Thursday, June 27, 2019

Over the Everglades

A few weeks ago I rented a helicopter to do a photo tour over the Florida Everglades.  I wanted to create some abstract images by shooting straight down at the patterns of land and water. After some research I chose an area of the Everglades in the far southern end, right across from the Florida Keys. I was using a Nikon Z7 camera with the new Z 24-70mm f/2.8  S lens. This combo with its high res sensor and built-in image stabilization to dampen the vibration from the helicopter was perfect for the job.

The photo immediately below was taken on our way to the site and shows a water spout coming from a cumulus storm cloud in the distance.

The doors were off the helicopter and once we located a suitable location for my project, the pilot would bank the helicopter in tight circles over the area so I could point the camera straight down. The samples below are some of the results.  

It was a sunny day with a good number of puffy clouds to case shadows on the terrain below. That resulted in the contrast of dark and light areas that gave the shots some interesting volume. 

Drones are not allowed to fly over the Everglades so a helicopter was the only way to go. Plus, I always feel like I have more control over the composition when I'm in a helicopter. In any event, it would have taken a massive professional movie drone to come anywhere near the camera quality of the 100MP Nikon Z7. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Back to basics with the Fuji X-Pro2

There is something about the Fuji X-Pro2 camera that I really love. Could be the design, reminiscent as it is of the Leica M rangefinder, one of my all time favorite cameras. The X-Pro is the camera I grab when I'm not sure I really want to tote a camera along with me. It's smaller than my other cameras and I've dressed it up with some specific lenses that keep it compact, convenient, and simple. The three lenses I use on it are the Fuji 18mm f/2, Fuji 23mm f/2.8, and the original Fuji 18-55mm zoom. I also have a set of 43mm close-up filters to get in close with the 23mm lens. Most of the time I go out with only one of these lenses on the camera.

I happened upon a large pile of decaying palm fronds on a morning walk with the X-Pro2 and the 18mm f/2 lens. For years I have been photographing leaves in a state of decay where they take on twisted, sculptural shapes as they transition to another stage of life. There is something I find quite beautiful in this transitional phase of nature. I was attracted to the subtle colors of blue, yellow, and ochre I saw in the palms. Later in Photoshop I boosted the colors and extended their palette by working on the images in the LAB color space. I didn't really change the colors; I just boosted what I saw there in the original scene, and this is the result.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Keeping it simple with the Fuji X-Pro2 and 23mm f/2 lens

For the past week, and the last couple of blog posts, I have been going on my photo walks carrying only the Fuji X-Pro2 equipped with the Fuji 23mm f/2 lens.  On this walk I concentrated on photographing dead and decaying tropical leaves. In their various states of decay, leaves go through subtle color changes that are quite beautiful, and at the same time the leaves twist and reshape themselves into unique sculptural forms to catch the light.

Sticking to one simple camera and prime lens combo forces me to concentrate more on the basic composition of the subject and less on the manipulative abilities of my equipment.

The color variations of the decaying leaves are very subtle. To bring out their natural hues I change the color mode to LAB in Photoshop. This color mode allows me to make non-destructive enhancements to the existing colors that displays them in a fuller palette.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Variations on a theme

An interesting result of photographing the same subject over and over again is that it forces you to dig deeper into your creative self to find new ways of photographing or presenting the subject. I find it a great way to grow my technique.

There is a group of tropical plants not far from my house where I often go to photograph, either to test our equipment or just because I need to do a little creative exercising by stretching my imagination. 

Images were taken with a Fuji X-Pro2 and 35mm f/2 lens.

The images are a composite of two images, one of the plants and the other of a textured wall. I applied the same post-processing technique to both of these photographs so they could work alone or be presented as a diptych arrangement hung next to each other, as below.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Retro shooting with the Fuji X-Pro2 and 23mm f/2 lens

I always get something of a nostalgic rush whenever I pick up my Fuji X-Pro2 camera to photograph. Last year I traded in my Fuji 23mm f/1.4 lens for the more compact f/2 version because I felt it would make a more compact kit that would entice me into using it more on those occasions where I wasn't going out specifically to shoot but wanted to have a camera with me just in case I ran across an interesting subject. Essentially, I was creating something similar to the Fuji X100F with its f/2 23mm lens. The only thing lacking in the comparison was that the lens of the X100 series cameras could photograph more close-up -- something I especially liked about the combo. 

