Black and White Photography Blog

Mostly black and white photography of New York by Dave Beckerman

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Woman with Shoes, Subway

24 August, 2008 (08:38) | No comments

woman-with-shoes-0709 Woman with Shoes, Subway

Basically what I did - was stand by the first car of the shuttle and wait to try and catch people running to catch it. Since there is always another shuttle in a few minutes, it is very New York to see how desperate people are to catch the train before it leaves to go to Times Square (from Grand Central). The flute player, just rides the trains back and forth. There are tons of cameras photographing me as I photograph the dash to the train.

The infrared flash is great for these deep rich black and white photos. I like the results better than what I did last summer with the flash and HIE film. But it is really not very good for color. I suspect this is because it was setup for HIE film which is a bit higher on the spectrum. In other words, the flash is similar to using an 87 infrared filter, and the camera is set to pick up from 720 nm. The combination is excellent, as I say for black and white, but not useful for color IR. So what you’ll see, if I’m using the flash will be in black and white. When you see color infrared, it’s either the straight camera, or in a few cases I’ve actually used the dinky “normal” on-camera flash for fill. This gave an interesting effect in the photograph below of the sky and trees, where the flash hit trees and brought them up so they had some punch against the sky.

And yes, the flash gives “sensous” results with people, but it is very rare for it to “see through clothes.” Generally, it gives this sheen to the clothing and outlines are more pronounced than they’d be with normal film or infrared film.

As far as technique with the IR flash goes: it’s pretty straight forward. I set the camera to manual, and the shutter speed to 1/200th (which is the highest sync speed on the camera). Figure out what a reasonable f-stop is going to be, usually about f5.6 or f8.0.

Then I just adjust the flash for the distance, i.e. with the Vivitar it’s set to either “yellow” or “red”. The flash adjusts itself based on what is returned to it’s sensor. At most, I’m off by a stop or so.

You can’t really use the flash in other “creative” modes since the camera doesn’t recognize it. It fires, but it doesn’t take into consideration what the flash is doing so in a typical dark scene it’s going to want to open the aperature or slow down the shutter speed.

M. says I’m complaining over trivial stuff because I expect the camera to be able to read flash light in AV or Program mode - but is that asking too much. I’d need a dedicated flash to do that. Whatever, results are very pleasing to me so far.

On other notes, since the subject sees the flash unit on top, or sometimes I use it off-camera with a cord, they expect it to go off. The fact that they don’t see the invisible flash makes the situation even more confusing for them. The guy’s got a flash, but I don’t see it going off. Guess he didn’t take the shot. It’s actually a good street-photography decoy.

And okay - a couple of quick notes about using the Canon 350 XT:

- My pinkie (sp?) finger on the right hand is blistered because it wants to go under the camera.

- There are some custom functions that I normally use on the 40D that are missing.

- It is freakin’ tiny. The buttons are tiny. The viewfinder is tiny. I have trouble pressing some of them and may get my fingers sharpened.

- Did I say it was lightweight. I don’t expect it weighs more than the Vivitar 285HV flash I’m using.

- The battery life is short, very short compared to the 40D battery. One battery is usually showing low by the end of a few hours of shooting. With the 40D I could go a week or more before the battery indicator moves to low.

To solve the blistered pinkie finger and the battery issues I’m end up buying the battery holder which uses two xt batteries.

But for something that right now is sort of in the experimental phase - it was a good choice. If money was no object - i.e. if I didn’t need to think about it - I’d rather use it with a larger more sophisticated camera (think 5d, 40d etc.)

NEXT STOP: Some museum where they don’t allow flash photography. They actually don’t allow flash photography on the subway but I’ve yet to see any tourist rounded up for that.

subway-car-0720 Woman with Shoes, Subway

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Lightroom 2.x

13 August, 2008 (14:55) | 15 comments

I’d just like to repeat something… Lightroom version 1 was great. Lightroom version 2 is better. I used to be a programmer. Sometimes, software comes out that you just have this warm and fuzzy feeling about. Not that it’s perfect - nothing is perfect - but that the people who are producing the product have a clear vision.

They think about how you, as a photographer, work. And rather than forcing their workflow ideas on you, the program is built around how you work. I’m not going to do a full review because I don’t have the time - and there area tons of reviews around.

What I want to say, is that the additional features, the masking through the brush, the graduated filter, the improved search mechanism, and especially (for me) the additional tweaks to the print module - make this a fantastic program. In other words, every once in a while I do fall in love with a program - and whereas I was infatuated with version one - I still found myself jumping into Photoshop for a bunch of things. Now that is very rare.

In brief - I’m sitting here facing about ten 12 x 18 prints. Some of them need slight burning or dodging here and there. I don’t have to hop into Photoshop to do these small things. I don’t need to hop into Photoshop anymore to deal with sharpening.

It’s just a pleasure to use.

* * *

But nothing is perfect.  ISSUES:

The biggest issue is that you must need a pretty powerful cpu or cpu’s to work with the brush masking tool on a large area.  After a while, depending on the size and how complex the masking is, the thing really slows down.  I’m working on an AMD DUAL-CORE 64X2 MHz with 2 GIG of ram.  It’s been enough for everything else until I ran into the brush masking tool.  LR is setup to use a 4 GB cache on a raid drive.  But, unless there’s a memory leak in the brush masking tool - this thing slows down to the point where I have to draw something, and wait a few seconds for it to appear on the screen.  And like I say, this is a shame because the brush tool is just so nicely designed.


Garden, Schurz Park - Infrared

5 August, 2008 (08:21) | 2 comments

garden-ir-schurzpark Garden, Schurz Park - Infrared

A few posts below, I mention the Adobe (BETA) DNG Profiler. All the issues regarding infrared conversions and RAW are resolved by this utility. In short, if you are going to retreive neutral-ish color balances even though the shot was done through an infrared filter - then this is the utility you will need. The major issue with infrared and RAW color balance was that ARC and Lightroom CLIP the raw’s color temperature. This utility gives you back access to color temps below 2000 Kelvin.

At any rate, I feel more in control now, and await my converted XT. Also - Lightroom 2.0 is out. I may have mentioned this before - don’t remember - but it has area painting (i.e. masking sort of stuff); supports larger files; supports the new camera profiles that you create with the DNG Profile Utility; and has a bunch of other good stuff. Only thing - I sort of hate getting a POINT ZERO release… Don’t really know how buggy it will be. True, I’d install it in a separate directory but it may still effect my LR 1.x catalogs. Hmmm….

Do you feel lucky, punk? Well do you?

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4 August, 2008 (08:02) | No comments

“Infrared-modified cameras and extreme lighting conditions can cause an image’s white balance to fall below Camera Raw and Lightroom’s temperature limit of 2000 K. This tutorial explains how to use the White Balance Calibration feature to bring the white balance values into the standard range for these special cases.”

Luke sent me this link to a DNG PROFILER from Adobe.

And yes, initial tests (5 minutes this morning) show that you can get corrected white balance from the infrared RAW shot with this utility.

I don’t want to have to repeat all the instructions in this post, but here’s the link to the beta version of the profiler which creates Recipes and eventually Camera Profiles that can be used in either Lightroom or Photoshop (given the correct versions of everything).

Here’s the link to Adobe Labs DNG Profiler that got me through the process.

Thanks - Luke. As mentioned, this is Beta, and I’ll post more about it as I go along. Although I did get it to work - please don’t ask me any questions about it yet - as I’m still working my way through the steps. The main point, is that Photoshop and Lightroom clip the color temp. at 2000, and the profiler gives you a way around this for infrared and I suppose other special color balance situations.


Park Avenue (72 filter / raw unretouched version)


Park Avenue (same shot, with profile created in ADOBE DNG PROFILE EDITOR)


This just gives you some idea of what is possible with the DNG Profile Editor. Neither shot has been altered at all in PS or LR, other than that in the camera calibration, I chose the “Park Avenue Profile” in Lightroom.

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16 July, 2008 (22:45) | 4 comments

For those of you who have taken the time to go through the galleries and rate the images — thank you so much.  I need more to hit the six vote count and have them appear on the home page.

But already I can see some interesting patterns - namely that the images at the start of the gallery get more votes (up or down I don’t care about that right now) - and by the time the viewer gets about halfway through the New York Places (for example) they run out of steam.  There are 122 images in that gallery and I wonder how many people get to the end.  Right now the images are sorted alphabetically.  Maybe they should be listed by popularity.  Maybe the gallery should be split into two galleries.

I don’t know - but I imagine it will become even more interesting as the votes accumulate.

* * *

I’m still being kept busy with printing etc.; but I found a bit of time to shoot with my old Canon A75 with the IR filter held over the lens.  Definitely weird and ghostly.  Will post a sample later.  Right now it’s a bit tough to judge because I shot handheld as the sun was going down at asa 400 / 1 second exposure @ f2.8

Not enough light and definitely in need of a tripod.  But the A75 and a lot of the early point and shoots let in alot of IR.

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The Early Days

8 July, 2008 (15:44) | No comments

I’m working on this blog from both ends so to speak. While I’m adding the color photographs, I’m also still culling through the early journals. This from March 2001

I’ve really given up on the digital [inkjet] black and white printing. I guess I experimented with it for about six months. The results weren’t bad, but not the same tonal range as the darkroom stuff I’m doing. Also, the equipment, seems more finicky. The printer was working fine for a month or so, and then I started getting banding. I spent a lot of money on cleaning, using different inks etc. but for sure the results when you are doing a large print were not as good. This, does not seem to be the case for color.

Today I’ve been printing for a few hours, and I’m really banging them out. The secret, at least for me, is to keep very good notes, which is not really in my character, but I’ve learned the necessity the hard way.

And the Zone VI enlarger, which I’ve been using for ten years or so, has never failed. I guess the bulb will eventually need to be replaced, but that’s about it.

[Obviously, couldn't see the future very clearly. Still can't.]

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Pizza, Hotdog Stands and My Corporate Stint

29 June, 2008 (21:45) | 3 comments

pizza-in-rain1024 Pizza, Hotdog Stands and My Corporate Stint

It took them forever to open the car door.

I was a lot more careful shooting in the rain (w/ 40D) after my bad experience with the thing going dead for about six hours after getting soaked (I guess that was a few weeks ago). This time I used one of those new fangled things - I think they call it an umbrella.

I had it taped to a flash-bracket that was attached to the camera and this worked okay until a gust of wind nearly turned the contraption into a windsurfing camera. One of these days I should check out the waterproof housing, or else use a plastic bag with a hole for the lens.

* * *

On other fronts (no pun intended) I added a nice google search gadget (it’s there in the sidebar and also on my home page) that I configured to only search through the gallery pages. In the setup you can give it a list of folders / sites you want it to search. This works - though if google isn’t kept up-to-date you may get some dead pages in the search. I’ve submitted sitemaps to Mr. Google but it takes a while before it uses them for the crawl. If I were smart, I’d put keywords on those pages just to make sure they’ll show up in relevant searches; and I should replace the default 404 page missing with my own page-not-found.

I also fixed the problem with images not showing up in the archive pages. Just a touch of code that tells it to put the whole post on the page rather then just an excerpt.

I was chatting with my dad about this life and how much I enjoyed what I was doing and he asked whether that comes across in the blog. I had to say that I think it comes across but that I never simply say it out loud. He always wants to know what’s the latest thing I’m fooling around with; and I usually start the conversation with - oh - you know - nothing all that much; and the next thing I know it’s a half-hour later and I see that I’ve been up to a lot actually. It’s become a running joke with us. But for the record - it’s true - I usually get up in the morning and can’t wait to get on with whatever it is I’m up to at the time. Even on those days when I know that I’ll just be doing packaging all day - still - if I go back and compare that with my previous life in the corporate world - there’s just nothing like being your own boss; and being able to make the decisions that may hurt or help you.

When I split from corporate world co-workers used to ask what would I do if this photography thing didn’t work out (i.e. I couldn’t survive on the money) and I used to joke that I had already scouted out a good corner for a hotdog stand. There were times when I thought that might not be so funny (selling photos on the street in front of the Met) - but even that was better (for my tastes) than following what were often insane orders in the old world.

I haven’t talked much (have I?) about how new administrations were constantly arriving at the old advertising firm during the big dot conversions and how they’d just mess everything up (for great sums of loot) and then cut out and head to the next firm. When dot-world was new, upper management didn’t know what it was and could be taken in by whoever promised the most and wore the best clothes. The big-ten accounting firm that lead this charge would eventually collapse along with the Enrons of the world. Some of us saw them as emporers without clothes - but not being able to sling the b.s. as well, we were ignored.

In a one year period, the ad firm changed it’s name three times. What were they called: i-AdFirm, e-AdFirm, AdFirm-dot- something. New systems that were going to give real-time information on stuff that didn’t matter were paid for (millions and millions) and never completed.

I remember sitting at a big meeting with The Outside Suits where they explained exactly how the new systems were going to be integrated. Maybe I was a suit myself - I had the title of Vice President of something having to do with technology. And I turned to the row of suits and asked them if they knew what the worldwide employee identification key was. Dead silence. One suit ventured that it was the employee social security number. All heads turned towards me with deathly stares. No, I said. There isn’t any. In some countries it’s the employee name. In others it’s their phone number. Yes, in the states it’s their SS number, but only in the States.

The suits assured management that this wasn’t going to be a problem and kept going with their powerpoint demo. They still don’t have one. What pissed me off was that a lot of employees who actually knew what was going on were kicked out during this period… Oh man - don’t get me started.

What I learned about corporate life was that 90% of management had climbed the ladder by knowing how to cover their collective behinds.

Well okay. Let me remove my rant hat and put on my packaging hat. There’s a bunch of stuff that’s got to go out today.

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Boy in Rain - Dead 40D…

10 June, 2008 (09:35) | No comments

boyinrain7938 Boy in Rain - Dead 40D...Second Avenue Street Fair (today). I too was caught in the downpour. Yes, the 40D got soaked. And when I picked it up a few minutes ago it was dead as a doornail. I tried switching the battery and CF card and it remains quiet. I have to admit, that I was doing high angle stuff with the cable release which means that little plastic thing was open - maybe that was the problem. Anyway, I’ll let it air out and maybe it’ll come out of its coma, otherwise I’ll need to send it in to be fixed and remember that it is not weatherproof.

* * * STILL DEAD * * *

Camera was bought on 2/3/08

They do say in their promotional literature that the camera is “weather-resistant,” but the warranty reads a bit differently. We’ll see what happens when I send it to be repaired (it is still under warranty).

From the Canon 40D warranty: “… Without limiting the foregoing, water damage, sand/corrosion damage, battery leakage, dropping the camera, scratches, abrasions or damage to the body, lenses or LCD display or damage to the any of the Accessories mentioned in the first paragraph above will be presumed to have resulted from misuse, abuse or failure to operate the EOS Digital Camera as set forth in the operating instructions…”

The only mention of water damage is this line in the manual:

“The camera is not waterproof and cannot be used underwater.”

So, since I didn’t use it underwater, is the warranty still good? Probably not.

* * *

Frankly, since I was shooting some of this with the 12 - 15 foot tripod gizmo I put together - and there was some lightning - it was lucky I wasn’t fried.

* * *


I opened all the ports on the camera, pulled the CF card and battery out, left the doors opened, and put it under a 60 watt bulb to dry it out. After four hours, much to my surprise and delight, I flicked the on switch and it came alive. The lesson, I think is to be a bit more careful in the rain, especially if I’m going to use the cable release. I think that the “weatherproofing is okay if all the flaps are closed, but with the cable release and the opened flap - water may have dripped into the camera. In a word: phew. I was already thinking about what camera I’d get as a backup…. and had decided I’d just buy a second 40D, I like it that much; or when the next version (I guess the 45D arrives, get that). But for now, I’m okay.

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First Inkjet Prints

29 July, 2000 (10:32) | No comments

The last month and a half disappeared in a blur. I fell into the digital print world. I had been talking about the inkjet stuff with a friend of mine for the last few months, but when I saw with my own two eyes what was possible, at least in color, I thought it was worth investigating. Luminos had just come out with monochrome inks for the Epson 1160, so I figured for a few hundred bucks I would take the plunge. The printer was about $400. I already had a fairly okay negative scanner which I had used to put the images on the site. My initial thought was to try and make some small postcards, perhaps a brochure. And I have to admit, that the initial results were so amazing, that I got hooked.

Began experimenting with various inkjet papers, and within a day or two I had several very good prints.

I had been very sceptical about all this. Last year I went to the Javits center photography exhibit and saw some black and white digital stuff, but didn’t think that it could compare with chemical printing. Now all of a sudden, with the right inks and the right scanner and printer, it was here. What a relief not to have to work in the dark in this small studio apartment. No more fixer fumes. No more setup and cleanup. All the headaches of chemical printing gone. At least in the smaller sizes.

I showed a bunch of my work to friends, and to production people where I work part-time, and the reactions were the same as mine. This stuff had a lot of potential. I created a bunch of postcards and gave them out to people wherever I went. Gave some to my father to give out to his friends. And simply carried a bunch of them around with me so that I could show samples of my work around.

Then of course I had to change the site so that I could offer these digital prints, which I just finished the other day. And while all this was going on, I was still shooting, working part-time, and selling chemical prints. I thought myself very successful, being able to keep track of all this, until my sister tried to call me the other day and got no answer. Turns out I had forgotten to pay the phone bill. And then a guy came by and slipped a notice under my door about the rent being late

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New Equipment!

20 January, 2000 (03:51) | No comments

Just had our first snow in a long time in New York.

Took the Nikon FM2 with a 35mm F1.4 lens and headed out to Central Park. It’s always a problem getting good white values on snow — but over the years I’ve found that giving one more stop than what the meter reads works okay. Its a variation of the zone system.

Anyway, at twelve noon, the park was basically deserted. Empty. The snow was still fresh, and hadn’t taken on the sooty look it will have in a day. It was great to work with an SLR again.

This is a terrible thing to say, but I do think that sometimes I need a different piece of equipment to get me in the mood. I found myself composing carefully — something I rarely do with the G2 — and quite happy being able to see the depth of field. Also, F1.4 is just so bright. It made me realize some things I had been missing out on with the auto-focus G2 — mainly shooting reflections, and shooting close-up. You can shoot reflections and through glass with the G2 but its hit and miss. Anyway, the most exciting thing that happened, was as I was leaving the park, one of those dog walkers that you see in Manhattan, with about ten dogs was coming up towards me. I took two shots — with the whole empty, white park in the background — and hope for the best. I was so excited to get the shot that I yelled ‘Hi’ at the dogwalker as she passed by, and she smiled and went on.

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