Monday, August 21, 2017

The eclipse in Florida with a Fuji X-T2

This is the moment of totality of the recent eclipse as it appeared in Florida. I took the photo with a Fuji X-T2 and 18-135mm Fuji zoom stopped down to f/22. I also used a 4-stop ND filter. This combo allowed me to work at a shutter speed that was fast enough not to burn out the camera. I collected a series of images from 1/125th second to 1/4000th second and chose to combine just two of them to achieve this image.  I also worked the lens at the wide angle end and cropped the image later. This minimized the amount of magnification of the solar rays hitting the camera.

I kind of made up this technique spur of the moment. Apparently, it worked. The camera came through the ordeal with flying colors!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Loxahachee Everglades with the Fuji X-T2

Today I made my first, brief trip to visit the Florida Everglades. I plan to do a number of special photography trips through the Everglades and Florida Keys including some aerials. Today's mission was just a brief foray into a local section called Loxahachee. I had several lenses and both my X-T2 and X-Pro2 with me, but for the photos below I used only the X-T2 and the 18-135mm zoom. One of the things I wanted to show was the relationship of the weather to the Everglades.

During the summer it is extremely hot and thunderstorms pass through the area almost daily making for some interesting cloud formations against a deep blue sky. I was shooting both RAW and jpg at the same time, as I always do, and had the camera set for Acros with a red filter to add drama to the sky by darkening the blues. I also shot to darken the shadows and increase the highlights. The results of the jpg files were still not dramatic enough so I processed the RAW files in Photoshop to enhance the images further. I began by using the same Acros with red filter profile in Adobe Camera RAW, but deepened the blues even more because I wanted the sky to go almost black in its darkest places.

I had considered adding a polarizing filter to darken the sky further, but that would have also killed the reflections on the water so in the end I voted against it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Night time aerials of Miami

I have been waiting for almost a month and a half to do some night time helicopter shots of Miami. Unfortunately, the weather hasn't cooperated, and thunderstorms kept moving in to spoil my trip. Two nights ago I caught a break. There were some thunderhead clouds on the horizon, but enough clear sky for the sun to break through to fill the sky with color. I had planned to do strickly night photos, but with such I beautifully colored sky, chose to depart ten minutes earlier, just after the sun set, to capture the color in the sky. Miami isn't like New York. It is not filled with as many discriptive buildings. Consequently, I felt it needed and earlier timing for a night shot to preserve color and detail in the water, which enhanced the shape of the city.

My technique for shooting night time aerials hand held from a helicopter is to set the ISO to Auto, open the lens to full aperture, and control the shutter speed manually. I then vary the exposure when necessary by adjusting the +/- exposure control on the camera. I try to keep the ISO as low as I can, which often means using low shutter speeds in the 1/60 - 1/125 range. I am usually using wide angle lenses, and this helps to allow the slower speeds. Nonetheless, helicopters, especially with the doors off, are vibrating quite a lot. To protect myself against motion blur, I choose a high frame rate and keep the shutter pressed for a long time to guarantee that at least one of the shots will be steady enough. Kind of a crazy techniques, but it works most of the time.

I usually try to use wide aperture primes of f/1.4 whenever I can. This helps keep the ISO down. On this occasion I was shooting Miami from the air for the first time and didn't know what to expect so I packed short zooms with their f/2.8 apertures on my cameras. This gave me a range of about 24-70mm focal lengths, but caused the ISO to get up in the 3200-6400 range -- not where I usually like to be.  Had I used my f/1.4 primes, I could have knocked two stops off the ISO by working at 800-1600 maximum instead. This makes a huge difference in image quality and sharpness.

My thanks to FlyNYon Miami for helping to arrange the scheduling for this flight. I have used their services in NYC and now am using them again in Florida.

On September 9th, I will be conducting an "Over Miami - Aerial Photography Workshop" for the Leica Academie. If you'd like to join me, you can check out the details here.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Working out a new style

Since moving to Florida, I continually find myself searching for new ways to interpret the landscape. The dramatic tropical plant life entices me to create strong, graphic interpretations of the tropics. This time around I explored a variety of techniques in Photoshop to achieve my results.

All the photos were taken with a Fuji Pro2 with the original Fuji 18-55mm zoom. I often use this compact and lightweight outfit when I want to have a camera with me, but don't have any specific plan to use it.  For these photos I was visiting a friend and found the tropical plants near their home. All were taken around sunset. For these images the Fuji film modes didn't come into play, as I did all of the variations of color work in Photoshop, mostly using gradient adjustment layers.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fireworks by the Sea - 4k video test with the Fuji X-T2

We watched a 4th of July fireworks last night from a beach in Delray, Florida. There was something quite mystical in hearing the sound of the ocean nearby and the fireworks off in the distance.  I had decided to do a 4K video of the fireworks with a Fuji X-T2 and the Fuji 55-200mm zoom. The variable aperture wasn't a problem because fireworks usually requires a fairly stopped down aperture.

When shooting fireworks, I always work in manual mode and make adjustments on the fly while monitoring the results in the LCD screen. The intensity of the fireworks varies tremendously during a display and can often wash out as smoke builds up. For most of the shooting, I kept the aperture and shutter speed set and varied the exposure by changing the ISO up or down. The ISO varied from 200-1600 at different times, but the average was around 400.

Below is a one of the sample videos along with some stills of the night time ocean I took before the event, along with some other stills I took of the fireworks themselves.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sometimes it's a matter of luck

I was away for the weekend and awoke to find a rainbow beam of light formed on a wall as the sun passed through some cut glass near the window. The colors were intense, but the background was white. Later, in Photoshop, I changed the wall to black to increase the intensity of contrast with the colors. The photo was taken with my Fuji X-T2 and 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom.

The colors did not last very long so I had to work fast. I have tried creating a shot like this in the studio but never arrived at anything I liked because the colors were never intense enough.  On this day, I just lucked out. Mother nature just created the scene for me.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Interpretations of a coming storm with the Fuji X-T2

For the entire month of June, thunderstorms have been passing through daily here in Florida. I've tried to schedule an evening helicopter shoot of Miami only to cancel the flights due to weather. Today I was out photographing with my X-Pro2 and my favorite do-everything lens, the Fuji 18-135mm. I began photographing with the sun blazing in the sky blasting out the image, and ended in a heavy downpour 20 minutes later. The photos below show the progress of this brief shoot. I did do some Photoshop work on all of the images in an attempt to emphasize the changes in the weather.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Slow motion video test with the Fuji X-T2

This test video was taken with the Fuji X-T2 set to HD1080/59.94p. It was edited later in Photoshop, and output as 29.97fps to slow it down.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fuji X-Pro2 Classic Chrome after a storm

A massive thunderstorm blew through my new Florida neighborhood in the early hours of the morning. It dwindled down to a light rain just after sunrise, and I went out to capture these images of the rain drops on nearby tropical plants. I used my Fuji X-Pro2 with the Zeiss 50mm Makro Planar lens. The images were processed in the Fuji Classic Chrome look, with a fairly strong "S" curve added in Photoshop to deepen the contrast and add a bit more punch to the muted colors.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Keeping it simple with the Fuji X-Pro2 and 18-55mm zoom

I love the vegetation I find here in Florida. So I always try to keep a camera handy to record it when the opportunity arises.  To keep things simple, I settled in on the Fuji X-Pro2 with the original 18-55mm zoom lens.  It doesn't give me the extensive coverage of my other favorite lens, the 18-135mm Fuji zoom, but it is convenient to carry around all the time and tuck into a bag when I don't need it.

Yesterday I happened upon this banyan tree with some vegetation growing around its base.  Its sculptural beauty looked like a perfect companion for the cameras Acros simulation, which is what I used to capture these images.  I did add my favorite platinum toning effect in post processing along with a vignette to deepen the tonality.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Working on a tan in Photoshop

Now that I am living and photographing in Florida, I'm also having to deal with many outdoor subjects in situations I didn't have to face much when photographing up north. Down  here I'll be doing a lot more of my outdoor work around pools and beaches. On a recent lifestyle shoot with one model, I photographed her in a pool. Looking at the shot later in Photoshop, I decided that her skin looked a little too light and also not tan enough. Enhancing a tan in Photoshop is not very difficult. There are many ways of doing it. I have a fairly simple solution I thought might be of interest. So here it is.

Above is the original image. I used the Quick Selection tool to make a select just the model's skin. The selection edges don't have to be perfect. Next, create a separate layer from the selection by pressing CTRL-J.

The skin layer should look like above image. We will use two adjustment layers to enhance both the color and darkness of the tan. These will be placed just above the skin layer. The first adjustment layer is Brightness/Contrast. Click on the small down-arrow at the bottom of the adjustment layer so that is will be only applied to the skin layer below it, and not to the over all image. You can adjust this layer to suit the about of darkness you want. I used a -41 on the brightness and +19 pm the contrast.  

Next add a Color Balance adjustment layer below the Brightness/Contrast layer so that both are being applied only to the skin layer below them. Enhance the tan color by increasing the Cyan/Red and Magenta/Green Midtones.  I used a +32 and +4 as shown below. 

The Layers menu below shows how I had the layers laid out. The little down-arrow on the left indicates that the adjustment layers will only act upon the skin layer immediately below them. You want to keep both of the adjustment layers active at the same time and adjust them in unison. Note also that I painted out some of the effect form some areas that were already a bit dark by painting with a soft black brush on the Brightness/Contrast layer.

The photo below is the completed image with a darker, even tan covering the model. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Over Manhattan with a Leica SL and 24mm Summilux lens

No sooner had I moved to Florida than I had to return to New York to cover a few assignments. One of the more interesting assignments was to teach a Leica Akadamie Workshop on night photography from a helicopter over Manhattan. After a hands-on afternoon course on the techniques of photographing from a moving helicopter with the doors off and the wind blowing, the whole class went aloft just after sunset to capture the city as the lights were coming on.

We lucked out with the sun breaking through the clouds at sunset to add some color to the sky. Participants were able to use the latest in Leica equipment on the flight, in addition to  carrying another camera of their own.

I wanted to try out the new Leica M10 and fit it with a fast f/1.4 aperture 24mm Summilux lens, definitely my favorite lens for this type of photography. The fast aperture keeps my ISO down and shutter speed high enough to freeze the motion from a handheld shot in a vibrating helicopter at night.

Below are some of the photos I took with my one camera/one lens outfit.

We may be doing a Leica Workshop like this again, both in New York and some other spots around the US. So stay tuned to Leica if you are interested in attending. The workshops have a tendency to sell out quickly.