Friday, November 30, 2012

My Sony RX100 just returned from being repaired after a damaging fall onto a New York sidewalk.  I wasted no time putting it back to use.  Not having it for a few weeks really let me know how much I relied on it for those spur of the moment occasions when you just happen upon something.  Here are a couple of photos I grabbed since it's been back.

This is the emergency stairwell in my building.  I had to climb the 12 flights of stairs during the hurricane blackout.  Now I do it regularly as part of my exercise routine.

The Empire State Building was lit in red last night.  I gave the scene more of a Christmas look by changing the sky color to green.
I keep this camera set to record black & white JPG in addition to RAW files.  This displays a monochrome image on the rear viewing screen.  I find it easier to compose images this way because it isolates form from color.  Sometimes I prefer the monochrome version.  When this happens I still prefer to use the RAW image and convert it to monochrome.

Christmas wreaths were hung up for sale at the farmers market.  I photographed this one back lit with a mid-day sun.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I shot this image of the setting moon and a seagull in New York this morning at dawn with a 1600mm focal length lens on a Nikon D800.  ISO was set to 400 with a shutter speed of 1/80 second.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

To light this scene I used two tungsten lights, a 650w behind and off to the right, and a 375w to add fill light from the front.  Both lights shine directly onto the subject to provide a harsh, candid light. Additionally, the back light is allowed to flare out into the camera lens.  I also allowed the lights to retain their warm color by balancing the color for daylight. Photographed with a Nikon D800 and 105mm macro lens with wide open aperture.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The sky was clear and crisp last night and the waxing gibbous moon was sharply outlined.  I wanted a really tight shot of the moon to combine with other backgrounds. This requires a focal length close to 2000mm.  I tried a variety of combinations of lenses and telextenders, but the final image below was made with a very inexpensive 1300mm lens by Samyang.  The optical quality of this lens is what you would expect from such an inexpensive product.  Nonetheless, it was good enough to achieve a tight shot that I was able to clean up and enhance later in post-processing.

This super-telephoto image of the moon was super-imposed over a wide angle shot I had of the Milky Way.  The moon photo was taken with a Nikon D800 set to 1.2x crop mode, which effectively increased the 1300mm focal length to 1560mm.  Exposure was 1/160sec. at an ISO of 400.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving day!

Here are the photos of the meal we prepared at our New York home.  I always drive my wife a little crazy by wanting to photograph everything before it is served.

I prepared a small set beforehand by a window so all I had to do was put the turkey and side dishes into the scene and take a quick picture before the family sat down to dinner elsewhere.  Taken with a Nikon D800 and 24-70mm zoom lens.

Taken with available tungsten light in the kitchen at an ISO of 1000.

My daughter, Jamie, always makes a pumpkin pie for the occasion.  Photographed with a 50mm f/1.4 lens on a Nikon D800.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Using the Nikkor 50mm f/1/4 G lens for close-up photography
Variations on a theme -- using extension tubes for macro photography

Normally I take my close-up shots using a macro lens, such as the 60mm or 105mm Nikon Macro lens, or the Sigma 50mm macro.  When I want a different look, something less sharp with a softer feel to it, I will switch to a normal lens and use it with a close-up device.  The photos below were taken with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 G lens attached to a Kenko 12mm extension tube.  The images were shot wide open at f/1.4 resulting in an extremely shallow depth-of-field at such a close range. This combination also gives a soft glow around the out-of-focus areas.  This is something that would probably not happen if a dedicated macro lens had been used.

The Kenko extension tubes can come as a set of three, 12mm, 25mm, and 36mm.  The advantage they have over other brands, including Nikon's own set, is that the Kenko tubes retain auto-focus and lens control through the camera.  The tubes can be used separately or stacked for even greater extension.  There are no lens elements in the tubes themselves to degrade the optical quality of the lens.

For the photos below I used only the 12mm tube mounted between the lens and the camera as shown above.  Extension tubes do decrease the amount of light passing to the camera sensor and thereby reduce exposure a bit, but the Kenko set transmits this information to the camera so determining the correct exposure is not a problem.

The f/1.4 aperture and pin-point focus on one row of keys throws the background into a very soft out-of-focus look.

True macro lenses generally retain excellent sharpness over the entire frame with practically no rectilinear distortion.  Here you can see that the more normal lens adds a roundness to the lines of the keyboard keys.

All these shots were done with a black keyboard I had purchased to use as a prop for stock photography.  The camera was a Nikon D600 and the keyboard was back lit by soft window light.  The color tints were enhanced later when bringing the RAW files into Photoshop.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Shooting with a back lit sun is one of my favorite lighting techniques.  It works particularly well on autumn scenes to bring out the vibrant colors in leaves.  All photos were taken with a Nikon D600 -- the two wide scenes with a 24-120mm zoom and the close-up of yellow maple leaves with the Sigma 50mm macro lens wide open for a shallow depth of field.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The very hard afternoon light was softened considerably in post-processing to give a much lighter hazy look to the image.  Taken with the Nikon D600 and 24-120mm zoom.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

To achieve the color difference between the blue exterior of the window and the warm yellow interior I mixed daylight light with tungsten.  Regular daylight from my studio windows lit the exterior window and snow in this scene.  I used tungsten lights mixed with candle light on the background.  Later I post-processed the RAW image twice, once with a blue cast to enhance the exterior window color, and once with an enhanced yellow cast to emphasize the interior.  I stacked the two images as layers in Photoshop with the warm light on bottom and cool light on top.  Next I masked out the windows to allow the warm light to come in.

Friday, November 16, 2012

These photos were taken at sunset in the woods near where I am staying.  I used the Nikon D600 and 24-120mm lens wide open to achieve the out-of-focus background with soft bokeh effect. I think the bokeh is quite good considering the maximum aperture on this lens is fairly stopped down at f/4.

I particularly liked the way the suns rays flared out behind this leaf.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I happened on an empty movie theater where I captured this shot using my cell phone camera, adding the lens flare later in Photoshop.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Historic Leica Calendar

Every year I do a calendar for myself using my images.  This is a selection of photos I took recently for my personal calendar for 2013.  All the photos are of antique Leica cameras in period still life situations.

I put two versions of the calendar on LULU.COM.  If anyone loves Leica cameras as much as I do and wants a copy  or just wants to check it out, you can access it here:  ANTIQUE LEICA 2013 CALENDAR.

I still shoot film with some of these cameras today.

Leica IIIf - c1954, with complete Leica case of lenses and accessories

Leica IIIb - c1938 with 8.5cm f/1.5 Summarex lens

Leica IIIf - c1952 with a 20cm Telyt lens and Visoflex I viewer, shown here with a Weston Master III light meter of the same period.

Leica I (c1930) with Ur-Leica photo by Oscar Barnak using the first Leica prototype in 1913.

Lecia M4 (c1968) - My favorite film Leica, and the one I use today when I want to do some serious black and white film photography.

Leica III - c1937 with the special 9cm Thambar lens and soft focus filter.

Leica IIIc - c1944

Leica III - c1938, one of my favorites.  It currently sits on my desk loaded with film and ready to shoot.

Leica Standard - c1932

Leica M2 with dual-range Summicron c1959.  This was the first Leica camera I used professionally.

Leica IIIg - c1957

Monday, November 12, 2012

When a small sensor isn't big enough

I always carry a camera with me when I am out in case I happen upon something interesting.  Recently, I have been carrying the Sony DSC-RX100 because it fits easily in a pocket, has a zoom lens, and packs 20mp out of a 1" sensor.  The results are really very good.  In fact it may be the best pocket camera out there.

The focal length of the zoom lens is equivalent to 28-100mm on a full frame camera.  Problem is the word, "equivalent".  The real focal length of the lens is 10.4-37.1mm, and even though the maximum aperture ranges from f/1.8-f/4.9, such a short focal length just does not allow for a shallow enough depth of field that would throw a background out of focus -- even when the lens is used wide open.

I happened on the scene below of some stanchions set out on a sidewalk.  I wanted to grab a shot that singled out the stanchions and left the distracting background out of focus.  As you can see, even wide open the depth of field is to deep.

I was close to home so I went back for my Nikon D800 with a 105mm f/2 lens and a 70-200mm f/2.8.  You can see the difference in the two bottom images.

Taken with the Sony RX100 with the lens racked out all the way to 37.1mm (equivalent to 100mm) and shot wide open at f/4.9.  The distracting background is too much in focus -- exactly what you would expect with a 37mm lens.
This photo was taken with a real 105mm lens on a Nikon D800.  The lens aperture was wide open at f/2.  This caused the background to be completely blown out into a nice bokeh.

Here a 200mm focal length was used on the Nikon 70-200mm lens at f/2.8.  Once again the out-of-focus background and foreground add nice bokeh that enhances rather than detracts from the scene.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On my early morning bike ride the sun was low in the sky and softly filtered by a light fog.  The glass buildings along the Hudson River had a bright, pastel look to them that was muted by the back-lit haze.  I used a Nikon D600 and 24-120mm lens to photograph these two important examples of modern architecture.

This is the AIC building by Frank Gehry.

Here the low morning sun shines right through one of the apartment towers designed by Richard Meier.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Whenever I photograph I include a gray card that enables me to adjust the color balance later in post-processing.  It is not that I always balance the color to a normal setting.  Sometimes I prefer the color cast to be more cool or warm.  But at least I know what "normal" is and can deviate from there.

The card I carry with me is the QPcard 101.  It is small enough to conveniently fit in a vest pocket or camera bag.  The images below show a rather dramatic example of how effective these cards can be.

I took this photo with available window light very late in the day under exceptionally cloudy conditions.  Under such circumstances, colors will normally tend to a heavy blue range.   After correction in post processing the colors were restored to normal.

Here is a before and after using the QPcard 101.  The upper photo shows the results using an auto white balance camera setting.  It tends heavily towards a blue cast.  In post-processing I clicked on the white or gray area to correct the color to normal.  The gray block usually results in a slightly warmer rendering.

This is the finished photo. Once I had achieved the correct color balance, I pushed it a bit further to warm it up.

Just to show the extent of this color correction method, this image was taken even later in the day using only moon light.  The exposure was 10sec at f/8 and ISO400.  Under these circumstances the true color was completely skewed.  Nonetheless, I was able to easily correct it to normal in post-processing with one click of a mouse button.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Every year I do some still life images of late autumn leaves, leaves that are past their color prime and have more of a sculptural quality in their decaying state.  This project was inspired after I had read an essay by Thoreau, entitled "Autumnal Tints".  My ultimate goal it to make a book of the finished project.

I am including a few of the images I took this year as part of my late autumn project.  This year I used a technique of extreme depth of field to bring out a high resolution, sculptural quality to the individual leaves.  To do this I took approximately 25 photos of each leaf. I racked the focus out a tiny bit for each of the 25 images until the entire scene was covered.  Later I combined all the images into one super-sharp image using the program from Heliconsoft called, Helicon Focus.

It is impossible to really see the incredible sharpness that resulted from this technique from the images in this blog. So I have included a link to a larger file size.  You can access it by clicking on each image.

Here is the full quote that inspired this project.  It is from the essay, "Autumnal Tints" by Henry David Thoreau, and was published in 1862:

"It is pleasant to walk over the beds of these fresh, crisp, and rustling leaves. How beautifully they go to their graves! how gently lay themselves down and turn to mould!--painted of a thousand hues, and fit to make the beds of us living. So they troop to their last resting place, light and frisky. They put on no weeds, but merrily they go scampering over the earth, selecting the spot, choosing a lot, ordering no iron fence, whispering all through the woods about it,--some choosing the spot where the bodies of men are mouldering beneath, and meeting them half-way. How many flutterings before they rest quietly in their graves! They that soared so loftily, how contentedly they return to dust again, and are laid low, resigned to lie and decay at the foot of the tree, and afford nourishment to new generations of their kind, as well as to flutter on high! They teach us how to die. One wonders if the time will ever come when men, with their boasted faith in immortality, will lie down as gracefully and as ripe,--with such an Indian-summer serenity will shed their bodies, as they do their hair and nails"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

1938 Photo-journalists camera kit

Here is another photo in my series on what the well-dressed photographer would carry at certain periods in history.

The camera is a 1938 Leica III in black paint.  It is equipped with a 2.8cm f/6.3 Hektor lens, which was the extreme wide angle of its day and had just been introduced in 1935.  The background telephoto lens is a 13.5cm f/4.5 Hektor.  In the foreground is a 5cm Summar with a fast f/2 aperture. Next to the camera on the left is a variable focal length viewfinder.  The Art Deco styled Remington 5 typewriter in the background is also of the same period.

This photography kit was state of the art in its day -- completely manual, built in range finder, and shutter speeds from 1sec to 1/500 sec. It is also one of the most beautiful cameras ever made and copied in retro-style designs even today.