Digital Focus Stacking (Getting Macro pics tack sharp)

Digital Focus Stacking (Getting Macro pics tack sharp)

Digital Focus Stacking is a technique that allows you to get tack sharp images of close up (ergo Macro Photography) objects.  The image below illustrates the problem most shooters encounter while trying to capture “close in” objects. I’ve taken great care to get critical focus.  My camera is mounted on a tripod with a remote shutter release. I’ve turned my Macro lens to manual focus and used live view to get a better look.  I additionally use the “zoom in” option for live view all the way up to 10x, which makes manual focusing easy! I also remember to use my camera’s mirror lock up option as it’s a slow exposure, to avoid excess vibration ruining the sharpness.  Even shooting at F16, while the front of my BBQ’s knob is in focus the rear is very fuzzy. Using a digital focus program called Helicon Focus, can solve this problem and get you great results. Next step: I’m going to take three additional photos of this knob, each time turning my focus knob to shift the focus point back, until my last photo has the back of the knob in critical focus.  One way to get a good feel for how much to turn your manual focus dial, is to look at the depth of field gauge on your lens. My second shot above has shifted the center focus area slightly away(back).   With my third shot above, the front of the knob is getting pretty “out of focus” and the markings on the back are starting to look more legible. My final photo.  The rear of the knob is...
Celestial Photography Advanced Tutorial

Celestial Photography Advanced Tutorial

Photos, like the one shown above, combine two disciplines executed during a single exposure: Photographing stars as fixed objects Lighting an interesting foreground element using the moon or light painting techniques. Step #1: Where/When to go Stars are obscured by the surface illumination of urban and suburban areas. Places like Southern Utah (Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon), South Texas (Big Bend National Park), Nevada (great op to shoot ghost towns…) or portions of Northern Michigan all offer clean, dark night skies. The locations also offer interesting foreground subject matter to make your photos more memorable. Is the moon your friend? Generally not. You’re typically trying to shoot into a jet black sky. Even a modest crescent moon overhead can ruin an otherwise great night sky. The Photographers Ephemeris is a great tool to find the days each month, at a specific location, which will provide either a new moon, or a time when the moon isn’t visible during the evening hours. Most people can actually see the Milky Way Galaxy (a great source target for your photo) once their eyes acclimate to the night sky. If you can’t, PhotoPills is another application that help locate the Milky Way for you. http://photoephemeris.com/ http://www.photopills.com/ Moon occasionally your friend? A 5-15% crescent moon, low in the horizon is a good source to illuminate foreground objects providing your shooting away from it (moon). Great for very large objects (mountains….). Will usually lower the required ISO by 500-1000. Time of year? Many different opinions. My take: You’ll be out for 3-4 hours (it’s fun/addictive). Go late winter/early Spring or late fall. It gets dark...
Photo club:  Key adjustments in Aperture

Photo club: Key adjustments in Aperture

Useful short cuts: “V” cycles through the various screen views, “C” engages cropping and “control S” engages sharpening. Histogram:  Use to determine if photo is under or over exposed and adjust with “exposure” slider. White Balance:  Warm up or Cool (bluer cast) photos depending on lighting conditions.  Warming is often helpful for portraits. Black Point:  Helps photos have more “pop”…brings out the blacks.  For fine tuning or portrait work, try also the “midcontrast” slider. Vibrancy:  makes colors more intense. Saturation: Makes similar adjustments but looks more extreme. I seldom use with one important exception-moving the Saturation slider to the left will turn the photo black and white. Highlights: great for bringing back details in blown out areas of a photo that are too bright Skies or overlit faces. The above enhancements work “globally” on the entire photo. You can apply these however only to a specific part of the photo by clicking the “gear” icon and using the brushes to apply the enhancements selectively (you can brush the enhancement in or away).   To use an enhance brush: 1. adjust the size of the brush 2. the strength of the brush and 3. click the detect edges box. At the top of the enhance dialog box you have the option to “brush in” the enhancement or turn on the “eraser” if you need to erase part of your adjustment. Near the bottom of the page you have the option to select a variety of specialty brushes to further adjust portions of the photo you select. My favorite brushes include “dodge” which lightens the area or “burn” which darkens the...
Prime vs. Zoom Lenses (little known advantage?)

