Trick the DX sensor

A simple trick can override your camera’s DX reading – The image above illustrates how to trick the DX reading of a simple point-and-shoot camera to expose Kodak Tri-X 400 at 1600 ISO…
the process works with any DX reading camera and with any other exposure count / ISO combo:

no std.
+1/2 | -1/2
+1 | -1
+2 | -1
+3 | -1

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Infinity vs. Hyperfocal Distance

In the example above, the focus point is simply set to infinity – the photographer gives away extra Depth Of Field, since the DOF goes way past infinity at f16 with these settings. With the hyperfocal distance setting, the photographer gets the greatest depth of field out of the lens…

Here the photographer uses the hyperfocal distance to get the most possible DOF in his shot: the focus is set in a way, that the distance scale lines up at infinity and f16. Note, how the DOF increases by almost 100% to the left with this setting.

the hyperfocal setting makes a lot of sense when infinity focus and maximum foreground focus are desired, i.e. landscape photography

zone focusing (also called scale focusing) is much more practical for street photography, as the photographer works at a close range and infinity focus is not as important

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Zone focusing

With street photography zone focusing can be a life-saver between the decisive moment and a hit-and-miss-shot – toss the autofocus camera and get a manual lens instead…

Zone focusing is pretty straightforward, the photographer simply uses the DOF (Depth Of Field) effect to have the desired object(s) at working distance in focus. Zone focussing comes in handy, when there is no time to fiddle with the camera controls, or when the photographer wants to be extra unconspicious – without using the viewfinder to focus (aka. shooting from the hip).

Once you know what an f-stop is, and how to set it on your camera, you’re good to go. After some time you will get better at guessing distances and you’ll be a master of zone focusing in no time…
In the illustration above, the aperture (f-stop) is set to f8 and the focus is set to 2m (~7ft). The focus ring also shows f-stop markings to either side of the focus point (DOF scale).

Every f-stop shows a line directly related to a number on the distance scale. In this example everything from 1.5m to 3m (5ft to 12 ft.) will be in focus. This works at any distance and with any lens with DOF markings.

zone focusing is much more practical for street photography than the hyperfocal distance, which simply extends DOF from infinity into the foreground, which is great for landscape photography. street photography rarely needs to rely on infinity focus and smaller apertures like f8 or f5.6 are more common and a close working distance (hence zone focusing, also called scale focusing) are more practical.

Another great technique is to learn how to guess distances and using muscle memory in combination with a tabbed lens.

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Develop b/w film at home 101

There are only a few things you need to develop your black and white film at home. Against popular beliefs, you won’t need a darkroom, only a little bit of space and running water. The whole setup will cost around $100-$150, much less on the used market. In the long run you will save a lot of time & money developing your own film, not to mention full control over the quality of your negatives…

What you need – from left to right
1.) measuring cup (ideally one for each chemistry)
2.) storage bottles
3.) film developer, stop bath and fixer (brand of your choice)
4.) squegee
5.) darkroom thermometer
6.) developing tank & film reel
7.) small graduate
8.) funnel(s)
9.) scissors
10.) film retriever or can opener
11.) changing bag

now, let’s get started – you have exposed your b/w film and take it out of the camera… usually you would take it to the lab and anxiuosly wait a few days to get it from the lab. From now on you will get a hold of your black and white film within less than an hour or so.

First, you’ll want to retrieve the film leader out of of the film canister – old school shooters use can openers, I highly recommend a Hakuba film picker.

In order to load your film on the reel, you will need to cut off the narrow part of the

round the corners with scissors to make sure the film loads safely on the reel

It’s time to break out the changing bag – for the next few minutes, you’ll need the sensitivity of your fingertips only – yepp, basically you’re blind, everything is happening in the bag. Place your roll of film and the developing canister, including the lid, the film reel and the stem into the changing bag.

***film, canister and your hands are in the changing bag***

position the film in the first groove of the reel… I prefer to use the Jobo plastic reels

hold the film with your left thumb and advance with your right thumb, move forward until the whole roll of film is on the reel, rip the film off it’s spool and put the film canister aside (in the changing bag)

position the holder in the reel

place the loaded reel and stem into the developing tank

finally it’s time to get out of the sweaty changing bag – close the developing tank tight and take it out of the bag.

*** we’re out of the changing bag ***

it’s time to get the chemicals up to spec, mix the developer, fixer and stop bath according to the manufacturer’s specifications (the old dogs have ’em prepared already :P). Get the temperature right – 68°F (20°C) is standard. At higher temperatures, more contrast and grain will develop.

1st pour the developer in the tank

Always agitate slowly. For right now, use the manufacturer’s developing time and agitate according to their recommendations. Later on, you might want to experiment with these times. Developing time controls the shadows and agitation controls grain and contrast. Different developers and film combinations give you a different look of your negatives. I prefer Kodak Tri-X as my standard film and develop it in Ilford DD-X @ ISO 400. For ISO 800 and 1600 I either use Ilford Microphen or Diafine, both are speed enhancing developers for push process.

Once the developing is done, you can dispose the developer – many developers are one-shot developers only, so they have to go after use. Some developers -like Diafine- can be used over and over, so that would go back in the bottle.
*repeat the process with the stop bath and the fixer (no pictures here)*

Wash your film under running water for 5-10 minutes, discard the water in the tank often.

an alternative method to save water: fill the tank with fresh water, invert 5 times, discard the water and fill the tank again with fresh water. Turn 10 times and discard, fill again and turn 20 times, one final wash. This process takes less time and saves gallons of water.

Take the reel out of the canister and spool your film off the reel, soak it for a few seconds in water with a drop of dishwashing liquid. Some people use Hypoclear, which does the same thing – both prevent water stains on the negative.

Wipe the water residue off your negative strip with a film squeegee

Hang your film on a line in a dust-free room (the shower is a good place – close the curtain) and let it dry for some time. Use a clip at the bottom as well, to prevent curling of your film.

After the film is dry, cut it in strips of 5 or 6 negatives and store it in archival sleeves. The negatives are ready for printing or scanning.

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Photoshop Layer Masks 101

photoshop layer mask tutorial by markus hartel

photoshop layer mask tutorial by markus hartel

You can easily create a composition like this from three similar shots using layer masks in Photoshop. Basically, you set up a tripod, take a few single shots of you in different positions and compose the whole thing in Photoshop, using layers and masks…
First, select one of the shots as the main layer of the composition

open the second shot, select all (menu > select > all) and copy (menu > edit > copy)

paste (menu > edit > paste) into the first image, note the additional layer in the first image

create a layer mask by clicking on the marked icon in the layer palette

select the layer mask, choose a fairly large brush and paint with black ink in the mask, note how the bottom image reveals in the painted area – voila, that’s how layer masks work

finish the mask with a smaller brush for good detail. tip: use a brush with a softness that matches the softness of the image to make it look more realistic.

this image illustrates how the finished mask looks, you can activate this visual of a mask in the channels palette. Double click on the icon gives an option for color display and opacity of the mask

now you have the basics of working with Photoshop layer masks, we perfect your skills with a 3rd image, which you paste in the main document.

add a layer mask to the new layer, as before

with a little trick we can save some time and use the old mask from Layer 1 as a base for our new mask. hit the command key and click on the icon of layer mask #1, Photoshop will make an inverted selection of the mask. Invert the selection (menu > select > inverse) and fill (menu > edit > fill) with black ink, make sure Layer 2 mask is selected. see, half of the work is done already.

here again a visual of a half-finished mask

the mask view out of the channels palette

final result

have some fun experimenting with layer masks – one can produce stunning results with a few images. Also, it is possible to use the gradient tool in a mask to blend 2 images, just give it a try!

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