It's close to midnight—I can't sleep so I'm writing. Besides, it's been awhile. 

This time two weeks ago I was running through Minneapolis Airport, desperately hoping to catch a connecting flight. We made it with minutes to spare. Over the next 4 days I'd be working on an amazing project, shooting constantly, filling my head with people and stories that would make my mind reel, leave me restless, drunk with memories.

I came back the following Tuesday to the last day of school, the outset of summer's vast and unnending freedom; a new book I'd ordered, waiting in its box; a tablefull of defered Father's Day gifts. All the habitual movements of the season, juggling jobs and kids and time. Life as we know it.

The stage is always the same, the actors are those we already know; and yet their faces keep changing, each one discretely fading into the next, the film unbroken and relentless. You've seen all of it before I know... but it is what it is.
New chapter. Same chapter.

Shot with the X-T1 and XF 35mm f1.4R

On a Tuesday

Shot with the X-T1 and Lensbaby Composer Pro + Sweet 35

Lightroom CC: Weird Math?

A slew of updates today from Adobe with the release of Adobe Creative Cloud 2015. I won’t dive into the tons of details many others out there will cover extensively, surely better than I ever could. But I do want to share something I realized this morning—by accident—that I believe may be useful to some of you: brush and filters behaviour.

With this update Lightroom gains the ability to make local adjustments to the white and black points—very useful and quite welcome. One of the things I loved about Aperture was that ANY adjustment could be transformed into a brush, so the more the better as far as I’m concerned. But as I was testing this I noticed there were inconsistencies in how brush values were applied, with the new brushes behaving even more strangely than the others.

Ok, I’m not an engineer so I may be way off on my technical explanation but basically, I’ve always understood that Lightroom adjustments work against each other—either additively or substractively— and if you add +50 exposure globally (using the Basic panel) and then brush in –50 exposure to a portion of the image, the effects will cancel themselves out giving you 0 exposure where you applied the brush. Makes sense right? You give with one hand and take with the other. And this I understood to be true for any localized adjustments including the grad or circular filters—which is why I found the new erase brush options useful but not earth shattering, since it was already possible to “erase” filter effects by doing what I described above and cancelling out those adjustments; it was just easier and more obvious to use an eraser—simpler is better.

But this morning my understanding of the way Lightroom calculates these changes has shifted, initially due to how dramatically the new Whites and Black brushes behave. My head is spinning a little so let’s make this visual… Three images from the XF 56mm APD campaign I worked on awhile back: on #1 exposure is at 0; on #2 I’ve boosted the global exposure to +85; on #3 I’ve added a circular filter with –85 exposure. Click for larger images.

You’ll notice the exposure within the circular filter on #3 is back to the value of #1—we’ve cancelled the exposure boost in that area by reducing it by the equal amount we had first added. Good.

Now let’s do this with shadows, same deal: #1 at 0, #2 at –100 and #3 at +100. This one is harder to see, look for the blacks in Frédérique's blouse.

Again, #1 and #3 are identical within the affected area. All is well in the world.

But when I use this method with the white and black points something very different happens: there’s no cancellation. Instead, the value set in the Basic panel becomes the baseline and the local adjustment is added after. Let's use the same process again: on #1 the Whites slider is at 0; on #2 the Whites slider is boosted globally at +52; on #3 we add the circular filter with Whites at –52. 

Do you see what I mean? The white point inside the filter on #3 is NOT back to the value of #1; it’s just using +52 as the baseline and “adding” –52… Essentially this is like starting with an overexposed JPEG file and trying to bring exposure down to recover highlights: it won’t happen because they’re blown and there’s no data to recover. Except in this case it’s a raw file and the overexposure only exists within my Lightroom adjustments. The data IS there.

This is getting a bit long but let’s do Blacks so we’ve covered all the bases: 0, –100 and +100. 

Ouch. Now we're in crazy-for-Cocoa-Puffs zone. Ok, I honestly thought this was a glitch with the Whites and Blacks adjustments and obviously to a certain extent it is. But let’s do Exposure again, this time with extreme negative values: 0, –4 and +4.

That’s not what I expected to see. It’s not as terrible as it is with the Whites and Blacks but this isn’t at all a return to the exposure value of #1. We’re seeing hot spots and colour shifting as well. 

Again, not an engineer or a programmer… But to me it seems the math is all over the place and nothing is behaving as expected. Of course life is never perfect and there may be no way to avoid this, I don’t know. In any case, I find it useful to know these things in order to better envision what can and cannot be achieved when processing files so I thought I’d share the tests with y’all. The general take away for me is this:

  • Be careful with extreme values. Not everything can be zeroed-out.
  • Know the limitations. Not everything is logical.
  • When using the new white and black adjustments locally it’s better to intensify than to recover. Also better to stay within minimal adjustment values given how they behave.


One more semi-related thing: if anyone knows how to change the black and white points using the new Tone Curve panel in Lightroom Mobile let me know. I’m talking about both ends of the curve here. Right now I’m looking at it and scratching my head… It IS possible right? Adobe didn’t seriously add a curve tool on which we can’t do this?


Yongnuo+X100T & Other News


This is not at all a review… More like a heads-up kinda deal. I’ve been using either Elinchrom strobes or my old Nikon speedlights ever since switching to Fujis a few years ago—which essentially means I never changed a thing from the way I worked on Nikons, apart from adding a Cactus V5 trigger kit to the system.

But the Cactus V5, while reliable enough, was always a bit of a PITA: no battery indicator, AAA batteries, no automatic shutdown, tiny tiny buttons with almost invisible markings (to these eyes anyway)… Most of these issues were fixed with the V6 version but just as I was getting ready to upgrade, my buddy Derek Clark decided to buy a Yongnuo kit and started gushing about it. So impressed in fact, that he sold ALL his Nikons speedlights and replaced them with several YN560 IVs and a YN560-TX controller. I haven’t sold my old SB–800s and 900s yet but man… These things are impressive, especially considering how little they cost. Actually that makes it sound like a compromise—it’s not.

I won’t go into guide numbers etc… Suffice it to say the YN560 IV has plenty of power for my use (if I need more I switch to big lights). Plus:

  • It’s built BETTER than the old SBs. I’m not kidding, the battery door alone is miles ahead; it may sound like a small detail but I always HATED that flimsy battery door on the SB–800/900. In fact I’ve had a broken one for years.
  • It’s a transceiver, so it can act as either a controller or a slave to other YN560s.

The YN560-TX controller is simple and pairs instantly with the YN560 IV (it was apparently more complicated with version III). Battery life so far has been very good and while there’s no TTL (not a problem for me), I finally regain on-camera control of both output and zoom. Bottom line: wow, this works. And the clincher is the price: $95 for the flash unit and $48 for the controller… CAD. Less than $150 for both? If I break anything I buy another and barely shed a tear. I purchased the Canon versions of both units and the kit works perfectly on the Fujis.

The images below were shot with the X100T— a flash monster like all cameras in the X100 series thanks to its leaf shutter. The outdoors images were taken in full afternoon sun at shutter speeds ranging from 1/500s to 1/1000s; indoors pics were well below normal sync speeds (1/60s to 1/160s) and I added a Honl grid to create a more controlled beam of light. All shot handheld—camera in one hand and flash in the other.

Before jumping to the images, a few more tidbits since it’s friday and I’m leaving next week:

  • Charlene Winfred has joined the KAGE COLLECTIVE, finally breaking our boys’ club. We’re very excited to have her onboard.
  • Vincent Baldensperger has another beautifully shot story on KAGE entitled De Camille à Amy…
  • I wrote an article for the great Fujilove online magazine. It’s called Agents of Change if you feel like checking it out.
  • I mentioned a few weeks ago that Fuji Tuesday was coming to Montreal. Well, I’ll be attending the kickoff gathering next Tuesday, June 16th. More info here.

As I just mentioned, I’m flying out to Spokane WA next week to shoot a project I’m very excited about. I’ll be there for several days so I’ll catch you all when I return.
Have a great weekend.

P.S Many thanks again to everyone who wrote in with words of encouragement for our mom. We've found a great place for her and she's finally leaving the hospital on Monday. A lot of challenges ahead for all of us but at least there's a return to calm and a hint of serenity in all of this.  

Shot with the X100T

Beyond the Thunderclouds

Shot with the X-T1 and Fujinon XF 35mm f1/4R