Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Sigma 150 – 500 returns and more flowers

I mentioned at the bottom of this post that I was having trouble with my Sigma 150 – 500mm OS lens and that I’d let you know how it turned out.  I said that I’ve been very happy with it and one of my few complaints was that the Optical Stabilization was a bit noisy.  Lately, it’s developed a “chatter” where it sounds like the OS motor is vibrating back and forth.  While it does this, you can see the image vibrating through the viewfinder.  I sent it back to Sigma to have them check it out.

Sigma called after about a week and said that it tested OK for them.  I described what I’d seen happening in detail and they agreed to look at it one more time.  They called again and said that it still checks out OK and that they were sending it back.  They did mention that cold weather (which can lower the power available from the camera’s battery) might make this happen.  But I shoot in Florida, so I doubt that’s it.  They also said that hitting / knocking the lens can make the OS oscillate.  I’m very careful with my gear and don’t remember hitting it at all, much less the several times when it’s done this, so I don’t think that’s it either.  It arrived late on Friday (after work, so I actually was here for the UPS guy!).  I’m under the weather with another bad cold, so I haven’t had a chance to try it out.  But I will.  I do have two more years of the extended warranty remaining, so I’m not too worried.  If I learn anything more, I’ll update you.

And just so this poor blog doesn’t go too long without an image, here’s one that I reprocessed this morning.

Composite Black and White Image

Composite Black and White Image

The original photo was made in October of 2004 with a Minolta Dimage 7Hi.

Source image

Flowers in glass water bowl

This morning, I ran it back through Nik Silver Effects Pro with four different settings and re-arranged the results into the single B&W image that leads this post.

© 2004 and 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Borrow the Bouquet

If you’re a photographer, one side benefit of romantic relationships can be residual bouquet photo ops.  Just be careful to make sure your significant other doesn’t think too hard about why their arrangements are so photogenic. You are, of course getting the flowers for them.

Flowers are an easy photo op, although many of us don’t bother since so many flower photographs have already been made.  But there are reasons to try:  It’s good practice with your equipment and technique.  Maybe you’ll come up with a different and beautiful approach.  Maybe you can learn a new lighting or processing technique.  And maybe it’s a convenient subject when you don’t have several hours to load up and go out in search of birds or other wildlife.



I bought Lynn some tulips for Valentine’s Day and wanted to make a few photos while they were still looking good.  Please don’t tell any Strobists out there, but I used a flashlight for illumination in these images.  Using a constant illumination light source instead of a strobe, allows you to see exactly how the light looks on your subject before you make the photo.  In this case, I was trying to “spotlight” the front tulip to isolate it, but at the same time leave the tulips in the background just visible.  I tried various positions for my light and no one single position worked.  The ones that looked best had blown highlights on either the right or left side of the front tulip.  I ended up making two exposures, intending to spend some time blending them by hand in Photoshop.  Here are portions of the two exposures showing the front tulip:

Source photos for image above

After loading them as layers in Photoshop, I made an attempt to blend them by hand without much success.  Instead, I hit on the idea of changing the layer blending mode to “darken” instead of “normal”.  The lead image in this post is the result, with no hand blending at all.  I like the effect and I like the smooth, out of focus definition of the tulip in the background on the left.

I also wanted to try one more thing before these tulips had to be retired.

Tulip two

Tulip two

For this second shot, I wanted to make the flower look like it was illuminated from the inside by shining the light up from the bottom.  I also wanted to make the stigma / stamens as sharply focused as possible to contrast them with the out of focus flower petals.  The outline of the petals framing the inside was a bonus.  I’ll let the reader figure out what other techniques I used in this image (hint:  I’ve written about it before).

So – go ahead.  Ask your significant other if you can borrow the bouquet.

© 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Ravine Gardens Update

You can read my previous blog entry about Ravine Gardens at this link.  In that article, I recommended that you visit this unique state Park in Palatka, Florida in the spring time so you can see the many flowers there in bloom.  January through April is supposed to be the peak blooming season and Lynn and I wanted to check and see what’s happening up there so far.  We’d hate to miss the peak flower time.

Blooming Tree

Eastern Redbud Tree in bloom at Ravine Gardens

There are a few flowers and trees in bloom already.  We noticed the very pretty tree above right away.  Most azaleas had buds, but there were very few so far in bloom.  The 15th annual Azalea Festival is planned for March 5th this year, and we think that the azaleas will be at the beginning of their peak about a week before then (end of February).  So if you want to see this place at it’s best, start planing your visit!

Two trunk palm tree

Unusual two trunk palm tree at Ravine Gardens

© 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

In Defense of Post Processing

This is another article on technique. It’s not so much a “how-to”. It is more of a defense or justification.
The Mayberry Cafe - Danville, In.
The Mayberry Cafe – Danville, Indiana (final B&W image)

We have a few people in our Photography Interest Group that are relatively new to high end DSLRs. They’re used to point & shoot cameras and one question I hear quite often is “why post process?”. Their argument seems to be that the photos “straight out of the camera” (SOOC) are much better than they were with their old cameras and they don’t understand why anyone should waste time learning about software and processing photos on their computers. I even have one friend that uses the “I’m feeling lucky” button whenever photos need some adjustment.

Now, I’ve been using Photoshop since sometime in the ’90s, so I really have to stop and think when someone questions why they should use photo software. My answer comes down to: Control, Quality, and Change.

Control: If you understand post processing, know what your software is capable of, and have the skills to use the software, then you can take control from your camera and choose how your photos will be processed and what their final appearance will be. You decide exposure curves, fill light, sharpening and noise reduction levels, etc. Or even color vs. black and white.

Quality: If you want the best results, post processing allows you to optimize things (e.g. selective noise reduction and sharpening, various filters). You also can try different approaches and use the one that works best.

Change: Especially if you use RAW format, you have the ability to modify many of your settings after you make the photo. And if you need to adjust some parameters (e.g. white balance, saturation, exposure) you can do so after the shot. Also, software constantly improves – witness how much better recent noise reduction algorithms are today than even a few years ago. As the software improves you can apply the updated versions to your existing photos to keep making them even better.

Here’s an example that might illustrate the possibilities. I like to make photos that are “timeless” in the sense that they could have been made a while ago, or don’t give away when they were made. I saw this dinner and old sheriff’s car as I drove through a small town in Indiana. I thought the scene might make a good photo and since I had my camera in the car, I went around the block and made this image hand held through the open window as I passed by a second time:

The Mayberry Cafe – Danville, Indiana (SOOC)

This copy above is SOOC – nice, but too much clutter, and kind of drab. I post-processed it to remove the clutter, selectively reduce noise in the clouds, adjust white balance and exposure, add saturation, etc. Here’s the result:

The Mayberry Cafe – Danville, Indiana (post processed)

This is a lot cleaner, the clouds and sky are brought out, and the colors and contrast are better. Could I have done this in the camera? Some of it. Would the results have been as good? I really doubt it. And if I want, I can keep reprocessing a photo whenever I learn a new technique or get some new software. Should you reprocess every photo? Of course not – if you did you wouldn’t have time to make any more photos. But you definitely need to make an effort when a photo shows some promise.

Finally, I thought this image would be more “timeless” as a black and white photo, so I converted the image above to get the result at the beginning of this post. If you’d only seen the B&W photo, when would you think it was made?

© 2007 & 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.