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 Monday, October 16, 2017
When the Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly Lens showed up, I had a couple of subjects immediately in mind for it. The Cathedral Parish of St Patrick in Harrisburg, PA was one of them and on the next very-cloudy day, I made the trip to this beautiful place.
 
Why did I need a cloudy day to photograph the interior of a church? Any direct sunlight shining through the windows creates overly bright spots on the interior. While daylight was needed to light the inside of the church and bring life to the stained-glass windows, strongly-diffused sunlight creates a far more even light than direct sunlight.
 
Perhaps the biggest challenge to creating an image like is perfectly aligning the camera to the ceiling. With the centered framing, the camera must be positioned precisely below the subject in the exact center of the frame. Often aiding in finding this exact position are tiles and other structural elements that help indicate where the center of the floor is.
 
I had another aid in this case. The gold-colored subject dead center in the frame is a chandelier that hung far below the ceiling. When I saw the gold chandelier centered in the blue and gray area of the ceiling behind it, I knew that the camera was perfectly centered.
 
Centered, however, did not mean squared. The Really Right Stuff TVC-34 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-55 Ball Head were especially helpful for this part of the endeavor. I wanted as much of the ceiling in the frame as possible, so I fully retracted the tripod legs, which, with the precise construction of this model, meant that the tripod was level. Similarly-precisely-constructed is the BH-55 ball head and with the stem fully against the bottom of one of the drop notches, the camera was directed straight up.
 
With the camera centered and angled straight up, only final adjustments were needed. The camera still needed to be rotated within the notch (adjust the camera so that it is visually straight up to get started) and then I simply rotated the tripod on the ground, keeping the camera in its centered location, until the viewfinder showed that it was squared with the ceiling. Yes, panning adjustments could have been made using the head's panning feature, but rotating the camera around the head moves the camera slightly from its centered position, meaning that the tripod would need slight repositioning anyway. So, I simply adjusted the tripod position to begin with. Using a Canon Angle Finder C made finalizing the absolute straight-up framing much easier (as would a vari-angle LCD).
 
Focusing with this manual-focus-only lens was simple. I turned the focus ring to the slight detent/bump at the infinity focus mark and everything in the frame was in focus. The 11mm depth of field is huge at normal subject focus distances and this haptic-feedback setting works for a large number of uses, including with wider apertures than the one used here.
 
This is an HDR image, processed with Photomatix.
 
I left the cathedral quite impressed with the Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly Lens. The angle of view it provides is amazing and my first impression is that image quality is very good, especially for the very low price of this lens.
 
A full review of this lens is planned for the near future. A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 10/16/2017 8:17:57 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, October 14, 2017
A beautiful specimen of one of my favorite animals sings one of my favorite songs under my favorite lighting conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park.
 
I was recently privileged to spend a week chasing Rocky Mountain elk around Colorado with a big lens. For this trip, I based in a small rental cottage just west of Estes Park, CO. Each morning before daylight, I drove the short distance Moraine Park on the east side of RMNP. Upon arrival at the park's huge meadow, I pulled over, turned off the SUV and listened for the awesome sound of elk bugling.
 
With the large number of these animals located in and around the huge Moraine Park meadow, locating a bull was not often a problem. However, it didn't take long to figure out that multiple bulls bugling in close proximity made for the best action during this peak rutting period.
 
Upon locating a number of bulls (and when the 7:00 AM park service meadow curfew lifted), I began to approach the targeted animals from the direction the sun was going to rise. While the majority of the other photographers simply photographed from along the road, I found that hiking into the meadow, often 1/2 mile or more, produced a higher number of images I liked. Reasons for the better images including the ability to approach at a better light angle, better alignment of the background and the option to get a better height with an eye-level camera position generally being preferred.
 
While I came away from this trip with thousands of keeper-grade elk images, it has been difficult to select down to just a few standouts to share with you. Here is why this one stands out to me:
 
First, the sun had just crested the mountain behind me, meaning that this was the warmest-colored light the meadow would see. That light was from directly behind me, meant that shadows were minimized and the low sun angle easily created a strong catchlight in the elk's eye, adding some life to the subject. With clouds shading the background, the sun-lit subject becomes even more eye-catching.
 
That I can almost hear the body position is yet another reason. With the large, symmetrical antlers laid back and the mouth wide open, this elk is obviously bugling. The side-on body position with the head turned just slightly toward the camera usually works ideally. Some frost and golden grasses surrounding the elk with some fall colors in the strongly-blurred background round out the reasons this image became one of my favorites.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 10/14/2017 8:16:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, October 12, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
One great thing about the digital revolution is that it made high quality photography accessible to a large number of people. A bad thing about the digital revolution is... well, the same.
 
With so many people pursing photography as a career or a side job, it can be extremely difficult to get a foot-hold even in your own local market. It's certainly understandable why other local photographers could be perceived simply as competition, and therefore, interactions with those photographers avoided.
 
However, the photographers living around you can be great assets. Let me explain.
 
A couple of years ago I moved from middle Tennessee to Savannah, Georgia. I lost all of the regular clients that I had built up over a lifetime of living in a relatively small town. Not long after moving here, however, I met a local Savannah photographer who invited me to join a closed Facebook group comprised of photographers in the area.
 
At first, I didn't really see much of a point in joining, but I soon did. I eventually learned of multiple local Facebook groups devoted to photography, each organized for slightly different goals (I'm now a member of 3 of them). Benefits of joining the local photographers' Facebook groups included:
 
  • Photographers frequently have "destashes," selling off props from their studios. Want inexpensive newborn outfits for photo shoots? Done.
  • Photographers oftentimes share suggestions on places to shoot and may even offer to lend equipment if you're in a pinch.
  • Photographers will regularly advertise second shooting or filmmaking opportunities for weddings they've agreed to cover.
  • And last but not least, photographers will routinely refer clients to other photographers in the area when they can't service an interested client's needs.
I've personally gotten a couple of jobs from referrals generated by one of the local photographers' Facebook group (one with a well-known broadcasting company, no less). If you find photographers referring clients regularly in your area's photographers' Facebook group, you may want to set your Notifications to "All" so you can be the first to respond to availability inquiries.
 
Those living in moderately populated areas are more likely to have already-established photography groups on social media, although, like Savannah's, they may be closed. Therefore, you may need to attend popular events in your area to find other photographers who are already a member of such groups (it's pretty easy to strike up a conversation about photography). And if you find that there isn't a Facebook group for photographers in your area, start one. It may take time for your community to grow, but the benefits will most likely be worth the effort.
 
Of course, Facebook isn't the only way to socialize with other photographers. Even many small towns have photography clubs that meet on a monthly basis, and joining a photography club can have many of the same benefits of Facebook groups (though with less immediate, widespread communication). Regardless of you method of touching base with other photographers in your area, doing so can be very beneficial from a social – and economic – perspective.
Post Date: 10/12/2017 10:51:54 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Monday, October 2, 2017
Most of those who photographed the solar eclipse captured images from the beginning until the end, from C1 through C4. While every one of those images may be intriguing, showing all of the stages of the solar eclipse in the same image can take the intrigue to a new level. So, plan on creating at least one solar eclipse composite image. Fortunately, the process is easy. Here are the steps necessary:
 
First, visualize the composite image you want to create. In this case, I went with a single row, but curves, multi-stacked rows, etc. can also work well. Consider searching for results others have created, or just let your imagination go wild for a completely new take on this event.
 
With a design in mind, select the individual images to be included. You likely want a near-equal time period between the partial eclipse selections and that means breaking out your math skills.
 
Use the EXIF information in the images you captured to determine the precise time of totality (or maximum coverage within totality) (or use a reference to find this information). Then look at the capture time of the first image you want included. This gives you a timespan that can be divided by the number of partial eclipse images you want included on either side of totality/max. Select images captured at each of the timespan milestones you selected. Having equal time periods between images is not a rule and I veered slightly from it in my example (partially to avoid some clouds encountered).
 
To cleanly merge into a black background, each image being included in the final composite should have a completely black perimeter. While partial eclipse images most likely already have this attribute, a tightly framed HDR image of totality may not. An easy way to darken the border of these non-conforming images is to darken the darks. Adjust levels or curves to make the dark colors darker until they turn pure black along the entire perimeter.
 
Each image being included in the final composite should be cropped relatively tightly. This facilitates image position adjustment in the composite image without having frame borders overlaying lower layers.
 
Next, the images should be loaded into layers in Photoshop (or a similar app). I use Adobe Bridge for this task, browsing to the folder the files are located in, clicking on the first of the series and shift-clicking on the last to select them all. Then select the "Tools" menu, "Photoshop", "Load files into Photoshop Layers ..." and a new Photoshop document will open with all of the images stacked in layers.
 
Once all images are loaded into the PS file, they will likely be stacked directly on top of each other with a canvas size equal to the largest individual image loaded. So, the next step required is to increase the canvas size (press CTRL-ALT-C) sufficiently to hold the visualized layout. Don't worry if you get this setting wrong as it is easy to further increase the canvas size or crop the image later. My preference is to go big and opt for the crop.
 
