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 Friday, November 9, 2018
For those familiar with Photoshop, you'll feel right at home with Photopea, a photo editing solution that has many of the same basic tools as Photoshop but runs in your internet browser window.
 
Photopea Screenshot

Using Photopea, you can open and edit PSD, XCF, Sketch, XD, CDR as well as popular image file formats and save them as PSD, JPG, PNG or SVG files. And yes, it supports layers and masks.
 

I must admit to being very skeptical when I was first introduced to this in-browser editor, but it didn't take long for me to be impressed by its functionality and design. Of course, it's not as full-featured as Photoshop CC, but it's still one of the coolest things I've seen in a while. I highly suggest you bookmark the page and keep it handy for those times you need to do some quick editing on a machine where Photoshop isn't (or otherwise can't be) installed. [Sean]
Post Date: 11/9/2018 9:15:02 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, November 7, 2018
by Sean Setters
 
Very soon after we learned that we'd be having a baby, Alexis asked me to create a series of images showing her progression over the next 9 months. She doesn't ask me to take pictures of her often, so I took her request very seriously. After she showed me some examples of pregnancy progression photos she liked from Pinterest (no doubt the inspiration for this request), we decided a plain white background and strong rim lighting combined with a dark outfit would work well for the concept.
 
For this particular series of images, I used 3 studio lights and 1 shoe-mount flash for the lighting. One monolight was in a 4 x 6' (1.2 x 1.8m) softbox that served as the background and the other two were camera left/camera right slightly behind the subject, diffused by gridded strip boxes. The fill light was provided by a Canon Speedlite 580EX flash that was reflected into a white umbrella and boomed above my Canon 5D Mark III & Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens which was mounted on a tripod.
 
Unfortunately, I was not terribly organized at the beginning of this endeavor. I remember thinking, "This is a pretty simple setup. I can recreate it without any problems." That thought proved to be quite inaccurate. As my mind was quickly bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information on raising a newborn, it apparently left little room for the details of the lighting setup I was certain I'd remember. As such, I found myself analyzing the first month's image on the second month and taking test shots to ensure consistency. After that, I decided to document the entire setup to streamline future sessions in the series.
 
So, here are a few things to keep in mind when creating a similar pregnancy progression photo:
 
  • Choose a stretchy outfit that can grow with the subject, or choose plain clothing that can be duplicated in larger sizes as time progresses.
  • Take time creating the first image to ensure it's exactly what you want. Choose a pose/hand placement that can remain consistent as your subject's belly begins to fill out.
  • Choose a background that's plain and evenly lit so that compositing the final image is easier.
  • Use a tripod and lighting equipment that you'll have continuous access to over the next 10 months (use studio lights or flashes; do not rely on window light which can vary).
  • Record the following details after the first shoot:
    • Camera/lens used and camera settings
    • What your subject was looking at/exact direction of the subject's gaze
    • Distance between the camera to the subject and height of the camera on the tripod
    • Distance between the subject and the background
    • Position/types of lights and modifiers in relation to your subject
    • Power level of all lights utilized for the session (use manual power settings, not TTL)
  • Use your records to recreate the photo setup each month.
If recording all the measurements above seems a bit too tedious, you maybe be able to simply mark subject/lighting/camera placement with gaffer tape on the floor (assuming the tape won't need to be removed within the required time period) and/or taking pictures of the setup from several angles with your smartphone for referring back to.
 
From a business standpoint, a series like this would require 10 separate sessions, generating constant revenue for the photographer over the gestational period. With the all the details well documented after the first session, future sessions could be relatively quick and easy to set up and capture.
 
My wife loved the final image so much that we had a matted 12x36" version of it printed. It now hangs over the changing table in the nursery.
 
Alexis's Pregnancy Progression Framed

Of course, a pregnancy progression series requires a long term commitment to achieve optimal results, but I think you'll find the final image created well worth the effort.
 
A larger version of Alexis's Pregnancy Progression image can be seen on Flickr.
Post Date: 11/7/2018 8:00:46 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, November 4, 2018
Upon locating these intriguingly-curved aspen trees in the San Juan Mountains near Ophir, CO (south of Telluride), I had hours of entertainment before me. Aspen tree trunks are beautiful and their fall leaf color is amazing. With the numerous curving trunk shapes (likely caused by an avalanche when the trees were younger), there were seemingly endless angles and perspectives to use for images here. Helping was that the lighting/weather was constantly changing, ranging from snowing to sun shining bright enough to create shadows with subsequent images appearing different without even moving the camera. It was perfect.
 
I have many hundreds of images to choose from (I'll likely share more). Many of them were captured with a wide angle zoom lens, but this particular perspective seemed ideal for 50mm and I happened to have the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens in the MindShift Gear FirstLight 30L backpack I was carrying. I originally thought this image was captured with that lens, but ... this happened to be the last image taken with the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens prior to mounting the RF 50.
 
Using a "standard" or "normal" focal length makes keeping both very close and very distant subjects in sharp focus a challenge, even at f/16. For this image, I focused on the foreground trees for one frame and on the background trees for a second frame. For a simple focus stacking technique, I loaded the two images as layers in Photoshop and used a layer mask to determine which image the foreground trees were showing from.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 11/4/2018 6:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, October 31, 2018
I have to wonder what a model thinks when the assignment to wear a parachute dress at Dragon's Teeth (Kapalua, Maui, HI) comes in. "I get to wear an enormous dress designed to blow in the wind while standing barefoot on sharp rocks in extreme wind next to an ocean with occasional rogue waves that send salt water spray over everything nearby for an entire very hot, sunny day!" Pick me! Pick me! [Finding Nemo]
 
This model obviously accepted Canon's request and she managed the assignment very professionally. Parachutes are designed to ease the landing, but in this case, the parachute was more likely to cause a liftoff (followed by a perilous landing). I would have been more comfortable if she had a crash pad beside her, but she stayed on her feet through even the strongest wind gusts.
 
A 50mm lens does not create the extreme background blur that long telephoto lenses can create, but the 50mm angle of view allows a closer camera position that provides a more intimate look while the f/1.2 aperture still provides a strong background blur that makes the subject stand out. The look is unique in a very positive way.
 
The extremely wide f/1.2 aperture allows handholding in very low light levels but with a white dress in the sun, even a 1/8000 shutter speed is not always fast enough to avoid blown highlights at f/1.2 and ISO 100. In direct sunlight, a neutral density filter or, as used in this example, a circular polarizer filter on the lens.
 
When water is on the horizon, I usually want the image framed with the horizon level. Electronic viewfinder levels have greatly improved my original captures in this regard, but with the wind and unstable footing, I still managed to get a small degree of tilt that needed to be corrected in this image.
 
An ultra-wide aperture lens is generally selected to make use of those ultra-wide apertures. Often, especially with 50mm ultra-wide aperture lenses, the image quality at the widest apertures is not good and often describable as "dreamy". While dreamy can be nice on occasion, it is not usually what I am going for. With this lens, f/1.2 results are very sharp, showing good resolution and contrast. I have not hesitated to use this lens wide open and ... haven't stopped it down very often. The Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens is a compelling reason to get a Canon EOS R camera.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
50mm  f/1.2  1/8000s
ISO 100
4448 x 6672px
Post Date: 10/31/2018 9:32:37 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, October 30, 2018
After spending over a decade trying to establish milkweed plants on our property (what monarch caterpillars eat), healthy plants finally emerged a couple of years ago – in the flower beds next to our house, not close to where we were trying to grow them. While most "weeds" are not welcome in the flower beds, we embraced what we got and allowed them to prosper in place.
 
This year, milkweed plants started growing randomly throughout the yard, though frequent lawn mowing kept their visibility near nothing. After an especially long period of rain, the yard crop started showing leaves and my observant daughter spotted a monarch laying eggs on them. Prior to the next lawn cutting, she and my wife removed over 40 eggs from the rogue plants.
 
Most of the eggs were transferred to the being-tolerated flower bed plants and several were raised indoors, which produces perfect specimens for photographic purposes. The ideal time to photograph butterflies is just after they emerge as their wings are in perfect condition and they remain mostly still for a couple of hours. Knowing when that time is coming involves observing the monarch chrysalis color. Newly-formed chrysalises are bright green in color, but they turn very dark just prior to emergence of the butterfly stage.
 
I saw this opportunity coming and had some gear ready. When your camera is an EOS model with a hot shoe, the set of lighting accessories available, both Canon brand and third party options, is vast. For this image, I used a Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II Flash for a very even light on the subject. With the dual MR-14EX flash tubes configured for equal power, this flash creates a flat light, often void of shadows. When the subject is as vibrantly-colored as this one, flat lighting works quite well.
 
The background is a piece of orange paper (I tried a variety of colors) being held with a Delta 1 Grip-It Single Arm with 1" Clamp (extremely useful accessory) and lit with a remotely-controlled Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flash. Alternatively, I could have used a white paper and gelled the flash to create the desired color.
 
The background light being positioned behind the foreground light meant that it did not influence the lighting on the subject and the background being far enough behind the foreground meant that the foreground light did not influence the background brightness.
 
While I didn't expect the Canon EOS R to have any trouble with Canon's Speedlite system (other EOS models don't), it is always nice to have reassurance, especially for a new camera line. Or, maybe this test was just the excuse I needed to spend a couple of hours photographing the monarch.
 
At macro focus distances, depth of field becomes very shallow. One of the keys to capturing this image was to align the camera so that the wing was perfectly parallel to the imaging sensor, perpendicular to the center of the lens' image circle. Still, f/16 was needed to obtain the depth of field necessary to keep almost the entire butterfly sharp.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 10/30/2018 8:07:31 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, October 27, 2018
I was in Aspen, Colorado for two nights and the primary goal was to capture another set of classic Maroon Bells lake reflection images that included the amazing fall aspen color. After arriving at the hotel late in the evening on the first night, I set the alarm for 2:40 AM and went to bed. Probably no one thinks getting up at 2:40 AM is fun and ... that I was dragging my wife and youngest daughter with me ... raised questions about my sanity. Still, this is one of the most beautiful locations in the country and I calculated that it was going to be worth the sleep deprivation (and potential grief from the family) to get the perfect position along Maroon Lake.
 
Upon stepping outside, the heavy cloud cover was obvious and occasional light rain followed us. Landscape photographers live for the openings in breaking storm clouds and I stayed with the plan. I was one of the first photographers to arrive at the side of the lake, but I immediately encountered disruption of the plan. The first issue was that a rope now lines the path around the lake, preventing close access to the water. The second issue was that the lake level was extremely low. The restricted access and now-distant, very shallow lake combined to provide a dirt/stone former lake bottom as the image foreground and the lake was now small enough that the reflections were rather unexciting at the proximity available. In addition, the aspen leaves had changed (and many dropped) about a week early this year, courtesy of the drought that also accounted for the drained lake.
 
I continued to stay with the plan, remaining standing in my spot, alongside a large number of other photographers, from about 3:30 AM until close to 9:00 AM, waiting for a break in the clouds. That never happened and I finally decided that a decent photo was not likely to happen. The hike I promised the girls was looking like a great option and that became the plan.
 
After all of the early AM effort, the best scene of the day showed up in front of us while hiking near the far side of the lake. An opening in the clouds allowed sunlight to penetrate, brightly lighting a grove of aspens that were still holding their brilliantly-colored leaves. The key to getting my favorite Maroon Bells image on this trip was just being out in a great location, watching for something good to happen.
 
The Canon EOS R and RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens were perfect hiking companions.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 10/27/2018 9:32:58 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, October 22, 2018
by Sean Setters
 
Oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamia nut or classic chocolate chip? No, I'm not referring to one of those types of cookies. In lighting terms, a "cookie," or cucalorus, is a "...device for casting shadows or silhouettes to produce patterned illumination." [Wiki]
 
A cookie is placed between your light source and the subject or background and casts a desired pattern of highlight and shadow. What can be used as a cookie? Fabrics with interesting weaves, potted plants, venetian blinds and matte black cinefoil with custom cut-out designs are popular choices. In the example above, I used an old lace curtain suspended between my main flash (camera right) and the subject, producing the interesting effect (a flash positioned camera left/low provided fill light).
 
So the next time you're looking to create a unique portrait, look around your home or antique/fabric stores for items that can be used to cast an interesting pattern of light onto your scene.
Post Date: 10/22/2018 10:09:21 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, October 21, 2018
I signed up for an east Maui rainforest waterfall hike and knew that the path could be wet and muddy. What I didn't know was that, thanks to a just-previous hurricane, "wet" meant I would be fording swift rain-swollen streams up to waist-deep with the MindShift Gear Trailscape 18L camera backpack being held overhead. That certainly upped the hike's entertainment value (and provided a new understanding of how well Gore-Tex trail-running shoes hold water).
 
Having both stories and images always makes an adventure better.
 
The Canon EOS R and Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens were used to capture this idyllic Hawaiian rainforest waterfall. Aiding was a Breakthrough Photography circular polarizer filter, cutting reflections and increasing saturation. These filters are nearly a requirement for waterfall photography. An f/8 aperture would have provided adequate depth of field for this 29mm image, but the narrower f/11 opening permitted a longer exposure, creating a more strongly motion-blurred waterfall.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 10/21/2018 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, October 20, 2018
An evening sail was part of the Canon Hawaii 2018 announcement event and I saw a great sunset in the making as the boat was coming ashore, returning to the beach in Lahaina. I hurried down the ladder and ran across the beach to find a clear composition. With a Canon EOS R and Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens in hand, the rest was easy.
 
Photographing the ocean (usually) is a type of action photography as the scene is constantly changing. Water reflects and smooth water provides the best definition of whatever is being reflected. Although they nicely reflect sky color in general, most oceans I've visited are far from smooth. However, the thin layer of water remaining on the sand immediately after a wave recedes is often quite smooth and can provide some definition of the colorful clouds, the subject most often desired to be reflected. Consider timing the capture of some of your beach images for this wave position.
 
Another beach photography consideration is what the leading edge of the waterline looks like. I like the frothy white roll clearly delineating the sand and water as seen in this image, but other options can also work well.
 
I always find a great sunset to be photographically irresistible. Islands often have very long distance views of the setting (or rising) sun, making them ideal locations for watching this time of the day through a viewfinder.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
24mm  f/11.0  1/250s
ISO 400
6655 x 4453px
Post Date: 10/20/2018 9:30:47 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, October 13, 2018
by Sean Setters
 
I've been shooting a moderate amount of indoor studio portraits over the last couple of years and I am consistently impressed by the impact a fan has on the quality of my images. Take the shot above, for example. In it, I'm using six flashes to illuminate the subject and background (with various modifiers). Good lighting is a key to producing a high quality studio portrait. But the finishing touch, the element that makes this photo really interesting, is the hair movement provided by the fan placed just in front of the subject.
 
In this case, the fan is a oscillating, variable height/variable speed pedestal model that my dad gave me when he was moving [downsizing] a few years ago. He used it to minimize his home cooling expenses; I use it to get shots like this:
 
Brittney Headshot 1

And this:
 
Hope G Black Light - Oct 2018

Note that a fan doesn't have to be motorized for it to be useful for portraiture. Anything that's flat and somewhat rigid will do the job if you have a photo assistant available (or the ability to operate the camera remotely). Things like collapsible reflectors and foam core boards can easily be used in place of a dedicated electric fan, again, assuming someone is available to operate the device. A nice thing about non-motorized fanning tools is that they can very easily be used outdoors to create a wind effect on an otherwise calm day.
 
Of course, for a fan to have an impact on portraiture, it must influence at least a part of the composed scene in some way. You can use the fan to introduce movement in hair, fabric/clothing or props (such as leaves). The opportunities for capturing dynamic, fan-induced movement in your portraits are too numerous to list.
 
If shopping for a fan for studio use, from my personal experience, a pedestal model with an adjustable height is ideal as you can easily set it to an optimal height for your subject. However, a pedestal-style fan certainly isn't a requirement. If you already have a floor model or tabletop fan, you can simply place it on a higher surface (table, apple boxes, etc.) if needed. While some may appreciate an oscillating feature (especially if the fan is doing double duty as a cooling device), I typically lock my fan into a static position so that it's always blowing air in the desired direction.
 
Note that constantly blowing air at a subject's face can cause uncomfortable dry eyes. To prevent this, tell your subject to keep his/her eyes closed right up until the moment a photo is taken and use an audible countdown to alert the subject of an impending shutter release.
 
A fan is an inexpensive tool that can have a big impact on the quality of images delivered to your clients, making it a must-have item for any studio photographer.
Post Date: 10/13/2018 12:50:21 PM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Friday, October 5, 2018
by Sean Setters
 
I was reading an article yesterday that stated the Canon EOS R had a "1.83x crop factor" when recording 4K video. However, while the EOS R certainly has a crop factor in 4K recording, it's actually a slightly lower crop factor of 1.75x.
 
I can understand the source of the confusion and, as such, I thought we'd take a minute to go over the math involved in determining a camera's sensor or video recording crop factor.
 
Before we dive into the crop factor calculations, it's important to understand why a crop factor is relevant. The crop factor determines the field of view we see in a given situation. For more information on the root of this phenomena and how it relates to sensor size, check out our Field of View Crop Factor explanation.
 
At the heart of it, the formula for determining crop factor is easy: you determine the ratio of the larger area's hypotenuse (diagonal) to the smaller area's hypotenuse measurement. For that, we'll need to use the tried-and-true Pythagorean theorem (a2+b2=c2). For example, to determine the crop factor of a Canon APS-C sensor, the math looks like this:
 
EOS-1-series Full-Frame Sensor Hypotenuse (mm)
362 + 242 = c2
1,296 + 576 = c2
1,872 = c2
√1,872 = c
43.27 = c
 
EOS 7D Mark II APS-C Sensor Hypotenuse (mm)
22.42 + 152 = c2
501.76 + 225.00 = c2
726.76 = c2
√726.76 = c
26.96 = c
 
Now the crop factor can be calculated by dividing the full-frame hypotenuse by the APS-C one:
 
APS-C Crop Factor
43.27 / 26.96 = 1.605
 
We know that APS-C sensor cameras feature a 1.6x crop factor, so with a little rounding, the calculation proves correct in determining the crop factor. The process for calculating video crop factor (when the video recorded is sampled via a 1-to-1 readout of the pixels in the center of the sensor which creates the video's resolution) is similar, but not exactly the same. The first difference involves our units of measure; we'll be using pixels to determine the hypotenuses for comparison. We can do this because the pixel size is the same (a standard) throughout the comparison. The second difference is that we'll need to normalize the aspect ratios to figure out the appropriate crop factor.
 
As I mentioned the EOS R above, we'll use it as an example of how to calculate the camera's (4K) video crop factor. First we need to determine what part of the sensor would be used if the video recording utilized the entire width of the sensor. To do that, we need to calculate the pixel area of a 16:9 (4K) ratio crop of the camera's 3:2 ratio frame. To do that, we simply divide the sensor's pixel width by 16 and then multiply by 9 to get the area utilized by an uncropped 16:9 video.
 
EOS R Video Pixel Height (Full Sensor WxH = 6720 x 4480 px)
6720 * 16 / 9 = 3780
 
So in a world where the EOS R captures "uncropped" 4K footage, the sensor would utilize an area of the frame that is 6720 x 3780 pixels and then downsample it to the lower 4K resolution. The video is technically cropped from a 3:2 ratio frame, but it's referred to as "uncropped" because the horizontal field of view remains the same (it's cropped at the top and bottom, not the sides).
 
Now that we know the portion of the frame that would be utilized for a 16:9 aspect ratio video, we need to compare it to the video size actually being recorded by the EOS R, or 3840 x 2160 pixels. Because of the rather large numbers, I'll shorten the following equations by eliminating some of the calculation steps.
 
"Uncropped" 16:9 Video Hypotenuse (px)
√(67202 + 37802) = c
7710.175 = c
 
EOS R 4K Video Hypotenuse (px)
√(38402 + 21602) = c
4405.814 = c
 
Crop factor of EOS R
7710.175 / 4405.814 = 1.75
 
So for practical purposes, the EOS R has a 4K crop factor of 1.75x, where a 20mm lens delivers a 16:9 field of view equivalent to a 35mm lens when recording in 4K. From a technical standpoint, saying that the EOS R has a 1.83x crop factor could be accurate if we also labeled the Sony a7 III as having a 1.05x crop factor in video mode. But when you call the a7 III's 4K video "uncropped," you necessitate normalizing the field of view captured in the EOS R's 4K 16:9 aspect ratio frame, resulting in the 1.75x result.
Post Date: 10/5/2018 11:56:02 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, September 26, 2018
by Sean Setters
 
By now, she's actually a couple of weeks old. But at the time this image above was taken, Olivia Jane had been breathing air for only about an hour. My life has change a lot since September 11 at 4:50pm, but one thing remains the same – the importance of photography in documenting the world around me. Specific endeavors require specific gear, and lately I've been leaning heavily on certain lenses more than others. Specifically, I've been relying on wide-aperture prime lenses, with their ability to create subject isolation and freeze motion (using moderate ISOs) when second-chance opportunities are fleeting or non-existent.
 
A couple of years ago, I posted an article urging site visitors to prepare a Go-Bag packed with the photography gear necessary to accomplish a certain goal. With my wife nearing her due date, I took my own advice and packed a Lowepro backpack with the following:
 
Sharp-eyed site visitors have likely noticed two aspects regarding the kit listed above. The first is that all the lenses I packed were prime lenses. I chose to pack a large assortment of wide aperture prime lenses because I wasn't sure how well lit the hospital would be and the max aperture of my general purpose lens, a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, seemed too narrow to rely on for the indoor event. As it turns out, the room where my wife gave birth was "softly lit for patient comfort" (hospital terminology for "relatively dark") with a couple of bright spot lights illuminating the delivery zone. The wide aperture primes proved essential for maximizing image quality while documenting the life-changing event. When packing the bag, I suspected the longest and shortest focal length primes would be too long/short for effective use in the areas I'd be shooting in during our 2-day hospital stay, and that largely proved to be true.
 
The second thing you might have noticed is the lack of a backup camera. Knowing the importance of the situation ahead, I packed a second very small shoulder bag with the following items:
 
This kit in this bag had two purposes. One, it provided me with a backup camera should something happen to the primary camera in the other bag. Second, it gave me a couple of STM lenses that I could pair with the 7D II should I decided to capture video. Not knowing how much room I'd have to store things in the delivery and post-partum rooms, my plan was to leave this backup camera bag in our car parked in the parking lot and simply run out to the car if I wanted/needed it. Of course, a primary camera failure at a critical time would have left me without an easy-to-access backup, but... thankfully, that didn't happen. In fact, the backup camera bag never made it out of the car. Note: I don't recommend leaving your camera gear in an automobile for long periods of time because of prolonged heat/humidity and chance of theft. In this case, however, I prioritized a less-cluttered hospital room over my gear's safety (the bag was well hidden/out of view in the vehicle).
 
So which lenses did I utilize most during the big event?
 
LensShots
Captured
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro157
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM156
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art42
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art31
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM17
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM2
Rokinon 14mm f/2.82
Total407

Olivia Grasps Finger September 11, 2018

Unfortunately, the data is a bit misleading. I used the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro to capture lots of close-ups of Olivia's feet, hands, ears, etc. However, without stabilization (and not wanting to push ISOs too high), a lot of those images came out blurry. However, I was shooting the macros when I wasn't pressed for time and the baby was relatively content, so I often shot a large number of images for each framing I wanted. In other words, the macro lens was only used for a limited number of compositions, but I recorded many shots of each composition to ensure I got what I wanted.
 
Alexis Going Into Labor

The lens that was mounted to my camera for most of our hospital stay (and just before leaving for the hospital) was the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM. The moderately wide focal length paired with image stabilization made it an extremely versatile lens, able to capture enough slightly-blurry background with the subject to tell a story while remaining easy to work with in relatively tight spaces. The lens' IS system meant that I could use even-slower-than-usual shutter speed when subject movement was minimal, while the wide f/2 aperture allowed me to freeze action even in dimly lit conditions.
 
Olivia Moments After Birth

The next most-used lens was the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. It was the lens I chose to mount as soon as Olivia saw light for the first time. At that point, I wanted to limit distractions in the composition by using a narrower field of view to focus on my wife and baby seeing each other for the first time. A wide-aperture 50mm prime lens gave me the composition I desired along with action-stopping shutter speeds and a relatively low ISO setting.
 
In the Waiting Room

The rest of the lenses I brought were used sporadically, but looking back, I could have sufficed without them. That said, different hospitals may present different opportunities for various focal lengths, so having several available is nearly always a good idea. Could I have gotten away with using only a 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens? Maybe, but the max f/2.8 aperture would have required a 2-4x higher ISO to be used to achieve the same action-stopping shutter speeds compared to most of the primes I brought. Also, considering the amount of background distractions found in a typical hospital room, an f/2.8 aperture would not have allowed me to blur those elements quite as much. The downside to primes, of course, is the need to change lenses when a new focal length is desired for the optimal composition.
 
My Father Holding Olivia

My backpack full of prime lenses proved equally useful after returning home from the hospital. I left it sitting just inside our dining room and would quickly grab the camera for capturing the various "awwww" moments that occurred in our home over following week.
 
It's been two weeks now, and that day is a bit of a blur in my memory. But thankfully, I have a wonderful set of images to look back on to remind me of the way during my child's first few days outside the womb. My photographic style is typically very deliberate, with lighting and/or tripod setups that slow down the capture process. While prime lenses fit well into that kind of workflow, they aren't absolutely necessary as lighting (either added to the scene or recorded via a slower shutter speed) isn't really a problem. But when documenting life as it happens, what a wide aperture prime lacks in focal length range, it more than makes up for in the versatility and aesthetic afforded by its max aperture.
Post Date: 9/26/2018 11:52:31 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, September 19, 2018
by Sean Setters
 
My wife has two night-blooming cereus plants which were cut from her mother's decades old plant. In fact, the origin of this night-blooming cereus goes back four generations with mothers passing down cuttings to their daughters. If you're unfamiliar with this type of plant, an apt description can be found on Wikipedia:
Night-blooming cereus is the common name referring to a large number of flowering ceroid cacti that bloom at night. The flowers are short lived, and some of these species, such as Selenicereus grandiflorus, bloom only once a year, for a single night. Other names for one or more cacti with this habit are princess of the night, Honolulu queen (for Hylocereus undatus), Christ in the manger, dama de noche and queen of the night (which is also used for an unrelated plant species).
The night-blooming cereuses we have typically bloom once or twice a year, with the flowers appearing well after the sun goes down and wilting sometime around sunrise. Once you see the white petals just poking out of the ends of the nearly enclosed buds, you know the flowers will be blooming later that night.
 
Having noticed the imminent blooms, I photographed one of the buds earlier in the day. The leaf the bud was attached to was sticking out well beyond the railing of our back porch, giving me plenty of working room and few obstacles to shoot around if shooting from the side. To photograph the bud, I set up a tripod-mounted Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro and pointed the camera alongside the railing to get a nice side view. However, the background (a line of trees bordering our backyard) proved too distracting because a) the relatively narrow aperture I wanted to use did not diffuse it sufficiently for good separation and b) the colors of the background were too similar to the bud to create color separation.
 
To remedy the situation, I clamped a black foam core board behind the bud to eliminate the background. Here's what the setup looked like:
 
Night-Blooming Cereus Bud Setup September 2018

At this time of the day (approx. 12:30pm Eastern Time), sunlight was filtering through the trees, giving it a soft quality, but the bud was still relatively well lit. Therefore, I used the sunlight as my main light and simply held a white foam core board angled slightly below the bud to fill in the shadows caused by the high sun. Of course, the sunlight was also illuminating the background, making my very dark grey foam core board less dark, but... I liked the effect. Here's what the bud shot looked like after processing:
 
Night-Blooming Cereus Bud September 2018

EXIF: f/10, 1/160 sec, ISO 200
 
Later that evening, the real show began. Around 10:00pm ET, we noticed that the flowers were starting to open up. I quickly grabbed the same tripod-mounted camera and lens and got to work. This time, I used a shoe-mount flash diffused by a 24" collapsible softbox with grid positioned behind the flowing plant (rather high) to create a diffused backlit glow and rim light. I used the same white foam core board that I had used for the bud shot positioned below the flower for fill. EXIF for the end result seen atop this post: f/8, 160 sec, ISO 400.
 
My mother-in-law questioned why I didn't shoot the flower from the front to show off its interesting structure, and many of you may be wondering the same thing. Truth is, I captured many shots of the blooming flower from the front but didn't like them nearly as much. Here were the challenges that made photographing the flowers from the front less ideal:
 
  1. The position of the bloom (sticking through the railing) limited where I could place off-camera flashes and modifiers (no rim/back lighting possible), leading to a rather dull image.
  2. Night-blooming cereus flowers are very deep. Front lighting the flower from anywhere except the camera's axis results in dark shadows in the deepest part of the blooms.
  3. Getting the entire flower in focus from the front of the petals to the back (within the depth-of-field) is very challenging. As I was photographing the flower while still attached to the plant, small movements made focus stacking an impractical solution.
Sometimes you just have to accept the limitations of a given situation and figure out a solution that works best.
Post Date: 9/19/2018 10:11:44 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, September 12, 2018
by Sean Setters
 
My wife and I would like to introduce the newest member of the The-Digital-Picture.com family. Pictured above is Olivia Jane, born yesterday at 4:50pm. She was 7 lb 13 oz (3.54 kg) and 20" (50.8 cm) long. She's healthy and, contrary to what last night's seemingly constant crying might indicate, probably very happy to be here. I'm running on very little sleep, so... I'll make this post short and sweet. I'm a father now, and it's a whole new world. :-)
 
Olivia Jane Grasps Father's Finger – September 11, 2018

Post Date: 9/12/2018 6:40:03 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Most higher-end image editing programs now feature automated panorama stitching, but if you don't rotate the lens on its nodal point while capturing the individual images for your spherical panorama, even the best image editing programs will find it challenging to stitch all of the images perfectly. Instead, portions of the stitched areas don't precisely line up, a result of parallax errors. Rotating the lens on its nodal point allows you to avoid those parallax errors, ultimately leading to a better panoramic image.
 
But how do you find the nodal point for your lens? The solution is probably easier than you think. Yesterday I determined the nodal points for eight lenses (one at two different focal lengths) using my pano rig.
 
To find your lens' nodal point:
 
1. Set up your camera along with aligned subjects.
Set up your tripod-mounted pano rig so that it is level and pointed at two objects that are perfectly lined up in the center of your viewfinder/frame using Live View at max magnification. For me, that was two light stands set up in my studio about 6' (1.83m) apart. The farthest light stand was extended just a little bit higher than the closest light stand to make aligning the two subjects easier.
 
2. Rotate the camera left or right and move the camera forward/backward to create an identical view.
Move your magnified live view frame all the way to the left or right, then rotate the camera so that the front object is within the magnified view. Now, move the camera forward or backward using the nodal rail until the two objects are lined up just as they had been in the center of the frame view.
 
3. Record your results.
Record the position of the nodal rail in your clamp, such as "Clamp centered on 49mm rail mark," the lens being used and (if using a zoom lens) the focal length setting of the lens. If using a zoom lens for your panos, you'll need to determine the nodal points for all focal lengths you intend on using for your panos. Typically speaking, I usually calculate the nodal points for the shortest and longest focal lengths of a zoom lens. I find it handy to record the measurements in a cloud-based document so that they can be accessed from any location where data services can be accessed. Also, keep in mind that your nodal point calculations may be different depending on whether your camera is in portrait orientation or landscape orientation. Typically, you'll want to orient your camera vertically to maximize your panorama's resolution. However, if shooting horizontally, the plates in your L-brackets may be offset from one another. For 5D Mark III L-bracket, the offset is 15.5mm, meaning I have to subtract 15.5mm from my vertical orientation measurement to get the landscape oriented one. If planning to travel to remote areas to capture panoramic images, storing the nodal point measurement values locally on your smartphone in a notepad app (or alternately in a traditional paper notepad) would be best.
 
My particular pano rig consists of a bidirectional clamp and a multi-purpose rail. Instead of moving the rail in the tripod's head, I move the bidirectional clamp that's connected to the camera. Therefore, I have to ensure that the rail is clamped into the index rotator's clamp at the exact same position each time if I ever entirely break down the setup. While that sounds a bit complicated, it's not in practice. I just make sure the first measurement mark on the rail is lined up with the front edge of the index rotator clamp, and all is well.
 
After calculating the nodal points for several of my lenses, I got the itch to create another 360-degree panorama. After a short time thinking about the possible locations to photograph, as you can see from above, our renovated second bedroom was the subject I chose. To capture the image, I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens a 3-shot exposure bracket at each 20° interval. I then combined the exposure brackets in Lightroom (using identical settings for each HDR blend) and compiled the panoramic image with Hugin.
 
Want to step into our nursery? Download and install FSPViewer and open this high-resolution version of the image above in the app for a cool virtual experience.
Post Date: 8/28/2018 7:52:41 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
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