Category Archives: Photography

Exploring Spreepark in Berlin

Since I put my photos from a recent photoshoot on Facebook , lots of people have been asking about getting access to Spreepark, so instead of replying 100 times, I thought a post would be more helpful.

The fence and getting in

In the last few months, a new fence has been erected all around the park. Rumour says that it cost €1 million!
There are now only 2 ways in…
If you are fairly lightweight and fit: Over the fence
Climbing the fence at Spreepark

Otherwise, under the fence through one of the many holes. Although the new owners seem to be blocking many of the holes with cement and concrete slabs!

Some people have suggested that it’s safer to enter from the forest side as there are less people, but we had no problem getting in from the lake-side. We just waited for a quiet moment.

Once inside, we only saw security a couple of times. Once there drove past in a van, the other time on a motorbike. They didn’t see us.
I have been told that if they do catch you, they will make you delete any photos you have, and maybe call the police if you don’t have ID on you.

What is left?

In August 2014 there was an arson attack which damaged the ‘Old England’ themed part of the park. The mammoth and a couple of dinosaurs also went around that time. However most of the rest is still there, in one state or another.

The dinosaurs have had their heads chopped off
Headless dinosaurs in Spreepark

The water ride boats are there
Water ride at Spreepark
although the ride is pretty grungy now
Water ride at Spreepark

The Ferris wheel is there, but there is an extra fence around the base of it
Ferris wheel at Spreepark

There are still some swans there
Swans at Spreepark

The rollercoaster track seems to be all there, and nicely overgrown
Rollercoaster track in Spreepark
and the boarding station is there, with the train in it
Rollercoaster station in Spreepark

The “psychedelic cat” or dragon’s mouth is there
Cat or Dragon mouth in Spreepark

The dragon boat (near the Ferris wheel) has lost its head.

Advertisements

LED Fresnel test

I have just bought 2 of the CE-1500WS LED Fresnel lights and put them through some basic tests for colour and flicker performance.

Size and Packaging

Each light comes well protected in shaped polystyrene in a cardboard box. The box measures 37 x 31 x 30cm. It comes with a cable to connect to the mains, a cable to connect two or more lights together (so several can be powered from just one mains socket), a remote control (which only turns the lights on/off, so it is of little real use), a tungsten balanced filter, a diffusing filter, a set of barn doors._MG_3204Interestingly, the filters are held in place with small magnets, which makes them very easy to use.

The light itself measures 36 x 30 x 27cm and weighs 5.3kg._MG_3200

The light can be focussed between 40°- 80° beam angle._MG_3202

Colour Temperature

No filter:

The specs claim the light is 5400K +/-200.

Red Epic footage shows a colour temp of 5000K, needing a tint of 17 (green) (in RedCine-X).

Canon 5D Mark II stills show a colour temp of 4500K, needing a tint of -58 (green) (in Adobe Camera Raw).

This means that there is a significant magenta colour cast with these lights.

_MG_3197-full-power

Dimming the light didn’t affect the colour temp significantly. At lowest power the colour temp was 4300K, measured with the Canon and ACR (as opposed to 4500K at full power)._MG_3198-dimmed

Tungsten filter:

The specs claim the light is 3500K +/-200.

Canon 5D Mark II stills show colour temp of 2850K, needing a tint of -20 (green) (in Adobe Camera Raw)._MG_3199-tungsten

Intensity

With the light 2m from the subject, the following settings were achieved:
ISO 100
1/80
f/3.2

Video Flicker

There was no apparent flicker, even at frame rates of 300fps!

The following video shows Red Epic footage shot at frame rates of 25, 50, 75, 100, 120 and 300 fps.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSeQd10JgbY

Fresnel or not?

The first thing I noticed was that despite the product description claiming it is a “Fresnel” light, the lens is not a fresnel lens. I wrote to the supplier pointing this out and they replied:

“[the manufacturer] admitted their lenses are not the same as photo showed on their official website. But they said this new lens performs better than the one with concentric ripples.”

They also said they would send me the fresnel lens, so when it arrives, I will repeat these tests [09 Oct 2014, fresnel lenses arrived in post, so additional tests are shown below]

_MG_3201

Not a fresnel lens

How even is the light?

The spread of light remains the same regardless of dimming,

The drop off of light (and colour change) is noted in this photo of the light shining on white background paper. Exposures noted are in stops, relative to the brightness at the centre.

Drop-off of light

Drop-off of light

Dimming

The product claims “Power variation: 0-100% stepless adjustment”. However my tests show that the difference between max and min power is only 3 stops. So that would be 15-100% !

Diffuser

The supplied diffuser snaps into place with magnets. It succeeds in diffusing the edges, and the drop-off is shown below:

Light drop-off with diffuser

Light drop-off with diffuser

Focus control

The focus knob physically moves the LED within the unit. When all the way in, this halves the diameter of the light beam.

Light drop-off when focussed tightly

Light drop-off when focussed tightly

[Update 09.Oct.2014] With the Fresnel

Today the replacement fresnel lenses arrived in the post.

Now the orange ring around the edge is gone, and there is a much smoother drop-off:

Light drop-off with fresnel lens fitted

Light drop-off with fresnel lens fitted

[Update 28.Jun.2015] photomart

The web-based company photomart have just started selling this light. They market it as the “Hollywood led hybrid CE-1500WS”.

It is worth noting that the model they show in their brochure and online (http://shop.photomart.co.uk/led-soft-focus-hollywood-1500ws.html) does NOT have the fresnel lens.

 

Their price is currently £396.

If anyone wants one, I can get them sent direct from the makers for £300 (you may need to pay approx £22 import duty), or £520 for 2 of them.

LED Softbox Test

[Note: This is being published as a “work in progress”, so I will be adding photos, framegrabs and video clips over the next few days, as I have time]

I heard about a new make of LED softboxes which seem to be being used by some photographers and though it would be good to test them and see if they live up to their claims. I contacted the distributors and was sent 2 to test. In addition I asked for dimmable transformers.

I tested them with both a stills camera (the Canon 5D Mark II) and a video camera (Red Epic).

Size and Packaging

Each panel comes well protected in a thick cardboard box with foam corner protection and a foam front panel protector. The size of the packaging is 66cm x 63cm x 5.5cm._MG_3181

The panel itself is very thin (about half the width of a £1 coin) _MG_3185 and measures 595 x 595mm square _MG_3184

The only connector is a socket into which you plug the transformer. You can either use a fixed brightness transformer (supplied with the unit) or buy a dimmable transformer (as shown here) _MG_3182

Colour Temperature

The box and specs claim they are 4500K. However in testing they turned out to be closer to 4100K.

Intensity

I took a series of photos with the light at 2m, 1m and 0.5m from the subject (a black/white/grey card). The ISO was set to 800, the aperture was f/2.8.

Full-at-0,5m,-_MG_3180 At 0.5m, the shutter speed was 1/1250th.

 

Full-at-1m,-_MG_3179  At 1m, the shutter speed was 1/500th.

Full-at-2m,-_MG_3177At 2m, the shutter speed was 1/125th.

Video Flicker

coming next

Equipment Used

I often get asked what I use for lighting and remote triggers, etc. so I thought it would be useful to list it here along with links to where it can be bought.

[The prices and links are valid as of July 2014]

Flashguns

I have 3 of the Yongnuo Flash Speedlite YN-560 II flashguns.

They have more than enough power for studio use. I usually have the keylight in a softbox on half power and shoot at f8 at ISO100.

They are available for £36.39 each from amazon.co.uk
or the newer version (with built-in wireless triggers) are £45 each, also from amazon.co.uk

Radio Triggers

I have 4 of the Yongnuo RF-603 Radio Triggers. Each one can act as either a transmitter or receiver, so you need one more than the number of flashguns you want to trigger.

They are £21 per pair from amazon.co.uk

Softboxes

I have a 120cm/47″ Octagon Softbox with grid
These are currently £45 on eBay.co.uk

I also use 2 rectangular 60x90cm Softboxes with Grids. I got mine for US $43.98 (approx £26) each on eBay.co.uk, but they seem to be currently out of stock. The next best I can find is this one on eBay.co.uk, which is £32 plus £12 postage.

Flash holder/light stand adapter

To attach the softbox and flash to a light stand, I use a Black Adjustable Flash/Shoe/Umbrella Mount/Holder/Bracket. These are £7.28 from the seller ukpartsdeal on eBay.co.uk

Remote Cable Release

To trigger the camera remotely (to avoid camera shake) and also to use for taking time lapse sequences, I use the Yongnuo MC-36 C3 Camera LCD Timer Control Shutter Remote (for 5DII and III, 7D and various others). This is currently £19 on amazon.co.uk

Creating the Llyn Idwal photo

Comp-7633-4

This picture of Llyn Idwal in Snowdonia seems to have generated a lot of interest on my Facebook page. And sparked some debate about personal taste. But among the comments, I was asked what my workflow and settings were for this image. So here we go…

Shooting

Firstly, I always shoot RAW.

Secondly, with the exception of shooting concerts (when I shoot Manual) or helicoptors (when I shoot Shutter-priority with a shutter speed of around 1/60th), I almost always shoot in Aperture-priority mode, with -0.33 exposure compensation.

The first thing I do (these days*) when confronted with a high contrast scene is take a quick shot at default aperture priority settings to see what the dynamic range really is.

Hist1

Looking at the histogram, showed that the dark parts of the image were just about OK, but that the bright parts were totally overexposed (clipped).

So I took one shot exposed for the landscape and another with 1 stop less exposure compensation, for the sky.

Processing with Adobe Bridge

Some people are fans of Lightroom, others of Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) in Bridge. The process is pretty much the same in either.

My default settings always apply “Enable Lens Profile Corrections” and “Remove Chromatic Aberration”.

First I opened the lighter of the 2 images.

Image1 Basic

I increased the Clarity slider to bring out the details and texture in the grass. But using the Clarity slider will alter the brightness of the image, so I then compensated for this by reducing Exposure slightly, and increasing Shadows (which brings back some light into the darkest areas).

Image1 Curves

I then fine tuned this ever so slightly on the Curves tab.

Image1 Luminance Image1 Saturation

Most of the work went into the Saturation and Luminance changes on the HSL tab. Lightening the orange, yellow and green of the grass/straw, whilst darkening the blues in the water. A side-effect of lightening a colour is it gets desaturated slightly (and vice versa), so I compensated for this by boosting the saturation of the yellows and greens.

That was it, so I clicked Done. This saves the changes without opening Photoshop.

 

Next I opened the darker of the 2 images.

Image2 Basic

The exposure was already perfect on this for the sky, so I only increased the Clarity slider to bring out the detail in the clouds.

Image2 Curves

On the Curves tab, I darkened the shadows area of the image to add more drama, whilst adding a control point in the highlights to avoid changing them.

And that was it, so I clicked Done for this image too.

 

Photoshop

With ACR in Bridge being as powerful as it is, I very rarely need to use Photoshop these days. The only things I normally use it for are:

  1. Adding a watermark/signature
  2. Merging images to form a panorama
  3. Removing large/complex objects from the image

I now needed to merge these two images. So I selected them both in Bridge, then chose Tools->Photoshop->Photomerge…

This opens a dialog where you can choose how to merge the images.

Photomerge dialog

This feature is brilliant for aligning images, even when handheld. But as I wanted to control which parts of each image I used, I deselected the option “Blend Images Together”

PS layers  PS layers cropped

This brings both images into a Photoshop document on separate layers. After cropping I then selected the parts of the brighter image that I wanted to replace.

PS sky selected

I used the Quick Select tool to select the bright sky (and held down the Alt key to remove parts of the selection when it accidentally selected the snow). I zoomed in and reduced the size of the tool for extra precision when required.

I then chose Select->Inverse, so that everything EXCEPT the sky was selected, clicked Refine Edge and feathered the selection very slightly.

PS layers Add layer mask

And then clicked the Add Layer Mask button. This automatically adds a mask to only keep what was selected. Using a small, feathered brush, I manually tidied up the mask slightly.

PS layers Add Curves Adj

To add even more drama to the sky I added a Curves Adjustment Layer.

PS Curves properties

In this I increased the contrast even more.

I increased the amount of blue in the shadows, but reduced it from the highlights, and ever so slightly reduced the amount of red in the shadows.

And that was it!

Scaled down for Facebook, added a watermark and save for web.

 

* Back in the days of film, I would use my wonderful Pentax Spotmeter V to take readings of different parts of the scene.

“Look Behind You”

No, this isn’t a post about a trip to the pantomime.

And with the title, I may have given away the answer to my next question…

But what do these two photos have in common?

_MG_7762 1200px_MG_5426

Not a lot, you might think.

But the real answer is that both of these shots were the result of me setting up to shoot something, and instead turning around and looking at what was behind me, which then turned out to be a better shot.

For the first photo, I was trying to take a shot of a waterfall in Snowdonia, but it just wasn’t working. I looked behind me and saw the glow coming from between the mountains and took the above shot  (Canon 5D Mark II, EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM at 16mm, f3.2, 30 secs, ISO1600)

The second shot was taken whilst I was waiting to take a photo at Birling Gap in Sussex. The light wasn’t right at the time, and while waiting for it to change, I turned around and saw this great contrast in the stormy clouds  (Canon 7D, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 70mm, f5.0, 1/200, ISO160)

_MG_4953_4_5_tonemapped

The weather at the bottom was so cloudy, we nearly didn’t bother going up.
Then, on the way up, it started snowing so heavily that most vehicles gave up and turned around.
But we kept going, and eventually we were rewarded with views like this.

I have always been in awe of Yosemite National Park, ever since I saw Ansel Adams’ amazing photographs.

Sharpening – in camera, in ACR or in Photoshop? (plus the benefit of RAW)

For a while now, I have been unhappy with the artifacts created by the sharpening algorithm in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw), so I thought I should do a comparison of the different places where sharpening can be done.

1. If you shoot JPG in-camera (or RAW+JPG), then some sharpening is applied in the JPG by the camera’s processor.

2. If you shoot RAW, then when you first open the image in Adobe’s ACR, there is a tab which allows you to apply sharpening.

3. Once opened in Photoshop, there are several Filters available for sharpening. My normal choice is Unsharp Mask.

To see the results of each, I set my camera to shoot both RAW and JPG at the same time (normally I only shoot RAW).

Sidenote: On this shot, one of the obvious benefits of shooting RAW is apparent: the sky in the JPG is totally blown out and cannot be recovered. However, with the RAW image, a quick tweak of the Highlights slider and a very subtle gradient and the clouds are rescued.

Firstly, the whole image, downsized to 1296 pixels wide (25% of the original).

a) In-camera

_MG_4811-In-Camera

b) ACR Sharpening

_MG_4811-ACR-Sharpening

c) Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask

_MG_4811-PS-UnsharpMask

And now for 100% centre crops to see any artifacts.

a) In-camera

_MG_4811-In-Camera-CENTRE

b) ACR Sharpening

_MG_4811-ACR-Sharpening-CENTRE

c) Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask

_MG_4811-PS-UnsharpMask-CENTRE

What do you think?

Lloyds of London, 1985

Going through my folders I found 3 original hand made prints on Ilford paper of this shot. There will never be any more, so this really is a very limited edition!!!

So I am going to make them available for £200 each to raise money for the IndieGogo project to film a video for The Enid’s album “Invicta”.

I will put the link here when the fundraising goes live…

The IndieGoGo fundraising is now live, at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/invicta-the-film/x/13062#share

Post production – crew removal!

I was recently Director of Photography for a short film directed by Sam Roffey, called “Lady Noir”, shot using the Red Epic camera.

Here is a screenshot after post production:

Image

But where (you may be asking) does the nice backlight on the actors come from?

That is from the light on a pole just behind them:

Image

Before every shot we took a “clean” shot with no one in the frame and then merged the 2 shots together:

Image

Then a quick Curves adjustment to correct the colour, and a masked Black & White adjustment and it’s all done.