Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Lazarus Shoot

In the previous post I used the excuse of a dull New Mexico day to do a single image macro of a Darkling beetle on a Damascus cauliflower. Because of the very narrow (mm size) depth of field, the resultant image was only acceptably sharp where I focused, ie on the beetle.

Today’s weather provided another excuse to work indoors, ie cold with hints of snow. However, as soon as I tried to recreate the previous post’s scene, I had the first problem: no beetle. It seemed to have just vanished. I was sure it was dead, but it seems to have simply got up and walked away!

So I was just left with my fractal cauliflower, which by now was showing some brown spots and damage.

Although I have several ways of taking macro focus stacks, my go to approach is the Promote Control:

I put my Canon 100mm F/2.8L on F/16, ISO 100 and a shutter speed of about 3s, set by Magic Lantern’s ETTR function. The depth of field being just over a 1mm.

The Promote Control allowed me to take about 25 (overlapped) images for focus stacking, by simply pressing the PC’s start button.

After ingesting into Lightroom, adjusting a few sliders on one image and syncing to the rest, I exported the images as PS layers and used the PS Auto Blend option, which pulled out the sharp areas of each layer.

A tweak with Fixel Contrastica 2 and a return to LR for a final ‘polish’.

Bottom line: macro photography is a great way to occupy a dull day. Although there are alternatives, I find myself going to Promote Control, as my sturdy workhorse. Although I didn’t use bracketing on this image, I could have: all automatically.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Macro to the rescue

Today was not the best for outdoor photography, being rather dull and cloudy. Nevertheless I wanted to do something. So, as I was getting in some wood for the fire, I found my subject: a desiccated a Darkling Beetle, a member of the Tenebrionidae family...but don’t ask me what one!

Of course the subject selected the lens for me: my trusty EF 100mm F2.8L macro lens and I decided to ‘just’ see if I could use natural window light, as the dull sky created a rather large soft box.

As for a background, I remembered we purchased Romanesco broccoli, which is also known as Romanesque cauliflower. Wiki tells us that the Romanesco superficially resembles a cauliflower, hence its other name, but it is light green in colour, and its form is rather fractal like. The inflorescence (the bud) is self-similar in character, with the branched meristems making up a logarithmic spiral. In this sense the bud's form approximates a natural fractal; each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral. This self-similar pattern continues at several smaller levels. The pattern is only an approximate fractal since the pattern eventually terminates when the feature size becomes sufficiently small. The number of spirals on the head of Romanesco broccoli is a Fibonacci number.

Anyone looking out for unusual macro settings would be well advised to get down to their local food store and look at the exotic food that is readily available these days: we got ours from Whole Foods.

The beetle, of course, being dead, was a rather willing subject; so posing was simple! As for camera settings, I decided not to focus stack: I will try that on another occasion, together with my ring flash.

Being a macro lens, the depth of field was only a millimetre or so, hence I was expecting a fall off across the depth of the image. I manually focused, using a 10x zoom window, and used Magic Lantern’s dual-ISO, ie a single image, ISO-bracketed shot, with alternating Bayer line pairs at ISOs of 100 and 800. Finally I pushed the aperture to F/20, which placed it in the degraded diffraction area, ie beyond F/16, but I needed help with the depth of field.

After exporting the images into Lightroom, I first delaced the dual-ISO, which gave me my starting DNG negative. I then used a little LR ‘trick’, after carrying out the lens correction.

The trick, which is useful for dark images, is to go to Camera Calibration and select the 2010 Process. Then go to the Basic Panel and, low and behold, there is the ‘old’ Fill Light slider. After I had adjusted the Exposure and applied some Fill Light, I then ‘burned in’ the 2010 Process settings by exporting to another application, eg one of the Nik plugins, BUT without changing anything. This gave me 16-bit TIFF which I then adjusted further with the 2012 Process sliders.

A final tweak was achieved after exporting the image to Photoshop and using one of favourite plug-ins to enhance and boost local and global contrast, namely Fixel Contrastica 2 (

Although these two images need more work, eg I will try focus stacking next and look for another ‘subject’ around the house, I think the combination of the beetle and the Romanesco broccoli provide a rather interesting image. As usual I welcome feedback on this any of my posts.

Fisheye perspectives: First impressions

After experimenting with a cropped fisheye lens, which I returned as the loss of view when attaching it to my full frame 5DIII was too much, I was pleased when Rokinon came out with their full frame 12mm fish eye:

My first impressions are that this lens is a keeper. It is sharp and fun to use. Here are two sample images taken this weekend at the Acoma Pueblo: having bought a photo permit :-)

The first image shows an ‘un-fished’ view from the Acoma mesa, whilst the second image shows a defished view of the San Estevan Del Rey Mission Church at Acoma.

To get the most out of this lens, or any fisheye lens, you need to know how to defish it. After much reading I decided on a two part strategy. First I bought into FisheyeHemi,, and second I use Photoshop CC's wide angle filter and/or the perspective transform tool. 

Bottom line: a really fun and useful addition to my lens inventory and one I can recommend, especially for those with full frame cameras.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Geotagging for Photographers

More and more cameras are GPS enabled these days. But what if your camera isn't GPS enabled?

If your phone is GPS enabled, for instance the latest iPhone, all you need to do is download the free GPS Stone for iPhone application.

But what if you don’t have an iPhone?

Having looked into various options, I decided to go with the Bad Elf GPS Pro:

The Bad Elf, via a .gpx file, allows me to do Geotagging in the Lightroom map module; where I can update the image’s EXIF data with the latitude and longitude of the location where the photograph was taken.

The Bad Elf rechargeable battery usage is very good, allowing me to log about 100 hours at a time. It can be Bluetooth paired to my iPad or iPod, from where I can change various settings, ie the sample rate, which can go as fast as 10Hz.

The accuracy, is stated as to be within 8ft, and the Bad Elf can operate up to 66,000 ft and up to 1000mph :-)

Workflow is very simple (after downloading the free Bad Elf App):
  • Ensure the camera’s time is synced with the Bad Elf GPS time;
  • At the start of the journey, press the Bad Elf GPS button for 3s to initiate the data logging;
  • At the end of the photo session simply press the GPS button for 3s to stop data logging;
  • Pair the Bad Elf with your iPad or iPod and, using the Bad Elf App, download the journey, reviewing it in the Bad Elf App if you wish;
  • Email the .gpx file to yourself, thus allowing access on the PC where Lightroom sits;
  • In Lightroom ingest your images in the normal way;
  • In the LR Map Module load in the .gpx file and link the images to the journey, as recorded in the .gpx file.

Bottom line: the Bad Elf GPS Pro, at about $140, is a great tool for those who don’t have a geotagging capability in their Camera or in another device, eg an iPhone.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Quick gadget update

As we know manufacturers need to make a profit, hence they will often make material selections based on cost. Many believe the lens mount on Sony cameras is such an example.

Also some suggest the Sony (supplied) variant suffers from light leaks, which is of particular concern for those of us who take very long exposures.

So, once again, Fotodiox to the rescue:

It is a simple matter to take off the two-piece Sony mount and replace it with the single (brass) Fotodiox one; and once fitted the A6000 looks like this:

Bottom line: from my perspective the simple conversion looks good and appears to do the job, ie lenses, especially large/heavy ones, appear to be more robustly connected to the the A6000 body.