Sunday, June 18, 2017

Interpretations of a coming storm with the Fuji X-T2

For the entire month of June, thunderstorms have been passing through daily here in Florida. I've tried to schedule an evening helicopter shoot of Miami only to cancel the flights due to weather. Today I was out photographing with my X-Pro2 and my favorite do-everything lens, the Fuji 18-135mm. I began photographing with the sun blazing in the sky blasting out the image, and ended in a heavy downpour 20 minutes later. The photos below show the progress of this brief shoot. I did do some Photoshop work on all of the images in an attempt to emphasize the changes in the weather.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Slow motion video test with the Fuji X-T2

This test video was taken with the Fuji X-T2 set to HD1080/59.94p. It was edited later in Photoshop, and output as 29.97fps to slow it down.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fuji X-Pro2 Classic Chrome after a storm

A massive thunderstorm blew through my new Florida neighborhood in the early hours of the morning. It dwindled down to a light rain just after sunrise, and I went out to capture these images of the rain drops on nearby tropical plants. I used my Fuji X-Pro2 with the Zeiss 50mm Makro Planar lens. The images were processed in the Fuji Classic Chrome look, with a fairly strong "S" curve added in Photoshop to deepen the contrast and add a bit more punch to the muted colors.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Keeping it simple with the Fuji X-Pro2 and 18-55mm zoom

I love the vegetation I find here in Florida. So I always try to keep a camera handy to record it when the opportunity arises.  To keep things simple, I settled in on the Fuji X-Pro2 with the original 18-55mm zoom lens.  It doesn't give me the extensive coverage of my other favorite lens, the 18-135mm Fuji zoom, but it is convenient to carry around all the time and tuck into a bag when I don't need it.

Yesterday I happened upon this banyan tree with some vegetation growing around its base.  Its sculptural beauty looked like a perfect companion for the cameras Acros simulation, which is what I used to capture these images.  I did add my favorite platinum toning effect in post processing along with a vignette to deepen the tonality.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Working on a tan in Photoshop

Now that I am living and photographing in Florida, I'm also having to deal with many outdoor subjects in situations I didn't have to face much when photographing up north. Down  here I'll be doing a lot more of my outdoor work around pools and beaches. On a recent lifestyle shoot with one model, I photographed her in a pool. Looking at the shot later in Photoshop, I decided that her skin looked a little too light and also not tan enough. Enhancing a tan in Photoshop is not very difficult. There are many ways of doing it. I have a fairly simple solution I thought might be of interest. So here it is.

Above is the original image. I used the Quick Selection tool to make a select just the model's skin. The selection edges don't have to be perfect. Next, create a separate layer from the selection by pressing CTRL-J.

The skin layer should look like above image. We will use two adjustment layers to enhance both the color and darkness of the tan. These will be placed just above the skin layer. The first adjustment layer is Brightness/Contrast. Click on the small down-arrow at the bottom of the adjustment layer so that is will be only applied to the skin layer below it, and not to the over all image. You can adjust this layer to suit the about of darkness you want. I used a -41 on the brightness and +19 pm the contrast.  

Next add a Color Balance adjustment layer below the Brightness/Contrast layer so that both are being applied only to the skin layer below them. Enhance the tan color by increasing the Cyan/Red and Magenta/Green Midtones.  I used a +32 and +4 as shown below. 

The Layers menu below shows how I had the layers laid out. The little down-arrow on the left indicates that the adjustment layers will only act upon the skin layer immediately below them. You want to keep both of the adjustment layers active at the same time and adjust them in unison. Note also that I painted out some of the effect form some areas that were already a bit dark by painting with a soft black brush on the Brightness/Contrast layer.

The photo below is the completed image with a darker, even tan covering the model. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Over Manhattan with a Leica SL and 24mm Summilux lens

No sooner had I moved to Florida than I had to return to New York to cover a few assignments. One of the more interesting assignments was to teach a Leica Akadamie Workshop on night photography from a helicopter over Manhattan. After a hands-on afternoon course on the techniques of photographing from a moving helicopter with the doors off and the wind blowing, the whole class went aloft just after sunset to capture the city as the lights were coming on.

We lucked out with the sun breaking through the clouds at sunset to add some color to the sky. Participants were able to use the latest in Leica equipment on the flight, in addition to  carrying another camera of their own.

I wanted to try out the new Leica M10 and fit it with a fast f/1.4 aperture 24mm Summilux lens, definitely my favorite lens for this type of photography. The fast aperture keeps my ISO down and shutter speed high enough to freeze the motion from a handheld shot in a vibrating helicopter at night.

Below are some of the photos I took with my one camera/one lens outfit.

We may be doing a Leica Workshop like this again, both in New York and some other spots around the US. So stay tuned to Leica if you are interested in attending. The workshops have a tendency to sell out quickly.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Experimenting in Florida with the Fuji X-T2 and 18-135mm lens

In case you're wondering where I've been with new postings, I spent the past couple of weeks moving studio and residence from New York City to Florida. Turned out to be a much more daunting task than I could have imagined. Nonetheless, I have finally settled in -- somewhat -- and had a bit of time to pick up a camera to take some photos of the local flora.

I used only the Fuji X-T2 and my favorite do-it-all lens, the Fuji 18-135mm zoom. I did add some post-processing technique to most of the images to give them a distinctive look. Hopefully, I won't be offline so long again, although I am heading back north tomorrow to shoot a couple of assignements and also teach an aerial photography workshop for Leica. Next week, I'll be back in Florida attempting to re-establish a semblance of my normal shooting schedule.

Banana leaves softened in Photoshop. 

For this variation I created the feel of a platinum photograph, also adding the sunburst from my MCP Actions Sunshine Overlays.

For this photo, I removed the background and substituted another one I had in my files. 

Simple as it looks, this photo was one of the more complex. I duplicated the layer in Photoshop, softened it with a heavy Gaussian blur, changed the layer to "Multiply", and the lowered the layer's opacity. 

Substituted a black background at the bottom of this image and increased the contrast considerably. 

Another platinum photograph effect I did in Photoshop.

This is an Acros image converted to infrared, which is why the sky is darkened and the green leaves brightened to white. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Keeping it simple with the Fuji X-Pro2 and 18-55mm zoom

When I venture out with the Fuji X-Pro2 instead of the X-T2 it is usually because I want to keep my kit simple and unencumbered. Often this means outfitting it with the 23mm f/1.4 or, when I want a bit more versatility, the humble 18-55mm, the original Fuji X zoom.  This lens still has a comfortable aperture spread of f/2.8-4 and provides a practical equivalent focal length of 27-85mm.  Plus, focus is quick on the X-Pro2. The aperture is fast enough for some decent bokeh effects, which I needed for these photos I did wide open of rain on windows.  We've had a lot of rain lately in the city.

Basic though it may be, the X-Pro2 plus 18-55mm zoom is a great combo where you're pretty much limited only by your imagination.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Variations on an icy theme with the Fuji X-T2

My X-T2 was no sooner back from Fuji repair to fix some dead sensor spots, than I pressed it into service taking some photos of the ice blizzard that hit New York today.  Fortunately for me, I was able to take my photos from indoors. The ice patterns on the windows formed large abstract patterns, perfect to juxtapose with elements of the city view.  The scene below was one of my favorites taken from behind a large picture window where the ice had left an empty circle in the middle -- perfect for framing the top of the Empire State Building.

I used the Fuji 16-55m zoom on the X-T2 set for a mid range of about 40mm. I thought I might lose the background scene through the low contrast haze so I set the aperture to f/16 to keep both the ice and building in good focus. A good depth of field was also important because I had tilted the camera up to frame the shot. This would naturally put a plane of focus across only one part of the icy window had I used the aperture more open.

The top photo variation was taken with an B&W Acros setting, while the photo on the bottom used a Provia film setting. The blue tint was due to the cool color temperature from the heavy overcast.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Legends of photography -- The Contax II 35mm camera

The Contax II was manufactured from 1936-42 as a followup model to the Contax I. The Contax II and III -- the III had a light meter on top -- were the first cameras to combine the rangefinder and viewfinder into one unit.  This particular camera and its Zeiss Sonnar f/2 collapsible lens were both made in 1937, just before WWII.  The Contax II and III were introduced in response to the Leica rangefinder camera. Because Leica held many design patents, Contax had to re-invent many of its features. The vertically travelling shutter composed of metal one example of this. The advanced features and dependable design of the Contax II quickly made it one of the top choices of journalistic photographers, like Robert Capa.

Contax II with Contameter closeup kit. The closeup filter slips over the front of the lens and a corresponding lens is placed in the parallax correction apparatus that fits in the shoe on top of the camera. The down angle and off-center placement achieved the appropriate correction for parallax. It is show here set up for the closest focusing #20 filter. To use the other two 30 and 50 filters the apparatus was turned upside down to decrease the angle for the difference in parallax correction needed. 

Contax came up with an ingenious design for a close-up apparatus called the Contameter shown in the photos above and below. It allowed hand-held close-up photographs to be made at the set distances of 20” (1:10 magnification), 13” (1:6.5 magnification) and 8” (1:4 magnification). The device consists of a rangefinder with parallax adjustment to which one of three small prisms is attached and three close-up lenses that fit the standard 5 cm lens. With a prism and corresponding close-up lens in place the camera is moved backwards and forwards until the rangefinder image coincides. Measurement is done from the front of the mount of the supplementary. The lens is focused on infinity

Below are some sample photos taken with the Contax II, a collapsible f/2 Sonnar lens and the #20 closeup attachment on the Contameter. Photos were taken at f/5.6 on Kodax T-Max 400 film. 

The Contax had a great body of Carl Zeiss lenses designed for it. Below is the 5cm f/2 collapsible Sonnar. Collapsing the lens made the camera very compact.

Another ingenious design for the Contax II was the fold-out foot shown below. With the foot extended the camera would be balanced to stay straight. This allowed impromptu setup to steady the camera on a flat surface when a tripod was not available. 

The famous war photographer, Robert Capa with his Contax II camera. 

The lens shown below is the Zeiss Tele-Tessar 18cm  f/6.3 with matching viewfinder. This was quite a long lens for its day and added to the practical versatility of the Contax camera system. 

The photo below shows the vertically travelling focal plane shutter made up of metal slats. 

Some more samples below taken with the Contax II and the Contameter closeup attachment. They were taken hand-held and focused by moving the camera in and out on the subject. The system worked quite well to achieve the selective focus and tight crop I wanted.