Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Bringing in the New Year with two of the greatest camera legends from the mid-1950's, a Nikon SP rangefinder camera and Weston Master III exposure meter. 
Wishing a successful 2014 and a special thank you to the thousands of readers who frequent this column. I will be starting the New Year off with a review of the Sony A7r that I am currently testing with Leica M lenses. Stay tuned after the holidays.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Polaroid transfers with a Photoshop assist

One of the books I am compiling is of images I take of hearts I find in my travels. The images seem to look best in a small format and I began toying with the idea of doing them as Polaroid transfers, where the actual image size would be around 3 x 4". I also thought the Polaroid transfer process might give the images more of a nostalgic and primitive feeling.  Today I made some transfers of a few of the images to see how they would look.

I used a Daylab CopySystem Pro to transfer the digital prints onto Fuji XP-100C instant film. The prints were pre-prepped in Photoshop to compensate for the color shift and lost of contrast inherent in this system of copying. The negative from the Fuji print was lifted prematurely and its latent image transferred onto 140lb Arches Aquarelle Hot Pressed Watercolour paper.

 Several samples are posted below.

Autumn leaf hearts at sunset, North Carolina, 2012

Red heart painted on fishing boat, Riviera Maya, Mexico, 2012

Hearts and locks on the Brooklyn Bridge, New York, 2013

Heart graffiti on Marie Laveau tomb, New Orleans, 2013

Iron window guard hearts, New York, 2012

Heart and arrow on sidewalk, New York, 2013

Ivy hearts, New York, 2007

Red heart with lock, New York, 2012

Bicycle fender heart, New Orleans, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Walden Pond in platinum

Most of the images I did of Walden Pond this past year were in color for the book I am working towards. Today I began work on some of the images that are going to be made into platinum prints for inclusion in my new portfolio, "Eastern Woodlands".  Below are some samples.

Walden Pond through the trees, MA, 2013

Stone fence and tree, Lexington, Conn., 2013

Morning on Walden Pond, MA, 2013

Shoreline boulders, Walden Pond, MA, 2013

Forest along Walden Pond, Concord, MA, 2013

Shoreline, Walden Pond, Concord, MA, 2013

Walden Pond and pines, Concord, MA, 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from my Fuji X-E2

Hoping you received the camera of your choice for the holidays!

The photos below were taken with this camera and lens combo.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Blurred water effect with the Fuji X-E2

The day was overcast this morning with a fairly dark sky, perfect conditions to try out some blur water effects I had been wanting to do with the Fuji X-E2. The way the X-E2 shutter exposure system works makes this a fairly easy process.

For the rivers around Manhattan I find that an exposure of 15 and 30 seconds provides the amount of blur I want. I mounted a 10-stop neutral density filter on the 18-55mm Fuji zoom lens to enable me to decrease the exposure time. The 10-stop ND filter I was using gave me between f/11 and f/16 at around 30 seconds for the two images below.

The X-E2 has both a "B" and "T" position on its shutter speed dial. According to the Owner's Manual the "B" position should the shutter open for up to 60 minutes while the shutter button is depressed and the lens is not set to "A" for auto aperture. This would not work on either my X-E2 or X-Pro1, even after trying several lenses. I traced the problem to something that is not documented in the manual. If your camera is set to motor drive, the "B" will default to 30 seconds. You must have the camera set to single exposure for the full range of "B" shutter speeds to be available.

The "T" works a little differently than the traditional "T" we used to have on film cameras. Once "T" is selected on the X-E2 its shutter speed value between 30 seconds and 1/2 second can be set by pressing the right or left selector buttons

Statue of Liberty from the Battery in lower Manhattan.

The Brooklyn Bridge and East River from under the FDR drive in Manhattan.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Auto ISO firmware update for Fuji X cameras - X-Pro1, X-E1&2, X100S

Fujifilm, once again attentive to its customer base, has issued a further firmware update for its X cameras. One of the more important items is that it now allows setting the minimum shutter speed when using Auto ISO. For anyone using Auto ISO, as I do, this is a very important refinement to this feature. You can find the specific firmware update for your Fuji X camera here.  Some of the new update features, such as that made to the auto ISO, were already included in the firmware of the newer cameras like the X-E2 and X100S, and so only apply to older models. Each firmware update is camera specific and needs to be downloaded separately.

In the example below I have set the Auto ISO on my X-E2 to cap out at 1600 and because I am using short focal length lenses I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/80 second. What this means is that in a low light situation the camera will increase the ISO as high as its maximum (1600 in this case) so long as the shutter speed stays above 1/80 second. The camera will only decrease the shutter speed below 1/80 second if the correct exposure cannot be achieved at 1600 ISO.

Of course this feature is only useful with the camera set to Auto exposure mode. In situations where I know the camera can best be relied upon to pick the correct exposure I usually keep it set to aperture priority mode and make minor exposure adjustments with the Over/Under exposure dial. This allows for quick shooting in changing situations.

Here the base ISO is set to 200 and the maximum to 1600. I selected a minimum shutter speed of 1/80 because I am using a short focal length lens on the camera. The minimum shutter speed can be set as high as 1/500 second. 
The minimum shutter speed can be set in a range of 1/4 to 1/500 second. 
 Also added with the latest firmware update is the ability to change several of the letters in the file name. Four letters can be changed when the camera is set to sRGB color space, and three letters changed when set to Adobe RGB. Admittedly, this is not an earth shattering change, but it is handy if you use more than one camera. I have several cameras and like to keep their RAW files separate.

I changed the filename prefix to "XP1" on my X-Pro1, and XE2 on my X-E2 so when I shoot with both cameras at the same time and put the RAW files into the same computer directory, the camera I used is immediately apparent. I often take several thousand exposures in one day and find this a convenient way to organize them.
Another improvement with this update specifically for the X-Pro1 includes greater precision in the image frame outline in the OVF (optical view finder). In a test I ran using a 35mm lens at very close focus range where parallax correction would be essential, I found the white frame finder to be absolutely accurate. Nice!

Aperture and shutter speed can be changed while the AE lock is pressed and held. Exposure with then revert to what it was when the lock is released.

Consecutive numbering of images has been added for the continuous shooting mode.  In the past, subsequent images in continuous shooting mode were treated as a subset of the first image and displayed in a smaller frame superimposed over the main image when viewing.  I always found this to be confusing. Now each image has its own unique number and is treated separately.

When developing RAW files within the camera, the flow of moving from one image to the next has been improved. This is not a camera feature I ever use so I did not test it.

Hats off to Fujifilm for making some of the best cameras in the world even better with this latest update. It is no wonder the X cameras have enjoyed such a dedicated user following.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Fuji X-Pro1 and X-E2 plus two zooms - one day in New Orleans.

I was visiting New Orleans attending the PhotoNOLA event but arriving a day early gave me some time to walk around the city and take some photos. It also gave me the opportunity to test out the idea of taking only a Fuji X camera system with me. Although I packed the two Fuji zooms, 35mm, and 23mm lenses, along with some filters and a tripod, I wound up shooting only with the two zooms, one on the X-E2, the other on the X-Pro1.

The city was decorated everywhere for the Holiday season -- not something I wanted to include in my shots. So I ended up concentrating on graphic details that captured the character of the city.  I also spent most of the little time I had either wandering about the old French Quarter, or in the famous New Orleans cemetery, which was the subject of my previous post.

I have to admit it was a real pleasure to wander about with such a compact camera outfit. It was all I needed. I had the two primes with me in case I required a faster lens speed, but I ended up leaving them in the hotel. It is a little bit of a luxury to walk around with two cameras, each with a different zoom. In the earlier days of shooting with film photographers almost always worked with at least two cameras. We worked mostly with prime lenses then, and if we were shooting fast, having a second body was much quicker than changing lenses.

I could really see this Fuji X system developing into my main travel outfit.

This was my full photo kit for shooting in New Orleans with some Mardi Gras paraphernalia thrown in for good luck. The kit is small, light-weight, and, as it turned out, all I really needed. 
Detail of a Creole house in the French Quarter. 
In in the old French Quarter I photographed many graphic details of old Creole cottages. I did not have a tilt-shift lens for the Fuji, even though one is available. Instead, I did the perspective correction later in Photoshop. It is actually quite easy to do. Photoshop has a "skew" option specifically intended for this, but I prefer to use the "distort" transform control instead. I provides for more exacting adjustment of the elements.

I particularly like composing in a square format, something that probably goes back to my days of working with a Hasselblad. The Fuji X cameras make it very convenient to do this by offering a 1:1 crop ratio that can be seen in the viewfinder. I work in RAW and need to also capture in jpg at the same time to have this feature accessible. I also put the camera in black & white when working on a monochrome subject because it helps with the visualization. For color I often use the Vivid mode. I don't ever use the resulting jpgs, but they give me a color reference I like and that makes it easier for me to convert the RAW files later.

Statue of Andrew Jackson, Jackson Square, New Orleans.

La Rionda-Correjolles Creole cottage in the old French Quarter was built around 1810.

Tile wall placard on Boubon Street in the French Quarter.

Old wooden Creole home in the French Quarter.

Tomb detail in the New Orleans cemetery showing some offerings and the triple XXX's put there by people seeking wishes of the Voodoo queen, Marie Laveau.

Detail of some offerings left for Marie Laveau at the foot of her tomb. 

Cemetery tomb detail.

One of the reasons I applied the strict, rectilinear graphic treatment to the old cottages was to echo the simple symmetry of their design. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A bit of New Orleans Voodoo with the Fuji X-E2

I am in New Orleans attending PhotoNOLA, the annual festival of photography that is held here. Having arrived a day early I did a mini tour of the city --  with my camera of course.  The sky below is the first subject to greet me on my taxi ride from the airport. Underexposing it gave the dark, ominous look, and a good start to a side tour I did to a famous New Orleans cemetery. All the photos below were taken with the Fuji X-E2 and 18-55mm zoom.

These markings are on a tomb some think contains the remains of the famous Voodoo queen, Marie Laveau
In this shot I liked the way the telephone pole in the distance echoed the foreground cross.