Nov 242014
 

Character Style and Mood in Photography

By Peter Maynard

Adelaide, South Australia

Hello Steve. Allow me to open by saying thank you for running this site. It is one that I visit regularly for inspiration and information. I thought it was time I went about trying to inspire by providing some thoughts on the importance of character, style and mood in photography. It is a wee bit lengthy but I hope it’s worth it, so here goes.

In photography, many of us start our journey by studying and learning from the masters of the art. But my belief is that many of us will eventually develop a desire to create their own personal photographic style, rather than just copying others. This requires experimentation, learning, effort and creativity. In my case, I approach photography as an art form, not just a mechanism for documenting and recording events. This more expressive approach influences my work greatly and my ability to use photography to express myself artistically is the thing that constantly challenges, engages, enthuses and energizes me. Oh, and did I say frustrates?

What really counts for me is the creative process itself and ultimately what is important is whether I like the resulting image. I understand that not everyone approaches photography in this way and that is fine but this is my way so it is all I can tell you about. What this article is about really is the need for photographers to develop character and style in their work and in particular I would like to demonstrate the role that mood can play in image making as a part of this.

Although like many photographers, I started “serious” photography by shooting black and white, my preferred style now most often involves using colour because I find it lends itself better to artistic interpretation for my type of work. This is not invariably the case though – I like to let the image “decide” if it wants to be in colour or in monochrome, if that makes sense. It is a simple fact of life that some images work best in monochrome and some in colour. Part of our job in image making is to work out which is which. So I usually shoot in full colour then convert later if needed. Here is one where monochrome seemed to work better to convey the feeling I thought the image was crying out to convey – solitary, thoughtful, a little gloomy. I can’t say it’s a perfect photo – it has too many blown highlights for that, but it has mood in bucket loads and that is what I wanted.

Image 1

I always feel that photographs are at their most interesting when they require some degree of interpretation by the viewer. And as I have already hinted, as much as anything this is about creating mood in images rather than just capturing a scene accurately. It is about what is suggested in the image more than what is recorded. My personal belief is that this kind of photography is at its best, not necessarily when the images are technically perfect, but rather when they either capture or create a mood that “speaks” to the viewer. of course a viewer may interpret my photographs as having a very different mood or message from the one I intended, because of course the viewer will interpret the image through his or her own eyes and own experiences.

Here is a colour example I happen to like very much. Like many images that I like the best, it is not technically perfect. And like many presented here, it was shot through a window and as a result is distorted and softened by flare and reflections. Technically it may be questionable, but artistically I feel it works. This image reminds me very much of early autochrome colour images which have a lovely softness and pastel quality. And it has a lovely intimate mood which sets me thinking: who are they, why are they here, what are they talking about? That is exactly what mood should be able to achieve – set the viewer thinking.

Image 2

I am happiest with my own photos when they are somewhat ambiguous (one reason I often make liberal use of reflections when I can – think Saul Leiter who had a similar approach for, I imagine, similar reasons). I think of a good image as being one which allows room for viewer interpretation as I mentioned earlier. Here is another example. Again, it’s an image of a group of people in a warm café; sitting, passing the time, drinking coffee and enjoying each other’s company. Once more, critics could be forgiven for saying it’s a bad photo – excessively dark, soft, indistinct and vague. But these are exactly the things I love about it. It has an intimate mood that draws me back to this place and time. Hopefully it does something similar for others who may remember times when they have sat amongst just such an intimate group of friends. Once more this photo is all about its mood.

image 3

Why is it that looking in through a window on a scene so often creates that feeling of intimacy and warmth? I find this again and again – it is like looking in on a secret and private world. Here is a further example, an image that speaks to me once more of comfort, intimacy, congeniality and friendship.

Image 4

Of course the same technique can be applied in other settings. In the following two images, shot through windows in Kowloon, Hong Kong I captured the staff of two of the many small restaurants that line the streets in this part of town, at work in their kitchens. Shadows and light complemented by the blur of steam on what probably has to be admitted were grimy windows transport me back to my time in that place. To me this type of travel photo is more evocative than any number of wide-angle scenes of iconic buildings and skylines, perhaps because the images’ human scale because they capture the feeling of the places depicted. They are photos which make the most of mood and looking at them transports me back to that place and time. This is what mood can do when it works for the viewer.

Image 5

Image 6

But of course, mood does not always rely upon reflections in a window. In the following shot my aim was for the image to be about the triangle made by this mother’s face, her hands and the face of her child to emphasize the relationship between them. So after making the image I applied a vignette to emphasise those elements and not much else – perhaps just enough to give context. I have often felt that in image making a successful image is as much about what you leave out as what you capture. And that is a key creative choice that photographers should keep in mind.

Image 7

The same kind of technique can be successfully applied to other types of photograph to create mood. In this image of a city skyline, the natural shadows have been enhanced to focus the eye where it needs to be – on the juxtaposition between old and new as represented by the buildings in the image.

Image 8

In all of the above images there has been some degree of post processing to draw out final image. Perhaps it is surprising for many people to learn that the processing has involved taking detail out – not maximizing it. As I said at the outset, to me a photograph can often work best when it is a little ambiguous and allows room for personal interpretation by the viewer. This can often only be achieved if the image has lost some detail that might otherwise distract the viewer from the main message or make the main point of interest in the image less obvious. But there are times when little effort is needed to achieve this.

Sometimes, as in this photo all you need to do is to rely on natural light to capture the mood that was present when the image was made. And then maybe tweak it a smidge in post.

Image 9

But I can never quite let go of the idea of using reflections so here is one final photo to illustrate a variation on this theme. In this example it was as simple as photographing the distorted image of a crane against the sky, with both elements reflected in a grimy upper story window of a warehouse. No tricks, little processing, just an image that is both vague and at the same time, somehow evocative. You may have guessed. I love reflections for their ability to create mood.

Image 10

So there you have it, some thoughts on creating mood in photography to illustrate my central message of the importance of photographers creating a personal style for themselves. And of course to illustrate this I have shown you something of my own personal style. Your task is to find a style that works for you – a style which gives you a voice. And what about creating mood? Well, unsurprisingly I find that much of it is about using shadows and light. Speaking personally I just wait till I see an image that looks as if it is interesting then compose and press the shutter. Then when I am processing it and begin to see an image emerging that I like, I may add a bit of shadow here, subtract a bit of light there – or visa versa, till I am happy. No secret, just experience and a certain sensitivity to an image that in some way makes me go “wow, I like that, I think I will stop now!” If there is interest and |Steve agrees I am happy to prepare another article for his site on how to use post processing to enhance mood and style in photographs.
I recently found a photography book containing photos of Australia in the 1950’s and 1960s. A sentence in it caught my attention, part of which referred to “the ability of a lens to give a vision not seen by the eye”. How true that is. If we are doing our job right as photographers we will sometimes manage to capture an image that no eye, including our own has ever seen. We have caught a moment in time and when we first see the photo realise we have really seen it for the first time. I am sure we all have had that experience and am constantly amazed by the ability of photography to do this. But my central idea in this article is that even though a photo can capture something not seen directly by the eye, if done well it can tell an even deeper truth about the image by speaking directly to our emotions. That is the elusive frustrating demon I constantly chase. Maybe we all do.

I hope you have enjoyed this and even more, I hope you have found it useful or at least thought-provoking. More of my photos can be seen on my Flickr page. Nothing fancy, just photos from my everyday life and travels. Some good, perhaps some indifferent, but I hope not many that are bad.

Please visit and if you feel so inclined, leave comments. https://www.flickr.com/photos/life_in_shadows/

Or you can visit some I have placed on Pinterest for a more succinct overview of some of my images. http://www.pinterest.com/peterm1001/

Jul 102014
 

Using a Zoomfinder

By Steve Tsai

Hello Steve Huff Photo community, I have stumbled across an invaluable side benefit of a zoomfinder in my photography process and would like to share my experience with it. It is for wide-angle application and architectural interior photography in this report, but hopefully it can be beneficial for other applications as well!

For those unfamiliar with a zoomfinder, it is an external finder with a zooming capability for compositional aid, typically used on a rangefinder or a non mirror-reflex camera. It mounts to the hotshoe and there are a few choices out there. In my case I use the Voigtlander Zoomfinder, Arca Swiss Vario Finder, and to a small extent the Alpa eFinder App on the iPhone.

Framing aid Apps on the smart phone is pretty handy indeed but the requirement of an external wide-angle lens adaptor and the annoyance of dealing with electronic device where multiple button presses, non-instantaneous viewing, and concerns of battery life hinder the speed and usability for me so I am skipping it in this report.

Below are brief descriptions of the zoomfinders in use:

The Arca Swiss Vario Finder

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Along with different masks it simulates framing including rise/fall and shifted lens positions. Users zoom the housing to desired lens focal length marking and put a corresponding metal mask on the front which clips on by the recessed magnets in the front frame. There are 3 masks in total but for my use I only need 2 of them. My finder is an older design, newer finders have guided pin slots which is even cooler for keeping orthogonal movements.

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The mask can be slid in both axis to show movement – each dot simulates 5mm of movement and can be seen through the viewfinder. Here is a view that simulates 10mm of rise and 10mm of left shift.

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The image quality is nice and bright, with apparent barrel distortion, gets much better when zoomed in though. The image appear to be slightly blurry on the periphery if your eye is not in the right position or not square to the eyepiece which acts as a clever visual feedback to put your eye in the right position for accurate framing. The proportion is 4:3 which corresponds to medium format digital back sensor size.

Here is how it looks like when mounted on the technical camera, it has mounting foot for both landscape and portrait orientation.

zf-04

Voigtlander 15-35mm Zoomfinder
This a well designed and solidly-built finder which operates similar to a zoom lens. There are notched positions for focal length presets similar to aperture ring on a M rangefinder lens and has a built-in diopter on the eyepiece. Depending on the model it will also indicate equivalent focal lengths for various cropped sensors. In use on a rangefinder it is a bit of a dance as Steve explained in a previous post. Metering and framing are carried out by viewfinder on camera and the Zoomfinder separately. Due to the larger distance it mounts away from the lens, parallax effect is more exaggerated for closer distance subjects with the super wide lenses. Here is how the zoomfinder looks like when mounted to the M9-P.

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The experience is similar to an SLR where views are masked instead of frameline overlay of a rangefinder, there is a dotted line on top to indicate close range frame edge. The images quality is excellent, distortion is very mild and zoom simulation works extremely well. There is slight fringing if you point at bright sources. The proportion is 2:3 which corresponds to small format sensor size. Here is a comparison showing 15mm and 35mm views, note the slight fringing.

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Now to the main point of the article – how the zoomfinder can make our lives easier. For years I have looked for solutions that will help with certain challenges I encounter on a shoot – which the zoomfinder eventually solved for me.

Here are the benefits:

1. Scouting Aid
Prior to the shoot, one can go around the space and preview contemplated scenes using various focal lengths in a very nimble fashion. For architectural interiors, one frequently gets pinned to confined space during framing, it is much easier to handle and preview with such a small and light device.

2. Visualization and Focal length selector.
For those of us sensitive to the compositional impact related to exaggeration of perspective inherent in various wide-angle focal lengths it is sometimes hard to choose the proper prime lens without preview. The zoomfinder shows the effect in combination with the physical distance to the subject. You can quickly decide if you want to stand back and use a 28mm or get closer and use a 24mm along with the look of each lens. It is such a time-saver. The relatively low optical distortion in the viewfinder just makes the preview actually enjoyable and non-distracting compared to lower grade viewfinders.

3. Stitching Preview
For those of us that use shift lens and stitching capture workflow it is hard to see the composition during the shoot. Through my own tests I have worked out equivalent focal length of the stitched focal length. The 24 PC-E becomes 18mm with cropped sides or 21mm safe frame. The 45 PC-E becomes 28mm with cropped sides or 35mm safe frame. Safe frame is for cropping out the corner vignette when maximum shifts are used. You can quickly preview the finished image with the zoomfinder. Here is an image that shows 3 images from capture and the finished stitch.

zf-07

4. Camera Position Aid
The effect of camera height is very important in interiors. With the viewfinder I can preview the scene and determine exact camera position very quickly. Once I identify the desired position, I will hold the zoomfinder in place with one hand and then drag the camera + tripod over with the other hand to match the optimal position quicker and then fine tune to suit.

For the benefits above, the zoomfinder has become so invaluable that I carry it on me during the shoot at all times. Previously I used a mini ballhead along with a tripod button and a safety noose.

zf-08

Early on in the year I dug into my luthier roots and made a stabilized hardwood handle for it. A belt clip gun holster provides easy reach and secured carry. I often have to move furniture and arrange items in the scene so the belt clip is the best carry as it will not swing around during active motions.

zf-09

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I know this is a very specific application and a small camera with a wide zoom can achieve the same function. However the small size and simple, convenient use during a physical shoot just makes it so much easier for me. If there is a wish to make it even better… a 15 to 50mm zoomfinder would make it out right amazing although definitely not at the expense of distortion though! The experience is so important and can make your shoot enjoyable when scenes do not appear warpy like a Salvador Dali painting. I have considered a dual hot shoe that mounts both the zoomfinder and a separate 50mm finder but it will make the size much larger and stability would be of concern.

If one can make a custom precision mount that adapts the zoomfinder to a smartphone it can be used as a good quality wide angle zoom adaptor as well. Maybe it will be a project for the DIY crowd with a 3d printer out there!

Maybe in 5 years google glass will have a thought controlled view window that can zoom and crop to simulate a viewfinder – consider this a free idea if anyone wants to take this on with crowd sourcing!

You can find me at:

Website
http://www.stevetsai.photography/

Stevie Rave On blog
http://stevetsaiphotography.com/wp/

Flickr
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevieraveon/

Jul 092014
 

An Introduction to Light Painting

by Olympus Trailblazer Jamie MacDonald

As photographers, we know that our craft is all about light. We chase the golden hours of morning and evening, and the blue hour of twilight, and we spend hours in the studio with strobes and Speedlights. But there is another genre of photography you can explore where light isn’t used only to enhance the scene; rather, it BECOMES the scene.

This is what happens when light becomes the scene:

©2013 Jamie A. MacDonald

What does it take to start light painting? Nothing more than your camera, a source of light and your imagination. Here is a basic list of tools to get you started in light painting:

• A camera capable of shooting in manual mode. If you’re an extreme beginner, don’t worry – shooting in manual is easy for this!
• A tripod or some other way to stabilize your camera during the exposure.
• A cable release or remote for your camera. If you do NOT have one, don’t worry! I explain a technique below for shooting without one!
• A light source. What kind? Pretty much anything that produces light can be used! Some examples of things I’ve used are LED flashlights, an iPhone, sparklers, glow sticks and bracelets, and one of my favorites is a set of battery-powered holiday lights!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that we have the gear ready, let’s go shoot!

Step 1: The first thing we need to do is find a good location, preferably away from any other light sources. The reason we prefer a location without too much ambient light is that, during our long exposure, this ambient light may overexpose our scene. If possible, I also suggest using a location that will add interest to your image.

Step 2: Let’s start by putting our camera on the tripod and setting the camera to manual mode. I will give you some settings to start with and offer some suggestions on adjustments you can make if need be. You will also need to set your camera to manual focus. This is important because autofocus in the dark just isn’t going to cut it.

Step 3: With the camera in manual mode, we can set the ISO to 100–200, aperture to f/8, and you can control your exposure time by using your camera’s bulb mode. If your camera doesn’t have a bulb mode, I suggest setting the exposure to 30 or 60 seconds and using the camera’s timer function to trigger the shutter. The length of the exposure will depend on how much time is needed to perform the painting. Some images I’ve created took 15 minutes, others only 30 seconds or so.

Step 4: Another thing we need to do is make sure we turn off any type of anti-vibration system your camera or lens may have. If left on when mounted to a tripod, it can produce some not-so-sharp results.

Step 5: Finally, the last thing we have to do is focus our camera on the location where the light painting will take place. The easiest way to do this is to have a friend stand in the location you’ll be photographing and have them shine a flashlight on themselves. When they are illuminated, you can then easily fine-tune your focus on them.

Step 6: Get the person who is going to be doing the light painting out in position with their tools and tell them to start moving on a count of three, waving around their flashlight, LED light or whatever you are using. One…Two…THREE! Now trigger your shutter and let the long exposure begin.

Step 7: When the shutter closes, the light painter can stop dancing around and come see what was created. If you are using a cable release or remote, you can end the exposure at any time. But what if you’re alone? Or what if you don’t have a remote or cable release? No problem! Trigger the shutter and run out into position to paint. I have used this technique many times myself with great, if not tiring, results.

©2013 Jamie A. MacDonald

Now if all that waving the lights around seems a little random and abstract, it is. But when you see the results of the random movements, you may find that they are exactly what you wanted. If random isn’t what you’re after and you’d prefer a more controlled use of light painting, an easy way to start is by using a flashlight to “paint” an object during your long exposure.

The best advice I can give you is to pass on that given to me by the gentleman who got me started in light painting. He told me the best thing I could do once I had the basic settings figured out was to ask myself, “What if?” Almost all of my light-painting images started out with me asking myself those very words.

So go out into the night, have fun, and, most importantly, ask yourself, “What if?”

Jamie MacDonald

May 292014
 

Digitizing slides and negatives on the cheap

By Dierk Topp

what is this about?

A fast, easy and cheap solution for digitizing slides and negatives

The main idea is, to use the light of a tablet as a neutral white light source and solve the (my) main problem with the light.
The rest can be done in many different ways.

Many of us have tons of analog photographs in form of slides and/or negatives at home. I think, most of us don’t even look at these pictures any more, as it is just too much effort for showing slides compared to the great show of our digital images, stored on a stick and shown on our large TV screen. Even worse with all the negatives, that where never seen as positive print.

Since many years I was looking for a solution to digitize at least my slides with all the old pictures of the family, vacations and many other events, that I like to remember and give copies to my family. I used my DSLR with macro lenses and my Photo scanner but have been always very disappointed.

The problem with the DSLR was the light and the resolution (at that time 12 MPix) and the problem with the scanner was the boring time per scan, and also the resolution of only 2400 DPI!

Some time ago I noticed, that my tablet can be used as an ideal light source.
The light is very neutral (I checked it with the Colorchecker). And I came up with the following quick and “not so dirty” solution, of course not for professional work.

What do you need?

1. a camera, that gives you 1:1 close up images (the Sony E-mount Macro 30mm does it, many compact cameras as well)
2. your tablet (a smart phone may do it as well) as light source
3. a tripod or better a copy stand to mount the camera
4. clear glass pane (I use the glass of a cheap photo frame)
5. a bubble level to align the base and camera horizontally and/or a small mirror

optional:

6. a remote trigger for the camera to avoid vibrations
7. a transparent etched glass pane (or a milky glass pane, but that absorbs much light)
8. a negative holder from a photo scanner
9. a good blower to clean the glass and the slides or film
10. dark paper or card board to protect the lens from direct light from the tablet with a matching whole in it for your picture
11. cotton gloves for the handling of your negatives and slides

The set up:

(sorry for my English, I hope, I can make it clear enough)

* For first tests I used the Sony NEX-6 and the Sony E-mount Macro lens 30mm/3.5 with the IR remote control. After a few test shots I found, that the Sony Macro is very soft in the corners, but it offers AF! This could be very convenient, if you copy different slides with different thickness.
After that I decided to try the excellent Leica Makro-Elmarit-R 2.8/60mm with the Leica Macro-Adapter-R for 1:1 with very good results. BTW you get the used Leica lens for about the same price as the new Sony Macro lens. Plus a Leica-R adapter of course.

* The copy stand (mine is from B.I.G.) for about 30€, for small cameras. I cut a hole into the base plate and put the etched glass pane under it and below this the tablet

* On the base of the copy stand I put the glass of a picture frame

* You have to make sure, that the film and the sensor are parallel! I did it with a mirror, that I put on the glass and aligned the camera till I could see the reflection of the lens exactly in the middle of the screen. A bubble level on the glass (to control, how horizontal the table is) and on the camera display will help as well.

* Before you start, like in the good old days or nights in the darkroom you have to clean the glass and of course the slides or negatives carefully!

* On the tablet you need a neutral white image. I made one by taking a screen shot of an email with very little text and enlarged the screen so much that I had only the white background and then did another screen shot.
Of course there are many other ways for a white screen.

Try to focus on the grain with the focus magnification of the camera, as we used to do in the darkroom. With original lenses you do not have to take care but on adapted lenses like my Leica lens in this case open the aperture and focus with the magnification – and don’t forget to stop down again! I used f/11 to compensate for any misalignment. With the Sony Macro lens the AF worked as well. But with AF you definitely need an etched or milky glass pane, otherwise your camera will focus at the contrast of the LED of your tablet most of the times! This will be the same with other AF cameras.
What resolution do you get?

any, only limited by the grain!!

If you do the whole film with one shot, you get the resolution of your camera. If you need more resolution, you have to get closer and shoot multiple images and stitch. In that case of course with manual exposure.
With 35mm film this does not make much sense, as you may get beyond the resolution of the film grain.
With larger formats is makes a lot of sense.
I have 24×56 negatives from my Horizon 202 panorama camera and shoot two images (left and right) and stitch.
With 6×6 negatives I did 4 shots (2×2) with the NEX-6 and stitch. After I tried the Sony A7R with 36 MPix I decided to do only one shot and crop the sides to the 1:1 format. If I need higher resolution for a really good photograph, I always can do it again later with multiple shots and get higher resolution.
With my 4×5 negatives I did 6 shots (2×3) and stitched. Again I can do one shot now and do multiple shots for more resolution later, if I want.
How long does it take?

If everything is aligned and cleaned, I shoot 10 negatives in 15 minutes or even faster.
For comparison: I scanned a 6×6 negative with my old Epson 2450 Photo with 2400 dpi resolution and it took 10 minutes and I got less resolution!

Post processing

I import the RAW files into Light Room and use Photoshop for the conversion from negative to positive and do basic exposure and contrast corrections. Back in Lightroom on color images I try to find a more or less white or gray spot as a reference for the white balance and do the final processing.

A picture is better than many words, here is my set up:

The Sony Macro 30mm in 1:1 position for slides and 35mm negatives
a dark paper mask protects the lens from the light source, the paper on the left protects against the light from the window or you shoot in a dark room you see the mate glass pane and under it the tablet with the white image on the display.

setup for digital photography of  slides and B&W negative film

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you see the whole in the copy stand for the light from the tablet
the NEX-6 with the Leica Makro-Elmarit-R 60mm with 1:1 Macro-Adapter-R on a Metabones adapter

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a 6×6 negative, I used the negative holder of my scanner

setup for digital photography of  slides and B&W negative film

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The alignment with a mirror
see the image of the mirror in the center of the display of the camera!

setup for digital photography of  slides and B&W negative film

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And here are first results :-)

the color images are here on my flickr
https://www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/sets/72157644569983692/

35mm slides

digital photograph of color slide 24x36

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I don’t remember the film, but it was a high speed film with Vaseline on the filter for the soft focus
focus on the grain was a must on this one

digital photograph of color slide 24x36

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This example is very special, I made it 1970 in New York City
you see the World Trade Towers during construction with my at that time new 17mm/4 Fish-Eye-Takumar
the quality of the slides is very poor

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These are stitched images from 24x56mm negatives of the Russian Horizon 202
images on flickr are here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/sets/72157644195467248/

digital photograph of Horizon 202 (24x56) B&W film

Horizon 202 (24x56) B&W film

6×6 images made with the DDR made Pentacon Six

are here on flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/sets/72157644569983672/

6×6 color negative Agfa Ultra 100
color negative is not easy, you would need a profile to compensate the color mask of the film

digital photograph of 6x6 color negativ film, stitched of 6 imag

and B&W from Agfa APX 100

digital photograph of 6x6 B&W film

Pentacon Six 6x6, Zeiss Flektogon 4/50mm, Agfa APX 100

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this one is from a 4×5″ B&W negative, made with Gandolfi Variant II
6 stitched image parts (2×3)

analog 4x5 B&W, stitch of 4 image parts, Sony A7R with Leica Mak

Last but not least panorama images from a time, when stitching images was not jet invented.

My plan for these images has been, to mount the printed images together as a panorama – but it never came out good enough.
Now with the simple to use software it worked great to my surprise :-)

4 images 6×6 from the Pentacon Six on Agfa Ultra color negative film (1992), stitched with PTGui
the image with this resolution is about 17.000 pixel wide. Compared to the possibilities from today this does not sound much. I just did a panorama with 7 images from the Sony A7R hand held, resulting in 37.000 pixel – o.k. just in case I want to print it 5m wide :-))

Pentacon Six 6x6, Zeiss Flektogon 4/50mm, Agfa Ultra 100 color n

A last one, I made with the Gandolfi Variant 4×5″ field camera

This is the most complicated panorama, I ever made :-)

It is made out of two 4×5″ shots from Gandolfi Variant.
First image with shifted front standard to one side and back standard to the opposite and the second image with shifts the other way around.
Lens was Rodenstock Sironar-N 150mm/5.6 MC
and the usual darkroom chemistry ….

PP:
digitized both images with Sony A7R and Leica Makro-Elmarit-R 60mm
each image with 4 shots (2×2)
each image processed with LR5 and exported as TIFF
stitched with PTGui 9
the negative converted with CS6 and base contrast alignments
final processing with Nik Silver Efex Pro2
the result is about 7.600×17.200 pixel = 130 Mpix.

La Palma, Canary Islands, view from El Time

analog 4x5 B&W, stitch of 8 image parts from two photographs, So

this is a crop of this image

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I hope, you got the idea and start checking all your slides and negatives and wake them alive again

dierk

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/

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To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

May 192014
 

Experimenting with Digital Infrared

By Alexandra Shapiro

A few years ago, I began experimenting with infrared, or IR, photography (mostly landscapes). I am still a beginner when it comes to IR photography, and am constantly amazed at some of the stunning IR images that others produce. Although many of your readers may already be experts, I hope some find these thoughts and experiences useful.

Infrared light is not visible to the human eye, but can be captured on certain types of film and digital cameras. With film, it is necessary to use an infrared filter that blocks most or all visible light while allowing infrared light to pass through. This generally requires the use of a tripod and long exposures, as well as special infrared film. Most digital cameras filter out infrared light, so they are not great tools for infrared photography. However, there are companies that will convert a digital camera so that it can be used for infrared photography; you can also buy a conversion kit and do the conversion yourself. This is not for the faint of heart, since you can ruin a camera if you are not careful; most people probably use conversion services instead.

After doing a fair amount of research on various conversion companies, I decided to convert an older model camera using lifepixel (www.lifepixel.com). There are lots of potential pitfalls with the conversions, and not all cameras or lenses work well. There are a number of conversion companies that repeatedly get negative reviews, with users reporting that their conversions were botched, but Lifepixel consistently gets excellent reviews. They will convert a fairly wide range of cameras, and their website has detailed information on any unique traits of particular camera models that they convert. Panasonic, Olympus, and Sony mirrorless cameras apparently work very well, as do many Canon and Nikon DSLRs.

In addition, Lifepixel (like other conversion services) has several different types of infrared filters to choose from. The filters are installed inside the camera, after the filter that the camera came with to prevent IR light from passing through is removed. You can choose an IR filter that produces only black and white images, or a color filter. You can also choose a “full spectrum filter” that lets visible light as well as infrared light pass through to the sensor. This gives you more flexibility, but you will probably need to use IR filters on the lens to get IR effects.

During the conversion process, the camera is also adjusted to ensure that metering and auto-focus are adjusted for infrared light. Unless you send a lens for calibration, the camera’s auto-focus is adjusted based on a standard lens used for that manufacturer’s cameras. For example, Canon DSLRs are adjusted using a Canon 50 1.8 II lens unless you opt for the custom calibration service and send in the lens you prefer to have the camera calibrated with. Of course, fixed-lens cameras are calibrated using the built-in lens.

I like the look of black and white infrared, but prefer using a color IR filter to have the added flexibility, since obviously color images can be converted to black and white. I started with a small Canon DSLR, because I already had several good Canon lenses. I found a good deal on a refurbished Rebel T2i, a model that had been discontinued, and sent it to Lifepixel for conversion with their “supercolor” filter. I recently decided to upgrade to full frame and found a deal on eBay for a used Canon 5D (original version) that had already been converted by Lifepixel with an “enhanced color” filter. The IQ with the 5D is noticeably better than with the T2i, but there is a downside: the 5D does not have a live view function, which can be very useful with IR photography. Also since it is an older camera the LCD is small and the menu system and ergonomics generally are not as nice as on newer Canon models.

In order to get proper white balance, and have the most flexibility with the images, it is best to shoot raw. On many converted cameras, you can set a custom white balance that will allow you to use your LCD to check whether the white balance is correct. However, on some models (for example, certain recent Nikon DSLRs) that is not possible; the image will look quite reddish on the LCD, and you will need to use conversion software to fix the white balance in post. IR photography requires a fair amount of post-processing in any case. Most websites say that to fix the white balance (or to have your raw conversion software recognize the custom white balance you set in the camera) you have to use the camera maker’s raw converter. However, I recently learned you can create a preset for Lightroom’s “camera calibration” setting that allows you to convert your images from raw in Lightroom instead. This link has instructions for how to do this (http://www.luminescentphoto.com/blog/2013/07/15/setting-white-balance-on-infrared-images-with-lightroom-with-video/). I now do all my raw conversions in Lightroom instead of using Canon’s raw conversion software.

My workflow is generally as follows: I import my raw images into Lightroom and use the camera calibration preset I created so I can see them with the custom white balance set in-camera. Then I perform adjustments to white balance, sharpening, and exposure in Lightroom, and export to Photoshop CS6 to make further edits after the raw conversion. The first step in Photoshop for me is usually channel-swapping, which is useful for getting the “deep blue sky” effect that many interesting IR images have. This involves changing the red channel to 0% red and 100% blue, and changing the blue channel to 0% blue and 100% red. Then if I want to keep the image in color I play around with levels and other adjustments to get whatever effects seem most interesting. For black and white, I generally convert using plug-in filters from Alien Skin Exposure 5 or Perfect B&W 8.

When I first started, I noticed that sometimes the images seemed very soft, or did not have the dramatic contrasts or deep blue skies or white foliage I was hoping for. I found that I could get sharper images when shooting in bright sunlight (the harsh sunlight in the middle of the day is great for producing dramatic IR landscapes); using small apertures (I prefer F8 to F16). Sometimes the AF is off, but if you have a camera with live view or an EVF it is easy to correct that with manual focus.

I shot the first eight images below during Steve’s Valley of Fire workshop this past February. That was the first time I used the 5D; the lens is Canon’s 24-105 L. The remaining images were taken with the T2i and various lenses; those were shot in Austerlitz, New York and Big Sky, Montana.

More of my photos can be found on this flickr page https://www.flickr.com/photos/27953454@N07/

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 1

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 2

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 3

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 4

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 5

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 6

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 7

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 8

T2i 1

T2i 2

T2i 3

T2i 4

T2i 5

Mar 132014
 

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Shooting & Processing Cinema Film in a Still Camera

by Brett Price

Hey Steve,

Thought I’d write up a quick little article on a recent set of photos I took. I’ve submitted several posts before outlining several photography related experiences with different equipment/techniques I’ve been playing around with, a lot of the fun in photography for me is the ongoing discovery of new techniques, equipment or processes. The latest addition would be my experience shooting motion picture film in a still camera. There’s a lot to do with something like this so Its not exactly something someone can just pick up and do but I figure that this article could be a first step to many who might be interested.

**See Brett’s other posts HEREHEREHERE and HERE**

First off, All of the shots below were rolled, shot, developed/processed and scanned in an at home process and were all taken with Kodak Vision 3 500t film. This is a fabulously versatile film that used a great deal in modern cinematography. This is the same film that you can also purchase online, called CINESTILL FILM that has had a special process to make it capable of being developed at a traditional film lab. (more on that later).

One of the reasons I wanted to play around with this film is because well, I still shoot a lot of film, and the choices for films are becoming more and more limited today for still photography. I still feel like cinema film has a place for a while until most of the more seasoned DPs give it up and its relatively more affordable to shoot considering how much more of it you can buy. You mainly just have to have the infrastructure to take it from beginning to end to make that work, something I have developed over the years. Another reason, like I mentioned is the cost. I purchased a 400ft roll of kodak film online for about 100 dollars. That’s enough color film to make over 100 rolls. That is a dollar a roll, not too bad. It’s also a film thats really not available in still format. Most still films are daylight balanced, which can be troublesome if you shoot it under any type of tungsten light. I’ve never really understood why films were made that way, with no high-speed stocks available for that type of light. It’s quite easy to take a high-speed film and add a warming filter to it to shoot outdoors if needed. Its pretty difficult to take a daylight film and shoot indoors, as the filters remove a great deal of light, and then you have to shoot it in a place where typically there isn’t a great deal of light.

But oh well. It’s a fantastic film. All of these shots were taken outdoors or by open windows without a filter so this is the look you can get when you shoot it outside. It’s very blue but able to be balanced nicely in the scanning process. It’s also a very versatile film if it’s all you shoot as all it really needs to shoot outside is a warming filter. I shoot a lot at night and in urban environments so this film really fits my daily Leica carry.

The first step is getting it into shootable cassettes. Bulk loading is pretty common with b&w film, as you can still buy 100ft rolls of it. All you need is to separate out about 100ft from the 400ft roll and load it into a bulk loader and then into the film cassettes. Pretty easy.

One of the reasons everyone hasn’t picked up on this film yet is the fact that it comes rolled with a layer on the film called REMJET. Remjet is a layer on the back of the film that is typically removed in the films native process but the C-41 process does not account for. You can’t just shoot this film and take it to a lab for development. Not only will the film ruin the lab’s chemistry, it will come out with a layer of soft black gook on the back. The CINESTILL film that is available for purchase has this layer pre-removed so the film can be developed in any lab, hence why its caught on with a lot of 35mm film shooters.

All of these shots were home developed and not taken from a lab. I actually used waste lab chemistry because I work at a lab but the same process can be done with any home c-41 kit. The biggest unknown for a lot of people, even me, was how easy or difficult it is to remove the Remjet layer after processing the film. There’s a lot of stuff online that goes into detail about how difficult or easy it is but nothing very specific of helpful. I actually found this to be super easy. The film comes out after processing almost totally opaque, if you touch the back of it you’ll get an inky black residue on your fingers, it comes off quite easily but the issue is you don’t really want to get it on the emulsion side. All I did was wet a microfiber cloth, grab the film from the top, and essentially squeegee it from top to bottom. This took off the rem jet perfectly. All that’s left is to restabilize the film so you don’t get water spots from the wet cloth.

I have access to a lab scanner so these were pretty straight forward to scan in but the process of scanning can be done after development like any other film. Also pretty straightforward.

I really like the characteristics of this film. I’ll probably pick up a roll of Kodak 250D (daylight) as well and then i feel like all my bases would be covered for shooting color 35mm. It’s a super versatile film and the process isn’t nearly as scary as many people make it seem. I would highly suggest checking out the CINESTILL website for side by side examples as to why this film is so nice. They lay it out between some more popular films like Portra and Fuji Pro, and the results are pretty easy to see.

Anyway, I post a great deal to various websites ill list below, please check them out for more shots. Hope you all like my photos with this film and my write-up on it as well. Happy shooting.

Brett Price

Instagram: Brettprice

Tumblr: Brettprice.tumblr.com

Website: www.iambrettprice.com

Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/brettprice

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Mar 112014
 

The Leica Summilux 21mm f1.4 ASPH on the Sony A7r

By Robin Mudge

I love shooting with ultra wide-angle lenses. My favorite street kit has been a Leica M9 with Summilux-M 21mm f1.4 ASPH and for medium format work a technical camera with Rodenstock’s f4 32 mm HR Digaron-W. This short exposition is a record of my experiences to date using a new Sony Alpha 7r with the Summilux-M 21mm lens.

A year ago a I bought a Sony RX-1 and despite it’s fixed moderate wide-angle of 35mm it has been my camera of choice ever since. Print quality surpasses that from the M9 and while it obviously can’t match up to the technical camera, its compactness and ease of use has made me reluctant to load myself up with the technical camera back-pack for some time. I used the RX-1 with both an optical and electronic viewfinder; the size, weight, almost silent shutter and auto focus made it a dream to use.

However, although enjoying the wonderful fixed 35 mm lens, I still hankered after a wider-angle point of view. Despite being a long-term dedicated Leica user, for me the Leica M240 seemed to be a camera that Jumped the Shark. But a camera only slightly larger than the RX-1, with even higher resolution and with interchangeable lens’ was too much to resist. Enter the Sony Alpha 7r. Plenty has been written about this camera, and many people have talked about potential problems using ultra wide lenses with the 7r but I had not seen much pictorial evidence.

From what had been said I was anticipating notable green/magenta lens cast as well as corner vignetting, both of which are to be expected when matching other manufacturers lenses to a high-resolution sensors, especially with ultra wide-angle lenses. Vignetting is an inherent issue with ultra wide angles because of their design and the green/magenta lens cast is caused by light exiting the lens being refracted as it grazes across the physical structure of the sensor (the problem gets worse the wider angle the lens and the higher resolution the sensor).

With matched bodies and lenses the camera firmware automatically corrects resulting lens casts; something that is not possible when using other manufactures lenses with these bodies, However, I was not so worried about this as under these circumstances it is common to correct lens cast affects by producing lens profiles, which when applied cancel out the effects (a common practice for technical camera users).

With all this in mind I mounted the Summilux 21mm on my newly acquired 7r via a Metabones adapter and set off to photograph a few locations in the neighborhood. At first glance through the viewfinder, I was pleasantly surprised to see little evidence of the magenta/green cast, but it was clear that vignetting was very strong at full aperture and didn’t start to improve until after f4. The extent of the vignetting was not really apparent until shooting the raw files to be used for creating lens profiles.

This involves shooting with translucent plastic covering the lens. A grey image is created that shows all the defects of the lens and sensor combination. This image is then used to produce a lens profile where adjustments are automatically applied to create a perfectly even image, across the entire frame, with both colorcast and vignetting corrected. A lens profile for each aperture has to be produced as both color cast and vignetting changes at each f-stop. The appropriate lens profile is then applied to correct the lens cast before any further processing is done. Of course vignetting tools can be used and are much quicker, but they do not remove any color casts that may be present. One other thing, the lens profile does not correct for chromatic aberration, edge effects or distortion. This has to be done with the tools of your choice. I use Capture 1 to process most of my images because it is relatively simple to produce and apply lens profiles. The Adobe Flat Field plugin does the same thing in Lightroom.

The attached images are of the Peabody Library in Baltimore, and the lens profile image, both shot at f1.4. The series shows both the unprocessed image of both and the post processed images, just with the lens profile applied.

At f1.4 the vignetting is really strong; but whether it is unacceptable or not obviously depends on the subject matter and personal taste. Correcting for it is bound to add considerable noise to the corners of the image and take some time! Sadly, for me, because vignetting does not start to improve until around f4 it seems pointless using this very expensive fast lens on this body. I’m hoping that some of the slower ultra-wades will perform better, we will see.

Lens profile image

21 test-f1.4 calibration image

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Without profile…

21 test-f1.4 library-uncorrected-1

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Both images below are with Profile correction…

21 test-f1.4 library_corrected-1

21 test-f1.4-lcc

On Moiré.

I have never experienced moiré before, with any of the cameras I have used without anti-aliasing filters. But when looking at a shot in the ‘hood’ of a new apartment development, there it was. The windows were treated with very narrow venetian blinds and voila, instant moiré.

aliasing-a

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B’nai Israel Synagogue2

B’nai-Israel-Synagogue1

Mar 032014
 

Beauties of Nature premium 3 day Workshop opportunity

April 4th – April 7th 2014 – $200 discount for SteveHuffPhoto.com readers!

Hello to all and happy Monday! It is a beautiful day here in Phx AZ with some warmth and sunshine so that always makes me smile. For those that want some of that warmth and sunshine I wanted to tell you about a workshop a friend of mine is putting on in April, and it is a big one.

My Friend Todd Hatakeyama, the guy who helped and organized my Valley of Fire workshop and the guy who Organized and set up my “Photo Cruise” is putting on a massive workshop that is aimed at helping anyone who wants to get into portrait, fashion as well as learn all about LIGHTING. They have lined up some amazing speakers and models, male and female, and will be holding it at a huge 8 acre estate in the Wildlife area of San Diego California where the weather will be just as beautiful as the models that will be on hand. This is a true “Workshop” so be prepared to WORK.

BON

Here is a blurb from the Beauties of Nature workshop page:

“Come join us for an all-inclusive weekend of photography, celebrity models, food, wine, and fun on an 8-acre ranch in the Wildlife area of San Diego, California. Learn how to shoot spectacular high-fashion models in an outdoor setting with studio strobes and natural light. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to photograph dazzling women in an extraordinary environment. The Beauties of Nature await you!”

They have a video from their last workshop that you can checkout below:

The good news is that if anyone here is interested they are offering $200 off the cost of booking this event just for the readers here if you use THIS LINK to sign up.

**I have not been paid one cent to post this, I do so because I know the level that this workshop is on and it is a big one, a luxury event with great food, drink, fun and a true LEARNING experience and figured some of you here may enjoy something like this. Also, Todd is a great guy and has helped me out in the past so I am returning the favor and I told him..give my readers $200 off and I will post!**

Read all about their event HERE at their page.

They will have 5 guest speakers, three models and a jam-packed schedule of events from Friday April 4th to Monday April 7th when the workshop ends. Below is the full schedule of events:

Friday, April 4th

12:00pm – Participants Arrive

12:00pm to 1:00pm – Introductions/Lecture

1:00pm to 2:00pm – Lunch

2:00pm to 2:30pm – Flor Lecture

2:30pm to 3:00pm – Kassie Lecture

3:30pm to 8:00pm – Optional Private Shoots

7:00pm to 8:00pm – Dinner

8:00pm to 9:00pm – Capture One Lecture

Late Night – Astronomy, Light Painting, Long Exposures

Saturday, April 5th

8:00am to 9:00am – Breakfast

9:00am to 10:00am – Tim Lecture

10:00am to 1:00pm – Model Shoot/Macro Shoot

1:00pm to 2:00pm – Lunch

2:00pm to 5:00pm – Model Shoot/Macro Shoot

5:00pm to 8:00pm – Model Shoot/Macro Shoot

8:00pm to 9:00pm – Dinner

9:00pm to 11:00pm – Optional Individual Model Shoot

Sunday, April 6th

8:00am to 9:00am – Breakfast

9:00am to 10:00am – Jay Lecture

10:00am to 1:00pm – Model Shoot

1:00pm to 2:00pm – Lunch

2:00pm to 5:00pm – Model Shoot

5:00pm to 7:00pm – Optional Individual Model Shoot

7:00pm to 8:00pm – Dinner

8:00pm to 10:30pm – Optional Individual Model Shoot

Monday, April 7th

8:00am to 9:00am – Breakfast

9:00am to 12:00pm – Editing

12:00pm to 4:00pm – Lunch/Photo Critique

How to get in on this one..

So anyone who is interested in a weekend of fun, learning, experience, and great food and massive photo opps, take a look at their page HERE and if you want to book, be sure to get the $200 off by using THIS LINK just for my readers here!

Dec 262013
 

The New York Times year in Pictures 2013

yearin2013

If you want to see the power of a single photograph then you must take a look at the 2013 year in photos from the NY Times. Scrolling through the slideshow will bring many emotions including tears, anxiety and compassion. Goes to show the true power of photography. I am sure those who shot these special and important frames could care less about noise, distortion, bokeh or even sharpness. Why? Because as I have said on many occasions, it does not matter. I urge everyone to click-through HERE to view these powerful images that were brought to us in 2013.

Click HERE To view them.

Oct 022013
 

“Down The Drain” 

Down the drain

The Future Is In The Past – The Leica Monochrom and Photogravure

Max Marinucci Photography

Fine Art Photography

Silver Gelatin and Photogravure

South Salem, NY

www.maxmarinucci.com

As a photographer and printer, I’ve always seen the advent of digital photography as a mixed blessing. The gain in speed, convenience, immediacy, offered by digital photography, also meant the gradual loss of film and everything related to it (photographic paper, chemicals) and, more importantly, the loss of learned skills and knowledge that are needed to produce truly hand-made prints. I have, of course, continued to use film for most of my work and honed my skills producing quality silver gelatin prints, in a world when a photographer feels like he is constantly swimming against the digital current. Kodak is no longer a driving force and so many manufacturers have disappeared or stopped making photographic product, with Ilford being the only reliable and consistent source as of today. Over the past year, while still dedicated to film photography and silver gelatin, I’ve rediscovered what is the most venerable, and in my opinion most beautiful of photographic processes: photogravure. A venerable process, and a 19th century invention, it was indeed how photography came to life, on paper, at the dawn of it all. On the camera front, as a devoted Leica user, I’ve continued with my trusty M3 and later film incarnations as the M4, M6, M7 and MP, until finally breaking down and acquiring a Monochrom upon release. There was no denying that the allure of a no fuss, great Leica camera that captures images in black and white only was too much to bear but, as my personality dictates, everything has to have a clear purpose. I am not an inkjet printer and I see no purpose in spending a good chunk of hard-earned cash on a camera to simply post digital snapshots on social networks or photography related websites, in a vacuum, with a purely digital workflow. As a photographer, artist and a printer, how do I justify the investment and, better yet, how do I bring the amazingly detailed images that the Monochrom is able to record, to life, on paper? Marrying our historic photographic past to the latest in technology, in a seamless way, and one that offers the viewer, collector, buyer, a tangible product that is not mass-produced but it is a handmade work of art, seemed the one and only way for me.

The Leica Monochrom and Photogravure: the future is in the past.

