Friday, June 24, 2016

Electronic Viewfinders And Dynamic Range

Patriot (click to enlarge)
Fujifilm X-T1, 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens @ 25.4mm; 1/320th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200
One of the criticisms of electronic viewfinders (EVF) has been that all too often, during high contrast situations such as bright sun and deep shade in the same frame, that in most EVFs of the past there has been a loss of shadow detail (shadows go black in the EVF) and highlight detail (highlights blow out in the EVF) as well.  Colors can be washed out when the subject is backlit and the view the photographer sees doesn't closely resemble what he or she can see with their eyes, or as one would see with an optical viewfinder (OVF). This is one of the reasons many have decided to stick with an OVF.

A few manufacturers have worked very hard to improve not only the resolution of EVFs (now over 2 million dots), but also the software in their cameras to help photographers see more dynamic range, color, contrast and give us higher refresh rates.  Fujifilm, Leica, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony are the leaders, in my opinion. From what I have read and researched, it seems the new Leica EVF is at the top of the heap with the others close behind.  Since I own Fujifilm gear, I want to pass on what I have discovered over the past couple of years using my X-T1 in providing me with the closest experience to an OVF that I can achieve.

Fujifilm comes along and gives us an excellent EVF that can serve photographers well, whether the photographer prefers RAW or JPEG files.  With JPEGS, the photographer can choose any of Fujifilm's Film simulations as well as black and white with several choices of filtration and get a excellent rendition of how the color, saturation, contrast, shadows and highlights will look in the final image file.  That is huge.  I have utilized that feature regularly and have been very pleased with the accuracy of what I see to the image I later look at in my editing software.  No matter your preference, Fujifilm gives you choices as they did when film dominated the craft.  But what about RAW shooters?

When one prefers to shoot only RAW that is the situation which I described above that can be problematic. EVFs don't necessarily simulate the entire dynamic range of what will be captured in the RAW file.  However, Fujifilm gives your a couple of options to closely simulate the full dynamic range of the sensor so as to give the RAW shooter as close to an idea of what the final RAW image file will look like in editing software.  

First, again if you have your camera set to only record RAW, one can set the Film Simulation feature to Pro Neg S with the highlight and shadow tones both set to -2.  Pro Neg S is Fujifilm's proclaimed lowest contrast film simulation.  In fact, it is low contrast similar to the wedding and portrait negative films of the past.  Wedding and portrait films had to record white wedding dresses together with black tuxedos, keeping detail in both. Also, color had to be natural and accurate.  Pro Neg S is about as close as one will get to that.

Second, let color stay at 0 and noise reduction at -2.  Color will stay natural and you really don't need any noise reduction for these sensors until you get very high up on the high ISO range.  

I recommend setting the sharpening to +1, since the image you preview on the LCD is a JPEG rendition of your RAW exposure and you will want to check sharpness (after all you aren't planning on using the JPEG anyway).  If you set it to -2, the image will appear as though it is not sharp and kind of drive you crazy (because you know the Fuji lenses are very sharp, you carefully focused the lens and used a shutter speed far higher than the reciprocal of the focal length!  In other words, good technique).  +1 will look sharp on the LCD so you can better judge.

Those settings will give you a preview of pretty much all the dynamic range the sensor will capture as well as a neutral color rendition with normal saturation and contrast.  In fact, the image may look too flat but the idea is to see the capability to the sensor to better judge exposure, composition and detail in highlights and shadow, not a finished image in the LCD.

If you are a RAW + JPEG shooter (I always shoot RAW + JPEG Fine in my Fujifilm cameras as that is the only way to get a 100% preview of the image on the LCD; RAW alone will not allow an LCD magnification at 100%), you can go into your menu system and and find Preview Picture Effect.  Turn that off.  On my X-T1 with the latest firmware (4.31), that can be found under the second Wrench menu, under Screen Setup, then it will be the eighth option (which is on the second subsequent screen).  By doing this you can set your JPEG rendition to whatever you like for your JPEGS but keep the EVF and LCD showing you an image file as close to a RAW image as possible.  This is a nice compromise that gives you the most flexibility.  You see approximately what the sensor will record but your JPEGS are processed according to your tastes, whether in Velvia, Classic Chrome, etc.

All that being written, if you want to shoot only JPEGS (you just don't want to mess with RAW files at all or you may not have an editing program that can deal with RAW files), want maximum flexibility and maximum ability to edit the files to reflect your personal vision for color, contrast, saturation, shadow and highlight detail, you will want a file with all your setting set as low as possible in your menu.  Instead of the settings I recommend above, go in and set them all for -2, except sharpening as I would still keep that at +1 since Fujifilm's sharpening algorithms are pretty good.  However, to get the most flexibility, set sharpening to -2 as well, then sharpen in your editing software.  That will give you a flat, lifeless, relatively unsaturated file with plenty of highlight and shadow detail (if you properly exposed the file).  That will give you an opportunity to create the final look with as few constraints and as much flexibility as possible, losing as little quality as possible from the 8-bit JPEG image file.  It is easier to add color and contrast than trying to recover shadow and highlight detail from a contrasty JPEG file.

Fujifilm must have real photographers continuously giving them suggestions and feedback (they do) as most camera companies would never think about these types of choices and what is important to RAW shooters, JPEG shooters and those who like both RAW + JPEG.

Another nice aspect of the Fujifilm cameras is the ability to set function buttons to almost anything.  Since I don't do any video, I have my red video button set up as another function button and have the Preview Picture Effect function set there so I can easily toggle it on or off.

Try out these settings and see how they work for you.   It is always best to understand everything about your gear and know its capabilities so when you find a scene that is really challenging, you know what your gear can do.  No guessing.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Brief Photography Outing

Osprey guarding the fledgling. From JPEG file, cropped almost to 100% (click to enlarge)
Fujifilm X-T1, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens @ 400mm; 1/550th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 400
Yesterday was one of those hot, humid summer days in southeastern Virginia.  For me, just a bit too hot and humid to spend much time outdoors.  The temperature topped out a few degrees over 90 F (30 C).  The sky was overcast and white.  I call it a bald sky.  You know the kind of day.  


Full image of above (click to enlarge)
A couple of my good photography friends and I met for breakfast, as we do on occasion. After talking photography and solving the problems of the world, we decided to caravan over to the Colonial Parkway, a lovely drive which runs between Yorktown and Historic Jamestown, Virginia to see if we could find any raptors to photograph.  My hopes weren't high as this time of year is not really the best for active and plentiful raptors.  However, we know of 6 Bald Eagle nests and many Osprey nests along the Parkway.

We did see a few birds.  They were very distant. Nothing was close enough to really photograph even with an equivalent 600mm lens, but photograph we did. There were some young birds in nests that occasionally made themselves visible for only a moment or two.  I had my Fujifilm X-T1 and 100-400mm lens.  I had the ISO set for 400 and aperture priority set for f/5.6—wide open.

All images in this post are from the JPEG files.  Yes, I trust the Fuji engineers that much to use JPEGS instead of only RAW files.  To me, not in every case but in many many cases, the JPEGS are indistinguishable from the RAW files. Unfortunately, due to the distance to the birds, I had to crop extremely heavily to get a proper composition, but the files help up excellently.


Young Osprey poking his/her head from behind dead tree (click to enlarge)
Technical info same as above

About a 100% crop of a young Osprey in a nest in the middle of a waterway, from JPEG file (click to enlarge)
Fujifilm X-T1, 100-400mm lens @ 400mm; 1/680th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 400
Pretty well obscured Bald Eagle on Right with Young on Left high in a pine tree, JPEG file (click to enlarge)
Fujifilm X-T1, 100-400mm lens @ 400mm; 1/300th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 400
Full frame of same image (click to enlarge)
Also, just for perspective, I've included a couple of the full frame images just for illustration as to how much cropping I did so you can see how well these JPEGS held up.

I've done this same photography with my Nikon D810 and the expensive f/2.8 Nikon professional lenses.  Although the Nikons produce very sharp and detailed images, I would never think to use the JPEGS out of that camera as I do with the X-T1.  To me, they just don't compare favorably.

All in all, not very good images, but I wanted to share with you what we did find and show you that not only can you feel comfortable using Fuji JPEGS, but you can also heavily crop and still maintain excellent quality.

Even better than the photography was the comraderie, companionship and sharing of a meal, conversation and photography with two good friends.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Is There A Need To Travel To Photograph?

Maple leaf (click to enlarge)
Often times I feel that I need to "go somewhere" to find subjects to photograph.  Over the years I realized, almost without exception, that is not true.  There are many, many subjects close to one's home which make interesting photographic subjects.  You just have to open you mind, look at your environment with "fresh eyes," and see what you can find.

For example, I was out for a neighborhood walk one autumn day.  As I walked down the sidewalk I saw numerous maple leaves on the ground.  Thinking I may have a subject for a macro image, I stopped and looked for a leaf that was relatively free of decay and symmetrical. I instantly knew that I wanted to make a closeup image of it.  I suspect 99% of people would just walk by.

After returning to my home, the setup was easy.  I used a clip to attach the stem of the leaf to a stationary surface, used a 2800k high intensity desk lamp to light the leaf (the only light source) which threw the background into total blackness, then photographed the small leaf with a 60mm f/2.8 macro lens at f/11.  While editing, I cloned out some of the small black spots of decay as well as adjusted the saturation,  contrast and luminance to highlight the internal leaf detail.  I bet it didn't take more than 15 minutes to make this image but this image became one of my favorites.  I have a 16" X 24" matted and framed photograph of it on a wall in my home.

While editing this image, I spotted the small spot in the lower right corner, just to the left of the bottom right leaf "point."  Guess what?  A small insect!  Below is a detail image showing that little critter.

Even his little legs are rendered sharply in this image (click to enlarge)
So, if you are feeling a bit photographically stale, grab your camera and just walk or drive around the area in which you live (I used to take a camera with me to work every day and would leave the office at lunchtime to go out and photograph as well.  That served three purposes; It took my mind off work, relaxed me and generated some interesting images I always came back afterwards with a smile). 

If you slow down, look with "fresh eyes" to really "see" your surroundings and open your mind, you just may find some things that make interesting subjects that you have ignored in the past.  You will need to not only look forward, but look up, to the left and right, as well as up.  And don't forget to turn around on occasion and look behind you.  Things often times look much different from the other direction.

You don't have to travel to exotic places to find interesting subject matter.  Really.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Day Tripping; Part III Of III

Fashions (click to enlarge)
Fujifilm X-T1, 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens @31.5mm; 1/300th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200
Here is the last batch of the images I made during my short time wandering around the lovely and quaint little town of Edenton, North Carolina.  Our time there was only for about two hours.

I wrote about the reasons for this particular day trip.  You can read about them here and here.

All of these images were made with a Fujifilm X-T1 and the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens, a terrific street combination.

Also, if you have the opportunity to look at these images, or any digital images, on something as high resolution as an Apple Retina screen, please do so.  I continue to be blown away by the quality of the images this camera/sensor/lens combination makes. They have an indescribable quality about them that is very pleasing to my eye.

The tour boat "Liber-Tea" (click to enlarge)
34.3mm; 1/680th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200

Roanoke River Light and Early American Flag (click to enlarge)
28.9mm; 1/18th @ f/22; ISO 200
Extreme depth of field and slow shutter speed to capture movement of the flag.

Bench in the gardens of the historic Cupola House (click to enlarge)
27.7mm; 1/25th sec. @ f/11; ISO 200
Old weathered red barn and American Flag (click to enlarge)
18mm; 1/600th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200
The only image in this series that was not made in Edenton, North Carolina is the last, the old, weathered, red barn.  As we left the town and drove north on NC 32, I spotted this barn as I drove by.  I drove about a mile or so, thinking about it.  Can't do it! I just had to turn around and come back to photograph it.  Too much character to let it go by without making several images of it.  I'm glad I did.  Over the years, I have found that if I see something that strikes my eye, I always turn around and go back to photograph it.  If I think that I can photograph it on the return trip, it never works out that it is the same.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Day Tripping; Part II Of III

Edenton Harbor, Edenton, North Carolina (click to enlarge)
Fujifilm X-T1, 18-55mm lens @ 19.6mm; 1/250th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200
Five images merged in Lightroom CC 2015
Here are a few more of the images I made during my short time wandering around the lovely and quaint little town of Edenton, North Carolina.

I wrote about the reasons for this particular day trip.  You can read about them here. 

All of these images were made with a Fujifilm X-T1 and the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens, a terrific street combination.

Also, if you have the opportunity to look at these images on something as high resolution as an Apple Retina screen, please do so.  I continue to be blown away by the quality of the images this camera/sensor/lens combination makes.  


Taking the children for a walk. (click to enlarge)
18mm, 1/125th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200

Porch, Historic Barker House (click to enlarge)
18mm; 1/75th sec. @ f/9; ISO 200

Flag, Bike and Shoes (click to enlarge)
Notice there is no lock on the bicycle.  No need for one in this lovely small town, evidently.  Nice.
23.3mm; 1/30th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200
Tour boat "Liber-Tea" passing the Roanoke River Lighthouse (click to enlarge)
38mm; 1/220th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200
I was able to capture a surprising number of interesting (notice I didn't say good!) images during my short walk through the historic downtown.  More on Friday.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Taking A Day Trip; Making The Most Of It

Roanoke River Lighthouse, Edenton, North Carolina (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 18-55mm lens @ 24.3mm; 1/180th sec. @ f/11; ISO 200
Late last week, I took a day trip to scout out two wildlife refuges in anticipation of some fall and winter wildlife photography.  The two refuges are about 135 miles (217 km) from my home.  I didn't plan on any photography in the refuges as my time there would be from late morning until afternoon, just when wildlife is pretty much inactive.  (However, I did see an adult black bear on one of the gravel roads on which I was traveling.  He/she was a bit comical in his/her actions.  He/she would run 40-50 yards (36-45 meters), stop, sit on its hind end, turn its head to look to see if I was still behind it, then get up and run some more.  He/she did this a few times until it got to a side road where it veered off into the woods.  Heck, I even stopped and just watched it so it didn't have to run, but it did.)


Sears, Edenton, North Carolina (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 18-55mm lens @ 50.5mm; 1/140th sec. @ f/11; ISO 200
Not wanting to make the trip only about scouting the refuges, I thought about what else along my way could I find to do instead of just driving to the refuges and back.  Since my wife decided to accompany me on this outing, I thought it would be nice to take the country roads and pass through a few small quaint towns on the way home.  If we saw something of interest, we could stop.

We did decid to stop in the small, waterfront town of Edenton, North Carolina.  I had been through there in the past, but just drove through and never really visited.  Time for a visit.  I thought we could walk in the historic downtown, visit the waterfront and she could window shop (if only window shop!) if she desired while I did some street photography. I love wandering around with no specific agenda just seeing what I can see that might be visually interesting.

This plan killed three birds with the proverbial one stone by obtaining the knowledge I needed for future photography at the wildlife refuges, also provided interest to both of us in the town and I made some interesting images as well.  I'll post some of those images today as well as later this week.

All of the images from that day were made with my Fujifilm X-T1 and the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens.  I didn't want to carry more than one camera and one lens as I walked around. That small, lightweight yet highly capable body and lens combination provided me with versatility and the potential for excellent image quality as well.  In fact, this basic combination was perfect for the time we were there.


