70-200mm IS lens, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Close Up

I’ve been to a nearby lake a few times in the last few weeks. With my 70-200mm lens I was hoping to get a close up picture of the herons that nest near the lake.  It was not to be, they were all still too far away.  While I was pouting about that, this dragonfly stopped to rest on a branch near the water.  So I took a few photos.  Here is an edited version:

ISO 800 160mm 0ev f/22 1/40

ISO 800 160mm 0ev f/22 1/40

The dragonfly was actually at an awkward angle from where I was or where I could be to get a photo without being in the water.  He stayed for awhile and so I experimented with quite a few settings in my camera which is why this one is a bit of an odd combination of high f-stop, low shutter speed.  This is actually a bracketed photo, so three photos with different exposures that have been merged.  I used Photomatix to create the HDR image. I was surprised at how well that worked considering the slow shutter speed.  The f-stop was high with the thought of getting the detail in the wings, but it got all the background in detail as well which was distracting.

In order to deal with my background, I opened the HDR image in Photoshop as a smart object and then made a second smart object layer.  I desaturated the top layer to about 48 percent and then created a mask and masked in the full color dragonfly and the tips of the branch he is perched on.  I then used and Iris blur to keep the dragonfly sharp but blur the background a bit.  I also used Photoshop to do some cropping. I was going for a bit of a dreamy other worldly feel without leaving reality completely.  Here is the original photo:

ISO 800 160mm 0ev f/22 1/40

ISO 800 160mm 0ev f/22 1/40

It was several steps worth of editing, but I liked the outcome.  What do you think? feel free to leave a comment below.


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

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Unusual POV

This weekend I had an idea of what I wanted to try for this week’s photo challenge, a unusual point of view.  It took some time to create this image, but here it is:

ISO 640 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/200

ISO 640 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/200

This is actually one dragonfly that kept landing on this plant.  The image that you see is three photos that have been blended into one. This is a technique that we covered in my Photoshop class last week.  The homework had been to create an image like this using images that were provided.  I did the assignment without any problem, but felt like I was just getting the end result because I was following the instructions, not because I really understood what I was doing.

With that in mind and seeing what the theme of the photo challenge was this week, I set out to create an image, using the technique and my own images.  I was hoping to create an awesome image and learn a lot.  So, how did it turn out?  well, I did learn a lot.  The image is not awesome, it’s OK, not bad for a first try.  I am going to keep writing this post and talk about how I made the image and what I learned, so if you’re curious keep reading.  If the details don’t particularly interest you, feel free to stop reading now.  I’d love to know what you think of the image though, so if you have a moment to let me know before you go, that would be great.

On with the details!  I’ll start with the photo shoot and move on to the editing.

What I did for the photo shoot:

The photos were taken using a tripod because I knew that other than the dragonfly, I was going to want everything to be the same.  I used a high shutter speed because I wanted to catch the action of the dragonfly with as much detail as possible.

What I learned:

Even though my settings were the same in the photos, the light changed in the time that it took me to get the images that I wanted.  I did not think about that at the time, so that was something that I had to change in Photoshop, so that the dragonfly would look the same in the composite.  Also, the dragonfly is a pretty small subject for this project.  For this effect working on a larger subject matter might have worked better.

What I did for the editing:

  1. I started with my images in Bridge:
  2. Bridge-Tools-Photoshop-Load Files into Photoshop Layers

The next steps are in Photoshop CS6:

  1. Select all the Layers
  2. Edit-Auto-Align Layers.  This will line up the non-moving objects in the photo.  In this case, it is pretty important that the plant stay still.
  3. Then I turned off the eyeball on all but the base layer.
  4. Turn on the eyeball on the next layer up that you will be working on.
  5. Make a mask.
  6. Paint the dragonfly on that layer in black.
  7. Command-i to invert the layer and that made the dragonfly appear visible on the base layer.

That’s pretty much it.  Have you ever tried something like this? Did it work for you? Feel free to leave a comment below, and if you have written a post on the topic, feel free to leave a link.