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Wednesday
Mar212012

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:

 

Tuesday
Mar132012

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...

Saturday
Mar102012

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...

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:

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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.