Cityscapes Workshop – 1:1 With Craig Roberts in Birmingham

Welcome to Big Mountain Photography

(Dashan Sheying –大山摄影)

My photography checklist of things to do had a “1:1 teaching moment with a Professional Photographer”.  The list is now checked, i.e. Craig Roberts.
The focus of this workshop for me was the use of graduated / polarizer filters given the constant on and off again gray cloudy skies to sunny skies. Grads help pull out the details and balance the light to avoid blowing out the highlights.  Next, Neutral Density (ND) filters for long exposures with some Polarizing effects thrown in for fun …

Craig has great insight to understand what you should consider, no matter what your skill level.

Website: Craig Roberts Photography – e6

YouTube Channel: e6 Vlogs

My Personal Take-Aways  (Top Three in Bold)

– Get it right in-camera first, minimize the processing.

Shoot 1:1 Square aspect ratio for improved composition.  PS No need to turn the camera for those vertical compositions – right?

– One camera, one lens – get it right.

– Landscapes: Use the Fuji GF670 for 6×7 (almost 4×5 AR) to master manual exposure with metering the scene ahead of bringing out the big guns, i.e. Shenhao 6×17 view camera.

– Velvia 50:  Meter the highlights (VII) and let the shadows fall for high contrast range.

Cityscapes: As with Landscapes look for the foreground, mid-ground and background, i.e. not just a landscape thing.

– Look for the abstract with minimalist application

– Look up and back

Lee Filters Seven5 SystemGrads (Hard or Soft) : Back -1 Stop, Sides – 2 Stops and Front – 3 Stops, i.e. 0.9, 0.6. and 0.3

– Avoid G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and don’t get hooked on Olympus’ 5-axis stabilization…

– Tripods: Spikes needed for landscape, Carbon Fiber too light for the UK winds – agree…

– Zoom-In to fill the frame for 100-300mm focal lengths shooting in color and B&W

– Rules of the Road: Photography on a Public Footprint is Okay, Private Footprint is Not Okay.  Got asked at the Grand Central not to shoot on 2nd floor as considered private.  That’s okay as today I went by and got a written okay to photography on the 2nd floor.  No questions asked and nobody bothered me given me little pass.

– Watch the histogram even though it’s tiny in the Fuji during in-camera composition.  Use for placing the Grad to see the highlights drop in balancing the light.

– Sell on eBay my fun lenses: Lensbaby, Fisheye

– A G.A.S. Thought: 18-55mm Fuji lens vs changing primes

– Get my ONA sling bag from China to the UK

– Craig likes two cubes of sugar or 12 tiny sleeves of sugar in his white coffee.  No tea allowed.

– The Selfridges structure has endless compositions, that’s okay – go for it.

– Later, I dropped into the City of Birmingham’s Library.  Decided to join the Library (largest in EU so they say) and asked about what’s up with the construction area in front.  The Library Desk Man said it will be trees, fountains, lights….  An elderly lady (probably my age) let us know her take was a conspiracy theory, i.e.the City Council is reducing the large areas to avoid future protests…  hmmm.

Patronage: Please “Follow” along as our adventure continues in the UK and EU  Comments, Likes, … always welcomed here.
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e6 Photowalk Gallery

(Place cursor over the image to get its Title and/or double click to view images.)

The Distillery is OPEN

Welcome to Big Mountain Photography

(Dashan Sheying –大山摄影)

The Distillery

From my times in Australia and the US, it nice was to find a local Pub close to home where one can meet up with Friends…  Well, we got lucky as not only is The Distillery a few blocks away; Gin & Tonic is my favorite mixed drink.  Go figure.  Tried one bar meal upstairs and it was fine.  Next to try the lower restaurant and outside canal-side ambiance.
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The front side with eye-catching lightning late at night.

The Canal-Side atmosphere.

Happy Pinhole Photography Day 2017-04-30

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(Dashan Sheying –大山摄影)

2017 Pinhole Photography Day

Today is that one day of the year for all Pinhole Photographers to get out and shoot their lensless camera.  Since I did yet could not get instant images given this is still an Analog World, let me post at least some images from my 6×17 RealitySoSubtle camera using Fuji 400H Pro medium format film taken in Xi’an, China.
Patronage: Please “Follow” along as our adventure continues in the UK and EU  Comments, Likes, … always welcomed here.
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Xi’an City Wall: South-side looking East.

B&W: I knew these people may be stationary or in a fluid state given my Pinhole Assist App had the exposure targeted for 2 seconds.  This is the Drum Tower north of the Bell Tower (Center of Town) and the start to the left to the Muslim Quarter.

Color: The Same image which I like better for the people movement and those stationary for 2 seconds in their life.

Fuji GF670 Film Camera: 6×17 Fujifilm 400H Pro

Xi’an City Wall:  Facing North to the Bell Tower (Green Roof).  FYI: Got an immediate Like from my better-half on this image.  I’ve arrived as she provides my balance in photography.

Mylapore, Chennai:  A quick diversion to a local Car (Cart/Chariot) Festival.  Got that look again.

Xi’an City Wall:  Didn’t plan this but after two separate shoots 180 degrees apart showing the massive, protective nature of teh City Wall – I placed them in one image.

Xi’an City Wall:  Yes that Red Lantern is really red. That’s Fuji saturation.  I decided to leave it as it was.


Arrived in Brum

Welcome to Big Mountain Photography

(Dashan Sheying –大山摄影)

Hello Birmingham

After a 12 hour Shanghai to Paris flight followed by a 2.5-hour wait then a 1+ puddle jumper (English Channel actually) over to Birmingham, Dashan Sheying has shifted locations from India.  Stay tuned for future UK posts.  For now I’ve included some initial images from my walks around downtown Brum and my first countryside walkabout.
Photographers Only: Given the English weather (hourly forecasts from sunny to cloudy and everything in between) it keeps the scene down to 4 Stops of light for the contrast range.  So Velvia film will work fine here.  Yes, I’m sure the contrast range bumps up to 5 or even 6 every so often.
Listening to Joe Walsh’s Analog Man (stuck in a digital world) thinking of James Gang and Eagles concerts of days gone by yet looking towards this digital future we have ahead of us.
Patronage: Please “Follow” along as our adventure continues in the UK and EU  Comments, Likes, … always welcomed here.
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Birmingham Gallery

“The Bull” at the Bullring shopping mall entrance.  Iconic Birmingham.  Waited until all the kids got off the bull then took my shot.  VSSR processed.

Selfridges near The Bull.  Another iconic shot yet at night the colored lights explode

The canal along the Digs.

Tardebigge Canal Circular Walk w/St Bartholomew’s Church

My favorite image with its soft lighting of the subject at sunrise and the natural vignette.

Canal Boat at rest

Canal reflections around the bend in a soft glow at sunrise.

Latest Additional to the Arsenal of Gear

The Beast.  Shenhao 6×17 view camera intended for landscapes with a 210mm f/5.6 lens attached.  This will be fun as I learn the old ways of taking images using medium format 120 film (4 images per roll at 6×17).  Stay connected as I venture out in the beautiful UK countryside for those special images.  End result, a huge fine art print, i.e. 19″ by 25″ to start.

Goodbye Nikon

Welcome to Big Mountain Photography

(Dashan Sheying –大山摄影)

Goodbye Nikon

I knew this day would come given my Nikon D810 and its many associated lenses have become just “Dust Collectors” over the last 10+ months with not one shutter click.  My Fuji X-Pro2, 6×17 Pinhole, and Fuji GF670 cameras have had all the fun of late.
Today, I sold my Nikon Gear as I’m a believer in not being a pack-rat.  It’s okay to let possessions go and move on.  Now I’m moving on to a Shenhao 6×17 view camera for landscapes.  I did, however, keep my Nikon IR converted D300s with two lenses plus one Zeiss lens.
I’ve listed the original prices and was amazed at what I’ve collected over the last 4 years and estimated that I would target 50%, i.e. around $6,000 USD as my asking price.  To my surprise, the offer from our local camera dealer which we’ve used for years here in Xi’an was spot-on the $6k target price.  How did he know?
Did I lose out by taking only 50% of original cost, I don’t think so as I’m better to have cash in hand than dusty camera gear.
I’ve included a few gallery images from my short time in Xi’an ahead of leaving for Birmingham, UK, i.e our next residence.
Patronage: Please “Follow” along as our adventure ends in India then over to Xi’an, China and later in April to the U.K.  Comments, Likes, … always welcomed here.
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Xi’an Gallery – VSSR Applied

Last Dance

Welcome to Big Mountain Photography

(Dashan Sheying –大山摄影)

Good-bye Chennai

I thought it appropriate to have my Last Dance (Photowalk) here in Chennai around Mylapore knowing that it’s a bustling city at sunrise.  We were surprised as we turned down Chitrakulam West Street to see the Sri Audikesava Perumal Peylar Temple (RED X) holding its local Car Festival, pulling the Temple Car (Chariot / Cart).
The Temple Car was being decorated for a 7:15am Pooja followed by a 7:30am towing around the block.  We waited through the hour of preparation capturing the daily lives of the locals, the way Street Photography should be.
The more prestigious Car Festival in Mylapore is this April 8th at the Arulmigu Kapaleeswarar Temple with 10s of 1000s of people in attendance.  I headed for the roof last year to witness the event from up high.
Patronage: Please “Follow” along as our adventure ends in India then over to Xi’an, China and later in April to the U.K.  Comments, Likes, … always welcomed here.
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Car Festival Gallery – VSSR Applied

“Three Idols on Parade”.  Here is one of the rare times during the year Idols are taken from their enclave and paraded around for all to see and worship.

“Up We Go”. The task now to load up the Idols upon the “Car”, i.e. Cart / Chariot…

“First a Pooja”.  Fire, Bells, Incense, Melons, Colors… the Priests Pray (Pooja) to their Hindu Idols.

“Loaded Up and Ready to Go”.  Everything is set, now waiting for the Auspicious Time to arrive.  Time for one last call.

“The Band Played On”.  Loud yet foot stomping music to the heart.

“Lone Trumpeter”.  South Indian Tamil Nadu people always have a smile in their hearts.  My job is to bring to the surface and document it.

Wrapping it Up in India

Welcome to Big Mountain Photography

(Dashan Sheying –大山摄影)

It’s been three years in Chennai and I’ve only seen the tip of the “Indian Iceberg” (Paradoxical to relate the coldness of an iceberg to the three-season scenario enjoyed in South India, i.e. Hot, Hotter and Hottest.) relative to what India has to offer, especially for photographers and travel enthusiasts.
Yet, over this time I’ve journeyed from the technical side of photography by fine tuning my techniques and now discovering the elusive craft and art beyond snapshots.
As you get older, you begin to have thoughts that would have never percolated in your youth, e.g. I know so little and now in the Fall of my Life, I have so much to learn.  This has been the driving factor in my photographic journey which has expanded my technical left brain with improved techniques and now challenges my artistic right brain.  A humongous challenge yet like learning Photoshop it’s one tool at a time, one step at a time…
Let me share my recent VSSR images of late in no particular order.
The good news is I have 4 rolls of exposed 120 film ready to head to the US for development and scanning.  It’s like an opening an X-mas present every time the scans arrive (~2-week turnaround).
PS Debating if I should attend the Holi Festival in Sowcarpet, Chennai on Monday 3/13 as the images can be very colorful.

Note: Value-Shape-Separate-Relate is the artistic image processing approach by John R. Tuttle.  I highly suggest you follow John on Instagram or Facebook to get an appreciation for his wonderful fine art images and available archival prints. VSSR is explained here in an earlier post which provides the thinking and image processing approach.

Patronage: Please “Follow” along as our adventure ends in India then over to China and later in the U.K.  Comments, Likes, Dislikes… always welcomed here.

Gallery – VSSR Applied

“Pink Ladies”  Shoot at the Georgetown Flower Market in Chennai, India

“Orange Welcome”   A Besant Nagar, Chennai Photowalk image.

“Red Fingers”   A Besant Nagar, Chennai Photowalk image.

“House of Colors”   A Besant Nagar, Chennai Photowalk image.

“Mellow Yellow”  A Besant Nagar, Chennai Photowalk image.

“Temple Guardian”   A Besant Nagar, Chennai Photowalk image.

“Rust Bucket”   A Besant Nagar, Chennai Photowalk image.

“Purple Morning Haze”   A Besant Nagar, Chennai Photowalk image.

“Temple Tank Float”   A walkabout at the Arulmigu Parthasarathyswamy Temple in Triplicane, Chennai.

“Look Away”  Photowalk at Georgetown, Chennai.

“Pointer-Outer”  Photowalk at Georgetown, Chennai.

“Opposites”  Photowalk at Georgetown, Chennai.

“Morning Read”  Photowalk at Georgetown, Chennai.

“Three Amigos”  Photowalk at Georgetown, Chennai.

“Just for Fun”  Photowalk at Georgetown, Chennai.

Pinhole Camera: RealitySoSubtle 6×17 Pano

Welcome to Big Mountain Photography!

Today, I present my first set of pinhole camera images using Kodak Porta 400 120-film.  If I had to guess, many people have not heard nor understand the use of pinhole cameras.

Here are four quick links to get up to speed: Pinhole Website Video Explanation Wikipedia Explanation Great Overview

Additionally, here are some images from four Pinhole Camera websites: Link 1    Link 2    Link 3     Link 4

Note: I’ve stopped posting individual images on Facebook as I’ve chosen to share not just an image, rather a story with a gallery of images.  We’d appreciate your patronage so please FOLLOW along.

RealitySoSubtle Pinhole 6×17 Pano Camera Link

Let me get the semi-technical questions out of the way.  Here’s the scoop:

RealitySoSubtle 6×17 Medium Format 120 Film Pinhole Camera

– The “Pinhole” is 300 microns (0.300mm) at f/233, 70mm focal length with a curved film plane to avoid corner vignetting and field of view 144deg x 41deg.
– I use an iPhone app, “Pinhole Assist” to Spot Meter (~20deg) plus includes film reciprocity considerations in the calculated exposure time in EVs.
– You get 4 Exposures per a roll of 120 MF film with the film numbers centered in the rear, red viewfinder at 2 ( 1 and 3 on the sides), then 5 (4 and 6 on the sides). 8 and lastly 11.

So how do you load the film, see video:  LOAD

So how do you take exposures, see video:  EXPOSE

So how do you process the scans:  TWO-OPTIONS

#1: Buy yourself a professional, home scanner, i.e. Epson v850 to scan the entire 6×17 negative either dry or wet.  This my medium term solution.

#2: Use a local lab with a Frontier or Noritsu by theFINDLab roll scanner yet there is a limit of 6×12 for a single image.  This is my current solution, not optimal given I must then stitch the images and correct for exposure difference in Photoshop.

Problems So Far Encountered


1) Loose fiber inside the camera resting on the negative.  Solution: Blowout the interior, thoroughly each time you change rolls of film.


2) Never get bumped my somebody at the time of exposure.  Solution: Check out your environment, 360 degrees to ensure you have up to a 120 sec. space without interruption.


3) Watch your fingers getting captured at the time of short exposures, this was ~3-second exposure.  Solution: Practice without film on a tripod proper opening and closing the sliding latch. The magnetic closing feature is tricky to open at first, again practice.  See EXPOSE

Photoshop Processing Approach with 2 Exposures


Here I’m not only stitching the two scanned images, the two different exposures have to be adjusted to match.  Plus, using a Photoshop Perspective Warp adjustment tool to get full, proper image halves to align.  Then a final crop to 16×7 aspect ratio.


Here I’m using the curves adjustment tool to adjust the LH image to match the RH image for exposure.


Lastly, after the exposure is adjusted and image transformed to align, an overall curves adjustment is applied to bring contrast to taste.

Eventually, I will secure an Epson flatbed scanner to do full 6×17 negative scans plus 6×6 / 6×7 negatives from my Fuji GF670 medium format camera.  The use of SilverFast and Digital ICE software to combat the removal of “dust” on color negatives is imperative.

Images from First Roll of Film


“Temple Tank Post-Typhoon”


“Sunset Upon Mylapore Temple Tank”


“Leela Palace”

Back to Film at Last, i.e. F.I.N.D. – UPDATE

Welcome back to Big Mountain Photography where my photographic journey continues with my re-introduction into medium format film.  This is an update from my first post on getting back to film.

Note: Red-colored, underlined text is a link for more information, i.e. Wikipedia, YouTube, Map…

I’d appreciate your patronage in following via email alerts, i.e. FOLLOW button RH side.  Note: You can right-click to “open the image in another tab” to view in a larger size / resolution, right-click to download if you heart desires…  your call.

The FIND Lab did an excellent job providing feedback on my exposure, contrast, … the look especially on how to manage Fuji Pro 400H film to bring in contrast.  This is valuable customer service at a small incremental cost as I would have never known this small yet important tidbit.

Here is their feedback on my first roll of film:

Hey Stuart!

Your basic plus scans for invoice 53061 are ready for download!

This roll looked really nice! Fuji 400H tends to be one of the more neutral film stocks, and if you consistently prefer warmer tones you may want to give Portra 400 a shot. We typically recommend rating 400H at 100 ISO for best results (it’s quite light hungry and does best overexposed by 2 stops).

These were slightly flat but we were able to re-establish some contrast in scanner (these were scanned on the Noritsu which gives us a good amount of control over contrast). I’d recommend overexposing a bit more to provide higher contrast in the negatives if you still find these a little flat.

Overexposure is particularly important when working in overcast conditions as the available light is more limited. Your exposures were very consistent from frame to frame. You had a few frames that were slightly soft. If you find this continues to be an issue I might recommend a bright screen (sometimes the focusing screen on these film cameras can become difficult to use, and a bright screen can make a huge difference).

Please let us know if you have any questions, and thanks so much for choosing the Findlab!


Back to Film at Last, i.e. F.I.N.D.

Welcome back to Dashan Sheying, where film is reborn today.

Note: Red-colored, underlined text is a link for more information, i.e. Wikipedia, YouTube, Map…

It’s been 40 years since I last used a 35mm film camera, i.e. c.1976 or so.  Yet why today do I want to go backward?  Well, I’m shifting towards Days of Future Past c.76 (MB, not X-Men).

Given today’s digital progression, one could say digital has caught up with 35mm – okay maybe.  Yet not to 120 Medium  Format or larger unless you’re made of money for the big bucks for an MF Hasselblad, Mamiya Leaf, PhaseOne, … and the new Fuji GFX 50S coming in 1Q17.

“The Song Remains the Same (LZ)” as the appeal for me of an image shot with film is “The Look” as it is for other die-hards after all these years.  I’m one of those who admires the non-homogenous grainy look and all the detail, tonality, print size…

So today I received my first processed and scanned 120 film roll of Fuji Pro 400H in 6×7 aspect ratio from The FIND Labs.  Processed in LR with Mastin Labs Presets followed by the Zone System Express by Blake Rudis then finished off by a John Tuttle inspired framing scheme (still learning to find my Right Brain).

The Learning Process Again

My first five rolls experienced multiple mistakes and errors on my part, yes I make mistakes (or as they now say learning opportunities).  Okay, I accept this; so stand up,  shake off the dust and move on.  Here’s a listing of my initial thoughts:

** Corrected Already **

** Film Usage: Watch and align the film roll arrow when loading.

** Film Usage: Watch and use the tape from the roll to seal after exposed.   Had to place exposed film rolls into the original pouch. Hmmm.

– Film Usage: Bring scotch tape

** Operating: Watch out on closing with PeakDesign buttons

** Operating: Use two hands to open/extend and close lens/bellows

** Operating: Return focus to infinity prior to closing.

– Focus: Hold steady. Try a “New” grip, i.e. ThumbsUp – ordered

** Focus: Try the red soft button for ease of shutter release.

– Focus: Use a tripod, will do.

**Focus: Use of a monopod / ballhead. Tried it, much better.

– Focus: Maybe a hand strap, PeakDesign

– Focus: Get finger placed on the focusing ring – muscle memory required

** Film Holder: Free cashew tins from flying Indigo works great holding for five rolls of film

– Format: Try 6×6

– Cleaning: Blow out / dust off interior and exterior after use, changing film too.  Bring blower.

** Carrying: Works fine carried inside my ONA bag without a sling/shoulder strap.  Use the X-Pro2 strap when required.

** ISO: For a new roll be sure to double-verify the ISO and change it on camera. (Shoot a 100 ISO film in 400 ISO.  Okay so I need to push development 2 stops. Better to overexpose film than underexpose)

– Shutter: Get a feel for the stroke and/or of click as there is absolutely no sound nor tactile feel

** Exposure: Look at the shutter speed red indicator to be < 1/500 and greater than 1/30 for a handheld shot.

– Exposure: Try manual aperture and shutter speed

– Exposure: Try spot meter in Zone 3 for shadow details for an 18% Gray manual setting then move up two stops for Z5.

Image Gallery

Not as many keepers as I hoped for yet with the above adjustments, I’m shooting for 100% keepers.


1)Street Portraits are my first love and in South India they ask me to take their photo.  Love it.


2) Blocks of ice (Rs250 each) being delivered to the Fishing Vessels as they ready themselves for sea including 500-1200 liters of diesel.


3) In the end it’s all about The Fish, i.e the smell of money for these Tamil Fishermen.