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 Tuesday, March 13, 2018

by Sean Setters

Before we delve into the different techniques for capturing focus stack images, it's important to understand why focus stacking is an important tool, especially in regards to macro photography. Focus stacking allows you to gain more DOF (depth of field) so a larger portion of your frame can be in sharp focus. Your DOF is determined by the relationship between format size (full frame or APS-C), focal length, aperture and focus distance. Macro photography, especially as magnifications of 1.0x (or greater) are achieved, necessitates focusing on very close subjects, which in turn produces a very shallow DOF even at relatively narrow apertures.

For instance, using a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and an EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro lens set to f/5.6 with a subject distance of 11.8" (the lens' minimum focus distance), your DOF would be approximately 0.08" (2.03 mm). Switch out the 5D Mark IV for an EOS 7D Mark II and the DOF would change to 0.05" (1.27 mm). Note that if a 7D Mark II were used and the framing remained identical between the two cameras, the APS-C 7D II's DOF would be greater than the full frame 5D Mark IV's (see FOVCF).

With such a shallow DOF at f/5.6, why not just use a much narrower aperture to gain more DOF? There are two main reasons. The first is that even if you used f/16 with the 5Ds R under the shooting conditions listed above, your DOF would only increase to 0.23" (5.84 mm) which still won't be enough DOF to cover your subject under a lot of macro shooting conditions. And the second (probably more compelling) reason is that the cameras listed above have DLAs (Diffraction Limited Apertures) of f/6.7 and f/6.6, respectively. Noticeable sharpness and contrast penalties are incurred when using apertures significantly narrower than a camera's DLA, so shooting at f/5.6 allows you to obtain the sharpest image within your DOF.

In short, focus stacking allows us to obtain exactly the DOF we desire in a scene while maximizing sharpness at the same time (assuming an aperture wider than the camera's DLA is used).

Now that we've established why focus stacking is important in regards to macro photography, let's dive into ways you can capture the images necessary for focus stacking.

Really Right Stuff Macro Focusing Rail

Fixed Focus, Variable Camera Position

A perennial favorite for macro shooters is the use of a focusing rail to move the camera forward/backward at set intervals. Focusing rails are typically adjusted by rotating a screw on which the camera platform sits (or otherwise the platform freely slides along the rails until clamped into position) with markings provided to make precise interval shooting a breeze.

Move the camera forward so that the new plane of sharp focus overlaps with the previous shot and activate the shutter button. Repeat as necessary until the desired DOF has been captured.

If you prefer an automated solution, Cognisys, Inc.'s StackShot Automated Macro Rail can be programmed to do the work for you.

Note that if your macro lens features a tripod ring, you could attach an inexpensive macro plate (one with scaled markings) to the tripod ring and manually slide the camera, clamp, shoot and repeat to capture your focus bracket. This approach isn't as convenient and won't likely be as precise as using a geared macro rail, but it is much less expensive.

One issue that you may run into when using macro rails is that your perspective changes as you move the camera. However, most focus stacking programs are designed to properly align source images even with the perspective change.

Variable Focus, Fixed Camera Position

For this technique, the camera is mounted to a solid support system (typically a tripod) and images are taken as the lens' focus distance setting is changed to move the plane of sharp focus forward or backward. This can either be done manually by very carefully and minutely rotating the focus ring in between shots or the process can be automated through various camera remote platforms (CamRanger, CamFi, DSLR Controller). For the sample image atop this post, I used the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro (and some extension tubes) to capture 17 RAW files while manually adjusting focus from the nearest in-focus element to the farthest.

Varying focus does not lead to perspective change. However, if the lens exhibits focus breathing (many do), the scene will be framed slightly tighter or looser as focusing is adjusted throughout the imaging sequence, making details larger or smaller in the frame. This change isn't typically an issue for most focus stacking programs.

Which focus stack capture technique should I use?

As a lens's maximum magnification is only achieved at its minimum focus distance, moving the camera position will enable you to achieve the lens' max magnification throughout your image sequence. Also, manually moving the camera via a macro focusing rail can enable you to capture a more precisely spaced set of images compared to manually varying focus (automated systems would likely be equal in that regard).

A focusing rail will not work as well for scenes with a lot of depth as your camera's travel distance will be limited to the length of your rail. In those cases, varying focus will be your only option. If you are on a limited budget and want to give focus stacking a try, the variable focus method doesn't require an investment in specialized equipment, making it much easier to just hit the ground running when the inspiration strikes.

Which focus stacking software should I use?

There are a few programs dedicated to focus stacking and at least a couple of general image editing programs have a focus stacking feature built-in. I decided to try three of them with the same stack of images to see how they compared.

To capture the stack images, I used the variable focus technique, manually adjusting focus between shots. Here's what the nearest focused and farthest focused shots looked like in the 20 shot sequence at f/5.6:

Focus Stack First and Last Shot

After processing, here were the results:

Photoshop CC Focus Stack

Adobe Photoshop CC - Auto Aligned, Auto Blend Layers (Stack Images with Seamless Tones and Colors)

Affinity Photo Focus Stack

Affinity Photo - Focus Merge

Helicon Focus Pyramid Focus Stack

Helicon Focus - Pyramid

Helicon Focus Weighted Average Focus Stack

Helicon Focus - Weighted Average (Default settings - Radius 4, Smoothing 2)

Each of the programs used did a decent job assembling the in-focus areas of the focus stack, but there were some notable differences. Photoshop seamed to do a great job assembling the in-focus areas, but it didn't handle the transitions to out-of-focus areas very well, especially in regards to areas showing depth. Affinity Photo seemed to do a better job handling the areas that troubled Photoshop, but it produced noticeable halos throughout the image.

It's important to note that Photoshop and Affinity Photo have very limited (if any) focus stacking options to allow for tailoring the stacking algorithm to best suit a given set of images. Affinity Photo provides no customization options for focus stacking while Photoshop CC gives you the option of Automatically Aligning the source images (highly recommended) in the Scripts/Load Files Into Stack dialogue box and provides two checkmark options – Seamless Tones and Colors and Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas – in the Edit/Auto Blend Layers/Stack Images dialogue.

On the other hand, Helicon Focus provides three separate algorithms for stacking – Weighted Average, Depth Map and Pyramid. And if you choose Weighted Average or Depth Map, you can choose specific Radius and Smoothing settings. The Radius setting adjusts how large of an area is analyzed around each pixel. Low Radius settings enable fine details to be better resolved, with an increased risk that halos will appear in the image. The Smoothing setting dictates how the in-focus to out-of-focus transitions will appear, with higher settings enabling a softer transition.

In the end, I liked the Helicon Focus Weighted Average result best, and with the ability to adjust its algorithms' variables, Helicon Focus will likely prove most adept at producing pleasing focus stacking results. But if you already own Photoshop CC or Afffinity Photo, give their focus stacking features a try to see if they work well for your needs.

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Post Date: 3/13/2018 10:10:40 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, March 7, 2018

My Morning wildlife photography in Shenandoah National Park usually involves being where I expect to see wildlife when there is just enough light to start being able to see wildlife. The goal is to find a subject and be in position, ready to photograph, when there is just enough light to do so. The situation was golden on this particular morning. Very early, I found this nice-sized 9-pt buck tending a doe and worked into ideal position as the sun peaked over the horizon, giving me perfect low and warm light from my back.
The buck was looking great and the frost on his back and antlers was a bonus. I went to work, but promptly ran into a full buffer on the Canon EOS 5Ds R I was using. The 5Ds R buffer typically clears fast, but unfortunately, this full buffer took a very long time to clear. I didn't put a timer on it, but ... what seemed like an eternity was probably (rough guess) 10 minutes.
In those 10 minutes, I lost a significant number of images. What happened?
The problem started the night before. I put the 256GB SDXC card in my laptop and decided to quickly delete images I knew were inferior. The goal was to re-gain some capacity on the cards and to reduce the load on the redundant backups next on the to-do list. It is always risky to delete images directly from the card, but ... I was being careful – and apparently feeling bold.
After making a quick pass through the images I had time to review prior to bedtime and completing the backups, I put the card back in the camera. Having run into the buffer issue before, I took a short burst of images to ensure that the camera was working properly. However, in the morning, that burst proved too short.
At a high level, when files are deleted directly from the card using another device, the camera performs organizational maintenance before writing new files and, in this case, that maintenance took a very long time to complete. I've encountered this problem before, but with the test capture, I thought I would be OK in this regard. If doing as I did, capturing a burst long enough to trigger the organizational maintenance routine while still at home/in the hotel is very highly advisable. The best plan is to not touch the images written to a memory card and simply format new cards being used in the camera.
While I went away with many nice images of this buck, the frost melted quickly and I definitely left some good images in the field.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 3/7/2018 7:25:25 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, March 1, 2018

While this image was created to illustrate one of the unique capabilities of the lens being used, I thought I'd share the process behind creating the wedding ring, Bible, love verse and heart shadow photograph.
Obviously, to create an image similar to this, you need a ring and a book. Most large books and round rings can be used, but a wedding ring is the most common type of ring photographed and the Bible then becomes a very appropriate book for holding the ring. Note that if the ring is not round, creating a heart-shaped shadow immediately becomes more difficult, if not impossible. The heart-shaped shadow is not required, but ... it too is very appropriate for a wedding ring photo.
Love is the strong theme we are building on here and 1 Corinthians 13:4 is a favorite verse for this theme. While all Bibles will have this verse in them, not all Bibles will have this verse in an appropriate position on the page.
Getting the ring to stand up without a form of adhesive is another challenge. Doing so is easiest with some curl toward the inside of the pages, supporting the ring higher on its sides. The amount of curl also influences the heart shadow's shape.
This verse is closer to the end of the Bible than the beginning, meaning that there are more pages to the left than the right, creating unbalance. This makes creating the curves needed for the ring to sit in the pages somewhat more challenging, a challenge I met with a pair of A-clamps. My ill-designed-for-photography clamp jaws were red and required some black gaffer tape to eliminate the red showing in reflections on the ring. Reflections such as this are easy to miss when photographing, so be sure to check images of reflective subjects carefully.
Creating a shadow with an obvious shape requires hard light. This means the light source must be small in size relative to the source of the shadow. The smaller and farther away the light source is, the harder the shadow will become.
The right angle of the back-lighting is necessary to create the heart-shaped shadow in front of the ring. Aligning the flash with the crease between the pages will create a symmetric-shaped heart (if the pages are equally curved). The higher the flash, the shorter the heart. Figure out what works best for your composition.
Try handholding the flash and moving it around until you see the results you want. If using E-TTL and the camera's self-timer, the pre-flash will give you a preview of the shadow and give you a moment to adjust it prior to the picture being taken. Simply test-firing the flash will also help accomplish this task. Once you know where you want the flash positioned, fix it in place.
There are a million methods of holding a flash in place. I happened to have a lens box the right height at my immediate disposal and ... I simply used it. The box was not an especially secure option, so I had to be careful.
I wanted a hard shadow, but I didn't want the image to appear harshly lit. Since my working space was tight, I went high-tech with white copier/printer paper reflectors. I gaffer-taped one piece under the lens and another over the flash. Because rings are reflective, the paper reflectors were especially helpful in illuminating the front of it.
Bibles have a lot of pages and the pages are usually made thin for a compact and light overall book size and weight. Thin pages can become somewhat transparent and other print may bleed through the page being photographed. You can put a white paper under the pages, but that does not keep the print on the reverse side of the page being photographed from showing and this strategy potentially increases emphasis on that print. Find a Bible with thicker pages if you feel this issue is negatively impacting your results. The light bleed-through I encountered did not bother me.
I was reviewing the Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Tilt-Shift Lens, a superb product photography lens, and was looking for an interesting subject. Especially with its macro capability combined with the tilt movement, this lens can draw a viewer's eye to the intended subject and to illustrate this ability, the ring image concept shared here worked perfectly. Tilting the lens fully upward (10°) permitted the camera to be used at a relatively high position while creating a shallow slice of in-focus area that nicely encompasses the ring and its heart shadow along with the verse intended to be emphasized.
When one views this image, their eye is instantly drawn to the in-focus subjects.
Here is the setup:
Wedding Ring, Bible, Love Verse and Heart Shadow Photograph
The Canon wireless flash system made this lighting setup very easy. Hopefully you "love" the result!

While I didn't create this image with the WPPI show in mind, the timing seems appropriate.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 3/1/2018 6:45:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, February 25, 2018

This bull elk was in full rut, was not in a good mood and he was looking for some cows to steal (could be a Charlie Daniels song). This is an un-cropped image captured with a 600mm lens on a full frame body and under many circumstances, I was waaaay too close. What you can't see in the frame is both a Rocky Mountain National Park ranger directing visitors and vehicles and my rental SUV between the bull and I.
The meadow at Moraine Park is closed from late afternoon until morning and that means most photography opportunities in that location are then found alongside the road. That also means heavy competition for viewing positions when elk are present and finding a parking spot can be challenging at those times. A 4x4 vehicle with some clearance is helpful in accessing the more challenging parking opportunities (think rocks) and the rangers are also helpful, and especially helpful is preventing people from stopping in the middle of the small road, which of course still happens and creates long traffic jams. Increasing my safety were the people more "bold" (being nice here) than I.
At the moment this picture was taken, this solitary bull was about to cross the road. The ranger parted the crowds and I took cover behind the SUV. Because the meadow is lower than the road, the bull had been lower than camera level. While good images can be made from a higher level, eye-level is often ideal and that height was reached as the bull approached the road.
A catchlight in the eye adds life to an animal and that light usually comes from the sun and/or sky. There was no sun at this time (it was dark and rainy), but the more-upward angle helps to get a stronger sky reflection, lighting up the eye.
I could not adjust my position and was using a prime lens. That meant this subject was going to be cropped in the frame. While I like having the entire subject in the frame, I also like tightly framed portraits. Full subject framing of wildlife is usually easier to accomplish and when tighter framing avails itself, especially with an animal like this one, I usually take advantage of that opportunity.
When cropping a subject, there is often a variety of creative options. But, I most often want the eye in the frame. Keeping the head in the frame is often a next priority and ideally, giving the subject some space on the side of the frame being faced (the gaze weights that side of the frame). In this case, my next decision was determining how to adjust the vertical framing and more or less antler was the question. I find antlers very interesting and opted to go big on the antlers, smaller on the body. However, I left enough body showing to send the back line and a portion of the body out the left side of the frame and kept enough space below the chin to include the reverse-curving lines of the beard.
In this case, the elk's head, the primary part of the animal, falls approximately on the intersection of the right and lower 1/3 grid lines. The photographic rule of thirds often works well for composition, but ... I more frequently first approach composition from inclusion/exclusion and balance perspectives. What I find is that the rule of thirds can frequently later be applied to my results.
In general, the tighter the framing, the faster the shutter speed needs to be. For an image to be tack sharp, the exposure duration must be short enough that no details cross over to another pixel. It was dark out and I wanted to keep the ISO setting down. The 1/320 second exposure used here was a compromise and I tossed many images from this encounter due to motion blur. In the end, this was my favorite image from the series.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 2/25/2018 7:05:46 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, February 24, 2018

Upon seeing this image, what was the first word that came to your mind? Does the dictionary-present "Aw" stretched to "Awwwww" count?
Being tame, this adorable 1-day-old fawn had zero concern with my presence and that opened up the opportunity to capture some unique-perspective close-up images. When it became obvious that she was going down for some solid sleep time (about the only time fawns become motionless), I swapped the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens for the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens and moved in close. The close perspective emphasizes the fawn's head, ears and hoof, making them appear large in proportion to what is farther away. As those are especially cute parts of this little animal, that perspective works well.
Having a still subject was only the first challenge solved and several others remained. Shooting under a high tree canopy created several additional challenges for this capture. First, it was rather dark at the ground level. Second, the backlit, light-spring-green-colored hardwood tree leaves created a green cast on the scene. And, as the breeze moved the branches, spots of direct sunlight was intermittently hitting the subject, causing bright hot spots in the image.
Using a monopod braced against my leg allowed me to shoot at a relatively-long 1/25 second shutter speed, addressing the darkness challenge. The color cast had to be removed during post processing and I had to revisit the color balance adjustments over a period of time until I grew comfortable with the result. I may change my mind about the color adjustments tomorrow. The last challenge was resolved with careful timing of the moving shadows, avoiding most of the hot spot problem.
As is so often the case with photography, the effort was worth the reward.

Hopefully the sleeping fawn brought a smile to your day! A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 2/24/2018 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, February 18, 2018

Getting one wild animal in ideal position for a photograph is challenging and getting multiple animals simultaneously-posed definitely ups the game. Especially when using a long telephoto lens, depth of field becomes one of the challenges. I love the subject-isolating shallow depth of field look created by these lenses, especially when used at their widest apertures, but keeping that look with multiple animals in the frame further increases the challenge. This bull and cow elk in the Moraine Park meadow cooperated very nicely for me.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 2/18/2018 6:30:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, February 13, 2018

by Sean Setters

If you're like me, you sometimes get the itch to photograph something, but your immediate surroundings leave you somewhat uninspired. Thankfully, the Multiple Exposures feature found in most mid-to-high level Canon cameras can help with that.

Canon Cameras that can shoot multiple exposures in-camera include:

  • EOS 1D X Mark II
  • EOS 1D X
  • EOS 5D Mark IV
  • EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R
  • EOS 5D Mark III
  • EOS 6D Mark II
  • EOS 6D
  • EOS 7D Mark II
  • EOS 80D
  • EOS 70D

While most of the DSLRs above can be set to record the final multiple exposure image and the images used to create the final exposure, the EOS 70D, 80D, 6D and 6D Mark II only allow for saving the finished image (not the component images). This feature limitation can be important as you will not be able to create your own multiple exposure in post-processing using the component images.

While testing out some different lighting setups in my studio this weekend, I remembered that a dark silhouette-style portrait can create an ideal base for a multiple exposure image. However, I didn't want a complete silhouette, and instead opted to use two rim lights (studio strobes with gridded strip boxes) for the profile image so that the lit areas of my face and head would still be visible in the combined exposure. A single, bare 580EX Speedlite provided the lighting for the background.

Multiple Exposure Base Image Feb 2018

The image was captured with a tripod mounted Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro set to Manual mode, 2-second delay (shutter tripped via wireless remote), f/5.6, 1/160 second, ISO 320.

With my base image captured and specified in the Multiple Exposure menu options, I switched my camera to Av mode (leaving the camera set to f/5.6 and ISO 320), walked out my studio door and searched for subject/composition that might work well for the multiple exposure. At first, the trunk of a large tree that borders the backyard caught my attention. This was the result:

Multiple Exposure with Bark Image Feb 2018

After seeing the combined result on my screen, I thought the bark overlay was interesting, but I wasn't completely satisfied. Looking upward, I found another possible subject – my neighbor's tree. I shot three different compositions using the tree, with my favorite appearing atop this post.

If you'd like to try out your camera's Multiple Exposure feature, here are a few tips we outlined in our article, Multiple Exposures: Yet Another Way to Add Value to Your Wedding Services.

Set the camera as follows:

Multiple exposureOn:Func/ctrl
Multi expose ctrlAdditive
No. of exposures2
Save source imgsAll images
Continue Mult-exp1-shot only

* The option to save source images may not be available on some cameras.

  1. Create a silhouette image to use as the base layer. Note that the brighter areas of the each image will be what comes through prominently in the final image. An underexposed profile/silhouette set against a bright sky (or pure white background) tends to work well for a base layer.
  2. Turn on Live View. Use the LCD's preview to help you align the next shot. Note that you may need to use negative exposure compensation (for both the base and second image) to keep from overexposing the final image.
  3. Preview your results. If you don't like the final image, simply go back into the Multiple Exposure options and designate your original base image to be used for your next attempt.
Take this opportunity to think about what kinds of subjects could be silhouetted in your multiple exposure image, capture it, and then brainstorm what kinds of subjects may work well as an overlay (or simply walk out our door and go for a walk as I did). You might even change focal lengths and apertures between your base and overlay images to create interesting effects. With a little bit of practice, and the help of the preview on your camera's LCD monitor, you'll be able to create interesting multiple exposures in no time!

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Post Date: 2/13/2018 8:01:33 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Cathedral Parish of St Patrick is one of my favorite churches and I previously shared an image of its ceiling captured at 12mm. While I liked that one a lot, I wanted to see what the same scene looked like captured at 11mm.
Can a 1mm difference in focal length make a significant difference in an image? Absolutely. While a 1mm difference is meaningless at 400mm, it is substantial at extreme wide angles and the difference between 11mm and 12mm is very noticeable. Of course, wider is not always better and sometimes 12mm is a better choice than 11mm. If you must decide between these two focal lengths, keep in mind that an 11mm image can be cropped to 12mm framing. Cropping of course results in reduced resolution, but going the other direction requires panorama capture and that becomes especially complicated when mixed with an HDR technique as was required by this image.
While it seems that going into a church and photographing straight up would be easy, this image was very challenging to capture. Getting the camera alignment (nearly) perfect was the big part of the challenge. The camera had to be perfectly centered in the scene, directed straight upward and aligned square with the architecture. Any misalignment meant that certain aspects in the scene would not match throughout the image, such as the bottom of the arches being equally aligned with the designs painted on the ceiling.
A slight misalignment makes it appear that you didn't do your job correctly. Intentionally framing the scene so that it is not close to square saves a lot of effort. Challenges are fun, but those not wanting to make that effort should consider the latter.
If you don't have the very-fun 11mm focal length covered in your kit, the Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly Lens is an inexpensive option that performs very well.

Take advantage of an Irix Firefly $50 instant savings promotion (or save $125 on the Blackstone version) at B&H | Amazon | Adorama.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 2/11/2018 6:45:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, February 8, 2018

by Sean Setters

Let's face it, while light stands can be extremely handy, they can also take up a lot of space in your studio when in use (especially when multiple light stands are being used) and cumbersome to transport. Other times, a light stand simply won't fit where you want to place your light. Thankfully, there are a few good alternatives for propping up your shoe-mount flashes and/or studio strobes when a light stand just won't do or is otherwise unavailable.

Manfrotto 175F Justin Spring Clamp with Flash Shoe

1) Justin Clamp

The Justin Clamp is a spring clamp with a cold flash swivel shoe. It's great for clamping shoe-mount flashes to boards/pipes/banisters up to approx. 1.6" (4 cm) thick.

So why is it called a "Justin" Clamp? We have famed photographer Joe McNally to thank for that. According to his 2009 blog post:

I was hanging SB-80 flashes all over aircraft with these cheesy, flimsy, third party [lousy] hot shoe clamping doobers, and getting frustrated as [could be], cause the little ball heads really couldn’t hold more than a thimble full of weight, and they were always slipping and the flashes would spill light in unwanted directions.

I called my bud Justin Stailey, then of the Bogen Corporation, and complained. Photographers. We’re good at complaining. I said there had to be a better way, and Justin being Justin, found one. He brought some off the shelf Manfrotto parts over to my studio and cobbled this little Frankenstein of a clamp together. I said "Perfect, that’s what I want, give me 10 of them."

I wrote about in American Photo, and called it the Justin Clamp. Got Justin in hot water, though, cause his professors at RIT were pretty upset that a relatively recent graduate all of a sudden had a frikkin’ piece of equipment named after his own self. Justin is now with Leica cameras, and exploring the wonders of German optics.

So now you know!

Impact Super Clamp with Ratchet Handle

2) Super Clamp with Stud or Pin

The Super Clamp allows you to affix your flash to pipes/tubes 0.5" - 2.1" (1.3 - 5.3 cm) and also includes a wedge insert that allows you to securely clamp the device to flat surfaces as well. The standard Super Clamp comes with a hex stud that you can use to mount an umbrella swivel or a studio strobe (some studio strobes may require a Super Clamp with Pin). Also, if using with a monolight, you may be better off getting a T-handle/ Mafer version of the super clamp as the ratchet version may impede using ratchet mechanism on your studio light.

Avenger C1000 Drop Ceiling Scissor Clamp

3) Drop Ceiling Scissor Clamp

A drop ceiling scissor clamp is an inexpensive tool that is especially well suited for office environment lighting applications. Hop on a chair (carefully), reach up and affix the clamp on a cross bar and it's ready for mounting an umbrella swivel or strobe. I've had a pair of these in my lighting kit for years and they've been very helpful for on-location headshots (I typically use them with shoe-mount flashes to light the background or for a hair/separation light positioned behind a subject). Drop ceiling scissor clamps are so small, and so inexpensive, there's no excuse not have at least a couple of them in your lighting kit.

Avenger F1000 Pump Cup with Baby Swivel Pin

4) Suction Cup with Baby Pin

If you don't have room to set up a light stand, but you have a smooth, flat surface (such as glass) available, the Avenger Pump Cup can really save the day. With a load capacity rating of 4.41 lbs (2 kg), you won't want to use this tool with heavy modifiers on your lights. However, for loads within the load capacity rating, the stability of this device is impressive. I recently got a second one to use in my automobile boom rig, and decided to test the new F1000 before having to depend on it for a shoot. After pumping the cup to the proper suction (the red line disappears), the tool was impossible to remove from a window pane. In fact, it remained there for 3 days (with me trying to release it each day) before it finally released after a significant amount of effort.

Note that Avenger makes a swivel pin version (seen above) and one with a straight pin. While the straight pin model is slightly less expensive, I think the versatility afforded by the swivel pin is well worth its slightly higher price.

Impact 3in Baby Pin Wall Plate

5) Baby Pin Wall Plate

For permanent studio applications, baby pin wall plates provide fixed mounting options at a bargain price compared to quality light stands. For less than $15.00 and the cost of 4 screws, you can mount a 3" or 6" (7.6 or 15.2 cm) baby pin wall plate to your ceiling, a wall stud or a support beam/column. For those with small studios, mounting your lights to the walls and ceiling can help you maximize the space you have for posing your subjects. On that note, I recently installed an Avenger F805 6.0" Baby Wall Plate to a ceiling support beam in my studio so that I could leave a hair/separation light semi-permanently installed in a typically optimal location.


Don't get me wrong, I love light stands, especially C-stands and my personal favorite, the Matthews Maxi Kit Steel Stand. But there are times when adding a (or another) light stand to your setup is impractical or even impossible, given certain constraints. In those situations, the tools above can provide you with various ways to mount your lights without requiring the use of a light stand. Also, don't underestimate the importance of minimizing the number of light stands you have set up for a particular session; one less light stand erected means there is one less light stand leg for your subject (or yourself) to trip over, possibly causing injury or equipment damage in the process.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 2/8/2018 7:27:52 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, February 7, 2018

How old is your computer? I'm prompted to ask because Sean just posted a hot deal on a model similar to what I upgraded to a few weeks ago (the model I purchased has the i7-8550U 1.8GHz processor).

I typically upgrade my laptop annually as the improved performance is usually worth the cost and effort of doing so. But, I had been using a Dell XPS 15 (9530) for nearly 3 years (it was a very fast model when I bought it) and I was still struggling to find the time to make the switch. Finally deciding to make the move, I chose to go with Dell's powerful-but-tiny XPS 13. What it delivers in the tiny form factor is quite impressive.

While there are a lot of benchmarks for measuring computer performance, highly relevant to me is the RAW image conversion time. A hand-timed measurement for processing 8 RAW EOS 5Ds R files into 16-bit TIFF files using Canon Digital Photo Professional on the 3-year-old laptop was 2:00. The new laptop smoked the old one, knocking out the same task (same RAW files) in 0:50. Update: I was later testing another feature with a fresh set of RAW files and, for whatever reasons, was getting considerably longer processing times on the new laptop. The times were still faster than the old one, but not so dramatically so.

So, how old is your computer? We focus on keeping our camera gear up to date, but today, computers fill a key role in our photography workflow. If your computer is more than a couple of years old, you may find great benefit in upgrading it. Think about the difference I experienced if you are processing images from a sporting event, wedding or other shoot that generates a large number, perhaps even thousands, of images.

Not all tasks, especially less-intensive ones, seem to be accomplished noticeably faster in my upgrade. But, does the computer you are using now have an SSD? If not, brace yourself for the speed improvement a model with this drive type will bring. That difference is dramatic even for short tasks like opening applications.

If this sweet little Dell XPS 13 is not the model you are looking for, B&H has many other options for you to choose from. Head over and take a look.

What do you do with the old laptop/computer? While computers don't hold their value as well as lenses, they are still worth something on the used market. Try selling it on eBay (always use the eBay link at the bottom of all pages on the site).

Another good option is keep the old computer for secondary use, including as a backup to the primary model. Turning the replaced computer into a digital picture frame, bringing your deep archives to life, is a great idea. One more suggestion: there are many charities that would love to put your used machine to use in doing good.

I had planned to share this suggestion with you, but today's Dell XPS 13 deal accelerated my timeframe for this post. I wanted you to be able to catch the deal.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 2/7/2018 9:59:29 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, February 4, 2018

I previously shared a picture of a mother white-tailed deer cleaning its fawn's ear that remains one of my personal Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park favorites. But, there were twin fawns and when the second one arrived on the scene, pausing for some family ear cleaning time, I was ready. Many hours can be spent searching for wildlife subjects, but it only takes a few minutes with the right subject in the right situation to put a pile of great images on a card and this encounter was one of those.
Some aspects of this image that I like include: The early morning light was warm in color and soft in shape, leaving no hard shadows on the subjects. The background and foreground were colorful and the fine pattern of the spring-green grasses, rendered mostly out of focus and framing the subjects, was void of distractions. The left and right-positioned deer were both facing inward and all three deer are interacting. For each subject, at least one eye was showing with a catchlight included. Of course, the cuteness of a fawn is always a sure win and, usually, the more fawns, the better.
Especially in Shenandoah National Park, where obstructions are plentiful, I frequently opt for the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens over the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens for wildlife photography. While I love the background separation 600mm can create, getting everything in the frame is sometimes more important. Unless feeding or sleeping, white-tailed deer fawns are seldom still and the zoom ring is much faster than anyone's sneaker-zoom capability. When the fawns move in too close or I need to avoid obstructions while keeping them in the frame, having a range of focal lengths can make a huge difference.
You are probably aware that I use Canon EOS 5Ds R cameras for the majority of my photography. I'm addicted to the sharp, ultra-high resolution imagery along with the great color these cameras deliver. But, when the action gets fast, I turn to the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and fawns often warrant the faster frame rate advantage this camera provides.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/5.6  1/800s
ISO 1000
5137 x 3425px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 2/4/2018 6:45:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, February 3, 2018

by Sean Setters

I had been checking the ISS Transit-Finder web app regularly for opportunities to photograph the International Space Station against the sun or the moon. While there were no solar transit opportunities the month ahead, there was a great lunar transit opportunity with the center line of the transit falling only 1.15 miles (1.84 km) from my front door.

ISS Lunar Transit

Transit details, according to the site:

Date & Time: February 1, 11:36:36.16 pm
Transit Duration: 0.84 seconds

The address provided along the center line of the transit belonged to an apartment complex, which was perfect. I could simply park in the parking lot, set up my tripod there and wait for the transit to occur.

As the transit time drew nearer, I packed my Canon EOS 7D Mark II (because of its high burst rate), EF 300mm f/4L USM (precursor to the IS version), tripod and a wired shutter release (TC-80N3) and anxiously watched the sky as patches of clouds rolled overhead. I downloaded an app for my smartphone that could display an NTP synchronized time (down to the milliseconds). This would hopefully allow me to perfectly time my continuous burst. My plan was to composite an entire ISS transit sequence into a single frame using the individually captured burst images.

At 11:15pm, I went outside to find the clouds had vanished. I grabbed my gear, hopped in the car and traveled to the apartment complex parking lot.

By 11:25pm, my EOS 7D II, lens and wired remote were mounted atop the tripod with the moon centered in viewfinder. I fired off a few images to test for proper focus and exposure parameters. With the moon almost full, the exposure parameters I settled on were f/5.6, 1/640 sec, ISO 200. The lens was set to Manual focus and I disabled Anti-Flicker Shooting in the 7D II's menu so that I could achieve the camera's maximum burst rate.

I reasoned that the f/5.6 aperture would give me the sharpest result without diffraction impacting image sharpness, and that a faster-than-1/500 shutter speed would likely allow me to freeze the ISS as it crossed the moon (for longer focal length lenses, an even faster shutter speed would be required). ISO 200 allowed me to achieve a decently bright moon at 1/640 second.

With the transit time only 90 seconds away, I reframed the scene to put the moon slightly lower and to the left of the middle. My earlier tests had given me a pretty good idea of how the moon was traveling through my frame, so I had a good idea where to put the moon so that it would fall right into the middle of the composition to take advantage of the lens' sharpest area of the image circle projected. And then I waited, with the wired remote in one hand and my smartphone in the other, counting down the seconds. As my app passed 11:36:35, I waited roughly half a second and then held down the shutter button for roughly 2.5 seconds. Excitedly, I flipped through the captured images on the camera's LCD screen.

And.... I quickly realized that I had missed the first half of the transit, roughly, with my first image in the burst showing the ISS having already covered approximately 40% of the Moon's surface. My timing was off. I should have taken full advantage of the 7D II's 3-second RAW buffer and started my capture at 11:36:35 to give myself a small buffer before the calculated transit time. Regardless of my failure to capture the entire transit, I really liked the [heavily cropped] composition of the shot shown above.

ISS Lunar Transit Tips

  • Download a synchronized time app that shows NTP time down the milliseconds.
  • Use a tripod, your longest telephoto lens and a wired remote shutter release. Using a tripod with a high max height can make framing the moon high above much easier.
  • Set your camera to continuous shooting (burst) mode with a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the ISS (approx. 1/640 second @ 300mm on APS-C, faster for longer focal lengths). Disable Anti-Flicker Shooting (if available) to maximumize burst rate.
  • Try to time your continuous burst duration so that your camera's RAW image buffer gives you an equal time before and after the event to ensure you capture the entire sequence, even if your timing is slightly off.

Relevant Article

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 2/3/2018 6:47:08 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, February 1, 2018

by Sean Setters

When presented with a scene that requires more exposure latitude than your camera can capture in a single image, exposure bracketing (taking several images at varying exposures) and HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing with programs such as Aurora HDR can be used to capture detail in both the highlight and shadow areas of the scene.

Below are a few tips for capturing exposure brackets with Canon cameras.

1) Set your desired AEB (Auto Exposure Bracket) variables in the Custom Function menu, if applicable.
Those with mid-to-higher level cameras (in Canon cameras, the EOS 80D and above) will have the ability to choose the number of bracketed images (a higher number tends to produce a cleaner final image with smoother transitions between highlight and shadow) and the sequence in which the bracketed images are captured. The default sequence (0,-,+) can be a little confusing when perusing bracketed images in post-processing, so we prefer to change the sequence to either (-,0,+) or (+,0,-) for a more natural layout of the exposures in post processing.

2) Choose an Exposure Compensation range in which the highlights and shadows are easily contained in the darkest and brightest images, respectively.
Sometimes it can be difficult to survey a scene and determine the exact exposure latitude needed to capture all the details in your composition. Therefore, try a ±1 stop exposure bracket and see how your bracket looks. With the histogram enabled, if you see clipped highlights in your darkest image or clipped shadow areas in your brightest image, either increase the exposure compensation range (if the base exposure is ideal) or otherwise adjust the whole exposure range up or down accordingly (up for an overall brighter image, down for darker). Rinse and repeat until desired results are obtained.

3) Use a tripod.
When capturing an exposure bracket, a fully stabilized camera is ideal, necessitating the solid support a good tripod and head provide. Even though most HDR programs can automatically align images that may not be perfectly identically framed, the best results will be achieved using a tripod.

4) Disable lens image stabilization and autofocus.
While many lenses feature tripod-sensing IS systems, if you're unsure about the design and capability of your lens' built-in stabilization, then your best bet is to turn it off. Doing so will prevent motion blur (sometimes caused by a non-tripod-sensing-IS) and slightly shifted compositions between bracketed images. And because you want the scene that's captured to be absolutely identical between exposures (aside from the varying exposure times), using manual focus (aided by your camera's Live View at 10x magnification) will ensure your focus doesn't drift between frames (take several brackets of the same scene in case movement occurs in one or more images).

5) Set the camera to 2-second delay in Live View mode.
With Live View enabled, you will ensure that the mirror assembly's movement does not create internal vibrations which can impact image sharpness (same as having Mirror Lock-up engaged). Enabling 2-second (or 10-second) delay has two distinct benefits. First, the delay allows for vibrations to settle down before the shutter is released. The second benefit is that your bracketed images will be captured automatically in succession without you having to touch the camera again. If the possibility for movement in your scene is high, you may want to leave the camera in single shot mode and use a wired remote release (or your camera's built-in wireless features) to trigger each image when the time is right. Note: Mirror Lock-Up must be disabled for automatic AEB capture to work. In this case, we don't need Mirror Lock-Up because shooting in Live View accomplishes the same goal of eliminating vibrations caused by the mirror assembly.

After you've captured your bracketed images, all you need to do is load them into your favorite HDR program (Aurora HDR 2018 is my current favorite, but Photomatix is another good option) and tweak the final image to your heart's content!

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 2/1/2018 5:50:52 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Getting a lens for the ones you love makes a lot of sense at the time of the year just past (Christmas just passed in case you are reading this later) or any time of the year, really. But, getting a lens because of the ones you love is another great idea.
I have never heard anyone say that they had too many pictures of their kids. If your kids are still at home, photograph them like crazy. Time flies – they will not be with you for long. If your kids are coming home, be ready to do the same.
Visiting with your parents? Getting together with friends and other family members? The same advice applies.
The chances are that even those who claim to hate having their picture taken will be glad you pressured them into it.
Few lenses are as well-suited for photographing people as the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens, especially because the 85mm focal length provides an ideal perspective at normal portrait working distances. The image stabilization feature in this lens makes it even more capable in that role, especially when the light goes dim.
Your skills aided by this lens are sure to make even the most difficult subjects look their best, including under very challenging lighting. Performing well the first time usually means the second time is more likely to happen.
That photographing people is one of the easiest paid photography jobs to find is certainly an attraction for this lens. Portraits of specific individuals cannot be found in stock libraries and, in the marketplace, unavailability adds value. Of course, earning money helps to justify the purchase in the first place.
Get this lens for your family and friends, for capturing treasured memories of them. Get this lens for gaining clients and for keeping them happy. Get the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS Lens for you.
While I expect that you would love the 85 f/1.4L IS, even if you don't get this lens, I still strongly encourage you to photograph those you love with the lens you have. That you will not regret.

The Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens has been hard to find in stock since it first hit the streets, but it has just arrived in stock at B&H, Amazon and the Canon Store. It is coming soon to Adorama and WEX.

Not convinced that this lens is for you? Or, want to spend only a short time enjoying it? Schedule some quality time via

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Camera and Lens Settings
85mm  f/1.4  1/100s
ISO 100
5792 x 8688px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/31/2018 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, January 29, 2018

For those of you who purchased a Solar ND filter to photograph the total solar eclipse we enjoyed in August of last year, you may be looking for more opportunities to use the highly specialized gear before the next total solar eclipse graces North America in April 2024. Thankfully, there's a large articificial satellite orbiting overhead which begs to be photographed as it crosses paths with the sun.

Of course, I'm talking about the International Space Station (ISS), a 239 x 356 x 66 ft (72.8 x 108.5 x 20 m) platform in low Earth orbit that circles the earth about 15.5 times per day. The frequency of the ISS's orbits means that there's a decent chance that its path will fall between you and the sun in the not-so-distant future. When exactly will the next ISS transit occur in your area? There's a website designed to answer that very question.

Simply enter your coordinates on the ISS TRANSIT FINDER website (or give it permission to auto-detect your location), enter a start date and an end date (up to 30 days in the future), and a travel range from your location (up to 149 mi / 240 km), and the website will show you the dates and times of all solar (and lunar) ISS transits available for viewing from nearby locations. If you never purchased a solar filter, you can still take advantage of the lunar transits occurring in your area or you can simply pick up a solar ND filter to take advantage of all available transits.

WARNING: Use only ND filters certified for solar photography. Do not look directly at the sun. Do not frame the sun using your camera's optical viewfinder while using telephoto lenses. Use Live View for framing your composition and focusing.

Most of the tips shared for capturing the solar eclipse apply to photographing an ISS solar transit, with the main difference being the duration of the events. When positioned in the middle of a total solar eclipse, the entire event may take several hours (with totality ranging from seconds to 7.5 minutes). However, an ISS transit of the sun or moon will last no longer than about 1.75 seconds (with typical transit times being significantly shorter). That means that you'll want to have an accurate clock available (down to the seconds), with a wired (or radio remote) trigger in your hand and your camera set to high speed continuous burst mode.

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Post Date: 1/29/2018 8:22:01 AM ET   Posted By: Sean

Mikayla wanted to go riding and I wanted to give the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens a workout. Those "wants" fit together perfectly. For this session, we headed to the top of a nearby small mountain. With an unobstructed view and a low camera position, a very attractive, non-distracting background often becomes available in these "top" locations and that enables the primary subject to become prominent in the frame. The sky usually makes a good background and distant landscape also works well in that regard.
The 100-400mm focal length range is a great one for chasing the kids with. In this case, when the horse was standing as seen here, I could move in close and zoom out to make the horse and rider appear large in their environment. When the horse was moving at a fast speed, I could zoom in to catch more-distant (safer) action and zoom out as the pair approached.
The FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens is a great and much-needed part of Sony's lineup. Those with Sony-based kits should seriously consider acquiring this high-grade option (if it is not already there). This lens has the perfect combination of excellent performance and extreme usefulness.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Camera and Lens Settings
128mm  f/5.0  1/400s
ISO 100
7952 x 5304px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/29/2018 8:05:40 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, January 25, 2018

I love images featuring patterns and textures and thought I would share one today. One way to find patterns is to look for large numbers of a similar subjects (practically anything qualifies) that are close together or can be moved close together.
Subjects for pattern and texture images can be found anywhere, including in:

Photographing patterns is often quite simple once the pattern is found. Orient the camera as ideally as possible for composition and lighting and then zoom in (or adjust your distance) so that the pattern fills the frame or fills the desired portion of the frame. There are few rules (the subjects may not even need to be in focus), individual tastes vary widely and there is plenty of room for creativity.
I am especially fond of patterns/textures that occur naturally. When this flock of snow geese took to the sky, it was a matter of zooming to appropriate focal length and photographing the most-dense area of the flock. The thousands of white, orange and black birds against the blue sky resulted in a bright, colorful image. So, on this day, a frame filled with a random pattern of snow geese worked for me.
While texture and pattern images will not usually become the most-liked in your social feeds, they can work very well for wall art, in commercial advertising and for a large variety of other purposes. And, if you like them, that is reason enough to create them.

What are your favorite texture and pattern subjects? Let us know in the comments!

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/7.1  1/1600s
ISO 640
8688 x 5792px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/25/2018 7:27:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, January 23, 2018

I was literally "in the field" during the Tamron 18-400mm VC Lens evaluation when this scene availed itself. The sun had set, the sky took on great color and the foreground seemed scenic enough. This lens has an incredible range of focal lengths available, so I simply needed to select the distance that gave me the compression I was looking for and adjust the focal length to retain the desired elements in the frame. That was easy.
Still, two significant challenges remained. The first was the huge dynamic range and the second was the color balance disparity. Those two issues were resolved by HDR processing. One image was captured for proper exposure of the sky while a second image was exposed brighter and processed with a warmer color balance for use in the non-sky portion of the image. The HDR processing utilized Photomatix along with some manual adjustment in Photoshop.
I jogged/walked close to 3 mi (4.8 km) on this afternoon and the Tamron 18-400mm and Canon EOS 80D combination in a Lowepro Toploader Zoom 50 AW (a snug fit with an L-bracket installed) was easy to have along. The 18-400mm focal length left little to want in terms of angles of view. The Really Right Stuff TQC-14 Tripod and BH-30 Ball Head performed stellarly despite the very cold conditions and these were also easy to carry.

Please note a couple of corrections made to the Tamron 18-400mm VC Lens Review: This lens is indeed compatible with the Tap-In Console. Tamron has suggested that I reinstall my software to make the lens recognizable. Also, I tweaked the focal length discussion to mention focus breathing.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/23/2018 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, January 20, 2018

Have you heard of Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park? That answer is most likely "Yes!" Oxbow Bend is a mandatory bucket list location for any photographer remotely interested in capturing landscapes. Aside from being incredibly beautiful with a potentially huge mirror surface in the foreground waiting double that beauty and create vertical symmetry, you can drive up to this large area alongside the Snake River and photograph with little or even no hiking involved. The imagery to effort ratio is potentially huge.
This is not the first image I shared from this morning and place (and I have more favorites yet unshared). But, with ever-changing cloud patterns, new scenes were continuously presented and a huge range of focal lengths could be utilized to isolate only what is considered positive to the composition. On that latter note, at the time this image was captured, I was having trouble determining what should be isolated. After capturing a variety of images, I opted for a 2-image panorama framed to include the most of the amazingness in one pair of images. I figured that, after creating the higher resolution stitched image, I could later decide what the final crop should be.

This pic needs to be viewed larger: Flickr, Google+, Facebook and 500px.

Camera and Lens Settings
24mm  f/8.0  1/80s
ISO 100
12551 x 5320px
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Posted to: Canon News, Sony News   Category: Photo Tips and Stories
Post Date: 1/20/2018 7:18:41 PM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, January 14, 2018

Former Pennsylvania Gov. William Cameron Sproul built this little hydroelectric plant in 1915 to supply his home with electricity. Sitting above a waterfall on Adams Creek in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, this historic stone water wheel house is individually photogenic and especially-so with its picturesque surroundings. Obviously, this photo was captured in the winter, so I'll share a few thoughts on ice photography.
Cold Temperatures Required
Obviously, for ice to form, the temperature must be cold. While cold temperatures make us want to stay inside, ice is a great subject to pull us out of our comfortable houses. Note that, even after a long cold spell, a single warm day can degrade the ice formations in some locations. If there has been a period of below-freezing temperatures, don't wait to take advantage of the ice. Check out the Cold Weather Photography Tips page before leaving home.
Water is Required
Along with cold temperatures, ice requires water to form. Thus, ice is found where there is water. While that also may sound trivially-basic, start thinking about locations that have water, including non-obvious ones. Or, consider creating your own ice.
Make Safety Paramount
Ice can be extremely slippery and it is a very hard surface to impact upon falling. A thick stocking hat with a thick folded-up rim can keep you warm and add a little protection to what matters most, though a helmet is a better idea in certain scenarios. Other thick clothing can also offer impact protection. Micro-spikes or crampons along with other ice-climbing supplies (and the training to use them) may also be required in the more extreme scenarios. Be careful out there.
Snow Changes the Appearance
Snow tends to stick to ice. While snow can be at least as beautiful as ice, if photographing ice is your goal, snow may cover your subject, turning everything white. Time your ice photo sessions so water has frozen before the snow falls or after water has sufficiently frozen over a prior snow fall. Also, look for vertical ice that snow cannot cling to. Of course, mounds of snow covered ice surrounded by water are great to have in a scene.
Snow Confuses Auto Exposure
Bright ice and snow consuming a significant portion of the camera's selected metering area will cause the camera's autoexposure algorithm to underexpose the image. The amount of underexposure can vary, so learn to watch the histogram and compensate the exposure for a brighter result. Enable the camera's blinking overexposure warning and adjust the exposure so that only a small number of the brightest pixels are blinking to get a typically-best exposure.
Find Interesting Ice
While ponds and lakes can have interesting ice to photograph (and methane bubbles are always calling us landscape photographers), flowing water tends to create more-unique shapes (including bubbles), with falling water creating some of the most-interesting stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Back to the safety concern: combine rapidly moving water freezing at angles with the slipperiness of ice and the safety risk factor grows. Also, while non-moving water tends to freeze to an even thickness and safety can often be discerned (permitting ice fishing, ice skating, snowmobiling and other activities), moving water tends to freeze unevenly and can be risky to walk over. Always use caution if traversing over ice.
Make Ice Secondary
While ice can make an excellent primary subject, it works especially well in a supporting role. Finding a great waterfall is an easy example of this strategy. Consider taking your portrait subject along to photograph in front of or beside the ice formations.
The ice photo shown here incorporates many of these tips. While waterfall photography often works best on a cloudy day, this shoot was secondary to another one and I had to accept what the day delivered. Fortunately, I liked the color balance difference provided by the sunlit (warm) and shaded (cool) portions of the image.

A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 1/14/2018 6:30:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
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