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                                                                                                          

Las Vegas – So Much to See (and Photograph!)

By Megan P Galope

Most people I talk to either love or hate Las Vegas. Many dread having to go there on business, with all of the people and noise. But Vegas is a great place for photography, with so many different options for subjects. Do you like to take photos of people? There’s no better people watching than Vegas. Is night photography your thing? You can’t beat all the lights on the strip. If you’re lucky and have a good view from your hotel room, you can even take photos from there.

Photo from my hotel room

If you like to photograph flowers, the Bellagio flower garden is a must. It changes periodically, so you never know what you’ll find.

Peacocks made from flowers in the Bellagio flower garden

The flower garden is a perfect place if you enjoy macro photography.

Flowers in the Bellagio flower garden

The Bellagio is also great for the massive water display out front and the Chihuly ceiling in the lobby.

The lobby of the Bellagio with the Chihuly glass ceiling

Once you’ve had enough of all the lights and noise, Red Rock Canyon is just a short drive away. It’s a beautiful area with many hiking trails, or you can just drive through and look around.

Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas

So the next time you go to Vegas, be sure to bring along a camera. You’ll be surprised with all of the photographic opportunities!

Megan Galope is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Twitter = @megangalope                                                                                                          

Front Yard Photography

By Megan P Galope

If you’re searching for a subject to photograph, sometimes you don’t have to look further than your back (or front) yard. There are the usual plants and flowers, but if you pay attention, you may find something more interesting. A few weeks ago, I went out to get the mail. When walking under the tree in our front yard, I noticed something on the ground. Upon further examination, it appeared to be owl pellets (along with bird poop):

I looked up with the hopes that I would see some evidence of an owl, and this beauty was looking down at me:

Dr. Hoo (a great horned owl) has been coming to visit a few days each week ever since. It pays to pay attention, because you never know what you might find in your front (or back) yard!

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

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Megan Galope

Like it or not, it’s approaching that time of the year again. The time when you try to figure out what to get the person who has everything, or the person who can’t come up with a single item for their wish list. How about a personalized photo gift? There are so many more options for photo gifts now than just books and calendars. How about something useful, such as a mug or a pillow? You can get anything from keychains to blankets, ornaments and luggage tags to playing cards and phone cases. I’ve even seen personalized wrapping paper with photos on it! This can also be a good time to practice your photography. If you don’t already have some useful photos, schedule a photo shoot with the intended recipient. Or perhaps you’d rather take photos of their kids or pets for the gifts.

There are many places out there that offer photo gifts. A few of the more popular online sites are Shutterfly, SnapfishMpix, Smugmug, and Vistaprint. You can also purchase photo gifts from stores such as Costco, Walgreens, and CVS by either ordering online or going into the store.

And best of all, if you get your ordering done early then maybe you can actually sit back, relax, and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year!

Twitter = @megangalope

Megan Galope is a trip leader with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.

How to Capture Star Trails

By Megan P Galope
Twitter = @megangalope

At the end of January, I attended the AHPW Advanced Star Trails workshop taught by Beth Ruggiero-York. We learned how to take many photos over the span of a couple hours and stack them together to create incredible photos of star trails. The shape of the star trails depends on the direction you are pointing your camera. If you point east, your trails will arc across the sky:

If you prefer the classic circle, you will need to point towards Polaris (the north star):

Ever since the workshop, I’ve been excited to try this again. For the best results, however, you will need dark skies—meaning you need to get away from the city. I finally had an opportunity to try again when I traveled to Rocky Point, Mexico. The timing wasn’t the greatest as it had just recently been a full moon (it is better to do this closer to a new moon so that the moonlight doesn’t interfere). Luckily, the moon didn’t rise until a few hours after sunset, so that gave me a little time to take some star trails.

The first night I chose to point my camera south towards the ocean. Around sunset, I set up my camera for the composition that I wanted and determined the hyperfocal distance using my handy Depth of Field app on my phone. After getting the proper focus, I set my camera to manual focus and taped down the lens to avoid accidentally bumping it. Towards the end of astronomical twilight (about an hour and a half after sunset), I took some images of the foreground. Once it was fully dark, I took my high ISO test shot to determine the settings I would need to use for my images. I ended up setting my intervalometer to take 3.5-minute exposures at ISO 800 and f/4. I took a couple test shots to make sure everything looked okay, and then let it run. I had time for 36 images before the moon rose. I then took my 2 dark frames (same settings with the lens cap on). Using Lightroom, StarStax, and Photoshop, I was able to combine all of my images to create the final product:

The next night, I decided to try pointing towards Polaris for the circle effect. This would be a bit more difficult as it would mean pointing towards the houses and more light pollution. I determined that I would need to take 4-minute exposures at ISO 800 and f/4, plugged it into my intervalometer and let it run. Unfortunately, I decided to skip the test shots (I blame the wine), and instead of setting the intervalometer for 4-minute exposures, I accidentally set it for 4-hour exposures. Three and a half hours later, I found a very overheated camera with a dead battery and one unusable image:

It pays to follow all the steps!

If you’d like to learn more about creating star trails, come to our Symposium on November 4-5, 2017, where Beth will host a session on shooting and stacking star trails.

First Impressions of the Sony a6300

Author: Megan P Galope

I recently acquired a Sony a6300 mirrorless camera. I was interested in this camera due to its small size and weight, as I thought it would be a good camera to take with me while hiking or backpacking when extra weight makes a big difference. I generally shoot Canon, and I found the dials, buttons, and menus on the Sony relatively intuitive. I did notice that some of the buttons are rather sensitive, which can be a pain when trying to change settings and it doesn’t behave quite right. The button sensitivity became even more clear when I ended up with over 500 images from a weekend trip because I had accidentally turned on the white balance bracketing, which resulted in three images for every photo taken.

As for the quality of the images, I am pleased with the results. This is a 24.2 MP camera, which is sufficient for my needs. My images turned out sharp with good color:


Even the images in low light turned out nicely (this image was taken with ISO 1600):


Right now, the only lens I have is the 16-50mm kit lens. It was still able to handle macro images well:


The best thing about this camera is the fact that with its small size and weight, I’m more likely to have it with me when the photographic moment arises.

Megan Galope is a Trip Leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops
Twitter: @megangalope

Focus Stacking

Author:  Megan P Galope

A few weeks ago I spent a weekend learning more about macro photography. There is so much to learn! One thing that was completely new to me was focus stacking. I had heard of it and understood the basic concept, but never actually tried it myself. First it required a sturdy tripod and a subject that did not move. I used a 100mm macro lens on my Canon DSLR. I set the focus to manual and focused on the closest part of the object to me. I moved the focus ring just slightly to start my images with nothing in focus (this is to make sure you didn’t miss anything that might end up in focus). Using a shutter release, I took a photo, manually moved the focus ring ever so slightly, and took another photo. I continued to do this until I took a photo that was slightly past focus of the farthest part of the object from me. I ended up with anywhere between 8 and 114 images, depending on what I was photographing. Note: if you plan to take more than one stack of the same object, make sure you take a bookmark photo (say, of your hand) that will separate the stack images when you work with them on your computer.

Once I uploaded the images to my computer, I looked through them all and removed any photos where none of the object was in focus. I then used the software Helicon Focus from HeliconSoft to automatically stack the photos. You can try the software free for 30 days, or if you take one of the Macro classes from Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, you will receive a discount code for the software as part of the class. The software is incredibly easy to use for basic stacking. Here are a couple of images that I stacked (but did not touch up using the software):


There are ways to touch up the photos even more using the software to remove any parts that aren’t totally in focus, but I haven’t looked into how to do that yet.

Here you can see the difference between a single image and focus stacking (look especially at the butt of the tarantula):


Focus stacking does not have to be complicated and you can end up with some amazing images!

You can find upcoming Macro Techniques classes with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops here:

Megan  is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops
Twitter = @megangalope