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My Photography gets 11 Honourable Mentions at IPA 2013!

Hello everyone,
I am happy to report that I have received 11 honourable mention awards at the International Photography Awards (IPA) this year.
I submitted only 2 single images and 1 photographic series this year, and all of my entries received honourable mentions in multiple categories. 
After winning 3rd prize at the PX3 Awards earlier this year, my current 'Lighthouse Series' received 3 honourable mentions in the categories 'Architecture - Historic', 'Panoramic', and 'Fine Art - Landscape'. 
My single image 'Brigus' won in 4 categories, including 'Travel/ Tourism'.
Finally, the single image 'Icelandic Rock' won in 3 categories, including 'Panoramic' and 'Fine Art - Landscape'.
But enough about me.
Like I did with my posting about the PX3 awards, I would like to again point you to some of the other award recipients.
Looking over the winners galleries, I noticed that a lot of long exposure photographs received awards this year.
What is more, I actually know quite a few of the award winners. From friends to students to colleagues, I think it would be time well spend for you to check out the work of the following photographers.  

This list is by no means complete, but it should serve as a nice starting point for you to browse all the amazing and inspirational work that is on display.

I hope I haven't forgotten anyone. If I did, please don't take it personal -:)

Entry Title: " Sundial Bridge"
Sharon Tenenbaum
, Canada
Category: Professional, Bridges

I have known Sharon for several years. As a fellow Vancouverite, we have taught a few workshops together (and more are planned!). After winning 1st place for her photography of Bridges at the IPA 2011, she has done it yet again this year! Congratulation on winning 1st place, Sharon! If you haven't seen her work, make sure to check out her website!

Entry Title: " Like A Harp's Strings - Encore"
Julia Anna Gospodarou
, Greece
Category: Professional, Bridges

Julia wins 3rd prize in the same category! I met Julia in Berlin at the GPlus Euro Photowalk. We both did short presentations just before the actual 'photowalk' began. Ever since that first meeting, I have been following her work, and she never ceases to inspire! In addition to 3rd place, Julia wins numerous honourable mention awards as well. Go and check out her work!  

Entry Title: " City Centre"
Frank Meyl
, United States
Category: Professional, Cityscapes

Frank wins 2nd place in the Cityscapes category. His compositions look similar to what I have seen from many long exposure architecture photographers, but what sets Frank apart is his bold use of color and light. A very unique series, well seen and photographed, and impeccably presented.   

Entry Title: " Strong"
Kees Smans
, Netherlands
Category: Non-Professional, Bridges

I met Kees when I was teaching a workshop in Amsterdam (together with Joel Tjintjelaar). Less than a year later, Kees came out again to a workshop held in Domburg, and was a great help once again working with the students. I am really happy to see him win this award - In addition to always having a smile on his face, Kees is a 'serious' photographer doing some great long exposure work. 

Entry Title: " The Matrix"
, Japan
Category: Non-Professional, Architecture

A must see! This series is, in my humble opinion, one of the most striking imagery to be awarded this year. I rarely have seen long exposures combined with such a strong style and recognition for pattern, perspective and texture. Very clever inclusion of color, too. 

Entry Title: " Stalin's Architectural Legacy"
Leslie Hossack
, Canada
Category: Non-Professional, Historic

I met Leslie in Vancouver, when she phoned me up to discuss whether she would be a good fit to take a workshop with Ralph Gibson I was organizing. I asked her to come over and she showed me her portfolio. I was so blown away by the quality of her work - it made my day. Leslie signed up for the workshop and it turns out that Ralph liked her work as well - so much so that he acquired her portfolio. Something I have never seen Ralph do and I think this is another testament to the quality of Leslie's work. Having seen her prints, I know Leslie is not just a talented photographer, but also an expert printer with incredible attention to detail. I am proud to say that we kept up our friendship and I look forward to her call every time she comes to visit Vancouver. Congratulations for this well deserved award! 

Entry Title: " Classic Cars in Classic B&W Fine Art"
Joel Tjintjelaar
, Netherlands
Category: Professional, Automotive

I was really impressed to see Joel's classic car photographs. After winning numerous awards at previous IPA's, this is a different, new, subject matter. Yet Joel manages to photograph it with the same unique and dedicated style that made his fine-art architecture photographs so famous. A feast for the eyes! After teaching workshops together in Amsterdam, Domburg and New York, I hope to be working with Joel again in 2014 and beyond! 

Entry Title: " Departure"
Jens Kristian Balle
, Canada
Category: Professional, Self-Promotion

Jens is one of my former students, and I am so impressed by what he has accomplished in such a short time. His work has won numerous awards this year, and when you look at his portfolio it's not hard to agree that Jens will continue to rise to teh top of his profession. Jens is talented, dedicated, hard-working and is noty afraid to try new things and concepts. Browse his website to find a portfolio on long exposure work that has a very strong style and unique feel. Well done Jens - I cannot wait to see what's next for you! 

