Saturday, May 28, 2016

Going over to the dark side with the Fuji X-Pro2

More and more I find myself shooting in black and white with the X-Pro2, specifically in one of the Acros modes. The camera is more retro than just its look. The way it handles and image results are take me back to when I photographed almost exclusive in black and white with my Leica's, the M2, and later the M4. What I love best about the results is how beautifully the images go into a darker world while still retaining substantial shadow detail to separate the tones. I've been pushing this feature ever darker as I attempt to use the tones for their deep, mysterious moody effect.

The X-Pro2 also has an improved look in the higher ISO ranges and I find myself going high and higher hand-held  -- sometimes as high as 12,800 -- and leaving the noise untouched in post because it comes so close to mimicking the effect of grainy film.

At the beginning of this month we had day after day of inclement weather, enough to darken anyone's mood. I had ample opportunity to experiment with this dark black and white look. Below are some of the images I took of New York this month. Mostly, I used the three zooms, the 16-55mm f/2.8, 50-140mm f/2.8, and the 100-400mm. They were all done late in the day or just after sundown.













Saturday, May 21, 2016

Maximizing the image quality of Fuji's X-Pro2

The higher resolution of the Fuji X-Pro2 coupled with the lower noise has led me to begin using if for creating stitched image panoramas capable of producing extremely large images. This photo of the Chrysler taken as the setting sun briefly popped out from behind cloud cover to throw a golden light onto the top of the Chrysler Building. I didn't have much time, and under the circumstances couldn't even use a tripod. Nonetheless, I decided to take a change of capturing several hand-held images with the Fuji 100-400 fully extended and try to combine them later.

The photo below is the result of this effort. It is comprised of four vertical images stitched together in PTGui stitching software. Because I was not on a tripod the edges of the images did not overlap exactly and left steps on the sides. Rather than crop then straight or fill them in, I preferred to leave them as is to draw the viewer closer into the process used to create the final photograph.

The final image size is 40" tall with image quality capable of making a 6-8' vertical print.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Metropolis series continues with the Fuji X-Pro2

Over the weekend I worked on a few more images for my "Metropolis" series of multiple exposed photographs of New York.  Below is one that I completed. It is a triple exposure including a recent sunset I took of the city from a river cruise. All images were done with the Fuji X-Pro2, and, since this photo is intended to go to a 48" square, it shows just how good that camera can be.

The photo is titled: "Metropolis, Island Sunset".


Monday, May 9, 2016

Dealing with film grain simulation and the Fuji X-Pro2

One of the added features of the Fuji X-Pro2 is its new film grain simulation. In the past I have sometimes used a film simulation of my own creation to give my monochrome prints even more of a film look. Naturally, I was looking forward to applying the grain simulation built into the X-Pro2. After trying it out, however, I decided that the look was a bit too false for my taste and so I went back to my old tried-and-true methods. I will be illustrating both grain simulations here and providing downloadable files to use to add your own grain.

I took the photo below with different film grain simulations of the X-Pro2 set to Acros. The first sample shows the image with no grain, the second with light grain, and the third with heavy grain.

Click here to download the high res samples of grain simulation of the indicated area
If you have even looked at negative film grain under a microscope, as I have, you will notice that it is not perfect. It is both random and slightly soft on the edges. Checking out the X-Pro2 grain in the sample above shows a grain that is much harder edged and less random in its look.


The image below of the famous church in Abiquiú, NM that I shot on film displays a grain structure that is quite different from the X-Pro2 grain. You can download a close up image of it that shows the real grain structure. This is the grain I try to emulate when I want to add it to a digital photo using Photoshop.

The print of this photo was made from a 35mm film negative. Click here to download the file that illustrates how actual film grain looks when printed. 
The way I go about adding grain is first by creating some grain layers that I can then apply as an "Overlay" layer in Photoshop.  I included both a light grain and medium grain versions in the links below. After downloading them, simply add one in the layer above the image layer and change the grain layer to "Overlay". You can control the strength of the grain even more by using the opacity slider and dialing it down a bit. That's all there is to it. 

Click here to download the light film grain overlay layer for an X-Pro2 file
Click here to download the medium film grain overlay layer for an X-Pro2 file
Here is how I created these grain patterns originally: 

First I made a layer the same size as a typical X-Pro2 file size. I filled this layer with 50% gray. Next I added noise to the layer. The amount of noise you add will determine the density and structure of the grain.  For the light grain I used 5% noise and for the medium grain 10% noise. You can fiddle with these to suit your own taste.

Next I added a Gaussian Blur of .5 pixels to the gray noise layer. Again, you can change this to suit your taste. The blurring masks the hard edge of the noise layer. 

I actually store my grain files as tifs with the 50% grain image as a smart object and the noise and blur filters under it. That way I can readjust them anytime I want. The files I am supplying here are collapsed jpgs. 

Once you have this file, you can add it as an "Overlay" layer above your image file and use the opacity slider to fine tune it. I usually dial the slider down to between 50-75%. 


To illustrate the effect of my grain overlays I created separate version of this file, one without grain, one with my light grain overlay, and one with my medium grain overlay. You can download each version using the links below.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

X-Pro2 and Classic Chrome tackle the farmers market

Whenever I visit the farmers market at Union Square I always want to photograph all the naturally organic look of the produce. This time in addition to grabbing some shots right at the market, I also picked up a few items to bring back and work into some still life setups.

I used the X-Pro2 with the Zeiss Touit 50mm macro and set the camera to Classic Chrome simulation mode. I dialed down the color a -2 to mute things even more.

Shallots. This shot was taken at the market. 


Quail eggs. I took this one straight down with the camera on a tripod. I was using an aperture of f/11 to keep everything sharp and this resulted in a slow shutter speed. The fixed position LCD on the X-Pro2 had me dreaming about the X-T2 with its articulating screen.  For this shot I needed a ladder to get my eye over the camera. An articulating screen would have let me view the scene from ground level. 


Rosemary and some old burlap I had hanging around in a the prop drawer. 


Pink Verbena flowers. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tackling the night with the X-Pro2 -- fading tulips, Part II

Night falls. The room goes dark, the shadowy shapes of the tulips fade into the background. I switch the Zeiss 50mm from the X-T1 to the X-Pro2 to take advantage of its Acros film setting. At first I photographed with an ISO of 1600. Then I push it to 6400, and finally 12800 as the grainy look of noise in the shadows become more appealing enhancing the character of the fading moments.

The tulips were pink and red, leaves green.  I switched back and forth with the Acros filter -- first none, then red, then green. Each filter had a different effect on the colors. Although the images were monochromatic, I kept them in color mode instead of black and white, later adding my Autochrome technique to them in Photoshop to enhance the grain effect even more and introduce a very subtle color pattern that is only visible in full size.












Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tackling a simple yet difficult subject, flowers with a Fuji X-T1 and Zeiss 50mm macro lens.

There is such a proliferation of flower images out there that in stock photography, at least, no one even wants to see one anymore. And yet...we photographers are constantly drawn to an image of a spring flower -- the promise of relief from winter, colors that bring a smile to our face, new life emerging from the dead landscape. I succumbed today to a vase full of fading tulips that have been in our home for several days. A simple project. Point the camera at the flower. Click. Done.

The light was right. My Fuji X-T1 was sitting nearby with the Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 macro lens on it. I went for it.

I was looking for something different but deep down knew that wouldn't happen with such an over-done subject. The flowers were past their prime. The glory of their color fading. Open petals. Dulling green leaves. But they still had a statuesque beauty.  I wanted to capture it before they faded into oblivion. Flowers teach us how to live.  Like people, they are not always at their best in their prime. Yet there is something noble in the fade.

It was a relief to me not to feel like I had to punch the color. No HDR. (I really hate the over-exagerated look of HDR). No over-saturating the image beyond what nature intended. A Fuji X-T1 set to Classic Chrome. Aperture open to its widest at f/2.8.  Less is more.