Tuesday, October 14, 2014

White Ibis of Disney

A continuation of my last post about the wildlife at Disney.  Along with ducks, there were vast amounts of White Ibis waiting for the people of Disney to drop their food for them to swoop in and snatch up.  Usually the ducks were faster, but if there was enough or if the food was far enough out the Ibis would jump into action.  Here are a couple shots of the White Ibis.  I wasn't able to catch them in action because I didn't have the right lens for the job, but I did catch these.

Another fascinating thing that you don't see everyday is the amount of Newts they have in the Disney area.  If you stray off the concrete at all, you quite possible would step on one of these little guys.  One caught the particular interest of the boys because of its cool under the chin red bubble.  When he would breathe or at least I think that's what he was doing, a red bubble of skin would appear under his chin.  I don't know if they are a relative and will have to do a little more research, but it reminded me of a bearded dragon.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Disney Ducks

Some more photos from Disney.  Every park, zoo, or frequently traveled area that has wildlife has some wildlife that has gotten so use to humans that they really aren't scared of us anymore.  Such is the case of the Disney ducks and White Ibis.  There are signs stating specifically, "Please do not feed the wildlife", but it doesn't appear that those are followed all that often.  Plus, having all of the lunch tables right next to the area they camp in is kind of inviting people to do that.  Epcot has plenty of little grassy area just off the path where people choose to eat and no one is perfect, your going to drop something.  When you do, rest assured these guys are ready to jump all over it.  They were so close, I was using my kit lens to take photos of these guys.  They were that close.  No cropping.

They were getting braver and braver so I switched to the fisheye lens to see a funny face.  This lady decided to get close and personal!

She even gave herself a kiss as she was looking into my lens.  Luckily duck bills are not rock hard and she didn't scratch my lens.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Last Few Weeks Random Shots

It has been some time since I posted anything and you may have been wondering if I had fallen off the face of the earth.  Maybe you didn't even notice or care.  If you have been one of those wondering, I have been busy these last couple of weeks with lots of awesome family time.  We went on a little vacation.  Then, the oldest and I spent a chilly 35 degree night in a tent, camping at Jubilee.

Going to such an awesome place as Disney for vacation, I couldn't help but bring along a camera.  I blew threw almost all of the 68 gigabytes in storage I took for the trip.  It was so much fun seeing the kids enjoying "The Happiest Place On Earth".  Mom and Dad were truly exhausted by the time the trip had come to an end, but I think we did enjoy a few things before we were done.

Almost all of the shots taken during the trip were family oriented, but I did take some time to snap a couple for the blog.  Maybe you can recognize a few of them.

This is a picture of my youngest admiring the enormous Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot.

And a view from the other side

A view of the fountains in front of the big ball

From the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella's Castle from the Rose Garden.  Most shots you see if this castle are from Main Street USA, so I thought I would try something a little different.

This was one of our favorite rides from the trip, Big Thunder Mountain as viewed from the Liberty Ferry.  There may be no inversions or loops, but this ride is probably one of the longest roller coaster rides I have been on and worth the wait in line.

Walking through Epcot in the Germany wing, we were greeted by a little rain storm.  It quickly passed and provided us with a little color.  I was only able to capture this little section of the rainbow since my card was low on space, but it definitely fascinated the crowds passing by.

We had to stop and see some of the favorite Cars characters.  I thought this an excellent opportunity for some fisheye fun.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Botanical Macros

I didn't take too many macro photos at the recent trip to the botanical gardens.  Most of my time was spent playing with my new fisheye lens and having fun with the family.  After all, isn't that was family time is all about!

I did capture a couple of photos that I would like to share with you.  I have previously posted these photos on Facebook and a couple of other places, but I wanted to share them here.

The first is a monarch resting on a purple flower.  Monarchs tend to love this type of flower.  The only monarch shots I have taken are either on this flower or a cone flower.  I'm sure they love other types of flowers, this is just what I end up capturing.

This is a worker bee gathering nectar for the hive.  It was early morning so he had not been out too long.  Notice he doesn't have a whole lot of pollen on his legs yet.  

This little frog was hiding beneath some leaves beside a pond at the arboretum part of the gardens.  I almost stepped on him and his buddy prior to taking this picture.  My little guy saw him first and made me aware of his presence.  He stuck around for two photos and then hopped into the pond.

Not sure of the type of flower, but it was really neat to see the stark difference in color from the dark background of the bush.  I took this at f/2.8 to get as much of the bush out of focus as I could.  I wanted to make the flower jump from the darkness.  I noticed after the fact that I must have had the focus plain tilted slightly because the petals at the bottom of the flower are blurred and out of focus.  This is part of the problem of using such a wide aperture at this close focusing distance.  Your room for error is very small.

As always, click on the image to be taken to my website if you would like to view them larger.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Botanical Gardens

Last weekend I made my first trip to the botanical gardens.  We luckily picked a day when a famous interior designer was speaking so it was a little crowded until she began speaking.  We had a good time as a family enjoying most of what the gardens had to offer.  I think we may plan a little better and take a little more time next round.  Maybe even pack a little sunscreen.

I brought the macro lens thinking there would be many opportunities to take photos of various flowers and insects.  The kids had different ideas so most of the time was spend messing with my new fisheye lens.

Here are some photos from the recent trip.

I did get a couple of macro photos and will post them in a separate blog post.  I think I may have included enough fisheye fun for everyone.  As always, if you would like to see the photos larger, please click on the photo to be taken to my website or see all of my landscapes at

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Feeling Fishy

My beautiful wife decided that for my birthday she would surprise me with a fisheye lens.  I have been thinking of a fisheye for some time, but seeing one at a recent wedding got me thinking again.  The images it can produce are truly unique to any other lens out there.  Just a simple tilt of the lens and the scenery can give you a great big smile.  These are some of my first images taken with the lens.  All of them were within 15 minutes since it was a last minute test.  All photos were taken with the sunset at my back.  You can see from the 4th image the large cloud bank that had developed just before the sun set blocking any chance at a great colorful evening.

This photo was taken of the exact same spot, just tilted the camera up a little bit to get a little more sky.  

I decided to move down the road a little and split the difference.

The heavy cloud bank on the left was blocking out the sun so I turned 90 degrees to get some of the color from the fading sun.

To see more from the shoot, please check out my webpage by clicking on any of the photos above.  You can also visit my landscape gallery at

Thanks for viewing!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Handsome Men

I have been on a photoshop kick as of late and loving what I have been coming up with.  Today's photo comes from a long time of viewing photos and seeing the creativity some people use to take their family photos.  I normally do not like to put my children out on the internet, but I think this one is a good for that.  I initially was thinking of the whole family for this picture, but I don't think my profile would have fit very well with these handsome men.  So, they are the sole subjects and by far the best for this.  

How I made it.  

I set up a small area that wasn't going to get too much spill light from the windows.  I then used a 5 in 1 black reflector covered with black fleece like cloth to deaden the light as much as possible in the background.  I then used a speedlite shot into the backside of an octabox to get the most even light on their faces.  I then had the boy face profile and stare out a window to entertain them while I tweaked the light.  The flash was set directly in front of them, well more at a 1 o'clock to them.  This way I didn't spill any of the light onto the background to keep it a solid black.  I bumped my shutter speed to its highest sync speed of 1/200th of a second to completely wipe out any light that would have spilled from the surrounding windows.  I had a fairly wide aperture of f/4.5 and ISO 100.  I used a longer zoom lens set between 100mm and 115mm (which translates to about 160mm on my 7D) to get good compression of facial features and to flatten the image better for combining images like this.

I then took the three separate pictures of the boys and combined them in photoshop to make this composite.  

I believe this one is going on the wall.
"Handsome Boys"

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sunset on the Prairie

I haven't had the chance to get out and take sunset photos in a very long time.  Over Labor Day weekend, we were traveling and saw this amazing sunset happening before our eyes.  Wanting to find a nice location to stop and photograph the sunset was going to be tricky.  Luckily we were in hay country and a lightly traveled dirt road lead us to this location.  The area wasn't far off the road so I had time to pull over before the sun had completely set and the pinks of the sun's rays had not completely dissolved.  Having my main camera packed away for the trip, I pulled out the Canon EOS M and not wanting to fuss too much with the settings, snapped a quick picture for reference.  I then used those settings in Manual Mode and snapped about 33 vertical shots back and forth across the hayfield.  I then used Lightroom to adjust the photos and stitched them in Photoshop.  This first photo is the full 33 shot Panorama.

Seeing as that I took the photos in almost a full 180 degrees, the area in front of me was a tad too bent for my taste.  I had to significantly crop and attempt to straighten it as best I could.  So I decided to cut the stitched file down to 17 shots.  This dramatically straightened the flowers in the ditch and made the photo much more appealing.

For a more full resolution look at these photos, you can click on the photo itself to be taken to my website where they can be viewed as wide as your monitor will allow.  Another location you could see them at their full resolution would be on my 500px account.  You can also see other photos that I am particularly proud of on that site also.  If you have a 500px account, please follow me and I will do the same.  I always enjoy viewing other work!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Panoramas Galore

I have decided to try to get more landscapes in my life.  I have found that panoramas give a little more to the scene than your average wide angle shot.  Shooting with a wide angle lens you get basically the same shot; however, with a longer focal length it seems like the distant landscape is actually in the picture.  Shooting with a wide angle lens, it actually makes the distant landscape seem more distant.  This is a panorama of a tributary flowing into the Niobrara River.  The Niobrara is a special river to Nebraska as it provides tourism and some of the most beautiful scenery in the state.  If you were to move further up the river, a tributary to the Niobrara has the largest waterfall in the state.  That waterfall is called Smith Falls.  This is a panorama of 10 vertical images edited in Lightroom and stitched together in Photoshop.

In a previous post, I explained this shot.  This was a 33 shot panorama shot in vertical orientation, edited in Lightroom and stitched in Photoshop.

"Sunset on the Prairie"

This photo was taken shortly before the "Sunset on the Prairie".  The clouds were very cool and the sun was making sun patches across the sky.  Originally I thought this would be a great location to get a sunset photo, but the road was way to slick from the rainfall that occurred just before we traveled on it.  From the photo, you can see what stitching a photo at 180 degrees can do to the foreground.  This photo it is especially pronounced because of the fence line accompanying the scenic overlook.  This photo is a 17 shot stitched panorama.  There would have been more but I was moving too quickly across the frame as I was rotating and some of the shots were blurry.  

"Lonely Tree"

I took this on our walk around the lake.  I have always enjoyed this little area of the lake.  It is secluded and the water is usually very calm.  I believe there use to be a dock where the poles are sticking out of the water.

This is one of my favorite panoramas.  It definitely isn't my best but it has the most meaning.  I traveled through Pilger, NE a couple days after the EF-4 twin tornado struck the area.  I captured this Panorama showing the path of destruction.  This was the second of the two twins that passed over the area.  The first struck the city of Pilger.  The second make its way on the outskirts of town and up the hill, destroying a feedlot and killing many of the cattle located there.  The fire burring on the right side of the frame contained many of the downed trees, buildings, and I would assume cattle from this location.


This is the panorama I took prior to the old barn photo.  I initially stopped to photo this expansive view or field after field of soy beans, but discovered the barn nestled in the trees behind me.  

"Soy Beans"

This was one of my first panorama photos.  I snapped this after a visit to Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge shortly after the great flood of 2011.  This is on the southern side of the Missouri River that was the lowest lying in the area.  This desert looking area is where the river deposited massive amounts of sand as it crossed over this area.  The area still hasn't recovered completely and I don't know if it ever will.  I wanted to have the foreground in focus more than anything due to the sand waves the wind had created.


Making of the Dark Knight

I have been wanting to do a fun photo project with my youngest for sometime.  Getting cooperation from my subject was always something that had eluded me.  This time I decided to attempt something that he does on a regular basis, dress as Batman and jump off things.  I asked and he obliged to do a little photo shoot of him doing one of his favorite things.  I decided to use a green screen instead of white (for reflections and halos) or black (for obvious reasons).  Next I used two flashes on opposite sides at about 45 degrees from the subject.  I used a large north facing window to help light the background since I didn't have another flash handy at the time.  I also thought this might help in avoiding reflections of the green on to the glossy parts of the suit.  After the photo was taken, I imported it into Lightroom and started to go to work to prepare the photo for Photoshop.  Here is the original photo.

I initially imported this file into photoshop and created a mask to clear out the background.  I chose green because it would create an easier selection to then clear out the background.  I then moved back into Lightroom and adjusted the greens in the color pallet to make it a white background.  I probably could have used a white sheet and had the same results, but the selection process would have been more difficult.  I made the background white before completing the photo in photoshop so I could get the green reflections off the shoes, mask, and the bleed through on the cape.

Now I am ready for photoshop.  In photoshop, I blend together three images I found on the internet plus Mr. Batman.  The first was a comic book looking photo of what was Gotham City.  The next was a bat signal and last was a metal bridge that he could jump from.  I used a lens blur on the city photo to make is as distant as I could.  I then brought in the bridge photo and masked out the parts that didn't need to be there.  I then brought in Batman to get him into the proper position in the photo.  Lastly, I placed the bat signal in the dark point of the sky and added a light beam from behind Batman in a different layer so he would cover up the beam.  I then darkened all of the photos except for Batman to make him stand out in the photo even more.  I touched up a little bit of everything once they were all put together and there you have it.  The making of Batman, The Dark Knight.