Lately, I've been working on a photographic series of tropical plants. Rather that capturing the more vibrant colors and studied tropical compositions, I've been leaning towards a muted palette and casual composition and trying to portray a look that is more casual and happenstance. I don't want to overwork the composition so I stick mostly to fixed focal length lenses, and especially the Fiji 18mm f/2, which has become one of my favorites.  

The camera/lens combo shown above is the perfect size to conveniently carry around. For close-up shots, I've adapted the old 62mm Nikon 5 & 6T close-up lenses, which I often tuck away in a pocket, just in case they're needed. Admittedly, it would be even more convenient to have just the X100F, but I've been resisting adding another camera to my already over-abundant arsenal of equipment.  Plus, the X-Pro2 does allow me to use my other lenses and is a more suitable backup camera when I'm on location with my X-H1.  

Monday, March 11, 2019

Bird photography with the Fuji X-H1 and 100-400mm f/2.8 zoom

Last night was one of those ideal winter days in Florida, a pleasant 72ยบ with clear, dry skies. I decided to head over to one of my favorite wildlife sites, the Green Cay Wetlands in Boyton Beach, Florida to photograph some of the birds that are more abundant this time of year. This was to be more of a relaxing walk than a full-out photo shoot so I took only one camera and lens with me, the Fuji X-H1 camera with 100-400mm zoom lens. Just in case I needed something longer, I stuffed a Fuji 1.4X telextender in my pocket, but I never did need it.

It was late in the day, just before sunset, and I decided to rely on auto-ISO to vary the exposure to make my life a little easier as I swung the camera from dark to light areas and back again to capture the active birds.  My auto-ISO bracket was set from 200 to 1600. I don't really like going over that with an APS sensor, especially considering the fine details of the birds' feathers. I worked my aperture wide open to further keep the ISO down, and also allow for high shutter speeds to stop any action.

 My ISO ranged from 200-1250 for all the photos shown here. I do almost all of my noise correction now in Adobe Bridge. The Fuji X-cameras are often compared to full frame for their image quality. Even with the higher ISO's it would be hard to tell these shots from what I achieve with my full frame Nikons under these same conditions. A great deal of that image quality comes from the Fuji optics, which, for their higher end lenses is exceptional.

Few birds are as majestic as the Great Blue Heron

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Supermoon with the Fuji X-H1 and 100-400mm zoom

We had the 2nd of three supermoons for 2019 last night.  The night was cloudy but, thankfully, the clouds were moving rapidly providing ample opportunity to grab many variations in composition. I usually wind up photographing the moon on an APS-sized sensor to get it big enough. So last night I chose my Fuji X-H1 along with the Fuji 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom, and added a Fuji 2X extender to it.  That gave me the equivalent of a 300-1200mm lens. Sounds like it's quite long, but that isn't enough to even fill the frame with the moon.

Below are a few of the images I captured last night. The first photo below shows the how the full moon filled the frame with the lens at the equivalent of 1200mm. This photo was taken at 1/15 second at f/11 and ISO 200. The moon at night is quite bright and in constant motion. So, even an exposure of 1/15 second is rather slow and will blur a bit. The reason the moon is so bright is that it is being lit in a way similar to how light from the sun lights up the earth during the day. That's a lot of  light. I was stuck with an aperture of f/11 because of the f/5.6 lens aperture at full extension coupled with a 2-stop loss from the 2X tele-extender.

The clouds are what made the situation interesting. As I mentioned, they were moving quite rapidly giving me plenty of opportunity to grab variations. Each shot I did, like the one below, where we can see both the clouds and the moon in their correct exposure required taking two photos and combining them together afterwards as layers in Photoshop.

The first shot was of the sky where the moon itself was overlit and completely blasted out. The exposure varied, but mostly it was around 1-second, f/11, and ISO 400. The second photo of the moon was at 1/15 sec, f/11, and ISO 200, but in this shot the clouds were too dark to see. That's why the final image had to be a combination of the two.

To make matters more interesting, both the moon and the clouds were moving rapidly so I had to capture both images with little time in between in order to keep the clouds and moon in their same relative positions.  The procedure was: Take moon photo at 1/15 sec and ISO 200, then quickly change exposure to 1-second and ISO 400 for the cloud shot -- all the time giving the camera a couple of seconds to settle down after being handled for the change of exposure. 

What is interesting about the photo above is that it was taken in one shot using the same exposure as for the clouds of 1-second, f/11, and ISO 400. The reason this was possible is that the moon in this photo is almost completely behind clouds, but it is so bright that its image is burning through the darker cloud parts of the cloud cover. 

There were interesting variations in the color throughout the image. I didn't alter the actual colors, but did enhance them with LAB to intensify their color.

For me, this use of  LAB color in Photoshop is the kind of moon shot that makes photography both fun and interesting -- but that's a story for another day.  

Monday, January 21, 2019

Super blood wolf moon from Florida

Well, here it is from in front of our home in Florida:  the Super Blood Wolf Moon of 2019.  Took it with a Nikon Z7 and 80-400mm Nikkor zoom plus 1.7x extender. Camera was set to DX mode so the equivalent focal length was 1020mm.  Expose was 1.6 second at f/11 and ISO of 400.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Creating Light Leaks in Photoshop

A little while ago I saw some light leak photos my photographer-daughter, Jamie, did using color negative film in an old Nikon F2 mostly on her Instagram feed. She would flash the roll part way through by opening the camera back slightly to let some light streaks seep in. This started me thinking about ways I could produce similar effects using overlays in Photoshop. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was creating an entirely new set of Light Leak Photoshop Overlays and preparing to market them through MCP Actions, where my other overlay packs are sold.

One thing I learned rather after a lot of experimenting was that I needed to create different versions of the light leak overlays to be used for both light and dark images. I also needed to create some flat, overall color blurs to help harmonize the multiple image overlays.

The portrait below was created by stacking two overlays. One overlay was a blurred, colored image of 35mm film, and the other was one of my standard light leak overlays on black.  (See the overlay samples further below.)  The background on this image was very dark, so I used overlays that required a Photoshop layer mode change of "Screen".

This image of the wedding couple is one of the more typical application of light leak overlays.  It is a combination of three overlays.  Two of them are against black and their Photoshop layer modes were changed to "Screen". The third overlays was a lighter, overall color blur to help harmonize the transition of colors of the original image and the light leak overlays.

Below are some typical samples of the light leak overlays I created. Those with a heavy black area are intended to be use in Photoshop "Screen" mode, while the more overall colored images can be used in Soft Light, Hard Light, and sometimes in other layer modes depending upon the image that is being altered. The actual colors of the light leaks can also be altered by combining them with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer.

The photo below shows the effect of the light leaks when working with a very light original image. This is a combination of three, stacked light leak images with a predominately white photo of the bride and groom. 

The photo overlay of the 35mm film was intentionally scratched and then streaked with light leaks to provide a grittier look. There is only one other light leak layer providing the red streak along the left side of the image.

I am creating the light leak overlays in a variety of colors to help them harmonize with the colors in the images receiving the treatment.  However, as I mentioned about, it is easy to alter the colors of the light leaks by combining them with an altered Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer in Photoshop.

One of the chief advantages of creating light leaks this way is the amount of control you have over the composition. The photo below combines three light leak overlays, two in Screen mode and one in Soft Light layer mode. By adding a layer mask over the light leak, you can paint out any areas of the leak that don't work. Here, for instance, I removed some of the light leak from the model's face.

I have a couple of more weeks to go for creating some more light leak images, and then putting the package together, with samples for MCP Actions.  I will also be recording an instructional video on how to use the overlays. I will be announcing here on the blog when the Light Leaks package is ready. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

First sunrise of 2019 with a Nikon Z7 and Fuji X-H1

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Wishing you all the best for the coming year.

This is the first sunrise of 2019 taken at Delray Beach, Fl. The first photo below was taken with the Nikon Z7 and 24-70mm zoom lens set to 24mm.

The darker exposure in the bottom photo was because I bracketed down to capture more detail in the area around the sun. Luckily the seagull flew by for a few frames. This image was taken with a Fuji X-H1 and 10-24mm zoom set to 12mm (18mm equivalent).