Category Archives: Cameras and Photography

My new, old camera

Whoops – I did it again!  I bought another old camera.  I’d never noticed one like this before.  When I looked it over, it seemed to be in good shape – too good to pass up.

Auto Graflex Single Lens Reflex camera

It’s an Auto Graflex Single Lens Reflex made by the Folmer & Schwing Division of Eastman Kodak around 1920.  The company was in operation from 1898 to 1973 and was owned part of that time by Kodak.  They built a variety of models, but by the 1920s this basic design type was typical.  It came in several sizes and some models used roll fill while others used sheet film. This one has a non-revolving 3 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ roll film back.

Auto Graflex Single Lens Reflex camera roll film back

The controls work surprisingly well for a wood and metal device that’s about 100 years old. The aperture functions and the exposure times are slow, but could maybe be adjusted back into spec.  Pretty amazing for a mechanical device this old!

Auto Graflex Single Lens Reflex camera - controls

You set exposure by changing the size of the vertical focal plane shutter opening (using the crank and window marked “F”), and how fast the shutter moves over the film (with a tension setting using knob “B” and window “G”).  There’s a handy cheat sheet riveted to the viewfinder hood that translates these settings to equivalent exposure times.  The range from 1/10 to 1/1000 second seems large for a camera of this era.

Auto Graflex Single Lens Reflex camera - settings plaque

The lens is a Kodak Anastigmat f/4.5, with a focal length of 5 1/5 inches (just about equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm full frame camera).  According to the web, it was highly rated at the time.

Auto Graflex Single Lens Reflex camera

The viewfinder is usable but dirty.  I think running film through this would be difficult, since that type of roll film isn’t made anymore.  But I took it out in the back yard so I could look through the viewfinder in bright light.

Here’s a close-up of an image through the camera’s lens on the focusing screen inside the viewfinder.

I enjoyed researching this and playing around with it.  It’s an interesting collectible and looks good in my camera cabinet next to a couple other old Kodaks. You can find out much more about Graflex cameras on-line.  Start with these links:

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

More Computational Photography

As an Electrical Engineer and a long time photographer, I’ve been interested in computational photography for a while.  You can read some of my  earlier posts on the subject at this link. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

…”digital image capture and processing techniques that use digital computation instead of optical processes.”

I’d change this slightly from”instead of” to “instead of or in addition to”, but that’s a small quibble.

Moore’s law keeps driving the computing capabilities in phones and cameras ever higher and it’s fascinating to see what companies do with the extra potential.

Towalga River below High FallsTowalga River below High Falls, Georgia. Composite – iPhone default live view and Long Exposure, merged in Photoshop

I made the image above on our recent trip using an iPhone 8+ and Apple’s “Live Photo” mode. After I made the photo, I edited it on the phone and enabled the “Long Exposure” effect. The Long Exposure effect of blurring the moving water is computed from ~3 seconds worth of frames that Live Photo captures.  This is Apple’s web page explaining the feature.  Here’s what it looked like before I changed the mode – it’s not nearly as photogenic:

Towalga River below High FallsDefault iPhone live view

Until iOS 11 added this feature, I wasn’t too interested in Live Photos.  Now, I’m watching for places to use it. You can get a better image with your high-end camera and traditional optical techniques, but this is easier and a lot of fun to play with.

Here are some hints:

  • Pick a suitable subject:  moving water, traffic on a road, blurring people in a crowd, etc.
  • Motion blur with a traditional optical approach requires a slow shutter speed – either low light or using filters.  Since computational methods works by processing multiple frames, you can use it in bright light without filters.
  • Apple says it works on their newer phones (6+ and later).  You’ll need to have iOS 11 (or later) installed.
  • The Long Exposure effect has to align Individual frames and then crop where there’s no overlap so you’ll lose pixels around the edges.  Ideally, use a tripod – but that sort of defeats the idea of pulling your phone out of your pocket, doesn’t it?  Just hold the phone as steady as you can to minimize cropping.
  • Make several exposures and pick the best one later.
  • Long Exposure resolution seems to be lower than default iPhone photos.  This isn’t a huge problem for the moving parts of the frame – they’re supposed to be blurry.  For the static portions, you can load both versions into layers in Photoshop and use masking to paint in higher resolution where you want it.  I did this for the first photo above.
  • You can set a Long Exposure photo as your wallpaper.  You’ll see the static Long Exposure version until you press on it from the lock screen.  Then it changes to show the three-second animation – cool!

I hope Apple enhances this in future updates.  It’d be good to have some control over the blur effect.  3 seconds is nice, but some subjects will look better with less (or more?).

iOS 11 includes other updated computation photo capabilities (e.g. portrait lighting) – but that’s a subject for another day.

Photography’s changing fast – it’s a wonderful time to be a photographer, isn’t it?  In today’s digital world, many advances are likely to be computational and not optical.  Keep up – don’t be left behind!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go compute some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Any Micro 4/3 Camera Regrets?

The short answer is “Nope, not really”.  For the longer answer, read on…

Sometimes I’ll take a camera by Bear Creek Nature Trail in our neighborhood (the middle of Tuscawilla, along the north side of Winter Springs Boulevard).  On this particular day back in January of 2017, sunlight was filtering down through the trees and hitting the water at a bend in the creek.  The light refracting  through ripples in the surface created interesting patterns and colors I thought were worth a shutter click.

Bear Creek ripples 1aBear Creek Ripples 1a  (28mm eq. focal length, f/8, 0.5 seconds, ISO 64)

This was a month or so after I started using the Olympus E-M1 Mark II camera.  I’d sold my Nikon D-800 and lenses so I could afford to upgrade my Olympus kit and I was still getting used to the new gear.  I’d had the D-800 for over four years and it’d worked extremely well for me.  It was the very best camera I’d ever used so getting rid of it was a big step and I was still second guessing my decision.

Why did I sell the Nikon gear and move exclusively to Olympus?  And how is it working out?  Glad you asked!

It seems that discovering micro four thirds cameras is a big thing on the web, lately.  Here are a few links with a lot of information you can investigate:

I won’t repeat these discussions.  Everyone will have their own opinion and reasoning for the camera equipment they use. I’ll just summarize by saying that for me, no regrets.  The smaller and more modern design has many advantages with few real issues.  For what I shoot, I haven’t seen much downside.

I can carry much more camera capability with far less weight.  And the new gear does things the older Nikon equipment doesn’t.  Really, the only thing that concerns me even a bit is star / astro photography with the smaller sensor.  I haven’t had much of a chance to test this yet and hopefully ease my concerns, but even if the Olympus isn’t as good at this type of photography, I’m not very worried.  I don’t do it all that often and if I need to, I can always rent / borrow a different camera with a larger sensor or use something like the iOptron SkyTrackerTM  to make really long exposures. Your mileage may vary of course, and you should investigate thoroughly before you make such a significant change.

If you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments.  I’ll be more than glad to try to answer.  And you can click on the image below to go to Flickr and browse through an album of the images I’ve  made with the new camera:

Great Egret head shotGreat Egret head shot

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – no matter the camera you have, go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Photography related advice for April

Now that it’s the first day of April, I thought I’d pass on some information I’ve collected on photography related subjects.

But first, every post must have a photo.

Wood Stork in Flight?

Feel free to use all of this advice  and pass it on.  Or not.

Cameras and Settings:

  • Don’t make photographs in a sandstorm.  They’ll turn out grainy.
  • What’s wrong with most cameras that won’t take good pictures?  The nut behind the viewfinder!
  • Military photography:  Why is flying an F-16 better than flying an F-22?  It’s one stop faster!
  • Street photography;  Two photographers are walking down a street and pass a beggar. One keeps walking. The other stops. Later when they catch up with each other the first says to the second. “I saw you stop for that beggar. What did you give him?”.  ”Oh” says the first, “1/125th at f5.6”.
  • How to tell if someone is a real photographer: Ask them this question. Suppose you’re walking through the woods and come to a clearing.  In that clearing is a lake and in the lake is a man is obviously drowning. Now you only have time to do one of the following – save his life or take a photo.  Here’s the question: Which lens should you use?
  • How to make a photo at the North Pole?  Use a North Polaroid.
  • During the holidays: Shoot the kids, hang the family, and frame the wife.
  • What should Mozart do when his Olympus camera breaks?  Borrow Pachelbel’s Canon.
  • Photographic spirits:  A photojournalist was caught out in a rain shower when he saw a dark gloomy house. He was drying off in the house, heard scary sounds and saw a ghost coming towards him. He grabbed his camera to take pictures. The ghost asked him what he was doing, he said “I just want to take your picture for the newspaper.” The ghost was glad for the exposure and posed for the photographer. When his film was all done he thanked the ghost and rushed to his office to get the film developed. When he saw the results he was terribly disappointed: they all came out black – underexposed.  The moral of the story is: The spirit was willing but the flash was weak.
  • How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb?  50. One to change it, and 49 to say “I could have done that”.

Photography Safety

  • A photographer made a selfie in the park.  Since it was dark, he used the built-in flash on his camera.  He got arrested for flashing and exposing himself.
  • Two photographers are in the restroom. One uses Canon cameras  and the other uses Nikon.  Nikon finishes first and simply heads for the door.   Canon says “Excuse me, Canon photographers wash our hands when we’re finished”.
    Nikon replies: ” I understand, but Nikon photographers don’t pee on our hands”
  • Any photo of a chicken nibbling my butt has an unusual ass-pecked ratio.

Photography, business, and money:

  • The quickest way to make money at photography is to sell your camera.
  • How do you get a professional photographer off your front porch?
    Pay for the pizza.
  • What’s the difference between a frog hopping down the street and a photographer walking down the street?  The frog might be on the way to a job.
  • How do you make a small fortune in photography? Start with a large one.

Working with models:

  • If your model didn’t show up to the photo shoot because of acne…that’s a pore excuse.
  • Most photographers will pick a model with photographic mammaries.
  • Don’t pick these kind of models:  Two new models are waiting as the photographer sets up equipment.  One says to the other, ”What’s taking so long?”
    The other replies: “The photographer’s getting ready to focus”.
    To which the first model exclaims, ”FOCUS, we haven’t even been paid yet!”

April Fools!  I’m sorry for the poor humor.  I hope no one was too offended or groaned too much.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Three Photography Observations

When I left to meet Kevin K. and Tom M. for some photography before dawn last Monday, the sky was clear, the stars were shining and I didn’t think the sunrise would be very good.  If I hadn’t been meeting friends, I might have gone back to bed!  Looking at the photos in this post, it’s easy to see I was wrong – the sunrise was beautiful.

Observation 1:  Go.  You can’t always anticipate what you’ll see when you’re out photographing.  But if you stay home, you know you won’t see anything.

Calm Blue HourCalm Blue Hour.  14mm (equivalent), ISO 64, f/5.6, 10 sec., Hi-res mode.

We ended up at Cocoa Riverfront Park.  The clouds were moving in and the light and colors changed as we watched.  There were several interesting directions to point the camera.

Observation 2:  Arrive early and stay for a while when photographing sunrise.  Watch all directions.  Bring several lenses to vary your exposure, composition, and perspective.  Work the scene!

Fire in the skyFire in the sky.  70mm (equivalent), ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/50 sec., multi-frame stitched panorama

Photos 1 and 3 are from the Olympus E-M1 Mark II camera in hi-res mode.  You may remember this post (http://edrosack.com/2015/08/09/thoughts-on-processing-olympus-om-d-e-m5-mark-ii-high-resolution-photos/) where I wrote about motion anomalies with E-M5 Mark II hi-res and how to manually fix them.

Observation 3:  My conclusions from the earlier post are all still true – except for one.  I’m happy to report that with the E-M1 Mark II camera, Olympus has made a great deal of progress with hi-res mode.  I didn’t have to fix any motion anomalies in either of these photos.  Well done Olympus.

Dew on the BoardwalkDew on the Boardwalk. 14mm (equivalent), ISO 64, f/5.6, 8 sec., Hi-res mode.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A Couple Composites

I went for another walk last week at Orlando Wetlands Park with Tom M.  It was a pretty morning and in addition to the normal bird suspects, we also saw Soras, Purple Gallinules, and heard reports of Bald Eagles and many Black Crowned Night Herons.

In this post though, I want to discuss compositing.  Wikipedia says:

Compositing is the combining of visual elements from separate sources into single images, often to create the illusion that all those elements are parts of the same scene.”

Multiple exposures are a subset of compositing, and are much easier to produce in today’s world of digital photography.  In addition to creating an illusion, they can be used to show things that are difficult for a camera to capture in a single frame and better show reality.  Examples are panoramas, focus stacking, HDR, etc.

There’s a lovely Pink Trumpet tree on the west side of the main path into the park.  It’s in bloom and that morning the moon was setting behind the tree.  This snap from my iPhone shows how the tree looked against the sky and moon.

Moon behind Pink Trumpet tree
Moon behind Pink Trumpet tree

I wanted to isolate one bloom with the moon and clouds behind it, but the depth of field with my telephoto lens was too shallow to show both in the same frame.  So I made two,  with one focused on the flower and the second on the clouds / moon.  Then in Photoshop it was relatively easy to combine the two frames to show what I wanted.

Moon, clouds, and flowerMoon, clouds, and flower

Here’s a second example:

Ibis flight sequenceIbis flight sequence

This one is from a sequence of a single White Ibis flying by in a little under 2 seconds.  I brought all 25 frames into Photoshop on separate  layers and aligned them.  Then I used the focus select function to mask the birds from each layer into a single composite.  I ended up having to omit every other frame to avoid overlapping birds.

If you’re willing to dive into Photoshop or any other image editing software that offers layers and masking, you can do the same sort of work.  Think about techniques like these when you’re out photographing.  If you capture the source frames you need when you’re out, then when you get back to your computer you can use them to solve problems and enhance your creativity.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some multiple exposure photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

 

Cruising Wildlife

Lynn and I were fortunate to be able to cruise the Caribbean once again earlier this month. I love watching birds and wildlife and trying to make photographs of their behavior.  On this trip we both saw something for the first time.

On more than one occasion, birds followed our ship and dove for fish right along side.

Brown Boobies were following the ship and diving for fish right along side.Brown Booby

There were mostly Brown Boobies with a few Masked Boobies mixed in.

There were a few Masked Boobies fishing tooMasked Booby

Flying Fish were also plentiful along our route and the ship’s wake seemed to scare them up as we passed.

Flying Fish were plentiful along our route and the ship seemed to scare them up as we passed.Flying Fish

A closer look at the Flying FishA closer look at the Flying Fish

Photographing the birds catching fish wasn’t easy. You have to track a bird (at high magnification) as it moves just above the water and focus / shoot continuously – then hope you catch the right moment before your camera buffer runs out. I managed to get a few frames although the quality is not high. This is probably the best one.

Just before the catchJust before the catch

I was using a new camera (Olympus E-M1 II) for the bird / fish photos.  The frame rate and continuous focus capabilities really helped.  There’s a new “Pro Capture” mode on this that I couldn’t use (didn’t have the right lens).  It captures frames with the shutter button pressed half way and saves them with a final frame when fully pressed.  It would have made this use case easier.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the camera works in other situations.

We also saw Magnificent Frigatebirds. They seem pretty common in the Caribbean – mostly in the harbors. I’ve only seen a few here in Florida, along both coasts

Magnificent FrigatebirdFemale Magnificent Frigatebird

Cruise directors plan interesting things for passengers to do while at sea but these may not appeal to everyone.   It’s good to have an alternative activity available like wildlife observation and photography when you’re looking for something fun to do.

I’m collecting other photos from the trip in this album on Flickr.  And I have several other blog posts that feature photography from cruise ships.  If you’re interested, see this link:  http://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-categorized-by-place/cruise-ships/

By the way (no.1): I realize that some spam filters may reject the email for this post due to the names of the birds.  If it happens to you, sorry.  You can always read the latest content on the web at http://edrosack.com

By the way (no. 2):  I think the search problem on the blog is resolved.  If anyone still has issues, please let me know.

By the way (no. 3):  Happy new year!  I hope all of you have a great holiday and prosperous and delightful 2017!

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Wouldn't it be nice…

Lynn and I were driving back from dinner one day last week.  The sky was beautiful and I liked the way the clouds and color looked so I pulled out my iPhone and made this photo as we went across the 417 bridge over Lake Jessup.

Sunset over Lake Jessie.Sunset over Lake Jessup

This isn’t an earth shattering photo by any means, but there are things about it that are interesting.  I used the Lightroom mobile app on my phone to capture it in RAW mode.  Then I edited it (using the same app) and posted it from the car before we exited 417 a few minutes later.  When I got home, the image (captured version and edits) was already on my desktop computer.  What a frictionless experience.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the same with our stand alone cameras?

Camera manufacturers are moving in this direction, but their progress seems slow.  You can connect many cameras (e.g. Olympus, Sony, Fuji, etc.) with an app on your phone and then process and post from the phone.  But it’s sometimes clumsy and not as well-integrated.  Phone manufacturers are moving toward higher quality mobile photography at a faster rate.  The 12 megapixel, RAW capture, stabilized images output from the iPhone approach (or exceed) the sensor image quality of some older DSLRs.  And RAW processing / editing on phones is really coming along.

Do you think the mobile capabilities of stand alone cameras will catch up with phones before the image quality of phones is more than good enough?  The question may already be decided.

Hmm – two blog posts in a row with nothing but iPhone photos.  What’s the world coming to?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Reprocessing reminder

Do you have a favorite photo that you made a while ago?  Perhaps with an older camera?  If so, you may want to see what new versions of software and your revised tastes and improved skills can do differently.

I had a request for a print of this image.  It’s from way back in 2007, made with my first DSLR – a Nikon D80:

Littleton, Colo. cabinLittleton, Colo. cabin

I like this photo.  A lot, and not just because of the subject.  It reminds me of driving along the road between where my Mom used to live and my Sister’s house, and visiting them both.  It’s been on the blog before:  here and here.  If you’re interested, please take a look at these two posts to see earlier versions.

Fortunately, I was saving my digital files in RAW format even back then, so I can take full advantage of any improvements in photo software.  I decided to run this through my current imaging workflow before printing.  Using DxO Optics Pro, Photoshop, and Lightroom, I was able to reduce noise, improve shadow and highlight detail, and tweak color, contrast, and brightness.  I feel the new version is better.

Using current software on an image made with 10-year-old technology can be amazing.  I even see a spider web hanging from the near door that I never noticed before.

What do you think?  Do you ever reprocess your older images?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make and / or reprocess some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Pocket Computational Photography

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you may have seen my earlier posts on computational photography.  If not, you can review them at this link:  http://edrosack.com/?s=computational+photography.  The term refers to using software algorithms to supplement or replace optical capture processes.  Common examples are multi-frame panoramas, focus stacking, HDR processing, post capture focus, and other techniques.  You can read more about it at this link on Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_photography

As phone capabilities increase, their computational photography power is growing.  Camera phones have long been able to do on the fly panorama and HDR capture.  And here’s an example of a new capability that arrived on the iPhone 7+.

BokehBokeh

Apple calls this “Portrait Mode”.  It’s available in Beta on the iPhone 7+ in the latest version of IOS.  Since the 7+ has two cameras separated by a small distance, it provides the info necessary to compute a “depth map” of pixels in the frame.  The software uses this to selectively blur pixels based on distance to add a “Bokeh” (shallow depth of field) effect that helps with subject isolation.  For comparison, here is the non-computed version of the image.  You can see that the background looks very different.

Original
Original

All isn’t perfect.  The algorithm has problems around small features at the boundaries.   Look closely at the next frame and you can see blurring issues at the edges of the reed.

Phone output
Phone output

The processing blurred parts of the reed that we wanted sharp.  For the first photo above – I cheated and used Photoshop to correct the problems.  Maybe in future versions the software will be better.

Here’s one more example.  This is Lynn, rocking an election day t-shirt.  First, the portrait mode version.

Lynn - original
Lynn – portrait mode

And finally, the original.  In this case, the software did much better, with no obvious blurring issues.  These two are straight out of the camera with no processing on my part.

Lynn - portrait mode
Lynn – original

It’s fascinating how photography and computers are merging.  For someone who started out programming a large room sized Univac in FORTRAN with punch cards, the power and ability that fits in my pocket is just stunning.  I’m glad to have it with me.

What can they possibly think of next?  Do you use computational photography techniques?  Do you like or hate them?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go compute some images!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved