Saturday, January 28, 2017

Adding a backlit sunshine look to a photograph - overlays in Photoshop

I just completed a brief tutorial on how my new "Sunshine Overlays" can impart a sunrise/sunset back lighting look to a photograph when applied in Photoshop. The photo below is the result of three of these overlays -- sun burst, colorcast, and sun rays -- applied together to a photograph taken in mid-day. The video below that is a demonstration of how these overlays were applied to a couple of portraits to give them a sunny, backlit look.

My readers can use the promo code TOMGRILL25 to apply a 25% discount to the purchase of this set of "Sunshine Overlays" from MCP Actions.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Arca type quick-release tripod mount for Fuji 50-140mm and 100-400mm lenses

I had always wished that Fuji would have made the tripod feet on the two long ]zooms with an Arca-Swiss type mount, just as the did for the body grips for all the X-cameras. But they didn't. I knew it would only be a matter of time before someone else would recognize the opportunity and manufacture a replacement quick-release foot. Now someone has, and this time it wasn't someone in China. The replacement mounts are made in the USA.

The 50-140mm zoom shown at the top of this photo has two options, a tall and short version of the tripod foot.  Below is the 100-400mm zoom with the foot attached. 
There are two mounts made for the Fuji zooms, a typical tall mount and a shorter mount. Personally I preferred the shorter mount, since it allowed the lens to fit comfortably in my camera bag with the foot attached. The photo below shows the two Hejar Photo release mounts for the Fuji 50-140mm zoom compared to the bulky contraption of a standard Fuji mount on the right fitted out with an auxiliary release plate. 

The Fuji 50-140mm zoom fitted with the short version of the Hejar Photo quick-release mount. All the mounts, including this short version, allow the hood to be attached backwards on the lens for storage. 

On the left is the foot that comes with the Fuji 50-140mm zoom. I added an Arca adapter to it so I can use it on my tripods. It does tend to bulk the whole thing up. On the right are the two quick-release feet that are made by Hejar Photo with the Arca adapter milled into them. They are also longer making it easier to balance the camera plus lens on the tripod. 

Short version of the quick-release mount on the Fuji 50-140mm zoom. 

The foot of the plate is quite long, but this allows the camera and lens to be perfectly balanced on the tripod, as it is here with a Fuji X-Pro2. Were I using a Fuji X-T2 with a battery pack, the outfit would have to be mounted further back to achieve perfect balance. 

On the left is the standard stubby tripod mount for the Fuji 100-400mm zoom fitted out with an auxiliary Arca mount to adapt it to my tripod -  a bulky contraption and not stable enough for such a long lens. On the right is the Hejar Photo release mount for this same lens -- larger but much more stable. 

This photo also shows a comparison between the replacement Hejar Photo quick-release mount and the standard Fuji mount with added adapter. 

The low mount for the 100-400mm zoom still allows the lens hood to be attached for storage and fit more compactly in a camera bag. 
I particularly like the low profile replacement for the tripod foot on the 100-400mm zoom. I had always felt that the standard stubby foot that comes with that lens is was much too small for the size and weight of the lens. Both of the Hejar Photo replacements for this add much more stable gripping power to the foot.

The plates are fitted with two safety stops to prevent accidentally sliding off the tripod mount. The are finely machined from aluminum with a black anodized surface. They are all 3.725" long. 

The Hejar Photo quick-release mounts for Fuji zooms are available directly from their web site at Hejar Photo.  They are also available on Ebay. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Fuji announces the new medium format GFX 50S camera

Just in case you missed the point at the New York black tie gala to announce the new Fuji GFX 50S medium format mirrorless camera, you were greeted at the door with an enthroned display of the camera and its complement of lenses.

This is a major new camera for the Fuji arsenal, and after my initial inspection of the samples they had on hand it looks like it's going to be a real winner. The camera is comfortable to handle, the heft feeling more like a full frame DSLR than a medium format camera.

At the heart of the GFX camera system is a 43.8 x 32.9mm 51.4MP CMOS sensor capable of 14-bit stills with a 14-stop wide dynamic range as well as a broad sensitivity range of ISO 100-12800. When coupled with the X-Processor Pro image processor, it produce files with extremely wide dynamic range and high resolution, as well as an extended sensitivity range of ISO 50-102400. Apparently, the X-T2 will remain the video flagship for Fuji, for the video in the GFX can record only up to full HD 1080p/30.

A variety of new aspect ratio formats have been added to those found on the other X camras. These include some of the traditional medium and large formats, such as 4:3, 1:1, 65:24, 5:4, 7:6, 3:2, and 16:9. I miss the square format of my old Hasselblad 120mm film cameras. So, for me, the 1:1 on a large sensor camera is particularly attractive.

Anyone already familiar with using one of the current X cameras, like the X-T2, will be right at home with the controls on the GFX. Even the Q-menu looks exactly the same. 

The sensor on this medium format camera is a bit smaller than other medium format brands resulting in a lens conversion factor of 1.27.  For instance, the 63mm f/2.8 being released with the camera is equivalent to a 50mm full frame lens.  Along with the 63mm two other lenses will be available at the same time:  The Fujifilm GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR (25-51mm 35mm Equivalent), and GF 120mm f/4 Macro R LM OIS WR (95mm 35mm Equivalent)

The top of the camera looks a lot like a larger version of the X-T2 with the added benefit of a read-out screen. 

Looks like Fuji has created a real winner with the special formatted camera -- a perfect balance of sensor size with handling, cost, ease of use, and practicality. It could easily become the new standard to which other manufacturers will subscribe.

The Fuji GFX 50S mirrorless camera is scheduled for release in February or March at a price for the body alone at $6499.  While expensive, this puts it at the lower end of prices for digital medium format cameras. 

If you are planning on buying this camera or lens, 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 Fujifilm GFX 50S camera body can be ordered from:  BH-Photo    Amazon    

You can also order the camera in New York from the pro shop of FOTOCARE

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Creating a real snow effect in Photoshop

There are several ways of creating an artificial snow effect in Photoshop. I have done a number of these and keep a supply of just snow images in what I call my "Utility Images" collection for whenever I need to quickly pop some snow into a shot. The thing that makes the scene below interesting is that the snow is not artificially created, Instead I used images from the actual falling snow scene I was photographing. When you think about it, achieving a shot like this in one go with a flash is really just a balanced exposure, in-camera double exposure of the flashed image over a regular image of a scene. This time around I decided to take the exposures separately and double-expose them in Photoshop.

Both images below were done using this technique. Once scene darker than the other because they were taken at different times as darkness was falling over the city.

 I had been attempting to capture this scene of snow falling over the city by using a flash to bring out the white snow flakes in the foreground.  I liked the way the accumulated snow on the water towers echoed the white circles of the falling snow. Problem was that the background scene was so low in contrast that the snow flakes over-powered it in most of my shots, and you couldn't see the subtlety of the snow-covered water towers on the roofs of the building. I kept trying to capture the scene with variations between the scene exposure and flash exposure, as well as trying different aperture settings to alter the size of the flakes. Working that way was a bit too serendipitous and I kept ending up with shots where the flakes were too large, too small, or in the wrong place.

I already knew how to add falling snow in Photoshop by creating a layer with a black background and the putting white dots of varying sizes and shading all over it. Once this layer was placed over a snow scene and its layer mode changed to "Screen", it gives a very realistic interpretation of falling snow. I am working on a new set of actions and overlays for MCP Actions, and had been creating a set of snow images to include so that adding snow to an image is as simple as drag-and-drop. 

The photo above of the city is what the scene looked like when photographed while the snow was falling. Although the snow was heavy, it did not record with a straight exposure of the scene until I added a flash. The idea occurred to me that perhaps I could split the exposure in two -- one of the scene and one of the falling snow -- and then combine them later in Photoshop by over-laying the snow on top of the actual scene. This would give me far better control over the size and positioning of the white flakes so that they no longer obliterated the scene below.

Here's how I did it:

The image of the city was a straight photograph with normal exposure taken with a Fuji X-Pro2. (My X-T2 is still in the shop as a result of my last snow photography catastrophe!) Next, I mounted a Nikon Flash on the same camera and began taking photos of just the snow. I knew from experience of making these combinations that I needed a black background for the white flakes. To achieve this I simply raised my shutter speed to 1/250 second. The scene was already dark and this speed rendered it black. With the flash on full power and the lens used mostly at wider apertures, I was able to obtain sufficient contrast between the snow and background. I experimented with different lenses, a short zoom set to f/4 or 5.6 for smaller flakes, and a 23mm or 35mm prime where I varied the aperture setting between f/1.4 and f/2.8 to achieve really large flakes.

For shots where the contrast was not quite sufficient I simply added some more in Photoshop with a Levels adjustment layer where I squeezed the left and right sliders together until it looked right. Changing the snow layer mode to "Screen" makes the black disappear leaving only the white snowflakes over the scene below.

The interesting thing about this technique is that it is really just a double exposure of the actual scene done in Photoshop instead of in camera, and, if you save a collection of these snowflake photos and vary the flake sizes by changing apertures, you will be able to add snow to any scene the same way. For the photo below I combined a couple snow shots of varying sized flakes to achieve the effect in a scene where there was no falling snow. One of the nice things about adding the snow this way is that you can easily eliminate distracting flakes by using a layer mask and painting them out of areas like the model's face.

I will be including a full set of varying snow sizes in the next set of overlays I am preparing for MCP Actions. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sunshine Overlays for Photoshop

Today is the launch day for the new "Sunrise Overlays" I created for MCP Actions. They include many of the overlays I have build up and been using over the years to create a sunny look in Photoshop in a very simple way. The series contains sun bursts, glows, color overlays, rainbow and flare effects -- all the tools to give an overall warm glow to a photograph. Shooting on a cloudy day? No problem. Drop some of the overlays onto the photo, change their layer mode, perhaps modify their position. That's all it takes to spark up an image.

Below are a few examples on using my overlays, and at the end of this post is a special discount code my readers can use to purchase this along with other Action packages from MCP ACTIONS.

Photographed mid-day against the light with no fill, this shot was made to look like it was taken at sunset by adding three overlays, a a light glow, light burst, and overall colorcast-lightener to brighten the image and harmonize the colors. My overlays are made to work together with similar tones. 
This image has three overlays: a colorcast to give it an over color and lighten it, a burst to blow out the sky on the right and spill onto the model's face, and a solar-bokeh effect. I never really liked the lens flares provided by Photoshop so I created my own called "soloar-bokeh" effects. 

These are the three overlays used to enhance the image above them. First is a colorcast with lightened center to color the image and lighten it. Next is a burst to add the glow to the left of the male model and spill over onto him. Finally, there is a solar-bokeh flare effect. Placing these three layers on top of the original image in Photoshop and changing their layer modes is all it took to go from the "before" to "after'. Speeding up my workflow while enhancing the images is what it's all about. If you're a wedding photographer or anyone who has to process a lot of images at once, you'll know what I mean. Using pre-made overlays is a very speedy way to accomplish this. 

As a launch day special, my blog readers are being offered a 25% discount on all action packages they purchase from MCP ACTIONS when they include my SUNSHINE OVERLAYS package in the same shopping cart. JUST USE THIS DISCOUNT CODE AT CHECKOUT:  TOMGRILL25

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Fuji X-T2 and X-Pro2 with flash on a snowy day

It snowed all day in the city yesterday and into the night. The falling snow was dense and constant, but didn't leave much accumulation. I wanted to show the density of the falling show so I mounted a flash on my Fuji X-T2 and X-Pro2 and used different zooms throughout the day and into the night.

The trick to using this kind of light is to balance out the camera exposure for the scene with the flash exposure on the snow flakes. I used the flash in manual mode and determined the best exposure with some trial shots. The choice of aperture did more than determine exposure, it also defined the size of the bright snowflakes. The more open the aperture the larger the flakes appear due to the bokeh effect of a lens. For these photos I varied the aperture between f/2.8 and f/5.6, changing it to sync with the focal length I was using on the zoom. In general, f/4 gave me the best results. Anything more stopped down made the flakes too small.

I began shooting with the X-T2, but half way thorough the day I tripped and fell on the slippery snow and the camera suffered sever impact damage and ceased to work. The fall also destroy the flash and caused some scraping on the lens. Fortunately, the flash I broke was a Yongnuo and not one of my really expensive Nikon flash units. 

On my next outing I switched over to an X-Pro2. I really prefer outdoor shooting with this camera except for one factor. A tilting screen would make it a lot easier to achieve some very low, off the ground angles. 

In this image I wanted to intensify the amount of snow so I opened up the 18-135mm zoom lens to maximum aperture at a focal length of 24mm, set the ISO to 640, shutter to 1/60 second, and used full power on the flash.

My flash power varied from full down to 1/16 depending upon the time of day and brightness of the scene. During the brightest part of the day I needed full or half power to fully light the snow flakes against the background. By the time I took the night shot below, I had switched down the 1/16 power.

Mostly I used my ISO to control the overall exposure balance. It varied between 200-800 depending upon the amount of contrast I needed between the white snow and background scene. Once I established a base exposure for each scene, I made changes based on trial and error trying to balance out the size and contrast of the falling snow against the background scene. Each time I changed by zoom focal length this balance also changed.

By the time I took the dusk photo below my exposure had fallen to 1/15 second, f/4.5 at 11mm on the Fuji 10-24mm zoom, an ISO of 800, and flash power of 1/16 on a Nikon SB-900.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Enter the birds

I have been wanting to gather up a series of flying bird shots for quite awhile so I could use them in composite images, just like this one. The other day I had my chance. A large flock had landed on the phone wires above the street. I slowly positioned myself beneath them with my Fuji X-Pro2 and 18-135mm lens. Once I set the lens to over expose to compensate for the bright sky, I clapped my hands a couple times and the entire flock took off making a couple of circles above me. Plenty of time for me to grab a bunch of shots for future use.

Today I decided to make one image with some bird shots and put together this composite with a model I had photographed on white in the studio. All in all I used three separate bird photos, one sky, and the shot of the model with I duplicate, softened with a 30% gaussian blur, changed its Photoshop layer mode to "Overlay", and put it over the normal image of the model. This gave me a very soft, contrasty photo of the woman.

The sky image was in "Multiply" mode and the top layer. The bird layers were on the bottom with their layer modes changed to "Darken" to wipe out the sky and silhouette the dark birds. That was pretty much it.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Cloud goddess -- created with overlays in Photoshop


I decided to greet the dawning of the new year with an image depicting a common mythological figure, a sky or cloud goddess. Such a figure was part of Egyptian mythology as Hathor, Celtic mythology as Brigid, Greek mythology as the cloud nymph Nephele, and found in most other ancient religions.

Below are the images used to create the layered photo above. The two base images were that of the model and the one of the sunrise sky. The woman was the bottom layer and the sunrise was placed on top of it as a second layer. Both were used as "Normal" layer modes. I simply painted out the woman's face with a soft black brush on a layer mask. This gave me the basic structure to the final image.

Next I placed the image of the yellow swirls on top of the other two layers and changed its mode to "Soft Light". This gave me an overall warm color cast and lightened the shadows. I often use a full color layer like this to add color harmony to a photo. 

The white vignette layer and corner sun burst on the bottom right were added last. Both of these had their layer mode changed to "Hard Light". These two images are part of the soon to be released "Sunshine Overlays" set I created for MCP Actions. The sunset and yellow swirls are from a new set of overlays I am creating for them. 

Using prepared overlays greatly simplifies the work flow of a shot like this. It's a simple process of drag-and-drop followed by a layer mode change and then some tweaking to make everything harmonize.