Techniques for Blooming, Young, Photographers

Rigg The Game In Your Favor!

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You can’t improve upon perfection.  The only thing you CAN do, is accentuate features…  These Pansies are from Leslie’s garden.  That’s usless to you.  What you do need to know, is that all of her flowers are in pots!  That means I can transport them from outside, to inside, on a table near a window, to catch some outside light.  There, the plant is free from the swaying effect that wind can have on flowers.

If you’re taking a macro shot like the one above, any movement is greatly magnified, often resulting in blurry images.  Too much color can be bad for jpgs. over time, causing uneven, and unsightly discoloration.  In the case of flowers, the field is shallow, so depth of field is not so important.  This is an excellent opportunity to use: ‘contrast’ to bring out color instead!  I sometimes use a little spray bottle before I take the shot, to add interest.  Perks up the flower too!  And since pansies are small, and the droplets are big, they make a good candidate for that: ‘Fresh rain’ feeling…

Go for Lens Effects!

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Here are some pansies, using a 24 mm wide angle lens from about 5 feet away…

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Look at what happens to the perspective when you are only 1 foot away…  All proportions are exaggerated!  Now, they look like an angry mob!  Even if you’re out standing in your field because: ‘There’s a Nuke Hid in Town!’, if you love what you’re doing, and are willing to experiment, the results are bound to be good! 

A Labor of Love:

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You would not believe how small this flower is.  However, at full size, the picture is a foot by a foot and a half.  So this little guy looks enormous at that size.  And it came covered in dirt specs less than a pin head in size, so quite invisable in the sun: where I was standing when I took this shot.

All you can do, is find the larges clear spot, and adjust your clone tool to that size, and start clicking away…  It took me a full hour to get it all!  I look at it this way.  Though the task seems enormous, with patience, it can be accomplished!  Some of the others were just as bad.  Like I always say: ‘It’s what you don’t see that brings on the perfection flowers so richly deserve! 

See how this leaves a clear space on the left for peoples icons: a good idea to keep in mind, if you like desktop pictures.  Some peole do and some don’t.  So, once in a while is all that’s necessary.  These shots would all still be clear at 18″ x 24″.  If you intend to make any hard copies, be sure and convert the file from RGB to CMYK.

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Here’s the orchid from afar…  Beautiful isn’t it?  Orchids are very fussy and hard to grow!  Most people just over water them and they die from root rot.  You should water them once every three weeks, give them indirect sun, and never spray them!  This does well as an indoor plant.  Expensive though.  This one cost me $22, plus thumb tax!

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Be sure and view all these at full size!  They are perfect macros: I’m using a half life size, Canon 50 mm. lens in conjuction with tubing, to give me up to twice life size, which is pretty close!  I prefere tubbing because having no added glass between you and your subject, hence means, no degregation in quality.  Enjoy!

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The Lighter Side of Photography

A Balancing Act

See, people think that us shutter bugs are just walking around looking for flowers and bees…  It’s not like that at all!  We take up the gauntlet of pure stupidity, and traverse some very treacherous rocks, hills, riversides, and cliffs to get to that perfect ‘waterfall spot’…  Don’t ask me why.  It just seems we have to get pictures of all the waterfalls that we can.  We should call it ‘shutter bug disease’ because all us nature buff fanatics, are nutty about them!  Rapids are great for time lapse shots as well, but aren’t always easy to get to…

See, you’ve got to figure, more often than not, to get to your goal, you have to traverse a rocky shoreline, because the forest is to dense to wade through, plus you’re carrying maybe 50 lbs. of equipment on your back, and a 20 lb.tripod in one hand.  That leaves you off balance, with only one hand free to catch yourself if you fall: hoping that your hiking boots with real tire tread soles, and the laces with genuine Saskatchewan, seal-skin bindings from Canadian Tire will help…  Meanwhile, some of those rocks are very slippery, with green slime on them!  Now if you have to step onto a curved one, you may do an Irish jig for a few moments, but you’re going in the drink, equipment, tripod, clothes, and all!

Or, you could be merrily winding your way down some trail, catch your foot on a root, and are suddenly grabbing for air with one hand, only to be caught twirling around trees until you do a ballerina dance, and involuntarily whip yourself into the drink anyway!  You could land on your back, and be like a turtle what can’t get up!  You could lay there for days, looking like a boxed lunch!

I’ve been literally teetering on the edge of dizzying heights, palms seating, heart pounding, knees knocking, only to back away from the tripod because I had to sneeze!  See, it’s all that adventure, and risk taking, that keeps you alive, instead of just existing.  Risking taking!  It brings the best rewards, and always, but always sends you away more appreciative of the air you breathe, and the sights you see, than ever before!

 

Curious Onlookers

So there I am at a lookout post that has a great view, looking through my view-finder, tweaking knobs, adjusting settings, making calculations in my head about exposure, composition, etc..  And suddenly, I hear: ‘Hi!  That’s some camera you have there!’ So I look up, and there’s this guy in his mid 50’s maybe.  He just snuck right up on me!  Didn’t know him from Adam!  I have thousands of dollars worth of equipment with me, and there’s just the two of us there!  He could have thrown me over the cliff and took a picture of me on the way down for all I know!  Then he starts asking me all these skill testing questions:  ‘So what kind of camera is it?  Do you get good shots?  Ever run into any bears?’  Who cares!  Now I’m loosing my cloud formations!  I don’t know this guys intentions…  Now he’s talking about how he likes to go swimming with his dog…  So I just politely said: ‘Well, if you don’t mind, I really should get back to work here!  You have yourself a great day…’

Another time, I encountered this stupid, frumpish old bag of wet laundry!  I was taking a picture of a wooden gate with a rot iron filled hole in the middle.  She didn’t even live there!  She lived next-door…  ‘What are you doing there?’  Well what does it look like I’m doing?  Planning a bank robbery as a sleep over bandit?  Then she starts going on about rot iron as a work of art, when suddenly a group of four teens encircled me with their bikes, calling me nasty names like: ‘Wahoo!’  And ‘Whippy!’  So I packed up, and moved on before I was mugged and talked to death, all in the same breath!

 

Impossible accidents

One time around 6am.  I’m getting set up on top of a rock face, with about a 30 degree incline, putting me about 50 yards from the river.  As always, I went to take the lens cap off my camera, only this time, it leaped from my hand, landed sideways, and rolled all the way down the rock face, bouncing up here and there, and <Ker plunk >, into the drink!  I searched the muddy bottom, but do you think I could find the dang, blad thing?  No sir/Mama!  It was only by shear fortune, that I had another cap on my macro lens tubing that just fit my camera!

Another time, I was about the same distance up a rock face with about a 40 degree incline.  I put my favorite, yet compact macro lens on the rock with a bit of a lean…  I thought it not enough to tip it over, but I was wrong!  It just took the right wind gust, and standing helplessly with my jaw dropped, I watched it tumble end over end, and into the drink it goes!  I’m sure it was only the lens cap keeping the vibrations from cracking the lens.  And at any time, it could have bounced on the opening clip, and flew off, but it didn’t: a strange twist of fate to be sure!  This time, I found the lens half sunk, into the muddy bottom of the river.  Some sand had gotten into the focusing mechanism, but a little machine oil washed it out nicely.  The lens works fine to this day!

Another blogger shared with me how her lens got sucked down a whirl pool at a river side with rapids…  So it was lost forever: sucked into an ever deepening vortex!  Do you have any photography stories that don’t just concern taking pictures?  If you do, then you have a blog to write!  So the next time you think of Photography as smiling Aunts and Uncles, think again!  There’s always a fumble or a spill, a knock or a bruise, a tussle or a knob!  There’s always: ‘The Lighter Side of Photography!’

 

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How to Capture Starlight

Introduction:

Many people who own DSLR’s are left in the dark when it comes to capturing starlight.  Their results vary from completely blurry, to light trails, to completely blank.  The object of this entry is to help you to capture some amazing shots of the night sky by using a few basic but key accessories.  I will give you these in list form.  All items that are absolutely essential will have an * at the beginning of the explanation.  I will also include instructions for proper post editing…

  • Use a tripod – * This is an absolute necessity because you can’t possibly hold the camera steady enough yourself, for the time duration it takes to capture enough light, and keep the star points concentric (round).
  • Exposure – The Earth is always moving, and the stars are moving as well.  So the I prefer 5 seconds, but can push it up to 8 seconds, and still get concentric star points.  This time frame is important because any longer and you’re going to get trails (movement), and any shorter, and you won’t capture as many star points.  The human eye creates a new picture every tenth of a second.  So leaving the shutter open for this amount of time will capture stars up to 3 more magnitudes than you can visually see!  This may not sound like much, but it is…
  • ISO – *  It’s advisable to set your ISO to 3200 to make the sensor as sensitive to light as possible.  If your camera only provides 1600 ISO max., adequate pictures can still be attained with 8 second exposures, though a reduction in size will be a must in the post processing stage…
  • F Stop – Again, you want the camera to pick up as much light as possible, so open your lens all the way to at least f 5.6.. If you can get it lower at f 4 or below, so much the better!
  • Lens – Contrary to popular belief, you may think the longer the lens in the telescopic range, the more starlight you’ll gather.  This is true, but your field of view is very limited.  So although you will see stars that are further away, there will be very few of them in your field of view!  Use as wide an angle lens as you have.  I used as 24mm to 105mm zoom lens set to 24mm to capture the most stars.
  • Focus – You’re not going to see a lot through your view finder.  To obtain clear focus, set your focus ring to infinity: that’s the sideways 8 shown on your lens.  Do this along with all of your other camera settings before you go out because it’s dark out there, and a flashlight will only blind you more! 
  • Cable Release – * This is an optional accessory that most people have to buy separately for their camera.  When you click the button on your camera to take a picture, this transfers any shake in your hand, to the image, producing ‘ghosts’ beside each star point.  A cable release is relatively inexpensive, and essential for every day use as well!
  • Mirror Lock – * Unfortunately, it’s essential that your camera has this feature!  Just before the exposure is taken, the mirror flips up, causing camera shake that is avoided of you have a ‘mirror lock’ feature.  This way, you set your camera to ‘bulb’, press the cable release once to lock up the mirror, wait 2 seconds, and then hold the button down for the duration of your exposure, and then let go: else-wise, your camera will try to focus on nothing, which is why you get those blank shots!  Alternatively, set your camera to ‘Manual’, and uncouple your exposure from your focus points on the camera, if your camera provides for that…  The newest cameras are now mirror-less to avoid the problem completely.
  • Black Mat – Not many cameras have this feature.  Mine does.  At 3200 ISO, artifacts, or ‘digital noise’ becomes a very real problem.  With this feature, a camera can take a black mat background shot first, and then superimpose the foreground on that, virtually eliminating all noise.  Though you may loose a few star points, I’ll show you a way to achieve something similar in the post processing phase.
  • Seeing – ‘Seeing is a term that describes the number of stars visible on any given night.  Sometimes you will see lots of stars, and on other nights, not so many.  I purposely picked a night when the seeing was poor, so I could show you only the tip of the ice-burg of what your camera is capable of!  The real name for the sensor that determines the number of mega-pix you can capture is called a CCD, or ‘charged couped device’.  Astronomers immediately switched from conventional emulsion film to CCD’s as soon as they came out.  This was long before commercial cameras were using them.  So you have the perfect astronomical instrument right there in the back of your camera.  CCD’s are far more sensitive to light than conventional film.  The catch is, if you own a cheap camera, you probably have a crumby CCD chip as well.  I paid $8000 for one of the best cameras there is, so I have everything listed above, including an excellent, full 35mm frame CMOS CCD chip…

Post Processing:

It’s best to shoot these in RAW format.  I then save it as a dng. extension which stands for: ‘digital negative.’  This retains the ability to still work with the image in your RAW utility without loosing data, except now, it’s an actual image that can be processed.  Next, I save a copy to png. format because it retains 16 mega-pix of data, and is presentable in WordPress format.  Jpgs. are only 8 bits which equates to presenting someone with an image capable of defining 65,000 colors, as apposed to 256 colors in jpg format.

24 Bits produces 16 million colors, and 32 bits introduces 22 million colors, which is the full extent of what the eye can discern.  So if you’re shooting for 64 bit pix., it’s over-kill…  Anyway, 16 bits makes for far more latitude in the post processing stage without the image deteriorating or developing artifacts…

At the bottom of your RAW utility window in Photoshop, you’ll see a statement highlighted in light blue, assigning 8 bits to your photo.  You don’t want this.  You want 16 bits until you intend to save a jpg. copy. By right clicking this ‘statement’, it will give you the option to convert images using 16 bit format.  This is where you need to be.  Select it, and leave it that way.

Temperature – Star colors used to be very hard to achieve without a high powered telescope.  Not anymore!  There is a trick to it though.  You’ll find, if you examine your ‘Histogram’, that all of the pixels in star shots are all slammed up against the far left hand side.  This is naturally where all your shadow content would be, and the favorite place for blue light. There’s a ‘temperature gage on the first tab in the RAW utility.  You will see it’s at the blue side of things.  Reset it to 5200 K. so that you will get the correct color of stars that aren’t apparent just yet.

Color – In the same tab, you’ll find a saturation control and a vibrancy control.  I set the vibrancy control to 45% and the saturation level to 40% and I still had to add 40% more saturation in Photoshop for star colors to become apparent!  Still, most of them are subtle differences because stars go from very faintly colored to extremely colorful on a scale from 1 to 9. The designations are: OBAFGKM.  

The sentence to remember the order is: ‘Oh be a fine girl, kiss me!’  ‘O’ stars are white. ‘B’ stars are progressively more blue: 1 being the faintest, and 9 being the most saturated.  ‘A’ stars are cyan. ‘F’ stars are Gold.  ‘G’ stars are yellow.  Our star is a G2 star. ‘K’ stars are orange and ‘M’ stars are red dwarfs.  Over half of all stars are red dwarfs.  Over half of all stars are double stars orbiting about each other  Castor in Gemini, is a six star system!

In one shot, on the bottom left hand side, near the tree, you’ll notice the big dipper, and that a couple of the stars on the handle show their double star companions.  The Big Dipper BTW is within the region of space in which we reside.  Because they’re so close, the ‘proper motion’ of these stars will radically change their position by 2050, so it won’t resemble its present shape at all…

You’ll notice subtle shades of purple and green, but you’ll have to look close!  Other stars will jump right out at you as beings deep blue or red or yellow…  Experiment with a 50 mm macro lenses you can stop down to f 1.2 in some cases.

Contrast – This is where I was telling you earlier, where you can take out the noise.  adjust your contrast in your Raw utility, to +40.  That should remove the noise, and leave the actual stars.  Do not adjust any other controls.

Get out there now and try your hand at this wonderful field of night time photography!  I took a picture here of a bright star, and to my delight, I captured an ‘Open Cluster’ of older, yellow stars beside it.  So you never know what surprises are in store!  Like I said before…  There were only a few of stars visible the night I took these pictures.  Imagine what you would capture on nights when you can see The entire Milky Way sprawled out above you!

In Conclusion:

Since the star points won’t be visible in the slide show, it’s important that you choose ‘view full size’ on the bottom of your slide show screen, and then click the photo with your little magnifying glass icon to view it full size.  Then to save it, right click and chose: ‘Save Image as’…