR ISSUE) problem with it is that it gets white and brown spots all over the paper that goes completely through the paper from front to back.  These spots can totally ruin the print…  I have tried everything that I can think of to fix this issue as I really like the paper but I am at a total loss.
  • Rising Stonehenge (new)  This paper coats great with Tween and does not wash off.  There are no spots and the adjustment curve matches the one for Revere!  It is a thinner paper and seems easy to damage during coating.  It takes less emulsion to coat the same size as the other papers.  I did find that the emulsion migrates from the coated areas to the white around the edges.  I have no idea as to why but I think that if I lower the number of drops that I use for coating that it might take care of the problem.  It generates a fantastic deep brown warm tone across the image and I love the final prints on it. This paper is readily available on Amazon as well as many other locations.
  • Lana Aquarelle (new) All that I can say about this paper is WOW!  It coats and prints the Van Dyke Brown images with amazing density and tone.  It coats easily with Tween and is a heavy paper with not spotting or migration issues.  This is going to be my main paper as long as I can get it.  So far the only place that I have found it is at Bostic & Sullivan. The curves for the Revere paper work perfectly with the Lana!

 

Lana Aquarelle Paper Notes

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:

  • Using a glass coating rod for a 8×12 print it takes 36 drops of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.
  • Using a Synthetic Sable brush it takes 72 doors of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.

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.

Van Dyke Brown, Berry Mill, Lana Aquarelle Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Berry Mill, Lana Aquarelle Paper brush coated

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.

Van Dyke Brown, Lana Aquarelle Paper Glass coated

Van Dyke Brown, Lana Aquarelle Paper Glass coated

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.

 

Rising Stonehenge Paper

For a 8×12 print:

  • Using a glass coating rod for a 8×12 print it takes 26 drops of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.
  • Using a Synthetic Sable brush it takes 65 doors of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.

 

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…

Van Dyke Brown, The Old Truck, Rising Stonehenge Paper

Van Dyke Brown, The Old Truck, Rising Stonehenge Paper

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!

 Bergger Cot 320 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.  

Van Dyke Brown, Das Boots, Cot 320 Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Das Boots, Cot 320 Paper

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.

Van Dyke Brown, Stormy Sky, Cot 320 Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Stormy Sky, Cot 320 Paper

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.

I hope that you got something out of the info here!  Let me know…

 

Continued Work In Van Dyke Brown Alternative Print Process!


Perfection in Brown

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

My CORRECTED Digital Negative for the Van Dyke Process

My CORRECTED Digital Negative for the Van Dyke Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

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

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

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

One Image, One Paragraph…


My favorite image from my visit to Georgetown today…

Stormy Seas… Calm Dock…

Stormy Seas... Calm Dock...

Stormy Seas… Calm Dock…

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…

Leica M Monochrome Magic….


A new camera come homes to live!

 

Leica M Monochrome

Leica M Monochrome

 

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

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

Duggars Creek Falls, Linville, NC   32 second exposure

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

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

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

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

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

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

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure

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

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

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

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

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

Leica SF 58 Flash

Leica SF 58 Flash

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

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

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

The system simply amazes me…..

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

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second exposure.

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

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


830nm Infrared Conversion on the Fuji X100s

 

Oak Reflections, 830nm

Image 1:  Oak Reflections, 830nm

 

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

Pawleys Marsh, 830nm X100s

Pawleys Marsh, 830nm X100s

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

Pawleys Marsh, 720nm

Image 3:  Pawleys Marsh, 720nm

 

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

Shrimp Boat at 830nm

Image 3: Shrimp Boat at 830nm

 

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

 

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

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

 

Mabry Mill, 830nm

Image 4:  Mabry Mill, 830nm

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

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

Image 5:  Rock Run Mill, 830nm

 

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

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

* Requires Live View capable camera

 

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

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

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

Disadvantages to the Full or Dual Spectrum Camera Conversion:

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

 

Charlotte Marie, 830nm X100s

Image 6:  Charlotte Marie, 830nm X100s

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

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

Fuga City, 830nm, Georgetown, SC

Fuga City, 830nm, Georgetown, SC

 

Going Home to Momma with the Leica M7…. Film Photography Returns!


Ahhh… It Feels So Good!

Rollei IR400 Film - Leica M7 50mm Lux - Rodinal 1-50

Spring in the South…  Rollei IR400 Film – Leica M7 50mm Lux – Rodinal 1-50

Oh my, I do NOT know where it came from but I got the BUG again for more film photography!  I have a cabinet here in the Gallery just full of old film cameras plus a Leica M7 film body that works with ALL OF MY M MOUNT LENSES!  (see the last post HERE for more info on the lenses).  I decided to purchase a new stock of several films:

  • Kodak Tri-X 400, Ohh
  • Eastman Double X 200, Ahh
  • Rollei IR400  400, WOW!
  • Kodak Tmax, Ho hum…
  • Ilford HP5+ 400
Rodinal One Shot

Rodinal One Shot

I picked up some stainless 2 roll developing tanks with a bunch of Hewes (don’t skimp on your reels, buy the best!) Stainless Steel 35mm Reels.  For developing I like Rodinal One Shot due to its ease of use and a life span of around 40 years.  I simply mix it one tank at a time usually at a 1:50 ratio with water using a small syringe. It allows a very wide latitude of contrast and iso control.  I have used several other developers but I keep coming back to Rodinal!

Now, I am playing with several cameras. As I said my main and BEST camera is my Leica M7.  But here is a current list of those cameras I am using:

  • Leica M7 with Leica & Voigtlander Lenses
  • Petri 7s, 1962 
  • Olympus XA
  • Olympus 35 RC 
  • Shen Hao 4×5 Field Camera (about 12 years old)
1962 Custom Petri 7s Film Body

1962 Custom Petri 7s Film Body

The Petri 7S has been in my hands since 1962 and still shoots great ( I did send it off to have the light seals replaced and a new leather covering ). The Petri has no batteries but rather a solar cell around the lens that drives a needle exposure meter that you simply place into its center notch for a good image!

All of the cameras in my list above have proven reliable  but with the Petri you get a link to the past, specifically MY past as this was my 2nd camera I owed when I was young!

The Olympus 35 RC is an amazing small rangefinder with very nice controls.  It is smaller then the Petri 7s and actually has better control functionality.  It does require a battery to run its metering system though which is a step down from the Petri 7S in my opinion.  The nice thing other than the size is the fact that EVERYTHING is displayed inside of the viewfinder.   Unlike a refurbished Petri 7S which can be found for around $100 used on Ebay, the Olympus 35 RC camera refurbished is demanding around $250!  This is a big difference in price and tells you a lot about its quality and demand! I was lucky to find one from a collectors inventory that he sent off to be totally refurbished and re-skinned for much less than $200.00!  For you film shooters out there on a budget this is the camera that I recommend if you find yourself desiring a rangefinder.

My Custom Olympus 35 RC

My Custom Olympus 35 RC

The Olympus XA was a 35mm rangefinder camera built by Olympus of Japan. It was one of the smallest rangefinder cameras ever made, together with the Contax T.

Olympus-XA

Olympus-XA

It was designed by Yoshihisa Maitani who had joined Olympus Optical Co Ltd in 1956. He was the chief camera designer and managing director of Olympus Optical Co Ltd., having developed a number of legendary cameras during his career. These included the Pen series, the OM series, the XA series, the IS series and the [mju:] series of cameras.

The original model, the XA, was sold from 1979 to 1985. The original XA features true rangefinder focusing, a fast 35mm f/2.8 lens, and aperture prioritymetering. The lens was protected by a sliding dust cover.

This is the smallest 35mm rangefinder ever made.  It will fit in the palm of my hand and will make a great system to have with me everywhere I go!

The Leica M7 uses batteries and sports a center weighted spot meter measured either off the film or off the shutter.  I find that it meters very reliable. It is the top of the heap when it comes to 35mm film cameras.  There are a lot of high end rangefinder cameras on the market but the Leica is the top.  I really excels in the area of long exposures with either a count down timer  in the viewfinder for images metered and controlled in the aperture priority mode or a count up timer for exposures done in the bulb mode.  In bulb, it will count up to 16 min then stops counting for battery conservation, but will continue exposing until you release the remote shutter release.  It will use NO battery power after the 16 min count up timer turns off until you release the shutter then it requires a pulse of electricity to close the shutter.   NO other rangefinder can say this unless you use a pure mechanical camera like a Leica M2 which has no metering system at all.

The Leica M7 is surprisingly heavy but easy to handle.  I keep reading about other high end rangefinder bodies out there but when you do the comparison of features I always come back to the M7.

My Leica M7 Film Body

My Leica M7 Film Body

All of my cameras are fun to use and reliable.  With the Leica M7 you get the world class glass but with the Petri 7S you get a link to the past, specifically MY past as this was my 2nd camera I owed when I was young!  The Olympus 35 RC is an advanced rangefinder from the 1970 era and is slick and fun to shoot. You will see examples from these cameras towards the end of this post!

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I usually develop my negatives on Sundays.  I have a film drying cabinet that I use to dry the film without dust spots overnight.  I then will scan the negatives on Monday or Tuesday using a Nikon 4000 ED film scanner at 4000 dpi into the DNG format for editing and cleaning later in the week.  I usually shoot 2 or 3 rolls a week.

Rollei IR400 Film

Rollei IR400 Film

My favorite film is Rollei IR400.  This is available at the big camera stores like Digitaltruth, Freestyle and B&H.  What makes this film so special is the fact that is very much like Kodak Tri-X 400 as shot.  It has a VERY THIN film base which really makes scanning easy.  BUT the most amazing thing about this film is that it is sensitive to INFRARED!  If you place a Hoya R72 IR filter on the camera lens the film will record 720nm IR images!  There is an ISO hit due to the filter being so dark down to 12 ISO but it is worth it being able to shoot in both normal B&W and IR B&W!

Next I like the Kodak Tri-X 400 film.  It gives great contrasts and has a very wide latitude in development.  It is well known and tested and for ultra long exposures.

Eastman Double X 5222

Eastman Double X 5222

Then comes Eastman Double X Cinema film.  This is a GREAT B&W film that gives a very smooth gradation and lovely warm tonality with slightly increased contrasts.  This is motion picture film so unless you are going to buy a 400 foot reel you will need to purchase it from the store at Film Photography Project. They will sell it in either 24 exposure rolls or a 100 foot bulk loader roll.  It develops nicely in Rodinal at 1:60 for ISO 200 but there are ratios for 100 up to 800 ISO!  This film is very much worth experimenting with.

I need to say a few words about the folks at Film Photography Project.  They offer  an amazing wide selection of films and old cameras!  This includes Polaroid cameras and film also!  Their Podcast is amazing and I find that it is so good that I now have it running all day while I am working at my gallery in Pawleys Island.  Good Stuff, check them out here:  Film Photography Project.

Whatever film you decide to use you will be pleased with the results. Processing is easy to do with a VERY small investment. You will need:

  • Film Camera
  • Film
  • Chemestry:  Developer, Stop (you can use water), Fixer and water bath with a Wetting Agent.  $40 to get started
  • Film drying hanger clips $3 for a bag of 2
  • Film tank, either stainless steel or a Peterson. Peterson tank and reel is about $40
  • Film tank reels (if stainless do not skimp on these).  Hewes Steel are about $25 each
  • Dark changing bag to move the film from the canister to the developing tank.   $40
  • You will also need some way to scan your film into a digital image or pay someone to do it for you.

That is it.  It normally takes me about an hour to develop 2 rolls.  I will let them dry for several hours then cut them into strips of 6 and put them into plastic storage sheets.

For scanning, as I said above, I use a Nikon 4000ED film scanner.  As you can guess from the name it will scan at 4000 dpi and has a lot of adapters for different types of film scan feeders.  It has slide auto feeders, single slide feeders, a 6 position film rail for troublesome film and an automatic roll feeder to scan entire rolls automatically.  If you couple this with VIEWSCAN software you have an amazing scanning system that rivals those that pro labs use!

Nikon 4000 ED system

Nikon 4000 ED system

Ok, lets take a look at the results of 3 types of film in 2 cameras!

Pawleys Pier  M7 Elmarit 28  Rollei IR400 film in Rodinal at 1:50

Pawleys Pier M7 Elmarit 28 Rollei IR400 film in Rodinal at 1:50 240 second exposure

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

Eastman Double X Film - 1962 Petri 7S  - Rodinal 1-50

Eastman Double X Film – 1962 Petri 7S – Rodinal 1-50

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

1962 Petri 7S, Eastman Double X film in Rodinal at 1:60

Rollei IR400 Film - Leica M7 50mm Lux - Rodinal 1-50

Rollei IR400 Film – Leica M7 50mm Lux – Rodinal 1-50

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

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

Rollei IR400 Film - M7 50mm Lux - Rodinal 1-50 240 second exposure

Rollei IR400 Film – M7 50mm Lux – Rodinal 1-50 240 second exposure

Rollei IR400 Film with R72 IR Filter - M7 50mm Lux - Rodinal 1-50

Rollei IR400 Film with R72 IR Filter – M7 50mm Lux – Rodinal 1-50

 

Rollei IR400 Film - M7 50mm Lux - Rodinal 1-50

Rollei IR400 Film – M7 50mm Lux – Rodinal 1-50

I hope that you enjoyed this post and its associated images.  I have been using film since I was 9 years old.  At 13 I had my first darkroom at home.  I worked in film in my own darkroom until I was 18 when that period of my life can to an end.  42 years later I re-engaged film photography again and cannot help but ask “Why did I wait so long?”  I have been shooting digital since my career at Eastman Kodak when you could ONLY get B&W digital camera systems!  I have spent fortunes on digital and have loved every moment of it.  Film will NOT take any of that away, I still have digital and continue to use it.  But I have to be honest and admit that working in film again fills me with a sense of peace that I have not experiences in a very long time….

Please let me know what you think of this post!

Leica M240 Digital..


Oh, No… Another Camera System…

Leica M240 24 mpx Digital

Leica M240 24 mpx Digital

Well, in a wild turn of events I have picked up some new camera equipment… This is a really no surprise as it is a sickness or rather addiction!   But onward and upward!  

I do have to tell you that I am REALLY excited over acquiring these new systems though.   And unfortunately, one thing has let to another and thus a long journey has also been started into the realm of film again!

But first let me highlight the “What”!

As you can see in the top image, the newest body is the new Leica M240 24 full frame 24 mega pixel body.  It also has a true “live view” which allows use of all sorts of other lenses like the Leica R series that you would NOT normally be able to focus.  This means everything from long telephotos to true macro (subject of the next post!). After a few months of use I can tell you that this is the BEST digital system that I have ever used!  Along with it I also picked up several lenses.

Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH f/1.4

Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH f/1.4

First, the main lens is the Leica M 50mm f/1.4 Summalux ASPH lens in silver.  This is a HEAVY lens.  If attacked by a bear I could use it to beat him half to death.  The lens itself has turned into my main lens that I use 60% of the time. It has a built in leans hood and takes 46mm filters.  The Bokah that this lens can generate is amazing beyond description. It is extremely smooth and easy to use and generates images that are truly amazing!

Tulip at f/1.4, Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH

Tulip at f/1.4, Leica M240 w/ Leica 50mm Summalux ASPH

 

Leica 28mm Elmarit ASPH

Leica 28mm Elmarit ASPH

The next lens is the Leica M mount 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit ASPH.  This is a TINY light lens that takes 39mm filters.  These smaller filters sized considerably cut the cost of purchasing top of the line B+W filters.  Since the M240 camera is a full frame sensor the 28mm really is 28mm! The lens is sharp beyond words and quick to focus.  I am really please with this lens and use it for landscapes and lightning photography when mounted on my Fuji X-T1 camera.

The example image for this lens below is a texture overlay.  The main image was an Infrared image taken by placing a R72 (720nm) infrared filter on the lens giving a white IR image of a palm leaf, then doing a texture overlay of colored flowers.

 

M240-1916-Palm Overlay-2014 in both 720nm Infrared and Color

M240-1916-Palm Overlay-2014 in both 720nm Infrared and Color

 

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

The next lens is the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4 and its macro adapter with split image view.  This is a very unique lens in that it collapses for storage.  By itself it is a great 90mm lens and has proven useful for mid range subjects as well as for Infrared work with the addition of a R72 IR filter.  When you add its macro adapter (extension tube coupled to a viewfinder modifier) it will then give you macro capabilities down to a 1:3 image ratio!  Below is an example of a macro image shot with this lens last week at Moore Farms in Lake City .

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4

Now, I already had my two Voigtlander M mount lenses that I was using with the Fuji systems, but they are M mount!

Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8

Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8

First is the Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens.  This is an amazing lens that is very fast at f/1.8. The focus is smooth and long and it works very well with M mount extension tubes for true macro work (1:1 image ratio).  I do have 3 of the 10mm extension tubes for it as well as a Canon 500D closeup lens.  For my really small stuff this is my goto lens.  It is a little long but has a very nice clam on lens hood.  While it is NOT a Leica lens it is very close in terms of quality and ease and the f/1.8 aperture gives lovely bokah!

Here then is an example of a 1:1 life-size macro shot with it!

Green Dots...

Green Dots…

Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Hellar

Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide Hellar

The last lens that I am going to talk about here is the Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 12mm f/5.6 Aspherical M Mount lens.  Another heavy all metal lens with remarkable focus and DOF.  Since it is so wide you can almost have a DOF from right in front of the lens out to infinity!  Plus 12mm is really 12mm on the camera!  Given that the camera is both full frame and has a live view you can see the power of using this lens and the ease of composition and focus!

In the example image below please notice the extreme range of the depth of field!

Stormy Seas, down low and dirty... Voigtlander 12mm

Stormy Seas, down low and dirty… Voigtlander 12mm

 

As you can see, all of the system components are extremely high quality and easy to use giving stunning results.  I like to create Long Exposure and Infrared images as well so I thought that I would share some of them with you below.  

M240-BW 59s16ND PI Pier-0148-2014

Pier, Leica M240 60 second exposure

M240 w/ R72 IR Filter

M240 w/ R72 IR Filter

Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit,

Leica M240 w/ 28mm Elmarit

6 Shot HDR, Leica M240

6 Shot HDR, Leica M240

Blue Hour in B&W, Leica M240, 60 second exposure

Blue Hour in B&W, Leica M240, 60 second exposure

M240-1109-60 s PI LE-2014

Low Tide, Leica M240, 45 second exposure

 

I hope that you enjoyed this post.  I will have several more shortly in the future highlighting more of this system as well as some new FILM work!! 

Stay Tuned!

 

Fuji X-E2 Long Exposures and Wild Sunsets!


Every Time I take the X-E2 out I am amazed…

Fire In The Sky, X-E2 w/ 18-55 and 3 stop soft grad ND on the sky.

Fire In The Sky, X-E2 w/ 18-55 and 3 stop soft grad ND on the sky.

We have been having amazingly turbulent weather here in Pawleys Island for the last week or so.  The sky has been moody and dark.  Mornings filled with dense fog and the ocean surf rough…   Perfect for long exposures and wild sunsets

What better excuse then to take the Fuji X-E2 out and capture these wild and moody scenes?  With my full kit of the Lee Seven 5 filters and B+W ND filters in hand I grabbed the X-E2 and the XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 Zoom Lens (which has kind of turned into my main carry around lens) and headed out to the beach.  

The X-E2 (in fact, the entire line of Fuji X cameras) is exceptionally adept at long exposure photography.  It generates low noise exposures and has NEVER let me down.  I usually shoot in the 2 to 4 minute range but once in a while will go up to 10 to 15 minutes depending upon the subject.  

In todays post I am shooting between 30 seconds and 4 minutes and one of the sunset images was just a short exposure (1/13).  

The setup for all of the long exposure water images was either a 6 or 10 stop B+W ND filter and the sunset had an added 3 stop soft graduated Lee filter (Seven 5 system).  The sky was just too bright with the wild colors to give anything but a black foreground otherwise! I also used the Fuji RR-90 remote shutter release (but you can also use a mechanical release or a Canon RS60 E3 release).

One of the big benefits of the Fuji X system is the fact that when in the  BULB mode Fuji gives you a count up timer on the LCD screen so that you can easily time your exposure.  This doesn’t sound like much but when you are out in the cold and dark shooting it is a BIG DEAL!  Try doing this with a Nikon 300 and you will understand!

Now, lets talk a little about your exposure metering.  

  • You can (and I sometimes do) use the cameras metering system, but I do find that when metering through the 10 stop ND that it will sometimes confuse the meter.  
  • You can also meter without the ND attached then attach it and adjust the exposure for whatever value the ND is but there is NO guarantee that the filter is actually what it is advertised to be!  
  • What I like to do is to use the Seikonic  758DR spot meter which can factor in the ND filter automatically for you and give you an accurate exposure.  You can also meter through the filter with the 758 to see what the real value of the filter is!.
  • You can also just get close with your first exposure then evaluate your histogram and adjust the exposure as desired.

Which ever way you choose you will be surprised how quickly you can get “on target” by taking just 1 exposure then adjusting! But remember. when we are spot metering either in camera or in an external meter whatever spot you  are metering on will give an exposure for Zone 5 or 18% grey. It is up to you to adjust the exposure up or down to place it into the proper Zone!  What I like to meter on is the sky just above the horizon then adjust it up about 1 stop (move from Zone 5 to Zone 6).  

I ALWAYS have the Long Exposure Noise Reduction turned on in my cameras.  This means that you will double your exposure time.  After you take your image, the camera will close the shutter and take a 2nd one with the same shutter speed.  This is called Dark Frame Noise Reduction and the camera will look for bright pixels in the 2nd shot and subtract them from the first.  This is very worthwhile and will allow you to create much better output images but cut down the amount of time you have to stand there and shoot!

As I said earlier, the mornings have been very foggy so lets start off with several examples of this type of photography.  Of course, you must remember to increase the exposure so that the fog is not a DARK GREY, these have been adjusted from Zone 5 to Zone 6.5 or 1 1/2 stops!

Salt Marsh in the morning fog...

Salt Marsh in the morning fog…

Pawleys Island Pier, Foggy Morning.  X-E2 with 10 stops of ND, 30 seconds.

Pawleys Island Pier, Foggy Morning. X-E2 with 10 stops of ND, 30 seconds.

Foggy Feast, X-E2. Sometimes simple is best!

Foggy Feast, X-E2. Sometimes simple is best!

Ok, lets move on to the evening.  The intent here was simple long exposures to smooth out the surf and remove the surfers (yes I hate surfers as they are always in your shot and don’t care!).  For these type of images you really need to start at 30 seconds and move up.  If the sky is within 3 stops of the foreground then you do not need to add a graduated ND on the sky.

Fire In The Sky,  90 second exposure with 3 stops of grad ND on the sky and 6 stops of ND overall.  X-E2

Fire In The Sky, 90 second exposure with 3 stops of grad ND on the sky and 6 stops of ND overall. X-E2. Notice the cloud movement in the sky and the smooth surf!

X-E2-240s BW LE Pawleys Pier-0255-2013

B&W Pier & Groin, Pawleys Island, SC 240 second exposure, 10 stop ND X-E2

X-E2-240s LE Pawleys Pier-0255-2013

Color version of above image. Notice how the sky and water are close to the same density? 240 seconds.

X-E2-BW LE Pawleys Pier-0246-2013

B&W version of “Fire in the sky”. Yes you should evaluate ALL of your images for B&W.

There is something very soothing about well done long exposures of the ocean.  They really are not difficult to do and the results are worth the investment in time and discomfort (did I mention that it is winter here and I was standing on the beach in the wind?).

As you can see, the Fuji X-E2 excels in all areas of photography.  It has proven itself to be a serious tool to photographers who understand its capabilities and master it functionality!

I hope that you enjoyed this post. Please let me know what you think!