Monthly Archives: July 2012

Wide, wide weekend

I was in Colonial Photo and Hobby and saw a Rokinon micro four thirds  7.5mm f/3.5 manual focus fish-eye lens on the shelf.  I’ve never had a fish-eye lens before although I’ve always liked wide-angle.  I couldn’t resist and ended up taking it home.

Fish-eye lenses are not rectilinear – meaning they sacrifice keeping perspective lines straight to make the field of view big.  This one has a full 180° field of view and covers the sensor without any vignetting.  180° is really, really wide – keep your fingers and toes out of the composition!   They also tend to have a huge depth of field, which is even greater on a micro four thirds camera than on a full frame 35mm equivalent.

I tried it first on my infrared modified camera – I call these IRFE (infrared, fish eye) photos.  In this one, I wanted to take advantage of the distortion introduced by the lens to make the support structure for the bridge look more interesting. So I put the beams as close to the edges of the frame as I could get them.

Suspension bridge
Suspension bridge: Carl Langford Park, Orlando

In this next one, I saw the tree branch above and wanted to try to capture the complexity against the sky.  I’ve found it hard to make photos like this with a regular  wide-angle lens.  I end up not having a wide enough view and then taking multiple photos and trying to stitch them together as a panorama.  Stitching software just doesn’t hold up too well when the angle of view is too large.

Tree branches
Tree branches: Dickson Azalea Park, Orlando

Of course, you can use a fish-eye lens in a more normal way.  If you keep things that you want to appear straight toward the center of the frame, the image will look a lot more like a regular wide-angle photo.

Curve ahead
Curve ahead: Behind Lake Lily Park, Maitland.

I’m really happy with the lens.  It seems sharp, doesn’t vignette and the manual focus aspects aren’t a big bother because of depth of field.  It seems to handle flare pretty well and I’m not noticing any pronounced chromatic aberrations or other problems.  On my camera, it exposes correctly in aperture priority mode, even though there’s no electronic coupling.  And… it’s fun!  Isn’t photography supposed to be fun?

You can click on the images above to get to larger versions on Flickr. You can also see some of my other infrared photos here on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

"How do you get your sky to look like that?" and "Do we still need HDR?"

A couple of people asked me interesting questions recently.  I don’t have final answers but I do have opinions.  And sometimes opinions are more interesting than answers.  Or at least more fun.

1. How do you get your skies to look like that?

Sky, clouds, star, calm
Sky, clouds, star, calm, reflections – Orlando Wetlands Park at dawn.

Short answer:  “It depends.”

Longer answer:  There is no concise response to this.  First of all, it depends on the sky.  You have to have something to start with.  Second it depends on your tastes as an artist.

I own and use a variety of software.

What I use depends on the subject, composition and capture technique.  Since the sun was in this scene, I captured it as a 7 shot bracket.  In Lightroom, I set the camera profile to neutral, color balance to daylight,  enabled lens corrections, and copied those settings to all 7 photos.  Then I exported to Nik HDR Efex 2, chose a pre-set, and tweaked it to more or less match how I remembered the scene.  I brought the result into Photoshop CS6  and used Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to neutralize the whites and add detail, followed by Topaz Star Effects on the sun. I usually apply these in layers or as smart objects in Photoshop so I can vary the transparency and control the strength of each one, or even brush it out on parts of the image. I then finished in Lightroom with some exposure, sharpening, and Hue / Saturation / Luminosity tweaks to get this result.

So basically I try things and adjust to taste.  There’s more than one way to do this.  That’s part of the fun.  You’ll have to build up some experience with the capabilities of each piece of your software so you can adjust to your tastes.

2. With the new capabilities available in cameras and raw conversion software, do we still need to use High Dynamic Range imaging techniques?

Sunrise flowers
Sunrise flowers – Orlando Wetlands Park at dawn.

Short answer: “Not as much.”

Longer answer:  Read on.

DxOMark says that the Nikon D800 has a dynamic range of 14.4 Evs. This is under laboratory conditions using their measurement techniques. Can you achieve this in real world? No, but using a camera like this really does give you tremendous dynamic range.

The latest versions of Lightroom 4 and Adobe Camera Raw software provide enormous adjustment ranges for exposure, highlight and shadow recovery, even for older cameras. This improves your ability to get more out of your RAW images. By the way, you might want to re-process some of your favorites to see how much better they can look.  You have been capturing in RAW format and saving your originals, haven’t you?

Other techniques such as graduated neutral density filters or fill flash can cut the dynamic range the camera sees – although depending on the scene, their use can be problematic.  In this photo the horizon isn’t flat, and I didn’t want to overwhelm the morning light on the flower with flash.

My opinion: In some situations, we don’t need to use HDR anymore.  I may have been able to get this output with one  exposure, but it’s probably on the edge of what’s possible with just a single image. I chose to shoot a 5 image bracket and I’m glad I did. The bright sky combined with the lighting on the flower (with part in shade) made me very glad I had the bracket. Could I have come close with a single image? Maybe. Was it easier with a 5 shot bracket? Oh yeah.

For now, I’ll continue to bracket when I see a broad dynamic range / high contrast scene. Better safe than sorry. And I’m also going to save my RAW files – who knows what software advances are coming next?  Now, where can I get a bigger hard disk?

What do you think?  How do you get your sky to look the way it does?  Do you shoot HDR?

You can click on the images above to get to larger versions on Flickr. You can also see more of my OWP photos here on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Persistence – Orlando Wetlands Park, 7/13/12

In last week’s post, I described a trip to Orlando Wetlands Park and talked about making do in the face of bad luck.  I grumbled about a locked gate and the plain sunrise.  Well –  Friday the 13th came with a bit more dawn photo fortune.

I went back out yesterday morning to try again and persistence paid off.  Not only was the gate open when I arrived a little after 6am, but the sky was shaping up nicely.

Lake Searcy before dawn (IR false color, panorama)
Lake Searcy before dawn (infrared false color, panorama)

I made this first image just a few minutes before dawn.  It’s a handheld 6 shot panorama using my IR modified Olympus E-PL1 that I stitched together in Photoshop.  When I do this, I always try to hold my camera in portrait orientation.  That gives me a lot more pixels in the resulting composite (30+ megapixels in this case).

I stayed around for a while and really enjoyed watching the sunrise develop.   The image below is from about a 1/2 hour later.  This time I didn’t use the IR camera since I wanted a different look.

Lake Searcy sunrise (Orlando Wetlands Park, Christmas, Florida)
Lake Searcy sunrise – This was about a half hour after the previous photo.

I like them both, and comparing them with the ones I made last week – I think they’re better.  It’s nice when the sky cooperates!

We can use this to emphasize a photo lesson I’ve mentioned before.  We can’t all live in Yellowstone or Yosemite.  But we all live somewhere and there are pretty places where we live.  Get to know your area and be persistent.  Re-visit locations at different times, on different days, in different seasons, and in different weather.  You’ll get some photos that a visitor will have to be very, very lucky to get.  As Stephen  Stills said:  “Love the one you’re with“.

You can click on the images above to get to larger versions on Flickr. You can also see more of my OWP photos here on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Make do – Orlando Wetlands Park, 7 July, 2012

I talked Keith H. into meeting me at Orlando Wetlands Park yesterday for some dawn photography.  We planned to arrive early so we could get to a good place and set up before the sun rose.  Plans don’t always go the way you want.

I’ve been to OWP many times before.  Their posted hours are “sunrise to sunset”  and although they do try to close the gate right at sunset, it’s always been open when I arrive before dawn.  When we got there yesterday around 6am, it was still locked.  I don’t know if this is a new thing or the ranger just over slept.  We waited a while, but finally decided to make a few photos in the pasture on the opposite side of the road.  I found this old campfire circle.  I was hoping for a bit more sky color, but it never really developed.  I still like the image and the cows were interesting (and interested).

Curious cows and old camp fire
Curious cows and old camp fire: I don’t think these cows had ever seen a photographer before. They watched very carefully as I made this photo in the pasture across from the entrance to Orlando Wetlands Park.

By the way, if you’re new to Florida, you have to be careful about where you step when you’re exploring a pasture.  I’m not talking about just cow patties.  We also have fire ants and walking through one of their mounds could result in some nasty bites.  Please be careful.

When we finished in the pasture, the OWP gate was open and we went in so I could show Keith the area they cleared out last winter (were we originally planned to go).  This post has a photo of roughly the same area as it used to look.  There’s fewer reeds and less growth near shore and they’ve removed a lot of clutter from the center – leaving some nicely isolated cypress trees.  He and I agree that it’s more photogenic now.  If I can only get there on a morning with a nice sky…

Early morning reflections
Early morning reflections: This area would be even prettier with a nice sunrise behind it.

Early morning reflections (IR B&W)
Early morning reflections 2:  This is an infra-red, B&W image made a few feet to the right of the previous one.

We wanted to get home before it got too hot and this time of year isn’t the best for birds, so we didn’t stay for any bird photography.  But we did see a few, including Little Blue and Great Blue Herons and heard a Barred Owl calling.  I’m sure there were more around, if we’d put in a little effort.

With all the rain lately, bugs are pretty bad.  This is what Lynn calls “Spray, shoot, run” – when the mosquitoes are so bad that it’s hard to stay out long enough to make a photo.

So yesterday, our plans quickly went awry.  We were challenged by a locked gate, a mediocre sky, and blood sucking and ferocious biting insects.  But we still came home with a few photos.  The moral of the story?  Plans are only plans.  When they don’t work out, do like the US Marines:  Improvise, adapt, and overcome.  Find a different photo.  Make do.

You can click on the images above to get to larger versions on Flickr.  You can also see more OWP photos here on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved