19. juni 2017

Edinburgh HDR-experience

I recently came back from a trip to Edinburgh and as usual, I took a day-trip around the city, to find good spots for photography.

The problem with trips like vacations or weekend-getaways, is that you will shoot in mostly high-noon light, or early morning to late afternoon.

The light during these hours isn't the best light really, as it is has high contrast and can also be a little boring; either very flat or very high contrast. If the sky is completely without clouds, well, then the shots tend to be pretty dull.

So, this time, I opted to do some HDR shots, taking several handheld exposures, mostly at +2 and -2 from normal exposure, due to the big span from shadows to hightlights, and later blending them in Photoshop, to obtain something different.

It is also possible to use tone-mapping, if you have only one exposure, but you need to prioritize the highlights, as the shadows are the easiest to recover with digital.

I also did this on my trip to Beelitz Heilstätten in Germany in 2011, check it out.

Now, HDR can be made into whatever you like, it's all in the processing and final output.
Personally, I tend to turn them into a more painterly style that is a little softer and I personally try to avoid halo's or super-sharpened details.

I like them a little dreamy and colorful, but also well defined, not always an easy task.
They do work ok to my taste here.

A "close" in Edinburgh old town, where people used to live and work during the middle-ages.
The slit of light seen at the end is normal daylight, which I recovered in the HDR processing stage and warmed up.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Balmoral Hotel bell tower.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Stairs leading up to the Royal mile from Cockburn-street.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Plaque at Canongate Kirk.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Cemetary Canongate Kirk.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Overview from Carlton hill, showing the Balmora hotel and the Edinburgh Castle in the backround
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Holyrood palace, shoot trough the fence.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Overview from Carlton hill, showing the Balmora hotel including more, like the Scott monument, parts of the Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens and the Edinburgh Castle and church-spires.Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Edinburgh castle, shot from Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

The castle again, this time shot from the other side, Grassmarket area.
To the right is Flodden Wall from the 15th century.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Last light, old town and castle.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

I tend to end up with something that isn't hard to look at at least, but the taste for these kinds of shots are many and varied.

The shot from Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens is perhaps the most normalized shot of the bunch, and is probably the type of shot that will always work well during sunny and difficult light, it is shot directly against the sun and the HDR-processing was mostly used to open up shadows and retain a blue sky, the composition helps to reduce the boring, cloudless sky as well.

The cemetery-shot is a good example on how to reduce the intense contrast to a level where it's actually starting to become more viable in terms of both tones and composition, the light is hard, but the tonal scale is long and ok to look at.

My main goal is to soften the photo, open the shadows, lower the highlights and make the shot "pop" a little more in terms of color-contrast.

I use the Nik Collection from google, which is now free. In that package, I use HDR-pro to merge and adjust the photo to my liking and in the final stages, I adjust them slightly in Lightroom as well, mostly in terms of temperature and/or  vibrance/saturation.

Google's Nik-collection can be downloaded from here: https://www.google.com/nikcollection/

I also shot a couple of rolls with my Rolleiflex Automat, but those are for a later entry. ^^

Oh and by the way, Edinburgh really is a nice city, not too big to walk around in and offer a lot to a visitor, both in term of views and history and also in terms of the number of brands of Whiskey to be tasted ^^

16. februar 2017

The Barnack

Before reading on, I can recommend the following article on the Current state of film in 2017
Quite uplifting and positive news from various manufacturers indeed. ^^

My Leica IIIF RDST (ca 1955) 
with the Thorium coated Leica Summicron F2.0 collapsible (ca 1952)
In this blog, I would like to give a short introduction to the Leica IIIf, a camera from a series of Leica's which is also known as Barnack Leicas.


Yes, they are simply nick-named after it's creator, Oscar Barnack, who created the first Leica. Some also say he was the one who made 35mm into the common used format we know today. (Americans will say it was Kodak and Kodak-only....whatever :) ).

He wanted a light and functional camera what was easy to carry around, since he had asthma.

After the creation of the UR-Leica, he created the Leica I then there was the Leica II series in 1932 and the Leica III series from 1933 until the final one, the IIIg in 1960.

There have been written miles and miles of text regarding the history and variants (and copies) of these cameras, so I will not repeat them here.

Here is some material about the history of Oscar Barnack and the Leica I, II and III

Oscar Barnack:

About the Leica I, II and III


Google will provide you with tons of other information.

My Barnack Leica

My particular Leica, is a Leica IIIf, it has flash sync as well as red dials here and there and thus it is known as Leica IIIf Red Dial. It also has a self-timer, which makes the complete "eBay denomination" to be a Leica IIIf RDST.

Normally I just say my Leica IIIf or my Screw-mount Leica.

I bought mine from a reputable seller in Japan trough eBay and the camera really is in a beautiful cosmetic and mechanical condition.
My Leica IIIf has a slow-speed button (1/25 and lower) on the front next to the self-timer..
The collapsible Summicron is not as small as the Elmar when collapsed, but it's faster, looks more solid and fits the IIIf quite well.

The viewfinder and rangefinder is clear and bright and the double-image is good, no problem focusing or composing.

Top-view, from the left to the right:
Film advance knob with film-type indicator and counter.
Shutter-release button.
Film rewind release lever (open position)
Shutter-speed dial (only set after cocking the shutter!)
Below the shutter-speed dial, is the flash-sync dial.
Hot (cold) shoe. (the flash sync is on the back of the camera)
Film rewind knob.
Diopter adjustment-lever.

The top-view is such a masterpiece of retro-design, looks very lovely.

In practical use though, I would have preferred the shutter-release to be raised up or moved somewhere, because it can be a little difficult to hit/find during practical shooting, due to the huge film-advance knob standing in the way, I am sure it will become second-nature after some use, so it's no biggie.

Note that the infinity-mark on the LTM-Summicron collapsible is off-center (at around 02:00 o'clock when you look at the camera from the front. The first time I saw that, I thought I had gotten a faulty lens. This offset is by design though, so don't worry. (It's meant to be easier to see when you have an auxiliary-viewfinder or similar attached to the hot-shoe).

Other than that, the operation is both quick and easy and it's good fun to shoot with.

The vulcanite (black part) on my IIIf is now stiff and brittle, so I am thinking about getting it replaced. Once it gets like this, it tends to break off after a while, there is nothing you can do, either you live with it, or get it replaced.

Silent? Well, it's not loud, especially when you are out and about, but I did compare it to my Zorki 1d, and I found that they were about equal in terms of sound level. (The Leica II may be different/more silent).

That is also just about the only thing that is equal in any sense between the Zorki 1 and the Leica III (apart from looking similar).

Really a quality tool

My Summicron collapsible lens

The lens was bought from Japan as well, very beautiful condition.

The Leica Summicron F2 collapsible lens.
My lens, a very beautiful specimen, has Thorium-coating in it, which makes it radioactive.
Activity is around 7 micro sievert/h on surface (Gamma/Beta), but radiation level is background around 30cm in front of the lens.
The radiation from the back is much less (around 2.5 micro sieverts/h on surface of rear element) with background levels when you have your eye/face up to the camera.

It needed CLA though (focus was very stiff) and since I didn't want to send the lens abroad to be serviced (or since I may be a bit silly), I opted to research how to do a clean and lubrication myself.

On this lens, the helical cleaning and lubrication-procedure is quite easy, the M-mount version is different.
Mine is very similar to the Summitar cleaned here: http://justinlow.com/articles/repair-leica-summitar

In addition, I took the lens-group out of the helical and trimmed the inner-felt that stabilize the lens and gives friction when collapsing and retracting and prevents the lens from creeping when collapsed. It was just way too tight, I kept screwing the lens off the camera when I wanted to turn it to collapse it.

In addition to that, I also lubricated the aperture-ring and disassembled and cleaned the aperture-blades. (not recommended really, it's difficult to re-assemble and you risk damaging the inner lens-elements).

I have documented my procedure (more or less badly) here:

Helical cleaning, disassembly of the collapsible Summicron with pictures:

Collapsible Summicron aperture blades assembly with pictures:

In general, the lens has lower contrast wide open (but it is center-sharp actually), increased contrast and sharpness towards the corners as you stop down.

In the extreme corners the lens isn't impressive, but I've only shot it at F5.6-F8 due to dark winter-conditions.

I plan to use it for portraiture for the most part anyway, so the corners doesn't need to be tack sharp.

It's flare-prone, so use a shade, a small one or vented one, since a normal one will block half the viewfinder on the Leica III. :)

I love it for portraits, especially wide-open, gives a soft-feel with good definition and enough detail.

Yellowing from radioactive-decay.

The radioactive decay and the emitting of Alpha-particles in the Thorium decay-chain in this lens,  has (most likely, since they are stopped within the lens) caused yellowing of the glass.

This can be cured by exposing the lens to UV-light (or the sun) for a longer period of time.

- I have tried with a reptile-lamp (strongest they had), for two weeks, but I think I need to have it exposed for a longer time to rid the yellowing completely. The bulb has only UV-A and UV-B, but I think I read somewhere that UV-C has no impact on the yellowing.

- Also, the Jansjö-lamp from IKEA, did not clear or influence the yellowing on my lens, even after 2 weeks of illumination, as close to the lens as I could get it. (some reports that it does work on certain lenses, but not on this one). Good deal for IKEA none the less ^^

For black and white, you may get a light-yellow filter effect (contrast influence).

With color-film, you may experience yellow tinge, but I have actually not seen much of that yet (I scan, so my scanner may correct for it for all I know).

The reason I want the tinge gone, is that it takes away light and the tinge is not the original state of this lens, it was produced and sold as a clear lens.

Practical loading, shooting and using the Leica IIIf

Loading the Barnack leicas can be learned here, or here, or here or....well you get the drift ^^ Just cut that leader and load it.
- It's not hard to load.
- Do not use credit-cards to aid your loading, that is for dumb-people.
- Do not set the camera to bulb and adjust the film with your finger, that is for dumb people.
- It's not hard to load.
- If this is the most difficult thing you've ever experienced, you need to get out more. :)

I find the action of the camera to be quick. You thumb trough to the next frame, focus and take the photo.

I rarely use the composition-viewer when I shoot in the city, I just center whatever I am shooting, focus and move slightly to the left or right, depending on what I want to achieve. (portraits too).

I use the composition-viewer when I photograph more general architecture or features, since then I usually have more time, I normally like big apertures and people, so I stress that the photo is in focus more than perfectly composed. (plus the viewfinder isn't exactly 100% accurate). 

Some practical photos then, here are some Ektar-shots that I did. 

A lot of these are testshots, to check focus after my CLA, so the subject-matter is bland. I am sure HCB is turning in his grave over the non-decisive moments and horrible composition lol ^^ 

Focus-test at F2, focus on the L below the top-logo

Focus-test at f2.8, focus on the L below the top-logo

Isolation/bokeh 3 meters at f2

Isolation/bokeh 3 meters at f2.8

Angry speaker, general street snaps, f2.8

Dog with no front-paws, probably should have used the viewfinder here, but this is friggin impressive for being wide-open :)
General street snaps, f2.0

Street-musician, general street snaps, f2.8

Street-musician, general street snaps, f2.8

Bokeh-test, close focus limit f2.0 (slight misfocus actually, my fault, but it's about the 'boookeyh' huh?)

Bokeh-test, close focus limit f2.8

Bokeh-test, close focus limit f4

Lens is sharp enough and the backlight didn't flare here.

More pronounced flaring/glare, but not disturbing, it can work well with the setting sun sometimes.
f2.8 (focus on infinity)

General street snaps, f2.8

General street snaps, f2.8

General street snaps, f2.8, focus was on the card with the teddy-bear.

Some Tri-x from a short photo-trip I had in the cold.

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible @ f2.8
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible @ f2.8
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible @f4
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Fuji Acros in Rodinal 1:25

Love the tones and the buildings in this shot actually.
Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Fuji Acros in Rodinal 1:25

These days, I am trying to bleach the yellowing of the Summicron with my UV-light, so I am not shooting much with this particular combo.

