Monthly Archives: June 2016

Fireworks

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The 4th of July weekend is next.  The weather forecast for the Greater Boston area looks good so why not try photographing fireworks.  In addition to the annual Boston Pops concert and fireworks, the Boston Harbor Fest will also have a fireworks display on July 2, 2016.  Here is an excerpt from the festival site: “Various sailors will decorate their boats and light up the Inner Harbor on Saturday, July 2nd. Live music on Long Wharf will lead up to an incredible fireworks display over Boston’s Inner Harbor.”

Here is a link to my tips page for photographing fireworks.

 

Posted in Educational, News, Night Photography, Noise Reduction, Photographs, Photography

TOPAZ Impression 2 is here

Orange Sunset_baTopaz Impression 2, an updated version of the popular painterly effect software was released yesterday. As always, the update is free to anyone who already owns Impression. And for those who don’t own it, Impression 2 will be on sale (40% off!) from June 23rd – July 7th. Please use the coupon code “2IMPRESS” to take advantage of the discounted price of $59.99 (regularly $99.99).

impression_boxClick Here to get Impression 2
Topaz Impression generates natural painterly effects by painting brushstrokes one at a time. (It just does this very fast!) Impression can paint over 10,000 brushstrokes in less than a second, all while completely following your artistic direction, making truly personal art that you can call your own.

NEW FEATURES
If you’re already familiar with Impression, the updated release of Impression 2, gives you more powerful processing with a completely redesigned framework and the following additional features:

• 30+ New effects – Impression 2 now comes with over 140 effects!
• Larger Brush Panel – no more squinting to find the brush you need.
• Masking – Impression 2 now includes masking in application! Using a brush, color range, luminosity range, or spot masking, the masking panel even includes our color aware tool.
• Topaz Community – now you can share your created effects with the other users of Impression 2 with a click of a button. Not seeing an effect you like? Browse the Topaz Community to surf an ocean of custom user made effects.
• New brush customization options:
– “Number of strokes” options to change the number of strokes applied to the image.
– “Large Brush Volume” that adjust paint volume in large areas of color to help focus on the details.
– “Stroke “Rotation Variation” to add randomness to your effect strokes.
• Highlight and Shadow control in the lighting menu.
• Support for High DPI (4k) monitors in Windows 7/8/10
…and much more.

Posted in Photography

Hasselblad X1D

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Hasselblad introduces a rangefinder sized Medium Format mirrorless camera and a new set of lenses too.  This is not a rebranded Sony for sure. Details and specs can be found on their website but of significance is the dual card slots – a first for mirrorless cameras.  Time for Panasonic, Sony, Olympus and Fuji to seriously consider dual card slots.

Canon, Nikon – now what?

Posted in Lens, Mirrorless, News, Photography Tagged |

A US Navy DC3 Cargo Wreck

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On Sólheimasandur a black sand beach in Iceland lies the remains of a Douglas Super DC-3 cargo plane that crashed here in 1973. The cargo aircraft was abandoned and is now a tourist attraction.  Though not easy to get to, it is a great photo opportunity. It tail section, wings and engines are all gone and its interior stripped.

The wreck is most photographed from the side you first see it when approaching the beach but on this evening on August 14, last year the dramatic clouds made an exceptional backdrop for the opposite side of the plane.

I am so looking forward to going back this September for another great workshop.

Posted in Black & White, Mirrorless, Noise Reduction, Photographs, Photography, Sony A7R, Workshops

Half Dome by Moonlight

Half Dome at Night

Half Dome at Night

This will be my last post from the 2016 Yosemite and Mono Lake workshop.  This image was captured at 8:20 PM  on May 18, 2016.  The idea was to do some light painting but there is no way a hand-held lantern will reach Half Dome two miles away.  So the conifer was painted while the moon cast its light on Half Dome and the snow-capped range in the background.  The exposure triad was ISO 100, f/2.8, 30 seconds.  A higher ISO would have prevented the stars from trailing but would not have given enough time to paint the foreground.  Photography is all about compromises, so I let the stars trail.

If you do read this post to the end – let me know via a comment or an email if you would consider joining me on a Yosemite and Mono Lake photo tour/workshop in 2017. 

Posted in Photography

Cape Cod, Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons

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Just finalized the 2016 Fall Photo Tours and Workshops in Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons National Parks and Cape Cod.

Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons – October 1 through October 8, 2016 – Details Here

Cape Cod – October 12 through October 16, 2016 – Details Here

In addition, the September 2016 Iceland photo tour and workshop is nearly full – two spots are available – Details Here

Posted in Educational, News, Night Photography, Photography, Workshops

Review of the Platypod Pro Max

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A while back I had done a review of the exceptionally versatile and compact Platypod Pro® Deluxe Kit. Now the makers have introduced a follow-up to the Platypod Pro called the Max.

Much planning, engineering and fine machining go in to making the Platypod Pro® Max. The Max’s initial form is stamped out of a 5mm thick sheet of aircraft grade aluminum maintaining absolute flatness. Using Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), the plate is computer machine precision drilled for all holes and slots. Edges are round-routed and holes either threaded or chamfered to avoid any sharp edges. Key holes slots for attaching the spike screw box are drilled only partway through the plate with very low tolerances to allow easy but firm attachment. These last holes are invisible from underneath the plate.

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I have been informed by the manufacturer that the machining quality and workmanship on the Max is so meticulous that despite computer aided manufacturing the factory can only produce 1500 every 25 days!

Like the original Platypod Pro the Platypod Pro Max is a sturdy flat mini tripod ideal for low-angle shots and situations where traditional tripods are cumbersome or impractical. It is however, significantly larger, has four spikes/reversible rubber feet rather than three, a belt loop, a single 3/8 inch 16 ball head mounting screw and a 1/4 inch 20 removable stud to mount accessories.

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Using the Max in Yosemite

Here is an image captured with the Max set up on top of the stone wall at Tunnel View – Yosemite NP.

Tunnel View at Sunset

Tunnel View at Sunset

Unlike its smaller brother the Max supports ball heads of any size and is rated to support 300 pounds. A 3/8 inch 16 threaded screw hole allows you to mount the Max directly to your tripod as and when needed.   Made of aircraft grade aluminum anodized black with beautiful self-explanatory laser etchings, the Max comes in a red microfiber drawstring pouch.

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Max mounted with my heavily used RRS BH55 mounted to an Arcatech 1170 leveling base (note the Acratech bubble level)

If you already own a Platypod Pro the Max does not replace it, rather it compliments it where situations demand a larger base or when you need to physically move your low lying camera rig across the sand or grass when photographing wildlife.

Specifications:

  1. Base – 6061 black anodized aircraft-grade aluminum. 5 mm thick. 5.25 x 7.75” (5-year warranty—Full replacement of parts for any defect in workmanship.)
  2. Fiberglass-reinforced nylon removable “bayonet style” storage box mounted onto plate to hold four 1/4-20 spikes, 2 inches long, with heavy-duty rubber feet and locking nuts. Small magnets keep spikes in place for storage.
  3. Five 1/4-20 threaded holes strategically placed to allow use of spike feet in configurations of one, two, three, or four at a time.
  4. Two 2-inch belt slots to secure to any cylindrical object or to tape onto floors for remote camera setups.
  5. 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 accessory threaded holes for attachment to tripods or quick-release devices under the unit.
  6. 3/8-16 TA2 titanium photographic bolt drilled and countersunk through the plate and welded in place for large tripod ball heads, such as the RRS-BH55, even with spike-feet in place.
  7. Two non-threaded holes for permanent or semi-permanent mounting to floors, walls, ceilings or panels.
  8. Weight: 13 ounces, including spikes and storage box.

At approximately 5 x 8 inches it is about the size of an iPad Mini and fits well in any camera case that has a slot or pouch designed to hold a laptop or an iPad. As an option you can use either slot or one of the non-threaded holes and a carabiner to hang the Max from your belt or a loop on your backpack.

_DSC4380-EditAs compared to the original Platypod Pro, Max’s larger footprint means more stability. Like the Pro, Max is made of aircraft-grade aluminum with an embedded 3/8-inch titanium bolt. However, it does come with a few features, including a pair of slots that can secure Max via a bungee cord, zip-ties or even your belt to freestanding objects and structures. In the center are 1/4- and 3/8-inch holes to attach Max to quick-release devices, such as the Peak Design Capture Clip, or directly onto a tripod center column. A very convenient 1/4 – 1/4-inch male cross-nut allows attachment of flexible arms, speed-lights and numerous accessories.  Here I used a Novoflex Flex Arm and a Lume Cube LED to light the crystal.  The camera is a Panasonic GH4 with a 30mm Lumix macro lens.  A second 1/4 – 1/4 and a second Flex Arm would be ideal for cross lighting a macro subject.

The Max‘s larger base allows use of most any ball head. The RRS B55 is the largest ball head I own and I had no problem attaching it to the Max and all the knobs have adequate clearance. As I no longer use large DSLR’s all my tests were done with Sony and Panasonic mirrorless bodies. Using the Max with an A7RII and the 70 – 200 mm f/4.0 lens was a breeze. I also mounted a Panasonic GH4 with the new Leica 100-400 using a Wimberly SideKick for quick reaction time and maneuverability. When using the Sidekick it is imperative that you remove the holder for the spikes with a simple twist and place the cross-nut in one of the corner positions, out-of-the-way.  This gives the sidekick the clearance  for 360 degree rotation. The Max supported this rig very well.

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With the Platypod Pro you had to be careful mounting heavier gear. It was best to ensure the center of gravity was as close to the center of the Platypod Pro mounted ball-head. With the Max, this is a less of an issue. With a medium or large ball head the Max will comfortably support most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras fitted with normal to long telephoto lenses. A super telephoto lens properly mounted on a good ball head works well too. Here as in the image below I tested it using the RRS BH55 and the Wimberley Sidekick with a Canon 500 mm f/4.0 lens attached to a Sony A7R II using a Metabones IV adaptor.

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Similar to the Platypod the Max is ideal great for ground level photography and videography, a mount for action cameras and for creating panoramas. When creating panoramas use a pan/tilt ball head like the Unique as shown below or attach a leveling base (see following image) below the ball head as shown in an image above where the RSS BH55 is mounted on top of the Acratech 1170 leveling base. As the Max is made of a relatively thin aluminum plate it would be difficult to have a built-in level. A third-party bubble level can be adhered to the max or simply place on it to level the Max. When it is necessary to level the Max it is best to use three of the four spikes or rubber ends. Four legs are great for stability but not so for leveling. The Max is best used without spikes or feet when you want to have the flexibility of sliding it in any direction on flat surfaces, sand or grass. When friction is important then the spikes are the best option. In the reverse orientation the rubber caps not only provide friction preventing the base from sliding around but also prevent damage to furniture, painted surfaces, etc.

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For surfaces like asphalt, rocks and brick the spikes are your best choice for stability. To attach the base plate to a fence post, rail or tree limb, a pair of bungee cords, straps or your belt work great. All you need is to secure the cord around your object and hook the ends into the slots or holes in the base plate. Belts and straps can be passed through the slots on each side of the Max to secure it to any post, tree trunk or similar object.

The Max with its little brother the Platypod Pro have a permanent home in my photography kit. I find I am using these support systems more than using my tripods.

More on the Platypod products and their web site

All company names, products and devices mentioned in this review are trademarks of the respective companies, registered in the U.S. and other countries.  

Posted in Accessories, Macro, Mirrorless, News, Panasonic GH4, Panning, Photographs, Photography, Product Reviews, Sony A7R, Time-Lapse

PANASONIC LUMIX G LEICA DG SUMMILUX 12mm, F1.4 ASPH Lens announced

leica 12mmFollowing up with the release of the exceptional Leica 100 – 400 mm nature and wildlife photographers’ dream lens, Panasonic has announced a new Leica 12mm (24 mm equivalent on MFT bodies) f/1.4 weather sealed wide-angle prime lens.  Suitable for great landscapes and with this f/1.4 speed it will be ideal for astro photography.  This will be Panasonic’s widest non-fish eye prime lens in the MFT lineup.  Hope to have one in my kit for my Iceland workshop in September.

It will be available later this summer for $1300 (rounded).

Here is the press release:

NEWARK, NJ (July 1, 2016) – Panasonic unveiled a new LEICA DG SUMMILUX 12mm/F1.4 ASPH. (35 mm camera equivalent: 24 mm) digital interchangeable lens for Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera based on the Micro Four Thirds standard. The new 12mm wide-angle lens enables photographers to capture beautiful group, event, and nature photography. It also allows indoor shooting in low lighting and produces an impressive, natural defocusing effect with its F1.4 aperture. In addition, the LEICA DG SUMMILUX 12mm/F1.4 ASPH. boasts a rugged, splash/dust-proof design (when combined with splash and dustproof LUMIX G Mirrorless camera models) to meet the needs of a wide-range of photographic situations.

Integrating two aspherical lenses, two UED (Ultra Extra-Low Dispersion) lenses and an ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) lens, the lens system is comprised of 15 elements in 12 groups. The adoption of five special lenses makes it possible to meet the stringent LEICA standard for exceptional image quality with high resolution and minimum distortion. In general, flare is commonly seen around the periphery of a point source with many high-speed lenses when a large aperture is employed. However, the new LEICA DG SUMMILUX 12mm/F1.4 ASPH. achieves high resolution from the center of the image to the corners by suppressing this flare. Users can take advantage of this lens to shoot a brilliant night skies or night scenes containing illumination to capture true-to-life images with minimal blurring and distortion at the edges. The multi-coated lens elements also minimize ghosting and flaring.

Incorporating an inner focus drive system and a stepping motor, the new LEICA DG SUMMILUX 12mm/F1.4 ASPH. is capable of smooth, silent operation together with the camera’s high-speed, high-precision contrast AF system for both photo and video recording. It is also compatible with the sensor drive at a maximum of 240 fps to take full advantage of cameras with high-speed AF. This stunning AF performance is excellent for recording 4K videos, where precise focusing is essential.

The LEICA DG SUMMILUX 12mm/F1.4 ASPH. comes with an aperture ring for direct, intuitive aperture control. Nine blades give the aperture a rounded shape that produces an attractively smooth effect in out-of-focus areas when shooting at larger aperture settings. A highly reliable metal mount assures durability for repeated use. The lens mount, the barrel and the hood are all made of metal to provide a sleek, sophisticated design that matches the entire line-up of LUMIX G Digital Single Lens Mirrorless (DSLM) cameras.

Specifications:

Focal length 12 mm
Maximum aperture F1.4
Minimum aperture F16
Aperture ring Yes
Number of diaphragm blades 9
Elements 15
Groups 12
Special elements / coatings 2 aspherical lenses, 1 ED lens, 2 UED lenses
Minimum focus 0.20 m (7.87″)
Maximum magnification 0.1×
Autofocus Yes
Motor type Stepper motor
Weight 335 g (0.74 lb)
Diameter 70 mm (2.76″)
Length 70 mm (2.76″)
Filter thread 62.0 mm
Hood Yes
Posted in Accessories, Lens, Mirrorless, News, Night Photography, Photography, Star Trails, Time-Lapse Tagged , , |

Yosemite Waterfalls

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Bridalveil Fall (from the parking lot)

Two of my favorite waterfall images from my May 2016 Yosemite and Mono Lake workshop.  It was great to see each waterfall gushing with ample water compared to my last visit when Bridalveil was a mere trickle.

Lower Yosemite Fall

Lower Yosemite Fall

Posted in Photography

AURORA – an opportunity to switch for a killer price

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For all Mac users, Aurora pound-for-pound kicks butt on any other HDR software out there. It’s fast, friendly and modern; end-to-end; really complete from a feature standpoint; standalone or plug-in; handles RAW files great, etc.

Macphun want Mac HDR photographers (or really anyone) to give AURORA a fair shake and see if it’s better, cooler, creative, natural and more fun than what they’re using.

Plus they are offering a killer $79 price + bonuses to help people decide to pull the trigger on a “competitive upgrade”, provided you can prove you are using a competing app.

CLICK HERE

 

Posted in Photography