“The Old Man By The Window”

Old Man By The Window

Because of technological advances within the printing industry, and pioneers such as Jon Cone of Piezography, Roy Harrington of QTR, and Mark Nelson of Precision Digital Negatives (and few others) today it is possible to print absolutely flawless digital positives to use for the photogravure process. Of course, that doesn’t make this amazing process any easier, as it still involves the same numerous (and full of pitfalls) steps as it did one hundred years ago, but one only needs to admire in person the incredible prints born from Leica Monochrom images and onto fine art papers, hand-made with beautiful inks, to realize how special this is. I firmly believe that for a fine art photographer and printer, who is willing to let go of the constant film versus digital battles and discussions, these can be exciting times, if only one is willing to learn and push the boundaries a bit. For my own work it has now come to a point when shooting film with the ultimate goal of making photogravure plates and prints is almost not worth it. Of course, medium and large format film still offer many possibilities but, at the end of the day, film still has to be scanned and that will always be the weakest link (and probably weaker as we go on, as film scanners are barely in production). While results can be more than acceptable with 35mm, and I will still continue on this path on occasion, the amount of detail and the possibilities available with the Leica Monochrom and photogravure are truly exciting and special.

“Porte, Cassis” 

Porte, Cassis 1

For the novice who may be wondering why go through the trouble of using such a cumbersome and antiquated process to produce a print, I’d like to again outline a few important points: obviously, for as beautiful as the best inkjet prints may be, there are no particular skills required and no “hands on” aspect. If one enjoys actually “making” something, an inkjet print gives no satisfaction. Then there is the aspect of the print itself. With inkjet, we have ink (and a crappy one in most cases), sitting on top of the paper. With photogravure etchings, the image is IN the paper. What does that mean? Well, an etching on copper is basically peaks and valleys. The valleys are the deep crevices, which hold more ink and create the deep shadows and blacks, and the peaks will hold much less and create the highlights in print. Of course, we have everything in between, for a true full range of tones. What this does is actually creating a relief on paper. The images have a structure and depth that one cannot replicate with an inkjet printer, or with any other process.

“Strength and Grace”

Strength and Grace

The Prints:

All prints are in editions of 20, with image size 12×8 for standard 35mm format and 8×8 for square crops. Printed on Magnani Revere or Somerset papers, using Graphic Chemicals, Charbonnelle, and Izote etching inks. Of course archival qualities far exceed those of inkjet prints and even silver gelatin. Every print is hand made by me, and hand pulled using a manual etching press. Aside from the original digital file and the production of a “positive” on clear film, the process is fully analog.

A word about the Photogravure process:

Please do note that when I say photogravure, I mean, “copper-plate photogravure”. There is another printing process that uses pre-sensitized “polymer” plates and a few “artists” have gotten into the habit of calling it simply “photogravure”. It is NOT the same thing! Copper plate photogravure, is an etching process. A gelatin resist that is first sensitized in potassium dichromate is exposed (using first an aquatint screen or rosin dust), then applied to a sheet of mirror finish copper, developed and finally “etched” in a series of ferric chloride acid baths. The Photo-Polymer process is NOT an etching process and it does not require chemicals in any of its steps. It is much easier to master and prints can be absolutely beautiful but…IT IS NOT “PHOTOGRAVURE”.

Aug 202013
 

VSCO Film 04: Slide Film filters

Some of you may remember a post I made a short while ago on the VSCO film filters for Lightroom and Camera RAW. They are popular but controversial just like all “film” filters are and VSCO just released the SLIDE set which I feel is the best set of filters by them to date. If you have purchased other filter packs from them then this set will cost you less than $60 right now.

I am not doing a huge extensive posting on this set but will show you a full set of images using each preset. Keep in mind there are many variants of each preset and below is just one, the portrait preset of each film. The 1st set of images below of my Mother are all full size files from the Nikon V1 and the 1st image is the out of camera file.

Below that are random images treated with various slide film filters.

You can check out the VSCO Slide film pack HERE.

outofcam

astia100 e100G e100VS E200 fortiasp provia100f scala200 velvia50

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The image below was shot with an Olympus E-P5 and 17 1.8 wide open. I used the Scala + Contrast filter in VSCO. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Olympus E-P5 and Panasonic 20 1.7II – Provia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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A full size file from the Sony RX1R treated with the Provia 400 filter – click it for full size and to see the grain the filter applies

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Velvia 100 on a Nikon V1 file

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Provia – Nikon V1 and 18.5

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Scala 200 on a Nikon V1 file

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Scala 200  – Nikon V1

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E100 – Nikon V1

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Jun 182013
 

titleformono

An Anatomical Mono Breakdown

by Brad Nichol

I while back Steve published an article of mine titled One Giant Polaroid where I gave some insight into photographic processes I use which I felt it might be of interest in the context of the artwork discussed in the article. This time round I thought I could give some insight into monochrome techniques that perhaps readers might be able to at least partially put into practice their own work. Please bear in mind this is not meant to be an instructional piece but rather some words to provide a little inspiration regarding the options you may consider in working in monochrome.

As said in the previous article, I am a firm believer that to be consistently creative, a photographer needs control over their tools, processes and methodologies, otherwise it’s all a bit of a lottery and potentially wasteful of time and resources and creative energy. Today I will look specifically at some methods I use to create high quality monochrome images. Methods in this article are for landscapes and static subjects, for moving subjects, street photography etc a different approach is needed.

BACKGROUND

First a little background, going back several years ago, probably like a lot of people do, I looked at my work and wondered why there wasn’t that real life “being there” punch and why did my images not match the vision that I saw with my own eyes, and more importantly how could I address this imbalance and get closer to my artistic intents?

From these three questions and following many years of exploration, testing and taking literally thousands and thousands of images I determined the answers and subsequently developed a holistic system of photography which I call True Light Capture. TLC fundamentally works on a completion backwards principle, in other words I determine what I want as the end result and then put into place all the steps I need along the way to get to that end point, being careful that nothing is done that would compromise the following processes. It sounds technical and perhaps limiting but in fact it is quite the reverse, the methods are now so ingrained for me that I feel free to just concentrate on the creative output.

Today I’m not here to promote that system and in any case I only run the workshops once a year in Australia, but rather I would like to give insight into a couple of contributing techniques that might be of benefit to you when capturing and editing monochrome images.

CAPTURE

First up I firmly hold to the belief that to create a really good quality monochrome images you actually need a truly excellent initial capture in every technical sense. Without colour Monochrome lives and breathes by dint of its detail, texture and tonality, especially tonality. This is not to discount composition of course, and I would regard myself as being very composition driven but even the best composition can be totally brough undone by poor execution.

It is possible to use monochrome conversions to salvage noisy and sometimes poor quality files but that is not a pathway that holds any interest for me, I set out from the very beginning knowing that a mono output is the target, everything is driven be that consideration, I would never convert to monochrome as a salvage option. Such a file would be just discarded as I would feel embarrassed to present it, but perhaps that’s just me.

For my purposes JPEGs are completely useless, in fact I need low contrast RAW files that have full tonal information right into the highlights and shadows unless of course those areas are meant to be pure white or black. I think of it this way, I can always boost contrast and push tones around for artistic effect and interpretation but they have to be rendered in the file in the first place! JPEGs sacrifice an enormous amount of subtlety, especially in highlights and if you hold the highlights back enough via exposure to fully render them then your shadows are toast! JPEGs also have lots of noise reduction cooked in regardless of the camera settings and that sadly just eats the micro detail you need for great textural mono work.

I realize that JPEG quality is somewhat camera brand dependent, and being a Sony user I would never claim they produce great JPEGs, but nonetheless all JPEGs have significant limitations. I often tell students, if your RAW file derived images are not better than your JPEGs it’s either you have not yet reached a stage of being able to truly process them to their maximum capability or the RAW converters are just not up to the task yet for that file type yet. For example I am sure the Raw files from the X series Fuji cameras offer more potential than we are currently seeing, it is just the converters that are the problem and they will undoubtably get better as raw software developers learn to better crack the unusual Fuji RAW files. In any case RAW future proofs you, the converters will continue to improve and thus open up further options for you down the road.

Fully rendered highlights are I feel particularly important because the human eye is not used to seeing bleached or absent detail in highlights unless of course it is a specular highlight, it is that lack of subtle highlight details that helps make images look…… well digital.

Since I am after a certain look, I also choose my lenses accordingly, generally this means high contrast Zeiss style renderings are off the agenda and typically with both my NEX and Sony A series cameras I shoot with low contrast legacy glass.

Some lenses are particularly nice for certain types of monochrome images and fail miserably for others. For example I often use an ancient Minolta 28-85 f3.5-4.5 zoom, it’s a superb lens at the wide-angle end, but only if using the green and blue channels for the final image, it displays amazing clarity and micro detail in the green channel. Should your image however require a channel mix involving the red channel it is far less suitable as the red channel is very poorly resolved, especially in the outer reaches. Go to the long end on the same lens and the blue channel falls apart and the red shines! One needs to know their lenses and importantly where the individual strengths lie for any photography need, but especially for mono work.

One of the biggest impediments to truly successful high quality color to monochrome conversions is image noise. Don’t get me wrong noise can be a really good thing in a monochrome image but it needs to be applied post-production in the areas where you want it, it is definitely not desirable to be fighting noise from the very beginning of the conversion process, it will simply limit every process you try to implement from tonal adjustments right through to sharpening.

I shoot always at the lowest ISO I can get away with, which with the NEX 5N used for these pics is 200 ISO, I prefer 100ISO and there is a significant difference but if I am forced to hand hold, as I was for these images I will trade the higher potential quality off for a sharper capture.

Obtaining the greatest level of exposure without clipping any of those precious highlights is paramount to me, sometimes you will hear this referred to as ETTR, (Expose To The Right) which refers of course to shooting with your exposure set to the right side of the histogram.

ETTR is a little controversial and in any case there is a lot more to it than just going to the right side of the histogram, and I feel those arguing against it often misunderstand how it works and is actually used but the principle is simple enough, the more light you capture the further down the exposure scale your noise will be buried. The optimum setting for exposure to be set at the point where your brightest wanted highlights details just avoid clipping.

Sometimes I take several frames and noise stack to average noise out, sometimes I bracket the exposures, sometimes I even take the same frame at differing ISOs for later blending, there are lots of things one can do but ultimately really low noise in the file coming out of the RAW convertor means far greater post Raw flexibility. It is a beautiful thing to be able to just push tones around without having to worry about banding and rampant noise.

None of the above is radically different to anything a great number of photographers do but there is one other tool in my armory which you may consider is a little bit unusual.  The use of “balanced sensor capture” which forms an integral part of the whole TLC process.

THE PROBLEM

Bear with me please….don’t nod off now.

Fundamentally good colour to monochrome conversions are impeded by differing noise signatures across the three colour channels, normally the green is quite noise free, the red has a greater level of noise and the blue may have quite radically high levels of noise.

With some cameras the red channel maybe the worst with the blue in the middle but the green will always be the best.  The problem is that most channel mixing processes involve mixing the green with some red and some blue or perhaps just green and red or perhaps green and blue etc In all cases you’ll find that the level of noise in the resulting image varies depending upon the donor colour of the items in the original scene. In other words perhaps blue objects may appear far more noisy and less detailed than those objects which were initially green. There will also be differences in the levels of details that are held in the objects once again dependent upon the colour of the initial object.

The root cause of this is that the three colour channels at capture are not actually exposed identically typically the green channel will receive far more exposure than the red or blue.

Without going into full details and there are many, this also means that the red channel and the blue channel will possess less detail in the shadows than the green channel and will clip in the shadows far earlier, likewise the green channel may clip highlights before the red and blue channel and please note: Here we not talking about JPEG images but actual raw file data, that is as they say a horse of an entirely different colour.

If you could actually obtain a close to equal level of exposure across all three channels you would have roughly equivalent noise signatures for each channel making your monochrome conversions far more successful. Well in fact you can do exactly that.

