I’m sure a bunch of my relatives will look away for this post. Maybe they aren’t fans of focus stacking but it could be the spiders that put them off. My macro lens has been out a lot during the pandemic since it provides something to photograph close at home that is a bit different. In fact, I have got so used to having it available, when I am out with a normal lens and come across something small and interesting, I am a bit frustrated to realize I can’t get a close up shot.
The problem with the lens is that it is not a very advanced one and the autofocus on it is pretty crap. When I am trying to hand hold the lens and something is moving and so am I, things get a little unpredictable. We had a few spider webs in the backyard with the owners sitting in the middle. The afternoon sun provided great illumination so I figured I should give it a go. I tend to go to manual focus and move to get the shot but with the breeze moving the web a lot, things are pretty tricky. This is what prompted me to try cheating.
I figured that focus stacking does a good job of increasing the area in focus and it manages to align images and make use of what is already in focus. If I can be straight on to the spider and stay reasonably still and roughly at the right focus point, let the web move towards and away from me and fire a bunch of shots off hand held. Ignore the ones that have nothing in focus and then let Photoshop work on the remainder.
It isn’t a perfect solution and some weird things happen at the edges of the frame but the center works out pretty well and you can crop in a little to address the edges. I was quite pleased with the outcome to be honest. It is making the best of a few bad elements but it did do quite well. You don’t get to control what is in focus for each shot so getting a complete set to work with is unlikely but overall, not a bad experiment.
Anyone out there a specialist in spiders? I know plenty of people who absolutely hate spiders. They are not going to be much use to me here. Besides, a lot of them are from the UK and I never saw anything like this when I lived there. As we were walking around the grounds at Bloedel Reserve, we saw a lot of spiders’ webs that were a domed structure. They didn’t look like webs that I had seen before. They seem to have a lot of web material above them and then a dome structure to the main web itself. I think the spider sits underneath the dome awaiting its prey. Anyone know anything more about this and how it works?
This spider web was attached to one of the towers at Hyakuri. The web thread was quite a heavy gauge compared to what I normally see and I was fascinated by the way it was attached to the wood. Multiple strands were attached in a ring forming a cone of thread that merged in to the mainline. It was quite a feat of engineering.
I was recently drawn back to something I had experimented with a long time ago but had since forgotten about. I was at SFO when the wind was strong enough to require all departures to operate from the 28s. This resulted in a long line of jets along the taxiway beside the runways as they waited their turn to take off. I shot a very wide panorama shot of them all lined up. It didn’t help that they weren’t bunched too tightly but, even if they had been, the pano that results is very wide and shallow.
There is nothing much you can do with this unless you have a long wall waiting for a mural (which I don’t). However, I still liked the shot. What to do with it? Then I remembered Zoomify. This is an output format embedded within Photoshop that creates a web page that you can zoom in and out of and pan around. It allows someone to explore a large image in more detail if they want to do so. Not quite on the scale of Gigapan images but still a neat tool when you need something slightly different.
I have been getting more and more interested in video work in the last couple of years. Shooting video at the same time as stills is a regular feature of any shoot I am now on. I am even getting better at planning my shot requirements for the video in order to have some hope of putting together a relatively coherent piece later. The recent ISAP symposium had some good information on that. However, that is not the point of today’s piece. Instead, I am thinking about video size.
I have a YouTube channel on which I upload my content. As s shameless plus, if you want to check it out, go to http://www.youtube.com/user/EdgcumbePhoto and you can see the videos I have previously uploaded. Subscribe if you want and it will let you know about all of the exciting new videos I upload! Okay, we return from that commercial break and resume normal programming. I shoot everything in HD and edit the footage for 1080p output. This can result in some quite large files. YouTube allows you to upload full 1080p so that is what I have been doing.
Unfortunately, our current internet connection is not helpful here. While we have pretty decent download speeds, the upload speeds are very slow. DSL was not designed for upload and consequently, the upload speeds have not kept pace with the download speeds and the needs of users generating more and more content. A recent video I made was about eight minutes long. The 1080p version of this was nearly 2Gb. Uploading this took over a day!!!
Now, when I watch videos on YouTube, what resolution do I watch them at? I certainly like HD footage but I only ever use 720p. This is a combination of avoiding bandwidth issues as well as the size of my monitors. There really is no need to be any larger. I wonder whether this is normal. I started looking at what is available on other videos I was watching and quite a few only go to 720p. I thought a quick experiment was in order. The eight minute video I mentioned before can easily be regenerated at 720p so I did that. The file size came out to just over 300Mb. That is a pretty dramatic reduction in file size and upload time.
I think I have been wasting time and bandwidth creating files too large for anyone to need. I am going to stick with 720p for a while and see how things work out. We might have access to a different net connection before too long and I might check out upload speeds then but, for now, this seems to be a far more sensible approach.
I bounce backwards and forwards about whether I am interested in the two most prevalent of the online aircraft photograph databases, Airliners.Net and Jetphotos.Net. I have pictures on both services and they have (very) occasionally brought some useful contacts my way. Getting images on to their databases can be a frustrating process if you let it since they have very specific requirements about what they accept and what they want.
They own their websites and they can have what they want on there. If I don’t like it, I am sure they won’t be losing sleep and recognizing this a while back made my life a lot less stressful! Indeed, I stopped uploading to Airliners.Net and focused on Jetphotos for a while. They became similar in their issues over time and I stopped bothering altogether. It hadn’t done much for me so I didn’t see the need.
Every once in a while, I thought it might be useful to have something further there based on the occasional contacts I got. Therefore, I would get back into the idea of creating edits of my images for the websites. However, I now make the edits, submit the shots and, if they are accepted, fine. If not, fine a well. I am not chasing database statistics with these people.
I have recently come across a few shots of mine that I thought might be good for the sites so made the edits and uploaded to each site. This was one of those moments when I wanted to compare them in their acceptance policy. They have a desire for a high level of sharpening but don’t like things to be over-sharpened. They also can have different views as to what over-processing is – something I like since they often reject for that when I have done very little processing at all!
I have now got the results back and it continues to amuse. Both sites have accepted some and rejected others. The fun comes from the fact that they have taken very different approaches to their analysis. Airliners have rejected some things that were accepted by Jetphotos. Similarly Jetphotos have rejected some that Airliners accepted. Rejections were often for similar reasons but for different images. Is there any rhyme or reason? I don’t know. I used to appeal shots that I thought they had been incorrect on. Now I don’t bother. Will this ever change? Probably not. Will I change my approach? Probably not. Does it matter? Probably not. The most important thing is to not get stressed about this stuff I guess.