Monday, August 31, 2009

Rebecca at a Crombie McNeill Workshop at the Mill of Kintail

Another Mill of Kintail installment. Just as a reminder, this is a Crombie McNeill workshop and the models are all from Barrett Palmer Models. Rebecca is a very pretty, light skinned, blonde model. I only saw her a couple of times at this workshop, but I managed to snap a few images while others were managing her poses.

I did ask for a few poses of my own, but did not end up using them.

The first time I saw her was at the Mill of Kintail site. I had finished with Sam and Marcus down at the water and was walking back up to the buildings when I saw some of the fellows shooting Rebecca sitting on a rock in the stream.

I processed a pair of these images, both in slightly higher contrast than is my norm. This is the Balderson workshop exerting its influence.

Those are both pretty images, but for the next and last image, shot at the Pakenham Bridge site in a lovely black dress (not me, her), I again allowed Balderson to influence me and went for a strong infra-red look. Pretty interesting ...

Very Marilyn Monroe ...

Blythe at a Crombie McNeill Workshop at Balderson

I know I said I would finish the Mill of Kintail images before starting the Balderson images, but I took a moment to look them over and was immediately smitten with my results. These are really interesting, especially when presented in an edgy black and white.

Blythe was the first model I shot, along with a couple of others, and I went through my entire shoot of her and processed what I can for this blog. The lingerie stuff will eventually go into my portfolio, when that exists :-)

Meanwhile, we started in the front room that I blogged in that F70EXR post yesterday. I selected a head shot (which has been my trademark so far) and processed it in color, a kind of soft look. The look I have enjoyed refining over the first few workshops.

That's not a bad looking image, but let's face it ... seen one, seem 'em all. Make a nice portrait perhaps, but is far from a journalistic look. No edge. I went on to other images at this point, but came back at the end to try it again in black and white, and this is a much better image in my opinion.

These were shot near the rear window, and we asked her then to open the window and put her hand on it. I have perhaps 30 variations of that series, but this one if my favorite.

Once we had exhausted that window, we moved her to the front window and placed a wicker chair there for her to pose with. She really knows her stuff and put her feet exactly right without prompting.

After a while, she tried putting one foot up on the window sill and I shot an image of just that. Looks great in a print, as does the above.

While I was shooting details, I also shot her legs separately. This also makes a nice print.

Note ... if the legs look so light that you can barely see them, consider checking your white point and gamma. Your monitor may need calibrating.

After this position was tapped, we asked her to stand against the left hand (west, I think) wall, which had an interesting sign on it. I shot numerous images of her top half and I shot one image of her legs. But that enabled me to put two halves together for this image.

Here's another head shot, this time lit from the left.

She performed the classic skirt grab and I liked the pose I caught ...

And that ended phase 1. I shot the other three models over the rest of the day and then got back to shooting Blythe in lingerie with less than an hour left. We were back in the front room with Blythe, and you won't see many images on this blog. Just the ones that could have been shot in a dress.

A note: I fought my equipment all day long. I like to use the 70-300VR, a consumer lense with superior sharpness. But it is slow, f5.6 wide open at 300mm. This makes it nearly impossible to get sharp images in light like we shot in all day. So I ended up bouncing between the 28mm, the 50mm and the 105mm primes ... it drove me batty. (I tried the 18-200VR, but one image convinced me that it was a really bad idea.)

This shot happened when I was changing lenses and almost dropped the cam. I grabbed it by the shutter button and the cam fired off. This may be my best image of the day ... Crombie saw a print of it and agrees.

At this point, I have two images that should be acceptable but which I have sent to Crombie for approval to post. It's not that they are risque and I think they show Blythe in a beautiful light. But they are very unusual angles and I want to make sure that there is no way to misinterpret them.

Edit: Blythe has given me permission to post these specific images, so here they are. I really like the unusual angle.

After that part of the series, we shot Blythe near the rear window again, and I took the opportunity for some interesting head and shoulder images. These two blew me away when I was finished them ... they so remind me of an album cover from the 60s.

And the finale is an image shot through the window while she was being photographed from outside the building. I cropped to one pane wisth and added lots of grain .... this again looks like an album cover from the 60s ...

I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to shoot Blythe at these workshops. I hope she makes the trip back to Ottawa now and again for future workshops.

F70EXR -- DR (Dynamic Range) Mode versus HR (High Resolution) Mode -- a test

I shot a few image sets this afternoon to compare how the camera would behave in DR auto versus HR priority mode. I wanted to test two things ... first, how well are highlights protected? Second, how much resolution do you lose in 5mp mode?

The first image is a house across the street from me with the sun shining on it *from behind me* ... it has white trim and grey siding. Here are the crops:

I upsized the 5mp image to 10mp to make them comparable. Since this is doubling the size, this puts DR mode at a sever disadvantage. But it is much more interesting than downsizing 10mp mode, since it handles the enlargement case and it makes real differences much easier to see.

What astonished me was that, as I was working on the images, I thought they were reversed. I.e. I thought the one on the left was the upsized image. But it's the one on the right that was shot in 5mp ... hmmm.

Note that there isn't too much difference in highlight quality, so I'd call it a wash. But that's just because DR mode chose DR100 ... not sure why, but probably because it could.

Not so, though with tone curves on the second image, facing west into the sun.

This image shows a tremendous difference in highlight retention and shadow tone. The DR version is much better on both counts.

And again the DR version has better detail definition, even after the upsize operation.


1. The DR version has slight halos from the upsize operation. But these are unlikely to affect the final image.

2. Watch for the fact that I reversed the HR/DR image sequence here ... I shot the Dr, the HR, then turned around and shot the HR and then the DR. This minimized settings changes, but added to my confusion while doing the crops. I referred to the camera itself several times to be sure, since ACR does not display these kinky makernote settings.

Bottom line ... no real reason to shoot HR mode. Does not hold highlights as well, and upsizing properly retains even more detail.

Why does it do that, you might ask? Well, the answer should almost certainly lie in the fact that the binned modes increase the detail size by double *before the NR algorithms see the image* ... which probably takes these fine details out of the range of "noise". I've speculated on that before, and now I am pretty sure about it.

Crombie McNeill Workshop at Balderson -- Part 1 -- Fuji F70EXR Documents the Site

I attended another workshop before I have even posted the last few models from the previous one (Mill of Kintail.) This one was limited to invitations only for shooters (we ended up with 10) and models (we ended up with four.)

This one was intended to deliver edgy shots in an abandoned building with models either dressed high fashion or lingerie ... we ended up shooting both.

The lingerie shots will not appear in this blog at the request of the models.

Meanwhile, this opening post has no shots from the main shoot at all ... it is a description of the location and another set of sample images from my new Fuji F70EXR. I failed to charge the battery the night before and thus I ran out ofter only 20 images or so. But they describe the location adequately ... and note, I took an artsy tack for many simply because the building was incredibly dark and dusty ... this will play quite a bit into what you see in the next few Balderson posts.

While I was driving up in the rain, I thought I would shoot the highway while it was clear so I pulled the cam from my shirt pocket, opened it up and focused and shot while driving. I was driving at highway speeds, so the edges of the frame are blurred ... *this is not the lens* ... :-)

First thing to note is that again the camera is failing to protect the highlights in simple EXR mode. It should have opted for DR priority but it opted for HR (hi res) priority. Still pretty good, and very open tone curve.

Now, how sharp is it and how much resolution does it have? Well ... try this:

Remember to double click on the image to have a peek at the 800px version. That's not half bad from a moving vehicle ...

The shooting site itself is mainly contained in one building. When I first went in, I thought the front room was the only room and was wondering how in the world we would fit 16 people in there .... but I need not have worried ... the front room was less than a third of the available shooting locations, so it worked out great.

Across the highway were people's houses. I shot this image to show the detail in the leaves. Pretty decent, despite the blown out cloudy sky. And surprisingly little CA. It does not always hit ... (but when it does) ...

And there is a church down the street perhaps 100 feet ... this is the full 270mm shot of the facade ... it appears to be pretty much edge to edge sharp. Once I have a full battery, I will try to do a more formal test. But this turned out fine for hand held from 100 feet on a dull day.

Next door, there is a nice little cafe that was out base of operations, and where some of the guys and models had lunch. Nice little spot, smelled great in there. The sun suddenly peeked out and I caught this image of Kyle get himself organized ... the cam again blew out the fence, but saved the sky. That, I think, is because it exposed for the buildings behind and the sky was about the same level.

Interestingly, though, the white fence was rescued in ACR, so the image is actually ok, if a little hot.

A moment later, there was a little ceremony for Blythe, who is moving to the big city. This will probably be our last workshop with her for a bit.

One of the fellows presented her with a lovely portrait of herself. Very nice thought.

Turning back to face the shooting building, we have a rather dull tin roof and wood siding. I spiced that up with Topaz Adjust, which I used for the majority of the remainder of the images.

To the right of this scene, but still on this building, is an opening to the attic that shows the crap that has accumulated in there. Some would later try to shoot in here, but without much excitement for the surroundings. (Or so I am told.)

Coming back around the front of the building, we find a lovely old stove ... but not something you want to shoot fashion on since it is maybe 10 feet from the highway.

Kyle pointed out these silly looking steps, where the wooden steps were build directly onto the cement ones, with the cement ones still peeking out form underneath ... looks kind of goofy, yet adds some sort of weird character as well ...

So I stepped inside the front room ... it was fricken dark! The typical exposure here was ISO 800 at 1/4s (faster when there was a window in frame) and f3.3. This is pretty dark, but not as dark as yesterday's test shots that all came out to 1/4s at 1600 ISO. People complain a lot on the FTF (Fuji Talk Forum) about the results of my tests ... but they fail to note how truly dakr it was in there.

Here, it was still very dark, but the starting point of the images was a higher quality ... which by the way answers the question "does the cam always choose the most appropriate ISO?" ... I would say yes, as it used 800 when it could in these dark shots and 100 in all cases outdoors. On cloudy days, most Fujis would spend a lot of time at 200 ISO in the old days.

