Category Archives: Learning curve

Fringing removal – Processing Private Mentoring

Being a fine art photographer (and a scientist) means that you have a high attention to details. Sometimes it’s a gift, sometimes it’s a curse. But it’s mostly a gift πŸ™‚
It’s almost like having OCD for me at times, and it sure does feel like it when I process my images to allow extremely large printing.

This is what makes the difference between an average photograph and a hit! Here you see the image before and after removing fringes (respectively), zoomed in at 500% :

Sans titre-1 copie

Sans titre-2 copie
If you want to learn how to process images that will WOW people, send me a message and we’ll organize private mentoring sessions.

Testing the Sony FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS for long exposure photography

IMG_20150417_145332I was very fortunate to get my hands on a Sony FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS and could not help but test it for long exposure.

You will see below some straight out of camera shots, as two new images that I was able to process. This is not meant to be a full review of the lens, more of a road test to see how well it works for long exposure photography.

General Comments: First of all, let me say that the lens is HUGE! It takes 95mm diameter filters, and feels very sturdy and smooth when using it. It also has a nice foot to mount it directly on a tripod head, which is a nice addition. I never used it though, because my setup was steady enough that I was not bothered by vibrations, however big the lens is.

A quick snapshot of my bag with the lens inside, together with the very nice 16-35 f/4:

IMG_20150417_124539

One tip for doing long exposure: no matter the camera or lens, I ALWAYS wrap my setup with a cloth to avoid light leakage from the sides of the mount or lens. I used this lens in the same way, and you’ll see below that I had no diffraction issue: mission accomplished πŸ™‚

 

IMG_20150412_165545

Un-processed images: Now let’s look at a few “almost SOOC” images: (almost because some have been stitched)

DSC01342_adj copieEXIF: 28-135mm @28mm, f/8, ~8 minutes, ISO 50, ND16 Firecrest filter

Panorama sans titre2 copieEXIF: 2 images after stitching, 28-135mm @45mm, f/8, ~4 minutes each image, ISO 50, ND16 Firecrest filter

DSC01425 copieEXIF: 3 images after stitching, 28-135mm @72mm, f/8, ~3 minutes each image, ISO 100, ND16 Firecrest filter

Β Pretty good, right? πŸ™‚

Final images: Now let’s see a couple images after processing:

DSC01425 copie_resizeEXIF: 3 images after stitching, 28-135mm @72mm, f/8, ~3 minutes each image, ISO 100, ND16 Firecrest filter

DSC01509 copie_resize EXIF: 3 images after stitching, 28-135mm @80mm, f/8, ~3 minutes each image, ISO 100, ND16 Firecrest filter

 

Conclusion: I have made up my mind. Even if the lens is mostly made for video, it’s an amazing piece of hardware, including for long exposure. The constant f/4 aperture is also a great treat. I am going to make this lens a permanent addition to my gear!

As usual, don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions below or in PM.

Building a technical camera – Part III

20150404_183123Step Three of Building a technical camera: milling out part of the back element

Good news! I was able to modify the back element of the Fuji GX camera that I took apart some time ago (see here for details about taking this guy apart).

Did I mention this project is VERY exciting? Yes? Well, I’m even more excited, and using power tools is something I really enjoy.

And so I was really happy to use a milling machine (see picture higher; big fancy machine) in order to remove parts of the back element of the camera in order to make a nice platform I will use to fix a rail for left/right (pano) movement.

ATTENTION: I would like to stress out that you should not use power tools and machine aluminum (or any other material for that matter) yourself if you do not know how to use such tools. They are extremely dangerous if not used properly, and they can injure badly, or worse… So please be careful, and let the “pros” handle them πŸ™‚

As a reminder, you’ll find below the picture of the camera “skeleton” showing with red arrows the parts of the back element that need to be removed (milled):

Sans titre-1 copie

You will see in the next few photographs the part after milling. For those who are not familiar with machining, you can see where I removed metal because it looks all shiny / silver. As I mentioned before, I had to remove the posts for the screws entirely, as well as some of the front and back vertical stands to make a nice leveled platform.

