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By Martin Henson

A monthly online magazine of how a BW photographer visualizes the the world in mono, how that visualization is put into the editing, description of the areas visited, equipment used, plus other articles and issues that effect the monoworker

Brimham Rocks

BE WARNED If you are a grammar and spelling junkie then this Mag is not for you. My spelling and grammar is world renowned for been as useful as a goldfish trying to swim in a vat of boiling oil

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A visit to Brimham Rocks

320 million years ago, a huge river washed down grit and sand from granite mountains in northern Scotland and Norway. A delta formed, covering half of Yorkshire. Increasing layers of grit and sand, along with rock crystals of feldspar and quartz, built up to form the tough sandstone known as Millstone Grit, the exposed sections of which can be seen today at Brimham Rocks.

cross-bedding A feature of the rocks is their cross-bedding. As the water from the river flowed, it created bedforms such as ripples or dunes on the floor of the channel. Sediment was deposited on the downcurrent side of these bedforms at an angle - not horizontally. The layering is inclined and dips in the direction the water was moving. Most of the rocks owe their bizarre shapes to erosion during and after the Devensian glaciation. For example, Idol Rock was most likely formed just after the last glaciation when the land lacked any plant cover. Here, sand-blasting at ground level wore away the softer layers of the rock producing a tiny plinth with a massive top. Freeze-thaw action on the joints and bedding planes have shaped many of the tors such as the Dancing Bear.

Brimham Rocks is located 4 miles east of Pateley Bridge of the B6265, 10 miles north west of Harrogate of the B6165, and 10 miles south east of Ripon.

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My first visit here was many years ago, no time for picture taking, most of the time was spent stopping the kids from committing involuntary suicide from the rocks, especially when its wet. How I wished in those days we had no kids, for a brief and naughty moment the thought did enterer my head, anyway plenty of years to take pictures only 16 years to go before they wont want to come out with us, cant even get them to get in the bloody car with use these days, where to old now, that's appreciation for you. Anyway enough about that, lets get back on track The colour image opposite was made out of two colour files shown below , why two you might ask, weeeel the reason is all to do with the cameras EV range, its not possible to capture more than aprox 5 stops of exposure in one shot and keep both highlight and shadow detail in tact, so the way around this is to bracket the shots and use the info from both files and blend the two images in PS, easy eh, hmm, well it is and it isn't , first you need the camera tripod mounted, then some idea of a base exposure to bracket around. Here's how I do it. Guesswork wouldn’t you guess, yes pure and simple guesswork, and a little experience built in, because digital cards incur no cost at putting data on them, why not use that space and fire away at different settings, better to retrieve that data and sort it out back in the digi room. (it cost me a few quid in fuel to get there) The reason for that statement is there is no real answer to exposure, it varies from light intensity in both shadows and highlights, normally a range of exposures from 2 stops under to two stops over you will have captured enough info to edit with a full range of tones from the deepest shadows to the brightest highlights, or near enough.

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Ok what's all this mumbo jumbo to do with mono your asking, well, colour images are made up of channels, Red, Green and Blue, that's a full spectrum filled with 2nd primary colours, infinite, that's why. When I was a lad, a film dunker, the only way I could alter tones in camera was to use filters, red for dramatic dark skies, blue to darken foliage, green to give more balanced effect, with digital, if we preserve those channels we can alter the tones in a digital file, and if your really clever you can alter different areas within an image, red for the sky, green for the foliage and blue for the rocks, clever sfuff this digital, you can give a picture a totally different look and feel just by the way you filter the Master colour file, the Master colour file below was made from the two images on page three.

This was taken using a Canon 1DMK3, tripod mounted, lens was a Canon 15mm Fisheye. EXP 1/60 sec Aperture f 7.1 ISO 100 Camera set to auto bracket at minus 1.7 and plus 1.7, both exposures resulted in capturing both highlight and shadow detail. This enables the editor to create a good Master colour file with lots of tones to play with Now comes the hard part for some people, what to do with the image in conversion, what do I want from it mood wise, where do I put the contrast, £$ugger it I will stick to colour, looks OK like that anyway, nooooooo I say don’t give up its easy, colour pics are boring and we see em all the time, go mono, just put some thought into this picture. On the next page I will show you how I visualize on screen and also when your taking the shot, well I hope I can, that's the plan.

Did I mention about my Contrast Grading tutorials, its really cheap and well worth every penny as it now includes the imagingfactory convert to B&W PRO plugin and unlock code. Don’t worry its not illegal, I got permission from the Owner Oscao Rysdyk to include it on the CD

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To see in black and white as we all know is impossible as everything we look at is coloured, that's a fact, but every colour has a density, a dark shadow is very dense and a bright highlight is less ,therefore as light is further away from the camera sensor or film plane its density reduces , like this example.

Now convert this to tones of gray, and with a little contrast push you can see how monochrome images react to conversion

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Now bearing in mind what's said in the previous page, and how tone and light effects the image, lets have another look at this masterpiece ;-) and what can be done with it.

First what would you want the prominent features to be in this picture, in order of importance it would be the path, then the tree and finally the rocks, the rest are secondary and helps to gel the picture together, how is it done, simple , by altering the tonal response in filtration, be it in PS using Channel mixer or the like, or my favoured way, plugins specifically designed for the job. Once you have filtered the image then the next part is to use contrast to separate the elements, again you can use for instance Curves in your edit software, but again I prefer the plugin way.I will say this once and once only, CONTRAST is the key to all mono images, without it you might as well not bother, or take up fishing, either option is a bad one. I hate fishing so lets move on. Plugins I would recommend are Imagingfactory convert to B&W PRO although its discontinued it is supplied on my Contrast Grading tutorial, did I mention that before !! Alien Skin Exposure 2 Nik Silver Exfx pro Lets take the simple path and simply convert the image to monochrome using the Channel mixer in PS with default filtration 100% Red Just check the mono box bottom left, leave other settings at default.

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Its done a pretty darn good job, but wait theirs something wrong, its lacking somewhere, it has an overall mid tone look, in other words its a little flat and uninspiring , so what is it that missing, go on I will tell you, its contrast, there is none to talk about here, CM has just turned it to gray and made a mess off it, so what can be done to make it have more punch and separation, well the best way is plugins as mentioned previous because you can easily adjust filtration and contrast at the same time in one dialogue box, but if your skint like me and cant afford my tutorial, did I mention that !, or the other ones, then Curves is a good way to go

By using Curves as a control method and using it to add and subtract contrast we have a very powerful tool for editing. Using Curves is trial and error, don’t just mess about like the experts tell you and add a weensy curve to it, grab the line and drag here there and every where, add an anchor point and move the line up and down either side of it. One area of great importance is ALWAYS, ALWAYS work on a copied layer so you can add layer masks and paint the contrast back in the picture where needed.

As you can see the right image seems to have more tones especially in the darker regions, the sky and clouds have been darkened, the path and tree are separated and form a more integral part of the image. What's this called then Martin I hear you say “Its CONTRAST GRADING� no fancy software other than 700 quid PS but who cares.

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Now we can look at the finished fully edited image, this has had more TLC and would print out very well, capture sharpening and creative selective sharpening have been applied, plus a little cloning out at the upper top left, so to finish off. Compare the images straight from the camera, the master colour the master mono done in CM and the finished print on the left, pretty impressive stuff to say its all done using digital info, you would be hard pressed to get anything near from the wet darkroom.

Minus 1.7

Above images blended

Plus 1.7

CM conversion

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Plugins page, which to use and why On the previous pages I have mentioned the word plugin, this is a little program that you install into PS and they do a specific job, plugins don’t use more electricity so no worries there, they simply use the power of PS to perform pre determined actions, in a more logical and easier way then messing in PS with not a clue as to what you are doing as is often the case. From a practical point of view, and I would think this applies to a high percentage of people using these big software programs like Photoshop, there often confusing as there are a trillion different ways to perform the same task, this IMHO this does not help the beginner or good for your health, tearing your hair out is not a good idea when there’s not much there in the first place, so get your self a real good plugin and save the inevitable cost of hair transplant. So lets look at one in detail, I think I should mention I have no connection with the software provider in anyway, will be getting in touch after this though, I will only recommend the ones I use so here's one that really works well.

Alien Skin Exposure 2

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This the main settings area, I will NOT explain every part as I do have a life, basically starting from the top we have Neutral, this is your image when first opened into it, the next ones down, all BW film presets choices for high ~low contrast, grain on and off. Colour sensitivity, basically channel settings for filtering, talked about that earlier. Toning section, More presets etc etc , you get the idea. The BW presets are a great starting point for any image, takes a lot of hassle out of the process, pick, click and bingo you have a BW image, much better than using CM in PS as its pre filtered for you. Once you have a conversion that suits you, move down the folders, check tham out, there are all sorts of tweaks that will further improve the auto BW film preset. When you have a colour file open in PS and run this plugin, it automatically creates a duplicate layer in the layers pallet, this means when you have done an edit with the plugin and open it back into PS you can then add a layer mask to enable you to selectively paint in the plugins adjustment .

The important thing about that is you can then edit your image using my Contrast Grading technique, by adjusting Alien Skin Exposure 2, opening back into PS and keep tweaking the image, trying different adjustments to continuously improve the tonal range and contrast of the picture. But the really clever part is on the next page, so useful for tweaking the image.

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So now you have edited the file but certain areas need minor attention, this dialogue box in Alien Skin is the icing on the cake. Lets say you want to adjust the shadows because there slightly blocked up in areas, simple fix is move the Shadow slider right or left which ever suits, same for Midtone and Highlights. The clever part is that it only affects the tone that's been adjusted, all other tones are unaffected. Alien Skin Exposure 2 also provides the same type of adjustments for a colour image, so making a colour master file can be done with it. What I like about it is the way its been thought out and you can edit from colour to mono using just this plugin, I would always recommend using the Contrast Grading method when editing, using that in conjunction with the plugin you will be able to make film like images that keep you away from that horrible digital look that some pictures have. In my Contrast Grading tutorial I show how to edit using imagingfactory B&W PRO as a way of converting. Try Alien Skin as a substitute for that and see if you like it ,Ithink you will

The other plugin that mentioned In this Mag is imagingfactory convert to B&W PRO it was designed after lots of research and discussion into what the professional photographer wanted from a conversion software. I will not do a review on that at this time, but, just to remind you it is included in the Contrast Grading tutorials and can be bought from my site, here's a link, copy and paste to your browser. It is a discontinued product but can still be download from the imagingfactory site, give it a go, as you have a 30 day free trial, if you like it then you will have to buy the Contrast Grading tutorial CD which includes unlock codes for Windows and Mac OS X, it will not work with Inlel Macs though, so be warned.

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Equipment reviews 1DSMK3 These reviews are not based on test samples sent from Canon, I wish , their based on actual usage out in the field. No Nikon or other manufacture tests here as I am a Canon use Maybe someone could send me there thoughts on using other gear, I will consider adding them in later issues, drop me an email through the DM site.

Here is my mini review based on having owned one since it first appeared two years ago. First lets get one thing out of the way, focus issue . Its a pity Canon released this Pro camera without testing this area more, seems they where in a rush to beat Nikon to the winning wire knowing [industrial spying] the D3 and other models where near completion and ready for mass production, anyway they went ahead and put it on the market even though pre-production models that where reviewed by prominent people in the photographic world telling Canon the AF was awful and did not work as described in there marketing hype. These where dark days for Canon more so for customers that bought the MK3, me included. I sold my MK2 models when this camera arrived, what a mistake that was, in the summer months I earn a bit of spare dosh as a cycling photographer and rely on fast, accurate AF, sadly all i did was struggle, time after time, soft images, my way around this was instead of just taking two shots of a racing cyclist, I would fire a burst of 6 or seven , this way I was pretty assured of a sharp image, not an ideal situation, the people that hire me to cover events want the goods and the riders that buy the images want sharpe pictures, so that was the only way to deliver. The A/F problem has given this camera a certain stigma, which is a shame because its certain without it that Canon have produced there best ever DSLR. Anyone who is in the market to buy one need to keep this in mind, Canon have on there web site a list of affected serial Nos, if the one you buy is within that range, make sure that it has had the fixes, these are , two firmware updates, and two hardware fixes, you should ask for documentation that the work has been carried out by Canon, the firmware you can check yourself, if all has been done then go ahead and buy ,new ones don't seem to have any problems now. Although this camera is only 10.5 mega pix it produces files that have to be seen, the colours are superb, and dynamic range is extraordinary, probably due to the quality of the twin digic processors and sensor, also you would not believe how much you can crop the images, large crops do not seem to effect the quality, there that good. Also I have found that images that are really underexposed, like mine :-), [I like to protect highlights] to bring out shadow detail is easy in Raw, just pull the exp slider to open them, you will find incredible detail there, no noise banding like the previous MK2 model, any noise is very film like and works very well for BW images. I often shoot at 1000, 1600 iso, at these settings, again provided the exposure is OKish the files are superb, 3200 is also workable and can be used regularly for very low hand held shots. One thing to mention is the ability to capture in 14 bit, most new cams do this and it does make a difference with more vibrant colours and extended dynamic range

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This camera was built for speed and in every respect it does not fail, fire of a 2 second burst and you have taken 20 images, but it will still keep firing without pause, withe a good fast memory card write times are just the same, no pause or waiting, you will never miss a shot with it, not only is it fast at taking pics, the way the whole camera operating system is made and set out, reviewing and deleting images is a doddle. Want to bracket without a tripod, providing shutter speeds are highish, shooting into the light :), set auto bracket, set drive to high speed, steady yourself and fire, in milliseconds you have three shots that register for multi raw editing, for those that like HDR you can set it to bracket 7 shots. There is also a silent mode for the shutter and it really works, take the shot and all you hear is quite mirror up, bring the camera down to your side and let the mirror drop, great for theatre shooting etc. Live view is a great feature, now you will read that it does not AF in this mode, no problem, set the camera so the set button activates the live view, and set the AF button to the back of the camera, you simply press the AF button then press the set button and all is in focus, quick to do and accurate, also the mirror locks up in LV mode, another advantage. All 1D Cameras have a built in hand grip That's part of the main body, its far better than separate ones, easier to keep water and dust out, and is near perfect for holding in portrait format. Build quality is awesome, I had a 5d with grip and its weight was probably more than the MK3, they are lighter than the previous MK2 versions, the new batteries help here, loads smaller but will give thousands of shots before running out, the battery power is now indicated in percentage terms that helps enormously, no guess work as to when its going to die, bodies all water sealed as well, I have used my cams in torrential downpours with no adverse affects. I wont go into all the cameras settings etc, take to long, but there well documented, but all you need with is an hour of reading the manual and you will be up and running in no time, not knocking Nikon here, there also superb, but the Nikon D3 manual is twice the size and ten times more confusing, to many settings IMHO. Now there has to be down sides and here are a few I have found. The 3inch LCD is great, but wish its was sharper, the AF button is a little to far placed, although you can assign other buttons to do that. wish it took two CF cards, instead of CF plus SD. the images straight out of camera can be a little disappointing, they look softish, but sharpen up very well, and thats really my main moans, might be others, but none come to mind and would be nitpicking. My camera came back from Canon UK, [service was amazing 3 day turnround plus full clean up], I have used it at three races and finely it does what it was meant to do, it focuses so fast you cant see it happening, speed was never an issue, the last race i did, I took 340 images with one OOF shot, all moving targets, not a bad hit rate :D. As I said previously, if there had been no AF issue in the beginning, the accolades from pros and serious amateurs would have been great, Canons best, fastest, quality DSLR ever. The other thing for me is this, not only is it primarily designed for fast action, its also now, unlike the MK2 versions, an all round camera, it takes great pictures from portrait to landscapes, with good lens, delivers detailed images, a tonal range that helps in colour and mono work, plus the dynamic range gives pictures with a true 3d look to them. So if you want pure resolution, then the 1ds or 5dmk2 is the way to go, for a camera that does all things very well indeed don't hesitate, you will love it. Camera rating of 9/10 , it would have been 10/10 but don’t want to appear bias

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Canon 15mm Fish eye I have had so many questions about this lens so here is another mini review. First this is not a lens that lends kindly to upward or downward movements, move out of the central plane of focus and you will get the bends, severe bends :p. but this is what makes it such a fun optic, its full potential is on full frame but you also get the most distortion, I use it on a 1.3 crop, I loose the full effect but gain in the fact that distortion is not as bad as full frame. On my 1DMK3 camera it becomes a very useful super wide lens, if its held level or just a tiny up or downward images look quite normal and only need a little adjustment to straighten in PS .If any more then a debarrelizer software is needed to get it to look right, that's why you need a good sensor with at least 10meg pix as cropping is need after perspective correction. The DOF is truly amazing, stopped right down it stretches from inches to infinity, and you can get compositional effects only super wide's can give. Used in conjunction with a good perspective adjustment software this lens is a steal compared to the Canon 14mm L, its a whooping ÂŁ1000 + cheaper, offers image quality that is as good if not better than the 14mmL For a lens so wide, and such a big front element the control of flare for into the light shots is nothing short of incredible. It will take rear gelatin filters and build quality is again top notch. The only fault I have found is the lens cap, it falls off easily, and rubs off the black coating on the built in metal hood, you have to squeeze it slightly out of round to get a tight fit, not a big problem but annoying at times. Rating out of 10 Image quality 10 Build quality 9 [because of lens cap] Functionality 8 [needs software for perspective control in certain circumstances] Value for money 10 Fun factor 10 :D

All in all one of my favourite lens, comes as highly recommended on all crop factors. If you have been thinking of getting one, don't hesitate BUY it.

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The Digital-monochrome learning forum This forum was set up on 18/Jan/06, its not a place to just showcase your own work, but a learning area on the web for monoworkers. Now, if I did not mention anything about this forum, my members would probably lynch me, and quite rightly so. There is fantastic work posted on there, its for total novices and the advanced photographer alike. Here's the link to it

Ok that's it for this issue, its all a bit of trial and error this, so hope it looks and works as it should do. Next issue I will try and get articles from other B&W photographers for a different viewpoint to my own and perhaps post some of there own images here. There will also be more user reviews, and another talk about a location shoot I have done recently that might help other visualize what this game is all about So bye for now and see ya all next month. Martin

Bolton Bridge in Wharfedale

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The digital-monochrome worker June 09 issue  

Tips and techniques on producing monochrome images, equipmeant user reviews, plus much more

The digital-monochrome worker June 09 issue  

Tips and techniques on producing monochrome images, equipmeant user reviews, plus much more