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.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Super Moon 2014

I told myself that I wasn't going to give in to the pressure of photographing the Super Moon this time around.  I have taken photos of the gigantic moon in the past and have always come out with some results that just made me yawn.  Nothing was too exciting about it.  Last night the dog was taking a little longer than normal to get ready for bed and I had my camera right inside the door so what do you do.

Here are a couple snaps to satisfy this years Super Moon fix.  Now if I could somehow keep myself awake enough to try and catch the meteor shower.

Click on the photos to be taken to my website to view larger.

Friday, August 8, 2014

My Time With Salsify - Take 2

Part 2 of my post about Salsify takes us closer and to more creative avenues.  I have viewed photos in the past that I had the hopes of recreating in my own way, but could never get close enough or get drops to hold correctly on the seedlings.  I always attempted to photograph these on a dandelion and the seedlings weren't quite strong enough to hold what I was trying.  Discovering the Salsify plant, I immediately started thinking of ways to get the photo I have always wanted.

So once I had the plant home, I placed the stem in an old flower vase and started shooting.  Seeing my assistants having fun with the water sprayer was enjoyable.  The enthusiasm they have for everything really is infectious.  I grabbed an old eye dropper and finally captured the photo I was looking for.  All of the photos were stacked from multiple photos except the first and last.

This is the photo I have been trying to get for the last 4 years.  Finally!!!

In my part 1 of this photo topic I posted a link to free wallpapers.  Stop over and have a look if you would want one.  If you would like to see more of my work, please visit Alder Images.  You can follow me on Facebook.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Time with Salsify - Take 1

Playing soccer with my kids, I happened to notice a very large looking plant with a fluffy head.   My son saw this also and thought was a giant dandelion.  Coming from a farm I knew that the plant in question was Salsify or commonly referred to as the Oyster Plant.  These weed looking plants are actually grown and picked for their roots which apparently taste like an Oyster, hence the name.  I for one have never tried Salsify, but was fascinated by its fluffy seeded exterior.

Having attempted many photos of dandelions over the years, the larger fluffy head of the plant presented numerous opportunities to get the ideal picture I have wanted for a very long time.  So yesterday hunting butterflies, I picked a plant and brought it back for some one on one time.  It was a windy day and the seeds do blow away quite easily so I attempted to contain it in a plastic bag.  The bag did damage part of the fluffy, but I was able to manage.  With help from my curious assistants, a handy spray bottle and eye dropper, we made some pretty interesting images.  Feel free to click on the images to see them bigger on my website.

I have made a couple available for download if anyone would like a wallpaper.  The are sized for a 16:9 computer screen.  Follow this link and you will be taken to the page for downloads.

Feel free to leave comments at the bottom or visit my Facebook page and give it a like.

These two were my original attempts to photograph the Salsify in the field, but wind and other weeds made it difficult to get on the proper level and get some good closeups.  I also did not have my tripod with me so anything super close was going to be blurry.

We finally got the Salsify home and started taking some photos.  Without the misted water on the seedlings, the Salsify look like a dandelion seed covered in spider webs.  Water drops give the photo life.

For this photo I tried refracting a photo of a brightly colored dandelion photo I made a couple of years ago.  I couldn't get the photo close enough to get a good refraction, but it did leave some nice colors on the water drops.

Thank you everyone for viewing.  If you have questions or comments, please leave them below or on my Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Purple Trumpets

I haven't exercised my shutter finger in a little while and decided to take it out for an interval run.  I took these with my old XTi since all of my batteries were dead on the 7D.  I took these photos with the purpose of focus stacking, but the frames per second and buffer limitations of the camera left me with less than ideal conditions for that.  Instead, I decided I would use what I had and try to work on some texture backgrounds.  I used an umbrella from the kids sandbox to block out the harsh sunlight that this area has and decided to use the weathered wooden fence as a good background.  The purple and cream blends in nicely with the gray of the wood.

Here are a couple photos from the shoot that show what it looked like before I replaced the background.

The first photo is what I was planning when attempting to focus stack the flower.  I was going to focus all of the way through the flower and post and condensed version.  I think it would have been cool and may try it with some full batteries in the 7D before they all wither and die.

This is the beginning photo I was looking for when considering a texture and background replacement.

This was the photo I finally determined was the prime candidate for background fixing and minor texture due to the proper framing, exposure, and focus.

I used an old photo from a purple colored rock, stretched it, used a blurring technique, added a little canvas texture, then reduced opacity and used a soft light filter.  Lastly, I had to dodge and burn a little of the flower to blend it with everything.

Here is the final result.  Click on the picture to be taken to my site to view it larger.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Family Sessions

Over the last couple weekends I had the chance to experience two special families each with their own story.  One I had privilege of capturing young ones growing up in this world.  The other, capturing siblings making lasting memories to cherish for a lifetime.  This week, I am sharing a special time with a family spending a weekend together, enjoying one another.  This group was a blast to photograph.  I can tell they are a close family which makes being able to capture this special time in their lives all the more meaningful.  Here are a couple of my favorites from the session.