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PIXelations 2

the need for inspiration

by fotofinish , 07-26-2005 at 08:02 AM (403 Views)

When I am really frustrated with photography and my inability sometimes to find adequate incentive to get back behind the camera, I turn to the stories of one of my “heroes” of photography, Galen Rowell. Not only was he one of National Geographic’s best mountaineering photographers ever, he was also an inspirational and philosophical writer of the photographic experience. I think my favorite article was one titled “Persistence” in February, 1997 of his article listing here. The death of he and his wife, Barbara, was a great loss to anyone who has ever desired to live in the spirit of Icarus.

batch attack

by fotofinish , 07-27-2005 at 09:15 AM (427 Views)

Before I get into today’s topic, let me tell you briefly about my daughter, Sarah’s graduation party pictures. These were family snapshots, about 24 of them in raw. All the pictures came out great! I used fill flash from my 580ex with Lightsphere II diffuser. There were about 50 people, mostly family, friends, and neighbors. It was a very humid, mostly cloudy New England day.

So, as a result, I had 24 snapshots to process from raw. As I started pulling up some of them, I noticed that I wouldn’t have to change any of the raw default settings. All I would need to do was resize them to 4×6 at 300dpi, convert to 8 bit jpeg and run the Photokit Sharpener for contone output sharpening. I am going to let CVS print them. I will give them two instructions for printing: do NOT color-manage, and do NOT resize, since I already will have taken care of these in my CS2 processing.

Well, what an opportunity to try my hand at building a batch process script! So I went to Roger Cavanagh’s site and read his batch writing article again here . I created a work directory for my test and copied 4 of my raw pictures into it. Then I recorded an action to perform the resizing and the sharpening. I recorded a second action for the batch. This action opens one of the pictures from my work directory, runs my resize action, saves the picture to a jpg directory as a jpeg at the highest quality (12), and then closes the file. The last step involves running the batch action by going to the File, Automate menu item and filing out the screen. This screen allows you to set your work directory, the action to run, allows this to override the File, Open dialogs and the Save As dialogs, as well as rename the final jpeg. And it actually worked! Guess I just had to prove that to myself.

On a completely different topic, I have been privately looking for a way to do some very occasional volunteer work. I think it is important for us to give back something of ourselves to help other people. I’ve done some soup kitchen work over the years. Every once in a while I check out this site. There is actually a request for a photographer to do some event photography for a local museum. Although I have never done anything like this before, it might give me an opportunity to help the museum as well as give me a chance to try something different. I just don’t want to get in over my head and disappoint anyone. I’ll have to think about this for a while…

like an idiot

by fotofinish , 07-28-2005 at 09:30 AM (358 Views)

Last night I really looked like an idiot. There was an approaching thunderstorm so I wanted to use the opportunity to capture some lightening streaks with my 20D. This was the second time in a week that there were strong storms. It was also my second attempt at capturing these streaks.

The first time a week ago it was already dark out. I set my tripod up in our breezeway. I set my camera to manual mode and set the aperture for f11 and a shutter of 6 seconds. I also had my 18-55mm lens on manual mode set at infinity and I used my cable release to reduce shake. I caught some streaks but they were blurred. Apparently I went beyond infinity and threw the lens out of focus. I kept pressing the release button for those 6 second bursts with the camera pointed at what I thought would be the best area for capturing these streaks. Of course I picked the wrong spot!

So yesterday the storm came in the late afternoon, still enough light. I was going to be smarter this time. I went out on my back deck, set my tripod up on my picnic table with camera and release. Still completely manual with camera and lens, my shutter was mostly at 1/80. I pointed the lens at one prime location. And of course I picked the wrong spot again. I decided I would bounce between these two different locations in the sky, still from my picnic table. I figured that if it streaked from the one side, the other side would build up enough charge to streak. My feeling like a ping pong ball was rudely interrupted by an enormous bolt of lightening (you guessed it, from the wrong side!) followed instantly by the sound of a canon going off right on my deck. I must have leaped three feet into the air. As I landed, the first buckets of rain were beginning to crash on me like a tidal wave. I scooped up my equipment and went inside before any damage could be done.

By the time I had decided I could probably hand-hold the camera instead of using a tripod, the largest streaks had already past.

Mental note: tripod for night; handhold for day if the shutter allows…

a session at Session Woods

by fotofinish , 07-31-2005 at 11:14 AM (336 Views)

Session Woods Nature Preserve in Burlington, CT is my favorite local woodlands site. For me, it is very close to where I live and offers a variety of floral and fowl to photograph. It is called Session Woods because the center occasionally holds a few nature classes at its modest indoor facility or outside on its tranquil grounds. Some of my pictures from this marvelous refuge can be found here .

But this day it offered me a quick practice session with my 100-400mm L IS lens. As I mentioned in my Pixelation from July 14 entitled “handholding”, most people who use this lens prefer to handhold it. I wanted to give this a try. I also wanted to practice shooting in manual mode with my camera. I kept my lens in automatic focus, however, with Stage 1 image stabilization enabled.

I hiked out on a mid afternoon with clouds and hazy sunshine, not quite the conditions I wanted to test with. This lens is amazing but is very thirsty for bright sunshine. I arrived at the lookout hut at the edge of the ponds. With my lens in place, I tried a variety of positions while standing, holding my lens. And of course with my luck that day there was very little activity around the water. I shot a few of a dragonflys buzzing around some lily pads, a few more of the lily pads and some distant birds. I did not feel comfortable with my lens. No matter how I anchored my elbows into my stomach, exhaled as I squeezed the shutter, I still felt the lens wobbling.

I then moved out of the hut and back onto a boulder. This time I sat down and used my knees as the anchor point for my elbows. I was more successful as I a shot a few of a bird in a nearby bush. But I still did not feel comfortable.

It wasn’t until I abandoned the handholding and switched to my monopod that I was able to succeed at catching another dragonfly:

Shortly after this picture I then found my bird friend again:

Pretty ordinary stuff, but it gave me pleasure not only in the capture, but just as importantly in the escape from the week’s pressures. My hobby totally engrosses my attention and I find that I can become lost in the creativity of the moment.

Here are some problems I encountered with using manual mode. Because my lens thrives better in bright sunshine (I have more latitude with exposure values), as I switched between subjects, sometimes the light changed due to being in the shade or a cloud passing by. This caused me to have to pay more attention to the meter reading in the viewfinder. Sometimes this was not easy to see. I had to constantly be aware of the shutter speed to keep it above 1/focal length. Had the camera been set to shutter priority, I would not have had as much trouble. I still had to bounce my ISO between 400 and 800. I found that the “Shade” setting for white balance works best for me for all of my outdoors shots. The one advantage I felt I had in manual was the creative selection of exposure; the ability to under expose or over expose. Yes, I could have achieved this in shutter priority by overriding, but it felt easier to do in manual mode.

As far as post processing is concerned, since I shot everything in raw, I only had to make some minor tweaks in exposure and contrast, then open in CS2. There I first applied Photokit’s capture sharpening. Then I tweaked with either a Levels adjustment or a Curves adjustment. Finally, I resized for the web, applied output sharpening for the web, and ran my border action.

The rest of my “keepers” can be viewed here until I move them to my Session Woods gallery listed above.

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