Entry Title: " Building A Mystery"
John Kosmopoulos
, Canada
Category: Non-Professional, Buildings

I met John in Berlin at the same event I met Julia Anna Gospodarou. We hit it off right away, and in the short span of less than 18 months I saw John again at events in New York and San Francisco. Next week, I will be co-teaching a fine-art architecture workshop in Toronto with John (and I am really looking forward to it and many more events). John is incredibly excited about photography, and his upbeat and fun personality makes him a joy to have around! Congratulations John to this well-deserved award! See you in Toronto in afew days!

Entry Title: " Axis Mundi - Trees of Life"
Joanne Scherf
, United States
Category: Professional, Landscape

Joanne has taken 2 online courses with me in the past year. From the beginning I could tell how dedicated and eager to learn she really was. Joanne has worked hard, and it shows in her photography. It was a pleasure to have her in my course, and I couldn't be more happy for her to win these awards. One of the best and most rewarding parts of teaching is knowing that you can make a difference - Joanne sets a shining example of what can be accomplished with the right attitude and desire! Congratulations!

Entry Title: " Lençóis Maranhenses"
David Burdeny
, Canada
Category: Professional, Landscape

A fellow Vancouverite, I have been following David work for nearly 10 years. I first 'discovered' him when he was shooting long exposure sea-scapes and over the years I have seen his work evolve and develop. There are not many photographers I can think of who manage to grow their style and master such as great variety of subject matter as well as David does. Do yourself a favour and check out his website - i am sure you will be impressed! 

I could go on and on with this list. But after almost 3 hours writing this blog I am going to stop. For now.

Please go and browse the amazing line-up of winners. There is something for every taste, in a large variety of subject matters. 

Thank you for reading (if you made it his far).

More tk...


From RAW to FINAL: Infrared Long Exposure Photography

Hello everyone,

after a long break, I am finally back at the keyboard and this blog.

It has been a busy summer, filled with photography and much needed great and relaxing times with the family. I travelled to Europe and across Canada, and now I am back in Vancouver for just a little longer before heading back out on the road.

The image I'd like to share today was photographed in June, here in Vancouver.

I was teaching an advanced long exposure photography workshop (together with Sharon Tennebaum and Grant Murray), and one of the students had a very unique camera that he let me use to take this image.

Image Details: Cambo Wide RS with 23mm Rodenstock lens. Exposure was 10 seconds at F22. ISO 35. Leaf Credo 80 megapixel full spectrum digital back. 20 stops of ND filtration.

We took the workshop to one of my favorite locations to photograph the famous Lions Gate Bridge here in Vancouver. We were very lucky with the weather that day, and the tide was out far enough that we could use the numerous tide pools to enhance our compositions. The reflections in the foreground really make this image sing (in my humble opinion).

Here is a quick shot behind-the-scenes showing our camera(s) setup:

I used a Cambo Wide RS camera with an ultra-wide 23mm Rodenstock lens for this. Combined with the Credo 80 megapixel digital back the field of view is much wider compared to 35mm format. With a lens as wide as this, movements are very limited but I did manage to apply approx. 5 millimeters of upward shift to correct for the tall bridge structure. The very wide-angle view also allowed me to crop the final image to a square while maintaining lots of negative space and expanse.

Below you can see the original RAW file:

When I saw this image for the first time, I remember being utterly surprised. I had never worked with a full spectrum digital camera, so wasn't used to seeing this strong of a color cast. Turns out, this is actually a very normal 'look' for a full spectrum image.

Starting with this, the first step in my workflow was to fine-tune the white balance, and with it the overall color balance in this image. I used Capture One software for this task, which works much better compared to Adobe Camera RAW.

One thing I should mention is that you can clearly see how much I pushed the limits of this lens and its image circle. With 5mm of rise (aka upward shift) applied, the black corners on the top right and left edge of the image clearly show you the limits of the image circle of this lens. This kind of vignetting cannot be corrected - the lens simply cannot 'see' any further. The lens rise did allow me to keep the bridge relatively straight though, and I was able to fine-tune my results further by using perspective correction in Capture One Software.

The next step involved cropping, this is where I decided on a square crop for the final composition.

Below are 2 alternate crops, both of which are in my favorite 2:1 panoramic aspect ratio. Please note that those images are NOT completely finished, they are just 'working files' I made to evaluate composition and aspect ration only (not tonality and final look and feel):


Although I did like the added expanse and negative space in both of these panoramic compositions, I felt strongly about choosing the square crop for the final image. It's been a while that I published a square image, so it may have been time to re-visit old habits :-)

To continue my workflow, I opened the image in Adobe Photoshop CS6 for further processing.

As you can see, it did not take many adjustments to arrive at the final look. One thing I do want to point out is that I used 2 Silver Efex black and white adjustment layers (something I don't often do).

Because if it's full spectrum quality, using color channels was a very effective way to process this image into a black and white. The first time I used Silver Efex, I worked the red channel to give the image a strong infrared look (white foliage). I was able to not only get this effect in the trees of Stanley Park across the water, but also in the algae in the foreground. Highlighting those in the foreground really gave the image a good and strong infrared feeling and balanced the tonality nicely.

You can see the white foilage and overall layers and adjustments in this 100% crop in Photoshop:

The second Silver Efex Layer was created for the sky and its tonality and contrast specifically. I used a mask to prevent it from changing the foreground and the foliage.

As I almost always do, I finished this image by using a Burn and Dodge layer that I placed on top of the layer stack. This allowed for further fine-tuning of tonality and contrast in specific areas of the composition.

So, there you have it. One of my first digital infrared images. If only the camera wouldn't be $50K +, it'll likely take me some time to get my hands on one of these again.

As always, please leave your questions and comments below. Please also let me know if there is any interest for me to do a short video about this image and how I processed it. Just leave me a comment.

More tk... 


My Photography wins 5 Awards at PX3 - Prix De La Photographie Paris!! 

Hello everyone,

I am extremely excited and honoured that my photography has won 5 awards at the 2013 PX3 - Prix De La Photographie Paris.

PX3 is one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world, and I encourage you to check out all the winning galleries - you're sure to find many hours of photographic inspiration.

My photography received 4 honourable mentions, and my most recent fine-art long exposure series entitled 'The Lighthouse Series' won 3rd Prize in the Fine Art - Landscape category.

This makes my 'Lighthouse Series' the second series of long exposure photographs that wins awards at international competitions (the first being my 'Canadian Grain Elevator Series which won awards at PX3 2012 and IPA 2011).

Below you can see my winning series images, or click this link to visit the PX3 web page directly:

In addition to my lighthouse series, my images 'Icelandic Rock' and 'Brigus' received honourable mentions.

Looking over the winners galleries, I noticed that very few long exposure photographs received awards this year.

Below I would like to give you some links to some of my favorite photographs by other awards recipients.

This list is by no means complete, but it should serve as a nice starting point for you to browse all the amazing and inspirational work that is on display:

This is a series of long exposure images illustrating the sad decline of industry in the American Rust Belt.

This is a series of images from Iceland, which was one of my favorite trips of all time. Well worth taking a look at.

I discovered Frank's work earlier this year, and it comes as no surprise to me that he has received several awards for it. I would love to visi some of the sights depicted in Frank's photographs...

I met Julia at the Berlin Long Exposure Photowalk in 2012, where we were both instructors as well as eager participants. In addition to being a huge inspiration, she is one of the nicest (and smartest) people you'll ever meet! I am very happy to see Julia win an honourable mention for her series, and encourage you all to check out her website where much more of her photography is on display.

  • Entry Title: " Phoenix", by Martina+ Reem

Martina and Reem are previous students of mine, so seeing them receive an honourable mention for their series 'Phoenix' feels very, very special to me. A huge congratulations is in order! Yes I did teach them long exposure photography but it was very obvious that their true love and calling was in fashion photography. This goes to show that you can achieve your dreams if you're wiling to work hard for it!

Last, but not least, I am delighted to see Jeff win 2nd Prize in the Fine-Art Architecture category. Very well deserved! After even a very short glimpse you will be able to tell how much Jeff is a true master of his craft. Composition, theme, and especially the virtually never-ending tonality and incredible detail in his photographs are simply stunning. I am looking forward to finally be meeting Jeff at a workshop in Chicago later this year. Check out his website and you'll see that Jeff is not only an acclaimed photographer but also an incredibly capable fine-art printer as well.


Enjoy looking over all these images!

Many regards from Spain,




From RAW to FINAL: Panoramic Long Exposure Photography

Hello everyone,

here's another post in my series: From RAW to Final, where I show you how I take an image all the way from RAW to its finished, final, look.

Today, I would like to share an image I took last week as I was traveling and photographing in the Canadian Prairies. This image, entitled "Prairie Train Cars' was photographed near Calgary, Alberta.

Image Details: Cambo WDS camera with 35mm Lens. Phase One Digital Back. Panorama from 2 images, 300 and 538 second exposure time. Merged in Autopano Pro.

I was on a 5 day trip, starting and ending in Calgary. We spend between 12 - 15 hours each day travelling and photographing the Prairie landscape and communities such as Lethbridge, Oyen, Drumheller etc...

The focus of this photography tour was to discover, and photograph, the wooden grain elevators and grainaries dotting the landscape.

We found these train cars, apparently parked in this location for undetermined amounts of time, near the grain elevator of Herronton. When we arrived, our attention shifted away from the grain elevator (we also photographed it, of course).

The clouds and weather conditions were simply amazing, I setup my Cambo WDS camera so as to take 2 images that I planned to merge to a panorama.

Using panoramic images, not only do I get images with higher resolution, but I also get a wider angle of view without having to buy a wider angle lens. On my Cambo camera, the 35mm lens I was using is very wide on its own already, but merging 2 images gave me an even wider perspective. While working on my composition, I wanted to make sure to place the 'Canada' train car close to the middle so that it would serve as the focal point.

The wideangle perspective allowed me to include generous amounts of sky and negative space around the train cars. The foreground was simple gras, which also helped draw the viewers eye into the scene.

STEP 1: So let's get started and first take a look at my 2 RAW files:

Note that I have converted the original RAW files to DNG format. This allows my panoramic program of choice, Autopano Pro, to read my RAW files coming from my Phase One Digital Back. If you're shooting with a DSLR you won't need this step as Autopano can read most RAW file format from major manufacturers.

Also note that I made a 'mistake' as I did not use the same exposure time for both images. Because if this, I will run into some merging troubles later on, and you'll see how I addressed it. In a perfect world, you want to make sure you'll use the same exposure time for all images you plan to merge into a panorama.

STEP 2: Merge images into a panorama using Autopano Pro Software:

In the image above, you can see that cropping to a 2:1 panoramic aspect ratio will result in only a small loss of original resolution. In my workflow, I usually crop in Autopano Software, and then export the image for editing in Photoshop later.

STEP 3: Editing in Adobe Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro Software:

You can see that I 'only' needed 5 layers to get this edit done. The biggest adjustment, if you want to call it that, is that I split the sky and clouds in half and then mirrored it and put it back into the image.

I also use 2 other essential techniques in my Photoshop workflow, namely a Dodge and Burn Layer, and a selective sharpening layer using the Hi-Pass filter.

I decided to record a video showcasing my entire workfow for this image. I think this will go a long way to explain what I was doing.

The video is uploaded and posted on Vimeo. Take a look:

Marc Koegel Photography -- From RAW to Final: 'Train Cars' image from Marc Koegel on Vimeo.

Please be so kind and leave me some feedback on the video. Do you want to see more like this? Do you have any additional questions? Anything I missed that would improve this effort?

Thank you for reading/watching this post.

More tk...


Revisiting the Ghost Town of Dorothy!

Hello everyone,

so I spend the day yesterday retracing some 'old tracks' photographing the great Prairie Landscape near Calgary, Alberta.

I took my students to many sites, from rows of trees to granaries (big and small), to churches and, of course, wooden grain elevators. There is a lot that this area has to offer, and guess what, you don't have to travel far and wide to 'exotic' destinations to discover this. Calgary is within a few hours travel from most Canada and US cities.

There is a lot of history here, and it's a playground for photographers interested in sharpening not only their technical skills (aka long exposure landscape photography) but also their compositional skills (aka minimalist, simpler vision).

We toured for about 11 hours, and covered nearly 300 kilometers yesterday. That's what I call a full day of photography!

Here is a quick edit from our shoot yesterday. It's a site I have visited many times before.

Dorothy is a small ghost town located near Drumheller. It has 2 old churches (which we photographed as well) but the main attraction is this very photogenic wooden grain elevator silting in a field.

Image details: Cambo Wide DS with Phase One Digital Back. Schneider 35mm Lens. Exposure 120 seconds @F8

On my website you can see the image I took on a previous trip several years ago. We had some fabolous clouds so I couldn't resist sharing this new image.

I will be travelling through the Prairies for 3 more days with my small group 'Canadian Prairies Tour' Photo Tour.

Before I go, here you can see our 'line-up of tripods' as we photograph at this location:

The best part is, despite the fact that we all photographed from a very similar angle, I bet all of our images will turn out rather different.

Looking out my window this morning as I am typing this, it looks like another great day with some awesome clouds! Can't wait to get out there with my camera!

Stay tuned as I continue to post from along the way this week!

Regards from Calgary!



Less is sometimes more. When it comes to exposure time that is!

Hello everyone,

I left Vancouver and now heading back on a much anticipated roadtrip to the Canadian Prairies with the aim to photograph more of the vanishing historic grain elevators in Alberta and Sasketchewan.

I made this photograph near Lethbridge yesterday:

Image Details: Nikon D800e, 24mm Tilt/Shift Lens, Exposure 60 seconds @ F11

It was raining hard for most of the drive yesterday. When I got to this location, which I visited twice several years ago, I had a glimpse of hope that the rain would slow enough to allow me to setup my camera and take a shot. Sure enough after waiting for about 30 minutes, I was able to do so. Being from Vancouver I am used to working with an umbrella anyway :-)

The image was taken with an exposure time of 60 seconds at F11, using 13 stops of ND filtration. The clouds were moving fast, but did not have much definition. It was a very grey day overall. I made a few images using various exposure times, raging from 30 seconds to 8 minutes. After doing such an image series, I found that extending my exposure to beyond 1 minute resulted in much less defined skies. 

My students often ask me if 'longer is always better'. Well, in this particular case, you have an example where extending exposure time further results in less definition in the sky. With the clouds moving rapidly, exposing for several minutes will leave the sky 'blank' and grey. It was important for me to preserve at least some details in the clouds, so that's why I decided not to extend my exposure time further than 1 minute.

I will be in the area for the next 10 days, teaching a workshop and leading a photo-tour back-to-back. I will be posting more images from along the way.

Regards from Swift Current (SK),



New Colour Work and Master Workshops with Michael Levin!!

Hello everyone,

I am sure many of you are familiar with the photographic works of Michael Levin.

A fellow Vancouverite, I have been following Michael's work and career for many years. It has provided a continued source of inspiration for me.

Over the past 2 years, we have started to get to know each other better, and in addition to aforementioned photographic inspiration, Michael has given me many valuable pieces of business advice as well.

Michael came over to my studio a few days ago, bringing with him a copy of the freshly released 'Victor', the prestigious hard-bound edition put out bi- annually by Hasselblad and sold world-wide. It`s an elite book, over-sized, and beautifully designed. Over the years, it has featured many acclaimed photographers work.

'Victor' marks the launch of Michael new photographic works in colour!

Here's an excerpt, taken from Michael's website, of what he has to say about his 'move into color photography':

After the sharp edges and bold clarity of his black and white work, Michael Levin has bloomed into a colour photographer revealing a languid interpretation of how light and colour dissolve through space. Though cast in a soft, ethereal luminosity reminiscent of 19th century Romantic landscape paintings - or Delft seen by Vermeer on a cloudy day - the muted colours, vast perspectives and minimalist phrasing in these new photographs recognise a contemporary desire for contemplative awareness. There is a meditative aspect to each of the images, an allowance to situate ourselves amidst the atmospheric effects so we can gain a better appreciation of our place in this still big and rapturous world.

I am very excited to see this new work by Michael, and wanted to use the opportunity to give Michael a feature here and introduce you to his new work.

  Please visit Michael's website to see more of his photographic works!


I also wanted to point your attention to the fact that I will be organizing the only 2 workshops Michael will be leading this year. And, there are no plans for workshops in 2014, so if you've been thinking about learning from Michael, this is your chance.

We will be hosting 2 weekend Master Workshops, both in an intimate seeting of maximum 15 attendees. The first one will be held in Vancouver and second in Toronto.

Michael writes that what matters most to him in his workshops is the ability to provide all participants with a more detailed understanding of how they can take their work to the next level.

He find participants respond to the informal atmosphere of the workshop, and value the insights he's gained in building my career step by step.

While knowing the technical aspects of long-exposure photography are important, Michael's workshop addresses the larger goal of creating images that are compositionally impressive and personally expressive. The workshop also focuses on the business side of photography, drawing from his unique perspective of having built a successful business exhibiting, selling, licensing and publishing his photographs.

Michael's workshop provides ideas and inspiration that will help each participant achieve their unique goals.

I hope you take a moment to be inspired by Michael's new work.

Thank you for reading!



Crystal Pier - Black & White and Color!

Hello everyone,

I finally made it down to visit San Diego last week. I've been wanting to explore the California coast for a few years now. I made it down to San Francisco before, travelling along the Oregon coast, but going further south to Los Angeles and beyond remained on the bucket list until last week.

I was down in L.A. and was fortunete to visit Paris Photo before travelling to Palm Springs to check out the Palm Springs Photo Festival. The trip was more then worth it for these two events alone, but I was able to carve out 2 extra days to go shooting on my own as well.

I have seen many images from San Diego, and knew the area is famous for its great sea-scape shooting opportunities. So although I did not re-invent the wheel here and found 'new' locations, I still enjoyed myself tremendously visiting the famous Crystal Pier and the 'Children's Pool'.

Today I want to share 2 images I photographed at Crystal Pier:

Image details: Photographed with Hasselblad H4D-40 and 80mm Hasselblad Lens. Exposure is 256 seconds @ F5.6 ISO 100

I got to the beach adjacent to the famous pier when the tide was pretty high. In a perfect world, with more time to visit, I would have preferred to come with the tide being much lower, as this would have allowed the use of a wider angle lens. Due to the high water line, I couldn't walk out towards the end of the pier very far. Luckily I had an 80mm lens with me, a focal length I normally don't use very often. It's equivalent to about a 63mm in 35mm camera format, so it's slightly longer.

Those of you who know my work and have been reading this blog for a while know I prefer to work with wide-angle lenses of 24mm and wider, but the image above is an example that you can 'never have enough lenses in your camera bag'. Well, despite this image, my wife is still not buying this statement :-)

While out on the beach there, I also took a shot using my Cambo WDS camera fitted with a much more wide-angle lens. I decided to leave this image in color:

Image details: Cambo WDS camera with 35mm Schneider Digitar XL lens. Phase One P25+ Digital back. Exposure is 900 seconds @ F8 at ISO 50

You see the much wider view in the image above, coming from the use of a 35mm lens that is about 22mm equivalent to 35mm camera format. I shot this with my old Phase One P25+ digital back. The image is a result of 2 individual captures that have been stitched to create the final panorama (the black and white image above has been cropped to get the final panoramic aspect ratio).

I very much like the color coming from the Phase One back, so I decided to not convert to black and white. To get the final color 'treatment' I processed the image in Nik Color Efex 4 (using Photoshop CS6).

The longer exposure rendered reduced detail in the sky, and I particularly like the bottom of the frame where the waves came really close to my tripod legs. You can actually see a bit of beach sand where the waves did not reach.

I had to take a few shots, as people walking by continued to leave their footprints in the sand. Even though the long exposure made the people invisible, the foot prints remained. Yes I could have taken care of this in Photoshop, but in this case it was a lot easier to simply wait until the 'traffic' calmed down and some bigger waves washed the footprints away, leaving the beach pristine.

Before I go, here's a shot of behind-the-scenes, showing my camera setup. You can see how close the waves came to my tripod -:)

As always, your comments are appreciated and encouraged. More images from this trip will be posted soon!

Have a great weekend everyone,



10 Tips and Techniques to help you become a more successful Fine-Art Long Exposure Photographer!

1. Exercise your vision. Be inspired by, and don’t just merely copy, the masters of the medium.

I belief that looking at other photographers work can be a very positive, motivating and inspiring. Your photography may also be influenced by other visual artists, musicians, poetry or even history.

Whatever it might be, I do belief you’ve got to enjoy responsibly. Try to be specific about what you like in someone else’s work, use it to inform and inspire your own craft, but refrain from simply copying ideas and/or techniques as this seldom leads to work that will fulfill and satisfy you.

The image above was inspired by photographer Michael Kenna. Rather than trying to imitate, the image I had in mind while composing this was one of Michael’s images of a single tree in the snow. My aim was to use negative space to strengthen the subject, and using color represents a new direction in my vision that I am excite do explore further.

2. Be dedicated, slow down and be patient! It will make you a better photographer.

I love using tripods because they slow me down. And so does long exposure photography. But you have to be careful to take advantage of the process and not let yourself be distracted. Don’t answer emails and get lost on your smartphone. Use the precious time you have while the exposure is ‘forming’ to look around, consider alternate angles, develop an appreciation and concise awareness for your surroundings. I bet it will make you want to move your tripod in no time, and your photographs will improve in the process.

3. Expose to the right. Bracket your exposures. Take several images of the same scene and merge them into a panorama. That should keep the ‘geek in you’ plenty busy!

I freely admit that I enjoy the technical aspects of photography. Sometimes a bit too much. If you are technically minded, and want to get the highest quality long exposure photographs with whatever camera you use, make sure to ‘expose to the right’. Bracketing exposures and merging manually in Photoshop can solve high contrast problems, and panoramic photography can give you an angle of view of a lens you actually don’t own. And it’s surprisingly easy to do.

4. Research. Shoot. Review. Repeat. And think of your photographs as a series.

Whenever I go out to photograph I do my best to do so with a clear purpose and set goals. I belief it is critically important to spend time reviewing and looking at your own work in depth. Make notes on whether you accomplished your goals. Be honest, yet encouraging, with yourself. 

The above 2 images are from my series entitle ‘Canadian Prairies’. It was very important to me to keep the subject matter, but also the format, look and feel of all images very consistent across the series. This includes details like contrast, position of the horizon line, equipment used to photograph, exposure time, going out on cloudy days only etc.

5. Pick a single location and keep returning to shoot there until you are 100% satisfied with your photographs captured there.

This one is big. I belief that once you feel like you’ve accomplished all your goals for a given location you will feel much more empowered to do it again somewhere else. I’d suggest starting with sea-scapes, which tend to be easier to handle, and then ‘move on’ to urban environments.
6. Go out shooting on overcast and/ or clouds days, avoid sunny and contrasty light. Sunrise and sunsets are best.

A lot of frustrated students could be much happier with their images if they would refrain from shooting on clear and sunny days. Quality of light makes a huge difference, and early risers/ late bloomers will additionally be rewarded with the ‘golden hour’ which is the most beautiful light of the day. Sure it’s not always possible to wait for specific times to do your photography, especially when traveling, but seeking overcast and/or cloudy conditions will give you a very good opportunity to get high quality images nearly any time of day.

The above image was taken at sunset. I had been at the location for most of the day, and at the end of the day my patience paid off. I got rewarded with beautiful light!

7. Have two (2) ND filters instead of just one. Have only one lens instead of two.

Ok here is one more piece of technical advice. I use a minimum of 2 ND filters, one being a 10 stop and the other a 6 stop. I can combine and stack both filters and get exposures up to an hour (and even longer) no matter what time of day. Or, I can use just one for when I am out at sunrise and sunset. Having both gives me ultimate flexibility. I happily bring multiple filters but leave additional lenses at home. I find that what might seem ‘restrictive’ usually works for my benefit. I photographed all throughout my Iceland trip with a single focal length. Too much gear can paralyze you. I have seen it many times at workshops, and have experienced it myself as well.

8. Understand how exposure length has an influence that is both technical as well as compositionally important.

How long should your exposure be? Well it depends. What is the effect your are looking for? A longer exposure will simplify your composition by removing details such as waves, moving people/traffic, and detail in clouds. But it will do so at the expense of increasing noise, and depending on your location there may be restrictions as to how long you can photograph. The light maybe fading and the security guard had given you only a few more minutes before he promised to come back and ask you to leave. The majority of my images have been taken with exposure time ranging from 2 to 15 minutes.  The average is around 4 minutes. To learn more and see for yourself I’d suggest to try several exposure lengths while in the same location. It won’t take much time and eliminates you second guessing yourself after. 

The images above illustrate how exposure time influences how a viewer ‘reads’ your images. The first image is 60 seconds and the second a 32 minute exposure. The longer exposure blurs the clouds, so the viewer can focus more on the subject which is the lighthouse. The dramatic clouds in the shorter exposure, on the other hand, provide a great visual counterpoint to the lighthouse.

9. Learn post production techniques. Understand how the camera sees versus how you see.

When I switched from film to digital capture to do most of my long exposure photography I noticed my post production work increase dramatically. With film, I was only having to make very minor adjustments. Despite the steep learning curve I now fully embrace the ‘digital revolution’. Rather than considering my digital camera as a replacement for what I used to capture with film, I have learned to appreciate it as its own creative and distinct creative process. I enjoy being able to do things I could only dream about 10 years ago. Post production, in my opinion, is an essential part of the digital photography process, especially with long exposure photography. While photo journalists might be able to ‘get it in camera’, my photography is based on taking the time needed to come away with an image that best illustrates my creative and artistic vision of a given location. The camera usually can only get me part way there. In the end, all that matters to me is the finished photograph. How I got there, and whether I achieved it in-camera or on the computer is of virtually no importance.

RAW file. Underexposed to preserve highlight details.

The above final image looks rather different compared to the RAW file above. I cropped, converted to black and white, and did a lot of local tonal and contrast adjustments using software such as Silver Efex Pro 2 and Photoshop CS6.

10. Make prints! It is one of the most rewarding activities any photographer can practice.

Call me old fashioned but I belief the time I’ve spent making prints in the darkroom gave me a much deeper appreciation and excitement for photography. When I got into photography it was a visual as well as a tactile experience. Images do look good on computer monitors, but there is absolutely no comparison to holding a fine-art print in your hands.

I frequently make a print and then go back to fine-tune the image, I think of it as ‘reverse editing’. Computer screens can be too forgiving and too detailed at the same time, and despite calibration on your own personal machine you can never ensure that your image will look consistent across other computers. I like to hold and touch my photographs. As Ansel Adams once said “...the negative is the score, the print is the performance.”


1 Hour Exposure with the Phase One IQ 260:

Hello everyone,

I am really excited to share the following images with you all!

I had the privilege to be among the first to test the new Phase One IQ260 medium format digital back for some really long exposures. The good folks of Digital Transitions put on one of the first IQ series launch events in New York City in March of this year. At this event, Phase One's Hardware Engineering Manager, Jacob Sune Sørensen, showed off three prototype IQ260 units. Not only did I get to see an IQ260, I actually got to photograph a series of images including a full one hour exposure of the New York City skyline (shot from Brooklyn Bridge Park).

3600 seconds exposure @F8. Phase One DF+ Camera with IQ 260 Digital Back. 45mm Lens. ISO 140. Long exposure mode.

I have to extend my sincere thanks to the incredible team at Digital Transitions, who put on an world-class event. In particular, I'd like to thank Doug Peterson and Michelle Matthews (but all of he team I met was great to deal with). Not only was I able to see, touch and use the equipment, I got all my questions answered and connected with like-minded photographers. I felt completely taken care of, even enjoyed some gourmet sandwiches and cold drinks -:). If you're thinking of going Phase One, I'd highly recommend contacting the team of Digital Transitions.

The day after the launch event, Phase One's Jacob Sune Sørensen took me out for a private shooting session. That's when we created the image above, as well as the 2 images posted below:

480 seconds exposure @F11. Phase One DF+ Camera with IQ 260 Digital Back. 45mm Lens. ISO 140. Long exposure mode.

900 seconds exposure @F11. Phase One DF+ Camera with IQ 260 Digital Back. 45mm Lens. ISO 140. Long exposure mode.

In the first image above, you can see the increased detail in the clouds as the exposure time was 'only' 8 minutes compared to the full 1 hour exposure I posted above. Apart from that, both images look very similar though, as the water is blurred after about 2 minutes exposure time (so extending the exposure has no added visual effects).

The second image is a 15 minute exposure of the skyline taken from a nearby location. I am blown away by how much tonality and detail is captured in the clouds, as well as the buildings.

To create all of these images, I used several ND filters ranging from 16 to 20 stops in total. Keep in mind that the IQ260 'uses' an ISO of 140 so to pull off such long exposures so in broad day-light very strong filtration is necessary. My Phase One P45+ back operated at ISO 50, so I typically used 13 - 16 stops of ND filtration.

While shooting, we also had an opportunity to test the wireless capability of this new back. Using an Ipad, we were able to evaluate the image and check for sharpness and exposure. We also were able to fire the camera remotely from the iPad, thereby eliminating any chance of accidental camera shake while doing the long exposures. I wasn't anticipating to find the wireless capability very applicable for my particular workflow, but it turned to be a very valuable feature.

The images above have all been processed in Capture One 7, Photoshop CS6 and Silver Efex Pro 2. For those who know my work, you might recognize the grain I very much like to add. The image below is a screen-shot of the original color RAW files, comparing sharpness and noise. The image on the left is a 'regular' shot taken at 1/200 second and ISO 50 (which is native to the IQ 260). The image on the right is a full 1 hour exposure, also shot at F8, but the ISO has been adjusted to 140 as required by the long exposure mode.

As you can see, the quality of this new IQ260 digital back is simply outstanding. Despite the fact that my P45+ was 'rated' to do long exposures up to 1 hour as well, I usually stayed away from such long times. Evaluating the performance of the IQ260, however, makes me want to explore even longer exposures. Even at a full hour, I can hardly see any noise, and sharpness is retained very effectively. I could see a (very) slight loss in dynamic range, likely resulting from shifting ISO from 50 to 140 (required by the long exposure mode), but for most scenes this will be negligible. Without hesitation, this new digital back delivers the highest quality long exposure image quality of any digital camera system I have ever tested. By a huge margin!

keep in mind that I was using a prototype for these images, so finally image quality of production IQ260's can be expected to be even higher.

The Verdict:

So should you get an IQ260? Well, I'd expect the price to be the biggest hurdle to potential ownership (it certainly is for me -:). But for those who can afford one, rest assured you will be working with the highest quality digital camera out there. Yes there is the IQ280 with its increased resolution of 80 megapixels, but for anyone looking to do long exposures, the IQ260 is the clear choice.

In summary, here are my thoughts on the strength's of this new medium format digital back:

  • Very high resolution of 60 Megapixel

When I stepped up to a Phase P45+ from my Canon 5D Mark II I really appreciated the increased resolution of 39 megapixels. It gives you the ability to make larger prints, but tonal gradation and transitions are also improved (something that isn't mentioned very often). You can crop your images with ease. But it's not just the amount of pixels, to me the quality is of even greater importance. I certainly see a difference between my D800e files and my P45+, despite the fact that the Phase One 'only' has 3 more megapixels. The new IQ260 with its 60 megapixel resolution will enable me to make even bigger, sharper and more detailed fine-art prints.

  • Highest quality long exposures of up to 1 hour virtually noise-free

In my testing, I was very impressed with the quality of long exposures in particular (as mentioned above). Something else that surprised me, was the ability to do long exposures up to 8 minutes in 'normal' mode and ISO 50. Compared to the IQ160, the previous generation 60 megapixel back, noise levels really increased as soon as you exceeded 1 minute exposure time. Having the flexibility to shoot at ISO 50 for long exposures of up to 8 minutes is a great asset.

  • Very high dynamic range that is rated at 13 f-stops

This feature may not sound impressive, especially compared to the 12.5 f-stop range of the previous IQ160 back. In practice, however, I found this to be a remarkable improvement. Compared to my P45+, this is a big improvement. You can expose for the highlights and pull details out of the shadows, all with virtually no increase in noise. And bracketing is no longer necessary, except in very rare cases...

  • High quality, large image review screen

Compared to my P45+, the IQ260 has a much more usable, high quality touch screen. It makes reviewing images much easier, you can tap to zoom to 100% (actual pixels) and the added virtual horizon makes it easy to level your camera.

  • Wireless capability and connectivity to an iPad and/or iPhone, even your laptop.

As mentioned above, I did not see myself finding use for this feature until I actually got to try it. The ability to see and review your images on a larger screen can be very valuable, especially if that screen is an iPad. In studio, I would be shooting tethered to a full scale computer, but in the field it's nice to have the freedom of a portable solution. Using your ipad or iPhone as a remote shutter release is an added benefit.

  • Inexpensive battery power

After spending 38K on the IQ260 digital back, you'll be pleased to know that extra batteries are actually rather affordable -:) And that's a good thing because you will need plenty, especially when using the wireless features. I'd recommend a minimum of 4 batteries if you're out on a full day shoot, even more if you plan on doing very long exposure of 20 minutes and beyond.

  • Technical cameras

This is probably the most important feature, right after long exposure capabilities (of course). For me, the ability to use a digital back on a technical camera such as the Cambo WDS and RS, is reason enough to leave my D800e at home. I applaud Phase One for continuing to built digital backs with an open platform. Unlike Hasselblad, this opens countless opportunities for the serious photographer who needs and appreciates the ability to use camera movements such as tilts, swings and shifts.

I am going to leave you with one last image here. This is taken while we were shooting the 1 hour exposure. I guess we looked like serious photographers -:)

As always, you can leave your comments and questions below. Thank you for reading...

Marc teaches several workshops and online courses about Fine-Art Long Exposure Photography each year.

Please visit his workshop company, Vancouver Photo Workshops, for more details.