So Epcot again it is!


After a long summer break, mainly due to the Florida summer heat and humidity, we decided to take a chance and visit Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival.
I still had the knee problem, so we rented an electrical scooter to move around. It was very cool and efficient, and it made our visit so much more pleasurable. Even though I had the carriage, I chose to go light on the gear and just carried the newly acquired Sony a7s and a couple of Leica lenses.
The little Sony is the youngest one of the a7 family. We had the a7r for while, but it was problematic with the Leica lenses because of purple fringing and vignetting. There is a Lightroom plugin, called Flat Field, that will handle that, but you need to take a control picture and we really did no want to go through the trouble.
This little gem does not have that problem, being a newer camera. At least, it worked perfectly on my 35mm Lux, which is my main lens when I use Leica.
The ISO capabilities are extremely good and pixels are very dense, except it only has 12MGs, which does not really bother me. My beloved Nikon D3 was that exact resolution and it was fine.
So here are some of the pics we captured, most of them with the 35 Lux. Only used the 24 f/2.8 for the fireworks, though I could have used the 35 after all.
I used the B&W 3X filter for some flowers or objects close ups. Be aware that you need to focus moving back and forth until you find sharpness exactly where you want it. I tend to use it wide open, but if you like more detail all around you can use a smaller aperture.
More to follow soon!

Sony a7s, Leica 35 Lux ASPH. f/1.4, 1/25, ISO12800
Sony a7s, Leica 35 Lux ASPH.
f/1.4, 1/25, ISO12800

Sony a7s, Zeiss 55/1.8 f/1.8, 1/60, ISO 320
Sony a7s, Zeiss 55/1.8
f/1.8, 1/60, ISO 320

Sony a7s, Leica 35 Lux ASPH plus B&W 3X filter f/1.4, 1/60, ISO 250
Sony a7s, Leica 35 Lux ASPH plus B&W 3X filter
f/1.4, 1/60, ISO 250

Sony a7s, Leica 35 LUX ASPH f/1.4, 1/6400, ISO 100
Sony a7s, Leica 35 LUX ASPH
f/1.4, 1/6400, ISO 100

Sony a7s, Leica 35 Lux ASPH, B&W 3X filter f/1.4, 1/800, ISO 100
Sony a7s, Leica 35 Lux ASPH, B&W 3X filter
f/1.4, 1/800, ISO 100

Sony a7s, 35 LUX ASPH, B&W 3X filter f/1.4, 1/1250, ISO 100
Sony a7s, 35 LUX ASPH, B&W 3X filter
f/1.4, 1/1250, ISO 100

Son a7s, Leica 24 Elmarit f/23.8, 1/60, ISO 10000 hand held
Son a7s, Leica 24 Elmarit
f/23.8, 1/60, ISO 10000
hand held

Sony a7s, Leica 35 LUX ASPH f/1.4, 1/640, ISO 100
Sony a7s, Leica 35 LUX ASPH
f/1.4, 1/640, ISO 100

Sony a7s, Leica 35 LUX ASPH f/1.4, 1/100, ISO 100
Sony a7s, Leica 35 LUX ASPH
f/1.4, 1/100, ISO 100

Sony a7s, Leica 35 LUX ASPH f/1.4, 1/6400, ISO 100
Sony a7s, Leica 35 LUX ASPH
f/1.4, 1/6400, ISO 100

Sony a7s, 35 LUX ASPH f/1.4, 1/100, ISO 100
Sony a7s, 35 LUX ASPH
f/1.4, 1/100, ISO 100

Sony a7s, Leica 35mm Lux ASPH, hand held, 1/60, f1.4, ISO 5000
Sony a7s, Leica 35mm Lux ASPH, hand held, 1/60, f1.4, ISO 5000

How we do fireworks


We love doing fireworks and Florida’s Disney World has three parks that offer nightly shows. You can choose from a variety of locations, using foregrounds to make the photo more interesting. Fireworks by themselves are kind of boring. Cityscapes under them usually work, but incorporating people or structures usually give you a stronger image.
Normally we do the fireworks with a tripod mounted camera and slow shutter speed to have light trails common in this type of image.

Sony A 7r Leica Super-Elmar 18mm f/3.8 ASPH Hand-held, no filters 1/500, f/4, ISO 1250
Sony A 7r
Leica Super-Elmar 18mm f/3.8 ASPH
Hand-held, no filters
1/500, f/4, ISO 1250

I will have to give credit to my husband for the idea of trying high shutter speed and ISO to experiment hand held firework images. I happily went along, since we travel to the parks a few times a year. Nothing to loose but a night of shooting.

There is a great element of luck capturing fireworks, even if you are familiar with the show. Even if you do fast shutter speed, there are no guaranties of getting a good image.

The Sony 7r is a great camera, but it has an DSLR sensor, which becomes a problem with Leica wide angle lenses. Anything under 50mm and even the, you get vignette and a color cast. Leica lenses are range finder lenses, not totally compatible, except for the WADE lens, Tri-Elmar 14-16-18mm, because of it being a new design. There are still way to go around this, using Lightroos free plugin called Flat Field, which calls for you to take a control picture through a clear white balance filter, and the software will use both pictures and correct the problem.
We didn’t have to do this, because the sky was going to be dark anyway.
At the beginning of the show, I was trying the 50mm Noctilux, further away from the people. Mid show, there is a laser show and some talking, and I sued the time to change lenses and go wider.
Instead of standing up to eye level, I decided to kneel on the ground and look up, getting more space in the sky.
I set the camera to Aperture Priority, Auto ISO, f/4 and -1 Ev compensation, to avoid burning the white lights. Normally, at the end of every show, the intensity of the fireworks is much bigger than before and many times a lot lighter, so it is a good idea to move your aperture to a smaller one or your shutter speed to a quicker one, and you have more chances of getting a better exposure.

Since our lenses are manual focus, we either focus on infinity and go back a point or two, or in the case on the structure, we use the magnifying feature of the camera and make sure the borders of the structure are sharp. My suggestion is, if you use AF, to lock the focus and then turn the lens to MF to avoid AF jumping as you shoot.

Here is an example of slow shutter speed on the same show and location. This time, I used the Leica M240, 24mm Elmarit ASPH at f/4, ISO 200 (This Leica’s native ISO is 320) and a shutter speed of 1/500. A three stop neutral density was used to be able to extend the capture time.

Your camera may have long exposure noise reduction. On the Leica M240, you cannot disable this, but on the Sony A7r you can. The bad part about noise reduction is that it takes a while to process, as long as your exposure time, affecting the amount of images you can take during the show. My advise is that it is worth keeping it on. Best to have less picture with a clean sky than many with artifacts and posterized darks.

You can clearly see the difference it makes. This is a traditional approach to fireworks and what most people expect to get. Nothing wrong with that, but trying something different is also good. A cable release was used to avoid camera movement in the long exposure. No mirror up needed, Leica does not have one.

Leica M 240, Elmarit 24mm ASPH, ND filter, ISO 200, f/4, 8 seconds. Tripod and cable releasse.
Leica M 240, Elmarit 24mm ASPH, ND filter, ISO 200, f/4, 8 seconds. Tripod and cable releasse.

Here is another example of hand held fireworks:
Leica M 240, 500mm Noc, ISO 100, 1/60, f/2.8, HH
Leica M 240, 500mm Noc, ISO 100, 1/60, f/2.8, HH

You get a lot of smoke when you do fast shutter speed, which may be an asset getting what we call the nebula look.

Results:
Since this was an experiment, we did not know it if was going to work or not. Some of the images were very interesting, getting a complete different look, almost like galaxies in the sky. Most of them we will not keep, but we did get a bunch of interesting images not available with longer shutter speeds.

Hints:

Scout location if you have the time and try to get there early to secure a good spot.. If you are using a tripod, be careful of somebody tripping on it or moving it while you are capturing a long exposure.

Try to include other elements, like structures or people in your image, they add interest.
Try to include other elements, like structures or people in your image, they add interest.

If you only have one night of fireworks, you can try to do one camera in a tripod with long exposure, and another hand held for fast speed hand held. This requires quick reflexes and the ability to multitask.

Leica M 240, 50mm Noc, ISO 200, f/4, 8 seconds, ND filter
Leica M 240, 50mm Noc, ISO 200, f/4, 8 seconds, ND filter

Sony 7r, Leica 50mm Noctilux f/0.95, ISO 2000, 1/2000, F/2.8, hand held
Sony 7r, Leica 50mm Noctilux f/0.95, ISO 2000, 1/2000, F/2.8, hand held

Epcotfireworks18mm
Leica M240, Christmas fireworks
Leica M240, Christmas fireworks

Epcot with a flare


We both love Epcot, not only for the great food but for many photo opportunities. This time, although I did something I’m just beginning to play with, architectural, I did a lot of non-conventional stuff, but that’s where the fun part is, and in my evolution as a photographer, I am more concerned in having fun than in the glory of it 🙂
Here are some examples, with a brief description of what was done or the concept behind.
Have a great day, everyone!

Sony Nex 7 with Lensbay Sweet 35 optic. Processed in CS6 with Radlab.
Sony Nex 7 with Lensbay Sweet 35 optic. Processed in CS6 with Radlab.

Slow motion dancer's feet.
Slow motion dancer’s feet.
Lensbaby Sweet 35. As shot.
Lensbaby Sweet 35. As shot.

Sony NEX 7 and Lensbaby Sweet 35 with macro converters. Textures added and finished in Radlab.
Sony NEX 7 and Lensbaby Sweet 35 with macro converters. Textures added and finished in Radlab.

RX-i in SCN mode (scene selector). in camera process, only available as jogs
RX-i in SCN mode (scene selector). in camera process, only available as jogs

An 8" exposure, no tripod, just leaning on fountain's border. Processed with radlab.
An 8″ exposure, no tripod, just leaning on fountain’s border. Processed with radlab.

1/15 s/s  close up of a belly dancers feet. Finished in Radlab.
1/15 s/s close up of a belly dancers feet. Finished in Radlab.

DSC05753-Edit
Close up in slow shutter speed to capture the motion of the dance. I didn't go for the face because it would be a distraction.
Close up in slow shutter speed to capture the motion of the dance. I didn’t go for the face because it would be a distraction.

Lensbaby abstract, bending the lens. Finished in Radlab.
Lensbaby abstract, bending the lens. Finished in Radlab.

Lightroom Split Toning and more.


How I made Freedom.

This image was captured as a silhouette, resting the camera on a container wall, with the Sony NEX-7 and the Sony 50 f/1.8.
It looked nice to me and decided not to crop anything, although the sun was rather centered, the bird was in the perfect position in relation to it and my silhouette base was balanced as shot. Sometimes it’s good to break the rules, just to keep a fresh perspective.

Image as shot. Sony Nex7- 5ony 50 f1.8 @ 1/2000, ISO 400
Image as shot. Sony Nex7- 5ony 50 f1.8 @ 1/2000, ISO 400

But it lacked punch, and I went to adventure land while still in Lightroom. I noticed the Split Toning module. Although this technique dates back to the film days and it consisted of tinting B&W images with the Highlights and Shadows in different tones, preferably contrasting colors, it was new territory to me. So I moved the saturation of the highlights with caution and got a beautiful purplish hue to the clouds. Ahhhhh, we were getting someplace. So I played with the shadows and the rest of the sliders, not crazy about the Hue, and went back to default on that.
Almost finished
Almost finished

So now I take the image to CS6 and decide to explore my beloved Nik Color Efex filters for an extra touch. Tinkerbelle must have thrown some of her magic dust on the screen of my computer and took me directly to Detail Extractor. Why not, let’s see what we get. Voila, I get detail in my solid black silhouette. Not enough to make it a distraction (I had to pull back a little after applied), but enough to give the image a new twist.
Finished product resized and sharpened for web.
Finished product resized and sharpened for web.

Here is a 100% crop of the detail, no sharpening. I was amazed at how clean it looked, even after being pulled from total shadow. Sony sensors rock!
Detail of the extracted color. Unsharpened and no noise reduction applied after the process.
Detail of the extracted color. Unsharpened and no noise reduction applied after the process.

Final touch, get rid of the small bird on the left, which was bothering my slightly OC eyes, and it was done. Resize and sharpened for display with Nik sharpening plugin.

Happy New Year to all!!!!

Taking the Lensbaby Sweet 35 for a ride…


Totally out of focus silhouette.
Totally out of focus silhouette.
Taking the Lensbaby Sweet 35 for a ride…
Please click on the thumbnails for a bigger image.
A few years ago I had a love affair with the Lensbaby. It was only the 2.0 version, that you had to bend to find your sweet spot and the only available extras were the 4X and 10X filters to stick to the front.
They liked and used one of my images, a peacock in display extensively for advertising.
LensBaby gift card 2010
LensBaby gift card 2010

Then life got in in the middle of our relationship in the way of long and heavy lenses, getting up at the wee hours and traveling to far away places in search of exotic bird species.
Atlantic Puffin with sand eel. Skommer, Wales, England.
Canon 1d4, 70-200/4 with two 25mm extension tubes.
Atlantic Puffin with sand eel. Skommer, Wales, England.
Canon 1d4, 70-200/4 with two 25mm extension tubes.

Well, we are a bit tired of that, let’s say that our light does not shine there anymore.
At least for now.

We have gotten rid of most of the heavy duty stuff, keeping only the 7D and the 100-400L that would be enough for our birds needs, should they arise.
And as part of our replacement equipment, I turned my head back to old trusty Lensbaby and was very happy to see how much the company has improved their lenses, much better build quality and a lot of optics to choose from.
Got us the Composer Pro with the Sweet 35 installed, the Edge 80 and the Macro converters.

Sony Nex 7, Lensababy with macro converters.
Sony Nex 7, Lensababy with macro converters.

I must say Lensbaby has come a looooooong way and I still have a learning curve to get to be familiar with the new system. Now you can dial in the f/ stop instead of changing the ring inside and with the live histograms, no more guessing at the exposure, since there is no communication between the camera body and the lenses.
In our NEX-7 camera, there is a setting that will let you release without a lens attached, and it needs to be enabled to be able to shoot.

Tilting the optic for slanted bokeh.
Tilting the optic for slanted bokeh.

We went to Epcot Center for a few days right before Christmas, and got a chance to use the Sweet 35 in a lot of creative ways. Creativity is not an option, but a way of life, they say. And there is nothing more liberating than not to have to live up to your old standards and have the freedom to experiment without pressure and be as free as a child in expressing yourself as an artist. I don’t have to fill my shoes anymore.

Tilted to side optic.
Tilted to side optic.

I wished I had used the optic for people more often than I did, just decided to do so on the last day and loved the effect. I can see myself really liking the effect, exaggerating the focusing ring effect and only working wide open, at f2.8.
Mind you, taking candids and getting used to a creative optic at the same time is a learning curve and not always easy. But there is lots of room for improvement and the road to getting there is going to be a lot of fun.

Going for impressionistic feel.
Going for impressionistic feel.

I think I’m going to like the Edge 80 too, but one optic at a time, please. Their behavior is different. Sweet 35 , as described by the manufacturer:
Handholding, focusing on hands.
Handholding, focusing on hands.

“The Sweet 35 Optic is a 35mm selective focus optic with a 12-blade adjustable aperture that creates a tack sharp Sweet Spot of focus surrounded by blur. Experience an unprecedented level of creative control over the size of the Sweet Spot.
The Sweet 35 Optic boasts the widest focal length of any selective focus Lensbaby optic and features close-focus capabilities.”

Really slanted optic.
Really slanted optic.

In this article, I will only use images taken with it and will try to get more familiar with the Edge, which has a flat plane of focus, more like a Tilt and Shift, and is supposed to be great for posed portraits. I haven’t gotten that far. I should say YET.
Edited to soften the harsh midday-light.
Edited to soften the harsh midday-light.

One of the most amazing things with this lens is the bokeh, an I love to use it backlit for maximum effect. If you keep the optic straight, the bokeh is beautifully rounded. But if you bend it, Oh la la, you get crazy slanted effects. Up to you. Will also try to experiment with other apertures to get more defined point of focus.
Backlit slanted.
Backlit slanted.

As for editing, you can do as little or as much as you can. Most of them require very little, Clarity works well, or maybe getting rid of a distracting white spot. Or sometimes go all they and mix two exposures. Whatever fits you, you are the one in charge.
Two exposures blended in CS6
Two exposures blended in CS6