2019—Like Magic

Lately, I have concentrated my photography on landscape and critters so much so that I have rarely taken any flower photographs or done any macro photography.  Flowers are among my favorite subjects to photograph and macro photography is something that intrigues me.  I was thrilled to learn that my latest photography challenge was to put my Nikon D850 to the test by using its in-camera Stack Focus feature.

With macro photography, the depth of field is so small so that only a very tiny portion of a subject can be in focus in a single photograph.  The beauty of Stack Focus (also known as focus staking) is that some software will combine photographs with different areas of the subject in focus into one photograph so that the entire subject is in focus. The painstaking agony of manually moving the focus point to ensure that every portion of the subject is focused on is daunting, time consuming, and subject to inexactness.  The D850 takes care of that by itself. It will automatically move the focus point for you as it takes a preset number of photographs.  When all the photographs are taken, the photographer uses software to combine them into a single photograph with all of the subject in focus.

I set up a black velvet background and used three flashes, one on either side and one at the bottom of the flower for illumination.  I set the camera to manual mode, the shutter speed to 1/60, the f-stop to f/8 and the ISO to 64.  The flash output was set to 1/128.

Once the set of photographs was taken. I had to review them to determine which of the 100 or so shots I needed to composit a single photograph with all of the subject in focus.  A quick review of the photographs revealed which shots would have the most depth of focus.  There are several application programs that specialize in focus stacking but I chose to use Photoshop.  I first opened the 35 to 50 photographs, depending on the preset number of images, in Adobe Bridge, then selected the Tools menu and under Photoshop, selected the “Load Files into Photoshop Layers.”   From there all I needed to do was align the images and blend the images.  This was the most time consuming part of the process although it was just a single click for each item.  The memory capacity of the computer and the availability of memory for the scratch disk that Photoshop needs to operate efficiently can slow things down if there are other demands on the memory.  But, eventually, I got it done.

This is a spray of Hydrangea flowers.  If I had taken just one macro image, I would have had to focus on one area of one flower and the rest of the flowers would be out of focus.  With focus stacking, the entire spray is in focus.  The process took about an hour from setup to finishing.  It takes just a few minutes for the camera to take the images.  It took me a while of fiddling to set up the flower and adjust flash output.  The rest of the time was downloading and processing the images in Photoshop.   And, to see an entire image in focus like this, it is like magic!

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2019—Yosemite Mist

Most of our National Parks have remained open during the government shutdown despite suffering from neglect and damage from unthinking visitors.  The parks are national treasures that we must respect.  Their beauty and magnificence were here long before we declared them National Parks and if we look after them, they will continue to be here for the enjoyment of all who visit them.

This is a view of Bridal Veil Falls in the mist taken last November.

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2019—Pink Legs

For me, figuring out which gull species a juvenile gull might be is difficult.  Many juvenile gulls have brown feathers and simlar feather patterns.  Their beaks change as they mature so, for example, a young Ring-billed Gull doesn’t have a ring but rather the entire tip of its beak is black.  Juvenile California Gulls and the Herring Gulls, other gull species common in the Sacramento area, have similar traits so identification can be complicated.  The color of the legs can sometimes be an identifying factor and that is why I determined this is a juvenile Herring Gull.  It’s legs are pink.

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2019—Eye on the Prize

On another visit to Lake Natoma I found about a dozen gulls, all California and Ring-billed Gulls, swarming around a family that brought some bread to feed the birds.  They told me they came to see ducks and there were a few mallards there but the gulls dominated the area and overwhelmed the ducks.  This California Gull has its eye on the prize as it floats down to retrieve a crust of bread.

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2019—Keeping Pace

We watched this pair of bull Moose in Chugach State Park in Anchorage, AK as they walked up the slope, keeping pace with each other.  It was not just a friendly walk.   As they lumbered up the hill side by side, they each eyed the other and swayed their massive rack of antlers in a sign of aggression.


2019—Variation on a Swoosh

The swoosh I posted a few days ago was just one of several photographs I took of colored lights.  I mounted the lights in a row on black mat board and used my 500mm lens and Nikon D850 camersa with the ISO at 64, the aperture set to f/20, and exposure compensation at -3.7.  In Aperture Priority, this setting gave me a slow shutter speed of 1 second. Then, I moved across the room to a distance that would accommodate the 500mm lens whose minimum focusing distance is 9.8 feet, braced myself, and moved the camera.  Some of the results, like this one, really intrigued me.

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2019—Juvenile Gull

I don’t considser myself a birder.  I consider myself a photographer who photographs birds.  But, I love watching bird behavior and learning to identify them and whenever I post a photograph of a bird, I try to accurately identify it.  Sometimes I’m stumped.  Today’s post is one of those times.  I know this is a gull.  I think it’s a 1st winter California Gull, based on my Sibley Guide to Birds.  I’m basing this on the brown feathers on its head, breast, and wings and the white eye ring which are shown in the guide as  features of first winter juvenile California Gulls.  But, the tail feathers are confusing me.  The dark band on the tail feathers with white at the tip is shown as a feature of juvenile Ring-billed Gulls.  But the dark iris is a feature of a California Gull.  So, I’ll just call this one a Juvenile Gull.

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