Archive for the ‘Bokeh’ Category

Otago Peninsula

So while I was still in New Zealand…Andrew and I saw some stuff. I’m actually in Australia now, but I still have shots left over from NZ that I wanted to post. I’m still working on the panorama…(I hope I can work something good enough to post with it ever)… I think I lack Andrew’s finesse with the panorama stuff (I guess that’s his specialty). One of the things I CAN do, however, is 1-shot HDRs and the standard type. Andrew and I went around the Otago Peninsula, which is near Dunedin, and saw/photographed some awesome wildlife, including sea lions, penguins, and albatross. We were spectacularly lucky to see this pair of sea lions playing together at Sandfly Bay, which we later learned from a local were a male/female pair. Then, we went to the end of the peninsula at Taiaroa Head and saw two Royal Albatross within minutes of each other, which we later learned was a fairly rare sight. Next we went to a penguin reserve and saw this juvenile yellow-eyed penguin, which uniquely was unafraid of humans, unlike normal yellow-eyed which are extremely shy. Overall, we were exceedingly lucky and fortunately were able to take some pictures of this amazing wildlife.


Hopefully Andrew will post some of the stunning video footage we got of these two playing...We didn't realize how fortunate we were to see them until later when we learned that there are only approximately 20 sea lions living in the entire Otago Peninsula area.

I admit freely I processed this somewhat heavily...I really wanted to focus on the penguin and the somewhat epic pose it was in. I was fortunate enough to steal a few shots with Andrew's 70-200 f/2.8L IS, which I discovered is an awesome lens. Perfect for this kind of wildlife photography where you don't want to get close but still want to get a close up kinda shot.

Christmas Eve Fun

There’s a house on our street that does a decent job of lighting up around this time of year and my mom had mentioned several times that we ought to go snag some pictures of it while the lights are on at night. So we went a few hours ago, deciding what better way to spend the early end of a Christmas Eve than taking pictures of holiday lights! I’m still working on a few of the ones we got but it pains me to say that in my vanity I asked to borrow her Rebel XTi and used it to shoot what ended up being my favorite images from the night… of my own camera under some of the lights. Say what you will, we had a fun time trespassing on private property and agitating the neighbors dogs just for kicks. Spending more than 5 seconds looking at this image will reveal something unusual on TAG: Nikon equipment. Gasp. Before I drove home from LA about a week ago, I had a good opportunity to pick up some old Nikon primes for video work on the 7D but I was lazy and waited a long time to order my F to EF mount adapter. That’s a 14mm f/2.8 on there, representing the widest end of our combined lenses… can’t wait to slap it on Tucker’s 5D when he gets back from HI…

Merry Christmas everyone! We're supposed to get a little snow tomorrow so here's hoping we get an excuse to add a "Snow" category on the side... Atlanta, GA

One Shotting: Karl at Kodak Event

Owing largely to the baller nature of Photomatix 4, I have a sudden desire to go back and process single-shot images that I had always told myself “Hmm, I might come back to this eventually,” but never did. Recently I accidentally happened across this shot from an event Kodak held on campus WAY back in January… Thinking back now, it was a really cool thing of them to do and I’m really glad Karl and I RSVP’d quickly for it since there were only about 15 people who got to do it. Two guys from Kodak brought in some pretty hardcore equipment so we could go hands-on with it… just for kicks. We split into two groups, each with a camera and either a monstrous zoom lens or a fast 35mm prime and then proceeded to shoot a small scene anywhere we wanted on campus. It was pretty much an exercise in seeing first hand what legitimate 35mm motion picture cameras can do with no graded or time pressure. Unfortunately, I had to leave before it was over so I couldn’t give my contact info (they processed the film that each group shot and mailed a DVD of it later) so I hope Karl kept the DVD because I’d really like to see it at some point. Regardless, it was a pretty cool way to spend an afternoon

I like how the color of his shirt came out… but  on the whole like the B&W more. Fortunately, “both” was my third option…

Karl scopes things out at the Kodak event. I hope they come back sometime, it was pretty legit... Los Angeles CA

Something about this kind of image in B&W just makes it better... I really can't decide though: Los Angeles CA

Hidden Gardens

Unfortunately, we’ve all been busy, because we still have a lot of great material to post. Back at Yosemite, while Andrew and I waited for sunset to happen at the Pedestal, I wandered off for a bit and looked at the surrounding area. In this foreste

d area behind and above the Pedestal there was a lot of awesomeness to be seen. However, I realize now it was harder to photograph than it looked. I’m still working on some of the other shots….I haven’t gotten them many of them in a state I like yet…but here’s one I have:

Yosemite was far too full of hidden beauty to be covered in the scant 2 days Andrew and I were there...

HDR for the sake of HDR

I have been bored, and that leads to long photo walks. Photo walks inevitably lead to HDR, and I found myself at poorhouse cove with a rather tame sunset (once again, no clouds…. I am still waiting for a good night!) and a profusion of flowers. It was low tide, which further provoked me to use depth of field to my advantage and cause the sunset to be merely background color, while focusing on the flowers in the front. Not my favorite work ever, and yes, it goes against my rule of “not making HDRs when the original, straight photo isn’t great…” but hey, I am having too much fun with HDR to not do some every day! I still have yet to photograph the little fishing town of South Bristol, which is right down the road from our house here. The village contains a swinging drawbridge called the “gut”  but I am waiting for a particularly good night as it is truly a picturesque town that needs a great sunset to really do it justice… with the right light, the images I take there could well be some of my favorites ever. Maybe I will get lucky in the coming days 🙂 for now, some more cliché.

Some flowers and out of focus sunset....

...followed by some flowers, and some out of focus sunset.

Castello Ricasoli

While at the Castello Ricasoli, we stopped off on the fields and I had just enough time to snap off some handheld shots of the countryside, which was lovely. It was cloudy and rained later that day, but as we stood looking at the fields I noticed off in the distance islands of moving sunlight, gaps in the clouds on the faraway hills. I took so many pictures hoping to be able to capture these, but try as I might none of the pictures I took could capture what I could see. Next time.

When we toured the castle, we also saw the Baron’s private chapel which had many pretty but poorly lit things in it. Sadly, I couldn’t take many pictures there since we sort of rushed through it, but I did manage to snag one that I really like.

The whole Ricasoli vineyard had a very medieval look with the castle overlooking the grounds

Under the chapel many generations of the Ricasoli Family were buried. If you look carefully you can see their ghosts in the bokeh of this picture...

Atlanta from a New Perspective – The Beltline Segment 1

I am calling this “Segment 1” only because it is the part of the Beltline that stretches from Dekalb Avenue to Freedom Parkway, which is a good ways to go. Segment 2 will be from underneath Freedom Parkway to, well, I’m not sure yet, because I haven’t walked it… but as I’m sure you can guess, that’s on my list of things to do in the near future. Paul and I walked through the sweltering heat and stopped at a few places to grab some shots of the art that’s being done by local artists along the Beltline, and of course, of that great graffiti underneath the Freedom Parkway overpass. We must have spent an hour or so under there… it was really cool and not as sketchy as it is at night. I wish we’d had a better sky… if I went out later maybe, but I guess I will consider this a preliminary walk to see what it’s like; everyone has been talking about how cool it is to get a train’s perspective on the city and so far it has been awesome. My ultimate goal is to get to the old train bridge that goes over Ponce de Leon, that bridge that I must have driven under like twice a day every day that I’ve been in town. I think some awesome photos could be taken from there… but it means walking allll that way! It will happen, I just gotta make sure the sky’s gonna cooperate first. Paul got his Trek Tech T-Pod, and mine comes Monday, and we both copied Giacomo… but hey, its easily the sturdiest mini tripod I’ve ever used, and it’s really great in a pinch or if you don’t want to lug a larger one around. Anyway, here’s some of what we got today.

Some of the cool art along the Beltline.

Shot from inside the tents that were built under the Freedom Pkwy overpass. The chromatic aberration made that redness in the fabric!

The obligatory graffiti shot, from a vantage point I'd never seen before. Too bad the sky was so boring...

My First Foray into Macro HDR

I decided to try the inevitable, combining my two current loves: my new 100mm f/2.8L macro, and, of course HDR photography. Macro HDR is harder simply because your field of view is so much narrower than a wide angle (…duh) that you end up having much fewer subjects with high contrast, as macro shots tend to be evenly lit and do not include the sky. Because of this, I decided to shoot at midday, in an area where the sun directly hit the flower but the background was in complete shade.

An HDR of a flower on my porch, done with the 100mm Macro.

That came out ok. Not the “oh wow!” that HDRs usually give me, but I do like how much punch it gives the flower. I will try more of this “straight” macro HDR stuff later. I say “straight” because of what I did tonight. I was bored, and house-locked due to the awful humidity/storms/grayness/grossness that was located outside. I wanted to make it over to the Jimmy Carter Center to shoot their rose garden and get some overall HDRs of the place, but I’m saving that for a day with good clouds… hopefully soon. Today was not that day. So, I decided to make a still life that would have the ultra high contrast I’d need for HDR, while being minute enough and having enough detail to be done with the macro. I decided that since I was bored, I would combine this with another technique I’d been considering: taking a series of macro shots from a tripod of the same scene, focusing on a different part of the image in each shot, and then editing together all of the shots in Photoshop in a way that would create an impossible depth of field. So, I shot four 3-shot brackets of the same scene, focusing on a different aspect of the scene in each bracketed set. This was the result, after (very quickly because I am tired and want to eat some ice cream) compositing them together in Photoshop:

A macro-HDR composite; 4 different HDRs with different focal planes all fused into one image.

For this, I shot an HDR focusing on the 9 in the LCD, one focusing on the upper right screw on the clock, one focusing on the America on the gold dollar, and one focusing on the teeny brass elephant. The 3 HDRs were processed with similar settings in Photomatix (not identical, I did change some things as the images varied a bit in exposures and obviously what I wanted to be in focus) and then pasted over each other one at a time and erased away with a really soft eraser.

Right off the bat, I can list some mistakes I made, almost entirely due to the fact that I had simply never done this before/wasn’t thinking ahead:

  • Shooting at f/3.5. I initially thought, oh, I am editing these together so it won’t matter. WRONG! The extreme bokeh, while nice in a single shot, impedes details when edited together. See for example, the way the coin’s “halo” intrudes in on the elephant, the way the out of focus light from the cup intrudes on both the coin and the elephant… Shooting at f/8 or even f/11 would dramatically reduce this effect and make the editing process easier.
  • Simply not shooting enough different planes of focus. I would love to be able to get more of the overall image “in focus,” in other words I wish I had shot one with the orange spot on the cup in focus, one with the lamp in focus, and one with the back of the wall in focus. The room has a great wood panelling pattern that would work well to fill all that white space. The downside of this is of course more time composing, and much more time editing them together.
  • Not looking at the clock. The time changed from 9:01 to 9:02 during the bracketing… enough said! My next attempt at this will probably be something similar but exclude the darn clock. It takes so much time between focusing on new areas and waiting for your bracketing to finish (the longer exposures at macro focal length at f/11 are going to be 10-20 seconds; I was already hitting the 1 second mark at f/3.5) that the time is bound to change.

Something else that I found interesting came up immediately, and that is the issue of the Hybrid IS that I have been praising so highly. Don’t get me wrong, it is pure awesomeness when you are handholding shots. Absolutely incredible, allowing tack sharp, 1/30sec macro shots that you just couldn’t do otherwise. But, when I had the 5D on the tripod and Live View enabled so I could accurately compose and focus my shots, I noticed something: I was being perfectly still, and yet the image was “swimming” on the viewfinder. I could hear the IS continually going, something I had noticed and liked when handholding movies, as it helps reduce the shaking of your hands. On a tripod, it seems to be too enthusiastic and correct for motion that just isn’t there. It will be good for me to keep this in mind in the future; it probably wouldnt show up at all with ultra-fast shots but when your exposure times are around the .5-1sec range, it results in very blurry images, something this lens should NEVER do. Turning it off solved my problems.

So, this was an interesting experience. I think I will try more of each side of this separately, doing macro HDRs of flowers and other things I find, and attempting to do varying planes of focus with just straight shots. If I’m feeling ambitious again I will attempt to combine them, and this time I will make sure to shoot more than I think I need, and I will do the photoshop work on my PC with the Wacom tablet instead of on my laptop, half asleep on the couch with my trackpad, bemoaning only having 4gb of ram. Anyway, just wanted to show you what I’d been experimenting with. I feel like, when implemented correctly, it will result in some awesome, totally weird images.

Gecko Unlimited

STILL have HDRs to post from Rome. I was walking around Rome with my friend Gucci Mane, aka Victor, and I happened to catch sight of this little lizard sunning itself in a random alcove. Anyways, I love the way the 85 makes the out of focus light look at f/2, and also I love lizards.

Lizard sunning in an alcove somewhere in Rome

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

So, due to circumstances beyond my control (laziness) I did not leave the Atlanta area to shoot… but I did get in my car and go to one of the best locations around for macro work. Because I was so focused on macroing everything I only had a chance to grab a few quick HDRs at the end when I found a stone wall to set my camera on… I did not want to be encumbered by my large tripod when I knew I would not need it for the macro stuff. I want to go back when I get my Trek Tek T-Pod, one of the better mini tripods I’ve ever used. Giacomo picked one up for his trip to Italy and I used it a bit before he left, its sturdy, extends fairly high for a mini, and can compress to easily fit in your pocket or backpack. Having one of those on me at all times will make getting the occasional HDR while I’m out with the macro an easy thing to do. The Atlanta Botanical Gardens recently underwent a large renovation, and as such I was only able to explore a small portion of what is there, but we now have a family membership so I can go back soon, by myself, and take all the time in the world to get the shots. Still, I managed to get a decent HDR and some really cool macro stuff, most of which I will put on my non-HDR blog tomorrow but I wanted to share the especially cool image of the dragonfly on here because, well, you can see his multifaceted eyes! I remember Giacomo spending 30 minutes trying to get a dragonfly shot out in his back yard, with the 70-200 on his 50D… He called me today from Italy and I said, “so remember you trying to get that shot of the dragonfly by your pond? well, today I was at the Botanical garden with my macro and…” at which point he interrupted me to say, “I don’t even want to know how that story ends.” To be fair though, the dragonflies he was trying to shoot were in constant motion, and I was lucky enough to find this guy sitting still while his buddies were flying all over the place.

Quick HDR I managed to grab at the Botanical Gardens in the midst of all the macro mayhem.

Full resolution shot of the dragonfly at the Gardens.

A 100% crop of the above image. Gotta love 21mp + the sharpest lens canon makes 🙂

New Blood on the Hill

One day while wandering around Rome I found myself on top of the Palatine Hill. The weather was rainy, the air was hazy, and I thought I’d go home with no good pictures. While resting my feet at a bench, my eyeline wandered and rested on this burst

of color hidden in the undergrowth. The flower was behind some other grass and I was surprised at the way the lens seemed to bend the light around the obstacles, and leaving what looked like shadows over the picture. I liked the effect.

Life and death in the undergrowth

Hiding in the Tall Grass

One day while shooting (once again) at Freedom Parkway, I ventured down into the tall grass with Tucker’s camera and wide angle to set up this little shot to see what I could make happen. Although it may seem it would be impossible to focus since the camera would have to have been on the ground, the fact that the tall grass was almost up to my shoulders meant the tripod was actually at half height. Tucker didn’t dare venture into the veritable mire of tall sharp grass, hidden rocks, and general terror incognita below the bike path, but didn’t hesitate to rush me to finish up the shot so he could get some other shots before his battery died/the light disappeared. Due to my perfectionism (incompetency – I didn’t turn bracketing on and kept wondering “WHY IS THIS ONLY TAKING 1 PIC?!?”) it took longer than expected and if I remember correctly I may have in fact have drained his battery completely…Oh well. Here’s 2 of the pictures I got out of it. One of them focuses on the grass, the other on the tower. Which one do you prefer? and why?

Focus is on the tall grass, with a more vibrant and dreamlike sky

Focus is on the radio tower, with a more normal tone