Reflection of Family and Blind Man Playing the Flute for donations,
Edenton, North Carolina (click to enlarge)

X-T1, 18-55mm lens @ 44.4mm; 1/60th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200
There are many things about small towns that appeal to me.  Whenever I travel, I try to go though small towns, down country roads and meet the people who live there. In my experience, from the way I've been treated, to the genuineness, to taking time to engage in interesting conversation hearkens back to when I was younger and life was simpler.  (I know, I'm old, "get off my lawn you kids!" or "I told you not to throw that ball into my yard (garden), so now I'm keeping it!")  


Fishing with two poles, Edenton, North Carolina (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 18-55mm lens  @ 50.5mm; 1/180th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200
Small towns and the people who live and work in and around them make wonderful photographic subjects.  My advice is to seek them out, visit, get to know some of those wonderful folks, patronize the small shops, be genuine in all of your interactions with them, make some interesting photographs and walk away with a smile.

More images from that day on Wednesday.  

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The McCurry Controversy Continues And, Unfortunately, Gets Worse

The photographic darkness continues...  (click to enlarge)
Olympus E-M5, Panasonic 100-300mm lens @ 300mm; 1/1600th sec. @ f/9; ISO 500
Just when you thought the Steve McCurry Photoshop altered images controversy has run its course, unfortunately it hasn't.  And...it seems to have gotten worse.

If you are not familiar with this topic, this story has been all over the internet in the past month. Steve McCurry is one of the most renowned photographers, known internationally as a photojournalist and documentary photographer for 30 or more years, shooting for National Geographic and many other publications, as well as a member of the prestigious Magnum Photos consortium, again, probably the most prestigious group of photographers worldwide.  His most well known image is of Sharbat Gula, the green-eyed Afghan girl that is one of the most iconic images of the last half of the 20th century.  I first wrote about this here.  

I have been a huge admirer of Mr. McCurry and I find myself greatly disappointed in what I am reading and seeing.  In the end, it may turn out that Mr. McCurry has not produced images that we thought they were.

Unfortunately, more allegations of wrongdoing have been brought forward as more and more in the photographic industry delve deeply into McCurry's past photographic efforts to look what else could be found, other than the Photoshopped images initially discovered. Here is a recent article published on the Petapixel website entitled, "Eyes of the Afghan Girl: A Critical Take on the 'Steve McCurry Scandal'," written by Kshitij Nagar.  If you are interested in this ongoing and developing important photojournalistic story, I suggest you take a look.

Nagar alleges, backed by confirmation by several direct witnesses, that McCurry routinely staged images, at least made on some of his trips to India.  Not good.  You just can't photograph for a journalistic publication of the likes of National Geographic and stage images.  Nagar also closely examines various iterations of the famed Afghan Girl image and can point out how that image has been manipulated as well.

Let me ask you—in all of the years you have read, seen, looked at or known about National Geographic Magazine, what has been your expectation of the images contained therein?  Mine has been that the images are moments of life, nature, science or otherwise, caught by fantastic photographers, allowing us to see cultures, places and things around the world that we will never see, in a manner in which we will never see them.  That, to me, has been the essence of the magazine in all the years I was a subscriber.  I would never have thought any of the images would have been staged.

I don't know where this is going.  However, it seems to me, unfortunately, there is enough direct evidence of various kinds of photographic manipulation that, in the end, this will hurt Mr. McCurry's reputation as, again, one of the premier photojournalists and photographers of my lifetime.  Sad.

I'm just very disappointed.  Even sadder.
Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Camera Is A Tool; A Camera You Like Can Be A Tool Of Inspiration

18th Century replica tools at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  It really doesn't matter what year or task,
the right tools for the right job can make a difference in one's creativity and final product. (click to enlarge)
Back on April 13, 2013, I wrote a blog post listing all of the cameras I can remember owning.  If you are interested, you can find that post here.

The other day I found myself thinking about some of the gear I've had over my photographic lifetime.  I'm not sure why I was thinking about all of those cameras, but it struck me that the cameras I really enjoyed using, the ones I kept for long periods of time, are the same cameras that allowed me to produce some of my best and most satisfying images.  The ones that I purchased, used for a period, didn't like much for a variety of reasons, then sold, didn't inspire me to make good images.

This is not to say that I didn't make bad images with my favorite cameras or good images with my least favorite cameras, but it was easier to use tools that I felt handled and worked just right for me and the types of photography I practiced.  It was a joy picking them up, taking them out and using them.  No fiddling or fumbling or struggling to make them work the way I wanted and needed them to work.

For many, many years I could honestly say I had one all-time favorite camera.  I can't say that today since there are now four cameras that tie for that title.  Previously, my 20 year relationship with my Pentax 6X7 camera was at the top.  I lugged around that big heavy Texas-sized 35mm looking camera body and four lenses all over the country and loved the images I made with it.  I almost exclusively used negative film as I developed and printed my own black and white prints, up to 16" X 20" (40 X 50 cm)., A close friend owned a professional photo lab and allowed me to develop and print my color enlargements there, which was a real treat.  A negative 4 times the size of a 35mm negative gave me the minimum quality i desired.

Since the digital age, I now consider the Pentax, the Nikon D810, the Olympus E-M1 and the Fujifilm X-T1 as tied for my all-time favorite camera bodies.  Each of those cameras worked just right for me, allowing me to take my mind off the technical aspect of fiddling with settings, controls and dials and allowing me to concentrate on the creative aspect of my photography.

Here is an update to that list in alphabetical order, not in the order in which I purchased and used them over the past 46 years.  Still way too many.  Can you say gluttony?  Or embarrassment?

As you can see, brand really doesn't matter to me.  It is finding the tool that does the job best for me.


Calumet 4X5 Studio Camera
Canon A-1
Canon EOS 650
Canon EOS 620
Canon F-1
Canon F-1n
Canon G11
Canon G2
Canon G9
Canon S95
Contax T
Fujifilm X-T1 (2)
Holga 120N
Kodak Brownie Flashmate 20
Kodak Instamatic 102
Koni Rapid Omega 100
Leica M3 SS
Leica M6
Leica M6 TTL
Leica M7
Leica Minilux
Leica R4SP (2)
Leica R8
Mamiya C330F
Minolta Dimage A-1
Minolta Hi-Matic 7
Minolta SR-T101
Nikkormat EL
Nikon D200
Nikon D300
Nikon D70
Nikon D700
Nikon D7000
Nikon D800E
Nikon D810
Nikon F2A
Nikon F2AS
Nikon FE
Nikon FE2
Nikon FM
Nikon FM2n
Nikon N2020
Nikon N8008
Nikon N90
Nikon N90s
Olympus OM-D E-M5
Olympus OM-D E-M1
Olympus XA
Panasonic GX1
Pentax 645 (2)
Pentax 645N
Pentax 6X7 (3)
Plaubel Makina 67
Speed Graphic
Tachihara 4X5 Cherry Field Camera

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Choices

The image as I had imagined it when making it. This image is a result of 12 images
focus stacked and processed in Helicon Focus 6 and Lightroom CC. (click to enlarge)
In our digital photographic world today, we have so many choices as to how best we want our images to look in their final stage.  The two images here illustrate that fact.

The other day, I noticed that the lilies were blooming.  I knew I wanted to make a macro image of the flower and started to look for a satisfactory bloom.  I carefully cut one and placed it into water.

Next, I set up an easy, what I call "down and dirty" macro setup on my kitchen table, which has a north facing window.  A tripod, a tall glass with the flower and a black background.  No additional lighting.  Due to space and camera considerations, I decided to use my Nikon D810 with the Tamron 90mm macro lens, which focuses to 1:1.  Initially, I wanted to use my Fujifilm X-T1, but don't currently have a macro lens for it and my makeshift method of using the 55-200 lens with the Nikon 6T filter would do the job, but as I said, space constraints would have made it difficult since I would have to use a longer focal length than the 90mm macro.

I pulled out my ancient piece of black velvet, opened up my big Induro carbon fiber tripod then attached the Nikon and Tamron for the images I had in my mind.  I kept the ISO on 100, which would necessitate a shutter speed of about 1 second for f/8 and 4 seconds for f/16.  I then went about making a number of images with various compositions.

One thing I had planned from the beginning was focus stacking the images so I could have everything in focus from front to back.  I haven't done much of that in the past, but this type of situation was perfect for me to try it again and improve my skills.  I made two versions of each composition by focus stacking a series of images at both f/8 and f/16. Additionally, I made some images at f/16 that were not destined to be focus stacked.  For this endeavor, I set the camera on manual, used live view and manually focused each image carefully.

After making a sufficient number of images to satisfy my vision, I proceeded to import them into Lightroom CC for editing.  I use Helicon Focus 6 for the focus stacking.  Again, a piece of software I'm just getting to learn.

Here is where the choices come in. Normally, I don't like to look at my images for a few days after I made them as I want to somewhat forget the excitement and feelings I had while making them and emotionally detach the image editing process from the experience itself.  But, I wanted to see these images and see how well I was learning focus stacking so I set out to edit them the same day.

Immediately I became conflicted as to how I wanted a final image to look.  I decided on a particular image that I wanted to eventually print large and frame.  I kept toying with it but just couldn't get it to my satisfaction. I increased and decreased saturation and clarity.  I increased and decreased luminance and color balance.  I worked on the image for quite some time but I just couldn't find what I was looking for.  I decided to sleep on it.  With many things, walking away is the best temporary solution.  It allows me to subconsciously process and problem solve over time. This method has always worked well for me.

The next day I went through the same process unable to resolve in my mind the amount of saturation, detail, color balance that most pleased what I had in mind when I made the image.  Again, I walked away and went about the day, only occasionally thinking about the image.

Only on the third day did it finally hit me as to how I wanted that image to look.  It wasn't sharp from front to back as I had made is by focus stacking 12 separate images.  My preference, it turns out, is that I wanted a somewhat "diffused" image with only the yellow, center spadix sharp and the rest of the image soft and slightly ethereal in nature. I wanted "softness" not a harsh, every tiny detail visible, scientific look.  I wanted the colors to blend into each other.  I wanted beauty, not a scientific specimen.  It took me three days to get there but that is the one I decided upon as my final preference.


This is the image as I decided I wanted it to look—diffused with only the yellow spdix sharp.  I wanted
more of a diffused, ethereal look instead of a clinically sharp look. (click to enlarge)
Two lessons to be learned for me with this experience.  First, isn't it nice to be able to have choices, such as described here, long after we return from a photo shoot?  Isn't nice to be able to craft an image in various ways to suit our mood? Isn't' nice that technology allows us to expand our vision beyond what we had originally imagined, even after leaving the scene?

Second, I reinforced to myself that editing my images too closely to when I made them never seems to allow my mind to see them with "fresh eyes" and causes confliction and uncertainty in the process of finalizing the look I am after.  I just need to put them away and go back to them after a few days.

I find photographing today so much more satisfying than in the past.  The digital world has allowed me to do things and create final images in ways I never would have been able to do in the past.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Steve McCurry Controversy; Something Or Nothing?

Fishing, Poquoson, Virginia (click to enlarge)
Olympus E-M1, Olympus 50-200mm f/3.5 lens @ 200mm; 1/2500th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 200
By now I suspect most of you have read about the ongoing controversy involving famed photographer and photojournalist Steve McCurry.  Is it something or nothing?

For years, I've been an admirer of his and have followed his work throughout his career in National Geographic Magazine, other publications as well as him being a member of Magnum.  Let me say at the outset, in my opinion, his is one of the very best.

If you are not familiar with the current controversy, all you have to do is search the internet (as of this week, internet is no longer considered a proper noun and doesn't have to capitalized) with terms such as "Steve McCurry Photoshopped Images."  That should bring up many, many sites.

The essence of the controversy is that Mr. McCurry has posted images on his website, also picked up by many other sites due to his reputation and excellence as a leading photographer, as well as having gallery exhibits and prints for sale of his excellent work.   Many of these images, it turns out, have been heavily Photoshopped. This fact was accidentally discovered by an Italian photographer and made public.  The controversy arises in the fact that no one knew some of his images have been Photoshopped and McCurry's reputation is one of a photojournalist and documentary photographer of the highest order.  

When asked, at first he was silent.  His responses now have been very limited.  One comment in May at an art show in Canada was that the Photoshopped images are his personal work and not photojournalism or documentary in nature.  Fair enough.  Personal work can be altered as much as the photographer wants.  But nobody knew that.  He complicates the issue by saying (and I'll give you the essence of one of his statements as I don't have the direct quote) that Photoshop is only for adjusting color balance, contrast, saturation, luminance, etc. and not for adding and removing things. But that is what has happened with many of his iconic images. There were many major changes to his images including items that have been removed, such as people, items added such as an arm on a child and things changed such as buildings made to stand upright, colors changed, etc. Not insignificant minor changes. Furthermore, and sadly in my oponion, initially he blamed a lab technician who made these alterations without permission.  However, could you imagine a lab technician altering images from one of the world's most famous photographers without permission or specific direction?  I can't.  In any case, the photographer is ultimately responsible for his work.

I've been following him for almost his entire career and when seeing the images that have been Photoshopped, my assumption is that these images are either part of his overall body of work or a part of his photojournalistic endeavors.  There is no way to distinguish as the the subject matter, nature and character of the images are exactly as the same as those he made for Nat Geo and other publications.   There is no way to tell the difference unless he tells us.

Petapixel has examples of the original plus altered images that you can view here.  There are many, many other examples you can easily find on the Internet as well.  Again, Google finds the images and displays them upon searching.


I still like McCurry and admire his work.  I Photoshop my images but I've never portrayed myself as a documentarian, photojournalist or anything similar.  I have always portrayed my images as my art and I visualize, either before or at the time I press the shutter, how I want the final image to appear.  If that requires some Photoshopping, I don't hesitate. Again, my work is not documentary nor journalistic.  There should never be any confusion about my work.  If someone asks me if I have altered an image by taking out a piece of trash, a pole, an extraneous person or such, I'll readily admit it as I had visualized that change or alteration at the time of exposure.  Art is art, journalism is journalism.

Lately, Mr. McCurry has been calling himself a "visual storyteller."   That is okay but he needs to make the distinction as to which of his images are photojournalism, documentary, art or visual storytelling in some way, shape or form before putting them out to the public for consumption.  The sad part of all of this is now his entire body of work has come under suspicion and, personally, I don't believe that is called for.  I have not seen any indication that his Nat Geo or other work has ever been altered.  But...

This controversy is not too different than those by famous actors, business people, politicians who are photographed using certain products, eating at restaurants or driving a particular make of car.  If the image is commercial in nature, in other words, if the person is being compensated or rewarded in some way for doing one of those activities, there should be a clear disclaimer that the individual is being paid, in some manner, for eating, being seen or using a particular product.  Otherwise, we in the general public, may assume that the individual is doing these activities because they prefer them.  Not many famous people do anything without being paid any more.  Buyer beware!

I'll repeat here that I buy all my own equipment and all of my opinions are my own.  I'm not beholding to anyone for anything.  No advertising, no discounts, no free stuff, nothing.  I present my images as they are—my art.  Nothing more, nothing less.

It is important how you portray yourself, your art, your body of work and be clear as to the parameters you use to create the final product.  You have to find someway to let people know the nature of your art and allow them to distinguish between various intents with what you create.  Otherwise, your motives and reputation may come into question as well.  Once it does, as we all know even if false, the doubt remains with the public.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.