A Stormy Day and Some Long Exposures (and some myths debunked!)

We’re having some stormy days in Dorset lately which is a good excuse to get the tripod and neutral density filters out and do some long exposures on the coast. All shots on a Canon 60D using a Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 lens.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

Kimmeridge Bay and Clavell’s Tower. 10mm focal length, 15 seconds at f16, heavily tweaked in DXO Filmpack using the Rollei Retro 80s film profile – then even more contrast was added! The composition was helped by the very strong wind blowing the clouds and waves straight at the camera.

There isn’t a great amount of light around, but if shutter speeds of up to thirty seconds at ISO 100 are to be used, a x8 (three stop) ND filter isn’t enough by a long way. There were all taken using a stacked pair of x8 and x64 (six stop) Hoya ND filters and even then f16, f22 and f32 were all used to get long enough shutter speeds. The first myth to be debunked here is that old rule ‘never go below f16 – resolution will suffer because of diffraction’ – here the advantage of a slow shutter speed easily outweighs any slight softness created by a small aperture so just use it anyway!

Surprisingly there was no vignetting from the stacked filters.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

3.2 seconds @f25. This one at the same location was taken with a view to converting it to a ‘moonlit light’ type shot. The brightness is dropped and a blue tint added to give the illusion of a moonlit bay. I’ve just finished reading ‘Moonfleet’ so that’s probably what made the shot come to mind.

The second golden rule which didn’t seem to apply was that muck on a wide-angle lens at small apertures will spoil a shot as it will be visible. I’ve always meticulously cleaned the front filters of such lenses, but despite the front filter being caked in dried salt and sand by the end of this shoot nothing was visible on the shots – at 10mm focal length using f32 in some shots! Something else not to worry about!

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

A bit more abstract – f13 10 seconds. Post processing as per the first shot.

It’s best to take lots of shots at different apertures and shutter speeds as the variation between different wave timings and slow shutter effects is remarkable. I couldn’t predict how the waves were going to hit the beach so just took ten or so shots at each tripod location – even then some weren’t too good. This is pot luck in short!

A heavy tripod is recommended and even then don’t extend it but use it at it’s lowest setting with the centre column down. Strong winds were shaking the camera with the legs extended by even one section and if it blows over onto rocks in salt water it’s probably time to wave the camera and lens goodbye….

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

2 seconds f10 with the wind blowing from left to right. Post processing as he first shot.

I had more difficulty than ever keeping the horizons straight so several of these were straightened in pp. Composition in a gale is more difficult than it looks even using the flip out LCD and grid lines – the viewfinder is very dark due to the ND filters and close to the ground which means it isn’t very comfortable to use.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

5 seconds @f5.6.

For these conditions shutter speeds of 2 seconds to 15 seconds produced the best results. At 30 seconds the sea became too ‘blurred’, below 2 seconds and not enough movement was captured.

A very different location – the sheltered marshes behind the dunes at Studland and the pool surface was just being ruffled by the wind.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

5 seconds @f10. Generic Ektachrome film profile in DXO filmpack brought out the red hues which contrast with the blue sky reflection.

Next a similar shot at the same location.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

5 seconds at f10 – a blue cast seemed to suit this one but it would work well in black and white.

Finally it’s worth mentioning that the most important kit when shooting stormy weather near the coast isn’t camera kit at all – good outdoor clothing is essential otherwise you’re likely to get freezing cold and wet – not good for concentrating on photography (sorry to nag).

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What not to do (as I did) – get caught by a large wave (it’s on it’s way out in this shot) which overtops not particularly waterproof boots, giving you freezing cold, wet feet for the rest of the day. Oh – and almost lose your camera at the same time! Thanks for the picture Jayne even if you were laughing when you took it. The first picture on this post was taken when this happened so it was worth it.

The best part of shooting in bad weather is that you feel that you’ve done something productive rather than sit around indoors and I really must do more of it. With better boots, a towel and a spare set of socks next time though.

Thanks for looking – hope you like them!

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60 Minutes Compressed into One

Last weekend’s storm in the UK provided some great opportunities to shoot more of a timelapse video, currently in progress at the Knowlton historical monument.

 

 

The day before the St Jude storm the wind really picked up – perfect weather for timelapse as things are happening so quickly only short sequences are required to show the passage of time. Rather than 12 minute segments, 3 to 5 minutes were all that were required. These are compressed to one minute and stitched together, all very productive apart from blowing the tripod over!

St Jude is the Patron Saint of lost causes (or souls) – as the sequence fades to night maybe there’s something in that…

So here’s 60 minutes of ‘real time’ footage, which has been compressed to 15 minutes of final video, then further compressed to 1 minute for Vimeo upload.

All shot on a Canon 60D and a Sigma 10-20mm lens at the 10mm setting, f8.

Hope you like this – thanks for looking!

Unexpected Results (one minute video)

The first full day of shooting pseudo-timelapse footage for a commission is completed – and quite a weight off my mind.

Thought you might want to see some interesting results from a very good day’s shooting at Knowlton – a 12th century ruined church in the centre of a Neolithic henge. This is fifteen minutes of footage compressed to one minute and there are phenomena here which just aren’t visible to the “naked eye” in normal time.

A very foggy morning yielded some results which were better than expected. The sun flaring through the fog looked terrible on the LCD of a Canon 60D during filming but worked out well in the final edit. Shot through a Sigma 10-20mm lens at f9 (ish)

This is one minute of fifteen which make up the ‘Autumn’ segment. The one hour video will cover all four seasons so lots to do!

So – hope you like it – thanks for looking.

(Old) Stills Photographer Gets To Grips with Video

The last month or two has been spent getting to grips with video – stills have taken a back seat for a while…. A potential commission for a large project has given the incentive to really sort out something I’ve been messing around with for years.

By comparison with stills, video is much more complex, where settings, editing and output are concerned. As a stills photographer of too many years it’s given me a headache on several occasions!

So – initial results after hours of experimentation and fiddling about are below. The Vimeo playback is still a too soft (more messing about required), and real-time video stabilisation has only just been cracked (more later). I’ve still to get Vimeo to consistently present the ‘HD’ option for playback. It’s been really interesting and a good – if rather frustrating at times – experience.

All shot on a Canon 60D and a Sigma 10-20, f4-5.6, best quality 1920x1080p settings then ‘timelapsed’ in Premiere Elements.

So, more to follow – the stabilised walking video is looking quite good but could do with improvement! The option of motorised rail mounted timelapse is on the horizon but I’d better sort out the remaining problems before that problem is tackled….

Thanks for looking.

A Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 on a Canon 60D (and a new post-processing program!)

I’ve been doing some test shoots recently for a long-term video project, and have finally hit the need for something wider than the 15mm (24mm equivalent) wide setting on my 15-85mm Canon lens. Not wishing to shell out too much as I seldom use this focal length for stills, I decided the Sigma 10-20mm lens (16-32mm equivalent) would be worth a try as it’s 2/3 the cost of the Canon APS-C equivalent, and according to the online reviews, not too bad at all. If you’re considering one – or just interested – read on!

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On the 60D – quite nicely balanced and pretty light.

The lens is constructed of good quality plastics with a zoom ring (back of the lens) and manual focus ring (front of the lens) along with a snazzy gold band near the filter. There’s a focus distance window which looks nice but isn’t very useful due to the deep depth of field on all wide-angle lenses (the marking after infinity is 3m!). The only other controls are the AF/MF switch and depth of field button. The filter thread is 77mm – filters will be expensive but that wide diameter is inevitable in a lens of this extreme focal length and format. Minimum focus is around 24cm but the wide-angle distortion at that distance is ferocious so not an ideal macro lens…

Everything seems to work smoothly with no unevenness in the zoom and focus controls. Minimum aperture is f22 at the 10mm end or f32 at the 20mm end, though at these small apertures dust spots on a sensor will show easily and diffraction will start to make things very soft. A neutral density filter would be a better solution if you want to use a slow shutter speed.

So no bells and whistles but everything that’s needed. There’s no image stabilisation but at these focal lengths slower shutter speeds are more useable so it’s not that useful anyway.

On to the coverage – all taken from the same spot.

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The view at 10mm and 16mm equivalent in 35mm camera terms. 102 degrees from left to right so pretty wide and what you would use this lens for for 90 percent of the time.

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At 14mm ish and around a 24mm in 35mm camera terms.

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At 20 mm – 32mm equivalent in 35mm camera terms.

    Stills results are, as you’d expect for a lens of these extreme focal lengths and price, best described as ‘variable’. At maximum apertures and all focal lengths the frame edges are noticeably soft but the centre is sharp enough. However stop it down to f8 to f11 and things improve dramatically to a point where they are very impressive. Past f11 the performance drops off quickly as diffraction starts to soften the image. Distortion and vignetting at the 10mm end are noticeable, again as expected but chromatic aberration is minimal.

  The HD video results are fine – the final images are only 2Mp after all. However, finding this lens to be pretty good at controlled apertures for stills, I inevitably wanted to see how the results could be improved in post processing and hit a snag….

  If you’re a RAW shooter who uses Canon’s supplied DPP software (as I am) you’ll now face a problem correcting distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting. DPP only supports Canon lenses – they aren’t interested in supporting third-party lens sales! However, DXO provide a solution in the form of Optics Pro 8 which is a sort of DPP for many camera bodies and lens combinations, and seems pretty good at correcting not only this combination but hundreds of others.

  So for the test shot – processed in DXO Optics and taken at the 10mm end at f8 at 1/250th of a second, ISO 100.

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At 10mm and the distortion to the near right garages is obvious but inevitable. Keeping the lens perfectly horizontal would have helped.

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The uncorrected result (chromatic aberration correction turned off) from left centre of the frame. There is some red CA between the white window frame and dark window glass. For a budget lens at this extreme focal length this is superb – but still needs correcting!

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The corrected image – CA has gone and the whole image is nicely sharpened – magic!

So a very acceptable result at a budget price – even with the additional cost of the DXO software it’s still cheaper than the Canon EF-S lens (which I’m sure is very good). In addition Optics Pro corrects the results on shots taken with all my old cameras including the Canon G9 and Olympus EPL3 as well as the ‘in use’ RX100 and 60D with Canon lenses. MF lenses aren’t covered unfortunately (maybe an unrealistic expectation), but a version of DXO filmpack is included in the package so it manages to replace three post-processing programs. I’m impressed!

Hope you find this useful and thanks for looking.

p.s. I’m not connected with Canon, DXO or any other companies – just using their stuff….