Nature Notes

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September 15, 2012

Photographing Swallows in flight

Filed under: Birds,Photography Tips — Tags: , , — Harold Stiver @ 6:00 am

A Tree Swallow in Flight

Swallows are such swift and unpredictable fliers, it can be very difficult to capture an image of them in flight. On a lovely May morning, I went to a Tree Swallow nesting box to try a set up. Tree Swallows are very confiding, and especially to someone who is in a car nearby. I set up my camera a few feet from the nesting box and manually focused just in front of the entrance. I then hooked up a remote shutter release which I was able to operate from inside the car.

As the birds entered and left, I tried to time the shutter release to get them in flight. Of course, just a very small percentage worked out, but these few were an exciting result. The image below shows the full image before the nesting boxwas cropped out.

Photographing Swallows in flight


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January 7, 2011

Photographing Diving Ducks

Filed under: Photography Tips — Tags: , , — Harold Stiver @ 6:00 am
Red-breasted Merganser Diving

Red-breasted Merganser Diving

I was photographing Red-breasted Mergansers recently and decided I would try to get an image of one diving. I cannot give you a good reason for wanting to do such an odd thing but it gave me two quick results

  • I was able to take a lot of picture of splashing water and no duck
  • I realized my reactions sucked

However, after watching them for a few hours, I realized that they often had a “tell”, something that would let me know they were going to dive. Not always, but occasionally they would tense or hunch a bit, before they dived. Most of my attempts were still unsuccessful, but I was able to get a few images. And here they are.


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July 2, 2010

How to photograph fireworks

Filed under: Equipment,Landscape,Photography Tips — Tags: , — Harold Stiver @ 10:31 am

How to photograph fireworks

I have made a few half hearted previous attempts to photograph fireworks, but with the arrival of Canada Day, I decided to sort out some good methods. Here is what I found:

Scope out your best place to shoot ahead of time. Arrive while there is still enough light to see, make sure there are no obstructions and that you have a nicely composed view to frame your shot.

Use a tripod, you need to have a rock solid base to eliminate camera shake.This is especially true when using long exposures.

Use a remote shutter. Although you can get by without it, it will make life much easier. Not only does it reduce camera shake, but it lets you work from a comfortable position, perhaps sitting on your comfy chair.

Camera settings. You want to look at long exposures times in order to get long colorful light streamers, anywhere from 6 to 10 seconds. You also want to keep the background dark to set them off. If you shoot in Bulb mode, you will be able to easily control the length of the shot. Open your shutter at the beginning of the fireworks explosion and close it when the trails begin to fade. A good depth of field and low ISO will give you clean focused shots, as well as keeping the background dark. I started with f/11 and ISO100 and was prepared to adjust from there but found that suited.

How to photograph fireworks

I think I have the general idea now and next time perhaps I can get some more creative shots. Following is my favorite fireworks image from Trey Ratcliff  (Stuck in Customs)

Trey Ratcliff (Stuck in Customs)

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November 9, 2009

HDR Lite

Filed under: Photography Tips,Photoshop Tutorial,Processing Tips,Waterfalls — Tags: , , , — Harold Stiver @ 7:10 am
Borers Falls: Finished Image

HDR Lite

For my purposes, HDR processing is successful if the viewer is not sure if it was used. Lets call this HDR Lite.

I have been working on a project to photograph Ontario’s waterfalls, and often these images have a large dynamic range. Consider that these images my be required to record the near white of the water to the near black of rock crevices and it is easy to see that it could be a problem for any camera.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing is designed to tackle this type of problem, it is a process where a series is taken of the same scene with a range of exposures. An example may be three images taken at -1, regular, and +1 exposure. These are then combined in the computer for a composite image. I use Photomatix for this.

Minus 2 Exposure 0 Exposure Plus 2 Exposure

Above are the base exposures used at -2,0,+2 exposure (You can click on them for a large resolution). While I didn’t want an extreme example of HDR processing, I did want to bring out the natural fall colors as well as the complete dynamic range. Photomatix has different processing methods available but each on their own was not what I was looking for. Lets take a look.

Details Enhancer

The above image is the result of using Details Enhancer at the default settings. I like the foliage detail it has brought out but it lacks contrast and is too light.

Tone Compressor

This image above was processed using the Tone Compressor method. I like the contrast and color but it is too dark and lacks detail.

Lets see if we can get this porridge just right. I opened both images in Photoshop and copied one as a layer to the other. I then adjusted the Opacity of the second layer to incorporate the best features of each image. This can range from 30-70% but often I find I am happy with it at 50%.

For waterfalls, HDR processing has a bonus in that it gives the water a nice blur.

Thanks for reading this, I hope you find it useful.

Processing Tutorials Index

 


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September 7, 2009

Rugosa Rose: 9 Image Stack

Filed under: Flowers,Photography Tips — Tags: — Harold Stiver @ 7:00 am
Rugosa Rose, Rosa rugosa

Rugosa Rose, Rosa rugosa

Not long ago I wrote a post on Image Stacking and some of the software that can be used with it. It is often used with things like macro shots of insects but I also see it as a very useful technique with wildflowers where the lens used may not always provide a lot of Depth of Field. With this image and the angle shot from, if I used my 180 macro lens to focus on the center stamens, both the petal edges and leaves would be out of focus. I ended up taking a series of 9 images ranging from focus on the edge of the petals and gradually moving back to the leaves. The images were processed in Zerene Stacker which combined them to give a focused image throughout that range.


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