Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Photographing glass with one or two speedlights and a Fuji X-T2

Glassware is considered a difficult subject to handle properly in photography. Generally speaking, but not always, glass needs to be lit from behind so that the light passed through the glass into the camera. This can be accomplished by positioning a light behind the glassware or by reflecting light through the back of the glassware with something like a white or translucent card. For both photos below I used an easy setup where my main light was one Godox TT685F speedlight mounted on an Impact small strip bank softbox and placed behind the subject. I also placed a large Phottix, translucent diffuser reflector between the light and the subject to further soften the light and its edges.

The basic single light setup is shown below. For the second shot I added another speedlight with a Gary Fong speed snoot on it to narrow down the light beam and concentrate it only on the surface of the decanter and the ice in the glass.This second light was placed very low and close to the bottle, and its power was reduced to balance it with the light from the backlighting.

For these two photos I used a Fuji X-T2 with a Touit 50mm macro lens, and two Godox speedlight flashes. The top photo used one speedlight, and the bottom photo used two.

The vignetting edges to the light were caused by moving the stripbank in towards the front reflector until the stripbank edges began to show softly in the frame. The black edges on the glass were reflections of the dark areas of the room that were not lit by any light from the speedlight. The light differential is so great that the edges come out dark. If there is too much light in the room, I will sometimes place large, black foamcore cards on the sides of the glassware. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

First look at the Focus Bracket feature of new Fuji 4.00 firmware update for the X-T2

Focus stacking, where a number of photos taken at different focus distances from the camera, is something I have been doing for quite some time. In the past I did it manually, but recently I was able to automate the image taking process using a built-in feature of the Nikon D850. I've published a number of blog posts on this in the past.

Today, Fuji introduced its new firmware update for the X-T2 camera, and one of the many new features was a menu option for focus stacking, referred to by Fuji as "focus bracketing". From the Shooting Settings menu, you access the Drive Setting sub-menu, and then the BKT Setting menu. From here you access the Focus BKT Settings as illustrated in the photo below:

Here you can select the number of frames to shoot, the steps from 1-10, and the time interval between shots.
Working this way is a little bit of a trial-and-error process to establish the correct ratio of frames and steps. The actual increment depends upon where you place the first focus point. If it is very close to the camera, the steps will be closer together than if the first focus point is far from the camera. For still life, I find that the settings I have set here are pretty close to what I generally use.

Selecting a working aperture is important. I've tried everything from wide open to very closed down, but I have found that an aperture of around f/5.6 works best for this.

The interval refers to how long the camera will wait before executing the next shot in the bracketing sequence. You might want a higher number of seconds, if you need to have the camera wait for a flash to recycle.  I was using natural light, so I just set my interval to 0 seconds.

Below is a page from the new addition to the Fuji X-T2 manual explaining the process:

You are going to need a computer program that can combine all the shots into one. I've found the best program to be Helicon Focus. You simply drag the stack of images into the program and tell it to do its thing. A short time later all the photos are combined into one single image with extreme focus, like the one below of the orchids.

Focus stacking is better than relying on extreme depth of field because with focus stacking, everything is in focus. No matter how stopped down an aperture is, depth of field is a graduated process from the extremely sharp focused point to all other near or far minimally focused points in the image.

I provided a sample below of using focus bracket with the Fuji X-T2 and firmware 4.00 update. I realize it may be difficult to see the extremely sharp focus range in the small images so I provided a link to download a full-sized high res version of both samples. The first photo shows a stack of 25 images. The second photo shows just the first image from this stack to illustrate just how much focus stacking added to the photo.

This is focus stack of 25 images, all taken at f/4.5 and combined using Helicon focus. Taken with a Fuji X-T2 and 16-55mm zoom set to 55mm.  Click on the photo to download this as a full size image.
This is only one photo taken at f/4.5 with the focus on the front flower.  Click on the photo to download this as a full size image.
Download the new Fujifilm 4.00 firmware update for the X-T2 camera here.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Nikon Camera Rebates Announced for the month of May!

Incredible deals with Nikon camera rebates for May:

If you've been thinking of picking up a Nikon body, now may be the best time to do it. Nikon just issued some substantial rebate offers on some of their popular pro and amatuer cameras. The deal is good through the month of May and ends on June 2nd.

The Nikon D750 is one of the best pro cameras ever made -- and at these prices it's the perfect time to add that second body or pick one up with the grip and Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens for a complete, ready-made pro kit.

The Nikon DX D3400 is a secret powerhouse of a machine. It's 24.2mp sensor and Expeed 4 processor delivers the same pro quality imagery as any other camera in its class. It is now available for a rebate offering of $496.95 with two zooms that provide an incredible focal length range of 18-300mm. That's pretty much a complete camera kit for less than $500!