Portraits of the Day – Santa Barbara Solstice Parade

I’ve been a bit under the weather, so I won’t be finding any Red-White-and-Blue this evening. Instead I leave you with a few from the Santa Barbara Solstice Parade – June 21, 2014.

Although many find it easier to take street portraits than complex layered images, I find it just the opposite. So I worked on picking people out of the crowds and finding the portraits that captured the feeling of the day ranging from last minute makup preparations, float decoration, or looking for a little cool on the sidelines.

Lip Touch Up

Pink

Finding Cool

Destination: Santa Barbara – Mission: Large Format Photography

SB Mission Church(Click image for a larger version)

This past week, I took my first seriously considered shots with my newly acquired Tachihara 4×5 field camera. I recently purchased it from a good friend who does marvelous landscapes, but says that she is “too old” for film and 4×5 now. Mine is a neutral wood color with chrome fittings. The bellows are a little crumpled at the lens end, but light tight. I have two lenses. The 180mm is considered a normal lens, somewhat equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera. The 90mm is a wide-angle, equivalent to a 30mm. I updated the ground glass, which is what is used to focus the image, with a hand made borosilicate glass from Steve Hopf.

My first destination was the Santa Barbara Mission. The Santa Barbara Mission is actually quite small, and not much of an opportunity, outside of the church itself. Unfortunately, the front is under some restoration and was covered with scaffolding and surrounded with ugly green fences. My sights were set on the church interior. I carefully setup and initially pulled out the wide angle, but soon realized that the normal would do. This image is the kind of image that is made for large format photography. I took two more in the courtyard, but they really just can’t compare.

I must admit that I felt a little self-conscious under the dark cloth, a little like an impostor. I recognize this feeling from when I first started doing street photography. It is a kind of I’m not good enough self-editing that will go away with a few more clicks under my belt. It was also fun to see people stop, as if they were going to wait for me to take the picture, even before I had the lens on the camera. I politely waved them through.

SB Pier(Click image for a larger version)

My second destination was the Santa Barbara Pier. It was a little later than I had anticipated and a bit of a race with the sun. With more experience I might have felt the adrenaline of Ansel Adams rushing to get his one shot of Moonrise Over Hernandez, but I just kept muttering “not the way for a novice to try large format photography”. None-the-less, I lined up a nice shot of the pier. I waited a while to avoid some people, but then the kids came into the scene. As the sun was setting, I had no real choice but to work them in, which of course makes the picture.

I’m using Ilford FP4+, rated at 125 ISO, but I’ll be honest, I just metered as if it was 100 ISO to keep things simple. I used the modern equivalent of a Polariod back to check my exposures, my Olympus OMD. It is really no larger or heavier than a spot meter and far more flexible. My developing was with Clayton F76+ using his published times and agitation method as described in a sheet he sent to me. 7 1/2 min @68 degrees; agitation for the first 10 seconds followed by 1 turn every 30 seconds. I scanned with VueScan with no adjustments. Post-processed with a little dodge and burn in LightRoom. The thing to note is that there was no overall tone curve or levels adjustments, the tonalities of the film was just right-on. The image of the pier was cropped vertically to a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Exploring Volume – a compositional comparison of Medium Format and Micro Four Thirds

20130701-SB2-007-Edit

For the last month or so I’ve been rattling on about shooting Medium Format because the perspective just looks different compared to smaller formats. The optics just behave differently when you capture an chunk of the world with an 80mm lens (in medium format) vs a 50mm lens (in 35mm format) vs a 25mm (in micro-four-thirds format). The words I’ve been using to describe the difference have been compression and perspective.

As I show my work, another word I’m hearing consistently is volume. Whether it is due to the format or my intention while picking the scenes to shoot, showing volume is exactly why I’m exploring medium format. Finding the right scenes to show volume and using a format that provides the opportunities to render volume more effectively.

Here, then, are my first comparisons of images I shot in Medium Format (MF) against Micro-Four-Thirds (MFT). (Ok, some of you are right now saying that I should have compared MF with Full-Frame 35mm, but this is subtle and I think the wider comparison is still important). The purpose is to evaluate if there is a difference in the volume portrayed between the two formats and if they do really just look different.

The micro-four-thirds images were captured in RAW format with an Olympus OMD E-M5 and the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH Micro 4/3 lens. Of all the lenses in my MFT kit (actually anything I own including my Canon L lenses), this lens has some of the most delicious sharpness and color rendering. The digital images were processed using LightRoom 4 and Photoshop CS6 (mostly in LightRoom) on a color calibrated iMac 27″ monitor.

The medium format images were taken with a Hasselblad 500 C/M on Kodak Ektar 100 with a Hasselblad 80mm T* Zeiss Planar lens. They were scanned with an Epson Perfection V700 flatbed scanner using the Epson scanning software with Digital ICE and autoexposure turned on. I’m not a master scanner – and I tried several programs including VueScan and SilverFast. This setup gave be the most predictable results which were not all that different from the other software with all their fancy, unpredictable, and frankly buggy software. With any of this software, it became clear to me that they would all require careful tweaking of the white balance to reproduce the image I had in my head. The scans were hand color corrected, dodged and burned using LightRoom 4 and Photoshop CS6 on a color calibrated iMac 27″ monitor. This the same monitor and software I use for all my image processing.

I purposely processed the two sets of images independently, about a week apart. I did not compare them at all until last night when I was completely finished processing the medium format film images. Although the purpose of this exercise was to solely compare the difference in feel and scene rendering using an 80mm medium-format setup versus the wider-angle focal length required by a smaller image sensor, you will you will notice other differences including color rendering and overall color relationships across different areas of the image. Balancing the color of this scene, both digitally and using film, was a bear. Both sets of images have selective color temperature adjustments. Each set was processed as if they were my only images and processed to my most preferred tastes. I made no attempt to make them either look alike or different.

Pier 20130701-SB2-005-Edit
Boats 20130701-SB2-007-Edit
Olympus OM-D E-M5, Panasonic Leica 25mm Summilux ASPH Hasselblad 500 C/M, Zeiss 80mm T* Planar lens, Kodak Ektar 100

Upon comparison, the colors of the film, to me, are definitely are more translucent and inviting. It is fair to ask if, with a bit more work or a different camera sensor, I could duplicate the colors across the two experiences better. I probably could by working with the images side-by-side. However, this was not the experiment. Look past the color and view the differences in the way the two lenses see the world and render the perspective and volume. This is my quest.

More exploration to come and I’m very excited to post a couple of B&W images I processed last night. The babbling will continue.

I didn’t take this image in medium format, but I wish I had.

Reeds

Although southern California was supposed to have been in the midst of a significant high-pressure heat wave, the night before last these clouds started to move in. We had planned a trip to Santa Barbara just to escape the heat but with the slight cloud cover, I guessed that even in mid-afternoon, I could catch some nice light.

I took with me my Oly OMD E-M5 with the Panasonic 25mm (50mm equiv) f/1.2, the Hasselblad 500 C/M and 80mm f/2.8, and my tripod. Both kits cover roughly the same field of view on their respective cameras. My intention was to continue to work as I have been doing, meter and judge composition with the Oly and take a roll of beach scenes on the Hassy. I’ve been wanting to limit myself to B&W, but when I got to the beach and experienced the wonderful peaceful pastel blues, I knew I was going to load the camera with color. I’m currently exploring Kodak Ektar 100 for the outdoor color work.

Using a little bracketing and a polarizer filter, I shot 4 scenes on my 12 exposure roll, plus a few scenes of some kids playing in the surf. I told myself I wouldn’t use film for my street stuff, but I just couldn’t help myself. When I get the film back and scanned I will post a comparison between the two setups. I am hoping to see both the change in perspective (25mm vs 80mm covering roughly the same field of view) and the difference between my best digital color balance versus the colors captured on film. Even this image show above was difficult to obtain a good color balance between the sky and the land and took a fair amount of tweaking and some selective color balance adjustments.

I filled up my 12 exposures and then started back to the car. We were on the sidewalk when I saw the composition above. I didn’t take this image in medium format, but I wish I had. With a simple composition and expansive view, this image represents all that I am looking to create with my exploration of medium format photography.

This is what I saw in this scene that triggered my exposure. The reeds on the right mimic the shape and create a balance with the land forms coming from the left. The slightly diagonal strip of sand provides movement and direction leading the eye through the image. The gulls sitting on the left are balancing to the cluster of boats on the right. The darker hues below the horizon balance out with the large area of baby blue sky. The greenish moss floating on top of the water lead the eye into the image from the bottom and the clouds bound it from the top. And last, but not least, the people on the sandbar, with their brightly, colored towels add just a touch of context, human interest, and scale.

Event Photography… and I need a lot more practice

Yesterday I went to the annual Santa Barbara Solstice Parade. I had a great time, but boy do I need a lot more practice shooting events.

Here were some of my problems:

  1. Focus, focus, focus – and I don’t mean clearing my mind. So many soft images or images that I never took because I knew I could not keep up with the focus. I’m shooting with a 5dMkII which does not have the most sophisticated focus system in the world, but mostly it is me. First of all, I was shooting with a long lens much of the day which wasn’t helping to with depth of field. I should have probably bumped up the ISO and stopped down a little more. Second, although I tried to think about this while shooting, I did a lot of shooting with people coming at me. That is HARD. I know I should have been looking for situations with people moving across my field of view. Next time.
  2. Finding a clear path – there is a lot going on at an event and it was not easy for me to find clear backgrounds. I think I need to look harder for this. I tried to compensate with shallower depth of field (see #1). What I think I needed to do, was find my spot in the parade based on the background, not on convenience.
  3. Finding interesting AND photogenic subjects – I hate to say this, but some (many) of the people I photographed were just plain, well, plain. Even with their costume they were, well, plain. Some were nervous and that was really apparent on the portrait too.

I got some “nice” shots and one or two that I like a lot and a couple that I like by my husband doesn’t.

It was a fun day and I’ll do it again because I need a lot more practice.

Ventilation

Ventilation, originally uploaded by I Nancy.

A quiet weekend has finally arrived where I can spend a little time honing my vision. These few images from a shoot in May at the Santa Barbara Courthouse.

They are processed with LR3 and Silver Effects Pro. I am using Silver Effects Pro more and more and am getting comfortable with the natural looking tonal mappings that it produces. Nothing too fancy on these. Nothing that a darkroom master wouldn’t do. Just some tender caresses as they swish through the digital sauce.

Window Dressing

Window Dressing, originally uploaded by I Nancy.

Arch

Arch, originally uploaded by I Nancy.