Thursday, May 28, 2015

Using flash with infrared photography.

Mitakon 50mm Speedmaster f/18 1/30 ISO 200 (wide spectrum)
FE 24-70 (42mm) f/11 1/100 ISO 200 (captured at 7 pm) (720nm) 

Allow me to make one thing clear, I normally do not use a flash in my work.  I've never felt a need for flash in capturing landscape or wildlife and the nature work I've done has never suffered due to a lack of lighting.

Mitakon 50mm f/18 1/125 ISO 200 Captured 7:12 pm) (720nm)

FE24-70 (47mm) f/8 1/100 ISO 160 (830nm)

The above is accurate as far as normal black & white or color is concerned; it's also somewhat accurate with infrared.  I remember getting a phone call from a good friend Ken Doo who's been dabbling in IR, Ken found an ad for a UV/IR wave reflector for his Qflash T2.  According to the information, the QF80 replaces the standard reflector on the flash and permits mounting 67mm threaded filters to "produce narrow or broad band wavelengths of flash illumination from Ultraviolet to visible to infrared." (click here for more information.)

Mitakon 50mm f/18 1/5400 ISO 100 (captured 10 am) (830nm)

The intended purpose of the QF80 rank from forensics such as crime scene, skin mapping, gun stain reside (GSR), documentation and what appears as an after thought - fine arts.

FE24-70 (70mm) f/8 1/200 ISO 50 (wide spectrum converted to black & white)

(same file left in wide spectrum color)

During a 2-week period of searching we were only able to find one-QF80 available for sale.  During this same period I contacted Quantum Instruments only to find the QF80 was no longer being made.  Looking at the general design of the reflector lead me to believe that one could be made using copious amounts of gaffers tape and cutting a small sheet of plastic to fit the opening.  The good news is that the homemade reflector works.  The other good news is that I was able to get a real QF80 and the even better news is that it seems that Quantum Instruments has decided to begin making the QF80 again within a couple months.

Mitakon 50mm f/18 1/125 ISO 100 (830nm)

Mitakon 50mm f/18 1/125 ISO 100 (wide spectrum)

I've been experimenting using a Quantum Qflash T2 and the QF80 the past couple weeks.  The camera I've been testing this on is my Sony A7r that was converted by Life Pixel to capture wide spectrum.  The lenses are my standard Sony FE24-70 and a Mitakon 50mm Speedmaster f/0.95.  So far I've experimented using the flash with wide spectrum, 720nm and 830nm filters.  I've also found that I like the files from the wide spectrum/flash when using bare bulb versus the need of using the same wavelength filter with the 720 or 830 filters.

FE24-70 (64mm) f/8 1/125 (720nm)

The samples included here run the gamut of being shot outdoors during the day to early evening to indoors using both additional lighting or no lighting other than flash.  Some of the samples have been processed thoroughly using a combination of Capture One Pro and Photoshop CC (along with NIK software) while others have had nothing done other than a custom white balance.

Here's a sample progression of a file - Calla Lily

Mitakon 50mm  f/18 1/30 ISO 200
 as shot from camera

after white balance adjustment in C1 Pro

white balance adjustment &sepia adjustment in C1 Pro

white balance adjustment & black & white adjustment in C1 Pro 

I'm slowly getting more comfortable using a flash along with infrared and see where it helps in creating a more dynamic image.  The next item on my bucket list is using the flash in older buildings and automobiles; we'll have to see how that goes. 

So after all these years I've begun using flash.  The interesting aspect is that not only will this setup work on my converted camera it'll work just as well on both my Phase One DF body and Cambo WRS technical camera and I'm looking forward to testing it on all of them. 

In the end in case you're wondering; yes, you can use a flash when capturing in infrared.  The best practice is the use of dual filters.  If you're using a 720nm filter on your lens then you need an equal filter (720nm) on your flash.  Working with this combination you won't see a bright flash, and unless you're standing directly in front of the flash you won't see it go off at all.


More to come.






Thursday, May 7, 2015

Using a Leaf Credo 50 Wide Spectrum (Part II)

Part I was published a couple days ago with basic information; this post should fill in some of the gaps.

This is the result of one of the first images I captured using the WS 50.  Taken late afternoon in Sand Harbor State Park NV, using a 590nm infrared filter attached to my Cambo WRS and Rodenstock 40 HR lens;  f/8 1/500 with the ISO set at 100.  590nm is one of my favorite filters to use when I know I want to shoot in black & white; just look at the details of the clouds. 
Wide Spectrum and Infrared photography offers me the ability to extend my normal shooting days into the heat of the day.  The hotter the sun is shining and the longer it shines on a typical landscape the better it is for IR.  I've also found little difference between wide spectrum and capturing color using a "hot mirror" on the lens.  However there can be enough of a difference to capture in both wave lengths.
Early morning sunrise shot overlooking South Lake Tahoe.  As with the others, this was also captured using my Cambo WRS and Rodenstock 40 HR lens.  This shot was also captured while tethered to a Surface Pro 3 via a USB3 cable running C1-Pro.  This began life as a wide spectrum image but was converted to black & white for the dramatic details.
I love smoking water and wanted to see what effect the WS 50 would have when I did it.  So sitting on the edge of a waterfall I used the live view function of the Credo to make certain I had proper focus (did not tether on this shot).  f/11 1/4 ISO 100 and shot using a 590nm filter.  I kept the false colors in this one.
This was taken near the one from above.  I set the tripod on top of a couple boulders and did a 3-shot panorama shooting 10mm left and right as well as centered.  This is a great example of just how well a WS 50 will perform on a tech camera.  You might not be able to see it however this image shows the result of flat stitching (the small amount of white on the edges are from the camera not being perfectly level).  Cambo WRS, Rodenstock 40 HR f/8 1/30 ISO 100

My normal IR capture method has been using either a 35mm DSLR or recently a mirrorless Sony A7r.  The first digital camera I had converted was a Canon 1DsII which I also had to supply the lens I was going to use in order to have the lens and sensor registered for autofocus.  Taking the mirror out of the body in a camera such as a Sony NEX or A7r stops the focus issues and allows you now to use any of a multiple lens without the issue of autofocus. 

This is much the same using the WS 50 on a technical camera such as the Cambo WRS as there's no mirror in-between the lens and the back.  Something I hadn't noticed using the Sony A7r is that using different filters will change the focus point on the lens.  This is where the WS 50 shines using live view.  A couple of simple steps to turn on live view and a double tap to bring the image into 100% view and the focus is checked.  It actually took me longer to type this than it does in practice.

Driving south through Nevada we passed this structure in Luning NV looking all Mad Max and just had to stop and explore.  I shot this using wide spectrum and purposely overexposed it some before converting it to black & white.  Then Sandy told me I had to see the inside...
So here we are, inside a hot semi-dark industrial building and I'm now thinking Indiana Jones and snakes.  Once again I set the tripod up and within a matter of seconds using live view (was not tethered) I had proper focus.  Three-shot panorama while on the lookout for things that live in the desert and like dark places.  This is the wide spectrum shot with only a custom white balance and lens correction.  f/5.6 ISO 200 10mm movements left and right 11:50 a.m.
As "nice" as the above is I felt it needed more.  Or in some cases less since the light coming through the windows was blown out.  (I didn't notice it when I took the capture and somehow feel that had I been tethered to my Surface Pro I might have caught it.)  This sample has a small amount of HDR.
This is much the same using a Leaf Credo WS 50 on a technical camera.  My Cambo WRS has no mirror and is manual only (along with stop and shutter speed).  There's more reasons to shoot a WS 50 vs. a 35mm camera.  The sensor size of a full frame 35mm camera is 36x33mm whereas the sensor size of the WS 50 is 44x33 (the sensor size of my IQ180 is 44.4 x 53.7mm or full frame medium format). 
Passing through Garfield NV we spotted what we later learned was a haunted hotel.  The first image is the hotel as shot using wide spectrum, the WS 50 switched to portuarte mode and movements out to 20mm left and right with a 10mm shift upwards and a 5% shift of the lens.  This was the most technically challenging shot I did with the WS 50 and pleased with how it turned out.  f/11 1/25 ISO 100 3:30P.M.  The second image is an artistic rendering of the first.
Sensor size isn't the only aspect to shooting the WS 50.   Connected to a technical camera such as my Cambo WRS I now have a much broader reach.  Keeping the camera body in place and just moving the WS 50 I can make better use of a technical camera lens by moving the back 10-15mm left and right or up and down and achieve a flat stitch (that flat stitched image can exceed 90-megapixels when done).  While it's possible to shoot multiple images on DSLR/mirrorless bodies the end results will be lacking when compared to what you can do with a flat-stitch.
Passing through Garfield NV working our way to Pahrump we passed a sign for "Big Dunes".  Since we could see the dunes from the road we decided a slight detour was in order.
Once again this is an example of a three-shot panorama using a Cambo WRS, Rodenstock 40 HR and wide spectrum. Captured late in the afternoon, f/11 1/500 ISO 100.  The first is the wide spectrum with the second a black & white conversion.
Walking back towards the truck I spotted this scrub with the sun shinning on it just right.  Light was fading fast and I was concerned with loosing it.  Setting the tripod down on the sand and using live view I was able to achieve critical focus in a matter of seconds.  f/11 1/500 ISO 100 shot in wide spectrum.
Same file converted to black & white.
Shooting normal color digital you are left with 2-choices; stunning color and in some cases stunning black & white.  Shooting in wide spectrum and various infrared you open that up much more.  Colors take on a totally different effect to the point they can appear unworldly.  Skies turn dark and forbidding, vegetation takes on a totally different color.  And black & white conversion is in my opinion better with richer tones and contrast. 
As much as I like it, I'm still trying to figure out if the WS 50 a good fit for me.  Currently I'm using the 36-megapixel Sony A7r as my wide spectrum/IR camera.  While it has its limitations it is small enough and handy enough to use on the fly.  The WS 50 is best suited on a technical camera where a lot a determination is needed to capture an image.  I did try the WS 50 on my Phase One DF and was left "wanting".  While the WS 50 can certainly be used on a DSLR 645 it nevertheless needs very special handling, handling that I'm currently unwilling to give.
So, do I recommend the Leaf Credo WS 50?  Yes.  With a caveat.  Set the WS 50 on a technical camera and you have one of the greatest systems in which to capture wide spectrum/IR landscape images I've seen.  If you are thinking it could replace a mirrorless converted camera then the answer is much more difficult as it depends on your shooting style.  I whole heartily suggest trying this digital back out for yourself.  I was very impressed with the total ease of use and as I write this I find myself missing it.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Using a Leaf Credo 50 Wide Spectrum (Part I)

There's a couple people I want to thank for allowing me the chance to try this marvelous digital back; Dave Gallaher, founder Capture Integration; Anthony Festa, National Tech Support, Capture Integration; and a new friend, Ziv Argov, V.P. Marketing Phase One. 

Cambo WRS, Rodenstock 40 HR
f/16, 1/500 ISO 100
Wide Spectrum (taken sometime after 12:30 P.M.) 

I recently had the pleasure of using a Leaf Credo WS 50 digital back on my Cambo WRS technical camera.  The "WS" stands for wide spectrum that allows a photographer the choice of capturing in infrared (using an IR-pass, visible-block filters); standard color (again, using an IR-block, visible-pass filter) and infracolor (using an orange/red filter).   All much the same as I have been doing with my Sony A7r converted camera only on a larger scale; 50-megapixel instead of 36. The WS 50 shines when coupled with a technical camera that in use is totally manual and offers a higher resolution lens that what is normally found on either a full frame 35mm camera or medium format 645 body; add the ability to have movements of both the digital back and lens you get a marriage made in IR heaven.  The WS 50 has a CMOS sensor vs. the more traditional CCD sensor which allows for a streaming type of live view that is unparalleled. 

Cambo WRS, Rodenstock 40 HR
f/16, 1/500 ISO 100
Color (taken sometimes after 12:30 P.M.)

During the time I was using the WS 50 I had no issues using the same batteries that I use with my IQ180 and I also had no issues tethering to my Surface Pro 3 as I normally do with the IQ180.  In short, this is one sweet IR medium format back.

Cambo WRS, Rodenstock 40 HR
f/16. 1/500 ISO 100
590nm (taken sometime after 12:30 P.M.)

I used the same set of filters that I normally use on my Sony A7r and at one point set up at Sand Harbor, State Park in NV to run through all of them.  I shot the same scene beginning in wide spectrum, then color (using a color filter) then 590nm, 720nm and finally 830nm infrared. 

Cambo WRS, Rodenstock 40 HR
f/16, 1/500 ISO 100
720nm IR

I also had the pleasure of shooting this back while in the South Lake Tahoe area and kept using it as we drove south through Nevada on our way home to Tucson.

Cambo WRS, Rodenstock 40 HR
f/16, 1/500 ISO 100
830nm IR
Why capture in wide spectrum or infrared?  In additional to having a great base to convert to black & white you also get the opportunity to achieve a different look to your photography as well as expanding the time your can shoot.  Normally in color photography you can best shoot during two-golden hours each day (sunrise and sunset).  You can continue to do this with a hot color mirror filter as well as adding the heat of the day when infrared filters shine.

I test the way I shoot so there's no graphs or brick walls.  I shoot landscape, nature and wildlife (in that order) so when I get a new piece of equipment I run everything through in that order.  My question(s) are simple; will it work for me. How much (if any) will I need to change my workflow, both in capture and processing. And will it make me money.

I've been shooting with a Phase One digital back for several years and have gotten quite comfortable in a workflow that, well works for me.  This was my first opportunity to try a Leaf digital back and was very pleased.  I found working it was intuitive and easy.  Instead of a menu that scrolls up and down like my IQ180 this one swipes much like reading a book.  While I personally don't care much for CMOS and cropped sensors I really like this one; I think it has more to do with it being Wide Spectrum.  I also found tethering to my Surface Pro 3 as easy as with my IQ180.  The ability of live view is what sets this apart.  IR filters have a tenacity to shift focus ever so slightly.  The ability to change into a live view mode, double tap the screen and check focus all within seconds made using this digital back a pure joy.  The screen was usable in bright noon day as well as inside a dark building.


This is just part one, so stay tuned for more.

And a tease of more to come...

3-shot panorama in 590nm IR

Processing Note: 


The first 5-sample images presented here are as shot from camera.  The only processing done was a custom white balance that was taken prior to each capture.  The WB file was set in C1-Pro as was the lens correction.  The file was then resized and saved as a jpeg using PS-CC.  The last sample is the result of 3-files shot in 590nm and stitched using PS-CC.  This file was also processed using a combination of Nik Software.