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Monday
Mar042013

New Phase One IQ260 Digital Back for Long Exposures!

Hello everyone,

Well, I don't often mention new products here on the blog, but want to make an exception today.

As you may know, I have been shooting with Phase One Digital backs, recently with a P45+, to do a lot of my long exposure work. Up until yesterday, the P45+ was the 'best' and virtually the only digital back that could offer 'true' long exposure capability. 

I have taken images up to a full one hour exposure with it, and have been very satisfied with how little noise was apparent.

To give an example, here's an image I took in Iceland last year. It is a 1500 second (25 minute) exposure taken with the P45+.

It's not the there is *no* noise in this image...but it's very low and since I usually add grain in my post production, it's certainly not a big deal for me.

I have used the IQ series backs, namely the IQ140 and IQ160, and both have severely limited long exposure capabilities. During my shooting, as soon as I exceeded 2 minutes exposure noise levels rose dramatically, and with 4 minutes or longer exposures noise was so strong that the image became practically unusable.

I am glad that Phase realized that long exposures are important to photographers, and the new IQ260 digital back is big news! Only downside: I need to take out another mortgage to afford the 40K price tag -:)

The P45+ I was using was introduced back in 2007, so when I took the plunge and purchased one last year, I was able to score a great deal for a very slightly used model. It'll be a while until the IQ260 backs will come down in price...

While I was looking at the specs of the new backs today, I came across a promotional video featuring photographer Joe Cornish, using the new IQ260 in Iceland for, you guessed it, some long exposure photography.

Even if you're not interested in these backs, I think the video is very worth watching, for its fantastic scenery and showcasing of photographic opportunities in Iceland:

I nod my head to Joe: he certainly scored a dream job here! How would you like to get a call from Phase One, asking you to test their new back in Iceland!

While watching the video, I was impressed how well it showcased the photographic opportunities that exists in Iceland! This incredible country really is a photographers heaven! If you've been thinking about photographing there, I will leading a Fine-Art Long Exposure Workshop in Iceland this coming July 14th - 20th, 2013.

This workshop is organized through the well established Focus on Nature team, and I cannot wait to go. Yes this workshop is expensive, but it is one of those offerings that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it will have you being taken care from the minute you arrive until you'll get dropped back at the airport.

Focus on Nature has been offering very distinct workshop opportunities featuring some of the world's best photographers and instructors. I am honored and thrilled to be among their instructors.

Take a look at what they're doing. Here's a screenshot of their website. Link is here: http://www.focusonnature.is/

Saturday
Feb232013

Portland Head Lighthouse - In Black & White!

Hello everyone!

I have been working on the black and white version of this image for a while now, and I think it's finally ready to share:

It took a long time reflecting and reviewing several versions until I settled on the final look. When editing, it's hard to not be influenced by an earlier version of an image, particularly if you liked it a lot.

I tried to let go of my affection I felt for the color version of this image...aiming to start with fresh eyes.

I remember what it was like only a few years ago. Back then, I wouldn't consider, even look, at any of my images in color. Even if the color was instantly appealing. As soon as the RAW file hit my computer, I proceeded with my black and white conversion. I remember my students frequently asking why I had not kept the color in several of my photographs at the time. My answer, always, was simply: ...but I see in black and white." My photography was to be in black and white exclusively. If my digital camera would have had a black and white only mode, I would have used it so as to avoid the distraction I thought color to be.

Then, about 14 months, something changed. I started to explore color, actually still am. I feel that it's a part of my evolvement and development as an artist, stretching my vision as a photographer.

If you compare the above black and white version with the color image posted before, It's obvious to notice just how different they feel and make you feel. When speaking with other photographers, especially those who would consider themselves as fine-art photographers, black and white caries a strong reputation. It is a clear abstraction from reality, and due to that fact alone it often generates bigger visual appeal. Me personally, I was always drawn to the simplicity of lines, shapes and texture present in black and white images. Color can be a very distracting element. The great Jay Maisel told me that "..unless color is a vital element that makes your image work, avoid it..." I thought long and hard about this statement, and I am working on improving my understanding of what exactly can make color a vital part for an image' impact. This journey will, no doubt, take me many many more years. I am enjoying it so far, and forcing myself to do the best I can and produce images in both color and black and white at the same time, helps me define what I am drawn to in my photography. I hope it will help me define my style as well.

Please let me know your thoughts on the subject. Why are you drawn to or prefer color and/or black and white? Any comments and feedback are much appreciated!

Wednesday
Feb132013

Making BIG Prints....and learning tons along the way!

Hello everyone,

I had a very exciting week working on making what are now the largest prints of my photography to date.

In preparation for an upcoming exhibition, while working on my images, I thought about how large I could possibly print them. As photographers, I think we can all agree that when it comes to prints, bigger usually is better. Well, some people say this is true for cameras and lenses as well :-)

In my case, I usually enjoy making smaller prints, 10" x 10" and smaller, as I feel they give an opportunity for very comfortable and intimate viewing and enjoyment, without needing an entire wall dedicated to 'just' a single piece of art. Despite this, the challenge of making prints as large as 60 inches undeniably was appealing, and so I set out on exploring that opportunity.

In the image below you can see the finished images, with the finished dimensions of 60" x 80" inches. For scale, I couldn't resist sitting next to them in the frame:

The images will be on display at the upcoming 'EROS' Exhibition hosted by Photo Haus Gallery here in Vancouver!

You'll notice right away that these are *not* long exposure photographs, but fine-art nudes that I photographed last summer near the small town of Rossland, B.C.

'EROS' traditionally is the busiest exhibition of the year hosted by Photo Haus Gallery. As a photographer, I think it is really important to share your work, be it online or in print. I love the opportunity to share my work in a gallery setting, especially when I know that hundreds of people will see it on Opening Night alone.

Both image displayed above are shot using a Phase One DF Camera body with an 80mm lens. I used a Phase One IQ 160 digital back that features 60 megapixel resolution. To get to the print size needed for the images displayed above, the native, un-cropped, 60 megapixel files had to be upsampled to just over 150 megapixels. This resulted in a print resolution of 180 DPI, a resolution that is actually well above average given the enormous size of he print and the fact that the intended viewing distance is at least 10 feet away.

I worked on the images very carefully, and made several test prints (at scale) on my Epson 7900 printer, which can print up to 24 inches wide. Once I was confident on my adjustments, I took the finished image over to my friend Michael Levin who not only helped me print them large on his Epson 11880 printer, but also helped me out tremendously by looking over my images before he 'hit' the print button.

Michael is a very experienced large format printer making his own images, and I was really impressed how quickly he spotted and corrected some serious problems that would have caused some expensive waste of ink and paper. I learned that spotting, even at 100% view, can still have you miss artifacts and marks such as sensor dust. I needed to zoom to 200% (at least) to make sure everything was 'clean'.

I also learned that sharpening, which is essential for every print you make, needs to be applied very carefully when making big prints. Again, it was virtually impossible to notice any artifacts unless I spent the time and zoomed to 100% and more.

It took several test prints on my Epson 7900 (strips at final scale) to fine-tune the grain in both images. Despite the fact that these images were shot digitally, I very much like to add grain as it give the images some texture and depth. For small to medium prints, I have some experience and knowledge just how much grain to add. With prints as large as these, what looks like small grain even at 100% view on your computer can literally 'blow-up' and look rough and blurry in the final print. I learned that upsampling the image *before* adding grain lead to dramatically better results than upsampling with grain already applied.

Finally, to mention a more artistic rather than technical challenge here, I spend a considerable amount of time trying to pre-visualize if the extensive out-of-focus areas of both print would simply be too distracting at the large size. In my smaller test prints, the viewers eye had no trouble finding the area of focus (the model in both images), but once printed at 80 inches width, you really need to step back and take in the entire image so as not to be distracted and focus on what is sharp in the image.

We all know that photographers like to get real close, and I know people will literally stick there noses up to the print, obviosuly way to close to view. I am happy to report that due to the incredible quality of the Phase One Camera and Digital back, the resolution and detail holds up beautifully even when viewing only inches away, but the full impact can really only be had when stepping back at least 10 feet.

For those of you in Vancouver, please join us for the Opening of "EROS" on Friday, February 15th. Doors open at 7pm.

Hope to see you there...

M.

Thursday
Jan312013

The Plus One Collection 2012 - Only a few hours to show your support!

Hello everyone,

I am very excited to be one of the photographers featured in the Plus One Collection II Book.

When I first heard about this project, I was eager to get involved. It's an honour to participate and do some good with my photography.

For those of you who do not know about this project, here's a brief video that explains it all:

More information about the Plus One Collection 2012 can also be found on the Indiegogo page that is the hub for raising money for this project.

You have only a few hours left to contribute to this campaign! Please visit the Indiegogo page to make a contribution.

I will report back once I receive my copy of the book!

More tk...

Sunday
Jan132013

Portland Head Lighthouse - In Color!

Hello everyone,

this will be my first post for 2013, and I would like to share another photograph from my still emerging Lighthouse Series.

This is the Portland head Lighthouse, photographed in September 2012:

Image Details: Exposure Time: 60 seconds @F5.6 Photographed using my Cambo Wide DS using a Phase One P25+. Image is stitched from 2 individual exposures.

Checking one of my favorite resources on Lighthouse, www.LighthouseFriends.com reveals the following information about this magnificent lighthouse;

Portland Head Lighthouse, at the entrance to Portland Harbor in Maine, has a history that reads like a Who’s Who from the early years of the nation. It was the first lighthouse completed by the United States government, and is the most visited, painted, and photographed lighthouse in New England. One keeper took financial advantage of the area’s draw, another enjoyed visits with a famous poet, while yet another thought it the most desirable place he could serve. And some believe at least one former resident has never left.

I remember getting to this lighthouse only about an hour before sunset. I usually like to get setup at least 2, even 3, hours earlier so I felt like I had to rush things a bit. Despite the timing, however, I was blessed with some incredible light. I couldn't belief my luck, as this was the only time I would be able to visit this location during that particular trip - I had to start driving back to Montreal the next day to catch my flight back to Vancouver. The slight rush and rapidly fading light were part of my decision to limit my exposure time to 60 seconds - just enough to blur the water and pickup some movement in the fast moving clouds that night.

I continued shooting until after sunset, and was among the last to leave the park. Yes, I even ignored the warden's call for everyone to vacate the premises as long as I could -:)

Looking at my 'contact sheet' from that shoot, I was only able to capture 4 photographs (2 of which I used to stitch the image above). Despite this low quantity I was confident that I had a 'winner'. I cannot wait to visit again to explore more angles and compositions. This has certainly been one of the most memorable Lighthouse locations I ever photographed at. With light like that, it made my 'job' pretty easy...

In addition to this color photograph, I am also working on a black and white version. I'll be sharing this coming up later this week so please stay tuned...

More tk...

Sunday
Dec232012

Kálfshamars Lighthouse View Number 2!

Hello everyone,

as the year 2012 draws to a close, here's one more image I would like to share with all of you.

I've written about this location and lighthouse before, just scroll down a few posts and you'll see the first image I posted that was photographed here.

This is another view of Kálfshamars Lighthouse:

This image was photographed with my Nikon D800 and 17-35mm lens. Exposure time was relatively short, at only 30 seconds. This allowed me to keep some detail in the fast moving clouds. With the lighthouse so small in the frame, I really wanted to preserve some texture in the clouds. What drew me in to make this composition were the strong tire marks in the foreground. They made for a natural leading line.

The image was processed in NIK Color Efex 4. The color in the grass is actually pretty true to original, but I used the software to introduce a similar coloration into the clouds and sky.

I also want to use this opportunity to THANK EVERYONE for your support this year. It really makes a difference to hear your thoughts and feedback so please keep those comments and emails coming! I have big plans for 2013, so if you like this blog already I hope to inspire you even more with additional content and other goodies.

Wishing everyone all the very best for a safe and happy holiday season.

See you in 2013!

Marc

Sunday
Dec162012

FREE 2013 Desktop Calendar!

Hello everyone,

I am excited to present to you my 2013 Fine-Art Long Exposure Photography Desktop Calendar:

In gratitude for a great year and optimism that 2013 will be the best yet, I would like to offer you my 2013 desktop calendar featuring my award-winning fine-art long exposure photography.

Each image is in full HD quality with 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution, so it will fill even a 30" monitor (or a Retina display).

Simply update or add your contact info to my personal Bulbexposures.com Newsletter Email mailing list and a download link will be sent to your inbox. You can find the signup window on the right side of this blog --->

I respect the confidentiality of your personal information and would never share it with another party. You can expect 6-12 emails per year maximum, and you can remove yourself at anytime.

Please feel free to pass this onto others, I hope to inspire you with my images :)

Thank you for the interest in my photographs, I look forward to keeping you posted on my endeavours throughout the year.

Saturday
Dec082012

Akranes Lighthouse - Color and Black and White!

Hello everyone,

Here's another image from my Lighthouse series. This one was photographed in Akranes, Iceland.

Image Details: Nikon D800, 17-35mm F2.8 Lens. Exposure time: 210 seconds @ F5.6. Total of 16 stops of ND filtration on lens.

I drove to Akranes directly from the airport. I remember being really tired, and my jet lag got worse the longer I was out photographing, but the weather that day and the incredible natural setting of the lighthouse had way too strong of a pull so I couldn't stop taking pictures despite my tiredness.

Shortly after I started shooting here, a man came walking up to me. He also had a camera with him, and it wasn't long until we started chatting about photography. Next thing I remember was being asked: "So do you wanna' go up on top of the lighthouse?" I thought he was joking at first, but to my surprise he pulled out a set of keys and said: "Let's go". I wasn't going to turn him down. 

In the image below you can see that Akranes is home to not just one, but 2 lighthouses:

So Hilmar took me to the top of the lighthouse pictured above. But his generosity didn't stop there. He pulled out a series of old photographs, and told me about the history about both lighthouses as well. The old lighthouse that is depicted above was erected in 1918, but is now virtually unused due to the newer, much taller, tower that has been built so close to it.

While visiting the newer lighthouse, I took some pictures from the top, including one of my host, Hilmar:

What a nice man and generous host Hilmar truly was. Running into him within hours after arriving in Iceland really set the stage for a fantastic week. I felt truly blessed having met him, and hope I will be able to return the favour someday. Hilmar made me feel welcomed not only to his hometown Akranes, but to Iceland as a country. It's because of him that this image will always have a special meaning to me. It was great learning about the location I was photographing from him. Months later, he found me on Facebook and it's because of things like that that I appreciate using social media services. Next time I will be in Iceland I'll surely make a point to say Hi again.

The climb to the top of the lighthouse was very steep. I took this quick snapshot while standing at the top looking down the first set of stairs:

And on this image, you can see the view from above, including my camper van that was my home while visiting Iceland:

On the image above you can get a vey good idea of the incredible location this lighthouse is in. I actually returned to this lighthouse 2 more times before I left Iceland.

Finally, I wanted to share another view of this same lighthouse with you. This one was shot with my Phase One P45+ Digital Back:

Image Details: Phase One DF camera, 45mm F2.8 Lens, Phase One P45+ Digital back. Exposure time: 64 seconds @ F14. Total of 13 stops of ND filtration on lens.

Yes, this is another color image. I just couldn't resist. It's photographed from a slightly elevated viewpoint compared to the first black and white image.

Please feel free to leave me a comment about which image you prefer - black and white or color.

Really been experimenting with color lately, and I think I am getting close to starting a new series of photographs that will be 100% in color. It's funny. I was chatting with a good friend the other day, about the fact that little over a year ago I wouldn't even look at any of my images in color. I wouldn't even consider it. Despite the fact that this series started as black and white only, today I am much more open to experimenting with color. I am curious to see what it can do. 

So please let me know what you think!

More tk..

Sunday
Dec022012

Kálfshamars Lighthouse in Iceland!

Hello everyone,

here's another image from my emerging series on Lighthouses.

This lighthouse was photographed in Iceland, when I was there in May of this year.

Of all the incredible places I've visited in Iceland, I have the strongest memories of feeling surrounded by magic when I arrived here at Kálfshamars Lighthouse.

I spend almost 6 hours exloring and photograhing here.

There was an incredible sense of silence coupled with a strong feeling of being part of the surrounding nature. I sat down on a rock while the exposure was forming and kept sitting even after it was finished, just feeling so privileged to be able to visit this place. I listened to the waves and sounds of the ocean. I walked all around the lighthouse, exploring, searching, discovering angles and perspectives.

I remember there was some evidence of people being at this location. There was an outhouse and a small wooden shed that appeared to house tools and supplies. There were tire tracks leading to the lighthouse.

Despite these discoveries, I didn't encounter any other people while being there. 

I soaked up the silence, and can still remember how much I was hoping my photograph would succeed in conveying the magic and mystery of this place.

A long exposure can 'silence' elements, simplifying your compositions. You can see this 'at work' in this image as the water looks much calmer, or silent, despite the fact that the ocean was pretty stormy that day with lots of waves crashing on shore. 

A long exposure can also 'provoke' or 'stimulate' elements in your photographs. Here, the moving clouds create drama and draw attention, especially in contrast to the calmed waters and very stationary objects such as the lighthouse and rocky shoreline.

I recently had a student in one of my workshops who suggested these terms ('Silence' and 'Stimulate') as ways to summarize concisely what can be artistic effects of using long exposure techniques in your photography.

I really want to give credit here, as I have been thinking a lot about this. I hope this will help and inspire you all to not only give these techniques a try but also to study and investigate what the resulting effects are in you photographs.

While working on this image, I created a black and white as well as a color version. I've decided to share this color version first, the black and white will follow soon.

As always, your feedback is encouraged and much appreciated. Simply leave a comment in the section below.

More tk...

Tuesday
Nov132012

From RAW to Final: New York City Skyline!

Hello everyone,

Wow what an incredible 4 days I just had, being part of the New York Architectural photo walk organized and lead by my good friend Joel Tjintjelaar along with Sharon Tenenbaum and Armand Dijcks.

As everyone gathers for some farewell drinks in Manhatten, I am already sitting in a hotel room close to Newark airport, getting ready to say goodbye to my father who is catching a flight back to Germany in about an hour.

These past 4 days surely have been some of the most intense photographic times I have ever spend in Manhatten. I have met some truly wonderful, interesting, inspiring and fun people and cannot help but feel truly grateful for having been able to be a part of this event. To all the talented photographers who came out to New York for this event, thank you for welcoming me to the group. It was great to meet you all, and I hope there will be opportunities to catch up again in the future. Wherever, and whenever, that might be -:)

As I am preparing for my own journey back home to Vancouver, I wanted to share this first image I had a chance to work on. Late last night I was asked to do another presentation to the group this morning, and wanted to share an image that was created during the past 4 days. So I got busy editing, and here it is:

Image data: Exposure time: approx. 500 seconds @F5.6 and ISO 50. Photographed using my Cambo Wide DS and Phase One Digital Back.

This image is a panorama merged from 2 single long exposure images. You can see the original RAW files below:

These 2 files had only basic adjustments applied in Adobe Camera RAW. The panorama was created using Photoshop's 'Photomerge' feature, and because these images were shot using camera shift movement only, they assembled perfectly without any need for manual blending. What is more, with very few clouds in the sky, the merge became even easier. No need to worry that moving clouds wouldn't match up in the final panorama.

Let's take a quick step back now. I want to show you the image that inspired this composition. It's the reason I decided to shoot 2 images and stitch them, instead of focusing closer and isolating just a few of the buildings instead of the oevrall skyline.

The image above was photographed on the first day of the photo-walk, using my nifty Sony RX 100 point-and-shoot camera. in fact, I used the 'sweep panorama' feature, which created a huge, almost 180 degree, panorama of the exact same location.

What started as a quick snapshot, showed some potential once I realized that this composition could really work and make for a dramatic photograph. But rather than working on this images, I made a plan to return to this location and take my 'real' camera with me. And I did 2 days later. When comparing both compositions, you may notice that the aspect ratio changes, and I also 'traded' some negative space from the edges (in the Sony image) to the sky (the final image above). I do like the more elongated panorama the Sony gave me, but this would have taken a lot more time to reproduce with my Cambo. As the Sony is actually a very capable camera, I may take this image and put it through similar post production at a later point, but since it was created with an automatic mode there was no option for doing so using long exposures. Still, this example shows you how important it is to keep a 'snap' camera with you, as you can use it to take quick photos you can use for inspiration.

In this image you can see my camera setup for the final shot for this image. Taken using my Sony RX 100. Brooklyn Bridge Park provides an excellent view of the Manhatten skyline, and since the path is very wide it is easy to setup your tripod right on the water's edge. And no security guard bothered us either....

Here you can see screenshot of working in Silver Efex Pro 2. For this image, the adjustments were really straight forward. I did use 4 control points, shown above, which mostly allowed me to increase 'structure' and 'brightness' on the buildings themselves. I also added grain, something I do to most of my images. I feel that it provides a nice texture, and it is something I always used and loved while shooting film. Note that the vignetting, which is fairly pronounced in this image, is actually not added in Silver Efex, but comes from my camera and the strong horizontal shift movements I used to create this panorama.

Finally, here is a screenshot of the image while working on it in Photoshop CS6. Notice that it did not take many layers, nor very complicated adjustments to get to the final look above. What you can see are all the adjustments I frequently use on most of my images. They are:

  • Curves (used with masks for selective adjustments)
  • Sharpening using the Hi Pass Filter (and a mask to make it selective)
  • Dodge and Burn Layer (using Soft Light Blend Mode)

Please watch the blog for more images as I will be working through them. For now, I will be taking the night off as I'll be on a very early flight back to Vancouver on the morning.

Thank you New York. I'll see you again soon...