Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Image on the fly

Not exactly flying!  This image was taken inside a cab in Taipei while I was on my to CKS airport.  I have an early flight, left the hotel at day break, it was raining in the early winter morning and sun is rising.
The cab running on the elevated highway, the city skyline blurred by the raindrops falling and dancing on the window glass and I have my Canon 1Ds II with a compact EF Macro 50/2.5 on hand and snap this image.

The need of absolute high resolution?

It is a difficult question and possible many people swear by different answers.  This one for example, shot with Canon 1Ds III + EF Macro 100/2.8L IS.  Although Canon 1Ds III is among the smallest camera I use for studio work, at 21 mpx it is among the highest resolution camera available for full frame 135mm DSLR. But this image, was in fact cropped at apporx. 1/4 of the original image - which in reality is only approx. 5 million pixels.
Should I take the exact image using my Phase One P65+, at 60 mpx original capture, even cropped at only 1/4 of original image, I will still get 15 million pixels.  But it is not the only reason to use higher resolution capture with medium format digital backs just to get flexibility of cropping the image - which I seldom do.  But a higher resolution picture does able allow flexible cropping with less fear of image print size becomes too small.
But can the photographer decided the framing of image during the shoot so there is no cropping needed?  Yes and no.  Yes for obvious reason that precise framing is the basic of photographer, I beleive too!  But sometimes I do crop the image; to get the right ratio of image, less often on that I crop the image to be tighter - especially when shooting packshots. But in general, I shot very tight composition.  But commercially, when one photographer shoot for a commercial assignments, he might not have control over the final image that the client or art director may want to apply thier own creative crop that higher resolution image will be beneficial. And for that, higher resultion the better!
Perhaps as a photographer can care less about the absolute resolution, in stead, focus on getting the best image, because the awful truth is higher resolution may in deed just better and more useful, although you may not need it everytime, but when it is there when you need it, you will appreciate it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Candle Light

This is an image shot awhile ago in St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria.  I took this image with a now discontinued Contax N Digital, which is the earliest full frame DSLR - great camera and great line of lenses, one of the good example is the beautifully made Carl Zeiss Planar 50/1.4 which I use for this image.  The camera and lens system came to an end not by its performance, and the image quality it is capable of producing but because the manufacturer - Kyocera - decided to stop it from marketing.
I cannot say it is a bad decision from Kyocera but they are in business to generate profit and it is a pulic company and they have public responsibility to their investors.  But I will not say it is a good decision either because if Kyocera persisted in supporting the N Digital and gave it a decent software support it might as well become fruitful. Or even they would be successful for a few years, will it survive this wave of convergence of still and motion is also a question.  May be or may be not.  What is certain is that such decision left many Contax owner and users hugely disappointed, me among them, and till many years later still have some negative thought about Kyocera.
In whatever scale, Contax is not a major brand by popular point of view, but it has a status like candle in the dark, tiny but shiny.  The courage to be the first full frame digital and beautiful line of optics is something to praise for,  should Kyocera continue it, it might as well developing into something that will change the landscape of digital camera we see today, Sadly enough, not many manufacturers want to be candle and often people neglects candle light.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tilt-Shift in photojournalism

Is it necessary?  Probably not!  This shot, however, was taken with a Canon 1D II + TS-E 24/3.5L. Why do I need to use a tile-shift lens for this?  The honest answer is at the time of shoot, I happened to have the TS-E 24 on my camera because I was photography an ancient temple in Bali, Indonesia and I was using the shift lens.  But since I happened to have the tilt-shit lens on camera, it does allow me to capture this image with better perspective control. So it was luck.
But is perspective control important to photojournalism image?  No, I don't think so. What I believe in photojournalism work is spontaneous and honesty, else is less important, and for this shot, if I have other lens on the camera I will just use it, won't even care to try to take the TS-E lens out from my camera bag. But does photojournalism image not require higher quality?  Certainly not!  Just that if one put too much thought of using this and that, getting this and that, you may not get the best image possible, and best image is not just about the right gear, it is right time and right mind.

Digital versus film

This is an image taken with Hasselblad X-Pan and the 45mm lens, scan by Nikon Coolscan 8000ED, this was an old stock.  X-Pan was once the most popular panoramic camera, using stock 135mm film.  The first camera I can remembe and use was the Mamiya 6/7 with its 135mm film adapter with basically the same result, however with a much larger camera body, although it is also fair to say Mamiya 6/7 is relatively compact for what it is and light for what it is.
All the discussions on film versus digital are mostly focus on the image result and even today it is still a hot topic among few photographer, for me, the film days were clear gone for me and I have no desire to engage in discussion of which is better, because my mind has made.  But film does remind me some of the images I took, particular this one.  Not that I could have not take this image with a digital camera, but for that film stored in the small canister can be actually quite flexible, simply stretch it inside the cametra, then you can get a panoramic image with the exact media.  With digital, the image sensor is static. Certainly there are also solutions for digital panoramic that I covered a few times in this blog, but they may not deal with this image well for its releatively close foreground, and the fact to use a slower shutter speed to allow the flower blur by the breeze.  Swiss camewra maker, Seitz, in fact did a panoramic camera Seitz 617 - with a mechanism to move the image sensor inside the camera chamber as a field scanner, and it works, with the result of 160mpx resolution.  It has its limitation, but that applies to all camera equipment.
I often wondered, how long will it take a modern day Hasselblad X-Pan? With a panoramic format of capturing sensor? The flexibility to capture full 16:9 to even sub-full frame 35mm image in one small body such as X-Pan?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Venus air walk

A part of an artwork, this shot is made to capture the model in mid air, using Canon 1Ds III and EF 85/1.2L, lighting in use was a couple of Profoto Acute 2 and lights.
It was a rather straight forward shot, as well as lighting, intended to give the model almost 1 stop over exposure so she will appear lighter, as she would need to be in mid air.
Not that I think all the angles are fair skin, I personally have no preference of skin tone, in fact, I would rather to work with a nicely tanned or even over tanned skin as there are more ways to light than models with really fair skin, looks nice in person but more challenge in actual work. However, for the purpose of the final image, the lighter color will suggest the model is lighter and more conveniencing that she can stay afloat in air.

Control the shot

One of the most challenging work in photography is to shoot products with highly reflective surfaces, especially when group them together.
This one, shot for Kohinoor - Crystalized with Swarovski, is a good example.  The set up of the product to reach a visual balance may not benefit the condition of photography, which means, the priority of the arrangement of the products is weighted far above whether it is easier to shoot.  And it is not.  The entire shot takes hours to set up while just 1/125s to actually shoot it, with Phase One P45 on Contax 645 + Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar 45-90/4.5.  Already mentioned a few times in this blog that I rated this lens with sharpness not inferior than many primes, especially at 2.5 meter range where I found it to have the highest level of sharpness.
In order to avoid the reflections on all the surface went crazy, the set up on a table, control the reflection all around, tilt the light box to achieve the nice shading with even illumination while not over burn the detail of  highly reflective surface of mirror polished stainless steel is the challenge, resulted here a shot with in fact minimum photoshop.
In to digital capture, many have the impression that most of the shots are the result of time consuming photoshop works, may be some are, but not all of them.  The highest quality work come directly from skilled photography, not skilled photoshop. And luckily in early 21 century, the fundament in classic photography is still required.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Skin Tone

This is a shot for a fashion accessory laebl, Sunny Rose, the oversize bag made an ideal application that I simply have the model to wrap herself behind the bag. However, this particular iimage was less ablut the bag than the beautiful skin of the lovely American model, Jennifer.
Because the reflexitve material use on the bag I somehow want to lit the model with high ligfht to match the bag but at the same time to retain the skin tone of the model.
The main light use is a bron-color Para 220 fitted with a Pluso G from a Graffi A4. The background was lit with 2 large silver reflector to right amount of luminous to give the skin and background a nice contrast.
Shot with Sinar eMotion 75LV on H6, Schneider 80/2.8 HFT lens.

Friday, November 19, 2010

After Sunset

This is a shot made awhile ago, using the relatively old camera, Canon 1D II with EF 27-70/2.8L at Pataya beach, Thailand.  The shot was made shortly after sunset and the sky displayt a very attractive color.  I use a simple Canon flash gun 580EXas to highlight the skin of the model and balance with the background color, while honestly reproduce the realistic ambient light.
It is not always needed for a large production crew for shot like this but a practice of using small flash.  The modern flash gun from all the major manufacturers are all quite good and qith adequate manual adjustments. Although the Canon 580 EX does come with a dedicated E-TTL exposure, however, as always, I tried to rely on my own experience of using manual output to balance the light the way I prefer. There is nothiong wrong to use auto exposure but iot is always nice to spend a little more time to adjust everytihng with each one's preference and get the result that is a little different from those common ones.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another take on portrait

Shot recently using Canon 1Ds III with EF Macro 100/2.8L IS, the focal length is use here again to portrait the model in a slightly close up framing, but still want to keep the distance from a model slightly longer, with a little compressed perspective.
Taking portrait really has no certain rule, and really it matters with the final use of image or where it is taken and the lighting set up. I remembered years ago when using film, outdoors especially, I used the Contax RTSIII with Carl Zeiss Distagon ME 28/2 - although a wide angle, but because of the ability to shoot close up with very nature perspective control, it was my prime choice of lens back then, but of course, I did not shoot for commercial then.  But will a particular lens gives some inspiration to photographer?  I think it does, at least it is to me. Coming to the age of digital capture, and the relatively high resolution image that the room to crop the image becomes more flexible, and then my choice of focal length became a little narrower, now mostly between 35mm to 100mm for smaller DSLR such as Canon 1Ds III or 5DII, and 80mm to 150mm with medium format, similar to most photographers.  The most different approach is, I almost use prime lens exclusively, not really because I think prime lens final image quality is superior than zoom, it often does, not not all the time.  My favorite zoom lens, Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 45-90 for Contax 645 is perhaps one fo the best lens I ever use, prime or zoom, of any format.  But the preference in using prime is the particular concentration in framing, with a fixed focal length prime, I need to move forward or backward to get the best framing, rather than simply use a zoom lens so my composition seldom change, and result less variety.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Perspective Control

Shots from a recent interior work for Narai Hotel located in Bangkok, Thailand.  Naturally, for interior and architecture work I would use either a technical camera or DSLR system with perspective control lenes and  for this work due to the final requirement of image does not require larrge print, so I took use a compact Canon 5DII (also to shoot 360 degree QTVR using Seitz VR Drive) and the PC-E lenses Canon currently carries, namely the 17mm, 24mm, 45mm and 90mm.
As an intering alternative, Hasselblad also re-introduce its former PC Mutar T* 1.4X (first of which in the world, to my knowledge) with the now reknown HTS 1.5 (offer both shift and tilt movement however it is movement is no independent as the new Canon TS-E lense did and perhaps Hasselblad might have a HTS 1.5.2 at works? - would be even more useful.
Coming back to the acronym of PC, one might refer it as perspective correct or more creatively to call it perspective control, with the later my prefer term and use of PC lenses.
One may pre-occupy with the idea that for interior or architecture work that the converging line needed to be corrected so they appear parallel; yes, but perhaps not always.   Human eye of course has an excellent optical and neual system that we can register complicated architecture form mostly correctly, wihtout needing mechanical shift like on the old fashion photography - which is to say the possible devleopment of independent glass movement in a lens may deliver even better result, but such development might targeted to a market so small that will cost too much that make itself becomes unfeasible, perhaps only time would tell and we may know sooner than later than we think.  Anyway, our eyes do have their lmit, when the scale of object is becomeso big, then our eyes do see tall things converging - so it does means that there is no true definition what perspective correctness is, and so may be interior or architecture photographers can be a little less obssessed.
For example of the two image below, both use Canon 5DII and the extremely sharp Canon PC-E 17/4L (perhaps one of the best lens in Canon's EF line-up today and best of ites type in the world), both with multiple shots and digitally stitched together in Adobe Photoshop CS5.
This image is a traditional perspective corrected images, using VR Drive to get 7 catures and stitched together.
While this one also shot with Canon 5DII with 17/4L, but rather than trying to apply the so-called perspective correction, I leave the perspective as it is define by the lens in zero correction setting, but do shift the lens from top-middle-bottom for 3 captures and stitched them together to get the final image. Yes, the image does not have the expected PC correction from what the PC-E lens is designed to do but come to think of the PC is not always perspective correction, it is about control, and control means one can decide whatever he wants to do, which in this image, I took the liberty to leave it as is so the final image was perspective stretch to portrait the looby of hotel with more dramatic and spacious effect.
Sure, there are photogrpahers may insist what certain image needed to be done, but luckily, I don't know hardly anyone who can rightfully define the photography by oneself, no one is really right or wrong, what I do believe is as long as one can polish his craft to as far as he could, he is a master of his work. And I am still learning.

Simple Portrait

A recent shot on a very beautiful Brazilian girl.  The set upo of lighting in studio was rather simple, it is simple because I want the portrait to be simple and why not.
Sometimes the simplest element will have less distraction for a fine protrait, which unless for specific commercial needs, is really to naturally display the spirit, and character.
Shot with Canon 1Ds III mounted with EF Macro 100/2.8L IS, Profoto Pro-7 light.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crystal White

A recent shot for a Thailand based cosmetic company, UStar, taken with Canon 1Ds III with EF Macro 100/2.8L IS.  The use of slightly longer focal length is to portrait the beauty in a somewhat magnified way. It is possible to use a normal focal length, for example a 50mm, or a classic portrait lens such as the 85mm which will give the protrait a little more friendlier perspective.
The use of 100mm in this image is not that I do not want an image to be friendlier, it was opted for the final image to portrait the beauty in a magnified way, so the model to appear a little far away but not too far away.
The visual experience of human is very complicated, because our eyes and our mind has almost unlimited experience in perception of world around us, even very subtle difference in perspective will have different impact in our mind, however, at the end of it, it is perhaps the photogrpaher's subjective choice, nothing is absolutely right or wrong.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Panorama Image

In the time of digital capture, many fields of photography get their shares advancements, some evolutions, some revolutions, of course photography is still photography.
I have covered many times in this blog of my point of view on the panaramic image which I considered one of the type of photography get the largest benefit.  And the benefit is not just on the photography itself, rather, the digital technology open the gate to many photographers who has never possess the idea to do or adequate equipment to do are now all doing it.   Yes, one may argue that panoramic image is just a small branch of photography, and they are not wrong.  But then to envision the landscape or location or situations and see them in panoramic is totally different, it gives the photographer very different vision into their own craft, allow them varies approaches for their image.
With digital technology continue to develop, the panoramic image sure will contonue to develop. Sony has developed recently their 3D panoramic image to be taken automatically with their digital cameras, is one good example and certainly will be followed by most manufacturers.
Image here is stitched from 5 captures using Hasselblad H3D-39 with HC 300/4.5 using a Seitz VR Drive, at Ranwu Lake, Tibet.


This is an image shot for a lighting company, taken with Phase One P45 mounted on Contax 645, using Carl Zeiss Distagon 55/3.5.  The shot used a com-bination of slow shutter speed to register enough light of the chandelier, as well as a studio light for the model, with a bron-color Verso A4.
The trick of combining ambient light in a time exposure and incident light is not that complicate as it sound since the two different light sources in fact has little to do with each other, and quite easily to get the exposure such as this. In photographic production, yes in deed the exposure is one of the most fundamental issue to deal with but with little practice, especially in digital capture, one can master quite easily in a relatively short time, however, it is the idea to get the shoot a little more challenge.  Having said it, with a good and confident control over exposure will most certainly push the limit of creative a lot further.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Head Turner

The opposite sex often possesses certain mystery, no matter how one claims how much he knows.  Perhaps the mystery comes from the fundalmental differences between two sexes, also by the fact that nature makes the differences so much yet they are meant to match. So the mystery is perhaps comes within the most basic attraction?
There are unlimited ways to shoot portrait, something one does well in his approach and others do in theirs, there are so much because each person is often unique in himself.  Whatever the difference, there are also commons to be found. Straight forward portrait is straight forward, because it is what it is.  Those shot with one turning back to camera, such as this one what with Canon 1Ds III with EF Makro 100/2.8L IS, often portraits a little mystery on the final image because part of the face was hidden, eye in the shadow, that makes otherwise common portrait with something extra.