Category Archives: Sony A7R

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.

Also posted in Black & White, Mirrorless, Noise Reduction, Photographs, 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.  

Also posted in Accessories, Macro, Mirrorless, News, Panasonic GH4, Panning, Photographs, Photography, Product Reviews, Time-Lapse

View from the Merced

El Capitan and the Valley from the Merced River

El Capitan and the Valley from the Merced River

Although May is a great time of the year for exceptional waterfalls it is not the best time for sunsets.  The angle of the light at sunset just does not hit Half Dome rights from the iconic locations such as Glacier Point and Washburn Point.  Similarly Tunnel view sunsets are weak compared to later in the year. This is one of two evenings where the light on El Capitan made it worth photographing.  (Photographed May 2016 during my Yosemite & Monolake workshop.)

Also posted in Mirrorless, Photographs, Photography, Workshops, Zeiss

Lucy Vincent Beach – Martha’s Vineyard

 

Lucy Vincent Beach Sunset

Lucy Vincent Beach Sunset. Exposure triad ISO 400, f/25, 60 sec.

Concluded a great photo workshop in Martha’s Vineyard yesterday.  A great group of photographers, and some great locations on the island.  Inclement weather did not prevent us from photographing the opportunities that were presented.  This image is one of my favorites where the last rays of the sun just kissed the rock on the shore at Lucy Vincent Beach.  We stayed on to do some light painting and astro photography before winding up for the night.  (More images to follow)

The Night Sky at Lucy Vincent Beach. 14mm, Exposure Triad ISO 1250, f/2.8, 20 sec

The Night Sky at Lucy Vincent Beach. 14mm, Exposure Triad ISO 1250, f/2.8, 20 sec.

 

Also posted in Lens, Mirrorless, Night Photography, Noise Reduction, Photographs, Photography, Workshops, Zeiss

Zeiss Batis 2.8/18 Lens for Sony E-Mount Announced

batis2818_productThe ZEISS Batis 2.8/18 expands the Batis range of lenses with a super wide-angle lens. For the Sony α system with E-mount the new lens, which features a diagonal angular field of 99 degrees, is currently the shortest full-frame fixed focal length with autofocus. The new ZEISS Batis 2.8/18 with innovative OLED display to show focus distance and depth of field is also impressive thanks to its high image quality across the entire image field. The lens will be available from May 2016.

Features for discerning users 
The super wide-angle camera lens has 11 lens elements in ten groups and draws on the ZEISS Distagon optical design. Four of the lens elements are aspheric on both sides and seven are made from special types of glass. The Floating Elements design permits constantly high image performance in the focal plane – from the minimum object distance to infinity.
The lens will be available from May 2016. The suggested retail price is US$1,499
Also posted in Accessories, Lens, Mirrorless, News, Photography, Video, Zeiss

ND Filters’ Color Cast comparison – Vü 10 stop Sion, Lee 10 stop (Big Stopper) & Formatt Hitech 8 stop

The Lee Big Stopper was introduced in 2010 to compete with the Hitech 10 stop filter that was known to have flare and other issues. Subsequently Hitech reengineered their 10 stop filter and emulated some of Lee’s design features. In particular the the light blocking gasket.  Soon Lee introduced the Little Stopper while Hitech developed a wider range of solid ND filters the Pro Stop line from 6 to 10 stops and in multiple sizes.  Most recently I was introduced to the Vü system and hence this test as a comparison. I will do a full review of the Vü system in the near future.

As I own the Lee Big sStopper and the Hitech 8 stop with the Hitech holder (I do prefer the Hitech to the Lee holder) I was keen to understand the differences in the way high f-stop ND filters impart a color cast when used. Hence this test.  Please click on the images to see a larger version.

The set up was fairly simple.  Using a Sony A7R II and a Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 lens set at f/2.0 and a base ISO of 50, shutter speed 1/125 sec.  The light source was two Elinchrome studio strobes positioned to give a 1/3 stop exposure variation at the edges.  The camera was focused on a white foam-core board with a X-Rite Color Checker Passport clamped to the upper right corner.  Camera white balance set for flash rather than a custom white balance (5450 Kelvin) and an “as shot” tint of +9.  I wanted to allow for any variation in the white of the foam-core board that is typically not 100% white be adjusted in post.

The test exposure was made and the white balance adjusted in post using Lightroom – this is the image below.  White balance adjustment yielded a temperature of 4750 Kelvin and a tint of -1:

Control Shot

Next the strobes were adjusted to full power providing 8 additional stops of light.  The ISO was adjusted to increase sensitivity by two stops while the aperture of the lens was kept at a constant f/2.0 for all the exposures. Each filter was tested for color cast only.

The Lee Big Stopper (10 stop ND)

The Lee Big Stopper (10 stop ND) was mounted and the image as shown below was captured. This is as a screen shot so as to show the RGB histogram.  The info panel shows the reading from the center of the captured image.  Values are R=219, G=229, B=243

Lee 10stop at corner

Color Values measured in the center

 

In this next image the Info Panel shows RGB values from the lower third of the image. Values are R=187, G=203, B=222

Lee 10stop at center

Color Values measured in the lower right quadrant

Next the image was white balanced in Lightroom WB to 8600 Kelvin and tint +43. Compensated for the color of the board and the lights the calculated readings are 7900 Kelvin and a +35 Tint adjustment.

Lee 10 stop WB to 8600 and tint +43

Lee 10 stop WB to 8600 Kelvin and tint +43

The Lee Big Stopper exhibits a heavy blue cast in both the center and the edges.

Formatt Hitech 8 stop ND filter

As I do not have a 10 stop Formatt Hitech filter, I chose to do the same test with the 8 stop that I own. As with the Lee filter before, here the info panel shows the reading from the center of the captured image.  Values are R=234, G=238, B=236

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Format 8 stop – Color Values measured in the center

In this next image the Info Panel shows RGB values from the lower third of the image. Values are R=209, G=220, B=212

Format 8 stop - Color Values measured in the center

Format 8 stop – Color Values measured in the lower right quadrant

Next the image was white balanced in Lightroom WB to 5750 Kelvin and tint +52. Compensated for the color of the board and the lights the calculated readings are 5050 Kelvin and a +44 Tint adjustment.

Formatt 8 stop WB to 5750 and tint +52

Formatt 8 stop WB to 5750 Kelvin and tint +52

The Formatt HiTech 8 stop exhibits a heavy green cast at the edges but is more neutral in the center.

Vü Sion Q 10 stop Neutral Density Filter

The Vü Sion 10 stop ND filter mounted using The Vü professional filter holder (more abut this in a future post) and the same test was performed. As before the image captured is shown as a screen shot showing the RGB histogram.  The info panel shows the reading from the center of the captured image.  Values are R=235, G=235, B=239

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Vu Sion 10 stop – Color Values measured in the center

In this next image the Info Panel shows RGB values from the lower third of the image. Values are R=211, G=214, B=219

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 5.15.44 PM

Vu Sion 10 stop – Color Values measured in the lower right quadrant

Next the image was white balanced in Lightroom WB to 5800 Kelvin and tint +13. Compensated for the color of the board and the lights the calculated readings are 5000 Kelvin and a +5 Tint adjustment.

VU 10 stop wb adjusted 5800 tint +13

VU Sion 10 stop WB adjusted 5800 and tint +13

The Vü Sion 10 stop is very neutral in the center an has a negligible shift at the edges.

In conclusion I am very impressed with the Vü Sion 10 stop and is near neutral rendering.  My full review of this system is forthcoming.

 

Hunts Photo is offering my students and workshop participants a 20% discount on all Vu filters and holders! All you  have to do is call 781-662-8822 and ask for Alan Samiljan and tell him you are one of my students.  He will give you the discount. UPS Ground shipping is free in the Lower 48 and there is no sales tax except for orders shipped to MA, RI or ME.

 

Also posted in Accessories, Blur, Lighting, Motion, Photographs, Photography, Product Reviews, Strobes, Tips, Zeiss

Battle of the Barges – Boston Sept 5, 2015

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Blue Hour before the Fireworks Display

After a very long time the Battle of the Barges returned to Boston.  Piers Park would have been the ideal location but the crowds were overwhelming. Alternate East Boston location provided good views of the North End Barge.

Please click on the image for a larger version.

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The barges are in place

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Also posted in Mirrorless, Motion, Night Photography, Noise Reduction, Zeiss Tagged , , |

Iceland August 2015 – Day 4 and a Resolution Test

 

Today was a travel day to the highlands with a few stops en route.

Here are a few images and an experiment seeking detail.

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Blue glacial water through lava ravine

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Water Study

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Colors of the highlands

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Harunfoss Pano

This image above was taken as an 8 image pano and stitched in Photoshop.  The resulting image is 23,881 pixels by 7680 pixels.  This equates to an image 100 by 32 inches (approx) at 240 dpi.  There is a farm in the distance that I have applied a red stroke to in the image below (this has been reduced to 500 by 1600 pixels.  Please do click on the image below for a larger rendition. Equipment: Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 at f8, Sony A7R ISO 200, 1.6 sec using a 6 stop HiTech ND filter.

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I cut and pasted this stroked area onto a new image layer in Photo shop. The crop is about 1936 by 479 pixels. The crop section is below – please click on this for the full scale view.

The cropped region

The cropped region

The new mirrorless sensors are amazing.

Also posted in Mirrorless, Photography, Workshops, Zeiss

Iceland August 2015 – Day 3

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The Coastline and Fjords

 

This the last full day in the peninsula (rain and wind aside) was spent exploring the far west and the northern coastline.

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Farm Implements

 

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Abandoned Farm House

 

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Terns – protecting their young

 

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The Warning Before the Nose Dive

 

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Please Go Away

 

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A No Name Waterfall in the interior

 

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Water oozes through lava

 

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Another lava waterfall along the roadside

Also posted in Black & White, Mirrorless, Panasonic GH4, Photographs, Workshops

Iceland – August 2015 Day 1

It was unfortunate that we had very poor internet service this trip to Iceland hence no posts.  This was a small group photo tour to the Snaefelsness Peninsula and the Highlands.  The trip  was 11 days with 10 of them rainy and very windy – this is Iceland after all.  We arrived at a decent hour in Keflavik and on to the car rental.  The morning was spent organizing cell phone SIM cards, drinks and snacks.  We had breakfast at a quaint little breakfast pleace in Reykjavik. Walked about town and then drove on to a fishing village Hellnar and checked in to the hotel.

A brief trip along the Southern coast before dinner and bed.  Note that this and most if the images in subsequent posts lack great skies.

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Also posted in Mirrorless, Photography, Workshops Tagged , , , , , , , , |