Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pentax 645 Update - Still Smiling!

The honeymoon continues. I love the camera and the lenses are performing well. I would NEVER go back to a camera without at least a tilting LCD screen. My used 35, 75 and 120 lenses didn't come with lens hoods so last night I made some from Edmund Scientific Flocking paper. Handy and they stuff back into the bag easily. Today I shot several images with very strong lighting just outside the frame and did not see any problems with flare (which I had seen previously with the 120 which surprised me as the front element is quite recessed). Anyway, problem fixed.

I took some images today with the 200 mm. lens at 1/6 second, some with the 2 second self timer, then later with the 12 second - the latter are sharp, the former definitely soft - so I need 12 seconds on the self timer for both the 200 and 300 mm. lenses - so now I know.

Several times today, rather than using live view magnified focus, move the magnified image to the extreme corner (slow), I simply turned live view off and checked focus with the view finder - turned out to work very well (I was focus blending so needed to find the near focus point which happened to be at the edges). This speaks well to the quality of the viewfinder.

When the Sony A7r came out, there were concerns for image sharpness in a vertical format because of shutter shake - although I haven't done any formal testing, lots of images shot vertically have not shown any concerns on the Pentax 645z.

I've been doing a lot of lens swapping, guessing incorrectly on the focal length I needed. It's possible that zooms would have avoided this but my feeling is only to a modest degree and I'm happier to accept the quality of the fixed lenses. This is a bit of a surprise to me - I hadn't thought I'd be as comfortable without my zooms, but so far it's been a non-issue.

Both the 25 and 35 mm. lenses have some barrel distortion, but auto correction with the 25 and manual with the 35 has not been a problem.

I know I have said it before, but I love how robust the files are. I can correct for barrel distortion, rotate the image, fix horizontal and vertical perspective and rotate the image, all on top of focus blending and followed by Akvis Enhancer without the image falling apart and still able to make a tack sharp 30X40 print.

That's all that I ever hoped for and more.

Does the Pentax do anything that smaller cheaper cameras can't do - no - it's simply down to print size. If you don't routinely go above 13X19, there are many cameras that would suit better and be more versatile.

Even if the Nikon 810 came with a complete set of Zeiss Otis lenses (not that I could afford them, my Pentax lenses cost between $200 - $1000 exc. for the 25 mm. so that's 5X$4500 less for a set of lenses - that's a lot more than I paid for the Pentax and 25 mm. lens combined. And to not have a tilting LCD, and to have to put up with stop down live view focusing - NO WAY.


It was difficult deciding how to crop this image - I made the original with the entire valve on the left included including it's wheel (of which you see only half here), but in the end decided that a clean left edge was more important than the valve itself and it was the shadow of the valve that was important, with just enough of the actual structure to 'explain' the shadow.

Whether to include the base of the tank I'm less certain of - on the one hand, the image is cleaner without, on the other it provides framing for the tank. I'll probably try it both ways before making a final decision.


This is simply the start of a new project. Some years ago I purchased an entire box of 32X40 Crane Museo matte paper, warmtone. I never used it as the paper was way too yellow for selling prints at the farmers market under mercury lighting (the paper was a lovely cream at home).

Anyway I have decided to try MY hand at creating images with paper - hardly original, but creative none the less and this is just effort one, made quickly with a roughly torn wedge of paper. The lighting was from an overhead fitting above the dining room table, the cool lighting from a window behind the camera. Depth of field was restricted by choosing a moderately large aperture. Considering this was just a 'test of concept' I find I like it more than I expected and look forward to doing more experimenting.

Compressor Plant Cylinder

You are looking at one of the cylinder heads in the compressor building. These contain the piston compressing gas for the pipeline to Calgary. They're about 18 inches across and three feet high - a tad bigger than your average modern car. The image works in black and white too but I quite like the contrast between the cool blue/black cylinder side and the bronze coloured fittings.

Editing consisted of some 20 adjustment layers, various curves, straight lines with the white point moved left, Akvis Enhancer toned way down and applied only to parts of the image, and the foreground really burned in.

These cylinders come 3 to a unit, driven by 600 horsepower engines, the building containing more than a dozen units (or 36 cylinders and 7200 h.p. of engine). That ought to supply natural gas to one or two houses...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

From Newfoundland, Sony A6000

Fortifications at Cape Spear


South Shore, Newfoundland


Memorial University Gardens

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Take Your Audience Where You Can Get It

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.

That's nice.

Black And White Vs. Colour At Turner Valley

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.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Pentax 645Z And Shutter Shake Updated

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.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Turner Valley Window

this is a slight crop of the full frame Pentax 645Z with the 120 mm. macro lens. I like the subtle detail of the building interior - hints only and nothing glaring.

Bag For Pentax 645z

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.

Turner Valley Doors

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.

Pentax 645Z, 35 mm. lens, f11, ISO 100

Monday, August 11, 2014

Michael Reichmann 20 Year Retrospective

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.

Strongly recommended.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pentax 645Z And Shutter Shake

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.

The difference?

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...

Turner Valley Continues

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Bin Bottom Redux

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.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Smugmug For Images

I have yet to find the ideal website. Rapidweaver did odd things with text so that what was lined up properly on my screen would overlap on other peoples' computers. Smugmug had been unattractive a few years ago, the site I had developed professionally looked good and worked well - but loading images is a pain (Joomla).

I now have the vast majority of my images at Smugmug and my newer images at this gallery.

The images are larger than ever before, and when you click on the images, can be seen on their own, with no thumbnails occupying half the screen. You can go through the images via the keyboard, using the left and right arrows.

I haven't found a convenient way to make Smugmug do everything I have on my website (eg. downloading pdf's) so for now, it's just a way to look at images conveniently.

100% Clip From Single Image, Pentax 645, 120 mm. Lens

This has only the sharpening that I used on the previous Nikon D800e in Lightroom, no additional sharpening in Photoshop.

Stitching With The Pentax 645Z (what was I thinking?)

Shot today with the Pentax 645z, and for my sins,  I couldn't help stitching it - after cropping, it's 22,000X8,000 pixels and took hours to process and edit. I had found an industrial refuse bin, lying on its front, and shooting into it, this would normally be the bottom of the bin - made with the 120 mm. lens. I actually shot it twice - once using a swing (and depth of field was no where near enough to compensate for the greater distance to either side) and later, shifting the tripod laterally so that focus was maintained (ie. distance to subject constant). There's tons of detail of course and I think that once I have finished editing, I'll get a large print made. This would be 26X73 inches at 300 dpi.

This was the side of a bin, with only about two feet between this and the next bin. I played with the 25 mm. lens but even with this, I could only include a small part of the subject. I decided to shoot it from the front, doing a 12 image focus blend to get the depth of field from left to right, near to far. Shot with the 200 mm. lens, the FA model, which I'm pleased to report, is sharp to the corners.

This is a reprint of the image made on Friday, aiming for better balance in the bottom third and bringing out some highlights in the upper third. Previously the right bottom was too dark, the left bottom too light, and not enough texture in the bottom right.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Print Size With Pentax 645Z

What we have here is normal sharpening in Lightroom, and additional sharpening in Photoshop, .6, 312, 0, 0 and we can see sharpening artifacts at 100% but this makes a very nice print at 41X75 inches (150 dpi), this from a two image stitch.

I don't know that I'm getting any more resolution with the Pentax compared to the Nikon D800e, what I can say is that I get it consistently which I didn't with the Nikon - everything had to be ideal - now I just fire away and can reasonably assume I'm going to get great results. This may not seem right, that  somehow I'm compensating for poor technique with more expensive equipment, but what I see happening is that with the Nikon, I could not always control every factor, and now I don't need to. Welcome to the real world of less than perfect lenses, less than absolutely still tripod and camera, and no wind, and , yes; absolutely perfect technique.

It reminds me of the days of trying for absolutely highest resolution with 35 mm. film, we'd shoot with high contrast copy film, processed in a compensating developer, and use only the best lenses in camera and under the enlarger, and yes, the results were sharp, though not always, and more often than not the prints were crap because the tools only really worked for a very limited selection of subjects and soft lighting. Switching to medium format produced images of a rich tonality across a variety of subjects and conditions that could not be reproduced in 35 mm.

The Pentax 645z is simply more reliable than smaller cameras when it comes to quality large images, and that's important to me.

Sulphur Plant, Turner Valley

Below is a 100% crop (see more of it by clicking on it) after all the edits - this includes stitching, stretching (Edit-Transform-Warp) and Akvis Enhancer, and gives you an idea of what happens when you manipulate a file like this. There is sharpening in Lightrooom (see below) as well as some additional sharpening in Photoshop before applying Akvis Enhancer (always do the sharpening before the Enhancing).

The clip below is the same sharpening I gave my Nikon D800e images in Lightroom,  58, .7, 70, 0

And below is 80, .7, 50, 0 - as this was shot at f16, more sharpening to compensate for diffraction is reasonable and perhaps a little more might still be ok.

and here we have 101/1/50/0 which goes a bit too far - though you'd neve see it in print.

Siding, Pentax 645Z, 25 mm. Lens

Turner Valley Reshoot

This is a reshoot from some 8 years ago, when my camera was a Canon 10D, 6 MP, and for years I have wanted to remake the image with a better camera and today got my chance. With a bit of help from Ken holding back branches that had grown over the scene since I was last there, I was able to make the image with the Pentax 645Z, 120 mm. lens.