I started out shooting this cool corner with lots of chairs in it. I processed this normal ... one of the few I did that way, so enjoy. This one gave me f3.3, 1/5s and 800 ISO ... a dark corner.

The hanging Christmas ornaments are blown beyond the ability of ACR to pull them back. This shot should have been redone as a Topaz image, but I didn't bother. Plenty coming up ...

Other shots of these chairs work pretty well because of the Topaz treatment ... let's face it, this would otherwise be a really dull and dirty building.

I actually did a normal treatment of this shot too ... and it is not half bad.

But the Topaz version adds so much more interest in my opinion. Yours may differ ...

At the edge of this group, against the back wall, is a nice little scene with a lone chair and some old windows stacked up.

There are old barber / dentist chairs still bolted to the floor in the middle of the room, and they make a wonderful still life ... almost Normal Mailer style. This is a shot of the same back wall from near one of these chairs.

Kiddy corner to the corner with all the chairs, is a corner with some old umbrellas leaning up against the wall. I shot this corner again from one of these strange chairs bolted in the middle of the room.

And a coloful shot of the umbrellas themselves ...

Note the unbelievable CA on the top ... it really looked like that. Flare can do that of course, and it does not bother me, but if this shot were processed "normal" ... you'd need to remove it.

A shot of the same corner, along the front wall standing at the door (which is closed.)

Turning around and facing the other wall, we see one of two windows in the room. This front window is used in the first Blythe series I'll post in the next few days.

Kiddy corner to that corner is another window that openes to the little restaurant's parking lot. From that window, I shoot the corner with the chairs yet again. The open space you see around the sign on the wall is where we shot the lingerie series, which of course you will not see except the images form there that are not risque in any way.

Here again is the detail of that far corner but above the chairs.

Here is a miscellaneous crap shot that I cannot place within the room. But I am sure it is there somewhere ...

For the final images of this post, I looked up at one point and noticed that each lamp had hanging Christmas ornaments that looked at times like one of those little planetary thingies ... whatever they are called. Anyway, I deliberately shot macros that would give you that feel ... and they turned out nicely. And very sharp ...

And then the battery died .... (actually, it was outside shooting the pipes when it died ... but I chose to present these images in some logical order.)

The next posts will be the completion of the Kintail shoot (still need to post Mallery and Rebecca) and the Balderson shoot's actual output ... Blythe, Charlotte, Rachelle and Andriana (that's not a misspelling as far as I know.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

F70EXR -- Samples at 1600 ISO in Pro Low Light Mode

I took a quick wander about the yard to see what I could shoot in the middle of the night by the light of a single street lamp. It has been raining here, although the clouds are now gone ... the leaves and payment are wet, which makes for more interesting fare ...

Shutter speeds are excruciatingly low ... which makes it near impossible for pro low light mode to work. But here goes ...

A car across the street ... took 6 tries to get this, and you can still see the ghost caused by movement. It's just impossible to hand hold at these speeds ... but the image is very clean for 1600 ISO ...

Next, I shot the tree above my head ... the leaves glisten from the rain ... the light adds a bit of interest.

That's the best shot in the dark outside ... not bad at all.

Then I went indoors for a couple ... starting with a scene up on the mantle. Someone left the matches there and the whole thing turns out really nice. It looks like it is in very bright light, but in fact it is shot at 1/13s ... still pretty dark at 1600ISO ...

And finally ... the tripod head backed by the target ... shot at 270mm from 3.3 feet, the minimum macro distance ... not bad magnification and excellent cleanliness ...

All in all, I'm rather impressed.

Note that pro focus mode is much less fun ... it will not shoot at 1600, stops at 1800 ... and it always seems to come out really dark. I have not yet got one worth showing ... I suspect that the engineers assumed it would never be used in the dark ...

F70EXR -- Pro Low Light Mode Review and Test

The F70EXR has an interesting trick up its sleeve for low light shooters. That being the pro low light mode. This mode will whip off 4 images and then combine them to reduce noise and enhance clarity. But does it work?

Sort of.

The clarity can be astounding if the camera is very well braced. Otherwise, the image softens considerably. Not to the extent that it is ruined, but to the extent that the "bite" it previously had is gone.

Here is a great example ... macro mode at 1600 ISO. Remember that this is a tiny sensor ... 1/2".

With dark scenes, the noise is very manageable at 1600ISO. But here is an example with a little less success. This is shot in rotten incandescent light in a fairly dark corner, so it is pretty much a worst case scenario.

I can live with this as a representation of 1600 ISO. Hair and fur would suck big time, but they always do on small sensors so eh ....

The two scenes look ok at web sizes ... if you are hand holding, you will always be choosing between detail and smoothness ... I suggest shooting both if you have time ... it only takes a second to spin the dial.

And never forget when you are framing that pro low light steals a bit of the frame to perform its magic.

What would a review of a Fuji mega zoom be if it did not mention the CA :-)

Still liking the cam ....