B&W toning – but in the midtones only

Looking down my own blog entries, and finding the one about Laura Wilson (mother of Owen and his brothers), I wondered how that horse photo of hers was made. So I checked, and the values for RGB in the midtones of this black & white image were decimal 150, 145, and 141, or hex 96, 91, and 8d. Which explains why it looks brownish rather than grey. But the whites are white, and the blacks are black – so I tried that myself. On this 16:9 selfie one:


Interesting. I made a preset in RawTherapee for it, so I don’t have to perform that many mouse-clicks to (re) produce these mid-toned black & white images.

So here’s one from the colleagues photo session from last month. Same treatment as above:


And here’s my ColorChecker with that same treatment:


Finally, a direct comparison between neutral grey and the treatment from above, as thumbnails from my nautilus file browser:

So that’s the reason I’m doing this.

Thanks for viewing, as always.

Update/Edit from August 16th, 2018:

Sorry – totally forgot to show you where to find this in RawTherapee. Well at home I have version 5.x, but even version 4.2 at work has the possibility to do this, under the ‘Color’ tab, and then under ‘Color Toning’. Just select the right method of Shadows/Midtones/Highlights, then adjust those midtones as you see in my example of Sarah:

Thanks again for reading.

The look of larger formats

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m mostly using digital cameras in the ‘Micro Four Thirds’ format – which is exactly the same as ‘Four Thirds’, except that those ‘Micro’ cameras lost the mirror, so they’re more modern incarnations than their older DSLR brethren.

The format of both systems’ sensors is 13×17.3mm, which is bigger than the so-called “one inch”, but smaller than APS-C or “full frame” sensors which are as big as the old “Kleinbildfilm” – 24x36mm. Most portrait photographers nowadays use those “full frame” systems because of mainly two reasons: the lenses have to be twice longer for the same angle of view, so they give you another “look”, and the depth of field is much thinner with these longer lenses, so you are able to separate your subjects (models and other persons) from the background by blurring that background, which helps in getting rid of unwanted “distractions”.

Apart from that, the simple rule is that the bigger your medium – be it a digital sensor or film – the longer your lenses have to be for the same angles of view. And that gives your images a certain look which simply cannot be achieved with smaller formats.

Instead of further trying to describe this, have a look at Nick Carver taking some photos on route 66 with several different formats, from Polaroid and 4.5x6cm to 6x17cm which is pretty ‘cinematic’ as I would describe it. But also his 6×6 and 6x7cm photos from the Mamiya RZ67 cannot be replicated by anything smaller. Have a look:

So the takeaway from this is:

– yes, using film is a hassle (and he’s using Rollfilm which is quite easy to handle)
– yes, using film is expensive
– no, except with Polaroids, you won’t get instant results

But man oh man, how I love those renderings of larger formats, and the colours of both Kodak Portra (a colour negative film), and Fujifilm Velvia (a slide film, good for landscapes only).

Can’t get that with medium format digital – the biggest Sony sensors are still smaller than 4.5x6cm film, so you’d have to stitch several images after taking them with long lenses. Oh, and those sensors are not exactly mainstream yet, and so they still cost about the same as your typical middle class Mercedes limousine. The cheapest larger-than-full-frame digital camera you can buy at the moment is also one of those ‘cameras of the year’; that’d be the Fujifilm GFX. And yes, being a modern camera, it’s of course mirrorless, like the ones I’m using. Just with a slightly bigger sensor, and longer lenses.

Thanks for reading, and for watching – hope you enjoyed it.

Me on white

I’ve got a third studio strobe. The reason is that the original seller/distributor in Germany (who is just another photographer) doesn’t seem to continue selling the ones I bought, and so I’ve got a similar – maybe slightly older – model from another seller via Amazon.

And just an hour ago I did the first real test: light something “on white”, which means put two strobes onto a white background, and one on your subject.

First test was with two bare strobes (just standard reflectors) at level “2”, and that main one through a 20″ socked beauty dish on level “3” – that measured aperture 11 on the background, 8 on the subject, which gives a difference of exactly 1 stop. Should have raised the background ones to 2.5 to blow out the white just a bit more. Set as I did, I had almost no light “spill”, which surprised me a bit – the place was a bit small for a setup like this, so I have to check again with those background flashes powered up more. But for a first check it was ok, at least in black & white.

Mitchie took my picture with these settings (thanks sayang!), and I worked on it a bit with the usual 3-step process for black & white, which is OV3 and SFX on Windows, then RT on Linux. It’s borderline usable, but it shows the direction, which is why I show it here:


Wolfgang, November 2017

As always, thanks for viewing. And as Joe McNally uses to say/write, more tc…

Learning just another (filmmaking) program, while not forgetting about photography

Recently, Zuleikha had just another gig as a musician (playing piano), and we recorded it – Mitchie on video with her Olympus E-PL5 and the 45mm/1.8 lens (on her tripod of course), and me with my Røde NT-1A microphone, the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 (2nd gen) interface, and the Lenovo Thinkpad P50 laptop/notebook which I’ve got from my employer.

Zuleikha’s piano teacher asked us to make a DVD from all the attendees’ performances, so we recorded everyone instead of just our own daughter. And since then (that was Sunday evening), I’m trying to learn just another video-editing program.

Why? Well because Ardour is more like Avid’s Pro Tools – a music studio inside of your computer, and OpenShot is a video editor which we’ve used previously, but which also gave me some headaches already – for bigger projects like a full-blown DVD, it’s not the most stable and full-featured one.

So at the moment I’m looking at the community version of Cinelerra, which seems to be great. There’s a very nice article on the German ubuntuusers wiki, with some additional nice links, like the one to Raffaella Traniello’s “Cinelerra for Grandma” – that answered most of my questions (and struggles) so far.

It’s still quite a lot to learn – these are not your basic editors, but full-blown and -featured professional programs like the commercial ones on other operating systems (and also a bit like Ardour vs. Pro Tools or Logic).

And with all that music- and video-related stuff, I’m still not forgetting about photography, even if I do that only for private and family “jobs” right now. So I’m still regularly reading the most interesting bloggers (and pros) like Kirk Tuck, or Michael Johnston’s “The Online Photographer” (and listening to Brooks Jensen’s “Lenswork Daily” podcasts).

I just answered one of Mike’s posts for instance, which was about his thought of a dual camera system (one his iphone, the other one maybe a Sony A7-2). My answer to that one, in case you don’t find it on his page, was:

“Love the idea, Mike.

I’ve got an Olympus OM-D E-M10 (first gen) which in cameras is in my opinion the equivalent to what our Corolla is in cars. It will do the job, and get you the picture. Not the best, but a quite acceptable one.

But the A7 Mk2 is the one that really interest me, even more so since I realized that both of our Olympus film bodies (OM-1 and OM-2) are having problems with their shutters, and ruin many potentially good (and expensive) film shots. So yes, a “digital back” for my OM Zuiko 50mm/1.4 would be great to have.

Or maybe an FM-2; could even be better. But that wouldn’t accept my Zuiko lens AFAIK.”

So beside my full-time professional job (still having to earn a living for us all), and beside my honorary work in the school’s parents’ association, I’m quite busy at the moment. Holding on to the next task, like: make a DVD for the parents of the other young and aspiring musicians – and for their teacher of course.

But being busy, and being together with the young ones keeps you young as well – or so they say đŸ˜‰

Thanks for reading.

Please vote for the Nik collection to be open sourced!

Through an article on Imaging Resource I’ve learnt that Google will no longer maintain or “to update the Collection or add new features over time” of their Nik collection – which is a bit sad because they’re still awesome, and loved by many photographers either as plugins for programs like Photoshop, or stand-alone.

I don’t have Photoshop and/or Lightroom- and don’t plan to buy it – but still I have the Nik collection for some special effects on a Windows partition on my hard drive, so through their help center and forum I found this post from Paul Breslin, who volunteered to maintain it further after his retirement, and for which I “voted” already. And I suggest that you’d do the same; open-sourcing it would be the ‘proper’ way of dropping official support for a product.

And Google may even do it – they’re in some way still the “good guys”, with their initiatives like “Summer of Code” and so on and so forth. So if you also like or (occasionally) use the fine Nik collection, I’d advise that you do the same. If you haven’t heard of the Nik collection but have a Mac or PC with Windows operating systems, I’d suggest to try it out – it’s one of the best “free” (as in “no cost”) software packages there is.

My main interest in this? Well I’m still using real free and open source software on my Debian Linux machine, but who knows, maybe one day the Nik collection could be real free as well – it’s all a question of licensing. And there could even be a port for Linux, which would make that even greater as an artist’s platform as it already is (doing music and recording with it as well). It’s just a vote away, so what is stopping you?

Thanks for reading and/or considering.

P.S.: see also my comments here and here.

Photography, videos, sound recording and so on

Haven’t written much here lately.

Since I’ve identified what I’m actually after with my photography earlier this year, I’m taking mostly family photos – not of any interest to the general public.

And since Mitchie (and also Zuleikha) is/are more into video, I’ve concentrated a bit more onto the audio aspect of that – having been in professional studios not only as a musician but also as a technician, I try to “give back” some of the gathered knowledge from these areas to my family, my colleagues, and so on.

For some colleagues, I’ve made a (company-internal) video already about how to get the OCDC (Open Client for the Debian Community) IBM layers on top of a more or less “naked” Ubuntu 16.04.2, and I’ll make some more about the tools – both hardware and free and open source software – that I use, and about how I use all that stuff. De-Essers, compressors, LUFS sound leveling, something like this. Plus some microphone techniques.

I also tried to help someone in this thread of the LinuxMusicians forum, for whom/which I uploaded some screenshots to Flickr lately:


Ubuntu Studio 16.04.2 LTS, running from a USB stick on my machine, with running QJackctl and the Hydrogen drum computer


Focusrite Control software, running on Windows 10

Other than that, I’ll cover some tools like Audacity, Ardour and the Calf Studio Gear plugins, Openshot and whatever I’m using. Since most of these tools are cross-platform, the colleagues might want to use them even on their Windows machines; let’s see.

These will be company-internal screencasts and/or videos, just for those people who want to / have to publish some public stuff on the companies’ official Youtube stream(s). Lots of stuff like that exists already, just look at the streams of people like Curtis Judd for instance. No need for me to add anything public here, since there are so many of these technical tips channels already.

Anyway; I’m quite busy most of the time, and just wanted to explain why you see fewer entries here, or on my Flickr stream.

Soon we’ll also visit some family members in Cologne; it’s about time for that as well. Plus both my brother, Mitchie, Zuleikha, and me want to see/visit the Music Store there – can’t wait for that…

Like always, thanks for reading.

Don’t underestimate the “kit zoom”


Zuleikha, December 2016

A few minutes ago, I took this photo of Zuleikha. And I used the lens which came with the Olympus E-PL5, which is the 14-42mm R (Mark 2) “kit zoom” at its longest focal length of 42mm, and wide open at an aperture of f/5.6.

Of course this isn’t as “bitingly” sharp as for instance my 45mm/1.8 would have been when used at these settings. But for portraiture, sharpness isn’t exactly the point. Quite the opposite is true when you’re photographing people who are older than our daughter, and who don’t have as nice and smooth skin as she does have. “Have mercy on me!” was what one of Yousuf Karsh’s clients asked him (forgot which one, but it wasn’t Queen Elizabeth I think. Maybe some American actress).

Still this photo, watched on my full screen size (1200 pixels high) even shows moirĂ©e. But that is because the monitor’s dpi interfere with the pixels I caught (4608), and watched 1:1 that moirĂ©e is gone.

What’s much more important than which lens you use is that the light is ok – in this case, I used my Yongnuo YN-460II flash off-camera, and bounced over the wall to my right on 1/4 of its maximum power. My exposure was within half a stop, which I had to add in “post production” (in RawTherapee). I also desaturated both the whole image (3 of 100 clicks), and selectively the colour of her shirt (a bit more). Using flash or very high quality permanent light sources help with the colours, and the short exposure times with flash keep the camera’s ISO low. It also helps with the perceived sharpness.

As always, thanks for reading.

Slow and deliberate. Spray and pray.

When I’m taking photographs, I’m normally kind of old-fashioned. My camera is set to take a single exposure, which I carefully try to frame in my viewfinder. I also try to think about the end result right away, and sometimes set the camera to show me the image in black & white, sometimes with contrast raised a bit, or even simulating some filter in front of my imaginary black & white film camera. Sometimes when I’m in a really kind of nostalgic mood, I even change the aspect ratio to 3:2, like normal 135 film rolls had, or even to 1:1 like square roll film.

Of course, when taking both a jpg and a raw image at the same time, you can still reverse everything from the raw later. But that’s another story, and I usually don’t do that.

With an approach like that, I took a photo of Tuna the cat yesterday evening, when she was sitting in front of our veranda door, looking out into the dark. I know that cats see much better in the dark than us humans, but still I sometimes wonder what she might see there. Anyway, I liked the reflection of the cat in our veranda door, where she had some kind of brighter background, so you can see her ears. This was composed with an in-camera 3:2 crop, contrast +1 and a simulated yellow filter:


In the company where we now look into the garden, we have an egret, also known as a great white heron. Sometimes it’s even two of these, but most of the time just one. That bird goes fishing in the 3 small ponds we have there, and I’ve tried to take its picture with my long zoom lens. That’s a 40-150mm/f4-5.6 lens, still from the Four Thirds system, which can be used with autofocus on Micro Four Thirds via an adapter. My attempts so far were not very good – that lens was optimized for phase autofocus from a DSLR, so focusing it with the mirrorless cameras’ contrast autofocus is kind of slow.

So today, looking at the birds outside which were eating sun flower seeds from our small bird house, I thought about that lens again. And I knew I could forget autofocus – much too slow for these. So I did what I normally never do: I took my tripod and mounted the camera onto it with that zoom lens set to 150mm, and set the camera to manual focus, and to high speed serial exposures. It can do 7 or 8 images per second that way; forgot (because I usually never do this). So with that kind of “spray & pray” approach, I shot through our window. Every time a bird was landing, eating, and flying away again, I pressed the shutter, and so I got 110 or so images of which I threw away 108 already.

Here are the remaining two, cropped to 1:1 in post:



Like I said, I usually never do this, but that could be an approach to get a good enough image of our heron, so maybe I’ll take that lens and tripod to the company again.

Thanks for reading and viewing.

Using my compact flash

It’s definitely getting dark earlier, and getting bright later already here in the Northern hemisphere. No wonder in the middle of autumn, and with winter approaching soon.

That leaves you with a problem when photographing indoors – either accept very bad light (and thus, quality) in your “available light” photos, or make some light when and where you need it.

Setting up the studio strobe(s) is quite a long process tho, and we don’t own any compact TTL flashes – only inexpensive but very nice and reliable Yongnuo YN460-II models. And because even measuring the light is an additional step which takes some time and action, I wanted to get used to guessing the right exposure again. Turns out that I’m not that bad, I’m usually correct within 1 stop or so.

To try it out, I took two:


Tuna the cat, October 2016, bounced flash (f/2, flash on 1/8th power) and


Remarkable – Zuleikha reading, October 2016 (f/2.2, flash on 1/4 power from across the room)

I’ll continue to do that, and maybe get some more of these flashes. The experience and the knowledge always pay off when using them somewhere else as well.

As always, thanks for reading/viewing.