50mm Lens, Canon 50D, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

I find the rules of photography interesting. Interesting in that they are good guidelines, and challenging in that, as an image creator, you need to decide when the best time to break the rules are.  This week’s challenge pertains to my favorite rule, the rule of thirds. It’s my favorite because I find it to be the most challenging of rules.  It is almost always a good composition guideline but can be the most fun to try to creatively break.

I stuck with following the rule this time around because I am working on a project where I think the rule applies.   I am just starting to work on a series of images dealing with concussion.  My youngest has one, and it has meant serious restrictions on activity.  In this first image I am working on conveying the difficulty of reading when your vision is blurred.

ISO 640 50mm 0ev f/3.5 1/20

ISO 640 50mm 0ev f/3.5 1/20

I felt the rule of thirds worked for this image because putting the figure in the bottom right corner with the book out of focus and overwhelming in the image just seemed to make sense.  I shot this scene a few different ways, but this one, where even the figure was slightly out of focus, was my favorite.

I used my 50mm lens to get this image.  I was also trying out a magnifying lens that I inherited recently, but I liked the 50mm images better.  The shutter speed is slow on this image, so I started with my tripod but then ended up rearranging the image and just put the camera on the floor.  I’m using natural morning light only and even with a slow shutter speed, and an aperture of 3.5, I still needed to bump the ISO to 640.

Once I picked this image from the several different versions I had shot, I cropped it a bit in Photoshop and then added a bit more blur using the iris blur filter.

So what do you think, does this image convey what I am trying to get across? Do you think this was a good use of the rule of thirds?

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Light, featuring spider webs

Spoiler alert, the spider webs in this post do not have spiders in them.  So, if spiders creep you out, don’t worry, you can keep reading.  This week’s WordPress photo challenge is about light.  I was walking through a Christmas tree farm this weekend and I saw these webs reflecting the sunlight:

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/5 1/500

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/5 1/500

This image here has been processed as an HDR image using Photomatix.  Usually when I am creating an HDR image I have shot my photos using the exposure bracketing feature on my camera.  I did shoot the tree using bracketing, but then I was not happy with my results when I got home.  The bracketing I had used was an exposure of -1, 0, +1.  The +1 exposure was too bright and did not help bringing detail into the merged images.  So, in this case, I took my 0 exposure and created two duplicates of that.  One I changed the exposure to -0.96 and the other to -1.57.  I did this step using Aperture.  From there I put my three versions in Photomatix and used the default settings to create the HDR image.  Then I opened the image in Photoshop, made a levels adjustment and sharpened the image.

As you can tell from the exposure settings that I used, it was really bright out when I took this photo.  So, I did try to cut the light down by using a low ISO and high shutter speed.  I could have cut even more light out by raising the f-stop to a higher number.  This however, would have brought more of the webs in focus and really what I was after here was to have the ones in the foreground be clear but the ones in the background visible but not sharp.

So, what do you think? would you have guessed this is an HDR image if I had not told you? one of my goals in using HDR in this case was to bring out detail but not over process it, how do you think I did?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Canon 50D, Flowers, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Travel Theme: Short

This post is about two types of travel, on-line and in person.  The photo I am posting today is from a short local trip I took to Jefferson Barracks.  Jefferson Barracks has a National Cemetery and a separate but connected park that is part of the St. Louis County Park system.  I was visiting the County Park section that has displays about the history of the site as an Army post from 1826-1946.  That is where I took this photo:

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/8 1/500

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/8 1/500

This was a tough shot to get.  First it was windy and I had no tripod, so I knew if there was any chance that I might catch this bee, I would have to have a quick shutter speed.  Secondly, I thought about my f-stop setting.  I knew that the background was busy, but I thought if I blurred it enough, you would be able to tell I was in a garden without getting too distracted about many of the details.  I settled on f/8.  That made the bee and flower clear but the background blurred.  The third issue was lighting.  It was very bright out, but the bee and the shadow of the petals of the flower it was on were quite dark.  I tried using an ISO of 100 and my flash.  While sometimes the flash can help add light in dark areas that are close but the background is bright, in this case it just really looked artificial, and to me it was important for this image to look as natural as possible.  So I put my ISO up a bit to 320.  I’ll show you the original photograph below and tell you that I was pretty happy with it.  This photo has been sitting in my photo library not thought of much until I took another trip.

This trip was on-line.  I love looking through other people’s blogs.  I also really appreciate it when people visit my blog and leave comments.  Sometimes, folks leave a comment regarding editing and leave a tip for me to try.  This was the case last week when I posted about a Snowy Owl.  A photographer named Liz who writes Nature on the Edge left me a tip about how she uses levels to make adjustments.  It was a way of using levels that I had never tried.  I thought that was interesting, so I went to check out her blog and see what type of work she does.  The link that I left above was the post that I looked at and then thought again of my bee photo.  Her nature shots were beautiful and very simple.  A simple image was what I was trying to do with my bee.  My last remaining issue with that photo was that it was still too dark in the stalk of the flower and the bee.  So I used her suggestion to make a very subtle edit, on that you might not even notice unless you were looking very closely.  Here is the original:

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/8 1/500

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/8 1/500

What I did was this.  In Photoshop, copied the original photo.  The used a levels adjustment layer and adjusted for the bee.  The cmd-control-i to invert and make a mask.  On the mask I took a black paint brush and painted over the background which was now really too bright.  Once I was satisfied with the bee and the background, I cropped and sharpened the image.

What do you think?  it is a pretty small adjustment don’t you think? Feel free to leave a comment below.

The travel theme at Where’s My Backpack? this week is short.  It actually took me longer to write this post than to do the editing, so the editing process was short.  I thought that both my in person and on-line trips were short, but what fun, I’m glad I went.

Cheers!

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Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Editing, Photography

Thinking about White Balance Settings

Having a strategy regarding how you use your white balance settings in your camera can be a good way to insure that you get the photo you want later.  Many, but not all, cameras give you options, and being aware of when to take advantage of those options can save you some time in your post editing process.  I think it is worth the time to look through the manual of your camera and think about how you might use the different settings.  Today, I am going to talk about the two options I use most frequently, auto and custom.

Here is my defense of auto white balance, and when I say defense I say that because almost every photographer is made to feel like using an auto version of anything on their camera makes them less of a “real” photographer.  So, here it goes, my auto white balance setting works pretty well.  That’s the short version.  The longer version is that pretty much any photo I am taking for my artistic work I am going to at least consider changing the white balance in my post editing process.  Auto tends to give me a good solid starting point.  This photo was taken with the white balance set to auto:

ISO 400 160mm 0ev f/5.6 1/400

ISO 400 160mm 0ev f/5.6 1/400

Custom white balance is a setting I use all the time when I am taking photos inside ice arenas.  I spend a lot of time shooting hockey games.  When I started using custom white balance in those situations, I used a grey card.  I would prop it up on the side of the glass and take a photo of it.  My camera then allows me to choose that photo and use it to set the white balance setting of other photos from it.  That worked pretty well.  Then it was suggested to me that I try and shoot a photo of the ice and use that photo as a base for my white balance settings.  I like the way that works, here is an example:

ISO 2500 0ev f/1.8 1/2000

ISO 2500 0ev f/1.8 1/2000

This isn’t such a great photograph, but you can see detail in both the white and blacks of the uniform, and that is because the white balance here is set pretty well.  If you have ever shot in a hockey arena, you know the lighting is horrible and that getting a good exposure can be pretty tough.  Having your white balance set properly is a step in the right direction.

How about you? do you have a white balance setting you use frequently? maybe you don’t consider white balance at all?  Feel free to leave a comment below, and if you have written a blog post about it, feel free to leave a link.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie

This weekend I spent some time at World Bird Sanctuary because they were hosting a Camera Day.  That is where they have some of their birds out of their cages so that you can get some nice photos in a more natural setting.  Here is a shot I got of a Great Horned Owl:

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/4 1/800

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/4 1/800

The good news is that I had a great time.  The bad news is that I forgot my tripod.  While it doesn’t matter too much for this particular photo, I will tell you that I have a lot of photos that will be heading for the electronic trash bin.

As you can see, it was a pretty bright day.  I set my ISO pretty low but because of the dark wood colors I did not set it at 100, but 320 looked like it would work.  When I am shooting in this situation I almost always try to shoot bracketed exposures.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is that with light changing frequently in a wooded area, a bracketed exposure gives you more options per click of the shutter.  The exposure that would have worked a minute ago may now have changed.  Bracketing offers you some flexibility with the changing conditions. The second is I am almost always thinking of trying to make an HDR image out of a photo like this.  What you see above is HDR.  I really like bird images in HDR because in my opinion it really brings out the detail in their feathers.  I chose a low f-stop because I did want to blur out the background a bit.  I would like you to notice how well this bird blends in with its background, but I don’t want the background to compete too much with the bird.  Given that this owl is made to blend in with it’s environment, the balance between the subject and background can be a tough one.  Since the Great Horned Owl is often not seen but instead heard, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a bit eerie to suddenly hear it hooting.  I wouldn’t blame you for jumping a bit.

Eerie is the theme of the weekly photo challenge at WordPress and other entries can be found here.  Have you ever been startled by one of these birds? it’s happened to me more than once while out camping, in the dead of night of course!  Do you like this HDR version?  This is not my first time photographing the Great Horned Owl, here is another shot from last fall. Your comments are welcome below.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Canon 50D, Photo Editing, Photography

RAW or JPEG?

Raw or JEG? For photographers that can be a question that leads to a fist fight.  Well, except that might mean that a camera would get damaged, so maybe we can just agree to disagree or something more civil.  If you take photos, chances are that you are aware of the debate I am talking about.  A few weeks ago I was talking with Kirk author of the aptly named, Conversation is an Engine, blog about the raw vs. jpeg question.  I gave him the short version answer, which is that I shoot both.  It did make me think though about my workflow and why I do what I do.

Part of the reason I shoot both is that I have one DSLR camera that I use for both my professional work and my personal photos.  I keep it set to jpeg and raw in part so I don’t accidentally forget to reset for raw when I am working.  Setting the camera that way does create a lot of files and take up a lot of space on my machine.  Because I choose to shoot this way, I have to be disciplined about throwing away files I don’t need.  For me, most of my family snapshots I will only ever need a 4×6 print, jpeg is fine for that.  Here is an example of a photo I would keep only in jpeg:

ISO 200 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/5

ISO 200 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/5

Some would argue that I should have kept the Raw version, that I might want to edit it more in the future.  That is a pretty good argument, and it is true that extra space doesn’t cost that much.  I guess I’m just pretty sure I won’t ever need a Raw version.

Here is one that I shot in Raw, and kept the Raw version:

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/400

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/400

I shot this one in Raw because I knew that I would be making this into an HDR image and I wanted as much detail as possible, so it was worth the space on my computer to save the larger file.

How about you? Raw? JPEG? both?  feel free to leave a comment below.  If you have written a blog post about it, leave a link if you would like.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Who Is In The Backyard?

Maybe you don’t think too much about who living in your backyard.  It is perhaps, just the background for the main attraction, your house.  The most unattractive part of our backyard is the hedgerow.  It is really overgrown and full of all kinds of plants, vines, and weeds.  Despite its grubby looks though, it is home to a lot of animals and birds.

The other day when my youngest burst in the house, told me to not ask any questions and bring my camera, I should have known we were headed to the hedgerow.  This is what had been spotted:

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/400

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/400

This is a very young Brown Thrasher.  We have a few of pairs of adults living nearby this Spring, but I had not been aware that there was a nest in the hedgerow.  While I was taking pictures the adults returned. Here is one:

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/200

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/200

They encouraged their young one to come back to the hedgerow.  It took awhile, since the fledgling was not quite capable of flying yet, it had to hop back.

When I was taking these pictures it was quite bright out.  I put the ISO to 100 as one way of    darkening the image.  I knew though that I wanted an f-stop of 5.6 or so; I thought that would maintain enough detail in the close up shots of the fledgling.  In order to further eliminate some of the light, I used a fast shutter speed.  On the fledgling, which was in full direct sunlight, I put it even higher than the shots of the adult birds.  Since it worked out that I had several minutes to take photos of the fledgling, I did try different angles.  The sun was really strong and a lot of detail is missing in some of the other photos.  The one I used in this post was the one that had the most detail.  In post-editing, I just cropped the images.

This post was written in part as a response to the WordPress weekly photo challenge. The theme this week is background.

Questions and comments are most welcome below.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Canon 50D, Canon Powershot ELPH 320 HS, Flowers, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

Color is the theme at the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.  Nice timing because just this week we are starting to see some of the colors of Spring.  For the challenge I took some photos of my favorite flower, the daffodil.

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/125

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/125

This first photo I took using my Canon 50D.  I did a bracketed exposure because I knew I wanted to try some HDR post-processing using Photomatix.  I used a fast shutter speed in part because it was windy when I was taking these pictures.  This particular photo has been processed using the “painterly” setting in Photomatix.  Of the different settings I tried, this was the one that showed the most detail in the petals.

ISO 100 11mm 0ev f/5 1/100

ISO 100 11mm 0ev f/5 1/100

This second photo I took using my Canon Powershot ELPH.  I used a setting called “super vivid” to get this effect.  While I sometimes like what I get using this setting, this photo I think shows a pretty common “side effect” of using super vivid.  Sure there is a lot of color, but you lose some of the detail.  It is interesting to me that some of the flower has detail and other parts just don’t.  So, as with most camera settings, there isn’t a one “setting for everything” button.

Cheers!

 

 

 

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Canon Powershot ELPH 320 HS, Photo Challenges, Photography, Uncategorized

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

Geometry, that was my favorite math in high school, and it is also the topic of this week’s photo challenge at WordPress.  I don’t do a lot of architecture photography but this shot is a picture of a stairwell in the St. Louis Art Museum that caught my eye.  I think it fits for this week’s challenge as well:

ISO 1600 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/40

I took this photo with my point and shoot.  I tried the shot on a few different settings, but my favorite was this one using the blue tone in the black and white setting.

Cheers!

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Canon Powershot ELPH 320 HS, Nature, Photography

Landscape Photography with a point and shoot camera

I have two photos for comparison in this post.  I took both with my new point and shoot camera.  I did not use a tripod.  Neither photo has any post-editing aside from scaling the images.  The first was taken in “vivid” mode, an internal to the camera color boost:

ISO 100 4.3mm f/8 1/200

This next one was taken in “monochrome”

ISO 100 4.3mm f/8 1/200

Do you prefer one photo over the other?

Cheers!

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