Sunday, August 13, 2017

TWIP Focus Stacking a Praying Mantis

So this week, I found a baby praying mantis in the backyard and decided to capture it for my collection.  Praying Mantis are some of my favorite insects just due to their shear coolness.  I am unsure if it was a male or a female, but believe it to be a female as it didn't appear to have wings.  Females are larger and cannot fly due to them not having wings.  The males are much smaller and are the flyers of the bunch.  

This photo took place in my boxwood hedge which provided excellent camouflage to the bug.  No one saw him there but me.  I am pretty good a spotting little things as I was really into macro photography when I first started this journey, so I tend to spot things most don't.  

He was very keen to keep an eye on me even though I caught him glancing at a cricket in the area a time or two.  I was hoping that he was going to pounce on the cricket so I could get some carnage, but he was more interested in me not squishing him than food at the time.  I bet the cricket would have been more than enough for this guy as he was so small.  I used my macro lens with a 36mm extension tube and a continuous macro light to photograph this little guy.  

I ended up using 15 of the 30 photos I took of him in this position to make the below photos.  My previous focus stacking tutorial on here will give you a better idea about how I stack my photos.  It is pretty simple, I import the photos into lightroom, verify the photos I would like to see stacked together, and then import them all into photoshop.  Now photoshop doesn't do as good of job, at least the version I have, as some of the dedicated focus stacking software out there, but it works for what I use it for.  

In photoshop I align the layers and then stack them together.  I then touch up the resulting image as best I can and there you have it.  Takes about 10 minutes per picture if you were looking at it in a time sort of way.  

Here is the baby mantis.  As always, click on the photo for a larger version.  Like my Facebook for more of my work Facebook.com/alderimages.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

TWIP Canon Telephoto Taking on Butterflies

My vehicle has been having trouble for a couple weeks, so I decided to try and play mechanic and fix it.  So far so good.  I decided to run to Heron Haven on my drive around town to make sure everything was working, and thought it was about butterfly season...just maybe there would be some there.

Well, I wasn't as lucky as I thought I would be but I did see my three favorite midwestern flyers.  I saw a monarch butterfly, a black swallowtail, and a tiger swallowtail.  I was able to catch up to and capture the first two but the latter always was one step ahead of me.  He would either be out of the butterfly garden or inside, depending on where I was not.  He was sneaky to say the least.  I did get another photo to add to my collection of flowers.  I have something planned for those, so all was not lost.

Today, I shot butterflies with the Canon 300mm f/4L IS and my 6D.  I really like the clean crisp files of the 6D over any other camera I have and from initial reviews, may stick with this for at least one more camera iteration.  While the new 6D has all of the focus fixes I was looking for, I just love the images that come from the 6D sensor.  Taking photos of butterflies with a Telephoto lens like the 300 can be a challenge.  You have to be a little ways back from them, so there has to be a lot of room to move.  The bonus is you can be a ways back from them and let them do their thing.  I prefer it this way as I don't like to disturb nature when photographing it.  Shooting the photos of the flowers held a whole new issue, but I won't go into that.

Enough talk, here are some photos.








As you can see, the swallowtail seem to be a pecking piece for the nearby birds.  Poor guy is missing half of his cool wings.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

TWIP Creating A Solar Filter DIY

I looked on line for solar filters for the upcoming eclipse and they were either top of the line filters that I would probably only use once in my lifetime or super cheap that got horrible reviews.  So, I started looking around at DIY possibilities.  I came across a guy that had built his own using a pair of UV filters and an order of solar paper.  He actually cut the paper and stuck it in between two UV filters, no glue.  (That could work, but I didn't want Vignette, but in hind sight, probably wouldn't have matter as it is going to be crazy dark anyway.)  I looked online and located a sheet of solar paper that was made by the same brand as a lot of the filters out there and decided to give it a go myself with a slightly modified idea.

Here is what you need:
I'll put a link to where I got these at the bottom of the post. If you get the 6x6 should be around $22.

Sheet of solar filter paper - I purchased the 12x12 sheet, however, I am planning on making three of these so I needed extra space.  

Step up filter ring - My lens has a front element of 77mm.  I decided to get the biggest step up I could find to have ample space for miscues.  I haven't been in kindergarten for a while and haven't practiced cutting with scissors in some time.  

Super Glue - preferably one with the little paint brush inside so you can just paint on the glue to the extra space of the ring.  

Now time to spend the 5 minutes and make one.

Do not take your filter paper out of the cardboard.  If you do, it is going to suck.  


The filter paper is neatly placed inside of two pieces of cardboard and you are going to use that to hold the paper in place as you cut.  It will make it easier and you will not fingerprint the heck out of the paper.  Finger prints are really hard to get off solar paper without causing other damage.


How I made mine.  

I took the step up filter and drew a circle around the filter on the cardboard as a cut out guide.  When you cut around the filter, be sure that the papers doesn't sneak out of the cardboard.  You also want to cut inside your circle a little ways as remember, you are putting it inside that circle.  

Next, take you put on some gloves or use a piece of lens cloth to remove the filter from the cardboard.  Place it in the filter to make sure that it is still not too big.  If so, trim accordingly.    Now that you have your paper and filter ready to go, it is time to start the gluing process.

I spaced my glue around the filter and didn't do a continuous path.  Not sure if that was the right route, but it is the one I took.  Now time to place the paper on the filter.  Make sure that the mirror side of the paper is facing out.  It will be the side that faces the sun.  Place the paper into the step up ring and let it dry for 10 or 15 minutes.  Please keep in mind that if you don't get the paper flat and smooth before it drys, you can take if back off and try again.  It comes off pretty easy.  Once dry, screw it onto your camera and go give it a shot.

Short story.  I attempted to wipe off the fingerprints while it was on the filter and it buckled which is why it looks like a bubble on the front of the filter.  Don't do that.  Use the lens cloth as instructed and you should be good.  Also, be careful with the filter as you can move, pop off, or smudge the paper.  The glue doesn't hold super strong.


 


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TWIP Poor Man's 50 mm v 85mm v 100mm v 200mm Lens Test

I have a host of lenses I like to use on a regular basis.  I fiddle here and there with most of them not letting them gather a whole lot of dust.  Since upping the bar to a full frame I have found it interesting the actual lenses I use for the stuff that matters.  So I began getting the itch of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) again.  It may be that the camera that I have wanted was just announce or the fact that I have been itching for a lens for some time, but now am second guessing if I want to get rid of an old lens that I have and replace it with something a little better or possibly something totally new.  It's tough to distinguish, but I have been watching a lot of test videos of comparisons so I went through my stuff and didn't really have anything like this from my gear and how I shoot.  Now granted, I love my Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS.  It is the sharpest lens out there for a zoom.  I love it, but it doesn't get me to 2.8 which would give me lower light ability.  Now, I have lived with this lens for a long time and really don't feel the need to change, but I was interested in what 200mm compression looked like up against the lowest apertures on some of the other lenses I had.  Thus, I am going to give a go with a poor mans test of non-L lenses for my general thoughts and if I really want that shiny new 85 or a crusty old 135.  So, here are a couple shots of comparison.  I made my middle and littlest help me, which even though they got to blow dandelion seeds all over the yard, it didn't make them very up beat about the process.   I guess that 5 minutes could have been better spent.  

So I tested 4 lenses.  I have a 50mm 1.4, which is a really old lens and I would anticipate Canon upgrading any time in the near future.  I love mine.  It is very sharp even at 1.4 which most aren't.  I got a good copy.  I tested the 85mm 1.8., again, consumer lens but I really like mine.  Then tested one of my favorites, the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens (not the IS version).  This lens is also crazy sharp and I have no need for IS on this lens. I have never had the need to spend the extra $500 for the pretty red ring and IS.  Lastly, I tested my 70-200 f/4L IS at 135mm and 200mm just to see what it would look like and the bokeh (background blur) that would be shown.  I tried to maintain the same composition in all of the photos so I could see what the background was going to look like.  I think it did a pretty good job to what I was thinking.  Here is what I came up with.

50mm @1.4

85mm @ 1.8

100mm @ 2.8

135mm @ 4.0

200mm @ 4.0


The 200mm and 135mm area definitely show the compression of the background a make it to almost nothing.  I really wonder what f2 would look like at 135mm.  That is a lens I have looked at for a long time.  May have to borrow one and see what results I get.  I also really like the way the 85mm looks.  Still gives the roundness and less compression than the longer distances, but a nice blur with some inclusion of the background.  Now the lens I have been itching for is the 1.4 version of this lens that you can actually use at 1.4.  Canon does make a version with a 1.2, however that baby is expensive and for what I do, I can't justify the price.

The reason I am more interested in the 85 version, is I used to shoot primarily on a crop sensor with my 50mm.  If your shooting canon, the crop sensor has a 1.6x field of view of a full frame, meaning what your actually seeing is the lens distance x 1.6.  So my 50mm was actually much more like the 85mm lens on my full frame.

I think this little test made up my mind...now I just need to win the lottery.

Monday, July 10, 2017

TWIP - Who Knew Opossums Like Pizza Hut

So, I was lazy and set the pizza box on the deck table with a couple pieces of crust left over.  A few hours later we heard rustling on the deck.  The dogs and I were confused, so we went to check it out.  Much to our surprise was a visitor finishing off the leftovers.  You wouldn't believe how we were no more than 7 or 8 feet from each other, me and the drooling canines behind the patio door and him just hanging out on the table.  This baby opossum continued his meal watching our every move as I snapped away.  Once he finished up, he climbed off the table, left the deck and over the fence.  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

That time at Heron Haven

An adventure to Heron Haven this spring revealed some very interesting little creatures.  I was initially going to view the baby goslings but their mommies were a little more aggressive than I wanted to deal with being with my 4 year old.  We kept our distance and instead investigated snails, frogs, and turtles.  I didn't come very equipped, just my trusty 300mm f/4 so macro photos were very challenging.  I think we had a good adventure and learned a few things as well.








Tuesday, July 4, 2017

TWIP Steam Trains are COOL!

Having missed the first trip to town for the College World Series by a mere 2 minutes, I made sure I was in my spot in plenty of time to see the famous 844 steam engine of Union Pacific on its way back home.  Scouting spots along the railway turned out to be a good thing instead of the usual fly by the pants approach I tend to make most of the time when shooting things.  I reviewed spots along the line to get the best location, with little to no distractions in the background, and off the beaten path.  The first time around, there were cars lining the roadway and I knew this time wouldn't be any different as this was happening on a weekend instead of late during a work week.  That meant everyone and their dog with a camera were going to be out.  

I grabbed a location where it was a semi straight away just off the main road by a railroad crossing.  This way, as they were approaching the crossing they would have to blow the steam whistle.  This would cause steam to shoot up into the air from the front of the train.  I knew that it was warm, so the steam coming off the engine wouldn't be as dramatic as some of the photos everyone has seen as these are usually in the fall and winter when the weather is very cool.

So, I turned down my road and already there were multiple cars, video cameras, and kids hanging out to see the train. Luckily they were just off the main road and not in the area I wanted to be.  Pulling to my location, a couple other seasoned train photographers were there waiting as well.  Finding my spot, opposite of the others due to the clutter of the background, I set up the tripod, video, and got my telephoto ready to shoot.  Not knowing what to expect as this was my first time trying to shoot this engine, I didn't know of the speed or rate in which I was going to get an opportunity.

You can see from the video, this baby came fast.  I didn't have nearly as much time as I planned for  and the blew the horn a little sooner than I thought as well.  However, I came home with 3 shots that I am really happy with.  I have included those below.  

video







Friday, June 30, 2017

TWIP Using ND filters for blur


Purpose of an ND filter in photography is a question most people ask when they see the big odd shaped pieces of glass on the front of a camera lens.  These filters can be screw on, square or rectangle.  Various filter types include regular ND filters, graduated ND filters and reverse graduated ND filters.  

The regular type filers stop light from the whole lens that is coming into the camera.  Most of them come in 3,6, or 10 stops.  Stops is the measurement of the amount of light coming into your camera.  For instance, if you are shooting a scene with a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second and decide to add a 3 stop ND filter to the front of your camera, your shutter speed will now be a 1/8th of a second.  You change your 3 stop to a 10 stop, you are now at 16 seconds on your shutter speed.  I have a little handy chart that assist in calculating this in the field.  You can find these anywhere if you just search google.

The graduated filters help the photographer to even out the scene in terms of exposure.  I have found that majority of the time, the sky is about 3 stops brighter than the ground, therefore, on scenes where I am trying to get cloud movement, I put a 3 stop graduated filter in front of the camera as well.  These come with a hard line, for flat horizons, and soft edge for those with lines that aren't so flat.  Reverse grads are what most use for sunsets.  The top is lighter until you get to the horizon line where it is most dense as when shooting the sun, the brightest point is at the middle area of the frame.  

Below is an example of what ND filters can do for your photography.  The top shot is a behind the scenes photo with my iPhone.  You can see the clouds are frozen in time.  This day the wind was blowing about 30 mph and the clouds were really moving.  I placed my 10 stop on the front of the camera and a hard grad filter which is another 3 stops to get this exposure.  Exposure on the bottom two photos were approximately 120 seconds.  I believe the longer exposure gives a little more life to a regular mundane scene.  


















Sunday, June 25, 2017

TWIP HDR from the Platte

Last week the cub scout pack my son belongs to, took a den activity to the airboat tours location close to our home.  I had been on boats many times, but never an airboat.  Thought this would be an awesome experience for both of us.  The boat tour was on the Platte River, so I was pretty familiar with what it was like especially growing up around the Niobrara River.  Deep spots with tons of sand bars.  The tour was interesting and the boat ride surprisingly smooth.  I would definitely do it again.  I kept the camera tucked away as I didn't know what to expect in terms of water spray, but if I would have remembered my camera strap, I would have had it out almost the whole time. No splash at all.

We stopped a couple of times for the guide to show us different parts of the river and wildlife along the sides.  We even made a stop on the sand bar so the kids could say they stood and played in the Platte.  Yep, right there in the middle of the river.  40 feet of water on either side, but yet it was 6 inches deep.  Just as I remembered the Niobrara when I was a kid.  The clouds were pretty cool giving way to some great sun rays.  I shot a couple of HDR shots from the boat, which is challenging afterwards to line up.  I even tried a new technique using Raya Pro of which I liked the output, but lining up the images was very tough...still wondering if I did something wrong.  Either way, I'll put it out there to view. 

The top shot was from earlier in the day as we were leaving.  The sun rays kissed the top of the church tower.  
 

This is a pano done with an iPhone 6 as I didn't want to get my camera out and chance it.

These are the two HDR shots.  The top was done using NIK filters and were taken from 5 separate shots.  The bottom was done using Photoshop and Raya Pro.  As you can see, the tree on the left side doesn't quite line up right, but I tend to like the softer tone of the photo.  Guess I have a little work to do on mastering luminosity masks.




This one lined up a little better.

This is a 6 shot vertical panorama taken and adjusted in Lightroom.  No HDR.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

TWIP After the storm


This week in pictures is after the storm.  We had a rather large storm come through the area producing many tornados and winds that were crazy.  Our area of town was spared some of the worst as the storm weakened slighted as it went through, but quickly intensified again as it went through town.  After the storm had passed, it was perfect timing for the sun to pop from under the clouds and highlight the already very cool looking mammatus clouds.  Here are a couple of the quick shots I was able to get.  The area I was in was filling up quickly with water as it is a collection lake for runoff.  The water rose probably 6 inches from the time we go to the spot until we left.  I did collect one tick as well, which was surprising as I was there less than 15 minutes and the grass was cut very low.  Guess predictions were right that ticks are going to be very bad this year.