It’s been the trend lately that black and white photography is making a come back. I personally enjoy black and white more than color. In black and white, the texture, lines and composition really exposes them and your brain doesn’t have to process the color. Of course, turning a bad composed photo into black and white won’t make it award winning, however I have had some photos that were mainly brown and wood color look amazing once they were converted. This post is about a revisit to the Heritage Village in Largo, Florida. I have been to this location many times and there is always something new to see. Here is a link to the last post that I did on Heritage Village: Strobist – Revisited Heritage Village. The model in these photos is a good photo buddy his name is Antonio. He too enjoys black and white photography and has a knack for making historical buildings look their best. Ironically, this post was created just about a year ago. In the last post, we discussed how flash photography could help your photography and when you “flash good” (don’t try this in a crowded area!) your photo will thank you for it. Also, it cuts down on the processing time. The flip side is that setting up flashes can take some time and there is a learning curve if you’re not the slide rule kind of person. I’m not either by any means, however if you understand ISO, aperture and shutter speed, then you can master a flash. Since this “has been done”, it was time to try something else and not get arrested in the process.
Lately I have been wondering what can be done to make my photography better. I’m sure none of you out there has asked yourselves that question. I was looking at some of the work from Ansel Adams and Clyde Butcher. These folks are landscape photographers and really know their stuff. They both used an old style view camera. The negatives in these cameras are 12” x 20”, it would be interesting to see what this would translate into mega pixels, hey Nikon can you make a 1,000 mp camera?! I would like to wallpaper my house with my photos! At this point in time I’m still trucking along with my five year old Nikon that is 12.5 mp and does everything that I need it to do. Since my sensor is even smaller than a traditional 35mm negative, I’m going to have to get smart about this. I have pulled off a 40” x 60” print out of this camera. Sure the new Nikon D800 at 35.5 mp would be great, I’m only $3,000 short. (We are now taking money donations for a new Nikon d800 kidney transplant! It was worth a try!)
Since I’m limited by “old” technology and smaller sensor what is the best way to create some compelling photos? In this case one word, bracketing. Since ole’ Ansel and Clyde have a huge negative on their side and I don’t I’m going to use bracketing to capture all of the details in the highlights and shadows. My camera is set up to take nine exposures at one stop apart. This is quite convenient as this covers most of the light range in my scenes. If you would like to dip your toe in the pool, and your camera doesn’t offer Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) then you are still in luck if your camera shoots in manual mode. Some of you are familiar with manual and others of you are thinking I’m talking about the guy who comes off the mountain delivering coffee! As I go through the photos, I’ll explain some of the set ups and what equipment I used to help capture these images. As always, click on the photos to see the full size.
I kind of breezed over what Heritage Village was. In a nutshell, it’s a village of homes, and other structures like schools, churches, and train stations just to name a few that have been saved from destruction and moved to this location. It’s free and they are very photography friendly. If you go on weekends, some of the volunteers dress up in traditional clothing to help sell the effect. Once I saw one of the “housewifes” gathered some children together that were visiting and had them wash clothes on a washboard. Some of these poor kids didn’t realize that there was a world outside of the iPhone and Facebook. Once the manual labor set in, they seem to have come down with some kind of illness and had to leave. Hummm, strange. I grew up on a dairy farm during the summers at my family’s farm. It was then I realized what it took just to get a simple thing like milk to the table.
Anyway, The photo above is of the post office that is joined with the general store that you will see below. I loved how they kept the props and the theme to the time period. If you look at the bottom of the frame, you can even see the WANTED pages. I checked, my photo isn’t in there….yet! To set up for one of these shots, I mounted my 12mm-24mm super wide angle lens on the camera, this allows me to capture almost a 180° view with minimal distortion.
The next step in setting this up is a tripod. I can here some of you groaning right now. Since these multiple frames will have to register back in the computer pixel for pixel, a tripod is the only way this is going to happen. Depending on the type of camera that you have, if it’s light, you can get away with the Wally World (Walmart) special. If you have a heavier DSLR like me, then you’re going to need something a little more substantial to hold the weight. Most of you know who I use; I have B&H on speed dial (they really need to start advertising on the site!) Personally, I can’t afford the Lexus versions of tripods, carbon fiber, so I have the Toyota version, aluminum. It’s a wee bit heavier, but I’m used to it so it works for me.
I have the camera mounted on the tripod with a wide angle lens, I also use an electronic release to fire the camera so I don’t introduce any camera shake. You can buy the manufacture version and feel good knowing that you just spent $70 on a piece of plastic or you can see if there is a version made for your camera from Vello. Vello has been making some camera knock off parts and the ones that I have seen thus far have been decent. For a shutter release, I don’t care if it’s stamped with Nikon or Big Redneck’s Camera Store, I just want it to work. Some of my students have picked these up for as little as $6.99. If you don’t have $6.99, I’ll share some of the kidney replacement money that is going to be donated!
My grandfather had a Ford Model T. He told me one story in particular that has stuck with me over the years. He told me that when people used to go to each other houses to visit, they would wrap their meal in foil and strap it around the muffler on the engine. When they would arrive, they would have a perfectly cooked meal waiting for them. Who needs drive thru? All we need is “drive along”, when you get hungry and you are driving down the road, pop the hood and have little Johnny crawl through the window and get the lunch off the engine! Just make sure that child services aren’t around while you are doing this. They don’t seem to have a sense of humor.
There is a beautiful church on the property. I don’t think it gets used regularly, but they may do weddings here. As you can see is was Christmas time when this was taken. I can officially tell my mother that went to church around Christmas, she’ll be so proud.
At this point, I set the camera up in Aperture Priority mode (Nikon “A”, Canon “Av”). This ensures that my f stop won’t change. It would be a real mess if there were multiple depths of field going on. What I have found is that I can get very sharp photos at f/8. When not f/22? I find that the diffraction takes over and can cause problems. With wide angle lenses, it’s been said that you don’t have to stop the lens down to f/22 to get maximum depth of field. As you can see in the above photo, the whole photo is sharp from front to back. Also, I have the camera programmed for AEB, with the nine shots, one stop apart. The burst or continuous feature is also enabled so the camera will just automatically take all the exposures in one press of the shutter release.
I’ve finally done it; my wife has had enough and packed my bags for me. I hope she had room for the camera gear in one of these trunks! This was taken at the train station. They have the complete building, starting from where you came in to buy your ticket, waited for the train and the platform. Pretty amazing.
Once all of the exposures have been taken, now it’s time for the fun stuff, merging all this data together. This is where if you bought the better processor and extra RAM for your computer, you are going to get paid back when you do this. I shoot RAW files and my file size is around 30mb per photo. Take this times nine and I’m throwing 270mb at the computer, just for one photo! Not to mention I’m also at 12.5mp. I use a program called Photomatix to do all of my merging. This is pretty much the industry standard for this kind of work. I won’t be able to explain how Photomatix works here, however this program will allow you to get the tonal range that Ansel and Clyde are getting with our modern day equipment. After I finish merging my exposures in Photomatix, I send the file over to Photoshop for some clean up and I let Nik’s Silver Efex Pro handle the black and white conversion.
If you get a chance to check out Heritage Village, it will be time will spent. I could easily spend days at this location, as there is no end to the details that they have put together. Take some empty camera cards, clean your lenses and take or buy a tripod. Your photo will reward you for your effort.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean