Thursday, September 18, 2014

Aerials of New York with the World Trade Center

Last night I did some helicopter aerials of lower Manhattan at sunset. Haven't had time to process them yet, but decided to begin this post, and will add to it later.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stacked focus for maximum depth of field

This is another image in a series I am doing on natural farm foods. The theme for this one was late summer fruits. My stylist and I visited the farmers market in the morning searching for fresh, but natural looking produce that looked like it came straight from the farm.

The depth of this still life set up was 28" front to back. We set up a ruler off camera and marked 1" intervals. I refocused the Nikon D810 28 times, once every inch, from front to back. The lens was a 60mm Nikon macro set to f/5.6. From having done these setups before, I have found that f/5.6 seems to work best.

Click here to download a high res version of this image. 

All 28 16-bit RAW files are treated similarly in Adobe Camera Raw and processed to 16-bit tif files to preserve the maximum color depth. The we run the 28 images through Helicon Focus to combine them in to one photo comprised of the sharpest part of each of the 28 exposures. The process doesn't always work the first time around and the software settings have to be tweaked several times to find the right combination of settings. I redid this one over ten times before I got it the way I liked it.

To give the scene the look of a painting done by an "Old Master" , I used a soft window light very much the way it would have lit for a painting.

I provided a link to a high res version of this file below the image. I did reduce the size of the full file because it was so large it would have taken a lot of time and space handling it. The version here is still large enough to give an idea of how these stacked images look when finished.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What a difference a day makes

When photographing popular travel or landscape subjects it is often difficult to get a vista that is different from what has been done before. One thing that is always changing is the weather, and whenever possible in these situations, I compose the image for the weather first and the subject second.

On Saturday morning the sky was threatening when I set out on a bike ride towards lower Manhattan. As I approached the World Trade Center there were some storm clouds passing behind it. I grabbed this shot with the Fuji X-T1 and 18-135mm zoom for conversion to a platinum print.

On Sunday morning I had sunny blue skies and a very hard light when I took this photo with the Fuji X-T1 and 55-200mm zoom of the Empire State Building peeking out from between some apartment building. Later I processed it as infrared in Photoshop to darken the blues and then prepared the file to make a platinum print.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rainy Saturday night in Manhattan

Rainy nights make for colorful reflections in the city. These interpretations of traffic in the Big Apple were taken with the Fuji X-T1 and Fuji 55-200mm zoom hand held at an ISO of 1600. While taking these I kept thinking of the painting by Piet Mondrian called "Broadway Boogie Woogie", his 1943 abstract reflection of a frenetic city grid pulsing to a syncopated rhythm.

Multiple exposure in Photoshop

Last night the Empire State Building was still lit with red, white, and blue. On the weekends I like to experiment with my cameras on the theory that you never stop learning. It's a habit I began many years ago. I find I usually learn something by taking a break from my normal routine once in awhile.

Using the long Fuji zoom on the X-T1, I took a number of exposures, some in focus, some out of focus, and some while moving the camera to create motion blur. Later I combined a few of each type image to create this multiple exposure in Photoshop. Each image was on its own layer. Some of the layers were converted to "Screen" mode, others had their opacity reduced, and all of them had a layer mask where I could paint out certain areas and smooth out the transitions. This image is a combination using five separate photos.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Photo for 9/11

Every year on the eve of 9/11 I take a photo in honor of 9/11, usually of the ceremonial lights. This year I branch out with a different subject but still on the same theme.

The Empire State Building was lit up in red, white, and blue for the event and for a very fleeting moment at dusk the clouds and sunset formed a magnificent compositional arrangement with the building. When I saw it, I knew I had very little time to capture the the scene for the light was fading fast. As it turned out, I had about 1 minute. Problem was at the time I was indoors and had to shoot through a window, a dirty window at that. Later I thought others might be interested in the techniques I use for shooting in these circumstances in which, for some reason, I constantly find myself.

Sometimes for a scene like this where the building and clouds align themselves in a perfect composition you just have to be lucky -- but you also have to also be prepared to capture it.

I had the Fuji X-T1 with me fit with the new 18-135mm zoom. This lens has a 5-stop vibration reduction feature so I knew that would help with the slow aperture. 

I removed the lens hood so that I could press the front of the lens as close as possible to the window. With my left hand I formed a seal between the front of the lens and the window so that none of the interior light could reflect into the window and back into the camera. I set the lens to its widest aperture to minimize the focus on the window. Next, I braced myself as best I could -- I had no tripod at this point -- pressing the lens against the window and my body and arms against the wall to steady myself. With the camera set to motor drive, I would press and hold the shutter through several exposures. From experience I know that the first press would be the one to blur the shot, but after that the pressing finger is idle and the camera is not moving so the second or third exposure will usually be blur free.

In situations like these I bracket like crazy against any motion that will ruin the shot. Better to have an excess of exposures than an image with motion blur. I repeated these bursts about a dozen times. The sky light and color was fading very fast. As it turned out, I had the aperture wide open, shutter speed at a comfortable 1/60 second, and an ISO of 1250.  If I were doing it again, I would lower the shutter speed to 1/30 and the ISO to 640.

The next problem I had was adjusting the image in post processing to what my eye saw, not what the camera recorded.

The image below was what the camera actually recorded in the fading light. My eye saw it with more brilliant colors and brighter, but the scene was fading very fast. After bringing it into Photoshop with some corrections in Adobe ACR I next switched the color mode to LAB. LAB is a very extended color profile and also non-destructive. I never boost colors by using saturation in post-processing because it is asking for trouble by posterizing the image. LAB on the other hand can punch the colors without adding artifacts to the image.

This is the original photo before applying corrections.

The first thing I had to do was color correct the image. It was much too yellow. The middle lighting on the building was white, as in "red, white, and blue". The camera pushed the scene to much warmer tones. I brought the white light back to white reflected off of a yellow building. Some fun. After that, I needed to retouch out some of the color reflections as a result of shooting through glass. You can see some of them next to the tower in the above photo. After that, it was into LAB to increase the color to what I actually saw, add the typical "S" contrast curve, eliminate the noise with Neat Image, and done -- until next year.

First impressions of the Nikon D750 camera

Those of us who have used the popular D700 camera (and many still do) have longed for its replacement. The D700 was a professional grade camera in a smaller package, perfect as a backup to a pro system, excellent in its own right, and just what you would want when you want to travel with something lighter that the heavier, top of the line models.

Now the Nikon D750 is here.  It hasn't been billed as a D700 update, but in terms of  how it fits within the Nikon pro lineup, that is what it is.

The D750 has a smaller, weather-sealed body, about the same size and a tad lighter than the D610. It's the kind of camera where you don't just carry one of them, you have two, each with a different lens on the ready. It has a 24.3 MP FX sensor with an impressive ISO range of 100-12800 in 1/3-stop increments, extendable to 50-51200 in 1-stop increments.

The new EXPEED 4 processing engine currently found in the Nikon D4s and D810 is also used in the D750. Other D4s and D810 niceties, like the 51 point AF screen coupled with the new Group AF, have also been included in the D750. These features alone are reason enough to add this camera to your arsenal.

At purported 1230 shots per charge the D750 battery life is about that of the D810 using the same EN-EL15 battery, and it has a new, optional MB-D16 Multi-Power Battery Pack available for it. The maximum frame rate is 6.5 fps, not the 8fps some of us hoped for, but still faster than anything other than the D4s. The real question is: How much will the EXPEED 4 processor improve the burst rate? It is one thing to shoot at 6.5 fps, but if the burst rate is limited, it doesn't help things all that much. The D610 with a similar 24.3MP sensor can deliver 6 fps, but only for 13 shots.

The controls of the D750 are similar to the other pro and semi-pro models, one of the nice things Nikon does. If you've used one Nikon DSLR, you will feel right at home with any of the others. 
With the D750 Nikon has gone back to including an anti-aliasing filter over the sensor.

This is the first pro level Nikon camera with a fully articulating tilt screen that is bi-directional for both low angle and overhead shots.  Add to that a new built-in WiFi feature where the camera can be controlled remotely from a phone or tablet, and you will be able to extend the viewing angle to previously inaccessible areas.

I think that wedding photographers who often  have to carry more than one camera with them all day long are going to appreciate the D750.

Notable Features of the D750:

          •  24.3MP FX-Format CMOS Sensor
          •  EXPEED 4 Image Processor
          •  3.2" 1,229k-Dot RGBW Tilting LCD Monitor
          •  Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 60 fps
          •  Multi-CAM 3500FX 51-Point AF Sensor
          •  Native ISO 12800, Extended to ISO 51200
          •  Continuous Shooting Up to 6.5 fps
          •  91k-Pixel RGB Sensor and Group Area AF
          •  Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity

Bottom line, the D750 may be the most practical, all-around Nikon camera of all. The 24.3MP sensor is enough resolution for most demanding situations. The 6.5 fps, though not up there with the fastest DSLR's, is plenty fast, and the added niceties of tilting LDC, internal WiFi control, EXPEED 4 processor, along with the best AF of any Nikon camera is probably going to result in this camera flying off  store shelves, particularly when we consider its price of $2299.95.

The D750 will be initially available around September 23 as body only, and later bundled with the AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm F4 VR.

There will be a hands-on review of the D750 on this blog in a few weeks, after I've had time to give it a workout.

If you are planning on buying a D750, you can help support this site at no extra cost to you by clicking the link and purchasing from one of our affiliate sellers listed below -- and thanks for your support.

The Nikon D750 camera body only can be ordered from:  BH-Photo   Amazon
The Nikon D750 bundled with 24-120mm lens can be pre-ordered from:  BH-Photo  Amazon   
Nikon MB-D16 Multi Power Battery Pack for D750 can be pre-ordered from:  BH-Photo