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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.


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:


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...





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...


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!



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


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!



From RAW to Final: Image by Kristofer Schofield!

Hello everyone,

Today I want to share with you another 'From RAW to Final' image story.

I taught a workshop in Calgary, Alberta, about 2 weeks ago and one of the students, Kristofer Schofield, showed me this image he had taken after completing a workshop with me last August. I was so impressed with what I saw that I couldn't resist asking Kris if I could feature this image on my blog. He agreed.

It's great and very rewarding to see my students do great work. I know Kris has worked very hard ever since he took that first workshop with me last year. He's worked on his shooting and camera techniques, and also travelled countless kilometers to find great locations, too. He's devoted serious time and effort to his photography, and this is but one of his images where his hard work really shows!

If you like the final image below, please make sure to visit Kris's website and 500px.com site.

Here you can see more of his excellent work. Links are as follows:

To start off, here's an iPhone shot that shows a behind-the-scenes look of Kris's shooting setup:

I love the leaning barns, a great location for long exposure work. Note the definition in the clouds that day. Only a bit of blue sky is showing.

This is the RAW file as Kris shot it. Notice the strong magenta color cast which is caused by the ND filters.

Exposure was 150 seconds @ F6.3. ISO 160. 16 stops of ND filters. Note how Kris managed to keep highlight details in the sky, nothing is blown out or lost.

Here is the final shot. Kris used Nik's Silver Efex and Lighroom 3 to achieve this look. I really dig the definition in the sky, with highlights close to the roof of the barn. Fantastic. Also love the door on teh barn, almost ready to fall off its hinges.

Kris included lots of negative space and a strong vignette, all to help focus the viewer's eye to the barn.

When we met up in Calgary, I had a chance to make a print of this image for Kris, using an Epson 3800 printer. I opened this image in Photoshop, and made a few more changes in order to get the best print possible. I have just completed a short video showcasing my workflow and adjustments using Photoshop CS5.

Please have a look. Kris's image did not need much, but a few small but targeted tweaks made the print of it just that little bit better:



Shooting Long Exposures with the Pentax 645D:

Hello everyone,

I am still out in the mountains, Calgary to be precise. Over the weekend, in addition to teaching a workshop, I had the rare opportunity to test and shoot with a Pentax 645D camera

I had heard about this camera when it was announced, and had always been curious and a bit intrigued. To this day I am surprised that Pentax went down this route, and I have to give them credit for creating such a unique and capable camera in a highly competetive market.

Below is an image I took with the camera yesterday. It's a old grain elevator near Drumheller, Alberta.

I have visited this location before, but as I always tell my students, I love returning to places I have shot before. It almost always leads me to improve my vision. It's another chance to be creative, to find a new angle and perspective.

I had fun roaming around the range roads of the area, and also using this camera. This exposure was just over 10 minutes, and as you can see even from the jpg, the quality is excellent. 

I'll post a more detailed review of the camera, including a comparison to my Phase One P45+, in the next few days. Just couldn't wait sharing this first impression.

I haven't found anyone else out there on the net using this camera for long exposures. Woud love to hear your comments if you are!

More tk...


In the Mountains!

Hello everyone,

I am in the Calgary area this weekend. Taught a workshop today, and will use the opportunity to go out shooting in the next few days before making my way back to Vancouver.

It's been way too long since my last 'serious' shoot. Almost 3 months. With my growing family, and busy business, it is hard to find the time and do photography when I am in Vancouver. So for the past few years, I have opted to go on trips to do most of my photography. As hard as it is to be away from my family, I know this is the opportunity to get some serious photography done. And if I can combine a trip with doing some teaching, then I end up doing not just one but two things I love while away.

The workshop went well today. Everyone had taken workshops with my in the past, so it was great seeing people again and catching up with what they have been up to. Photographically as well as personally. Got all my batteries charging now for an early departure out into the country tomorrow. Cannot wait!

The following was a quick shot I did while on my way to Calgary yesterday. Saw this mountain face from the road and just had to pull over. Loved the dramatic clouds that were moving fast in the high winds.

I made sure to bracket my exposure times, not just for luminosity but also I wantedd to make sure to try a variety of exposure times to see which would render the clouds the most dramatic. From 6 seconds to 4 minutes, I tried it all. I was expecting for the 'shorter' long exposure time to be more appropriate, as the clouds were moving really fast and I did not want to loose definition. 

Below you'll see my my shooting setup, as well as 6 images showing what different exposure times did for this image:

Here's my 'setup'. A lot less snow around the area than what I anticipated.

Above you can see my exposure details. Note how the color balance is shifting as I get into longer exposures. It's because of the ND filters not being very 'neutral'.

The 2 images I liked the most are the 15 and 30 second exposures.

I took those into Photoshop and Silver Efex 2, and here's what I come up with. Definitely got the dramatic clouds I was looking for:

So here you have it. Shot this with a 120mm lens. Cannot remember last time I used such a long leens for my long exposures. Never say never I guess...