Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

10216 Lee Rd, Boynton Beach, FL – Palm Beach County, Florida
145,188-acre (587.55 km2) wildlife sanctuary

Loxahatchee includes the most northern remnant of the historic Everglades wetland ecosystem. Loxahatchee is exceptionally large and spread out with distinct areas. Open spaces, swamp like area, a wooded area, canals, and a boating dock. There is a boardwalk which goes over a wetlands forest / swamp with some birds hiding in the trees and the occasional snake or alligator in the water. The entire area is overly sensitive to the time of the year, for example in September – February (due to the rainy season) it is quite different than April – June. September – February there is lots of water, the swamp is full, the outer wetlands support more birds and other wildlife. Come June it is very dry there is no water at all in the swamp, and wetland flats are low. All wildlife is scarcer during these months.

Behind the Administrative Building is the swamp like area with a boardwalk.

Sun Breaking though
Boardwalk #1
Boardwalk #2

This area also offers some refuge from the sun.

After walking thru the boardwalk, and then crossing the Admin parking lot to the other side of the entrance road, you encounter another small parking lot. There are some trees with the occasional owls and other fine feather friends.

Swamp like area.
Great Blue Heron
Blue Jay

Now you go out and walk down a dirt path, with open spaces on both sides of the path. There is very little shade, so you want avoid the late June – end of September months especially in the mid day, as the light is harsh. The early morning and late afternoon does have a really nice golden hour. There are some photographers, and bird watchers there, not as crowded as Green Cay, or Wakodahatchee.

Observation Hut
Blue Heron

I didn’t see very many mammals, once I saw a raccoon, There are butterflies and some flowers.

Butterfly #2
Butterfly #5

If your were to stay on the entrance road and take it to the end, about 1 – 2 miles, there is the boat launch and the horizon is flat Everglades.

Boat Launch
Path and Canal
Flat Everglades.

All in all, this is a large spread-out area, it is nice to be in nature, for more information click Loxahatchee

Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Wakodahatchee Wetlands is in Delray Beach on Jog Road about two miles north of Andrews Blvd. It is 50 acres of undeveloped land.  The Park was created in 1996 on 50 acres (20 ha) of unused utility land and transformed into a recreation wetland open to the public. With a three-quarter mile boardwalk that crosses between open water pond areas, emergent marsh areas, shallow shelves, and islands with shrubs and snags to foster nesting and roosting. Each day, the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department’s Southern Region Water Reclamation Facility pumps approximately two million gallons of 90% treated water into the Wakodahatchee Wetlands. This water, which is free of organic contaminants but still contains excess mineral content, is naturally purified by the plants and algae in the wetlands, then released into the surface water supply

It is home to many water birds, passerines, an occasional raptor, iguanas, snakes, and several alligators. It is setup, board walk style where you are above the water by about 4 – 5 feet (so no need to worry about alligators or snakes). It is good to get there early as with most places, that is the best light, mid-day is a much harsher light.

You can see the walkway on the left of the image below. Those are two herons flying on the upper left side of the image.

It appears that Wood Stocks have decided this is their home and they are certainly making themselves comfortable.

Majestic in the air.

Standing on the railing

Home improvements

A young hatchling

As noted there many, species of birds, coexisting, here are several,


A Great Blue Heron Dancing

And the occasional snake,

There are islands in the water where most of the bird’s nest, you can see them building their nests, or laying the eggs, or see the hatching depending on the time or year. Early spring though June is good time for the hatchings.

It’s a great reason to be outdoors, especially this time of year, the heat is not oppressive.

A Road Trip

I took a road trip with my son Efram, he had a task to do in the northeast corner of Tennessee, outside of Johnson City. We drove up from Florida which takes forever to get out of, through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, to Tennessee. In Georgia we stopped in Savannah.

Savannah was pretty, having a waterfront and a long line of adjacent parks. It was quite beautiful and touristy but not in a Saint Augustine sort of way, Savannah is more authentic.

This is the old Cotton Exchange, down by the waterfront – The Building was completed in 1880.
This is the Gold Dome from Savannah City Hall
This is a Monument to Hatian Solders, that came to Savannah to fight for American Independence in the Revolutionary War

After Savannah we drove up to Asheville through South Carolina, we stayed basically on the main highways.

Story will be below.

In Asheville we got something to eat, outdoors. Asheville was interesting , but due to the weather quite dreary, although has this fantastic reputation of being an Avant-garde city. We did not really go exploring and then we drove up through North Carolina.

This ramp had been recently used, Some of the inclines / decline were above 10% and long

One knows when one is in North Carolina as the scenery changes , more mountainous and and we did stop at a scenic viewpoint along the highway with was very pretty in North Carolina. South Carolina, the part we were in (Charleston is the next trip) was not nearly as pretty but did have more of a rural personality.

US 26
Off US 26

We then hit Tennessee on the way we stopped at a welcome center, still very pretty in the mountains.

That night we slept in Johnson City now and Efram went to his appointment. I stayed in the hotel, an Embassy Suites something like that. I just walked around and visited the local liquor store, which there are apparently many in Tennessee and bought a bottle of Kentucky bourbon in Tennessee, and as an aside, it is cheaper at Total Wine here in Miami.

Now –story within a story – or a segue – then a revert to the trip.

On the way up, in South Carolina, we saw as we were driving (obviously North) and on the of West side of the road, we saw, in rolling hills a Valley. There was a deserted cabin and these mounds around it smack dab in the middle this Dell. It was a good time in the afternoon, with the sun descending, there was a softer, directional light, with the cabin in the center, and these small mounds of grass, with the light reflecting off. We made a U-turn.

Up until now, I was just going out with the Leica camera SL2, just shooting things at random. It is a fantastic camera, the in-body stabilization is incredible. I, mean for me I can shoot at 1/15th of a second. I don’t usually intend to, but I do default to an aperture priority and they come out textbook sharp. Now as this was a real photo opportunity, we decided that let’s take out the tech camera. We popped open the back of the car, took out the tripod checked the cameras.   As I started walking, there was this terrible underbrush, it was exceptionally low, I would say not more than between 6 inches and maybe foot and a half to two feet. Just to give this real meaning, we are talking like from your ankles to your knees and this is especially important because, they were the sharpest thorns of everything I’ve ever experienced, I mean it was just like walking through , a field of razors blades.  Of course, I was wearing shorts, and not high socks. I had lots of cuts on my legs, you need to remember to pack Neosporin.

It was nice getting reacquainted with tech camera, and the 32mm lens, a 20mm in 35-millimeter terms. It has such a fantastic dynamic range, otherwise I might have had to use a Graduated Neutral Density filter for the Sky.

We moved the tripod to different angles, to get different perspectives, and framing, trying to best capture what I was seeing, the cabin, in the center of the small valley with light, coming in from the side also secondarily, the mounds, to the right and front reflecting the light and having a real nice shadow.  Both sides framed by shadow, and an intricate soft sky that was not overpowering and not plain. I also shot the Leica, with zoom at different focal lengths. Looking through a viewfinder, especially a zoom, is a great aid in seeing the print.

An example of this is when looking through the 24- 90, it became much more apparent, that there were these two converging lines in the front, aiming at the at the cabin, and there was light on either side of the front mound in this patch of vegetation. This was nice. I did not pick it up on the with the 32 on the tech. I also decided at the time – this shot with Leica would be converted into B&W.

Repeating the image above, to compare to the B&W.  I think I have two different images, both of which I like.

Taken with Phase XT / IQ4150 / Rodenstock 32mm
Taken with Leica SL2 / 24-90mm @ 90mm

The story within a story is over – Back to the trip

Efram came back to the hotel, he had accomplished what he came for. With no further obligations other than to go home, we decided that we would take the back roads.

In this case a two-lane blacktop highway, through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. We started driving south, Tennessee is beautiful in that part of the state. We had a nice conversation with a local guy, when we stopped to take a couple of shots.  Comes to your attention very quickly that there lots of churches, it would be an understatement, that most of the buildings that are not houses, are churches. and then of course as you go further south into South Carolina, Georgia I think they are now competing with Dollar General.

Advertising on a Corner

Oh – While I was out of the car to take the previous image, Efram was parked in this Church Parking lot.

Tennessee Church

As were driving out Tennessee, we drove along the Nolichucky River and we stopped now and again, to get some shots, using only 35mm cameras.

River Bank

The drive through Tennessee into South Carolina, is extremely rural, nothing jumped out at me as really photogenic because I wasn’t looking at this as it was a documentary, although if I make the trip again, I would probably take some pictures of what I was saw. It was all very rural homes, no commercial anything and no grocery stores or no gas stations other than the image below. Occasionally you would see a house and it would have a lot of automobiles there, it was either a used car lot, a mechanic shop or, a roadhouse, otherwise in we saw nothing else. We were on the Old Asheville Highway.

Old General Store with Gas Pump

Other than that, it was just houses, and a lot of these houses are very rural, they are not vacation homes, people are living there, some large double wide trailers now on cinderblocks, some of them had chimneys, brick chimneys that they have added on to the side. I spoke to a friend of mine is from that area, I brought this up to him, he told me that many of the people who lived there, worked in the textile industry in the 70s -80s, that three to four women would carpool, three or more hours to the factory, alas the textile industry is long gone. They just did that, their way of life. The only other I could think of, possible people are pensioned, could be veterans from the Armed Forces.

We continued, and stopped and took these images, entering Georgia.

The Hartwell Dam is on the Savannah River at the border of South Carolina with Georgia, creating Lake Hartwell. The dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1955 and 1962 for the purposes of flood control (Wikipedia).

Hartwell Dam

Efram made this trip several times, and he would tell me about this church in Georgia that was built in 1888 by freed slaves, this is where were headed.

We took Highway 78, the landscape looked like this.

Sheep in a Field

Also, while it is not something you expect, along the way there was a memorial to a battle in the American War of Independence, The “Battle of Kettle Creek” February 14th, 1779. This was not fought against the “Red Coats” but between future Americans, colonists against colonists, ones loyal to the Crown, ones in favor of independence.

Memorial to Patriots
These are graves of some of the soldiers, many buried when they died after the battle

Along the way as we moved to State road 22, we stop for a break. Took these shots.

House along the way
Abandoned House
Abandoned Shed

Sure, enough we got to this church, wood frame church sitting on cinderblocks and it is called the Antioch Baptist Church. We stopped and looked at it, took a walk around it to get a feel of where we were. The graveyard off to the side, then walked up the four steps maybe five and walked in, it was empty, completely empty. It was not in disarray it was just like everybody went home for lunch. More so because, as we went to up to the altar, there was a table in front of it with a plate and there was money in it that people had left; apparently as a donation to the church, so they felt secure. Bible was open on the pulpit to Psalms 22:17. After our walk around, got out the tech camera of course, so now I am walking around with the tech camera and getting it from different angles and trying to you know, get it interesting angles, that are not calendar shots. Trying different lenses on the tech camera I was incredibly happy, took a couple shots with the Leica and couple of shots with the M10M.

The Entrance
The Side
Grave Yard
Upon Entering
From Pulpit
The Piano, how many songs were sung?
Tombstone of Member

I think Rev Dardem was the Reverend of the church before he died. It is the oldest legible tombstone there
The inscription on the bottom  says  
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith 
2 Timothy 4:7-9 King James Version (KJV) 7

It was really moving; as you get lost in the technical aspect of what you’re doing, but you know you step back, a second you look at what you’re doing and you imagine what it was like for the people that founded this church in 1888. I know a little about history and I know that life was precarious, sometimes more so than others, and think this is one of those times it probably more so than others, yet they found churches particularly important to them – to have a community church of their own. That the church is still standing today, they do a few services there on occasion, so you had that feeling.

So, you certainly wanted to do justice to this, just was not going to be an abstract idea, this is going to be where you took at your images, and you hoped that you did a good enough job. You want people to look at what they are seeing and realize that they are looking at something that is alive but it’s very it’s old. Yes, these are okay.

From there we drove to another small wood frame Church. The Powelton Methodist Church, circa 1830, Hancock County, Ga We did spend as much time; we did not take out the tech camera. We did not go inside as it was locked. we took a couple shots of the outside and some of the gravestones.

Powelton Methodist Church

We went on to the former capital of Georgia, Milledgeville. As I said, Efram had done this trip several times, and he has a penchant for exploring and is a is a very very good photographer, in addition to excellent scientific work categorizing and doing macro shots of wasp but I digress.

Milledgeville had the largest Mental Hospital in the world founded, in 1842, with 13,000 patients at its peak in 1959, and still today there are about 200 patients, who knows what was going on in Russia at the time, they generally had a tendency to do things on large-scale, but this was the largest insane asylum prison complex in the world.  I mean it was just overwhelming. It is all abandoned, we were in the car, driving over its grounds, that it was just took your breath away. Is interesting, because the buildings are built at different times and I do not mean times looking at your watch, I mean like times like looking at quarter centuries.

So, there is many different styles of architecture many are 5 and 6 stories and built in classical styles, mainly brick building, and very nicely done, like university buildings. I was just overwhelmed; I could not conceive what I was looking at it. All the buildings had no trespassing signs, there were no people there at all, saw no human beings, several trips ago Efram went into a couple of buildings, crawling in thru a broken door, and did get some shots, but we did not do this time as it was getting late, we did go into the old boiler building, which was totally in disarray.  We also weighted up our options, two white boys from Florida with expensive camera gear. So, in the interest of being more prudent than you were say, when you were you know 19, 20 years old driving around with your buddy, and you just had a couple sixpacks in the backseat, we pass on B&E. But not completely, we went into the old boiler building.

We walked and drove around; it was like we were in Rod Serling movie. The Twilight Zone, used to have a reoccurring theme that; somebody after a war they would slide through into a different dimension or something like that they’d be in one of any town USA, it would look like a Sunday morning at Easter — time no people.  This what this is what it was like, we did not see any security, we did not see any people and it just went on and on and there were houses there for the groundskeepers there we saw a couple people walking about. My problem is just absorbing all this, not even being prepared for what Efram explained. My problem was that I could not see the forest for the trees I mean everywhere I looked I saw this and that, this is hard to get your arms around the whole thing what you are seeing but I got it. I have a plan for next time.

A Mess inside the Boiler Room #1
Apparently they used Tube Boilers #2
Controls #3
Boiler Room #4
Boiler Room #4
Overgrown Rail supports to bring coal to the boilers
Overgrown Workshop
Main Sanatorium in the Background
Self Explanatory
Abandoned Grounds Keeper House

Have some ideas of how to shoot there, when I go back. I am looking forward to it very much.

That night we slept in Macon we got some carryout from a famous hamburger place and went back to the hotel and next morning got up and we drove to Savannah. Macon is a quite nice little town, the only thing I knew about Macon was one time it was Lester Maddox that made Macon famous, infamous might be the correct word. In Macon they do have Little Richard Boulevard

I got say that all the people ran into even when we made a couple of stops, on the side of the road. In some of the real small places we stopped, and nobody was wearing a mask, but we were wearing masks, nobody said anything derogatory or anything, so it was okay, I mean with Florida plates on the car you it was pretty easy-going, so we got to Savannah the next morning and walked around now we stayed there a couple of three hours.

It was just a lot of driving, but it was genuinely nice, and we had a great adventure. Covid truthfully for us, was just of an inconvenience, we didn’t eat in restaurants, we were always outside or had carryout. Hotel rooms we stayed were basically mid- tier from the Marriott chain. All hotel rooms took precautions a couple of them even had seals on the doors that they were sanitized. Everybody was nice and conversational again, it was was a great trip next time we will go to Charleston, I certainly want to go around Georgia. I really do like North Georgia and would love to spend a couple of three days to driving about. Got some plans, and hope they come to fruition. Finished

Haulover Park off Collins in Miami Beach

This is a Marina, and local fishing leaves from here, for half and full day fishing excursions.  The first bird you will see is a Brown Pelican, between December and April more or less, as they are migratory. I did see a Frigate bird, and a variety of Seagulls. Basically, you are going there because of the pelicans and as I, mentioned in an earlier post, I had a commitment to capture images of pelicans. It is not by chance we have fishing excursions and pelicans at the same place. Pelicans are patient birds, as they wait for the return of the boats, with their tourists, locals, and of course fish. They return occurs at noon, and five o’clock early evening. The boats generally go out 18 miles offshore, to arrive where the gulf stream is, as there are abundant fish riding the stream. This is the same Gulfstream that keeps the British Isles warm in the winter.

Main Building, first thing you see, – Turn Left.
The Docks

A couple of fun facts

  1. Pelicans incubate their eggs with their webbed feet – they stand on the eggs.
  2. Brown Pelicans can live to be 40+ years.

As the boats return, full of satisfied customers, with their “catch”, most of the people, which usually are locals, want their fish cleaned, as most Americans do not usually make fish head soup. So, the Skipper, and his mate, gut and clean the catch, tossing the innards, and head and sometimes skins, to our waiting friends, – the brown pelicans.

Waiting for Lunch
Portrait #1
Portrait #2
Portrait #3

There will be other Pelican in the Portfolio under Wildlife/ Birds/Waterbirds,

Also We will have some images from White Pelicans, in the Merritt Island post (yet to come)

The might a short detour as I took a road trip with my son and will post some of those images. Thanks

A New Path

I have been back in Miami, Florida almost five years. During this time, my son kept telling me, take up bird photography.  Over the years we have gone birding at Vieira Wetlands several times, close to where he was going to School. Vieira Wetlands is about 3 hours north of Miami. After procrastinating, I decided to “shoot where we are” and give it a try. So, from my son’s encouragement coupled with a dear friend asking me for images of pelicans (one of my favorites), here is diary of sorts, from my new path of shooting, “birding” and practicing.

I reviewed my equipment of which I have too much, and as it turns out, had what I needed, Canon 100-400 (which I upgraded to a Canon 100-500mm RF) and a Canon 5drs (which I upgraded to a Canon R5). Also, a Leica SL2 and the 24-90mm.

So, I go out now once a week to one of the numerous wetlands within a 2-hour radius, with two cameras with their respective lens. The Leica is generally used for landscapes and sometimes for “portraits”. I keep a B+W HTC polarizer on the Leica, as with the fantastic In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), I can afford to give up one stop and still shoot at a 50 or 100 iso, for nice clean shots and the maximum dynamic range. Keep in mind South Florida has great sunshine and BLUE skies, with unusually great clouds. Wetlands have water; a polarizer makes a lot of sense, to minimize the specular reflections off the water and enhance some colors.

The Canon I use with the bare lens, as I need that stop, usually trying to keep the iso below 1000 and for birds in flight a shutter speed of 2500, or 3200. The f stop is dictated by these two primary factors, the lens has a variable maximum f stop dependent on the focal length of 4.5 – 7.1. The camera tracks beautifully, and image quality is great, the IBIS works great in conjunction with the native lens. I set the camera up for tracking and still shots and is always on manual exposure. What must be kept in mind is that you need to expose for the shadows and sometimes for the highlights, of the subject you want to isolate.. This helps in three ways, the complexity of the color in the bird’s body, when that color is dark, or silhouetted against a bright sky, and lastly, there is nothing worse than blowing out the beautiful delicate white feathers on a wood stock, egret, or pelican. Hence no polarizer.

Bears mentioning at this point, there are many times, I have plugged shadows and blown highlights on the same bird. Even with image shot form 25 feet away. Sooo, this is where iso means more than just noise. On the Canon, which is usually set to iso 1000, (this gives an acceptably clean image, allowing a higher shutter speed etc.). The dynamic rage of the Canon at iso 100 = 11.25 stops, vs iso 1000   = 8.8 stops (about 75% or in other terms, the best dynamic rage of the best digital camera in 2005) So, less detail at the extreme ends of the exposure. The more dynamic range: the more detail in the extreme highlights and the extreme shadows, just something to consider.

