Thursday, October 8, 2015

Smoothing out a sky in combined panoramas

Last night I did a panorama cityscape by combining eight photographs of mid-town Manhatten taken from across the East River. One of the problems dealing with so many images, especially when the sky is smooth and cloudless, is that the panoramic stitching software often delivers blotchy results  in the sky tones when putting the images together. That happened to me last night. Attempting to smooth out such a large area of constant tonality is not a fun post-processing task.

The time-exposure photos were taken with the 42mp Sony A7RII camera and Leica-M 135mm APO Telyt lens at f/8. Lately, I have been using PTGui program to combine the panoramas, but this time the results were so blotchy from the eight photos that I decided to go back and give Photoshop's photomerge a try.

The photomerge feature in Photoshop CC has been considerably improved. While it took much longer to complete the merge, the results were well worth the time. The sky was much smoother in its transitions than the sky produced by PTGui.

The resulting image file is 600MB and 7' wide. The detail from the 42mp sensor is incredible.

This panoramic of the city from across the East River showing the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and United Nations is a merger done in Photoshop from a combination of eight vertical images.

Even in the tiny photo assembled in PTGui you can see the variegated results in the sky tones from one side of the panorama to the other. 

These are the original eight vertical images that were combined to form the panorama. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Fuji X100T plus Classic Chrome -- a winning combination

The day was overcast with light rain. I went to the Union Square farmers market to pick up a few things for the week, and, as is often the case, I had my Fuji X100T with me. I love the look of the close-up look from this camera. The overcast plus the rain added up to a dark somberness to the colors -- an absolutely perfect combo when coupled with the Fuji Classic Chrome look.  I ended up adding even more muting by dialing down the color vibrance and saturation in Photoshop post processing.

In the shots with shallow depth of field, I used the lens wide open at f/2. Otherwise, I kept it at f/5.6 for most of subjects.

There is a bit of deep softness added to this photo, the result of a Photoshop action I created several years ago. 

Next to the market is a cobblestone road. When wet, it takes on an eerie look enhanced by the reflection of daylight from down the street. With the Classic Chrome the colors are muted and the contrast boosted with dark shadows.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Photographing horses with a Nikon D810

This past week I was in Pennsylvania photographing horses for my art portfolio. Since the prints are intended to be quite large, It would have been nice to use a Nikon D4 with its super-fast drive, but I opted for a high resolution camera instead. In this case I chose the Nikon D810 and equipped it with the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, 105mm macro, and 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses. For the most part I stayed with the long zoom and even added a 1.4x telextender at times so I would fill the frame with the horse.

The photographs will be printed in an editioned set of two sizes with the Piezographic monochrome inkjet process which uses seven shades of monochrome inks to deliver exceptionally rich tonality.  Below are a few of the images taken on my trip last week.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Juxtaposing images

I have always been intrigued with the way one image plays off of another in terms of suggesting concepts. To that end I have been collecting images that could potentially work together to form a new image with a specific meaning beyond what either of them convey on their own.

The photo combination below is one such juxtaposition -- some barren trees in fog, and a model I photographed recently specifically for assembling these allegorical compositions.

Monday, September 28, 2015

New York is treated to half of an eclipse

Last night cloud cover rolled in to hide the second half of the eclipse of the moon, but not before I was able to take the ten exposures I needed to record at least this partial view. I took one photo every six minutes for the first hour of the eclipse. Later I combined the photos as layers in Photoshop and put them over a darkened sunset sky I had recorded earlier.

I used a Nikon D810 set to its 1.2x crop mode. With a 1.7x telextender on a Nikon 80-400mm zoom I was able to obtain a bit over 800mm focal length, which was perfect for this scene. For the first part of the sequence I was working at 1/250 second and 800 ISO. I had to increase the exposure time and ISO as the moon darkened while going into shadow.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Location spots for photographing New York at night

Some of the best views of Manhattan can be taken from across the rivers that surround the island. On the west side is the Hudson River offering several spots along the coast of New Jersey, all of them an easy ferry ride from New York. Last night I hit two spots with good views of midtown.

My first spot was at Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken, a 6-minute ferry ride from the West 39th Street ferry terminal. It is directly across the river from midtown Manhattan. From Lincoln Harbor you can take another ferry one stop down the river to 14th Street in Hoboken for a more southerly view of both midtown and lower Manhattan, and from here it is a short ferry ride back to Manhattan.

A good view from Lincoln Harbor is from the riverside terrace of the Chart House restaurant. A nice thing about this spot is that you can enjoy a glass of beer or wine, as I did, while sitting on the terrace waiting for the right time to photograph. It is also an enjoyable place to have dinner after the shoot.

I intend the images to be used to make large prints so I used the 42mp Sony A7RII camera and stitched together a panorama. The first photo below is a combination of four images taken with the Leica 135mm APO Telyt lens with the camera in vertical position. The APO Telyt is one of the sharpest lenses out there so the image quality is exceptional, and the final print size is 4' wide. This could easily be interpolated to double that size if needed.

Four vertical images with the Leica 135mm APO Telyt combined to make an extremely large panorama. This photo was taken about 15-20 minutes after sunset, the best time for balancing the light from the sky with the lights in the buildings. In this shot the building lights maintain their details and are not blasted out as they are in the shot below. In fact, on the top floor of one of the buildings across the way you can actually see a party going on inside. 

This shot taken a little later in the evening was done as a single photo using the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 zoom mounted on the Sony A7RII.  This lens is one of the best zoom lenses available today and offered me the versatility of rapidly adjusting the focal length. Though not nearly as sharp as the first image, it is good enough for more moderate enlargements. The light streaks are from a ferry that passed by during the 20 second exposure. 

This is a more southerly view of midtown from 14th Street in Hoboken. By the time I took this shot it was getting late. To work more quickly I switched to the Sony 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar zoom for this shot. It is not nearly as good as the other lenses I was using, but it was quicker to set up and compose. 

Both of my stopping points also offered this view of lower Manhattan, this one taken with the 135mm APO Telyt from Lincoln Harbor. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Magnificent sunset over New York

Last night we were treated to a brief, but beautiful display of sunset clouds in the southwestern part of the city sky. With the sun moving further south as the year progresses, we are approaching the best time for taking sunset photos looking south towards lower Manhattan. I originally went out just to see if I could get some sunset skies to keep for use in putting into photographs in the future, but the sky was so dramatic over the city that I also grabbed a shot of the tiny city silhouetted against it.

I used both the Sony A7RII and Fuji X-T1 for the photos. The city shots were done with the A7RII so I would have a file size big enough for making large prints.

I kept the silhouetted city small and jammed towards the bottom of the frame so the sky would dominate the composition. The lens on the Sony A7RII was a 21mm Leica Elmarit-M used at f/5.6. Super-wide angle lenses such as this give the most dramatic skies with their ability to include the higher up atmosphere.

This panorama is a composite of two images taken with the Fuji X-T1.

This was one of my favorite sunset shots with the sun so tiny in the dramatic sky. It was taken at a 18mm (27mm equivalent) focal length on the Fuji X-T1 and 18-135mm zoom.