Let me point out that the level must be as close to perfection as possible, if one want to ensure movement in the horizontal plane rather than having a left/right shifted image that will be higher or lower than the previously shot image.

20150404_183158 20150404_183140 20150404_183130Let’s do a comparison of before and after milling:

11046131_10153153202593485_1501836423_o20150322_130154 20150322_130218Next step:

Fix the rail system where you can see the nuts in the last two pictures. This rail will be used in order to shift the camera left and right in order to make panoramas. This is another very delicate step, as the rail needs to be perfectly parallel to the stands of the back element (that is perfectly perpendicular to the optical axis), unless it will introduce a change in the position of the sensor plane while shifting, therefore leading to unwanted blur in the final image.

Conclusions:

1/ I had lots of fun milling the back part of the Fuji camera. Making chips and machining using tools like a milling machine is incredibly fun, but you have to be very careful and need to know what you’re doing, so PLEASE don’t do it yourself if you have not been taught how to.

2/ Now that’s it, even if I wanted to go back and put the camera in it’s original state I could not. I am not overly concerned the project won’t work, but when you take one like this you have to keep in your mind you may waste a lot of money and time. But it’s a risk I’m willing to take because it’s fun, and also because the goals are well worth the risks πŸ˜‰

3/ You have to plan well in advance about the next steps you’ll take, if only because you have to order parts which may come from China and take time to get there. I have to admit I am better advanced than I’m showing right now, and things are looking good for now.

Building a technical camera – Part II

20150322_125637

Step Two of Building a technical camera: taking apart a GX680

For those of you who did not see my first post about it, you can find it here. In a few words, after many discussions with my photographer friend Satoru Murata, I decided to throw myself into a new project: building a technical camera that I can use to mount almost any lens on a Sony a7/II/R/S body, much like the Cambo Actus system, but on the cheap side.

Getting to it now. You will find higher and below a few pictures of the (very functional) Fuji GX6800 III I bought recently and took apart these last few days…

Scary, right? πŸ™‚

Because it was the first time I took one apart, I actually ended up removing more parts than I should have, but I guess it does not matter too much since I’ll show you next that I basically milled (cut out with a power tool) entire parts of the camera (already done) and I’m now too committed to go back and put things back together.20150322_125815

To get to the bare minimum of the camera (front, back elements and railing, see the terrible phone picture below), all I needed to do was de-attach the bellows from the front and back elements, and mostly to unscrew and remove the camera body (back element) from the railing system.

11046131_10153153202593485_1501836423_oThe idea now is to keep the front standard as is, because it has all sorts of movements (tilt, shift, swing) for the lens. However, I want to modify (mill) the back element in order to remove the different parts with red arrows on the picture below: a couple of posts that were used to screw the body on and the front and rear metal parts on which it rested.

The goal is to create a platform on which I can fix a 2-way rail. This rail will eventually be used as a support for the camera board and it will allow for left/right shifting of the camera (great for shooting panos, blue arrows on the picture below).

Sans titre-1 copieI’m also thinking about adding swing to the back of the camera. The way I see it, it will require a precision rotating stage (similar to what can be found in science labs doing optics), but I’m having issues finding something cheap and precise enough. Ideally, it also has to be about 1 to 2 inches (~25-50mm) in diameter and I would like to have: a knob to rotate the stage, and one to lock in it place. It also needs to handle 3-4 pounds (~2kg) of weight. If you have suggestions, please fire away!

Conclusions of this part:

1/ Taking this guy apart was easy peasy, and probably the most straightforward part of the project. I can’t stress enough that I’m happy I’ll never have to put the Fuji back together. It seems now that I have multiple small parts all over my work table, and I have no clue where most of them would go πŸ™‚

2/ Next part is using a milling machine to reduce some of the back element in order to create a nice resting platform. I’ll show you some pictures of this step, but if you are not familiar with how to work these machines, please don’t go ahead on your own repeating what I’ll do. You can get hurt. Badly. If not worse.

3/ If you are aware of where to acquire new or used (small 1 to 2” dia) rotating stages (with a precision adjustment knob and able to carry ~3-4 pounds), please shoot me a message. I am currently designing the next steps, and would love to get my hands on one. Worse case scenario, I’ll start with a prototype that does not have swing if I can’t find one.

4/ As usual, if you have questions or ideas, send them my way!

Till next time!

Upcoming Long Exposure Workshop in Maine

flyer-4 copyWell, seems like it took me a little longer than expected to share it, but behold! πŸ™‚

I am glad to announce that I will be mentoring a workshop with Satoru Murata in Maine March 28-29.
You will learn how to shoot and process unique and breathtaking long exposure seascape photography, and we will visit 5 of the most iconic lighthouses of the Portland and Rockland areas.
This workshop is supported by some of the major players in the industry: @Sony, Formatt-Hitech, SmugMug, Mirex and HCam.de, so be prepared for some surprises!

Places are limited to 8 in order to give you the best experience possible, and the first two to register will have a 10% discount.
Attendees are welcome to register to any or both days of the workshop.
Sunrise and sunset options are also available.

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So check out the details and program here:
http://www.thibaultroland.com/Workshops
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And don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have questions!

For examples of what subjects we will shoot, take a look at my series:
http://www.thibaultroland.com/Beacon-of-Hope

Please feel free to share, thanks!

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BIG announcement tomorrow

Big announcement tomorrow!!
If you’re interested in seascape photography and want to learn how to shoot long exposures and produce breathtaking images, keep an eye out… and keep March 28-29 free πŸ™‚9N6A0402 copie_resize

Feature on Pullitzer Prize winner Brian Smith’s blog

brian_smith_featureI you want to learn more about my photography and the techniques and gear I use, check out the great feature that Brian Smith did of my work on his blog:

http://briansmith.com/long-exposure-photography-thibault-roland/

In this feature, I talk about my beloved Sony a7R camera and the different lenses I use, ranging from Canon to Mamiya and VoigtlΓ€nder. I also show my setup when taking tilt shift photographs and point you to the different adapters you can use to turn “old” medium format lenses into fully manual and inexpensive tilt shift beauties πŸ™‚

If you have questions on any of these aspects, please don’t hesitate to ask you questions below or on Brian’s blog!

Have a good read!

PS: of course, if you don’t know Brian’s work yet, please check it out ASAP!

New architectural photograph coming soon

10295073_10152794782118485_2926526480416932124_oI finally finished a long exposure image I’ve been working on for the last 3 weeks…
Iit’s a 6 photographs panorama that I took in Boston recently (each image is about 5 minutes exposure and 36MP, shot with my new @Sony β€ͺ#β€Ža7R‬ camera), that I stitched together in post to make a final file about 10,000 x 8,000 pixels, 16 bits.
After upgrading my computer system, I finally nailed it! I so needed fresh “blood” to handle 500MO tif files πŸ˜€
Will share soon~ish…

In the mean time, you see here an image representing the finished picture, with some of the hard selections I made in post-processing in Photoshop.
I know it’s pretty abstract right now, but if you look hard, the picture is there, I promise πŸ˜‰

In-Depth Review of the Sony FE 16-35 f/4 OSS Wide Angle Lens by Colby Brown

Sony-16-35-f4-fe-za-ossLensI just read a very interesting review by pro photographer Colby Brown (a fellow Artisan like me) of the soon to be shipped Sony FE 16-35 f/4 OSS Wide Angle Lens.

For people shooting Sony A7 bodies, it looks like to be a very nice solution to ensure weather sealing.

Some technical info on the lens:

  • Optics/Lens

    • Lens Mount Type : Sony E-mount (35mm full frame)
    • Lens Stabilization : Optical SteadyShot
    • Minimum Focus Distance : 11β€³ 0.28m
    • Lens Groups-Elements : 10 groups, 12 elements
    • Filter Diameter : 72mm
    • Lens Type : Full-frame E-mount Wide-angle Lens
    • Lens Weight : 18.3 oz (518g)
    • Aperture (Max.) : f/4.0
    • Aperture (Min.) : f/22
    • Maximum Magnification : 0.19x
    • Focal Length (35mm equivalent) : 16-35mm (35mm) 24- 52.5mm (APS-C)
    • Aspheric Elements : 5 aspherical, 1 advanced aspherical
    • Aperture Blade : 7 blades (Circular aperture)
    • Angle of View : 83Β°-44Β° (APS-C) 107Β°-63Β° (35mm)
  • Weights and Measurements

    • Dimensions (Approx.) : 3-1/8β€³ x 4β€³ (78 x 98.5mm)
    • Weight (Approx.) : 18.2 oz (518g)

Two intense weeks with the Sony a7R.

Those of you who followed my last trip know that I brought along my new Sony a7R camera. Before this trip, I was working exclusively with my Canon 5d Mark III and thought it was the best camera I could use for long exposure…

So it was a challenge at first for me to make the decision that I would mostly use the a7R for that trip. I was concerned that not being familiar with the system and might have issues while shooting and realize later that all my pictures were junk. I could not have been more wrong… but let me elaborate.

The gear I used during the trip:

Sony a7R

Sony Vertical Battery Grip for Alpha a7/a7R/a7S

Metabones Canon EF Lens to Sony NEX Camera Lens Mount Adapter Mark IV

Mirex Canon to Sony E mount tilt/shift adapter (for manual aperture control lenses)

Sony Wireless Remote Commander

– a bunch of Canon lenses including 24mm TS-E, 17-40mm f/4.0, 50mm f/1.2, 85mm f/1.2

My first impressions after I received the camera:

Initially, I thought that the camera itself was small, maybe too small, compared to my Canon 5d Mark III. But rapidly I realized the size and weight of the a7R was were actually a great advantage compared to my Canon. Smaller means lighter, and lighter means less strain when you carry it around, or that for the same weight you can pack up an additional lens. Cool!

On top of the obvious increase in resolution (36.4MP for the Sony a7R; 22.3MP for the 5D), another huge difference in my opinion the absence of anti-aliasing filter on the images. I was very curious about that point, I after shooting a few images, I want to stress out that they are EXTREMELY sharp, much more than the 5D. So much that I had no idea what my lenses were capable of until I used the a7R . Really impressive! (see images below)

My other first impression was “I still can’t believe this is a mirrorless camera, and I can attach any FF (or MF) lens I want. This is amazing!!” And true to its promises, with an adapter, I could mount all of my very precious tilt shift or fast lenses on it.

My third main focus was the back screen that can be oriented in almost any direction, and allows the photographer to shoot from very high, or very low, which is almost impossible with Pro Canon or Nikon cameras.

Field use:

My first day using the camera “seriously” was in Death Valley National Park, CA. As you can imagine, there are smarter ideas than going there in August, and it was 120+F (52+C), but I still braced myself, and thought it would be a test for both the machines and the man πŸ™‚ I spent almost two days in the area, and used my a7R most of the time. I have to say that I was very much impressed by the little guy. It worked very well, and looking back at the pictures from then I am surprised by the low noise level and very small number of “hot pixels”. One thing I should say is that after almost a full day under the unforgiving blazing sun, the a7R internal temperature was over 120F and the firmware shut the camera off to prevent it from burning white. Only solution for me, use the 5d instead and cool the a7R in the car with the A/C running.Β  I shot with my 5d for about 30 minutes until the a7R was ready to go, and the 5d turned extremely hot because of the insane heat. Here is a behind the scenes image of when that happened:

I need to state now that one of the things I like the most with the a7R is the Electronic ViewFinder (EVF). Some people say they don’t like it… well, especially for long exposure, I think it is amazing! Why? Two main reasons: 1/ no need to tape the viewfinder anymore to avoid diffraction, it’s electronic! 2/ I use the back screen a lot to setup my camera at the best spot, and it implies that the outside isn’t so bright that you can’t see a thing. With the EVF, you don’t have this issue anymore. You can just take a look with your eye stuck to it, reducing the ambient light to virtually zero, and use the zoom in function to digitally zoom on a detail and precisely focus on it. Something impossible on any other Pro SLR out there!

Along the trip, it became clear to me that another very important feature makes the difference between the 5d Mark III (and other high end cameras) and the Sony a7R. Only the a7R allows you to shoot at ISO 50. Why is that important? Because some day, the sky is just too bright to use exposure times longer than 2 minutes at ISO 100, even with 16 stops. Sure it’s rare, but it happens and why not have the advantage? But my main reason why I love the low ISO follows: if you want to shoot wide open with fast lenses or tilt/shit lenses, you’ll need to either increase the filter attenuation (sometimes not possible), or reduce the sensitivity of the sensor. Impossible when you’re stuck to ISO 100. Going down one stop to ISO 50 can make all the difference between an OK photograph, and a killer shot πŸ™‚

The one drawback of the camera to me is the absence of a counter during long exposure shooting like that of the 5D. This is not a big deal, since you’ll always have a watch or cell phone with you, but it would make things easier, especially that the screen at the back actually stays on during the acquisition. No doubt a firmware update should solve that issue and allow time to be shown on the screen in a future version.

Side note: you know I do long exposure, and use mostly tilt/shift lenses when I work. Being able to rotate, tilt and shift such lenses implies that they have cracks on them. And having cracks for long exposure photography is an issue since it will create diffraction patterns and ruin the photograph. This is the reason why every time you see a behind the scenes picture of my camera, it is wrapped in a cloth. Old school, but effective method πŸ™‚

A few test shots:

You will find here a few pictures I shot with the A7r during that trip. They are plain Raw images, with absolutely NO PROCESSING. To give a better idea of the quality, I also added a couple 100% crops of these images.

Bodie Ghost Town, CA:

DSC00554 copy

Yosemite NP, Vernal Falls, CA:

As you can see, the images rendered (again, raw with no adjustments) are very sharp, due to the absence of the anti-aliasing filter.

Please note that these photographs have been shot with my 24mm TS-E lens. They are two horizontal images (top, bottom) that have been stitched together. Exposure times of at least 4 minutes for each, and I used the new Firecrest Formatt-Hitech ND 16 stops filter. I will write another article later focused on this filter alone.

Verdict:

I would recommend the Sony A7r camera in a heart beat. It is a great camera for most subjects (with the exception of action shooting when using third party lenses), and especially for long exposure.

In my opinion, the a7R has a number of advantages compared to the competition that make all the difference: the EVF makes focusing much easier, especially in bright environments, and no need anymore to cover the viewfinder to avoid diffraction during LE. The size and lightness are also nice features, and above all, being mirrorless, the a7R can be used with any third party lens provided the right adapter (Nikon, Canon, or even medium format lenses!). Of course, that is without mentioning the absence of anti-aliasing filter, increased resolution, lower ISO, and the exciting new and future native lenses…

So seriously… what’s keeping you from switching over to Sony? πŸ™‚

 

Bonus:

As a bonus, here is one of the images I showed you before, fully converted to B&W:

Details: 24mm TS-E lens, two horizontal pictures stitched (top/bottom); f8; 275 seconds; ISO 50; 16 ND stops Firecrest from Formatt-Hitech.

For more photographs from that trip, or to order Fine Art prints, please follow this link to my website.