I must say, practice, practice, practice! You must feel comfortable with your equipment. Practice in photography is just as important as golfing or playing tennis 2-3 times a week, also instruction and tips as the aforementioned, is also key to improving, practicing badly makes you really good at being bad.

Also, birds are cool, and it is nice being outside this time of year in South Florida and it is quiet, also birds do not threaten you when take the image, which is endemic to the people in South Florida. It is interesting when you really look at birds, the colors and shapes, also they are old, as in dinosaur old.

So, this is the Preface to this journey, we will learn about the different wetlands and discover different birds, which so far include.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands  Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge  
Green Cay Wetlands  Wellington Environmental Preserve  
Loop Road  Ritch Grissom Viera Wetland  
Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary  Loxahatchee Wetlands  
Peaceful Waters  Harold Campbell Day Use Area  
Key Biscayne  Rookery Davie  
Reynolds Park  Beaches in South Miami  

A Story of an Image, A Ramble, A Metaphor — a Three for One

In this time of pandemic and heat. Lives and habits change. Some mandated for the health of yourself and others, some as a personal reaction to the situation as a whole. 

Many times we find our social interaction through phone conversations and keep busy by organizing and dealing with our stuff. As a part of this, I know I have been reflecting on many things, my life, my career (which I have retired from) and also on my photography. 

Improvement is a basic tenant of life, and what better vehicle than images, as they are not only tangible and malleable, but also subjective. 

To move on in this subject, this came together, people, past images, and the need to improve. The people are Rod and Lonna Klukas, two exceptionally fine individuals who happen to have a wealth of information, talent, charity, and most importantly a practical experience of life. I am proud to call them my friends. 

Now as I promised, to move on. Here is an image I shot in 2014, it was shot walking the lanes in Shanghai with my partner in crime Pat Belson, whom I went exploring and shooting the streets of Shanghai at least once a week for 5 years. I used a Canon 5D Mark III and a recently purchased Zeiss 58mm Biogen. Below is the RAW file with without adjustments

I ended up converting it to black and white, as at the time as I certainly thought the capture was saying something. I just felt B&W expressed the feeling more and, that color did not really bring anything to the image. If you have walked the lanes of Shanghai, B&W is a natural. 

I had just gotten a new preset from Mastin Labs as, Lonna recommended it and Lonna is not a frivolous person, when she says something- you listen. So, by chance I went back to this image and I worked on it and felt it certainly worked in color. I sent it to Lonna and received a series of comments and refinements, i.e. move this slider 3 more points and another four points and reduce another one 3 points – well in my opinion that made a world of difference!! 

So in the end, is it better than the B&W? That is the first question that comes up. Bad and unfair question BUT for sure, it is this is great example of “The negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score, and the print the performance.” – Ansel Adams

I am incredibly happy with the results and would add, in this time of millions of opinions, and thousands of experts, it is better to step back – away sometimes, and appreciate the important things, family, friends, art, and basic humanity. Do something nice.

Time on my hands

Since our last project of focus stacking, the next logical question was why you don’t shoot at the smallest aperture to have the greatest depth of field, consequently, not needing multiple captures or even getting by with only one.  Good question, with a one word answer – diffraction. The tradeoff with a small aperture to get the maximum depth of field, apart from slower shutter speed is loss of image quality caused by diffraction.

Diffraction affects the entire frame equally, most noticeable, in the loss of fine detail. In simple layman’s terms, light travels in rays. As it enters and leaves the lens, with a large aperture opening, the rays pass fairly unmolested, with only a small percentage of the rays touching the edges of the aperture, compared to the total amount of light rays, on the journey to the capture plane (sensor or film).  As the aperture is closed down the light rays pass through the smaller opening and a higher percentage are disrupted by the edges of the smaller aperture, this disrupts the path of a higher percentage of light rays and degrades the image at the capture plane. So knowing this begs several questions which I have listed below.

  1. Q – Are the edges of the image more affected than the center?  A– No the entire image circle is uniformly affected.
  2. Q– Is diffraction affected by subject distance to the capture plane?  A– No, it makes no difference if you are shooting at infinity or close up. Lens itself might
  3. Q – So why are lens “offering” an f22 or f32 (in 35mm format)?  A– Well because they can, and with film you can and could stop down further than with digital. And today’s lenses are children of our film lenses. More seriously, depending on what you are shooting, fine detail might need to be sacrificed for depth of field, think clouds, the sea, reportage, small print, or screen reproduction, to name a few examples.  The more you close down your aperture the smaller your best quality maximum final print size will be.
  4. Q– Is the inverse true, a large aperture giving you the sharpest image, most fine detail?  A – The short answer is no. Most lens makers have their own proprietary philosophy on lens design, but it is safe to say that usually about 2 – 3 stops from maximum aperture you are hitting the “sweet spot” for finest detail and “normal” depth of field, depending on the distance to the subject. Should a lens be optimized for sharp detail at maximum opening of the aperture, it surely is advertised that way, that is generally not the norm in common lenses.
  5. Q – Is a five blade aperture more disruptive than an eleven blade aperture?  A – Yes the 5 blade will cause more issues. The five blade aperture will yield a pentagonal aperture with ’corners’. These corners where the blades join cause distortion, when stopped way down, so F16 or F22, can actually produce a star effect.

It should be kept in mind that light rays are bent whenever they hit any object. Also, once diffraction starts to have a negative affect after leaving the “sweet spot”, as the aperture gets smaller, it basically falls off a cliff, the percentage of light getting though the smaller aperture and amount that is being “disrupted” goes up exponentially. There other factors which can mitigate or factor into the amount of diffraction, such as the pixel type and size, film grain size, size of capture plane, which present themselves in the Airy Disc formula, but diffraction cannot be avoided and should always be considered.

So what I did with time on my hands and also curiosity, was test two lenses (a 40mm Rodenstock and Schneider 60XL) on a Cambo technical camera – both stellar lenses.  I used two Phase One IQ4150 backs, the regular color back and the Achromatic. I was looking for the sweet spot on each lens. Also I was curious because one, the Rodenstock, is a retro focus design lens, and the Schneider is a traditional design where the nodal point is close to the middle of the lens. Note also, one back was a normal color back with a hot filter, and color filter of Bayer array design, while the achromatic back had no Bayer array. I was wondering if the Bayer array gets more confused by the scattering of the light, compared to not having one. Also the IQ 4150 is a backlit sensor, meaning the front side which captures the light is less cluttered with circuitry, this is a good thing and a vast improvement over previous Phase One sensors, not just in resolution, but in color cast, and light fall off. It is a fantastic Medium Format back and has the ability to go on a SLR, a technical camera, a studio camera or a field camera.

So anyway these are the results, both back backs were shot at their base iso and on a tripod.

If you are after all the nuances afforded using a fantastic back like the Phase One IQ4150 and these fantastic lenses, with a tech camera, I would definitely tell you to keep your aperture within the range noted in the table.  As noted if you are using any camera where you can adjust the aperture, diffraction is always lurking.

I personally find that thinking about the physics and chemistry behind photography; stimulates the creative side of image making.

RailRoad Tracks

OK this is how it started. I decided to start a six month project to only shoot black and white. So when walking around with the little Leica MM looking for something to photograph, I saw some railroad tracks. Carefully walking along the tracks I found a spot I liked and put the camera on top of the tracks and shot several frames. When I got home I reviewed the shots on the computer and liked the perspective, of the converging lines going off in the low horizon.

I sent the shots out to see what others, people with better photographic knowledge than me, thought and many commented positively in the main, but with one reoccurring point, they didn’t like the out of focus foreground. This didn’t bother me as much as it did others. Cropping was suggested as a fix, but I’m not sure it works here, as the distance perspective is lost, I think.


Sometime later, I came across another set of railroad tracks, and took a couple of shots, this time on one knee, to get the  tracks curving at the vanishing point, which I thought was sorta interesting, conscious to get the foreground more in focus.

On my walk back home I decided to:

  1. Shoot with the Leica MM with a variety of lenses. With the ultra-wide 12mm, then progressively move up to 21mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, and finally with the 75mm.  I would also shoot with a Phase One XT with a 32mm
  2. Focus stack the shots to keep everything sharp using an aperture around f8 on the Leica and F6.3 on the Phase.
  3. Shoot at 3 different heights: on the rail, 18 inches above and four feet high.
  4. Shoot all on tripod with cable release.

Other factors that one would need to be mindful of, that photographing anywhere in Miami in an unshaded area is going to be hot, so need to keep equipment shaded and cool.  Also hydrate!  The other, perhaps more pressing problem, was that these are “live tracks” used daily by South Florida Freight Line, Bright Line Passenger, and Amtrak.  So this is my disclaimer – shooting on “Live Tracks” is not recommended, especially with a heavy bag full of lenses and Tripod and tripod extension.  This could be considered a ‘fool’s errand’, because no way can you get something in focus that is up against the camera!

Anyway, this is what the different heights look like starting from the camera on the tracks (really about 2 inches above, since these were stacked it had to be on a tripod arm). Next, is on a tripod about 18 inches above the railroad track, and finally 4 feet above the track. Remember we are talking about the top of the track, not on the ballast gravel.

Next this was shot with different focal lengths, from a 12mm Voigtlander, through to Leica 21, 28, 35, 50 and also a 75mm. Personally I find myself going wide more often than not. Especially now that we have high megapixel cameras, cropping is a real option. Also the Phase One XT with an achromatic back, and the 32 mm lens which in 35mm format is about a 23mm perspective. Where needed I resized the 32mm to same format as 21mm in 35 mm equivalent.

So what did we learn from all this?  At the very least I became acquainted with focus stacking, using Helicon Focus, and was reacquainted with discipline (in my case, always needed practice).

If I could get permission from higher beings, I would try and go back and shoot with the Cambo and 40mm, which has tilt, but I don’t expect a big change in the framing, as it wouldn’t be possible to use more than one degree of tilt, and even with the possibility of rise and fall there is not going to be a lot of options there.  Maybe using the Arca Swiss field camera and using back and front movements, there could be some improvement, at the least fun and a learning experience. But I would need a couple of things: like Phase One to give us back Capture Pilot, because there is no way I am taking a lap top out on to the track, and oh yes, a train schedule would be very helpful!

Here are three shots I like from the series.

This is a Cropped Infrared shot with the Phase One XT with the achromatic back and the 32mm lens. It is the hook at the vanishing point that is important to me. The Crop gives it the vastness going into infirmity or somewhere close, It is not here.

Straight Stacked Shot from tripod at 4 feet above ground. XT/32mm

Shot with the Leica MM and the 21mm, late in the afternoon I like the 10 or so triangles aiming at the distance.

And the one that started it all

Shot with a Leica MM and a 35mm – Toned

Feel free to comment or ask questions,

Thanks for looking

First Post

As anyone can see, looking at my web site (, there could be a lot of stuff, which is debatable. Anyway, I am going to add a new section, Black and White, While there are quite a few Black and White images there already, the vast majority are converted from color. The new section will contain images shot only with a Phase One Achromatic back and a Leica monochrom. Some off them we can discuss here or in the comments section of

The difference between converted color and monochome, without getting too technical, is you have much more subtle and smother graduations of tone with a monochrome only sensor. I will still convert when I feel it is appropriate. Color is good; there are so many really good color images out there.

I want to say right now, this is not a zero sum game. While you have a binary choice, B&W or color, and while one genre might tip one way or the other. Images are good, how you arrive there, is not the most important aspect. First you see, and then you feel.

 What appeals to me shooting monochrome, is that you look at things differently, you look for the light. It’s like shooting at night; you are attracted to the light, like a moth. Also I think it’s interesting to set the mood, and timelessness of a B&W image. Much easier to let the mind wander. Like watching an old Hitchcock, The Thin Man, Marx Brothers, Fred Astaire or Orson Wells movie. There is a certain nostalgia and timelessness.  I would assume those of us; of a certain age grew up with B&W TV, B&W magazines, News Reels, and of course our introduction to photography. Also must be said, looking at family photos from our parents.

So without further ado, we are off on a new capture.