Category Archives: technique

When You are Locked Down, It’s Got to be Macro Time

Not being able to go anywhere means you can only photograph things close to home.  Why not dig out the macro lens.  I have no doubt that many photographers have been doing the same thing when stuck at home too.  I initially didn’t have any obvious plan for this.  I just decided to photograph anything around me to see what it looked like when seen up very close.  Textures on the surface become apparent in a way that aren’t normally.  I also discovered just how much dust on on somethings that I never noticed until looking at the images.

Spider Hiding Out

My effort at shooting macro images of bees in our front yard (this post) also yielded a surprised.  While I was waiting on a flower for the bee to come to me, I noticed the flower already had a resident.  A little white spider was hanging out in there.  I am not sure what its intended prey was.  It seemed a bit small to take on a bee but I have no idea if that could happen.  Maybe it wanted something smaller.  I got a couple of shots of it that interested me.  The prime shots show its “face” in detail.  Macro shots have a very shallow depth of field so I missed with plenty of shots but one or two had the end of the legs in focus.  The detail of the hairs on the legs was so cool so I include that too even if it looks like I missed focus on the shot (which obviously I did!).

Bees at Work

The Puget Sound area is currently abloom.  Everywhere you look there are flowers.  It is quite beautiful.  We haven’t seen too many hummingbirds on our feeder recently and it’s not hard to see why when they have so many places to feed right now.  We have some blooms in our front yard too and this means the bees are visiting. I decided to try and use the macro lens to get some shots of them.  My lens is a Tokina unit.  I bought it for the negative scanning process for which it worked well.  However, the focusing drive is not fantastic and it hunts a bit when I use it for things other than manual mode.  However, it is still worth a shot.  Here are a couple of bee shots from the yard.  I can’t go anywhere so I may as well shoot at home!

Printing Things While Stuck At Home

I got lucky on the timing for one thing during this whole adventure.  I was sitting at home playing around with some images and decided I wanted to create a couple of prints.  One was a print of the hummingbirds from the back yard and the other was a poster I decided to make of a bunch of lifeboat shots from our visit to the UK last year.  My usual print outlet is Mpix so I created the files, uploaded them and sent the order.  A few days later a large package arrived on the porch.  Shortly before it arrived, I got a message from Mpix saying that they were suspending work as a result of the virus.  They are based in Kansas so I guess it took a while to get to them.  I am really happy with the prints and it reminded me of how much a physical print is better than looking at something on a screen.  I will have to print more when they are back up and running.

Changing the Blog Template

If you are a regular reader of the blog, firstly, thank you.  Second, you will have noticed that the style has changed a bit.  I have been using the same WordPress theme since starting the blog.  I wasn’t desperate for a change but I was motivated to do something by a Facebook issue.  It used to be that I could put the link to a blog post in to Facebook and it would include the link and an image from the post – usually the first one.  The first image is usually my favorite for illustrating the topic so it gets the prime slot on the post.  However, something happened in the Facebook algorithms.  I would put in the link, the page would auto populate beneath the text with the right image and then I would hit post and it defaulted to the banner image from the theme rather than my actual image.

As a result of this, I had taken to deleting the link after it auto populated and then pasted in the main image manually.  This was a pin and it also seemed to reduce the number of people actually clicking on the post rather than just looking at the picture on Facebook.  I decided to try going to a more recent theme design to see if this fixed the issue.  I looked at a variety of them.  Some seemed okay but others were more business focused.  I selected a slightly newer theme but it still had a simple look to it which I liked.  I tested the change over and configured it as I wanted before switching.  I like the look and it now behaves better with Facebook so the whole exercise seems to have been worthwhile.

Air to Air With United Jets – Or Is It?

When putting together some images for a group online that I am involved with, a dug out a couple of shots of jets departing O’Hare I shot years back.  When coming off 22L, some of the jets make an early turn to the south and you can get a view of them that is either quite level with the wing line or slightly above.  When shooting them, they are climbing so it is obvious what you were shooting.  However, as I looked at these shots, it occurred to me that they looked a lot like an air to air position except the angles were wrong because of the climb.  Since I had shot quite tightly, re-cropping the shot required some Photoshop work.

Taking the image out of Lightroom and in to Photoshop, I selected the crop tool and rotated the image to be the sort of angle that an air to air shot might be.  Doing this crops off the nose and tail of the jet.  However, one feature of the crop tool in Photoshop is that, if you then drag the edges of the tool back out, you can expand the canvas size.  You now have the whole plane in shot but have added some white space in each corner where no image previously existed.

It is a simple task to then use Content Aware Fill to add sky back in to these areas.  The result is a shot that looks almost as if you had been flying in formation at altitude.  Would you have spotted it?  Having done it with an A320, I then had a go with a 757.  The light angle makes it look a bit like we are flying along towards a setting sun.  I was rather pleased with the trick.

Focus Stacking Issues

There was a meeting of the IPMS northwest branch at the Museum of Flight recently.  My friend Jim had given me a heads up about it taking place and, with a day free, I figured I would pop along.  The display as a whole gets its own post but this one was about my experimenting with focus stacking.  I went to this a previous year and took some focus stacking shots handheld to see how it would go.  This time I went prepared and took a bunch of shots.

I took a tripod and my macro f/2.8 lens to try and get detailed shots while isolating the background.  There were lots of models on display, some of which were really good.  However, they didn’t all make good subjects since many were displayed in amongst lots of other models.  I picked the ones I liked as a wandered around and them went back to shoot them.  Many of the stacks worked out just fine and I include an example or two of what worked well.  However, some of them just confused the software.

I use Photoshop to do my focus stacks.  However, on one of the shots that I really wanted to work well – the FW190 which had a diorama – things didn’t work well.  I decided to Google other software solutions and came up with two other applications for focus stacking.  I downloaded trials of both but neither managed to do a good job of it.  I guess this combination of shots just made it too hard for the software to make it work.  I can see the rear fuselage markings of the FW190 showing through the wing of the aircraft.  Maybe this is a function of the narrow depth of field of the f/2.8 shots.  The wing gets blurred out a lot when the rear fuselage is in focus and it decides to take that area as the one to give preference too.

All of this is to say, I have found a new aspect of this technique that needs further investigation.  My earlier experiments with focus stacking probably made it easier on the software.  I have now started to make it a bit harder.  Maybe I need to control the aperture to get things to behave the way I want.  That might have to be tailored to make sure I don’t get the background coming in to focus too much since that separation is something that I want to preserve.  If you have experience with this, I would welcome advice.

Astrophotography on the Beach

Tofino is a remote town.  Being on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island, it is a long way from built up areas with only Ucluelet being anywhere close and that does not provide much light pollution.  Combine that with cold and clear nights and you get a fantastic view of the night sky.  Stepping out of the hotel and on to the beach (keeping the light of the hotel behind you), the sky opened up in an amazing display of stars.  I have been to places with great night skies but never at the time of year when the Milky Way is visible.  It looked fantastic.

I had not thought about this possibility and did not travel with a tripod.  I figured I had to have a go at photographing this sky.  I Googled some settings for night sky photography, grabbed the camera bag and headed out on to the sand.  Focus had to be set by using live view and a distant lighthouse with manual focus.  I then set the camera up at 30 seconds and f/4 with a 10 second delay on the shutter trigger.  Then I put the camera on the bag propping it up in the position I thought it needed to be.  Live View was of no use when it was this dark.  I then let the camera sit there for a while to settle.  Gentle pressing of the shutter button and then wait.  I got some good views of the shoreline with the stars including the lighthouse as well as a shot straight up at the sky.

Polarizer Effect on the Water

If I remember – which I frequently don’t – I take my polarizer with me when I am going to photographing scenery.  With our trip up into the Cascades, we went to the overlook of Diablo Lake and the sun was reflecting off the surface of the lake waters.  I took two shots – one with the polarizer rotated to remove the glare and one with the glare in full effect.  I was interested to see which of the shots I preferred when I got home.  The color of the lake is very nice but sometimes the reflections are more interesting.  I include both here to show just how much of a difference the polarizer makes and for you to decide which is to your taste.

Dropping the Shutter Speed in Bad Light

My cloudy Vancouver shoot also gave me the chance to play around with some lower shutter speeds.  I have done this for the turboprops before but this time I decided to play with some of the jets.  A really low shuttle speed can blur out the background and give a nice impression of movement but it is a problematic shot to make.  You don’t want to do it on something that you are keen to get in case you get nothing!  It is also something that results in very small apertures if there is much light which can make for a lot of dust spotting in post!  A cloudy evening is a good time to try and a bunch of boring regular jets are good targets for a trial!