Two nights ago I got a phone call. A lady reported that her grand daughter, age 8 had shown up at home with four photographic prints, sealed in mylar, with my name on the back, and even a price sticker - was I missing any of my artwork?
It seems the grand daughter had found the prints (along with several more) in the fork of a tree, with a note attached, free to a good home.
Well, back in the spring I did a major cleanout of the garage, including hundreds of prints left over from when I had worked at the farmers market. I noticed on day two of the cleanup that all the prints put out on day one had disappeared. I was pleased to think someone was getting some use out of them, even if all they use it the foamcore backing board.
So, it would appear that whoever took the prints, picked out the ones they wanted, and put the other ones in the tree at the playground - and now an 8 year old has taken home my architectural images because she liked them.
To make the black and white version, I added a b&w conversion layer, then adjusted the colour sliders - darkening red so the window frames were darker, lightening green so the corrugated paneling looked right, then adjusting the yellow slider darker till the grass looked right. I then added a masked curves adjustment layer in which the white point was moved left, and the line kept straight - this selectively emphasized lightening the lighter areas without affecting the darks. I brought out more texture in the windows, while avioding driving the cracked glass to pure white. I tried it on the paneling but it was too harsh so used a simple s curve on those to brighten the lights without pushing them to pure white, and slightly darkening the darks.
I then did my brown to black action which applied a solid tone adjustment layer, set it to colour, toned it down, then used the available layer adjustment blending sliders (by double clicking on the layer) so that the colour applied much more to the light tones than the dark. i then toned down the effect using a hue/saturation layer to taste.
My impression now is that I much prefer the new version, but that I might choose to work further on the right sided windows so that the lighter areas better balance he left side of the picture - but first I'll live with what I have for a while.
No examples this morning because frankly we're talking subtleties here, but on the weekend I did get to play further with the 300 mm. lens (equivalent to 240 mm. on full frame 35 mm. - ie. quite long). I did a single image at 1/200 second and that was fine but I'll need to do more tests at this speed - I'd previously tested at 1/400 and found it good, so perhaps I can drop the short limit of questionable speeds.
At the other end I did several images at 1.3 seconds long and to my surprise these too were tack sharp, so it looks like for now the range for watching exposures is anything shorter than 1.3 seconds and anything longer than 1/200.
Remember that all the images with the 300 and 200 mm. lenses are now done with the 12 second self timer, while the 2 second setting seems to be fine with the 120 mm. lens, and that's handy for focus stacking.
So, if I had an exposure that fell between 1.3 and 1/200 second, what would I do? If a modest boost to ISO can get me to 1/200, then that's what I would do - on the weekend, I simply had to bump to ISO 800, a non issue quality wise. On the other hand, if the base ISO exposure had to be something like 1/2 second, bumping upwards isn't practical (that would be ISO 12,000) so the only option is going down the way and there's only three ways to do that, open up the lens (but usually I'm controlling the amount of depth of field I want), move closer to the subject and use a shorter lens (possible sometimes), or to put a neutral density filter in front of the lens and that's what I'll do.
Shooting suggests that blurring with the 300 mm. from the shutter is minimal but real, but in common with all lenses, , the least wind on the lens hood, movement of a foot anywhere near the tripod (unless you are standing on cement), or brushing your leg against the tripod even lightly can have a huge impact in sharpness. I learned this with my Canon cameras and sometimes would even take off the lenshood if there was a cross wind, and in really strong wind would sometimes take multiple shots with me hanging onto the camera and bearing down.
The bag contains the camera, that can mount the 25, 120 or 300 mm. lens in the bag and store the other two. In addition the back also holds the 35, 75 and 200 mm. lenses - so six lenses and camera body. The bag is the Lowpro Computreker AW, one of the smaller backpacks and most definitely flyable in North America. It works very well and the zips only need one hand (unlike the much heavier albeit more waterproof model I carried my Nikon gear in.
I used Photoshop/Filters/Lens Correction Custom to adjust the barrel distortion and less than perfect rotation and alignment. The day was heavy overcast so I didn't have to contend with sunlight coming through the doors.
This is a $350 book so I can't recommend it to everyone though I wish you could all afford it. But, considering that the full cost of the book goes towards the Luminous Landscape Endowment Fund (Michael paid for the printing of the book himself) to support photographers and projects, perhaps there are some of you who find yourself in a position to help, while at the same time receiving a wonderful book.
The book is massive and with 380 large photographs on heavy paper and beautifully printed is a real joy to own. There are some black and white images but largely it is Michael's colour work that is exhibited here and there are some truly wonderful images - a mix of favourites (ladder and wall from San Miguel) and Bullfight in motion, and images from Antarctica, Bangladesh, Iceleand and China.
There are delightful surprises too, and images going back to medium format film. Michael has a strong eye for both colour and composition and images range from subtle to brilliant.
The book includes landscape and people and working environment photographs and the website has videos of the book's production as well as each image in the book.
The book is 12 inches square and the book clean and elegant. Some images bleed across the gutter, but only where large is worth while and the pages open up easily so the gutter can be seen - this is a sewn book.
Think of it as payback for 15 years of Luminous Landscape - so about $22.50 a year - not a bad deal.
So yesterday, while I was at the gas plant photographing, I decided to check sharpness with the 300 mm. lens with mirror lock up and 12 seconds self timer instead of 2. You will remember I had problems getting sharp pictures outdoors, but no problems in a dark interior with 30 second exposures - so it had to be shake and not lens blur. I suspected the short duration self timer (my remote hasn't come yet) but wasn't totally sure. How much could be from the shutter mechanism, even though reportedly improved compared to the 645D?
The two images below tell the tale - they were not taken together and don't have the same framing, but I think you can see that there is some definite softness to the first image that isn't there with the second.
For the first image I shot at ISO 100, 12 second self timer, live view, 1/25 scond.
For the second shot, I upped the ISO to 800, giving a shutter speed of 1/400, both at f16.
I later did some indoor work and know that a 5 second exposure is absolutely sharp. For now, with the 300 mm. lens, I'll try to avoid anything lower than 1/400 or higher than 5 second but perhaps test two seconds. I'll use the great high ISO capability of the Pentax 645Z to keep away from that area.
This is far from ideal as that's a 10 stop difference or ISO 100 to ISO 100,000 - just not on. Printing the centre section of the 'blurry' first image for a print of 30X40 shows slight but acceptable softness checking from 10 inches. Additional sharpening within Photoshop results in a 30X40 print of superb quality and no signs of sharpening.
This really is the difference with the Pentax, not that it's so many more pixels than the Nikon 810, but that the files are so robust. As far as I'm concerned, I've just eliminated the one nagging doubt about the system - how would 300 mm. perform - very well thank you. The 12 second self timer has fixed 90% of the blur I was seeing in previous shoots outside, and I can work around that other 10% if need be, most of the time, and when I can't, it won't actually matter in a 30X40 print - how cool is that?
I have never felt as good about a system as I do with the 645Z, not even at the time, when I didn't know any better, and now that I do, wow...
Don't forget to click on image to see 1200 pixels wide (of the original 26 thousand)
So, I have been living with the print for 24 hours and am not happy. The version I made then is below. This evening I decided to start back at the original stitched image after basic trimming. I elected to NOT chop off the right side after all but see if I could make the various parts of the image relate better. A variety of curve layers later (probably about two dozen), and a few curves that had the highlight point shifted left, but this time no Akvis Enhancer (that increased local contrast). I then felt I needed to improve the highlights, but didn't want the near whites driven to stark white. What I did was to create a curve starting in the upper right, running on the diagonal for the lightest pixels, then lightening for the light gray areas, then returning back to the diagonal line for the rest of the curve. To get that you need a few points that force it back to the diagonal otherwise anything that goes above the diagonal in the lighter areas automatically curves below the diagonal line in the darker tones and that wasn't what I wanted.
I still wasn't happy with the image and wondered what it would be like to play with the temperature slider in Camera Raw - no sweat. Save the image then save again as a TIFF and open that in Camera Raw and adjust tones and temperature to taste, a little cooler as you see in the above image. What I really did was make it a lot more contrasty and cool, then opened the image, copied all, then closed it and pasted it as a new layer in the image I was editing earlier this evening. Now I could use layer opacity and masking to control just how much of the cool contrasty image I wanted, and where.
Turned out I didn't want a lot, and not everywhere, and with some more tweaks above is what I have ended up with.
I might still lighten the gray areas on the far right a tad more, but that's for another day.
I want to discuss what role complex images like this play in photography and when I have settled (for the near future) on the editing, will do so.
I would really like comments about this image, NOT about how you would fix it, but whether as is it works for you or not, and why.