This state of Nirvana is achieved by filtering the light before it reaches the camera sensor, there are no post production methods that will give the same result.

Typically this will mean you need to use a combination of red and magenta filters and this is exactly what I do. As to the exact values they will vary from camera model to model and even with the lens used. The filtration required is quite significant.

The trade-off of course is that the sensor is receiving less light for any given EV value so your exposure times become longer, in effect it’s like shooting at around 16-32 ISO instead of 100 ISO! Hence a tripod or really steady hold is doubly important.

The resulting files are low in contrast and very low on noise which means they are eminently suitable for monochrome conversion.  The most important factor being because the noise signatures are roughly equal across all three channels, channel mixing can be done using almost any combination of mixes, safe in the knowledge that your image will not fall apart due to weird noise signatures in certain donor colours.

A side benefit the images are slightly sharper, probably due to the better quality of the data being fed into the interpolation algorithm at the beginning of the process.  Even more importantly because there is a lower level of noise across the entire image it can withstand far greater and more sophisticated approaches to sharpening than is normal.

Because I’m obviously aiming for a high-quality result I’m very careful about controlling camera movement and shake, picking the exact focus point usually using magnified live view and using an aperture which is optimal for the final DOF that I want. Nothing startling there but take it as a given, this is no off the cuff high-speed street shooter option.

Back at the office the next important step is the conversion of the raw file into a Tiff file. For the ultimate high-end work I choose to use our RPP (Raw Photo Processor) a Mac only converter, but I also use RAW Developer (also Mac only). I adjust RPP to output the files as low contrast 16-bit files without any sharpening or noise reduction. RPP has an option to render files with a film-like tone curve, I use this because it allows an enormous level of flexibility in the post processing.

A cursory glance at the converted RAW files will show just how low in contrast they are, there is no clipping anywhere in the files and a wide amount of tonal wiggle room.

In some cases, mainly with very high contrast scenes I produce multiple conversions of the same RAW file, for example one better attuned to highlight rendering, one for the shadows etc, but in the case of all these example it is just a single conversion.

As mentioned I almost never use any noise reduction in the conversion process regardless of the converter used, this is handled later and very selectively in Photoshop should I need it, In reality I almost never need to apply any noise reduction at all except perhaps to clear cyan/blue skies, which are always a problem in any type of photography. It is in fact quite amazing how much more detailed a monochrome image can be if no noise reduction was applied anywhere in the early processes and when you do apply NR it often makes the noise look worse, clumping fine film like noise into dirty great gobs. Trust me what matters is the final look of the print output, and way too much noise reduction is aimed at making 100% on-screen views look smooth as silk, I suspect so people can brag on photo web forums about their latest wonder cam. Noise is not the enemy! and a 100% on-screen view is not a useable way to display a photo.

EDITING

This next point which might be a bit challenging for those looking for an easy pre-potted solution, is I firmly believe that for high-quality monochrome conversions there is zero possibility of using automated processes. Every image is different and needs to be treated as such.

I need constantly changing combinations of channel mixing, and other mono conversion methods, local and wide area tone curve variations and much more. It simply defies my experience that you can automate any of it to even a moderate degree and get truly high end custom results. And I didn’t even touch on sharpening, which most definitely cannot be global in nature.

SierraPebblesorig

Upon opening the resulting file in Photoshop, which starts as  a 16 bit Lab mode file I make an initial levels adjustment to the L Channel being very careful to keep all the highlight gradation with a bit of headroom to allow for the printing needs and increase the colour saturation by adding equal levels of contrast to the A and B channels. Once the file looks OK I convert it to RGB mode but leave it in 16 bit.

Continuing on I make several duplicate copies of the file, usually five, maybe more. Each of these copies are treated differently, one copy may be converted from colour to monochrome using a gradient map, another simply desaturated, yet another may be converted using a combination of red and green channel mixes and so on. There is no limit to the possible combinations that I would use and sometimes that includes oddballs like infra-red simulations for some parts of the image.

seirrapebblesweb

I keep one open version of the full-colour image, this can later be it used to make further mono versions if I need to, and usually I edit the colour one at the same time as the monochrome versions.  Additionally I may use this with Photoshops’ black and white conversion option.

Having created my multiple mono versions I have Photoshop arrange them by “floating all in windows” which means I can see each version side-by-side.  I then closely examine each version deciding on which parts I wish to use from each and decide on which version will form the best core image to work from.

sierrapebblesmonoweb

The composited full range tonal version is obtained by copying and pasting different versions of image over the top of one another and using the eraser tool to reveal the pieces that I want to keep each of the underlying layers, this gives me absolute flexibility over how the tonal range is rendered for every part in the image. and with practice I am able to do this quite quickly.

FINE TUNING

Having flattened the monochrome image to a single layer I’m still nowhere near finished, it requires localized dodging and burning and tone curve adjustments, sharpening and to a certain degree blurring.

A great deal of this step is aimed at giving a closer simulation of how our eyes perceive things in landscapes due to atmospheric factors, for example distant objects appear lower in contrast and lighter, close up objects are often higher in contrast and show deeper detail in the really dark tones, mid range objects rarely show full black, but have only a slightly flattened tonal range compared to the foreground. I’ve literally spent sleepless nights thinking about these factors and hours and hours looking at scenes in real life and questioning myself on what I was really seeing. Most painters understand this stuff intuitively almost but most cameras totally overcook all this.

stumporig

Sharpening is normally carried out on a localized basis I do not apply any global sharpening and I apply differing degrees of sharpening depending upon the objects in the photo and where they are placed in relation to the plane of focus.

The sharpening methods include USM, High Pass and even Gaussian Blur with custom fade modes (yes I know that one sounds odd). The radiuses used range from 60 pixels down to even 0.2 pixels. Its complicated, heck it would take a book to explain and again it definitely defies any method of automation.

Much of the sharpening is aimed towards creating a more 3D look, but it is a long way from the more, now traditional HDR look which generally is quite forced and global in nature.

The flip side of sharpening is that in a lot of cases I apply lens blur to certain parts of the image to give greater separation and the appearance of having shot at a wider aperture. In fact my general principle is to shoot with an aperture that is just slightly smaller than I would optimally like to use for the required depth of field, this gives me more flexibility in terms of setting precise focus and DOF look in post-production.

stumpcol

An added benefit of finalizing the DOF in post is that you can get effects that would not be possible with regular aperture adjustment of DOF, for example you can simulate field curvature etc. It must be added that DOF adjustment is not particularly easy and care needs to be taken not to overdo things, often in conjunction with masking but well done in tandem with a sensible shooting aperture choice it can be seamless in final appearance.

I personally have a bit of an issue with the current trend for ultra shallow DOF shot with really fast lenses, whilst it might look interesting and all for web images, most times the images lack sufficient clarity and DOF for real world “on the wall” printed use. There is a vast difference between a 600 by 400 px image on-screen or in flikr and a 16 by 20 inch print, but each to his own, if you shoot solely for web use then go as wide as you like.

Ultimately I can take detail away, but I sure as hell can’t create it afterwards if it is lacking and since for me many shots are a once in a lifetime opportunities taken when traveling, I’d just rather not throw all caution the winds with ultra shallow DOF recordings of the scenes.

Once all the tones are finalized, final DOF is set, dodging and burning done and sharpening sorted I have one final thing to do. Add the noise!

Normally I don’t just add noise globally, rather it is added subtly to parts of the image to either increase micro tonality or synthesize detail, in fact in many ways you can think of “noising” as part of the sharpening process.

stumpmono

I am not normally adding noise to simulate film noise….if I wanted that look I would and often do shoot film. No the noise done properly gives the printed image (note, the use of the term printed) a more organic 3D look. This will rarely be obvious on the computer monitor because the pixels of the screen tend to alias the noise dependent upon the screen view, downsizing the image won’t give much of an idea either, ultimately I have to make test prints to verify the result. “Noising” is again usually done via layers and the use of the eraser tool, and again it is almost the subject of a book in itself.

Once the monochrome image is finished I usually copy the flattened monochrome image and place it over the top of the original colour image then choose luminosity mode for the top monochrome layer. The resulting rendering represents the detail and tonality from the mono image mixed only with the chrominance info from the colour image, and usually results, to my eyes at least, in a much better colour version of the photo. I normally then make further adjustments to the colour image but that is the subject of another installment.

PRINTING

And finally the printing, I don’t even attempt to do this myself, despite being capable of doing so, it’s simple really. I don’t have the room for a high-end large format printer and I don’t have the throughput to justify the prodigious expense.

Instead I use a local company who know and appreciate exactly what I am trying to achieve, we have a great working relationship. I have them run some strip tests to ensure everything looks right and of course adjust it if it doesn’t. They do not make any adjustments to the file unless under the watch of my eye.

The prints are made on only a limited array of substrates which we know will work as intended.

Ultimately with printing it is not about the price but the quality, for my part I’d rather spend more knowing that the result will be great than have to worry about the outcome by saving a few dollars working with someone who doesn’t care.

THE WRAP UP

So there you have it, an anatomical look at one approach to monochrome, my approach. Don’t for a moment think I am advocating that this is what others should do, I have offered this to perhaps inspire those who are wanting a bit more from their images, pick and choose as you wish.

Best be a little realistic here, before going off all excited consider that neither you or I are going to whip up a whole batch of these cookies in one afternoons sitting. Most images take me 5 hours or more spread over a few sittings, but then I am not into posting stuff on flickr etc, prints on walls it where it’s at for me so I don’t really need to do stuff quickly.

canyonedgeorig

Probably one thing you would glean from my approach is that it is designed to work only with colour as the original capture method, personally I could never find happiness with a monochrome only camera, much as I really like the idea of the Leica Monochrom it would be just to limiting for my way of working, though I know there would be benefits.

canyonedge col

The photos I have included in the article show the original colour extracted TIFF image (in compressed jpeg form of course), the Monchrome version and the Monochrome over Colour info version. I think you will agree that the final colour version is quite lovely as well. It’s a funny thing but often a good colour image and a good mono image are much the same thing!

canyonedge mono

These images were captured with a Sony NEX 5N using legacy class, for these ones it was a Nikon 35-70mm f3.3-5.5 zoom and 55mm f2.8 micro nikkor with TLC pre-filtering. All are shot at 200ISO and around 1/100 sec. Being compressed web images of course it is a bit hard to judge the full effect, but they print superbly I promise.

 

Feb 272013
 

Confusion

Understanding the Basics of Exposure by Emanuele Faja

Note: This is a guest post by Emanuele Faja from AndBeThere.com

Introduction

In this post you will find all the information you need to understand how the different aspects of photography come together to form an exposure and how each setting has a distinct effect on the final outcome. Please remember, this is a guide on the basics.

If, after having read through this guide, there is something you don’t quite understand then please do not hesitate to leave a comment with your question and I will answer it.

Another point to keep in mind as you read this guide: There is no such thing as a “correct” exposure! It’s all about YOUR artistic vision and it will vary with every scene. There is no “cut and paste” method. It will require plenty of thinking on your part if you wish to take your photography to the next level.

You will want to bookmark this page because there is a lot of information and it will require reading a few times.

What is Exposure?

Exposure is simply the amount of light that you allow to reach the light-sensitive photographic medium inside your camera. This medium could (or should!) be film or it could be a digital sensor.

The more light you let in the brighter your image will look and, conversely, the less light you let in the darker your image will be. You see? It’s not exactly rocket science!

The factors that affect Exposure.

There are three things that you modify to make your image darker or brighter.

  • Aperture – This is the adjustable opening in the lens. The bigger the opening, the more light hits your sensor at any one time.
  • Shutter Speed – This determines how long the shutter will stay open. The longer the shutter stays open the more light hits the sensor.
  • ISO – This is a measurement of how sensitive your film or digital sensor is to light. More on this later.

