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Monday
Mar052012

Berlin Long Exposure Photo Walk!

Hello everyone,

just a quick note today that I have made travel arrangements to be at the GPlus Euro Photowalk in Berlin, May 12+13, 2012.

This is a FREE Photo Walk featuring FREE Long Exposure and Architectural Photography lessons. Yes that is not a typo. And better yet, it's a great chance to meet and work with some talented long exposure and architectural photographers (including yours truly).

It's being organized by my good friends  Joel Tjintjelaar, Athena Carey , as well as Julia Anna Gospodarou, and Joerg Jung.

For anyone close to Berlin, if you'd like to join, you can register using the following link here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dGthMFk5NUU4eFZxeGg1ZC05WndBMFE6MQ

Hope to see you there!

Marc

 

Monday
Feb272012

From RAW to Final: Using the Hartblei HCam in Whytecliff Park!

Hello everyone,

huge apologies are in order for the long silence. I came back from Toronto 2 weeks ago, and ever since I landed back in Vancouver I have been sick with the flu. I actually cannot remember the last time I had to miss almost a full 2 weeks of work. I am finally back up and running, so here's a blog that has been long overdue.

Today, I want to share another 'From RAW to Final' image series with you. This one was shot here in Vancouver, using a rather strange and rare camera called the Hartblei Hcam H2.

I have blogged about this camera before. I had the opportunity to test it for a few weeks. It's it a unique 'machine' in that it lets you mount a Canon lens on front (or Nikon, or Hasselblad, or Mamiya, etc) and then shoot to a digital back.

In this image, you can see I have my Phase One P45+ digital back mounted on the back of the camera. What you cannot see is the Canon 24mm Tilt Shift lens that is mounted in the front. the camera 'body' is very thin, in fact it allows for the same distance of the sensor to the lens as with a Canon 35mm dslr. But I get the benefit of shooting with a high quality, high resolution digital back. The camera has a shutter built in, and the rear slides left to right so you can choose to either view through the lens, or have the digital back moved behind the lens to take the picture.

In the image above, you can see how the scene looked. The clouds were actually much more dramatic, but the limited dynamic range of the camera taking this behind-the-scene picture cannot show this.

Above you can see how the RAW file looked, straight from the Phase One P45+ Digital Back. It's a 39 megapixel file, with full 16 bits of tonality. I have underexposed this image on purpose, as I find that this brings out the drama and contrast in the clouds. And I know this RAW file has tons of 'reserves' so I can adjust it to my liking with almost no quality loss.

When starting to work with this file in Photoshop, I had some fun playing with NIK's Color Efex plugin to make this color version shown above. I like it, but wanted to make a black and white showing all the drama and contrast in the sky I thought I could get out of this file.

This shows my 'final' Photoshop file, with all layers on the right. It's not a very complicated file, a lot of work has been accomplished by using NIK's Silver Efex Pro plugin to do the black and white conversion. I selectively adjusted the brightness of the island, as this is the focal point in my composition and I want the viewer's eye to drift to it. I added a vignette to further help keep the attention focuses on the center of the frame. At only 20 seconds exposure time, the fast moving clouds provided excellent drama and contrast.

Here's the final image as a larger version. As always, your feedback and questions/comments are not only welcome but encouraged!

Sunday
Feb052012

Deserted Beach - A Mini Series shot on iPhone 4s

Hello everyone,

I am in Toronto, Ontario this week. Brought the whole family out here, and my Dad came from Germany as well. It's been a while since I've visited this city, almost 10 years.

We're here to have a look around, discover, explore and if everything goes as expected, there may be some big announcements coming soon!

My workshop company, Vancouver Photo Workshops is working on expanding and it would be a dream come true to operate bi-coastal. Toronto sure has a lot to offer.

While taking advantage of the nice weather yesterday, we took a stroll around the waterfront. The boardwalk lead us to a nice beach setting, and I couldn't resist taking some images. I had brought along my Fuji X100, but the cold weather made the battery go extinct within a matter of minutes.

Well, I still have my phone, don't I?

The images below aren't long exposures, they are all shot on my iPhone 4s. They do share a lot of qualities I aim to include in my actual long exposure work, though.

Photographed in a matter of minutes (the family wasn't going to wait much longer) I call this mini-series: 'Deserted Beach'.

This would be an amazing spot to return with my 'big' camera and do some more actual long exposure work.

Take a look at what I came up with:

I hope you can agree why I fell in love with this setting.

The sun was about to set, the lake was calm, and the area was almost completely empty. A few people were roaming around with their dogs, but I didn't have to wait long for my compositions not to include any 'moving subjects'. I am sure that this is the only season where this area is as empty and 'deserted' as we found it yesterday.

The clouds did a great job filtering the late afternoon sun. Contrast was low, simply perfect conditions to photograph with just about any camera.

The iPhone sure is capable of some amazing results, but keep in mind that these were the ideal conditions. BTW, within less than 10 minutes, my battery went from 70 percent to empty. Yes, it was cold indeed.


As simple as photographing was using the iPhone, I knew I wanted to work on the images. Doing Photoshop to your iPhone images? Yes, I think it does make sense, depending on what final look and feel you're after.

In this case, my adjustments were rather simple, and all Photoshop work took less than 10 minutes to complete (per image). A worthwhile investment as far as I'm concerned.

I loved the color in the original images, but wanted to desaturate and fade them a bit. I also added a soft vignette, to keep the viewer's eye more focused to the center of my frame.

I used Exposure 3 plugin by Alienskin. In addition to SilverEfex made by Nik Multimedia, thess guys really do some great stuff. If you haven't tried it, go and download a fully functional trial version.

I especially like their 'color film' filters, I used a vintage 'Agfacolor' filter for the images above.

In the end, the images above represent very well how I was feeling while taking them.

Let me know what you think. As always, feedback is much appreciated!

Saturday
Jan282012

Marc on Google Plus!

 

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Yes it's finally done. I got myself setup on Google +. Gotta' figure out what all the hype is all about -:)

Please have a look, and if you like, add me on there and follow me.

Direct link to my profile is here!

A link is now also located in the top navigation bar on this site.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday
Jan272012

Your Questions Answered: Banding/Posterization

Hello all,

I get a lot of questions, most of which via email or in-person during one of my workshops.

So I thought it would a good idea to sart a new section of this blog devoted to answering them.

As I always tell my students, you should never be 'afraid' of asking as chances are someone else might be wondering about the exact same thing. Hopefully, this will be helpful to you all.

Here's s question I recently received from Sergios:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Subject: Banding
Message: Hello Marc,

First of all, congratulations for your work and helpful material.
May I ask how you deal with banding / posterization? For example, when you were experimenting with the different options (YouTube video, Long Exposure B+W Conversions with Silver Efex Software) I could see a high level of banding / posterization, which I really don't like on my photos.
I know that adding noise / pixel grain is a solution but I prefer my digital photos (http://www.flickr.com/photos/thisosmed/) to be as "clean" as possible.
Hope you can help me with that. Thank you for your time!

Kind regards,
Sergios

ps I heard your workshop with Joel in Amsterdam went really well. Next time I will try to join you too.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks for submitting this question, Sergios. You have a very good eye - not many people have noticed the banding, especially visible in my Silver Efex post-production video I posted on YouTube.

Banding and posterization can be a huge problem, especially when you're 'pushing pixels very hard', meaning you are making very strong adjustments. It shows up frequently when adding gradients, as well as strong contrast. To help minimize these effects, shoot in RAW format and select 14 bit mode if your camera supports it. Bit depth of your digital files is directly related to how much tonal gradation and information you can expect in your images. Jpeg files are always 8 bit, meaning they are made up of only 256 levels of grey in your photograph, compared to 16,384 levels of grey with 14 bit RAW files. That's a huge diference, and the reason banding occurs as you start editing those images.

As far as banding in my photographs, it's actually not a problem for me at all. The banding you see in the video is caused by the video compression, and not present at all in my final (still) photographs.

My recent switch to a Phase One digital back has further elimiated my concerns, as I am now shooting 16 bit RAW files, featuring 65,536 levels of grey. This not only guarantees extremely smooth gradations but also lets me edit tonality without any artifacting.

Having said all of this, I do like adding grain to my images. This is just a matter of personal taste, but it can indeed help reduce banding/posterization if it is present in your photographs.

If you prefer your images to be 'clean' and free of banding and posterization make sure you shoot in RAW and keep your editing and adjustments 'reasonable'.

Hope this helps and please keep those questions coming!

Marc

 

 

Wednesday
Jan252012

Finding Your Frame (and working it)!

Hello everyone,

I wanted to talk to you today about the importance of finding, and working, your frame. When I look back at my early photography, I can't help but notice how often I didn't take enough care to do my framing, and composition, properly. I would arrive at a location, see something that sparked my interest, but then only take a few minutes and very limited number of photographs before moving on to a new location(s).

The more time I spend looking trough a lens, the more I realize the importance of slowing down, the importance of taking my time to photograph. This is what I now call finding, and working, my frame. I do belief that this process is important to all photographers, no matter what subject matter they're interested in shooting. In my case, the necessity of working with a tripod for my long exposure work has practically 'forced' me to realize just how much I could improve my images if I only take enough care to find and work my framing.

These days, when I arrive at a given location, rather than setting up my tripod and camera right away, I take my time and do a walk around the area, leaving my equipment in the car (or the trail).

Once I have identified my subject, my thinking switches as I am working on my initial framing and composition. I am now heavily occupied evaluating just how to best show my subject, and this is what I call 'working' my frame. My tripod isn't being set up until I am satisfied with my initial composition, and once the camera is setup and a photograph made, I do take care and effort in finding alternate compositions by evaluating my initial results.

I can use the time the camera exposes to look around and think about how to change my framing and composition, and once the image is made I am ready to move on right away. People are often surprised that I am not 'bored' while waiting for my long exposures to finish. Because I can use this time to think about my next framing and composition, doing long exposures has actually made me a better photographer. If I took this time to read or otherwise occupy myself, I would miss this important opportunity to think about my composition and how to improve it.

Let's consider the 4 images above. When I was walking through Amsterdam during my recent workshop there in December, I came across these 3 metal pipes. Intrigued, I started taking photographs, first from far away as I was walking closer and closer. I was drawn to the vertical lines of the pipes, and how these related directly to the surrounding tall buildings. Compositions #1 and #2 show the pipes in their 'environment', which I liked but I knew that I wanted something stronger, a composition that would focus even more on the unique nature of the pipes.

In image #3 I decided to start tilting my camera and frame, and although my composition became simpler, the buildings didn't relate visually as well as I had hoped. So I decided to walk around some more and finally arrived at composition #4, which showed the pipes isolated against the sky.

I am convinced that I needed to take all 4 photographs to arrive at this last composition, and because I had been working the frame I was able to realize the strength and simplicity of this final framing.

So now I was ready to setup my tripod, and commit to the long exposure. One final tweak was to include more sky, acting as negative space here, by shooting 2 images and merging those as a panorama. This was show with the Fuji X100, so I didn't have the luxury of switching lenses. So the panoramic image was my only choice for including more sky. I couldn't back up more given the angle I had chosen.

Here are 2 long exposure photographs that I made in this location:

Image #1 above was the first I took, isolating the 3 pipes on the simple background of the sky. The long exposure made the sky look more dramatic. I like this framing, but thought I would try to include even more negative space. Since I couldn't change my lens on the Fuji x100 camera, I decided to shoot a few more images, each one a long exposure, and then combine them into a single panorama. This allowed me a wider angle of view. By the time I had setup for this composition, the sky and clouds had also turned significantly more dramatic. I also extended the exposure time much longer compared to image #1, so the movement in the clouds became more pronounced.

I'm glad I spend the extra time and made the effort to shoot this subject in a variety of ways. Changing my framing has left me with some nice choices as to what my final photograph might be. If I could do it easily, it would be worthwhile to return to this spot for another series of photographs. The more I get to know a given place, the more confident I find myself photographing there. It's a great excercise to restrict oneself to a small space and then do a minimum of 36 photographs there. In fact, this was one of the excercises that Freeman Patterson gave his students in his Master Workshop earlier this week.

Try it yourself and I belief that you'll see a dramatic improvement in your photography...

 

 

 

Friday
Jan202012

Exhibition in Kamloops!

Hello all,

my apologies for the long gap in-between posts. Had my hands 'ueber' full the past week and a bit. Joe McNally was in town teaching several workshops, and a few days ago, Freeman Patterson and Eddie Soloway also landed in Vancouver. It's amazing to have 3 such masters here at the same time, having the privilege and true honour to spend time with each one. Today I had breakfast with Joe followed by dinner with Eddie and Freeman. Have to pinch myself frequently these days...But more about all of this in an upcoming blog post.

I wanted to post a review of the Opening of my exhibition in Kamloops, B.C. I drove up from Vancouver for the evening, got lucky with the weather at least on the first stretch.

The good folks at the ARNICA did an amazing job - my images looked great on their walls, and the place was busy the entire evening. To top it off, I got invited for a late-night dinner and a glas of wine afterwards.

The gallery showed two bodies of work, my long exposure landscape work as well as my 'Tattoo Project' Portrait Series.

The gallery is located in an old heritage building, which used to be the courthouse in Kamloops. The exhibition space features a 'vault' which used the be the place where the original town records were kept. This was a perfect place for my "Tattoo Project' images, while my long exposures were hang in the larger space at the entrance to the gallery.

Being a small exhibition space, I only had room for 12 long exposure prints. The 'vault' showed about 25 of my 'Tattoo Project' Polaroids.

Every exhibition is an opportunity to show new work, and having travelled to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia recently I was eager to show off this new work. The images on display where a mix of square and panoramic images, with the largest being a 4 foot x 4 foot print mounted on aluminum. With the exception of that very large piece, all the remaining works were printed at my studio on an Epson 7900 printer, using Epson Cold Press Bright paper. I am constantly surprised how great the image quality of today's printers truly is. At this point in time, I think my 7900 can deliver on par, if not better, quality prints than any other professional lab out there.

As a photographer, I think it is a very satisfying process and opportunity to be able to make high quality prints of our own photography. If you haven't tried printing yourself, now it's the time to try it! 

I was given an article that ran in the local paper about my exhibition. It was nice to see how many young people and students are involved with this gallery. They volunteered to hang my pictures which were delivered about a week before the Opening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On my way back the weather had turned. I was a bit worried my mini-van wouldn't make it, but driving slowly and carefully got me back to Vancouver safe and sound.

My sincere thanks to the staff and volunteers of the ARNICA Kamloops. Their hard work really made for a great evening, and a fantastic start to the new year 2012.

The exhibition is up until February 18. If you're closeby please consider visiting, and if you do please let me know what you think.

Thursday
Jan052012

Joe McNally!

Hello everyone,

it's my last day in Germany today. As I am getting ready to fly back to Vancouver with my family tomorrow,  my excitement builds for what is awaiting me there. 

I am sure nearly all of you are aware of Joe McNally. You literally have to try hard not to have heard of him. Joe is everywhere, on the net as well as in the 'real world'. He flies more than a quarter million miles on Delta alone each year.

Here's a screenshot of Joe's website. The image, which is part of his portfolio, was shot while he was visiting Vancouver. He was hanging out the rear of my old Van when shooting these guys going down the hill at about 60 km/h.

I met Joe in 2007. I just called him up and asked him if he was interested in doing a workshop for me in Vancouver. He agreed right away.

Joe has returned two more times to Vancouver since. In 2007, his popularity was already on the rise, but he hadn't published his first book yet and his incredible popular blog wasn't up online yet either.

It's amazing how Joe has advanced his career and popularity since. Today, he's among the most well-known and successful photographers, and bloggers(!), on the net. His workshops sell out right away, his books make the top ten list on Amazon each and every time. I have seen him present to over 1000 people at a time, and his 'FlashBus' Tour last year was the biggest and most attended photographic seminar tour I know of.

But what I admire the most about Joe is that he hasn't changed. He takes his work incredibly serious, in fact he is one of the hardest working people I know. He maintains an open mind, is friendly to everyone on and off the set, and he leaves his ego at home. I have met other photographers, who shall remain nameless, who are half as successful but don't think they have to talk to 'assistannts' anymore. Their ego is in the clouds, while Joe is just a friendly, incredibly enthusiastic, hard-working photographer. His success hasn't come easy, he has worked hard for it and deserves every bit of it.

He is truly excited about photography. And he is also incredibly loyal to his friends.

I feel truly honoured that he continues to make time to come to Vancouver. He could teach just about anywhere, and with his schedule bursting at the seams, having him agree to come back to Vancouver is a gift.

I do work very hard, with and for, all the Master Photographers I bring into town, and Joe really makes me feel appreciated. Thank you, Joe.

The image below shows Joe 'in action' last time he visited in 2010. Joe packed the house at the Vancouver Planetarium.

Starting this Friday, Joe will be doing 2 workshops and 1 all-day seminar. It's the most events we've ever put on.

Something else that can be learned from Joe is that no matter how busy his schedule gets, he always makes time for personal work. He loves to photograph dance, and so we have scheduled a couple of days for him to do just that.

I know this blog is mostly dedicated to fine-art and personal photography, but I do belief that every photographer, no matter what she or he shoots, can learn a tremendous amount from Joe.

If you haven't see his website make sure to visit today. If you haven't visited in a while, make an effort and go back.

I'm sure you'll find it worthwhile!

Monday
Jan022012

Exhibition at the AARC in Kamloops, BC!

Hello and a Happy New Year 2012 to all of you!

May all your dreams and wishes come true this year - including those related related to photography!

My year is starting off real busy, but exciting!

Just got an email from Kamloops with the invitation poster for my upcoming exhibition there!

I haven't shown at an artist run center before, but I really admire their mission (and vision). I am honoured and excited to get my photography on their walls so soon!

I'll be driving up from Vancouver for the Opening on the 13th. If anyone reading this is close enough and planning to attend, please come and say Hi. Let me treat you with a drink (or two).

The exhibition will showcase some of my latest long exposure work, as well as my award-winning 'Tattoo Project' portrait series. Print sizes vary from small original polaroids to prints as large as 40" x 40".

It took me a long time to settle on the paper/mat/frame combination for this show. All, except one, of the images on display have been printed, and framed, in my studio here in Vancouver.

I take great pride in printing myself, and belief that the quality I can achieve is unmatched by anything that can be ordered from a lab. It certainly does take a great deal of work, care and experimentation, but never before have photographers been able to produce such high quality prints of their own work without the help of outside labs.

It's a great time to be a photographer!

To me, the print has always been the final product. It is what I strive for. I never judge images until they are printed. I look at images on my screen only as long as I have to. Then I make a print.

How do you feel about the importance of making prints? How do you look at and evaluate most of your images? Do you make prints yourself or do you get them done at a lab? If you're using a lab, can you recommend it?

Locking forward to hearing from you! And to those of you close to Kamloops, please do come by and check out my show anytime between January 13th and February 18th. Thank you!

Friday
Dec232011

Long Exposures with the Fuji X100 - A Review!

Hello everyone,

as Christmas gets closer, and the year 2011 draws to a close, I find myself blessed to be able to spend this time with my family in Hamburg, Germany.

Since I got here a couple of weeks ago, the weather has been terrible. Wet, cold and generally not suitable for photography (nor the photographer getting wet and frozen in the process). So I had all the excuses I needed to spend some extra quality time with my family. But hey, I still managed to do some photography. Of course.

2 days ago, the rain finally let up and I went for a drive to do some long exposure photography. I took with me my newest camera, the Fuji X100.

I'm probably the only 'non-photojournalist' using this camera, as it is made for street ad reportage mostly. The reason I bought it, actually, was to do just that. Photograph my family and friends without having to lug my heavy gear around with me. But of course I was curious how this camera would handle long exposures as well. 

I headed for the coast here in northern Germany, my camera bag unusually light. In fact, that was the first thing I noticed about the camera. It's just so incredibly portable. From earlier testing, I knew it had great high ISO performance, so I was expecting it be decent at least in the long exposure department as well.

So here are some results for your considration:

This was the first image I took. It's actually 2 images stitched together to make this final panorama. The sun was setting and with the color coming out in the sky the way it did, I decided to leave this image (and the entire series that day) in color. Exposure time was 4 minutes for both images. Stitched using Photoshop CS5.

The clouds disappeared on me, so I cut my exposure time down to 1 minute for this shot. Really loved this scene and place. Will return with a 'bigger' camera and a shift lens. As it was getting real cold and close to sunset, there were only few people around. Again the color was left in as the red of the lighthouse complemented the color of the setting sun in the sky.

This was the final image of the day. Here, I pushed the X100 to 12 minutes long exposure. There is a bit of visible noise at 100% view, but it is absolutely acceptable. I would have no hesitation to attempt and print this images up to 20' x 40' inches. The lens is sharp, and the dynamic range almost at the level of my d3 or 1DS Mark 3. It doesn't touch my Phase One, but that is getting rather unfair...

So you wanna use the Fuji x100 for Long Exposures? Go right ahead, it definitely has my seal of approval.

It performs on a level equal to mid-range DSLR's. And all that with a sharp lens in a very small form factor.

Speaking of the lens, I have said before how much I love using minimal gear because it tends to challenge you creatively. I actually think having 'just' this fixed lens is actually an advantage. I do not miss a zoom lens at all.

Before I close, here are 2 images that show the amazing performance of the X100 lens, shot wide-open at F2. This kind of sharpness and shallow depth-of-field can usually only be achieved with more expensive DSLR's and dedicated lenses. Here you can put it in your pocket:

This is my 2.5 year old daughter, Mila Valentina, riding her 'bike' around our neighborhood here in Hamburg, Germany. Look at how sharp the lens renders her, while producing very 'silky' out of focus blur on the background. 

This is a very capable camera, certainly as far as image quality is concerned. It does need some major improvements on the user interface and experience, but that will be the topic of another blog posting...

More tk...