Category Archives: Howto

How To: Beach winds for KAP

So my little Powershot n tragically died because I rode my luck a few times too many with off-shore winds. The lesson to learn is to stick as much as possible to nice clean on-shore winds.

Why? Because off-shore wind usually is traveling over buildings, trees, sand-dunes etc. which all affect the flow and make for more swirly and inconsistent flow. Whereas, on-shore wind flow is generally much cleaner and less prone to looping or dragging the kite sideways and then into the ground.

if you can get up high enough, sometimes the off-shore wind is fine, but the danger zone, and risk, is always closer to the ground when you are reeling out or in.

Info: Older lenses on the Sony a7ii

Voigtlander Color Skopia 20mm, Nikon AI-s 28mm, Zeiss FE 55mm, Nikon AI-s 135mm

Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm, Nikon AI-s 28mm, Zeiss FE 55mm, Nikon AI-s 135mm

There are some good articles already on using older non-Sony lenses on the Sony e-mount cameras, including the following which are worth reading:

My experience is limited to using my existing plethora of Nikon full-frame lenses, my old student Contax and Yashica lenses (30 years old!) and a couple of Voigtlander wide angles, one relatively new and one ancient. The adaptors I have used are simple manual-focus only ones from Metabones and, the less expensive, K&C Concept & Roxsen (I think this is the make) – both the Metabones and K&C Concept worked well, with no issues to date. The cheap Roxsen I use with my old DKL mount Voigtlander lens, however, makes too tight a fit with the camera and I don’t use it for fear damaging the camera. I am not sure if this is just a one-off bad one (I picked it up free) or it is representative, but a new adaptor has been ordered to replace it.

Nikon 135 f2 DC, 28mm f2.8 AI-S, 17-38mm f2.8 AF-S

Nikon 135 f2 DC, 28mm f2.8 AI-S, 17-38mm f2.8 AF-S

My view so far is as follows:

  1. It works – with a few provisos (see the rest of the comments), using non-Sony lenses with an adaptor in manual-focus mode works. Sony’s focus-peaking is excellent and, if like me, you are happy with manual focus (hey, most near-IR photography is landscape!) it is easy.
  2. Remember hotspots ! – there are lots of older lenses still available, a lot of them with very high quality optics – the options are wide and deep. However, with near-IR and mix-band photography we have to also consider hotspot issues and outside the more commonly bought lenses, there is not a lot of information on what suffers or does not. Just because some old Minolta or Lica lens is famed for fabulous optics does not necessarily make it a great buy, if it suffers horrendous hotspots it will be useless. See my page on Hotspots to understand more:
  3. Good value, but no longer great – famed old optically great lenses are now in demand and prices have increased. Good if you have some to sell, but there no longer seems to be a rich seam of beautiful dirt-cheap lenses on the market. There is still a lot of good value simpler lenses to pick up (28mm, 50mm, 135mm primes), but less the stunning bargains of a couple of years ago.
  4. Buy carefully – antidotally, about 20% of the interesting older lenses I find have some issue (minor fungus, bad mechanisms etc.) that makes me put them back or return. The increasing demand for older lenses is also bringing out the duds and the rubbish; if you are looking to buy, do it carefully and play safe with the older exotica.
  5. Old can also be big & heavy – a famed lens like an older pro Nikon f2.8 17-35mm, or f2.8 70-200 ED, at first thought should be a great idea, well built with superb optics; however, in reality when you mount these lenses, in proportion to the little Sony, they are large, heavy and unwieldy. Yes they work, but they quickly feel wrong and don’t encourage getting out and about.
  6. Remember lens filters – manual-focus is much less of an issue when there is a large Depth of Field to work with, so naturally most first thoughts are to the ultra wide-angles (sub 20mm), hoping for some mad 8mm fisheye bargain. Many of these lenses, however, are unable to work with filters, consequently making them near to useless with full-spectrum cameras and highly limiting to other modified cameras.
  7. Its all manual – my best results have been when I have reverted to manual exposure and not used Aperture Priority. As others have noted, the Sony has an annoying preference for shooting at 1/60th and even with the a7ii’s in-camera stabilization this can be too low; consequently I use manual model most of the time, setting the aperture and speed and letting the camera sort out ISO, as long as it does not go too high.
  8. Not all adaptors are the same – the manual-focus only adaptors are in essence just simple metal tubes (normally aluminium), so should not be expensive; however, the quality and tolerance of the fit, both on the lens and the camera body is important and needs high-spec manufacturing. My sample set is too small to be representative, but my experience of the cheaper adaptors is 50/50 so far and I am happy to pay for better quality to play safe.
Voigtlander 35mm Skoparex

Voigtlander 35mm Skoparex

Lenses Used Successfully With No Hotspot

  • Voigtlander 20mm f3.5 Color Skopar
  • Nikon 16-35mm f2.8 AF-S
  • Nikon 28mm f2.8 AI-s
  • Nikon 85mm f1.4 AF-D
  • Nikon 135mm f2.8 AI-s
  • Nikon 135 f2 DC
  • Contax 50mm f1.7
  • Yashica 28mm f2.8
  • Yashica 135mm f2.8
  • Yashica 200mm f4

For more information on hotspots see: http://www.photoir.net/equipment/lenses-hotspots/

How To: White-Balance Colour Profiles

Background

One of the most confusing, and most asked about, elements of producing an image from a near-IR capture (meaning getting a nice looking image) is setting the white-balance. The why and how is not well understood and documentation is often misleading, with most people leaving their cameras in auto mode, which in near-IR photography is the worse thing to do.

One of the better articles to start with is Cambridge Color’s article on understanding white-balance: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/white-balance.htm

This article, good as it is, is however written for normal visible light photography and focused (excuse the pun) on getting the ‘right’ coloured image for the temperature of the light source at the time. In near-IR photography we are already outside the norm and use the white-balance point solely as a processing control, a dial or lever, to set the colours we want in our final image.

A lot of people will say “for this frequency, set the custom WB from the foliage, the sky or some white card… etc. etc.“; however, the really important point, that a lot of people miss, is that there is no ‘correct’ white-balance for a near-IR image, it is just a creative control option – it is a dial, a lever, to use to get the effect you want.

What does it do ?

Probably the best way to show what the control does is this graph from the Cambridge Color article:

Cambridge Color

Cambridge Color

The “white-balance point” is actually a profile, used in processing the image, to interpretate the captured light range (near-IR etc.) into more of the visible range. Remember a bayer sensor is capturing the blue, green and reds of a scene (not the frequencies). A camera’s white-balance function is normally to adjust (compensate) the intensity of the blue, greens and reds for the temperature of different light sources.

Referring to the diagram above, the higher the light source temperature (K), the more it will compensate the intensity of the blues and greens, over the extreme reds we capture in near-IR, and visa-versa for lower temperatures. Unlike in normal photography, where you would want to select the temperature as close as to the real light source at the time, we are just selecting the temperature we want based on artistic choice (impact to the image). It is why I prefer the term “colour-profile” rather than “white-balance”, as we are not trying to match the light source to what was there when the image was captured, just use the function to choose the colours we want more of in our image.

Setting in-camera vs in-processing

Personally, I set colour-profiles (the WB) in both the camera and the import software making my final image from the RAW file. In the camera so that I get a good approximation of what the (pre channel-swapped) image will look like and in the computer software (Capture 1, Lightroom etc.) for the final processed from RAW image. As the example below shows, a few nudges of the slider can often make a significant difference.

Setting the colour-profile in the camera (if the camera has a custom WB option) is very rudimentary and often limited, which is why I view it really as just a visual approximation tool. With some previous cameras, which had poor custom WB capability, but still captured RAW, I set the display to mono (B&W), which is better than trying to view an all red image on a small screen. Cameras that can’t do custom white-balance, nor RAW, make for poor cameras for this type of photography and are better avoided.

I usually have my cameras, as a viewable starting point, set at around:

  • 2200K to 2700K for single-band near-IR capture (590nm, 720nm etc.)
  • 5000K for dual-band, mixed near UV and IR (not far off normal visible light settings)

When the raw files are imported by the computer software (Capture 1 being my current personal preference), I then fine tune the processed image to the colour-profile I want (remember there is no absolute here, it is just an artistic choice) using the software slider or colour-dropper.

As this collection of 720nm processed images shows, the colour-profile used can make a significant difference to the final image – it shows six different set points, showing the subtle differences that come from varying the colour-profile (white-balance). The bottom six images, for reference, are the channel-swapped versions of the top six.

720nm image with different WB colour-profiles

720nm image with different WB colour-profiles

In near IR and UV photography, setting the colour-profile (WB) is as important as the exposure, focus and ISO. Most people are not aware of its importance as most modern cameras are good at ‘auto WB’ for visible light photography.

Summary

  1. In near IR and UV photography, setting the colour-profile (WB) is as important as the exposure, focus and ISO.
  2. There is no such thing as the ‘correct’ white-balance for a near-IR image – it is just a creative control.
  3. Don’t leave your camera in AUTO WB mode – if you can, set a custom WB in the camera, even if just for the preview before resetting the colour-profile in post-capture processing.
  4. If using RAW capture, always fine tune the WB in the import software – it is an important creative control and can make all the difference to an outcome of the final image.

Howto: Using HDR

I thought it worth putting down how I use HDR and some examples using mixed IR and UV images, from a Schott BG3 filter.

First thing is that if I don’t need it, the exposure range in the image is quite small, then I don’t use HDR – if playing with lights, darks, highlights and shadows get the detail and image right, great. Everything has a cost and HDR processing induces noise and can burn out highlights; so if I don’t need it, I don’t use it.

If the image does have a wide exposure range, mixing some really dark and some really light areas, then I will test to see if it helps with the overall image.

Just in case, I commonly take three bracketed RAW shots with the camera – one as the standard average, one at +1EV and one at -1EV. I would like to do three at +/-2EV but my Olympus cameras are limited to just +/-1, but it is sufficient. I shoot only three varied images, when handheld, as I want to limit as much movement as possible in the images.

I am happy to adjust a RAW image from my Olympus by 2 stops (2EV); meaning that I can get, by adjusting the two outer images (the under-exposed and over-exposed ones) by 2 stops, an overall range of 6 stops:

  • Bracketed -1 on the camera, -2 further darkened in Lightroom = 3 stops under-exposed
  • Middle = Average matrix exposure
  • Bracketed +1 on the camera, +2 further lightened in Lightroom = 3 stops over-exposed

Importantly I don’t always adjust the outer images, it is just an option there if needed. I think a very important principle of HDR is to use the exposure range that is needed for that image, rather than any set formula. Often a 2 stop range is enough and can sometimes even be too much.

The key part of my process is to then adjust the exposure of each image starting with the outer images (the over and under-exposed ones) and change the exposure so that on the over-exposed one, the darkest element of the image that I care about is visible. I do this by using the exposure slider to first darken the over-exposed image, to identify the darkest element I want to see detail on, and then sliding the exposure up to the maximum point to see the detail on that element. I then reverse the process on the under-exposed one, finding the brightest point and then darkening it enough to get the detail.

Here are three bracketed shots off the camera at +/-1EV and then tweaked a little further

=average

=0 (average)

-1 under exposed

-1.5 under-exposed

+1 over exposed

+1.3 over-exposed

This then produced, using Photomatix as a Lightroom plug-in, the following HDR composite image (note: I have gone for more tonal differences than strong HDR)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

HDR Output

HDR invariably introduces some noise, so I denoise all my HDR composite images; either using Topaz or Nik Define.  With some final desaturation of the overly strong green (common with the BG3 filter), and output sharpening, the image is finalised:

Final

Final sharpened

All image rights reserved.

 

HowTo: White-Balance Article

Interesting article by Dan Wampler, at Lifepixel, on setting custom white-balance on the camera (although I am still not convinced that IR for portraits really works).

“It IS important, in fact I personally believe that a custom White Balance with Infrared photography is as important as taking off the lens cap.”

Article: White-Balance isn’t important (but really it is!)

I now always set the custom WB on the camera, at every frequency chance and usually each day or significant change of light. I view this now as essential given both Aperture and Lightroom’s inadequate (including us DNG Editor to get a profile for the camera) handling of wide frequency white-balance.

In Lightroom I now have a profile that seems to work for 590nm and 720nm from the Olympus M5; but have failed to get a working option for mixed UV and IR (Schott BG3) and 660nm from my Olympus PM2. For these frequencies I am using OlympusView3 to import and export the images to Tif, with the in-camera customer WB, and then import into Lightroom. A laborious workaround and PITA.

HowTo: Lightroom Image Backup & Share Strategy

After a second Apple TimeMachine failure (the dreaded “SparseBundle unmountable” corruption) I have changed how I backup, archive and share my 23,000 (and growing) images and no longer reply on TimeMachine as a primary protection mechanism.

Primarily:

  • No longer rely on TimeMachine as my primary recovery mechanism – just primarily use it for recovery of accidental file deletion.
  • Use Synology’s CloudStation to constantly synchronise the main Lightroom catalog between the laptop (Macbook Pro) and a Synology NAS; with the Synology NAS running simple disk-mirroring.
  • Retaining image original and version copies outside Lightroom, in case of needing to rebuild a Lightroom catalog or migrate over to replacement software.
  • Using DropBox to make versions available to family and friends.

Backup Strategy v2 copy

Using Synology’s CloudStation file-sync application works really well and avoids Lightroom having to access any catalog files over the network; which, according to internet posts, is prone to problems.

My travel laptop (smaller MacBook Pro) when back at home just exports it’s Lightroom Catalog to the NAS, which is then imported into the main Catalog.

In addition to CloudStation synchronising the Lightroom Catalog (about 300GB), regular exports from Lightroom of both original images and JPEG versions are made to NAS folders. The originals are then archived, using Synology’s Backup application, to AWS Glacier (via S3 buckets) and the JPEGs synchronised to DropBox, using Synology’s Cloud Sync app. Using DropBox then allows family and friends to easily access images they want to retain or print.

As with CloudStation, Synology’s CloudSync and Backup applications are reliable and work well; however, it takes some configuration of AWS and the Synology to get the S3 Buckets, from the back-up, to archive automatically over to Glacier and thus save significant cost. Bringing the originals back from Glacier is just as a last resort if all the devices are damaged in the house (e.g. house fire).

TimeMachine is then left as a secondary backup to recover any accidentally deleted files.

So far this is all working well and, with the exception of the AWS S3 and Glacier archiving, is relatively easy to set-up. Thankyou Synology and the ever excellent Synology community.

HowTo: Lightroom WB Issues & DNG Workaround

I am finding it hard to like Lightroom after Aperture, but will persevere. I can see, and appreciate, all the more comprehensive features, it is just visually, after Aperture, I find it too cultured and limiting. But hey, thats life, it is the only option I have now really.

One of the first issues I encountered is preserving the in-camera set WB set on infrared images. Although LR is set to “in camera” the default range is too limited and it puts a bad cast on the images nor does it allow them to be amended back to what they should be.

Thankfully, it is a well known limitation and there is workaround using the DNG editor to set a profile/recipe for infrared images: link to David Clapp’s page (there are other’s who have publicised this work around).

Example of a standard (wrong) import:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Adobe Std

Example of a corrected (with DNG editor) import:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Custom DNG Edited

Sadly I am finding that this is not so easily sorting issues with bandpass images from the likes of BG3 and UG5.

UPDATE – I have given in trying to get Adobe to correctly import in-camera WB mixed UV and IR images, from the likes of the Schott BG3 and UG5 filters, and have gone back to using the Olympus Viewer for importing and exporting Tiff files, which I then import into Lightroom.

All image rights reserved.

 

HowTo: Moving from Aperture to Lightroom

LR5ASo I have finally been forced to move away from Apple’s terminal ill Aperture to Adobe’s Lightroom, as my version of Aperture becomes rapidly more buggy, especially with white-balancing infrared images.  I would like to have titled this post  as “migrating”, rather than “moving”, but in reality there is no practical migration option, just exporting and importing – i.e. moving. The main thing being that you can import primary images directly to Lightroom from an Aperture Library; however, any adjustments, versions, stacks and a few other key attributes do not come across with them – which really is the whole point !

I have adjusted approximately 70% of the images in my library and made stacked versions of about 10% – primarily all the important/best ones! And out of over 10,000 images, that is a lot that can not be migrated. 🙁  There is no prospect of me ever getting the time to re-edit thousands of images.

Am not sure who to be really mad at: Apple for letting me down or Adobe for not giving me a good migration capability – consequently, I will be mad at both of them. I guess more at Apple for letting us photographers down (and “yes” I acknowledge they gave us fair warning of not wanting us as customers any more).

If you are interested there are some good testimonials and walk-throughs of what you can, and can not do, moving from Aperture to Lightroom:

Having investigated this for the last week and tested various options, my approach is as follows:

  • Keep Aperture on my MacBook as a backup for existing/pre-move images.
  • Keep the existing Aperture libraries on my external (mirrored) drive.
  • Export all originals from Aperture to an archive folder on my NAS (Synology), which also archives them to AWS Glacier.
  • Export versions of all images from Aperture as full-sized JPEGs, to a MacBook folder, and import them into Lightroom. Then treated them as all finalised images in Lightroom and at least be able to search all images in Lightroom; just doing minimal, if no, editing on them (given they are only JPEGs). If I do need to do substantial editing, I either pull out of hibernation Aperture or import the original image file and start again.
  • All new images imported and edited with Lightroom going forward.

For reference the Lightroom masters/images on my MacBook are held on a folder which syncs with one of my Synology NAS machines using the Synology Cloud Station software.

One thing to also not overlook is re-licensing, or migrating over, your Plug-ins; for me, primarily PTlens, Nik Tools, HDR Soft and Topaz. Thankfully I have kept the original licence emails and purchase receipts.

KAP: Musing on progress

Setting the camera

Setting the camera

I was musing on my progress with getting IR cameras up in the air and that I haven’t so far. More through choice, than technical challenge, but it has still been an interesting learning experience so far. I have held back putting anything other than my well protected GoPro up as it has taken some time to get the hang of the kites and understand the conditions well enough so that the expensive cameras don’t end up quickly in bits.

KAP - Harry and the Cody

KAP – Harry and the Cody

Initially, primarily with my poor mistreated delta (the Dan Leigh Trooper) the crashes were frequent, especially flying without a tail; however, now my success rate is pretty crash free, which has been more about judging the conditions correctly (and learning to walk away), than expert kite control.

So, some things learnt so far:

  • Getting used the kites and conditions has been invaluable,
  • Gloves are essential with handling the line – one friction line burn was enough to get it.
  • Parks, with close trees, make for difficult places to fly.
  • Unless I have constant clean wind, I would rather use a frame/sparred kite than a soft foil. You only have to watch a foil collapse mid-air once to appreciate the issue.
  • All my kites seem to be better with a tail – I now always have a 16ft tail in my field bag.
  • I prefer using my homemade pendulum, to my pivacat. The picavet gets fiddly to attach when I am on my own and gets flayed around too much in difficult wind situations.
  • I generally take at least two kites with me now, when I go out. I take the general wind/weather forecast as rough estimate, which is often wrong for the actual location – with two kites of different wind-range, I can usually cover the actual location.
  • My rokkaku (or rather my skill with it) has been a real PITA – it has been like dealing with a diva opera singer – when it hit the right note, it knocks your socks off (pulls like a freight train), but more often than not, it chooses not to sing ! They may not lift as much, but starting with deltas is much easier.
  • With trips away, and less predictability, three kites has been sufficient to cover potential wind ranges.
  • I am still undecided on the use of swivels – I can the argument not to, but can also see the potential benefit of less impact on the line holding the camera.
KAP - Dan Leigh Trooper Fuzzy Tail

KAP – Dan Leigh Trooper

Re the KAP kites I have to play with (borrowed or owned):

  • The ITW Triton, which came to me secondhand, demands a tail otherwise it overflies; however, with one on it is a good light wind lifter. My first choice for light winds. Packs down well and easy to transport, which is a bonus.
  • The Dan Leigh Trooper, like the Triton, also demands a tail but more for stability and slowing the aerial sports down. Great for good to strong winds and my go-to when the wind picks up. Easy to assemble and handle on my own; however, a big (long) kite to transport and not easy to travel with.
  • The ITW UltraFoil 15 has not been flown much, as I have not had much strong clean wind to work with. Like all foils, it is easy to fold down and travel with so hope to use it more over the summer when away.
  • The Didakite’s Cody 30 looks very majestic and is a very stable mid-wind flier. Fits nicely between the ranges of the Triton and Trooper, but does not lift as strong as the Rokkaku. Assembling it initially was tricky, but the elastic band trick (see previous post) has made it now a doddle; however, it is much easier with two people. I suspect that the Rokkaku will displace it for mid-winds over time.
  • The Didakite’s Rainbow Rokakku, which also came to me secondhand, initially would not fly at all. After re-brindling it, which was probably more about me understanding how it worked than how it was initially set-up, has flown well and is a very strong lifter. Can be packed down small, if all the spars are take apart, which makes travelling with it easier.
  • The Dan Leigh Lightweight Carbon Whirlwind has not been flown much as it is a very light wind kite with a small wind-range. When the conditions are right it is lovely to see it fly, however, the Triton has a little more range to work with. I will probably keep the Whirlwind more for fun, than KAP.
  • On order is a Dan Leigh Wildcard (yes, I like Deltas)
Ultrafoil sideways on

Ultrafoil sideways on!

It is very early days, and I have a lot still to learn, but if I was to grab just one kite to run out of the house with, for the quick fix, it would be the Dan Leigh Trooper – it may not pull/lift as much as the rokkaku or foil, but it is a darn-sight easier to fly with.

Next, when we have some good wind, the full rig goes up with the 660nm infrared Olympus PM2.

HowTo: Minimum filters for full-spectrum

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I am lucky enough to do interesting location travel with work and have been thinking what is the optimum set of equipment for travel, especially with regards to filters and my full-spectrum M5 (and not taking my little modified 660nm PM2). After various tests, and trips, I have got down to the following:

  • Full-spectrum Olympus M5
  • 12-32mm f3.5-5.6 Panasonic pancake lens
  • White-balance card
  • 3 filters: BG3, 590nm & 850nm
  • 2 filters for visible light (normal): UV(0) + Hot-Mirror
  • 1 ND filter, which can also help white-balance the 590nm
  • …and laptop

Filter choice rational:

  • The UV(0) can stay on the lens protecting it, as it does not interfere that much with the BG3 (see previous post on stacking a UV filter with bandpass filters).
  • Adding a Hot-Mirror filter to the UV(0) allows me to get close enough to normal visible photography for people and ‘normal’ visible spectrum shots.
  • The Schott BG3 gives the near-UV blue skies, without colour-swapping, and strong greens; plus with some simple green desaturation I can get close to UG5.
  • 590nm for the widest colour in near-IR; plus with some selective post-shot work, I can colour close enough to 660nm.
  • Add the 590 to the BG3 (see Combining Bandpass Post) and you get roughly 700nm to get the classic IR72 bleached out foliage look.
  • 850nm for B&W; however, potentially I could do without this and just desaturate the 700nm images and get close enough, saving carrying another filter.

Minimum Travel Filters

FilterFrom camera (with White-Balance)Colour/Channel Swapped
No filter (full-spectrum)
FS

FS

+ UV(0)
FS + UV

FS + UV

+ UV(0) + Hot Mirror (visible spectrum)
UV + HM

UV + HM

+ BG3
BG3

BG3

+ 590
590

590

590 - CSwap

590 - CSwap

+ BG3 + 590nm (approx 700nm)
BG3 + 590

BG3 + 590

BG3 + 590 - CSwap

BG3 + 590 - CSwap

+ 850nm
850

850