Saturday, November 24, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Simple portrait

I think I nailed the Beauty Dish position in this portrait. I played in post with the white balance so to turn the grey background into this blue & cold light color.

Friday, November 2, 2012

North window ligh

A north-facing window is what we try to mimic when looking for flattering soft light. This portrait was at 180mm f/2.8, 1/60, window at camera left, reflector at camera right.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Horsepital Team

I had the pleasure to photograph these vets, old friends and the best of the breed. The key light is a gridded beauty dish at camera right, fill with the PLM at camera left for the lady.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

One light beauty session

This one with a socked beauty dish at camera left. I had a second flash to have the classic clamshell lighting, but it did not fire in this shot, which happened to be the best of the session. Simpler is better, that is.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Simple elegance

This portrait was done with a socked beauty dish as main light, at camera left, and a big umbrella behind the camera for fill. I love the result.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Repeating stats

As we end the summer, one thing about my picture worflow bothers me. I load the pictures from the memory card onto the computer, discard most of them, and renumber the keepers, one folder per year. It happens that my yearly folders have mostly the same number of files, irrespectively of the events of that year, summer closing in pic 1400, more or less.

Monday, July 30, 2012

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

It's been a little more than a year enjoying the LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH, and suffering the M9. The camera has been a pain with the SD card problems, a substantial part of the viewfinder blocked by the lens, but the lens, oh the lens, this lens compensates all pains.

Monday, June 25, 2012


This impressive mare is quite a character, with companion physical power. A black 6x3m muslin, a couple of Quadras with Ezyboxes in a cross manner, some patience, and we had the picture.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Apache, that is the name of this lovely pony, used to jumping, vaulting and now modelling with flashes.A PLM with a Quadra to camera right, ambient underexposed, and some filter testing in Photoshop.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Unicorns and fairies

This unicorn & companion fairy were so kind to stop by and let us snap a picture. The Quadra with a beauty dish high at camera left, and a couple of blue gelled sb-800s at both sides in low position. The smoke machine did the rest.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

DNG2NEF v3.0, more cameras supported, and a little fun with the M monochrom

DNG2NEF v3 adds support for more Leica cameras, in particular the M8,
M9 Monochrom and the S2.

Note: you need to have either Capture or View NX installed on the computer
where you plan to run DNG2NEF, otherwise the Nikon SDK libraries cannot 
be loaded.

Some notes, caveats and findings:


Leica M8

The M8 stores the raw in 8 bits per pixel, that need to be linearised
(expanded) to 14 bits to conform a valid NEF, so expect a size
increase when transforming your M8 files to NEF.

M8 sample files available at


Leica S2

Sample files are available at
No caveats with this model. I have not tested the latest camera firmware, should work fine.


M9 Monochrom

Sample files, thanks to Jonathan Slack, at
This is included only for fun and curious minds. Being the MM a
monochrome sensor, each pixel from this DNG files represents a grey
value, from black to white. The Bayer array of the color cameras, NEF
included, dedicate each pixel to read only Red, Green or Blue
values. For a better understanding, see the following diagram and
explanations, taken from the Leica website,

"With a full native resolution of 18 megapixels, the Leica M Monochrom
delivers 100% sharper images than with colour sensors. As its sensor
does not see colours, every pixel records true luminance values - as a
result, it delivers a true black-and-white image. The combination of
the brilliant imaging qualities of Leica M-Lenses and the image sensor
results in images with outstanding sharpness and natural brilliance. (sic)"

DNG2NEF does a raw copy of the binary sensor reading from the DNG to 
the NEF file. When doing this with a M9 Monochrom file, the result does
not need to have any sense, since we are attributing values to the RGB
pixels that come from monochrome readings. When Capture NX, or any RAW
developer program, reads this NEF, it will assume that it is a colour
picture and will proceed to the demosaicing and colour processing. What
weird colours is that rendering going to provide? Apples treated as

This is a jpg out from the DNG, Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CS5:

This is a jpg out from the aberrant NEF file with Capture NX.

Seems to be nice, how can it be? Is not that the real image?

We need to look at the histogram. In a B/W RGB image, the three
colours will show exactly the same histogram, as their common value
implies a combined grey value.

If we look at the RGB histogram of the MM/NEF file, we can see that it
is almost identical for the three channels:

My take? Since the MM pixel sensors are so close, and they read the
same spectrum, the reading of adjacent pixels is mostly the same in a
normal image, so when copied to the RGB NEF file, they are almost a
legit RGB monochrome file with the red/green/blue values nearly
identical, and then providing a credible picture. 

If we look the NEF at 100% in Capture NX, and the DNG as open in CS 5,
I can see a sharpness advantage to the DNG, on the pixel level, but
probably nothing spectacular if you look to the complete picture.

This curious rendering I think is just the effect of oversampling, so adjacent
monochrome pixels just happen to take the same reading.

The real value of such monochrome oversampling in normal pictures is what is
for me under question. If you want to measure the colour in a given point, there
you have all these tricks like the Bayer array, but to digitalize a B/W image is
much less demanding.

I have found some traces of colour in MM NEF files, see the DNG files
provided here,

Where there are high frequency and contrast areas, I can see a trace of colour,
which means that the adjacent monochrome pixels do not have the same value,
for example in the earrings of this lady. The first crop comes from the B/W tiff
out of the DNG, the second from the NEF. You really need a good sight to
perceive these colours.

Which camera can give you better B/W pictures, the M9, or the M9
monochrom? The MM will be a little sharper, and have better high ISO,
but the colour information carried on the M9 RGB Bayer array seems not
to fall 100% behind in sharpness, and will provide colour masking and
selection for better post-processing. En theory, a monochrome sensor may
be a good idea, but in practice I think it does not bring sufficient advantage
over a Bayer sensor of the same resolution.

Try for your self, and enjoy.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

a faster DNG2NEF

Last 4th of April, Nikon released their NEF SDK with support for
64bits, after their NX2 upgrade. Based on these libraries, and also
doing some further refinements, I am releasing a new and faster
DNG2NEF, version 2.64, for both Windows 7 64bit and Mac OSX Lion 10.7.

This version supports firmware 1.162, 1.174 and 1.176 of the M9, and
both versions 1.0 and 2.0 of the X1. It is a 64bit executable, and
twice as fast as the previous 32bit version.

There are a few parameters that you can modify when processing the
files. These are the "Conversion settings":
  • Skip existing, so no NEF with the same filename is rewritten if found at the target directory.
  • Strict Compat., controls the compatibility check of the camera firmware version. In case of a camera firmware update, DNG2NEF may still work, so leave this to "NO", and see what happens.
  • Color space, to set the desired color space for the NEF.
  • JPG divider, can divide the JPG preview by this factor, leading to slightly smaller files.
  • JPG quality, to determine the compression quality.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Looking forward, not through the lens, but through the viewfinder

Farewell to my D3x, and welcome to a new period of photo gear minimalism.

I will be using the M9 with the Voigtlander Nokton Aspherical 35mm f/1.2 Lens II and the LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH.

How long shall this take? Until NAS strikes me again.

These pictures taken yesterday with the 35mm:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Voigtlander Nokton Aspherical 35mm f/1.2 II

Availability and price suggested me to go for the Voigtlander Nokton Aspherical 35mm f/1.2 Lens II as my 35mm for the M9. I plan to use this combo for traveling, and I am quite satisfied with it.

The 35mm is very sharp wide open, great contrast, and I have not found a case with highly visible chromatic aberrations. Distortion is noticeable thought, but not too much. I always use the hood with all my lenses, and this one blocks the viewfinder more than I would like.

The 35mm focuses down to 50cm, way closer than the M9. My trick to nail the focus at 50cm is to extend my left hand, and my wrist watch will mark the 50cm distance.

The bokeh is nice and smooth, as you can see in these pictures. I'm happy with this lens.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jam session

We had a session yesterday at home, Mayte was the stylist and MUA, Ana brought Paulina the model, and all we worked together. All sorts of lighting, hard, soft, and lots of fun and learning for everyone.

Monday, March 5, 2012

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

I had a walk this Sunday at the great SF Golden Gate Park. This ship was ready to sail at the Spreckels Lake. Picture taken at f/0.95, with ND filter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New gal in town

We had this gal yesterday, everything quick and trouble free. She new about flashes even before about eating. Now doing very well, and asking for more pictures. 50mm f/1.4, 1/25 and bounced flash.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Little Red Riding Hood

Two crossed lights here, a gridded beauty dish at camera right for her, a gridded small reflector for the wolf at camera left. f/9, 1/250. I'm at the left of the frame, keeping the wolf's attention & remotely triggering the camera.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Corporate portrait

This young exec requested my services for a corporate portrait,

I used a couple of SB-800, at 1/4 of power. To subject right, and a little high so to feather it, a small Photek Softlighter II 36" umbrella. Behind the company logo, the second bare SB 800.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Going Yann Arthus-Bertrand

I love the work of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, his portraits of horses and cattle are amazing. Two softboxes and a backdrop proportional to the animal size is all you need.