Sunday, February 28, 2016

Ocean views with the Fuji X system

Finally back on line!  When I wrote my last post, I mentioned that I might be out of internet range for awhile. Turned out to be true. I had no connection at all for the past week. I never think about how internet-dependent the world has become until I have to do without it.

I arrived home late last night, unpacked, downloaded my images onto the computer, and passed out. This morning I began to look over some of what I had done, and decided to put up at least a few images to break the radio silence.

I was shooting mostly with the Fuji X-T1 and 16-55mm lens. I was also testing out the new Fuji 100-400 lens for a later review. I played around a bit with another image softening technique by simply adding a couple of fog filters.  Below are a few of the initial results. Much more to come later.

The sun coming up behind me reflects off the distant clouds. This image and the one at the bottom were taken with the Fuji 16-55mm lens. 

Distant clouds at sunset taken with the Fuji 100-400mm zoom. 

Early morning full moon sets over the ocean. A fog filter was used in all of these shots, with the softening effect toned down as I increased the image contrast later in Photoshop.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Putting it all together

A few days ago I posted a portrait of this model in a mini review of the Fuji 16-55mm zoom. The purpose of taking the photos, however, was to combine them with other images and create dreamlike images. Here is one I just did using a sunset forest photo as the background.

I will be travelling to warmer climes for the next week. Hopefully, I will be still able to upload to the blog. If not, I will try to post as soon as an internet connection becomes available.   

Friday, February 19, 2016

Passing rain storm in the city

We had a warm front move through New York this past week leaving considerable rain and very fast moving clouds as it dissipated just after sunset. I was fortunate enough to have a good vantage point for the sunset and all of lower Manhattan and the Hudson River.

Normally I would shoot a subject like this by making several passes with a camera. With the clouds moving so rapidly, however, the scene was changing significantly with every frame I took. So I decided to take the photo in one shot. For this I chose the high, 36mp, Nikon D810 camera, figuring this would provide me with the largest sharp image in one take.

As I mentioned, the scene was changing rapidly, so I ended up with several different interpretations of the event:

First a black and white shot with a deep, dramatic sky that opened up to light the Hudson River.

Second was a vertical color shot with crisp, eerie light falling on the Flatiron Building with the World Trade Center and lower Manhattan behind it. For this image, rain water was still shiny in the streets,and the shutter speed was fast enough to stop most of the action from pedestrian and automobile traffic.

Last was a night time shot of the city. Normally, by the time this shot would be taken the sky would be black. Instead there was a red glow on the clouds and blue cast to the sky, all while the city lights were bright enough to record.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Fuji's 16-55mm lens - a zoom lens that works like a a prime

I tested Fuji's 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom when it first came out, and wrote a review of it where I praised the versatility of its design for myriad uses, and noted that it was one of the few zooms I know where the optics are as good as a prime lens. What I hadn't done was pick one up for myself, pretty much because I would use if for lifestyle and I already had most of the faster aperture Fuji primes and this zoom would be redundant. With the advent of the new Fuji X-Pro2, however, I see myself needing a zoom with superior optics to match the upgraded IQ of its new 24mp sensor. Fuji's latest rebate offers tempted me to pick up the zoom this week.

This is the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 lens on my X-Pro1. Kind of gives me an idea of what it's going to look at on my new X-Pro2 when it arrives.
 A 16-55mm (24-83mm equivalent) focal length is a very versatile zoom lens that has been the staple of photographers ever since zooms became available. What adds to the versatility of this lens is its exceptional optics that, even wide open, can match the quality of most prime lenses. For me this extends the usage range of this lens. It is no longer just a convenient do-everything lens for walking around, With image quality this good coupled to a fairly fast f/2.8 fixed aperture the lens serves well for portraits, landscape photography, even still life -- subject areas where I would only use the best optics.

Racked all the way out to 55mm, this makes a fine portrait lens of exceptional quality. 

The 16-55mm zoom can focus in quite close. With the added versatility of being able to change from wide angle to normal focal lengths you can pick a perspective look that works with a close-up subject, and the sharpness of the lens insures superb IQ, all of which makes it useful for shooting stills. 

I originally thought this lens was too bulky to carry around on a regular basis. Turns out it is about the same size an weight as the 18-135mm lens I normally use as a carry-around, and I'm finding it quite comfortable to use.

The only missing feature is lack of a vibration control mechanism. On a focal length range of this size I don't mind not having this. Perhaps that is because I'm used to using a Nikon 24-70mm zoom for years without any VR.

Fuji is offering a substantial $200 rebate on this lens through April 2nd. That brings the cost down to $999 from $1199 so, for anyone interested, now is a good time to consider picking one up.

Fuji XF 16-55mm (save $200): BHphoto  Amazon  Adorama

Monday, February 15, 2016

Fuji offers incredible rebates on X cameras and lenses!

Fuji has announced instant rebates on X-cameras and XF-lenses  -- Savings up to $300.  The rebates will last through April 2nd. If you were ever thinking about adding lenses to your X-system or picking up an extra body, now may be the time to do it. Take a look at some of the savings:

X-Series Cameras:

X-T1 black body (save $300): BHphoto  Amazon
X-T1 graphite (save $300): BHphoto  Amazon
X-T1 + 18-135 (save $300): BHphoto  Amazon
X-T1 + 18-55 (save $300) BHphoto  Amazon

X-T10 black body (save $150): BHphoto  Amazon
X-T10 silver body (save $150): BHphoto  Amazon
X-T10 + 18-55 (save $150): BHphoto  Amazon
X-T10 + 16-50 (save $150): BHphoto  Amazon

X100T black body (save $200):  BHphoto  Amazon
X100T silver body (save $200):  BHphoto  Amazon

Prime XF Lenses:

XF 14mm (save $200): BHphoto  Amazon
XF 16mm (save $200): BHphoto  Amazon
XF 23mm (save $200): BHphoto  Amazon
XF 56mm (save $200): BHphoto  Amazon
XF 60mm (save $200): BHphoto  Amazon
XF 90mm (save $200): BHphoto  Amazon


XF 10-24mm (save $200): BHphoto    Amazon
XF 16-55mm (save $200): BHphoto  Amazon
XF 18-135mm (save $200): BHphoto  Amazon
XF 18-55mm (save $200): BHphoto    Amazon
XF 50-140mm (save $200): BHphoto  Amazon

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A little Photoshopping to keep warm

It's very cold in New York this weekend. Rather than venture out with a camera, I decided to stay indoors and catch up on some Photoshop projects I've been saving up. Here is the first one, a double exposure of a model photographed against a neutral background and combined with an image of a tree I captured last year in Central Park.

The single bank strobe lighting up the front of the model's face left deep shadows on the sides and rear making it easy to combine the two images by changing the layer with the portrait to "lighten". That way all the dark shadows allowed the bottom tree layer to shine through.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Metropolis series continues to grow

This past week I took some time to work on two multi-exposure images for my Metropolis series.

The first one is entitled "Metropolis - Feininger redux" because it reminded me of the compositions of the painter Lyonnel Feininger, particularly in his 1920's work while he was in Germany working at the Bauhaus. It consists of four main over-lapping images of the city. Feninger continued his painting and photography when he returned to New York after the Nazis closed down the Bauhaus.

The second image, called "Metropolis - Day into night", is also an assemblage comprised of four images.  The images were taken around sundown in the winter time when all the building windows are brightly lit around sunset creating a cacophony of pulsating color.

My favorite period of music is 1920's and 30's jazz. I have been trying to capture that spirit of the jazz age in the Metropolis series of photos.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fuji X-camera's Classic Chrome look

One reason I love using the Fuji X cameras so much is the way they seem to mimic the film era look and feel. This is helped greatly by the film modes that are built into the camera. These have become quite popular and lately been extended in the new X-Pro2 to include an Acros black and white film look.

The film modes are only applied to jpg images, and, since I like to have the flexibility of shooting in camera RAW for its greater range in post-processing, most of the time I set my Fuji cameras to shoot both RAW and jpg at the same time. This provides me with a jpg reference photo to use while processing the RAW image in Photoshop. All the Film modes are available within Adobe Camera Raw so it is easy to apply them after the fact in post. But I also tweak my camera with further settings of tone and color that enhance the images. These, too, need to be applied later in post, but the effects are sometimes a bit more elusive to achieve.

On a recent lifestyle shoot in the studio I decided to set up my X-T1 to shoot in my favorite mode of Classic Chrome. This color mode has more dialed-down colors and a punchier contrast that results in more of a candid look suitable for lifestyle where I'm trying to create more of a believable situation. Although this mode already delivers more muted colors, I like to dial it down even further with a setting of -2 for color. I sometimes also play with the contrast by dialing in more or less in the shadows and/or highlights depending upon the type of available light I am using.

For the first time in a shoot I chose to go exclusively with the jpg images instead of processing from the RAW. With less latitude for correction, this meant getting the scene just right in the camera. I shoot mostly with back light so on a bright day this resulted in blasted out highlights with no detail. In RAW I could have brought back some of the detail, but with the narrow jpg palette this was not possible.

Here are a few takes from this latest shoot -- all jpgs straight from the camera and done with Classic Chrome and -2 Color settings.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Just before dawn today a mist enshrouded the city and a light snow began to fall giving me this view of the top of the Empire State Building. I treated this image to my autochrome technique to create the colorful grain pattern. 

The snow continued through the early morning but was very light.  It did stick to the trees, and by mid-day the sun came out and melted the snow so water droplets glistened in the light and fell from the branches forming a shiny curtain with a city backdrop. This was the view from Madison Square Park. It lasted for about a half hour and was gone.

Both photos were taken with my Fuji X-T1 and the 18-135mm lens, which I keep attached and on the ready at all times. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Photographing the city shadows - Classic Chrome on the Fuji X-T1

I must be going through a dark period -- first the still life shoot of a few days ago and now images of the city where I'm shooting for the highlights and letting the shadows go dark.

All photos were taken with a Fuji X-T1 and 18-135mm lens. The first three color images were taken before dawn in a thick fog. The camera was set to Classic Chrome and -2 color and +2 shadow tone. The images are the original jpgs with slight post-processing in Photoshop.

The intentional blur in this image and the one below was caused by moving the camera up and down during a 1/15 second shutter speed. 

For the black and white series I exposed for the highlights with the camera set to a red filter with +1 on the high tones and +2 on the dark. 


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Applying atmospheric effects to images

Softening effects can often add more of a candid look to images. They can also be used to blur down sections of a photograph to leave a more neutral area for designers to place type or product. Sometimes an effect can just add a warmer glow to a scene.

I have been applying soft focus techniques to my lifestyle images as long as I can remember. Years ago I developed my own filters molded from Plexiglas to achieve the specific results I wanted, and recently I returned to making some of these filters. I also use glass objects -- glasses, vases, prismatic pieces of chandeliers, anything that will diffract the light --  I have picked up at flea markets.

I find that the technique works best with lenses of a full frame focal length of 50-85mm and a wide open aperture. For that reason I use my filters with fast prime lenses. It also works best with top quality optics that have good contrast, since the filters themselves tend to really subdue contrast and detail.

The main reason I make my own filters is that the streaking and blurs are more random than what can be achieved with typical, store-bought softening filters.  On top of that, I can create the filters to deliver very specific effects that I like to use.

I make my own filters either my molding plexi squares over heat, or by applying a thickly molded acrylic gel to the surface. By cutting my plexi to the same size as Cokin filters I can also use a Cokin filter adapter to hold them in front of the lens.

This is a plexi filter I have created to deliver a sun-streak effect. It works best with a strong light source in the background. 

This effect is simply selective focus achieved by placing the camera close to a foreground desk area and using a wide open f/1.4 aperture on the lens. 

Sometimes I use one of my filtering techniques to give the impression that I am shooting through a glass panel from an other room. 

This is my sun-streak filter again combined with a post-processing inclusion of a sunburst placed in the window.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Conceptual multiple exposure

This photo just emerged out of nowhere while I was playing around in Photoshop over the weekend. It began with a sky and clouds picture I liked.  I then added the charts, next the woman, and then building facade with its arrow-like shadow pointing towards the future.  Lastly, I added the world map, which I have created into a Photoshop brush preset so I can quickly stamp it anywhere in a photo.  The lowered opacity white boxes help to shape the composition and also separate the elements from each other.

I purposely did not include any symbols such as financial signs, technology or scientific symbols, or anything else that would peg the image to a specific industry. This way the photo can be applied to almost any forward looking idea with a global reach..