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California's Eastern Sierra, Sunday, 25 October 2009
© 2009 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

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Redwood Motel at Dawn

Redwood Motel at Dawn, Bridgeport, California, 6:40AM, -5ºC (25ºF).  Bigger.

Snapped with a 2009 M9 and a 1970 50mm f/2, ISO 1,600, hand-held at 1/6 second at f/2, 7,000 Kelvin WB, Nik Dfine 2.0.

Not bad for ISO 1,600 at 1/6 of a second, hand-held, as the rest of the group was telling me to hurry it up as we caravanned to the top of Twin Lakes to catch the dawn. I had no time for no stinking tripod. You can tell it's at f/2: I focused on the near edge of the E in MOTEL, and you can see the softer close edge and street light.


Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes at Dawn, 7:33AM, -5ºC (23ºF). (actual photograph). bigger. Original scan (15MB).

Photographed with a 1955 LEICA M3 with a 1965 LEICA 35mm f/2 SUMMICRON, 39mm B+W 81A warming filter stacked below a 39mm -> 55mm step-up ring with a 55mm Tiffen HT grad ND 0.6 (2-stop gradated neutral-density filter), Fuji Velvia 50 processed and scanned at NCPS, f/13.5 at 1/2, about 25-foot focus distance. The 81A filter is how we set WB on film.

Yes! This is the Velvia I love. (Original scan (15MB).)

Let's see how this scene renders with digital capture:

Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes at Dawn, 7:29AM, -5ºC (23ºF). (digital capture). Camera JPG (5MB). DNG (18MB).

Snapped with a 2009 M9 with the same lens and filter as above: a 1965 LEICA 35mm f/2 SUMMICRON, 39mm B+W 81A warming filter stacked below a 39mm -> 55mm step-up ring with a 55mm Tiffen HT grad ND 0.6 (2-stop gradated neutral-density filter), processed and scanned at NCPS, f/11, ISO 160, about 25-foot focus distance, 7000 Kelvin WB.

Wow! Look at the great shadow detail! Too bad the colors are boring compared to Velvia 50. Color is everything. Velvia 50 takes the blues and pumps them up, and more critically, takes warm colors and makes them not only more saturated, but also adds more red to the warm colors to make the apparent light even better. This is why original Velvia (1990-2004) and Velvia 50 (2004-today) have always been the nature and landscape photographers' standard. There is no substitute, although a half-hour of tweaking DNGs shot-by-shot might get me close.

The digital capture is closer to what we actually saw, while the Velvia is the photograph I want. That's what Velvia has done since I shot my first roll in 1990.

Ha Ha! (evil laugh). You should see the actual film. It makes these film scans look crummy by comparison.

Redwood - M9
Redwood - M3
Twin Lakes, 7:57AM, P filter only.
Twin Lakes, 7:59AM, P and 85C filters. JPG DNG

Each snapped with a 2009 LEICA M9, a 1987 LEICA 90mm f/2.8 TELE-ELMARIT-M with a 1960s LEICA SUMMICRON P (polarizing) filter, ISO 160 and 7,000 Kelvin WB.

In the first shot, I have a nice blue sky, but a dull mountain.

Adding an 85C filter (or a warmer WB like 10,000 Kelvin) makes the mountain look better (but still too green), but now the sky is gray.

Camera-original JPG(5MB) and Camera-original DNG (18MB).

I wonder how it looks on RealRAW? It looks like this:

Twin Lakes Peaks

Twin Lakes at Dawn, 8:03AM, -5ºC (23ºF). (actual photograph).

Photographed with a 1955 LEICA M3 and a 1987 LEICA 90mm f/2.8 TELE-ELMARIT-M with a 1960s LEICA SUMMICRON P (polarizing) filter and Hoya 39mm 85C warming filter to set shade WB, Fuji Velvia 50 processed and scanned at NCPS, f/10 at 1/10.

Full-resolution © film scan JPG (4 MB, some noise reduction and sharpening).

Ahhhhh. With Velvia, the blues stay pumped up to blue, not gray, and the warm light on the mountains is amplified even redder, so we get both warm light and blue skies in one photo, with no fooling around. With film, once it's shot, you're already done.

This is why there is no substitute for Velvia and Velvia 50. (Velvia 100 is awful since it doesn't add red to warm colors.)

Did the light change as I shot these? A little; I made the Velvia 50 photograph a few minutes after the digital captures when the light was slightly duller.

So why hasn't anyone shown this before?

1.) Because when I'm out scrambling to shoot real things at dawn in below-zero temperatures, I haven't bothered to bring out two camera systems to shoot boring comparison tests.

2.) The Leicas are so light and easy to shoot that they freed me up enough to be able bother with this foolishness.

3.) People who shoot boring tests don't get up before dawn to shoot in magic light where Velvia shines, and

4.) Digital camera makers don't want you to see this, since they make a ton of money by selling you new digital cameras every other year instead of suggesting you stick with ancient film cameras loaded with Velvia. You great people fund me for all this research, not camera makers.

Of course the shadows get darker so that they form a stronger graphic element. These tend to go black in the cheap scans from which I'm showing these images; the shadows have plenty of detail on the film. If I paid real money to have these scanned on a real PMT drum scanner, they'd look a lot better. Don't tempt me.

If I felt like carrying the newer, better 90mm f/2.8 ELMARIT-M instead of the tiny 90mm f/2.8 TELE-ELMARIT-M it would have been sharper. I also could have played with the depth of field for the forewater, but since I was using slow shutter speeds anyway (and would have had to be slower with smaller apertures), water motion would counteract any sharpness improvement.

The M9 makes a great TTL light meter and exposure system for the M3. I'm still learning how to get great color on the M9; give me a few months.


Happy Campers

Happy Campers, Lee Vining, California, 11:12 AM.

Snapped with a 2009 LEICA M9 as I got gas, with a 2003 LEICA 90mm f/2.8 ELMARIT-M, ISO 160, 1/250 at f/something-or-else, 7,000 Kelvin WB.


Schats Bakkery

Erick Schat's Bakkerÿ, Bishop, California, 1:19 PM.

Snapped with a 2009 LEICA M9 as we ate lunch, with a 2003 LEICA 90mm f/2.8 ELMARIT-M, ISO 160, 1/180 at around f/16, 7,000 Kelvin WB.


The Flying Chicken

The Flying Chicken, Bishop, California, 1:43 PM.

Snapped with a 2009 LEICA M9 as I got back in my car after lunch, with a 2003 LEICA 90mm f/2.8 ELMARIT-M, ISO 160, 1/250 at around f/5.6, 11,000 Kelvin WB.

Full-resolution JPG (slightly cropped, 2 MB) from DNG.


Sunset Magazine Home

Historic Home at Dusk (as seen in Sunset Magazine?), Los Angeles, California, 6:29 PM.

Snapped with a hand-held 2009 LEICA M9 with a 2001 LEICA 35mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX-M ASPH, ISO 2,500, 1/30 at f/1.4, 8,000 Kelvin WB.

At f/1.4, the only thing in focus is the cactus.



I prefer the look of film, specifically Fuji Velvia 50. Not only does it look better for nature and landscape subjects after it's been cheaply and quickly scanned at my lab, it looks even better on a light table or projected directly from the original film, an option you just don't have with digital capture. This is why we call film the Real RAW; you still have your original images, not just digital files.

If your work is about color, you get these same results with any film camera, like the inexpensive Nikon FM or Canon AE-1 Program, Canon EOS 620, or modern cameras like the Nikon F6, Contax G2 or LEICA M7.

Next, I prefer the colors I get from Nikon and Canon DSLRs.

The LEICA M9 is the smallest, lightest and easiest to use digital camera there is, but I still haven't gotten the colors I prefer out of it. I'm still working on this. After I looked at all I shot, I need to try ISO Pull 80 and 7,000 Kelvin and see how it looks, most likely quite good. I leave Saturation and Contrast at Standard on the LEICA for best results.


Yay! I made it home safely with some snaps. I hope you enjoyed them.


Done! More photos.


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