Sunday, April 21, 2013

Stone Valley Trails

I went to the Stone Valley Trails this afternoon to see if the Bloodroot were blooming yet. They are poking through the ground but are just mini missile shapes at this point, a white pointed tip wrapped tightly in the leaf that accompanies each bloom. With a few more days of warm weather we should have blooms. As long as I had my gear I wandered farther downstream on the East side of the river not expecting to get any good photos because the light was so harsh but it was just right for this back lit portrait of evergreens on a stone ridge island. I made several adjustments and then "simplified" the image with a filter. The result looks like a painting but it is a photograph.

After turning back below the last set of waterfalls I came on a young (college age) couple just off the trail. The guy was carving something in one of the trees. At first I thought I'd just pass but then I yelled at them to stop it. Carving things in trees is not something they should be doing. A tree is a living thing with enough challenges to survival without thoughtless people wounding them on a whim, giving insects and disease a opening to invade the tree. I'm sure they probably think I'm an old grouch but I prefer to think of myself more like the Lorax.

Canon 7D, 18-135 EFs lens.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Simplicity - The K.I.S.S. principle

Often when some thing catches our eye we make photographs that incorporate the element that attracted us but a whole lot more as well. Sometimes that happens because of the limitations of our equipment, we don't have a long enough lens to isolate the particular element we were attracted to and we can't reasonably get closer because that would change the perspective. Other times it is because we fail to clarify in our minds before making the photo exactly what we want to record. The photographs I like most, not just my own but others too, reduce the subject matter to its simple essence.

Yesterday I was in the Adirondacks to pick up some work from a show that just closed in Saranac Lake and I took a side trip to the Cascade Lakes where I made a number of photographs. Most were typical landscape views but this is one of the last things I spotted as I walked back to the car, a line of accumulated leaves along the edge of ice that was receding from the shore, both an interesting visual pattern and a simple symbol of the changing seasons. Despite having taken only one lens I was able to find a view through the foreground trees and isolate just the water, ice and leaves.

Canon 7D, 18-135mm EFs lens. The photo is copyrighted. Please play nice and respect my rights. If you want others to see it, refer them to the URL for this page.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

File Size Question.

 A friend has gotten a pan stitching program and asked about the file size of stitched images. He says the software he got produces 6x17 files around 35MB and he wondered what my experience was with file size of stitched images. Below is my answer:

There's no simple answer on the file size question. The file size varies. The variables are the size/number of the individual frames and the file format. A series of three 18MP frames stitched will be bigger than three 10MP frames. Of course the three frame 18MP stitch also will print larger than a three frame 10MP image without loss of image quality. If you shoot RAW and save the resulting stitch to PSD or uncompressed TIFF you will end up with quite a large image. For example the original master file of this one...

is 1.39GB. No, that "G" is not a typo. Bear in mind this blog copy of the image is reduced from a working TIFF master file that was made from three horizontal 18MP frames, If I print the full size file at 240ppi it would be 53½x 14 inches. I don't crop to any specific aspect ratio until I print and I use layers to do my final adjustments. For master files I leave the layers intact and save to TIFF with LZW compression, a lossless format, in either Adobe RGB or RGB Pro color space. For printing I would make another copy which I might crop/downsize to specific dimensions, flatten and save to JPG or TIFF in the sRGB color space. Each of those changes can shrink the file size to one degree  or another. I have a copy in JPG format that is shrunk to print about 6½x24 inches. It is only 5.9MB. Add to that the fact that JPG files vary in size based on content. High detail images don't compress as much as low detail images even at the same compression setting, just because of the way JPG compression works. The short answer (if there is one) is that 35 MB files are somewhere in the ballpark for a 6:17 aspect ratio stitched image but we're talking about a very big ballpark with a lot of possibilities for being either much  larger or or much smaller depending on the choices you make. The 800x216 pixel copy (JPG compression at 10) above is under 2KB.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Some mornings...

One of Diane's Clivia plants. The stalk of blooms is just emerging from the base. Those nubs in the "V" below the single bloom are other buds. The stalk will push the entire flower head upward and in a few days there will be 6-8 blooms above the leaves. Some chilly spring mornings I feel like this, wanting to emerge but still hesitating between the covers. I had another photo I considered posting today, one of the ice from the freezing rain we had on Friday but I felt this one was more hopeful. Given everyone's impatience with lingering winter I thought hopeful was the better choice.

Canon 7d using a monopod for enough steadiness to allow a smaller f/stop (f/11). Natural light on our livingroom windowsill. Processed in Lightroom 4 with some local sharpening and a border added in Photoshop CS6. Remember that if you click on the image you will see a larger version.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Lensbaby Composer Pro Review

I returned the Lensbaby today and as promised here is a review of my experience with it. I rented the lens, a Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Sweet 35mm optic, from This is not going to be a review of LensRentals but I want to make clear that my comments are not influenced by either Lensbaby or Lens Rentals. Neither knew I planned to write a blog post about it nor was I given any consideration by either. I used the lens on my Canon 7D. I have already posted a couple of images in the prior two posts. 

The Lensbaby is a fully manual lens. It is unique in that it has a ball mechanism between the body mount and the optic allowing you to tilt it up, down or at any angle. It focuses sharply in the center but blurs progressively away from the "sweet spot". As you stop down the blurring effect is decreased. The only auto feature on your camera that will work with it is the TTL light meter. You have to focus manually and adjust the aperture manually.When you change the f/stop you may have to change the shutter speed manually to get correct exposure. Using it in Av (aperture value) mode I found that the camera usually, but not always, compensated correctly for f/stop changes. You also have to position of the "sweet Spot" manually, the area of sharp focus. That's where I ran into problems. I could see that there was a sharper area when looking through the view finder but I found it difficult  to position it precisely where I wanted because the blurring around the sweet spot did not appear (to me) as pronounced in the viewfinder as it did in the final image. Unfortunately the focus indicators on the 7D did not flash when focus was achieved. That would have helped both with getting correct focus and in determining exactly where the center of the sweet spot was. Sometimes I nailed it but others I missed as in the case of the image below of Robert who works in the local Arts Council gallery.
I wanted the center of the sweet spot in the area of his right eye and nose but instead it is centered on his right temple. I did better with Suzy (below)...
and even got good focus on her eyes. I shot several of Beka (the Arts Council director, below) but had trouble getting good focus on her eyes. They look pretty good in this small image but if you look at the full sized file her eyes aren't as sharp as I'd like.The plane of focus is about a half inch to an inch back of where it should have been and like in the photo of Robert the sweet spot is centered too far to the left (her right).
I'm sure the problems are mine not the lens. For starters my eyes aren't what they once were (oh, to be 20 again). I have floaters and other minor impairments which aren't a serious visual problem but may be contributing to my difficulty getting precise manual focus. At least that's my excuse. Where the sweet spot is properly placed and focused the lens is very sharp in that central area. I just had difficulty controlling it. Probably with practice I could improve my 'good' frames ratio but in the short time I had the lens I probably got less than 1 in 5 frames on average where it was in focus on the spot I wanted. Stopping down improved the focus (blurred areas were blurred less and the sweet spot was relatively larger) but it was also harder to place because it was less distinct.

I shot a few macros in the studio and noticed an interesting phenomenon in the highlights, a haloing effect on the pin heads as the image became more blurred at the edges. It only happened on this shot of a novelty pin sculpture thing.
So does the 'thumbs up' mean I'm going to rush out and buy a Lensbaby? No. It's an interesting lens and I might buy (or rent again) one at some point in the future but it doesn't fit well into my usual landscape photography. I could use one for flower photos (see the 2 prior posts). I shoot quite a lot of those. It is interesting for portraits which I plan to start doing more but there are other lenses I'd like more so acquiring one of these will be somewhere down the list. If you are younger than I with excellent vision and you like the effect this can be a really fun lens though. It does get a thumbs up from me but with the caution that if you aren't practiced shooting in manual mode with manual focus or your vision makes manual focus a problem, you will have a learning curve with this lens. Even if you are the tilt feature will take some getting used to.

Please to not repost these photos or any portion of this review without my permission.

Monday, April 01, 2013

I Hate April Fools Day

It seems like every April 1st at least half of all the blogs I follow, Facebook posts in my stream and emails in my in-box are lame attempts at tricking me into believing some preposterous story. I wish the tradition would just go away. It is not that I don't have a sense of humor. I follow the daily comics and believe that the best way to start a day is with a laugh and/or some beauty. It's just that most of what gets cast upon the water on April 1st really isn't funny so my offering is a photo in which I hope you will receive a dose of beauty, a Lensbaby image of Diane's Cliva which is beginning to bloom. No joke.