09 December 2013

Depressing Spruce Trees: Day Three

It was foggy and warm today, so I walked down into the forest off my road hoping for soft, flat light and properly eery forest shots. Started first on a pond because I wanted a dead-on, flat panorama of spruce trees:

10 exposures taken in portrait orientation and then stitched together in photoshop.

1/2 sec
ISO 80
31mm lens (~47mm equivalent)

I think many will find this static and boring, but I like it. It's a very obvious rule of thirds composition, with the snow and the sky matched fairly closely (I lightened the snow a bit to make the sky stand out more. The fog was not thick enough to show up in this photo, but it does give the sky it's soft, featureless look, which is what I wanted. This is truly a depressing spruce tree photo. Really, it's too dark, but if I lighten the snow, what little detail there is in the snow washes out.

On the way home I tried to take some trail photos. Didn't get anything I loved, but I wanted to include something showing the way through the forest, so I'm turning this one in as part of the final assignment:

This is another three-image HDR capture. It was nearly dark, so shutter speeds were 6, 10, and 20 seconds. ISO is 80 because I'm terrified of noise in these heavily processed images.

I'm not happy with the composition (especially the right foreground), but I do like the contrast between the white snow and grey sky, and I'm happy with the detail of the marks on the trail. A photo like this could work. This one isn't quite there.

07 December 2013

Depressing Spruce Trees: Day Two

I went back to Peat Ponds, took a different trail, and came out on a good sized lake. The middle had a few isolated tracks--ski tracks, footprints, a single track I couldn't identify (it's not a bike), and animal tracks. Tried to capture all of this, with the spruce forests behind, in a panorama:

Eight photos taken in portrait orientation and then stitched together in Photoshop.

1/10 sec
ISO 100
31 mm lens (~47 mm equivalent)

This is almost good. My best shot at a panorama so far. The tracks and the surface of the snow came out very well, and the sky is okay. I'm disappointed with the composition of the forest. The trees on the right really are larger, but the asymmetry of the panorama makes the right side look distorted. Also, this shot is not depressing! In the end, it's pretty but not a great success. I am learning that with care, you can take a nice panorama with a good normal lens due to the lack of distortion and vignetting.

05 December 2013

Depressing Spruce Trees: Day One

I chose to keep working in the spruce bog for my final assignment. It's a challenging landscape because it's so dark, cluttered and closed-in. Parked at the Peat Ponds pullout and followed a ski trail I'd never been on. I took some unsatisfactory shots in the forest itself before coming out onto a little frozen pond:

Three exposures combined in HDR Pro. Various apertures and exposure times. The ISO is at 80, and I shot this with my excellent 31mm lens. I would like this if not for the tall trees on the left. Sadly this is not an island, so there was no vantage point that would clear up the left side of the picture. Walked past this and got a nice detail of it, looking back the other way:

Same method as the last one. I took five exposures, but only used three. 

I'm very happy with this image. The leaning trees are cool, but what makes it work is the little white tree the larger trees appear to be threatening. And it's weird that one tree is white! It's a black spruce like the others, but the side of the trunk facing the camera is completely plastered with snow. Why aren't the other trunks like that? I have no idea.

I tried editing one of the lone images using Kaji's trick of toning down an overexposed image, but I could never get as much detail as I did using the HDR technique. I owe the detail in the sky and the contrast in the trees to using three images. This was taken maybe an hour before sunset.

02 December 2013

Reverse Macro Panorama!

Okay, this was foolish, but the assignment called on us to try new techniques. Here is a panorama of a drill bit shot with the reverse-lens macro technique:

ISO 80
.7 sec
50 mm lens mounted backwards
6 exposures stitched together in photoshop

You'll notice two things. First, the end of the bit is missing. Second, the bit seems to be getting larger towards the front, which of course a drill bit would not do.

The only way to do this properly would be to set up some kind of fixture to keep the camera and subject at exactly the same distance as you take each exposure. That wouldn't be so hard, really, but there would be no point making something like that unless you planned to take a lot of photos of small, long things. Worms or something.

One thing I learned from this is that old metal does look cool in macro photography.

01 December 2013

First Panorama

I wanted to shoot a panorama of the city on a very cold day to capture all of the smoke plumes and the inversion layer, but the sun was far too strong for me to shoot to the south. Instead I shot a panorama from the GI roof looking north, to the hills:

1/125 sec
ISO 80
40mm lens (~60mm equivalent)

There was very little color in the scene, so I converted it to black and white, which also helped photoshop deal with some differences in shading a little better. My silly mistake was to shoot this with my camera oriented normally. If I'd turned it on it's side, this would have a much more sensible aspect ratio. Nothing special as a panorama, but I did learn how to do it.


It was thirty below outside, so I wanted to shoot in the comfort of my cabin. I googled indoor photography ideas and found some smoke art, which was delightfully cheesy. One hour (and one trip to WalMart) later, I had a bag of incense cones. Myrrh, according to the bag. It's brown and smells like incense. 

Re-used the macro set-up (fluorescent lights and black background) but shot with a normal lens. The smoke moves too quickly to really compose shots. You just have to watch for interesting things to start happening and then fire off a few shots in continuous mode:

1/180 sec
ISO 100
50mm lens (~75mm equivalent)

1/180 sec
ISO 200
31mm lens (~47mm equivalent)

1/350 sec
ISO 100
31mm lens (~47mm equivalent)

These required a lot of work in photoshop. All are heavily cropped, the background is heavily burned, and I played with contrast and shadowing a lot to get detail out of the smoke. Several people told me they like these, which is nice, but I can't help feeling that photos like this are little more than lava lamps that don't change.

30 November 2013

First Macro Attempt

Bought a cheap plastic mounting ring so I could shoot reverse macros without holding the lens up to the body. New ivy leaves, about an inch across:

1/2 sec
ISO 100
50mm lens reversed on body

I'm lighting the subject with two bright fluorescent lights clamped to my workbench. I've got a piece of black (not really black, unfortunately) card stock propped up behind. The camera is on a tripod. To get maximum depth of field, I'm not opening the aperture at all. Hence the long exposure.

This is a nice trick ($10 macro lens!), but the depth of field is so narrow that all of my energy went into just getting a usable shot. Trying to compose a nice photograph would be exceedingly hard this way.