Know your Equipment and Location

By David Halgrimson

Since moving back to Minnesota I have been researching places to go for photo opportunities and found a couple near where I live. One is Swan Park in Monticello Minnesota 15 miles west and Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge 25 miles north of my home. Both easily accessed.

We moved back to MN in November just when the Trumpeter Swans were starting to return to a section of the Mississippi River in Monticello. They stay from November thru February when they mate and leave for their nesting locations. The Swans along with geese and ducks like this area as the river is open due to a power plant on the river to the north and because for the past 30 plus years they get free breakfast and lunch. The Swans are the main draw at Swan Park, a very small park, maybe 40 feet wide, overlooking the river where the birds spend their days, eating, mating and fighting.

For more information on the park and the swans visit this site, http://www.monticellocci.com/pages/Swans.

About knowing the location, not just the Swan Park location, but any location. When visiting in August I went to check out Swan park only to find out there are no swans there in august, but now I knew right where to go when they returned… scouting day one. Once settled after our move, I went back and was pleasantly surprised by not only the swans, ducks and geese but the sheer numbers of them. As the story goes, over 30 years ago there were only a handful of swans and now there can be as many as 2,700 on any given day. I needed to know how to get the best view, what equipment and clothing would be best, it’s dang cold here November thru February. Because people are not allowed down at the river’s edge the area is somewhat secluded, so a good winter coat and stocking hat, warm boots and most of all special gloves. I went through three different sets of gloves to find those that would somewhat keep my hands from freezing. I found mittens with internal gloves that fold open to reveal gloved fingers and thumb to operate the camera. The glove portion of the index and middle finger have a special coating that allows for touch screen operation. Still, my fingers get very cold and I need to warm them occasionally. Next, what kind of lighting might be best for the subject. This day was bright sunlight and I found that the white swans had a good chance of blowing out the histogram, maybe a cloudy or partly cloudy day would work better or perhaps lens filters might help… scouting day 2. Oh, yes I did take pictures.

So now about knowing your equipment. On scouting day 2 I took my Lumix GX8 with a 40-150mm f/2.8 and a 300mm f/4 prime lenses and no tripod. The birds are very active, swimming, diving, taking off, landing, fighting and feeding. A slow shutter would not work but how fast should it be? I tried 400-500 with some good results for the swimming and feeding but needed much faster for the flying, landings and takeoffs.

The Lumix and lenses being new to me and not having used it for birds before, I was not quite sure what settings to use so experimented with a number with mixed results and not to my personal standards. I also found the 300mm a bit too close for many of the shots but great for the birds coming in or taking off…scouting day two.

40-150mm, f/4, ISO 100 1/640th hand held

40-150mm, f/4, ISO 400, 1/2000th hand held

40-150mm, f/4, ISO 400, 1/2000th hand held

Not quite as sharp as I wanted as can be seen here. Part of that is the aperture of f/4 giving less DOF.

I went home to review my images and decided to do some research on best settings for the camera and lens combinations. After some testing and experimenting and finding the settings I thought would work best for me, I decided to setup a custom setting for wildlife on both camera bodies. This included the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, high speed burst and more, this way when I am shooting birds and fast moving subjects I don’t have to remember settings I can just set the camera(s) to custom 1 and start shooting and making small adjustments as needed from there.

Now with all the scouting complete and camera settings configured it was time to return for a real shoot. I took both camera bodies, one with the 40-150mm and one with the 300mm and, yes, a tripod. I used the 300mm on the tripod for the birds in the air and the 40-150mm hand held for the action on the water.

All the scouting, researching, testing and camera setup paid off big time. I went on a bright but cloudy day, cameras all ready, my warmest gloves, set up the tripod with the 300mm, hung the other around my neck and started shooting. The results were to me more than I expected.

300mm, 1/2000th, ISO 400, f/8 tripod mounted

300mm, 1/2000th, ISO 400, f/8 tripod mounted

40-150mm, 1/2000th, ISO 400, f/8 hand held

40-150mm, 1/2000th, ISO 400, f/8 handheld

40-150mm, 1/2000th, ISO 400, f/8 handheld

As can be seen in these the DOF and sharpness are much better. This is due to the faster shutter and and smaller aperture settings.

Know you equipment and do your scouting, it pays off in the long run.

Check out Arizona Highways PhotoScapes at https://photography-workshops.directory/photographer/arizona-highways-photo-workshops/

David Halgrimson is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Adobe Lightroom – Using the New Range Mask Feature

By Megan P Galope

Have you ever tried using a graduated filter to make the sky darker, but in the process it also darkens the mountains? Trying to then remove the mountains from the filter was a tedious task. No more! Adobe Lightroom has recently added a new feature to the filters and adjustment brush called “Range Mask”, which makes these tools more precise and easy to use. Here is a typical image where the foreground is the correct exposure but the sky is too bright.

After adding a graduated filter, the sky looks good, but unfortunately, the foreground is darkened as well:

At the bottom of the graduated filter toolbox, you’ll now see an option for “Range Mask” (this assumes you have the latest version of Lightroom). Click where it says “Off”, and you’ll get a drop-down with a couple options. Choose the “Color” option.

Next, click on the eye dropper tool to the left of the Range Mask option, and then click and drag in the sky to draw a box around the different colors in the sky (in this case, I drew a box that includes both the blue sky and the clouds). You want to choose the colors that you want to be affected by the graduated filter.

Notice the small square in the upper right

Once you draw the box and let go, voila! The sky is darker but the foreground hasn’t been affected by the filter:

Truth be told, sometimes this works better than others. If it doesn’t work the first time, you can try drawing the Range Mask box again in a different spot, or make it larger or smaller. You can also draw multiple boxes to sample different colors by holding down the shift key while drawing another box. If you want to delete a box, hold down the Alt (Windows)/Opt (Mac) key (the mouse will turn into a scissors icon) and click on the Range Mask dropper marker that you would like to delete.

The Range Mask feature is available for both the graduated filter and radial filter as well as the adjustment brush.

Megan P Galope is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Twitter = @megangalope                                                                                                                    mapphotography.smugmug.com

Bugs are Beautiful

Author:  Bruce Taubert

For whatever reason I have become obsessed with taking macro and micro photographs of bugs.  Beetles, files, wasps, bees, stink bugs, moths, butterflies, and whatever other bugs in Arizona and around the world.  Bugs are cool!  They have compound eyes, colorful exteriors, antennae, exoskeletons with sharp spines or hairs, scales like a fish, and many endearing body forms.

To take extreme macro/micro images of bugs I have purchased some types of photographic equipment that one would not normally find in a photographer’s bag.  All the cameras I own are adequate to take wonderful macro images, but it is the lenses that lack the magnification power to get the job done.  My first super macro lens purchase was the Canon MP-65 f/2.8 1X-5X zoom lens.  This unique lens does not zoom from wide to telephoto but zooms to different magnifications.  By moving the “non-focusing ring” the lens zooms from 1X to 5X without the need for extension tubes, teleconverters, diopter lenses, or the like.  Very easy to use when it comes to changing the level of magnification.

Cognisys “StackShot” attached to the automatic focusing rail. The camera is the Canon 7D Mark II with a Canon MP-E-65mm f/2.8 1-5X. The diffuser is a tapioca cut. In the set-up there would either be a LED light or two flashes.

When I want to go past the 5X world I must resort to purchasing equipment normally found in the research laboratory and, not in the camera bag.  For 10X magnification I have purchased a Mitutoyo microscope objective.  To allow me to use my digital camera and not a microscope I place a 70-200mm lens on the camera and use an adapter to place the microscope objective on the end of the camera lens. Not difficult to do and the cost of objective is less than the cost of a quality macro lens, and there are more inexpensive options than the Mitutoyo lens I have.

Mitutoyo 10X microscope objective mounted on a Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens attched to a Canon 7D Mark II camera. This set-up gives a 16X magnification.

From here the only other relatively costly item is a focusing rail.  When taking images at large magnifications, it is necessary to use focus stacking.  Focus stacking is a mechanism by which the computer puts several images taken at different focal distances together resulting in a final, single image that has more depth-of-field than possible by any other process.  For smaller magnifications I may only take 10 images for stacking but at higher magnifications I take 200 or more images.  The focusing rail allows me to move the camera in very small increments and makes it easy to take the multiple images necessary for stacking.  To make life easier I purchased an automated focusing rail.

The rest of the equipment is easy and cheap.  I use either an empty tapioca container, plastic cutting board, printing paper, or even a ping pong ball for diffusion.  Camera flashes or LED lights provide the illumination and the bugs are free.

This sinister looking portrait of a wasp face was focused stacked from 44 images taken with the Canon MP-65 lens.

Not only are the images, in my mind, beautiful they represent forms that are unimaginable without having a photograph to view.  With this level of magnification, we can better appreciate the natural patterns of even the most obscure creatures.  Small bugs that are completely unappreciated become things of beauty, hopefully allowing the viewer to better appreciate them.  Even with all the biological experience I have and my love for all things alive (yes Roberta, even Creepy, Crawly Critters) I am forever amazed to see the intricate details these images uncover.

With a little practice and some unique equipment, it is relatively easy to see the smaller things in life.  The learning curve is not steep and the equipment not as expensive or exotic as one might imagine.

used a Canon MP-65 to capture this image of the beautiful scales on a moths wing.

If this type of photography interests, you I teach macro photography workshops through Arizona Highways PhotoScape’s and I have just written a book with Amy Brooks Horn on The Art of Macro Photography.

Bruce Taubert is an Instructor with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

 

A Good Time to Switch to Manual–An Example

By Amy Novotny

Knowing when to switch to manual mode can be difficult these days with digital SLR cameras making it easy to capture images in Aperture or Shutter priority modes. It is often taught to use Aperture priority for controlling depth of field in landscape photography and Shutter priority for fast moving scenes including animals or sports. However, at times, it is desirable to control both depth of field through the aperture and the shutter speed to produce an image.

As a photo guide for Arizona Highways PhotoScapes, I was assisting instructor Beth Ruggiero-York with the Photograph the Charm of Cape Cod workshop this past September. We were photographing a beautiful boat scene in the early morning fog that started out so dense that the boats were hardly visible. Participants started out in Aperture mode since the scene was still and they could control the depth of field to capture both the foreground and background in focus. ISO was set at its lowest setting to reduce noise. Because the light was so low in this setting, the camera adjusted the shutter speed to longer durations to be able to capture the scene at the correct exposure. This worked extremely well since there was minimal to no breeze and the water was calm.

Nikon D750, ISO 100, 70mm, f/8.0, ⅕ sec.

Soon, however, a duck glided into the scene and changed everything. Now, there was movement that needed to be captured, but if the same settings were used, the duck would be blurry as shown below. The shutter, in this case, was open too long to freeze the motion of the duck.

Nikon D750, ISO 100, 70mm, f/8.0, ⅕ sec.

The shutter speed had to be increased in order to capture a sharp, in-focus duck. This was a great time to switch to Manual mode. I could keep the same depth of field that I had previously used because I wanted all the boats in focus but I wanted a faster shutter speed of 1/160 to freeze the slight gliding movement of the duck. Manual mode allowed me to set both of these to what I desired and I could then adjust the ISO to allow for the correct light metering and exposure. It worked and I was able to get all the elements of the image sharp, in-focus and with the exposure I was looking for.

Nikon D750, ISO 1600, 70mm, f/8.0, 1/160 sec.

This is just one example of many that would encourage me to switch to Manual mode quickly during a photography shoot.

Amy Novotny is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.
Twitter: @amynovotnyaz
Instagram: @anovotn
http://www.amysimpressions.com

Images taken while assisting as a Volunteer Photo Guide for Arizona Highways PhotoScape’s Photography the Charm of Cape Cod workshop taught by instructor photographer Beth Ruggiero-York in September 2017.

New Lenses VS Old Lenses, and Testing Them

By Sara Goodnick

Camera lenses produced before the digital age may still be in mint condition, but you might want to consider replacing them anyway. Here’s why. The newer lenses were designed specifically for capture by the digital sensor which is completely different physically and chemically from a film plane. To optimize this difference in sharpness and color capture you will probably need to upgrade.

Perhaps going to your local camera store and asking to test one of their lenses is an option. If not, rental through one of the various lens and camera rental companies will give you a feel for whether you should upgrade.

If you purchase a new lens, or want to test your old ones, there is a great tool available for free! It’s a downloadable lens test target, produced by B&H Photo Video, and available to anyone. The only problem is that it is almost impossible to find on their website. I asked them and they sent me the link: https://static.bhphotovideo.com/explora/sites/default/files/bandh-test-target.jpg

I downloaded it and took it to Costco to be printed as a 20×30 mat print. It came rolled up like a poster, but some photo mount spray and a piece of white foam core allowed me to mount it and hang or prop up for shooting my lens tests.

First set up the mounted target in in an area of even light. Most do not have a portrait studio or lights, so try to find a north light from a window in a room, a well lit room, or look for open shade outdoors (however, wind will be a problem there, so secure it well). You can check for eveness of the light by setting your camera for the perfect exposure using the best combination of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, then use the camera’s meter reading to check both ends, the top, the bottom, and the middle to see if any parts are under or over-exposed by checking the exposure graph in the viewfinder or on top of the camera. Of course, an independent light meter is ideal. Get it all as even as possible, but if that isn’t possible, just plan to photograph the part that is most evenly lit.

Make a plan on what lenses you plan to test, and at which focal lengths and apertures. Also plan and mark on the ground at which distances you wish to test each lens. Be very methodical and it will help later. You could make these notes on individual pieces of paper and photograph each notation as you work by photographing it before each test.

For instance, if I want to test my 70-200mm Nikkor 2.8 lens this is what I might do.

Set distances of the closest distance it will focus zoomed in, at its longest focal length as listed on the lens barrel (200mm at 5 ft in this case), 10 ft, and as far back as I can and still fill the frame with the test target. At the closest distances, only a part of the target may be visible, but I will choose to photograph the part that has the most detail and set up the camera on the tripod there. Remember to use the cable or remote release, or mirror lockup. I will photograph the target at the lens’s largest aperture (f/2.8 for this lens), several middle apertures such as f/5.6, f/8, and f/11, and then f/16 and f/22.

Repeat this with the different focal lengths you want to test. I might go for one set at 200mm, one at 135mm, and the last one zoomed in to 70mm.

Then repeat this at the various distances from the target you have measured out for each lens you want to test. Lenses with variable apertures, i.e., those whose apertures will change when you change focal lengths will be a little more complicated in that you will have to take note as to what their limits are at each focal length.

At the smallest and largest apertures, you may find the need to add more light. If you cannot actually add more light itself, go to a higher ISO unless it takes you into an unacceptable noise level. Or you could begin with your largest aperture and lowest ISO. That will not affect the sharpness of the lens, and it is better if you can see the target!

Download this these images into your computer, label them with any info not already in their metadata, and compare their sharpness especially on the edges, and particularly at the smallest and largest apertures. You will learn a lot about your lenses this way, and photography in general.

It’s not nearly as much fun as going out and photographing your favorite subjects, but the knowledge you will gain will improve your future image captures!

Sara Goodnick is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

How well do you know your camera?

By Amy Horn

Ice focus stacked imageAlmost a year ago I changed camera systems. Sold all my Nikon gear for an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and it has been a fun year learning new features on this camera. The two I use most are focus bracketing and focus stacking. The focus bracketing feature programs the camera to take up to 999 photos and it adjusts focus from near to far on the subject. Of course, a tripod and shutter release are

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

crucial.

Afterward I plug the images into Helicon Focus to stack the images. Here is an image of frost from a stack of 53 images using this feature.

Afterward I plug the images into Helicon Focus to stack the images. Here is an image of frost from a stack of 53 images using this feature.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Focus stacking on the Olympus camera is similar to focus bracketing in that the camera is programmed to capture images from near to far but it will only capture eight images with this feature. The bonus of this stacking feature is the camera stacks the eight images and processes a final stacked .jpg in camera! The image of Queen Anne’s Lace is an example of a .jpg using this feature.

Another feature I enjoy using is the double exposure setting. With this feature, I capture one image and before I capture the second image, the viewfinder displays the first so that I can place the double image where I want. This is an image from Gold King Mine, Jerome using the double exposure setting.Double exposure image

There a few other features I have yet to explore on my new camera and I will get to them. Do you have features on your camera that you don’t use or didn’t know you had? For me, learning is fun and if it gives me an excuse to play with my camera, I don’t complain!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAME 

Amy Horn is an Instructor with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

RAW VS. JPG, ENHANCING COLOR

By Vicki Uthe

I spent last spring break in Panama with my beautiful wife Ellen. I have nearly two thousand images to sort through and I hope you are as excited to see them as I am to share them.

I’m going to begin this blog with where we left off in Panama, on the San Blas Islands of the Guna Yala, an indigenous tribe in Panama’s Caribbean Sea.

When I first downloaded the images I was extremely disappointed that I wasn’t able to capture the true color of the blue green water surrounding the islands.  And then I figured it out. In Lightroom, in the Develop module, right below Basic, is a tab marked HSL / Color / B&W.  I clicked on that, scrolled down to Saturation, clicked on the little cross to the left, took it over a color I wanted to enhance and wah-lah! saturated colors! MUCH more like the colors we experienced on the islands, even with cloudy skies.

This is the image after I worked on it.

Here is another before/after example with the beach, palm trees, water and sky.

The following images all were enhanced using the same tool. You also have a choice of enhancing the Hue and Luminance, all of which can give you results closer to what you actually saw.

I know I spent the few days we had on these islands pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

The colors were so amazing and vibrant. I was so glad and relieved to discover I could convey those colors in my images.

In order to do this, though, you have to shoot in RAW, not JPG. As one of my favorite photographers puts it, imagine you have a bucket of pixels and information (that’s RAW) as opposed to a cup. That’s JPG. RAW gives you much more latitude when it comes to post processing your images. It will also use up more of your memory card so be sure to use big enough ones that you won’t run out on a shoot.

There are other post processing softwares out there, I happen to use Lightroom for organizing and post processing.

Don’t be scared, switch that camera to RAW and give yourself more creative options when post processing your fabulous images.

Happy Shooting!!

Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes