New Think Tank Hard Case Bag

Our friends at Think Tank Photo have just announced an exciting new partnership with hard-case manufacturer SKB.  Think Tank’s designers have created internal divider sets, organizers, and a backpack designed specifically to fit within 10 SKB hard cases.  There are times when you simply have to airline gate-check your most precious photography equipment.  At moments like these, nothing will do a better job of protection than a hard case.  But one of the downsides of hard cases is that they are basically hard shells with not a lot of other features built into them.  Think Tank’s partnership with SKB solves this problem.  The result is the best of a hard case with the best of internal organization.  Don’t forget that with our special partnership with Think Tank that you receive free gear and free shipping when you order using our special link.

Here is the special link: https://www.thinktankphoto.com/pages/hard-cases?rfsn=140957.357751

Holiday Specials from Think Tank Photo

Our friends at Think Tank Photo have announced two holiday special offers on their award-winning camera bags.  The first is their Outlet Center, which is chock full of huge discounts.  And second, through December 31st whenever you buy a Think Tank rolling camera bag you will receive Road Warrior Kit for free.  The Road Warrior Kit features 10 Red Whips cable ties, a Cable Management 10 pouch, an AA Battery Holder and a Travel Pouch. That’s $54.50 worth of accessories FREE!  And don’t forget, with our special relationship with Think Tank you will also receive a free gift when you use my special URL, as well as free shipping.  So get shopping!

https://www.thinktankphoto.com/collections/outlet-center?rfsn=140957.357751

New commuter jet roller and 3DR Solo drone backpack

Our friends at Think Tank have just released a new rolling camera bag and a drone backpack.  Designed for traveling on commuter or regional jets, the new Airport Advantage rolling camera bag’s customized interior holds the maximum amount of gear that will fit in overhead bins or under seats. In addition, its ultralight design lets you pack more gear while staying under airlines’ increasingly vigilant weight restrictions. And, you can now carry your 3DR Solo, 15” laptop, controller, GoPros, charger, spare rotors, extra batteries, jacket, tools, and more in a robust and yet lightweight new backpack, the Airport Helipak for 3DR Solo.  Unlike rigid hard cases that lack extra carrying capacity and comfort, this new backpack is designed for 3DR drone enthusiasts who want to be able to carry all of their gear with them all the time.  As always, with my special partnership with Think Tank you will receive free gear with your orders and free shipping.

 

https://www.thinktankphoto.com/products/airport-advantage?rfsn=140957.357751

https://www.thinktankphoto.com/collections/airport-series-backpacks/products/airport-helipak-for-3dr-solo?rfsn=140957.357751

Olympus New Stylus Camera

Olympus announced the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker Digital Camera  $349.99

http://adorama.evyy.net/c/221387/51926/1036?u=http://www.adorama.com/IOMTGTG.html

Features listed below

Olympus Travel Lens Kit   $799.99
http://adorama.evyy.net/c/221387/51926/1036?u=http://www.adorama.com/IOMTK.html 

Includes these two lenses:
•    M. Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 II
•    M. Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8

Olympus Portrait Lens Kit $999.98
http://adorama.evyy.net/c/221387/51926/1036?u=http://www.adorama.com/IOMPK.html

Includes these two lenses:
•    M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.8
•    M. Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f1.8

One page with all the Cameras:
http://adorama.evyy.net/c/221387/51926/1036?u=http://www.adorama.com/g/Olympus_NPA_5-24-16

TG-Tracker features:
•    4K 30P Video Capture
•    High-Speed BSI Sensor with TruePic VII Image Processor
•    204 degree Extreme Angle F2.0 High-Speed Lens
•    1.5" Tilt-Out LCD Monitor
•    Electronic 5-Axis Image Stabilization
•    LED Headlight
•    Waterproof to 100 ft/30m (without housing)
•    Crushproof to 220 lbf/100kgf
•    Shockproof to 7ft/2.1m
•    Freezeproof to 14°F/-10°C
•    Dustproof
•    5 Built-In Sensors Capture Movement: GPS, eCompass, Accelerometer, Thermometer, Barometer
•    Built-In Wi-Fi
•    View Videos and Data Logs Via OI.Track 2.0
•    MicroSD Memory Card required for camera operation

Lee Filters

by Jeffrey Klug

I have gone to a new system of filters, it is the Lee filter system. I use these filters for increasing my exposure to get the long exposures of 5 seconds to 1 minute or more. They are glass square filters that fit into a filter holder. This is great because you only need to buy one set of filters and then get the different adapter rings to fit each of your lens. The filters I use are a polarizing filter (105mm round filter) and two different neutral density filters, one is a 6 stop filter, that they call the Little Stopper, and one that is a 10 stop filter, called the Big Stopper.

I like using these filters because they cut the light from 6 to 10 stops. When doing this it is hard to see through the viewfinder, with the square filters, you can slide them out of the way very easily, instead of the round screw-in filters which you have to unscrew which takes a lot more time to due. After doing that a couple of times in an hour, you tire of it pretty quickly. With the slide in filters, you just slide them out of the way, then when you are ready slide them back in place.

The filters work great for making water flow and turning it silky looking, or smoothing out the waves from the ocean, any place where using a long exposure will make the image look different and sometime more like what we see, the water is not frozen in time, it is moving. The filters allow you to get those long exposure times.

The polarizing filter is good for seeing into reflections and intensifying the color in the scene. You can see into the water, or deepen the blue sky or the green grass. Having one filter that is 105mm in size lets you use just this one filter with all of your lens, from the 16mm wide angle to the 200mm telephoto.

The lens are made of glass, so you do have to be careful with them. They are also very expensive. The filters are The Big Stopper $140, The Little Stopper $150, the Polarizing filter is $270 plus $65 for an adapter ring to hold it to the holder, and the holder is $90 and $65 for each adapter ring. If you compare this to buying individual filters, you will have a saving depending on the quality of the filter.

You can find more information on Lee Filters at www.leefilters.com. You can purchase them at Adorama (http://www.adorama.com) or B & H Photo (http://www.bhphotovideo.com), or I usually get them at Unique Photo (https://www.uniquephoto.com). They all have them for the same price.

You  can purchase the Lee filters through the links below:

Think Tank Photo New Items

Our friends at Think Tank Photo just released the largest photo lighting rolling bag ever and have added a new size and color to their popular Retrospective shoulder bag series.  The Production Manager 50 is a monster, designed to hold C-stands, multiple flash heads, power packs, monoblocks, softboxes, and light-stands.  What it used to take two people to transport, you can now do by yourself.  And, they’ve added a new color—Sandstone—to their Retrospective line, and the new Retrospective 6, which holds Mirrorless systems or a gripped DSLR.  Don’t forget, that by using these web links to order you will receive free gear and free shipping.

Modo-Pan from Cinevate

by Jeffrey Klug

I have a new toy, or should I say a new tool. It is the Modo-Pan from Cinevate. It is a small item that attaches to your tripod and then your camera sits on top of it. It does a 360 degree pan in one hour. It is a clockwork movement, that requires no cables or batteries, you just wind it up and it slowly turns your camera.

You use it to make your time-lapse images a little more interesting. It gives movement to your time-lapse images. So no more stationary time-lapses. I have played with it, but I am waiting for nicer weather before I will show any time-lapse videos. I plan to give it a good workout when I go to the Smoky Mountains next.

To use it all you need to do is set your camera for time-lapse photography, then wind up the mechanism, start your time-lapse. I found that doing a 2 or 3 sec time-lapse, for 30 minutes, gives a nice smooth motion to the video. Watch for videos from me in the near future. It will be my new goal this year to create interesting time-lapse videos.

The Modo-Pan cost $149.95 and is on Special currently for $129.95. You can find more information at: http://www.cinevate.com/store2/camera-movement/modo-panning.html#sthash.f8o6KXp8.dpbs

Keywording

Keywords are a way that photographers can search for their images when working in Lightroom, in the organizer in Elements (called Tags) or in Adobe Bridge. They are descriptions of your image in usually one word. Take this image:

It is an image of a bald eagle catching a fish. The following keywords could apply; bald, eagle, water, fish, flying, hunting. There could be more info such as location which was LeClaire, Iowa, Mississippi River, Dam 14. All of this info helps when you need to locate a photo. I try to keep my keywords togeneral location and content and a majority of color. 

So for this snow image the keywords would be: snow, white, hills, volcano, Lake Michigan, shoreline, Ice, Wisconsin. 

So when using Lightroom, the Organizer in Elements or Adobe Bridge, you can search for these terms and find images that match them. The keywords are attached to the image in the metadata, so they stay with your image, it is just one way of searching for a certain type of image. So the next time you need a winter snow scene, you could look under snow or white and find a variety of images to fit your needs.

Assigning keywords is best done when importing your images. At the time I import my images, I will usually apply some generic keywords such as location and a general description of the image. For the Eagle shoot I did, I would apply: eagle, bald, Iowa, LeClaire, Mississippi River. After the import and when I have gotten rid of all my rejects, I would then go back to the individual images and apply more specific keywords such as fish, adult, juvenal, or any other word I would use to find the image. This is a lot of work, but it makes finding the images easier in the long run. I sometimes don’t get tothe fine key wording, so that is why on import I keyword the basic info that applies to most of the images and go back later to fine tune it.

One other good use of key words are when you enter competition or win awards for that image, you can add that keyword for that award to the image, that way you will be able to find the image when you need it again and it will also let you know that you used it in a competition and that you don’t want to use it again. It can be a great help in record keeping.

So think of keywords as a useful item for finding your images and keeping info in those images that will be helpful for you in the future.

Testing New Equipment

You have gotten a new camera or lens and you cannot wait to start shooting, but should you? When I get new equipment (wether if it is new or used), I don’t start shooting with it right a way. The first thing I do is test the piece of equipment to make sure that it is all working correctly. If it is a camera or lens, I check the exposure and the focus. I need to know the camera or lens is working according to the specifications for that piece of equipment.

 

So let’s start with a camera. I first compare the camera to a light meter that I know is correct. I also check it with a standard gray card. I use either a Whibal Card ( http://michaeltapesdesign.com/whibal.html) or a X-rite Passport card ( http://xritephoto.com/colorchecker-passport-photo ). The Passport card has both a gray section and a set of color patches. To check exposure use the Whibal Card or the gray section of the Passport. Fill the frame and you should get a histogram with a center spike. If spike is far off center, then I recheck the camera with a handheld light meter. If I find it is far off, the camera would go back to the place I purchased it from. If it is off a little bit, I will mark the difference on the camera to remember that it might be off by a fraction of a stop over or under exposed, whichever amount it might be. I will further test it by shooting outdoors. Paying closer attention to my exposures till I am use to what the camera will do for me.

The next step will be to check the focusing on the camera. I want to check to see that each focus sensor is focusing the lens correctly. I first check the center focus point using a 2’ x 3’ test card, with focus patterns on it. The card is mounted to a wall and the camera is setup at about 10’ away, the camera is aligned to the target. You should take a lot of time aligning the card and camera. I then take a photo (using a lens that I know is working) and check to see that the camera focused correctly. I will do this with each focus point, making sure all points are working. This can take quite a while if you have a lot of focus points. You can do just the four corners and the center. I like to know that all the focusing sensors are working (the Nikon D800 had a focus problem on the left side sensors)

So we have the camera checked out, how about lenses? I test those out with another piece of equipment. I use Lens Align ( http://michaeltapesdesign.com/lensalign.html ). I set the camera up at a specific distance, focus on it (with the lens wide open) and it will show me if the lens is front or back focusing. Not all lenses focus dead on, they are usually either in front of the point you focus on or it could be in back of the focus point. The focusshould be less than an inch, usually 1/4 to 1/2” or it could be just a few millimeters. With some of the new camera, especiallythe higher end, you can adjust the focus point, these are micro adjustments to the focus. It is just a good thing to know where your focus point is at. Most of the time it does not matter that much since it is a small amount, but there are times when a small amount might make a difference. So it is good to know where your focus point will be.

To sum up, you should check new equipment out when you purchase it. This makes sure it is working the way it is supposed to work. Also to know what to expect when you take a photo. Another thing to remember is to check your old equipment periodically. I try to check my equipment out, during winter time. I don’t take many photos then, so during a quiet day, I will start testing out equipment, to make sure it is still working properly. It is also worth noting that every couple of years, it can be a good idea to send your camera in to be checked, cleaned and adjusted. They do need periodic adjustments to keep them working. Lenses should be check if they have been dropped or banged around a lot, so get them checked out every few years as well.


I hope this gives you an insight of what I do when I get a new piece of equipment. I like to know it is working properly and I like to know exactly how it is going work.

Converting Color Images to Monochrome

There are a lot of different ways to convert a color image to Monochrome. One of the quickest ways is to use Lightroom’s Black & White converter either in the basic section or the HSL section. It does a pretty good job at converting to monochrome and it is fast and easy, I use this when I need a quick monochrome of an image, it does OK, but there are better ways and just about as quick. You need to use plug-ins made by Nik, Macphun, On1 or Topaz (I have tried but do not own), they all do a really good job, they give you presets to help you choose from to make the best monochrome images. They all work about the same, they let you make fine adjustments to contrast and the highlights and shadows. Plus you can make adjustments by changing colors as if you were changing filters on your lens, there are green, yellow, red, blue and grey, plus you can vary using in-between colors. This works well for bring out changes in different colors to the various shades of grey. I would use it to bring out the leaves to contrast with the sky, or brighten or darken the sky itself. All to get the contrast and shading of grey to make the best monochrome image.

I started with this original color image:

Original Image

These are the different versions using the different plug-ins.

Converted in Lightroom

Converted using On1 Photo 10

Converted using Nik Silver Efex 2 Pro

Converted using MacPhun Tonality (Mac only)

Conclusion

They all give acceptable results, but do achieve it in different ways, so experimenting with the different plug-ins to see which you like the best. I found I like both the On1 version and the Silver Efex versions the best, but they are all very close. If you need only one set of plug-ins, I would probably go with On1 or Nik. The only worry I have is that they have not been updating the Nik software, but On1 and the rest are constantly improving their versions. All of the plug-in do have trial that you can try before you buy, so try them and see which ones does the job for you.

 

Here are links to video tutorials for the different plug-in companies:

http://www.on1.com/learn/video/on1-photo-10-short-clip-on1-bw-integration-with-effects/

https://www.google.com/nikcollection/products/silver-efex-pro/

http://macphun.com/videoguides

http://blog.topazlabs.com/software/bw-effects/

https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/how-to/lightroom-bw-adjustments.html

 

VU Filter System

I had the chance to play with the VU filter system. It is made up of a holder that mounts to the camera and then you have 100mm glass filters (Neutral Density and Graduated Filters), that you can slip in and out of the holder.

The Holder - VFH100

The holder (VFH100) is well constructed and comes with a 77 mm adapter ring and an 82mm adapter ring. It can hold up to 3 rectangle or square glass filters and one 82mm polarizing filter. 

The nice part about the holder is once you thread on a slim polarizing filter you can still use up to 3 square filters, while still being able to rotate the polarizing filter. On the back of the holder is a knurled ring that lets you rotate the polarizing filter without removing the square filters. This is great when you need to use the filter, the only drawback with it is taking the polarizing filter on and off, it is very difficult to remove once the filter is on, your fingers have nowhere to grab the filter, it took me ten minutes to slowly work the filter off of the holder, so there is no quick changing of the polarizing filter. The one option I would use if I was to use this system would be to have a ring with the polarizing filter on and a ring with no filter on it, this would make it quicker to take out the polarizing filter.

Another feature of the holder is a foam ring that will block out the light for the filter closest to the lens, it was designed for using Neutral density filters, especially the 6 and 10 stop ones to block light coming from the side. The good part is it does seal out the light well, the bad part would be once the seal gets old how could you replace it and pulling a filter in and out all the time, might wear that seal out after a couple of years. It also makes putting that one filter in a little harder because it sticks to the glass. It does do it job well in keeping the side light from coming into the lens.

The Filters

I ordered three filters, a 3 stop neutral density filter, a 2 stop graduated neutral density filter and the polarizer. I will start with the polarizer, it was very neutral in color and worked well as a polarizing filter, working as you would expect a polarizer to work. The 3 stop neutral density filter is a good filter to extend your shutter speed, I like to use this type of filter to smooth out the water in a water fall. I currently use a 6 and 10 stop neutral density, so trying a 3 stop one was a new experience, as I expected it dropped the exposure 3stops, I measured the color of the filter with a densitometer and it was a neutral density. I saw no color shift using the filter, it slide in and out of the holder very easily, plus dropping exposure just 3 stops, I could still compose through the viewfinder. I will be adding a 3 stop to my system in the future.

I next tried the graduated neutral density filter. It is darker on one end and slowly fades to clear. It is used for darkening sky. It is rectangular, so that you have room to adjust where the end of the neutral density starts. It was also very neutral in color not seeing any color shifts. It work fine for darkening the sky, although I think I would use a stronger one, maybe 3 stops instead of the 2 stop. It did make a difference in the sky, but I have also found that I can use the Graduated filter in Lightroom to accomplish the same result, it is always better to do the adjustments in capture than after the fact, but I am finding that it is easier to use the Grad filter in Lightroom than it is to use the real filter out in the field. The part I found the hardest is to tell where the filter is gradually fading out, while when I use the filter inLightroom, you can see your adjustments as you apply them.

So to sum up my thoughts on the VU filter system. The filters are glass, so you must handle them carefully, if you drop them they will break, while the resin filter made by other companies will just scratch. I mainly use Lee filters which are glass and I am extremely careful not to drop them and so far they have lasted me a couple of years. VU’s website is lacking in information on how the holder works, especially using the polarizing filter. The site also is weak on explaining the strengths of their various filters. So learning what the codes means makes it difficult to figure out which filters you would want to have. It is a well made filter system and would make a great addition to someones camera bag. The use of neutral density filters to slow down your shutter speed is great, I love using the square filters, you can take them on and off very quickly, and you will be taking them on and off often, just to recompose the shot. So for me the square filters are the ones I will use all the time. I still prefer the Lee Filter System (http://www.leefilters.com), their website is more complete with tutorials and a wide variety of filters in both glass and resin available. I will be reviewing the Lee Filters this winter, so that you can have a comparison to the VU Filters.  

Here are the cost of the filters:

VFH100 Holder with a 77 and 82 mm ring                                   $150.00

3 stop neutral density 100 x 100 mm filter VSQMD3                   $144.00        

2 stop soft graduated 100 mm x 150 mm filter VSQNDG2S        $224.00

82mm Polarizing filter                                                                    $180.00

For more information on the VU Filter see www.vufilters.com or contact Hunt’s Photo and Video, they carry this line of filters.

Depth Of Field

Depth of field is a term we use for how much we want something in focus when you make a photograph. Sometimes you want a narrow depth of field, which would mean just your subject is in focus. Other times you might want a large depth of field and have everything in focus. This is a decision that you make every time you make a new image.

 

For a narrow depth of field you use a small aperture setting, usually the number is low f/2, f/4 or maybe f/5.6. For a large depth of field (everything in focus) you would use a large f/stop such as f/11, f/16 or f/22. The larger the number the larger the area in focus, the smaller the number the smaller the area in focus will be. It is that simple. You can get into the tech side and I could give you all sorts of reasons and examples of how it works, but you don’t need to know how it works, just that it does.

 

This can get a little more complicated depending on the lens you use. The concept is the same, on a wide angle lens, the smaller the f/stop the smaller your depth of field, the larger the f/stop the larger your depth of field. The same with a telephoto lens. The one trick is that with a wide angle lens the depth of field is larger even with the small f/stop, so you don’t see the limited depth of field as easily as with a telephoto lens. 

 

Here is an example of a narrow depth of field, the fist figure in the line is in focus the rest are out of focus.

Narrow depth of field small f/stop number.

Narrow depth of field small f/stop number.

 

In this example, this one shows a large depth of field, and all the figures are in focus.

Large depth of field - large f/stop number.

Large depth of field - large f/stop number.

 

So with a narrow depth of field, you are isolating your subject and with a large depth of field usually your subject is the whole frame.

Narrow depth of field - small f/stop number.

Narrow depth of field - small f/stop number.


So experiment with your depth of field, try some narrow to see how you can isolate your subject and try some with a large depth of field. It is a great tool to have and once you understand it, your images will improve.

Large depth of field - large f/stop number.

Large depth of field - large f/stop number.