Monday Missive – September 5, 2016

Quotes

There’s a world of difference between focusing a lens and focusing attention.” — John Paul Caponigro, in “The Power of Abstraction” on Craft and Vision.

“The paradox of the flawless record

If your work has never been criticized, it’s unlikely you have any work.
Creating work is the point, though, which means that in order to do something that matters, you’re going to be criticized.
If your goal is to be universally liked and respected and understood, then, it must mean your goal is to not do something that matters.
Which requires hiding.
Hiding, of course, isn’t the point.
Hence the paradox. You don’t want to be criticized and you do want to matter.
The solution: Create work that gets criticized. AND, have the discernment to tell the difference between useful criticism (rare and precious) and the stuff worth ignoring (everything else).”
Seth Godin, Sept. 4, 2016

Links

– Creating shadows for photoshop composites
– Long Exposure Photography
– Night Photography
– Adjusting contrast without changing saturation
– Personal Photography Projects
– Capturing emotions and moments
– 19 tips
– Adding background texture
– Trees
– Mushrooms

JohnWBrown_D8E_3459

Visited the Liberty Ship John W Brown off of Keith Ave in south Baltimore. Played with my 14 mm lens

Bug Shot Austin Days 1-4

What we choose not to do matters.Seth Godin, 5/20/16

Two years ago I heard about Bug Shot workshops given by some entomologists who are also great photographers. I was too late to register the first year I heard about it and the second year was in California. I was hoping that this year it would have moved back east, but it was in Texas, further than I would have liked, but close enough to be feasible. I decided to drive and explore several wildlife refuges along the Gulf coast.

We left on Sunday and the first two days were strictly travel. The fun began on day 3. In the morning we stopped at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge (N 30.45124; W 088.65537). Saw a couple of cranes by the side of the road outside the refuge but couldn’t safely stop. Although we couldn’t photograph cranes, we saw loads of great bog plants including yellow trumpet and parrot’s beak pitcher plants, and dwarf sundew. Also Orange Candy Root and Yellow Colicroot. The Refuge did a great job with little signs by various plants that were really helpful as was the volunteer manning the visitor center. We also stopped at Bayou Davis, the mainland part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Nice visitor center, saw an alligator, but the half mile nature trail didn’t produce anything but mosquito bites. Then onto New Orleans.

Traffic and traffic patterns were so crazy we decided to bag going downtown. A local (we stayed in Gretna which was half the price of downtown) restaurant, Cafe 615 Home of Da Wabbit, recommended by the hotel served a a great shrimp etouffe with two fried fillets; service was excellent, kitchen was fast, servings were large and reasonably priced.

The next morning off to Lake Charles. In the afternoon we went to Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge. The “Lacassine Pool” is the main attraction. Saw coots and ibis. Tried to go from Lacassine to Cameron Prairie NWR; got lost, but finally found the visitor center at about 3:45 to find that it closed at 3:00. Two miles down the road however was a wildlife drive and a very nice boardwalk loop through a marsh. Marsh was gorgeous, but it must have been wrong season or time of day for wildlife.

Tomorrow will head west to Bastrop, TX southwest of Austin. Workshop starts at 6:00.

Yellow Trumpet Pitcher Plant, Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge. 10 image stack

Yellow Trumpet Pitcher Plant, Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge. 10 image stack

Egret at Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge.

Egret at Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge.

Bayscaping (Butterfly Garden) Redux

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.  — Elliott Erwitt

I first talked about Bayscaping — landscaping for habitat using native species — in April 2013, with an update in August of that year.  Well the garden has come along with fairly robust stands of Joe Pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed and butterfly weed and others which should attract numerous insects.  [Last year I mostly got a huge crop of aphids.]

Two years ago I saw 8 monarch caterpillars, but last year — nothing; very disappointing, but there was national concern about a huge kill of monarchs due to bad weather at the wrong time.  Hopefully this year will be better.  So far just some red and black milkweed bugs, that were not photographed.

Because I enjoy macro photography, my original intent in starting the garden was two-fold:  Provide a convenient (right outside my backdoor) location for macro photography of flowers and bugs and eventually to teach a macro class out of my home studio. So to start using it productively, I plan to update this blog post approximately weekly with at least 1 image per week (yeah, I know, not terribly ambitious, but hey, its summer and I’m retired).

May 29, 2015, mid-afternoon

ButterflyWeed_DSC4817

D200, 55 mm micro-Nikkor with 1.4x Tamron Teleconverter, f/5.6, 1/640 sec, ISO400. Butterfly weed.

MilkweedLeafBeetle_DSC4824

Milkweed Leaf Beetle, D200, 55 micro-Nikkor w/1.4X Tamron telextender, f/8, 1/125, ISO 400

Pretty warm, didn’t see too much, mostly those gold-bodied flies, so I shot some butterfly weed buds. Went back out an hour later and found this gaudy milkweed leaf beetle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 1, 2015, mid-afternoon

Experimented with a used 55 mm micro-Nikkor I bought earlier this year with a 52.5 mm Nikon extension tube (PN-11) that may have been made specifically to achieve 1:1 with this lens.  The tubes have their own foot, increasing the stability of the camera/lens on the tripod.

June 10, 2015D800E, ISO 400, f/16, 55 mm micro with 52.5 extension tubes.

Butterflyweed has opened.

ButterflyWeed_D8E1343

55 mm micro-Nikkor with 14 mm extension tube on D800E

 

Delaware Horseshoe Crabs

While my interest in natural history has added very little to my sum of achievement, it has added immeasurably to my sum of enjoyment in life. — Theodore Roosevelt

HorseshoeCrabEggs_D8E0639

Horseshoe crab eggs are a critical food source for migrating birds.

Every year a major ecological happening occurs along the shores of the Delaware Bay in Delaware and New Jersey:  Thousands of horseshoe crabs gather on the shores to breed.  Well, OK… but I really don’t care about a bunch of ugly, horny bug-like things that look like they crawled out from under something.  What makes this ecologically important? The eggs they lay are food for thousands of migrating birds, many of them major long-distance travelers that travel from South America to the Arctic.  Without this food source along their migration route, thousands may not make it to nesting areas.  Populations of horseshoe crabs, and therefore their eggs, have been decreasing due to habitat destruction and the capture of tons of the crabs (which aren’t really crabs, but are more closely related to spiders and scorpions) for bait by crabbers, who crunch up the horseshoe crabs to capture the much more lucrative blue crabs; they are also used as fertilizer.

The peak of spawning on the Atlantic coast occurs in Delaware Bay where thousands of crabs arrive on the sandy beaches in May and June. Delaware Bay provides an excellent spawning area for crabs because the sandy beaches are protected from harsh wave action. HorseshoeCrabs_D8E0491The beaches’ sand and pebble mixture is perfect for incubating horseshoe crab eggs. Crabs arrive on the spawning beaches during the high tides of full and new moons when the water rises highest on the beach.

HorseshoeCrabs_D8E0593I had time to check out 3 beaches:

– Kitts Hummock (3073 Kitts Hummock Rd, Dover, DE 19901; 39.102715, -75.402319).
– Pickering Beach (Pickering Beach in Delaware often has the highest densities of horseshoe crabs. In 2007 researchers counted a whopping 27 horseshoe crabs per square meter at Pickering Beach during the peak of spawning season (May-June) at high tide.  The beach is off Route 9 on conveniently named Pickering Beach Rd (Route 349). North of Kitts Hummock. (Clean Porta-Johns available 2015).
– Slaughter Beach, which is well-marked on the map and the furthest south of these beaches (real bathrooms available).

Port Mahon, east of Dover, may have been the best bet for birds, but we didn’t make it on this trip.  While the crabs are best closest to high tide, the birds tend to get better as the tide goes out and the eggs are exposed.

The long pointy tail is NOT a stinger and not dangerous.  It helps the clumsy crabs turn right side up when they are inverted in the waves.  The crabs are completely harmless and eat worms and shellfish they find along the bottom of the Bay.

A two hour trip from Baltimore, in season this is a great day trip for nature photographers and families that want to explore nature.

Update 6/10/15

Latest issue of the Nature Conservancy’s magazine says that rufa subspecies of the red knot, a bird that depends on  horseshoe crab eggs to refuel for the 18,000 mile round trip from Tierra del Fuego in summer to the high Acrtic is now listed as a threatened species.  I noticed this year that there were mostly gulls feeding on the eggs — in a past visit there was far more diversity at the feeding frenzy.

Please Bug Me

Here were creatures so exquisitely fashioned that they seemed unreal, their beauty too fragile to exist in a world of crushing force. — Rachel Carson

It’s turning into a buggy summer as I ramp up my macro work.  North Point State Park in southeast Baltimore County turns out to be a pretty good place for dragonflies (credit to Lynn Roberts for the location).  So far I haven’t found much diversity, but I have only been there once.  Eastern Pondhawks and Blue Dashers predominate.  It is a good place to practice, because there are so many, but of less interest if you want to expand your files NeedhamsSkimmer-(67)with new species.  I did find a tentatively identified Needham’s Skimmer, which is new to me.

 

Font Hill Wetland Park near Ellicott City, MD is another good place for dragonflies (and a damselfly).  Greater diversity (so far) than at North Point, with fewer Eastern Pondhawks, but still plenty of Blue Dashers.

EasternAmberwing-(9)cropped EbonyJewelwing-(13) WidowSkimmer-(1)Got the eastern amberwing, ebony jewelwing and widow skimmer there (left to right). The headstand of the amberwing is to try and reduce temperature either by exposing less profile to the sun or self-shading. Backyard butterfly garden yielded the snowberry clearwing; the h_D8E2744Harvestmanarvestman was on some bushes in the back.  The fly is a holdover from North Point.

Fly-(4)

Many of these were taken with the Nikon 200 mm micro lens with a Tamron 1.4 x telextender.  The lens has exceptional sharpness and is well corrected; when I add lens corrections in ACR, there is virtually no change.  The combination gives good reach, with excellent sharpness.

Second Wildflower Pilgrimage to West Virginia

Bread feeds the body indeed, but flowers feed also the soul. — The Koran

It was the 53rd Wildflower Pilgrimage in Davis, WV, but our second trip.  The Blackwater Inn in Davis was the host. This year my wife and I chose two different trips and spent part of Sunday at a third choice before coming home.

Cranesville Swamp

This Nature conservancy location straddles the Maryland/West Virginia border. It is a relict community that is left over from the ice age because this West Virginia area is cold enough to maintain a boreal environment, at least so far, if climate change doesn’t make that impossible in the future. I had entered from the Maryland side previously and wasn’t aware that there was a boardwalk through the bog accessible only from the WV side, which is where went this time. This is one of the advantages of the Pilgrimage:  people who really kRoundLeavedSundewSF2now the area can show you the best places and help identify the flowers and birds. Because of the cold spring, some things that might normally be in bloom weren’t.  I was able to get one very nice sundew.   Others saw some water snakes playing in an open area.  Numerous flowers along the trail.

You can get travel directions from the Nature Conservancy website for Cranesville Swamp.

Cathedral State Park

Jack-in-thePulpitSF1The second half of the first day was spent at Cathedral State Park.  I had been there before, but this trip was disappointing because it was rather dry and more open than usual due to storms that pulled down some old trees.  This park has some really magnificent old hemlocks. It also has the biggest dandelions I have ever seen.  Cathedral State Park is well-marked on most maps and you enter off of Route 50 in Aurora, WV.

Otter Creek Wilderness

On Saturday we went to Otter Creek Wilderness.  After a short trail hike there is a somewhat shaky bridge over Otter Creek. It is a replacement for a swinging bridge taken OtterCreekCascade3down at high water.  A bit after the bridge there is some rough trail climbing over rocks with some muddy spots for about a quarter mile, but then the trail smooths out with Painted Trilliumsome very nice wildflowers. A small wadeable stream crosses the trail about 1 mile in with some very nice little cascades a short ways upstream.

 

 Fernow Experimental Forest

We were on our own on this one, and with another couple mistakenly drove up some pretty rough trails before turning around and getting some better directions.  We stopped at only one location, near some maintenance buildings and a low water bridge.  Around the bridge were gobs of Showy Orchis and other wildflowers.  A really nice location.

ShowyOrchisSF3In Parsons, make a left at the Subway shop and then almost immediately another left. Car GPS coordinates for a little ways into the forest was:  N 39.07997° and W 079.64925° (you are on your own with these directions),

Waterfalls and Lakeshore Near Baltimore

If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it. – Jay Maisel

As a nature photographer I sometimes feel a bit stranded here in the populous mid-Atlantic. Yes, there are great areas in West Virginia and Shenandoah, parts of western Maryland aren’t bad, and there are some good areas northeast of Harrisburg.  But what if I just have a few hours?  I recently found, or re-discovered three areas, all water-related with the help of the Hunt Valley Photography Club, which is really a meet-up, more than a typical camera club.

Cascade Falls in Patapsco State Park.  The first one is the small falls in Patapsco State Park on the Cascade Falls Trail. I had been there before, but was having trouble finding it again.  Take I-95S from I-695 to I-195 E to Route 1 (the first exit off of I-195). Normally you could go a very short distance to turn right South St. and bear left onto River Road, but that exit is currently closed for construction, so continue south on Route 1 (Washington Ave.) to the next light at Levering Ave., make a right at the light and bear right to continue onto River Road, which is currently unpaved or partly paved.  Go past the first playground on your right and continue about 2 miles to the building on your left the bridge on your right and a parking lot just past the building. CascadeFallsPan1 The trailhead is between the building and the parking lot or an alternate trailhead at the far end of the parking lot. From either trailhead go to your left.  In just about 100 yards you can see some cascades across the valley. Continue another 100 yards to the falls.  The trail continues left around the falls. The coordinates for the parking lot are:  N 39° 14.478′   W 076° 45.034′.

Kilgore Falls. This falls is located in the Falling Branch Road part of Rocks State Park, and is NOT shown on map 3 of my 1992 version of the Harford County ADC map, but is off Clermont Mill Rd on Falling Branch Road, southwest of the itnersecton of Rocks Rd. (Route 24) and Harkins Rd (Route 136).  You can find more information at Falling Branch Trail to Kilgore Falls, the Maryland Geological Survey and Harford County. The hike begins from the parking lot at N 39° 41.403″  W 076° 25.365″. At the trail fork, if you go left, you KilgoreFalls (3)can cross the stream at some steppingstones to reach the other side and get to the base of the falls.  I went after a strong rain, and the stream was a bit too high to safely cross.  If you go to the right at the trail fork, it takes you to the top of the falls, where this picture was taken.  You can cross here too, and it is narrower a single mid-stream hop, but the flow is also greater. The address is 1050 Falling Branch Rd., Pylesville, MD 21132 according to my Garmin GPS.

Peerce’s Cove.  This area is a sandy beach area on Loch Raven reservoir facing west across the lake.  To get there, take the beltway to exit 27 north (Dulaney Valley Road).  After a few miles, you will go over the reservoir bridge and approach the traffic light…at the light you will stay to the right on Dulaney Valley Road.  After that split, you will drive for maybe a mile or so until you pass Peerce’s Plantation restaurant on your left.  Once you pass the restaurant, stay to your right when the road splits…the road then becomes Loch Raven Drive.  LochRavenSunsetzAfter another mile or so on Loch Raven drive you will see Morgan Mill Road on your left, the cove will be on your right about 0.2 – 0.3 miles further. You can park your car on the street right by the cove.  If you reach the bridge, which is a few hundred yards past the cove, you’ve gone too far.  There is also parking on Morgan Mill Rd., right off Loch Raven Drive.

Multi-image Photography: Part IV – HDR

The secret of a good photograph—which, like a work of art, can have esthetic qualities—is its realism … Let us therefore leave art to artists and endeavor to create, with the means peculiar to photography and without borrowing from art, photographs which will last because of their photographic qualities.” — Albert Renger-Patzsch

High Dynamic Range photography combines multiple images with bracketed exposures to compress the brightness range of scenes where very bright areas and very dark exceed the capture range of the sensor.  In such scenes an average exposure might result in shadow or highlight areas without detail (highlights completely “blown out.)”

With film, if there were foreground/background brightness differences, such scenes might have been clumsily handled with a graduated neutral density filter (of course grad filters can also work for digital photography, but HDR is far more flexible).  These filters would have half their areas darkened by the equivalent of 1, 2 or 3 stops with a neutral gray that wouldn’t change colors or tones, and the remainder clear.  If you had for example a sunset that was sufficiently bright that a proper exposure left the foreground dark, you could use this filter to hold back light from the sky and even out the exposure.  This worked fairly well where you had a straight horizon, but not so well in more complex situations.  Another solution to long tonal range was to “expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights,” which worked well for black and white film but not so much for transparencies. Using flash or fill flash and dodging and burning in the darkroom were other means of handling scenes with long tonal values.

One of the draw backs of HDR is that the subject and camera need to be still or you capture the movement through the bracket set.  This is called ghosting. A common ghosting problem for example is the movement of clouds in the sky.  Several of the programs that do HDR can now handle some ghosting by allowing you to pick a particular exposure from the set to use for areas that exhibit movement.

A typical DSLR sensor can capture a range of about 9 stops.  Black and white negative film can capture about 13 stops and a view through a window from a dim interior to bright sunlight would be about 12-14 stops.  On the other side of the process, the best possible paper is going to able to portray only about 7 stops (Freeman).  So somewhere in the process there is need to compress the brightness  range of high dynamic range images.

When planning to shoot for HDR processing it is very helpful if you have tripod so that the images, especially those with the longest shutter speeds can be properly aligned.  If you don’t have a tripod, increase your ISO if possible so that even the longest exposures will be steady (this will add noise to your darkest exposure).  Bracing against a solid object such as a fence post or tree can also help to avoid camera movement.  Setting up an auto bracket now becomes more important so you don’t move the camera to make adjustments, but can just press the shutter the requisite number of times.

Set your exposure to manual and adjust the exposure using only the shutter speed.  If you change the f-stop, the foreground/background focus may change, decreasing sharpness in the final image or making alignment more difficult.

The number of exposures will be dependent on the total range over which you make your exposures and the steps in between. Being sure to fully capture shadows and highlights will determine the range.  Usually steps of 2 stops will be sufficient.  You can start with your shortest exposures (the histogram is bunched to the left) so that the rightmost histogram values are to the left of the center of the axis.  Lengthen your shutter speed in two stop increments (expose to the right) until the histogram is bunched up on the right and the leftmost values are to the right of the center of the axis.

To facilitate processing in Photoshop, I shoot my hand at the beginning and end of each sequence to make it easier to see where the sequence begins and ends.  When naming the files I use a scene name, followed by the number of the HDR sequence for that scene, followed by a letter for the frame sequence.  This can be done automatically in Batch Rename under the tools menu. So for example The first pan of a river gorge scene might be RiverGorgeHDR1a, RiverGorgeHDR1b, RiverGorgeHDR1c. If I shot a second pan sequence it would be RiverGorgeHDR2a, RiverGorgeHDR2b, etc.  When naming the final merged image it would be, for example, River GorgeHDR2, which would enable to go back to the original HDR sequence of images if I ever needed to.

I usually shoot in RAW, so to begin I select the images in Bridge and double click on one to open them all in camera RAW.  I make lens and chromatic aberration corrections from the lens corrections tab.  I then make other global changes such as exposure, saturation or clarity. I don’t make local corrections such as spot removal. Then “select all” on the left and then synchronize. Click OK if you have not made local corrections; if you have, just unclick those such as spot removal or local corrections. This will make the same changes to all of the images so they remain consistent.  Then in Photoshop click Alt-open to Open copies.  Photoshop will open all of the images.

When that is complete, File > Automate > Merge to HDR. Click “Add Open Files.” “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” should be selected by default and click OK.  Photoshop will open a dialog box with the merged image and the component images across the bottom indicating the relative exposure.

In the upper left corner is a check box to “Remove Ghosts” – click that because even on a tripod there might be slight movement from the mirror slap or pressing the shutter. Just below the Ghost checkbox it will provide options for Mode:  8, 16 or 32 bit.  I generally leave it on 16, unless my camera only took 8-bit images, then there is no advantage to 16 bit.  Next to mode are the tone mapping options.  Local adaptation is generally most useful and comes up by default.  Highlight compression produces a relatively flat image that might be useful in some instances with additional processing after generating the HDR.  Under Tone and Detail I usually tweak the detail up a bit and hold off on Gamma and Exposure until I am done with “Curve.”  The curve can be used like a curve adjustment layer.  If you click on “Advanced” you can use simple sliders to adjust Shadows, Highlights, Vibrance and Saturation.  Click OK to create the merged image, and editing according to your own workflow from there.

After Google bought NIK, they offered a good deal on a package of NIK software that included HDREfexPro 2 which also offers HDR and tone mapping tools.  Again open your files and make global corrections.  Open HDREfexPro 2 and click on “Add open files.”  Smart Object will be checked by default.  If you want to generate the HDR as a Smart Object then click on “Merge dialog.” However, as a Smart Object you won’t have access to curves, contrast or an overlay adjustment layers in the final HDR image.  Since there were relatively few changes to make in the HDR dialog, I would not generally expect to go back, and wouldn’t open as a Smart Object so I have more flexibility for subsequent adjustments.

The ensuing dialog has some similarities to PS, with a large rendering of the HDR image and small images showing the range of images used.  An option is not offered for different tone operators, but an option is provided for correcting chromatic aberrations which can occur as a result of the tone mapping.  If you see aberrations, correct then, otherwise click “Create HDR.” HDR Efex Pro gave a much different result then PS, with a much flatter image and both the shadows and highlights brought toward the midtones.  I thought the image less interesting than the PS result, but could make subsequent changes. Clicking OK opened the image back in PS as a 32-bit TIFF file.

RiverGorgeHDR5d

This is the best single image corrected with typical local and global controls, including selection and darkening of the sky, overlay, etc.

RiverGorgeHDRPS

This image is the Photoshop HDR result.

 

 

 

RiverGorgeHDNIK (1)

This is the NIK HDR result, and

RiverGorgeHDNIKMOD

This is the NIK HDR modified by normal workflow after generation of the HDR. You can see that the detail in the shadows is increased for both the cliff and the river.

 

 

Michael Freeman, Mastering HDR Photography, Amphoto Books, 2008)

Multi-image Photography: Part III – Panoramas

…to see the statement of intent that resides in natural form.”  —  John Szarkowski describing the work of Edward Weston in Looking at Photographs.

The world just does not fit conveniently into the format of a 35mm camera.” – W. Eugene Smith

Panoramas are my favorite multi-image approach.  I frequently shoot landscapes and very often the landscape elements are not consistent with camera formats (aspect ratios). Panoramas don’t need to be large numbers of frames; sometimes just 2 frames with an over lap of 20% will be exactly what you need.  Panoramas are relatively easy to produce if you remember three things:

(1)    Level your tripod and your camera.  My tripod has a little circular level that helps a lot.  There are also leveling heads that can simplify the process instead of alternately adjusting each leg.  To level my D200 I use a little bubble level that fits in the hot shoe; it works great.  My D800E has an attitude indicator in the camera that I find convenient because I can then have a GPS unit on the hot shoe, so I use that instead.

(2)    Focus and exposure must be on manual.  You need to set your best average focus point for the entire sequence and not have auto focus decide what is best or the stitching will be obvious; adjust your depth of field appropriately.  You also want a consistent exposure, so go to manual exposure.  Watch out if you frequently use a polarizer.  As you change your camera angle relative to the sun, the polarizing effect will change as well.  You can end up with a distinct change in exposure from one shot to the next, especially for skies.

(3)    Find the nodal point (aka no-parallax point) in your lens.  For telephoto lenses this is generally near the central point of the lens or about where the diaphragm is. For wide angle lenses it gets more complicated rapidly as you go wider and the nodal point can change with the angle of incidence (the amount of rotation).  Finding the nodal point is more critical for scenes that are relatively close.  If you don’t rotate around the no-parallax point, your images may not line up very well. To rotate around the nodal point, long plates that fit an Arca Swiss mount are helpful, so you can slide the camera back and forth along the lens axis until you are at the nodal point.  With my 70-200 mm lens, which has a mounting foot, I am very close to the nodal point without much modification. Usually the images align very well.  With my 24-70 mm which doesn’t have a foot, aligning the images is almost impossible if rotating around the camera itself. The less confident you are about the nodal point, the more space you should leave around your subject, so that if the alignment is off you will still have room to crop.

A web search for “finding the nodal point of a lens” will turn up numerous descriptions that don’t need to be repeated here, but very briefly, two vertical objects are set up, one closer the other further away, that align along the axis of the lens. A telephone pole and building edge can work.  As you rotate the lens around the nodal point, they should remain aligned.  If they don’t then shift the camera back and forth along the lens axis using a long attachment plate, until they remain aligned.

West Quoddy Shore Maine

More often than not, I do a  horizontal pan to capture the full scope and grandeur of a landscape, but I do occasional verticals as well.  Verticals are a little harder

Panoramic view of the tundra in Rocky Mountain State Park

because there is nothing to keep the camera aligned as you tilt upward, instead of rotating with your ball head.

Lower Falls at Hills Creek, WVYou can also do a horizontal panorama with your camera mounted vertically as I did with this image of the “Gossips” in Arches National Park.   Sometimes you don’t need to add much and just two images are sufficient The Gossips, Arches NP, UT

to get what you want with the appropriate foreground and background.

I always rotate left to right so that the frames are taken in the sequence in which they will be stitched, although the program can manage either way.  I usually overlap each frame by 20-25% and as I rotate I try to make sure that right side of preceding frame and the left side of the suceeding frame have some distinctive structure to overlap.

To facilitate processing in Photoshop, I shoot my hand at the beginning and end of each sequence to make it easier to see where the sequence begins and ends.  When naming the files I use a scene name, followed by the number of the panorama for that scene, followed by a letter for the frame sequence.  This can be done automatically in Batch Rename under the tools menu. So for example The first pan of a tundra scene might be TundraPan1a, TundraPan1b, TundraPan1c. If I shot a second pan sequence it would be TundraPan2a, TundraPan 2b, etc.

I usually shoot in RAW, so to begin I select the images in Bridge and double click on one to open them all in camera RAW.  I make lens and chromatic aberration corrections from the lens corrections tab.  I then make other global changes such as exposure, saturation or clarity. I don’t make local corrections such as spot removal. Then “select all” on the left and then synchronize. Click OK if you have not made local corrections; if you have just unclick those such as spot removal or local corrections. This will make the same changes to all of the images so they remain consistent.  Then click Alt-open to Open copies.

Photoshop will open all of the images.  When that is complete, File > Automate > Photomerge. Click “Add Open Files.” Generally the auto layout should work well, but you can experiment. Blend images will be selected by default and click OK.  If your lens has some vignetting that can show up as darker areas where the frames were stitched.  If it was not corrected by lens corrections, you can also click for vignette removal.  Photoshop will automatically place each image on a separate layer with appropriate masks to align them.  I then make sure they are all selected and go to Layer > Flatten image.  I then close the component images to not take up memory (don’t close “untitled panorama or you will have to do it all over again). Often there are slight inconsistencies in alignment so I crop them out, then process according to my normal workflow.

Keep in mind that panoramas also increase the file size of the combined file and give you more pixels to create large images.  The ultimate is the GigaPan that automatically rotates and lowers to capture dozens of images that can be combined to produce sufficient resolution for wall size images.

Keep panoramas in mind when out in the field.  They provide the means to more

NizhoniPtOverlookPan7

accurately capture your vision in some situations by changing the aspect ratio of your final image, rather than cropping, letting you keep the resolution you want, and capturing a scene as you see it without the perspective changes inherent in a wide angle lens.

Friday:  HDR (High Dynamic Range)

Camera Club Trip to WV

Pilgrim leaves crowd the air with their falling every October. The journey is always the same. — Linda Pastan in Carnival Evening

The Baltimore Camera Club recently arranged a member trip to West Virginia.  In the past they have gone more to the north, closer to Canaan Valley, Dolly Sods and Seneca Rocks.  Happily this time they went to Pocahontas County, which is my favorite area of WV.

Lodging was arranged at the Inn at Mountain Quest in Frost, WV, about 18 miles from Marlinton, which is the main town in the area.  The rooms were a surprise.  I was expecting rather old style rooms or rooms you might find at a B&B.  The rooms were very nice, very comfortable, and rather delightfully eclectic in design, reflecting a space theme, an African savannah, and an extremely modern black and white design (my room) among others I didn’t see.

 Room@MountainQuestRaj agreed to share the ride with me, and we stuck together for the whole trip.  We went directly to Beartown State Park, which was the furthest from the Inn of the places I wanted to see, so that on the following days, travel would be at least a little shorter.

Rocks at Beartown State Park.Beartown Park Boardwalk

Beartown was all about rocks and ferns from a boardwalk.  In the right light, it could be pretty neat, but the light wasn’t really helpful.

The next morning, after a really fine breakfast, some spiderweb

Spider web

 and foggy tree photos, we headed for the Falls at Hills Creek.  Before we even hit the falls, a pond right across the road had some good fall reflections.  At the Falls, the lower falls has the largest drop at 63 feet, with a very good viewing platform.  So I went right down to the bottom on a boardwalk followed by a metal stairwell and more boardwalk, planning to be able to stop at the others on the way back to catch my breath.

Lower falls

The walk is kind of steep, especially carrying a tripod and backpack, but you just need to take your time and rest when need to and it isn’t too bad.

Cascade at Middle Falls.

I had a chance to rest at Middle Falls to take some more shots.  By this time, the sky seemed to be clearing even more, so waiting for the clouds to hide the sun was getting a little tedious, but I still like this middle falls shot with partial sun on the rocks.

After the Falls we hit the Cranberry Glades Boardwalk, which I think is better in the spring.  I did shoot some dried ferns and a cecropia moth caterpillar, but nothing really exciting.  To end the day we drove up the Highland Scenic Highway.  In some areas, the colors were doing fairly well, but I just couldn’t find a particular tree or color mass that excited me.

On Sunday morning we stopped at a place Raj had seen on Saturday, with a pond reflecting an old weathered barn.  The mist cooperated, and we stayed there a while, before moving on to Watoga State Park.  Some nice fall reflections in the lake, but nothing much else, so we started home.

Rooms and food at the Inn were excellent, but the Inn was almost 20 miles east of Marlinton, and most of the areas I preferred were west of Marlinton, so there was a lot of traveling for Raj and me.  Others went to the Cass Railroad, the radio telescope at Green Bank, and the windmill farm, all to the north.  Bottom line:  good trip!

BayScaping – Update

Image

Bread feeds the body indeed, but flowers feed also the soul. — The Koran

Back in April I first described my “Bay Scaping” attempt:  planting native plants with positive food and habitat values for wildlife.  Well the bumble bees really like the swamp milkweed, but the milkweed didn’t attract too much else.  The Joe Pye weed  however, is doing a reasonably good job of attracting tiger swallowtails, including one dark form.  I have had as many as four or five at a time.  Also, perhaps as the season advanced, getting some silver spotted skippers.  Hopefully, some eggs will be laid and the intensity will increase next year.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly.TigerSwallowtail015

Completing Artist Residencies

A big part of doing your work is defending your time and your attention so you can do your work. —  Seth Godin

In the last two weeks I have finally given up procrastination to complete the second and third artist residencies I did last year.  The requirements were not very onerous, but I didn’t make it priority — now finally done. BlueMesaOverlook012-300For Petrified Forest, this picture from the Blue Mesa area toward the southern area of the Park was selected by Park staff. Blue Mesa was definitely one of my favorites; the other being the Painted Desert behind the Painted Desert Inn. SunriseMist-(45)Take3CroppedMASTERdsmall

For Big Cypress, which was actually in 2013 and my last residency, both the Park and I readily agreed on a sunrise picture of a palmetto coming out of the ground fog with a really fantastic morning sky.

Broaden Your Horizons

…what mattered most… is the tension produced… by the surprise of difference…  —  Linda Pastan, in Carnival Evening

Fulton Avenue composite street scene.

Fulton Avenue composite.

Although I am most comfortable photographing natural scenes, I live in an urban environment. After about 10 years of commuting to work down Fulton Ave. and up Monroe Street, I finally realized that that there was a lot that was photographically interesting on those streets and in those communities that I passed each day, but basically ignored.  Much of it is blighted urban community, but there are areas that remain healthy and vital with people interacting on front steps, street vendors with crushed ice in the summer, and clean streets.

 

Composite image of burned church

Composite image of burned church

This developing body of work, tentatively title “Fulton-Monroe,” is an attempt to broaden my photographic horizons, test my creativity and document something that was part of my life for about 10 years.

I am not a “street shooter” in that I am still uncomfortable going up to people and asking them if I can take their picture (something I should remedy), so these are really all urban landscapes, illustrating the nature of the community or neighborhood by implication, but missing the important human component.

Plants in windows composite.

Composite image; large weed growing out of a broken window vs well-kept window box.

Since this is outside my usual work I would especially appreciate comments on this blog.

Home

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. – Confucious

I did some more work on fall “foliage” using the Meet Your Neighbors approach before I left. As part of my final presentation, I put up these three “quadtychs” at a volunteers meeting and let the volunteers vote on which ones they liked best. Everyone had three votes by putting sticky dots on the images they liked best. It could be three votes for one image, two and one, or one each.

The sunflower on the top left of the first image got by far the most votes with 33 out of 131 votes (25%). The Illinois bundleflower on the lower right of the second image, got the second place with 18 votes (14%). The big bluestem on the lower left of the last image came in third with 16 votes (12%). Runner up was the heath aster, upper right on the 3rd image.

Photographically I have been a little slow getting back up to speed once I returned home. Driving 21 hours in 2 days, catching up on mail and stuff, and just taking some time off to read science fiction and think about the last two and half months. Just ready to get going again, and we get hit by Sandy. Lost power at 8:50 pm on Monday, and still no power. Still spending time at the library. I like libraries, but I hoped to work from home when I got home. Things will settle soon. Hope you had a Happy Halloween!

Sorry I have been so inactive – Hopefully these images will make up for it.

Sorry I have been so remiss about updating.  I can rationalize that it is two miles each way to get email access, and the room I work in is a mail room that doesn’t really lend itself to creative thinking.  Nevertheless I am grateful that the Park provides internet access at all.

I have been doing a lot of shooting at Petrified Forest.  The shapes and colors are fantastic early and late, but the colors are washed out midday.  I think that Blue Mesa in the southern part of the Park will turnout to be my favorite area.  There is a trail that leads down into the canyon and you can wind your way around the layered buttes – it is like Alice in Wonderland – huge multi-colored buttes towering over you and around each corner. I went in the evening yesterday, but morning seems to be better.

The historic Painted Desert Inn (which is now just a landmark and no longer functions as an inn) is right across from where I am staying.  Two great trails start there:  the Rim Trail runs parallel to the road right at the rim of the canyon, giving a great view into Painted Desert (good morning light).  The Wilderness Trail runs right down into the Painted Desert, which in this area is a Wilderness area, meaning no vehicles, pets or facilities: only great view and colors.  I walked down to the canyon without camera, but didn’t stay long because it was getting late, but did shoot later from part way down the trail.