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!

 

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Fuji X100s: Oh Yea…


You know the feeling, and usually need tissues to clean up afterwords!

A little background is in order…

Fuji X100s

Fuji X100s

Fuji X, what can you say except “Yes Please!”.  I am a LONG time X shooter.  I started out several years ago with the Fuji X100 and loved every moment of it.  I likened shooting with it to going home to Mama…  If you know what I mean then you understand.   I did decide that I really desired to have a camera with interchangeable lenses and when the Fuji X Pro 1 came out I jumped on it and all of the FX lenses that have since arrived plus several CV lenses as well.   The X Pro 1 has become may main goto camera system.  I Then purchased the X-E1 due to its electronic shutter release, thus its ability to connect to my lightning trigger and water drop computer system!  The X-E1 only lives for such things…  When I get it out to play with lightning it is like coming home to a doggy after a long day! I then decided to get another X Pro 1 and have it converted to 720nm Infrared.  This system (my 16th IR conversion) is the BEST IR camera that I have ever used and that is a big statement!

Passion Flower Macro, Fuji X100s hand held in bright sunlight.

Passion Flower Macro, Fuji X100s hand held in bright sunlight.

So, along comes the X100s, and I look it over and think on it for months.  I though that gee, what a neat system to add to my bag.   Finally I decided to get one but let me tell you that they are HARD TO FIND!  I found on at a little online camera store in Oregon and had them ship it to me last month.  I am very glad I made  this decision!  To say that the X100S is a world class camera is really short selling its capability!   I find that I carry it EVERYWHERE I go now.  I still use the X Pro 1 for most of my work but the X100s really gives stunning results and the new XTran 2 sensor is amazing.  I love the split image manual focus system and wish the other Fuji cameras offered it as well.

Adams Mill Wheel, Lafayette, IN, Fuji X100s

Adams Mill Wheel, Lafayette, IN, Fuji X100s

The X100s works very well in macro mode and the sharpness, colors and texture are simply breathtaking!  You could not ask more of a walk around camera than the Fuji delivers.  Even without image stabilization the camera is flawless due to its ability to shoot cleanly at high ISOs!

Abstract, Glass Block Floral, Fuji X100s

Abstract, Glass Block Floral, Fuji X100s

I am going to share a few of the images generated so far with this incredible camera and you be the judge!

The Dingy, Fuji X100s

The Dingy, Fuji X100s

Adams Mill, Lafayette IN, Fuji X100s

Adams Mill, Lafayette IN, Fuji X100s

McHargue Mill, Fuji X100s

McHargue Mill, Fuji X100s

Old Truck, Fuji X100s

Old Truck, Fuji X100s

A Face in the trees, Fuji X100s, you have to figure this one out!

A Face in the trees, Fuji X100s, you have to figure this one out!

Ok thats it for today!  What do you think?

Fuji 55-200 mm on a 720nm IR converted X Pro 1


Finally, a LONG X Lens for the Fuji Family!

Pawleys Marsh, Fuji X Pro 1 720nm IR conversion w/ the new 55-200mm lens.

Pawleys Marsh, Fuji X Pro 1 720nm IR conversion w/ the new 55-200mm lens.

Fuji X 55-200mm

Fuji X 55-200mm

Yes, the new Fuji 55-200mm lens arrived for my fuji camera systems!  I am currently shooting with a color X-E1, a color X Pro 1 and a IR converted (720nm) X Pro 1.   I know how well the 55-200 works on the color bodies but what I really needed to know how did it work with the IR system!  Would it give hot spots as so many of the Fuji lenses do?  This post is the report of my findings.  The final verdict is that it works very well and as long as you do not go higher than f/16 there are no hot spots to worry about at any zoom range! To me this is a really big deal.  

So far only the 14mm and 35mm Fuji lenses are usable in infrared. So the addition of another lens really helps.  

I am going to give you some examples of how this lens actually does at both the wide and long ends of the zoom range wide open and closed down so that you can get a feel of the usable Infrared range that you can use.  Next week I will do a posting using the lens for color work only.

Pawleys Marsh, Fuji X Pro 1 720nm IR conversion w/ the new 55-200mm lens.

Pawleys Marsh, Fuji X Pro 1 720nm IR conversion w/ the new 55-200mm lens.

OK, let’s take a look at the good and bad of the 55-200 in IR, the Wide end:

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/23.5 No hot spot

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/23.5 No hot spot

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/11  Small hot spot

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/11 Small hot spot

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/22 Bad hot spot

55-200mm @ 55mm, f/22 Bad hot spot

As you can see as you get to f/11 we start to develop a small hot spot, but nothing that cannot be fixed.  Above f/11 the lens becomes unusable at the wide end.

 

Now, let’s take a look at the long end of the zoom range:

 

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/11 Bad hot spot, NO HOT SPOT

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/11 Bad hot spot, NO HOT SPOT

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/4.8 Bad hot spot, NO HOT SPOT

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/4.8 Bad hot spot, NO HOT SPOT

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/22 Bad hot spot, SMALL HOT SPOT

55-200mm @ 200mm, f/22 Bad hot spot, SMALL HOT SPOT

The difference at the long end of the zoom is amazing and is usable over the entire range of the aperture!  This is great news for us IR shooters.

Pawleys Island Marsh, 200mm B&W Post Processing

Pawleys Island Marsh, 200mm B&W Post Processing

 

There is starting to be a large number of IR photographers out there who are using converted Fuji X Pro 1 camera systems.  There are currently 2 conversion companies out there who can do the conversion.  I HIGHLY recommend the X Pro 1 as an Infrared platform and with the addition of the 55-200mm lens to our shooting arsenal we are way ahead of the game!

 

 

Moody Images in Infrared & Color! Fuji X Pro 1 and X-E1


Grabbing your viewers by the throat and not letting go…

A dark and stormy night

A dark and stormy night, Fuji X Pro 1 w/ 14mm fuji lens at 720nm Infrared.

Images that are dark and moody tend to grab our attention.  It is as though there is something hidden and dark that demands our attention.  We stare at them and analyze the image for a deeper hidden meaning.  This creates emotional impact that allows our viewers to share what we felt as we created the images!

Look for dark, stormy skies, moody clouds, dark trees or water.  Work in Infrared and you will find that you have a much better chance to capture these kinds of images more often than when working in color.  It is still possible to do so in color but you have to work harder at it!

Paradise Island Light, Nassau

Paradise Island Light, Nassau

 

As you can see in the image above, it is moody and draws the viewer into the scene, but it does not have that “dark and stormy” look and feel!  As I stated before, it is much easier to capture these types of image when working in Infrared!

A dark and stormy night

A dark and stormy night

Work in both Faux Color and B&W.  You never really know what you are going to get unless you take the time to post process both ways.  You should even look seriously at the properly white balanced raw image right out of the camera!  Sometime you can get a really stunning image there.

Lady Katheran

Lady Katheran, 720nm Infrared, Fuji X Pro 1 with Fuji 14mm lens.

Here is the same image processed in B&W.

Lady Katheran

Lady Katheran

 

The workflow to getting great images in post processing is to ALWAYS process in the 3 main ways:

  • RAW:  Check how the images looks right out of the camera.  In 720nm and 590nm you can get some stunning images with beautiful bronze skies!
  • Faux Color:  If your camera captures any color data at all (720nm and lower) then you should ALWAYS take the time to process in this mode.
  • B&W: You just done know what you are going to get unless you try!

 

Try adding a lens vignette to your images to darken the corners.  This will give more mood!

Here are some examples of RAW and B&W post processing!

McClellanville Shrimper

McClellanville Shrimper, RAW right out of the camera!

 

McClellanville Shrimper

McClellanville Shrimper, B&W

 

As you can see both versions give stunning results.  The most important thing for you to remember is that to get the best results from all of your images it is necessary to take the time to post process in all three modes.  Do not short change yourself by cutting corners.  Take the time to give each image your best try!  

 

You will be rewarded for you work!

 

Fuji X Pro 1 – 720nm Infrared Faux Color and B&W Post Processing


A Simple Tutorial on Infrared Post Processing…

Murrells Inlet Marsh, X Pro 1 720nm IR Faux Color

Murrells Inlet Marsh, X Pro 1 720nm IR Faux Color

The Fuji X Pro 1 has turned out to be one of the best Infrared camera systems that I have ever used… period!  The only good Fuji lenses for Infrared have proved to be the 35mm f/1.4, the 18mm f/2 and the new 14mm.  The Viogtlander 75mm f/1.8 has also proved to be a STUNNING lens also!  So, the camera has proven its infrared capability, now it is time to discuss in detail the recipe for post processing!  It is all quite simple but there are a few requirements that you must understand in order to follow my workflow with understanding.

Needed:

  • Photoshop CS5 or CS6
  • Nik Filters, Viveza, Define Silver EFX Pro plugins for Photoshop, NOT LIGHTROOM.  (You can now purchase the entire library of Nik filters for $149)
  • Kromography False Color Action which can be downloaded here from the right menu bar under the box menu.  You can simply  click on it to download to your computer then drag it to photoshop to install.
  • A converted Infrared camera system capable of generating enough color data to make Faux Color images.  This means 720nm, 665nm, 630nm and 590nm conversions.
  • The ability and desire to experiment!

As you move your RAW (shoot only RAW for IR because of the ability to shift the white balance easily) onto your computer you should automatically tell yourself that you are going to process each selected image in Faux color and B&W.  Sometimes you will notice that the un processed image looks great also (wonderful bronze tones) and decide to do a version like this as well!

Lets talk about the RAW conversion process a little bit.  Photoshops ACR built in RAW converter will NOT apply the white balance correctly and your images will appear deep red.  For this reason I use Capture One version 7 from Phase One.  It is simply the BEST RAW converter that I have ever used.  You can download a trial version and decide for yourself if what I am telling you is true!

My Initial Editing Steps:

  1. Move images from my camera to my computer with an intelligent download tool that renames them with a meaningful name and create an intelligent directory tree for my RAW Library.  For this I have tested dozens of tools and found that Ingestimatic is the best and lowest cost one out there! You can find them here.
  2. Visually edit the RAW files by deleting the images that are simply no good.  Do not clutter up your computer with these useless files.
  3. Batch process my RAW conversion choices and adjust the exposure, contrast and angles.  Capture One will allow this and place the converted image files into a storage directory for later editing.
  4. Within Photoshop, open  each converted image one at a time for post processing
  5. Run Nik Define 2.0 in its default mode on the image for noise reduction, Save.
  6. Run Nik Viveza and without using any selection points increase the structure around 10% and the contrast about 5%, Save.
  7. Having installed the channel swap action that you downloaded here, run it on your image.  The last thing it will do is to open a Hue/Saturation window with the Master channel selected.  Simply select the CYAN channel  and vary the HUE a little bit to bring the sky to a normal blue rather than a blue/green.  Then select the RED channel and adjust the saturation up to a value you like, and repeat with the YELLOW and MAGENTA channels.  When you are happy with the results click on DONE to move on.  REMEMBER:  This is to only get the colors of the FAUX COLOR IR image into the ball park!  The real adjustment will happen next.
  8. Run Nik Viveza again.  Here is where you will use your control points to slightly adjust the colors and contrasts of various image elements to bring out a stunning, etherial work of art!  LOOK closely at your image, decide what you wish to adjust (Hue, saturation, contrasts and de-saturation). MORE ON THIS LATER!
  9. Run Nik Define one more time.
  10. Flatten the image, crop to taste, correct any imperfections (healing tool and content aware fill).
  11. Save the image with a meaningful name in a planned and thought out master image library.
  12. With the finished Faux Color image still open in Photoshop, now run Nik Silver EFX Pro to do your B&W conversion.  There are several built in recipes in this filter that can be used as a starting point.  My favorites are:
  • High Structure Harsh
  • High Structure Smooth
  • Full Dynamic Range Harsh
  • Full Dynamic Range Smooth
  • Fine Art Process
  • Wet Rocks (once in a while)

Save your image again with a NEW file name that reflects the difference in your master image library tree!

Murrells Inlet Salt Marsh, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Murrells Inlet Salt Marsh, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Remember:  Process ALL IMAGES as both Faux Color and B&W.  You really do not know what you are going to get till you do so.

All of this really is VERY SIMPLE and once you have done it a few times it will become second nature to you.  Soon you will be a post processing Infrared God or Goddess!  Congratulations

No, let’s take a look at the image below.  Notice the areas that I have circled as places where I desire to change the colors, contrasts and saturations (both plus and minus). Also consider that this is a 720nm converted camera and as such has a very limited color range (light pinks and warm tones and blues).

Annotated Faux Color, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Annotated Faux Color, X Pro 1 720nm IR

It is in this area and others like them (similar color values that are the same) that we are going to place control points on and change these values!  If you notice that the areas around them also change a little you can place what we call anchor points which are simply control points with no adjustments to bring those areas back to where you wanted them!

You will find this ENTIRE process from the initial loading into photoshop to finish will just take 4 or 5 minutes or less as you become more practiced!

Here are a few more images for you to consider that were taken on the 720nm Fuji X Pro 1 camera system:

Stormy Seas Faux Color, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Stormy Seas Faux Color, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Stormy Seas B&W, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Stormy Seas B&W, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Sometimes Faux Color images simply do not work, then you still have the great B&W ones to work with!

SC School Bus Boat, X Pro 1 720nm IR

SC School Bus Boat, X Pro 1 720nm IR

SC School Bus Boat, X Pro 1 720nm IR

SC School Bus Boat, X Pro 1 720nm IR

Was this information helpful?  Please let me know one way or the other!

Wabi/Sabi: Exploring decay in man made objects


All things Old are Beautiful again..

This morning at 9:30 at Georgetown, SC. I decided to get out my cameras and shoot some Shrimp Boat images before I had to open a Co-Op gallery that I am a partial owner of.  The Shrimp  Boats are a subject that are very dear to me and I visit them every chance that I have.

They are for the most part all falling into decay.  The market for local salt water shrimp is almost not enough to support the boats.  With the import of fresh water farm shrimp the local fisherman are being forced out of business and the result is the condition of the boat and companies… A very sad state of affairs.

The Boat Graveyard and the 3 Wheel Houses...

The Boat Graveyard and the 3 Wheel Houses…

The image above illustrates the wabi-sabi concept:  There is beauty in decay  It sounds very counter to the way we think as artists, but with a little thought I think that you will be able to agree with the concept.

Wabi-Sabi

The Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, as described in Brainpickings, “connotes a way of living that finds beauty in imperfection and accepts the natural cycle of growth and decay.”

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.
From an engineering or design point of view, “wabi” may be interpreted as the imperfect quality of any object, due to inevitable limitations in design and construction/manufacture especially with respect to unpredictable or changing usage conditions; then “sabi” could be interpreted as the aspect of imperfect reliability, or limited mortality of any object, hence the etymological connection with the Japanese word sabi, to rust.[citation needed]The Japanese kanji characters:

 


(sabi, meaning rust)

and


(sabi, as above)

are different, as are their applied meanings, yet the original word (pre-kanji, yamato-kotoba) is believed to be one and the same.
“Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty and it occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West.”  “if an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.” “[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”
The words wabi and sabi do not translate easily. Wabi originally referred to the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society; sabi meant “chill”, “lean” or “withered”. Around the 14th century these meanings began to change, taking on more positive connotations.[1] Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.

For me and what I consider to be “Fine Art Photography”, the concept of Wabi-Sabi fits like a glove in regards to the shrimp fleets.  I watch them over the span of time, capturing them again and again.  The one thing that stands out above all is the fact that they like everything else will fall into decay… both physically and financially, but faster.

The 3 Wheel Houses in B&W. Stepping back into an older time of photography, fitting don't you think?

The 3 Wheel Houses in B&W. Stepping back into an older time of photography, fitting don’t you think?

I am going to dedicate a photography project to this concept.  I would think that it will take me several years to finish or perhaps unto my death which in a strange twist of logic fits into the project/concept quite well.

So I hope that you enjoy these images and that you intellectually chew on the concept of Wabi-Sabi and to how it will fit into your own artistic visions….

Normally, detailed closeups would be better suited for wabi/sabi studies, but look at these following 2 images and notice how the rust and corrosion feed into the concept.  Do you see the detail in the flat areas of the boat and how it is rolling and pitted?  These imperfections take on an artistic perfection on their own!

Stormy Seas, Georgetown, SC.

Stormy Seas, Georgetown, SC.

B&W, stepping back into an "older" time and place.

B&W, stepping back into an “older” time and place.

The Wheel House Door

The Wheel House Door

The Working Boat, 630nm Infrared

The Working Boat, 630nm Infrared

The Battered Bow...

The Battered Bow…

I hope that you enjoyed the image and the concept…

This just is wrong! (or famous quotes!)


Things that tweak our sense of right and wrong!

This past weekend was my grandson’s 4th birthday party.  His mother and grandmother decided to do it up big time and invited a ton of people and had one of those big jumpy things in the back yard as well as a clown come by to entertain the kids.

DMC-GH2-50558-Jordan Beach-11

Jordan, my 4 year old grandson!

So with all of these folks in attendance you can imagine the pile of presants right? He had a ball opening them until he got to a set of boxes from a relative that had a pack of socks then a nice sweater.  As he tore open the socks and realized what they were he exclaimed in a loud and clear voice for all to hear:  “This is just wrong!”  Silence swept across the room  then the entire assembly burst out laughing!  Now from a newly minted 4 year olds point of view it was just wasn’t right!    But it didn’t matter a bit that the same person had also given him a GIANT BALL that he could get inside of and roll around.  We all had to agree and laugh along!

I too feel this way from time to time so I have decided to share these experiences (as they pertain to photography) as they happen with you. I am also going to add this to my growing list of quotes for photography!

I think next year at his 5th I will give him a digital camera and see it it is wrong!

So stand by….

A day in Georgetown with the Fuji X-E1


Travel and the Fuji X Series, a match made in Heaven!

1 camera, 3 lenses and a good filter system and we are good to go!

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8

I spent last Sunday in Georgetown, SC.  I had a gallery change out in a gallery that I am a member of (Co-Op).  The change out only took about an hour so I decided to take the rest of the day to scout new locations and just shoot!

There are several places there that I love to visit.  As you drive North on Front Street out of the Down Town area you start passing several side streets on the right.  Each of these leads to a marina with several Shrimp Boats (and in 1 case many!).  I like walking around the docks and working each group of boats then moving in closer and doing detail images. These vessels are not long to be with us so if you have the chance to visit and photograph them you should youmake it a priority to do so!

The 3 Shrimpers!

The 3 Shrimpers!

The choice between Color and B&W is a tough one for most photographers.  For me, I like B&W much better but I will porcess both for each and every image that I take.  So I will have the choice as to what I eventually use readily on hand!

Sun in the rigging...

Sun in the rigging…

I do not normally shoot intentional lens flair but for this image I composed the image with it in mind! This generated such a perfect series of light beams that they were visible in front of the boats cabin door! Again, the choice between Color and B&W was a no brainer for me!

The 3 Bows...

The 3 Bows…

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

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

In the end I will still offer you a Color Shrimp Boat selection.  These boats are old, and full of color!  Rust, bright paints, bottom paint, lines and life rings can make for a bright and eye catching display if you present it properly with a composition that is pleasing.

At the very end of Front Street you will find several parks along the edge of Winyah Bay with pilings in the fore ground which make idle compositions for long exposures.  Plus there is a boat launch that you should walk out on and look north across a long line of pilings!

Lee Seven5 Filter System

Lee Seven5 Filter System

What fun I had!  I found some really great Shrimp Boat compositions and did some long exposures with the Fuji and the Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens with the new Lee Seven 5 filter system! Consider, that the Lee system is a bulky but light system (look at the image to the left), when you add in the camera and lens the entire combination can become bulky and heavy making it difficult to use.  I also used the Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 12mm f/5.6 Aspherical and the Fuji M to X adapter for several of these Shrimp  Boat images.

This is the main reason that I switched to the Fuji X system (aside from the fact that it generates stunning images!

Ok, as the day go away from me I went further North to the parks looking at long exposure locations for sunset.  After looking at all of the locations there I decided to set up at the boat launch and setup looking to the North across the pilings there.  The sun was setting fast and I setup using the 75mm f/1.8  and the Lee Seven 5 system with a solid 3 stop ND and a soft Graduated ND to darken the sky. The result was this 90 second exposure:

Boat Launch Pilings, Deep Twilight

Boat Launch Pilings, Deep Twilight, 90 second exposure

With the sun totally gone and deep into twilight, I simply turned the camera 90 degrees to the right and looked at the industrial complex across the bay with great columns of smoke spewing into the sky!  I removed the 3 stop solid ND and kept the soft Graduated ND in place to further darken the sky. So the resulting image was a 240 second exposure and full of color, smooth water and blowing smoke:

240 second exposure, deep twilight.

240 second exposure, deep twilight.

Do you see how a light weight high quality camera/lens system like the Fuji works to our benefit when traveling and needing the ability to shoot in all conditions?  With the X-E1 system there is no limit to my shooting styles including Lightning, Water Drops and Long Exposures.

Please let me know what you think!

Twilights Bitter End…


No Words, just images…

 

The Bigger End, Olympus OMD.

The Bigger End, Olympus OMD.

 

The 2-fer, The pier & groin, Pawleys Island Twilight

The 2-fer, The pier & groin, Pawleys Island Twilight

The 2-fer, The pier & groin, Pawleys Island Twilight

The B&W 2-fer, The pier & groin, Pawleys Island Twilight

 

Olympus OMD EM5 and Ultra Long Exposures!


And now for something different!

Pawleys Pier, Twilight. 847 Second Exposure, Olympus OMD with the 12-60mm lens.  Iso 200, f/22

Pawleys Pier, Twilight. 847 Second Exposure, Olympus OMD with the 12-60mm lens. Iso 200, f/22

I know, most of my recent posts have been about the new Fuji X-E1, but tonight I decided to take out the OMD and test it out for ultra long exposures.  I have the OMD as a high speed replacement for my Canon DSLR (currently a 7D) in order to reduce weight and ease of use.  Overall the camera performs very well and generates impressive, sharp images up into very high ISO’s! But a friend recently purchased one to use and wanted to do some long exposures.  So I got mine out, looked over the in camera options and was VERY surprised to learn of several very nice long exposure benefits built into this camera!

  • Live View Bulb Mode: This is an amazing feature (are you listening Fuji?)!  With this mode, you must first set the max shutter speed length, then the update times.  What this means is that you can set an exact exposure or some ultra long one.  Then you can let the camera time the shutter or you can use a remote shutter release to start and stop the exposure as one would normally see in a BULB mode.  What the added value here is that the camera turns on the live view screen and updates the LCD panel with the  image displayed with the CURRENT exposure during the BULB exposure!  The timing of the update is the value you set when you set the update times!  You can have up to 24 updates.  In simple terms, this allows you to SEE the image developing on the LCD panel during the exposure!  Way cool and very valuable.  The only change I could wish for is for the histogram to also be displayed for each updated image.  A remote shutter release with a lock is required for this mode.
  • Live View Timer Mode:  This works just the same as the BULB mode except that you press the shutter release once to start and once to end!  If you forget your remote shutter release you can still get the picture!
  • Onscreen Level:  This allows you to get the horizon straight!  Simple thing but important for any image and critical for long exposures.
  • Programmable Function Keys:  Makes long exposures in the dark easier but setting Function Button 1 to Manual Focus.  This means that you can switch back and forth from manual to auto focus modes without having to go through the menu system.
  • On Screen Focus Point Touch Select: With the camera in auto focus mode you can touch the area of the image that you wish to focus on and then do a focus.  By using this in conjunction with the function key as described above you can easily change your focus. In the dark, this makes it very easy to select a point of light on a long pier and have the camera focus, then hit the function key to select the manual focus mode to lock it in! If there is not a point of light, having an ULTRA BRIGHT flashlight and lighting something in the scene to focus on works well also!

The OMD worked tonight flawlessly for these long exposures!  The longest was over 14 minutes and generated a clean low noise image!  But most importantly, I was able to take this image with NO metering at all. I simply chose the Live View Bulb mode and watched the image develop on the LCD screen during the exposure and when it was where I liked it I simply stopped the exposure!  Understand, this is not exact as the LCD does not give an exact true image display, but it was always within 1 stop!

Here is a B&W version as well but I think you will agree that this entire outing was easy and fun and gave superb results!

The B&W version processed in Nik's Silver EFX.

The B&W version processed in Nik’s Silver EFX.

Death by neglect….


Lila Lee, in the boat grave yard…

There is something about Shrimpers… I cannot get enough of them and find myself visiting them again and again.  I love the dilapidated nature of them and even though they are in such rough condition they seem to venture out into the deep time after time.  Perhaps they are a reflection of the men who sail them, rough hewn, salty men, eking out a living from the sea.  Regardless, they are things of photographic beauty and deserve to be documented for history. You see, they are vanishing from sight.  Shrimp seems to mainly come for fresh water farm ponds in the lower americas and soon these beautiful boats will be a thing of the past.

The Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi:  “connotes a way of living that finds beauty in imperfection and accepts the natural cycle of growth and decay. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

Thus begins my exploration of Sabi

You had better get out and enjoy them while you are able too..

Here captured in Black and White, is a detail shot of the shrimper Lila Lee.  She is resting in the boat grave yard in Georgetown, SC. The older shrimpers seem to be abandoned along the shore here in Georteown till they sink.  We have some sitting on the bottom growing trees and weeds from their decks.

This image was captured on the Fuji X-E1  with a MC Soligor 70-300mm C/D manual focus macro lens, another relic of the past…

Lila Lee

Lila Lee

Further X-E1 Long Exposure Work


Fuji X-E1 280 second exposure at f/8

Fuji X-E1 280 second exposure at f/8

 

Or, if your are thrown off the horse, climb back on!

 

I went out tonight at sunset to the Pawleys Island Pier to try some more very long exposures with the Fuji X-E1.  I used the new 18-55mm lens with a B+W 6 stop ND filter until it got really dark then I shifted to just the lens.

It was just perfect out tonight.  A few clouds in the sky, medium wind and very little blowing sand in the air.  I setup with an angle on the pier with the moon behind my back.  I got there early enough to setup and pre-focus.

I used my Sekonic L758DR light meter with 6 stops of exposure compensation dialed in for the ND filter and started shooting.  In failing light, the hand held spot meter makes exposures easy, fast and perfect!  I simply aimed the 1 degree spot at the gray/purple band of clouds right next to the horizon and took my meter reading from that. Then I moved it from Zone 5 to Zone 6 or 1 stop brighter.  The meter gave me 15 seconds of shutter speed and f/22 so I simply added 1 more stop by changing the shutter speed to 30 seconds!  Very easy and by using the Zone system when thinking about exposure it can fast become second nature.

Fuji X-E1 30 second exposure at f/22

Fuji X-E1 30 second exposure at f/22

The first 10 min or so I was only able to get 30 second exposures but only at f/22.  I did have a 10 stop ND filter in the bag but I decided to just stay with the 6 stop. Even at 30 seconds, they were still quite pleasing!  I really like the Time mode on the X-E1 as it makes setup easy, but the Bulb mode is very well thought out. It gives a nice count up timer on the LCD screen and makes for perfect exposure!

Even checking the focus after it gets too dark to see is easy with the X-E1. Place the camera into manual focus mode place one of the pier lights into the middle of the focus square and push the jog dial straight in. This will cause the camera to magnify what is inside of the cameras focus box. You then go back and forth with the lens focus ring till you get the smallest sharpest light!  All done.

As it got darker I was forced to re meter the scene again and again. For this next shot the light had faded another entire stop and forced me to again double the shutter speed to compensate for the changing conditions and still allow me to capture the clouds on the horizon at Zone 6!