So far so good? Right now you only have to remember three things. Easy :)

Now let’s talk about each of these three factors in more detail. I will go over the basics of each factor and then explain how each one effects your image.

Aperture

The Aperture setting on a lens is expressed in “f stops”.

This is actually part of a conspiracy created by photographers who don’t want anybody else to understand how photography works so they can charge ever increasing fees for their work ;)

Of course, I’m just joking. The f/stop is actually a ratio that’s reached by doing some tedious mathematics. It’s the ratio between the diameter of the aperture in the lens and the focal length of the lens. Got that? No? Good, it doesn’t really matter…

This is all you need to know for now:

The standard sequence of f/stops:

2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22

Going from right to left (f22 to f2) each f stop lets in twice as much light as one before. So f/8 lets in twice as much light as f/11 but only half as much as f/5.6.

Got it?

Yes?

Good.

Because of the tedious mathematics, the smaller the number, the bigger the aperture. This is because they are actually ratios and the f stop number is the bottom number of the ratio/fraction. So they really should read 1/2, 1/2.8, 1/4 etc but they don’t… probably part of that conspiracy theory by photographers…

Here is a nice little graphic to make everything even easier to understand:

Aperture Chart

There are lenses which go beyond f/2. For instance, I own a Pentax SMC K 50mm f/1.2 lens. There are various reasons why a photographer would want to own such a lens. We will talk about that a little later but it’s worth mentioning that the lenses become much heavier and more expensive as you go beyond f/2.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is expressed in seconds or fractions of a second.

Most cameras have shutter speeds ranging from 1 second to 1/2000 of a second and also a “bulb” mode that will keep the shutter open for as long as you keep the shutter button pressed down.

1 1/2 1/4 1/8 1/15 1/30 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500 1/1000

Leica_M3_mg_3685

Going from left to right (1 to 1/1000) each shutter speed is twice as fast and so lets it half as much light. 1/125s lets it twice as much as light as 1/250s but only half as much as 1/60s.

Easy!

Instead of tediously writing 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, the shutter speeds are just written as numbers on the shutter speed dial.

Iso

Iso is a measurement of how sensitive your film/sensor is to light.

Iso is actually a throw back to the lovely pure days of film photography. It’s named after the International Standards Organisation which decided the ratings in the first place. Different films would have different Iso ratings and a photographer would select which film to use depending on the situation and, of course, personal preference. A few examples:

ISO 200 color film

kodak-gold-200-36-

ISO 400 Black & White film

kodak_-tri-x-400tx-

ISO 800 Color print film

Fujifuilm Fujicolor Press 800-

ISO 1600 Black & White film

Fuji Neopan 1600

In order not to confuse the hell out of everybody when photography went digital the camera manufacturers continued to use the term Iso and also the same scale:

25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400

Going from left to right (25 to 6400) each Iso setting is twice as sensitive to light. Iso 400 is twice as sensitive as Iso 200 but only half as sensitive as Iso 800.

The higher the number, the greater the sensitivity of the film/sensor.

The greater the sensitivity of the film/sensor, the less light is required to create an image.

The sensors in new digital cameras today are becoming so good that they reach ridiculous Iso numbers like 51200 and even higher! This does mean that digital is great for night-time photography but I do wonder what will happen in a few years time when Iso numbers in digital photography will be 7 digits long!

 

A Quick Recap

So now you should know the following:

What are the three factors that affect exposure?

Which is the bigger aperture: f/2 or f/16?

Which shutter speed lets in more light: 1/2s or 1/500s?

Which Iso setting is more sensitive to light: Iso 200 or Iso 1600?

 

If only it were that simple!

I have a confession to make. I have not been entirely honest with you in this article but I did it for your own good. Instead of drowning you in information right away I just introduced you to the three factors that make up exposure but I did not tell you the “side effects” that these factors have.

  • Aperture also effects the Depth of Field. I will explain what it is in just a moment.
  • Shutter speed also effects how sharp your final image will be due to movement.
  • Iso is linked to how much film grain or digital noise your final image will have.

Depth of Field

“The distance in front and behind the subject that is acceptably in focus”

Depth of field is often abbreviated to “dof”

The smaller the aperture, the greater the depth of field. So at f/22 (small aperture) you will have a much bigger (deeper) depth of field than you would at f/2 (large aperture)

Depth

Depth of field is actually determined by three factors:

  • The aperture – We just saw how that affects the depth of field.
  • The distance to your subject – The further away you are from your subject the greater your depth of field.
  • The focal length of your lens (35mm, 50mm, 85mm etc.) – The longer your focal length (i.e. 100mm vs 35mm) the shallower your depth of field.

Boring Note: Sensor size also plays a big role because of the way it magnifies the focal length of a lens. Most DSLR cameras these days have “cropped” sensors which are around half the area of a full 35mm frame. This means that they magnify the focal length of a lens by roughly 1.6. So a 35mm lens becomes roughly a 50mm lens.

My advice: shoot 35mm film and forget about it. ;)

Sharpness

Generally speaking, if you are hand holding your camera you should be using at least this shutter speed if you wish to get optimally sharp images:

 

1

——————————-

Focal length of your lens

So this means if you are using a 50mm lens your shutter speed should be at least 1/50s (or 1/60s if your camera doesn’t have a the 1/50s setting). I find this to be true if you are shooting a camera that uses some kind of mirror system (analog or digital SLR systems) . If you are shooting a rangefinder camera (which is a different type of system which has no mirror and thus far less movement going on when you press the shutter) you can get away with far slower shutter speeds. Some people claim they can shoot a rangefinder at 1/10s or slower!

Here is an example of a picture I took using my Pentax K1000 at a low shutter speed. I had no choice. It was late at night and I had Iso 1600 film and my lens was fully open at f/1.2 so my only option was to lower the shutter speed below 1/60s. If I remember correctly, this was taken at 1/15s.

You can clearly see that the image is not sharp because I was holding the camera and the cars that were crossing the bridge in the background are also very blurred. This is also due to the very small depth of field at f/1.2

 Scan-121206-0010

You also need to choose a shutter speed that is fast enough to capture your subject while they are moving. We will talk about this a little later on…

Grain/Noise

The higher the Iso the more film grain or digital noise you will have in your final image. Film grain can be quite lovely while digital noise is always disgusting. Thankfully, digital cameras are getting “cleaner” as the technology matures.

A quick example:

Iso comparison

Putting it all together

Time for another little test. :) Feels like being back at school eh?

  • Define “Depth of field”
  • What will have more in focus: A large d.o.f or a small d.o.f?
  • What is, generally speaking, the longest shutter speed you should use when shooting hand-held with a 50mm lens?
  • Fill in the missing word: The higher the Iso the more ______ your image will have.

Final Triangle

Let’s now talk about the Exposure Triangle that is created by Aperture, Shutter Speed and Iso.

Let’s assume that a particular scene can be shot at f/8, 1/250s with an Iso of 200. There are actually many other equivalent exposures that we could use to shoot this scene. If you change one factor of the triangle of exposure then you must do an opposite change with another factor to keep the exposure the same.

For example:

  • Original exposure: f8 1/250s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 1: f4 1/500s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 2: f2 1/1000s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 3: f11 1/125s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 4: f8 1/125s, Iso 100

There are a huge number of variations but they all have one thing in common. The exposure (brightness) of the image will be the same.

What does change between these equivalent exposures is the following:

  1. Depth of field due to Aperture
  2. Sharpness due to Shutter Speed
  3. Grain/noise due to Iso

So what happens when you under-expose or over-expose an image?

The first image is under-exposed, The middle one is a normal exposure. The bottom image in over-exposed.

exposure

If you under-expose a scene then you will lose details in the shadows and your image will be dark.

If you over-expose a scene then you will “blow” the highlights which are the bright areas of the image. They will usually come out as blocks of white.

 

Artistic considerations

Now this is the fun part. You have gone through all the theory and now it’s time to see how you can use it in the real world and how it can spark your creativity.

As I mentioned at the beginning, there is no “correct” exposure. It’s all about YOUR artistic vision. Each scene you photograph has a certain dynamic range (the range between the darkest and lightest parts) and often its greater than the dynamic range that you can capture with your film or digital sensor. It’s up to you to decide how to handle the situation.

Before we jump straight in I want to say one last thing:

You need to pre-visualise the effect you want to create in your head before you start to change the settings on your camera and lens. Otherwise will you have a hit and miss approach and you will never understand why you aren’t capturing the type of photographs you want.

A few ideas to set you thinking:

  • Using Shallow Depth of Field for flattering portraits.

This is perhaps one of the most common uses of shallow depth of field. By taking a portrait of somebody using a large aperture (i.e. f/2) you blur the background. This is especially useful if the background would otherwise be distracting to the overall feel.

Notice how the woman is in sharp focus but the wall behind her is blurred. 

Scan-121219-0001

  • Using slow Shutter Speeds to create artistic effects with water.

This is incredibly common all over the internet and for good reasons too. It looks great.

Remember that if you are shooting fast-moving subjects then you probably want to use a fast shutter speed like 1/250, 1/500 or 1/1000.

  • Using large Depth of Field for landscapes.

If you shoot landscapes you should try to use a large depth of field so that the entire image appears sharp. This means you will need to use an aperture of f/8 or smaller (f/11, f/16, f/22 etc).

 

Sometimes photography is about compromise. I couldn’t use a really tiny aperture like f/22 because the sun was going down and so that would have meant that my image would have been under-exposed.

  • Mix it up a little!

What ever your artistic choices, make sure you don’t always do the same thing. Don’t shoot every portrait with a shallow depth of field, the background can often add to the the image!

As this is an introduction to exposure, I’ve not covered exposing for backlight, sidelight and exposure compensation.

Conclusion

(and the best way to learn exposure)

Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything yet.

This does take a little while to all sink in.

The best way to learn, in my opinion, is to get yourself an all manual camera like a Pentax K1000 and 10 or 15 rolls of cheap film like Kodak Supercolor 200.

There are a few reasons why I recommend using a simple all manual film camera like the Pentax K1000.

These cameras they have a real shutter speed dial on the camera body and an Aperture ring on the lens. This means that you are always aware of the settings you are using. Also, the physical location of the shutter speed dial and aperture ring remind you that one is a function of the camera and the other is a function of the lens.

There is no “auto” mode! This means you are forced to think at all times about what settings you are going to use! Don’t worry, there is a light meter to tell you if your exposure is correct.

By starting out with a film camera and using the same type of film you take Iso out of the equation. If you take my advice and only shoot one type of film while you are learning it means that you will always be using the same Iso value. This means that you only have to worry about shutter speed and aperture. It makes it even easier! You are turning the exposure triangle into a see-saw.

There are plenty of reasons to shoot film. Once you try shooting film you might just want to stick to it! Check out my article on giving film a try.

A Real Aperture Dial with a Depth of Field Scale 

1332433062_332686004_1-Pictures-of--FS-SMC-Pentax-50mm-f12-prime-lens

Shoot 3 or 4 rolls a week while also making a note of the aperture and shutter speed setting and in less than a month you will have it down like a pro. As a bonus, you may also have some lovely pictures too ;) After you have shot your 15 or so rolls and got accustomed to manual setting the exposure then feel free to move to scanning, digital or a more advanced camera… It’s up to you!

Thanks for taking the time for reading this guide and I hope you found it helpful.

Feel free to leave some feedback about what could be improved. I’ve tried my best to explain everything as clearly as I can.

If there is something you don’t quite understand then don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and I will clear it up for you.

Note: This is a guest post by Emanuele Faja from AndBeThere.com

You can connect to AndBeThere via: 

Our Website | Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Flickr | Via Email

I would like to thank Steve for the opportunity to write an article for his website.

 I am a big fan…keep up the good work!

Nov 112012
 

Using a DSLR to scan Negative film by Stefan Schmidt

Hi again folks! This is a follow-up article about how I’m using my Canon Eos 5D MkII to shoot backlit slides instead of using an ordinary flatbed scanner. (See previous article HERE) Now I will show you how I go about “scanning” my negative films using the film holder from the flatbed scanner and the light box I nailed together. Shooting the negatives is only half of the story though, the second half is actually developing the negatives to positive pictures and getting a decent result in the end. I have experimented a lot and I will share my workflow with you. That being said, I do not guarantee that my way is the “right” way. I just hope to get you all going!

The Rig:

For those of you who did not read my first article, here is a picture to show you my setup. I have a piece of MDF-board with a slide-projector at one end, a lamp-cover act as a diffuser and finally I have my “box” with the glass from an A4-photoframe inserted into it. In the lower left corner of the picture I have included an image of how the box look when I shoot slides. The white elastic band that is used to keep the slides from falling off the wooden strip is not used when shooting negatives, I just pull it down under the strip.

I use the same settings as for slides, ISO 320 , halogen light WB, Aperture priority and I set the aperture to 4,5. Finally I use a 2 second self-timer and after each shot I have a 2 sec preview. If the negatives have really high contrast like flash-exposures I venture into the menu and reduce contrast but typically I have all settings in there set to neutral. You may notice that I have a lot of small wooden strips and what not under my camera in this shot. That is because my box was designed (yes it’s ugly as hell but I use that word anyway) to be used for slides. The frame holding the negatives are wider in all directions and that makes the negatives end up higher than the slides. That is also why I needed to put a higher piece of wood behind the camera to keep it aligned. Finally I also put some of these strips of wood under the MDF-board in order to raise the end where I sit shooting just a little bit. This way the large film-holder will not topple down on the lens hood. Keep it simple.

You shot the negatives, now it’s time to enter the darkroom and get developing!

Let’s start with Photoshop. I myself use CS5 and by now you will have lots of pictures looking like this in bridge:

When I open a picture the RAW-converter will start. Before I choose to open the picture in photoshop I look at the histogram to see if there is a “burnout” in the black or white end of it. If there is I use exposure to adjust the curves to my liking. I also want the RGB curves to stretch out over as much of the Histogram as possible and I choose this setting for the picture in this example:

When the picture is opened it will still be negative. Press Ctrl + I to invert it (or CMD + I on a mac) and do not panic when it looks like crap! The colors are way out of sync. It will look something like this:

To start fixing this I usually add an adjustment layer with levels in the adjustments tab on the right. Clicking on the adjustment layer open up the ADJUSTMENTS panel and as standard it allows you to set levels for all three RGB-colors at once. Now however, you do not want to do that. You will need to click on the drop down menu and set the levels for Red Green and Blue.

Photoshop has an advantage over Capture one in that it seem to be programmed to “sync” the color-channels and that enables you to get a fairly good result pretty quickly. In the screenshot below you can see an estimation of how the picture is turning out better and better as I go through the channels and trim their levels. At the far left of the image is the altogether blue picture that looks just terrible after I inverted the negative. Notice how tuning each channel increase the quality of the picture. When the final, blue, channel is adjusted the far right of the picture looks pretty natural and we are on our way to get a nice picture.

Please also notice that by moving the middle “handle” under each channels diagram you can fine-tune the color balance of each channel. Now all that remains are repairing the scratches that is evident from the film itself, cropping and maybe reducing some noise with the filter “Despeckle”. Of course this can be tedious to do with each picture, that’s why I try it out on one picture and when I’m satisfied I go to the HISTORY-panel and click on the top action that is opening the picture. Then I click the ACTIONS tab and in that panel I click the icon next to the waste bin to “Create a new action”. I name the macro I’m about to record “Kodak negatives 100 iso”, for example, and redo the steps above on the channels adding the despeckle-filter and maybe even the crop. When I’m finished I stop recording, load up another set of pictures and apply the macro onto each of them. That saves a ton of work!

As different films have a different character and base color I have built myself a small library of actions for different brands and iso. Very handy to have.

In this example I had a small blue tone that was hard to get rid of, I finally solved that by adding a warm standard photo filter on a new adjustment layer and that hit the spot! I am mostly using levels but there is an adjustment layer using curves and that works just as well but I had to choose what I believe to be the easiest way to go about this for the article. I would also like to point out that Photoshop remembers that there is a negative picture as a foundation for the final picture and many tools can go haywire. In those cases, save your picture as a TIFF and load that copy into Photoshop again and you will be all set. No more misbehavior.

Developing negatives using Capture One

I’m not going to cover this in detail as the general idea is the same, I open my picture and after inverting it I begin to work the channels the same way as in Photoshop. (That is partly why I showed that method.) The trick is to invert the picture as Capture One Pro do not have a command or tool for it. I do this by going to the level-tool:

I then pull the black handle to the right and the white handle to the left and the picture is inverted! I am pretty sure you can do the same thing in lightroom but I have not tried it. Your levels-tool will now look like this:

Now you’re ready to work those individual Red Green and Blue channels in the levels-tool. Please note that Capture One really turns on it’s head a little when working with negatives like this. After inverting the picture all controls for adjusting light or color is inverted as well. For example, if you increase the light in the image it will turn darker! Just as it does in an old-school darkroom. The more you exposed the photo paper, the darker it got when it was developed. Call me crazy but I actually get a little nostalgic when my computer all of a sudden behaves like my old analog darkroom. (Except for the smell.)

Some of you will not enjoy this ;) and will therefore be better off by saving your picture as a TIFF as I mentioned above. When you work on that TIFF you will have no problem.

I create development recipes to apply on many pictures in Capture One and they make batch-developing a bunch of images super easy.

Examples of developed pictures from negatives.

As my article comes to an end I would like to show you a few pictures I developed from my negatives.

 

 That’s me in the middle of the picture above, it was taken 1988 in the Swedish alps. Below is a picture of my wife from around the same time. Kodak film above, Agfa below.

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This is shot in Halle Hunneberg in 1989 just before sunset. I was there looking for elk but I did not see any. The film is 200 iso kodak and the negative was somewhat underexposed.

If you have read this far I salute you! Well done! i realize this article got a bit long however I tried to shorten it. I hope this will inspire you people out there to dig out your old favorite negatives and give it a go yourself!

With my best regards

Stefan Schmidt

 

 

Jul 302012
 

Get the film look by Anand Asar

I have a lot of respect and love for Steve’s site. I have been inspired every time with the daily inspirations – and particularly Khunya Pan’s one, which led me to but an OM10, and introduced me to the world of Tri-X. I first found love for photography when my son was born. This was when Apple released their first iPhone – 2007. As most parents, I wanted to capture all the great moments of him growing up, and have memories to cherish over time. So my son, has been my inspiration for photography ever since I picked up the camera. I moved on and changed brands and jumped ships quite a lot over the last 3-4 years, changed lenses, and basically did it all the hard way, thinking that a better camera would get me better pictures. I realised much later I was satisfying my lust for gadgets, and a change in financial circumstance led me to start over from 2nd hand equipment (GF1 to be precise).

All this time and all the pictures I had taken, I’m finally getting to think like a photographer. I got me some books to read and study, and a change of subject led me to photograph more than just my son. I’m a graphic designer by profession, working in the signage industry for over 15-20 years. And I had already invested in a lot of software. Software that one cannot sell 2nd hand.  So here I am (as of now) with a GF1 + 20mm f1.7 + OM10 + OM 50 f1.8 + Lightroom + Nik’s SilverEfx + Colour Efx + Alien Skin Exposure + Alien Skin Bokeh + LightZone + Dxo Optics + Stevehuffphotos.com’s daily inspirations.

This site has given me a lot, reviews, guidance, inspiration – so I feel it’s only fair I give something back. And I decided to embark on a project to achieve a film look, from the equipment I had. Now manipulating a film look can be considered as adapting a legacy lens via an adapter onto your camera. As manual focusing with the lens is a challenge, so is post production, especially if you want to manipulate a certain look, a look that only film can get right.

When we talk about film, the first thing that comes to mind is grain. Yes grain is beautiful, some might not like it, but it has a lot of advantages. It can cure a digital picture in ways that words cannot explain. But one has to understand how to apply it, where to apply it, and get strike the right balance. The other is contrast. Again many like to push up the contrast slider, and while it does give the picture a punch, it can also hide detail. Many film looks have added contrast as a signature, along with grain. I’ve noticed the tone cure adapt a S shape (very common in Silverefx) – this could be killing the detail in your picture, try to straighten the curve a bit – if you don’t like it – go back a step.

The software – I will list these in order of preference. (1st being the must have and so on.)

1. Lightroom – This is hands down the best organizer for your picture library. It is not a great editing software, but it builds up your picture library perfectly, and easy to maintain. Plus it is also a hub as in all other that follow in the list can be configured to launch from lightroom as plug ins… and so on.

2. Dxo Optics & Dxo Filmpack – I had only a trial version of this software, bit I intend to purchase them very soon. The Dxo Filmpack has the best grain rendering, and the closet to match and film. (Please note this is only my opinion – do not intend to start and argument over it)

3.   Alienskin – A very nice set of film presets, plus the added bonus of grain control in highlights, midtones and shadows is excellent.

4. Nik’s Silverefx – If you’re a mad about black and white (like myself) this is a must have. Even Leica pack this software in their box with the M9. A nice set of film renderings, a lot of control over image parameters, excellent U-point control. Grain rendering is nice.

5. Nik’s Colourefex – A good set of film presets – a lot of control over image parameters, excellent U-point control. Unfortunately, film grain rendering is not to my liking.

6.  LightZone – I was told this use to ship with earlier Panasonic M43 cameras, but the software is becoming extinct as the company seems to be running out of financial resources to support it. The guys at lightzombie (http://lightzombie.org/) are keeping the project alive, and doing a great job of it. This software was has a tool ‘zone mapper’ which is just great. It divides all the tones in an image into zones and gives precise control over their luminance values. If you’re into black & white photography, it is an invaluable tool.

A lot of you might be wondering why I’ve not mentioned Photoshop.  Well, personally I cannot get along with it – I’ve tried and tried, but it takes me longer to work in Photoshop, than in all 6 above combined.

The right software for manipulating the look will depend on how the raw image looks. Please shoot raw if you’re going to try to achieve this look, jpegs just don’t cut it. I start with Alienskin’s Exposure, then work onwards. Alienskin gets the job done 8 out of 10 times. (Dxo does gets it done 10 out of 10 times). Some pictures cry out for Silverefx, and some might need detail enhancing in Colourefx, then over to Silverefx for finishing off.

I’ve also noticed (with the GF1) that adapted legacy lenses will give you a good platform to work from, if your intended final look is to be film like. (the OM 50 1.8 does fine job)

I spend a bit of time on the computer processing these images, yes it does take some time, but that’s just the way it is. I always take pictures knowing I have more control over the image in post than I do when on the street, or elsewhere. It might be against the principle of getting it right in camera, but I cannot help this. We all have our strengths, and weaknesses  – and once we address them, our images will look much better.

The last thing I would like to say is: we should be grateful to software developers for giving us much more control over our images. A photograph taken captures time as it flows, an event that occurred at that time and place that is real…Real…REAL!!! Don’t take this REAL away from the image, adjust the image parameters, give it the look you intend, but don’t use that ‘Clone’ tool, it will take the REAL away from the image.

Best regards

Anand

From Steve: Thanks Anand! If anyone reading would like to submit a guest article like Anand did above, send me an e-mail and tell me about it! Thank’s!

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