Noir Shot on iPhone 6 Plus

I have been using my iPhone as an image planning and visual note taking tool for the last six years or so. Actually this was the motivation behind developing the Mark II Artist’s Viewfinder (and its predecessor) app.

The Mark II introduced a feature that allows to save full resolution images along the simulations. I’ve added this as the cameras of the iPhones started to produce really usable images, and sometimes I would love to have a clean, frame line free, full resolution image from the iPhone, not just the screen-sized one. Yes, some shots turned out so good that I missed the opportunity to actually use them as real photographs. And I totally unconsciously started to use the iPhone as a real camera…

My Hometown at Night

My Hometown at Night

The above photograph marks the time when my iPhoneography started to be a conscious act. I had some time to kill before a dinner with a friend, but I just had the iPhone with me. No real camera, no chance to get the same light and reflections next time. So I tried my best to make images with the phone. And they turned out to be pretty good.

Side note: my hometown is Sátoraljaújhely, and no, it’s not as hard to pronounce as Eyjafjallajökull – or is it?

This time I shot everything in color – just because the Mark II saves color images. Another month had to pass until I found the Noir style in Photos, and a simple affair turned out to be a lasting relationship.

Lake Tisza Off-Season

Lake Tisza Off-Season

That affair was a cold, windy, overcast day, when I stopped by Lake Tisza just to look around. It was well before the summer season, the port still closed. I was sitting in the car, enjoying a very fine ice cream (yes I like ice cream even during the winter), and playing with the concept images shot a few minutes before. The result is what you see above.

Since then I’ve revisited a bunch of my former iPhone images (such as my hometown image), and converted them to black and white.

Thin Forest in the Matra

Thin Forest in the Matra

Of course one won’t print larger than A4 from these files, as at pixel level they are light years away from the image quality my DSLRs are capable of. But at small sizes, especially around A5 (think iPad mini screen size) they look wonderful.

Now I’m on the quest for a good presentation, and trying a couple of different printing methods. More on the results later.

Pier, Lake Tisza

Pier, Lake Tisza

And along with the output experiments, I’m looking into ways to improve the quality of captured images. There are tons of JPEG compression artifacts to overcome, and also the Noir style can be a very blunt tool.

But no, I’m not looking into existing apps to solve these problems, as I find this subject very exciting both as a software engineer and as a photographer. So don’t be surprised if I come out with a pro level iPhoneography app sooner or later. But at the moment just treat it as a rumor :)

Eclipse Through the Clouds

When I was a kid, I had a dream of viewing the night sky through a telescope operated from the warmth of my room. Now I’m not doing just that, but also capturing the images of the current lunar eclipse.

Unfortunately clouds are eclipsing the eclipse… But this resulted in a rather unusual image of the partially eclipsed moon seen through the moving layer of clouds.

Eclipse Through the Clouds

Eclipse Through the Clouds

The Canon 5DS R with my 500mm f/4L IS II lens sits atop an Astrotrac in lunar tracking mode. The above image was exposed for 15 seconds at ISO 1600. The camera is controlled with my Kuuvik Capture app.

And still waiting for the clouds to part…

Update: they finally did part! Seeing is still less than favorable, but fortunately the camera captures more light than my eyes.

Blood Super Moon

Blood Super Moon

After shooting from the balcony, we headed out with my better half to the local cemetery. Yes, you read that correctly… Some may find shooting blood moon during the night in a cemetery somewhat intimidating… I had a specific image in mind, and although was not able to photograph that, the following image is a great one to close this eclipse session.

Eclipse Ends at Dawn

Eclipse Ends at Dawn

The next time a total lunar eclipse will coincide with a super moon will be in 2033, but don’t worry, there will be three total eclipses during 2018/2019.

Building the Nest

This is one of my favorite images from this year’s late spring purple heron season. A sneak peek into the home of the herons.

Building the Nest

Building the Nest

Shot through dense reeds in the burning late afternoon light, it was an amazing performance from the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and the 500/4 IS II lens.

I had to manually pre-focus and used spot AF to get the sharpest image possible. Of course the few meters thick reed wall took its toll on resolution, but despite this I’m very satisfied with the results. The color rendering of this lens is simply stunning.

Kuuvik Capture 2.1 Released

Version 2.1 of Kuuvik Capture is now available on the Mac App Store. This update brings a handful of new features and a few fixes. Let’s start with the new features.

kc21prefsFirst, a new preference is added to control whether the camera’s LCD is turned on when you start live view from within Kuuvik Capture.

If you turn this preference off, the camera’s LCD will remain turned off to conserve battery. But you can turn the LCD on any time with the live view button on the camera.

When you start live view directly on the camera, it’s LCD will turn on regardless of this preference (chances are that you engaged live view on the camera because you want to look at the LCD).

Upon user request, the number of focus bracketing steps had been increased from 30 to 100. And I’ve added hot keys to the Purge Unrated (Cmd-P) and Purge Unrated and Decrease Rating (Shift-Cmd-P) culling commands.

The bug fixes are the following:

  • Live view is now automatically stopped when changing lenses or when the camera is disconnected.
  • Live view navigator zoom labels now display “6x” and “16x” for the EOS 5DS and 5DS R. The navigator frame’s size is also corrected to reflect these zoom levels.
  • ISO 16000 now can be set from Kuuvik Capture on the EOS 7D Mark II, even if using full stop ISOs is set on the camera. This is in line with the camera’s behavior.

Version 2.1 is a free update for existing Kuuvik Capture 2 owners.

Photographing Grebes with the 5DS R

The 5DS R became my main camera the instant I got my hands on it. Honestly, I thought that it will somehow augment either the 7D Mark II or the 5D Mark III as a high-res landscape camera, while one of those will remain my wildlife camera. I was wrong.

The 5DS R has so many seductive qualities that I tend to forget all its shortcomings and difficulties (more on those later).

Colors are bold and thanks to the anti-aliasing cancellation filter it can produce lovely crisp images. Such as the following one.


A moment before diving

It was taken in early morning light with the Canon 500/4 IS II lens and the 1.4x III teleconverter. It’s a moderate crop of about 26 megapixels – still enough for a 40×60 cm print. Yes, you can crop the hell out of these files, and still retain a huge amount of details due to the lack of AA filtering.

Some of my former grebe images are 6-8 megapixels from the 1D Mark II… So its a huge increase in usage flexibility.

Of course those huge files have a few consequences you have to live with. First, the 5DS R feels like a medium format camera. From the sound of the mirror to the time it needs to display an image on the LCD. It feels like you travel a decade back in time… Press the play button and wait… Also I haven’t experienced buffer full issues since the 1D Mark II – but run into that quite a lot even using 1066x Lexar CF cards.

You also need more time to cull a shoot. Fortunately I have an app for that: with Kuuvik Capture 2 I can sift the daily crop of 1500-2000 images pretty quickly. An old friend of mine was sitting besides me last morning and was surprised how fast the app deals with 50 MP files (and this was on a 1.4GHz 11″ MacBook Air I use as a field computer).

The next one is cropped from the sides for the rectangular composition. Same lens and converter combo. I stop down to f/6.3 with this combination, which is a bit below the f/6.7 diffraction limit of the camera. So unlike landscapes, one doesn’t have to deal with the depth of field versus diffraction issues here.


Curious visitor

Surprisingly, I found ISO 800 images a bit sharper than ISO 400 ones, so all of these were made on 800. I’ll have to investigate this further before I can draw serious conclusions. But until then, ISO 800 seems to be perfectly usable with no need for extra noise reduction.

The images in this post are the tranquil ones (the action shots are saved for another post). The 5 fps maximum speed turned out to be usable with a little anticipation of what’s going to happen (which also helps your photographs and in the understanding of the behavior of the species you are photographing). But for fast paced action I still reach for the 7D Mark II.

I tend to like to include a bit of the bird’s habitat in my images (maybe I should call them birdscapes), for which the full frame sensor is a real boon. And I can crop the surroundings away if a tight composition is what I’m after.


Breakfast for the nestlings

AF is superb. The best I’ve ever found on a Canon camera (excluding the 1D X, because of it’s faster focus driving speed). The only thing I miss is the AF mode selection lever of the 7D Mark II. I find myself reaching for the lever and cursing who’s responsible for this omission quite often.

A hot topic is the dynamic range of current Canon sensors. Well, while sometimes I would need more (maybe a handful of times during the last 12 years), what the 5DS R offers usually pretty much enough. Especially that I print my images where I have just 6 or 7 stops, and usually expose my images properly with no need to recover from the shadows. Also I like to utilize clipped highlights and shadows as artistic tools… So I’m not complaining on this front.


Good night!

As you may already think, I really like the 5DS R. It’s not the absolute fastest and the most suitable camera for bird photography, but those limitations are igniting my creativity and are not in the way of image making. It’s an exceptional tool for making the kind of photographs I have in mind.

Fall Colors – A Different Kind

Fall is the premier photography season for me. You get everything from bold colors, through creamy pastels, to the special atmosphere that morning and evening fog brings.

This year’s summer storms on Lake Tisza had wiped out lots of nests and birds are working a bit overtime to raise their nestlings. For me this provides great opportunities to combine fall colors into my bird photography.


Squacco Heron Catching Frog

As the water starts to get clear and water chestnuts are dying, you get these metallic blues everywhere – even at places where you only see vast water chestnut carpets summertime. The golds and browns of Squacco herons provide dramatic contrast against the water – so much that I had to lower saturation significantly on the above image (made in warm evening light).

Photographed with a Canon 7D Mark II and the astonishingly wonderful EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens (plus a 1.4x III teleconverter). I’m using the 500/4 II for about 5 months now, and planning to post my review soon.

Mark II Artist’s Viewfinder 4.2 Released

avf2iconVersion 4.2 of my Mark II Artist’s Viewfinder app is now available on the App Store. This is mainly a camera and wide converter support update, with the enhancements detailed below.

New features:

  • Anamorphic acquisition format support for the Panasonic GH4.

Fixed bugs:

  • Typo in the German translation.

Added wide converter profiles:

  • olloclip 4-IN-1 on iPad Air 2 and iPod touch 6th generation
  • Schneider iPro Series 2 Wide on iPhone 6
  • Schneider iPro Series 2 Super Wide on iPhone 6

Added cameras:

  • Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera
  • Fujifilm X-T1 IR, X-T10
  • Leica CL, M Edition 60
  • Nikon D810A, D5500, D7200, J5
  • Olympus Air A01
  • Panasonic G7, GF7, GX8
  • Pentax K-3 II, K-S2
  • Phase One XF
  • Sigma DP0 Quattro
  • Sony A7R II, Alpha QX1

Added backs:

  • Phase One IQ350, IQ360, IQ380

This is a free update for existing Mark II Artist’s Viewfinder owners. Users of former Viewfinder Basic/Pro/Cine editions can upgrade for a reduced price.

A note on Schneider converters: this version adds support for the iPhone 6, as we haven’t received the iPhone 6 Plus case yet. So Schneider’s converter lenses on the iPhone 6 Plus will be supported with the next update.

Kuuvik Capture 2 Available on the Mac App Store

kc2icon@2xI’m proud to announce that Kuuvik Capture 2 is now available on the Mac App Store!

I’ve added a few features since the Beta 2 (see my previous post about the Beta 2 feature list):

  • Open in Application command to directly open the CR2 files in your favorite RAW converter.
  • Ratings in the CR2 files (set in the camera) are now honored.
  • Added clipping display control menu items to the image area’s context menu.
  • Added ability to work with Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R images on computers that lack the GPU resources needed to display these images. Images are now downsized to 24 megapixels for display in this case (RAW files remain in their full resolution).
  • Added support for Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, EOS 750D / Rebel T6i / Kiss X8i, EOS 760D / Rebel T6s / 8000D and EOS 1200D / Rebel T5 / Kiss X70 cameras.

You can download Kuuvik Capture 2 from the Mac App Store for a discounted price ($59.99 / €59.99 / £44.99) until the end of August. This discount serves as an upgrade price for existing users as well as an introductory price.

For the complete list of compatible cameras and computers please visit the tech specs page.