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Monday
Jul022012

Lighthouse at Westkapelle (Netherlands):

Hello everyone,

I will take a break from posting images from my trip to Iceland this week, and instead share with you an image I took in Westkapelle (Netherlands).

I visited Domburg, only minutes from Westkapelle, while on my way to the Google+ Euro Photowalk in Berlin (Germany). My 'mission' was to scout for an upcoming workshop there.

In only a few days I will be heading back to this amazing coastal area to host my Fine-Art Long Exposure Workshop that I will be co-teaching with my good friend and award-winning Photographer Joel Tjintjelaar.

This will be the 2nd workshop I will be teaching in Europe together with Joel. If you're not familiar with his amazing imagery, please go ahead and take a look!

The workshop will be based in Domburg, a small coastal town that gives us quick and easy access to locations such as the Westkapelle Lighthouse.

Here's the image I made back in May:

Image Details:

I used my Cambo Wide DS body with a Rodenstock 35mm lens, fitted to my Phase One P45+ Digital Back. Exposure was 8 minutes at F11.

This camera is pretty unique in that it allows you to introduce a substantial amount of lens shift. For this image, I shifted the lens upward by 15mm. This allowed me to keep the architectural lines of the lighthouse straight and in alignment.

While shifted upward (also called 'rise'), the camera also allows for left and right shift which is a great way to create several images that can be easily merged to a single panoramic image. It does so by moving the rear, or sensor plane, so all such movements stay within the image circle of the lens with no need to find the nodal point.

I shot 3 seperate exposures in this case, and merged them to a large panorama with almost 60 megapixel resolution (even after cropping 'double square' as seen above).

Composition thoughts:

While staying in Domburg, I visited this location several times (3 to be exact). One of the tips I frequently give to my students is to make time to re-visit locations and keep shooting until you are completely satisfied.

When shooting sea-scapes like this, elements like water level (tides), time of day, angle of the sun, amount of cloud cover, and even amount of tourists walking around the site are all important factors and will have an effect as to how your final image turns out.

For those reasons, among others, I always try to re-visit whenever I can. It is hard, virtually imposible, to get an image you're really satisfied with in a single visit. When you re-visit you'll be forced to think about your composition and you'll be more likely to try something new. That is when the 'magic' happens, at least it feels like so for me.

To demonstrate this point a bit further, let's consider the following four behind-the-scenes (BTS) images:

The above images show my camera setup during several visits. I shot from several angles, until I finally arrived at the viewpoint I liked the most (first image, top left corner).

A big bonus is a leading line that was created by some wet rocks. On my last visit, I arrived when it was raining. I stayed until the rain stopped and was quick enough to setup my camera to take advantage of the perspective that used the light reflecting of the wet rocks in the foreground. If I hadn't visited several times, I would have never seen this small detail that, in my opinion, greatly improves my composition.

The longer I worked my framing, I also saw myself including more and more negative space. I moved my camera further and further away from the Lighthouse, and by reducing its size relative to its surroundings, I belief I made it gain visual importance and weight within the composition.

The importance of negative space is another tip I often talk about with my students. It's the reason I like to use wide-angle lenses, and using panoramic imagery also helps create wider perspectives.

What I did in Post-Production:

The first step was to create the final image and composition by merging the 3 separate exposures using Autopano Pro. The result was cropped double square in Photoshop CS6.

The image was converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro 2 and further adjustments were made in Photoshop CS6.

This is actually the first image I ever published that features selective colouration.

Can you see the faint red hue in the lighthouse?

I was experimenting a lot and when my family, including my 3 year old daughter Mila, all agreed that they liked the color in the lighthouse I thought I'd give it a try and wait for your feedback.

The reason I decided to experiment with this was to give the lighthouse just a bit more presence. Draw some more attention to it.

Please let me know if you think it worked.

Upcoming Workshop in Domburg (Netherlands):

As of today, there are still 2 seats left available in my upcoming workshop in Domburg. Remember that you'll get not 'just' me but actually two instructors. 

There are only a few days left, so you got to be quick making your decision. Click this link to see more information about this unique offering.

Thank you for reading. More tk...

Friday
Jun082012

Icelandic Rock

Hello everyone,

so here it is. The 2nd image from my trip Iceland in May.

This was one wild place. Took me a while to find it, and the access had me scrambling down a 500 foot cliff to a black lava beach. While at this location I did not meet or even see any other humans, so I paid very close attention not to slip and fall while descending down the cliffs. Who knows if and when I would have been discovered -:)

Image photographed with a Cambo Wide DS fitted with Phase One P45+ Digital Back and 35mm Lens. 121 Seconds at f8. ISO 50. 2 horizontal captures stitched. Final image is 70 Megapixel resolution and should make a great big print.

While shooting, I setup with iPhone 4s to record a small, but fun, behind-the-scenes timelapse movie.

Have a look here:

This large lava rock formation sits in the ocean about 100 feet from shore. I had never seen anything quite like it before. I was there about 2 hours ahead of sunset, with the sun descending down right behind me.

Because this 'rock' has such strong visual presence, I wanted to include large amounts of negative space in my composition. My 35mm lens gave me the equivalent view of approximately 21mm on full frame 35mm digital, but I wanted to include even more negative space. That's why I decided to make 2 captures and merge them together as a Panorama that now showed a perspective similar to about a 12mm lens on 35mm full frame digital.  

I received my new Cambo Wide DS camera just days before this trip, and was eager to test it out. It turned out to be the perfect photographic tool, allowing me not only to shoot wide-angle, but do so while being able to apply generous amounts of shift to control my perspective. Even more impressive, this camera allowed me to stitch 2 images without having to move the camera itself. It's all accomplished through rear shifts, which makes it a dream to stitch (as the movements are within the lens's image circle).

In Photoshop, I decided to 'play' with color. I loaded this image into 'Exposure 4' plugin by Alien Skin Software. If you're not familiar with this plugin, give it a try. It did a great job on this image.

It's not easy to convince me not to shoot in black and white -:)

Note: Please let me know if you'd like to see a 'From RAW to Final' Video for this image.

Just leave a comment below and if there's enough interest I will put a video together. This would include starting with the original RAW files, merging them to Panorama, Photoshop adjustments and color treatment in Alien Skin's Exposure 4 Plugin. 

Thanks for taking a look. More tk...

Wednesday
May232012

A First from Iceland!

Hello everyone,

well here it is. The first image from my recent trip to Iceland.

Iceland easily places on the top of my list of countries to visit if you're into long exposure photography. In fact, there are many more cool things to do an explore there, but having only 7 days kinda' cut my agenda down to the essentials. Photography essentials that is. I rented a small camper van, hit the road and didn't stop looking for picture opportunities until it was time to head back towards the airport, 7 days later.

Along the way I took 337 pictures (yes that's less than 50 per day), saw some incredible places, ate great food and met some wonderful and friendly people. Oh, and I got a private visit and look inside an old lighthouse, almost got stuck on a high mountain road, and managed to survive without internet access for several days. Well, barely. 

Chatting with a photographer friend of mine just before the trip, he mentioned that Iceland is one of those places that can't be adequately described - you got to be there to really understand and appreciate it. When I arrived at the Glacier Lagoon I was blown away and couldn't agree more with my friend's statement..But this is by no means the only place that deserves this description. During my travels, I came across many sites and vistas that not only made me fall in love with Iceland but also had me mark my calendar for the next time I would be able to return. 

The image below is one of the first I took, right after touching down and picking up my camper. It's less than as 15 minute drive from the airport.

Camera is a Cambo Wide DS. 35mm lens. Phase One Digital Back. Exposure is 64 seconds @F11 ISO 50 with 13 stops of ND

This image is a stitch (or panorama) made out of 2 separate exposures, each shot at 64 second exposure time. It was real windy that day, so the clouds were moving fast and I was happy to have packed my big and heavy, yet very sturdy, tripod for this trip. I stayed at this spot for several hours, and actually re-visited it twice before my time in Iceland was over.

 

In the coming weeks, I will be posting more images from this trip, which in addition to Iceland, also took me to Amsterdam and Berlin, where I participated (and presented) at the Gplus Euro PhotoWalk.

Both Amsterdam as well as Berlin deserve seperate posts and those will follow soon as well.

For now, I am happy to be back in Vancouver, united with my family. This was the longest trip away since my kids were born, so it was time to put the camera(s) down for a while and return home.

More tk...

 

Friday
May112012

Interview on Nikonians Photo Professors Podcast!

Hello everyone,

just a short note today that an audio interview with me has just been released on the Photo Professor's podcast.

The Photo Professors are Rick Hulbert and Rick Paul. They talk with me about my long exposure photography, and there are a few tips in there for you to get started shooting in this style!

This podcast is available for download on the Nikonians website where you can also find the RSS feed and link to iTunes.

Wednesday
May092012

My Photography wins 7 Awards at Epson International Pano Awards!

Hello everyone,

wow what a week I just had, touring around Iceland.

I left for Iceland the day after returning from VPW's Tofino Photo Tour that I lead togther with Arthur Meyerson.

Yesterday, I arrived in Amsterdam, and in a few days I will be speaking in Berlin (Germany) at the Google Plus Euro Photo Walk.

About 150 people are registered for this FREE event and I will be talking about long exposure photography before hitting the streets of Berlin. Click on the link above to get more details - it's completely free to attend!

After camping in Iceland with no access to Internet, I have been eagerly catching up ever since I got to Amsterdam yesterday, where I now have Internet again -:).

I will be posting images from Iceland soon. But for today, I am happy to announce that I just found out that my photography has won 7 awards at the Epson Pano Awards 2012. As mentioned before on this blog, one of the reasons I photograph is to share my images.

This is the first time I entered this particular photo contest, and I am honoured to receive the awards. Thank you also to my friend Angus Macgillivray who encouraged me to enter this contest. If you're reading this make sure to clikc on his name and check out his website - he's a great photographer!

Stay tuned this week for images from Iceland. For now, here is a quick collage of my winning images from the Epson International Pano Awards:

Tuesday
Apr172012

A 33 Minute Long Exposure with the Nikon D800:

Hello everyone,

I was out teaching my Fine-Art B+W Long Exposure Workshop here in Vancouver this past weekend.

I usually do not shoot during my workshops, as my attention is reserved for the students, but on our second photography outing I had an opportunity to make this one picture using my new Nikon D800.

Here's my final image:

Exposure: 1986 seconds (approx. 33 minutes) @ F8 ISO 100. Total of 19 stops of ND (using 2 filters)

The image above has been converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro 2. Grain has been added, the original has almost no visible noise at all. One nice advantage of the high resolution is the fact that even after cropping this image to a panorama with aspect ratio of 1:2 we are still left with almost 25 megapixel resolution. Nice.

Here is the original, un-cropped image:

Note the vignetting that is caused by stacking two ND filters while shooting with a 17mm wide-angle lens. There are also some branches visible in the top left corner that have been retouched out in the final version above.

This is a 100% view of the original image. Good sharpness and very little noise. Exposure has been adjusted to +1 to show details of the tree trunk.

In addition to sharpness, noise level and resolution I am also very impressed with the D800 tonality capture. If you look at the smooth gradation of tones in the black and white image above, it's hard to belief this has been taken with a digital SLR. Still, I see a very noticeable difference to my Phase One Digital Back, but the 'gap' has certainly been narrowed. Especially when considering the extended exposure time of over 30 minutes.

Turning our attention to composition, I'd like to point to the importance of 'negative space'.

This is one of the most important concepts in my photography and I cannot stress it enough when talking with my students.

When considering how to approach my composition for this photograph, I decided to use the widest lens I had in my bag that day. The 17mm lens on a full-frame body gave me a very wide view, and allowed me to include lots of negative space (aka the sky) around my subject (aka the tree). What is more, I decided to add a strong vignette to my final image which I belief helped to direct the viewer's eye to my subject by increasing the negative space even further.

Many composition classes point out the concept of 'Fill the Frame', which essentially is meant to help you make your compositions more effective and intentional by placing visual emphasize on your subject.

In this case, however, by including large areas of negative space I am doing the exact opposite. By pulling away from my subject and making it fill the frame less, I also heighten it's visual importance.

For more examples of this, take a look at the incredible tree photography by Michael Kenna. He is a true master of minimalist photography featuring lots of negative space. He is one of my greatest inspirations and I keep my fingers crossed that one day I might be able to achieve his kind of 'pure vision' and photographic excellence....

More tk...

 

 

 

Wednesday
Mar282012

In Color!

Hello again,

some friendly competition going on at the studio today!

Pooya has been working on a copy of my shipwreck image as well, and just send me his final look.

This man has some serious Photoshop skills! I think this is a great example of how post-production can really influence and change the way your images look.

This is the 4 minute exposure of the same composition I used.

I personally really like this version, and Pooya says he prefers mine. We're always our own worst critics.

I like the smoothness in the water, and also love the panoramic aspect ratio. The land has been almost completely retouched out, heightening the visual attention on the boat. 

Let us know how you feel about these two images. It's been fun seeing how another photographer interprets your images...

Wednesday
Mar282012

New Image from Newfoundland!

Hello all,

just a quick post today. Been working on this image from my recent trip to Newfoundland.

Exposure time was 60 seconds for this image. I shot this same composition at 60, 120 and 240 seconds. I like the 60 second exposure the best because, as you extend the exposure time, I started to loose details and definition in the clouds.

The image above is processed really moody, with dark blacks and high contrast in the clouds. I seem to be in a 'phase' right now where I like these kinds of dark images.

Photographed using a Phase One IQ 140 digital back with an 80mm lens. I was standing next to the 'highway' to get this angle, but luckily Newfoundland highways aren't comparable to, say, Toronto or Germany. I could pull off without having to fear for my life...

Not sure if this will be the final version of this image. Just got excited and wanted to share it. My plan is to live with it for a while, make a print and after detailed evaluation continue to make more elaborate adjustments. This is the full frame, no cropping.

Let me know what you think, and thank you in advance for your feedback!

Marc

Sunday
Mar252012

PDN Photo Contest!

Hello everyone,

thought I'd share with you a link to a worthwhile photo contest:

Contests are a great way to get your work out there! As you may already know, your images do you little good just sitting on your hard drive or archival archive at home. You got to get your work out there, and have it be seen!

There are many, many photo contests each year. It can be hard to figure out which ones are worthwhile entering. I think PDN runs some excellent contests, I enter a few of them each year.

I know the one above is closing tomorrow, so there's not much notice, but while working on my submissions today I thought I'd send it out there and let you know this would be worth your time, effort and submission fees. It's all done online, so despite the short notice I think you can still manage to enter.

If you read this too late, there are many other PDN contests throughout the year, and I am sure you'll find another worthwhile entering.

Link for PDN photo contests is here!

Hope you'll consider getting your work out there!

More tk...Marc

Friday
Mar232012

Canon 5D Mark III versus Nikon D800 - A First Look!

Hello everyone,

WOW - what a day it has been! I wake up to downloading Photoshop CS6, pretty exciting news all on its own.

Then, my phone rings and I am told that I could pick up and test out not only the new Canon 5D Mark III but a Nikon D800 at the same time!

It's very rare to get such an opportunity, and of course I couldn't resist to completely re-shuffle my schedule for the day and instead spend some time to seriously shoot and 'play' with these two new cameras. For all you geeks and pixel peepers out there - do I have a treat for you today!

After a few hours of 'testing' and working with both cameras, I have to say I am impressed with BOTH of them. My intention is to spend a few days testing both and find out which camera I will ultimately purchase.

After un-boxing at my studio, I ran down to a favorite spot downtown. This location allows for some really creative photography, but instead I decided to do simple, but pretty boring, camera test type pictures. In the coming days I will take both out on more 'serious' shoots, and will report those findings here on the blog.

Cutting right to the chase, here are my first reactions and feeling about both cameras.

  • At ISO 100, the Nikon shows a slight edge over the Canon. This is visible in both sharpness and detail resolution. Due to the difference in sensor resolution, I am not surprised by this finding. What I am surprised about, is that the difference isn't as huge as the variance in mega pixel resolution would suggest. In other words, bigger is only slightly better in this case.
  • At higher ISO's, the Canon shows slightly better image quality compared to the Nikon. This is visible in both noise levels and sharpness of details. If you downsample the Nikon images, so that the resolution matches the Canon's more closely, this lead is reduced if not completely lost.
  • At ISO 6400, with resolution equaled for both cameras, the image quality is very, very close. This represents the highest ISO setting I would feel is usable for both of these cameras.
  • At ISO 25600, which is the highest setting for the Nikon, the Canon shows an edge. There is less noise and more detailed resolution, even if the Nikon image is downsampled. For my personal taste, images aren't usuable at this level.
  • At ISO's above 25600, the image quality declines rapidly for the Canon. You may be able to use it for grainy looking black and whites, but I highly doubt it will satisfy professional clients.
  • Long exposure performance (15 minute exposure) seemed very comparable, with no visible advantage for any one of the cameras. More testing will have to be done.

The Camera shooting setup:


  • Cameras were both setup on a tripod
  • Mirror Lockup and a cable release was used to eliminate camera shake and guarantee highest possible sharpness
  • Focusing was done manually using LiveView, zoomed in to see the smallest details
  • In-Camera metering was used, and exposure bracketed over 5 shots (-2 --> +2)
  • Cameras were both shot at F11, in an effort to maximize sharpness + DOF while minimizing diffraction
  • Aperture was bracketed from F5.6 to F22. At F22, both cameras showed significant sharpness loss due to diffraction
  • The Canon was shot with the EF L 24mm F1.4 Prime Lens
  • The Nikon was shot with the 17-35 F2.8 Zoom Lens, set to 24mm
  • Due to the variance in lenses, with a slight edge to be expected for the Canon, the last 2 shots were taken using the 17-35 F2.8 Lens on the Canon via an adapter. This showed that this lens was actually very sharp, and could 'compete' with the Canon prime 24mm. By using the same lens on both cameras, we strived to eliminate any margin of error that was due to lens varying lens quality
  • Both cameras were shots at all ISO settings, from ISO 100 to 25600 (max on Nikon), and up to 102400 for the Canon
  • To finish this test, both camera were shot with a long exposure of 15 minutes

For further testing, I will rent a Nikon 24mm F1.4 prime lens, so as to completely 'level the playing field'. I will also do some large format prints on my Epson 7900, as it is usually much easier to tell differences when making a print, rather than trying to judge by what's shown on screen alone.

This post is just meant to summarize my initial feelings, more testing and further shooting will be necessary, and I am looking forward to be doing it.

So what else? Here are some more observations, thoughts and findings:

  • The Nikon is $800 less than the Canon (here in Canada). that's huge, and could very well be a 'deal-braker' for the Canon. At this point I do not see this price difference justified. As i have read elsewhere, it seems Canon just knows they can get away with it (but I hope they don't in the long run)
  • I would take 'better' pixel over 'more' pixels any day. It's easy to up-sample images these days, and unless you're a pro and want to make big prints (like I do) think carefully about whether you really need 36 mega pixels...
  • For those looking for high ISO performance, the Canon may be your choice
  • For those looking for high ISO performance on a budget, the Nikon is certainly worth a closer look
  • For landscape and studio photographers, who like to make big prints, the Nikon may be a bit more interesting
  • For those valuing ergonomics and ease of use, the Canon has an edge. I love the way the Nikon can be customized, but the Canon is simpler to use, and the menu's are more user friendly and intuitive 
  • If you have investment in glass already, I don't think it's worth switching brands. The performance of these camera's is so close I just don't think it's worth it
  • I do notice that Canon has closed a few gaps and is now offering multiple exposure and a much improved flash system. Well done.
  • The D800 has a nicer viewfinder, with built-in shutter. It has a built-in flash as well. Well done!
  • Both cameras have improved auto focus and metering systems compared to previous models
  • Both cameras have multiple programmable buttons, a feature that greatly enhances the usability and shooting experience
  • For people with big hands, the Canon feels easier and better to hold
  • The Canon uses the same battery as the 5d mark II. Thank you!
  • The Nikon uses the same battery than the D7000. Too bad I don't have one of those. 

I will leave you now with a bunch of images from my first shoot today. I also hvae uploaded 4 RAW files, one from each camera at ISO 100 and one from each camera at ISO 6400. You can download these from my mobile me public disc.

The link is here. The password is: bulbexposures

And now here are some images. I opened them in the new pre release candidate for camera RAW 6.7. I have made no adjustments, and you can see the settings for each shot in the metadata.

Oh, and I couldn't resist throwing in a shot I did using my Phase One. I am happy to report that image quality is still king with such a digital back. But the gap is shrinking and you be the judge whether it is still worth it to spend more than 7x more for a digital back...

 Canon 5D Mark III. ISO 100. Detail at 100%.

Nikon D800. ISO 100. Detail at 66.7%, which is about equal to resolution of Canon 5D Mark III.

Nikon D800. ISO 100. Detail at 100%. Here you can see the advantage of the higher resolution sensor.

 

Canon 5D Mark III. ISO 6400. Detail at 100%. Noise is visible but tolerable.

Nikon D800. ISO 6400. Detail at 66.7%, which is about equal to resolution of Canon 5D Mark III. This makes noise levels very comparable to what Canon shows above.

Nikon D800. ISO 100. Detail at 100%. Noise is higher now compared to Canon's image above, but you also have more resolution.

Canon 5D Mark III. ISO 25600. Detail at 100%. Noise levels are greatly increased. Image will likely be unsuitable for a large print, but could still be shown online or on-screen (greatly reduced in size)

Nikon D800. Even at 66.7% size this image is showing more noise and less details compared to the canon image.

Nikon D800. At ISO 25600 and 100% view this image is unusable. Again, it could be improved and potentially usable for small on-screen only display.

Phase One P45+. ISO 50. Detail at 100%. Shot with a Cambo Wide + Schneider 35mm Digitar Lens. This shows the highest image quality, despite the fact that this camera has 'only' 3 more mega pixels compared to the Nikon D800. But is it worth the huge increase in price?

Thank you all for reading this far. Obviously, with report like this, all points presented are highly subjective. They represent my feelings after using the Cameras for a few hours only. Further reports will be posted, but I wanted to get this out to you all with the least amount of delay. Any questions/concerns/comments please post them in the comment section below.

Thank you!

Marc