Shooting Night Skys

With the recent meteor showers those of you that could stay up late (or get up early) not only had to deal with possible clouds but with all the light pollution we live with.  Thursday night I thought I would set up just in case I could try and catch a meteor or two after the moon went down.  I set up my camera on a tripod with a manual focus 8mm lens and tried some default setting that I had rattling around in my head.

ISO 1600 at F2.8 with a shutter speed of 30 seconds. My first exposures captured way too much of the leaking light pollution in the sky.  It was around 10:30 with the moon still in the sky.  I reset for a more reasonably ISO of 800 and a shutter speed of 15 seconds.  Looking at the back of the camera I was not seeing anything worth getting up at zero dark thirty for. Way to much light or so I though. So I just put it all away and gave up for the night.

When I finally got around to processing the image I was more than surprised to see how many stars I actually did capture. It did take a little fiddling in Lightroom to get the image to so itself but I was happy with the result.

It just goes to show that you need to practice, practice, practice. If I’d done this more than once or twice I would have known that it is possible to get the image and I should have stayed on it rather than giving up. Click on the image to see full sized.

 

Eastern Skys

Updates To Creative Cloud for Photographers

There have been updates to the Adobe Creative Cloud for Photographers.  Photoshop and Lightroom both have updates as well as Camera Raw for CC and Bridge. Camera Raw and Lightroom have additional new camera profiles. Bug fixes are also included and it looks like Photoshop now does not change to a white background on whim. At least I’m hopping that is true. Lightroom still does not have hardware acceleration on my 2011 27inch iMac.

 

 

Lightroom For HDR

Viewing Scott Kelby’s latest class on processing landscape images over at KelbyOne. Scott was discussing using the HDR processing feature that is fairly new to Lightroom. Scott suggested that you only need the over and underexposed images for Lightroom to process the image to an HDR.

After dinner tonight I thought I’d give it a try. The light was pretty disappointing and the subject matter was pretty plain but I did give me a chance to try out using just the over and under exposed images.

I set up the X-T1 with XF 10-24 wide angle lens on a tripod and made exposures at 2 stops over exposed and 2 stops under exposed and imported them into Lightroom.  There is not a lot of options to the the Lightroom HDR dialog.  For this exercise I used the Auto Tone option only.

The resultant image was rather interesting as the toning added 1.25 stops of exposure to the image which means that the 2 stops over and under where probably more than need.

20160802-_DSF4060-HDR-Edit

This was the final image. I did drop the exposure down to about +0.4 and set the white balance to warm up the image somewhat.  Then I used my standard Tonal and Pro Contrasts from Nik’s Color Effects Pro 4 by Google to punch up the image. The image does have a pretty good tonal range with the HDR.

20160802-_DSF4060The stop overexposed image.

20160802-_DSF4061And the 2 stop underexposed image.

I think I would like to try working with maybe a one stop underexposed and 1 2/3rds stop overexposed images. But it is a starting point.

The Importance of Getting the Shot

This image almost didn’t happen.  I alway try to get the camera shooting every day but was about to not have a shot for this day. It was a pretty unproductive Friday.  In fact, I was on the way home from picking up takeout and would have probably missed the shot if the stoplight had not changed just as I was approaching. Saw these clouds out of the car window and quickly grabbed the camera.

Kinda Blue

I was drawn to the small light cloud in the center of the image. I wasn’t really sure if the shots I took would turn into anything worth while but I needed to try.  Two quick shots and a bunch of post processing later and I had an image that I really liked.  Sometimes the lights align so to speak.

Patina

I like it when a camera starts to get the patina of use. The little wear marks near the flash shoe. A bit of loose material by the back buttons. It means that the camera is being used. The more you use the camera the better the images become.

Patina

I’ve had the Fujifilm X-T1 now for over 2 years. Shot a lot of images in that time. Some of which were good, most of which were part of the journey of discovering my eye. I shoot with a lot more confidence now. I have several really good lens and the X-T1 provides some stellar capturing. I am starting to be able to capture what I see. And my camera shows it’s been used. If you look closely at the 4 way pad at the bottom right of the image you might see where I got a little bit of crazy glue in the workings when I tried to paste down the bit of leatherette near there. I was able to scrape out the excess and get the button back to working.

So if you camera seems a little too pristine, if your confidence level seems to be lacking, spend a little more time pulling the camera out of the bag and give it a little wear and tear.

Oh yeah and another good tip is to get some good closeup shots of your cameras and lenses.  You be amazed at how much dust and junk you find that you really couldn’t see unless you get real close.  A good cleaning every once in a while doesn’t hurt.

Finding The Settings For Fireworks

I think I found at least 10 different online articles on how to shoot fireworks in the weeks leading up to the Forth and I read them all.  My previous fireworks images were ok but I really wasn’t satisfied with the outcome. I was always overexposing and changing the shutter speeds or going to bulb mode was not getting results that I loved.  I think it was reading Joe McNally’s post on shooting fireworks that filled in the missing piece to getting the shots. More on that later.

Frankly I wasn’t going to shoot fireworks on the Fourth.  I live half a mile from the baseball stadium where the minor league Brevard Manatees where having a double header followed by fireworks. The problem with after game fireworks is you have no guarantee exactly when the fireworks will start. Last week I sat waiting for the end of the game only to have it go into extra innings.  The bugs came and carried me away before the first firework was lit.

So on the evening of the Fourth I was going to watch the Disney Fireworks live streamed on the Disney Parks blog instead of standing around waiting for the end of a game. So just before 9 I checked on the score and by surprise the game had just finished (Manatees won). I decided at the last minute to try and get some shots.  This is not the Master Photographers Approved plan for shooting fireworks.

The common theme in all the instructional posts was plan ahead. I think I had all of 7 minutes to get things set up. Setting up included pulling out the tripod and attaching the XF 50-140 F2.8 lens that I wanted to use, mounting the camera, Setting all the settings, getting out the front door and figuring out exactly where to setup to get the fireworks over the houses between me and the stadium.

The setting to use for fireworks are basically.

  1. Set to lowest native ISO. (Mine is 200).
  2. Manual Focus (try to set focus somewhere near infinity).
  3. Shutter Speed (try 4 seconds).
  4. Set Aperture to f8 (for starters).

The last point is where I was going wrong.  The f8 was not the right settings.  Because it’s dark you think you need a more open aperture to get in enough light. This I found to be the wrong thinking.  Fireworks are bright.  I was constantly overexposing at f8.  On the Fourth I stopped down my lens to F14 and probably could have gone to F16 to get the images presented here as I did have to move the exposure down a full stop in Lightroom.

Images were from my Fujifilm X-T1 with the XF 50-140mm f2.8 WR OIS zoom. I was zoomed out to the max of 140mm for these shots. Raw images were processed in Lightroom using the Fujifilm Standard/Provia camera profile and a bit (or more) of twiddling the dials .

July 4, 2016

July $th, 2016

20160704-_DSF3307

So I’m glad I decided to give it one more try. The lesson learned here is to really think why the image went wrong. I’m talking about the technical side. If the exposure is wrong at 4 seconds it is going to take a lot of adjustment to add or remove one stop (8 seconds or 2 seconds) for the shutter but adding one/removing one stop using the aperture ring gives the same result by keeping the lens open long enough to capture the full firework explosion. And remember that if you get off track center yourself on a known set of parameters and if you must fiddle, only fiddle with one setting.

Moose Peterson on Waiting

Excellent example of what 5 minutes can do for an image. The second image has a lot more punch Link.

Of course there are times when if you don’t get it right when the light is right then you don’t get it at all.  There are no guarantees that the second image will be better than the first.

Monitors and Calibrations

If you are not calibrating your monitor on a regular basis you need to start doing it now. Even if you are only producing jpg’s for web pages you need to calibrate. Computer monitors (was well as TV screens and projectors) can lose their ability to display colors correctly as they age. Luckily they have profiles that can tweak output so that it produces accurate colors. A calibration device uses hardware and software to build a profile that will adjust for aging and keep the display showing the correct colors. The calibration device can be a colorimeter or spectrophotometer. The colorimeter is the less expensive of the devices. I recently found out that colorimeters as spectrophotometers will “wear out” after a time. Colorimeters can not be re-calibrated but spectrophotometers can be sent back to the factory for a re-calibration.

I’ve just upgraded to the Datacolor Spyder5Pro. I’ve been calibrating my monitors since the Spyder2Pro  so I’ve been using Datacolor’s calibration devices for quite a while. The Spyder5Pro is a colorimeter and I would not worry too much about it getting old as Datacolor seems to bring out an upgraded unit about every two years. The cost of their units are usually under $200 and if you keep your eye out the do have some very good sales from time to time.

In a nutshell the Spyder5Pro software displays colors of known value that the colorimeter reads to determine if an adjustment should be made. The total of the adjustments are stored in a profile that the computer reads in on startup to adjust and display the images and everything else on the monitor.

Besides the calibration is the capabilities of the to display all or some of the possible billions of colors. I don’t want to get into color spaces too deeply as there are a lot of big words like gamma and color temperatures and so forth. Most monitors display in the sRGB color space which is a smallish space. Colors that are outside of the color space are converted to something along the edge of the space. Colors inside the color space can be displayed accurately on a calibrated monitor.

The sRGB colorspace really does work quite well for most computer displays. When you think back to the CGA days of monitors where there were only 4 colors, present day monitors are pretty remarkable.

Once the Spyder5Pro software and hardware finishes calibrating a monitor it displays the results of the calibration as a plot of the actual accurate colors displayed against the standard sRGB color space. I’ve tracked the three different monitors I use and discovered that my little MacBook Air 13″ (mid 2013 model) does not have that great a color range. It is only 44% the sRGB space. In comparison my mid 2011 model iMac 27inch actually covers the sRGB colors space with a little to spare. It kind of makes me wonder about people that do their main image processing on a small screen. Granted the new 4k monitors will do a better job.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 3.10.54 PM
Results of calibration MacBook Air (mid 2013)
Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 4.19.38 PM
Results of calibration of iMac (mid 2011)

I recently added a BenQ SW2700PT 27″ Color Accurate Monitor for Photography. This monitor will display the the full AdobeRGB color space which is a much bigger space. For the price this monitor is really good as most other AdobeRGB monitors are four times the price.   I’ve had some queries as to if the BenQ can support the full AdobeRGB color space and the results of my calibration proves it can.  Note:  You should have your camera set to output in the AdobeRGB space even if you only have sRGB monitors. Printers and some other output devices can make use of the additional information from the larger color space.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 4.10.45 PM

As to how often you calibrate your monitors you could do it daily if you are doing mission critical printing, but for the rest of use once or twice a month it probably good. If you like to sit around on a Saturday morning with a cup of caffeine you could make it a ritual to do a calibration.

This is not so much a review of the Spyder5Pro (it is good at calibrating your monitors) as a discussionof the need to get your monitors calibrated. Luckily it’s not when pianos were analog and needed a third party to come in an tune it for you.

20160618-_DSF2859
Spyder5Pro

Dreams versus Real Images

I just spent the last hour (maybe more) looking at cameras. I started at eBay looking at cameras similar to my newly acquired old Yashica A twin lens reflex camera.

Yashica
Yashica-A Film Camera Produced from 1959-1969

I always wanted one of these cameras even if I’ve left the film world behind. It does look good on the bookshelf.  I purchased a roll of 120 film and prepaid developing envelope for $20 which is almost as much as I spent on the camera. This is why I do digital while the cameras cost much more the image making costs next to nothing.

Anyway, I started looking at the Yashica’s on eBay and found myself soon searching for the more expensive Rolliflex Twin Lens cameras that the Yashica was modeled after.

The Yashica and the Rolliflex are 120 roll film so they have a bigger negative.  With the bigger negative you get more resolution. With more resolution you get better images.  You know the drill.   I was soon searching for Hasselblad cameras which were better still. I then switch to the medium format digital Hasselblad’s and soon was looking at a new Hasselblad kit with a 100mp back and a price tag very near the price of my new car.

I was after that all inclusive better resolution which would make my images oh so much better. Better camera, better pictures yada yada. I was on the slippery slope.

I finally shut down the browser and came back to reality where I re-affirmed for myself that I do have plenty of camera now and I have nowhere exceeded it’s possibility for taking good images.

If I work at it I can get the light right, get the exposure right, processed correctly, and produce an image the will stand up to scrutiny.  Case in point this image of my Tesla Watch (i can tell you were to get one if you really need one).

The Tesla
Tesla Watch Fujifilm X-T1 XF 50-140mm F2.8

This image meets all my expectations for a well processed image.  So while it may be good to once in a while dream about using a monster camera with a monster price tag, it pays to  work at using the camera you have and getting it right, right now.

The Lens I Didn’t Need

Then there was the lens that I didn’t think I needed. I seem to have acquired quite a number of the Fujifilm XF lenses.  I was pretty sure I had all my bases covered from the very nice wide angle XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS and finishing up with the monster Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR.

It took a long time to convince myself to buy the Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR lens because I had the XF 18-55 F2.8-F4 kit lens which was pretty close in range as well as aperture and was reasonably sharp.  For a kit lens it is one of the best of any brands. I also have the XF 18-135 Having amassed a number of points on one of my credit cards allowed me to buy the lens without the normal $1k plus price tag.  So one day it showed up at my door. (It followed me home dear, can I keep it?).

Having used it for the last few months I have to say I now understand why so many professional photographers say that a 24-70mm F2.8 lens is their go to lens.  The XF 16-55mm is the APC equivalent of the full frame 24-70 and it is a stunning lens.

The lens performs so well it pretty much doesn’t come off my camera unless I’m using the XF 100-400mm telephoto.  The 16-55mm is incredibly sharp, has great contrast, color rendition, and just performs in all conditions. I’ve gone from not thinking I needed it to it being the lens that is always on my X-T1.  

Fountain
Epcot Detail Morroco World Showcase

The other day I made a quick trip over to Epcot and realized that I only needed the one lens for any type of shooting I would do there. On previous trips to Walt Disney World I would take along at least 3 lenses,  The XF 18-135mm, the XF 60mm, and the XF 35mm F1.4.  While the Fuji system is compact and weighs a lot less than my previous (well I still have it but it hasn’t got much use) system, It still was more weight that I didn’t want to carry.  So out came all the other lenses and I began traveling light.

It took me a lot of time to realize what should have been obvious.  Always get the best glass you can. I think I may have heard one or two pro’s mention that.  If you want to take the best pictures go with the “Pro” lenses like the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR and the Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR which I will have to discuss in another post.

Stories
Epcot Detail Japan World Showcase

There have been some gripes about the XF 16-55mm not being a OIS (stabilized) lens but I haven’t had any issues with that. I tend not to try and shoot in too many low light situations.  It does have a bit of reach when zoomed and it not the lightest lens by any means. On my X-T1 it is well balanced and I don’t have any issues carrying it around all day. One thing I’ve noticed is that the “Pro” lens like the XF 16-55mm and the XF 50-140mm is that the are much more contrasty in the mid-range than the lesser lenses.  You will find you need a lot less sliding of the Clarity slider when processing your images.

For a lens I didn’t think I needed it spends a lot of time on my camera. Getting the best glass is just common sense.

 

XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR
Fuji X-T1 with XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR