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PIXelations 7

meter reader

by fotofinish , 09-08-2005 at 09:46 PM (352 Views)

I took a hike Labor Day morning down my favorite trail at Session Woods. I wasn’t expecting to find any significant photographic sights and indeed that was the case. My purpose, instead, was to get behind the camera and continue learning and re-learning. The primary lesson was to explore the 20D metering. Part one would be today with various outdoor lighting conditions. Part two would come some other day with various indoor lighting conditions.

With my 18-55mm kit lens mounted, I decided to take three pictures for each lighting scene, that is, one for each of the metering modes: average, partial, and pattern as labeled by the exif data, or, as listed in the 20D manual in the same order, center-weighted, partial, evaluative. But I think I did not approach this “experiment” properly. I set my camera for shutter-priority and my white balance was “cloudy”. In the shade and my partial sun shots, I had to bump my ISO to 200 and even that only allowed me to shoot at 1/20 speed and near f/5.6. My full sun shots were at ISO 100, 125 speed at f/8.

My eyes could not discern any significant difference in any of the three modes for partial or full sun. However, in the shade I was able to detect slightly more detail in the darker areas with partial metering. The other two modes did not reveal any significant difference. Since I had been using center-weighted as my metering mode, I have switched to partial instead.

To Do
I will do a similar test at another time with indoor lighting. At this point I am unsure as to whether to set my camera in manual or in aperture-priority.

After my testing, I took off my 50mm and put on my 100-400mm L IS. I only had one shot that I kept from this entire day, not that it was anything special, but I liked the lighting:

just what are these?

by fotofinish , 09-10-2005 at 11:46 AM (351 Views)

My neighbor, Paul, bought me a suet cage for my recent birthday. I hung it on our clothes line and sat pool-side with my 100-400mm L IS with 1.4 teleconverter waiting for some fun. I practically filled my one-gig card with shots from a small wood pecker who visited for a late afternoon snack. There was only one which was worth producing:

The good light had faded, so I left my chair and crossed my deck in time to find this surprise waiting for me:

A humming bird? If it is, what type? The light was not right, and it was really difficult to catch this little guy, especially since he was maybe three or four inches long! I was already at 800 ISO, but looking back now, I should have moved to 1600 or even 3200, just to see if I could set my camera at a faster shutter speed. It would have been fun to catch those wings! Hopefully I will see him/her again.

More pictures from this shoot are here.

P.S. I just found out from my neighbor, Sandy, that the creature above is not a humming bird, but rather a hawk moth, in particular, a whitelined sphinx. Thanks, Sandy. And here is an interesting site which describes them.

i am so there…

by fotofinish , 09-14-2005 at 08:56 PM (314 Views)

Today I explored a little of what this art of photography and ultimately of what art itself means to me. My family doctor, whom I have known for thirty years, had the honor of having a photography exhibit in one of Hartford’s community cultural centers. On one of the two walls which held his photos was a vision statement he was asked to write. In it he talked of how he is learning to see the unseen and overlooked objects that we all tend to take for granted. He tries to see these objects as something which might be found in an antique store. He says it takes some work to train the eyes to view what surrounds us in life in this manner. As a physician, the suffering he sees every day has taught him this.

Also in the same showing was a painter whose brightly colored paintings immediately caught my eye. There were designs within designs, stories within stories. The statement on his wall talked of how his religion and spirituality has driven his creative, symbolic expressions of his world. The artist happened to be there at the time I visited. He and I spoke at some length of his motivations. For him, his life’s experiences and the places he has lived and traveled run thematically through his works, “doing what you do, but making it sacred.”

For me, there have been many days when I have felt “lost along the way”. I have yet to discover just what it is I want to say with my meager attempts at this art we call photography. But before I fall off my soap box and perhaps thankfully break my hands and spare everyone diatribes like this, let me finish with something I found written by a professional photographer from another forum.

Progression of a photographer
1. You start out with very little knowledge .
2. You start doing research and realize it is much more difficult than you imagined.
3. You begin to pick up knowledge, the technical side of things.
4. You begin to use the technical knowledge and it works.
5. You start to feel as if you are mastering the technical.
6. You begin to feel you know a LOT.
7. You start posting images that you are proud of.
8. You KNOW your images are better than much of what you see.
9. Family and friends start to oooo and aaaahhh at your images.
10. Pro’s don’t seem to acknowledge you.
11. You think it’s jealousy.
12. You reach a valley in your photography. You are starting to notice that your images aren’t quite what you thought they would be.
13. You start to notice that, in your images, the models hands, the composition, the depth…isn’t quite what you wanted.
14. Even your very favorite photograph isn’t as good as you once thought. “I should have . . . ”
15. You are now completely dissatisfied with everything you have ever shot.
16. You begin to realize that your photography is NOTHING compared to the masters.
17. You begin to see the differences in your photography compared to what you see published.
18. Now you are beginning to learn.

…and for most of what was written above, I am soooo there…

happy birthday to…

by fotofinish , 09-25-2005 at 08:48 AM (279 Views)

…my 20D. It’s hard to believe that I have had my camera for one year. I have learned a lot, and as I look at the galleries in my website I can see an evolution for the better in my pictures. I feel much more comfortable with my camera now. I have learned many of its strengths and limitations and how to work with each to achieve the final image I saw in my mind. I also realize that a professional is one who can consistently capture good/excellent photos under most typical conditions. I don’t have that consistency thing going yet. I certainly have plenty of room to grow. But I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish to date with my 20D.

My latest process I have learned is how to make a panorama.

Taking the picture
I made several practice visits to Session Woods nature preserve as well as out on the deck in my backyard. I bought a small plastic circular level, about the size of a silver dollar, from Home Depot for about $3.50. I placed it on top of the hotshoe outlet and did my best to level the camera on top of my 30 year old Velbon tripod. I was not successful. I found that two of the legs need to be in front and placed perpendicular to the scene I was trying to capture. I was never able to get it level enough as I paned from side to side, due to tripod age and limitations. I also tried my monopod. For some reason, at least for that particular day, I was successful. I took three shots for the panorama with 33% overlap.

I found that it is easier to take a panorama with my 50mm prime lens rather than a zoom. When I used my 18-55mm, I had paralax issues at the photo edges. Although these issues did not seem to be noticeable on single images, when I attempted to overlap them, particularly with parallel lines, they would not line up. I’m not saying that indeed there is a problem with zooms, but it was just easier with a prime lens.

Merging the pictures
I shot in large jpg mode since I was only trying to do a quick test. I resized each jpg to 4×6 at 300 resolution and saved each. First, I tried PhotoStitch which came with the software for the 20D. And although it was very easy to use, the results for the pictures I took showed blurred merge points.

So I decided to do this the hard way in CS2. I reviewed nature photographer John Shaw’s video on merging from the Epson Online Print Acedemy which I took in March of 2004. Here are the steps.

I opened a new canvas and resized for the jpgs I will be using. I selected a size of 5×19 to allow some workable white space around the three pictures at 300 resolution to match the resolution of the jpgs. I then opened each of the three jpgs and, using the move tool, dragged and dropped each onto the empty canvas. This created three separate layers in the layers palette, one for each jpg. I closed each of the open jpgs.

Then, using the move tool and selecting each jpg layer in succession, I positioned each jpg on top of the previous one. In order to line up the overlap in each, I reduced the opacity of jpg layers 2 and 3 to 50% to make it easier. Sometimes I needed to select Edit, Transform, Rotate and twist the layer slightly to achieve the merge. I also tapped the directional arrows on the keyboard to move the layer one pixel row up or down. I then added a layer mask to layers 2 and 3. I selected each mask, and used the brush tool in normal at 100% opacity with the foreground color set to black and erased the one-third overlap area, being careful not to impact the seam between each jpg. I would also move the layer to the side, reselect the layer mask, and use the brush to erase any residual that I could not see because of the overlap. The goal is to end up with only the clean white of the canvas from the overlapped area, leaving only the blurred seam and the remaining photo overlap. I repositioned each jpg layer.

Finally, I used the crop tool pressing clear to clear the tool settings so I could use free form to select the final picture. This trims off the rest of the white canvas and any extra overlap. To complete my processing, I used any curve or hue and saturation adjustment layers as needed to for the overall photo quality. I then resized the final composite photo for 1280 pixels on the wide edge, as well as the final web output sharpening at 50% compression.

And here’s my finished image:

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