June 24, 2015

Bianca Returns! (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

This session was unplanned, and a real surprise; Bianca, who’d left for warmer places last December, texted me out of the blue to let me know she was back in town, and asking about making some new photos. After a little back and forth, we ended planning a session for the next day.
It was a real pleasure reconnecting creatively with Bianca; initially she found it a little challenging to find poses that worked, but it didn’t take her long to get back into the “zone” and begin to really enjoy the process.
Digital original

The first location we worked in was a 19th century caponier, taking advantage of the diffused lighting it offered in the middle of a brutally sunny day. I first worked in this space 23 years ago, and still find it inspiring, especially in light of how different models respond to the location in such different ways.

After we’d worked through the possibilities of the old fortification, we still had about 90 minutes left to work together, so we headed to the coast, in hopes that with the rocky shore, I’d be able to find some spaces where the harsh sunlight would work with Bianca’s poses.
Digital original
Ironically, while my expectation was to work with the rocks on the coast, the first setting that really worked was focused on an old tree stump and a glacial erratic high up on the shore (as opposed to the bedrock we’d work with at the end of the session). I was immediately drawn to the shadow of the tree upon the rock, and asked Bianca to see what poses she could find that would work with it. The final result was really pleasing, and perfectly suited for infrared (which set the stark tree against a dark sky).
Infrared digital original, two image stitch
The session ended with Bianca and I working with a small water pool near the tide-line; the light was still harsh, but it was starting to move lower in the sky, and could give some pleasing modeling to Bianca’s figure, wen arching back against the bedrock by the pool.
Digital original
All in all the session, while short, was a real pleasure. The chance to build on the images Bianca and I created last fall was more than welcome, but the best part was it was my second chance to work with the new Canon EOS 5DsR for my colour work, and the camera is proving to be a real pleasure to use. I won’t see the real benefits until I get a chance to print the work, but even on a computer screen, I can see the incredible image quality this camera produces.

June 15, 2015

2015's First Outdoor Session (Martinique Beach, Nova Scotia)

Warm weather has been slow to come to Nova Scotia this year. Previously, I have worked with models outdoors as early as late March, but this year, it took until mid-June that a day when I was available, a model was available, and the weather was warm enough occurred. Fortunately, there was a bright side to the delay – the Canon EOS 5Ds/5DsR was released on the same day, so in addition to being my first outdoor session with a model in 2015, this was also my first working with a new camera (replacing the Canon EOS 5D MKII, which I bought in 2008).
Digital infrared original
Jenn and I headed to the coast, planning to work along a beach under the evening sky. When we arrived at the beach, it was practically deserted, with several kilometers of open beach to work upon. By this time however, the temperature had dropped a little, so rather than work on the beach itself Jenn and I walked to the back side of the beach, and began the session working with a piece of driftwood.
Digital infrared original
This session marks nine years since Jenn and I first worked together in 2006; the advantages of that extended collaboration shone from the start, with Jenn and I talking through the first location’s possibilities, and Jenn finding the pose almost immediately.
Digital original
Though this session was relatively short due to the chilly weather, Jenn and I explored a handful of different locations, slowly working towards the high dunes, where we finished the session. It was the final compositions, with the setting sunlight flowing across Jenn’s torso and most of her body in the shade of the dune, where the new camera (the Canon EOS 5DsR) really shone; in the final processed image, there is beautiful rich detail throughout the image, from the sun-lit skin and breaking waves to the deep shadows on the near side of the dune.

Canon EOS 5DsR First Thoughts (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia)

I’ve assembled some of my thoughts after a handful of sessions using the Canon EOS 5DsR – a little bit of a long post with few images, but perhaps of interest to some considering the camera.
Digital original
On the camera side:

The camera demands solid technique – the discussions about the shutter speed and camera shake are totally relevant, and with shutter speeds (hand-held) between 1/125 and 1/400, I had about 1 in 3 exhibit motion blur – more than that in portraits and images of people.

With large apertures (f/1.2 to f/2 on 85mm and 135mm lenses respectively) when the focus is accurate, it is stunning, and yields tack sharp points of focus, but even with static subjects, when working hand-held, only a portion of images were tack sharp – three or four images in a row would yield only one or two images…well under 50% over a couple of hundred images. The definite take-away from the 800+ images I’ve made to date is that this is a camera that begs for a tripod!

The rear screen is fabulous, with some caveats. It has a very different “look” than the 5D MKII screen, being “softer” in colour; I would say lower contrast, but I am not sure if that is the case…it is just more delicate looking. It is significantly different from what I am used to, and was challenging to “read” without a histogram. The Histogram representation is a big improvement over the 5D MKII’s as it now has a hairline of white around it, and overall the screen is great, but it will take some getting used to the different look all the same.

The camera is slow to display the histogram – more like an Eos 10D from 2004 than anything current – it will take time to get used to not just glancing at the screen after making an image to evaluate the exposure, but having to wait for the histogram to appear. That alone is going to slow down photography for me (never a bad thing).

And the final camera comment is the file sizes – they are BIG. I’ve been working with 32gb files, and am used to getting almost 1000 21mp files per card; I got under 400 on the same card with the 5DsR; time to get 64 or more likely 128gb cards, sadly.
Digital original - 100% crop
On the processing side:

The images are incredible – sharp, detailed and everything I hoped for. When everything is lined up, the image quality is just stunning at 100% crop…and there are 50 million pixels at that quality, image-wide.
The default PS/LR RAW development seems to be REALLY off – they process with much more contrast than other Canon RAW files; I am finding I have to put a -25 to -50 contrast on images to get them closer to the “usual” Adobe development look. I will wait until I have a couple of weeks of photography before creating a custom default development for the camera.
The dynamic range is greater than the 5D MKII; I did some images last night with a sunset sky, and the model on the shade side of a sand-dune; in post I was able to pull full detail back in the sky (bright, but with colour), and open up the shadows tons, correcting the WB to remove the blue, and the result was both pleasing, and clean, in terms of image quality. With the 5D MKII I would have hit an issue with that image.

Lightroom Mobile is suddenly an integral workflow tool. The 50mp files are awesome…and slow. On my desktop (3.7 ghz Xeon, 32gb 1600 RAM) it takes several seconds for the 100% preview to load…longer if multiple images are being compared; this is crazy slow. Lightroom Mobile on the other hand is great equalizer; after importing the 5DsR files, I synced them to LR mobile, and minutes later, could breeze through the images on my tablet without delay. Cropping, composition evaluation, flagging and stars can all be done without delay…and when returning to the desktop LR, all the changes are implemented, without the delay.

Unfortunately, in LR Mobile you can’t do everything; because of the files are lower resolution, you can’t check the actual image sharpness, and as it lacks the compare mode, selection between similar/matching images isn’t possible.

I hope to have a blog entry on my site within a week posting some of the new work.