The increased canvas size results in insufficient border color with the newly added space likely being transparent. This is an easy problem to fix. Create a new layer (click on the new layer button at the bottom of the layers palette). Select the paint bucket tool (press G, or SHFT-G repeatedly until the paint bucket is the selected tool). Then change the selected color to black (press D, then X). Then click anywhere on the canvas with the new layer selected. That entire layer will turn black. In the layers palette, drag the new layer to the bottom of your layers stack to make it serve as the background.
 
Next, move the image on each layer into place using the move tool (press V, or SHFT-V repeatedly until the move tool is selected). After selecting the layer to be moved (turning off the move tool's auto-select feature might be helpful), drag it into place. Repeat Consider using a grid (View > Show > Grid) with the grid size adjusted (Edit > Preferences > Guides, Grid & Slices...) to something that works for you to help with the alignment process.
 
Massage the design as desired and then publish it to the world. Consider creating multiple layout designs as most of the work has been done at this point and new designs require only minimal effort. Simply drag the layers around as you like, saving a new version of the file each time you create a design you like.
 
While I had three complete camera setups in operation during the eclipse, it was the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens-based setup that I relied most upon. When I need the most focal length possible, this lens is my go-to option. Yes, the 600 f/4 is big and expensive, but the combination of the impressive image quality it delivers and the frequency in which I use it makes the cost a good value to me. In this case, I relied heavily on the focal length and image quality attributes as a 2x Extender will magnify any aberrations present and there were already enough of them between earth and the extreme-distant subject.
 
Back to the main point of this article: make the effort to create some composite images and you will be rewarded by the results. It has been over a month since the 2017 total eclipse event captivated us, and simply looking back into the images captured on this day will bring back great memories, helping you to re-live that rare experience.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 10/2/2017 11:21:39 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, September 30, 2017
While a 70-200mm lens is seldom my first choice for wildlife photography, it can work quite well if used for tolerant and/or large animals, especially if used on an APS-C format body. In this case, the camera was full frame and the fawn was quite tame.
 
What tame does not directly translate to, however, is still. While the adorable little white-tailed deer fawn had no problem with my presence, it was constantly moving and often moving very fast. I had a fortunate break when it bounded over the small hill above me, stopped and turned its head. I quickly adjusted the AF point selection slightly to the eye and captured a burst in AF-C focus mode.
 
At 200mm f/2.8 with a close subject and relatively distant background, especially on a full frame camera body, the subject pops from the melted background.
 
At 20 fps, I had many images to choose from as this camera can deliver a sometimes-overwhelming number of images. I liked this specific image for a couple of reasons. The first is of course that the eye is in focus, but that wasn't much of an issue while the fawn was stopped. Nice also was the beautifully-blurred, void-of-distractions background with spring colors that attractively contrast the fawn. I also like that that both ears are fully-contained in the frame and that are very few lines of strong contrast leaving the frame is usually an aspect I like. Lines are often an important compositional element and that most lines in this image point in the general direction of the eye (or to another line in that direction) make them "leading".
 
The extremely versatile 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is one of the most important lenses in many kits. Going beyond 200mm with an f/2.8 aperture results in a substantially higher price tag, making the 200mm focal length the longest affordable f/2.8 option for a large number of photographers. Specifically in this case, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens, though not inexpensive, is currently the best choice for kits based on Sony Alpha cameras.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
200mm  f/2.8  1/1600s
ISO 640
6000 x 4000px
Post Date: 9/30/2017 9:52:51 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, September 28, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
When packing up for my exodus from Savannah, GA with the center of hurricane Irma forecasted to hit the city dead on (it later hit farther west), I made sure to pack as much photography equipment as possible (we all have our priorities). One of the things I brought with me was my infrared-converted EOS 7D.
 
Deciding not to brave the flood of traffic heading to Atlanta, we instead headed west to New Orleans to stay with family who resides there. One of the places I visited while in New Orleans was The Fly (or, more precisely, Butterfly Riverview Park), a waterfront area located in southwest Audubon Park along the Mississippi River. The Fly is a popular hangout for college students, who typically enjoy sunbathing and other outdoor activities in the manicured lawns next to the river.
 
While the hordes of college students were certainly interesting, a few isolated trees on the opposite side of the road from the river bank caught my attention. With my IR-converted 7D available, I photographed a few of the trees. My favorite appears at the top of this post, and another image I enjoyed can be seen below.
 
The Fly in New Orleans Tree 2

Photographing isolated trees on flat land set against a bright blue sky with a Super Color IR-converted camera creates a dramatic contrast that helps draw the viewer's eyes directly to your subject. If photographed with a normal camera, the scene would have much less impact.
 
Upgrading DSLRs in the near future? Consider converting your older DSLR to an infrared camera to add an inspiring and creative tool to your kit.
Post Date: 9/28/2017 10:28:14 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Monday, September 18, 2017
For several years I've been looking for a program or plugin that was able to convert my photos into a realistic looking pieces of painted artwork. A few months ago, I finally found a solution that gave me the results I was hoping for.
 
The solution – called Topaz Impression – is software that can be used as a standalone program (accessed via Topaz Studio) or as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop and/or Lightroom.
 
With tons of presets and the ability to personalize those presets for your own unique look, Impression gives you another tool to improve sales conversions with your clients. Take your shot, process with Impression, then have your converted image printed on canvas for an impressive result.
 
You can see a before/after example of a shot I took recently atop this post with additional processed examples shown below.
 
Topaz Impressions Example 2

Topaz Impressions Example 3

Topaz Impression Example 4

While the retail cost of the software may seem a bit steep, I think it is well priced considering the convincing quality of the images I've processed with the software. Fortunately, for a short time you can save 40% (through Sept. 29, 2017) on the software making it a really great deal. [Sean]
 
Purchase Topaz Impression
Post Date: 9/18/2017 11:53:25 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Saturday, September 16, 2017
It was late (about 10:30 PM) and I still had a nearly-4-hour drive home. But, I couldn't help myself and made another stop in Jersey City/Newport. I had been in New York City since early afternoon, walking many miles with a heavy pack as I finalized my scouting in the Brooklyn Bridge Park area around Dumbo. The date was September 11th and the goal was to get at least a high quality image of the city with the Tribute in Light illuminating vertical miles of the night sky.
 
I hope to share an image captured from the primary-selected location later, but periodically the tribute lights are turned off to allow the attracted-by-the-light birds to disperse. I had my initial location images and, not knowing how long the lights would remain off, I decided to pack up and head for a completely different view of the city.
 
The attraction from of this different location? Along with a great city skyline view including the tribute lights being visible closer to the ground than from my first destination, seawalls reduced the wave action on the Hudson River, producing a cleaner reflection in the image and providing interesting leading lines. What I could not have planned for was the black-crowned night heron choosing to roost on a nearby piling. A sidewalk lamp provided just enough foreground illumination for the bird and wall to be brightness-balanced with the city lights in a set of four images bracketed up to a 1 minute exposure at f/11, ISO 100. And, the bird remained motionless long enough to be sharp in one of those frames.
 
After photographing here for nearly two hours, I decided that I had this location covered, including alternative framing using two camera/tripod setups. It was 12:15 AM when I packed up and headed to my car. Then I saw a slightly different angle that I needed to capture. I unpacked a camera and captured one more set of images. As it turns out, that last set was my favorite from the entire trip, the one I am sharing here.
 
A key for composing this image was to use a camera position that was level for both tilt and roll. While the city buildings being rendered rather small in the frame and the tallest building, One World Trade Center, having a tapered shape and being positioned close to the center of the frame, can take a slight camera tilt without looking bad, the bold-in-the-frame pair of bright lines running up the border of the frame were completely unforgiving. Any camera tilt up or down results in those lines tilting inward or outward (respectively) from perspective distortion, appearing unnatural.
 
To create this final image, four 1-stop-bracketed images were processed in Photomatix and the result was polished in Photoshop.
 
For this daytrip, I was focused on getting the best-possible image quality from known-excellent gear. For me, that meant a MindShift Gear BackLight 26L loaded with a pair of Canon EOS 5Ds R bodies and three lenses, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II.
 
Yes, I also have the f/4 versions of all three of these lenses and carrying those would have meant a lighter load. While the f/2.8 aperture was not important to me for the amount of light it could take in, I like the lights in a cityscape to become starbursts and wider aperture lenses typically render more prominent starbursts than their narrower max aperture counterparts when used at narrow apertures. The f/2.8 lenses were my choice primarily for that reason alone. The overall focal length range covered by these lenses was ideal for my pursuit. I used all three (and I had the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens in the car if needed).
 
For support, I used the RRS TVC-34 and RRS TQC-14 Carbon Fiber Tripods with RRS BH-55 and RRS BH-40 Ball Heads used respectively. Really Right Stuff gear is among the best made and these particular models are simply excellent.
 
While the World Trade Center building attack being memorialized by the Tribute in Light was extremely tragic, the lights themselves are beautiful and add a great element to the New York City skyline. On each September 11th, when the Tribute in Light becomes visible in the night sky, south Manhattan and the New York City perimeter become especially inspiring for photographers. I no longer remember the 4:15 AM arrive-home time and how tired this trip made me the next day, but I'll long remember the time there and the images captured, reinforcing the "Never Forget" slogan.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 9/16/2017 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, September 10, 2017
The Chapel of the Transfiguration is a little chapel with big character. And, the view out the window of this Grand Teton National Park place of worship is surely distracting to anyone attending a service here.
 
After waiting for a clear moment in the (relatively light) crowds, I squarely-positioned (or nearly so in a questionably-square old building) the Canon EOS 5Ds R-mounted Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens in front of the window and captured an exposure-bracketed set of images ready for manual HDR processing.
 
With the mildly-complicated post-processing work completed, the dark building still seems like a dark space but the easily-visible log lines lead the viewer's eyes to the centerpiece, the window-framed Grand Teton mountain range fronted by fall-color glory and a silhouetted cross.
 
This camera and lens have been one of my most-used combinations since they were released. The image quality they deliver is simply impressive and the range of angles of view provided by 16-35mm are extremely useful, especially for landscape photography (or perhaps interior architecture photography in this case?).
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 9/10/2017 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, September 9, 2017
One of my goals for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse was to bracket exposures ranging from no-blown-color-channels to as bright as I could create. Using three custom modes set for AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing), I was able to capture 21 images with exposures ranging from 1/8000, f/8 ISO 100 to 1 sec, f/4 ISO 800, covering over 18 stops of exposure difference.
 
You may have noted that I was using an f/2.8 lens and could have opened up one stop wider. I decided that vignetting at f/2.8 took away most of the wider aperture advantage in the periphery and, with the sun creating the most light in the center of the frame, I periphery brightness was what I needed most from this frame. So, I opted to stay with f/4.
 
A number of the darkest images in the set proved too dark to be useful. In the brightest image, all three channels were blown in nearly half of the image. Thus, I felt successful in meeting that goal.
 
There was of course a purpose to that goal and that purpose was to create an HDR image that made as much of corona visible as possible. While I also had a 200mm lens deployed with the same purpose, the 400mm angle of view fully contained the maximum corona able to be captured under the slightly hazy Tennessee skies.
 
To create this image, I stacked 14 exposures using (essentially) the solar eclipse bracketing procedure I recently shared. I think that I could continue tweaking this result indefinitely, but ... it is time to label it "finished" and move on to all of the others.
 
In this case, you could say that I got a "star" for effort.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 9/9/2017 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, September 2, 2017
How to Process Solar Eclipse Exposure Bracketed Images – A Simple HDR Technique Like scores of others, you (probably) and I photographed the solar eclipse this year. While partial solar eclipse images are easy to process (simply make them bright without blowing the red channel), the total eclipse images when bracketed, are in a different league in terms of complexity. So, like me, you are probably now asking, "How do I process the exposure-bracketed total eclipse pictures?" While there were many articles teaching us how to photograph the eclipse, those telling us how to process the images we captured during totality are scarce.
 
A great solar eclipse photography strategy is to extensively bracket exposures during totality, when the corona becomes visible. While the corona is relatively bright just outside the edges of the moon, it becomes very dim far away from the sun. Of course, with the sun being 93 million miles away, the word "far" takes on a significant meaning.
 
While I hoped I could simply load a set of bracketed-exposure images into my favorite HDR software (Photomatix or Photoshop) and be finished, the results returned were not acceptable to me for a couple of reasons. The primary problem was that the software did not properly align the moon (it moves across the frame in subsequent images), creating ghosting and still did so even if I pre-aligned the moon in each image. I could have overlaid the moon from a single frame, but ... I still wasn't satisfied with the overall look of the results.
 
In the end, after numerous trial and error attempts, I settled on an easy, relatively fast way to merge the results in Photoshop as my solution. Note that there are many techniques that can be used to process a stack of bracketed total solar eclipse images, so don't think this is the only option. But, this technique is easy and it produces a nice result.
 
Hopefully you captured your images in RAW format for the highest quality and in that case, processing those RAW files into 16-bit TIFF format is the first step needed.
 
Next, the images need to be loaded into layers in Photoshop. I use Adobe Bridge for this task, browsing to the folder the files are located in, clicking on the first of the series and shift-clicking on the last to select them all. Then select the "Tools" menu, "Photoshop", "Load files into Photoshop Layers ..." and a new Photoshop document will open with all of the images stacked in layers.
 
Unless you were using a tracking mount, the moon disk will need to be aligned in the layers. I simply moved each layer into identical position. Click on the layer and move it using the move tool. Toggle layer visibility of the image containing the targeted moon position for use as a guide and use the arrow keys to slide the layer being adjusted into position.
 
Once the images are properly aligned, crop the image as desired. Trimming away the missing edges and centering the sun was my decision.
 
Next, Order the layers from top down in darkest to brightest sequence. Because I set up the camera to shoot brackets from darkest to brightest (using three custom modes), this sequencing happened automatically for me.
 
Select the first/top layer and shift-click on the second-to-last layer. With all except one layer selected, reduce the layer opacity using the "Opacity" box at the top of the layers palette. Try starting at 20% and adjust to taste from there. I suggest keeping the image on the bright side at this point.
 
Making the opacity adjustment (likely) immediately produced an image that looks decent, but one ready for some contrast adjustment. Click on the top layer and create a new adjustment layer. The adjustment layer type you should select depends on your Photoshop skill level, but it needs to be a contrast-adjusting layer type that you are comfortable with, curves being the most powerful and levels being very easy. Use the adjustments the selected tool offers to bring life into the image. If using curves, try selecting two points to create an S-curve that darkens the darks colors and brightens the light (though likely only slight brightening is needed if the layer opacities were set low enough). If using levels, try reducing the mid adjustment slider. You may find that adding multiple adjustment layers is helpful. The beauty of adjustment layers is that they are non-destructive and can be created or deleted at any time.
 
Because the edges of the moon become brighter as the exposure becomes increases, the edges of my moon were not as crisp as I liked. Also, Baily's Beads were one of my favorite aspects for the solar eclipse and they were only found in the images captured just before C2 and just before C3. So, I incorporated an additional layer into the top of my layer stack and used a layer mask to make only the lunar disk and Baily's Beads visible. This means a black mask (use CTRL-I with a newly-created mask selected), with the desired visible attributes painted white (I used the paint brush). Another option for sharpening the moon is to duplicate one of the existing layers (CTRL-J), likely a darker one, giving it a 100% opacity and a layer mask with only the lunar disk made visible.
 
A technique that can be used to bring out some contrast in the corona is via Photoshop's High Pass filter. There are a number of ways to do this, but here is one of them:
 
Select and combine all layers by clicking on the topmost layer, shift-clicking on the last and pressing CTRL-E. Then copy the combined layers to the clipboard by press CTRL-A to select the entire image and then pressing CTRL-C to copy it. Next, undo changes until one step back past the layer-combining step. Select the top layer and press CTRL-V to paste in the copied combined layer.
 
With the new layer selected, desaturate it by pressing CTRL-SHFT-U. Implement the High Pass filter selecting from the menu: "Filter" > "Other" > "High Pass...". From the High Pass filter dialog, adjust the radius until it seems like the results will work well, with a low value being good for sharpening hard edges such as the border of the moon and a high value being good for adjusting overall image contrast, such as the corona.
 
The next step is to change the blending mode of the High Pass layer to "Overlay" by using the blending mode drop-down list founds at the top of the layer palette. The opacity of the High Pass layer can be adjusted to reduce the amount of effect and a mask can be used to hide undesirable portions of that layer. You can create a second or even third High Pass layer if you think it will help.
 
Adjust individual or smaller groups of layer opacities is another step that can be taken to optimize the final appearance.
 
For the total solar eclipse HDR image shown here, I combined eight 1-stop-bracketed exposures (out of 14 captured) using opacity values of 100% on the bottom (the brightest frame), 25% for the next three up, 20% for the next three up and 30% for the darkest layer on top. The top layer has a layer mask that allows only the center of this frame to show with a strongly-feathered border creating a natural transition to the layer below (one click in the center with a very large, totally-soft paint brush tool selected).
 
With so many options available, you may decide it worthwhile to create multiple versions of your HDR image and that is a great idea. You worked hard to prepare for and capture the solar eclipse, so having multiple images processed differently simply increases the reward.
 
Try this technique and let us know how it works for you! If you like it, share it with others. If you know how to improve it, share that with us. I may update this article as feedback comes in, so ... it might be worth stopping back to read it again later.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 Thursday, August 31, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
Aside from the Rebel T6, all of Canon DSLRs currently produced feature Multi-Shot Noise Reduction (MSNR). With the feature enabled, your camera takes a burst of 4 images which are combined and output to a JPEG file with less visible noise compared to a single exposure.
 
Unfortunately, there are many downsides to using MSNR. For a good overview of those downsides, let's take a look at a couple of paragraphs from Bryan's review of the 5D Mark IV:
Multi Shot Noise Reduction (MSNR) is one of the additional in-camera options available in many of the latest EOS models including the 5D IV. MSNR merges information from multiple (four) exposures taken in a full-frame-rate burst into a reduced noise image. The concept makes a lot of sense. MSNR generally provides a remarkable one stop or more of noise reduction, but ... I still have not found a compelling use for this feature.
 
The downsides to Multi Shot Noise Reduction include: MSNR is currently available only with JPG output (I would like to see this feature added to Canon's Digital Photo Pro software for RAW capture processing – perhaps as another HDR preset). Multi-Shot Noise Reduction is not so useful with moving subjects (or with a moving camera). Long exposure NR, Dust Delete Data, Multiple Exposure and HDR Mode must be set to off to enable MSNR. The 5D IV reverts back to Standard NR in Auto/Basic zone modes, during video recording, in Bulb mode and when the camera is powered off. Flash is not supported in MSNR mode. After the 4 shot burst is captured, the camera remains "busy" for a noticeable period of time while processing the merged image. So, while this feature is a nice idea, its limitations make it less useful in real-world applications. I am far more likely to use a low ISO setting with a longer exposure when shooting stationary subjects from a tripod.
Fortunately, with several of Canon's upper-level DSLRS, there's a slightly better way to accomplish the same goal. It involves many of the same compromises as Multi Shot Noise Reduction, but instead of being limited to JPEG output, you can output a RAW file instead.
 
Before I go any further, it's important to know exactly which of Canon's DSLRs this information applies to:
 
  • EOS-1D X Mark II
  • EOS-1D X
  • EOS 5D Mark IV
  • EOS 5Ds R
  • EOS 5Ds
  • EOS 5D Mark III
  • EOS 6D
  • EOS 6D Mark II
  • EOS 7D Mark II
  • EOS 80D
The secret is to use your camera's Multiple Exposures feature and set the Multiple Exposure Control Method to "Average." By setting the desired number of shots to 9 (the max), noise in the combined image will be greatly reduced.
 
The best part about using this technique is that it enables reduced noise to be captured in a RAW file rather than JPEG. However, drawbacks of using this method include:
 
  • Tripod use is required, especially as there is no option to align the images in-camera.
  • Any subject that moves during the 9-image capture duration will be blurred.
  • You must first shoot a base image before selecting the Multiple Exposure options, as designating a base image is required. Therefore, there will be delay between the first image and the following 8 images.
  • In-camera lens profile corrections are not supported.
With the drawbacks listed above in mind, you may be wondering what situations would benefit from using the Noise Reduction through Multiple Exposure technique. Here are a few ideas I came up with.
 
  • If photographing a lighted sign that lights up sequentially (as if being handwritten), and there is only a small portion of time when the sign is completely illuminated. If you were to use a longer shutter speed, the illumination of the sign may not be even. However, if you time your 9 shots when the sign is completely illuminated, you can avoid the uneven brightness.
  • If photographing a moderately busy street scene, but you do not want pedestrians or traffic in the image. You can easily time your images so as not to include pedestrians or traffic in the final image.
To get a better understanding of just how significant the noise in your RAW images can be reduced using this technique, download the full resolution 7D Mark II ISO 12800 single exposure and 7D Mark II ISO 12800 multiple exposure files and compare the noise for yourself. The RAW files were processed identically (except for white balance) in Adobe Camera RAW with no noise reduction applied before the JPEG conversion. Note that the sample images were not taken under circumstances where this technique would be especially beneficial, as a longer shutter speed could easily have been used (they are only used for noise reduction demonstration purposes).
 
Tips for Using Multiple Exposures (Average) for Noise Reduction
 
  • As previously mentioned, the best noise reduction will result from the combining highest possible number of shots (max 9)
  • With Multiple Exposures set to Function and Control Priority (On:Func/Ctrl), the source files will be saved along with the final combined result. However, if using continuous shooting, the burst rate will be significantly reduced.
  • With Multiple Exposures set to Continuous Shooting Priority (On:ContShtng), the source files will not be saved (only the final result) but continuous shooting will operate at a normal-for-the-circumstances rate.
  • You can get similar results in post processing by combining separate exposures in Photoshop CC by using File/Scripts/Statistics and stacking your images using "Mean."
While the technique may not be feasible under a wide variety of situations, the noise reduction benefits will certainly be worthwhile in the specific situations where this technique can be employed.
 
Can you think of more situations where this technique might be useful and advantageous? Let us know in the comments.
Posted to: Canon News
Post Date: 8/31/2017 9:10:23 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, August 30, 2017
I know, you are trying to decide if it was the 28 hour round trip drive or the celestial body alignment that warped my mind. But, with the solar disk (or a portion of it) imaged against a completely black background, the composite opportunities become endless and are limited only by your own creativity.
 
The site's circular-crescent logo seemed to be a good design fit for the solar eclipse. So, I made a transparency template to overlay a sun image captured during the eclipse.
 
You likely spent a lot of time and effort to photograph the eclipse. While I will treasure some of the solar eclipse images I captured forever, there are a lot of other identically-captured images out there. But, there are not likely any that look like this one (you can be the judge of whether or not this uniqueness is fortunate). Have fun with the rewards of your efforts – spend some time being creative with the results.
Post Date: 8/30/2017 7:15:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, August 23, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
Bryan has mentioned it several times, but it bears repeating. Getting your significant other flowers is not only a great way to foster goodwill in your relationship, but it also means you have an interesting subject (or subjects) for photographic purposes.
 
During a recent visit to the ophthalmologist for a checkup, I struck up a conversation with another visitor who worked at a local florist wholesaler, which immediately piqued my interest for the reasons listed above. Fast-forward a few days and there were a dozen Peruvian Lilies (Alstroemeria) ready for admiring on a coffee table.
 
With such interesting looking flowers available for photographing, I decided to create a focus stack image highlighting one of the flower's anthers and anther caps.
 
Typically speaking, I would have used the Canon EOS 7D Mark II + W-E1 Wi-Fi Adapter and DSLR Controller app to easily capture the incrementally focused images. Unfortunately, since updating the 7D II's firmware to version 1.1.2, DSLR Controller will no longer communicate with the W-E1.
 
Without a convenient programmable solution, I decided to use a tripod mounted 5D Mark III and EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM while adjusting focus manually for the 20 images used for the focus stack. For lighting, I used a 16 x 16" collapsible soft box with a 580EX Speedlite flash camera right and another 580EX flash camera left (low) with a full CTO gel fired through a snoot. The second 580EX flash opened up the shadows on the left side of the image and the gel provided a warm light that contrasted well with the cooler tones of the petals. The two flashes were triggered via third-party radio triggers.
 
Exposure settings were f/4.5, 1/160 sec, ISO 100. The focus stack was compiled in Helicon Focus 6 with finishing adjustments made in Photoshop CC.
 
Some may question why I would create a focus stacked image instead of using a very narrow aperture to gain the depth of field (DOF) required, but there were very good reasons to use focus stacking in this situation. The following are some benefits to focus stacking compared to using a very narrow aperture for this type of image.
 
  • The wider aperture provides a much sharper falloff in focus before and after the desired DOF is achieved (the benefit being more of a personal preference/artistic taste in this case).
  • The wider aperture, still being stopped down from the lens' widest aperture, allows for the sharpest result possible while avoiding the softening effects of surpassing the camera's diffraction limited aperture (DLA).
  • The wider aperture allowed for the use of lower power lights – in this case, Speedlites – and/or faster recycling times at ISO 100.
A larger version of the image can be found on my Flickr photostream.
Post Date: 8/23/2017 9:51:14 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Tuesday, August 22, 2017
With about 1300 miles under his belt (and counting), Bryan has still not arrived home from his eclipse adventure. Thankfully, the distance I traveled to see the total eclipse – as well as the traffic I faced – was significantly less.
 
With a forecast of partly cloudy with a 15% chance of rain at 2:00pm ET, I decided to brave the slightly concerning weather conditions and head to Santee, SC around 9:30am from Savannah, GA. The trip typically takes about 1 hr 45 min, but... it took significantly longer because of traffic.
 
Not surprisingly, Santee – with a population of less than a thousand people and relatively close to the "dead center" zone – was a bit stretched as far as resources were concerned, but the crowd of people I joined in the Civic Center parking lot were all amiable and generous with conversation and supplies (several were giving away extra pairs of solar eclipse glasses to anyone that needed them).
 
Thankfully, the clouds dissapated as the eclipse started and never proved to be an issue. I got to see the total eclise in all its glory, and its something I won't likely forget.
 
With the longest lens I had topping out at 300mm, I didn't necessarily focus all of my attention photographing the event (especially totality). Instead, I sat and enjoyed the company of other totality-seekers and simply snapped a photo every now and then of the progress of the partial eclipse. As totality began, I removed the solar filter and set my camera – a tripod mounted Canon 7D Mark II – to capture bracketed exposures in burst mode so that I could enjoy the eclipse while the camera took care of the rest. In post processing, I combined a few partial eclipse images with a total eclipse exposure bracket to get what you see above.
 
So how was your eclipse experience? And what was your favorite image from the event? Did you do anything unique? Share your stories and images in the comments.
Post Date: 8/22/2017 8:56:44 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
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