Equipment

Interesting Infrared Process

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Olympus EM5 Infrared with processing in Exposure 7 and Nik Color Efex Pro
Olympus EM5 Infrared with processing in Exposure 7 and Nik Color Efex Pro

I have been experimenting with the image from my new Infrared camera and identified a rather interesting look that can be achieved in Nik Color Efex Pro.

You can see the finished image above and shown below is the starting image following RAW conversion and white balance correction in Lightroom.

 

Starting Image
Starting Image

The next image shows the conversion to infrared black and white using Alien Skin Exposure 7. This is one of my favourite tools for Infrared processing as it includes sliders that allow you to control the halation effect (bright glowing areas).

 

Processed in Alien Skin Exposure 7
Processed in Alien Skin Exposure 7

The conversion from this image to the finished image was achieved using a few contrast adjustments in Nik Color Efex but the toning was achieved using the Glamour Glow filter. You can see the filter settings below.

 

Filter settings in Color Efex
Filter settings in Color Efex

I really quite like this effect as the halation glow is further enhanced and the toning can be controlled quite precisely moving from warm to cool.

In case you’re wondering how I got rid of the sun flare, I moved the Cyan slider to 0 in the black and white conversion process.

An Infrared Day

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Olympus EM5 Converted to Infrared with processing with Lightroom and Alien Skin Exposure 7.
Olympus EM5 Converted to Infrared with processing with Lightroom and Alien Skin Exposure 7.

As planned (and mentioned in my Friday post) I visited Malham in Yorkshire at the weekend. The weather conditions were forecast to be sunny with broken cloud so the intention was to shoot Infrared. I actually intended to shoot mainly infrared film on the XPan using my new 30mm lens. In the end I found myself shooting more with the newly converted infrared EM5. By the end of the day I was convinced the EM5 conversion was a great idea but I still had some reservations about processing the RAW images.

When I returned from my previous trip and first outing of the EM5, I found problems in trying to process the RAW files. For some reason I couldn’t achieve a good white balance with the RAW files in Lightroom. As usual they all came out blood red. You can normally overcome this by creating a bespoke profile using the Adobe DNG editor but for some reason I still can’t explain, I couldn’t get this to work for me. I even started to wonder if I had made a mistake choosing a 665nm conversion.

This time on my return I tried again to create a new profile and it worked first time. I then tried processing the images. Channel swapping to produce false colours seems much easier with the 665nm converted camera, but that wasn’t my objective. Instead I was trying to create a nice Infrared look that was more akin to the traditional Kodak HIE films but retained better definition. I wanted to create something of a cross between Kodak HIE and Ilford SFX (at least in my vivid imagination).

In the end I came up with a custom preset in Alien Skin Exposure 7 which works pretty well with most of the RAW files once they have been white balanced. I hope you like the results.

First XPan 30mm Images

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Gordale Scar, Yorkshire. Xpan 30mm with Kodak TMax400
Gordale Scar, Yorkshire. Xpan 30mm with Kodak TMax400

In addition to trying out my new EM5 Infrared conversion at the weekend I also had the opportunity to take the XPan 30mm lens for a spin. This is a lens that I had lusted after for most of the time I had owned an XPan but it had always seemed out of reach. The XPan went out of production in the early 2000’s and the kit obtained something of a cult following. Some elements, the 30mm lens being one began to sell for silly money. I remember seeing one kit (30mm lens, viewfinder, hood and centre filter) sell for almost £3,000.

Sunday was my first opportunity to try out the lens and I am delighted. It did feel very odd shooting film again (Kodak TMax 400 to be precise). I processed the film on Monday and have just scanned the first image. This is Gordale Scar in Yorkshire and merits some further exploration in film. I need to spend a little more time perfecting my film processing but I do like the look when printed.

The Sun is Out

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Olympus EM5 Infrared conversion, 9-18mm Olympus lens. Post processing in Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex.
Olympus EM5 Infrared conversion, 9-18mm Olympus lens. Post processing in Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex.

The sun is out at last which means it’s no good for Landscape Photography. But it is good for Infrared Landscape Photography. Yesterday I went up to the Yorkshire Dales in order to try out my new Olympus EM5 which I had converted to Infrared.

The conversion was completed by ProTech in the UK and used a 665nm filter. My other camera is a Panasonic GX1 with a 720nm filter and was converted by ACS. If you are wondering why I didn’t use ACS again, it’s not because they did a bad job it just it took them a couple of months. A friend had used ProTech and was very pleased with the service. So too am I.

The results from the EM5 are just as good as I hoped. Whilst I am still finding my way with the 665nm filter in terms of post processing, it does look quite promising. Here is a first image from the top of Malham Cove. I hope you like it.

My Infrared Conversion Arrives

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Wastwater in the Lake Distric. 4 images on a GX1 Infrared camera.
Wastwater in the Lake Distric. 4 image stitch on a GX1 Infrared camera.

A couple of weeks back I posted a blog about how I wanted to buy a second EM5 and get it converted to Infrared. Whilst the Infrared GX1 is nice I felt that a second converted EM5 body would fit better with my kit. That way there are less spare batteries and chargers to carry. It’s also easier to remember the menu settings.

Well the conversion is now back with me. ProTech who carried this out had a great service. They spoke to me about the conversion and turned it round in 2 weeks. Although initially I was going to convert to a 720nm filter, I woke up the morning after posting the camera convinced that this was the wrong decision and I switch to a 665nm filter. I don’t know why I changed my mind but it felt right.

All I need now is for it to stop raining and for the sun to come out. Infrared just doesn’t work well without the sun.

I will report back on the performance of the new camera when the weather picks up.

A Little Crazy

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Wells Cathedral, XPan with 45mm lens and Kodak TMAX400
Wells Cathedral, XPan with 45mm lens and Kodak TMAX400

I have done something a little crazy. Since talking to my friend about scanning and having done a few scans myself recently, I have had the bug to shoot some film again. In particular I want to shoot Infrared but I might even start shooting some slide film again. Whilst I have around 50 rolls of Fuji Velvia in the Freezer and a similar amount of B&W negative film, I only had 3 rolls of Infrared.

You probably won’t have noticed but Infrared film is in fairly short supply these days. I did finally find and purchase 12 rolls but in doing so I also spotted a 30mm XPan lens for sale second hand. This is a lens that I have longed for ever since I bought my XPan and it has reached almost mythical levels amongst XPan users. I don’t know what came over me but I bought it.

So that’s the proceeds of the D800 sale spent.

Could my RX10 be “Wired Wrong”

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Sony RX10, f5.0, 8 seconds exposure. Lee 6 stop ND filter.
Sony RX10, f5.0, 8 seconds exposure. Lee 6 stop ND filter.

I know that it seems far fetched but this is the question I find myself asking given some of my recent experiences. It started with the image you see above. This was a long exposure shot on a tripod using a Lee 6 Stop ND filter.

To arrive at this image I had to make a few exposures. The first few were all soft or exhibited camera shake. I reasoned that the wind at the time was part of the problem and so I shielded the camera and pushed down on the tripod. The results improved but there was still a softness to the shot that shouldn’t have been present. My next step to improve the image quality was to switch off the Image Stabilization. When I did this the images suddenly became that much sharper and seemed to snap into focus.

Some of you might now be saying well that’s obvious but it isn’t. You see the RX10 firmware is supposed to detect that it’s mounted on a tripod and not try to stabilize the camera. More importantly though is that I left the stabilization turned off. As the day progressed I found that most of my images were sharp and crisp, even at slower shutter speeds and longer focal lengths.

This weekend I repeated the exercise and made some hand held exposures with the stabilization on and off. When it was turned off I found I could shoot at quite slow speeds to produce crisp images (speeds I could never achieve with the RX10 previously). When the stabilization was turned on I found a lot of my slower shutter speed images became soft and even blurred.

Interesting stuff but at least I am gaining a lot more faith in the capabilities of the RX10.

Well Done Lee Filters

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Sony RX10 image with 0.3 Lee ND Grad filter on the sky
Sony RX10 image with 0.3 Lee ND Grad filter on the sky

A couple of weeks back I was in the Lake District enjoying some walking and photography. It was during this time that I came across a rather high contrast scene so reached for my filter kit. Regular readers may know that I am a huge fan of the Lee Seven 5 series of filters which are ideal for Micro 43 cameras. The filters may be expensive but the kit is very well engineered with high quality materials.

Anyway, I pulled out my filter holder and tried to slot in one of the ND grads. At first it seemed to fit but then I noticed it was lose. On closer inspection I found out that one of the screws which secures the blades into which the filters slow was missing. Now the blades were lose and so was the filter.

Back home I decided to email Lee Filters to see where I could find a replacement screw as I have never seen these being sold. Result! There was a very fast response from the Lee Customer Service team asking for my address so they could post me a replacement screw.

What I didn’t mention in all this is that I left it quite late to contact Lee Filters and was now facing my next trip without a usable filter holder. Fortunately Lee acted on the email very quickly and the day after my sending my postal address an envelope arrived containing not 1 but 4 of the screws together with the 4 plastic spacers which are also used in the filter holder. What great customer service.

A big thank you to the team at Lee for acting so quickly. You saved my trip.

And in case your wondering, here is the B&W conversion.
And in case your wondering, here is the B&W conversion.

Would You Buy the Olympus EM5 MK II

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Olympus EM5 MK I. How long would a long exposure such as this (6 seconds) take on the new MK II? I estimate around 100" in the 40MP mode.
Olympus EM5 MK I. How long would a long exposure such as this (6 seconds) take on the new MK II? I estimate around 100″ in the 40MP mode.

Since Olympus announced the EM5 MK II I seem to have been asked repeatedly will I be buying the new camera. My answer is “not yet” and “probably not” (although I reserve the right to change my mind).

The spec for the EM5 MK II is very enticing. There is the 40MP RAW image size which looks ideal for Landscapes and indeed this is why a lot of people think I might buy one. My response to this is quite easy as the recent experience with the Nikon D800 reminded me that the additional pixels don’t matter all that much unless you are making a huge print (something I don’t do very often).

The  thing that I don’t really like about the 40MP image size is that it requires the sensor to move around very quickly. Apparently this can take a couple of seconds to take the required number of images to stitch into the finished RAW file. If there is movement in the scene it can lead to image quality issues. I would like to see this in operation before I embrace it. It also worries me that the sensor moving around could be prone to mechanical failure and even possible vibration which could also impact image quality. In any case, if I want to create a large print I can always use enlargement software (more on this in a later blog post)

The other improvements to the camera aren’t really that attention grabbing. Sure there is the improved sensor and image processing that might clean up the camera noise by a stop or two, but the EM5 was always great on image noise anyway. In fact the only thing that I think is a huge advance is the articulated rear screen which will move in any direction. That is the only feature that genuinely tempts me to move to the EM5 MK II but that doesn’t really justify the expenditure.

Now if anyone out there who reads this has the new MK II and previously owned an EM5, I would be very interested to learn if you think the new camera is a big step up and why.

Sony RX10 Exposure Tips

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Sony RX10, f/5.6, ISO80, 1/250", 2 stop ND Grad
Sony RX10, f/5.6, ISO80, 1/250″, 2 stop ND Grad

I mentioned in my last blog that I had been using the Sony RX10 exclusively over the last week and in doing so I noticed a few things about how to get a good exposure. Here is what I learned:

When the highlights clip they literally fall of a cliff. This can make the areas around the blown highlights appear very ugly. The Olympus EM5 highlights by contrast seem to behave much more like film, which seem to be more gradual.

One of the features of the RX10 is that you can display “zebras” in the live view. These “zebras” show you where the scene is exceeding the dynamic range of the sensor and the highlights are blown. You can also set the level of this so that you see a warning before the damage is done. For my camera I have this set at 100%+ so that if I see zebras I know there is clipping which as mentioned above can look quite ugly. I do this because I shoot RAW and can usually recover some of the damage.

What I have found is that there just isn’t much headroom in the RAW files beyond the zebras so you need to take care. With most cameras I have found I can expose to the right (deliberately overexpose the image) and then correct this by careful processing of the RAW file. This typically results in a higher quality image with less shadow noise and more detail. With the Sony RX10 this doesn’t seem to be the case and leaving the camera to calculate the exposure without any compensation seems to render very good images.

So how much can I over expose the image by? Well it seems to be only 2/3 of a stop. BUT a nice feature I have noticed is that the histogram that you can display whilst taking the image seems to reflect what is being captured in the RAW file whilst the zebras seem to indicate where the JPEG file will blow the highlights. I have noticed that I can be showing the warning zebras (set at 100%) but the histogram shows no clipping. The JPEG will show clipping but when I get the RAW file into Lightroom I can fully recover the problem areas.

Hope this helps other Sony RX10 owners out there.