Prime vs. Zoom Lenses (little known advantage?)

There are pros & cons to choosing prime over zoom lens. Generally primes can be sharper edge to edge, faster and provide better resolution.  These differences have narrowed over the years.  Current zoom lenses are pretty close in image quality (remember it depends what specific two lens you’re comparing…a very good zoom beats a lower quality prime). A lesser known advantage of primes however is the ability to render great images when shooting into the sun (either directly or when partially obscured by an object).  The image above was taken with a Canon L Series Zoom (17-40mm @ F16).  Great lens…however you’ll notice that there is considerable flaring around the sun.  That’s detracting from an otherwise good image. Compare the image below taken on the same Canon Full Frame back and a Zeiss Prime 16mm (also at 16mm). Very little lens flair and much better defined sun. Why the difference? When shooting into the sun: light bounces around inside the lens, off of the various elements inside. To dumb it down…prime lenses have fewer elements…and offer fewer ops for light to be reflected inside your lens. The advent of new lens coatings has help reduced flair additionally. Bottom line: Shooting into the sun…grab a prime. Share...
Crop vs. Full Frame Cameras

Crop vs. Full Frame Cameras

CROP VS FULL FRAME CAMERAS One or the other or both? DSLR technology has come a long way, but no one camera can yet do it all. Crop and Full Frame (FF) cameras are very different tools geared for different subject matter. WHERE CROPS RULE (Sports, Long Glass, Candid Street photog): Crop sensor cameras in effect make your lenses “longer”. Most Canon crops (60d, 7d, 70dd, 7d MKII) have a 1.6 factor. Your 70-200mm zoom will behave like a 112-320 zoom while maintaining the same maximum aperture. Less expensive than buying longer glass. Ex. Cheaper to purchase a 70-200 f2.8 zoom ($2,000) on a crop than a 300mm f 2.8 ($7000) on a FF camera. Both set ups can produce similar magnification (& great images). The former lens is also lighter and easier to carry. Crop sensors cameras are also able to fire off pics rapidly. Ex. The 7d MK II can take 10 photos/sec; it’s buffer holds approx. 25 photos before it slows down. (PS, I’ve tested the 7d MK II with both compact flash and SD cards. The firing rate and refresh rate is identical…contrary to popular folklore. The SD card can fire 22 pics before slowdown, the compact flash 25). WHERE FULL FRAMES RULE? Full frame cameras have better dynamic range/superior image quality to their Crop brethren and tremendous low light performance. FF cameras can comfortably shoot low noise photos up to 2500+ISO (great for celestial photog), whereas Crops start producing noticeable noise over 600+. FFs are the perfect tool to go wide! Without the crop factor, FFs are well suited for nature photographers (especially in...
How to take sports photos like the pros

How to take sports photos like the pros

Taking game pics like banging your head against the wall? You expect “Sports Illustrated” and instead get out of focus images where your subjects are the size of ants! Intro/summary-Three elements of winning shots 1: Composition & story telling Do it like the great film directors.  Ex. My journey to a tough neighborhood…shooting youth basketball (having swagger when you’re scared sh-tless).  Looking up: “taking the shot before you take the shot”. Size lens, orientation to subject, depth field.  Warming up the crowd…becoming part of the show.  Are you telling a story or simply showing action? Does your pic provide a window into mind of the athlete. Tech stuff (background out of focus? Where’s you eye drawn to?)  Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over till its over”.  Not just for Sports! Tech transfers over.  2: How to get in position to get the great photo. Hint: don’t shoot into the sun. Moving around like a pro…amongst pros. 3: What gear do I need to get started? Digi SLR (ideally one that can shoot 5+ shots/second) Good 70-200 zoom lens (good optics, at least F4 aperture, fast focus). Ex. Canon L Series 70-200mm F4 $700 Why your stock zoom lens won’t cut it! Slow focus, small aperture. Monopod: to reduce camera shake (& look official) Chapter I: Soccer-What’s a good sports picture Tells a story. Get you “in the head” of the participants. Conveys emotion (frustration, animosity, concentration, joy, anger…) Captures a “defining moment” in the action. It keeps “your eye on the ball”. Ergo; Subjects typically “in focus”, background out of focus. How to think like a sports photographer (is that...
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