Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dog with the LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH

I am getting comfortable focusing with the LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH. In this picture, the white fangs were my focus target. Shot wide open, with a ND filter.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Handsome boy

Find below a handsome boy, one Elinchrom Quadra with EzyBox per side, f/8 1/250. To try this type of portrait, it is very useful to train the subject to stay on its place and to look to the camera on command.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A good day

We had a nice Autumn day, cloudy with no rain, mild temperatures and specially, no wind at all. The day was asking to take the Elinchrom Quadra out.

For the picture with the pony, I wanted a focused and narrow light, so I used a gridded dish. For the pictures with the dog, I took out the big 64 PLM parabolic umbrella, Carl Zeiss ZF 35mm f/2 lens at f/5.6.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

more LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH

This lens is just amazing. With it's capabilities to isolate subjects wide open, it still renders with enough resolution and contrast to satisfy anyone.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Running for president

This highly competent lady is running for president of the Royal Automobile Club of Spain, and was in need of a portrait for her campaign,

Beauty dish to camera left for the key light, small softbox also at camera left to fill some shadows, and another light at camera right for the background.

Good luck to the RACE, and let's see if their members are so wise to choose her.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

More with the PLM

I think like this PLM more than the Softlighter. You get more power back from the umbrella, and even if it is more focused, it does not loose softness because of it's 64" size. Moreover, the mounting ring for the Elinchrom makes it easier to mount on the Quadra. The only con is when transporting that mounting ring, the umbrella looses some of it's convenience for easy travelling.

This picture with the umbrella short lighting at camera right, 1/250 and about f/8.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I submitted this photo to a contest to get published by the local edition of National Geographic, the theme was "Pets". I understand that a pony is not a pet to everybody, but that not the case with us. In any case, it was taken with the 35mm, beauty dish at camera left on a cloudy day.

It got finalist, but not published, see here:

I'll keep on submitting until they publish something, maybe exhausting them may work.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Summer is over

School starts next week, and gone are the days at the beach. All in all, I think I have been using more and more natural light and less the flashes. These shot with 90mm, 21mm, 35mm and 90mm again.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Parabolic Light Modification (PLM) system from Paul C. Buff

Back to photography after all that programming.

Big but focused light? Try the PLM. It gives you more light than the Softlighter, yet it is soft enough and gentle. The picture below was taken with a 64" umbrella at camera left. The car did not have the keys on, to my son's dismay.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

DNG2NEF user manual

The DNG2NEF converter will read your uncompressed raw files from a
Leica M9 or X1 camera, and write them as Nikon NEF files, so you can
incorporate them into your NEF workflow.

This version 2.0 has been tested against firmware 1.162 of the M9, and
both versions 1.0 and 2.0 of the X1.

The conversion will not touch/harm your DNG files, as they will only
be read. The resulting NEF files will have all the camera settings
from the original templates, plus the following from the DNG files:
  • A properly sized JPG preview, generated using Nikon libraries that take into account the NEF settings;
  • The sensor raw data;
  • The white balance setting;
  • Most of the applicable Exif parameters.
Note that the camera maker and model remains those of the Nikon
template. To install DNG2NEF, just download and unzip the desired file:
Put the files under any directory, and either include this directory
on the executable path, or invoke directly the executable file. Both
platform versions carry dynamic libraries of the Nikon NEF SDK, which
is used to generate the JPG preview.

Usage of the tool is quite straightforward. You can convert individual
files, or batch process all files under a given directory.

To convert an individual file, select this DNG pressing the "DNG input
file" button, choose an output directory with "Ouput directory", and
press "Convert".

To batch convert all files under a given directory, select this with
the "Input directory" button, set the "Ouput directory", and press

The settings of input/output dirs are saved in a file named
$HOME/.dng2nef, so they are recalled from session to session. I use
this tool to digest the DNG files from the SD card, and directly write
the NEFs into my computer.

DNG2NEF License

"Author" herein refers to Miguel Bañón (the creator of DNG2NEF).
"Software" refers to all files included with DNG2NEF (typically
extracted from a .zip archive).

Except where otherwise noted, all of the documentation and
Software is copyrighted by Miguel Bañón (the Author).

Copyright (C) 2011 Miguel Bañón. All rights reserved.

License and costs

The Software is being distributed as Freeware.
Use and distribution of the Software is permitted provided
that all of the following terms are accepted:

1. The Author grants you a non-exclusive license to use the
    Software subject to your compliance with all of the terms
    and conditions of this Freeware License.

2. You will not have any proprietary rights of the Software.
    You acknowledge and agree that the Author retains all
    copyrights and other proprietary rights of the Software.

3. The Software is provided "as-is," without any express or
    implied warranty. Without even the implied warranty of
    merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In
    no event shall the Author be held liable for any, direct or
    indirect, damages arising from the use of the Software.

4. All redistributions of the Software's files must be in their
    original, unmodified form. Distributions of modified
    versions of the files is not permitted without express
    written permission of the Author.

5. All redistributions of the Software's files must retain all
    copyright notices and web site addresses that are
    currently in place, and must include this list of
    conditions without modification.

6. None of the Software's files may be redistributed for
    profit or as part of another Software package without
    express written permission of the Author.

7. Use of the Software within the scope of this license is
    free of charge  and no royalty or licensing fees shall be
    payable by you. Use beyond the scope of this license
    shall constitute copyright infringement.

8. This license shall be effective and bind you upon your
    downloading of the Software.

9. The Author reserves his rights to modify this agreement
    in the future.

If you do not agree to all of the above terms, you are not
permitted to use the Software in any way, and all copies of
it must be deleted from your system(s).

Miguel Bañón

Friday, August 12, 2011

DNG2NEF V2 also supports the Leica X1

Due to overwhelming popular demand, i.e., Coolpixeler asked for it, I have extended the DNG2NEF to support the Leica X1 too. The 12Mb NEF file from a D700 or D3/D3s fits like a glove to the X1 files, and the results look very good.

Version 2.0 can be obtained here for Windows, dng2nef
Mac OS application here,

In addition, the new version does not require to install dcraw, which was used to generate the JPG preview from the DNG. The preview is now generated using the Nikon NEF SDK, giving a better approximation to the look of the image under the NEF settings.

See this version in action with an X1 file provided by Coolpixeler. Note that the image that you get out of the NEF is heavily affected by the "Picture Control" and other raw development settings that you can adjust in the NEF template to your taste, before the conversion, or afterwards for each file.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Best thing to do after you advance in rank? To get a good official portrait.

No less than 4 lights here. Softlighter to camera left, for a low general fill. Beauty dish on camera left too for the face, and an Ezybox on camera right to fill the shadows of the face. A final gridded flash to highlight the yellow rank insignia on his left sleeve.

DNG2NEF version 1.0 is out!

Ok, version one is finished, and complete for my own needs. This tool now correctly transfer the white balance values from the DNG to the NEF, is a tad quicker, and also updates the thumbnail, which was pending from the first drafts. One caveat though, is the aperture, which is guessed on the M9 and strangely coded. The value transferred to NX is not quite accurate. I personally do not bother too much about this value after the photo is taken.

I have been processing a few hundreds of Leica M9 files without a single problem, and then they go into my usual browsing with Photomechanic and adjustments in Capture NX 2 workflow as D3x files.

For those using windows, here is the tool,
Tcl source code is available here, dng2nef.tcl

See a DNG file open by Camera Raw,

Or edited as NEF in Capture NX 2,

Friday, June 24, 2011

Leica M9 DNG to Nikon D3x NEF converter

My workflow has been based on Nikon Capture NX2, I do a quick review the pictures out of the camera with Photomechanic, delete all rubbish, adjust with Capture NX, and review the results again with Photomechanic. I just keep the NEFs, and generate jpgs or tiff on demand for particular files. With the non destructive editing of NX, this is all I need.

With the M9 coming into the scene, things are not so simple for me. The M9 writes a minimalistic DNG file with no JPG preview. That makes a fast review of the pictures very difficult, Lightroom needs to render the JPG on the fly, and Photomechanic only reads the available small thumbnail. To circumvent this, I run the Adobe DNG converter to rewrite the DNG with an embedded JPG preview as a first step before browsing the files.

Then I import into Lightroom and do my adjustments, but Lightroom does not update the JPG preview after the edits, so any external viewer will not see the edited file, which is quite inconvenient.

So, to introduce the M9 files into my usual workflow, instead of duplicating workflows, I have written a tool to convert the Leica M9 files into NEFs.

Given a Nikon D3x NEF file (the template), and one file or a  directory containing Leica M9 DNG files, the tool will create  corresponding NEF files where the following are injected from the DNG file:
  • A JPG preview. This is created using dcraw that you need to have in the path.
  • The RAW data
  • Most of the EXIF parameters
  • The white balance values
The rest will be inherited from the template Nikon file, and that includes all proprietary camera settings and Capture NX controls. You can change the settings of the NEF template before running a conversion, and all newly created files will inherit them.

DNG files need to be OUT OF CAMERA v1.162 M9 firmware files and of UNCOMPRESSED RAW data. Your DNG files will never be modified as they are only read, but other versions may, and compressed files indeed will, not result in an usable NEF file.

Enjoy, and comments welcomed!

Monday, May 23, 2011

To throw a stone in one’s own garden

After a few attempts, we got the stone into the picture. At sunset, lighting the face, f/2 1/2000.

More jumping

New colours at home, more jumping to celebrate them.
Gridded beauty dish at camera right, fixed focused 90mm at f/5.6 and 1/125.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


This is not a photographic lens, it's a painting brush. I'm impressed by the quality of its rendering wide open, specially when compared with the hazy effects and spherical aberration of the Nikon 50mm f/1.2.

I am not convinced with the dull colours of the M9, but for low contrast and low light situations where the 0.95 shines, the lens is perfect.

Jumpin' Jack Flash

A couple of gridded flashes, both camera left and right, and a few tries jumping high, made the trick:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blue Singapore

This is the view from my hotel in Singapore, just minutes before the evening storm.

I took this pano with the 50mm, at f/4, 1/15s. I used the lens hood against the window glass as a cheapo VR mechanism.

Friday, April 1, 2011


I went to Shanghai last week, impressive and busy city. This view is from "The Bund", on the riverside.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pocket Wizards on the wild

I tested the Pocket Wizards on a harsh environment. This picture was taken with the good trusty ZF 35mm, circular polariser, camera in manual mode at f/8 1/250. Remote SB800 to camera left, CLS over the Pocket Wizards. The MiniTT1&FlexTT5 worked flawlessly, provided that I stayed below the 1/320 High Speed limit.

For guerilla shooting, I wanted to try these PWs and check their benefits over the Elinchrom Skyports I regularly use. So far, my conclusions on the PWs are as follows,
  • They work flawlessly providing CLS over radio up to 1/320.
  • They do not work for me shooting 14bit NEF files when going higher than 1/320
  • They do not provide a consistent HyperSync feature.
  • The FlexTT5 is too bulky to carry.
I think I'll revert to my manual and proven radio triggers, the Skyports, they are much smaller, and pretty predictable. The problem with HyperSync is about the consistency that one needs on the field, where I need to know how each link of the chain precisely works, see this discussion,

Note that for this particular picture, one could even fire at 1/400 with old fashion triggers, since banding would not affect the upper part of the body. The real issue is to have a consistent set of tools and know how to use them. In this case, my limit was the 1/320 speed limit imposed by the Pocket Wizards.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Early bird catches the bug

New Pocket Wizards for Nikon cameras, promising HyperSync up to 1/500 and High Speed over radio all the way to 1/8000 have been driving me crazy these days. No high speed at all on the D3x, as it can be seen on this video:

I discussed the issue here with no success,

I also raised a case with PocketWizard, and they have been responsive and fast in replying. At the end, it seems an awkward bug,

"We've just discovered a bug that can cause the issue you've described with a D3x, so I'd like you to take a look at the following settings and confirm if you're seeing the same issue.

First, are you shooting with the D3x set to capture in RAW format?
Second, in the "Camera" icon menu of the Camera's menus, under NEF (RAW) Recording, what is the bit depth set to?

We've found that when the bit-depth is set to 14-bit, it appears to throw off the timings used in High Speed Sync and would cause the exact symptoms that you've described. If you change the setting to 12-bit, everything will work as designed.

Let me know if changing the bit-depth setting gets HSS working properly for you."

14 bit raw is how I shoot, so there it is. I hope that they can fix this with a new firmware release. Kudos to their support staff, not that much to their testing team.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rock Drummer

Younger than Charlie Watts, stronger than John Bonham and with more rock&roll than Steve Ballmer, this promising all-terrain drummer was so kind to come to get portrayed for a company ad.

Elinchrom Quadra(s) with EzyBox 24" for the face, gridded for the sticks.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Muddy day

The dark and cloudy day allowed for f/5.6 - 1/60 in these pictures. Photek Softlighter to camera right, with the Elinchrom Quadra at nearly full power. ZF 50mm giving sharp and colourful pictures. For the last one, I resorted to f/4-1/125 as they moved away from the flash.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Handy Nikon CLS

I usually set the flash on manual mode. There are situations, mostly indoor, where you can resort to Nikon CLS. Over the sync speed, 1/250, and when using wide apertures are times where I resort to CLS.

For this picture, I set the remote SB-900 as a remote slave, directed to bounce on a curtain to camera left, f/2, and there you go.