I'm really liking the Kodak TMAX film. The detail looks great and it seems to develop easily, at least in the Kodak HC-110 I've been using. I have another roll that I'll be scanning this weekend that has a lot of shots from the recent Caffeine & Octane car show.
Most of the Fall colors are gone here in North Georgia. I think the peak was the last week of October. I've been very busy with everything except photography & time has slipped by so fast that Fall is almost over. I was looking to get out one more time when I saw a post from Travis Rhoads of a fantastic image he captured at Roswell Mill. I've lived in the area for almost 7 years but wasn't aware of this location. I Googled it and saw that it was pretty close to home so we ventured out there late Saturday afternoon hoping there would be some color left. Well, there was some color but things were obviously past the peak. I still managed to get a few good shots of the mill and surrounding area. Here's my take on capturing the mill's falls, composed of 3 images processed in HDR & Color Efex:
I took my Rolleicord as well and got a couple images on Kodak Portra 400 film which I should be able to process/scan this coming weekend.
Sometimes you need to get down real low to capture the shot. This past week we spent some time visiting family. My Brother has a three year old son who sees "Uncle Mark" as the perfect plaything. I spent a lot of time with him, playing with everything from puzzles to toy trains. Here's a shot of his train set that I tried to capture at his level:
For my 49 year old body, getting down to three inches off the floor was a bit of an effort but it gave me a more interesting perspective on my Nephew's train set.
We really enjoyed the family time. Our Niece and nephew are changing so fast that each time we see them they are completely different people. I'm glad I'm able to capture their progress whenever we see them.
I got out with my "new to me" Olympus OM-1 this past Saturday and shot nearly a full roll of film (Kentmere 100) as a test of the camera. I was dying to try out the camera so I took a short walk over to a cemetery (bad joke, I know) near the house that has a lot of old grave-sites in it. This cemetery was where I took one of the earliest shots with my vintage Rolleicord, of a confederate soldier's grave. It wasn't the best light for making photographs but I wasn't really concerned about that as I was more interested in learning how to use the camera and making sure it worked. Here's an image of the developed negatives:
As I said above, the light was terrible and this was my 1st time using the Kentmere film, so I didn't quite know what to expect as far as developing went. I scanned in a few of the images to see what I got. Here's some images.
As we were walking to the cemetery I came across this sign:
I got this shot pretty much dialed in. The focus seems to be good, and you can see our reflection in the button!
A little while later we made it to the cemetery, where I shot the majority of the roll.
This is the grave of P.V. Singleton. I made a photograph of this same headstone last October when I got my Rolleicord: I think this image came out pretty well, especially considering the light. I need to get used to the focusing on the OM-1 but the result was pretty good.
Here's another headstone in the cemetery, appropriately named the "Singleton" cemetery. Nearly all the graves are of Singletons or what appears to be their extended family. I did a little better with the composition and sharpness in this one.
Some Quick Impressions
Now that I've used the Olympus OM-1 I feel very good about my decision to purchase the camera. The camera seems to operate exactly as it should. It is a well-built piece of equipment with a nice, solid feel to it. When you press the shutter there is a satisfying "click". All the switches and dials are tight and move with a purpose. The whole camera has a great "mechanical" feel to it that I don't think any DSLR can ever hope to replicate. That's one of the reasons I enjoy using these vintage cameras, because of their solid build and purposeful operation.
The lenses I got with the camera appear to be in very good shape as well. One thing that is a little different on this camera is that the shutter speed "dial" is on the lens itself, rather than on the camera body. It will take me some more time to get used to that but I don't see it as a negative, just different.
All in all, after shooting about 30 images with the camera, I'm a happy camper :-) The Olympus OM-1 is a fine example of analog camera equipment and I am looking forward to using it. I may do a more in-depth review of the camera after I've had some more time with it. Until then, if you are looking to try your hand at analog photography and want a single lens reflex camera, the Olympus OM-1 should be on your list!
Back in October, 2011 we took a trip out West to visit Death Valley, Las Vegas and Zion. I know, I know, it's only been 22 months :-) but I finally got around to seriously looking at a bunch of images from that trip. We saw so many beautiful things during the 10 or so days we were out there that I've had a hard time sorting through all the images I shot.
One of the first images that caught my eye was one that I captured during the pre-sunrise "Blue Hour" at Zabriske Point. We got up real early and drove up the Zabriske from the hotel we were staying at in Furnace Creek. Having never been to Zabriske Point before, I wanted to be sure I got there early enough to pick my spot since it is a very popular sunrise shooting location. Sure enough, when we arrived at 5:30 AM (a full ninety minutes before sunrise) the parking lot already had quite a few cars in it. I was still able to stake out what I thought would be the best spot and then began the waiting game.....
Finally, at just after 6:30 AM there was the faintest amount of light just starting to peek over the Eastern horizon (which is at my back). I started snapping off images and the one you see below was one of the better ones I captured:
This was taken at 6:39 AM, right at the end of the official "Blue Hour" but as you can see in the image, there is definitely a good amount of that beautiful bluish light that makes this time of day so magical. The exposure was 4 seconds at f/8 and ISO 100. The focal length was 55mm. I used the Canon "kit" 18-55mm lens that came with the camera and I'm very happy with the results.
If you want to learn more about when you can use the blue hour to your advantage you can visit the Blue Hour Site to get an idea of when the Blue Hour will occur at just about anyplace you can find yourself. There are also Apple and Android apps that will help you. If you haven't yet experimented with shooting at his time of day you owe it to yourself to try it out.
Last night, I hosted the July 18th edition of the "Photo Share and Discussion" on Google + Hangouts:
Remember to join the Mark's Photography Spot group on Flickr to submit your images so we can talk about them.
I am also working on a film-related project that I hope to be ready to reveal in the next week or two. So dust off those old film cameras and stay tuned for more details :-)
Street photography is something I haven't done a lot of but I would like to get better at it. I like the idea of using my vintage Rolleicord to capture the scenes of the city. Yesterday was the 2nd anniversary Google Plus Photo Walk. Here in Atlanta, about 40 of us got together at Centennial Park and took a stroll through the Fairlie Poplar district. For this photowalk I brought my vintage Rolleicord Va as well as my T3i DSLR. I hoped that I could get some decent "street" photography using the Rolleicord.
I went through 2 twelve-exposure rolls of film during the walk. That yielded about 10 "keepers" that I am working through. Here is one of the first few that I managed to get scanned and processed:
This shot was a little hard for me to compose and shoot. The combination of the fixed focal length of the Rolleicord, the square format of the negative and a bunch of extraneous "stuff" to the right of the barber pole made placing the elements I wanted to include in the photograph a little challenging. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out the best position that would allow me to highlight the barber pole as well as get some of the entryway and reflections in the image.
In the end I chose the composition you see here. Unlike digital shooting film each exposure costs you real money (about 50 cents in this case), so I only took one exposure here. I think it came out pretty well.
Shooting film requires a different approach than shooting digital and that's one of the things I enjoy most about it.
When people think of Death Valley, they think desert, lots and lots of hot, dry, unrelenting desert. While that is mostly true, there is an oasis in the desert, at the far Western edge of the park, and it's called Darwin Falls:
I captured this image on our trip to Death Valley back in October, 2011. We spent a few days there and saw a lot , but not a large percentage, of this huge National Park. To get to Darwin Falls we had to take a pretty rough road for a few bone-jarring miles to the trail head and then hike a ways in. We were the only ones there and it was a perfect Fall day with temperatures around 80 degrees. I set up the camera and tripod in the marshy area just below the falls and played around with settings and composition until I got the water the way I wanted it. I didn't have a ND filter so I had to go with a pretty small aperture in order to get the shutter speed long enough to give the water some "flow".
Death Valley is an awesome place and I will be getting back there as soon as I can to explore more of its beauty. In the meantime, I have lots more images from the trip to work through and share with you.
Here's another image from our recent trip out to Colorado that shows the power of using HDR in creating a landscape photograph. This one is of Red Canyon at Colorado National Monument: I took this about 50 minutes before "official" sunset but the Sun was already pretty low in the Western sky (left side of the image) and it was highlighting the canyon walls and the clouds above the canyon. The colors of the canyon were starting to appear but so were the shadows at the bottom of the canyon (especially on the left side). I wanted to show the entire canyon as I saw it and with the depth of the canyon, the bright clouds and the differences in lighting between the West and East walls of the canyon I knew it would be next to impossible to get anywhere close to a proper exposure with just one image.
The only way to do it was by bracketing my shots. I did 3 shots (-2,0,+2) and dumped the brackets into HDR Efex Pro2 to get this result, which comes very close to what Pam and I saw that evening.
Another win for HDR landscape photography!
In my short time as a "serious" photographer I have come to embrace HDR (high dynamic range) photography and am quickly becoming convinced that HDR is the perfect tool for landscape photographers. Based on my experience so far, HDR seems to be the best way to as accurately as possible reproduce the wide range of lighting that seems to most often be present while shooting outdoor landscapes. Our eyes are much better than the camera's sensor at balancing out the dynamic range of a scene, so my goal with most landscapes is to use the camera to reproduce what my eye sees as realistically as possible. And, because of the wide dynamic range of many scenes, some type of exposure bracketing combined with HDR processing seems to be a great way to accomplish that goal. Let me use a set of images from our just completed trip to Colorado to demonstrate:
Here is the series of three bracketed shots I took at the West portal of the Eisenhower Tunnel, which goes under the mountains at the continental divide (at an altitude of over 11,000 feet) just West of Denver. It was a fairly sunny day and that combined with the snow and darkness of the tunnel entrance indicated to me that HDR might be a good option.
Here's the first image (zero exposure compensation). This is typical of what most people would get if they took their camera, focused on the tunnel, and pressed the shutter:
As you can see in the above image, it was a pretty bright day and there was a wide range of light, from pitch black in the tunnel to blazing bright white on the snow. The camera's metering system did an OK job at best with this and the image would qualify as a "snapshot" and not a photograph in my opinion. You can tell what the subject is and make out that there is snow in the background and some kind of dirt in the foregroud. But beyond that, the rest of the details are hard to make out. There are probably thousands of images like this on people's computers and in their vacation photo albums.
Here's the second image (2 stops underexposure):
This image shows what happens when the camera underexposes by 2-stops. The tunnel just about loses all detail and becomes one big shadow but the road and snow take on a lot more detail. You can make out some of the dirt and grime on the snow, the shadows caused by the clouds on the snow, and the sand in the foreground actually looks like sand.
One last image, this time overexposed by two stops:
The third shot, over exposed by 2 stops, is needed in order to capture the details that are hiding in the dark parts of the scene. The foreground sand and background snow are blown out and almost pure white. But the details of the tunnel come into view. Compare this image to the first one (taken at "normal" settings) and you will see that the tunnel has stoplights in it (red on the left and green on the right). Also the windows above the tunnel tubes reveal more structure and the doors in the middle of the tunnel become apparent.
Now it's time to work some magic and combine the three images into one cohesive, detailed photograph using HDR software. I use Nik's Color Efex Pro 2 (which I can highly recommend) to generate the final image but you can use any number of HDR applications or plugins:
Big difference, huh? :-) Compare this final image to the first one at the top of this post (the snapshot) and you will see a HUGE difference. Getting to this final image took a little work and experimentation with the various settings in HDR Efex Pro (and I have more learning to do) but I think I got it pretty darn close to what my eyes saw that day when I parked the rental car at the top of the pass, got out and looked back at the tunnel we had just come through. It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the brightness of the scene but once they did I was able to make out the details inside the tunnel, see the dirt on the snow behind/above the tunnel and make out the details of the tire tracks in the sand right in front of me.
If I had just taken out my DSLR and snapped a quick photo I would've never captured all of that. All it took was a little bit of foresight, three bracketed images, a tripod (get one now!), and a bit of time with some specialty software in order to create this final image.
I think the final result is well worth the effort and I will continue to use HDR, whenever I can, to create realistic photographs of landscapes (and just about anything else) that represent what I saw with my eyes at the moment I captured the image(s) with my camera.
If you are looking to create realistic Landscapes with your digital camera and aren't using the power of HDR, you might want to give it a go and see what happens. I think you'll be happy with the results!