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Peering into the hammock

Oak Hammock Park, Port. St. Lucie, Florida

Oak Hammock Park, Port. St. Lucie, Florida | Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm lens | Exposed 1/17 sec. @ f/5, ISO 1600

While out letterboxing, Summer and I came upon a hidden gem of a local preserve in Port St. Lucie, Florida: Oak Hammock Park.  The winding path took us through seemingly endless palms, palmettos, and oaks.  We entered the path near dusk, and while the air was thick with humidity, we didn’t really get eaten alive by mosquitoes.  Strange!

I was very glad that I took the Fuji X-E1 with me; its light weight makes it easy to take anywhere, and the image stabilization built into the 18-55mm lens is surprisingly good.  The image above is very sharp despite being made at 1/17 sec hand-held!

More to come.

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The sun sets over Merritt Island

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, Florida

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, Florida | Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens | Exposed 1/25 sec. @ f/8, ISO 800

As I mentioned in my posting the other day about learning from my mistake, we enjoyed a lovely scene over the wetlands of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  While my 5D Mark II was packed along for the ride, the camera I actually reached for was my new Fuji X-E1.  Why? It’s small and light enough–and the IS built into the 18-55mm lens good enough–to let me “hail mary” the camera above my head for a better angle on the landscape.  I certainly won’t abandon 35mm format anytime soon, but I continue to be impressed by the capabilities and quality available with compact systems.

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Filters for an entirely different feel

Blue Ridge Highway sunset

Blue Ridge Highway sunset, North Carolina | Canon 5D Mark II and 70-200mm f/4L IS lens @ 135mm | Exposed 1/125 sec. @ f/14, ISO 100 | Edited in Nik Color Efex 4

Say what you will about the height of the mountains of the eastern United States.  No, they do not soar to the heights of those in the west, but there’s something rather special about the ridges that color the horizon in blue.  And while I am still finding my footing with Nik Color Efex 4, and would normally find effects like the one above to be “over the top,” I found that for this image, it simply “worked.”  Does it have a “true black” and a “true white?”  No.  Did the 5D Mark II actually produce that much noise, let alone noise that looks like film grain?  No.  Does it matter?  I think that’s up to the viewer.  More to come.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Blue Sky over the Blue Ridge Highway

Blue Sky over the Blue Ridge Highway near Blowing Rock, NC | Canon 5D Mark II and 24mm f/3.5L TS-E | Multiple exposures at f/16, ISO 100

Here in the United States its Thanksgiving, a day to be with friends and family.  In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d post one of the images that blends a technique I’ll be writing more about soon: blending HDR and stitching to get large photographs with incredibly wide tonal values while still looking pretty “normal!”

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Black Creek Greenway Stitched HDR

Black Creek Greenway

Black Creek Greenway, Cary, North Carolina | Canon 5D Mark III and 24mm f/3.5L TS-E | Multiple exposures at f/11, ISO 200

Recently I began working more with landscape photography and, in turn, my old habit of making multiple photographs of a scene and stitching them together.  Related to that, I recently began to explore what would happen if I made multiple versions of the multiple pictures to be stitched together: that is, what if you bracket for High Dynamic Range photography with each “view” in a panorama or other stitched image.  The results can be pretty amazing, but so is the amount of work that can be required to pull it off!  I’ll be writing more on this topic after Thanksgiving!

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Fallen Leaf

Fallen Leaf on the grill

Fallen Leaf on the grill, Cary, North Carolina | Olympus E-PL1 and 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens @ 14mm | Exposed 1/30 sec. @ f/8, ISO 1600

Found this image on a recent morning.  The leaves have been falling in abundance!  I made this image using my partner’s Olympus E-Pl1 (shooting RAW).  The noise was handled well by Nik Dfine!

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Forest Glow

Forest Glow

Forest Glow, Cary, North Carolina | Canon 5D Mark III and 24-70mm f/2.8L lens @ 48mm | Seven bracketed exposures converted with Nik HDR Efex

While I was experimenting with a 5D Mark III camera body on loan from CPS, I discovered that one of its killer apps is for high dynamic range photography.  No, not its built-in HDR functionality (which is rather underwhelming).  Rather, I am referring to its ability to set autoexposure bracketing for up to seven frames and, when the shutter button is depressed, automatically go into mirror lock-up and rapidly fire each frame in sequence.  The one wrinkle?  If you already have mirror lock-up enabled, this while actually cause a hiccup: it will want you to hit the shutter for each frame.  Canon, please fix this quirk in your next firmware release!

This is much more useful than previous incarnations of autoexposure bracketing: three images really is not enough for HDR photography.  Seven?  I can work with seven!

 

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Turning over a New Leaf

Red Leaf

Red Leaf, Price Lake, Blue Ridge Highway. | Canon 5D Mark II and 24-70mm f/2.8L @ 70mm | Exposed 1/60 sec. @ f/4, ISO 100

Since it was launched in 2007, I have been an avid user of Adobe’s Lightroom.  One of the things that I have loved about the strengths of the “Develop” module (also called Camera RAW in Photoshop, as they share the same engine) is that I have felt progressively less need to port an image into Photoshop for further enhancement.  This has been especially true since version three onward, as the local enhancements offered by the brush and gradient tool have made selections very easy.  Need to brighten the bride’s face but keep the dress the same value?  No problem, just use the brush.  Photoshop?  Why bother.

I realize I’m likely the last person to get on board the Nik Software bandwagon (especially since even Google decided that it was a good one to hop onto….or guide into its garage, if we continue that metaphor). Because we don’t really know what that acquisition means, re-sellers are steeply discounting the existing lineup of products.  I tried their demo of HDR Efex a while back and was impressed, and decided to roll the dice and pick up their entire collection for Lightroom.  The disadvantage for some people is that this product cannot be launched from inside of Photoshop: instead, you create a copy of the image as a TIFF file and port it into whichever Nik program you’ve selected.  Since I’m avoiding Photoshop for the most part, this approach doesn’t phase me.

For making color images, Viveza 2 and Color Efex 4 are a pretty amazing combination.  Over the last few days I’ve developed a workflow of adjusting my images globally in Lightroom, and then working on local contrast in Viveza.  If I want the foliage of the trees to be more subdued to make the bare branches of the foreground trees to stand out, it’s easy to do.  No more near-impossible layer masks in Photoshop!

Fall Color and Bare Branches

Colors along the highway, Blue Ridge Highway near the Linn Cove Viaduct on October 14, 2012. | Canon 5D Mark II and 70-200mm f/4L IS lens @ 97mm | Exposed 1/15 sec. @ f/11, ISO 100

I have posted this image before; while it is similar to the original, the trees stand out more.  And going forward, I can only see advantages to using Nik software whenever my goal is to make tonal changes to ranges of color.  No, I would not suggest using these programs for every image.  But for those that have commercial value, I can see only advantages.  Below is a series of three panoramas.  The first was the result of stitching in Photoshop, but all of the toning had taken place as global adjustments on the RAW files within Photoshop.  Beneath that is the result of toning the image in Viveza 2, and the final photo is the finished product from Color Efex 4.  Each round of processing builds on the previous.

Price Lake, Lightroom Only

Price Lake, Lightroom Only

Price Lake, toned in Lightroom and Viveza

Price Lake, toned in Lightroom and Viveza

Price Lake, toned in Lightroom, Viveza, and Color Efex 4

Price Lake, toned in Lightroom, Viveza, and Color Efex 4

To my eyes, the key differences in these images can be found in the quality of the clouds and the colors and details of the reflection, especially in the treeline.  I don’t think that this software is for everyone, and some may wish to hold off on purchase until Google makes some sort of announcement to detail what kind of support will be extended to current users as they go forward.  For me, this is a worthwhile process for anything I rank three stars or higher, as well as some of my two star photographs.

More thoughts to come, as well as mini reviews of the 5D Mark III and LensAlign’s new software, Focus Tune!

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Price Lake

Price Lake, Blue Ridge Highway

Price Lake, Blue Ridge Highway the morning of October 13, 2012. | Canon 5D Mark II and 70-200mm f/4L IS lens @ 70mm | Six vertical images stitched, exposed 1/80 sec. @ f/11, ISO 100

About one month after a mutli-day intensive photo trip to the Blue Ridge Highway for fall color, I’m almost done processing my images.  This was a panorama made on our first morning at Julian Price Memorial Park, near the campgrounds.

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All Hallow’s Eve

Halloween 2012

Halloween 2012, Cary, NC | Canon 5D Mark III and 50mm f/1.2L lens | Exposed 1/40 sec. @ f/7.1, ISO 5000

Can you tell that a couple of the members of the household are a wee bit obsessed with birds?  Remarks on the 5D Mark III on loan from Canon Professional Services, as well as the recently announced Focus Tune from Michael Tapes Designs, intended to introduce a bit of automation to setting Autofocus Micro Adjustments with LensAlign to follow in the coming weeks.