Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I spent a long weekend in mid-May in Denver, Colorado getting more experience in macro photography, this time with the great outdoor photographer George Lepp and Eric and the two Scotts from Canon.
I’ve just never done much macro, or close-up, work in the past so this was a good way to get instructions and experience. Plus, the Canon folks had a lot of equipment to borrow if I wanted.
Our shooting location was the Denver Botanical Gardens in the Cherry Creek area. Going early in the morning just as they opened was a good strategy as I pretty much had the location to myself and to the gardeners!
I focused on flowers, leafy plants, and bugs. I have a Canon 5D Mark III camera, a Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod, and a Tamron 90mm close-up lens. I also experimented with Canon’s 12mm and 25mm extension tubes, which go between the lens and camera body. This allowed me to get even closer to the subject I wanted to photograph. I also used my Canon MR-14EX ring flash to illuminate my subjects. Even in daylight it’s good to use some light to bring out details. Although this ring light is considered not very powerful, I found it was plenty powerful for my close up needs. With an adapter, the Tamron 90mm slipped right into the light.
One technique I learned was how to make it appear that everything in the shot was in focus. When shooting macro, I found you can only get a very small part of the shot in focus; the rest is out of focus. I have a few examples of that shown here. Sometimes I will want a very narrow depth of field to put emphasis directly on the object that is in focus. Other times I want total depth of field, or everything in focus. THAT takes some work! What I learned was to set up the camera and the tripod on the object I wanted to shoot, then take multiple photos with different parts of the photo in focus in each shot. I’d start at the bottom, then work my way up, making sure the corners were also in focus.
In post-processing on the computer, I would load the images into Adobe’s Lightroom program, select one of the photos in the series and make sure that was cropped, exposure adjusted, and anything else I saw that needed correcting. Then I’d sync those settings across all the photos in that series. Then I’d export those photos to a TIFF format. There is a reason for this… stay tuned. THEN, to get that depth of field I wanted, I loaded the photos into a program called ZereneStacker. This is a little piece of magic! The stacker program will only keep the part of the image that is in focus so the result is a final image that is all in focus, as long as I was able to get shots in that were in focus in the first place. Remember, to use a tripod for multiple shots! For individuals, it costs $89 and for educators and students it costs $39.
One thing I learned from the mistakes I made was how to better shoot fast moving bugs. Often it is luck that gets a bee, for instance, in focus. I’m going to take multiple rapid shots next time to increase my chances of the bug being in focus. Another thing I learned was not to try to take multiple photos of flowers that are wind blown. This will produce ghosting when stacked! Not a very appealing stacked photo.
This coming weekend I plan on getting more macro practice at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. The best way to truly learn any subject is to teach it to others, so Marni will be with me while I teach what I’ve learned. I will pass on my 90mm Tamron lens and be shooting with a new Canon 100mm IS macro lens. I’m also going to try out my wide angle Canon 17-40mm with one of the Canon extension tubes.
I hope this was a fun and educational read for you. A colleague at Paradise Valley Community College where I teach has taken to call me “Photo Yoda” which I kinda like!
Next adventure for me? The Canadian Maritime provinces. Canada from Montreal and Quebec City to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Here’s a slideshow from Flickr on all of my macro shots:
Sunday, April 21, 2013
It was fan appreciation day at Turf Paradise Saturday 20 April. The weather was perfect, sunny, in the upper 80s, and the track isn’t that far from where I live. Turf Paradise is a very customer-centered business, so I knew I’d get cheap beer, great hot dogs, and photo opportunities.
On this day, they had a spot on the track apron for some of the jockeys to sign autographs and get their photos taken. There were some interesting faces here. One thing I would have done differently was to take my flash with me for fill, but thankfully Lightroom 4 has a shadows slider that can take care of some of those nasty Arizona shadows.
For the close up portraits, I used my brand new Canon 17-40mm “L” class lens with my Canon 5D Mark III. For the track shots from up above in stands, I used a Canon 70-300mm “L” lens with the same 5D body. For some of the shots I took from across the track, I did some cropping but could get away with that because of the 22 megapixel full frame sensor on the 5D. I think next time I’ll bring out my big boy Tamron 200-500mm lens. That one is a heavy weight so I might have to bring my monopod.
That’s all for now,
And happy shooting!
Here are all the photos from fan appreciation day from Flickr
Sunday, April 14, 2013
I volunteered to photograph the North Valley Relay for Life, a fundraising activity for the American Cancer Society once again at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, Arizona.
Volunteering as a photographer is a great way to give back. I find it fun to share my talent and help a good cause. I also feel I get just a little bit better every time I do one of these events.
The relay started in the late afternoon, so I had some golden hour lighting left, but I also had some harsh shadows to contend with. At times I filled with a bit of flash. I also found the “shadow” slider on Lightroom 4 to be invaluable in recovering faces in severe shading. Below, I caught a couple from KZON 101.5 with that lovely light.
As it got darker, then the decision was to turn up the ISO and not use flash or use a wee bit of flash turned down to light subjects but keep the background dark. One of the highlights of the all-night event was the lighting of the luminarias and the walk around the track first by the cancersurvivors. I had done this type of photography before and decided it best to turn off my flash and work with the light off the candles, turning up my ISO to 3200 (I shot with a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 24-105mm lens). The 5D Mark III does a heck of a job with high ISO! I worked with an F stop of 4 and was usually in the 1/20th to 1/30th range for shutter speed, all hand held. Even five years ago the technology was not there to do this, so I am thankful I was packing the 5D.
Being that this is a charitable event, I am not charging for my photographs. So after editing, I uploaded from Lightroom into my professional Zenfolio site at http://bit.ly/131ORmk I gave the event coordinators instructions on how to download any of the photos they’d like to use. All I want is credit.
My next photo adventure will be mid-May when I travel to Denver to do some macro photography with Canon.
Until then, Happy Shooting!
Here is a slideshow of all the photos I took at the North Valley Relay for Life
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Lisa Cvach asked me recently if I’d do some photographs for publicity for the Paradise Valley Community College Fitness Center. I was happy to help out. If the fitness center was a corporate client, I would have charged of course. I mean, you wouldn’t ask your car repair guy or medical doctor for free services; I get that. But this is to help out colleagues at my college. Plus, darn it, it’s work sure, but it’s fun!
When I walked into the fitness center I noticed Lisa trying to take photos using a small point and shoot camera. What she said to me was pretty important. “How do you get the background to blur?” That’s why I’m glad I took my flash with me.
My models this day are Fred from the fitness center and Shay. Now, look at Shay. The pressure is on me not to make her look bad. Sorry Fred but Shay is the star of this shoot!
My camera body is the Canon 5D Mark III, using a 24-105mm Canon “L” lens and the new Canon 600ex-rt flash. Shooting without flash under fluorescent light could be done, but with a much higher ISO and more grain. I wanted to use flash to highlight the subjects and to darken the background some. To make sure I had a fairly dark background, I used a shutter speed of 1/125 and faster. Plus, I used Lightroom 4 in post production and could brush a darker exposure around the background, as you’ll see in many of the examples here and in the slideshow at the bottom of the blog.
I shot everything in manual mode. For some shots, I used direct flash and turned down the power; for others, I used modified flash using a simple white card to reflect for softer light.
For the panorama of the fitness center, I took seven photos vertically set to aperture priority and available light, then combined them in Photoshop CS6, then I applied HDR (high dynamic range) toning to produce the effect you see in the photo at the top of the blog.
…And, here are all the photos from the fitness center shoot!
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
I hit two venues Saturday: Turf Paradise for the camel and ostrich races and later that evening I travelled to Cave Creek for the pro rodeo. Each presented photographic challenges.
I’ve been to Turf Paradise before, so I knew what to expect. The challenge here is getting a good angle on the action on the track. If you stand at track level, you find that you are going to be slightly below the track, so I had to walk way off to the side, down from the finish line, to get some track level photographs. I used my 24-105mm Canon lens on the Canon 5D Mark III body for those shots.
I then retreated to the highest grandstand for the best angle, primarily using my 70-300mm Canon lens on my Canon 5D Mark III body.
In post-production, I primarily used Lightroom 4 on all of the shots, as I usually do. For daylight photographs I mainly used the “shadows” control, which for the most part worked quite well. Maybe a bit of “clarity” control, too. And many of the photos I cropped. I pretty well stayed with ISO 100 or 200 through the whole afternoon since there was plenty of natural light.
Then it was north to Cave Creek and the pro rodeo there. The rodeo started at 7pm. Yes, I’ve been here before but only during the day. I immediately had an “oh oh” moment: the lights for the arena were tiny. Sure enough, lighting was horrible for a photographer. And very uneven. Using the same equipment as I had for the Turf Paradise shoot, I had to increase ISO to 3200 and sometimes higher than that. The Canon 5D is good, but even at higher ISO you will see grain in the photos. The other problem I had was it was a huge crowd with people constantly going up, down, and across my field of view while I sat in the first row. I also had a fence in front of me, uggggh!
I had to throw away the bulk of the photos I took. They were simply too out of focus and grainy. I did manage to salvage a few shots. On one, I imported into TopazLabs “simplify” and made it into a painting. It was either that or delete it. Others I boosted using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro. Sharpening and de-noise didn’t help much.
I learned a lesson here. Daylight for action shooting like rodeo. Sit at the top row, not bottom row. Even better, ask for a photographers area!
Friday 29 March is my next challenge: photographing the University of Arizona football team’s spring game at Phoenix College. It is also a night shoot, but at least I will be on the field closer to the action. Yes, another high ISO challenge.
That’s it for now.
Here are photos from Turf Paradise:
And photos from the Cave Creek rodeo: