Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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Dramatic Portrait Lighting


Studio SessionIn today's studio session I showed my students how to do a dramatic 4 studio light set up. 3 softboxes, and one diffused hair light. These were all done with Elinchrome lights and remotely triggered.

Two softboxes left and right are the same power and one above at about 1 stop more in a softbox, angled at around 45 degrees. A fourth diffused hair light is a 2 stop lower than the overhead sitting directly behind my subjects.

They got an idea of how much time it takes to set it up, but well worth the results. Many of the shots the students took were just spectacular.

Processing is done in Adobe Lightroom, but can be done in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) with similar settings:

First adjust the exposure down by -.45 then bump the recovery up to around 80 to 100, then add just a little fill light at around 30-40. Increase the black point if necessary for darker deeper shadows. Bump contrast up by +70-80.

Clarity should be turned way up, around +70-80. Vibrancy goes up by +40 and Saturation goes down by -50.
Studio Session
Next is to adjust the Tone Curves. Highlight +50, Lights +22, Darks +41 and Shadows -32 in this case.

Lastly, use the Adjustment Brush and select skin softener. Paint the skin and crank the clarity down even further to counter the global clarity that has been applied to the image.

That's pretty much it. You might need to do the odd tweak here or there to get the effect just right.
Studio Session

Saturday, November 26, 2011

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Scared of Film?



Scared of Film?
Scared of Film?, a photo by Kinematic Digit on Flickr.
One of the things I'm really enjoying about rediscovering medium format is experimenting with the various brands and kinds of film out there. This one is actually a relative newcomer to the scene which replaced two of Kodak's current lines and amalgamated it into one. This is the new Kodak Portra 400 reversal film that is used here.

I must admit the colour rendition of the new Kodak Portra 400 is hard to beat. This shot is straight out of the camera and scanned with no post processing.

Love working with the square format, but more importantly loving the depth of field of medium format.

This was shot on the Yashica Mat 124G TLR and scanned on the Canon CanoScan 9000F.

I'm looking forward to using this film with a portrait shoot sometime. It's just such a nice film to work with and very forgiving (as I discovered on a very lowly lit chicken coup).

This was shot on the Yashica Mat 124G TLR and scanned on the Canon CanoScan 9000F at 2400 DPI.

Friday, November 25, 2011

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Under the Shadow


Under the ShadowOne of the things I'm enjoying with the Mamiya with no meter is that I have to spend time thinking about how I'm going to compose and set up my shot.

Unlike shooting in digital where you can spray and pray, the Mamiya really kind of forces you to be patient and carefully consider the shot. Shooting a subject with such strong backlighting is so easy to adjust in digital, so it does take a lot of thought when I was setting up for this shot.


It isn't saying that Digital doesn't teach you this, but I find that even when I'm out with my digital, I try to look to my scene more and patiently wait for the right moment or composition before pressing the shutter.

For me the emotion of the moment is about capturing my own experience while I'm there. If I can present my viewer what I'm feeling then I think I've accomplished the goal. If not, it's merely a picture, and if you like it, then this also accomplishes another goal.

But whether or not you use digital or not isn't really the point, rather, as I always say when I am out taking landscape shots, it's about being there for the moment. Whether or not I capture it on film, digital, or even as a drawing or painting, in the end the only thing that matters is whether or not my final image captures the same feelings I had for the scene while I was there.

Sometimes, I watch a scene unfold and never take a single shot.... disappointed, not at all because in all cases, it's about relishing the moment for myself, and not for anyone else to judge or be criticized for it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

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Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking GlassToday I took a little morning hike to Todd Inlet at Gowlland Todd Provincial Park a gorgeous park in Central Sannich, where I was hiking, borders the Butchart Gardens property (but isn't very well marked). I had this idea in my head to do a through the viewfinder kind of shot and I wanted a long exposure of a waterfall in the finder.

The hike and setting up did take a couple of hours even though it's a 15 minute hike in total, but I was enjoying the environment and also taking the shot.

I had to use my coat to shade the finder. But ironically I also brought with me four cameras in total. One I used for this shot, the other was what took the shot, a third I took 6 x 4.5 black and white with, and the fourth stayed in the bag. It was a lot of gear to haul, but it was a nice day and thought the creek would give me some great photo opportunities.

There's something that's really nostalgic about using an old waistfinder TLR camera. Also just how easy it is to focus is another thing that makes medium format such a nice way to shoot. Although in this case I didn't actually have film loaded in the TLR, I was kind of saddened that this was the case. I took some 645 black and white at 49 seconds, so looking forward to seeing how that turns out.

Friday, November 11, 2011

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Opinion: The future of Olympus...

Will Work 4...There's lots of panic over Olympus and maybe perhaps it's inevitable demise. Even speculation out there of someone purchasing Olympus' camera division but even if that doesn't happen, there's a lot of other companies that wil be investigated for the same business practices. Olympus was just the unlucky company to be the first to uncover this. Here's a great article on the Olympus troubled time line from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com

Even if Olympus does go insolvent, they have too many assets that are of value. The mFT is a profitable part of the camera division even if the whole is not. Some company could take the opportunity to get into this part of the market with some great value. Here's some of my opinion of what I think could be possible (whether it involves purchasing Olympus or not):


Panasonic: Bails them out with funding, keeps the name the same, own it, subsidize it but separate the enthusiasts compact  from the regular consumers. However Panasonic has already positioned itself with the recently released X line. This makes it more of a competitor than ever before. Panasonic and Olympus' partnership was about to somewhat expire soon where it forced Olympus to use the 12 MP sensors (where as Panasonic already moved on to a 16MP sensor). Olympus was certainly shopping around for new sensor partner but this may or may not force Olympus again into a long (maybe even longer term) agreement with Panasonic.


Fujifilm: They finally announce the rumoured partnership with the mFT group, come out with their reported mirrorless system which fits it nicely between the X10 and X100 with their awesome sensor technology and make a merger with Olympus sharing technology between the two companies. They can then disclose what many speculate have been the case such as the hybrid finder is actually Olympus' design and that future Olympus cameras will incorporate both technologies. Now I won't hold my breath on a mFT version of the Fuji or that a Pen pro might have the hybrid-finder. Many have indicated that Fujifilm is not going mFT, but I dare to dream.


Sony: As MC Hammer once said, 'don't touch this'. They already did this with Minolta and it took many years for them to build their market following and won't likely follow the same path with Olympus. Regardless they already have their own system in the NEX series which is drawing a good following and positions them 2nd in the market ahead of Panasonic. They will likely take over the 1st position in short order. They basically don't need Olympus to take them further.


Nikon: They have the 1 series now. They will stick to their guns even though it's been received very poorly by the market. It's not like Nikon to buy assets from another company and rebrand them. However they do have strategic partnerships with companies like Sony and Casio for producing their key components and systems, one could argue the that they could do this with Olympus as well. Maybe  have Olympus be it's manufacturer of the next generation One series and assist in producing smaller compact lenses than the ones they have now. What is more likely is that Nikon might be interested in Olympus' science imaging department which competes directly with them.


Canon: Possible that Canon can buy or form a new partnership with Olympus. Canon would certainly be interested in more Science imaging marketshare which is Olympus' strongest and most profitable part of the company. They are also one of the few companies that might have the money to do it. With no mirrorless currently in their line-up they just might consider a strategic alliance. Both the mirrorless and the medical imaging compete nicely against their most direct rival, Nikon.


Hoya/Pentax: Already purchased Ricoh's camera division. They won't much care for this either and they also already owns Pentax (which failed to produce a mirrorless that the market cares for).


Casio: Small possibility here, but they are partners with so many other camera companies and will have to be careful when they align or brand themselves as an exclusive vendor of the Olympus line.


Samsung: A Korean company, and I can't imagine cultural Japan to allow such a rival company to own assets from an established name like Olympus. They also have their own mirrorless that is doing well in specific markets so highly unlikely they would be interested in bailing out Olympus.


Kodak: I am amused at this suggestion, although would have been nice to see the sensor technology (which they just sold off this week) in the next Olympus. Kodak has no money and is in a dire position regardless.


Apple: I actually welcome this suggestion and the Japanese might be open to a bailout by one of the most successful tech companies during the current global economic crisis. It will mean Apple will return to the digital photography market that it pioneered with Kodak in the early days. It's not inconceivable as Apple is rumoured to be developing and coming out with a television set in a couple of years. No one knows what Apple has in mind as it's a very secretive company, and Jobs was once quoted that he could care little about the criticism that he got for a product that he developed three years ago and focused on what he was going to launch in another three years. Jobs often looked at the photographic market as something that needed a revolution and of course Apple would be the best company to spearhead a revolution again.


Carl Zeiss: I wish! They are in bed with too many strategic partners and Sony as well. In my dream world, buy Olympus' camera division, rebrand it as Contax Digital G, make both CZ and Zuiko lenses.


Leica: This is plausible (maybe very realistic), but the brand has never been known to be a mass market company. It might compliment or might piss off their partnership with Panasonic, however Leica is watching the mirrorless market carefully. Perhaps they could walk into a stronger position by owning Olympus and boosting the line with some modern AF examples of their lenses (manufactured by Panasonic). Leica's position in the market is a niche position, and it runs the risk of losing that to the likes of Sony NEX-7 or what Fuji might be coming out with. Leica has been in an enviable position in the last few years with the M8 and M9 where no competitors have really been there to threaten their position, but the Ricoh GXR, Sony NEX-7 and even the current Fuji X100 are all cameras that threaten  Leica M9's once dominant position in that market. I own several M-mount lenses and happy enough to use them on my Pen and that kind of thinking is very popular among Pen users. Something that I'm sure Leica has taken notice and just might consider the Olympus opportunity. However Leica only recently did a major transaction (which 44% was sold to a Blackstone a private equity company) which might mean any other mergers or acquisitions are not in its current plans.

Sigma: A family owned company, has had many hits and misses in the industry. Their Foveon sensors promised to redefine the market, but now that emerging technologies from Canon in their new C300 sensors threatens the uniqueness of their demosaicless technology. However could it be a good fit with Olympus is hard to say? As a private company buying out a public company, it would certainly be a  challenging business endeavour. Sigma's DP series of compact cameras had a good following, but the price point was very unpopular in the market. With Sigma's commitment to the Foveon technology it has been more of a crutch than a benefit. I certainly don't think a merger or a partnership by Sigma and Olympus to be a good fit but doesn't mean that it can't be a good one if it does happen.


Epson, HP, Sharp and others: Epson is one company that could form a new partnership with Olympus. They do have a fantastic M8 competitor in the R-D1 which currently is a little buggy, old, and out of date. It still sells new for quite a bit more than one should pay for a camera of it's vintage, but Epson could conceivably buy Olympus' assets to get a stronger position in the market. They do need to do something that makes up for their shrinking printer sales so if by buying Olympus' camera division and coming out with a future R-D2 (full-frame M-mount), this could be the next move for them to make. As the public makes the move away from printer technology, they need to divest and reinvest in other technologies that are emerging or continuing to grow. Epson has for the most part ignored this market, but even the likes of HP and Sharp are companies that also need to look to the future and expand their product offerings. Sharp is one company that has a broad reach already, but their camera offerings have always been poorly received and for the most part ignored. HP runs the risk of being another Kodak if they don't look to new markets and shed themselves of the brand stigma it has of being a corporate only product. As to other suitors, it's hard to say if there is any company that could afford to buy the assets from Olympus. Olympus is no slouch in this market. Regardless of what has been reported in the news about their troubles, the camera division is still a massive division regardless of its losses. The value even if they were forced into a sale would still be enormous and would have to take a pretty large technology giant to take control of that division. 


Despite all of this, whether or not Olympus survives this round of bad news the fact remains that even with us current (and even future) micro-four-thirds owners, that there shouldn't be a panic among Olympus owners because there are so many other partners in the group that will continue to provide alternatives and choices in lenses. Even if (and I highly doubt this will happen) the body disappears off the shelf like the ill fated Polaroids, there will still be choices in Panasonic or hopefully a new partner waiting to swoop in and offer another body option. 


What I see is a definite in light of this news is all future R&D projects are going to be stalled, and with Olympus' track history of delivering products in a timely manner, most likely will not see a lot of new innovations from them for some time.


I for one hope the best for Olympus, in the meantime I will covet my Canon equipment that much more :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

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Chronicling your Inspiration...

A question I was following in a message forum I follow asked what the appeal of landscape was to people.

It's a very subjective topic, but it took me down a path of questions to what my motivations were in taking these kinds of images.

My partial response to the question was the following:
...years in television, marketing, advertising design, consultant, and just being a part of the noise of the world we live in. For me it's solitude or in someways meditation from all that noise.
I really don't know why some people like my landscapes, but I have a small market that seems to enjoy it. Perhaps it is my quest to find that solitude that I am able to convey in my work...
I continued the remark with a posting of an image I took a couple of years ago (seen below). It's one of my personal favourites, which I used to outline a point of what is my own personal source of inspiration or motivation. But as I continued to follow the discussion, I also made some other discoveries along the way.

Waiting
"Waiting" Canon 50D, 55mm@F/16, Exp: 1/320s
Click on the photo to read about the story behind this image.
Some followers of my work (even professionals who's work I highly admire) tell me they get inspired by what I do. Perhaps they don't need anything more than to admire it and be inspired by it but it's interesting to note that we inspire each other (and less so that we compete against each other).

But I wondered more about my own inspiration and for me it was more about sharing my own journey and inspiration. I explored this thought further and came up with an epiphany.

Over 20 years ago, I had made a personal manifesto for my artwork– one that I kind of forgotten. Ironically, in retrospect, it's something that has been a part of my work for the past 20 years. It's something that I subconsciously did in almost everything I did creatively. It also explains many reasons why I returned to teaching or love teaching.

My manifesto was very simple. My artwork was less about the end result and more about chronicling my journey that it took to get there. My followers appreciate my finished work, but they also follow me because I share my journey with them. Like this blog, the hundreds of visitors that read this blog on a daily basis, read about my process, my journey and the inevitable outcome of the work. It of course goes without saying that without your continued support and appreciation that I would not be doing this–so I thank-you all personally for that.

The other day I published the importance of patiences while today I share how I chronicled my journey. Whatever motivates you or inspires you is something I believe is important in understanding your own creative process. Whether this is in photography, art, your work life or your personal life, I think it's not only important to appreciate the journey but at least in my case, is also to record the story that goes along with it.

I've spent a lot of time trying to capture a moment like this again, but for me the end result hasn't mattered as much as making the effort.

I may never get this kind of photo again, but for me, it's the one photo that reminds me of why I do this, and it inspires me again and again to try. Whatever is your source of inspiration, enjoy it and take the time to write a story of why you love it so much. It's nice to stop and remind ourselves of our own personal journey to our successes that we are so proud of.

Thank-you again for taking the time to read my story...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

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Watching Paint Dry

The Burning Sea
Canon EOS 5Dmk2, EF 24mm F/1.4L USM II
F/14 Shutter 4s, ISO 50, Black Card Technique, 
 It has been written that Ansel Adams not only shot amazing landscapes because he was a fantastic photographer, but that he lived and studied his environment and knew his settings and how the weather patterns would unfold in his scenes.

All of last week I watched clouds go by and the inevitable missed opportunities (mostly because I had other obligations to meet), but this is one of those things I really try to do by studying those patterns in the sky to find out if I would have a great opportunity.

The other thing is timing. Just because I can see an amazing opportunity, doesn't mean that by the time that I get to my vantage point the same kind of situation will remain.

One could sit and wait for hours for the perfect opportunity to come along, but unless you have that luxury of time, it's back to predicting what will happen.

For me, predicting the best time to do my black card landscape shots is a little bit like divining for water with two coat hangers, but using a little bit of science, watching weather patterns, calculating travel time (including hiking down to your vantage point), set-up time, and of course ensuring you have everything with you are all important things to factor in getting the right shot at the right time.

Also knowing the area and scouting appropriate locations is also another thing to account for. I maintain a series of applications on my iPhone to predict tide tables, sunrise and sunset times, shadow locations and weather reports. Setting up for a an image to me is a lot of science and when it all comes together, I love the results I get.

However sometimes it more about just getting out there and not knowing what you might get, but in those cases I really make an effort to keep my standard things ready to get up and go. I have my standby locations that I know that are minutes away, and even if the opportunity doesn't present itself, I take the time to practice or just to enjoy the environment.

In my youth, I wasn't really a patient person but as I've gotten older I certainly have appreciated taking the time to watch the world change around me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

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Something Old... Something New

Cokin A holder with Linear Polarizer, Hood and
ND8 Grad filter
One of my readers wrote to me a few weeks back and asked me what I thought about using a Cokin A filter on the Olympus Pen E-P3. My response was, I have not done so, but I still own some of that stuff from 25 years ago and should crack it out to try it.

It was one of those, duh and aha moments. It's the perfect size for this system and well worth giving it a go. Because of the small compact size, it actually doesn't affect the compact footprint of the E-P3 by much.

Of course Cokin systems do have it's drawbacks and because it's made of optical grade plastics, it's prone to scratches and marring.

Despite this, the joy of using a Cokin system lies in the fact that it's an easy system to change out filters quickly and also to stack them. The other benefit to users of micro four thirds lenses is the fact that I don't need to buy a two sets of filters for the 37 and 46 mm, just get the appropriate insert ring for the Cokin A holder or in my case get the correct step up ring (in my case I got a 37 to 52mm and 46 to 52mm ring adapter as my Cokin was originally fitted for all my Nikon film gear).

One of the other great things about the Cokin system on the Pen is the fact that I can use a linear polarizer again. Linear polarizers slowly fell out of favour when the phase detect auto focus system came into play just over 30 years ago. Because of modern AF systems, a new method of polarizing the light into the camera had to be devised as the AF systems were not capable of focusing properly through a linear polarizer. Circular polarizers were specifically designed to work with modern AF system without issues, and slowly took over as the filter of choice. But because certain compromises are made in the manufacturing of circular polarizers, the effect that they filtered was not as strong as a traditional linear polarizer.

Horizontal Dream
Olympus 12mm F/2 @ F/8.0
What's different on the E-P3 to traditional dSLRs is the fact that the camera doesn't use phase detect AF, but rather it uses contrast detection. Because of this, linear polarizers can be used again without issues.

Even today I was out and about with both my Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a 24 F/1.4L USM II lens and still appreciated what was coming out of the little Olympus.

Double Vision
Olympus 12mm F/2 @ F/7.1
Alas it's not all roses. Cokin got into financial troubles last year and has been on the ropes for some time. Kenko bought them out earlier this year and has made a commitment to continuing the brand. Currently it's very hard to find anyone that sells Cokin filters, let alone the smaller A series. It is also very difficult to track anything down through eBay which doesn't bode well for both Cokin or the A series. But if you used to shoot film in the past on the compact 135 format SLR, there's a small chance you might still have a Cokin A series holder and filters tucked away in some dusty old attic. Crack them out and give them a go, you might be surprised by the results and pleased that you can use something that you haven't used in a number of years.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

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Digging out the old vinyl records...

YashicaSo my friend at JR Photography loaned me his Yashica Mat 124 G medium format TLR to play with. It's been probably a good 20 years since I shot medium format film so I thought I would give it a try.

Much of my curiosity is fuelled by the idea of shots where I'm always trying to catch various depth of field effects, and really nothing replaces a large objective and larger format.

I love my Canon 5DMk2 of course, but there's just something so raw about shooting in analog.

Back in the late 80's I majored in Visual Communications and also studied a minor in photography at the ACAD. I had been taking photos since I was 12, and before I went to art college I had even considered it as a career as I spent a lot of time photographing my girlfriend at the time.

I spent a good portion of my studies in medium format when I went to college, shooting mostly on Mamyias and the odd Hasselblad. I spent two years at it, but never decided to take it on as a major. Somewhere along the line I lost the passion for it and for the most part never really shot a lot for years. During that time I always appreciated 4x5 and medium format work from photographers that I hired, but never picked it up again for some time.


Efke 25
Fast forward to 2011. I shots my first roll of 120 since 1991 and was pleasantly amused by the shots I produced. I'm a little rusty with shooting film and metering with a handheld meter, but I'm adjusting to it quickly, and although there were a few focusing errors on the roll, I got a good handful of pleasing images off of it.

These scans are not the greatest, but they're a quick preview of my latest return to medium format. I would love to get my hands on a digital medium format one day, but they are priced out of my reach (for now).

Efke 25In the meantime, I also picked up a Mamiya M645 for a great deal with two lenses, and shot some colour shots with it and looking forward to how those will turn out. I will be uploading those and sharing them here on my blog when I review them.

I had taken some shots side by side with my Olympus Pen E-P3 with the TLR at the same time so it will be an interesting comparison to see how old technology matches up against newer technology.
Efke 25