- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
Monthly Archives: December 2011
This is my final post for 2011 – I hope you’ve enjoyed the images I’ve posted and some of my admittedly rambling text. I’ve had 42 entries (including this one) for the year. September was the most productive, with 9 posts, while January through April had the least – 0. No hiatus for 2012, however. I’ll be back the first week of January with new thoughts, new images, new techniques, new projects. New…..stuff!
In the meantime, here’s wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday and New Year!
The photo you see here is of a Kodak Vigilant Junior Six-20 camera – these cameras were sold between 1940 and 1948, used 620 film, had a wide-open aperture of 12.5 and three settings for the shutter, ‘I’, ‘t’, ‘b’. I read part of the manual online for it and I believe the “I” stood for “immediate” - when on the “I” setting and the shutter was release, it immediately opened/closed. “T” was for a time exposure – press the shutter to open and when the right amount of time has elapsed, press the shutter again to close it. “B”, or “bulb” is a setting we still have on modern cameras, but in the 40s’ it was used for exposures of 1 to about 10 seconds. Press and hold the shutter release for a long as the shutter needs to stay open; once you release it, it closes.
When you read about the constrictions photographers had to deal with seventy years ago, you start to appreciate the equipment we have today. Even with our cutting edge digital cameras, there’s one thing that the digital age can’t make better: the photographer. The latest, greatest full-frame 24MP camera sporting image stabilization and a fast 2.8 zoom lens can’t make up for a lack of talent or training. It’s still what’s behind the camera the counts – which brings me to the subject of the Subject.
I don’t know how you approach a subject that you want to photograph, maybe you just whip out your handy dandy DSLR, Rangefinder, Hasselblad, phone (whatever) and start shooting with no clear goal or ideas in mind. Maybe you’re in the “zone” right from the start.
Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be that way. I start out slowly, almost tentatively when I photograph. If I have a specific subject that I know I’m going to shoot in the near future, I end up mentally visualizing shots before I pick up the camera, and then, even when I do I’m still a slow starter. It’s almost as if I have to psychologically warm-up. Do some mental stretches with camera in hand.
This photo, for example, was a bit of a problem – I thought about how I wanted to photograph it for days before actually getting the job done. Which lens, what kind of light, do I want a grainy look, or B&W, and mostly, what perspective, close-up, whole camera, what angle? If it’s the entire camera, what kind of props? I couldn’t decide so instead I did what I usually do with a subject – I started big and slowly zeroed in on areas I liked. Since I knew I was starting with the whole camera, the question of props became important regardless of whether they were in the finished image. I’d like to have had a pair of antique glasses, or maybe a roll of old film (620 of course), but the best I could do was some old photos from the 40s of my family. Then, before I put the camera on a tripod I’ll take some quick and dirty test shots hand-held and examine the effect.
As you can see, the final image was a trade-off between close-up and whole camera. I wanted more of the camera in the image just to display its physical appearance, but I also thought simpler is better, resulting in a photo with only the camera and some photos showing. I’m not sure if I’d have had some other items for props if they would have ended up in the image. Also, I intentionally left the dust and scratches on the lens, camera body and in the photo props to give it a more genuine feel of being old. The image isn’t perfect – the small ‘reflecting finder’ above the ‘t’, ‘b’, ‘I’, settings is badly out of focus, so when I revisit this subject, which I fully intend, I plan on using the “stacking focus” technique I discussed in my last Visual Notebook entry and bring it into crisp clarity.
The Vigilant camera used in this photo was given to me by a friend, who inherited it from his father. Thanks Thom, it made a fine image.
Thanks for reading,
One thing is certain in this digital photography age – there’s no shortage of software tools
available in order to obtain the image you envision. There’s a seemingly inexhaustible selection of Third party tools that you can use to create that vision, and then there are
times when the tool you need is already in the basic photo editing package you currently use.
Such is the case with the subject of my discussion today – that of stacking a series of photos with different focal points in order to produce an image with a much greater depth of field than what you’d normally have. This process has the oddly awkward name of focus stacking. Seems like something’s missing in the name, perhaps ‘photos’; of course
that would give you “photo focus stacking” or “focus stacking photos”, both of which are decidedly more awkward. But what it does is phenomenally useful!
The photo of my wife’s guitar (yes, I’ve shown her violin in earlier posts, and I may show her piano some other time) is made up of a series of four photos, each with a different focal point (see the images below). The more photos used with different focus points the better, but I decided that with an f/8 aperture I could probably get away with these four. If you look closely, you’ll see the progression of the sharp focus as it moves from the bridge up the neck of the guitar.
As I mentioned earlier, the tool I needed to merge the sharp portions of the photo I already have – Photoshop. The Auto Blend Layers found under the Edit menu was used here. There are third party plug-ins and programs as well, but the Photoshop option does an admirable job. Simply open each photo as a layer in Photoshop and you’re ready to go. There are a couple areas in the burlap that it’s missed but with the main subject its done a fine job blending. More than likely if I had been more precise with my focusing and gone to say, six photos instead of four, the results would have improved. Even so, it looks pretty darn good as it stands.
Two other things – before using Auto Blend, I suggest going through an additional step which you’ll find in the Edit menu directly above the Auto-Blend option. It’s the Auto-Align layers option. Despite using a tripod for the shots, just using the Auto-Blend produced an image with a slightly misaligned neck in one area (I must have bumped the tripod). Once I used the Auto-Align it was just about perfect. The other thing is the final image you see here was further enhanced using Topaz Adjust 5 – it didn’t out with this crisp, contrasty appearance after Auto-Blend. Post Auto-Blend it appeared just like one of the four photos above, except it was in focus up and down.
It wasn’t my intention to have two consecutive posts covering techniques used in
post-production, but I was so pleased with the results of Auto-Blend that I wanted to share it. And I certainly didn’t get too technical – that’s not my intent. Giving you some possibly useful information is.
Thanks for reading,
I’ve touched on the subject of enhancing photographs before, basically taking the stance that if you do nothing with a photo then all you’re doing is taking credit for something nature has created already. I feel something needs to be done in order to make it uniquely yours. For example the photograph above of some mining equipment in Victor, Colorado that I made a few months ago certainly didn’t start out looking the way you see it.
The original photo is below, and lacks any interest, not to mention my hand shielding glare not helping. But through some experimentation I’ve turned it into an image that, to me at least, is interesting and more than a little creative.
I kept coming back to this photo off and on, wishing I’d done something better initially with it. As you can see in the final shot I’ve cropped it much more than I normally would consider doing. Instead, I should have gotten a close-up when I was there, but for some reason at the time the thought simply didn’t occur.
I used several software tools to arrive at the final image, and for those who have an
interest, I’ll go over them briefly.
I use Lightroom as my data asset management software as well as my initial tool for enhancing photos. Sometimes I stop at Lightroom and take the image no further. With this image, I had some work to do. I began with cropping - I wanted to work with what was basically going to be the final image right from the start. After cropping I straightened the image. Then I adjusted the exposure, bringing it up a bit to reveal a bit more detail. I bumped the clarity up and sharpened the image a bit as well, knowing that once I had completed the image, I revisit those two adjustments in order to give it the look I was envisioning. This gave me an intermediary image, which you see below. Not bad.
Next, I used Topaz Adjust 5 – this plug-in gives you dozens of presets for images, everything for smooth portrait, to a grungy HDR look. I used a preset called ‘Spicify’ here, resulting in the image below, which, if you like a colorful image, may be where you might have stopped. Truth is, I sort of liked it this way, but it wasn’t what I was after. My goal was a pen and ink look, with a slightly warm tint.
After Topaz Adjust I brought the image into Topaz B&W, another plug-in with numerous presets for making black and white images – here I selected the basic grayscale conversion.
Back in Lightroom I further adjusted the clarity and sharpness and to obtain the pen and pencil look I went to extremes. Using the sharpness slider I moved the amount to 150, with a radius of 2.5 and detail went to 100. I also pumped up clarity to about 90. How did I know what numbers to use? Experimentation. I moved the sliders around until it gave me what I wanted. I then tinted it image a bit and warmed it up. Finally, I used Lens Correction in Lightroom to correct for the fact that I didn’t take the photo head on, which resulted in the slight perspective issue you see in the intermediary images. All told I probably spent an hour or more on the image.
I printed the photo as a 5X5 on Canon Platinum Pro paper and am quite pleased with the
result. I guess the takeaway from this discussion is that sometimes it’s good to revisit old images once in a while, you may see something in it you missed previously. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have several thousand photos to go through!
Thanks for reading,