As long as I am doing that, I play with my Leica M3 instead, with the Leica Summicron f2 Dual-range -with goggles ^^

Leica M3 with Leica Summicron f2 dual-range and googgles.

More on that in a later blog-entry =)

22. desember 2016

4M Pinhole fun project, experiences and a small review

Whoa! I was on a Christmas-run to buy various gifts and popped into a toy-store downtown.

Didn't find any suitable gifts though, except from one for me! :)

This toy-store actually had some really cool stuff from 4M, a science and learning toy series, among them, a pinhole-kit. ^^

Had to have it. ($18)  =D

Front of box

Back of box

The instruction-pamphlet, although typed up in many languages, lacked some basics really.
The assembly is generally very easy (at least I experienced it as so), but I think they forgot a few gotchas and a little extra information.

Basic data, missing from the documentation (and the internet).

- I measured the length from the film to the lens of this camera, to be just about 55mm. This will be your focal-length.
- With a hole of 0.3mm diameter (a "typical", small hole from a needle), you get around f180 as the aperture.

Inserting the camera internal panel, with the grooves for the film-reels. 

1. This, the largest part, which makes up the inner-body section only goes in one way.
2. There are 3 small holes inside the front part of the camera and one larger one. These corresponds to the big and small knobs on the inside-piece.
3. This piece does not "snap in", it simply lays there, which I thought was a bit iffy. It's easy for it to drop out when you load/unload film and makes everything unnecessarily loose and difficult when you try to load your film.

Making the hole 

1. I fiddled with the supplied foil and double-sided tape for a while, but opted to cut out a piece of aluminum from a coke-can instead. Aluminum from a beer-can or a soda-can, is much easier to work with (watch out, it's sharp!) and my impression is that you get a more even (round) hole with that material, compared to aluminum-foil.
2. Use steel-wool to rub down the aluminum from the can after the hole is made, to rub down jaggies and loose ends at the hole, before inserting it into the camera.
3. Secure with two pieces (small ones!) of tape, use a sharpie to color both sides of the aluminum black. (prevents reflections). 
4. Make sure the hole is as centered as possible. (mine was center'ish.....it seemed! )

Measuring the hole

-This is a tough one, but if you have an enlarger ( 👍 ), you can raise the enlarger with a transparent ruler inside it, until 1cm is 10cm on the board, replace the ruler with the metal-piece with the hole and measure the projected hole with the ruler, on the base-board. Divide the measured hole by 10.
- You can also snap a photo of the hole, along with a ruler. Then enlarge that photo on your computer, until 1 cm on the pictured ruler, is 10 cm measured on the screen itself. Then measure the hole on the screen as well and divide by 10.

Loading the film

1. Make sure to feed the film trough the holes near the center of the take-up spool and secure it on the small knobs on the outside of it as you turn the take-up spool in your hand.
2. It also helps to create a very hard crease at the end of the thin leader of the film, this will keep it from sliding off too easily.

3. Get at-least one full turn on the spool, with the knobs in the sprocket-holes on the film, before putting it into the camera.
4. Keep the film under tension when inserting the spool into the camera, so it doesn't slip off. (you will loose some film with this camera anyway, so a little loss in the beginning, is irrelevant.


5. The short piece with the left most knob, is supposed to be inserted into the film-canister before you place it into the camera.


Make sure the camera is properly closed, and secured

1. To prevent the camera from popping open when advancing the film, it's imperative that the camera-back is completely attached to the body, there should be no gaps. In-fact, it should be difficult to see where the front ends and the back begins, very snug fit. The camera should not pop open when the film is inside and the locks are not locked, it should stay as-is. If it doesn't, you did something wrong. (check film-canister and check that the film isn't bounced up on the take-up spool, tighten if it is)
2. The locks on the sides, should turn "away" from the camera when closed, so that the center of each lock (where the holes are), is the closest bit to the camera when in the locked position.
This creates a solid lock, which will prevent the camera from opening accidentally.

3. The lens-part of the camera tended to slide up on one of the sides ( I think it's related to the spring below), after I had put it on the camera. To prevent this, and to keep the lens level on the camera, I simply attached a piece of tape on the side of it.

When shooting

1. Keep a finger on the rewind-knob, like a clutch, so that it gives slight resistance when winding onto the next frame with the other knob. This keeps the film under tension and straight inside the camera, it will also give you the most even spacing on the frames.
2. Put the camera on a flat surface when taking a photo, make sure it is steady, then move the shutter to open position. 
3. When the exposure is done, simply release the shutter again with no other movements, this should give you the best chances of getting a usable photo.
4. You advance the film by turning the take-up spool knob 3/4 - 1 full round (it's marked)
5. Use a light-meter app for your phone to gauge exposure. I used an app actually called "Light meter" on my iPhone, it supports apertures above f200 then it's just about measuring and shooting really.


Here are some photos and results, shooting with this camera and a 0.3mm hole.
I got round photos, not covering the whole negative. At this focal-length, you should be able to cover the whole negative with no problems.
The reason for the round photos, is that the shutter-mechanism, along with the lens-attachment, seem to mess with the coverage. To be able to get full coverage, I am either going to drill out the opening for the shutter/lens, or remove the whole arrangement completely, attaching the pinhole to the main-body and use a tape for shutter.

This was overcast and the film was Acros 100, average shutter-speed on these were 16s.

The bright streaks at the center and bottom-end of the shots, were reflections from the pinhole-plate, which i forgot to buff with steel-wool and darken with a felt-pen, so this can be corrected.

4M Pinhole camera
Exposure 16s at f180
Fuji Acros in HC-110B for 5 minutes

4M Pinhole camera
Exposure 16s at f180
Fuji Acros in HC-110B for 5 minutes

4M Pinhole camera
Exposure 16s at f180
Fuji Acros in HC-110B for 5 minutes

4M Pinhole camera
Exposure 16s at f180
Fuji Acros in HC-110B for 5 minutes

4M Pinhole camera
Exposure 16s at f180
Fuji Acros in HC-110B for 5 minutes

4M Pinhole camera
Exposure 16s at f180
Fuji Acros in HC-110B for 5 minutes

4M Pinhole camera
Exposure 16s at f180
Fuji Acros in HC-110B for 5 minutes


I get it, it's a toy! However, it's also supposed to be fun, rewarding and a learning-experience. I commend 4M for making the kit, with all it's shortcomings and faults. 

It does work and it is pretty fun roaming around shooting with it ^^

I got good exposure with no hassle, since I was able to measure the focal-length and hole-diameter pretty nicely, however, I really think they should have included some pre-fabricated holes as well.
(I see the learning and fun-factor in making the holes themselves and see the effects, but the hole is crucial for the picture-taking and that process could have been solved easier).

The shutter-mechanism should not be spring-loaded in my opinion, it should have been a simple "open/close" switch, or a knob to keep it open.
This would prevent movements of the camera during exposure (the current design, demand that you hold the shutter open manually during exposure, which can and most definitely will cause extra blur to the photos)

As seen on my examples, the produced image-circle is not able to cover the whole film-frame, which kind of sucks, since pinhole-photography really only gets better the more surface-area you expose.

Negatives on light-table

When you shoot with a pin-hole, you are mostly looking at long exposure-times. Even at ISO400 during summer, the exposure-times will be around 1/4s to 1/2s, so it cannot be hand-held.

The photos aren't sharp, they never are ( 😜 ) pin-holes are always "equally unsharp", from near to far. ^^

I would recommend this to parents or relatives who want to have fun teaching their young relatives about photography, however........

-> The assembly, film-loading and operation can be considered complicated and definitely not recommended for youngsters to do on their own. There should be at least one person with some experience with film, as well as patience, and some finger-dexterity, who can help out if problems arise.
There are mixed reviews

I am going to hack this camera, to get full coverage and a shutter-arrangement that doesn't require you to touch the camera during exposure ^^ 

...and on that bomb-shell........!

This was the last blog-entry for 2016 😎 Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year! ^^  🎅🎄🎇