Weekend in Leavenworth, Washington

During a weekend trip to Leavenworth, Washington I had a morning to myself to go take some photos.  I decided to head up Highway 2 along the Wenatchee river, in the Wenatchee National Forest, and focus on landscape photography.

 

The Wenatchee National Forest is part of the Cascades Mountains in Washington State.

 

I brought my Canon 24mm f3.5L TS-E II and Zeiss Distagon T* Makro-Planar 2/50 ZE.

 

I got lucky with a fairly clear morning and was able to get some of my favorite winter landscapes to date.

 

Here are some of the results from the morning.  These are with the Zeiss 50mm Makro Planar.

 

Wenatchee River Valley

 

Red Bridge

 

Early Sunrise Reflections

 

Dawn

 

 

 

The rest are panoramas made by shifting my Canon 24mm TS-E lens.

 

Wenatchee River Valley Cliff

 

Rocky River Shore

 

Wenatchee River Rapids

 

Old Wenatchee River Bridge

 

 

 

 

Moab Moenkopi Washi Paper Review; Unryu and Kozo

When I first saw these papers online I was immediately captivated and wanted to print all kinds of photos using them.  I read some reviews and noticed most people commented on how these papers were “not for every photo”.  I figured that I could make it work though, and that I would soon be printing everything on these papers.

Well, that wasn’t the case, and I’ve come to agree with those reviews that call this a specialty paper.  The Unryu is my favorite because the very obvious and unique texture makes up for the lacking of “technical” quality.  The Kozo, on the other hand, is not that different at first look from a lightly textured matte paper like Canson BFK Rives or Hahnemuhle German Etching.  Yet, it produces much worse results, technically speaking.  I’ll start with the Unryu.

Here is the test image:

Macallen and his Quilt

Here is the initial scan.  It was done with my normal scan settings, and it came out pale, because of how translucent this paper is.  The scanners light was so bright it blasted away the saturation.  This transparent quality gives the paper a nice ethereal look, but it needs a white mat underneath to hold the saturation.

moab moekop unryu

To give you a closer idea to what it looks like in reality, I changed my scanners settings to prevent document see through:

moab moekop unryu2

This one better captures how warm this paper is how the saturation came through.  Be sure to check the full size images to see the texture, it is very, very unique and very strong.  I personally like it a lot if I want the texture to be a feature of the print.  I found that upping the ‘color density’ setting on my Epson 3880 by 10% compliments the paper well, although it doesn’t make the image more ‘accurate’ as shown on screen.  For such a unique paper, it actually is fairly sharp, but I’ll say that it isn’t anywhere near the sharpness of a smooth rag paper, and definitely not as sharp as a baryta or gloss paper.  I actually think this is a great paper if you have one of those ‘dreamy’ photos that is maybe a little out of focus or taken with a softer lens wide open.  Overall I’d say this paper is a winner, but definitely not suitable for frequent use unless your typical subject matter is light, warm and dreamy.

Now for the Kozo.  This one I haven’t yet found a good image for.  I started with this image:

The Quiet of Winter

Which got me this print:

moab moenkop kozo

The print actually looks better in the scan.  It is darker in real life, and it is definitely not sharp.  The colors look mushy.  Granted, the original shot was not super sharp, so I tested this shot, which is very sharp.

Winter-Pano

Which got another dull mushy print.

moan moenkopi kozo

I haven’t gotten a good image on the Kozo yet.  I’m not sure what type of shot this paper was meant for, but I sure don’t have one in my library.

By all means, definitely give a sample pack of these a try, there isn’t much else out there like it, but I have found that these papers live up to the term specialty.

Hahnemühle Photo Rag Satin Paper Review

Initial disclaimer:  Prints were done with Epson 3880 with manufacturer supplied profiles.  The scanner isn’t anything special and doesn’t offer much color calibration options, so I did my best to get the print’s scans to look as close to the real print as possible, but obviously there are some differences due to the ambient light under which the prints are viewed.

When I first published my reviews for papers, I was not impressed with Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Satin.  In an attempt to print the following picture, I got a dull, flat, dark cluttered print shown below the original shot:

Sunset from Crystal Mountain

And the print:

hahn pho rg satin 1

I still had one sheet left in the sample pack so I decided I would try it again.  I picked this shot of an abandoned school from Kandahar, Afghanistan.  A little background on this photo.

I took this photo with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon EF 17-40 f4L Lens.  Photos were taken at f11 and about 25mm if I remember correctly.  I’ll show the individual exposures that were used at the end of the post.  It is actually two, 3-shot horizontal exposure blended images merged together to create a vertically framed photo that comes in at a little under 40 megapixels at full sizer.  Basically, 6 photos blended into one.    I used Nik HDR Efx Pro to blend each 3-shot HDR image together, then I combined the two HDRs together in Photoshop CS5 to create the final composition.  I like the color version but it looks too cheery.  In reality, at the time this image was taken, the school had been unused for a long time due to the war, and even though it had just been renovated, painted, and re-stocked with supplies, no one was using it yet.  As such, I feel the black and white really pulls the image together and makes it convey the feeling that I felt when I was there to take it.  That was in December of 2010.  Today, the school is in full use, fully staffed and equipped, and it educates dozens of Afghan kids from the local area.

Here is the digital file:

The Empty School

and here is the print:

hahn phot rag satin

This print definitely takes the strengths of Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Satin into full effect.  The image retains all the mystery and subtlety of a matte paper, but the blacks are deeper like a glossy paper.  It really, really captures the emotion of the shot, as I felt it.  Personally, the texture of this paper is amazing, just perfect for this image, and as a “gloss” paper, the texture lends it that great look that you often only get with textured fine art matte paper. That being said, here is a print of the exact same file on Moab Colorado Satine, a fiber paper with a satin finish but with a much smoother surface and slightly heavier gloss.  You can easily see the texture differences in the scans, and can tell that the Colorado Satine has much greater contrast:

moab colo satine

The Colorado satine is much truer to the digital file, but all technical aspects aside, I really like the ‘feel’ and artistry presented in the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Satin.  You can tell that the lower brightness of the Hahnemuhle retains the highlight detail of the white walls better than the Moab Colorado Satine.

Overall both papers kept the sharpness high, although at 8.5×11 for these prints, the 40 Megapixel file lost much of its finest detail.  A 17×25 print would have done this image way better justice!

I suppose that these tests only further prove that paper is such a personal choice.  I can definitely see times when I would want to use either of these papers.

Now getting away from the comparison itself, here is the first image done in Black and White on Moab Lasal Photo Matte.  I think that this shows that the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Satin really didn’t work for this image, as the straight B&W conversion came out significantly better on this matte paper than it did on the satin:

moab lasl phot matt1

And Lastly! Here is the color version of the Afghan School, you will easily see that it is much “cheerier” than the black and white rendition.

The Empty School

Here are the files I blended in order to get the final product on the school:

Bracketed Shot  001 Bracketed Shot  002 Bracketed Shot  003 Bracketed Shot  004 Bracketed Shot  005 Bracketed Shot  006

Fromt those I got these two “HDR” images:

HDR file  001 HDR file  002

Which stitched together to get me this baseline composite, from which I generated the Black and White version, and the Color version:

The Empty School

From here all my work was in Nik Silver Efx Pro to get the B&W.  To get the color version I used Nik Color Efx, via the Pro Contrast filter, to get a bold image.  Then I went into Photoshop and converted it to LAB color.  From there I applied two identical curves to the A and B channels to increase the contrast without the constraints of the color gamut.  At that point I converted back to ProPhoto RGB with perceptual intent.

All output sharpening was done with Nik Sharpener Pro, for all the prints and for the web sizes of the digital files

Thanks for looking!!

Hahnumühle William Turner vs Canson Arches Aquarelle

These are two heavily textured fine art papers, one from Hahnemuhle and one from Canson Infinity.  I decided to compare the two using a black and white print.  The textures are pretty different, which you will be able to see in the s scans, so that will definitely be a matter of personal preference, but otherwise, both papers performed similarly.

Here is the test image, taken with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 70-200 f4L IS in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

_MG_4238

First up is the Hahnemuhle Willian Turner.  This is probably my favorite textured paper, especially for color images.  You can read about how it worked with a color image in my paper review post.

William-Turner

Here is the Canson Arches Aquarelle

Arches-Aquarelle

The William Turner came out a little denser and warmer than the Canson Arches Aquarelle.  I personally prefer the texture of the William Turner because it is less mechanical, however that is partially due to being a wood pulp paper instead of a cotton paper like the Canson.  So, that may influence your decision if longevity is important.  I felt that the William Turner held back the highlights a bit more, which let some of the upper “zone” areas hold better detail and microcontrast than the Arches Aquarelle. The surface of the William Turner was a little more delicate, and I noticed after a bit of handling that tiny “chips” had came off of some of the heavily inked areas, whereas this did not happen with the Arches Aquarelle.  The Hahnemuhle’s dMax appears better here than with the Canson.  The downside to the Hahnemuhle William Turner against the Canson Arches Aquarelle is that the paper is definitely less neutral, which can be important.  Additionally, the William Turner had a little less detail in the deepest shadows, and the texture does every so slightly take away just a tiny bit of sharpness, whereas the Arches Aquarelle texture didn’t hurt the sharpness quite as much.

Personally I like warm toned black and white photos, so I will probably stick with Hahnemuhle William Turner.  I haven’t tried a color image with the Canson Arches Aquarelle, so I will have to give that a try sometime as well.

Thanks for reading!

Hahnemühle Museum Etching vs Canson Montval Aquarelle

I’m not suggesting these papers are direct competitors, but the texture is similar, so I thought it would help to show these papers differences to help others make an educated purchase.

Here is a quick comparison of these two papers using a color image.  I chose this image because it has a very saturated red area, blue area, green area, and a large grey/white area as well.  First things first, here is digital file of the image printed.  It was taken off the coast of Port Denarau, Fiji; with a Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 300mm f4L lens and B&W Kaseman MRC circular polarizer:

Oil Tanker

Now for the scans of the prints.  Definitely check out the scans at full size, you can clearly see that the Canson texture is more “patterned” than the Museum Etching.  Not a bad thing in itself, but your personal taste may vary.  I don’t have anything special for a scanner, so I can’t say that your monitor is displaying what the prints exactly look like, but you can tell the differences of the papers relative to one another at least.

Prints were done with a freshly calibrated iMac, on an Epson 3880 using manufacturer recommended settings and ICC profiles

The top print is the Hahnemuhle Museum Etching, the bottom is Canson  Montval Aquarelle

Museum-Etching

Montval-Aquarelle

The Hahnemuhle had much warmer greens, which I felt didn’t do the scene justice, but because of this warmth, the shadowy areas of the mountains appeared less flat.  Also, the clouds in the Hahnemuhle were clearly warm.  The Canson had better blue ocean tones, cleaner clouds, and cleaner greens.  The Canson did have a flatter look in the shadowed areas, but overall the print has more pop.  If you look at both scans at full size, the sharpness is a moot point; they are both very sharp for their texture.

In the future I would choose Canson Montval Aquarelle over Hahnemuhle Museum Etching for color landscapes.

4 Canvas Shootout

I was having a hard time deciding on my favorite canvas, so I decided to run a head to head competition on my top 4;

Harman By Hahnemuhle Canvas

Hahnemuhle Daguerre Canvas

Hahnemuhle Monet Canvas

Moab Anasazi Canvas

I printed the below image on all of them, using the company provided profiles and perceptual rendering intent. I chose perceptual because it really helped maintain the transitions in the shadows, something that can get lost because these matte canvases have much less dynamic range than a screen or glossy paper.

2 Months Old!

After running this test I think that Hahnemuhle Monet Canvas is even more clearly the winner. Here is how the test turned out:

Harman By Hahnemuhle Canvas: This one was the coolest toned of the bunch, but maybe a little less bright than the Daguerre. It came off with good shadow detail but the deeper areas were not that deep compared to the Monet. The colors were the least saturated and the skin tones were the coolest. The texture and feel is great and I like the weight, but it didn’t work so well for me as a color portrait canvas, which is, in my opinion, the best use for canvas.

