techniques

scheimpflug in alcatraz

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Canon EOS-5D Mark II - TS-E 24mm 1:3.5L - iso100 - f/3.5 1/1600 sec - Michael Grobe

Tilting Canon´s TS-E 24mm Tilt + Shift lens rotated the focal plane for an unusual depth of field. Called the bird in focus “Scheimpflug”, but it wouldn´t listen...
And I like crushing the blacks in this one, something that we always avoid in the world of feature films. Guess that´s why I like it once in a while...

munich sundown

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Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III - EF 70-200mm 1:2.8L IS USM - iso50 - f/4.0 - HDR exposure blending of 5 shots
- Michael Grobe

First of a series: Dusk at Olypark in Munich. All shot as bracketed exposures for HDR blending and tone-mapping. HDR exposure blending together with iso50 gives a clean and noiseless image. Still the 21mp files of the 1Ds Mark III amaze me every time I zoom into the shots to reveal the fantastic detail captured. Can’t wait to get hold of a new 5D Mark II to see how the same resolution performs with iso settings from 1600-6400. Good to see Canon release some competition to Nikon’s D3 and D700, although I am not the only one, who had wished, they had developed a 12-16 mp sensor instead of another 21 mp. Imagine the possible low light sensitivity: you might have been able to shoot images at iso12800 with the same low noise as lets say iso3200 on a Nikon D3... That could be shooting a 1/125 at f/4 handheld in a candle lit environment. Another aspect of the 1Ds Mark III will apply to the 5D Mark II as well: only the best resolving lenses will satisfy with that resolution. Most likely the Mark II will replace my 5D as second body and hopefully complement the 1Ds Mark III with it´s low light capabilities to form a great team for all shooting conditions. This series will be my last impressions from Munich this year. Moving to L.A. for a few months I´ll be posting Californian stuff in the near future (I hope a demanding job there still leaves me enough time for some photographic exploration). So after all the Indian adventures it is “from Bollywood back to Hollywood” now...

take off

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Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III - EF 24-105mm 1:4L IS USM -
iso400 - f/5.0 - 1/6400 - HDR composite of 3 exposures
- Michael Grobe

To get the detail in the clouds and the shaded underside of the lantern, a HDR capture was necessary. 3 shots (-1.3 ev, 0 ev, +1.3 ev) were merged in Photomatix. As a fast moving object, the bird was only in the first exposure (0 ev), so that guy is technically LDR (low dynamic range), only the background and the lantern are merged. I had to wait a while and shoot a few times, to get this one. Birds tend to do what they want, not what the photographer would love them to do...

bollywood sleeps

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Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III - EF 24-105mm 1:4L IS USM - iso100 - f8 - 30sec - Michael Grobe

Film City - a large studio complex in the hub of the indian film industry: Bollywood in Mumbai. The state government has built Film City at the outskirts of the National Park, Goregaon, where leopards, tigers and snakes call the shots. I took the shot from the rooftop of a 22-story apartment building, just before dawn. Luckily the guard at the entrance was sleeping, when I entered around 4 am, so no questions, what I would want on the roof in the middle of the night. It was a great experience to witness dawn over Mumbai from that height. Just had to stay in the middle of the roof, as there were no railings to keep me from a final flight...

The next image is a HDR (high dynamic range) composition of 3 single shots. I used Photomatix for the exposure blending to get all the fine detail in the shadows as well as in the highlights and the sky. The exposures were taken at -1.3ev, 0ev, +1.3ev. Sometimes a range like -2,0,+2 or even wider is better, that depends on the dynamic range, that a given scenery presents to your camera. For professional work on a movie set, I normally shoot 5 exposures from -4,-2,0,+2,+4 ev, or even 7 from -6 to +6 ev, that gives enough dynamic range in most situations for real HDR image based lighting in 3D computer graphics. For pure artistic photography, that dynamic range is in most cases over the top and produces a lot of data (the 21mp raw files of the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III are around 25 mb each). If the scenery presents an extreme range from shadows to highlights, one should measure the dynamic range using a spotmeter, then bracket the exposures accordingly. It doesn´t hurt too much, to have more exposures than necessary, but it definitely hurts, if you didn´t capture the necessary range and find that out back home after the shoot...

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Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III - EF 24-105mm 1:4L IS USM - iso200 - f8 - 2,5sec -
HDR exposure blending of 3 shots

reach for the stars

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Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III - EF 16-35mm 1:2.8L II USM - iso200/400 - f5.6 - 20sec/30sec - composite of 8 images - Lighting by Udo Smutny

What do you do during a nice summer evening at the bavarian countryside...
First you have a proper “barbecue” - we call it “Grillen”, which requires lots of dead meat and beer or “Radler” for the ones like me.
Then at midnight you go into the wild for some shooting. Grab your camera, tripod, a few lenses and lots of light...
Lightpainting... a technique I used for some surrealistic photographs 20 years back and recently re-discovered. You shoot at night outdoors or in a dark studio indoors with a long exposure (e.g. 20 sec or as long as necessary) and reveal your objects by lighting them in painting style. You use your light source like a brush.
While often photographers try to light everything in one exposure, I prefer a different approach for static objects. I light every part of the image on separate exposures and combine them later in Photoshop. That leaves me much more control and freedom to create the desired lighting and I guess it is a tribute to my history as a Technical Director, lighting shots for feature films in the realm of 3D computer graphics.
For the shot above, 8 exposures were taken, a 30sec at iso400 for the stars and 7 20sec at iso200, while lighting the objects with a 1 million candle power (55 watts) halogen spotlight. The spotlight needs to be in constant movement to prevent hotspots, smooth circling provides softer light. The blue color was introduced later in Photoshop, easily possible, if the objects are lit on separate exposures.
I am going to get lights with 2 million candle power, as that will enable me to shoot at iso100 without extending the exposure times further, resulting in better image quality due to lesser noise.
Lightpainting is a technique, which I will explore deeper, it is great fun and delivers the unusual covered in darkness. It is for the night creatures, who love to be on the move, when others sleep...

parallelism

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Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III - EF 70-200mm 1:2.8L IS USM - iso400 - f3.5 - 1/1600 - Michael Grobe

This photo of a series had to be taken silently without the attention of the subject, otherwise the opportunity for this shot would have been destroyed. So the camera (EOS-1Ds Mark III) with the EF 70-200mm attached rested on my knees, while I was sitting. Zoomed to almost 200mm, live view enabled me to focus manually to precisly focus the shoe, the aperture wide open limited depth of field. Using autofocus would have had a great chance of missing the exact focus. It takes some practice to shoot hand-held with live view at 10x magnification for focussing, especially on a shaky boat.
The 100% crop below shows the actual captured detail.

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100% crop - actual pixels

cross processing

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Canon EOS-20D - 28-70mm - iso3200 - f3.2 - 1/40 - Michael Grobe

C41-E6 cross processing. Cross-processing is a technique used in analog photography where C-41 print film is processed in chemicals, that you use for the processing of E-6 slide film, or vice versa. Nowadays these effects can be easily achieved with certain Photoshop filters. I used the PixelGenius PhotoKit Color 2.0 with the C41-E6 yellow settings (they had been converted from color to black and white before). This way you can sometimes “save the image” by adding an interesting effect (nothing out of the fancy spectrum, which burns your eyes...). The images below all suffer from technical deficiencies: due to poor low light capabilities of the used camera and lens and a rolling and shaking train as the shooting platform, sharpness, detail and noise are way on the bad side. But with some enhancement in Lightroom/Photoshop, they reveal the mood of taking a train ride in Mumbai, India. That´s where people stand in the open door frames and even on top of the carriages during rush hours.

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Canon EOS-20D - 28-70mm - iso3200 - f4.0 - 1/60 - Michael Grobe

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Canon EOS-20D - 28-70mm - iso3200 - f4.0 - 1/60 - Michael Grobe

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Canon EOS-20D - 28-70mm - iso1600 - f3.5 - 1/60 - Michael Grobe