60 second shutter speed at f/8

60 second shutter speed at f/8

 

Things start to get very complicated and fast as the sun falls below the horizon.  The next image was metered at 140 seconds but during that exposure, the light dropped another 2 stops!  so I split the difference and increased the exposure by keeping the shutter open another stop or 280 seconds.  this worked quite well and gave a very pleasing exposure!  Please keep in mind that this image was taken after the sun was totally gone and it was quite dark out but with enough light left to give a good exposure of the clouds and pier. You can tell that this image was taken in very low light because the pier lamp reflections are prominent in the picture.  Here is that image:

280 second exposure, f/8

280 second exposure, f/8

Remember, for every minute of exposure the camera requires a minute of noise reduction. So for the above exposure the total time of forced waiting was 560 seconds!  So for this last image a lot of time passed while I waited and it was TOTALLY dark out now.  The moon gave very little light but the lights on the pier worked very well and put some interesting colors on the waters surface!

Ok for this last image there is ZERO light left in the sky.  The stars are very bright and fill the sky with a wonderful pattern.  But, the pier lights are so bright that they pollute the image and wash out the sky blocking the stars in the image.  Another complication is that it is just too dark out now to need the ND filter.  So I removed it and adjusted the meter so that the compensation is now set to zero.  The reading suggested was 425 seconds at f/8.  Why f/8?  Well I desired the sharpest image possible so I locked the meter to that.  I still needed to move the lower sky 1 stop brighter, you know from Zone 5 to Zone 6.  This made it necessary to move the shutter speed from 425 seconds to 850 seconds (14 minutes) and now I am ready to shoot.  So lets look at this last shot, 850 seconds of exposure then 850 seconds of in camera noise reduction.  So I have to wait for 28 minutes from the start of the exposure until the image popped up on the LCD panel!

Here is the final image of the evening, a 14 minute exposure at f/8.  Yes the pier light reflections close to the pier/water intersection is a little harsh but still, this demonstrates exactly what you can achieve by thing long exposure, but more importantly, it shows what the Fuji X-E1 is capable of capturing with a little bit of creative thinking!

850 second (14 min) exposure at f/8

850 second (14 min) exposure at f/8

Did you find any of this post helpful?  Please let me know!

Dang, “DID I REALLY DO THAT? REALLY!!!”


Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you…

Long day today at the gallery.  The electrician was in all day installing 22 new high intensity lights with floods to better light the co-op walls.  But the place has a lot of dry wall dust around and a simple sweeping will not be enough.

I needed to get away…

Skittles & me.

Skittles & me.

So at 5 I went home and took the doggy out.  She was happy to see me to say the least.  I really do not pay enough attention to her.   But after a half hour there with her I grabbed:

  • Fuji X-Pro 1 camera
  • Fuji 18-55mm lens
  • 3 stop ND
  • 6 stop ND
  • 10 stop ND
  • Sekonic L758DR spot meter
  • Remote shutter release

Please notice that I did not grab my camera bag…

So off we go to the island.  I did the Pawleys Island Pier the other night so I headed to the south end and the groin there to shoot some long exposures.

It was nice out, warm and empty of people.  Perfect.  Got out the Sekonic, dialed in 6 stops of EV to correct for the B+W 6 stop ND, set the meter to ISO 200 and started taking reading off the sky just above the watery horizon.  Got several changing values but it was fast getting dark.  The first few image captures went very well and I was starting to warm up to the evening on the beach.

Feel guilty being out here tonight, Ellen (my wonderful wife) loves the beach and has been deprived of this for the entire year and to add insult to injury she is working all night at the local hospital.  I suppose that i will just have to enjoy this for her.

Pawleys Island south groin.  30 seconds @ 30 seconds.  Fuji X-Pro 1 with the 15-55mm lens.

Pawleys Island south groin. 30 seconds @ 30 seconds. Fuji X-Pro 1 with the 15-55mm lens.

I got some very nice 30 second shots at f/11 but I was aching for something more meaningful, you know around 20 minutes!  So it is time to change things around and go after the really long exposure.  I get out the meter again, set it and the camera to f/8 for the best sharpness, check the shutter speed… hmm f/8 @ 8 minutes but this is a metered spot on the horizon and I simply do not want it in Zone 5, so I add in 2 more stops to move it into Zone 7, set the camera and shoot!

Time goes by…

Still going by…

Slowly…

10 minutes have gone by… Why didn’t I bring a flash light?  It is so dark that I can hardly see!  Gee Mark YOU KNOW BETTER THAT THAT!  So I give myself a smack on the head, then shake it in minor annoyance of myself and … HEY WHAT THE HECK!! MY FEET ARE WET!!  THE TRIPOD IS SINKING INTO THE SAND!  DANG!  DARN CRAP!!

Stop the exposure at 11 minutes and move the tripod up the beach to dry sand  and wait….

Still waiting…

Dang, the in camera long exposure noise reduction takes sooooo looooonnnnggg… Didn’t I tell you that what ever you long exposure is the camera takes the same time after it to do a noise reduction???

I QUIT!  I carry the tripod/camera to the truck  with it still doing the noise reduction when it happens… you know, the REALLY BAD THING!

The camera quit the noise processing and the image pops up into the LCD panel  and it is….

WHITE!   WHAT HAPPENED?  

I got wet for white? I stood here for 22 minutes for white?

THE EXPOSURE WAS PERFECTLY METERED AND ENTERED INTO THE CAMERA! THIS CANNOT BE MY FAULT…

Ohhh…

I am SO STUPID!  Look at that, the ISO has been set to 1600 instead of 200.  How did that happen?  I only shoot at high ISO’s when I am with the grandkids at Disney World! Now I recently got back from Disney and I took this camera and haven’t  used it since then…. No, that can not be it, the first 30 second images came out properly as metered…

Hmm, lets see, ISO 200 to 1600, and the image had already been shifted from Zone 5 to Zone 7!

DANG AGAIN!  That is an additional 3 stops of brightness..  ZONE 10!

!*:$@!)&$ DANG, (*!#&(^!(@&) DARN )(*&$&#@)$&

Ok, I am calm now, it didn’t cost any film, wet feet can dry and I can go out and shoot it again on another night.  ZONE 10!!!  No wonder the image was white! !#)*(#*@&(E*Q&R

22 minutes W A S T E D and no ultra long exposure.

_____________________________________________

OK, what did I/WE learn here?

  1. BRING A FLASHLIGHT!
  2. Be aware of the changing tide!
  3. If you are going to take super long exposures DOUBLE CHECK YOUR EXPOSURE VALUES and do NOT forget to check the ISO!  I think someone walked up to the camera in the dark and changed it on me while my back was turned!
  4. Bring a change in socks!

See, we all make mistakes, even photographers with 48 years of experience!

Got it?  I hope so, because I would be so embarrassed to hear that you made so many beginner  mistakes,  After all we do have appearances to keep up!

Smile, life goes on… and we occasionally get lucky.  In the parking lot packing up to leave I see this across the tidal creek…

Moon over the Marsh.. 4 second exposure

Moon over the Marsh.. 4 second exposure

So the bear won this time but there is always tomorrow night…

Update:

I have had a lot of questions about this creek image.  Mostly folks want to know how I got a dark blue sky in the deep night!  And it was totally black out when I took this image.  There was supposed to be NO moon this night.  But for some strange reason there was the smallest sliver of it showing under its bottom.  I mean so small that it was almost cut with a knife!  The clouds below the moon were barely there because for what ever the reason the moon was getting a little light it reflected down and highlighted the clouds.  Above the moon the sky took on the deep blue cast (again due the to the strange lighting on the moon).  This only lasted about 5 minutes then the moon disappeared totally, the sky turned black and the clouds lost their light and faded from view.

The exposure data:

  • ISO 200 (yes I double checked this time)
  • 4 second shutter
  • f/4

Ultra Long Fuji X-E1 Exposure Tutorial


Slower can be better…

Pawleys Per, Fuji X-E1, 480 seconds, f/22, 6 stop ND

Pawleys Pier at night, Fuji X-E1, 480 seconds, f/22, 6 stop ND

Ultra long exposure photography can be a very fulfilling pursuit and generate etherial images that draw your viewer into them leaving them week in the knees! As a photography master generalist I can tell you that there are a few speciality areas that can really excite me and force my juices to flow!  Specifically they are:

  • Ultra High Speed photography: Water Drop Collision Photography, Daytime Lightning Photography & Hummingbird Photography
  • Infrared Photography
  • Grist Mill Photography
  • Ultra Long Exposure Photography.

This post is a tutorial on Ultra Long Exposure photography using the Fuji X-E1 camera with its 18-55mm lens, a 6 stop B+W ND filter and a Sekonic L758DR spot meter.

Fuji X-E1 with its 18-55mm lens

Fuji X-E1 with its 18-55mm lens

The Fuji X-E1 is my 3rd in the Fuji line. I started with the X100 and moved to the X Pro 1 in order to have interchangeable lenses, then to the X-E1 to take advantage of its Electronic Shutter Release. I have always been a Canon shooter with closets full of L lenses.  But due to a spinal operation that went dreadfully wrong I lost 80% use of both hands and arms.  No longer able to hold heavy camera equipment I started on a long journey searching for high quality camera system that was small and light weight and produce world class images.  A long story shortened, I settled on the Fuji X lineup and their fine quality lenses along with a few CV and Leica M mount lenses.

Now, the Fuji X-E1 with its electronic shutter allows me to hook it up to my water drop machine, Lightning Trigger and Hummingbird control system!  The only lacking item is its short lens lineup.  With the introduction of the new 55-210mm lens this spring even that will no longer be a problem for me!

Long exposure has several issues that you must overcome to successfully create the etherial, emotionally charged image.

  • Long Shutter Speed: Even in low light you will find it difficult to get a shutter speed at f/8 (sharpest).
  • Difficulty Focusing:  Darkness you know…
  • Unreliable Metering: Especially with an installed ND filter.
  • Camera Shake:  Requires a STURDY tripod and REMOTE SHUTTER RELEASE.

The Long shutter speeds generally can range from 15 seconds to 20 minutes. These are difficult to reach unless you shoot at night with light from the moon.  What I find that I do is shoot at dusk on or just before sunrise to overcome this issue.  Usually I will add a Neutral Density Filter (ND) to reduce the total amount of light reaching the image sensor. This will allow you to shoot with more ambient light and generally make this style of photography easier!

Heliopan Variable ND Filter

Heliopan Variable ND Filter

Shutter Speeds in Full Stops

Shutter Speeds in Full Stops

I like the B+W line of ND filters and keep 3 on hand for each of my lenses I use:  3 Stop, 6 Stop and 10 Stop.  There are also some really good variable ND filters as well.  But be warned: You get what you pay for with these!  If you get one of the Fader filters on Ebay for $30 then you are sure  to be disappointed.  But on the other hand if you get the Singh Ray Vari ND (~$450) or the Heliopan Digital Vari ND (~$350). The trouble with the variable ND filters is that they are generally limited to 6 stops before they start to generate artifacts into your images.

If you take a look at your standard 1 stop shutter speeds you can see what adding 6 stops of ND filter will do… If you have a metered exposure say, f/8 at 1 second, adding a 6 stop ND filter will give you a 1 minute exposure!

Aperture in Full Stops

Aperture in Full Stops

If you desire a longer shutter speed you can also increase your aperture value up to a higher number forcing the shutter speed down to allow more light to strike the sensor.

We started at f/8, but by moving it 3 full stops to f/22 (see chart on the right) we can then move our shutter speed 3 more stops slower to 8 minutes!

You can move the aperture and shutter speeds up and down to get the balance you need for your artistic interpretation you desire for your image.  Remember though, the sharpest that most lenses are capable of is at f/8!

Ok, lets talk about the issues in focusing!

It is dark out, you can see very little detail in your viewfinder!  How can we accurately focus?  Here are some ideas for you to consider!

Use a Light as a focus point

Use a Light as a focus point

  • If shooting a subject like a pier or a lighthouse, set your camera on manual focus and adjust the focus to create a sharp round ball of one of the pier lights. These lights are a great focus point. You can also look between pilings for areas of dark/light.

 

Surefire E2D

Surefire E2D

  • If there are no lights to focus on then you can use a high power flashlight to high light the part of the scene you wish to focus on. There are several high power LED tactical lights that you can get and are a good idea to have in your case.  Look at the Surefire E2D LED light.
  • Get someone to go stand at your selected focus point if possible with a light, then focus on the light!
  • You can manually set your focus distance to the hyper focal value if you have previously determined it for your camera/lens combination.
  • Remember, manual focus is the best and easiest way to get the focus that you desire.

Unreliable Metering…

Ok, this is a biggie.  You will find that when using a 10 stop ND and on some cameras, the 6 stop ND that the in camera metering system does not work reliably.  Plus to make this even more interesting consider a very long exposure, say 10 min where the light is changing and getting a stop or 2 darker during the exposure!  These are not small matters to overcome. There are several work arounds for this from a simple pain in the but to advanced hand held meters!

Here is a list of suggestions for you to consider..

  • Try shooting in Aperture mode:  Allow the camera to attempt to set the shutter speed.  If shooting at dusk or in the dark with a ND filter installed you have about a 50/50 chance on getting the correct exposure.  But… this is DIGITAL, and you will have a histogram with your exposure which will give you a baseline on which to adjust the exposure up or down! This is a good low cost way to get it spot on for the 2nd shot.  There is a down side to this though, if the shutter speed is long, then you have to wait the same amount of time after the exposure for the in camera noise reduction software to run.  This means that a 8 min shot becomes a 16 min wait!  Workable but time consuming.
  • Leave your ND filter OFF the camera, in manual exposure mode: Compose, focus and meter, then screw in the ND filter and adjust the exposure manually to account for the addition of the ND filter.  You must be careful to  NOT change the focus by screwing on the filter. The exposure adjustment must of course be correct.  Leave the aperture sat at a standard value like f/8 and do your adjustment via the shutter speed.  So for a exposure of f/8 at 15 seconds with no ND, the addition of  a 6 stop ND will change the exposure to f/8 at 15 minutes!  you need to be able to do this in your head.
  • Use a hand held meter like the Sekonic L758DR spot meter.  This meter allows you to set in a filter based exposure compensation of +/- 10 stops.  You decide upon the ND filter you wish to use, dial in the exposure compensation into the 758 and meter on a spot in the scene that you desire to be 18% gray and the meter will give you the proper exposure settings!

Using the Sekonic L758DR Spot Meter with the Fuji X-E1 Camera system for Long Exposures…

Now, it is time to go through exactly how I created these images using the spot meter and the Fuji!

The scene as seen...

The scene as seen from my eyes at the time I was setting up…

Above is how the scene looked like at 7:30 pm (dark) when the image was taken.  As you can see it was so dark that the only way to focus was to use the bright spots of light on the pier  to manually focus, then pot meter on the sky with the L758DR meter.  This gave an initial meter reading of f/22 @ 2 seconds thus making the sky 18% gray (too dark for me) with ZERO exposure compensation dialed into the meter (not yet adjusting for the 6 stop ND)!  Now, adjusting the meter for the 6 stop ND filter by entering 6 stops of exposure compensation, the reading became f/22 @ 2 minutes but with the sky still at 18% gray.  My imagined, finished image was one with the sky 2 stops brighter, or moving the spot metered point from Zone 5 to Zone 7 which is 2 stops!  So I simply added 2 more stops and moved the shutter speed to 8 minutes (2 stops brighter) and shot the image.

Normally, I would have the 6 stops of compensation dialed into the meter ahead of time and make this a 1 step process.

So here is the resulting image…

f/22 @ 8 minutes with a 6 stop ND and moved to Zone 7

f/22 @ 8 minutes with a 6 stop ND and moved to Zone 7

I am showing you the images in B&W so that you can better visualize the shades of gray to see the 18% moved from Zone 5 to Zone 7!  The Sekonic is very easy to use and is a true 1degree spot meter.  To dial in the 6 stops of exposure compensation I held down the  ISO1 and ISO2 buttons and turned the control dial.  The meter reading adjusted for the ND filter and gave a perfect exposure the first time!

71M770oi3RL._AA1500_

Sekonic L758DR Spot Meter

The exposure compensation shows up on  the LCD screen so that you know what you are actually measuring.  You could have easily set it to 4 instead of 6 and that would have taken the move from zone 5 to zone 7 for you but I prefer to do that adjustment in my head!

Zones…

Simply stated the Zone System (Ansel Adams), assigned a series of stepped gray changes, 1 stop apart and across a valued scale of 10 stops with Zone 5 being 18% gray which is where ALL camera and handheld meters place the exposure.  By looking at the chart below you can see the change between Zone 5 & 7 (2 stops) and what difference it will make on the brightness of the sky!  I use the Zone System in ALL of my exposure calculations and it is how I see contrast changes across my image!

The Zones...

The Zones…

There are plenty of great books out there that will teach you the Zone System of exposure control and adjustments! Here are 2 on Amazon:

Here is how you would apply actual Zone values to an image.  Then you can shift the exposure to move the metered Zone up or down to adjust the overall brightness of the image!

Using Zones to understand what your meter sees...

Using Zones to understand what your meter sees…

Now given the meter reading for Zone 5 you can change the exposure up or down to brighten/darken the overall image!  Combine Zone Exposure techniques with Long Exposure photography then  you can see how easy it is to control your final image.  Plus if you use a handheld spot meter that allows for +/- 10 stops of compensation  then you can see how easy it becomes to get a good exposure that is measured in seconds  or minutes!

Here is a simple explanation of what each Zone looks like:

The Zone System explained.

The Zone System explained.

Here are a few more images taken this night on the beach!  I hope you enjoyed both the article as well as the images!  Please let me know!

250 second exposure, Fuji X-E1

250 second exposure, Fuji X-E1

30 second exposure just before sunset

30 second exposure just before sunset, Fuji X-E1 shifted to zone 7

Putting the Fuji X-E1 Thru Its Paces…


Or, the Fuji X-Pro 1 is soon to be 830nm Infrared…

Stormy Seas Pano, Fuji X-E1 & Fuji 18-55mm lens

Stormy Seas Pano, Fuji X-E1 & Fuji 18-55mm lens

Why?

Well, while the X-Pro 1 is a much finer camera than the X-E1 due to its hybrid viewfinder, but the E1 offers some minor upgrades that make it more attractive to me.  First and foremost was the addition of an electronic remote shutter release!  This one single change allows me to attach the camera to both my High Speed Water Drop system as well as my Lightning Trigger.  I can also use it now with high speed hummingbird photography!  This is in following my plan to completely remove my Canon equipment from my photographic tools in order to achieve a leaner lighter photographic system (click HERE for an explanation as to why this is so important!).

I am REALLY HAPPY with this decision.  The camera is light and small, people around me rarely notice it in my hands!  It generates GREAT images that I can use in place of images generated on my Canon 1DSMK3 and 7D without the need for a donkey to carry it around! (if you did not follow the link in the above paragraph as to the WHY reason, please do so, it will explain sooooo much!).

B&W Foggy Dingys, X-E1 and the 18-55mm lens

B&W Foggy Dingys, X-E1 and the 18-55mm lens

Now that I have completed the evaluation and testing of the new E1 camera I have decided to send the X-Pro 1 off to LDP in New Jersey to be converted to 830nm Infrared.  I have a Panasonic GH2 Micro 4/3 system already converted to 590nm IR so I am thinking that the X-Pro 1 will be a novel deep contrast B&W IR system to have.  I really do like the X-Pro 1 and love the hybrid viewfinder so I will likely be watching closely next year to see what its replacement can do!

Dingys in the Fog, Georgetown, SC with the Fuji X-E1 & 18-55mm lens

Dingys in the Fog, Georgetown, SC with the Fuji X-E1 & 18-55mm lens

CV 75mm f/1.8 lens

CV 75mm f/1.8

So with all of these photographic paths in mind I jumped on the X-E1 camera system.  I also ordered the new Fuji 18-55mm lens as a walk around lens further allowing me to reduce the camera bag by three extra lenses, the 18mm, 35mm and the 60mm.   Now all that I carry is the 18-55, 8mm fisheye, Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Lens with two 5mm Leica extension tubes (I LOVE the Leica and Voightlander M mount lenses for this system!) and a Pin Hole lens!  This makes for a much lighter camera case.

Rotten Meat Mushroom, member of the Stinkhorn family.  Fuji X-E1 with the Fuji 60mm macro lens.

Rotten Meat Mushroom, member of the Stinkhorn family. Fuji X-E1 with the Fuji 60mm macro lens.

There is no sense in evaluating the new camera, it has been done a thousand times all over the world, and basically it is identical to the X-Pro 1 in all ways except for the Viewfinder and the LCD panel and has the addition of 2 separate inputs for an electronic remote shutter release.

Shem Creek Shrimpers in B&W, Fuji X-E1 & 18-55mm lens

Shem Creek Shrimpers in B&W, Fuji X-E1 & 18-55mm lens

What is important here is to show that in operation, the camera handles just like the X-Pro 1 and generates great images.  I shoot in RAW and currently am using Adobe’s ACR within Photoshop CS6 and I am anxiously awaiting the release of Phase One’s Capture One V7 with Fuji support!  Capture One has been my main tool for RAW conversion for years and it is just killing me to have to wait so long for this update!

I hope that you can see why I am so excited over this smaller sister to the X-Pro 1 camera!  It really will fill every of my photographic needs in time.  I am anxiously waiting for the release of the 55 to 200mm lens in 2013!

Salt Marsh in the fog...

Salt Marsh in the fog…

Please let me know what you think and of your own experiences with this marvel camera system!

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


Good things that come in small packages!

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

Fuji M Mount Adapter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a monochrome of the same image.

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

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

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

Let me know what you think!

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


Interesting Things Come To Those Who Wait….

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

Heliopan Variable ND w/ Stops

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

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

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

Suggested Equipment:

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

Subject Considerations

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

Zone System Metering & Exposure:

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

The Zone System for exposure control in this image

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

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

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

Using Light Painting with Very Long Exposures!


Bringing Out Foreground Details..

A few months ago Jamie Davidson and I led a photo workshop and excursion to Charleston, SC. The workshop was in both Infrared and Color photography and we had several sunrise shoots in various locations.  One of my favorites was on Foley Beach looking out at the Morris Island Lighthouse.  There was a groin  (rock break wall) there as well as a boneyard (driftwood forest).

Morris Island Lighthouse Sunrise

My Vision:

What I had in mind was to photograph the  Morris Island lighthouse in silhouette  with the sun rising behind it with driftwood in the foreground as a very long exposure to flatten the ocean surf.  I also wanted to have some surface detail in the driftwood and beach in front of the camera so I knew that I would have to use a very high power flashlight to paint those items during the exposure. Long exposure photography will generate very etherial images that will draw the viewer into the image.  Learning how to generate these types of images is a very worth while endeavor and I hope that you are interested enough to experiment with it as well!

My Equipment:

  • I wanted to shoot this with my Fuji X Pro 1, but at that point I was still waiting for its delivery.
  • Canon 7d camera body.
  • Canon 17-40L lens.
  • Remote shutter release cable.
  • A very stable carbon fiber tripod!
  • Sure Fire U2 variable LED tactical 100 lumen flashlight.
  • Fortitude to get up very early and drive/walk out to the beach (no small task!).

Singh Ray Variable ND

After arriving on site, I looked  for a suitable piece of driftwood to place in the foreground and have it frame the lighthouse.  I setup back about 20 feet so that I could get enough depth of field to have both the tree and the lighthouse both in focus. Setting up the tripod well back from the surf to keep the water from under cutting its legs I framed the shot above.  It looks bright enough but it was so dark that I could not even see the tree!  Please keep in mind here that I also wanted to slow down the movement of the water, so I have installed a variable 8 stop neutral density filter from Singh Ray on the lens.  Even at its minimum setting there is still a 2 stop darkening of the image throughout he viewfinder.  What I am looking for is an exposure time of at least 30 seconds  but longer if possible. What I do is to set the ND at 2 stops then use the flashlight to provide a bright spot for focus. After focusing, I setup the camera in manual mode by adjusting the aperture to f/11 to f/16 and the shutter speed to a starting point of 30 seconds.  I then adjust the variable ND filter to give me a 0 ev exposure in the metering system!

It is this special filter that allows me to really slow down the shutter speed  enough to smooth out the ocean surface!  You do not have to use a variable ND, a set filter like a 6 or 10 stop ND from B+W filters will work fine, but you have to setup the composition and focus before you attach the filter because you will not be able to see through the viewfinder once it is installed.  All of these ND filters are expensive, the B+W ND’s will be over $100 and the Singh Ray will be just at $400!  But EVERY photographer needs some sort of ND filter in order to slow down the shutter speed to smooth out water or cloud movement for a soft etherial image.

The viewfinder must also be covered up once everything is set and before the exposure is made in order to not effect the camera meter.

Ultra Bright Tactical Light

Trip the shutter and step away from the camera/tripod.  Now taking the ultra high power flashlight I use it to paint the surface of the tree and sand around it.  This is a continuous movement of the flashlight over the tree and sand again and again.  I do not want them brightly lit, rather I am looking for just enough light to ensure that the tree is  not a silhouette and that the sand has some detail and structure in its surface.  This can be difficult and you might have to walk closer to the tree in order to have more light from the flashlight fall on it.  But being digital we can take several images before the sky becomes too bright to work!

You can use any light source but you do need to be careful not to use a light that is yellow in color.  The tactical lights are expensive but do not fail due to the bulb and will last a lifetime.  At high power the batteries will only last for an hour or two, but most of these lights have several power levels and can stretch the battery life up to 20 hours!  They are great for photography but they can also save your life in an emergency as well.

Here is a Black & White version of the image above.  This was converted in Photoshop CS6 with Nik Filters Silver EFX Pro 2.

Morris Island Lighthouse Sunrise

If you look up at the very TOP of this page you will see my Blog Banner Image, which was also taken at this location within moments of the Lighthouse image!  This type of photography (long exposure can be very pleasing in it process and is certainly easy on the eyes!

Below is one further image, this time taken by the Fuji X Pro 1 without light painting in the mid morning.  For this image I did use a 52mm B+W 10 stop ND filter, but no light painting as it was already too bright out and was not necessary.

Ultra Long Exposure with the Fuji X Pro 1

Please let me know what you think!

Updated Grist Mill & Covered Bridge Gallery…


Major Image Gallery Update

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

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

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

https://markhilliardatelier.wordpress.com/gallery/color-infrared-grist-mills/

Pin Hole Photography Primer…


Today is the day!  Get out your Pin Hole cameras and go shooting!

World Wide Pinhole Photography Day, 2012!

Fuga City Detail, Pinhole image, Panasonic GH2 with the PinWide f/127 pinhole plate.

Today is the world wide pinhole photography day.  Thousands of folks around the world are out shooting pinhole images today and posting them on the http://www.pinholeday.org/ web site.  It is great fun and takes us back to an era when photographic experimentation was the word of the day!  A pinhole camera system is one without a lens. I simply has a VERY SMALL hole thru which the light passes and creates the image on the back of the camera on film or sensor.  You can purchase pinhole plates for most cameras made today plus you can easily create one of your own!

Do a little research here on the net thru Google and you will find a ton of information on it.  But remember today is the yearly big day!

I have pinhole plate adapters for ALL OF MY CAMERA systems.  There are many companies who make them.  Here is a short list to get you started:

  • Skink (ebay) (For ALL cameras)
  • Pinwide (for Micro 4/3)
  • Lenox Laser (good selection of models for various cameras!
  • Lens Baby

Here are what some of these plates look like…

Pinhole images are typically not very sharp, BUT they are at the same sharpness from the very front edge of the pinhole plate to infinity!  They can be created with one to several pinholes and there is no limit to how the film can be placed, flat, curved, round and so on!  For digital systems, you can indeed have multiple pinholes, but only a flat sensor.  They can and will create very etherial images that are very pleasing to the eye and great fun to create!

Here are some example images of my own pinhole creations, please let me know what you think!!

Pawleys Marsh Pinhole image. Leica M mount Skink f/207 pinhole plate at 3.2 second exposure

Pawleys Marsh Pinhole image. Leica M mount Skink f/207 pinhole plate at 3.2 second exposure

Fuga City Detail, Pinhole image with the Pin Wide f/127 pinhole plate.

Fuga City Detail, Pinhole image with the Pin Wide f/127 pinhole plate.