Hahnemuhle Daguerre Canvas: This one wasn’t that different from the Harman. It was slightly whiter, and as such was also a little less saturated compared to the Monet, but not any less saturated than the Harman. The details were great, but again, I didn’t see the skin tones as pleasing, making it less effective as a color portrait canvas, in my opinion.

Moab Anasazi Canvas: Once again the heavy and very mechanical looking texture was prevalent in this canvas. The colors were the most intense, and the skin tones actually came out too saturated, ever so slightly orange compared to the Monet. Not sure I really like this canvas at all.

Hahnemuhle Monet Canvas: Contrary to my initial review, this canvases contrast wasn’t at all because the whites were whiter. It is, in fact, the warmest and least white of all 4 canvases! For some reason though, maybe a great dmax, this canvas just “pops” the best, had the most pleasing natural skin tones, and had a texture that was neither overbearing nor absent, and it held good detail. A definite winner in my opinion, a roll of this canvas will be on the way to my house soon!

The Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50mm f/2 Canon Mount

This is my favorite lens, so I thought I’d write up some of the reasons why. If you want technical data there is plenty of it on lots of other photography review websites, like photozone.de, pcmag.com, slrgear.com etc…. I just want to describe my experience with it and show some more subjective strengths of the lens.

_MG_9183

First of all, I love the build quality and feel of the lens. The solid metal construction feels very robust, and as much as I never want to scratch the sleek black coating, I’m not concerned about what will happen if I bump the lens. There is no dust sealing, so I wouldn’t have wanted this lens with me when I was in a dusty place, like Afghanistan for example.

The manual focus isn’t a bad feature. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I wish it was AF. Of course, my Canon 5DmkII isn’t that great at autofocus so maybe it actually is better this way. When I get a chance to upgrade to the 5DmkIII or whatever the future 1 series 20 megapixel+ camera is, then I will wish it was autofocus. I bought the EG-S precision focus screen and it does help quite a bit although it is dependent upon the accuracy with which you set your viewfinder dipoter. Using focus confirmation is accurate from f4 upward, at f2 and f2.8 I need a burst of photos to make sure I get one in focus if using focus confirmation. When possible I prefer to use live view at 10x to focus to ensure precision.

When the focus is precise, the images are very, very sharp. I love the detail I can get in a subject’s eyes when doing a tight shot on a face.

2 months old

While this lens is a ‘Macro’ lens, it does perform well at infinity as well, the textural detail in the Epcot ball looks stunning at full size, you can almost ‘feel’ the brushed metal surface, and it looks even better in a large print where I can utilize the full resolution of the file:

_MG_7433

And just for fun, here are some other shots that really capitalize on the detail rendered by this lens:

Note, the spider shot is pretty much at minimum focal distance, so this is as macro as it gets. I consider this lens an “environmental portrait” lens for bugs.

Green Spider on White Verbena Flower Quilted-Maple-Guitar-Top

This lens does have some of that “Zeiss 3D pop”, although I’m not a fanatic enough to claim it is “magical”. In any case you can see it does well with the bokeh in creating a sense of depth:

Verbena with Trailing Petunia Background

Many complain that this lens is “too sharp” for portraits, which it definitely can be. At f2, wide open, the spherical aberration is uncorrected enough to get a little of that pleasing glow, but from f2.8 on, it is very sharp, revealing every defect in a subject’s skin.

This was f2, the skin looks fairly even toned, a little bit contrasty but not too bad, with a little softening in post production this would make most clients happy:

1st Month Down!

Here at f4, you can see every little skin flake and crusty around the little guy’s eyes.

Macallen and his Quilt

There is a little longitudinal chromatic aberration. It can be very noticeable in high contrast photos taken at f2, or even f2.8 if the image is very high contrast. However, it isn’t too hard to correct in post processing, so don’t worry about that. I will probably publish a little guide on how to use photoshop to remove it soon.

If you are looking for a 50mm prime, I would highly recommend checking this one out, maybe try renting it at lensrentals.com first, but I think that it offers more than the majority of 50mm primes out there today.